Seven blocks

Let’s see, this would have been E3, 1998, probably the last year that it was held in Atlanta. In an unlikely turn of events I found myself with two party tickets for the same night, and decided it would be a good idea to go to both. First stop was an Activision party that looked interesting because they were showing Apocalypse and there was one of those E3 rumours going round that Bruce Willis would be there.

I can’t remember if he actually was there or not. If he was, he was probably sealed in some VIP area that I didn’t have access to. And I don’t remember it being a particularly happening party; probably because down the road there was the Eidos party, when Eidos was very much in the ascendant. I had my ticket for that, so after a few Activision drinks I decided to move on.

I knew where I was, I knew where the Eidos party was, and I knew that they were on the same street. Headed for the exit of the Activision venue and there wasn’t a cab to be seen, so I had a word with the door staff and asked how far I was from the Eidos venue. They obligingly informed me that it was seven blocks down the street.

Being English and not particularly used to the American concept of laying out cities in boring grids, that meant absolutely nothing to me. But seven’s a reasonably small number, and the venues were on the same street, and how long could a street be? So I decided to walk. At about 10:00 at night. In downtown Atlanta.

I have this habit of underestimating distances in American cities and thinking it’s a good idea to walk places. The two major cities I’m most used to are London and Paris; both of them reasonably easy to walk around. I keep forgetting that American cities are something else entirely. I’ve had fun times walking around Dallas; I was walking from Ion Storm’s offices down to Ritual’s place with my editor and some random person stopped us to ask if we were with a rock band. Another time on the same trip I spotted a big yellow Hummer driving up behind us, flagged it down and got a lift (and lunch) off John Romero. They were the fun times; more often it was a long trudge through boring business districts and wishing we’d got a cab.

Which was kind of how I felt in Atlanta that night after about 15 minutes. It was dark, I had no idea how far I’d gone, the area I was passing through was looking just a little rough and it was starting to occur to me that I’d made a slight tactical blunder. I quite fancied going to the Eidos party, but on the whole I’d kind of been hoping to get there without being mugged and murdered.

I didn’t have a mobile on me – in fact, I didn’t even own a mobile until I reluctantly caved in and bought one around 2003 – and even if I had owned one, I didn’t have the numbers for any cab companies. I didn’t really fancy turning round and heading back where I’d come from, I hadn’t seen a single cab while I was walking. All I could do was keep walking, head down, chain-smoking all the way.

Obviously I got there eventually, another 15 minutes or so later, completely unscathed. I don’t think I’ve ever felt quite so relieved at arriving anywhere. Unfortunately I didn’t really enjoy the party much – not many people I knew there, lots of people in suits that I didn’t want to know – so I didn’t stay that long.

I’m not really a party person.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Seven blocks

  1. SpacemanSpiff

    I’m off to Atlanta in a few weeks. I’ll make sure I get a cab everywhere!

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