Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Silver balls: It's Christmas time in the city

"The dead are coming!"

"Mr. Frodo is not going anywhere without me."

"Get a hold of yourself!"

These phrases have been bouncing around my household of late as I have obtained a 2003 Lord of the Rings pinball machine. To have a pinball machine of this magnitude in my home fulfills some sort of childhood dream, and it has been a pinball-filled holiday season for me and the girls.

In lieu of Christmas cards, I now simply write this blog, figuring that those who would like to connect with me can easily do it by reading this. In other words, I am a bit lazy when it comes to Christmas cards and holiday family photos, and I prefer the Snooze Button Generation platform.

Actually, I plan on having an SBG entry every year from now on around Christmastime, but I have only done it in 2012 and 2009. It might be nice for me to count my blessings and wish good cheer to all, but instead, I must recount the happenings of Nov. 23, 2013, to explain how Lord of the Rings pinball is in my home. I have verbally told this story to a handful of friends, but now, it is my Christmas card.
Something magical was floating in the air on the glorious Saturday, November 23. I felt excellent, had a quality espresso at Portfolio Coffeehouse and figured I'd take my car to a tire specialist to have a pesky slow leak fixed. When I took in the car, I asked how much it would cost, and the answer was "nothing." I made sure that was the case, and the man said, "No worries. We got this." ... Wow!

I successfully had sushi at a place aptly called "I Luv Sushi" in Lakewood, Calif. As I finished the sushi with my girlfriend, I made a random suggestion by saying, "Hey, do you want to play pinball across the street?" Because Cal Bowl, an enormous bowling alley with an arcade, was extremely close, we went there, although she was not enthused.

Again, a day of success continued. Only three pinball machines were in the place, and the first one we encountered, The Simpsons, had a free credit on it. We played that credit.

We then moved over to a superior game, Lord of the Rings, which had a sign on that read: "For Sale, $600.00."

The game functioned, and I texted my friend, Skydog, who recently bought a machine. His Adams Family machine was way more expensive. I quickly went to and found that Lord of the Rings goes for much higher than a mere $600.

So I asked a man, who wore a shirt that said "Ron" on it, if he were firm on the $600. Ron replied, "What are you thinking?" I said, "How about $500?" He said, "We have a deal."

Pinball plays a minor role in my life. I loved to play in college. My mom has an old machine, Top Hand, at her Polish mansion. And, now, it is back in my house and life, big time.
I am sure that my glee for "Lord of the Rings" will wear off soon, but right now, I am loving this machine. However, when a machine is marked down so drastically in price, there are reasons for that. I have put a few hundred bucks of fixes into it, and, luckily, I have discovered a kind and semi-retired pinball fix-it man. He is ready in a moment's notice to help me if problems arise with the machine.

The 2009 documentary "Special When Lit" examines a subculture of folks who love pinball. I like it, but I am not as hardcore as the geeky enthusiasts in the movie. I can't explain exactly why I love pinball. I think because it is so tactile, and it brings back memories to when I played World Cup, Twilight Zone, Adams Family, The Shadow and many more in college.

My pinball fix-it man explained to me that pinball machines are absolutely impractical. They can have problems daily, and they probably only bring in about $30 each week to arcades or wherever they are.

Yes, pinball is a dying pastime in America. But I have a slight piece of Americana in my home, and this one is modern enough to have multiball.

Happy holidays. Merry Christmas. And, guess what? The extra ball is lit!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Subway: It tastes like air

The XMan would have turned 66 today, but he is gone. This is the third birthday he has missed because of his unexpected and ridiculous death. This remains a gaping loss in my life.

Today, I am not doing anything too spectacular to commemorate the XMan's birthday. However, I did recycle 24 bags from Subway that my daughters have received with kids' meals from the sandwich chain. I cannot explained why I collected these bags, except that the bags insisted they were "reusable." I failed to reuse any of them.

Strangely, I have not gone to Subway in at least one year. I simply do not like the place anymore. Wha' happened?

I remember when Subway opened in Garfield Heights, Ohio, and it was an exotic and tasty locale. I would go there with my pals Jason, Kevin, Alex, Doug and a few other sandwich hipsters, and we'd revel in Subway's fresh ingredients. I typically got a Spicy Italian, while Jason got the Tuna. I was even in the Sub Club. If I would eat 10 subs, I would receive a free one. Subway, you were generous!

Nowadays, I practically prefer anything to Subway. The store just popped up in way too many places, and I somehow had a couple subs that tasted like nothing and/or air. How does that happen?

Due to extensive Internet research, I have discovered that Subway has by far the most stores of any fast-food chain in the United States. There are 24,722 Subways, compared to the second most 14,098 McDonald's. Taco Bell seems like it's everywhere, but there are only 5,674. By my calculations, there are 20,000 too many Subways in America.

Many mysteries exist in life and with Subway. What the heck is going on with this place? You got too many types of bread, man. And I still can't explain why Laila Ali was on a bag my daughters received when they got a sub. I guess she's a role model or something. But I truly don't want to promote boxing with my daughters.
My newly developed hatred for Subway has even surpassed my dislike for McDonald's. At least McDonald's is conventionally known as evil, but Subway slowly became evil, kind of like Grimace.

It's real awkward being around Subway nowadays because I caught him taking $20 out of my wallet when I went to the bathroom. OK, that didn't happen. But that's the vibe I get from this Subway character.