I’m trying to recollect the past week – three major US cities and almost 3000 miles – but the cheesesteak in my stomach would love a siesta right now. The last few days have been as delicious as that sandwich, but the aftermath just as tiring, my brain a garbled mess of alcohol and meat, mixed in a blender of insomnia. Let’s see what I remember from this puree:

Eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside.

Americans love food. As obvious as that sounds, with obesity rates a constant issue on slow news days, I actually don’t mean it in a negative light. This American obsession means you can always find a good bite in any town. Cholesterol, heart disease, blood pressure be damned, we’re not bowing to your tyrannical demands, freedom means good eats! And boy are they ever good! Barbecue in Austin is fat and moist, New Orleans gumbo makes your tastebuds melt, and the cheesesteaks in Philly are the best cure for insomnia. All were recommended before the trip and we never left a meal disappointed.

But the food, as good as it was, wasn’t the best part of meals. Food is a great excuse for socializing with strangers – in an ever more digital world, a welcomed ice breaker. Want to know a place better? Just chat over some grub. Servers and bartenders are obvious talkative locals to get regional advice, but my favourite conversations came via communal meals – a fellow diner with nothing to do between bites but chat away. Our new gourmand friends gaily offered the best tips for what to do next and usually endeavoured to join us – though post meal sleep almost always got the better of that promise (only one time did anyone actually follow through – a drug dealer, in love with our adventurous spirit, toured us around Austin’s night life with his girlfriend, even though that meant breaking the rules of his probation – what a great guy!)

With so much information exchanged over meals, why don’t games use restaurants more often? Adventure games seem prime for talks at a table, but all genres could have character exposition made genuine by a grounded setting. Why is everyone standing around in RPGs? Sit them in the mess hall!

There cannot be good living where there is not good drinking.

Alcohol is my vice of choice. Warmth in the cold, confidence to the timid, stimulant to the lethargic. Sure, it’ll knock you on your ass if you aren’t careful, but that teaches restraint. Mornings are overrated anyway. Seems that America agrees with me. Across the country, a plethora of craft beers, local liquors, and the revival of mixology. There’s a pride to all of it, where the youth must prove they can distill their liquid drug better than the last generation.

It all works for me. Austin’s local rock stars blaring live music to the streets through tavern windows, Philly’s fervent and numerous football fans losing their voices from shouting at sports bars, New Orleans’ nightly parades of Sazerac-fueled indiscretion through lustful jazz. Depravity ritualized.

But it wasn’t always just good fun. For almost a full decade, alcohol was outlawed in a United States with heightened morality and less practical sense. The lingering effects are still evident through formerly illicit prohibition cocktails and old speakeasy signs. Why do we now accept consuming this Devil’s Juice? Can we compare an alcohol ban to the modern marijuana debate? How will future generations feel about our currently illegal drugs?

Can video games tackle such nuanced questions?

And I gotta get a move on before the sun.

The road trip is almost over – we’ll stumble through New York City for a few nights before finally crossing the border back to the True North. It has been fantastic, exotic, outlandish, and weird. Soon, it will be time to turn these memories into inspirations. Wish me luck!


Quotes from Mark Twain, Ben Franklin, and Bob Dylan

Image modified from torange

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