29 December 2006

Runnin', Writin', Burnin' and Lootin'

No lie, I have a recurring dream where I have Foxy Brown/Pam Grier hair. In the dream I'm kicking ass, and fighting an unseen adversary.

I have three resolutionish goal-type objectives for 2007. The first one is to replace at least two days of indoor cardio workout with running outside--by mid-Spring. This entails getting on the dreaded treadmill in the winter, I think. I hate treadmills. I do every other cardio machine at the gym except the treadmill and the stairmaster. I'd also like to have Jeddy better leash trained so he can run with me, especially since running outside will most likely entail running in the evening. It would be nice to have my big dog by my side. Okay so that's pretty easy and reasonably fun, and the benefits are obvious. Mix up the exercise plan, get the dog better trained.

The next one is to get have at least 6 batches of soap, 10 packages of bath salts, 10 bottles of hair oil, 6 bottles of aftershave, 10 bottles of several varieties massage oil, 10 bottles of "love potion", 15 tins of lip balm, and 10 tins of assorted balms and body butters ready for the farmer's market in May. Our booth (Three Dreaded Ladies) will be a little different this year. Since I have the time to do it, I want to be stocked and ready. If I do it early, I will have more time to experiment with new recipes. The benefit is I'll make money. I see no problem there. (BTW this is the "Burnin' and Lootin'" part of the title, because Bob Marley made good herb-crafting music. Then again, there are lots of activities that benefit from Bob Marley's music, like blogging, sex, writing role playing games about slavery, peeling potatoes, exercising, changing diapers...)

The next one is to finish Get/Steal Away Jordan. This entails finalizing the rules (90% complete, but needing another play test) and writing the hard part--the historical details, the stuff to make the setting interesting, the "Julia B. E." stuff (did you think my name was really Parthenia? Only at the farmer's market.) The stuff that turns an otherwise outgoing JBE/Parthenia into a shrinking violet. Yeah, I can talk about myself on a blog, and even get a little personal, but this is different. Here I can write fairly anonymously and I don't worry about how good or concise the writing is. I do it as an exercise in writing (hence the post published edits, and writing while drinking wine). If I'm going to put something out there with my name on it, I need it to be better than good. And where's the benefit? I know it's there. I know it's abstract, and in the long run, I know it will be worth it. My mom, a published author several times over, told me that this weekend. But it's haaaarrrd, and it gives me a nervous stomach and makes me anxious when someone says, "let's play test our games."

Here's the hard and anxiety-inducing part: I have a few concerns about writing a role-playing game about the Antebellum South, where all PC's start out as black slaves. The first one is that slavery is not a fun subject. Then again, when I play tested it at JiffyCon we actually had fun, and they totally got it without playing stereotypes. (Wouldn't be cool if I actually wrote what it was like to play the game at JiffyCon? I think so, too.) Still this leads me to my next concern/anxiety: players will play racial stereotypes instead of digging into themselves and creating a multidimensional slave in say, Roanoke, Virginia 1803? Yeah it will probably happen, I can't be there at every single game to stop it--but wouldn't that be cool? I could show up at a game in a Foxy Brown wig and hot 70's style halter dress (and totally buff from all the running), the embodiment of the black Jezebel stereotype, and kick some ass till the players get it. "Y'all ain't playin' mah game right, mutha-fuckas." I don't really talk like that, and I don't think I could fit my dreads under a wig. But there it is. Ultimately, I worry that I won't put enough of me in the game, and players will have to resort to playing what they think black folks were like back then, and will model that after the worst of the stereotypes out there.

Here's a little of what I want to put in the game: About 10 years ago, I went to a party at Primo's and my old apartment (where we met and fell in love...) I was sitting on the porch with several folks and someone picked up a guitar, and we all started singing songs from Hair. Then this guy named Max, whom I must say I never liked, picked up the guitar and started singing "Colored Spade". I sat there in total horror and disgust while he sang the entire song, and then said, "That's one of my favorite songs from Hair." Not "Age of Aquarius" or "Hashish". "Colored Spade". WTF? My friend Frank said something like "That was really stupid." Then I got up and walked out. It's unfair, yet not surprising that someone would sing with glee and joy, a song full of racial epithets about black people, in a room full of white folks and one black folk, and not get why that was stupid, offensive, and generally not a socially acceptable thing to do. I won't even get into the suck of no one stopping him. There was a certain amount of thrill in the whole incident, a little like watching a train wreck. I don't think he did it because of any conflict between us. He knew I never liked him, but there was no war between us. He just thought it was okay. Later in the evening, after Frank pointed out how offensive it would have been to him if someone sang a song of epithets directed at his cultural identity, he did submit an apology with the addendum "but I sing this song with black people all the time." By the time he approached me I'd had a few glasses of wine, and I did not accept his apology. I told him that I hoped he sang that song with the wrong black person and got smacked upside the head. Every time I saw him from that day forward all he got from me was a dirty look. For years, I enjoyed disliking Max for what he did. That was one of the more blatant experiences of racism I've ever had, but unfortunately not the first or last. It's funny what people will say when they don't know or care who hears them.

The discomfort and humiliation of being serenaded with racial epithets is not fun, but there's a feeling there I hope players will allow themselves to feel when playing. (Did I ever mention I'm a bit of a sadist at times?) Here you are in the world, being brutalized and subjugated day after day. As a slave, where lies your joie de vivre? What do you dream about? If given the chance, whom would you kill? What would drive you to burning and looting?

So it looks like I've figured out the challenge of finishing this game. Well that makes things a little easier. I foresee many long runs in the woods with the dog, long nights mixing herbs and oils, and longer days with my cutie-pie-kitty-cat notebook. And lots of Bob Marley.

The Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia

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