30th Disunion

Greetings to all my classmates from Reed College Class of 1990 who are celebrating our 30th Disunion today!

It was 30 years ago today that I graduated from Reed College, and it was also the last time I had to—and hopefully the last time I will ever have to—move. (That’s the first digitized photo I have of the house, it looks more or less like it did when we bought it, though it’s from ten years later.)

The spring of 1990 had been hectic, with Barbara and myself frantically searching for a house in a market that was beginning to heat up after the late-80s recession. The rental house we were living in behind the Standard Battery on 38th & SE Belmont Street had been up for sale twice before with no success—the landlord had even offered it to Barbara at one point with nothing more than a piece of furniture as a down payment but it was too small with literally no outside space—but the third time was generating a lot of interest. I’d been working on my undergraduate thesis most of the winter with the possibility that we might have to move (on top of working at Powell’s full-time and taking classes) at any time.

I’ve written before about finding the newspaper listing that led to us buying this house, after several others were snatched out fron under our noses by more-qualified buyers with better realtors (we found out years later she was a classmate of Barbara’s from St. Mary’s, too). Suffice it to say that if it hadn’t been for Barbara’s acumen and enormous aid in fixing stuff on the house from my folks to get an FHA loan, the whole thing wouldn’t have happened. I found the ad in March, and we started getting packed. whle I put the finishing touches on my thesis and prepared to defend what I am reasonably certain is the shortest critical English Literature thesis on record at Reed.

As it so happened, the rental house sold. We were able to move most of our stuff to the new house, but Frieda Rasmussen, who’d lived here for 48 years, couldn’t move until she got the money from closing, which wouldn’t be until early June, so Barbara, her sister Lori (who paid for part of the down payment) and I and our menagerie of cats and dogs couldn’t move in until June.

The day we had to be out of the rental was Sunday, May 20th. Yes, the same day as graduation.

My father’s step-father had been in the hospital and very ill. He passed away on the 14th, and we attended his funeral amid the roundelay of work, packing, and moving.

Graduation was held outside on the lawn in front of Elliot Hall, with then-Director of the Oregon Symphony James DePriest as the commencement speaker. The weather was much as it is today, heavy gray clouds with torrential rain both before, after, and during the ceremony, with proceedings punctuated by some poor souls getting drenched by an orgasmic release of rain that had collected on the tents.

The plan was to meet at the flagpole in front of Elliot, but my family went straight to the tents near the student union where all the food was (there wasn’t much of anything left by the time Barbara and I finally got there).

We were rather hungry by the time the festivities were over and my immediate family headed to Tom’s for what I remember as an unsatisfying breakfast. I don’t know if it was me just being cranky about standing in the rain near the flapole while most everyone I’d invited wolfed down appetizers or if it was the restaurant—where I’d eaten may times before—itself.

After Tom’s, it was back to the rental for the last trips—only three blocks—to the house. Then cleaning, although there was only so much that could be done. The rug wasn’t good before Barbara and Lori had moved in. There was a bunch of slumped plaster in the kitchen from water that had spilled at some point from the bathroom. There hadn’t been a lot of maintenance for a long time.

The same could be said for the new place, but it was ours. Barbara and I replaced the roof ourselves the next year, stripping off five layers of crumbling asphalt and wood shingles, putting up plywood sheathing, adding real gutters. Since then we’ve uncovered the original wood siding, and ripped most of the interior down to the frame (again, with an awful lot of help from my parents). We’ve been here long enough that the roof we put on has had to be replaced (not by us that time).

I’ve lived here more than half of my entire life.

Twenty Five Years and a Day

Yes, it was just over a quarter-century ago—mere months after the last issue of Plant’s Review of Books hit the streets in the winter of 1994—that I started trying to put it online.

I’d set up a web server on a Mac desktop model hooked up to a dedicated phone line using WEBStar. PRoB had been created with the then-industry standard publication software Quark XPress and I was working in the prepress business producing film for catalog printing, cadging high-quality color scans of the artwork (mostly by Eric Rewitzer) for the covers and center spread.

That was the summer I went out on my own as a freelance print and multimedia production person, then I started teaching Macromedia Director at Portland State University and picked up a book contract at the end of the year. Stuff snowballed, and by the time I circled back to the project to do the last three issues, my archives were in disarray.

When I’d worked on the magazine, removable Syquest drives were state-of-the-art and I had a mixture of 44MB and 135MB cartridges, but the readers themselves were tempermental and mine had died. I had transferred most of the content to digital audio tapes (DAT), and I was able to recover the Quark layout files but a bunch of the high-resolution scans and graphic were missing (probably because one issue wouldn’t fit on a single Syquest. Time went on and I thought I’d do a more thorough search, I transferred the archives once again to CD-ROM storage before the DAT drive (even less trustworthy than the Syquests) died, but never found the rest of the art.

Now, of course, I can’t even open the XPress files. The format’s so old that I don’t think even the current version of Quark (it’s still out there somewhere but it long ago lost the war with Adobe InDesign) will open them, so even the low-resolution previews are out of my reach.

Thanks to Chris Lydgate, my classmate at Reed and the publisher/editor of more successful periodicals for prompting this reverie.

Just a Box of Games, Box 6

Games not technically in a box in this short round-up. These are the hot games of the day, as things go around here, anyway.  These three games are sitting loose in the office for various reasons.

HellRail, third perdition
Mayfair Games,  2001
One of my later acquisition by far, I picked this up around the time my brother met his wife and we were playing Empire Builder occasionally. I thought a different take on the railway-building game might be fun, but we didn’t ever get a chance to play. The structure of Hell is defined in the rule book, but you build different routes depending on which types of sinners the deck gives you for hauling. I did finally drag it out for a couple of sessions with GameNephew, who found it fun, but you imagine explaining what adulterers or the lustful are to a ten-year-old under the watchful eye of his parents before you make the same decision.

Cosmic Encounter & Expansion Sets 1–9
Eon Products, Inc., 1978–1983
It’s a testament to how much I loved this game that it’s one of the few I don’t have the box for any longer, in any state. It broke down so long ago (and also couldn’t accommodate the expansions) that the box it’s in was a shipping box for Commodore 64 computer software. I feel lucky to still have this, because many yeas ago, I lent it to the guy who was the best man at our wedding, then he got divorced, I moved away from Eugene, and we mostly fell out of touch, but one of the last times we talked—after a period of years—I remembered to ask about it and retrieved the game. The game and expansions span my time working in a  game shop, so it captures that period for me perfectly. I haven’t counted everything to see if it’s there, but there should be 75 alien race cards, there are 6 hexes (planetary systems, partially under the manuals), LUCRE (the yellow squares mostly covered by manuals, sorry), Flare cards (next to the Space Warp and Hyper Space Cone), Destiny discs, tokens, Moons, alternate planetary systems and the Praw (on the backs of the systems), and the manuals, including the combined rulebook released with Expansion Set 9. Only played this one time since then, but GameNephew loved reading all of the histories of the various alien races, as well as the fact that he won the game we played, as the Parasite.

Frank Herbert’s Dune
The Avalon Hill Game Company, 1979
To say that I was unaware of this game’s status would be an understatement. It was actually one of the games that seemed like Avalon Hill trying to cash in on the late-70s upswing in science-fiction and fantasy games, it sat on the shelves for years, and—if you click on the photo and look at the player screens—you’ll notice there isn’t a crease on them, because it’s never been played. Some of the number chits are still stuck together.  But Richard—who first contacted me a few months back on Facebook because he remembered me from Gandalf’s Den—asked about it a couple months back, because there was a Kickstarter campaign to revive it this year. I was pretty sure I’d seen it not long before, and when I went looking, there it was. Copies of the old game are available on eBay for as much as $200 for a mint copy, but my plan is to play it sometime this month when Richard comes up to Portland on a visit (send him good thoughts because he’s living in the fire zones in Northern Cal!) along with a couple of other interested folk. The 40-year-old virgin game! What I wasn’t aware of until I watched this extremely well-done video linked from BoardGameGeek was that the team behind Cosmic Encounter were the developers.

Just a Box of Games, Box 5

I opened Box 1 with GDW’s Boots & Saddles way back in 2013, and by the time I got to copies of TSR’s The Strategic Review and The Dragon in Box 4 (mid-2014), I thought I was pretty delinquent. Boy was I ever wrong! It’s taken me more than five years to get around to the fifth box.

Part of that’s what’s left in the boxes. There’s a lot of near-ephemera here, stuff that doesn’t really rise to the level of a game. It’s modules and maps for (mostly) Dungeons & Dragons, stuff that I picked up in my most acquisitive phase without even the real intention of using it in the campaigns my friends and I played. Part of it’s because I had been out of work for a long time with no job and no freelance projects and I was trying to make some inroads into organizing things before I inevitably die. I opened the first three boxes before I was hired as a security guard (the first job off I had in seven years) and the fourth between that job and a brief stint working as a grocery cashier. Since then I’ve been mostly employed (and still am) but I still want to get this project done.

Some of the inspiration to get back to this is because a couple of years after I posted Box 2, I got an email from someone who was interested in buying the Traveller lead miniatures at the top of the box. It was never my intention to sell anything, but the miniatures were mostly still in blister packs, which gives you an idea of just how much I’d used them in more than three decades. So, off they went so John P.  and his kids can play the K’khree against the Imperial Marines.

The other thing was seeing Eye of the Beholder: The Art of Dungeons & Dragons.That gave me some serious RAMO (Regret at Missing Out) because I really should have packed my bags and headed for Lake Geneva, Wisconsin right after high school, not because I was an artist, but I might have been able to con my way into a job at TSR (hey, I was a published TSR author by 1979!) No money, no confidence.

Plus, of course, the box had been sitting in the middle of my home office for five years.

Finally, one of my nephews—who was just 5 at my last installment—is now almost 11 and is a bit of a board game nut, so my goal in life these days is to get invited to his family’s game nights.

Empire Builder
Mayfair Games, 1982
I think this is one of the first edition versions of this rail-building game, but it’s far from pristine condition. I played this with my girlfriend at the time, with the guy who was best man for my wedding (to someone else) and his (former) wife. I even played it with my brother and his wife when they first met. And earlier this year, we dusted it off for a game with my nephew and his folks. Just a great planning/resources game with rub-off crayons to draw on the map and tiny metal engines.

The Judges Guild Journal
Issue 8
Issue 9
Issue 10
Issue 11
Holiday Issue 12
Judges Guild, 1978
I can’t say that I actually remember ever reading any of these, but you can see the era they represent from the publicity still Imperial Stormtrooper on Issue 8. There was no actual STAR WARS-related content in the issue, nor was there anything in Issue 10, which features a Chewbacca shot on the front (hidden beneath the Holiday Issue). 

Judges Shield
Judges Guild, 1976 (?)
This was my first shield, and as it doesn’t have a copyright notice on it, I’m not sure of the exact date. You might be able to see the tape on the edges. and the portion of the Monsters list on the central portion of the shield has my numbering of the monsters (Zombie as #128 back in those simpler times) for random generation.

STAR TREK Blueprints
Ballantine Books, 1973
Not technically a game item, but this set of “12 Authentic Blueprints of the Fabulous Starship Enterprise” was one of those things a kid into making maps for dungeons and spaceships was going to get. Want to know which deck the six regulation bowling alleys are on? Deck 21, along with the pool.

Frontier Forts of Kelnore
Judges Guild, 1978
Well-done maps, amusingly bad illustrations, charts and scenarios for exploration, “Approved for use with Dungeons & Dragons.”

Village Book I
Judges Guild, 1978
Fifty pages of village layouts on hexagonal grids, with charts for naming villages (4xD20: 4, 20, 20, 13 = Cold + zine = Coldzine), determining the use and structure of building, etc. Keep in mind that back in the days before copy shops on every corner or desktop computers (much less quality printers) just reproducing blank hex maps was no mean feat.

Citadel of Fire
Judges Guild, 1978
“Ages ago a lone wizard named Nrathax the Black came to a hill that the natives called Flotggardt…” Well, of course they did. The cover illo really doesn’t do justice to the Isengard-inspired tower of “smooth black stone.” This is a proper module, with cruder maps than some of the other Guild products, but more-fleshed-out content.

The Thieves of Fortress Badabaskor
Judges Guild, 1978
Badabaskor is another scenario, covering both the surrounding area, five levels of dungeons, and the fortress itself. Watch out for the Dragon-People! 

City of Terrors
Flying Buffalo, Inc., 1978
I’m not really sure why I have City of Terrors. It’s a Tunnels & Trolls scenario and I never really played T&T which was considered by some (including me) to be a pale shadow of D&D, but which distinguished itself by creating solo adventures (there were a lot of lonely nerds out there). So CoT is essentially a choose-your-own-adventure book, printed on heavy, glossy paper, which provided 23 different possible adventures.

The Siege of Constantinople
Simulations Publications, Inc., 1978
As you can see from the unbroken unit card, this game was never played. I believe it came out as an inclusion in SPI’s magazine, which featured a game every issue. The rules for this are probably in the magazine, which may be in another box!