#141: The Fishing Tourney

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When I think about Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, one of my favorite and most consistently played mobile games, I think of the fishing tournament and flower festivals. The latter is for another time to discuss, but the former I’ll be discussing now for the first time on this blog. Fishing tourneys appear about once or so a month, and they last for about a week. Chip, the walrus animal friend who runs the fishing tourneys, shows up and offers you the Golden Rod (over and over again), then introduces you to the different types of fish you’ll be attempting to catch over the next week. Every three hours or so, the fish reset and you’re able to catch more of the tourney fish.

The most recent tourney featured Mario-themed fish, such as bloopers and cheep cheeps and cheep chomps, with Mario-themed rewards, such as balloons, 8-bit furniture, and common blocks and coins. The amount of fish you collect determines how many rewards you are given for your participation in the tourney. It also determines the rarity of trophy you are given at the end of the tourney; there are four types: wood, bronze, silver, and gold. I think I’ve gotten a gold trophy every tourney except for maybe one. It’s not difficult to get, and if you buy the Golden Rod it’s exponentially easier than before, but it’s something that people can strive for regardless and it feels good to collect from your mailbox once the whole thing is over.

The reason I discuss Pocket Camp so much on this blog is it’s a frequent part of my life, and I love being able to play it every few hours. My friends also play it, as well as my younger sister. There’s a sense of camaraderie that develops by bonding over this fun, small, mobile game.

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#119: Pocket Camp

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How have I gone a hundred and nineteen posts without talking about Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp? I know I just made a post about video games, and I don’t like to inundate my posts with video game info, but this is the first idea that came to my mind. Pocket camp is a daily fixation for us, so I think it’s important to talk about on my daily blog! It just works.

Alex and I have played pocket camp since November of 2017, and it’s been a consistent joy for us ever since. It’s a camp, but in your pocket (on the phone)! I always have my phone with me, so I can always play whenever I need to fulfill my animal requests. It’s available all the time for catching fish and bugs, harvesting fruit and flowers, and talking with animal friends. The campsite (and cabin) is always available for decorating and updating with modern options, and the developers are constantly adding new furniture to the game to spice things up. The fortune cookies allow for unique designs to make their way into the game, and the animals sometimes give you furniture to decorate with too. Alex and I are both super high levels, have tons of campsite items, and have unlocked pretty much every amenity and animal available. It’s awesome to look back at where we started and where we are now. The improvements added to the game in the time since we started have been numerous and game-changing, also. The cabin, the happy home mansion, the fortune cookie shop, Gulliver, Pete, treasure maps, snacks, the garden, and more? I can’t even imagine starting this mobile game for the first time now, with so much to learn about and so much to explore. My sister Bella also plays pocket camp, and is helplessly addicted to it with us. We bond over our mutual conquests in the realm of pocket camp.

#82: The Dog Run

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Angus likes to run. Unfortunately, I do most of my high-intensity exercise at the gym, not outside in the freezing cold. Because it’s still winter, and because we live pretty much beside Long Island Sound, the wind chill reaches extremely low temperatures, depending on the time of day. But what bothers us hardly ever bothers him. This valiant dog, without a coat or jacket, rushes through the frigid weather like a car driving up the entrance ramp to the highway. First slow, then fast, fast, fast. He doesn’t let up, either.

Angus is a runner, though. As soon as you bring him outside, his doggy instincts kick in, and he sets out for adventure. Whenever he finishes his initial pee by the side of the building, Angus likes to roam around for a bit, smell the smells, and wander by the townhouse steps on the first floor. He will pull on the leash and drag his head below his collar to pull you toward where he wants to go, but a bit of a tug in the opposite direction sets him on the right path. When he runs, his back legs kick out and flail like a little kid rushing from the cafeteria to recess. Needless to say, Angus is curious, excitable, and ready for action at the drop of a hat.

My favorite Angus running moment is whenever he forgets how to walk on the hardwood floor. He’ll skid over the rug and onto the floor, yanking his legs repeatedly in the direction of the door. If I grab the keys from their hanger, Angus immediately recognizes that I’ll be leaving the apartment for a bit, and something in his senses tells him to rush over to me as soon as possible so that I can take him instead. Unfortunately, I’m usually going to work and can’t take my dog with me. Maybe some day!

#81: The Sloth

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Let’s talk about dogs again. Alex reminded me last night that it’s been awhile since I’ve talked about Angus, and he’s always on my mind, so it’s no surprise that he’s showing up again here. This time, we’re going to talk about Angus’s pet sloth, Sleuthy (or Sleuth, whatever you want to call him.)

Angus has a special attachment to chewing things. Whether it’s the comforter, the Pikachu plush, or the outside of our laundry hamper, Angus finds a way in and then chews and chews and chews, in a playful manner, because he’s not a vicious fiend or anything. He doesn’t chew on us or on anything especially valuable, which is nice. I imagine it’s a texture-based fascination; that he loves having a bouncy, stuffed, soft feeling in his gaping mouth.

During a trip to Target last weekend, Alex and I picked up a sloth stuffed toy for Angus, along with dog food and treats. Turns out, it’s his new favorite toy. This morning (the morning I’m writing this) I came out of the shower to find him laying in bed with his head rested on Sleuthy’s body. Good thing the toy is made of stretchy fabric that can’t be torn off, at least not easily, because this boy loves his sloth friend. Sleuth will be staying with us for a long time, and I’m looking forward to future bedtime snuggles featuring Angus and his pet sloth. They cap off the night perfectly.

Nothing else to report on the Angus front recently, except that he’s still as excitable and jumpy as ever. When I take him for walks, I still have to yank on his leash to make sure he doesn’t jump on random passer-bys. He’s gotten better at it, though.

Update: Since writing this post during the week, Angus has eviscerated Sleuthy’s throat and ran around with the fluff in his mouth. He is a monster.

#31: The Animal

I, and likely many of my millennial peers, are disillusioned by zoos. Going to the zoo feels like setting an alarm in the morning to go to the local animal prison. Groundbreaking and revelatory documentaries like “Blackwater” have shed important light on the ways wildlife are mistreated in captivity, and although the documentary focused solely on Seaworld, there are elements of it that are reflected in other places, like local zoos. The lack of entertainment, the boredom and tiredness of captivity, the stale and repetitive food, the need to please an alien race. I pity them more than anything as I walk by, as they must be so confused by everything going on every day outside their cages. Just think how confused they must be by average human behavior. Just think how confused you might be by average human behavior.

Even if the animals are mostly treated well and taken care of, I would vastly prefer going to a nature preserve rather than a zoo. Seeing authentic nature, as found on a hike or trek, just appeals to me more than a performative recreation of nature. This is all not to discredit or devalue zoos as an institution for others to enjoy; I just wanted to share my personal preferences so as to introduce a new blog topic.

A more idealistic and humanitarian utopia of animal and human interaction can be found in “Animal Crossing,” a video game series developed and published by Nintendo, appearing on all of their most recent video game consoles. Although the games have certain elements exclusive to each entry, the core formula has stayed the same: enter a new town, befriend the local animal population, curry their favor through gifts and conversation, and take part in local events and festivals such as fishing and bug-catching tournaments, holiday celebrations, and museum viewings. The animals interact just like humans, adopting unique personalities to their speech that shape their decorative and gift preferences. They also have their own houses where all their favorite, hand-selected items and furniture exist. You can find these animals wandering around the town, and sometimes they have optional requests for you to fulfill or random musings they want to share with you. Very rarely do events take place that originate from outside the town; there are no competing cultural influences, just one culture of all animals coexisting with each other. Essentially, Nintendo has gameified having neighbors and a steady, local collective.

What you might notice about this description is how sophisticated Nintendo treats the idea of animal-human community, not as a zoo with humans in complete authority, but as a coexisting world in which regular social norms apply. It is treated as a completely normal and usual thing. In the games, no one ever comments directly on the differences between species, there is no predator versus prey dichotomy, survival of the fittest does not exist, and when animals misbehave or act out, it is in a way that feels more human than anything else. The fact that animals do not need to acknowledge their differences in order to stay alive, like in movies like “Zootopia,” but instead focus silently on being consistently cordial and polite to each other, showcases deep social maturity. It is a benchmark of society’s potential for us, even if that sounds silly.

It also helps that the game moves at a slow, steady, go-with-the-flow pace, incentivizing consistent visits to your town but not without sincere cheer waiting for you when you arrive. Weeds grow on the soil and animals miss your regular visits to their houses, but there are no major consequences for taking it easy in this game. Sometimes an anxious mind needs reassurance that the world can be just as quiet, kind, and thoughtful as needed, and “Animal Crossing” specializes in providing that.

Trail of Tears

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Slingshot knew the path back to his farm in Winston County naturally. He followed it like the wolf followed the scent of its prey, like a hunter followed tracks in the woods. The Native Americans had carved his path centuries ago. He studied their culture for years after sundown, when he no longer could work on the farm. He loved them like friends, brothers, and members of the same pack. They represented what he saw in himself, and he represented them by honoring their traditions. His radio was off. He only heard the wheels of the car grinding and the sound of a siren calling his name. His real name. The road stretched on past the capital and further into the heart of Alabama; he knew it all. In lonesomeness, he drove and the road winded onward like a narrow, slithery snake caught by its tail by a Cherokee on the hunt.

On the way home, while thinking of the Native Americans and their values, he recalled a repressed memory from his youth. He drove on with it in mind.
It was nearing the evening. His family had just finished dinner when they looked out the window. Fog clouded the sun. A dry mist enveloped the farm. The cows and the horses were lost in the confusion. They stopped dinner to try to fix the problem.

They wanted to gather the frenzied animals, and then herd them into the farmhouse by the ranch. They hoped that, by that time, the fog would have cleared.

“We should split up! Meet back here!” his mother shouted to him. “Stay here and wait awhile if we’re too slow for you. We’ll be fine. And when we’re back, we’ll enjoy dinner together at the table!”

They had not predicted this thick of a fog. If so, they would have cooperated. Slingshot ran deeper into it, disobeying his mother, and unsure where he was headed at first. His eyes followed his feet, as he slowly recalled the feel of the soil on his toes. His surroundings came to life in his head. He pictured where he was and he knew where the animals would be. He picked hollow nuts from the ground. To alert the cows, he pelted them with the nuts. The horses scurried rampantly. They trampled fervently over the grass they ate and the soil. In their confusion, they were angry. Anger translated into fear. Fear made them run uncontrollably. The fog was growing. It was late at night, and so they could not see. They could not hear each other’s voices. He gathered the animals quickly by instinct and ran with them . When Slingshot made his trip back to the farmhouse, with cows and horses in tow, he realized that his father and mother were still missing. He shouted, but heard nothing. He herded the animals into the farmhouse, then sat outside and waited.

He was patient. During this time, he imagined himself riding his horses into romantic sunsets. He imagined his family and him together eating the rest of their dinner. He imagined the animals grazing in the grass carelessly, not frightened or confused. He imagined his family joining the animals in the field, playing games and feeding them. He imagined the animals stampeding through the farm, but then he cast that dream away. He imagined them frolicking, then he was happy again. He loved to imagine.

After twenty minutes, his patience wore thin. He replaced wishful imagination with worriment. He returned into the fog once more. He traveled aimlessly. He could no longer see his toes, but he felt the trickling blood that streamed off of them. He shouted into the depths of the mist and began to cry teenage tears. He ran for what seemed like an endless stream of time, a cycle. The fog never ended, like his running. It rose upwards in the sky and above the trees. It brought him chaos. Chaos like he had never experienced before. He yelled:

“Mom! Dad!”

His bare feet bled more as he stepped through rough, unfamiliar ground. Jutting rocks and stones from beneath. He wasn’t sure where he was going. The unforgiving nature burdened him. It had never betrayed him this way; they were always together, like partners of a tribe, like members of a family. They understood each other, he thought. He ran faster and screamed louder. The earth had betrayed its most appreciative and loving son.

“Mom! Dad! Where are you?”

He thought the fog had thickened even more. It encompassed his entire world, threatening not only his vision and emotional stability, but his family. He valued his family far above the horses and the cows or the nature of the farm. He cared for his parents like they cared for him. For the first time in his childish life, he felt true fear. Fright. Anguish. His childish imagination would not cast the fog away or find his parents. His screams would not suddenly save his world. It was time to grow up. And in that instant, Lawrence Sloane, Jr., matured. He reached somewhere deep into his frightened mind and found solace. He discovered security and sanctity. Now, he stepped forward into the breach as an adult. The chaos inside the fog rose. His feet sobbed red tears uncontrollably. He felt an imprint on the soil, maybe Cherokee, but he could not make out what it resembled.

And finally after an hour of searching, crying, and yelling, he found their corpses in a field, their bodies trampled by hooves. His father’s arm covered his mother’s back. They must have found each other in the fog, and then died. He wanted to protect her. They were buried in the same way.

The fog had now faded.

He looted a slingshot from his father’s back pocket. He held it dear to his heart and felt the wet wood of the weapon against his jacket like his father’s embrace.

The fifteen year-old Lawrence Sloane, Jr., returned to his ranch and slept in his bedroom for what seemed like days. No one saw him or knew what happened; their ranch was located so far from civilization that the first police officer arrived a mere week after the event. When he awoke, he had adapted to the changes he would have needed to make; he had accepted their deaths. He had moved on. He was an adult. On the next day, he awoke early and returned to the fields, restoring order to the farm animals and renewing the calmness that once settled abound. His presence brought renewed faith to his farm. Nothing had changed, so the animals figured. He had not sought revenge against the horses; they did not know any better. They were as afraid as he was. In their fright they ran, just like he did.

Slingshot drove back to the farm he had inherited and opened the rickety front door to utter silence, for he lived and maintained the whole three-hundred acres on his own. He kept the ranch clean and tidy. He neglected fancy machinery and newfound advancements. He used proper tools, the same ones his parents used years ago. He kept the slingshot hanging from his back pocket like his father had on his dead body; it was his way to remember and accept his self-induced loneliness.

The memory of his parents’ deaths had not haunted him; it had enlightened him. He embraced it. Slingshot would never trust nature with people’s lives again. He trusted no one –he understood the world better now. The immature, ignorant fifteen year-old Lawrence Sloane, Jr., evolved into the stoic, unforgiving twenty six year-old Slingshot. When a fog rose again in Winston County, Slingshot was prepared; this time, there was no one to lose but himself.

And the memory remained with him for the rest of his existence, but he never felt sad; he felt assured. He realized the nature of evil. In the time since their deaths, through ancient Cherokee teachings which he read from books and further outside learning, he discovered that all humans contain the same evil that nature possesses; they all acquire instinct and they all act unreasonably. Some humans are left behind, while others carry on. Animals are excused, for they do not act superior to their environment like the urban human-machines act. He despised the machines as his father did, as his grandfather did, and as his children will in the future, if he even has children to whom he will tell stories and raise up to till the farm for generations to come. Thinking about life, he walked outside during sunset. He turned to his favorite horse and rode it side-by-side the others into the enveloping, protecting wilderness.

 

**This is an excerpt of a novel I am in the process of writing. If you enjoy it, let me know down in the comments and I can send you more of what I have written so far! Thanks!