September 19th, 2010

Whale fluke

A case of Barreling Whale

Take a retriever. Take its ohboyohboyohboyohboy enthusiasm and its propensity to run into things. And, in a dream, transfer those qualities onto a fifty-foot-long whale.

I hope dream-Port of San Diego has forgiven me for unleashing this on it last night.

Last night’s dreams had a theme, in fact, and that was “enthusiasm.” Not the kind that DeNiro talked about in The Untouchables before beating on the brat to death with a baseball bat, but that happy enthusiasm. I dreamed of being at an airport with Dad, who’s had experience with flying things, and he was enthusing about an airship at that airport that could launch at Vomit Comet trajectories; I dreamed of being in the basement of a cool, 60s-ornate library and “Weird Al” Yankovic, of all people, enthusing about the place.

Enthusiasm. It’s possible. And neat.

Back to the whale. I’d gotten the whale, somehow, to the bay San Diego sits on, and was trying to arrange for it to get fed, which was a little hard with not always knowing exactly where the whale was -- ah, the metaphor of ocean, still waters running deep and with unknown depths and all that -- but then BOOM there it was, popping up out of the water and somehow (whoa) smiling, and barreling around so that boats and swimmers needed to get out of the way (I almost wrote “scurry,” but it’s HARD to scurry in water), and the whale seemed constantly on the verge of running into and damaging stuff -- and I’ve read Nathaniel Philbrick's In the Heart of the Sea, about the sperm whale attack that was an inspiration for Moby-Dick, and even if I hadn’t read that I would know how much damage that that much barreling whale can cause, so: yeah. There was scrambling.

Still, it was exciting.

So! Good morning. At least I hope it’s good.

So much fun packed into flickering blocks!

My youth wasn’t misspent screwing around, sneaking beers, smoking pot, kissing the girls and making them cry, oh, no! My youth was misspent playing video games! \o/ (Imagine the hands in that emoticon holding joysticks.)

I had arcade experience. I had Atari 2600 experience. I played a neighbor’s Intellivision maybe once. I played Coleco a few times. This was in the span from about 1981 to 1985 or so, or in Navy-family-moving-around terms our homes in Camarillo, CA, Virginia Beach, VA and Vienna, VA. Formative years, and a decent chunk of, but not all that long a stretch of, my childhood. Looking back, at least, it doesn’t seem like all that long a part of my youth. And by 1987, or when we moved to Oakton, VA, my gaming interest had mostly moved into text adventures (Infocom forever!) on computers, and I wasn’t using game consoles anymore. Computers gave me one last gasp of that kind of playing -- I remember a 1988 Olympics games for our PC we had in Oakton -- but after that I really only dabbled in console games. Some Nintendo around 1990, and more Nintendo in college: my freshman year dorm’s “seasons” (I think three total+) of Tecmo NFL football, and my junior year when I was playing some Mortal Kombat with dormmates. But I never got back into gaming in any major way.

So an Atari 2600 speaks to me in a way that XBox, Sega, Playstation, and other more recent and sleeker game consoles speak to a lot of you. For my fellows for who the 2600 still speaks to them, I join you in that love.

Because today I was surrounded by the glorious sight of many, many 2600s. And the games to go in them.

This weekend Portland had the Portland Retro Gaming Expo, and I splurged on the $10 for a Sunday pass, which I spent almost entirely in the free gaming room. Consoles and stand-up arcade games were set up and ready for us to see if we still had gaming skills. I had some.

(I actually could not score any points on Pitfall! I’d forgotten how. I suck.)

I giggled more than once at playing these games again.

I found myself falling into one old, bad habit: pushing harder on the joystick’s controllers, as if pushing harder on it would make my running man/ space fighter/ moon buggy/ boxer// Ms. Pac-Man/ Dig Dug helmeted guy move faster. I had to remind myself Dude! Soft touch works fine! And it did. Which is good, because I needed to save my wrists.

I ran into some of the Geek Trivia crowd, including Cort and Fatboy, who hosted a special gaming version of Geek Trivia. I listened but didn’t play, because I knew I wouldn’t know nearly enough to compete. It would’ve been a single-digit score out of 40-plus possible points. Not worth it. I’ll stick with regular Geek Trivia.

It was still fun, and I’m glad I went. Food and errands followed, as did generally being more productive than I’d been Saturday, and that was needed.

And I can do more retro gaming if I’m so moved. Ground Kontrol is an arcade-slash-bar in Old Town Portland. I can pay for the privilege of still indulging my gaming roots.

+ Actually two-and-a-half. Accidentally. Accidentally because of either A) me or B) a lightning bolt. Or maybe C) me touching the game console at the same time as lightning striking in Eugene, but the important thing is that the season’s game play on Tecmo football was erased. We screamed for a bit, then started over.
Flavored Calories.


My post-Portland Retro Gaming Expo food was Popeyes. A fried shrimp po-boy (spelled with a dash, not an apostrophe, right? Only answer if that's wrong) and mashed potatoes. Not bad, for fast food, and kind of a treat, though I miss when Popeyes had collard greens.

This I vow: One of these somedays I'll get the heck to Louisiana and have a genuine made-in-New Orleans po-boy. It's a moral imperative.

Here's to authentic food.