I was born and raised in New York City, and for that I am lucky.
Not only did it afford me a great childhood, a wonderful education, and access to culture, but it facilitated me becoming who I am.
Parsing myself down to words, a few pop into mind. Punk is one, gamer is another. Growing up in Brooklyn afforded me the chance to go to tons of punk shows. But it also gave me the chance to grow in one of the epicenters of Magic- Neutral Ground.
I remember reading about the store in the back pages of the Duelist magazine. I recall having my parents escort me there one day, to their first location, where I bought my first twenty sided die (a really cool blue/green mix I still have today). I knew I would be back, spending quite a bit of my allowance there.
Sure, I did not really know what I was doing (40 card Standard deck featuring Brushwagg and Air Elemental anyone?), but I went and played and had fun. When the store moved, I moved right along with it. Located right off my beloved F Train, I was able to spend my afternoons there, hopping from school to NG back home. I PTQ'd, I drafted, I won sometimes, but more often, I lost. But mostly, I just played Magic without a care in the world.
Something else was going on at Neutral Ground. I was becoming part of the NY Magic scene, and I didn't even know it. I, somehow, ingratiated myself to founder and owner Brian David-Marshall. One of the moments I remember with crystal clarity is huddling with him around a small tv set in the fall of 2000, watching the Mets take on the Cardinals for a chance to play in the World Series. There, nestled in a game store, on a shelf full of role playing books, two generations of Mets fans celebrated.
BDM has always been kind to me. He watched me grow up, in a sense. If I had been aware of what I was doing back then, I probably could have been a much better player today, but then I doubt I'd be writing. When I started, BDM encouraged me.
Today, Brian posted on twitter about Sage Francis. My memory somehow jostled loose the memory of a mutual friend recommending this artist to BDM, which sparked an interest in the past. This friend, the Rev. Toby was another person I somehow befriended, despite my best efforts.
We had a tangential connection through rival summer camps and him knowing my cousin. However, he took me under his wing, and helped me get better. When he figured out I was writing about Magic, he sent well wishes.
These are people who were always my peers as gamers and today I can see them on the same level (Well, maybe above my level), but back then, I was the Little Kid. It was awesome to have these people I perceived as "good" giving me the time of day and actively trying to improve their community. To me, these people were titans.
There was the judge who had to disqualify me from an event for registering 39 cards, and then since I had paid for both halves of a double draft challenge, slotted me into the first 8-man. I see him today, and catch up. He has never stopped being kind (thanks Steve).
There's Mike Flores, a writer to whom I aspire. He was always around, and before I even had intentions of writing I would flub around him, making awkward comments, one that prompted a death stare (this is when I was older and knew who he was). There was the afternoon last June when I saw him on the subway and worked up the gumption to start a conversation. I learned more about writing for Magic in those few minutes than I could have ever taught myself through practice. Just yesterday, I asked him to review a short piece. What did I get? Crisp, succinct critique.
All this, because I'm a New Yorker. All this, because I never really stopped being that Little Kid.