2010 August

August 2010

The replacement part for the rare 4-digit Williams screen cost $75, but it worked. I knew it wasn’t a power problem when the wires shocked me, though that’s really not the best diagnostic took available. All I could do was buy a replacement part and hope for the best. So, after this test I switched them out and now I can inspect the old one to see if it’s worth a hamfisted repair and possible resell. I have a bunch of fuses and a replacement start button, but what I’d most like to do is clean the playfield, replace the bulbs and fix the busted drop targets – still waiting on those supplies.

Saturday was a parade of disappointing tag sales and getting turned around throughout the Hudson Valley area. I ended up purchasing a Nintendo 64 Star Wars game, as well as a $2 julienne device in celebration of getting the kitchen to myself for two weeks. Beckie hung out overnight & we went to Brian’s housewarming shindig up in Rosendale with a ridiculous armload of burger meat and all were fed well.

After a sleepy Sunday and napping while American Pickers was droning on the TV, we drove to the Pound Ridge farmer’s market, based solely on a two-sentence blurb we stumbled across in the back of the newspaper which read ‘smoked meats’. I ended up buying a jar of peach jam, some smoked pepperoni (which just tastes like really good pepperoni and destroyed my insides), and 3/4 pound of smoked duck. I’ve never had duck before, but this seemed like a good time to try. It was organically raised and the guy seemed nice, so it’s worth a shot. Let’s see if these recipes do anything.

I’m also aspiring to pickle some of the green tomatoes from the garden, though the local A&P failed to provide anything for the experience, so I’ll have to hunt down pickling spices after I get some jars tomorrow from a cute little kitchen shop in Mahopac.

Aside from that, today’s plan involves finishing a comic page, cooking up some duck, and making it through another scary night in a dark house. A potential client found my online portfolio and is interested in having me sculpt some miniatures for them – just waiting on more details. I also snagged a freelance gig wherein I review music, which is a pretty handy portfolio builder.

Say a little prayer that hurricane Earl leaves me alone.

I knew it was going to happen : my first pinball repair disaster. Fortunately, I resolved it within an hour. An hour of spazzing out.

Space Shuttle is known to include internal AA batteries to keep your settings & scores retained. These batteries are also known to leak & destroy the expensive CPU parts. There’s a mod which many people do that moves these batteries to a less sensitive part of the machine in case they leak. I cracked open the machine to investigate this (or at least switch out the batteries for newer ones) and found that someone had already done it for me – but the scores still weren’t being retained after the power was shut off.

Only later did I read that you need to leave your machine ON during this process, or else your specific settings will be totally lost. My settings included free play, and when I turned the machine back on, it refused to start an actual game. And the screen which presumably displays your setting choices – well, that’s dead. A new one is coming in the mail, eventually, and it’s a rare $75 piece.

I don’t know how I did it, but after I e-mailed a dozen people about WHAT THE FUCK DO I DO NOW, I figured out some weird thing by hitting buttons until the bizarre number displays kinda made sense, and I pressed a ’19′ until it said ’0′, based on weird manual instructions – and I can play again.

This marks the beginning of a 2-week vacation away from my family, and 3 weeks away from work.

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.

My grandfather and I drove over to Wappingers yesterday to pick up Space Shuttle, after a day of stomach aches and black outs. Either I ate some undercooked sausage or some unholy force is seeking vengeance upon me, but the headaches and waves of nausea aren’t too great. As a result, I haven’t slept all night and I’m now obligated to bring my niece & her friend over to the semi-local arcade after work today. About eight years ago, said arcade had a Star Trek : The Next Generation pinball machine there, which is the object of my ultimate desire – so here’s hoping it’s still there.

The man selling the Space Shuttle machine is a hardcore pinball collector, but is moving from Williams machines to Gottlieb machines, and was thus making room for the new additions to the collection. I was glad that he didn’t have some hard luck story which was forcing him to part with his most favorite possessions. I prefer the ‘such good luck that I have excessive awesomeness to get rid of’ stories. We plugged it in, I played a ball, got a brief tutorial in pinball machine care and moving (and they are heavy as bastards, presuming that bastards are very very heavy), took it apart and loaded it into the SUV. I managed to get it back out of the SUV by myself, except for reattaching the fourth leg, when my industrious mother helped out. In reassembling the thing, I realized that the guy had forgotten to pop a necessary bolt into the toolkit, so I’m off to Home Depot for a replacement part later today. Home Depot, by the way, opens at 6 AM, which is news to me.

I look forward to a few hours of playing it to figure out what needs to be done. There are some burnt out bulbs and some dirt all over the playfield, but the most troubling thing is a few LED readouts that won’t light up. They don’t impact gameplay at all, and the scores are still displayed for the first player, but it would be nice to fix it all up. Unfortunately, the game’s original cabinet graphics were painted over, so I’m deciding on whether or not to get decals printed, or to carefully mask out things and paint them by hand. Most people seem to use acrylics to repaint small details, and I have a steadier painting hand than most, so I’m not too concerned.

I’ve dreamed of owning a pinball machine for 20 years, so I’m quite psyched to finally have one of my own – at least until I fix it and possibly resell it, but I think I’m just gonna fall in love with it.

… 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.

I loaded up Google Earth to map out all of the places I’ve always wanted to go, and it was loaded with landmarks from Philly. Which was kinda depressing. I deleted them and decided to start over – but it kinda felt like a punch when the map zeroed in on my once-paid-for apartment. It is a time for new things. It has been for a very long time.

Making points of entry to islands in the middle of lakes, neighborhoods that exist between highway dividers, parking lots, trading posts and power line trails. Nowheres.

There’s a place near Poughkeepsie that trades NES games, so that’s Thursday’s destination. I placed a Hudson Valley Craigslist ad seeking out NES games, requesting a list and an e-mail. Five replies, but I was remiss to imagine that a single one would include anything resembling a list. I’m not inclined to reply to anyone requesting an immediate phone call or who has not actually read the very brief ad. I know this is something I’m asking for, but if I’m going to approach a stranger with money in my pocket, I’m not going to provide a list of my weaknesses.

I’m trying to understand why an amateurish, styleless artist on eLance who bid $300 more on a project than I did actually won the bid, and it’s only serving as more evidence that art success, while eventually driven by ideas and talent, is all about finding the right coincidence, and that can only be done with constant work. It’s exhausting to submit three or four new proposals every day, joining websites to find work because I have no self-marketing skills and I detest the gallery scene.

The universe may provide, but it’s taking its time.

There is so much joy in this :


Evidence of Graceful Destruction I (Jefferson Valley, NY)

December 1 2004

Today was a good day, until I got to work and suddenly, my brain folded in on itself, like some kind of sexy origami goldfish, which is beautiful, but serves little purpose as a brain.

And then a really cute girl came in looking for info on banned books. Like, really cute. And then she left, but only after telling me that she liked my lenticular Spider-Man ring. Because hot sweet jesus, nothing says ‘excellent in bed’ like wearing a Spider-Man ring, because if you’re wearing one, you really obviously aren’t overcompensating for anything.

That’s all I really have to say. I was probably rude and short tempered to everyone today, like that kid who asked me to sharpen his pencil. To my credit, he’d obviously intentionally broken the point clear off, as well as half of the pencil, and probably chewed on it a bit.


December 5, 2004 [note : I have no idea who this was about]

You want to know a perfect evening?

A perfect evening is encountering a beautiful woman at the library and getting in a car with her, heading south, and finding a wonderful little Thai restuarant in a small town, listening to gypsy jazz on the way and hearing her laugh until she’s out of breath. She stays until about 3 AM, watching bad tv with you and enjoying it, and when she leaves, your pet cthulu still smells like her.




December 24, 2004

During the worst of it, it seemed to make perfect sense to steal my grandpa’s car (since small town library pay does not a car afford) and drive west until I couldn’t go anymore, living on credit cards and diner meals and gas station bathrooms and a backseat full of Tom Waits and Pixies CDs. I have these elaborate escape fantasies, vanishing from the world, deleting myself, rebooting. Canceling my membership to the world. Not inserting another quarter to continue. Winding up someplace unfamiliar, some kind of black-clad drifter who saves a kitten from a tree and is never seen again. Playing the crane machine at some mid-western bowling alley and sticking the fuzzy results on the back window of the misappropriated car. One day, I will do this, without the car stealing part, and preferably with a pretty girl at my side to share in the adventures.


December 27, 2004

Here’s something that they really don’t tell you when you sign on to work at a library.

People will return books covered in the most foul, horrific, uncategorizable substances imaginable. A thin film of alien substances that the patrons exude, or betray the living conditions that they keep. I’m not talking about videocassettes that are returned covered in strange, yellow water. No. And I’m not talking about the books which were read by heavy smokers and exude cancer as you scan them.

I’m talking about speckles of barbecued sweat. Books doused in perfume and onion juice. Things that reek of flea collars and alcohol and skin. Skin doesn’t have a smell until you’ve had to handle a book covered in it and it stains your hands with the foulness of it, and you can only identify it as something that must have come from a person, at some point. Juices and powders and chemicals, spilled. And I…. I touch them all. And then, I smell the book, which probably makes me look crazy. Sometimes, I wash them off. Other times, I just shelve them right away to get them away from me before I get queasy. More than a few of these have surely visited bathrooms.

Because people are disgusting, disgusting things when they touch books, apparently.


December 31, 2004

So, I started Animal Crossing at around 8 AM today. I played until around 10:30. I took a meteorite from the lost and found, even though it didn’t belong to me.

Already, the similarities to my life have become disturbingly clear. The number of ‘bells’ that I must pay off to properly own the house in which I live is about exactly what I need to pay off on my student loan. Except the Sallie Mae Loan Raping Company doesn’t accept old clothes and oranges in payment, and I can’t just deliver a package to a crocodile and call it even.

I named my character Flank. He has a house all to himself, with a stereo, and a rug, and two Nintendo games. And a creepy, spinning meteorite slowly rotating in a corner, giving me cancer, probably. And still, he’s better off than I am.

Unfortunately, I arrived on Raffle Day, which means I can’t buy or sell anything, which is the main gist of the game. All I’m doing is writing haikus to reptiles and mailing them off, occasionally delivering an item from one town member to another and running around aimlessly, my pockets full of oranges.

While I was out, I swear I heard a lady call her two sons ‘Vincent’ and ‘Price’, and immediately decided that when I get two cats, that will be their names.

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.

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