Monday, February 17, 2014

Reading between the lines...

"The Education of Little Tree"
About two weeks ago I went to a book club meeting. A very dear friend (and fellow lover of books) is trying to get some momentum built up for the group, and that particular night, having been planned well in advance, I felt terrible. Insomnia, stress, stomach issues--psychosomatic or real, meant I felt like crud. I rallied, and told CD Rogue if I begged off from this my friend would probably stop asking me to do things. (She thinks I play too much WoW, and live in a fantasy world, and has made it one of her unspoken projects to get me out.) Anyway, I read the book, and even though it wasn't my usual genre (schmaltzy romance), it sucked me in and I cried like only a really good chick-flick can do, such as Terms of Endearment or Steel Magnolias can.

The book was Me Before You by Jojo Moyes, and on many occasions while reading I thought about Erinys and the Godmother, being that the author is British, and so are they, and the number of pop culture references and phrasings that went over my arrogant Yank head. Those allusions and references didn't detract from my enjoyment of the book and the good cry it provided. My friend was attempting to bring together five women who had never met, and she was truly an ambassador of the group, and if I have any criticism she was too fast to give others details about ourselves: as I was taking a breath to ask another a question or offer personal information, she would fill in the spaces. Her sister, a very nice person, spent about twenty minutes (I think it was longer, but perhaps shorter) talking about local soccer clubs, coaches, and teams of the under-12 set. There was no fork to stab myself in the eye, so I smiled politely. My friend gave me the honor of choosing our next book, and as I joked that no one else in the group was a gamer/rocker mom (which I am) then we wouldn't be reading Ready Player One, recommended to me by another gamer/rocker mom. They shook their heads in mild bemusement: no, soccer moms here. I did offer the possibility of Bad Mother by Ayelet Waldman, but confessed it might be too much for them. So, I stuck with my first choice of The Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan. Without giving anything away, I believe an alternate title could be, "How to be an Early 19th Century Courtesan in Transitional China." Nasty syphilis? Unwanted pregnancy? E-Role playing, 1912 Shanghai style? Sure. Not sure what the lovely book group ladies are going to say about this one.

So, I'm in Texas now. Last night my folks took me for dinner after the airport. An odd thing happened: I had my dad pick up the wrong bag, and we had to drive back to the airport to exchange it. It was identical, down to the color of the ribbon. If I had been the one to get it off the carousel, I would have noticed the wrong name. It was a comedy of errors, but the owner of the proper bag was not amused. Oh well. Anyway, so we're at dinner, and my dad orders chicken-fried steak. The waiter, a cute red-headed young man, asks my dad if he wants BROWN OR CREAM GRAVY!!!!??

What is the problem, Matty? 

Well, we're in Texas. You never, ever put brown gravy on chicken-fried steak. He humbly offered that his gaff was due to him not being from Texas.

"Where are you from?"


Oh - I know a lot of my friends who play WoW with me from Sydney...

Later he told me he plays LoL competitively, and knows friends who met via LoL and are now married!

And now he knows about brown gravy.

So, how do we get to know one another, the culture of our guilds, and the norms of play, in real and in our virtual worlds? Recently Navi posted her thoughts and analysis on guilds and raiding teams. These responsibilities require a lot of work and thought. We know this from our work lives, we know this from our relationships, and we know this from our time spent with Sydney waiters in small towns in Texas. The key is communication and expectation management: none of us are going to get what we want all the time, but hopefully we get what we need. I don't really know what place I have in Reloaded right now, and I sure as hell have been in a sick tailspin at work. It's nothing bad or evil - change is painful. Even when we speak our expectations and goals, it doesn't mean anyone gives a sh*t. We all hear that axiom to row the boat together, but man, what if you get on the wrong boat? (I could extend this cliche metaphor for days, so I'll stop now.)

Anyway, I have a fun week planned. Brought a lot of work with me my dad said he'd help with, and I'll take him up on it. We will be going to lunch soon, and I think I'll have the chicken fried steak. Cream gravy, of course. It's only right.

*Mr. Snerguls here: Matty woke up in the middle of the night and thought, that's not right, and then Dahahka noticed it too: brown gravy is for biscuits and gravy, red-eye gravy, too. but white cream gravy is made for battered foods such as chicken-fried steak.

Chicken Fried Steak


  1. Hope you have lots of fun. And see, we can all learn something, I'm not from Sydney but I didn't know you couldn't put brown gravy on chicken-fried steak. But then I've never had chicken-fried steak but I'll be prepared for when I do!

    I don't think it's possible for me to read a romance, it's in that category along with reality TV. I don't know how you did it! You deserve a real world achievement for that!

    1. Me Before You wasn't too bad - it did suck me in, which surprised me. You know I prefer love stories like The Night Circus, but hey. I normally love historical fiction, but so far Valley only has historical events as very minor characters. As far as gravy goes, normally no one even asks if you want brown or cream, which tipped off my folks. You might ask if you want extra gravy, though. Ah, these local customs. Too much to keep track of!

  2. Sydney, Australia?! Or is there a Sydney in the US too...

    I don't get the gravy thing. One, because I have brown gravy on chicken all the time, and two, because I don't even know what cream gravy is and how is differs from brown gravy. Also, uh, isn't steak made from beef, i.e. the target for brown gravy? Why does being fried in chicken fat (I assume that is what chicken-fried steak is all about, having never heard of it before now) convert it to cream-gravy-only?! I get the vague impression you guys are making shiz up as you go. :P

    On the book club thing, isn't the point of it to broaden one's literary horizons? You reluctantly dove into the romance book, why not open the soccer mom's minds to your world? I looked up the gamer book, it looks pretty cool - the description reminds me of Snow Crash. Also definitely going to add Bad Mother to my must read list! A series to keep in mind for the future (i.e. next time you get to choose) is the Sevenwaters series by Juliet Marillier. The first book, Daughter of the Forest, is how I started my mother (who is adamantly uninterested in fantasy/scifi) down the road to appreciating the genre we geeks love. It's historical fantasy at it's best, an adaptation of an old German folktale, set in ancient Ireland. (Many apologies if you already know and love this book!)

    Hope you enjoy your holiday!

    P.S. Here is the link to that movie I was telling you about (yes it is the full movie)

    1. Dammit I thought I was being so clever with the html. :(

      link for the movie

      link for the book

    2. 1. We do not make this shit up as we go along.
      2. Implying another Sydney versus Sydney, Australia is like referring to 'my grand trip to Paris' and meaning Paris, Texas. No. You knew what I meant, smart ass. :)
      3. He was a lovely young man, and a waiter in training. Studying to be a nurse at a local college. And I'm sure dating cute Texas girls (there are only cute Texas girls. It's a fact.) We, my folks and, I found all this out because we are friendly Texans at heart, and people like talking to us, and we them. No Aussies were harmed in the making of this post.
      4. Tome is on my side: listening to a woman talk about her children's soccer coaches for 20-30 minutes is not fun. Did she ask me about my life? My interests? F*ck no. Now, if we had engaged in a martial arts discussion, that would have been interesting. If she had actually talked about soccer the way you do, that would have been interesting. My open mind shut off after 15 minutes. And 4 hours of sleep.
      5. When you go to Texas, you now know how to order awesome food. You're welcome.
      6. Thanks for the book and film recommendations, and never, ever hesitate to recommend something. This is your area of expertise, and I treasure your knowledge!

    3. Haha I was mostly sure but you never know! You never mentioned his accent, which I would assume would immediately give him away as ignorant to Texan culinary *cough*peculiarities*cough* native Texans don't exactly have an unsubtle accent so I'd have thought you'd be forgiving him his ignorance as soon as he opened his mouth. :P Plus I'm sure there is a US Sydney somewhere, just had no idea if it was well-known enough to be confused with the Aus version.

      I will keep all your advice in mind when visiting Texas. :) And agreed, there are only cute Texas girls.

    4. It was odd - he was so quiet at first, but once we got him talking it was obvious. I don't have a Texas twang, and my folks' is pretty mild. My sister puts it on a little thick, but that's fine.

      Anyway, not sure how much I trust Yahoo, but here it is:

      Ordered that book you recommended. You're the bestest!

    5. Oh and I think I read somewhere that Juliet Marillier is a RL druid too!

  3. WTH how come Florida gets all the Aus city names?!

    1. There is a lot about Florida that is mysterious.


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