The Surfing Pizza’s Nintendo Quest

 

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I’ve decided to collect every original NES/Nintendo game ever.

Depending on what site you look at, there’s 677 or 678 official licensed North American releases. Or 679. But then if you throw in the unlicensed-but-eventually-licensed Tengen-branded cartridges, there’s more. So if you begin the slippery slope into unlicensed carts, you’re at 773.

There’s also the problem of games like Stadium Events, Little Samson, and Bonk’s Adventure — official carts that are so expensive, you could plunk down $10k for loose versions of those three combined. And hell, if you have that much money to throw around, you could have just bought a freaking new car. But at that point, your life is basically incomplete and stupid if don’t also have the Nintendo World Championships cart, and that fucker is like another 10k.

So how many am I going to collect? ALL OF THEM. Or maybe just some random number like 768. I could be totally good with that.

I was inspired by the documentary Nintendo Quest, a Kickstarter-backed film that recently premiered on Amazon. Okay, well it actually premiered a year ago, but I have a kid and live in black hole of Paw Patrol and Minions. However, I declared my intention to collect every NES game back in 2009. Back then you could still find them at yard sales and flea markets for fifty cents a pop. On eBay, commons were still going for $1 -$2 each. Why did I stop?

“Because you always get bored with things fast,” the wife says, which is also her reason/prayer/zen koan for not freaking out about my latest Big Idea.

I’ve been almost disturbed by her lack of freaking out.

Me: I’M GOING TO COLLECT 700 OF A SIMILAR LOOKING OBJECT.

Her: Okay.

Me: I’M GOING TO SPEND THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS.

Her: Okay.

Me: Umm, are you feeling alright?

Her: It will be alright. You always get bored with things fast.

That may be true, but nevertheless, it’s been a dream since childhood.

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And apparently, everyone else’s, too. NES games have skyrocketed. Let me throw out a few examples:

That 3-in-1 Mario/Duck Hunt/Track Meet cart? Just sold on ebay for $10.

Zelda: $20

Castlevania: $25

Mike Tyson’s Punch Out: $30

Contra: $44

Mega Man: $78

Even sports games no one cares about are stupid prices — John Elway Football and Bases Loaded go for $5 each. Tons of generic shooters with Star in the title? $10-20 each. And then there’s the large black hole mass of games you’ve never heard of — stuff like a game called Toki that I remember buying at a yard sale five years ago for a buck because it had a monkey protagonist? Just sold on ebay for $55.

Basically what I’m saying is, if you haven’t yet, RUN TO YOUR PARENTS HOUSE NOW and frantically grab your old games before they sell them at a yard sale. They’re worth hundreds.

In some way, this makes it way more fun to me, collecting at the height of the housing market. I like gambling. I love slot machines. The odds are stupid, I’m stupid for playing, and the short-lived adrenaline rush is not worth the long-term money loss.

And yet.

Here’s the trick: Buy It Now, Newly-Listed. Sit on ebay waiting for the seller who has listed their lot too low. Yesterday I nabbed a lot of 12 games for $80 on ebay about 10 minutes after it was listed. It included Contra, Solomon’s Key, and Adventures of Lolo, plus doubles I had of 8 other common titles and a Star Tropics complete in box. I can easily resell the Star Tropics and commons for $80 individually. So I just got the $40 Contra, $10 Solomon and $10 Lolo for free.

Here’s the next trick: Real Life. Yesterday I bought 10 carts for $40 at a record shop. I don’t even have to haggle with dude anymore, he just knows me and gives me a discount price now. $4 a cart isn’t an amazing price, but it is when it includes the $15 Tengen PacMania and $12 Gumshoe.

I have no idea if my ebay and haggling coups are interesting to anyone. All I know is my wife won’t listen to the stories. AREN’T THEY FASCINATING? I GOT TENGEN RBI BASEBALL for $1.62!

My current game count is 127 games, with roughly the 30 from my original childhood collection, the 50 I collected a few years ago, and the 20 I bought over the last day. I also dragged my friend Dave into the Nintendo Quest with me, and he’s trying to complete a set as well. With the intensity of a mob boss negotiation yesterday, I traded him my mint-in-box Maniac Mansion for Castlevania 3, Final Fantasy, and a loose copy of Maniac Mansion. Like Zelda, the Nintendo Quest is dangerous to go alone.

So I’m going to keep updating with my progress on the Nintendo Quest. I invite others of you to join me. We could trade. I got doubles of Double Dribble and Top Gun, yo.

THIS COULD BE YOU:

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I mean, I guess it could just be you if you buy those pants and shoes. It might be cheaper that way.

Summer Musing: The Slip ‘N Slide

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The other day it occured to me that I have no idea if I’ve actually been on a Slip ‘N Slide or if the disappointment of it is just so palpable that I have false memories. Maybe it rules to other people, but my imagination of how things are going to be is just so overactive that I’m eternally disappointed. My wife hates that about me. It makes me sound like a miserable person, but I swear I’m not. I’m actually an optimist. I just want the Slip and Slide TO RULE SO HARD.

I want it to be Disney World meets World’s Biggest Waterslide meets Log Flume meets SPLASH POOL WAVE LAGOON THING. What is that? I don’t know. I don’t know. I just want it. I want water and thrills and speed.

Instead what I get is a tepid yellow mat in the backyard where the dog poops, some water spraying out of the hose, and a splash pool at the end with bugs already floating in it. And my parents are already mentioning the water bill and the time limit. The water is less like a wild spray and more like a polite water fountain.

Still, in some ways, that would be okay, because I’m also imagining a party. I’m imagining popularity. Having a Slip ‘N Slide warrants inviting everyone we know to the house — all my friends, even celebrities.

Instead, in reality, I have no friends, but at least my sister is there. And my mom says maybe we can invite over our cousins next weekend.

Alright, still, as a child I have extended patience and hope. The thing is not Splash Mountain in my backyard, I have no friends, but the Slip ‘N Slide is still FUN, right? I remember running towards it, hurling my body down, and sliding like lightening speed… right?

No. I remember PAIN. The feeling of hitting the hard ground on my chest, and then sadly scooting myself down the mat until hitting the sad pathetic pool at the end, which is like two inches of water.

I think I remember. Or maybe I’m making this up. Is it a repressed memory? A false memory? Did we own a Slip ‘N Slide or am I just compensating for the disappointment of never having one? Is all of this true, but I can’t fully remember because I’ve blocked the memory out of disappointment?

The Slip ‘N Slide: Iconic, enigmatic, totally stupid.

 

My Son’s First Uncrustable

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Several years ago, I conducted a now-infamous science experiment on Uncrustables here on the blog. Well, it’s possible its infamy doesn’t extend any further than my wife, but she flipped out when I suggested feeding our son an Uncrustable sandwich for lunch the other day.

First, the experiment: The Uncrustables Experiment. To re-cap, I had left out an Uncrustable and a proper-made Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich for 25 days, to see how much they would decay.

I barely remember just what I was trying to prove — even re-reading the post only gives me a vague recollection of what my thought process was. I had jokingly conceived that an Uncrustable sandwich would survive forever and never decay due to the ungodly amount of preservatives it was packed with. However, the results turned out somewhat surprising, at least to me.

One anonymous commenter was quick to challenge and correct my scientific method — that the control group bread I bought wasn’t truly organic. I don’t know. I don’t know what I bought. I admit my grasp on science is tenuous at best. But I did write the description, “the strange weightlessness of a dead bird on a playground” to describe a rotting Uncrustable, so I feel like I contributed to humanity.

I ended the post with: “I stand by my earlier declaration: I swear I will never eat another Uncrustable.” And for seven years, it was true. I was so disgusted by the experiment of living with that bright green mold-covered sandwich that I couldn’t even pass by them in the freezer section.

But parenthood has made my brain fuzzy. I’ve started to forget things out of exhaustion. Lately those Uncrustables looked awful convenient, mess-free, and would only require unwrapping plastic, instead of trying to make the freakishly-long-armed child a sandwich while he grabs for the knife and runs around with it (how the hell can he reach the counter?)

Those Uncrustables started calling to me, seducing me with their siren song. Why exactly had I banned them from my life? I could get these….to feed the kid lunch…it would be so easy…

Until the wife stepped in between us and snapped me out of it.

“NO. WE’RE NOT EVER FEEDING THOSE TO OUR SON.”

We went back and forth a little bit with me defending myself. She’d acted like I had suggested feeding him a KFC Double Down.  But that was the end of it. Until last weekend while we were at the beach. We were eating at Hooters.

(Tangent: It is totally a family restaurant and has an undeserved taboo as being inappropriate. Women have bodies and skin! Shocker. Let me shield my son from it and act like women in tight clothes is something slightly dark and perverted. Plus they have high chairs and crayons. And fried pickles. And we were sitting outside overlooking the ocean.)

Anyhow, being at the beach and on vacation, the wife had grown weary of feeding the kiddo anymore fried delights. She ordered him the peanut butter and jelly, which felt like the responsible mom thing to do.

It was an Uncrustable. The kid devoured it unlike any other food I’ve ever seen him eat. Generally he gets antsy five minutes into dinner and starts throwing bits of food around before attempting to stand in the high chair, spill a soda, and dump all the salt on the table. He relished each bite of that Uncrustable. It was like art. Like watching Muhammad Ali fight? That’s the kind of beauty with which my son approached the Uncrustable.

Thank you, Hooters. Thank you, Uncrustables. Not because we enjoyed a peaceful dinner that night, but because I won some non-existent victory over my wife.

A Nerd Runs a Race

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Two weeks ago, I ran a 5k for the first time, which is something I never thought I’d accomplish. I hate running.

Remember the fitness testing in gym class where they’d measure your fat with calipers, measure how far you could reach past your toes, and then haul the entire class out to the fields and make you run like hell? You had to make it under twelve minutes or you’d be branded with the butterball badge of failure and shame. I remember feeling like my damn lungs were going to collapse.  Yeah, I totally hate running.

That weird pain you get near the kidney after about 15 minutes? I really, really hate that.

As I run, I imagine I look like a beautiful gazelle. But what I really look like is that kid in your high school with the oversized utilitarian backpack who always ran to his classes in between the bells. That’s how I run. Like a nerd.

You know how words like “geek” and “nerd” are sort of cool now? Some people who use them have reclaimed them, while others like to use them just because they went to see a comic movie and look good in horn-rim glasses. Me, on the other hand, I have a coke-bottle-strength prescripton. Long ago in childhood, I was cursed to wear the sort of thick, heavy lenses that are impossible to look good in. Add in the fact that my parents would only let me choose from frames on the “budget wall” at the eye doctor.

I had it real bad. My fashion sense back then was bright, one-size-larger Russell Athletic t-shirts tucked into whitewashed jeans from JCPenney. Keep in mind, these are jeans that I had chosen for myself because I thought they were what was cool, what was in. Secretly, my favorite music was Michael Jackson and the California Raisins, but I would memorize cool band names like Green Day and Stone Temple Pilots in case another kid ever talked to me and asked what kind of music I liked. No one ever did.

I wasn’t a nerd in the context that it means today: that I liked cool outsider shit and computers. Nope, I was just a nerd: innately, genetically, physically. As I’ve grown up and become confident, I’ve shed most of it like baby fat. Yeah, I fucking love Michael Jackson. I’ve never even listened to Green Day, and guess what — they’re lame now. I stick to black t-shirts and dark-wash jeans, even if that 100% cotton bright-green offbrand shirt hypnotically calls for me over there on that clothing rack. I wear contact lenses. Everyday I thank God as I stick tiny suctioning pieces of plastic directly on my eyeballs. My two-year-old touches his eyeball if you ask him to put in “his contacts.” I don’t know why I added that detail except that it’s hilarious to watch a toddler touch his eyeball.

Still, a bit of the inherent, genetic nerdiness remains behind in my running gait. That’s where you see it and you know everything there is to know about me. I hate running. I really do.

So how the hell did I end up running in a race? Welp. I got fat.

Let’s go back to middle school for a moment. I’ve always been proud of not being fat. Fiercely proud. Cocky. It’s simple, really. When you’re in the bottom echelon of the middle-school hierarchy, the first thing you have to do to self-preserve is identify those below you on the social scale. I might have been a nerd, but hell, at least I wasn’t overweight.

I’ve always been able to eat whatever I’ve wanted without consequence. You’ve seen my blog over the years, as I’ve reviewed every Little Debbie and eaten every odd item that’s showed up in the freezer section. As a child, I basically survived on Ecto Cooler and Fritos. As an adult, I’ve survived on Taco Bell and Red Bull. I’d describe eating chips as one of my hobbies.

Once, in childhood, I remember reading an article in Disney Adventures Magazine (R.I.P. you glorious beautiful beast of journalism) about how there was such a job as Snack Food Taste Tester. I never knew what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I still don’t, but actually I’ve had the answer all along. That is what I wanted to be.

Maybe life finally caught up to me. My mom died, we had a kid, I turned thirty-five. I hit the crossroads of grief, stress, and middle-aged metabolism. I started packing it on. It shocked me. It still does, as I’m sitting here typing this. I got fat, yo.

I blame the kid. It started when he was an infant — when I’ d be awake at 3AM, starved for sleep and a semblance of normalcy — but feeding my stomach instead. The defining moment was when I bought an aboveground-pool-sized tub of mini-chocolate bars. The wife’s brother was visiting when he asked in surprise/shock/horror if we’d still had all that candy left over from Halloween. It was August, and no, that’s just our everyday supply of three-hundred candy bars, thank you very much you skinny, athletic, designer-jeans-wearing Brother-in-Law who lives in Los Angeles.

The other defining moment was the aboveground-swimming-pool tub of Animal Crackers. The tub was shaped like a bear. We considered that bear a member of our family. It would be me, the kid, the wife, and that bear all sitting on the couch together. So that’s where it started. I wasn’t just eating junk food anymore — I was now eating obscene tubs of it that I was emotionally connecting to as loved ones. That’s the line, folks. You don’t want to cross it.

Eventually the baby began sleeping through the night, and my wife and I discovered each other as human beings and a couple once more. Now we could put our kid to bed at 7 o’clock and we could spend the evening together. We began dating at home, ordering take out, having drinks, and sitting on the couch watching movies. Every night. Our hobby became eating. When you spend all day with a baby, eating together in quiet is THE. BEST. THING. EVER.

And then the baby became a toddler. Unlike me, he exudes a natural confidence and athleticism. He’s built like a running back — stocky, strong, head full of steam. He’s frightening in his fearlessness. He is constantly on the verge of a head injury. This triggers some stress-related hormone that’s been the nail in the coffin for my metabolism. My body has just been NOPE CAN’T DO THERMOGENESIS IF I GOTTA WORRY ABOUT THE KID FLIPPING BACKWARDS OFF THE OTTOMAN. JUST GONNA GO AHEAD AND PACK THIS AROUND THE MIDSECTION.

I had to lose weight.  First, like a true 1980s kid, I turned to Nintendo and tried the Wii Fitness crap. As useless as the Power Pad. Then I tried the Gold’s Gym, but what is it with gyms and the TVs playing the news? Who likes watching the news while working out? Especially in an election year — it’s pure hell. Still unable to lose weight, next I tried just not eating. Kind of like the Atkins diet, only with even less food. I didn’t last long.

And that’s when the nerd in me had a reckoning with running. Being an all-or-nothing type person, I wasn’t content to just jog around the park. I wanted purpose. So I signed the wife and I up for a 5k. There. I better haul my ass outside and practice so I don’t DIE during the freaking three-mile race I just signed up for.

Cue up Rocky training montage. It went exactly like that, only with way more obsessiveness and weirdness.

I spent entirely too much time before the race wondering what the hell I was going to do if I had to use the bathroom. I still haven’t been able to answer this question, even two weeks later. WHAT IF I DID? WHAT IF I DID? WHAT WOULD I HAVE DONE?

Fortunately, I didn’t.

What if I had become scorchingly thirsty? But I didn’t want to carry one of those fanny pack running things to hold water. But maybe I should get one? MAYBE I SHOULD. MAYBE I SHOULD.

Well, I survived thirst, but two weeks later, I’m still contemplating buying one.

WHAT IF I’M LAST? This is where agonizingly self-conscious middle school me comes out out. OH GOD WHAT IF I’M LAST?

Then I imagined a far worse scenario — what if it was between me and my wife being last? What if I had to make the decision to blow past her like a jackass at the last minute, just to avoid being last? What if I had to make my own wife be last? What if it came down to that?

After much hand-wringing, ultimately I decided I wouldn’t do that to her. And when I confessed this to her, she scoffed and said she would have easily made the decision to speed up and make me be last. Damn. Cutthroat.

Well, I wasn’t last. I finished the race in just under 45 minutes, and I did beat the wife, although not intentionally. We jogged alongside each other the entire way, but at the last moment, my awkward nerd side got the best of me, and I leapt over the finish line in an excited goober way. And yeah, 45 minutes is slow as balls. 15-minute miles would make my gym teacher weep for childhood obesity.

Hey guess what, I’ve lost ten pounds. And I’ve got my eye on a half-marathon next, which is a ridiculous leap from a 5k, especially coming from someone who hates running. But in my mind I’m just a beautiful gazelle racing towards heaven, aka Fritos and cheese dip and Hi-C drinks filled corn syrup.

The Glowing Jesus-Like Bask of Paw Patrol

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If you don’t know what Paw Patrol is, it’s a show where the citizens apparently have no county government, so they are constantly relying on a pack of talking puppies to repair their failing infrastructure, such as when the municipal water tank fails or the traffic lights break.  It can be noted that the pups also do crazy stuff like save the basket of Easter eggs when an eagle flies off with it. That’s the episode we’re watching now.

If you still don’t get it, it basically combines DOGS and CARS, two words every toddler can say and point to. Add in a slew of advertising disguised as toys and apparel, and you have the perfect storm of young obsession. One day my son may just be blogging about his ironic nostalgia on The Surfing Pizza Junior Dot Com.

Tired of being a slave to the cruel whims of whenever Nickelodeon decides to air Paw Patrol (which is all of the time, but never at that moment when the parents desperately need thirteen minutes to make dinner without a toddler trying to scale the oven), I bought a season to stream off Amazon.

I put it on the wife’s credit card. Upon seeing $25 worth of Paw Patrol charged to her card, her reaction was not WTF why didn’t you put it on your card if you wanted to buy that for him? It was: DID YOU BUY HIM THE NEW SEASON? ARE YOU SURE HE HASN’T ALREADY SEEN ALL THOSE EPISODES?

What have we become?