Saturday, December 17, 2011

The L33T G33K.

In the ever-tenuous genre of the computer savvy, there is a term for those of us who are keyboard cowboys, software samurai, keepers of the comics or just plain mouse jockeys.  We're geeks.   But, there is a breed of geek that goes beyond just playing the games, collecting the comics, praying for a natural 20 on a 20-sided die or playing with the carefully coded software.  They are the makers of the games, the artists behind the characters and the coders behind the software.  Inside the world of the computer savvy, the best of the best of hackers, geeks and technophiles are called "Elite."  Hence, it's why I refer to my best friend Barry as an elite geek or to use leet speak, "l33t g33k", who took this n00b and had a hand in making me into who I am today.

An homage to the Elite Geek circa 2006 that I created for a graphic design school project.
The inscription to the right reads, "Music to Code by."
My best friend Barry is an enigma.  He's the guy all geeks want to be.  He's handsome, dashing, debonaire, and he just so happens to have a kick-ass ponytail that is naturally the color of a raven's wing.  He has an immense sense of style, from snakeskin jackets to every last detail that if you didn't know better, you'd think he is a rock star.  But, he's a geek.  He's the guy who finds his way into the very elite parties at Comic-Con and he's a countless-computer-language knowing geek with a sense of web design that would make even the most elite artist cry.

Almost 9 years to the day ago, Barry was hugging me and telling me goodbye as followed my ex and began my journey to the great white north along with the very painful three years I would spend in Montreal.  Tonight, I hugged him and told him goodbye as he prepares to follow his girlfriend to Houston.

Two weeks ago, I got a note on Facebook asking me if I was going to go to his going away party.  In shock that he was actually moving away, I made plans to make sure I was there for him, just like he was for me.

I couldn't get over the irony of what was happening.  My best friend is one hell of a guy and it's killing me to see him go.  He was there when my thyroid exploded over a weekend in Santa Monica and he brought me a smoothie and ice cream to ease my very sore throat as we tried to figure out in vain what was happening to me.  He has been there for me during every up, down, sideways, backwards and forwards for close to 13 years. He's backstopped me for so long, always encouraging and always there with a quick quip to make me laugh even in the worst moments.  When he said goodbye to me as I was leaving nine years ago, he did try to talk sense to me as I was leaving by saying, "Why are you marrying that tool?"  That should tell you how well Barry knows me because he was right, I should have never left.  But, I couldn't bear to tell him the same thing because his girl is real sweet and I don't see anything wrong with her.  At the same time my gut was just screaming out from past experience that this whole thing is not a good idea, but it's his life, he's got to do with it what he sees fit.  I have no right to project my issues on to his (very similar) situation.

When he met his girlfriend, I figured that my presence wouldn't be a very good idea. As experience has taught me extremely well, no woman ever cares for another woman, doesn't matter the type of relationship, talking to their guy, it doesn't matter if it's texting, e-mail or a phone call, it's usually not very welcomed, so I politely kept silent.  Barry knows that if he ever needs me, I'm only a phone call away, and I know if something important goes down, I need to keep him in the loop.

Even though I don't talk to him very often, I make sure to keep track of my pal.  He's on the web all the time, sitting on the couch with the rest of the guys on the Ugly Couch Show.  I had to laugh at the latest episode because of course the show is about all things geek, but there's Barry sitting on the couch with a t-shirt sporting a "recognizer" from Tron.  Yep, that's my best friend, he knows the true value of Tron, just like I do.  LOL.  In turn, Barry keeps track of me by coming here the same as you do to check on me.

But still, here we are nine years later and my best friend is about to undertake a similar journey as my own and I can't help but hold my breath and hope everything will go well for him.  I keep trying to remind myself that he's not me and the future could hold a very different destiny for him.  But even with that, it still rips my heart out of my chest to see him go.  His girl is very sweet, she's geeky, fun and very beautiful, but she's fighting against an army of Barry's friends (and his mom) who just don't want to see him go.  It's rare to be in the presence of a true elite geek and well, between all of his hi-jinks, the endless number of stories that just cannot be repeated because of their sheer immaturity or just plain bad luck along with some things you don't even tell your kids you did, he is beloved by all of his friends.

Barry, just like I found out nine years ago, is in for one hell of a culture shock.  Vegas, for all of it's good and bad parts, is a 24 hour town.  You can get anything you want, need or desire any time of the day or night.  In my experience, it doesn't work like that in really any other city on the planet.  Cities like New York can say they are 24 hours a la "the city that never sleeps", but they're really not, at least not like Vegas.  On top of that, Barry is going to Houston, which by rural Texas standards is like taking a trip to the moon, but by Vegas standards it is going to be like going back to the Bronze Age.  No 24 hour grocery stores, and worst of all, last call at a bar in Texas (that is if you don't live in a dry county [Barry, you need to read about that]) is 2 a.m.  For those of us who live in Vegas, we have no idea what the words "last call" means because we can just pick up and move the party to another place that will keep the libations flowing.  It doesn't work that way in Texas.  Not by a long shot.  Last call for alcohol is a very set rule and well, they don't break it, not for anyone.  When last call hits, the party has to be taken home because that's the only place you can get an alcoholic beverage (if you can get your hands on it and are smart enough to store some before hand for just such an occasion) after 2 a.m.

Then, there is the whole fact that Houston (along with a good majority of the south) is right smack dab in the middle of the Bible Belt, where it's "amen, hallelujah and pass the collection plate" almost 24/7 and if you're not a God-Fearing Christian, you stick out like a sore thumb.  Lucky enough though, Houston is very progressive and it's the home town of people like BeyoncĂ© and Brent Spiner (there's a Trek reference for you, the one and only Lt. Cmdr. Data is from Houston, but you do notice that he lives in New York now, right?  That is for a reason that I will not touch with a ten foot pole, but also notice that I'm from New Braunfels (just 175 miles away from Houston) and I live on the West Coast for pretty close to the same reasons.  LOL!!!!!  Bwahahahah.  Sorry.  LOL!)  But I take my hat off to Houston, they're doing good, as far as accepting new ideas and accepting the 21st century, considering where they're at. (I'm so afraid some shit-kicking hick is going to look at him and say "Get a haircut" and Barry giving them a one-finger salute for their trouble.)  Although Texas is in a SEVERE drought situation (some cities have already run out of water) they've got jobs a-plenty to be had, right, left and center, so I do see the logic of going there.

But whether I like it or not, Barry's moving away.  So let's get to the fun of the party, shall we?

Tonight, the night started out downtown at Casa Don Juan, a very hole-in-the-wall-ish "Authentic" Mexican restaurant and I sat thrilled seeing at least 50 people sitting, eating, laughing and talking together that have all known him for as long, if not longer than I have.  I could see the broken hearts from a mile off as I asked what was going to happen on the couch on the Ugly Couch Show now that Barry is moving.  The response, "Well, we'll soldier on" was all that could be replied.  It was apparent how his absence from all of his activities, from work to play, were affecting the people who love him so much.  I even got misty-eyed a few times along the way knowing that my pal is going to be so far away.

After dinner, the party moved on to a place called "Herbs and Rye" on Sahara Avenue.  Of course, no ordinary watering hole will do for Barry, because the elite geek in him always seeks out unique and savory libations.  A long time ago, I remember going to that same place for amazing Italian food with Barry when it was a restaurant known as "The Venetian."  Now, it's a very old-time kind of place, very much turn of the 20th century, with drinks made with Absinthe and other now little-known ingredients.  I sat amazed when I asked the waitress for my usual Malibu Madras and was told that they didn't stock Malibu and that if I wanted a cocktail, well, it was a trip via time machine to Progressive Era America, or it was nothing.  With Barry's help (after all, he was the one who figured out that my drink was a Malibu Madras), he helped me pick out a drink called "The Blackthorne" which was a combination of Sloe Gin, Vermouth, Bar Syrup, Lemon, Bitters and Orange Bitters.  Here's the catch.  The recipe they use is from Tom Bullocks' 1917 "173 Pre-Prohibition Cocktails."  Don't believe me?  Here's a look at just a part of the menu:

I had a Blackthorne, Barry went with an Aviation.

Ah yes, vintage Barry, if it doesn't require a cipher and extensive research & development to understand it, he's not happy.  As I looked at the menu, I texted Ace (who's at home in bed with the flu), "Where's George Clooney and the rest of the cast from 'O Brother Where Art Thou'?"

When my drink arrived, I took one taste and said, "It'll definitely kill bacteria."  Yeah, it was very unique.  It had some tasty moments and I did down the whole thing, but I promptly followed it up with a glass of wine.

The Blackthorne
But when it was all said and done, I decided to call it an early night, besides, I couldn't sit any longer knowing my pal is going to be on the road in just a few short days to a place I wouldn't live in again for all of the money in the world.  I'm a Vegas girl, I've lived here far too long to be able to adapt to life in a "normal" city again.  I really hope that Barry can handle the change and if I know anything about my best friend, he'll do fine wherever he is.

As I was leaving, I hugged him and told him the same piece of wisdom he gave me some nine years ago, "Planes will always keep flying" and that if he needed me, I was just a phone call away.  And all those years ago he was right, the planes did keep flying and life eventually brought me home.  I honestly hope everything goes well for him back in the "real world," but if worse comes to worse, I can't help but think that someday he'll find his way home too, a little worse for the wear, but filled with experiences that he wouldn't have had otherwise.  And just like when I came home, I'll be there for him, just like he was there for me.  After all, what's a best friend for?

Well, at least now when I write, I can clue Barry in to something important by saying, "Houston, we have a problem."  LOL.  Besides, if the UNLV NSAC team gets to go to Nationals in Austin, I know who I'll be calling to invite for a front row seat to the big show.

Good Luck Barry.  You're my best friend and I love you so very much.  We'll all miss you so much, from me to Rub to Tom and the rest of your motley Vegas crew.  We're a handful, but we all adore you.

They say "Don't mess with Texas", right?  Well, don't let them mess with your ponytail.

We'll be here waiting for you.

I think of you like Castor in Tron Legacy when he says, "Let's step away from these primitive functions," "Libations, for everybody!" and "I'm steppin' away for a moment boys... Change the scheme, alter the mood, electrify the boys and girls if you'd be so kind."

The song of the day is for you Barry.  From the Tron Legacy Original Soundtrack, for the fun times at Utopia to all of the electronica we love so much..."End of Line."  Time for you to change the scheme and alter the mood, electrifying all of those sheltered boys and girls, that is if you'll be so very kind.

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