Category Archives: Nostalgiariffic

Before I Forget

I haven’t forgotten about the blog.  In fact I often think about it… and a wave of guilt rushes over me.  Much like the time I was playing Animal Crossing on the Gamecube.  The Mayor was going on vacation for a week and asked me to turn the lighthouse on each night.  Naturally I forgot.  Not just one night… but every night.  It was truly months before I went back to the game mostly because of the shame and scorn I was surly to receive.  This is pretty much the same.

So I’m back.  So much has changed since last time.  There are so many moments that have passed by undocumented.  In the past I’ve blamed Twitter for being too easy to blast out photos and stories.  But I haven’t even been using Twitter that much lately either.  What’s changed?  That’s something I can’t quite put my finger on.

About the time of my previous post we were just getting serious about house hunting.  An experience I truly regret not chronicling.  It truly felt like some sort of Space Mountain type ride.  Where you’re strapped in, on rails you go through all these different twists and turns, never quite sure where you are, or what is really happening.  And then you’re pooped out at the end the same as everyone else.  With a house and a bunch of debt, and if someone asked you to explain in detail exactly how you got from the start to the finish, you’d be hard pressed to do so.

I really like the house we ended up with though.  We looked at quite a few houses.  Some nicer than others.  Some much crappier than others.  But this had almost everything we wanted.  All the big stuff for sure.  It’s much nicer than anything I ever expected to have or even deserve.  It’s been updated around the turn of the century.  It’s plenty big for the three of us.  And it has a great big shop to not only park the cars in but have room to work without moving everything around.  Just the fact that we don’t have to start up a car to play basketball in the driveway is an upgrade!

In all honesty though I was quite happy with the house we were renting before.  I had a garage I could work on the cars, a nice big back yard for get togethers and Luke to play in.  Great neighbors.  Lots of room.  It was still nicer than I ever thought I deserved.  The last couple weeks there I was really thinking about how great of a place it was for us, and how I really would miss it.  After we moved all of our stuff out and I was there doing the final scrub down I went through the house for the final time.  I went room to room and just stopped and reflected on all the great memories there.

Downstairs in the computer room where Andrea and I spent a lot of time there were some great memories playing Guild Wars 2.  Late night gaming sessions playing Rise of Nations, and many many posts on my new favorite forum N64Forever.com.  But it was also a place where Luke spent a ton of time playing.  He bounced in there as an infant.  We stacked blocks and tossed foam bricks at each other.  He had his first laugh in that room.  And possibly became the only 1 year old in the last 20 years to figure out how to use a Floppy Diskette!

The Family Room downstairs was host to some epic poker games.  Most that ended early in the morning hours with a questionable All-In bet because we were all tired and ready to sleep.  Friends and family crashed out on the futon.  Screams of laughter filled the room playing games like Wii Party U or Nintendoland.  It was a great room to show off what Andrea and I were both passionate about with all her 49ers stuff and the KSU, Bond and Friends posters that graced the walls.

The small bedroom down there was Luke’s first bedroom by himself.  Previously the Retro Room we cleared it out and set Luke up in there.  He took to it almost immediately.  First in his crib, then in his Lightning McQueen bed.  I remember he was so excited to put it together that in the midst of “helping” he almost lost several of the screws and fasteners that would hold it together.  It’s where he’d get dressed to face the day each morning, always bright and smiling.  And of course it was also the place where the water would leak and soak the carpet every time there was a heavy rain.  Not everything was perfect about that house.

After discovering the leak, we moved Luke to the room across the house in the basement.  It had just been a guest room up to this point.  But we moved all his stuff over there and I made sure to keep Luke involved in every part of the process.  Where he wanted his bed.  Where his stickers and posters would go.  Once again, he had very little problem switching rooms.  For the first couple nights he wanted to go back to the “old room” but after that, he had totally bought in!  I told so many bedtime stories in this room.  My bedtime stories are usually real stories about things I did, or things he remembers.  Whether it’s about Mom building the solar system model that hangs in his room, the snowflakes we cut out of paper, launching rockets when I was a kid, or the story of the Black Car; I always let Luke pick the story.  And whatever he picked I told it to the best of my ability and tried to keep them consistent when he chose the same story over and over.

Even the bathroom downstairs was an emotional goodbye.  Luke would brush his teeth every night as I sang him his ABC’s.  It’s such a strange thing to get sad about, but the thought that my little guy and I would never be in that room sitting on top of the dryer brushing teeth and getting ready for bed honestly moved me to tears.  As I turned off the light for the final time I knew it was a place and time I’d never ever be able to go back to.

Everything upstairs was just as meaningful.  The bedroom where Andrea woke me up in the middle of the night and said it was time to go to the hospital.  We left that night and came back with a bigger family.  It was home to the nursery, the retro room 2.0, and many nights pacing back and forth with a baby in my arms just hoping and waiting for him to fall asleep so I could soon do the same.  I remember after we first moved in, in April, I was so happy because for the first time possibly of my life, I had a bedroom with windows you could actually open.  I loved the feeling of sleeping with the cool breeze blowing in.  Reminded me of camping.  Only on a soft bed.  And an alarm clock to wake me up.

The kitchen was home to some great meals made by Andrea, and as retro and out of date as that kitchen was, I loved it.  For all those reasons!  There was a super cool 70’s square light shade that hung in the middle of the kitchen when we moved in.  I cleaned it all up and it was like brand new.  Until roofers came to re-shingle the roof after a hail storm.  The constant hammering on the roof knocked the light down and it shattered on the floor.  One of history’s greatest losses.  Here Luke also had his 1st Birthday.  I remember he cried when everyone (crammed into the house) laughed when he plopped his face into his the Yoshi Egg cake that Andrea had made for him.

The living room was great.  No TV.  Just the old GE radio.  Some comfy furniture and the fireplace.  The picture window was perfect for setting up the Christmas tree.  Andrea and I would snuggle on the couch enjoying a fire in the fireplace.  Luke always had plenty of toys out and about to play with.  And the time Andrea set his “Christmas Train” up around the tree and he discovered it for the first time was just so magical.

I know things change.  And I know the home we’re in now will create so many great memories just as wonderful, maybe even more so.  But the move to the new place was certainly a bittersweet moment in time.  I wonder how much, if anything Luke will remember of it.  I know I always remember the house on Worden fondly.

Woodlawn and Blurry Memories

As I try to refocus on the blog now, one of the things I hope to do is write a lot of things down before I forget them entirely.  I hope to do some more “nostalgiariffic” posts mostly about growing up and the places and things we would do.  These won’t nesiccarily be in any particular order or anything, just whatever perks to the top.

Somebody earlier this week was asking me where all I had lived.  And the first place would have been Woodlawn, KS.  Just a little blip on the map with a population literally in the single digits.  When I was born, the population of the town literally increased over 10%.  We lived there until shortly after my sister was born when I was 3.

Some of my Woodlawn stories I’ve already shared before on the blog in other posts, but it’s all worth sharing again.  To me anyway.

To describe our home, it was a fairly nondescript small white house.  We had a front porch with steps that lead down to a sidewalk that proceeded two thirds of the way to a dirt road that crossed in front of the house.  To the east was the Woodlawn Baptist Church.  And to the west a small garage.  Inside the front door you had the entry into the living room.  Wood paneling if I remember… that part is rather fuzzy as I didn’t give much thought to interior decorating when I was 3!  But what house in the 80’s DIDN’T have wood paneling!?  Past the living room was a dining area separated by walls with ledges cut into them that would play a significant role in a story later on.  Further still, through the next door was the kitchen.  Take a left from there you were in my parents bedroom (I think) or maybe separated by a back porch area between the bedroom and kitchen.  Keep going through the bedroom and you find the bathroom with one of those porcelain tubs with the feet on them.  Then if you walk through the bathroom you reached the second bedroom where I stayed.

I don’t really remember a lot about the bedrooms.  But I do remember you could run all the way around in one direction in circles through the house.  We had a little plastic three wheeler and we would shove the long attachment from the vacuum through the bottom of it and I would set my feet on it and mom or dad would push me around the house.

We had a cat that I mostly remember for climbing the screen on the front door.  “Bridges”… or “Bridget”… I think was her name.  And we sorta had a dog.  His name was Jack, and I say “sorta” because he was Dad’s dog, but when Dad brought him to our house, he would always run back to Grandma & Grandpa’s house a few miles down the road.  Or maybe that’s just what Mom & Dad told me, haha.    Jack only had 3 legs after he got one got stuck in a trap.  I always remember him as a three legged dog, but I can’t remember for sure if he had already lost his leg at the time we lived in Woodlawn or if that came after.

I was very young when we lived there, so I don’t remember a lot. And what I do remember is quite fuzzy.  But here’s a few things I recall about living in Woodlawn.

I remember thunderstorms.  Maybe it was just one storm that my memories have edited to make it seem like very storm.  But it seemed like any time there was lightning, there was always a bolt or two that would strike the house, or very near the house.  I remember it feeling very scary.  I also remember blaming the house for attracting those bolts.  Haha.

I remember playing with a plastic yellow Corevette.  It was a large car for a toy and of course one of the most fun things about playing with cars is CRASHING cars.  Well for whatever reason, I decided one day that this car was too durable.  So I started jumping on it and breaking it.  Pretty much demolished the thing.  I remember Mom or Dad asking me why I broke my car.  And at the time I didn’t really know.  That’s just what I had decided to do and didn’t have much of a reason.  I try to remember with Luke that sometimes when kids do things that don’t make any sense… they don’t really have a reason why they did it.

I remember an old mechanical hand pump water spigot out in the yard.

I remember jumping into beanbags.  Those ledges I mentioned earlier?  They were perfect for climbing on and tossing yourself down into beanbags below.  Of course this meant lots of burst holes in the beanbags and one almost cracked open skull as once I jumped trying to get some major air, and went headfirst into the ledge above.  I don’t remember much immediately after that, but I remember not jumping into the beanbags much after that.

I remember a figure 8 slotcar track that Dad put together for me.  He mounted it to a large piece of wood so you didn’t have to take it apart and put it back together all the time.  You just lean it up against a wall and when you’re ready to play with it again, take it down.

I remember the pokieness of real Christmas trees and keeping them watered.  I also got a Hot Wheels toy for Christmas one year that you race the cars across a bridge and use a little TNT lever to blow up the bridge as the cars go across.

I remember riding on Dad’s orange motorcycle up and down the dirt road in front of our house.

I remember Jamie coming home from the hospital.  I didn’t get to see her much in the hospital, but I was excited to have a sister!  I remember when she first came home and my parents laid her in a playpen out in the living room.  I remember just looking at her, seeing this brand new person.  I was happy and excited that I would have a new friend.

And I vaguely remember getting ready to move to Dodge City.  I don’t remember packing anything, but I remember Mom and Dad talking about it before we went.  Telling me what was going to happen.  I’m sure they had no idea how I was going to handle it.  I remember it being exciting though.  I was anxious to see a new place and new things.  Live in a new house.  All that leading up to our extended stay in the Lora Locke Hotel.  But that story will have to wait for my Memories of Dodge City post.

One of the Best

I can’t tell you if it happens the moment I finish certain games.  When the game I’m playing becomes one of my most beloved.  But without a doubt, after time, there are some games I’ve played that stand out far above the rest.  Guild Wars, GoldenEye 007, Super Mario Bros. 3… all of these are games that the memories stick with me.  And Final Fantasy X is very much in their company.

This game first came out in 2001, the year I graduated.  I spent part of the Christmas holiday with a friend, James, in San Antonio.  He had recently gotten the game and was in the middle of playing it while I was there.  The graphics were amazing.  That was my immediate draw to the game.  But as I watched him play, so much of the game felt larger than most.  The soundtrack, the world, the story.  It was grim, sad, and kept me wanting to know what was going to happen next.

ffx

I left San Antonio long before James beat the game.  I myself didn’t own a PlayStation 2, so I had no means to play it for myself.  Months went by and I didn’t think about it much.  I was very much a Nintendo fanboy so I spent my time playing Gamecube.  Around my birthday in 2002 (I think) I took some of my birthday money and bought a PS2 bundled with Gran Turismo 3.  One thing Nintendo didn’t have was a realistic driving game that was anything like GT3.  So without much thought about Final Fantasy X, I snatched up the console.

I don’t remember when I finally bought Final Fantasy X.  It was long enough that the game had dropped in price.  I remember seeing it on display at a music and game store in the Manhattan Town Center Mall.  It was $20 off or so and it really wasn’t until that moment that I thought about all those great experiences again.  The more I thought about it, the more I figured it was a no-brainier to pick up.

I played it, several of my friends played it with me, and after several weeks, I beat it.  Like I said in the beginning, I don’t know if at the moment I saw the ending that I was hooked on Final Fantasy or not.  But sometime between now and then I’ve become quite a fan.

Let’s move ahead about 10 years.  The PS3 is out and the PS2 is quickly becoming “retro”.  Ouch.  Very quietly it’s announced that Final Fantasy X is getting an HD remake.  WOW!  I’m excited!  All of a sudden, I have the urge to re-live the story all over again.  But if this game is coming out soon I didn’t want to dilute the experience by replaying it now.  So I hold off.

ffx hd logo

Weeks go by and there’s no news.  Months go by… maybe it was cancelled.  There were never even any screenshots shown.  But Sony press conferences come and go, and not even an acknowledgement of the game.  Then about 6 months ago, some news that not only will it be Final Fantasy X, but it will also include X-2 and many of the international features that never made it to the US game!  Then the soundtrack starts showing up on news sites and Youtube.  Finally it’s a real thing.

This weekend, the game finally materialized.  I relish these experiences as an adult, because it makes me feel like a kid again.  I was always anticipating some game back when I was younger and it always felt like forever before it released.  I probably haven’t felt like this about a new game since Skyward Sword.  And this isn’t even really a new game!

I’ve been playing it pretty hardcore since Thursday night.  It’s as much fun as it ever was.  Between X and X-2, I could play them both, then just immediately start back at the beginning of X and have just as much fun as the first time though.  Partly because the games are so lenghty, but mostly because they’re just so good.

I would love to watch Andrea play the game through.  It’s such a great game that the only part that sucks is the lack of people to share your thoughts and feelings about it with.  I know she respects that it’s one of my favorites, because she pre-ordered this remake for me before I did!  I suppose that is enough for me.

Old Ghosts

cpakLast night I sat down and busted out some Mario Kart 64.  It’s been a few weeks since I’ve played, and a long time since I dove into time trials.  I looked back at my twitter and it’s been 1,086 days since I put down a time that was good enough to rank in the top five on any tracks on my cart.  So that probably means it’s been at least a decade since I’ve had a time good enough to place first on any of those tracks.

For whatever reason I’d been thinking about this game lately.  All the hours I’d spent perfecting those tracks and to some extent if those were skills that were lost forever, or if they were still inside me, buried beneath all the work stress, car repairs, bills, and savings.  Of course there’s been a lot of good additions to my life too since then like my family.  As nerdy as it sounds, my Mario Kart times were a very special thing to me in my school years.  By both the good and the bad, since the late 90’s Mario Kart 64 is something that’s been steadily been pushed aside by other things that were of greater significance.

Sometimes it feels like I’ve changed so much since then.  With the pressure of being pulled in so many directions, I feel like it’s wore me down making me more tired, irritable and cynical than ever.  Changes I’m not really proud of.  So from time to time I wonder if that free spirit is still at the center of the layers of serious crap that have been rolled and caked on top since then.  I guess I felt like if I could still compete with my old self at something I was best at back then, then maybe I wasn’t as different a person as I felt after all.

Part of the reason it’s been 1,086 days since my last “blistering” time is because I’m always afraid that some day I’m going to sit down and not be able to do it anymore.  That the “old” me really will be nothing more than just a memory.  So with some mild trepidation, I picked a track I knew I’d spent a considerable amount of time on.  Kalamari Desert.  To put into perspective just HOW much time I’d spent racing this track, there is just a 0.42 second difference between 1st place and 5th place.  That’s less time than it takes a fluorescent light bulb to turn on.  This is exactly the reason I’ve been reluctant to race tracks like this because unless I really am as good as I used to be, there’s no chance I’ll ever have of ranking in the top 5.

My first attempt.

My first run through was pretty far off the mark.  Relatively at least.  When you start getting picky, finding 2 seconds to shave off somewhere can get pretty tricky.  But I did notice that my third lap was in the ballpark of my best lap ever.  So I felt like getting on the board was achievable, especially since I was literally picking this up cold after ages.

My second attempt.

After just my second run, I was really feeling good.  My third lap was slower, but I’d picked up big time on laps one and two.  Heck, over all I was just a half a second off  5th place and I knew I’d made some mistakes during the run.  If I could just correct those, I could be on the board easily.  Heck, maybe three runs would be all it would take and my skills had virtually never left me.  Hell, maybe a new personal best was in store for me, all on just my 3rd run!

Nope.

What followed in the 4th, 5th… 12th runs were waves of frustration.  As I’d try to get more aggressive on each lap to cut into that time, I’d push just a little too far and make a mistake.   I’d only finish all three laps maybe one out of every 5 attempts or so.  But you know what, I wasn’t too bummed by it, because this was exactly how I used to play.  In fact these exact scenarios used to infuriate the hell out of me.  (Maybe I wasn’t so free and cheery as I’d like to think I used to be).  Actually… I think Mario Kart Time Trials is the only game that literally made me throw controllers.  I would start, restart, start, race, restart, start race finish… restart… all until my thumb was literally raw.  So to think I just cranked out these times at will is far from reality.

Then finally after about an hour of racing this track.  This one track.  I finally did it.

Probably my 25th attempt counting restarts.

I’d never been more happy to get 4th place.  Only 0.16 seconds away from 1st place.  I did try a couple more runs to see if I could crank out a 1st place.  But honestly, after two runs and it not happening, I didn’t even want to keep going.  As lame as this is, part of me didn’t want fell my old 1st place time because of all the work past me had put in to get it.  WTF is wrong with my brain?  The motivation this whole time was to prove that I’m still the same Matt I’ve always been, but when I have a chance to even be better I draw a line.  I’ve gotta be nuts.

So someday I’ll beat that time.  Maybe it will take another 1,000 days, but I hope not.  I was thinking today about playing and caught myself saying I didn’t need to be playing it two days in a row because of all the other things I needed and wanted to do.  Which is exactly what I’ve been telling myself for years that brought about this blog post today.  So you know what.  To hell with that mindset.  If I have the time, and I want to play Mario Kart 64… or ANY other game for that matter.  I’m just going to do it.  Otherwise I end up convincing myself why I shouldn’t and end up doing something I enjoy less. I’m going to quit over thinking all this crap (see previous 1,000 words) and just have some damn fun.  Time to go beat some old ghosts… in Mario Kart that is.

Roller Rinks

roller-skating-memoriesThe dark and musty atmosphere, mirror balls, M.C. Hammer, arcade games, limbo, birthday parties and the thrill of skating as fast as you dare!  Almost everything you can use to describe the skating rink is something I miss from the world today.  Yes, including M.C. Hammer.

I don’t recall my first trip to the skating rink, or really any specific memories at all.  I very much remember the atmosphere though.  Really the only skating rink I’ve ever been to was the Dodge City Skating Rink.  It’s nothing more than a heating and cooling business now, but for me a memorable landmark in my childhood.

Back when I was in grade school, our school would have Skating Parties every so often.  Twice a year maybe.  There would be teachers and chaperones there, and us kids could skate, hang out, or play on the video games if we brought our own quarters.  I don’t really remember socializing with anyone in particular while at the skating parties.  I knew my classmates, but for the most part, I was content just to be there, to be able to roll around the floor, listen to the music and be mesmerized by the lights.  If there was a clic that hung with at these things, I sure don’t remember it.

skates 2

The building itself, I remember being dark, and having a certian “old” smell to it.  I can’t remember for sure, but I want to say as you walked in, to the left was a counter where you’d pay.  Off to the right was the area where you got your rental skates.  I never had my own pair of roller skates, but man how I dreamed about it.  What I ended up getting was some gnarled leather things that laced all the way up your ankles.  Despite their lack of attractiveness, they worked pretty well.  I don’t ever remember getting skates with stuck wheels or anything like that.  But some of the kids had “nice” skates.  The ones that looked like actual sneakers that you would actually want to wear.  Those were the cool kids.

cool skates

If you walked further straight into the door, past the front desk, there were arcade games lining the left wall.  Some real classic stuff like Ms Pac-Man, Space Invaders, and maybe Off-Road.  I’m sure there was a pinball machine or two.  To the right was an area divided off from the rest of the floor.  It had tables and a concession stand. There you could get cotton candy made fresh there, candy, pretzels and maybe some pizzas from a pizza oven.  It was almost guaranteed that at all times, somobody was celebrating their birthday and there would be balloons, party favors and kid’s coats and belongings covering one or two of the tables.  They were mostly round fiberglass tables with their own attached benches.

Many a birthday party were celebrated around tables like this.

Many a birthday party were celebrated around tables like this.

Further past the arcade machines and concession area was the rink.  As you walked in you’d be to the left of the rink where there were numerous cubbies for your shoes and belongings, a long bench for lacing up your skates, and a wall separating  you from the actual skating area.  Things like this are hard for me to judge now.  I want to say the wall was chest high, but seeing as how I would have been 4 feet tall, it’s hard to say.  Along the wall were two or three entrances onto the floor.

I don’t really remember learning to skate.  Who taught me, the part where I fall a lot.  I really don’t know.  For the most part I just remember going pretty slow most of the time.  As I went more often, I got to the point where I could cross my feet across each other going around the turns.  I felt pretty bad ass at the time.  It was so much fun rolling around, watching the lights of the mirror ball move across the ground as I turned along with them, you’d get the sensation of standing still, even though you were moving.  The strobe lights made things seem like they were moving in slow motion, and there was always some sweet 90’s jams pumping out of the speakers.

To break up the action and mix it up, they would do different games or events at regular intervals.  There was limbo, which I was phenomenally terrible at.  I never got past the first pass or two.  I remember one girl I liked always was one of the last people left.  She could do the splits and get way down low.  It seemed like you couldn’t even get a dollar bill between the pole and the floor, but I’m sure it was hardly as extreme as that.  And of course I never talked to her about it, because that would mean I’d have to talk to a GIRL!

Speaking of girls, I was always super jealous of the guys that could skate backwards, because when the dance song came on, the guys would skate with the girls, only one person would have to skate backwards.  I was convinced until at least sixth grade that the reason I didn’t have a girlfriend was because I couldn’t skate backwards.

Spin the bottle was another game they did at the Dodge Skating Rink.  It was far more innocent than the name might make you believe.  All the kids would sit in a circle and they would spin a bottle in the middle.  If it pointed at you, you got a neat little prize like a frisbee or a yo-yo. The games weren’t really anything specially, but it kept you from going around in circles endlessly and were always a neat little thing that you kinda looked forward to.

skating

It’s weird.  This is a place I can never go back to.  There’s a roller rink here in Great Bend that I really want to visit, but I know it won’t be the same.  And I seriously doubt they’ll be blaring any Vanilla Ice.  I miss those times.  Going to the skating rink was more than just the fun of skating.  It usually meant there was something special going on, a school party or a birthday party.  They were all good days.

A Game I Missed

I know I’ve written here before about how weird life was back in the Gamecube days.  As far as gaming is concerned the result today is that I have a rather large collection of games for that system that have been barely played.

F-Zero GX was my choice tonight for retro night.  I’ve actually been thinking about this game for a while, ever since the 30 cent sale Nintendo had on the Wii U Virtual Console that featured the original F-Zero on SNES.  I could have swore I’d played GX more, but when I popped it into the Wii tonight in the Retro Room, what I ended up playing was MUCH better than I remember.

First off, this game made me re-affirm my love for the Gamecube controller.  What a well crafted, comfortable and precise instrument.  I still would have preferred a more traditional button layout, but everything else is just about the pinnacle of controller design.  It just melts into your hands.  And this game, F-Zero GX really highlights how precise and solid the analog stick is.

Maybe I approached this game too much like Mario Kart.  F-Zero is more about course memorization and well timed flicks of the stick than it is racking up power slides and cutting corners.  I remember being absolutely terrible at this game when it came out.  Apparently I haven’t given it another chance until over a decade later.  What I discovered tonight is the smooth and polished controls, AI that really fights back, and some really creative course design.  It didn’t take long though before the tracks started kicking my butt.  I need to spend more time with this game and learn the tracks, I’m convinced that’s the ONLY way to win the later stages.

All of a sudden I’m smitten with this game that has literally been collecting dust for ten trips around the sun.  I really hope to spend some more time with it this weekend and finally break it in.  If anybody wants to come over for some split-screen action in the Retro Room, just make the call.

3028 Barbara Lane

Over the Christmas break, Dad and Jamie were talking about how our old house was up for sale in Dodge.  Jamie said that the real estate company had pictures of it on the internet and that it looked exactly the same on the inside.  So I had to pull it up and sure enough it’s pretty much just like I remember it!

Exterior FrontI still drive by this place once in a while when I’m passing through and feeling uber nostalgic.  So many great memories here.  That driveway I used to take sidewalk chalk, draw out a bunch of city streets and drive my big wheel around them.  We had a rocker/glider that sat under the windows next to the door.  And Mom and I stood out in this front yard at 3AM one cold frosty night to watch the Space Shuttle zip overhead.

Living Room 1The living room is pretty much exactly as I remember it.  I’m glad these pictures are of the empty house, because it makes it that much easier to picture all of our old stuff in there.  We had an entertainment center on the wall in the far right of the photo.  We didn’t have a television in the living room though, just a stereo.  I remember how big of a deal it was when we got that Sony Hi-Fi with a CD player.  That was a big day.

That fireplace probably still has the black ovals on the stone flat part where I used to play with my Nascar race cars and have them all doing laps right in front of there.  I remember trying to climb the rocks and not getting too far.  The farthest door led to the kitchen.  The hallway to the right led to the dining room and had the utility closet that kept the washer and dryer.  Then to the left of the living room out of this shot was the hallway that led back to the bathroom and bedrooms.

Living Room 2We had a matching sofa and loveseat.  Hard to describe… white with vertical pinstripes and wood across the back and down the armrests.  We also had Dad’s old recliner.  It was epicly green if I remember.  We re-arranged the furniture every now and then, so no particular arrangement sticks out in my mind.  Since this year’s New Year’s Eve is fresh in my memory, I remember one NYE in this house, my parent’s friends Bart & Robin came over with their three girls.  While the adults were doing whatever, we pretended that the living room was a club called “The G Club”.  I was the manager and some of the girls were customers, and some were waitresses.  All the while we had cool music pumping out of the Sony.  Mom always had sparkling grape juice ready for the kids at midnight.

KitchenAs a kid I didn’t spend a lot of time in the kitchen.  Unless it was to grab a box of cereal out of the pantry, or bug Mom about something.  I don’t think the color of the walls was the same but other than that it’s exactly the same.  I remember one day Mom was making some meatloaf and used a recipe that called for beer.  I remember her assuring me, the alcohol would bake out and all that it was just for taste. I remember thinking…. “Suuure, Mom.”  It did smell good though.  Lots of good smells from this room.

Dining RoomAgain… this is just an empty room… but so many memories flash to my mind all at once, it takes some focus to pull each one out and reflect on it individually.  We had a couple tall chairs that sat at the counter top.  The kind where the seat flips up and you can use it as a step stool.  We had a little 12″ black and white TV that sat at the end of the counter next to the wall.  There’s a cable TV outlet there and we had to use one of those coax to RF adapters to hook it too the cable, and then we could only get the first 13 channels.  I remember watching TV while we ate supper together, which is something we did more often than not.  Eat supper together that is.  Something a lot of families, including my own, probably don’t do enough.

Our crazy dog, Tiger ran head first through the screen on that sliding door.  It lead out to the patio where sometimes in the summer Dad would bring home a horse tank that we’d fill with water and go swimming.  And the spot where the picture above was taken from is where our computer desk eventually sat and was home to our very first computer, the Apple IIe.  To the left out of the shot was the door to the garage.

Mom & Dad's Room 1Here’s Mom & Dad’s room.  This is where “the TV” was.  As I mentioned before, we never had a TV in the living room, and as a result I never really watched a lot of TV until we got TV’s in our rooms.  More on that later.  I remember though, this is where we discovered that Jamie needed glasses because of how close she would stand to the TV screen.  Mom & Dad’s bed was pretty much right in the position this picture was taken from.  I do remember laying in their bed as I fought off the chicken pox, and our cat Princess would crawl up in the bed next to me to keep me company.  To the left out of this shot was the private bathroom.

Jamie's RoomHere’s Jamie’s room.  I realize you’re just looking at a corner between two walls… I see…  too many girly toys!  I recall that she had a LOT of stuffed animals.  In the corners she had multiple Pet Nets to accommodate all of her different animals.  One year for Christmas or birthdays, Mom & Dad got us our own phone line.  Jamie and I had our own phone number that we shared and could give to our friends.  I don’t recall calling my friends much, but I did dial a local automated phone system that could tell you the forecast, horoscope and time and temp from time to time from my sweet Bill Elliot phone.

My RoomAnd finally… my room.  I have to chuckle thinking about most of the people looking at these pictures that just see some white walls and a closet.  For me I see so much more.  Against the left side wall were my bunk beds.  I usually slept on the bottom but would put blankets all the way around the bottom so it was my own private little space.  I started doing that after Dad got up for work one morning and noticed my light was still on… I was up reading all night.  I used to read all the time.  The window to the front yard is right behind the camera in this shot.  The far wall to the right of the closet had my dresser.  The same dresser Luke uses for his clothes now.

Mom frequently had to hassle me to clean my room.  Seeing it this clean is remarkable.  I’d sit on the floor in front of my bed with Mom’s boombox recording songs off the radio, or recording my own voice.  Or I’d set up my slot car train track next to my bed and play with that.  One year Mom & Dad got Jamie and I each our own TV’s for our rooms.  Just little 13″ TV’s, but still, I felt like we were rich!  I would lay in bed and watch Nick at Nite.  Mary Tyler Moore, Dick Van Dyke Show, I Love Lucy… even at a young age, I had an appreciation for old stuff.  Funnily enough, the TV’s that we had survive to this day.  Ironically I have Jamie’s old TV just sitting in my closet here, and Dad has my old TV in his basement.  I should see if he wants to swap.  Haha.

Google Street View 2We only lived here about 4 years.  From my 2nd grade year to almost 6th grade.  But still so many  important memories to me.  I could probably write an entire blog site just on my time here in this house. I should really write a lot of those memories down before they’re lost forever.  Like the time the Killer Bee’s fountain attacked Mom in the waterway on the 4th of July.  Or when the neighbor kid Brent and I wanted to build a pedal car which he awkwardly named “Steve”.  Great nights with Paul staying over, and visa versa at his house.  Learning to mow the yard on the old Ride King mower.  Shooting cans with my BB Gun in the back yard.  Easter egg hunts… man, I could literally write for hours.

Thanks to my parents and my sister, for helping create a really great home back in the day.  I’ll always remember those times fondly.

Getting the Car

For those out of the loop, this ’79 Caprice is my first car.  Not a lot like my first car… this IS my first car that my Dad is letting me keep for a while… I say that because I still say it’s his that he can have back whenever he says the word.  Until then… Hells Yeah.

I have a lot of respect for those who can proudly proclaim they bought and paid for their first car.  I’m not one of those people.  My parents 100% bought and paid for my first car.  I remember seeing the car sitting with a For Sale sign on the west edge of Cimarron, KS.  At the time I thought it was a Monte Carlo.  It had the same curved back glass I’d seen on many Monte Carlos before, and it just looked too darn sporty to be a regular old Caprice.  Cruising through town in the back seat as Mom karted us around, I remember thinking that would be a cool first car.  But I never really thought it would happen.

A week or two later, Dad said we were going to go look at a car for me.  We pulled up next to that exact car.  I remember thinking “THIS might be MY car!  Hells Yeah!” Dad was busy talking to the owner, a guy we had actually met before as he ran a limo service that we had used a couple time for birthday parties or whatnot.  They were negotiating, but I was circling the car and daydreaming.  Eventually the deal was done.  For $1,000 I had my first car.

So I didn’t buy it.  I STILL have never paid for that car!  My responsibilities were everything that came after that.  Gas, insurance, parts, you name it.  It was my job to keep it running.  The first couple weeks, the car was literally on blocks in our driveway.  Dad took me too the parts store, he told the guy everything we needed and I paid for it.  Not knowing what the heck to do with brake cylinders, spring kits or calipers, I spent a lot of time holding flash lights and just trying to figure out what the heck Dad was doing, why he was doing it, and wondering, how the hell he knew how to do all this stuff!

Once the brakes were fixed, we could finally actually drive it.  I remember taking the car out south of Ingalls and going around some of the curves on the county roads.  The shocks were so bad it felt like you were on water more than you were on solid ground.  So that was obviously the next task.  That was one of those nights I remember Dad staying up probably much later than he wanted to.  I remember he ran into some problem replacing, I think the rear shocks and it took a lot longer than he expected it to.  But he got it done.

The exhaust was shot on it, but instead of taking it to a shop to get it all re-done, Dad and I took it to the shop at the feedyard and took some old fence pipe and welded up some pipes with some “cherry bomb” mufflers.  It definitely had a unique sound, and you could see the bright red mufflers sitting under the floorboards from a distance.

The radio either didn’t work at all, or barely worked.  It was the original cassette deck and I know the tape deck didn’t work at all.  For either Christmas or my Birthday I got a Pioneer CD player and some Pioneer 6×9 speakers to go with it.  One thing I did understand fairly well was how to hook up a stereo, I’d been playing with that stuff for years already in my room in the basement.  So we got that hooked up and from that point forward, it was the car I really remember.

I seem to remember some confusion early on about whether it was an Impala, or a Caprice.  Despite saying Caprice Classic on the dashboard, the insurance and a lot of the other documentation said Impala.  But it certainly was a Caprice.  I’m sure the confusion was mine alone.

As I look at it now, there’s a lot of stuff that’s broken, missing, or not working… I don’t really ever even remember giving it a second thought back then.  It was a cool ride, that was loud, and got me where I wanted to go.  That’s all I ever really wanted.  And I suppose it shouldn’t bug me now.  There’s a lot of things I want to do, like replace the carpet and put bucket seats in there.  Stuff that I’m sure I talked about at some point when I was younger too.  And now that I have the means, I’m sure I’ll get around to it.  But for now… I’m going to keep enjoying it, and driving the heck out of it just like I did back then… only this time with some bite to back up the bark!

No Sense

Here I am, sitting in a room literally surrounded by all of my favorite games, and yet, I can’t decide what I want to play.

I’m not sure if it’s that I’m overwhelmed by all the choices… I could play Super Mario Bros. 2 on NES, or I could play Final Fantasy X on PS2.  How about Mario Kart 64?  That’s always a solid choice.  Or I could play F-Zero GX on Gamecube for some fast and futuristic racing.

But I don’t feel overwhelmed.  I look at all these games and I see the memories I had from playing them.  And it’s that feeling that is stronger than my will to pick it up and either start again, or pick up from where I left off.  I’m sitting here in this retro room and surrounded by all these artifacts of my childhood.  It’s as moving to think about it all as it is to play it all.

For instance, I was looking at the Gamecube, and I couldn’t help but recall the time I was most royally ripped off in my life.  I had deeply desired a Panasonic Q, which was a flashy Gamecube/DVD player from Japan.  I completely over extended myself in my quest to get one.  It was right at the time that Super Mario Sunshine was coming out.  The first 3D Mario game since Super Mario 64.  I was consumed by previews, and a daily stream of information on the game for weeks before its release.  The game first came out in Japan.  I even went as far as to import a Japanese copy of the game.  Only, my Gamecube wouldn’t play Japanese games.

What better Japanese gamecube to get than the Panasonic Q!?  Unfortunately they sold for about $450.  Ouch.   But lo and behold.  I found one on eBay for $250!  What a deal!  I purchased it straight away.  I was giddy with excitement.  Soon I’d have the flashiest Gamecube anyone had seen, I’d have the new Mario game before anyone else, and I would be in Nintendo nirvana!  I even went as far as to look up the eBay seller on AOL messenger and tell them how thankful I was they were selling it and how happy they’d made me.

q

I didn’t have the cash for it.  I put it on my credit card.  It would be okay, I told myself… I was going to sell the Gamecube I had for $150 and then all I’d really have to pay for was $100, which wouldn’t be a problem by the time my next paycheck came in.  And I did sell my Gamecube too.  After all, the Q would be here in just a matter of days.

Those days came, and went.  Each one more excruciatingly long than the last.  After two weeks had gone by, it was clear… my Panasonic Q wasn’t coming.  I tried doing my own detective work, I called the police department from the city the seller supposedly lived in, but the address they used was the address of a gay exercise club… I had gone from great joy, to complete desperation.  I had been ripped off for $250 bucks, and on top of that, I didn’t even have a Gamecube anymore since I’d sold mine to pay for the Q.

How I came to own the actual Gamecube I own today and sits in this room, is just as ridiculous of a story.  Of course I didn’t have the money to go buy another Gamecube, but sometime after the eBay fiasco, I was involved in a traffic accident.  I was coming up on a stop sign, not quite paying attention, and noticed the car stopped in front of me.  I slammed on the brakes!  I stopped just short of the car in front of me, but there was an S10 truck behind me that didn’t stop in time to avoid my sudden maneuver.  We got out and he asked why I stopped so quick, and I asked him why he was following so close!  Long story, short… he left after I got his license plate and insurance number and I waited for the police to come so they could make a report.  Turns out the guy had a suspended license.

After the accident, I then received a check from the other person’s insurance company.  Instead of fixing the car… I bought my replacement Gamecube.

I’m not particularly proud of that story.  It was a time in my life where I was just plain stupid.  I’d let my desires for what I had lusted over drive me past the breaking point.  I would skate so close to the edge that any little tiny bump in the road that wasn’t expected could completely throw me off course.  And they did.  Time and time again, to the point I felt I was so far from where I wanted to be, that I would never get to that place.  I started to stop even caring, and tried not to think about any of it.  The whole time, games were my escape.  They were as dangerous to me as any drug could have been.

Not every memory in this room is as somber as those (just the Gamecube ones really, haha).  Most of the memories in this room are quite cheerful, actually.  But I think there lies my problem when it comes to actually sitting down and playing these games.  I find myself here in the midst of it all, reminiscing about the good times and the bad.  To the point where playing the game might just serve to distract me from those thoughts.

Maybe I just need more time.  Enough time to sit and conjure those thoughts up, but then time still to sit and enjoy the games, because if I skip all the existential crap, these are all some amazing games that were made to be played.  I feel like too often I approach what I’m going to play in such a methodical way that playing anything else besides what fits into my system is like I’m cheating. I miss the days where I would just sift through the games until I just decided to play one… or even more than that, I miss spending the whole day anticipating being home so I could play the one game I’d been thinking about all day.  That’s the biggest part of me “as a gamer” that is missing today.

Growing Up

Luke Spagheti

Anybody who’s been around Luke for any amount of time, knows that he is just the happiest little guy around.  He just loves to have fun.  Loves to play.  Non stop.  He’s a chatterbox, and a goof-nugget!

I absolutely love hanging out with him, of course because of all the things I just mentioned, but also because it reminds me so much about growing up myself.  And how fun and carefree it all was.  I mean yeah, Luke will have the occasional breakdown when he really wants something, but has to put his toys away first.  But he rebounds quicker than you can flip a pancake.  I had some extra time to spend at home this weekend and just about every minute was spent with this little guy.

He wouldn’t be such a happy kid though, if Andrea weren’t such a great mommy.  I know it can be tough on her sometimes.  I can imagine going all day without any kind of adult interaction can be draining, and probably a bit lonesome.  But when you’re around Luke, you know how awesome she is at what she does!  I try to help after work and on the weekends like this, just to give her a little break.  I’m sure she could always use more though!

Luke Andrea Kangaroo

But basically what inspired this post was just all the things I’ve been able to share with him.  And that he totally latches onto.  We do a lot of things together that I did when I was a kid.  We play with Hot Wheels cars, we race around on the carpet, we watch cartoons.  We’ve been watching the Super Mario Bros cartoons from the 90’s, the Care Bears from the 80’s, and we see a lot of Mr. Rogers too.

Mario Cartoon

It’s fun watching him get excited about things like the Care Bears.  To us, they’re retro and dated, they’re brand new to him.  And to be honest, it’s fun for me to watch them with him and see certain things and think to myself, “I THINK I remember that…”  Mostly it’s not really specifics, but like the voices of a lot of the characters just feel super familiar, and this after not even thinking about the Care Bears for at least 20 years.  Funny how our minds work.

Care Bears Cartoon

Part of me feels a little guilty that I’m subjecting him to something that’s 3 decades old, compared to what his peers are probably being exposed to.  He’ll go off to school and his friends will have whatever the hot new lunchbox is, and he’ll have no idea who the characters are on the cover.  It’s not going to derail him socially, but still it’s a consequence of a choice I made, that he didn’t even know existed.

The other part of me thinks… you know my parents would have done the same thing as me… if they had the option to.  We don’t have cable.  We watch all this old stuff on places like Hulu and Youtube.  It’s amazing how much is out there.  More than I ever saw as a kid of these shows.  When I was growing up, what was on TV is all that I could be exposed to.  I suppose if my parents had the ability to keep me in a bubble of the media that they knew, trusted, and felt comfortable with, they would have done it too.  They just had to keep an eye on what we watched and make sure it wasn’t too “out there”.

Mr Rogers Feed Fish

It does make you wonder though, if this is all he knew, what would Luke share with his children?  Will kids still be watching really bad Mario & Luigi skits between animated mushroom adventures from 1991 in the year 2033?  I’m sure as he gets older and starts interacting with other kids and being exposed to more, he’ll develop his own memories.  Stuff that I just won’t understand.  It will happen eventually.  But until it does, I’m going to soak up our awesome Saturday mornings eating pancakes, watching cartoons, and pretending I’m growing up all over again too.

Pancake Smiley