Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Small Photos for Short Time

Private Bowl Party in Chilton

with Dad

and BFFs

Cute Kids Everywhere

Chloe (Indiana)

State Parks

with Gramma and Mom

Me, Being Me

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Eating Salvation

I am riding solo (in my mom's car) to work this week, which means I'm also eating my packed lunch in silence. The folks are in Alaska doing fun things I didn't care to learn about. Bitterness?

Instead of eating at my 'desk,' which I did nearly every day at Simon & Schuster, I opt for a seat at the sole rustic picnic bench found on the Southwest corner of the property behind the wooden district marker. The marker is only a few feet tall, which leaves me with an unobstructed view of a 4-way intersection. And if I turn my head to the right I can take in the mostly empty 40-car capacity parking lot.

The real beauty comes from behind, then slowly into my peripheral, then sadly, in full view: the free hot lunch crowd leaving the Salvation Army.

I don't begrudge folks asking for help when times are tough. I am living with my parents, remember? However, the population I am now familiar with is far from coincidental, they are all too familiar with the program and each other. Lifers that yell, cuss, tease and disrupt my 15 minute break. They are impossible to tune out.

I was caught completely off guard yesterday. To get a little sun I exited the building on the Southeast side instead of walking underground to the Southwest door. At the time I didn't realize that I, in faded black slim jeans (subject to ridicule here) and a black tee-shirt, cutting across the lawn to the picnic table, probably looked to the neighbors like one of the crazies, as I apologetically refer to them.

I sat down on the far left of the bench for the shade provided by a sturdy fifty year old maple tree. I started with a red raspberry yogurt, instead of my homemade honey-turkey and parmesan sandwich, which I pulled purposefully out of my insulated red lunch bag. Plop, tear, lick foil top, swirl with plastic spoon. On my second spoonful I turned at a noise behind me.

I've been working this job for a week and a half and have met a fair share of the summer employees. I assumed the noise came from an employee exiting their car after a long lunch. I turned to be courteous and wave 'hello,' however, I turned to find an unfamiliar disheveled and very overweight woman squeezing through two parked cars right towards me.

She was yelling something indistinguishable, which was irksome because she was only three feet away from me and my lunch. There was no one else in sight so I had to assume she was just yelling at her voices or whatever. Then a minute later I see someone else peeking through the parked cars. Neither of the two women turned to look at each other, but I'm positive they were in conversation.

All who travel by foot follow this route to save the fifteen extra steps it would take to find the available sidewalk, and they walk slow, very slow. Is that because they have no where important to go to? Kind of like mill work, if you rush there is just as much to do but more quickly.

Next came another overweight woman with three children, each holding the hand of the next, and two men trying to keep their distance. It became obvious that one of the men fathered the children, or at least is now acting as some kind of adult/male figure. The other guy was walking a bmx bike and had visible acne pock-marks all over his face. Their conversation was painfully quiet. The kids seemed cheery enough and stopped to touch all of the passing bushes and flowers. The mom just barked at them to keep ahead and 'walk faster,' obviously pissed off that she had to take care of them and wasn't included to sit at the proverbial adult table.

Every single person I saw was overweight. Every one of them. How? These folks supposedly don't have enough money for food, right? Well I'll tell you a secret, there is one crazy in my family, four times removed, but still, there is a connection, anyways, he has a load of money but still goes to the SA for all of his meals. He is a total self-subscribed dirtball. Is it more greed and self-deserving attitude than hunger?

I have been completely blown away the past two days. I never knew this 'side of town' existed in Appleton. It's not like my family enjoys diving into silos of gold like Scrooge McDuck, far from it, but it's just normal for people to sustain. For the most part, it is incredibly affordable to rent here (owning is a different story, property taxes are actually pretty high) and you can literally buy a microbrew at a bar for $1.00. I understand disability can keep folks isolated and uninsured, but if everyone is walking and/or biking to the SA, they must be in decent enough shape to hold some kind of job. Is it just a rule in the US that there always has to be someone better and worse off than you? How far worse can you actually go? I can think of a few scenarios, but I don't see much point in speculating just to sound dramatic.

I read in the local paper that Obama's admin is providing $250K in funding between Univ. of WI and Univ. of MN for agricultural programs. How about sending some cash to the SA so that they can create and sustain urban gardens, which members would tend to for a couple hours each week in exchange for meals, similar to the discount opportunities provided to food coop volunteers. Those who volunteer would walk away with valuable job skills/work experience, which is super helpful here considering the political focus on this industry. Test trial in Appleton?

One surprising fact, I didn't see a single minority in the mix. Yes, Wisconsin is very white outside of Milwaukee and Madison, but there has been a growing minority population in the Fox Valley. And most of the folks migrating North are not en route due to job relocation, so I'm very curious as to how they are setting up a local support system.

So this was my fifteen minute lunch break...then back to opening boxes, static.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Adjusting to Solitude

Today I woke up on a full-sized air mattress fit snugly between the base of a brown leather sofa and the doors to the facing TV stand. I spent the night at my sister's house, in her 'office.' It was the half remembering of 'Where am I?' and 'Did I do anything stupid last night?' that I awoke to. Nothing to kick the mattress over-- I've been very well mannered, thank you. Still dancing like a maniac though.

My favorite time of day is morning, the first few minutes of it. The small window when I become aware of the comfort of my bed and the quietness of a newborn day; before the mind pollutes itself with remembrances of things to do, worries, regrets.

Waking up in an unknown place extends this moment. As does the immediate confrontation of people.

I only stayed at my sister's house long enough to eat cereal, then I went outside to the car to drive home. I didn't have much planned for the day, but it just felt like time to shove off. I'm not usually the one rushing out the door the morning after, but things are changing, and I'm confused as to in what ways.

Am I finding restoration in solitude? Or is loneliness defining it?

I left her house this morning feeling empowered; even after the long drive and a quiet morning doing crossword puzzles with Cody, my batteries were still charged. Then the switch, I became overwhelmed with loneliness. So what to do when you really are alone? I don't know, but I decided to find other people.

I drove off aimlessly in flip-flops with a Trek sports bottle full of well water in my purse. I also packed a book, and an unfinished puzzle. I thought I'd just drive until something begged me to stop. Maybe I'd just sit in a park for the afternoon. Or maybe find meaning in my shoe choice, I was in good shape for a pedicure.

Thirty minutes later and I'm on the road again. I decide to drive North, opposite direction of Home. Ten blocks later I find myself in a Dairy Queen ordering a Butterfinger Blizzard alongside your standard four and five member families. It made me feel lame connecting with such a global female faux pas: using comfort food to fill emotional emptiness. It gets a little worse, next I went record shopping, for the kind of albums you never need to own; the kind always available in bars, on the radio, or in movies.

Is there some kind equation out there that can help me better understand how much time alone is healthy and how much is not? With easy instructions to scale to self?

Perhaps the initial satisfaction of solitude was only in response to, or revolt of, a long night of conversation. Maybe the sensory chaos of socializing is like a drug, one that is addictive. I mean, everyone knows distraction is addicting. NY'ers are probably the number one offender. Was what I experienced today a form of social withdrawal? Had I chosen to stay home alone last night, would there have been a ripple of discontent today or not?

It's funny how something so seemingly natural [attachments to others] can take so much thought and energy. Or maybe it's not, to those of you (Seth) practiced in philosophy. Reminds me of when I studied piano at a collegiate level, I had to relearn how to touch the keyboard. I think I spent three weeks in lesson just pressing one key down, then again, and again, until it breathed. It was infuriating.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Less Than Curious

My mom got me a temporary job helping out the 'central media' department of the Appleton Area School District. The district hires many 'coop students' for summer help, but as Vickie, the secretary of the dept, put it cutely, "You are not a coop student." Nah. I'm easily ten years too old for this position.

At least I look young, I think. At the very least I get to occasionally reference Mom, which might inflect youthfulness, unless they get my age right, then referring to 'mom,' 'our house' and 'I don't have a car' doesn't position me much above underachiever.

Summer of '95 I worked full-time as the switchboard operator at Appleton West High School. Summer of '98 I painted the entire interior and exterior of some middle school in Appleton. Seriously, I can't remember the name of the school, which I attribute very earnestly to suspected brain damage from inhaling oil-based paints and turpentine (for mending my errs) in non-ventilated rooms, and listening to books-on-tape.

Last Friday I began a temporary career as a human box-opener. I kid, I actually get to experience a lot of diversity in my job dueling as a barcode-applicator.

I work in the basement at a L-shaped desk comprised of two folding tables positioned at a 90 degree angle. I have two black permanent-markers, two box-cutters, rolls of barcode stickers and one pencil. I also have access to ten library carts, which I load textbooks and teacher materials onto and then wheel to my desk where I apply barcodes to both the front cover and title page, along with a AASD stamp.

I work with Vickie, Paula and Tracy. Paula manages the department and the office. The one fan is next to her desk as is the stereo. She prefers NPR and faces the fan towards her. However, she is on vacation this week, so Vickie turned the radio channel to the local oldies station, and she kindly turned the fan to blow across the room. Tracy comes in four hours a day to help out when needed, she is not directly employed by the the district, but she is married to the mail-guy.

Vickie introduced herself with framed photos of her family and a story to accompany each. She loves to talk, which really makes the day go by quicker. My humor is completely lost on her though, which has actually been a huge disappointment in general here. Most of our conversations revolve around family, her first and second husbands, her dead-beat step-son, her sweet-as-pie grandson (who got all of his manners from his mom), and her niece, who's band just won the local battle of the bands competition. (Grand prize: $250 and a slot at Oktoberfest)

Paula I only met briefly before she left for vacation. Not sure if she actually is on vacation or just taking vacation hours. Is there a difference? Mom said she was soft-spoken so I kept pretty quiet. Turns out she had a whole lot to say, but only about music. She taught piano privately for years before coming to the school district. She gave me a ton of useful teaching and business tips, you know, for when I start my own studio. She had created a theory game similar in style to Chutes & Ladders (which I am so going to steal) and organized piano 'parties' in lieu of 'recitals' to take the pressure off of the kids; only those who wanted to play in front of the group did so, otherwise you just listened and played games. I came away so inspired by our conversation that I spent my entire Friday evening researching pedagogy and general musicology texts online. I'd like to figure out a lesson plan using college level ethnomusicology materials to teach the basics of rhythm and form to children. The standard series of piano books are incredibly dry. Lots of ideas, too many, difficult to find (follow) one path...

Tracy brought in cheese curds today.

The small of my back was sore most of last night; too much lifting. Otherwise I'm injury free, not even a paper-cut to speak of. I try to take breaks for water, coffee (my mom's boss brews a special blend that makes all of the secretaries go gaga) and candy (so many delicious treats on everyone's desks, which I usually grab when they are on similar breaks). I pretty much just zone out the rest of the day.

The only 'downside' to speak of, other than having to wake up at 5:30AM, and a salary of $8.00 per hour, is that my brain is near over-heat mode (think excitebike) by 3pm. I amused myself tonight by drinking a beer and renaming the dogs. Cody now goes by Brown-Bear, and Jack by Rusty. Dad said I reminded him of Chevy Chase in one of the National Lampoon movies. Mom asked me to quit, she says Jack doesn't listen well, even when you use his Christian name.

I can hear Dad calling outside for the dogs now, using their new nicknames. He cracks me up. He's either doing it to annoy my mom, or just because, and to be honest, you'd never know.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Moments of Mediocrity

One of my charitable contributions to the household is lawn-care.

Four acres of the property need weekly grooming, which includes two hours on a riding mower and an hour behind a push-mow for the spots unmanageable for the prior. These spots include: septic and water tanks (luxuries of living beyond city limits), tree bases, landscaped gardens (overflowing with mulch that spits back at your legs), the steep murky banks of the pond (waiting for the day I lose the mower in the dyed blue expanse) and various demarcations of my dad's archery practice.

[I would prefer to push-mow the entire lawn (as do most women I meet) for the exercise, but there are only so many hours in the day, and dinner needs to be going by four pm.]

Last week I decided to get at 'er without first consulting Dad. I thought I was pretty clever when I thought to check the gas levels of both mowers before operating. It can be difficult to eye the level of gas in a black metal tank, so when I'm pouring gasoline I usually try to use my ear to recognize the difference in pitch from the sound the liquid makes hitting the surface.

The riding mower offered a little more assistance than the push-mow, a metal rod inserted in the tank could be removed to get a read on the gas level. One might call this a dip-stick. And one might then come to the same conclusion I did, after filling the tank with unleaded gasoline: idiot...that is the oil tank.

[I'm not totally sure on this whole mechanics thing, but until someone clarifies for me, I will assume all motors need oil. Just like my old car, to which I always forgot to give due diligence.]

Some common sense eventually came to the rescue: probably should wait before starting the engine. Sadly, I did throw the argument around in my head for a while. I wanted to get the mowing done. It had taken me at least fifteen minutes just to get the riding mower out of the shed because I somehow pinned it between my sister's boat and the 4-wheeler, which my sister also last parked. I was alone yanking the steering wheel right then pushing forward till 'thump', then left and pulling back till 'thump'. And I was already sweaty from mowing the trim. But what can you do? I have no idea what could have happened if I had started the engine, but I figured mixing hot oil with gasoline could make boom.

I pushed the mower back into the shed and went inside to call Dad at work. He didn't answer so I called Mom. She didn't answer so I left messages for both. Mom returned my call as I was leaving a voicemail for Dad and Dad returned my call as I was speaking with Mom. Neither seemed too upset with me. I offered an oil change for a resolution and both agreed.

I think the average charge for an oil change is $30.00 or so, at least for a vehicle. Holy crap is that stupid. I can't tell you how easy it is to change the oil in a motor/engine/whatever it is called, but I will try:

1) remove nut from the oil tank, let oil drain
2) remove oil filter, let oil drain
3) replace nut and new filter
4) pour new oil into tank
5) check levels while pouring, quit when full

Dad and I finished the lawn together this afternoon. It was already time to redo the trim, even in this dry month.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

On The Road Again

"You better chill out, this is how people drive in Wisconsin."

Reference Guide
Point A: Menominee Park (pick-up Kaplan GMAT study guides from new friend)
Point B: Aunt's House (water flowers)
Point C: The Bar (pick-up chicken wings for Dad)
Point D: Oblios (beer with visiting NY pals)

Left Home for Point A in a rush yesterday. I had a long walk with the dog and an even longer shower afterwards to rinse off the applied quarter bottle of sunscreen. As I was running out the door it struck me that I wasn't even sure how to get to Point A. Reverse. Running to my macbook I was reminded by my father, home sick from work with a busted back, that we have a GPS unit in the truck. U-turn.

I'm the kind of person who is usually five to ten minutes late for appointments, but struggles with the guilt each time as if I never expected it to happen again. So considering that driving can be frustrating on its own, I hit frazzled as soon as I pulled out of the driveway; the road was closed ahead. As were many of the little roads here and there on my journey.

Driving is still new to me, let alone handling the loose steering common to a 4x4 pick-up truck, so when Samantha, the GPS guest narrator, tells me I need to get into the right lane, even if I have two miles to do so, I merge immediately. As soon as I sandwiched the truck between two dippy transformer-looking s.u.v.s I had to slam on the brake. The 65 mph speed lane slowed down to 50. I spied a blue Buick and two heads of white hair above the roof of the car in front of me, and although it started to make sense (growing up catholic you experience plenty of Sunday-driving) it infuriated me all the more. Everyone starts whipping into the left lane to pass, but Samantha wants me to stay right; my exit is half a mile ahead.

Guess who else was exiting at 119-Hwy 21? Well, if you were also driving North on Hwy 41 at that time you wouldn't need to guess. The Buick veered onto the shoulder 100 feet before the exit ramp and continued to brake until traffic was stalled to 40 mph. At this point I'm constantly checking my mirrors hoping no one rear-ends the truck, praying I'm in a truck, half-swearing and lightly sweating. (How else do women sweat? Sweetly? Like roses.)

As I meet folks more advanced in age, few seem more afflicted than those without access to a car (and have the sense to recognize their disadvantage), so it's hard for me to wish the Buick into solitary confinement. But at the same time, it's not a selfish thought if you try to consider the safety of the driver.

Next stop, Auntie's house. Travel considerably more enjoyable. Attempt at parallel parking, same. After a quick hosing I am back on the road and headed home. Then the cell phone rings. I slowly reach for it keeping an eye on the road and answer the call. I see a biker traveling across the road ahead and perpendicular to mine. I assume to slow down further back from the approaching stop sign than I usually would to show that the idiot driver talking on said cell phone is definitely aware of said biker.

The call was from my dad, he wanted me to pick-up chicken wings at The Bar. Whatever, sure, no problem. I got directions amounting to, "It's on the frontage road past Wal-Mart, close to Loews, past Fleet Farm, right past Fleet Farm." Wrong. Fleet Farm is half a mile south of Loews and The Bar is even further past Loews.

The Bar is set back from the road behind a massive tar parking lot. If I hadn't been looking for it, I doubt I would have noticed it. I guess the cars do the talking, and they don't show up until after hours? Nothing screams happy hour like chicken wings, or fun, like red sauce clown face.

Chicken wings, check. Seat belt, check. Blue Buick, crap. How does that happen? Thankfully the max allowed driving speed is only 45 mph on the frontage road, which as previously demonstrated is totally within reach for our friends.

Home. Dad is psyched on his lunch. I have time to unwind and prepare for an evening drive in the rain.

Dark is evening in NY. Black is evening here. Our road doesn't have division markers, so one needn't bet on street lights. It was only sprinkling when I left the house, but the heavens were a'brewin something fierce for later. When pierced with lightning, the tightly gathered rain clouds looked almost plum in color, the tentacles of white burning like veins in the gutted belly of night. I drove on because I had to; a beer and and two friends were counting on me. Two beers actually, but then three waters, cause I don't need to be getting into any trouble here.

The roads were dead asleep at 1:40am. I couldn't time the windshield wipers with the pouring rain so I kept adjusting the speed the whole ride home. I zoned out to the sound of the wipers, the tap-tap of the rain and the flood of the brites sweeping the ditches and brush, and the road closed sign. (sigh)

I turned anyways; 4x4, my friend.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Johnny Depp, Inspiration for Downtown Renovation

But it started with John Dillinger, infamous midwest bank-robber, and feature character in the current blockbuster film, Public Enemies.

Depp arrived in Oshkosh on April 18 of 2008 to recreate a heist as Dillinger. The Northwestern, Oshkosh's local daily newspaper, first reported his arrival, "Puffing a cigarette and sipping hot coffee, Johnny Depp stepped out from his black Escalade about 7 p.m. to join hundreds of extras and film crew on the set for day one of filming the 1930s gangster movie "Public Enemies" at Basler Flight Services, on West 20th Avenue. Fans and curious onlookers continued to gather into the night despite the steady rain and falling temperatures, snapping pictures and bonding over a mutual excitement and affection for the actor portraying notorious bank robber John Dillinger."

There are 77 archived local news stories to browse here, or feel free to visit the locally maintained fan website here

To my knowledge Dillinger never visited nor robbed a bank in Oshkosh; however, he was reported to have robbed a bank in Racine, about a 90 minute drive from Oshkosh. (Folks here estimate driving distance in relation to travel-time rather than miles)

My mom went down to Main Street during the filming of the movie to catch a little of the action. She peered, hands cupped around eyes, into the glass window of the renovated First National Bank building. At that moment, Depp supposedly turned his attention to the weekend mass of onlookers and waved. Impressed, my mom bought a t-shirt with Depp's face screen-printed on the front from an uber savvy local entrepreneur. I'd like to note that after six years in NYC I have only glimpsed Claire Danes, Avon from The Wire, actually, I think that might be it.

The bank and all other shooting locations were dressed in their 1920s throwback exteriors, but after the film crew left so did the sets. Local business owners are now rallying and fundraising to give the Main Street storefronts a permanent facelift รก la the public enemy era. Downtown Oshkosh has been victim to the unfortunate but common decay from misuse due to attentions being directed to the Wal-Marts and national chain restaurants located in viewing-distance from the highway.

Residents seem to be in favor of the renovations. One local business, Action Dance Wear, has already confirmed their blueprints, promising the most dramatic transformation to Main Street. The town is abuzz now with the recent premiere of the movie, but what is going to keep people interested in the downtown district next year? The area was hit with record levels of snowfall last winter, four months of hibernation is plenty of time for kids under fourteen and adults over forty to forget all about Depp.

As previously blogged, younger able-bodied kids are moving to nearby cities for work. Oshkosh will need to offer more than the literal run-of-the-mill variety to keep the blind-credit-card-charging consumers. A new friend of mine is redeveloping several buildings downtown including renovated apartments located above the brick and stone faced storefronts. If the price is right maybe folks will opt for the commute rather than relocation. The extended waterfront views are a definite selling-point, as is the convenient walk-home after a night at the bar. (This report estimates that a quarter of Wisconsin's adult drivers were under the influence in 2007)

I give the local business owners my best; however, I have a special request for the folks trying to recreate the era in dress: get your decade straight, and try a tailor, your thrift store finds might just fit with a little work. Also, to The Northwestern: it would be great if I could get some actual front page news coverage other than updates on Public Enemies (Miss Wisconsin, Country USA and Lifefest). Thank You.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Miniature Ponies vs Rob Halford

If I had the resources and wizardry I would design an atari bit-size animated game to put this battle of fierceness to scale.  I hope you can make due with the materials below.  Feel free to print the photos and attach to popsicle sticks, then thrash.

Rob Halford at The Muart, Indianapolis, 06/30/09

Motorcycle (5 pts)
Protective Leather Armor (3 pts)
Aerodynamic Head (1 pt)
Pitchfork (4 pts)
Hooded Magic Cloak (-1 pt)

Miniature Ponies of Nekimi, 07/08/09

Gremlin Shriek (2 pts)
Hooves (4 pts)
Cute Cloak (bonus 10 pts)
Pull-Cart (-5 pts)
Beautiful Hair (1 pt)

Monday, July 6, 2009

Boating on Winnebago

Last fall my sister and her husband purchased a 26 foot speedboat in lieu of a proper honeymoon. They, like many of their friends, boat around the various surrounding lakes every weekend; weather permitting.  There is a strong camaraderie within the boating community here.  I haven't figured out caste system yet, but I am becoming aware of divisions marked by boat type: sailboats, speedboats, houseboats; each roll with like-modeled crafts.

Streitch's Beach

I spent ten hours on the water over the holiday.  Mostly anchored in a shallow area of Lake Winnebago called Streich's Beach (pronounced stretches), which is protected by a long shoreline.  As you can see from the image above, many boats (mainly speedboats) tie-up to each other to allow for greater capacity and less motion.  The crowd was a motley crew of well-to-do 20-somethings with a penchant for bikini clad hotties, party friendly parents (kids AND dogs included), and folks like me, the 'just picking up' variety.  

There isn't much to do except chill on the boat or in the water, 'cause where else are you going to go and why would you want to?  Most folks just use the water for means for personal disposal.  Unfortunately the dogs do too, and their method is unpredictable; ew.  On the boat, folks sun-bath, chat with their neighbors, listen to barely audible hits from the 70s, 80s and 90s, and drink a lot of beer. I am surprisingly very much liking the new lime-infused light-beers.  

Before sundown we left the beach to anchor in the middle of the lake for prime viewing of the fireworks. Not so prime though this year.  We anchored a little too far from shore.  The visual dimensions of the fireworks were proportional to that of my palm.  Still fun though, especially after all of the beer.  Except for one scare, when one of my brother-in-law's friends unwisely decided to jump off the boat.  Thankfully a life-preserver was with-in easy reach and crisis was averted.

I slept well that night and ended up back at Streich's yesterday afternoon; however, this time on a white leather clad pontoon boat with my new friend Nikki, whom I was introduced to via NY satellite friend, Shelly.  Nikki and I first met last weekend over dinner, a blind-date! She has been a complete doll, inviting me to all area social functions etc. I really lucked out. It's not easy to meet people here my age who are not already 'settled down;' and more importantly, open to making new acquaintances. 

It was a last minute excursion due to a late invite from the boat's owner. After receiving the call I rushed to pack a small cooler and apply liberal amounts of sunscreen to my fairly sunburned body. Glad I went. Everyone on board was very friendly, interesting and inquisitive. Maybe I'll find my place here sooner than I expected.  And I think I prefer the pontoon experience.  Much more suited for socializing and less wave-jumping, which is a little hard going on my neck and back.  And the convenience of having actual tables makes it a hell of a lot easier to eat the various prepared snacks from the local supermarkets.  

It has been absolutely beautiful this past month.  Hues of the best kinds of blues, patchy clouds with golden linings and blazing blood orange colored sunsets.  It is kind of mind-numbing. Especially when you experience the aforementioned while riding the pulse of Mother Nature. I hope some of you can visit before hibernation.   

Thursday, July 2, 2009


"Put the lime in the coconut," and a few other choice associations came to mind when I started this post.  Why?  Lest we forget a typhoon is a tropical storm, and 'tropical storm' makes me think of that stupid song, orange juice, Desert Storm and so on.  All products of my insane ability to multi-task; in this scenario, while surfing the web for more information on Typhoon, awesome motion simulator.  

The photo above, compliments of Arcade Heaven, showcases two Typhoon simulators.  

Each system seats two 'players' fairly comfortably side-by-side in a reclined position, and each player is instructed to lie-back and hold onto the available side-handle bars for 'maximum enjoyment.' Mr. Cool Guy #1 (seated with arms folded) is definitely not following instructions and is therefore not enjoying the game at maximum level.

While reclined, the player chooses one of seven simulations to experience. Personal favorites include Ravine Racer and Canyon Coaster.  The experience is constructed through four fundamental pillars: video, audio, motion and wind.  The large eye-level lcd screen provides hi-def animated video, two speakers provide ample wattage for a standard PA system, two seats positioned on springs allow flexibility to jolt and jar, and two powerful fans blow recycled air continuously in your face.  

I came about the Typhoon while vacationing in Indiana this past week.  My friend Jason corralled a few folks to the newly opened Dave & Busters in Indianapolis for his birthday. Having never been to a D&B before, I was overwhelmed to say the least. If you've never been, imagine a large open space with food, drink and games.  The food, of pub gastronomy, can be enjoyed at the long horseshoe bar and accompanying three-tops, or in the more formal closed-off seating area for larger groups.  The remaining 2/3 of the space is an eyesore of flashing, spinning, screaming lights.  It reminded me of Vegas, not that I've ever been, except that the games are not played for cash.  Some of the games do reward with paper tickets, which you can redeem for prizes of stuffed animals to wii consoles.

The Typhoon was pushed up against the far-right red fabric covered wall, near a private door for employee use only.  Mom, Doreen and I paused to inspect the massive system on our first run of the floor. The get-up was pretty intimidating, so we hesitated, and when two girls of eight and ten answered that the ride makes you feel a little seasick afterwards, we walked away. However, on the third run, after spending many tickets on less than fabulous games, Mom and Doreen mustered the courage to give it a go.  

We fitted three across both seats.  Ssshhhh!  Me on the left, Mom in the middle and Doreen on the right.  We paid eight tickets for Canyon Coaster.  You start above ground in an abandoned desert theme park, but soon after the first terrifying fall your cart takes a turn for the worse and plunges below ground into a similarly abandoned cole mine amid a mess of broken tracks.  We all screamed like school girls.  We continued to pay eight tickets per simulation until we had no more left.  We had so much darn fun.  And here I am, writing about a videogame after a nine hour car drive when I have so many other more interesting stories to share from my travels!  MTK

To close: if you have access to a 6'x6' plot of land, preferably with an electrical hook-up, and you have credit available up to at least $25,000, this system is for you!  You will make so many new friends.