Story of the Month: Crazy Car Crash Part 2


Last month I shared the ordeal of a car accident I experienced several years ago. This month i thought I’d wrap up with a bit of fallout AFTER a car crash…the little things people don’t expect after dealing with trauma and the relief of “I survived!” has passed.

As I lay on the couch for a few days recuperating, I received a call from my insurance company. Apparently my agents, with whom my family had been associated for something like 25-30 years, didn’t do any investigating. They handed it off to a specific investigator who…never left the office. How one can determine the causes of a physical event like a car accident without actually visiting the scene or viewing the wreckage I have no idea. Imagine Sherlock Holmes calling up Sir Baskerville and asking, “Sooo…it was a dog of some kind?” But that is essentially what happened. Remember that person who asked “what happened?” as I was being loaded into the ambulance? Evidently that was the investigating policeman on the scene. Remember my response of “someone hit me?” THAT was recorded as my statement! The woman who rear ended me apparently cried and gave a long statement that I swerved in front of her and hit her. Despite all my damage being on the driver’s side of the rear of my vehicle, which made that claim virtually impossible…

I did actually speak to my insurance “investigator” once who said, “well we do have a police statement saying you swerved in front of her, according to the report your comments were very sparse.” The fallout from this was such that everyone in my family who had the same insurance agent called asking for SOME kind ofa assistance, and only heard “it’s with investigations now.” So despite 30 some odd years of patronage, no help was given. It eventually resulted in everyone in my family, including my grandparents who I think had them as long as they had insurance in this state, switching to a different agent.

In the end, the investigator never visited the scene, never saw the car, and from what I can tell, never really submitted a report. I do know the accident was declared “no fault” and this has led us all to believe the other driver must have had the same company as me…meaning they would be paying out someone…UNLESS it was no fault in which everyone paid their own…which how I got my next car…

Insurance Companies in Practice

So what are the life lessons here? Well number one is: it’s a MYTH that the person who rear ends you is always at fault! Number two is balance, I was in a car accident and looked bad enough that the hospital staff thought I’d been on a motorcycle instead of a massive, safe car. You can get away with nearly being squished, but that amy be as far as your luck goes when you try to put things back together that AREN’T your bones! And number three, Insurance is essentially reverse gambling. You pay a LOT of money over the years all in the hopes that you never have to cash out. They aren’t they for your protection or for yous benefit, they’re mostly there because it is safer to have them just in case of a catastrophe that you may or may not cause, than to not have them at all. Even if their willingness to help when you really need them is slim to none…

In the end this wasn’t a sad or bad story. I got lots of nifty scars, a good “worst car crash” story, and I always have good “here’s why I hate insurance companies” argument whenever it comes up. I’ve been a cynic my whole life, but this taught me extra caution when dealing with companies like insurance or traffic cops. There ARE very good ones out there…then there are the ones who are just barely making an effort. If nothing else it has helped post-graduation me NEVER be the kind to just barely make an effort. Who knows whose on the other end of your work…waiting for an answer only you can provide and hoping you’ve done the best you can.

And in the end it always come down to Wheaton’s Law no matter who you are, what your job is, or what you’re doing:

Wheaton’s Law


Story of the Month: Crazy Car Crash Part 1


In 1989 my grandparents of all people got the coolest car I’d ever seen. I was 8, and they got a brand new Oldsmobile Cutless Supreme. An Olds the coolest car ever?   Oh yes. I remember the first time going for a ride in it; it was navy blue, was the quietest car I’d ever been in, and the dashboard panel looked like this:


I felt like I was in the Millennium Falcon.

For years they had this car as their “backup” vehicle, driving either my grandfather’s Olds Eighty-Eight or their Ford Bronco depending on what their second car was at the time.

In 2001 they started looking for a new car. I was driving a Geo Prism at the time, mostly using it to go back and forth from college to home on the weekends. Since my G-parents wanted a new one my mom talked them into giving the Cutless Supreme to ME. I paid the registration fee alone and received the coolest car ever, awesome digital dash, very low mileage, still a shiny dark blue. I looked forward to going back to college (about 50 miles from home) just for the short, casual commute.

One fall weekend I was on the way back home to go to a library book sale. It was a clear, bright day, sunny and unseasonably warm, when my Cutless Supreme made its last journey…

I was in the left lane, moved into the right near my exit. I glanced into my rear view mirror and saw a white Mustang (see THIS post about Mustang drivers) racing up behind me. I’ve always heard that in times of danger “time slows” I think it’s more accurate to say “the mind races.” It’s in these moments, where adrenaline flows and heart rates thunder that we see things in the same way a hummingbird does…racing metabolism seemingly slowing the world around us…

I knew from the pace and timing the Mustang couldn’t or wouldn’t stop. Not only did it NOT stop it didn’t even slow down. I was struck in the rear driver’s side and PIT maneuvered off the interstate at about 65 miles an hour. I’ve always been told I have an absurdly good memory and in this case have distinct memories of what went through my mind. I actually remembered my driving training before being hit (“no matter what go off to the right if there is a problem, that way you’re more likely to NOT hit another vehicle,” which explains why my rear driver’s side was hit); I remember a stand of small trees and thinking “Good, they’re small trees that will stop me from continuing in the unstoppable plunge off the road without crushing me utterly;” I then remember seeing them go to my left and vanish from view as I spun. Apparently what happened next was the rear of the car struck a steel lamp post in the exit and the spin was brought to a sudden halt. When I made the trip home weeks later I saw navy blue paint about 6 feet up the post demonstrating how far up the car crumpled before arresting its momentum.

The next thing I remember is trying to open the driver’s side door, which was stuck. I got angry slid over to the passenger door and kicked it free. I crawled out and to my surprise people had already gathered. When did they have the time to do all that? One woman implored me to sit down, but I was too busy looking for my phone so I could call home to tell them what happened. A guy in scrubs rushed over and told me he was a LifeFlight Nurse from Vandy Hospital and asked me to sit down. He held my neck to prevent any further trauma and I tried to call home. Our home number had recently been changed (it had been the same since 1987) and after I dialed and handed the phone to nurse he said “the number says it isn’t available.” I responded, “Dammit, they just changed it. I swear this isn’t brain damage.” I dialed the new number and when my mom answered I said, “Mom I just got into a car accident.” She said, “How bad is it?” Not thinking I responded, “Well the LifeFlight Nurse is here.” To which I heard a, “WHAT?!” and Immediately clarified, “no, no he was just passing by!” (People don’t do that to your mothers…)

They loaded me into an ambulance on a big, orange plastic board and someone asked “What happened?” I had no idea who, I was strapped down staring at the ceiling of an emergency medical vehicle and responded, “Well…someone hit me.”

I was taken to a major ER where I received between 230-300 stitches and Dr. Grimmet (I still remember her name) stayed for over two hours (much to the chagrin of the other ER staff who wanted her to assist elsewhere) to finish suturing my left arm which needed by far the most work. I also got sutures on my eyelid which I won’t lie FREAKED me the EFF out.

After about 6 hours getting sewn up in the ER I went home and slept on the couch for a few hours. I woke up a couple times, once to see our cat, Sweetie Pie, peeking over the couch at me in awe and wonder almost saying, “You smell like the guy who lives here but you don’t look like him…” I met her gaze for a moment before she fled the scene in horror!

I actually couldn’t make any calls so I sent my RevPub partner an email telling her what happened before passing out (I have never lived down the fact that I related the crisis via email…) She called and talked to my mom to check on me. My grandfather showed up the next morning and said, “What did you do to my car?!” and a good laugh was had by all.

My dad went to the local wrecking yard to take pics for insurance purposes and here’s what he came back with. To this day I can’t help but think only a few months before I was in a Geo Prism…I don’t think it would’ve fared as well…

Crash4 Crash2 Crash1 Crash3 Crash5 Crash8 Crash7 Crash6Preview

Next month, the epic battle between a rear-end collision victim and his own insurance company!

Story of the Month: Godzilla and the First Movie in a Lifelong Library


I once heard that the sense of smell is the sense most tied to memory. Strangely one of the smells that I found to be universal no matter where I went was the smell of a video rental store. Though the concept of movie rentals died out in the last decade, my family visited them frequently in the 80s and 90s in Louisiana, Nevada, and Tennessee and they always had the same scent. It’s an acrid, vinegary smell of plastic and commercial electronics cleanser. It’s the bitter, stale smell of recycled air and electric servo motors slightly burned from overuse. It‘s tied completely to my childhood so, despite its seemingly negative description, it’s one of the sense memories I find the most comforting.

Being born in the early eighties, home video technology wasn’t exactly new but it also was still a luxury. I remember our first massive silver Pioneer VHS player. My mom bought a VHS copy of Ghostbusters as our first movie and for perhaps a year or more it was the only movie we owned. A military family, I remember distinctly the video rental store near base in Louisiana. It was tiny, even to a three-year old, and had model airplanes hanging from the ceiling. And it had that smell… We rented a ton of movies, and especially cartoons, for my sister and I so it was a place we visited frequently.

When I was five we moved to Las Vegas and soon my mom added Crocodile Dundee to our video library expanding it to two tapes. For my birthday that year I received two dinosaur tapes, both less than 30 minutes long but I still have them and still love them.

Two of the first tapes that were ever mine. I got them for my birthday around 1987.

It was in Las Vegas that my mom let me pick out the first movie I ever chose to add to the video library and I got it from a video rental place. I remember how wide open and bright it seemed compared to the one in Louisiana. We’d been there plenty of times and it housed one of my first disappointments in media, discovering the My Pet Monster video I was dying to rent was only available in BETA… I never got to see that episode! But this day my mom let me pick a movie to buy; one that I could add permanently to our collection VHS tapes and we could keep and watch over and over. As a huge dinosaur fan, and having just been introduced to the Crestwood Monster books series I picked one. The first movie I ever bought: Godzilla versus Megalon, the 1986 Video Treasures public domain release.

Crestwood Monster Series books. These were in the Gragson Elementary School Library and I checked them out frequently. They were largely inaccurate but a good intro to monster movies.

It was after seeing this movie that my love affair with Godzilla began. It is without a doubt one of the strangest of the Godzilla movies; and the version I saw was a heavily edited cut. It features a weird robot (Jet Jaguar), underground civilizations, two big monster villains, and some of the zaniest Godzilla moments ever. I remember the beginning with the kid in the paddle boat and the moment where Godzilla slides across his tail to drop kick Megalon being held by Jet Jaguar like they’re a pro-wrestling tag team and the ref is scolding Megalon’s partner (Megalon actually DID have a partner, another great monster, Gigan). Watching it now it is one of the most ridiculous of the Godzilla movies. It was when Big G was aiming for the kid market, and luckily I was a kid. I loved it. I still do. And I couldn’t be prouder that my first movie was this one, as ridiculous as the movie itself is. It takes me back to that place and those feelings of joy and wonder I had watching it as a kid. I can almost hear the industrial tape rewinders and smell that video store smell.

With The King of the Monsters arriving in a genuine updated form in theaters this past weekend it got me thinking about that movie. The first movie a lifelong film fan ever bought, and a memory of simpler times when all we needed was a VHS player and a fun movie to be at our happiest.

My original VHS copy of Godzilla Vs. Megalon. The first movie I ever picked out.
It was considered an “adventure” movie judging from the serial number and genre logo.
This public domain release was heavily edited from the original theatrical version but even so they gave away results of the plot on the reverse blurb!

Off the Top of My Head: Arkham Horror Advice from a Beginner

Off The Top of My Head

Arkham Horror Advice from a Beginner

I am by no means an Arkham Horror expert. With less than ten full games, none of them played to the letter of the rules, it’d be ridiculous for me to claim it. However, as a relative novice I feel I can offer some helpful advice to other novices and other newbies to the world of Arkham Horror. These simple concepts certainly helped my friends and I get over the steepest parts of the learning curve, though mastering the intricacies of the rules can only come from multiple play throughs.

Mighty Tower of Arkham Horror
Mighty Tower of Arkham Horror

1.)    Watch Tutorial Videos: Buying, storing, and playing Arkham Horror is a monetary, space, and time investment. Before investing it would be wise to watch many of the YouTube videos available to see what the game is about. It is best to start with short intro videos; many good-quality videos explain the premise and gameplay in 5-10 minutes. Then work your way up to rules and set-up descriptions before finally moving on to multi-hour play-through videos. It should be pointed out that I’ve never seen a video where they didn’t get at least one rule wrong. It goes to show even those most comfortable with the game can still mess up.

Mike found this short review.  It’s very brief but gets the basics across.

2.)    Organize the Game Components: For many of my games I use small ziplock bags to store the pieces. Arkham Horror has a stupendously long set up time and this can be drastically reduced by getting some kind of containers to hold the all the clues, money, elder signs, and other tokens needed for the game. I recommend stackable beading containers like these. They come in a big set of multiple sizes for about $5 and you can stack a pillar of them and only need one lid so you just unstuck them and all the pieces are set up. I’ve seen some use card holders, but I find these difficult to store so I still do take the time to shuffle and deploy the cards.


3.)    Keep the Rules Handy When Playing: This might sound basic but you’ll be surprised how often it comes up… Fantasy Flight makes incredible games that can be very thick in rules with instruction books that can feel vague and difficult to navigate. You’ll only learn the rules while playing but you’ll have to consult them a lot, especially during your earliest games or when something uncommon occurs. Keep them close by. Mark the pages, because the citation for Blessings and Curses is on one page in the index but how they behave during upkeep isn’t in the same citation. Eventually you’ll get them memorized but it never hurts to have them close by if needed. As an aside the Miskatonic Horror expansion isn’t a true expansion as it’s more an add-on to the base game and all the other expansions. It DOES come with great little reference cards that explain how many monsters, gates, etc are allowed based on the number of players. They’re awesome.

Info Cards from Miskatonic Horror
Info Cards from Miskatonic Horror

4.)    Be Patient…: Maybe the hardest of all of these rules is to be patient. A game the size and scope of Arkham Horror has tons of rules for a reason. It’s incredibly in-depth and absorbing. It can really draw you in for hours and hours. But it also means it takes a lot of time to gain even a basic understanding of it all. In our first game Mike and I essentially quit in frustration. We didn’t understand it so we gave up for the day and came back to game another day. Every time we do a bit better, and every time gain a greater respect for it. Also even as you get better the game is punishingly difficult. It WILL beat you almost every time. If you are pathological about losing don’t even try it, but for me it makes the eventual victory mean that much more…you KNOW you earned that one…

5.)    The Most Important Rule! Every rulebook for Warhammer 40k I’ve ever read comes with this rule and it’s very valuable in EVERY game. I’ll quote them directly, “The most important rule then is that the rules aren’t all that important! So long as…players agree, you can treat them as sacrosanct or mere guidelines, the choice is entirely yours.” Of course 40k is a lot more open than Arkham Horror, but the spirit of this remains the same. The purpose of ANY game is to have fun. Especially while learning don’t let the rules get in the way of the fun!

Arkham Horror is definitely my favorite board game and it’s one I’d like to play more of with more players. It’s not for the timid and inexperienced gamers might be intimidated by its scale and scope, but if you stick with it you’ll have the most absorbing, difficult, and satisfying board game experience you’re likely to have. And in the famous words of Wil Wheaton: Play More Games!

Want more Arkham Horror? Check our the Story of the Month!

The game’s page on Fantasy Flight.

Feel like diving in?  Here are the rules.

Story of the Month: Arkham Horror and the Story of Our Learning Curve


Arkham Horror: The Story of Our Learning Curve

Table top gaming is a near every day thing for some of us.  So to continue the excitement brought about by International TableTop Day this month, the story of the month for April is actually several micro stories of how my friend Mike and I have navigated the learning curve of the infamous and glorious board game masterpiece: Arkham Horror.

Arkham Horror is one of those games that popped up frequently enough in my various “you might also like” lists and got such stellar reviews I had to try it. It comes with two main warnings: It is very rules heavy and punishingly difficult.

Those warnings are to be heeded.

Below is a basic timeline of the Arkham Horror learning curve my friend Mike and I experienced while learning the game. It’s steep, and full of lots of stupid; but just when you think you’ve figured the game out, it throws you a curve:

Play Through #1: We totally messed this up. We read the rules wrong and counted every player turn as a game turn. Meaning we performed BAD actions after every individual turn instead of at the end of all player turns like we were supposed to. The game is hard enough and we somehow made it harder…actually we made it impossible. We gave up in frustration.

Play Through #2: We decided to play again when killing a day. We battled Nyarlathotep this time. Among the stuff we messed up: we kept forgetting the lingering effects of the ancient one “stirring in his slumber,” did all the player turns out of order (fought monsters whenever, went through gates and had encounters whenever, didn’t really know what it meant to be delayed…), and TOTALLY screwed up the boss battle once the big bad awoke. We took a doom token off for ever successful roll…instead of taking one off for every six successes.

Play Through #3: We always randomize the options so we ended up fighting Nyarlathotep again a few months later. We got a lot of the rules right this time, we watched a few videos, learned a few new things. Did MUCH better on player turn order, fought monsters better, understood the “outskirts” and “surge” rules better, and even got owned by the big bad when he awoke this time… BUT…we still messed up combat rules. And a couple important monster rules we continued to mess up for the next few play throughs…

Play Through #4: The same night we fought Nyarlathotep the second time we played Elder Signs against Hastur and got burninated, owninated, and decimated(ed). When we played Arkham Horror the fourth time we drew random again and Hastur was our ancient one. We got almost everything right here. Player turns, actions, play order, surges, and sealed that mo-fo with six elder signs. BUT…there was still one VERY important rule we messed up…we didn’t even realize it…

Play Through #5: This was an afternoon game day. We battled Cthulhu whose “stirring in his slumber” effect is brutal. It was our best game yet though. We didn’t seal the bastard but by closing all open gates we still won and defeated Cthulhu sending him back to R’lyeh forever…BUUUUT! It was after this game Mike discovered we were playing monsters ALL wrong. For the last three games we forgot to spawn monsters EVERY time gates opened. A major and foolish oversight and one that plagued our next play through too. Furthermore, we always played six characters…which means anytime you draw a monster you draw TWO monsters…which we weren’t doing. We only drew one. Making the game that much easier. We desperately needed to see how this critical error would affect us when corrected. Which we did on…


Our Cthulhu playthrough in progress.
Our “victory” over the most famous of Great Old Ones.

Play Through #6: We included Mike’s fiancée Bekah in the game. We all played two characters each and had the rules down, save for that important monster+gate one, and battled Shub Niggurath. We fought maybe one or two monsters out of sequence and had five elder signs on the board sealing gates. THEN…monster surge, with two gates open. Brought TWELVE monsters out. Filling the outskirts several times and raising the terror track. That happened at least four times, again, with only two gates open there was a monster mash party around the two gates (which were in adjacent areas). The terror track reached ten, Shubby-kuns awoke, immediately devoured both of Mike’s characters and one of mine (no monster trophies…) and my remaining and Beckah’s two characters did battle. We took her down to half damage before I couldn’t sneak anymore and was devoured. Without me there to cure her sanity Beckah was offed in short order and we lost. We did so much right this game EXCEPT… We still hadn’t remembered to spawn two monsters every gate opening and, Mike, during the final battle (he was managing the Ancient One since his characters were, ya know, dead) said, “Oh…I’ll..uh tell you later..” “Later” was the next day when he texted me and told me Shubby-wubby was Physically Immune. Meaning only my one holy water usage and Beckah’s spell (which I was healing sanity so she could use) and her magic knife would’ve caused damage. So we just lost WORSE than we actually did.

What’s the lesson here? Arkham Horror might be my favorite board game. It’s huge, involving, in-depth, and once the rules are understood fit perfectly. The point is, if there is one, that despite all the screw ups, Mike and I kept playing. Looked for others to play with. Kept playing. And we never cheated on purpose.  Anyone playing a big game like this WILL mess up the rules. But keep playing. Mess up the rules more. Make house rules if you have to. Gaming is about having fun. Being inclusive. Bringing new gamers in and helping them learn (and maybe learning something you missed!) Gaming is about fun. Win or lose, co-op or competitive. Have fun out there. It’s why we play!

For fun and to show how big this game can get... This is Arkham Horror with the three expansion boards in place.  It's as long as my couch.
For fun and to show how big this game can get… This is Arkham Horror with the three expansion boards in place. It’s as long as my couch.

The game’s page on Fantasy Flight.

Feel like diving in?  Here are the rules.

Story of the Month: Phantom Phone


They say insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. I disagree.

Phantom Phone

Last month I house/dog sat for a good friend. I was there Wednesday, Thursday, and a half day on Friday. Everything was going well until Thursday morning.

That morning, the dogs and I returned from an early walk, and as I set up my laptop to begin working, I heard the first ring. Go ahead, play the video. You know you want to…

Then I heard the second ring, and the third, fourth, fifth… hundredth. I’m not exaggerating. A phone beneath the apartment floor was ringing nonstop. It rang all day and night Thursday, and was still ringing Friday afternoon when I left for work.

I tried to drown it out as best I could with the TV or music. I’d even leave to get fresh air, but the ringing followed me. When I took the dogs out, I tried to find the apartment the sound was coming from, but once I got into the hall, it sounded as if it was all around me. I couldn’t figure out which way to begin my search.

It was my tell-tale heart. The ringing echoed in my head, and I wondered if it was all in my imagination. I thought I was really going nuts – it’s about time after all.

So, is insanity doing the same thing repeatedly expecting different results? No. Insanity is listening to the same sound for 36 hours straight, never finding the source or able to control it! It took me two days to get that ringing out of my head, and every time I think about it, I want to hold myself and rock back and forth.