I'm amazed. The script still works, even with a two-year gap between top-level pages.

I don't know yet if the journal is returning. This is more of a placeholder / experiment at this point.

If it does return, it will be with very infrequent updates, and more mundane entries.

I haven't missed a place to publish the details of my life as much as I've missed the opportunity to share the feelings I've had writing my stories, and the ideas behind them. And perhaps an occasional update of what's going on with me.

I'll try to write one of those next.


I'm going to meander some, and look back a little at the last couple of months.

It was this feeling that I missed a place to share my feelings which started me thinking about the journal. Which, in turn, led me to think more about the site, and some story ideas. When I visited the site, I found the stupidity of the rumor of my death from cancer, and in countering that I wanted to finish my stories and get them onto the site...

So in a very real sense, missing the journal led to the stories I've now released. That didn't mean I was going to restart the journal, though. That was a very personal, one-time project. But maybe, in a less detailed, or less explicit form, it could be something I could occasionally update, without feeling that I had to tell the world everything that was going on with me.

I'd almost like to make it separate from the old journal, but as much effort as that was to build... you'll just have to accept that there's 1999-2001 and there's the rest :)

And travelling a little further back - in this chain of causality, not necessarily in chronology...

One of the things I inherited from Brian was his PlayStation 2. One of many... I'll probably talk more about the why eventually, after the meandering is done. But it's one thing to divest yourself of the remains of a relationship when he can pick up a few boxes. It's quite another when it would mean overseas shipping. We're still not clear on everything, even now. But the PS/2 was one of the items he'd class as "abandoned", I can keep it, give it to Goodwill, sell it, whatever.

It sat untouched for a long time.

When he was still planning to return, he pre-ordered a game, "Final Fantasy X", and it sat opened but unused for months. Bored, one day, I skimmed the cheat book... umm, "official strategy guide" :) ... and it looked qualitatively different from the games I'd seen him play. So I figured I'd try it...

Well, I haven't become a gaming junkie. But I definitely love that game. Spoiler alert: if you don't want to know more about Final Fantasy X, please skip the rest of this entry. Although that isn't the main theme, here.

It started out being fun. I should say it started just being fun, because it never ceased to be fun. But the more I played, the more involved I became in the game, the more I realized that the storyline was key to drawing me in.

The graphics of the "cut scenes" are lovely, with soft firefly lights, beautifully animated characters. Late in the story is a love scene between the two principal characters... no, not that kind of love scene, this is no more than PG-rated... in a moonlit lake, with those delicate twinkling lights and sounds in the background. The story has progressed to the point where you understand why the heroine (Yuna) is in tears. Why new love may be more than she can bear. There's a soundtrack song in Japanese that's even more beautiful than the setting... and just as sad. And if you can watch the whole scene and stay dry-eyed... then it's unlikely that you're reading this.

Perhaps if you just watched the cut scene, you'd just find it pretty and sad, but having spent such a long time building up a relationship with these fictional individuals, the effect is deeply moving. That's one of the things I've discovered: how intense your involvement can become in gameplay compared with more passive forms of entertainment.

Another is that video games can have very worthwhile storylines, even if they have plot holes the size of Tokyo. (Metaphor quite deliberate; I'll get to that.)

But then... you move on from the love scene, and as you approach the end of the game, it seems that the tragedy that surrounds the love scene might be averted... and it is, but the story twists in a new direction, and the ending, while very satisfying for gameplay, is a heartbreaker. Absolutely the right ending for the game, but again, if you're anything like me, you're going to be crying well beyond the end of the closing credits.

And I'm not one to be very emotional at movies, generally. It was getting "sucked into" the story that gave it so much impact.

There's a sequel (a sequel to a ninth sequel - if you find the idea of a ninth sequel unappealing in itself, well, so did I) which apparently allows you to play through to an ending which would give the previous game a happy ending. I don't know if I'll ever try it - partly because I'm not a gaming junkie, but mainly because as exquisitely sad as the ending to Final Fantasy X is, it's still the perfect ending, and I don't think I'd want to change it.

If you play video games at all, and are in any way a romantic, I strongly recommend trying Final Fantasy X.

But why video games here?

I need to meander further for that.

The second of my discoveries above, about the medium overcoming plot holes... well, it isn't really the medium. And I'm not sure if "plot holes" is the right term.

Japanese storytelling is very different from what I'm used to in the west. I'm not trained enough to know what the differences are, and I'm not a philosopher. I know that we have very intense, non-linear fiction of our own, but it's generally not popular fiction. Our movies and popular fiction are generally very linear - or if not linear, very thoroughly explained. If there's a fictional basis to elements, like (if you've played the game) between the Fayth, aeons and summoners in FF-X, we want to know what it is, not have just a little of it implied.

We'd want to know why it is that spirits in the game have a solid form, and are indistinguishable from living people.

It seems that Japanese animation and game storytelling doesn't feel the need to fill in those details. Plot can make huge leaps, with perhaps an inference with no visible evidence at all being accepted as fact. And irrelevances which would never take time from a Hollywood production are fairly common.

Like real life, in one way. But very much against what we expect of story construction. It's sufficiently different that I find it very interesting to see an anime, and think "Now, where the hell did that come from?" Is it better or worse? Who knows. And if it's effective within its genre, does it matter?

Bear with me, this train of thought is going somewhere, I think.

My thoughts on animes and plot philosophy are fairly new, but after finishing FF-X, I started to wonder about whether the game would have even worked if it had been produced in the US. Whether it needed the Japanese writing style to retain its character, without becoming a clinical battle game. I talked to a friend at work about it. Someone whom I recalled had occasionally talked video games with Brian.

He persuaded me to try another game. More than a game, though. It's called .hack, and it's in several forms: an anime series, a series of video games for the PS/2, and an additional series of animes included with the game.

The game itself (in my opinion) - and the overall story - isn't in the same class as FF-X. It's good, it's fun to play, it's easy to put down, and the anime is interesting light entertainment. Very much full of apparent gaps in the plot, huge leaps of faith in plot development, unconvincing philosophy, irrelevant events and unexpected (and unexplained) twists. But as an overall "experience", where the game intertwines with both anime series, it's very effective.

I've borrowed the games, and almost finished the second (there are four), but I've watched all of the DVDs.

One thing that impresses me greatly, both about the series and about Final Fantasy X is the quality of the music. Especially the Japanese songs, which I don't understand at all, but which can have me mesmerized with their beauty.

We're almost there now.

I mentioned the song that accompanies the love scene in FF-X. It's sung by Rikki, who's apparently a well-known Japanese singer. The song was even released on a single, and made the charts. Its name is "Suteki Da Ne", "Wouldn't it be wonderful", although the translations vary.

Wouldn't it be wonderful
If we could walk together hand in hand?
How I wish I could go
To your town, to your home, to your arms

Softly touching your face,
I dream a dream that will melt in the morning

(Transliterated and translated here)

It's also used as the closing theme over the credits, in a different setting, and if the final scenes aren't enough to make you break down, the song will, harking back as it does to the scene in the lake... If you can sit impassively through that, I don't think you're human. Although, perhaps it makes a difference that by this time I'd googled the song title and knew what the words meant.

Whether I knew that the setting of the song was different when I reached the end, whether I was even able to recognize that... I don't recall. It doesn't matter, I've bought the soundtrack, and I still feel the emotional tug of the flow of the Japanese lyrics to "Suteki Da Ne", although I can listen to it dry-eyed, now.

But, having been "sensitized" to the emotional content of the soundtrack in FF-X, I found myself listening to the .hack music differently than I otherwise would, I think. It's extremely good. Mostly in English, though not all. Some very light, some purely background, some quite intense.

That's especially true on the DVDs which accompany the games. The "Liminality" anime series. The opening song for each DVD is different, and together with the one common closing song, they're all excellent. One's English, the others are Japanese. (They're by "See-Saw", a duo of Yuki Kajiura and Chiaka Ishikawa.)

The one I really like, the one I thought was so great I had to go find a copy to listen to, is called "Senyaichiya", or One Thousand and One Nights. (Whether that's a translation of the title of an interpretation of the contents, I don't know.)

And here we arrive at the one event in this chain that in a way leads me full-circle - back to the reason I have the PS/2 in the first place, and discovered the song - and also to regretting not having an outlet for my thoughts.

"Senyaichiya" has an almost martial rhythm, but the melody is grieving, and powerful. I don't know why it took so long for me to look up a translation on the web, but after I had, I wished I hadn't.

I walk away from here, pondering which way to go.
The sun is setting early, painting the clouds with its glow as it disappears.
The children next to me are singing the same song for the third time.
Unable to remember the words to end it, they repeat the last verse over and over.

Your eyes whispered, "We don't need beginnings or endings."
What kind of memories do I have to search for that will reach deep into my heart?
The days that you said were too long seemed like a dream that lasted just one night.
I can't believe that it is coming to an end, it is too early to wake up.

Don't make the 1,000 nights disappear. I can't leave here just yet.

I'm merely a silent Sheherezade who can't move anyone's heart.
No matter how many nights pass, I can't talk about even one love.
I couldn't even get used to warmth. Where did the bedtime story disappear to?
I wanted to at least remember your gentle words.

Don't make the 1,000 nights disappear. I stand up to walk a lonely path.

I wanted to at least remember your gentle words,
remember the 1,000 nights that disappeared in a single night...

(Transliterated and translated here)

In themselves, the words may not seem especially moving. Listen to them with the song... if you can't find it, rent the second .hack game (Mutation) and watch the beginning of the DVD. You'll hear how the music perfectly captures despair.

When I read those words, they tore at my heart in a very personal way. And it was only then, already knowing what the song was doing to me, that I realized this: March 1999 to December 2001 is just over 1000 nights.


1001 Nights

So I guess it's time for that update that I promised. Some of it you can probably gather from the last entry.

Before I go on, though, a word about that entry. I was trying to show what led to my renewed interest in the site, not to show my usual state of mind. Tears aren't more common for me now than they ever have been. That one particular chain of events was unusual. Had it not been for the deep sadness I experienced within FF-X, I doubt I'd have found Senyaichiya's lyrics so upsetting... although I'm sure I'd still have found the song very moving. Had the lyrics not made me cry, I doubt I'd have looked for the relevance of "1001 nights". And even if I had made that connection, it probably wouldn't have made such an impression on me.

Which would mean I wouldn't feel the lack of an outlet for expressing my feelings, and the site would likely still be untouched, rumors of my death not even countered. Especially since the chain could be traced directly back to Brian, I thought it was worth going into all of the detail.

So here's the summary of my life since the last entry - at least as it relates to those people whom I think you've come to know: they're not around anymore. Pretty much everyone, that is.

We left things mid-2001. At the time, everything was going pretty well, both on a personal level and with my job, and everyone else's. I guess the good news is that my job didn't suffer too badly.

In August of 2001, Brian had been to a conference in England, and was very excited about it. Right after he came back, the parent company of Rob's startup lost a huge project. I guess it happened before the conference, actually, but the company didn't announce it until they were certain... and until they were ready to start layoffs.

In early September, Rob heard that they were pulling the plug on the startup. He told Brian immediately. It turns out that Brian had made some contacts in England with a company who was interested in his expertise, and he'd talked to me about how he wished he could go to work for them... I think I mentioned how he was hoping for a return visit.

When Rob gave him that news, he was on the phone immediately, and travelling for interview just a few days later.

On September 11, he was in a hotel in London.

Just after the Twin Towers atrocity, I recall that Rose and I traded messages on the BBS about it, and I said at the time that I didn't want to even mention the subject, because it deserved better treatment than I could give.

I guess at the time none of us knew how the events would affect our lives, but we were beginning to recognize that the world was changed. I was - and remain - reluctant to share those changes within my life, because they're insignificant against those of the lives of New Yorkers and others who lost family. I don't want to cheapen their experiences with my own.

And yet... as much as I have been affected, it would also be wrong to ignore it.

So Brian was in London, having completed one round of interviews, and heading for another... and stranded. There was no way for him to return. Air traffic was grounded. And the company was impressed, and had big plans.

And there was a lot of sympathy to all Americans - hard to believe, in these days, but I'm not going to get into that in these pages. So, he was stranded, he was suitable... I don't know what strings the company pulled to get him permission to work, or maybe it's easier for that kind of thing in England than it is here. But the next time I spoke with him after the events of 9/11, he'd started working full-time in one of the London area offices.

We spent a lot of time on the phone, Brian trying to persuade me to move while I pointed out the difficulties. I think we both knew it was impossible. I wouldn't be able to work, I had the house and the encumbrances. The economy was collapsing around us; even though his job seemed fairly secure, neither of us was likely to be making the kind of money for regular international travel in the foreseeable future.

And then... well, I guess sympathy for Americans was quite a personal thing at times, too. Brian told me that everywhere he went guys would buy him drinks and shake his hand.

There was a singer...

In one of the pubs where he spent his evenings, there was a band who played regularly. A very good band; he sent me a couple of MP3s. The lead singer's a girl with an outstanding voice. Brian got to know them, and one night - after we'd spent a couple of hours arguing on the phone - she went back to his hotel and gave him a lot more than sympathy.

I didn't talk to Brian about this until a lot later. We barely talked at all for a while, which I put down to the time difference and difficulties finding each other. He says he felt really guilty about it, and maybe if he'd told me at the time I could have reassured him that everything was fine. Hell, I'd hardly been a model of virtue during our time together.

But he didn't, and a few days later he spent the night at her apartment... "flat", he called it, when he finally broached the subject. Once, he could put down to drink and novelty. Twice is a little more deliberate, and after that there didn't seem any point in avoiding it. By the time he told me what he'd done, they'd decided that he may as well share her place for a while and quit living in a hotel.

And by then it was pretty clear that our relationship had serious problems, and he wasn't going to give her up for a woman he'd rarely have chance to see, no matter how much he'd loved me in the past.

So, right around Christmas 2001 we had a lot of depressing and pointless arguments by phone, and by February I was clearing out his stuff. February 14, 2002 was officially the worst Valentine's Day ever.

Late February he came back to take care of things, like signing title of his SUV over to a friend to sell and collecting boxes from me to ship or store. When I say that tears aren't the norm now... well, they were then, for obvious reasons. I alternated between wanting him out of sight and wanting to fuck him until he changed his mind and realized he couldn't live without me. Mostly I wanted him out of my sight, and we certainly never tried the other.

So that was Helen-Brian, approximately March 1999-December 2001. Which, if you do the math, is between about 1000 and 1040 days, depending on exactly when you consider the start and the end.

I wanted to at least remember your gentle words, remember the 1,000 nights that disappeared in a single night...

Pulling the plug on Rob's startup had another huge effect, of course. He was one of the fortunate ones; the company offered him a job back in California. Most of the others were laid off. He could have stayed and looked for work, of course. Clarice and he talked about it quite seriously - but they didn't really have an option, not with Mara Helen, the clumsy toddler. There was no work to be found around here at that time. We were very badly hit by the recession.

So Clarice, Rob and little Mara (who's four, now) are in California. Clarice isn't happy with that part of it, but she wouldn't give up either Rob or Mara. I've managed to divert a couple of my business trips through the state, so I've seen them a few times.

I don't see Laurel. This turn of events surprised me. I saw her socially a few times after the events in the most recent part of my 2001 journal. She seemed subdued, for her, and I thought I'd upset her. She finally admitted that there was a problem... but it wasn't really me, it was Yolanda. Of all things, Yolanda had started feeling threatened by me, and it was causing a lot of friction between the two of them.

Which is really odd, because there was never anything beyond friendship - and serious fun - between Laurel and me. And if anyone should feel jealous - this is going to sound spiteful, but it isn't, really, it's just the way her reaction affects me - the thing that sticks in my mind about Yolanda is the ecstatic look on her face as my boyfriend made love to her.

Which, as I say, sounds like I regret that night. I don't. But it's the vision that keeps coming to my mind when I think that she resents me. So I don't see either of them now.

And I think that brings everything pretty much up to date. I've been leading a fairly staid life for the last three years. Not entirely so, but I certainly haven't felt close to anyone I've been with since Brian.

I'm employed, I'm single, and I'm not looking for Mr. Right. What more can a girl want?