An Evangelical Pilgrimage
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Merlin’s Justice


Grass Valley, CA :: I’m sitting outside a Starbucks in Grass Valley. This town is where Kate grew up. It was a beautiful Sunday. I went for an hour-long walk with Molly today, and then went for another long walk by myself later in the afternoon.

It’s 7:30 p.m. A clear night after a beautiful day, but it’s getting cold now. It’s actually too cold to be sitting outside without a jacket, but I needed to be within earshot of the five guys drinking their coffee out here on the patio. They are all drinking venti sizes of something and, judging by their energy level, their volume, the way they keep talking over each other, and the way they are all standing instead of sitting, they got extra shots too. At least two of the guys are more under-dressed than me, wearing shorts. All of them have longish hair, and a couple of them are making valiant attempts to grow facial hair.

I needed to be within earshot of these guys because when I walked up to the store they were engaged in a passionate discussion about something and I wanted to know what. I just Googled some of the phrases I keep hearing: “berserker,” “Thor,” “The Courtesan,” and “Merlin’s justice” (which is not, it turns out, ancient Britain’s version of Montezuma’s revenge). They are talking, loudly, about role playing games. Just now, one of the guys shouted out, “Regular melee is the best, magic melee sucks ass.”

Yeah, these guys are nerds. But who cares? I had zero friends when I started halfway through my eighth grade year at Lowell junior high in Lincoln. It was the RPG guys who took me in, so, yeah, I know my way around a 12-sided dice.

I realize that I’m arguing with no one in particular, but how is what these guys are doing any different than the thick-necks who get together every week to watch and argue about professional sports? If anything, watching an NFL game is harder to justify than a role-playing game, because at least with DragonQuest (or whatever these guys are playing) they are more than just spectators. They enter a story and exercise will and their choices have consequences.

But I’m not going to begrudge the nerds or the jocks their past-times. Ultimately, what they are doing is creating community, and the worst thing of all is to be isolated.

I have no idea where all this came from. I have a lot of catching up to do on this site. I need to talk about our trip to California from Keizer. I need to explain why I am posting haiku of all things on my Twitter feed. But I sat down at my computer and this is what came out. Now it’s so cold I can’t feel my fingers, so all that other stuff will have to wait.

Updated: In an earlier version of this post, I said “if anything, the NFL is more meaningless than…” That was not only bad writing, it was lazy writing. Both of these activities – the sports-watching and the gaming – are packed with meaning.


1 Libby { 11.16.09 at 12:53 am }

John, I love your writing. I’m glad you take notice of the nerds, and think deeply about the meaning of your words. I really look forward to hearing more of your thoughts, whether they are about your travels and the book or just about those guys standing over there.

2 Alejandra { 11.21.14 at 5:25 pm }

Chuck Norris’ fist has it’s own ecosystem.Chuck’s hair stays so peefrct, scientists used it to lure the Lock Ness Monster, Bigfoot, and Donald Trump into captivity.Chuck Norris rinses his mouth with napalm and then he comments, this shit is weak!!!!!!When Chuck was born, he used his umbilical cord as piano wire to choke his way out of the delivery room. When they finally caught him moments later, he had impregnated every expecting mother in the maturnity ward. All of the baby Chucks that grew within minutes won the Tour de France, the America’s Cup, and a Grammy Award later that day.

3 Rajat { 03.05.15 at 5:13 pm }

Chuck Norris is suing NBC. Law And Order are trademarked as his left and right legs.Chuck Norris doesn’t read. He just steras at a book until it gives him the information he wants.Chuck Norris doesn’t need spell check, spell check needs Chuck Norris.Chuck Norris is the reason that Daniel Powter is having a bad day.One day Chuck Norris tripped and fell. He roundhouse kicked the ground for causing such an error, and today we have the Pacific Ocean.

4 insurance auto quote { 03.28.15 at 3:32 am }

Thanks for introducing a little rationality into this debate.

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6 Gersc { 04.11.15 at 7:34 pm }

Chuck Norris died 20 years ago, Death just hasn’t built up the courage to tell him yet.Chuck Norris doesn’t wear a watch. HE dedceis what time it is.Chuck Norris has already been to Mars; Thats why there are no signs of life.Chuck Norris counted to Infinity .Twice.Chuck Norris can count the number of corners in a circle.Chuck Norris can win a game of connect 4 in only 3 moves.Chuck Norris once got bit by a rattle snake. After 3 days of pain the rattle snake died.Chuck Norris was in all 6 Star Wars movies ..As the Force.Chuck Norris once donated blood to a man, he is now known as Superman.Chuck Norris once sold eBay to eBay on eBay.Chuck Norris can describe the taste of water.Chuck Norris can run you over with a parked car.Chuck Norris is so persuasive that he convinced a mirror he wasnt there.Chuck Norris doesn’t make friends or emenies. Chuck Norris only makes Victims.If you have 5$ and Chuck Norris has 5$ Chuck Norris has more than you.Chuck Norris can sneeze with his eyes open.There is no Ctrl button on Chuck Norris’ computer Chuck Norris is always in control.Scientists have estimated that the energy given off during the Big Bang is roughly equal to 1CNRHK. (Chuck Norris Round House Kick)It takes Chuck Norris 20 minutes to watch a 60 minute show.The reason new-born babies cry is because they realize they just entered the world of Chuck Norris.

7 { 07.14.15 at 2:15 pm }

Hahahaha. I’m not too bright today. Great post!

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