II. August [something] 1989

It would take a tremendous amount of triangulation of old credit card receipts from the pre-digital age, or at least poring through my parents’ scrapbooks in deepest darkest Cleveland (and an essentially zero-EV endeavor at that) to determine a particular day for this one, so we will have to just work with a month, which was August; and a year, which was 1989.

My family was on vacation in Bar Harbor, Maine, and I decided one day to go climbing on some mountain trail which allegedly didn’t require any particular equipment or expertise, despite ultimately giving you the first look at dawn in North America on account of being a combination of maximally Eastward and maximally tall (or something).

So “not requiring any climbing equipment” meant to the thirteen-year-old me that I could run it in a pair of gray Sebagos deck shoes. I remember that pair of shoes like no other pair my entire life. I always wanted a pair of Sebagos (which were the hip kind at my Catholic school, where you couldn’t wear sneakers day-to-day) but my parents always bought me the cheap off-brand version from like Payless. We weren’t poor or anything; in fact both of my parents are award-winning and / or pioneering physicians (which means that at least up until this year, I have been a constant disappointment in all non-grandchildren-producing endeavors)… But they weren’t hip to buying non-off-brand leather (?) boat shoes for their grade schoolers.

Anyway, there was a pair of not-popular gray Sebagos IN MY SIZE at a hole-in-the-wall shoe store where the local Al Bundy had been a 1970s Penthouse model (complete with mullet and porn stache). Thirteen-year-old michaelj begged his mom for the $14 Sebagos, and proceeded to wear them always, with or without socks, everywhere… apparently including mountain climbing.

artist’s interpretation of the deadly shoe

So in case you haven’t been paying attention, we are talking about an overweight, nearsighted, thirteen-year-old in tread-less boat shoes… Climbing the tallest smooth rock on the East Coast of North America, jutting over the coast of Maine during a wet morning at the end of the summer.

At some point in the expedition, I realized I was halfway across a flat expanse of boulder that was simply too wide for me to bridge. I hugged the side of its sheer face with my entire body; with every crevice of the fingerprints of my increasingly sweaty hands; as I could feel myself inching down it, the first tumble of an inevitable avalanche of human doom. I looked down between my legs, ending in those poorly-chosen gray Sebagos, and saw nothing but jagged rocks, ragged evergreens, destiny, and death.

I am going to die.

I am thirteen years old, and I am going to die.

My life didn’t flash before my eyes or anything. It was just serene. Serene oblivion… And I was okay with it.

And then, before I could even finish being okay with it; I felt my dad’s hand around my wrist, and he yanked me back onto the path.

Unsurprisingly, we headed back down the mountain, before reaching The Precipice.

How to Grow Taller:
Live. Ya ain’t getting any bigger fallin’ down no mountains.

How to Grow Darker:
It was actually comparatively sunny for Maine that summer; you could go to the beach (albeit a rocky beach relative to, say, Pro Tour Honolulu or even any random weekend in Florida or Long Island).

How to Get More Handsome:
There is basically nothing more unattractive than fear.

Girls can smell fear. That’s why they don’t like you.

I was talking to BDM once about how this girl I liked in high school went out with this ridiculous, no-shower, skater pothead. If he had been in another crowd, he would have been a thug. He got bad grades, I couldn’t see any horizon for him, I don’t think he had his own car or anything… I just didn’t understand it. Was a black leather coat and packet of Marlboro Reds really so fetching?

BDM didn’t know the boy, but he could speculate.

“You know, when you are fumbling around with a girl, not knowing what you are doing?”

I mean sure, everyone knows. I am 35 and that is basically still my level of skills.

“Do you think girls like that?”

I mean obviously not. But you know…

“You know what?”

Nothin. I guess.

But there is one thing I can say about that dude. He weren’t scared. No sir.

By the time I had hit my one good dating year (2000-2001, and it actually lasted less than one year), I had finally realized how to harness the power of fearlessness, in at least this one regard.

For years, for all the bullying I endured (man, 1992 was tough); all the disappointments (like that time I cried myself to sleep in 1994 after my off-key audition with “The Ballad of Sweeney Todd”); the bait-and-switches (I literally spent 1998 out-living a highly in-demand girl’s boyfriends – a girl I then intended to marry – until she called me the day of my kid sister’s high school graduation – and said “I already paid for my apartment in Chicago all summer; but we had a fight. I’m not going to have any money, and I don’t know what I want to do, but I know finally I want to be with you. Come pick me up.”

I didn’t know what to do… but my mommy asked me if I was crazy and why I wasn’t already gassing up the Mighty Saturn and getting maps together. What are you waiting for? You ALREDY HAVE an invitation? Within one hour she called me back, told me they had made up, and they were going to try to make it work. And to be fair, her rent was paid up for the whole summer. I married someone else [awesome]).

Magical Aftermath:
Fear gets you absolutely nowhere.

The biggest fear I see and think of on a regular basis is around mulligans.

A few years ago, GerryT posted a comment on this here blog about what he thinks about every single game of grinding, and what he thinks about when evaluating an opening hand; it literally changed my life. GerryT is so awesome.

At US Nationals last year, I mulled to four against an opponent with three Lightning Bolts… In his opening hand. I had to win the match to stay alive going into Day Two. Got there! His first play was Crystal Ball. My first play was Manic Vandal. It didn’t get any better for him after that, as I showed him how come first pick Foresee was so good in that format.

People still ask me about my Edison Open Series match against Lewis Laskin in Edison (which I lost / spoilers).

I won Game One on the third turn but had a series of terrible hands in the second… I ended up settling on three cards. I would mull to three every time given that situation. I couldn’t win the game with my seven, six, five, or four card hands. My mull to three was a goldfish win on turn three or four! If Lewis didn’t have so much resistance – and obviously he did, no lack of respect there – I would have just killed him. What if he was a no Force of Will deck like Zoo or Goblins?

Man, that would have been a story!

But you know what? I am proud of both the mull to four and the mull to three (though more proud of the mull to four, though I probably shouldn’t be), not based on winning or losing (though see the three, above)… But because I made the fearless – and gosh darn it, right – decisions in both cases. Other players would have balked, but they wouldn’t have been right. In the four, I won; in the three, I had the cards to win when the seven, six, five, and four didn’t (Lewis just had the cards to stop me… two or three times over, actually). You have to put yourself in the best position you can to winj; and fear, like tilt, bad deck decisions, and lack of sleep will leech that from you, no matter how many Jaces are in your deck.

Never fear! (Mike is here!)


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#1 MTGBattlefield on 11.28.11 at 9:23 pm

II. August [something] 1989…

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