“Do you got a rage, man?”
“Oh yeah… I got a rage. My rage is super glue.”
With those fateful words, I was vaulted from the status of fan and Facebook group rabble-rouser to a full-fledged member of the Rage-and-Science based podcast that we all know and love. As of this writing, I’m even above Asterios on the Rage Board!
How did this happen? I realize this isn’t a tremendously big deal all things considered. But the story itself, while not for the highest of stakes, is still an entertaining tale, and it all begins with my foolish and expensive obsession with Magic: The Gathering. Every few weeks, somewhere in the world, is a “Grand Prix,” an enormous magic tournament, usually 1,000+ people. The prizes are upwards of $10,00 cash to first place, and an invite to the quarterly “Pro Tour” where the greatest players in the game compete. Most Magic grinders dream of one day making it to the Pro Tour, and if you run hot all weekend, across 15 rounds, you might just do it in a single Grand Prix.
Needless to say, if you want to attend more than one of these a year, there is a bit of a travel requirement. On August 18th, there was a Grand Prix held in Los Angeles, the fabled City of Failure which I had locked myself in for this event months before. Given that Dick has mentioned getting back into MtG several times on his show, I figured maybe he’d want to meet up and play a round or two while I was in town. I emailed him, told him about the tournament and that I’d be in town all weekend. “If you want to meet up over a beer and play a few games for fun, let me know!”
At first I didn’t hear back. I wasn’t crestfallen, Dick is a busy man and is generally not known for his gift of planning ahead. But as fate would have it, a few weeks later Dick responds.
“Are you coming to the grand prix in LA in August? Would it be fun to do a draft/beer/stripper event?”
The fuck kind of a question is that? OF COURSE IT WOULD BE FUN. Over the next week or two, Dick and I exchange emails, and a loose plan begins to form. Rather than just two assholes meet up to play some games, let’s round up a ton of assholes to meet up, get shitfaced, maybe play some games, and hit up a strip club afterwards. The ensuing madness would have to rival a Road Rage. Being as I’m a Road Rage LA survivor, I figure I can withstand pretty much anything any Dickheads have to throw at me at this point.
As the plan coalesced around us, we spent close to three weeks trying to find a venue. I’ll admit I was in over my head, having barely ever even made a dinner reservation before, let alone booking a club/bar/event hall for a private engagement. I explain to Dick and his agent Diego approximately what sort of accommodations we’d need, how an MtG draft works, and how to organize a tournament. We eventually settle on a set to draft, and an approximate maximum headcount. We find a satisfactory venue and lock in a date. We dub it “Grand Pricks.” Saturday night at 8PM. You know, the same Saturday that I was planning on spending playing in that Grand Prix and trying to win my seat at the next Pro Tour.
You know what they say about having and eating cake.
So what was more important? A tournament that I’ve been preparing for for months, with the grand prize in the five-figure range and the cumulation of all of my hard work as a Magic player? Or going to some bar to get drunk with people I’ve never met and play sloppy, casual Magic with effectively no real prize or value to be gained? There really was only one decision worth making. I guess I’ll have to wait until next time to make the Pro Tour.
Fast forward to the weekend of the big event. I arrive in LA with some of my MtG buddies, we rented an AirBnB a mile or so from the Convention Center that the Grand Prix was being held at. We can walk to and from the center at our leisure. It’s not that far, no big deal. The only problem is that I forgot that LA, specifically downtown LA where we were, is a complete and utter cesspool. Tent cities under every freeway overpass. Broken crack pipes and needles in the street. Deranged bums muttering to themselves on the corner. And because you don’t have rights in Kalifornia, I’m without my carry gun. It took us exactly one walk to the Convention Center for us to decide it wasn’t worth dying over, and we’d Uber to and from the rest of the weekend. Our excursion through Downtown was later dubbed the “Miracle Mile,” because it’s a miracle that five white-ish dudes made it from start to finish without being fucking killed, or waking up in a bathtub full of ice.
Around 8 PM, a fellow Dickhead and honorary Lone Star Boi Leo Lombardozzi tells me his flight landed and to meet him at a bar downtown. This bastard flew all the way from Massachusetts to be here for this draft! What an absolute unit.
Leo and I grab a booth, start boozing, and jam a few games before going back to the AirBnB. I fall asleep in the wrong bed, Leo falls asleep on the floor. Typical drunken bullshit. The next morning I wake up only slightly worse for wear. Thanking my good fortune, we head to the Convention Center and waste time until around 6, as Leo and I plan on heading to the bar a little early to help Dick set up. Dick offers to have us meet him at his house, and then we can all ride together to the bar. I couldn’t pass up a chance to see the Bunker in person, so I eagerly accept. Traffic had other plans for us however. Every meme, every joke, every quip, story, movie, and anecdote you’ve ever heard about LA traffic is 100% true. Its fucking awful. In 20 minutes, our Uber made it two miles down the road. I text Dick and tell him that I don’t think we’re gonna make it to his house in time, and that we’ll just meet him at the bar. “No problem,” he says, “come by tomorrow instead while we’re recording.”
What a weekend it was shaping up to be! Leo and I get to the bar before Dick does, the Arts District Brewing Company. LA overall really sucks, but this place as cool as fuck. It was enormous, with a large central bar area that had to be over 2,000 square feet. There was also an outside patio that ran the length of the bar, and a smaller side room with its own mini bar and several booths. Leo and I manage to grab the largest table in the side room, looking like it may seat around 10 people. We intended on grabbing the smaller tables and booths as needed when patrons naturally cleared out. A couple of Dickheads trickle in (we’re a pretty easy group to spot), including a guy I met previously at Road Rage LA. If you’re reading this, I’m sorry I don’t remember your name, but I’ve never held it against you that you’re a Reddit.
Around 7:30, the man himself appears. Dick, Cshion, 80s Girl, Diego, and Kian file into the room and are immediately met with applause. I’m a rather puissant man, but Dick towers over me by at least 6 inches. We shake hands the only way that men know how to do, like that one scene in Predator. We have some time to kill while people file in for the event, so I take some time to teach a few new players how the game works, and we all start pregaming. Finally, at around 8:20 PM, we have our headcount and begin to play.
Running a draft is exhausting. Running a draft with 18 drunk people, 4 of which have never even seen a Magic card before today, in a bar that you have to shout at the top of your lungs to be heard is downright suicidal. We split into two groups and do our thing. We drink, we game, we drink more, and a few hours later, we have two winners. David Nguyen and Ryan Johnson took home celebratory playmats with my naked body on them, and are crowned as top MtG Dickheads. It’s 1 AM. Everyone is crosseyed drunk. Dick can barely stand. I silently curse whatever unseen titans are grabbing the walls of this bar and shaking them. We pack up and head outside.
The plan was originally to hit up a strip club, but given the state of us, the only thing we were capable of hitting up was a box of donuts. There’s no way I make it ten minutes down the line before passing out, Leo is in the “won’t stop hugging people” phase of drunkenness, and Dick is muttering incoherently to who-knows-who. It’s time to call it a night. A tremendously cool local Dickhead named Kyle offers to take Leo and I back to our AirBnB, and Kyle, if you’re reading this, @ me sometime, I own you a beer or four.
I get no more than 6 hours of sleep before the stirring of my housemates breaks the tenuous peace. I gain consciousness, and before I even open my eyes, I feel it.
There are some events that are so impactful in your life that you will always remember them. I remember the worst hangover I’ve ever had. I was maybe just 18, spent about 9 hours drinking at a friend’s house, and fell asleep in a chair. I woke up 3 or so hours later and was convinced that the only thing that could make me feel better was suck-starting a revolver. I didn’t have one handy, so the next best thing was a bong and a hot bath, and I had to settle for that. Waking up on Sunday after Grand Pricks wasn’t the worst hangover I’ve ever had, but it was bad. Bad enough to remind me of that fateful morning in the chair, ten years ago. Bad enough that the first thing that went through my head was whether or not the second that that goes through my head should be a bullet or not. In Episode 116, I mention that I was so hung over the first thing I did was chew up a handful of ibuprofen. I wasn’t exaggerating. There aren’t enough NSAIDs in the world to fix me that morning. I had to settle, as before, for a hot bath. Instead of a bowl of weed, I further settled for a bowl of oatmeal. Leo wasn’t in much better shape. We laze around the BnB as long as we can, because functioning in any capacity was out of the question. Leo and I checked out two hours later at 10 AM, bags packed, heads swimming. Our destination: a concrete bunker, deep in the heart of a mountain in the City of Failure.
Dick wasn’t kidding about any of that by the way. The road to his house is steeply uphill, with multiple switchbacks. The claustrophobic streets occasionally shrink to a single lane, around blind corners, where your only hope of not turning a corner into oncoming downhill traffic is relying on the Lord’s mercy. Navigating these treacherous “roads” sober would be difficult enough. Navigating them with one of the worst hangovers in history… I’m either the luckiest man in the world, or the most powerful. I like to err on the side of caution and assume the latter. Like an 8 bit hero navigating a paranoid dungeon, I make the twists and turn until I find my reward at the end of the tunnel. The bunker. What a view the bunker has. The sliding glass door to the back yard overlooks the City of Failure, as a lordly manor’s expansive view also surveils its subjects. It’s a peculiar thing to see, LA from this distance. Not too far, such as when flying over in a plane, but not too close that you can see the trees without the forest. You can clearly map the class divide from this height. A stark divide rests at the foot of the mountain, separating the haves from the have-nots as plain as any big beautiful wall envisioned by the despot du jour. Herein is the mark of success: having a full vantage of all those beneath you.
It was almost enough to make me forget about the booze-logged dendrites rupturing all over my brain. Almost.
Down the stairs we go, down into the bunker, the beating heart of all things Dick. Though the man’s reputation is ephemeral, an intangible mark that travels with him, it is clear that the mythos surrounding him, the source of his power, is grounded within these walls. In the corner lies a shelf full of the various knick knacks he’s accrued throughout his peculiar career. An Adam Nash tee shirt. Emily Vouve’s bead figures. A portrait of Asterios. The $20 Million Man action figure. Mike Cernovich’s book. I think of all the shapers who graced these claustrophobic walls. Asterios Kokkinos. Sam Hyde. Mumkey Jones. Jamie Lynn Hughes. As diverse in talent and viewpoint as their names themselves. Each one of them made cannon in TDS lore by the same question I, in my mentally neutered state, would have to face down shortly.
“What makes you a rage?”