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The Oak Lawn Tales – The Halloween Party

When I first moved down to Dallas I had no life of my own because I couldn’t separate my life from work. It all stems back to my childhood and my first computer, the Commodore 64. As an awkward kid, it was a lot easier for me to relate to the Commodore’s internal memory map than to the kids in my classes. I spent hours upon hours in my parents basement writing BASIC games, learning the inner workings of the VIC II chip, and playing many of the cracked games my dad had acquired from a co-worker. When I started working at Multi-National corp, the products I was working on had about the same power as the Commodore 64, but were much smaller. Work to me was like what I did for play after school growing up, but they paid me lots of money to do it. Meeting people on the other hand had proven about as difficult as in my high school years. Over a year after I first moved I was beginning to form a semblance of a life in Dallas. I had a couple of people I knew from, a gym, a library volunteer job, and a gay soccer team.  I still didn’t fit in though.

Manuel and I were still friends since our break up (if you could call it that) and in October of 2002 he invited me over to a Halloween party he was throwing. The idea of going to a gay Halloween party made me extremely nervous (isn’t that where the gays grow fangs under the full moon and “recruit”?) but it made me secretly excited as well (maybe they’ll recruit me!). There was no requirement of costume for this party, however this frighted me more because it meant I had to actually wear what I owned. It’s a gay party; what if they judge me and my engineer ware? The week before the party I went to Armani Exchange at the Galleria to find something gay enough to wear. For anyone who has ever been to Armani Exchange, everything in the store is gay enough, and I found a tight fitted long sleeve blue tee-shirt to wear. Sadly, I never wore that shirt after that night because I thought my fellow engineers would find it too gay.

Getting over my hyper-punctuality, I arrived at the party already in progress. My fears of trying too hard on the wardrobe front were put to rest when Manuel greeted me at the door wearing a dress shirt and black leather pants; I clearly was not trying hard enough. Manuel had prepared quite a spread of food for everyone, and there were about 20 guys there talking and dancing. One guy clearly stood out from everyone else. He was very tall with eastern European features, and his striped dress shirt and jeans did little to mask his very well kept body. His long wavy brown hair was un-kept in a very intentional way. He was like a far less-fake Fabio, and everyone at the party wanted to talk to him. I wasn’t immune; I really wanted to say hello, tell him my life story, and have him pick me up in his strong arms and… oh who was I kidding. Guys like that don’t talk to guys like me.

“Manuel, who’s that?”

“That’s my co-worker Lajos. He’s in a different department from me.”

“La.. what?”

“LAY-osh. It’s Hungarian.”

Wow – a hot stud Hungarian engineer. Clearly I was working for the wrong company.

I began walking around the party, trying to meet people. I can be a cut up with the nerds, but out of my element I clam up very quickly. The only thing gayer than Manuel’s wardrobe was his choice in music. He had picked the clubbiest of club music to listen to, and his friends were starting to complain about how cheesy his CD collection was. When gays are rebelling against the club music, you know things are going badly.

People began asking around if anyone had any music requests. One of Manuel’s friends who was trying very hard to get Lajos to notice him asked him, “Lajos, what kind of music do you listen to?”

“Oh, you would think it’s weird. I mostly listen to video game music.”

I perked up. “Commodore 64 music?” I asked.

“Actually, Yeah,” Lajos replied, surprised.

Oh my god. Do I have an in?

While the hunt for better music continued, I walked over to my new-found fellow nerd. Growing up, he was part of the eastern European Commodore 64 cracking scene; for those not in the know, “cracking” is where you break a game’s copy protection scheme so you could make illegal copies. He came to the states to go to school at MIT, and had come to Dallas for his first job. On the side he was trying to become a fitness trainer, because he was very involved with weight lifting and cardio workouts. Clearly this guy was way out of my league, but as he explained the intricacies implementing fast-loading on the 1541 – a process which involved having the drive clock the bits off as fast as possible and having the 6510 read them across the wire assuming the timing without doing any error correction – the other guys at the party would approach us, try and enter into the conversation, and just walk away befuddled. For once I wasn’t the outcast; I was the cool one.

By the time I left the party I was a nervous wreck, having spent the evening trying to both nerdy yet cool. I wasn’t a complete success; showing him my Commodore rain hat was a step too close to crazy. As I walked over to his car in the misty rain in the hopes of getting the thing I couldn’t bring myself to ask for – his phone number –  he casually dropped “well, I guess I should give you my phone number if you want to call me sometime,” and gave me one of his business cards. I felt like Hoover Dam trying to hold back my excitement. I wrote my phone number on a card, gave it to him, and drove away.

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