Monday, June 28, 2010
Monday, June 21, 2010
As we approached the large yellow building, I began to get some butterflies in my stomach. Was I really here? It had taken 10 hours on a bus, and then another two hours in a car, but I had finally made it. The place had an electricity as I passed through the doors where so many greats had walked. As I entered, I was hit by those old familiar smells and sounds. The place was pretty empty because it was the middle of the afternoon, but there was still the faint droning of the bells and whistles of happiness.
I walked upstairs to the third level and headed to the back corner. As I turned down the last aisle, I finally saw it sitting there, waiting for me exactly as I had dreamt about it. I pulled a chair down the deserted aisle and took a deep breath as I sat down. So far I had come over 500 miles to get here, but now I was about to travel 30 years back in time. I pulled out a quarter and slid it into the machine. It wasn’t a Victor Hugo-like time machine that I was sitting in front of, it was a mint condition Donkey Kong, and I had arrived at nerd
But you already knew that if you’ve seen The King of Kong: A Fistfull of Quarters, the outstanding documentary about one man’s quest to set the all time high score. Now here I was. Sitting in front of the same Donkey Kong in the same empty aisle just like Steve Wiebe did in the movie. Ahhh, nerd dreams do come true. Playing Kong at Funspot immediately transported me back to 7th grade and Schlotsky’s sub shop in Dinkytown,
After I got my Kong fix, I moved on to the holy grail of arcade games: Pac-Man. To be playing the same machine that Billy Mitchell had gotten a perfect game on was truly like reaching out and touching the Kaaba. At one point, I was playing Pac-Man while Pac-Man Fever blared through the sound system. Time traveler kismet. After wandering through the rows and rows of electronic memories, I decided it was time for some pinball. But first, a little pre-game was needed. I headed to one of the immaculate bathrooms by the indoor mini-golf, and took a few one-hitters of White Widow. I exhaled the last little remnants of smoke after holding my breath all the way back to the Addams Family game. Oh, sweet, sweet Addams Family. Quite simply the single greatest pinball game ever created. Very rarely is one thing accepted as the absolute, undisputed best. Addams Family is the ’57 Chevy of pinball. A timeless classic. It is audio visual heroin. All other pinball games pale in comparison after you get your first taste of Addams Family. It is Wayne Gretzky, Michael Jordan, and Tiger Woods all rolled into one. Simply the best.
High as fuck, I was in the zone. I had become one with the machine. I scored over 162 million and became a “Family Member” on the board with the third highest score. Putting my initials in that Addams Family was the crowning jewel on my gaming scepter. As Twin Galaxy video game referee Walter Day says, “putting up a live score in a sanctioned venue like Funspot is what it’s all about.” I can die happy now.
As we walked away from Funspot for the last time on Sunday, we looked back and there was a rainbow going directly down behind the building. A fucking rainbow. I couldn't make this shit up. I imagined a big pot of tokens at the end of that rainbow....
After the weekend was over, I realized that we had created a new kind of tourism. You’ve heard of narco-tourism in
Now that’s a pilgrimage I can really get behind.
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
The Brattle is a wonderful non-profit theater in
Located in the shadow of Harvard University, the Brattle can be respectfully high brow (Citizen Kane every Christmas) to delightfully low brow (like their annual Shlock Around the Clock-- 24 straight hours of the most cringe inducing bad taste movies ever made). They have concerts and readings at the theater too. I’ve seen Oliver Sacks speak there, as well as seeing hundreds of great movies that had a profound impact on me like Ran (on a first date no less), Timecode, and Joe. The entire operation is run by volunteers, and the Brattle almost shut it’s doors a couple years ago until an eleventh hour donation saved them.
Four years ago, the Brattle announced a trailer contest. They would give everyone a movie title, and then you’d have about a month to come up with a two minute trailer. Since one of my friends works at a video production company, and a lot of our other friends are actors and playwrights, we decided to enter. The name they gave us: Miranda. We set to work for one of the funniest and most creative months I can remember. We did a grindcore/expoitation parody about a hooker with a heart of vengeance after a gang of thugs tries to silence her for seeing too much. The original we turned in was rated XXX by the judges, so Steve (our director/editor) had to beep out a ton of swears, and even blur something out for one scene. It’s even funnier with the censorship, so that was a happy accident.
Once all the entries were in, the Brattle held the First Annual Trailer Smackdown party, with BBQ food, PBR, and a screening of many great (and horribly great) trailers, including all the contest entries. Everyone in attendance got to vote, and much to our delight, we won. To see my own ugly mug up on that giant screen where I had watched so many beloved movies was an exhilarating, terrifying, humbling, and rewarding experience.
Between 2007-2009, we won two of the three Smackdowns, but Miranda will always be my favorite. Apparently the Brattle isn’t doing a trailer contest this year, which is a real shame because it was a creative and fun outlet for aspiring filmmakers and passionate amateurs alike, generating some truly entertaining and impressive fake trailers. It has also been the highlight of my past three summers.
And now, with no further ado, I give you………MIRANDA.
Friday, June 4, 2010
I’m looking for a new town to move to, and since I’m an avid poker player, I was looking into Vegas. After the economic crash, I read some daunting stories about 600 people lining up for one open position at Dunkin’ Donuts in Vegas. The biggest boom towns quickly turn into the biggest bust towns during a fiscal collapse. If that wasn’t enough to scare me off, I read a funny warning on a poker forum about moving to Vegas. The comment said: “If you have a vice, Vegas will find it and destroy you.” Beautifully put. The thought of Vegas sending out little oompah-loompah/leprechaun hybrids to find vices among it’s residents and exploit them cracked me up. Since I’ve had just about every vice at one point or another, maybe Vegas isn’t the spot for me. If I was in the Navy, I would be a Vice Admiral. My favorite show from the 80’s was Miami Vice. My royal title would definitely be Viceroy. Vice grips are a tool I can really get behind. I’m the Vice President of Viceland. I like the word “advice” because it has a vice in it. I think you get the idea.
I used to say that everybody has at least one or two vices no matter who they are. Mark Twain said “I don’t have a particle of confidence in a man with no redeeming petty vices.” I’ve come to realize that it doesn’t necessarily have to be a vice per se, but everybody has at least one addiction. Something that you can’t, or wouldn’t want to, live without. Something that makes you happy. Something worth getting out of bed for in the morning. For some people that might be World of Warcraft. For others it might be making money, or shopping, or sex. For some people it might be crystal meth. My dad is the squarest guy you’ll ever meet, but his addiction is books. Reading ‘em, buying ‘em, reviewing ‘em, hoarding ‘em, which all makes sense because he is a professor and a writer. Nonetheless, he couldn’t quit them and wouldn’t want to. Everybody has something. Maybe it’s out in the open, or maybe it’s a secret, but everyone has that something that gives them that quickened heartbeat and that hand rubbing glee of anticipation. For me, at different times it’s been food, poker, alcohol, television, women, weed, whippets, chess, coke, writing…….
I guess you might say I have an addictive personality.
Maybe that’s why I love shows like Intervention so much. Well, the first half of the episode at least. When you get to see people using and behaving badly, and you hear the story of how they got so messed up. The second half is all touchy-feely when they get better. Boooorrrrrrrrring. Give me the meth head exhaling a huge cloud of tooth rotting smoke. Give me the kid smoking an OxyContin pills off of a sheet of foil. And give me the woman inhaling the aerosol cans used to clean keyboards. That’s right, you heard me right. They call it duster, and people go to Office Max and buy cans of keyboard cleaner air blowing cans. They suck the air right from the nozzle and get fucked up. The chemicals in the aerosol have the same affect as huffing paint or any one of the other brain-cell-genocide inhalants out there. The woman’s name is Allison, and if you get a chance to watch her episode, I highly recommend it.
What the hell was my point? Oh yeah, so everyone has that one thing that they can’t do without. The thing that makes a long shitty day at work bearable because you have a redeeming petty vice waiting for you at the end of it. What is yours?