Doom Unto Others

Tuesday afternoon I get on my bike and roll over to Samy’s Camera on Fairfax because I’ve been long overdue in replinishing various lens caps and covers and such that have been since sacrificed to the lens cap gods and gone for some time. On my list is a 58mm cover for the big telephoto lens, plus a bayonet-style cover for the rear of the thing. Then there’s the 62mm UV filter that we never got for the lens that came with the Canon Digital Rebel we bought almost two years ago, and someone along the line I lost the cap that fits into the lens mount on the Rebel’s body.

West L.A. is my least favorite cycling territory, especially in the middle of the day. Perhaps because that area of the city supports so few bikes and significantly more people who wouldn’t be caught dead on one. Not to get all sociological, but on the easterly side of town street riding is a lot more comfortable and I feel more accepted on the road not just because bikes are more prevalent, but also because more people who live and work there come from places or backgrounds where bikes were a more entrenched part of their lives and communities.

On the westside on a bike at 2 p.m. among the hip-hop Hummers and the blinged-out Benz’s I’m either invisible or a target, neither doing much to make me feel anything but a stranger in a strange land.

Coming up Sunset to Fountain over to La Brea and down past the huge crowd lined up outside Pinks to Beverly then west to Fairfax and south I arrive at Samy’s south of Third Street and lock up the bike outside the main door. I forego the really slow elevator and instead two-at-a-time the stairs to the third floor where the cameras and gear are and eventually hook up with a semi-crotchety old sales dude who gathers up all the goods on my list and then surprises me at the register by discounting every discountable item.

“That filter’s $18.95. You don’t want to pay that do you?” he asks and then before I can answer that indeed I didn’t not want to pay that amount he’s already punching in some code that magically changes the price to $13.95. Saved me about $10 total. Didn’t have to do that. Not sure why he did. Maybe it was the “One Less Car” button on my backpack, which he remarked that he liked. He also said he liked my decidely unreadable signature on the back of my credit card.

“You must be a doctor… or a plumber or someone important,” he winked.

“Worse,” I said, “a writer.”

He smiled.

I think it’s the first time I’ve ever ever ever refered to myself out loud as a writer. Not that that’s any type of epiphaneal moment of revelation and proud acceptance. It was just a better way of saying I’m presently nonemployed.

Exiting Samy’s I unlock and mount up in front of a blonde animated on her cell phone in her convertible with the engine running who looks at me as if I have a scarlet “DORK” embroidered across my forehead and roll back up Fairfax across Third. Passing Dupars and the Farmers Market I decide to dive right and head into the Grove and its Apple store. Locking up to a bench outside it because there are no dedicated places at the Grove to lock up your bike because no one bikes in West L.A. (hell, some people take the lame-ass Grove trolley because even walking in L.A. in an outdoor mall is too much a chore).

I head across the store’s threshhold past its facade of gleaming stainless and glass and go up to the stuffy and hot second floor sauna where the air is clearly not being properly conditioned and soon find what I’m looking for: a cover for the iPod Shuffle I bought last week. I scoff at the ridiculous price and scoff even harder that I don’t turn around and walk out, but then I decide on which $20 cover thingy I want for the $60 music player because I’m a sucker and just can’t find a way to tolerate that in the scant days I’ve owned and used the thing it’s already gotten scuffed up and marred (from all that strenous sitting in my pocket). Making the things white is the obvious stroke of genius, but personally I think there’s a more covert system at work; that the markings are built in and masked by a layer of something that quickly disintegrates after being removed from its box.

That Steve Jobs is fucking after-market brilliant!

Before I hit the register I make the mistake of looking across the floor to the games area. I’d just read a review in the current issue of “Macworld” that had mostly positive things to say about a new first-person shooter release called “Quake 4” and see it on the shelf. But when I get over to all the gaming goodness I find myself drawn instead to “Doom3.” Released to great acclaim for PC and gaming consoles awhile ago, it is a pleasant surprise to find it finally ported to the Mac platform. And now that I sported a desktop with the capability to handle just such hardware-busting software, it was high time to test it out.

It’s the first Mac-based video game I’ve purchased in more than two years. Not just because of any machine obsolescence, but moreso because I’m all to well aware of my short-term addiction to whatever game I’m playing, which goes a little something like this:

  1. Install game.
  2. Do little else but play game for the next week or so.
  3. Finish and/or get bored with game, go online find cheat codes.
  4. Use cheat codes and play game with reckless abandon for another day or two until reeeeeeally bored and increasingly self-loathed as I realize what a waste I’ve made of my time.
  5. Remove software from system.
  6. Put disks and manual back in original packaging.
  7. Put packaging away somewhere and forget totally about it for a month or more before finding the packaging and put the game up for sale on eBay.

Sure enough, Tuesday evening when Susan got home from work there I was getting the crap scared out of me (the game truly lives up to its hype as a genuinely unnerving experience). And after dinner and a bit of TV I was back at the keyboard creeping cautiously through the darkened corridors hoping not to get the hell beat out of me by any of a slew of hideous creatures.

When Susan went to bed I said I’d be there in a few minutes. Yeah, right. More than three hours later, so engrossed in the game I didn’t even hear Susan come to the doorway until from the peripheral shadows she sleepily called out “Whatcha doing?” and I jumped and almost peedmypants.

“Uh… the computer,” I answered oh so lamely and more than a little bit sheepishly. “The computer…” she reIn the darkness I couldn’t see her rolling her eyes, but I so know she did as she turned around and shuffled off back to bed.

At least I had sense enough to quit out of the game a few moments later and sneak into bed, but the reception I got was noticealby cool and any attempt to cuddle up was rejected by her cat Bink being firmly positioned between us and like Monty Python’s seminal Black Knight allowing known to pass.

The good news is that yesterday after immersing myself in the game for an amount of time I’m too embarrassed to say, I found myself already getting bored at the “creep around terrified and shoot anything that moves until it dies and then a couple extra rounds just to be sure” redundancy and thinking about cheat codes, which could spell the accelerated doom of “Doom3” and a return to normalcy.

We’ll seeeeeeeee.