My E3 Complex

My E3 experiences go pretty far back.  I remember sitting at my desk in my room in Manhattan on my Toshiba laptop watching a postage stamp sized video window waiting for the Nintendo Press Conference to start.

I was a regular on the IGN message boards and there was always a ton of hype and speculation going into the show each year.  What games would be announced?  What new hardware was there going to be?  Everyone was always hoping for a “MEGATON” announcement, and in the end the show never really lived up to the hype, and sometimes even made people mad.  I’ll never forget the outright revolt over Wind Waker’s graphics.

I remember taking days off of work so that I could watch everything live and follow all the news, then share thoughts and discussion with my internet friends on the boards.  It was all pretty thrilling actually.  Fun to share so much passion with other people who were just as passionate as you were and you didn’t have to explain to anyone why you cared so much.  They “got it”.

Anymore, E3 sneaks up on me.  “Oh yeah, that’s this week!”  I don’t even think I realized it until I saw a tweet the night before from Nintendo.  My anticipation has waned over the years.  Partly because life is a lot more full of “things” now, and also because now there’s almost always some new news and announcements being made.  If anytime E3 today is as much or more about putting the spotlight on things that you already know about, rather than announcing new stuff.

When I was in my teenage years and super nuts about games, I remember telling myself that no matter how old I got, gaming was always going to be an important part of my life.  It really felt like it was the one thing that given the choice of anything I could be doing, I’d choose to play games.  You know those bumper stickers that you see that say, “I’d rather be ____ing.”?  That was my philosophy.  Today gaming is still an important thing for me.  It’s a nice release, but my life is gone from “can’t get enough games” to “what do I pass on so that I can properly enjoy the games I have time to play?”

So now E3 comes around, and my expectations are pretty tempered.  I honestly don’t want to see 5 new awesome games I never knew about.  I just want to know that there are two, maybe three good games between now and the end of the year.  There are so many games that I have unbeaten or even unplayed, that if there was a MEGATON announcement, I would almost be annoyed that I’d have to find time to play it.

Would I go back to that time?  The time when E3 was magical and exciting?  I don’t think so.  I’ve settled into being what is mostly likely labeled a “retro gamer”.  I have all the old systems hooked up, and somedays I just look forward to coming home and playing some PilotWings 64.  I can get just as excited about adding a Super Nintendo Zelda game to my collection as I can a brand new one.  I also feel like I can manage the pace of getting and playing these games better than trying to keep up with what is new and coming out.

My E3 complex will probably end up resolving itself sooner than later.  More and more often companies are using the internet and social media to make announcement and get info to their super-fans all year long, whenever they want.  There’s less and less need to put it all in one place and use the press to get your message out.  You can reach out and influence people directly.  So if E3 were to die this year, on a lot of levels, I’d be OK with that.

Weirdo

Every time I tell someone I’m painting my house, their reaction is pretty much the same.

“I did that once.  I’ll never do it again.”

“Money well spent to pay someone else.”

“Oh wow.  Good luck!”

People hate painting houses I guess.  In complete honesty, I’ve enjoyed it.  It’s fantastic mindless work, but it’s not just fidgeting.  It’s something that I can take pride in, something I can stand back and admire when I’m done.  And it’s something that’s almost completely and 100% not stressful.

It’s weird to me that I’m finding some kinda of weird satisfaction in something that everyone else holds in such detest.  On one hand I totally get why people don’t like it.  It’s tedious.  It’s daunting.  It’s climbing.  It’s cleaning.  It’s scraping.  It’s outside.  It’s time consuming.  It’s daunting.

And I think that is part of what makes me embrace it.  Because I can’t exist just to follow the path of least resistance.  I can’t let myself be defined by whatever is easiest at the moment, or whatever will kill a few minutes until the next interesting thing happens.  To just live by the whims of what happens to be the nearest shiny thing seems like a willful forfeiture of my own free will!

It’s tedious.  My first ever job was to walk through a cornfield and chop down cornstalks.  Hail had wiped out the corn crop early in the growing season.  While there was still time, the farmer re-planted the field with new corn.  But the old damaged corn needed to be removed or it would inhibit the growth of the new healthy corn.  I had a rusty old machete that my dad sharpened up for me.  And I walked that field row by row, chopping down the old corn, careful not to chop the new.  It would take probably 15 minutes to walk an entire row from one end to the other.  After 1 hour I’d look over and see the same spot I’d just stood only 5 feet away.

It felt like I’d been swinging the same blade over and over, and didn’t have much to show for it.  But it sure was pretty satisfying to start that LAST row, and then to chop that FINAL stock, then look back across a field of healthy young corn and realize that it all added up to one big thing.  I remember I was getting paid $5.25 per hour and got a check for $262!  You do that math.

It’s daunting.  How many times are you stopped from pursuing a thing because the goal is so far distant in the future?  You’d love to be able to play an instrument but it will take years to become any good.  You’d love to lose some weight but after weeks of exercise and dieting, it just hasn’t made much difference.  Most of the things we really want in life ARE tedious.  And most of thing things we can have right away wear off quickly.  You’d have that “whatever it is today” if you’d started 10 years ago.  Or you can start today.  Or never.  Your call.

It’s climing.  I don’t know if my Mom knows this story.  I’m pretty sure she’s heard it by now from me or somebody.  When I was a kid in Ingalls, during the summer when my friends and I would spend the night at each other’s houses, we’d sneak out of the house to roam around the town.  We never caused any trouble.  (Even the time we drove the school bus, we were careful not to tear anything up and put it RIGHT back where we found it…)  It was exhilarating just to be out with the town to ourselves, and the thrill of trying not to be discovered.

Shocker… it’s pretty easy not to get caught in Ingalls, Kansas in the middle of the night.  We’d walked every street.   Seen every block.  Now what?  Well one night we decided… let’s climb the Co-op Elevator!  One pallet leaned on its side was all we needed to reach the ladder.  Then the long 200 ft. climb up!  Yeah.. it WAS scary.  Scary thinking about how much higher we were getting with each step.  Scary thinking about what would happen if one of us slipped.  I’ve never held on to anything that tight!  And when we got to the top and there were no railings to keep you from just toppling right over the edge… yeah it was terrifying, and exhilarating!

I remember so clearly that first night.  I remember how the gas pumps down below looked like something from a model train set.  How I could see the roof of everyone’s house in town.  How the elevation of the land changed from one block to the next.  It was a completely different perspective on a place I thought I already knew EVERYTHING about.

Even just climbing on your own roof, you see your trees differently, you see your neighborhood differently.  The things you’ve looked at so many times you begin to tune them out suddenly are new and interesting again.

It’s cleaning.  It blow my mind how many people will consider something “old” or “worn out”, when really it’s just dirty.  Take the same old thing, clean it, polish it up.  And suddenly it’s some relic from the past that somehow has defied the boundaries of time!

I love detailing things.  Anything.  Whether it’s a car, a mower, an old radio, furniture… just about anything.  If it’s not broken, it usually isn’t very hard to make something look damn near new again!  And that isn’t so much about the “thing” as it is the memories and experiences people have tied to the “thing”.  When driving the Oldsmobiles, so many times while pumping gas

It’s scraping.  Okay.  I’ll give you this one.  Scraping sucks.  I bought a power washer.

It’s outside.  I started a purposeful effort a few years a go to start spending more time outside.  No matter the season and no matter the weather.  I decided I wasn’t going to let the fact that it wasn’t a perfect day keep me from doing the things I wanted to do.

A couple days it was downright hot outside.  I think people literally felt sorry for me, or thought I was a loser to be out working in the heat.  Man I was just jamming out so some sweet tunes, gulping ice cold green tea, and getting a pretty legit farmer’s tan.

As every day goes by, I’m just more and more feeling that there is so much more to life besides what can happen on a cell phone screen.  To be out exploring and feeling the world around me feels so much more invigorating.

It’s time consuming.  I admit this is such a challenge in my life.  Just like this here blog.  I’ve wanted to sit down and write for ages.  And now as I write this I can make it about 20 words before I’m interrupted by life.  I mean, I get it.  That’s just the stage I’m at right now.  And someday in the future I’ll miss these times too.

The house painting project has been kind of nice though because once I started, I HAVE to finish.  So while there’s other things that I could and probably should be doing, I have to make this a priority and I have to dedicate time to it.  Being forced to commit to a thing is in some ways liberating.

It’s daunting.  When we visited Colorado a few months ago, we rode the Pike’s Peak Cog Railway to the top.  Along the way the tour guide talked about the hiking trail that lead up to the top.  A 13 mile trail all on foot.  The stories of the early adventurers to the area and the economy that sprung up to support them.  I couldn’t help but think about how exciting it would be to embark on such a journey.  A fun thing to think about from your diesel powered train.

But I’ve found the hardest part about doing daunting things is mostly just deciding to start doing it.  It often isn’t has hard, complicated, or impossible as you think it will be.  The people who are already doing these things are just normal people too.  I’d never painted a car before, but I did it and it turned out not bad!  I never built a computer before but I used it to make the first post on this blog.  I’d never been a husband or a parent before, but I think I’m doing OK!

I think this is why old people are so grumpy.  I remember when I was a kid, I was always so disappointed that my peers were so immature.  People would argue over the dumbest childish things.  People would get themselves in trouble for the stupidest childish reasons.  You can only imagine how crushed I was that when I became an adult, my adult peers were just as immature and reckless as the children were.  I can already feel my self getting tired of being expected to care.  Tired of being expected to think like them.  Tired of being expected to value the same things.

Sure, fine.  I’m the weird guy that paints his own house on hot days, drives old broken cars, mows his yard with a three wheeled lawn mower and plays more Nintendo 64 than you think a grown adult should.  You’re right.  Tell your friends how right you are about me.  They’ll agree with you and we can all be very satisfied with our lives.

 

Old Film

camera

You ever have one of those things that you end up moving around from home to home that you live, but you always just end up tucking it away somewhere, only to find it the next time you move again? That’s pretty much how this camera has existed for as long as I can remember.  I couldn’t recall how old it was, or any of the pictures I took with it.  But I knew it had to be 10-15 years old.  So I finally took it in to get developed, fully expecting that none of the pictures would turn out.

Luckily, the pictures DID develop.  But unfortunately, there’s not much that’s juicy or even all that interesting in there.  Just the same, I figured I’d share what was in the time capsule.  Often what’s in the background is more interesting than the subject of the photo.

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Who is that cat?  I’m pretty sure this is my old cat Rosie.  At first glance it looks like my Mom’s cat, Fuzz.  But based on the other photos in this roll, this picture would have had to have been taken around 2001 – 2003.  Fuzz wouldn’t have been born yet.  Rosie ended up getting out of the house when I lived at the trailer park.  I searched and searched, but never found her.

That Video Chair is pretty legendary in my mind.  That was one of two matching chairs we had in Ingalls.  I sat in that chair for hours playing Nintendo 64, setting Mario Kart 64 records and perfecting my GoldenEye skills.  I can still hear the creaks of the wood as you rock back, and feel the ribbed upholstery on my fingertips.

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This is my roommate Aaron.  He and I worked together at Arby’s in Aggieville.  We hit it off pretty well as we had some common interests.  Video games, rock, well and that might wrap that list up.  He was a good roommate most of the time.  We would stay up WAY too late playing Grand Theft Auto on PS2, and would jam out once in a while with him on the guitar, and me on the drums.  Towards the end of being roommates he started hanging out with some new friends, and smoking weed and I had no interest in following suit.  My last vivid memory of Aaron was him trying to patch a hole in the wall he punched after his girlfriend broke up with him.

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I’m not really proud of my college aged self.  Had a pretty hard time adjusting to real life and trying to figure out how to make it all work.  This picture above is a pretty good representation of the perpetual state of my room, and also my state of mind at the time.  My room was always a mess.  To the left of that pile of crap behind the telescope was the door to my closet.  It would always have clothes, maybe dirty, maybe clean, just piled on the floor.  Makes me feel gross now thinking about it.  But also in that closet was my original N64 box and all my N64 game boxes.  Wish I would have saved that stuff now.

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Look who it is!  This is the first of many Andrea selfie’s on this roll.  Before selfies were cool.  What a trendsetter.  She must have just seen this camera laying around over the years, and figured she would snap a pic real quick.  What a babyface!  Peering through the green fog, this would have been sitting at the end of my bed in the trailer house.  Fun fact, Luke has the headboard from this bed in his room now as his first “big boy bed”.

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Another picture of Andrea!  But I would have taken this one.  Pretty sure that hat and shirt are still floating around here.  This would have been my apartment in Milford.  One of the few pictures I have of that place.  What a great place that was for me and my stage in life.  I’d screwed up some stuff bigtime, like maxing out credit cards and spending all my money.  But this place was $260/month ALL BILLS PAID!  The walls were pretty thin, but it was my first place all on my own, and helped in getting life straightened out.  And look at that N64 box!  If only I could reach into the frame and pull it out.

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When Andrea didn’t have school for a few days, she would drive up from Winfield and stay at the apartment.  This must have been an ambush photo shortly after she woke up.  Judging by the look on her face, this was probably a mistake.  This is a pretty good representation of the apartment though.  About as basic as it gets. I don’t remember using the oven a whole lot.  I don’t even think I could fit a full sized frozen pizza in there.  This place was so tiny, but again I miss it a bit for what it was.

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Andrea Selfie #2 & #3.  I think she would just snap these pictures as a way to say Hi to the future me when I got this film developed.  Mission accomplished.  I for the life of me can’t figure out where this picture was taken though.  And the background doesn’t leave much to go on.

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There she is again!  And this would be home #3 for this roll of film as this is the computer room in the Manhattan Apartment.  2005-ish.  I sorta remember that lava lamp lamp.  For whatever reason the lava would just dissolve into a bunch of tiny bubbles… not too impressive.  The 49ers decoration still hangs in our basement today, and the James Bond poster is now in storage.  After this picture was taken the camera itself would go back into storage and it would be another two years before another picture was taken.

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Home #4 for this camera.  We were just moving into our house in Ogden and probably found this camera.  Look, it’s the same lava lamp lamp on the right.  Luke’s headboard is leaning up against the wall.  Most of that junk has followed us to the present day.  If I’ve learned one thing in life.  Shelves are a thing worth investing in.

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Oh, look what else we found while unpacking.  Photo-Op!  Obviously!  This picture has waited a decade to be seen again.  Totally worth it.

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Things have gotten a little more organized in the Ogden house, and this past is starting to look a little less distant than the others.  Andrea still has the same computer desk, speakers and keyboard.  And through the window you can see I’ve already painted the Toronado, so this picture is probably late 2007 before winter sets in.  I wonder who the Christmas present on the desk is for?

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Hey, 5 years into the life of this camera and I finally make an appearance!  This is again in the Ogden house and in the computer room.  The poster behind the door is an autographed Disciple poster that we still have around here somewhere.  The T-Shirt I’m wearing is from our GameDay Quarterback remotes we would do with KJCK before the K-State games.  I got my tickets to the game by working the remotes.

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It’s Daisy!  She found a home with us while we lived at Ogden.  I’m reminded about how run down that old little house was when I see that fake wood floor leading to the living room.  The center of the living room actually bowed down to the point that the couch was literally leaning forward.  It was an itty bitty house, but it was something Andrea and I really wanted at the time was to say goodbye to apartment living.  It cost $700/month plus utilities, and I’m pretty sure the heat and air went straight out through the roof.  I have no idea how we made ends meet at that place.

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There’s Nala.  Remember that disgusting room earlier when we just moved into this house?  Well we’ve tidied it up a bit since then.  The big box on the right was for our TV that we thought would come in handy when we decided to move.  Pretty sure it took up so much space that we just ended up throwing it away.

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Here’s your classic up nostril shot.  Still in Ogden here in the living room.  I remember when we first moved into this house, we had a terrible bug problem.  Come to find out that window above the air conditioner had an inch wide gap that bugs were just flying straight in to the house!  We stuffed some towels in there, problem solved.  Same shirt, so I imagine the previous 4 pictures were probably all taken on the same day.

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Let the wedding planning begin!  This is the cake topper that would eventually be at our wedding.  I can still remember that excited feeling and wondering how life was going to change once we were actually married.

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The Toronado.  This would have been less than a year after I painted it.  Before the El Camino came a long.  I eventually just took to parking in the backyard because with the one lane driveway, the person who needed to leave was inevitably in the front.  You can see the tracks through the back yard from the previous tenants.  I wasn’t going to be that lazy.  I decided to at least walk back to the alley to my car instead of driving through the yard.

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Here’s Andrea’s old car!  When I first met her it was all the dark red color and I remember thinking she had a pretty sharp car!  Of course 2 deer hits later and it came to look like this.  A few years down the road and in another town, we’d repaint it black.  In retrospect I should have invested in a bottle of Round-Up for the sidewalk and driveway.

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Andrea Selfie #4!

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And the final frame on the roll.  I still have the same computer and desk.  And due to the age and exposure you can see time had started to eat away at this photo on the right hand side.  This last picture would have been taken in late 2007 or 2008, then the camera got hauled around to three more houses after this one.  And finally developed in 2017.

I admit, it’s all fairly unremarkable.  I had hoped I’d find some old photos of my Ingalls days or something, but it didn’t go quite far back.  If I had to guess, this was my last camera I had before I bought my first digital camera.  After that, this little disposable camera didn’t have much use and just ended up capturing randomness.

Still kinda miss that feeling of charging up a flash, hearing the click, and winding the film.  Then waiting for days to discover your had your finger in the picture or something like that.

A cool little time capsule to unearth though.

Looking Forward to 2017

For whatever reason, 2016 has been a weird year.  It was certainly a tougher year at work.  Feeling like I was working harder but not really doing a better job.  But then again, the job itself got harder.  A lot of times I’ve wanted to sit down and write on the blog, but all too often I could just think of things to complain about.  That’s not what I wanted to fill the blog with anyway.

But in 2017 I’m looking forward to some things.  First, the new baby that will be coming sometime in June.  I’m excited.  I think back to when we first found out that Andrea was pregnant with Luke.  We had tried for a while, then just decided, “whatever happens, will happen.”  That’s pretty much exactly how this one happened too.  And I remember thinking back then that I was excited, and knew my life was going to change, but didn’t exactly know how.

I feel a little better equipped, at least in the experience department this time around.  But all those same things keep coming back.  What will we have to sacrifice to afford him or her?  How will we find time on top of an already packed life?  Will they be healthy?  Feelings and questions that are pretty familiar.  But knowing we’ve gotten through it, and how fun and exciting it’s been up until this point takes a lot of that worry away.

That is definitely one of the things I’m going to be doing less of this year.  Worrying.  I used to be so good at not worrying.  Guess that gets harder the more you become responsible for.  When it’s just me, who cares.  I’ll be fine.  If I fall down, I’ll get back up.  For home and work, I still find it difficult to force that attitude upon others.  If I fail, now it affects more people than just me.  I might feel fine taking the risk and bouncing back from mistakes, but others may not.  I guess that’s part of growing, and leading.  Knowing that your choices do affect others.  How I can reconcile that with my own personal “Everything will be fine” perspective, is still a work in progress.

Without worry though, I hope for that to free me up to do a few more things.  You can call them resolutions I guess if you want.  For me, it’s just getting back to what makes me happy.

Strengthen my faith.  I’ve felt more negative this past year than any time I can remember since sixth grade.  One thing that really brought me peace was my faith, learning and growing my relationship with Jesus.  I used to be so confident in my thoughts and feelings.  But as I continued to give more and more of myself to the church in time and effort, I was only asked to give more and more to the church.  Finally I broke when I felt like I didn’t have anything more to give.  It didn’t weaken my faith in God, but certainly weakened my feelings toward church.

I’m still not sure where to go.  I have very little desire to seek out a church anymore.  But I do want to focus more on my relationship with Christ.  The best thing I can think to do is to make it a goal to read the Bible in its entirety this year.  I’ve quite a bit, though it’s been some time.  But I’ve never truly read the entire Bible.  On one hand, it’s a “just see if I can do it,” sort of thing.  On the other, you can’t get that much of God’s Word and not find some good in it.

Cook more.  Over Christmas I baked Snickerdoodles with Luke, and baked a Pecan Pie at Mom’s house.  I realized it’s something I really like to do.  Not good at it.  But enjoy it and it’s something I can share with others.  I want to try new recipes.  Taste things I remember from years ago, and also some things I’ve never even had!  The process of measuring, mixing, and baking, just feels very therapeutic.

Get organized.  Almost the entire year I feel like work was just flying by the seat of my pants.  I want to set some boundries.  I do a lot of things at work, and that ends up meaning that the work is never done when it’s time to leave.  I am only one person.  I know I’m good at what I do.  But much like the church discussion from earlier.  There’s only so much I can give.  My goal is to structure my day.  Leave that structure able to be flexible, but dedicate time every day to one of the many things I have to do.  Show, Sales, Production.  Find out what I can REALLY get done in a day.  Be flexible.  And when I can’t get it all done, start finding people who are as good, or probably even better than me and give them an opportunity to knock it out of the park.  I struggle with that last part, because I’m not the manager that gives out raises.  But I feel like I was always given my raises in my job, because I was always willing to do more without asking for more.  Suppose I should expect the same from others.

Write more.  This is such a great place to vent.  To decompress and really parse out my experiences.  Just writing all this has been useful.  Doing so on a regular basis I think could be huge for my mental health.  It strengthens my convictions.  It helps me articulate better in normal conversation.  It’s just a good muscle to flex.  Being a bit more contemplative and to off load many of these thoughts I think can really help.  Of course it takes time.  Time that could and perhaps should be spent doing other things.  I just have to believe that the value of it in the long run is worth the investment in time it takes now.

That’s probably enough.  I don’t want to get too carried away or nothing will change anyway.  It’s hard.  Hard to focus on what you really want to do when the rest of the world is screaming so loudly what it think you should do.  Who cares.  Who really freaking cares.  Suck it world.  I’m taking my life back.

Back Again

It was a calm steady rain this morning.  There probably would have been a sunrise if not for the clouds hiding it, but it made for a soft orange gray glow that seemed to blend with the color of the leaves and the grass to give the world almost a monotone look.  The spongy earth squished beneath each step but never got messy or stuck to your shoes.  Time seems to tick by a bit more slowly.  The fish are biting.

The only drawback was reality.  In truth I was just sitting in my car in the Wal-Mart parking lot on just another average day, playing Animal Crossing on my 3DS, hoping that if I waited long enough I could get my hands on the new NES Classic Edition.

I’ve always enjoyed Animal Crossing, but the longer I play it, the more I appreciate it.  And the more immersive the game becomes.  Even on a tiny little screen, the sounds and all the little visual details that change as the time, seasons or weather change.  It all came together, and I got that real life feeling you get when it’s just a quiet dreary rainy day, but it doesn’t mess anything up, because you had nothing planned in the first place.

A new update came out recently that brought some more features to the game.  That’s nice and all, but the real gem has just been getting back into my village, and starting new projects and finishing off goals like catching all the fish, or getting the golden shovel.  It’s been about 7 months since the last time I played and they’ve done a much better job of making it easier to hop back in.

I remember in the original Animal Crossing on Gamecube if you were gone for too long, some of your villagers would make you feel pretty guilty when you finally came back!  Plus your town would be ridden with weeds and getting back into the game was a real chore.  The new update goes through and de-weed’s your town before you first step back into it.  Why weren’t the villagers ever so eager to pitch in before?

So I’m rather skeptical that I’ll end up with a NES Classic Edition today, but if not, I’ll sulk and rebound inside Glendale.  A nice little town with nice little people and nothing that needs done today.

The New Jeep

Well it was two and a half years ago I made a post about our 1996 Jeep Grand Cherokee and how we didn’t know what we were going to do.  It was dropping oil pressure and the transmission was slipping.  The decision ended up being, keep driving it.  It’s either going to explode, or… it will keep going.  28 months later, it’s still going!

All the while though we’ve been saving up in the event it does explode.  I mean that in the parts of engine blowing through cylinder walls sort of way.  Not the fireball in the sky sort of way.  Every couple of months Andrea and I would casually look around local classifieds for vehicles that were up our alley.  But we never were in dire NEED of a vehicle, so it was easy to look at stuff and say, “nah”.

I was leaning more towards a Tahoe or Yukon, but Andrea has caught this Jeep bug somehow.  So I figured, maybe a Commander.  But the third row seat was really unnecessary.  And Andrea kept coming back to Grand Cherokees.  She found this one for sale in Hutchinson, so one day took off early to go look at it.

It wasn’t perfect, what 10+ year old vehicle is?  Needed some steering work, tires and some other misc things.  Nothing that seemed too daunting though.  So we made an offer, they took it.  We drove the Jeep home.

Been going through that stage of “getting to know” a vehicle now.  Every car seems to have a thought process behind it’s construction.  Reverse engineering that and getting to know your way around is kind of like moving to a new town and finding where everything is.

But the good news is that (for now) this thing is just about as darn close to a new vehicle as I’ll ever get.  And it’s classy!  Andrea and Luke like it, and I have to admit, the body style has been growing on me.  I love the chrome wheels and all shined up, a black car just looks slick!  And the 330HP Hemi is pretty addicting too.  Hehe.

 

Meeting Famous People

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One of my favorite questions to ask somebody is, “If you could have a sandwich and a conversation with anyone on earth… but you couldn’t tell anyone else about it, who would you pick?”  I like that question because I think it gets right to the heart about what it means to have a meaningful moment with someone you admire.  Is that moment about them, or you?  Are you excited to learn more about that person, or are you excited about how much more interesting you’ll seem to everyone else?

I got the opportunity to interview Melissa Joan Hart last week.  The timing was so odd.  Not long ago here I confessed my secret that I’d been binge watching Clarissa Explains it All on Hulu.  I had just wrapped up watching the last episode on Tuesday, Thursday an e-mail shows up at work in my Inbox. “Interview Melissa Joan Hart”.  Well that’s… weird.  There’s a lot of long odds from the beginning to the end of this scenario.  Whoever is doing publicity for Melissa Joan Hart has stumbled onto some sort of fifth dimensional wavelength that apparently I was tuned into.

mjh email

I was pretty excited at the opportunity.  Surely nothing would come of it.  But what if it did?  What would I ask her?  What would she be like?  How weird would it be to hear her voice and know that she’s talking to me?  All of a sudden that sandwich question was the furthest thing from my mind.

It was a busy day that day.  I had a live broadcast to do and plenty of work around the station.  The interview opportunity was for the next morning and with every refresh of my e-mail inbox, and every hour that passed by, the chances of getting to talk to her at all were fading away.

Then as I was pulling back into the radio station that afternoon my phone rang with a number I didn’t recognize.  It was from California, and usually I just let numbers like that go to voice mail… but this was the kind of day I answered calls from the farthest possible strangers.  2 minutes later, I had 10 minutes reserved for the interview.  Weird how you go from metered disappointment, to throttled jubilation.

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As the reality started to set in about what was happening, the REAL REALITY really started to set in about what was happening.  First thing I wanted to do was I wanted to be respectful.  Why is this happening in the first place?  An alarm didn’t go off on MJH Headquarters saying, “Matt just finished watching Clarissa!”… she’s promoting her new movie.  Gotta talk about that.  Gotta make sure I AM ABLE talk about that.  Then you start to put yourself in their shoes.  I’m the first of probably at least 10 radio interviews she has to knock out in 2 hours where everyone is going to ask her the same questions.  And having been known for her TV shows dating back 20 years, probably asked the same questions she’s been asked for the last 20 years.  Suddenly this sounds like one of the most dreadful things I can possibly imagine.  Now I was less excited about how cool it was going to be to talk to Melissa Joan Hart, but more thinking about how I can get through my interview without making her want to blow her brains out.  I decided I wasn’t even going to bring up Clarissa or Sabrina unless she did.  Spoiler alert: she didn’t.

I researched her movie and wrote down enough questions to fill 10 minutes on my own… just in case.  Right on time, the phone rang.  After the briefest of pleasantries with the interview coordinator, I said “Hi”.  She said “Hi”. And it was time to roll.

“What was it like?” everyone later asks.  This is the part where I’m supposed to be cool because Melissa Joan Hart talked to ME.  Here’s the truth.  I had fun.  It WAS cool.  But I am completely cognizant to the fact that she was just doing a job.  I would have loved to have gone deep on Clarissa questions and things that would satisfy my thirst for more information.  I guess at the end of the day to ask all the questions I really wanted to ask seemed selfish and rude.

So the sandwich question turns out to be an interesting thought experiment, but a real life impracticability.  We want to meet celebrities because we feel like we have a relationship from the stories they help tell, or what they share through social media.  But turn it around, and how many sandwiches do you want to have with complete strangers who know more about you than you know about them?  Most of us won’t even say “Hi, how ya doin’?” to a stranger.

I suppose we should worry less about how interesting our lives are and appreciate more the people who just genuinely enjoy our company for being normal boring old us.

Remember Malls?

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If you lived in a rural area, going to the mall, especially in a bigger city, was reason enough for a trip in and of itself.  I remember about once a year our family would load up in the 1988 Chevy Astro van and take a 3 hour drive to Wichita just to make a weekend out of going to the mall.

In the 90’s, malls were the pinnacle of the consumerism experience.  Climate controlled self contained eco systems, with something for everybody, and for every emotional or biological need.  From clothes, to electronics, food courts, and jewelry.  I would venture a guess that if you were a girl growing up in the 90’s you got your ears pierced at the mall.

So as were were walking around the Hays mall this weekend, it was an all too obvious reminder that those days are all but gone.  Most malls now are seen as dated, weathered old places that’s hardly “cool” any more.

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If it weren’t for the few workers in the stores that were open staggered between the long closed and forgotten shops, you could have mistaken this place for abandoned.  As far as shoppers, Andrea and I may have possibly brought the total mall patronage up to 20.  It was eerie, and weird.

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A few stores remained much as you would have remembered them 20 or so years ago.  And I suppose that really says the whole story about the mall doesn’t it?  We get bored.  Tired of the same old thing.  Eager for a new experience even if it’s not better it’s different.  Today malls have been replaced by mega outdoor shopping centers and Amazon.

Dotted between the legacy stores like JC Penny or Hallmark, what were once slick shops like GameStops, or Hot Topic.  Now either vacant, or replaced by flea markets, card shops or sad empty arcades.

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The experience just left me feeling old.  That society had really moved on from a world that was was once for me second nature.  This is why old people are so grumpy.  Life is just a steady stream of things you’re familiar and comfortable with being forgotten and taken away.

 

An Odd Juncture

The last few posts here on the blog, as sparse as they may be, make it pretty clear that I’ve been dwelling a bit on the past lately.  The distant past at that.  Maybe it’s because for the first time my history is starting to feel much more out of reach and even a bit alien relative to my current reality than it ever has before.  Much like the Voyager space probe steadily drifting away from our pale blue dot.  Looking back at the faint light that still shines of where I came from.  A speck that holds all my history, but grows more distant every moment, and a place in which will be impossible to ever return.

That’s a bit of a bleak and unfair metaphor of course, because it suggests that nothing worth talking about lies ahead, which is certainly not true.  Andrea and I both have hopes and dreams, things we are looking forward to and things we are working on every day to get closer to those dreams.  I have a lot of things in the future I look forward to.  So don’t think that I feel like my best days are behind me.  They’re just a lot easier to write about, and comforting to think about.

I feel like I had to get that out of the way… because for some reason I feel like I have to make a lot of excuses for what I’ve been doing recently.  It’s not immoral.  It’s not gross.  It’s just weird.  Weird in a way that I feel people would make an immediate judgement when I tell them what I’ve been spending my time doing.  So for the past week or so I’ve kinda kept it as a bit of a guilty pleasure.

Take a look around the game room and you’ll see a lot of old relics.  Nothing of particular value, but everything that at some point in the past was exciting and new.  Things you’d be excited to tell your friends about.  In my generation, it was the excitement of being the first one to tell a friend where to place a bomb to open a secret door in the Legend of Zelda.  Or who were the first people in your class to go see Jurassic Park, and who could remember the names of all the different kinds of dinosaurs.

As a young person, there’s always a struggle to maintain your level of “coolness”.  Coolness is the real functioning currency of the 7 to 13 year old.  It’s what powers the social economy of what is elementary school.  The more coolness you have, the more power you exert on the people around you.  Coolness is what allows the mean kids to be mean, and usually get away with it.  Not cool enough?  Get more cool points.  Sometimes if you’re starting to run low, you’ll do things you’re completely uncomfortable with in order to score a few cool points.  Because the worst thing you can do is run low on coolness.  Get too low… prepare for jokes, wedgies and getting ganged up on at the playground.

You don’t spend cool points like the rest of the world spends money.  Cool points have their value simply by possessing them.  Problem is they have an expiration date.  So you have to always be working on being more cool.  Lay low long enough, and eventually you won’t be cool at all!  You’ll be a weirdo.

How to obtain cool points for 5th graders in 1994:
Watch Beavis & Butthead ^^^^^^^^^^
Own a Super Nintendo:     ^^^^^^^^^
Have Ace of Base on CD:   ^^^^^^
Have facial hair (boys):     ^^^^^
Sweet Trapper Keeper:      ^^^^
Watch Clarissa (girls):       ^^^
Ace of Base on Cassette:   ^^
Have a bike:                          ^
Dirty Shoes:                          v
No Trapper Keeper:            vv
Can’t skate backwards:    vvvv
Plays Pokemon:                  vvvvvv
Watch Clarissa (boys):      vvvvvvvv
Have facial hair (girls):     vvvvvvvvvvv

My goal was never to be the coolest kid in my class.  That would have been nice, but my efforts were just to maintain a level above the wedgie and getting beat up level.

A long road… a long road to get here.  Maybe I’m still ashamed to admit it after all these years I’m scoring points that will make me “uncool” as a 5th grader in 1994, let alone a 33 year old in 2016.  So might as well get it out.

I’ve really been enjoying two things recently.  Pokemon and Clarissa Explains it All.

So it’s out in the open now.  Pokemon was a thing that was for “little kids” when I was growing up.  I know it wasn’t out in 1994 but it just made for a nice chart.  What I remember about Pokemon at the time was it was about little cartoon creatures.  How dumb… It had different trading cards with rules that I didn’t understand.  I had pretty much resigned myself that I’d never need to know anything about Pokemon.

Now after familiarizing myself with RPGs like Final Fantasy, and solidifying my love for Nintendo, Pokemon has grown to fascinate me.  They’re still making new ones, and there are plenty of people my age who love the series.  I started playing through one of the first games, “Pokemon Blue”.  It’s so far a pretty rudimentary RPG.  Not a super involved story, which is usually what draws me into these.  The hook on this one really is seeing and catching the new Pokemon.  At first I didn’t really care about that, but the more I play, the more I want to find new ones.

And Clarissa… this one is even harder to… well… explain… and even I don’t quite understand why I’ve been smitten with it.  It started as I was looking up old Nickelodeon shows that I remembered, like Nick Arcade, Double Dare and Guts.  I think I looked it up just looking for the theme song.  I ended up watching the first episode.  It’s far less “girly” than I always judged it as.  It’s more like the family dynamics of a young teenager and some TV friendly hijinks.  It’s quirky.  It’s catchy.  And for me, just like Pokemon, it’s new.

With my favorite games, I always wish I could go back and experience them all over again for the first time.  I think that’s part of the draw of these two 90’s adolecent staples.  For me, I really am experiencing them all over again for the first time.  I had my 20 year old preconceptions about them, but as far as actually experiencing them… this is a first.

Another comforting feeling, and this more Clarissa than Pokemon, is the contrast to the stresses of childhood compared to the stresses of adulthood.  Some days I leave work and just feel completly tapped by grown up things like getting radio stations back on the air, missing sales goals, creating a show worth listening to.  And coming home to deal with adult problems like catorigizing expenses and repairing our cars.  It’s so nice to soak up stories about problems like not having TV, having annoying relatives over, or how to convince your parents to let you do the things you want to do.

If I have one thing going for me now, it’s that now Cool Points aren’t worth much any more.

Growing Up in Dodge City (The Feedyard)

Butter and Egg RoadButter & Egg Road.  Whoever named it had a sense of humor.  And mention of it always makes me a bit hungry for breakfast no matter what time of day it is.  But for five years it was the road home.

Head south from the “Hitchin’ Post” truck stop, over the overpass which passed above the tracks, take your first left and you are on… Butter & Egg Road.  The steeply rising and falling hills can give you that unexpected sensation of falling.  Turn left at the T-junction and keep following the road around the curve, down the hill, over the tracks and back up the hill, and you have arrived.

Once the house was ready we left the classy heights of the Lora Locke for a much more prosaic home on the grounds of Coake Feedyard.  That’s right, we didn’t live next to the feedyard, we lived at the feedyard.

I didn’t mind in the slightest!  It was fascinating to be surrounded by so many cows… or cattle more appropriately.  At that age, though they were definitely called cows.  I was used to seeing a pen or two of cattle at Grandpa’s farm.  Or herds of cattle grazing in a pasture.  But never before had I seen literally thousands of them all in one place.  I would stare out the big picture window in the living room at the cattle trucks that would roll in and out.  The feed trucks that would come and go from the mill and the loaders that scooped and dumped the feed, over and over again, every day.

Of course eventually the fascination wears off.  After you’ve seen the 20th scoop of milled grain dumped into the feed truck, you’ve also seen the 2,000th.  Soon I stared out the window, less in marvel of the economic machine that was unfolding in front of me, but rather waiting for the workers to quit for the day so I could go ride my bike around the wide stretches of concrete around the yard.

It was here, and on that bike that I ripped my left pinky fingernail directly off of said pinky finger.  I remember the experience quite clearly.  I was riding my sweet bike all over the concrete stretch that was infront the mill.  Part of the concrete sloped down rather steeply.  I had no problem riding straight down the slope.  It was rather exhilarating!  As my confidince in my machine and my skill grew, I just simply decided to would ride my bike parallel to the slope.  A feat that is pretty easily accomplished with almost any bike.  Except: bikes with training wheels.

As soon as I hit that slope, the training wheels quickly righted the bike perpendicular to the slant and I was thrown immediately from the seat like a cowboy riding his first bull.  I hadn’t even considered the geometry of the situation in the moments leading up to this and I was caught completely off guard.  As I apparently flailed to the earth, my pinky nail snagged the concrete as my momentum continued to carry me forward.  I immediately knew just from the feeling, “that’s not good”.  Then looked and pretty much instantly started to cry as my pinky nail clung by a thread of soft tissue to my now bleeding finger.  Definitely the most gruesome moment of my life to that point.

I sobbed the long walk back to the house leaving my bike where it lay.  It had betrayed me after all.  I remember the shock followed by hesitation by my parents as I cried for them to fix me.  Pretty sure they were trying to hide a bit of laughter as they were negotiating who would be the one to yank my dangling bloody fingernail from my pinky.  I certainly didn’t appreciate their hesitation at the time.  Good news, my nail eventually grew back.

Feedyard House

What doesn’t appear to exist any longer in the photo of the house above is the chainlink fence that  ran around the house.  One of the first winters in our new house a blizzard blew in and on the north side of the house in the yard between the house and the road, the biggest snow drift I have ever seen in my life had built up over the fence.  It was taller than four foot tall me, that’s for sure.  Tall enough that Dad would pick up my sister and me and throw us into the side of the snow drift and we’d just stick there!  It was incredible!  I remember digging tunnels into the drifts and thinking it was the most awesome thing in the world.

We’d go out and “check the bunks” with Dad.  I remember doing this most of the time on the 4 wheeler.  We’d ride up and down the lanes and I never really knew what Dad was looking for.  I just assumed that some of the cows needed fed, and some of them hadn’t ate all the feed yet.  So I’d just lean over the side and declare, “Looks good.” or “Need some feed.”  It was always fun though.  I never was allowed to play back in the lanes, so as we would ride back and forth and through the intersections at Coake Feedyard, I just remember it all feeling very big and disorienting.  Just like trying to navigate a new town for your first time.

What seemed like every year, a large load of white gravel rock was delivered right in front of our yard next to a lamp post.  This gravel served a practical purpose of course.  To spread across the drive and fill in low spots to keep everything from becoming a muddy mess.  More importantly however, it gave my sister and me the opportunity to scale a mountain.  This pile of rock had to be at least 10 feet tall.  Which felt enormous to a small person like myself at the time.  I remember the feeling of the gravel slipping under my feet as I fought against gravity, and the chalky white dust that adhered to my hands, shoes and pant-sleeves.  Somewhere exists a photo of my sister and me perched triumphantly atop this pile of rock.

This was also the earliest Fourth of July celebration that I can recall.  In an empty feed bunk out by our garage we lit various sparkling fireworks, ground blooms, jumping jacks, those kinds of things.  Whether it truly was my first fireworks experience or not, I remember it feeling all very new.  Maybe it was because we’d just moved, and everything felt new.  But I know that since that moment, I’ve always had an incredible love for fireworks and the Fourth of July.

In that very same pen, some time later there was a cow that was incredibly unique compared to the thousands of others.  In general if you were to walk up to a pen of cattle, most of them will calmly but quickly back and trot away from you.  This animal however had absolutely no issues if you decided to step into its “bubble”.  It was so content in fact that Dad lifted my sister and I to sit on its back.  With a “ho-hum” attitude, the cow just stood there.  You could almost feel that it was enjoying the company.  Mom and that were both there and I just remember all of us laughing and shocked at the docile behavior of this cow.  I hope that one was particularly tasty.

While we lived there, we got my first dog.  Tiger.  He was… well a mutt.  That’s all I really can say.  Part this and part that.  Always high strung, and never particularly intelligent.  He was strong enough to really push me around at my age.  I remember I had an insulated coat that looked kind of like a flight jacket, with patches and insignia sewed on it.  I would put that coat on and Tiger and I would rough-house together in the front lawn.  That log loved every minute of it, and I did to.  I felt like that coat would protect me from anything that dog could do.

One night I remember waking up.  I had to go to the bathroom and as I opened my bedroom door I heard crickets.  Out here you ALWAYS heard crickets, but these seemed close, like right there in the room.  I stepped in to the hall to turn on the light and CRUNCH.  Right at the same time the switch flipped on revealing what had to be a dozen or more crickets just chirping and hopping away in the middle of the hallway.  “MOOOMMM! DAAADDD!”  I shouted.  Not so much out of fear, but mostly out of genuine confusion about how to handle the situation.  I made it to the bathroom and was put back to bed while I assume my parents vacuumed up dozens of live crickets.

Right across Butter & Egg Road from our house was a dirt lot on the top of the hill that was free from trees or buildings.  It was the perfect place for kite flying.  I remember two kite “events” that took place on this hill.  First was the “Sesame Street Kite Event”.  Wind is one of Southwest Kansas’s greatest natural resources.  Today, just drive 10 miles in any direction and you’re sure to find a modern wind farm.  So naturally it’s prime kite flying real estate.  I had a Sesame Street kite, nothing special, just one of those triangular kites you get at Wal-Mart or any other store.  With a fantastic breeze the kite was flying so easily.  Letting out a little string at a time, the kite got higher and higher.  Excited to see how high it could go, I let out more, and more.  Until suddenly the string let loose of the reel I was holding and the kite fluttered higher and higher, farther and farther.  You would think that a kite would crash to the ground without the pull of the string, but this kite just steadily rose higher in the sky, as the wind carried it farther and farther away.  I remember starting to cry and we turned back home after all hope of recovery was lost.  Even in the time it took us to walk back to the house, the kite never hit the ground.

The second kite event were our time honored “Kite Fights”.  It was what it sounds like.  Two kites, you try to knock the other one out of the sky.  Dad and I had had several kite fights before.  It was always good fun.  You’d knock one person’s kite down, launch it back up and do it again until you finally grew tired of it.  I had just gotten a new B2 Bomber kite.  It was awesome.  Sailing up in the sky it was majestic and intimidating.  And what better vehicle for a kite fight than an actual war machine?  I was unstoppable.  Dad was flying whatever girly kite my sister had, when as quickly as we started, Dad’s kite ripped a gaping hole in the wing of my B2 Bomber.  I still remember pulling back on the string with all my 6 year old might only to watch it spiral down into the dry dusty soil.  Once again, I walked back across Butter & Egg Road with one less kite and a heap of disappointment.

In that wood paneled living room we brought home our first Nintendo.  Mom says I worked to save up half the money for it.  For what felt like ages I had longed for one and Super Mario Bros.  When we brought it home from Wal-Mart I remember my parents saying it was going to take 30 minutes to get it all hooked up and thinking what an eternity that was going to be.  Later I remember watching Mom rescue the princess for the first time and being in awe of what she had “accomplished”.

We lived in the house at the feedyard from 1985 to 1990.  The more I write about it here, the more I remember.  Some little moments like popping wheelies in the tractor, or Mom & Dad laughing about how I pronounced “pint”, as “pent”.  (Thanks a lot phonics).  Some memories have more gravity surrounding them like watching the Nativity story every Christmas morning with my sister, and watching out the big picture window for Dad to come home so we can open presents.  I write these memories down so I don’t forget them.  But on the other hand, I feel like if I keep writing this post will never get published!

A few memories that deserve more attention:

  • The star on the top of the grain leg
  • Being first and last stop on the bus route
  • Breaking down in the Monte Carlo and walking home
  • Watching the “Ripper Planes” buzz by
  • The diamonds on the gates at the entrance
  • Getting pops out of the old pop machine
  • The swingset behind the house
  • Taking every toy out of our toy box
  • Bert & Ernie Halloween Pumpkins
  • The failed attempt at having my own room
  • Eating the “cornflakes” from the mill
  • Getting the NEW couch and lovseat

A feedyard isn’t on anyone’s list of “Great places to raise a kid,” but I do remember it fondly.  Maybe I just didn’t know any different.  I remember it as a place to play.  A place that can be dangerous with so many trucks.  A place that was rarely quiet.  A place for work.  But more than anything it was a place that felt like home.

And what about that smell?  Well, it stunk.  You get used to it.