The Life of a Rob: Part 11

Welcome back to part 11! This is going to be a huge entry. The year is 1997, Saginaw…

After the death of my Grandpa, I would lean on video games a lot (as always) to cope & escape. 1997 was the time of many great games such as the Nintendo 64, Super Mario 64, Star Fox 64, Turok, Bushido Blade, Mario Kart 64, Duke Nukem 64, Castlevania Symphony of the Night, & my 2nd favorite RPG of all time… Final Fantasy VII. Final Fantasy 7 was masterpiece in its time. I had reserved it & got it on day 1. It was a HUGE game spanning 3 discs. This was a first. It had a very long & good story. GREAT soundtrack. Great characters. You name it. Its one of the best RPGs ever made. As I would finish the discs, Bill would borrow them. He also had a PS1 now. Castlevania: SOTN is also my favorite Castlevania of all time. We can’t talk about 1997 without talking about the Nintendo 64…

We have to take a step back a few years. In Arcade games such as Killer Instinct & Cruis’n USA, the arcade games would advertise a new Nintendo system coming in the future they dubbed the Ultra 64. Well the name would later change to Nintendo 64, I also assume the hardware would be weakened. At first they boasted Arcade perfect ports of Killer Instinct & Cruis’n USA, but when they finally released, they were far from perfect Arcade ports. But the N64 was great none the less! Before it released in the States, it first came out in Japan. I remember the guy that owned Eagle Video asking me on day that if he got the Japanese N64 system, if I would be interested in renting it? I told him Hell yeah I would be. I rented so many games there, he knew me on a first name basis.

Well he got the Japanese N64 & had it up for rent along with Super Mario 64 & Pilotwings. (Which were the ONLY games released at the time) I damn sure rented it. They were the Japanese versions & I couldn’t read anything, but I didn’t care. I played Mario 64 like crazy. I think I came close to beating it in Japanese. I loved the great 3D gameplay that was new for Mario. They nailed it. I didn’t think that I would like Pilotwings at first but I actually played it a lot. The heights that you had to fly to made my stomach queezy at times. Like the feeling you get in your stomach when descending on a rollercoaster. We had gone back to cartridges again.

Cartridge based games were a bit of a handicap though because they couldn’t do video properly & the audio quality suffered. The cartridges couldn’t hold nearly as much data as a CD at the time. N64 did have a nice new antialiasing ability that PS1 didn’t have & they of course had great Nintendo 1st party games. The antialiasing gave the illusion that the N64 was stronger tech than the PS1, however overall, it was not. The PS1 just lacked this 1 big feature. But the N64 was still a very strong system none the less! I also remember Toys R Us having an in store demo of the N64 before it was publicly released. If I remember right, I think I had to trade in my SNES & Sega Saturn to afford a N64. I had a N64 & Mario 64 on day 1. It took a while for more games to come out. The N64 had a unique controller that took a little getting used to. 

Awhile before this Mortal Kombat 3 had released for PS1. I was amazed that it was actually an Arcade perfect port on PS1. This had never been done. The SNES & Genesis versions suffered in quality greatly though. Up until now consoles were behind the technology of Arcades. Times were changing. The decline of Arcade games begun. They no longer had the upper hand in quality. My friends & I would spend hours in the Arcades. Unfortunately it was a joy & sensation that the younger generation of kids these days will probably never experience. Arcades were a big part of my childhood & they’ve almost gone extinct as we knew them. “Arcades” are now filled with mostly prize games. Prize games are fine, but REAL arcade video games are now rare. Arcades are not really a popular thing anymore. Speaking of sensations, I would like to take a minute to try to describe something…

I’m not sure if I’ve ever had a conversation about this with anyone. Playing most video games produces unique feelings for me. A sort of taste, but a flavor in my mind. I will try to explain this to the best of my ability. Each game has a different & unique flavor. Some stronger than others. As I spend hours playing a game, I would soak everything in. Everything combined… the graphics, the sound, the type of gameplay, the story content… would produce… a flavor. The intoxicating dopamine that is released in my brain would cause a unique feeling of joy. This is an addicting property.

Have you ever binge watched a TV show for a long period of time & gotten completely engulfed in it? This particular show gives you a unique type of feeling, unique to that one show. Other shows may produce a different feeling of joy/entertainment. Video games are like this for me, but even more intense. I say it’s probably more intense because ive experienced it on a smaller scale with TV shows & movies. Hopefully, this isn’t sounding too weird! But it plays into my nostalgic feelings. Looking back on games, I can recall the unique feeling that each game gave me. I’ve always wondered if others felt this too? Video games are more than just a means of entertainment for me. More than just a way to pass the time.

Video games provide an experience for me that is stronger than any other type of media. (However music envokes strong feelings also sometimes) Unlike other forms of media, video games are very interactive. They bring me deeper into their world. Submersion is the key vocabulary word that I often use. Well, that’s probably the best way that I can explain “it”. Each type of media is its own thing. TV, Movies, Books, Music, ect… But nothing quite gives an experience like video games do. To be honest its addicting at times.

There have been more times than I can count, where I could barely tear myself away from this virtual world, the fun I was having, or the things that I was busy trying to accomplish. If only I had this determination in real life! When I was a little younger, there were times where I have even missed work just to keep playing, especially on release nights. I would often either call in or request the day off ahead of time. But worse than that, I have missed things that I was invited too, just to keep playing. Things like parties, events, invites to hanging out with friends or family. As dumb as it may sound it truly is a harmful addiction at times…

 Video games have dominated my money at times. They have kept me on my butt for far too long as I sink deeper into laziness, become more overweight, unhealthy, & out of shape. They have impacted my social life negatively & probably had a part in social anxiety that I would have from time to time. Anything that consumes your life this way can impact your life negatively. While were on the subject of mental… things… I think most people don’t know that I actually struggle with depression, anxiety, & I’m actually very anti-social at times. It’s not that I don’t like people. It’s just an uncontrollable chemical imbalance in my brain that often flares up. Sometimes I just want to sit by myself & get lost in a game all day & all night long, until I can’t hold my eyes open anymore. Then sometimes I strongly yearn to go out drinking or to do anything with friends & family. It’s a mental rollercoaster ride that I have little control over.

There are periods of time where I stray from video games. Times where I don’t play hardly anything at all for months & its strange. During these times of little video game exposure, I feel like im betraying a big part of myself. I’m straying from addictions & interests that are deeply ingrained into me. This alone evokes feelings of stress. I’ve been addicted for so long its a big mental part of me. These days I refuse to let it control my life, but it wasnt always so. I think I have attained a decent fortitude of willpower through the struggles of my life. Although some times were very hard, it helped to forge the person I am today. Whatever that may be. I find it hard to accurately analyze myself. 

Ok. I’ve rambled enough. How about we get back to my story? 1997 was rough due to the death of my Grandpa, but it also birthed some really great games to help me get through. In 1997 I was unrolled from Boswell High, never to be enrolled into public school again. We moved from Saginaw to a duplex in River Oaks. Our landlords lived in the other half of the duplex & rented our half out. I was told the rent was cheaper here & it was also a bit closer to the “neck of the woods” that we were used to. I would not speak to Bill at all for a while. I moved away & for some reason we just didn’t communicate with each other. As dirty & flawed as that fucker was, I still felt like I abandoned a friend. I eventually ended up writing him & we slowly started hanging out again. Jason & Jose was always there. By this time Cody was a thing of the past. We simply grew apart & never saw each other.

Our duplex was decently nice & in a decent neighborhood. There was also a 7-11 convenance store less than a block away, which was cool. There wasnt any city bus stops nearby, but if I was really determined I could walk to Ridgemar Mall when my Mom couldnt or wouldn’t take me. Lets not forget this marked the year of the appearance of Undertaker’s brother Kane, during Undertaker’s Hell in a Cell match against Shawn Michaels! Moving on… So they were ging to home school me but just didn’t. I spent a lot of time home alone playing games. I was getting chubby at this point. I would run back & forth the length of the duplex & I started to diet. It lasted about 6 months before I gave it up. I did lose a lot of weight though. This gave me a good sense of accomplishment. Later I would gain it all back & then some though.

The year was now 1998. I was playing games like Resident Evil 2, Zelda Ocarina of Time, Metal Gear Solid, Parasite Eve, Turok 2, Tenchu, & more. I have a fond memory of going to my cousin’s house & playing Zelda Ocarina of time. On occasion, I would get to spend the night at his house. He also had a computer. I had always wanted one but couldn’t afford one. Later, I would get to play PC games like The Sims. PC games were a fresh new frontier. However I wasnt used to the keyboard & mouse controls. I would also get to surf the internet as much as I wanted. This marked the beginning of a number of years of me spending the night at his house on occasion.

One night, I was at home in our duplex. I was sitting there playing something in my room & I hear some strange taps on my bedroom window. Confused, I got up & went to the front door. My Mom was at the door & she was all irritated, maybe because it was late. She told me that some of my friends were out there. At this point Jose had a car. I believe it was his car out front & various of my friends inside. Bill comes from around the house after tapping on my window. It turns out the story goes… Bill knocked on the front door. My Mom didn’t care much for Bill because of his smoking in the house, him ignoring her rules or anything we said, & he was really dirty. (I’ll elaborate more on this in a bit)

So my Mom told Bill that she didn’t want anyone over tonight & shut the door. I didn’t know they were out there. Well they hung around for a minute to scheme on how to get ahold of me. It was no short feat for them to drive to my house. Everyone was broke & gas money was no joke. Jason & Jose convinced Bill to go tap on my window. So Bill walked back up to the house. For whatever reason my Mom had stepped outside in her slippers, maybe to tell them to move around. Not sure. Well Bill instinctively ninja flipped into our bushes to avoid detection. I’m sure the car erupted in laughter. Bill stealthily made his way to my bedroom window & tapped on it so gingerly that I didn’t even know if it was a humans tap. So I go outside & we all meet up & did God knows what that night. Bills evasive maneuver would be recorded in the annals of history.

While were on the subject of Bill allow me to elaborate as to why my Mom didn’t care for him to come over for some time. I mentioned the smoking & general lack of following rules. But let me talk more on the hygiene thing. Before writing this, I spoke to Bill & asked permission to speak about these things. Well the VERY first day after Bill had come over when we lived in Saginaw, I was downstairs & noticed these little rabbit shit pellets laying on the carpet, sprinkled about. I was confused on where they were coming from at first. Were animals getting into the house somehow? Turns out Bill had some bowel problems or something & was leaving little presents for us. I know this because after spotting some, I started to watch the bottom of Bill’s pants. Then I caught one red-handed, rolling out of his pants & onto our carpet. Bad Bill, bad.

When Bill was at home he was even worse than me about getting sucked into a game. At least I would stop to eat & use the bathroom. Bill would not. Bill would literally lay there & play for days in his own filth until he passed out. I don’t recall Bill ever taking a shower even once while I stayed there. He would rarely go into the bathroom, which was right outside his room. Literally 3 steps from his door. Dont get me wrong. I’m not trying to talk crap about Bill. I’m just stating things that I remember. This is all a part of my life experiences. Bill would lay in a puddle of piss in is own bed for long periods time. For the longest time we tried to get him to stop & clean up & whatnot. Bill did what Bill wanted to do. He wouldn’t usually be a dick about it, but he would just ignore you & not respond.

Bill was really into WWF/WWE. He would order the pay per views & record them all on VHS. I once went to his house & no one answered the door (which was rare) so I went to his bedroom window. Bill was asleep. Bill rarely sleeps. Bill would leave his bedroom window open (thank God) all the time. I tried to yell at him to wake him up & that wasnt working. I had the bright idea to grab a VCR tape & throw it at him to wake him up. Well with a loud “CLACK” sound, it ended up hitting him square in the face. It hit him nasty square in the face. The tape connected & stuck in place for a quick moment before it fell. Bill woke up in a rage & it was the first time I ran from Bill. I couldn’t even run I was laughing so hard. I truly didn’t mean to hit him in the face like that, but when it did I couldn’t help but laugh. Bill chased me around the yard for a bit before realizing he was the smoker. He calmed down & we hung out.

I didn’t mind usually putting up with Bills shit. I’ve always had an open mind & back then I didn’t judge people as harshly. Bills brothers & sisters picked on him a lot. A lot of people did honestly. Bill would shrug it off like a pro though. Bill would be the cause of many funny incidents. One day Bill was hibernating. Me & Jason went to building a city on top of Bill with his Legos. We had a massive structure of Legos built upon the beast. Jason woke Bill up & Bill came up destroying our creation. Bill was pissed. He chased me & Jason around the yard for a minute before realizing again, that he was the smoker. Bill gave the chase up & we hung out. We would often walk around a part of Saginaw at all hours of the night. There was a 24/7 continence store about a block away. The video store & other things were also in walking distance. Jack in the Box became our main spot for food.

Ok. 1998. Somewhere around this time Bill got a job at a BBQ joint right by his house. Bill would spend 80% of his check on video games. Cigarettes, chocolate milk, Jack in the Box, & video games. Bill was rolling in games. This made me want to get a job. I was also craving a vehicle pretty bad. Bill didn’t drive. I don’t think Bill has ever had a driver’s license. Bill would offer to buy me a new PS1 game, just to come get him, take him to the mall, & take him back home. PS1 games were $54.11 after tax. I remember that detail clearly. My Mom would drive & I would get a new game every time Bill got paid. This lasted about 2 months or so. I felt a little guilty, but also couldn’t resist the offer. Bill could’ve gotten a ride to the mall for less than $54.11, but he insisted. It was nice of him.   

In late 98, my Mom & Frank started to run out of Frank’s settlement money. We were forced to move back into our old nasty house in ghetto North Side Fort Worth. I wasnt looking forward to it but at least id be closer to my friends & on the bus line. We moved back in & cleaned the house up as best as we could. I really missed the cleanliness & central ac of the other places. This place reeked of dead rats, mold, & other delights. The back door barely held together & some of the windows in my room was boarded up from being broken some years before. When a window was broken, we couldn’t afford to fix it, so it got boarded up with whatever wood was around. I had grown spoiled having all the things a normal family would have. I had to readjust to dirty discomfort yet again.

The year was now 1999… I was looking for a job. I wasnt 19 yet but I was well into age 18. Frank had previously made a comment that he wanted me out when I was 18. I’m sure didn’t care what happened to me. It made my Mom mad. Frank would mes with me even more this year. I guess in an attempt to make me leave. It didn’t matter because I wanted to become independent & leave even without his pestering. I would ride the bus & apply at many places. Being somewhat Goth, of course the first interview I ever had was at Hot Topic in the mall. Well I tried to dress as nice as I could like you would thing was expected for an interview. Well that didn’t fly at Hot Topic. I was told that I was denied the position because I wasnt “freaky enough” & didn’t have retail experience. Ok…

1999 was a very freeing year. Some of my friends were getting cars. If I didn’t ride with them I rode the bus all over the city. This was the year my Moms car would actually sit & rot. She never drove again. Jason previously had a job at a nearby Carnival food store. We would play X-Men Vs. Street Fighter a lot there. The arcade games at Carnival were still only 1 quarter. Everywhere else they had slowly been raised to 50 cents. We also started playing more of the SNK arcade games like Metal Slug, Samurai Shodown, King of Fighters, ect. Jose worked at a local bootlegged Chuck E Cheese type joint called Peter Piper Pizza. Jose help Jason to get a job there & then he helped me get a job there. Woo! I finally had a job. I would finally had some money. It would be my first step to get out of my shit hole house away from my shit hole step Dad.

I would usually ride to & from work either with friends or sometimes I would ride the bus. Jason’s cousin Totsie was even nice enough to take me sometimes. Totsie was leasing a station wagon. Jose’s car barely stayed running. Jason didn’t have a car yet. When I would visit my Grandma she helped me get my learners permit & I would drive my grandpa’s old truck with her in the passenger seat. We did this for a while & I got completely used to driving it. I would love to take it out. She taught me how to drive. She let me take the drivers test & I passed it on my first try, parallel parking & all. I was now a licensed driver! …but with no wheels.

I started off bussing tables & washing dishes at Peter Piper Pizza. It was kind of a rough job but I could handle it. I was probably just really lazy. Jason & Jose did the same thing. I worked my ass off & never missed work. I was determined to get a vehicle & get out of my house. I loved my Mom, but my mentally abusive step Dad can go to Hell with a huge stick shoved up his ass. Ok… So I had my eye on the game room at Peter Piper Pizza. I would play the games in the game room in my spare time & on my breaks. They had Crazy Taxi, Soul Caliber, & more. There was a shooting game where you could win tickets shooting moving objects with a light gun. Well of course, I figured out how to cheat. You could use the flash of a camera to hit all of the targets easily all at once & rack the tickets up. The only downside is to use the flash of a camera in those days, it meant taking (& paying for) lots of disposable camera shots.

Anyway, I worked hard & never missed work & kept expressing my interest in working the game room. Well after a while, they gave me the position & trained me. It came with a quarter raise if I remember right. We were only getting payed minimum wage to begin with. I remember Jose getting pissed off about my “promotion” because he was there longer. He was there longer, but I remember him missing work off & on, & also being a pretty slow worker. I love Jose but that’s how I remember it. So they gave the position to me. Jose was mad at both me & the job, but he got over it after a while. I liked the game room better but it definitely had its head aches. I would watch kids walk into the building & straight to the counter & tell me that they lost quarters in a machine. What did I get myself into?…

I would stick “Out of order” stickers over the coin slots to games that were… out-of-order. Well these rugrats would stick tokens through the sticker & into the machine & come up to me asking for a refund. True story. That happened more than once. I had a dude bring me a full brick of tickets once that still had the factory bands on it. When these tickets were fed into a machine, the machine would imprint grooves on them. This is how you could tell if they had been fed through a game. This was a fresh spanking new brick of tickets. I denied his request for prizes & confiscated the brick of tickets.

It turns out a door on a game was left unlocked & he pulled them out. We would regularly leave an extra brick of tickets inside the machine to restock it quickly when it ran out. I would deal with crap like this every day. When we closed I would ne responsible for cleaning every game top to bottom & I also had to climb inside the big kiddie play ground thing (I cant remember what it was technically called), & wipe it down from the inside. It was a snug fit to climb around in that thing. I had access to the inside of the machines so I would play them freely at will. It was great. I would put games on free play for me & my friends after we closed. 1999 was a good year. Stay tuned for the next part! I’m only beginning to talk about 1999! Y2K was upon us!  

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