Life


I took a three week vacation from work, in the interest of mental survival and figuring out what to do with my life.

In the course of this week, I’ve had many awesome adventures. I went to two parties, one of which was ‘The Office’ themed, and I got to be Toby (and for a few minutes, Dwight). I picked up a ton of cheap NES games at the Stormville Flea Market, which is surprisingly close to my house. I bought a second pinball machine which was delivered by this awesome ex-Marine guy. I made lots of good food and some not-so-good food. I went to the local bowling alley to play pinball. Picked lots of vegetables from the garden. I didn’t get a whole lot of art done as I’d hoped, but I’ve written a lot and added a few things to my résumé.

Learning a lot about pinball repair. Every few days, I get enough confidence to open up a new part of the machine and fix it, or figure it out. Bulbs are replaced, things are poked, I am slightly electrocuted and the process begins anew. It’s really exciting. Once I repair Time Warp, I think I’m going to sell it – it’s not nearly as fun as the images made it look. This opinion may change once I get the sound working, of course. Waiting for the right connector in the mail right now. Space Shuttle is still crazy fun.

Two weeks of vacation left, and I hope to dedicate this week to art.

I played around with the first round of machine improvements, as more problems reveal themselves. I was brave enough to open up the field glass and touch some of the mechanisms to test them out. The main shuttle ramp is supposed to activate a ‘heat shield’ – an illuminated orange bumper which emerges from between the flippers, but it hasn’t been doing anything. Thankfully, it’s not an electrical problem – it’s just a wire that’s not bent at the right angle to trip another sensor. A few re-bendings later, it works inconsistently. Still thinking about how to fix it completely, because there’s a very fine line between trapping the ball and setting off the right switch.

The machine also pitches to the right and might be at too shallow an incline, so I’m playing with a level and the leg bolts.

I’m a little discouraged by the cult of pinball. While they present themselves as a welcoming group, they’re surprisingly unwilling to spit out certain details. I learn best by hard visualizations of things – I prefer satellite maps to illustrated ones. I reverse engineer better than I engineer, so pages of schematics aren’t too useful to me. Show me something which is already assembled and I can probably fix it or improve it.

So, when a pinball supplier has a pack of fuses designed for my machine but does not disclose what’s actually inside this pack, I write to find out. When the seller then tells me to check my manual, instead of actually just telling me what’s in this mystery pack, it’s not helpful in the least.

The local pinball supplier who I hoped to befriend is ridiculously oldschool, refusing to take credit cards or in-person pickups. Instead of driving the 45 minutes it would take to pick up my supplies in person, he insists on charging 12 bucks for shipping and getting a money order via the mail. As a result, a process which could take 24 hours and be incredibly simple is prolonged into an expensive week-long event. Which, honestly, is fucking annoying. Why be so encouraging about the hobby and then make it difficult for me?

It’s all a little offputting, but dammit, I’m enjoying my crazy little pinball machine. Once I get these pieces in my hands and experience them, the understanding of the next machine will be much easier.


I recently visited the half-forgotten graveyard at the end of my road, complete with rusted-gate-falling-off-the-hinges and Revolutionary War heroes aplenty. It’s much larger than I recall it being, but back in high school, most of it was impassably overgrown. Since then, it’s been cleared out and forgotten again. I recently had dreams about a deep, dark evil that lived there – but when I was actually there, it felt really peaceful.

I’ve been preoccupied with Google Maps lately, and found a completely residential path to my favorite sushi restaurant instead of taking various busier roads. I also stumbled upon a local road called ‘Enrico Lane’, which culminates in ‘Fermi Ct.’, which is awesome and amazing and now I need to go take a photo of that street sign.

Oh, and that Chicago Museum doesn’t want me. I blame my unsexiness. There’s gotta be a better way to earn $10,000.

Also, Toyota rotated my tires and forgot to tighten a hubcap, which vanished the next day. After a week, they replaced it for free. I’d like to go to Curry Toyota just once and get in and out without them really messing something up.

… which would be an awesome indie band name.

So, a few days ago I set out to find a pinball machine to refurbish. Everything was either far away or too expensive, so I was shooting for anything under $500 and local. Yesterday, I made a deal with someone in Wappingers for a $375 Space Shuttle pinball machine from 1984.

The display doesn’t light up (possibly a fuse or a bum wire), it’s been poorly repainted, and it’s probably a little shaky – but it’s MINE. I’ve been watching pinball refurbishing tutorials all night, so I’m learning all of the magical tricks to making this thing look brand new. I’m picking it up today after work. If I can’t get it to work, it shouldn’t be hard to resell it – I just happened to beat out a handful of other buyers due to my close proximity to the seller.

Regardless, it’s an awesome theme, and I’ve been taking astronaut photos lately.

Also, and this is especially neat, I won an Emmy.

Well, Star Wars : Uncut won an Emmy, and I have some film in it. The top-rated Cantina scene, no less. Can I call myself an Emmy winner now?

Try and stop me.

After a few bad years, I’m staring to believe in meaning again. Weirdly cosmic things are happening again, but maybe belief is precipitated by a willingness to believe, rather than forcing its way into your life. Maybe it knows that I’m a student of subtlety.

I found a stretch of road on Route 55 in Poughkeepsie which has a Trading Post, a pinball supply shop, a comic shop, and a diner called The Daily Planet with a huge Superman on the wall. Well, Beckie found two of these things, but their proximity to each other is pretty impressive.

The Trading Post promised to trade my NES games for theirs, if I so chose – so I packed up a box of spares (mostly Super Mario Bros and TMNTs, with an extra Dragon Warrior and Kirby’s Adventure thrown in for good measure), and an armload of LPs and made my way north. When I arrived, their NES list didn’t match what they had online, they didn’t have Battletoads & Double Dragon, and the owners weren’t there, so my hot car full of plastic things was of no use to them. It was a bit disappointing, since their e-mail implied that I could stop by any time, so I bought 4 overpriced NES games and left.

The pinball supply place was a parking lot over, so we found it and walked inside, only to realize that it was not actually a shop but a warehouse, and not a walk-in kind of place. The owner was really awesome and actually hung out and talked with us for a few minutes, and apparently, there’s a significant need for a pinball repairman in the Hudson Valley. I didn’t get to poke through boxes of pieces for art ideas, but the whole thing was really informative. I came home and ordered a classic book on pinball machine repair, and started browsing eBay and Craigslist for machines I could possibly fix up for practice. Bride of Pinbot is especially appealing – it’s cheap and in Kansas, and needs some minor electrical repairs. Something about stumbling across this place on a map without actually looking for it, and this information – it might mean something. I’m good at fixing stuff, and I know where to get cheap acrylic parts in any shape I want.

The comic shop was tiny, but really nice and clear, and a shelf full of $5 graphic novels, and ‘Crazy Hair’ with art by Dave McKean, which I never bought for full price because I’m fundamentally opposed to giving Neil Gaiman my money, though it seems like ‘Countdown to Adventure’ is the victim of some kind of spill. You can’t complain for 5 bucks.

The Daily Planet was a really, honest diner with huge food and sassy waitresses, and nothing with goat cheese or grape leaves on the whole menu. I got the biggest burger I’ve ever seen and only managed to eat half of it, and they even cooked it rare.

The rest of life is writing and rewriting and hoping that something catches on fire and propels me away from everything else at a terrifying, exhilarating speed.

There is so much joy in this :

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Evidence of Graceful Destruction I (Jefferson Valley, NY)

I got to write about The Thing for Splice. My anger at the priorities of the world will be used only for good, I promise.

I think that life would be 50% better if I had a really big, nice garden. I figure that a fair portion of life is worrying about how we’re going to continue eating – even more than how we’re going to get to work. We go to work so we can eat, anyhow. Garden time can’t be too far from now.

I spent the morning at Toyota, getting routine maintenance for my car and the third or fourth Corolla recall fixed up, listening to Modest Mouse on my iPod instead of the embarrassingly bad Fox news out of Manhattan and reading ‘Made by Hand’ by the EIC of MAKE Magazine, which is an incredible entity unto itself. I think that today’s piece for Splice expresses a lot of what I was feeling when I read it, since it was mirroring a lot of ideas I already feel strongly about, from both spiritual and creative standpoints. Nothing’s been the same since Orange, MA. Reduce need, be more efficient.

So, it was a weird kind of slap in the face when I saw that my car was running on empty. The local gas station hasn’t worked in two or three days, so I’ve just been waiting on filling up the tank. This wasn’t aided by the fact that Toyota left the keys in the ignition and the car running while I signed the requisite paperwork, so I drove around a little bit to find a gas station and ended up at a Valero, which I’ve never heard of until today, and which is entirely full service. I’ve never been at a full service station in my life, except for in Jersey where it’s apparently the law, and as a very DIY kind of guy currently full-throttle into DIY mode after reading ‘Made by Hand’, I felt like a colossal hypocrite. I swear that it was only by accident. I’d ride a bike if my town had any room on the roads whatsoever and it wasn’t overtly suicidal.

Working my way through learning new writing mechanics for one job, vector work and consulting for another, waiting to get paid a few thousand by another, getting turned down by a fourth. Aspiring for one really good job instead of working six and still looking for more.

And a garden.

One year ago yesterday, I was supposed to be moving into an apartment in Philly – taking the back roads to transport a mattress on top of my car without attracting attention, a car full of boxes up to my second floor room in a nice little house with a nice little patch of dirt, finally having a place to call my own and struggle with and fix and break and breathe in.

Many of those boxes are still packed, shoved into corners where I don’t have to look at them, still in New York. Stacks of things with destinations that were never realized, and one year of dust later, it’s really rather depressing to think about all of the places that the time went and I didn’t.

I woke up on Friday and decided that I had nothing to lose. In any context. This also encapsulates the idea that anything I have is worth losing for a greater good, provided that this greater good provided a solid life experience. And the thing I’m losing isn’t Batman.

Like anyone looking for adventure and danger, I went on Craigslist.

CL has been a quiet theme in my life since February. We have a tenuous relationship at best. It often disappoints me, but drags me back in with promises of work, women and old video games – but we spend a lot of time apart. I’ve met a few awesome people from CL, one of them being one of my best friends in the world. Earlier in the week, I was poking around the Hudson Valley people ads and responded to one I liked, and made a friend. I’ve also found a job there. Have always come up empty on vintage video games.

So, when I saw an ad for 40 oldschool NES games, plus a system, two zappers, controllers and all of the wires for $150, I was kinda willing to travel as far as I needed to go. After getting a list of the games and the price was dropped to $110, I determined that the whole collection would fill in a few gaps in my collection of 200-ish games, and I didn’t know where Port Jervis was, but it sounded like a fair after-work destination. Of course, if you’re going to make a deal on Craigslist and meet in a parking lot in a town you’ve never been to before, you want to bring someone to at least witness your murder and get a license plate number.

I don’t have a lot of local friends ’cause I live in an area which caters to wealthy families and not 20-something art guys, so I called upon my new friend to adventure with me. I can’t find the ad, but I’m fairly sure it was seeking adventure. My kind of adventure isn’t so much skydiving and foreign travel as it is long car rides into weird parts of New York to see what’s going down.

I also have come to believe is very quickly disrupting the gap between who someone is online and who they are in real life. For some people, there might be no gap whatsoever, but there are plenty of people who consciously or subconsciously use this space to create the person they want to be, no matter how distanced it is from their actual meat-selves. Leaping facefirst into disappointment or a genuine connection is really, really important before too many illusions construct themselves. I’ve made that mistake a few too many times.

So, everything was organized and awesome. Weirdly ambiguous and circuitous Google Maps directions and $110 in hand, we met and set off for Port Wherever. All I knew was that it was over the Hudson, due west of me, and right on the edge of NJ. Great music the whole 80-minute drive with an awesome person in surprisingly calm rush hour traffic in beautiful weather. Somehow, this combination of four things make me feel like life is really happening.

We met the guy in a parking lot about 15 minutes late, due to a weirdly unlabeled road – a small, young guy covered in tattoos and piercings. As we talked he said that he was selling his Nintendo (obviously well-cared for, as most of the games still included instruction manuals) because he was turning his sun porch into a nursery for his forthcoming baby. I could have wept. It takes a real man to give up his Nintendo to take care of a baby that well. I know a few too many people who have just thrown a crib in the bathroom and hoped for the best. Well, not exactly – but effectively that.

Easy drive home, stop at a diner, a few minutes of Harley Davidson pinball, and it was pretty much the perfect day. Finding little bits of ‘life is okay’ in the rest of this stuff is pretty great.

Nothing to lose.

It’s been hovering around 100 degrees in upstate New York, and I spent the morning feeling tremendously unpleasant and knee-wobbly.

So, I stayed in bed and read all of Paper Towns by John Green, and kinda had my mind twisted around by the parallels to my own weird little life and the amazing, dangerous people I fall in with. The whole story ends up in a little town a bit north of where I live, and even speaks to the idea that people are things that happen, and I don’t know what it all means, but it’s never an easy battle upwards. I’ve shifted between trying and trying very hard and not trying at all, and it all looks the same.

Maybe if you can’t find answers in a book, you can find hope.

When I disappear, I’ll leave some pretty awesome clues.

How do you celebrate the one year anniversary of getting cheated on and losing your apartment? Is that the ‘drink bleach’ anniversary?

If I were to create a venn diagram (which I am known to do), at which point do ‘uncomplicated women’ and ‘creative women’ meet? Do these two circles ever actually encounter each other, or are they completely unfamiliar with the existence of the other? Is there a singular, imperceptible point which I’m never going to be able to find?

This might explain my poor romantic decisions. Mathematics may be the only sensible way to detail where everything goes wrong.

I keep on saying that I’m going to spend the day sewing, but I lose momentum far too quickly. This time I mean it.

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