So What Kind of a Game Did We Have?

Marie's List for Santa
Marie’s list for Santa from LDBCer Keri Boyle

Winners, losers. We’re all in this together. One of us stumbles; another accepts the burden and carries on. And as one, we’ve cold-cocked The Boy and brought the 2013 LDBC to a close. (Sorry I went to bed too early to call it for you West Coasters last night, so a belated congratulations to our friends out left!)

And speaking of left, all that’s left now is the counting, the commentary, and the colorful graphs and charts. Leavening the task for us today is a delightful graphic Santa’s list from seven-year-old Marie, daughter of LDBCer Keri Boyle. Like Michael Kraiger, Ms. Boyle answered the call for art and was generous with the attachment function. (It appears, from her signature, that Ms. Boyle also is the proud owner of Balloons with a Twist, with locations in both Las Vegas and Boise. I cannot endorse her balloon-twisting abilities based on personal experience, but I do love Marie’s crayon work, so I’m betting you won’t regret following that link for your inflatable needs.)

You know where this is headed, faithful LDBCers. It’s been going there all along. If you haven’t filled out the official reporting form, please do so in order to get yourself up on the Wall for the post-game wrap-up. (Everybody loves the post-game wrap-up.) Also, if you want to give us your victory face (or your sad one, if you lost), please post your best winning/losing mug on the Facebook page or send it to the email address you’ll find here. (For samples of others’ submissions, see Day 23: The Fall of the Brave, the Rise of the LDBC-elfie.)

Looking forward to the counting, LDBCers. And, as always, thank you for your support.

Day 25: Almost Home

Michael Kraiger's Winter Visitor
Winter Visitor by Michael Kraiger

I remember a time of chaos. Ruined dreams. This wasted land. But most of all, I remember The Boy.

This is it, LDBCers—the final approach. All we need to do is make it to midnight, and then we can go into the light. It’s not so hard. It’ll be just like Beggar’s Canyon back home.

To paste a happy face on the final hours of The Challenge, I share with you the artwork of brush-blazing LDBCer Michael Kraiger, who was kind enough to send us a couple of his watercolors when none of the rest of you lollygaggers (and your lollygagging offspring) responded to our call for children’s art. Well, Michael heard, and he did what he could, sharing not art by children, but art for children. And we thank him for it. (It’s not too late for your kids’ best crayon work to make it in, by the way. I’ll even apologize for calling them names if you do. Just post it to the Facebook page or send it to the email address you’ll find here.)

Me, I’m counting down the hours hunkered down here at my place of employment, blasting a little of the Ludwig Van into my ears (The Mexico State Symphony version of the Ninth, if you must know) to combat the holiday music coming through the wall from my colleague’s office. And I like to see Mr. Kraiger’s little snowman as delivering stirring oratory to that wee cardinal, who most likely just dropped in because his Lipitor-sized brain is unable to distinguish between living humans scattering seed and stacked balls of crystalline water ice.

Chins up and upper lips stiff, people. But should you fall between now and Game End, please remember to post or submit an LDBC-elfie and also fill out the official reporting form so that you’re properly memorialized on the wall.

Once more unto the breach, dear friends. We’re almost home.

Day 23: The Fall of the Brave, the Rise of the LDBC-elfie

The numbers are cold in this cruel, cruel game of ours, fellow LDBCers. (And I mean “fellow” as in “we’re all in this together,” not as a gender thing. The terror of the holiday is a very inclusive community.)

Twenty-three days of mayhem, with just over two to go. Just shy of 1800 of you on the Facebook page. And 341 of you have filled out the official form to report the details of your downfalls, with a handful of others settling for commenting on the page because Google changed something behind the scenes, and the stinkin’ form doesn’t show up on all browsers, operating systems, and mobile devices. (Sorry about that; I’ll have it fixed for next year.)

Gillian Beebe pulled a Janet Leigh and bought it in the shower just because she wanted her lonely pooches to have music to listen to while she was away from them. David Goldfarb and Matt McGuire were done in by a Mulholland Drive-like harmonica-blowing busker on two different New York subway lines. Phil Smy was gunned down among the Shaka Shaka Chicken and Fillet-O-Ebis in a Sendai McDonald’s. (He thought himself invulnerable because he was in Japan, but The Boy needs no passport to do his dirty deeds.)

Yet the brave fallen would rather light a flame than curse our darkness. And in keeping with that spirit, they’ve taken it upon themselves to post poignant selfies (to be forever known as LDBC-elfies) to capture their shock and grief visually where words alone are not adequate. Christine Moers and Jamie OcainAdrienne MartinBrian White. All brave souls whose tragic countenances are presented for that mix of tears and laughter unique to freaks such as us. Jennie Horn Godwin, who wasn’t able to snap herself, but managed to save herself from the cold-case files with an image of the perfectly charming pianist who unknowingly sent her to puh-rum-pum-pum-Purgatory.

They’ve created the trend. So how can any of us not pick up where they’ve left off? We’re nearly there, beloved colleagues, dear friends, complete strangers. From here on out, should you lose, feel free to submit an LDBC-elfie. And should you make it across that line come midnight of the 23rd (12 am of the 24th—however the hell you want to say it), snap your happy faces and submit those, too.

Smile. Caper. Gloat. Honor the fallen. Whatever. I just want to see faces, and so do your fellow LDBCers. (Well, the losers may not want to see the winners so much, but they’re just Bobby and Betsy Bitter-Pantses. As I will be, if I get clipped this year.)

And remember to look to my coming at first light on the fifth day. At dawn, look to the east.

No, that was Gandalf.

Cool your jets?

No, that was my fifth-grade playground monitor when me and my friend Tom Shuck refused to stay out of that dangerous tree, and she made us sit out the rest of recess on the ancient balance beam that no one used since just looking at it gave you a splinter. Because that was somehow safer. So we ran in circles—arms out like wings, making Blue Angels whooshy-engine noises—just to show her she couldn’t break us.

Anyway, as the noted philosopher Tyler Durden once said, it’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything. Which is great and all, but I prefer the imprisonment of winning this hellish thing and sending The Boy back to Rat-a-tat-tat-Ville with the tread of my boot embossed firmly on his ass.

Should you fall, please be sure to tell us about it via the official form as well as on the Facebook page.

But otherwise, here’s to your boots, LDBCers—those who we’ve lost and those who stand defiant still.

We’re almost there.

LDBCer Dispatch: Don’t Tread On Me

Tire Swing Kid
Jojo at dentist by Mandy Rose

As the late Maude Flanders used to say, won’t somebody please think of the children? Somebody other than The Boy, I mean. You see, while the dreaded kid is actually 72 years old, and while he’s known by many other names—among them Randall Flagg, The Walkin’ Dude, and Walter o’Dim—he’s pretty much called The Boy by everybody. Which would make you think he’d leave his fellow kids alone rather than use them as pawns in his dark game. But no, as you’ll see below in the tragic tale of Mandy Rose and her radial-catalyzed trip to the dentist. (Please note: Ms. Rose wishes you to know that Jojo emerged from this situation just fine. Had he not, she’d certainly never joke about it.)

With apologies to Emily Dickinson:

Because I could not stop for Death —
He kindly stopped for me —
The carriage held but just Ourselves —
And LDB.

After avoiding LDB at several stops, my son lost the daily battle of boy vs. playground when a tire swing claimed not one, not two, but three of his teeth. One upon impact, two pulled in the dentist’s chair.

As I held my son still for the numbing shot, it was me feeling the sting of the rum-pa-pum-pum. No salve for my pain tonight. Just the cold comfort of ice cream for dinner and the knowledge that he was too busy being brave to hear the song for himself.

Version unknown, location the seventh ring of extraction.

Tire Swing: 3
Jojo: 1
LDB: 1
Mandy: 0

The Holiday Season Has Its Non-Frightening Aspects, Too

Music: Bowl Singing drone by bubasounds

For all the terror that the holiday season has to offer, there’s the occasional beauty, too. You just have to stop and take note when you see it.

Even when it makes you late for a meeting. Especially when it makes you late for a meeting.

(Shot in front of the James L. Allen Center at Northwestern University.)

And now? Back to the fear.

Day 9: A Favor for Mr. LDBC, Your Favorite Tally Ho

Saint Jerome in His Study
Saint Jerome in His Study by Domenico Ghirlandaio, 1480

I won’t try to sugar-coat it for you, good people. These are Dark Times with initial caps. We’re only a month in, and already brave LDBCers are falling like Sunday Bills fans from the third deck.

On top of that, the new versions of the dread tune just keep on coming, from the likes of Pentatonix and Walk Off the Earth. (I purposely didn’t link those names, lest you click them and inadvertently step into the kill zones of their respective aural Claymores.)

Which is to say in my usual verbose manner that I’m asking you for a favor.

We’ve added a new wrinkle to the process this year. (Well, actually, we added it near the end of last year, but bear with me, please.) As the game grows ever more popular, keeping track of the ballooning carnage has become more challenging, and I was already a very lazy man who has trouble focusing to begin with. So we need some help on top of everything else you do for us.

If (notice I didn’t say when) you go down, by all means, please continue to comment on the Facebook wall and via Twitter so that you may be soundly soothed and/or mocked. It helps with our engagement numbers, and we do love us some engagement. But please also fill out the official recording form, thus feeding your data into a Google spreadsheet and making our lives just a tad easier.

I love you all like the little sister I never had. Even you men. Even you burly, hairy men. (Though I try not to picture you in flannel ‘jammies with feet, carrying your precious stuffed bunnies.) And with that love comes the responsibility of documenting your losses so that the fallen are not forgotten.

All of which, I repeat, is a very long way of requesting that you please complete the form should you meet with tragedy.

Thank you from the bottom of my rhythm-evading heart, and best of luck with your continued survival.

Let’s be careful out there.

LDBCer Dispatch: House Skochko Is Felled in the Court of Foods

Evil Nutcrackers
Evil nutcrackers by Sam Howzit

Many thanks to Ms. Julia Skochko, a veteran LDBCer who went out too soon, but gave us some giggles in the process. The kids are all right. And sometimes parents should listen to them to avoid getting the entire family mowed down.

Friends, Facebookians, Drummer-Dodgers: it is with profound sorrow that I must inform you of our family’s elimination. A scant eighteen hours passed betwixt the start of the challenge and our downfall (Nov. 26th, 6 pm). I can scarcely bear to write it, but it was my own hubris that sealed our fate.

“Let’s go to the Christkindlmart in Bethlehem!”, I said. “There’ll be ice carvers, and glittery pinecones, and mulled cider ‘n’ shit!”

The children protested, bless them (“No! We wanna play Minecraft and smear Cheese Doodle dust on everything you love!”). We arrived, and still they attempted to save us (“This sucks! Let’s leave and try to startle the ice carver while he’s using his chainsaw!”).

Alas, the poor dears’ efforts were for naught: a fusillade of drumbeats felled us moments later as we supped in the Court of Foods. Even eggnog rice pudding and zesty Cuban flatbread taste like ashes in one’s mouth after such a horror.

Be not like me, friends. Arrogance is as useless as a glitter pinecone when contending with this Boy.

Day 5: Near Misses, Direct Hits

First Coast Pops
C’mon, get happy: The First Coast Players leave us blissfully Boy-free

Forgive us for indulging in some survivor’s guilt, loyal LDBCers, but this past holiday weekend was a lesson in the power of positive thinking. Or the nonsense of negative thinking. Or not thinking clearly. Or something.

You know that scene in Pulp Fiction when the guy comes out of the bathroom and unloads his pistol at Jules and Vincent … and doesn’t hit them once? Me and Mrs. LDBC, friends.

We were visiting Papa LDBC in Jacksonville, FL, when we stumbled upon an impromptu free concert given by the fabulous First Coast Pops Orchestra. We can be a bit slow—well, I can, anyway—and we thought it might be plain old classics rather than those of the holiday variety. As Yoda might say, wrong we were.

It would have been rude (and boring) to leave at that point. So I sat back to await our demise. Mrs. LDBC, for her part, predicted we’d be fine.

And we were. They worked their way through wonderful renditions of “Silent Night,” “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” “The First Noel,” “Joy to the World,” “O Come All Ye Faithful,” and a host of others. But the dreaded Boy did not show.

I really need to listen to my wife more.

Others haven’t been so lucky, alas. Jack Emery Taylor was dispatched in the desert by a Christian prog-rock station. Deb Campbell was murdered awaiting a mammogram. (Hold the jokes, please.) Shari Golden never made it to Hebrew school. (I said hold the jokes.) And Jenny Runde got her bell rung while setting her alarm, never to wake up again.

That’s just a small sampling, and we’re barely into this thing. Seventy-five brave LDBCers have reported their losses on the official form, and if that stupid Pentatonix a capella version continues going viral, the form may well melt down. (You’ve been warned. Don’t click the link if you see it.)

Stay safe, friends. But again, if you don’t, please let us know via the official reporting form so that you’re included on the Memorial Wall, and stop by the Facebook page for equal helpings of sympathy and mockery.

Oh, and don’t forget to send along some of your kids’ holiday art for me to share. Amid the grief and bloodshed, we need the kind of cheer that only a child with a crayon or a set of paints can bring. (Send it along to the email address you’ll find here.)