August 10th, 2005

Cthulhu Joyce

Dangling participle.

I'm not sure I ever posted this.

I feel I should explain my obsession with the phrase "where are you going to?" Anyone familiar with the computer game series King's Quest?

When I was young, when my family was whole and actually enjoyed each other's presence, we used to have family game nghts. Once a week or so we'd all sit down and work through the current King's Quest installment.

My mother though, at the time, that it would be good for us since we were a blended family. My brothers came from a separate marriage and at the time must have been about ten. My father really didn't want anything to actively do with them (or my sister, but she barely existed anyway). So we'd gather about the screen as my Dad typed commands as we talked about what we thought to do next. It's like driving to the Dells but with far less punching.

In retrospect it was my and Dad talking about what to do next and Rich and Rob screwing around, my mother trying to contain them. I think Dad only half listened to them anyway. Most of the time I didn't really know what was going on but tried to be helpful. Too bad I got Dad trapped by Manannan so many times. How was I supposed to know that using cat fur versus mouse fur would trip some in-game shenanigans that ultimately kill the hero?

The point. By the time King's Quest 6 had rolled around, my parents had were in counseling and my brother's had dropped out. By the time my Dad bought a copy they had split and my mother's entire side of the family had vanished in one way or another. This was probably the first game that we didn't play as a family, or at least that my father and I hadn't played together. It was a hard transitional time for me for obvious reasons. There was a point in the game, though, that I was struck by the whole situation.

At some point on one of the various game islands a string of letters washes to shore. They read "Where are you going" with missing letters at the end. Though a complete phrase, the main character (Alexander) question what it meant. I, as the player, was content to leave it a question. But, being a quest game, everything solves a puzzle. At some point you need to cross a path blocked by a giant animal, half monkey, half chameleon thing that refers to itself as a dangling participle. To get past him, you give him the string of letters. The participle freaks out and completes the sentence as "Where are you going to!" and decides that this question must become his new way of life.

I was asking myself these same sorts of questions with great fear (and better grammar) because I had no idea what was going on with my family. I hate to admit but that little character (and phrase) became a mantra for me through most of high school. It did me well. During those years I explored indian ruins, the grand canyon, meditation, Reiki, ritual sacrifice (seriously - I went to a Sundance in South Dakota where they slaugtered a Buffalo during the opening ritual). High school were my formative years. They started me to where I am now.