It Won’t Stop a Shotgun – The Journey Home
If the journey out was a trek enough, then the voyage home was going to be ten times worse. For a start, we had to be out of the Duplex by arse o’clock in the morning. Or 10 am as it is known to everyone else. After being cruelly mocked the previous day by Lee for taking an age to pack (every time he came in to the room I was sitting in a different position, staring at the mess of stuff to cram into the cases), we were about done. It was a case of hauling chargers out of walls, clearing up, and stuffing our now, sadly, defunct passes into bags.
Our flight wasn’t until about ten that night. Fuck knows what we were going to do with our suitcases until then, but we headed for the airport anyway to see whether or not we could check in and snag some seats with decent leg room.
I was still burning from the memory of the last time I crossed paths with US Airways, so I wasn’t looking forward to this one bit. So… we meet again, US Airways. What’s this, you’re trying to foil me with your lovely and helpful desk clerk? A clerk who, for once, has seated us all together, and in seats with more leg room than a football pitch? Hmmm, what’s the catch? Perhaps they were going to take both of our bags this time, or rip Lee’s even worse than they did the last time.
My suspicions were to remain in place until I got all of our bags back, in one piece, in Glasgow on Monday morning, but with the cases thankfully ditched, we hopped in a cab with a recommendation from the helpful clerk and headed to Marina Del Ray. First stop, the Fisherman’s Village, which is more a frontage of a few shops and eateries than anything else. We saw a seal. Bored, we headed instead for the hallowed halls of the Cheesecake Factory once again, finally settling at a table with a decent view over the beach.
Being from the UK, the gloomy day was a relief from the usual burning LA heat, and the look the waitress gave us when we said we wanted the patio heater (seriously – all the patio heaters were on) switched off, was priceless. After we stuffed ourselves on the last good meal we’d likely see Stateside and toasted GamingLives’ first E3, we wandered along the beach, finding a spot in the shade to talk, and watched the sea lap at the sand behind a cluster of palm trees. Talk turned to combing over the previous days and how sad we all were to be leaving. It had been an exhausting experience, but one we were already missing and the thought of almost two days about to be spent in the limbo of travelling wasn’t a pleasant one.
Mark went down to paddle in the sea with Lee, while Ben and I sensibly opted to stay in the shade and talk. Half an hour later they returned, looking noticeably pink. Pink began to turn to red. I was blamed for throwing away the sun block that morning but was having none of it, especially since neither of them had shown an interest in using it up until that point. Even Lee threatening to tell his mum on me didn’t work. Ben and I shared a look and our smugness remained solidified, even in the face of being called pussies for not stupidly frying ourselves. After saying a last, wistful goodbye to LA, we piled into a cab, and headed back to the airport for the nightmare trek home. The first internal flight was uneventful; we had a ton of room and came away with the lovely gift of cricked necks, despite using Lee as a pillow at one point.
Rather than hang around in Philly airport for over fifteen putrid hours for our connection to Glasgow, we plumped for a hotel room. Quality Inn. The name reminded me of Quality Street chocolates – the name promises so much, lures you in, and once your money is spent… well, some pretty meh things are left to be unwrapped. As a gamer, you never expect the in-game locations that you blast your way through to manifest in real life. We can now all say that we experienced it. Well, almost. But we could have, that’s the point.
The first sign was the breakfast. While Lee and I threw caution to the wind and ate what could only generously be described as sausage patties, Ben and Mark sat giving one another smirking looks. They had apparently seen them being removed from a drawer – yes, not a fridge – and microwaved, spilling a ton of fat in the process. Despite the warning, I went ahead anyway (shut up, I was desperate), following it with a huge waffle. By this time, we were eyeing our surroundings with a degree of caution and surprise – Lee, being the subtle creature that he is, came right out and said it. It looked like one of those hotels/motels on the TV where people get murdered. Lee decided to film everything, from his food to us, eventually delivering a Blair Witch style message in case anyone found the camera buried in some mysterious ruins a year after our disappearance. He then turned it around to record his last will and testament, ending with a message to his brother Adam that he can’t have any of Lee’s fucking stuff. Too right.
We then paid, got our key and headed to the room; Lee kept going on about bodies and the place was suspiciously deserted. The stairs reminded me of those in a council tenement, but something else too. Something familiar was nagging at me. Then we reached the balcony and memories of fighting through zombie hordes and the inferno of a blazing hotel came and kicked me in the chest. Fuck me, this was Dead Center. We were in Left For Dead 2. I didn’t need an adrenalin shot at that point to spur me on to find the door. Work, damn you key-card.
The hotel room had two double beds and we chucked our stuff down and slammed the door “before the murderers get us.” (Lee). It was surprisingly clean, but horribly familiar. Mark kept insisting this was his room in Novac in Fallout 3, but for me this was bloody Left for Dead. And I’m shit at FPS games. With no pills here and a distinct lack of crowbars, Samurai swords, and pistols, we were left to stare around, trying not to make too much noise in case it alerted the horde.
Lee kept insisting that this was the sort of hotel that appears in films where people get murdered and we were inclined to agree with him. He spotted what he claimed were several drug dealers in the car park (the package one was carrying had two eyes, a black nose, and a lot of dog-like fur. It may, in fact, have been a dog). My eyes, however, were on the swamp opposite and the handy Hunter-sized outlet above it. Lee, by this time, was convinced that we would be murdered and that the marks on the headboard (which Ben was now leaning against), were knife marks. I sniggered my way into a facepalm, while Lee twitched at the curtains again. Mark tried some common sense: “We’ll be home in 24 hours.” Ben then cursed us by saying:
“Unless the storm moves in, then we’ll be staying overnight.” I slipped my hands over my face before the second round.
Someone asked whether the door was locked. Lee’s reply of “It won’t stop shotgun” was hysterical, and we couldn’t stop laughing… but we double checked the lock anyway. I’d made sure to dib a bed furthest away from the window; Lee was unhappy at being the closest (hah!). He shut the curtains to “stop the murderers looking in” and banned Mark from opening them before slumping back on the bed while we all giggled, likening our situation to being in the witness protection program. Out of curiosity I asked what Lee’s new name would be. After a long pause to consider it, he decided on Lando.
We managed to get some sleep in between a Witch crying outside… (it may well have been the maid screeching something about housekeeping, but we daren’t find out) and some other racket – probably a CEDA raid. It was raining when we woke up, and visions of the Hard Rain level in Left 4 Dead 2 floated before my blurring eyes as I peeped out at the ‘swamp’. Lee, in the meantime, was distracted from his fantasies of drug dealers and murderers prowling the car park by his arse falling out. Sausage/zombie pattie vs hungry gamer, one nil. Joy. I had also eaten one. Ben and Mark, the bastards, failed to make even the slightest attempt to hide their mirth at my dismay. I felt like a ticking time bomb that even the TSA wouldn’t be able to detect; like a malfunctioning Boomer.
Everyone was too tired to write and there were few distractions: the TV wouldn’t work (thankfully, if Lee’s last TV session was anything to go by) and the phone looked like it belonged on the set of an old film, with the big red light on it glaring like a boil on Bakelite. When it was finally time to turn in our key and get into the escape bus – sorry, ‘courtesy shuttle’ – we were relieved. Lee filmed out of the back window for pursing zombies/murderers (complete with shaky camera) as we fled for the safety of Philly airport.
A few hours later, we waved goodbye to the USA, land of E3, from the plane window and settled back to mourn the end of our adventure – at least the US part. I didn’t think it could happen, but flying US Airways suddenly got worse… there was an Adam Sandler film on. We tried to scrape some sleep but it was largely useless, and so was attempting to type anything vaguely coherent. Towards the end of the flight, we’ve had enough. Lee wanted to get off the plane and was getting fidgety. I knew we should have bought him the Spiderman colouring book back at Philly. He wanted to start breaking things and no one had any toys to pacify him this time, but I know how he felt. I was also starting to fidget, and began looking around for things to play with (break or lose). Some sour gummy worms worked well to distract us for a short time, but we needed out of there before all of us, especially Lee, got cranky. I poked Lee’s sunburn a few times for fun and then settled down to count down the remaining time.
Eventually the plane touched down in Glasgow and we breathed a sigh of relief, deciding to make a swift exit before a woman the size of the Death Star blocked the aisle. One cab later and we were back in the house – with all the bags (screw you, US Airways) – and our adventure was well and truly over.
It was the most exhausting thing I have ever done, but also one of the most fun. As I said in my last diary entry, the times around the table in our war-room were some of my fondest memories. Lows of lost bags and late cabs were more than balanced out by highs of good games, a buzzing atmosphere and great camaraderie. I’d do it again, even the murder hotel… but this time, I’d take Ellis and a decent melee weapon.
Special mentions to ZeroMark for his support and research which helped us out, and to the Awesome Adam R. for tearing up the show floor, seeing more games than the rest of us, and for not being fazed by Lee’s constant questions about things like Mars bars and American bacon.
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