Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Pat Pinkerton, $1,000, and a Dream

(Editor's Note: Some of the following story is slightly exaggerated for effect.)

Sit down children.  Sit down young men and women, and let me tell you a tale.  It is the tale of a weekend in the life of ... well, me and a few of my friends.  But this tale is not one to be taken lightly, not a story to be overlooked.  It belongs with the greatest of tales - with Homer's Iliad, with Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet, and with Tolstoy's War & Peace.  Yes, it is that important - more important than any piece of literature you have ever encountered - more important than Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath, Fitzgeralds Great Gatsby, or even the Holy Bible.  It is more important than any of these pieces of literature that I have just mentioned, because it has one characteristic that none of them have:

It is true.

The first part of the story tells about a group of men in their mid-twenties, men with such drive, such ambition, that they sacrificed 2 hours of a Friday night to bring true joy back to the world - or at least to a house on Canton Street.

It is also the tale of one man with vision, with love in his heart.  A man who wanted to share that love, that vision, with the world - or at least with the guys who he hangs out with every weekend.  The first part of this tale recaps how that man, through dedication, self-sacrifice, and some help from his friends, shared his vision - nay, his love, with the world

It is a long tale, but it is one worth telling (even if it is only read by about 5% of my Facebook friends and a few (un)lucky people who stumble upon this sorry excuse for a blog.)  Ladies and Gentleman, I present to you the 1st installment in a 3-part series simply titled, "10 Grown Men, 1 Arcade Machine, and the Worst Monday Morning of My Life"

(I know, the title needs some work.)

But without further ado, I present part 1 of that tale to you.  It is called "Pat Pinkerton, $1,000, and a Dream."

It all began several weeks ago, when Project decided to make what he now calls "the greatest economic decision of [his] life" ... 






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On Sunday November 28, I was lying on my couch watching football when I received a phone call from The Sleeping Giant.

"Hey, what do you know about Ebay?" Brian asked.

"I've used it a few times, but I don't know that much.  Why?"

"Pat's trying to buy the arcade version of NBA Jam and we're looking for some help."

... ... ... ... ...


... ... ...


...

A few minutes later, the three of us were all on Ebay doing research about an old arcade game that was popular during our formative years.  It was like we had just come up with a theory on how to cure some global pandemic while the whole world was on the verge of dying from the disease, and we needed to research as quickly and as exhaustively as possible to solve the greatest crisis in the history of human civilization!

Except this was NBA Jam, so it was obviously that much more important.

(Editor's Note: You wouldn't believe me if I told you the amount of NBA Jam that I used to play when I was a kid.  But if you could somehow find the old Sega cartridge that I owned, type in 'JJJ' with the birth date of Nov. 18, you would find an unparalleled resume in the world of 1993 video games, perhaps trumped only by Adam Trivilino's hours logged playing Mortal Kombat.  I used to know all the Sega Genesis cheats - how to get unlimited turbo, how to play as Bill Clinton, how to get your players to have bobble heads.  And this was before that kind of information was even available on the internet.  I put a lot of hours into that game, as did a lot of others from my generation.)

As you might be able to tell, we were pretty fired up about this one.

I was hopeful that we could steal the thing for four or five hundred bucks.  I mean, how many people could still be looking for 17-year old arcade machines?  Most guys in their 20's have more practical things to spend their money on, and I don't expect that they would still be in high demand in the arcades.  So I figured we might be able to steal one at a pretty low price.

There were two NBA Jam arcades on Ebay, both sold by the same company and both with a "Buy It Now" price of $800, but one of them you could bid on and the other one you couldn't.  We figured it would be a good idea to place a bid on the one and use the "Buy It Now" option as a backup.  Pat tried a couple different numbers, each time coming up unsuccessful because he was below the basement price for the product.  As it turned out, it was the same machine advertised twice and it was going to cost at least $800 either way. 

You might be thinking that $800 would lead Pat to hesitate to make such an investment.  You would be wrong.  It didn't even really take him long to decide.  In Pat's mind the decision had already been made, and he was going to get himself an NBA Jam arcade one way or the other.  He put down his card, pressed "Buy It Now", made a few phone calls and arranged to have it shipped.  He had them send it to the Corporate Center because Rico could save him about $250 on shipping.  Without Rico, this 18-year old video game would have cost Pat about $1200 with shipping included.  Instead, it was just a cool $975.

Just under a grand - totally worth it. 

Before you knew it, we were all waiting for the machine to come.  Pat scheduled the Inaugural NBA Jam tournament for Dec. 11th, posted the event on Facebook and began recruiting players.  Anticipation began to build as the event neared, each of us eager to be re-introduced to the defining video game of our generation.  Brian and Pat began to get nervous that the machine wouldn't arrive in time for the tournament, so they began pestering Rico with texts and phone calls in the days prior.  Rico nearly snapped.

But then, as if the Lord had looked down from the heavens, seen Rico's frustration, and decided to show mercy, Pat's NBA Jam arcade machine finally arrived on Dec. 10th, the day before the tournament was set to take place.  I received a phone call at 5:45 that evening.  It was Pat.

"Hey man, Rico, Brian and I are going to pick up the game and we need some help.  It weighs 425 lbs, and if  you don't come, we're going to have to call P-Mac."  As a good friend, I couldn't leave them in such dire straits.

"I guess I'm in then."

I made myself a quick bologna sandwich and some cheesy poofs, quickly drank a glass of milk and prepared to head out the door.  Rico and Pat were outside in Goof's truck, both as happy as could be.  Brian didn't come because he got out of work late, and Rico and Pat couldn't wait any longer.  We joked around and laughed the whole way there, as excited as 3 men in their mid-20s could be about anything that:

A) Didn't involve the consumption of copious amounts of alcohol; or

B) Tiger Woods wouldn't consider morally questionable.

It was finally here.  It had finally come.  And it was finally going to become a permanent addition to the Pinkerton house.

As we got into the warehouse, we quickly came to the realization that the thing was going to be difficult to get in through the doors. "We'll make it fit," we all agreed, and loaded it onto the truck.  We slowly made the drive back to Canton Street while Brian got his shoes on and came out to help us unload.  Rico backed the truck up to the front porch, we each got a firm grip on the machine and headed towards the front door.

"Fuck.  Its way too big."

After half an hour of freezing our asses off, fiddling around, and trying to figure out how we would get Pat's beloved prize into the house, we came to the realization that the double doors in the back were our only option.  But the door leading onto the screen porch was the same size as the one in the front, so we were going to have to take off the window screens, lift the 425 lb. monstrosity over our heads, and hand it to a second party that would be standing on the porch, waiting to receive it. 

As Brian and Rico tore down the screens on the porch, Pat and I moved a table, some chairs, and approximately $200 in empty beer cans into one corner of the porch so that we would have enough room to rest the machine on the floor once we got it inside.  Rico backed the truck up to the back step and we prepared to lift the machine over the fence into a position where we could angle it onto the back porch.  As we neared the gate, noone realized that there was not going to be enough room between the garage and the house for the machine and two guys on each side of it, so as Brian and I concentrated on guiding our bodies and the machine through, neither of us were prepared for getting hit in the ribs by the iron fencing.

Ouch. Stupid Decision #1.

It hurt, but we held onto the machine and managed it through.  The next part was the toughest, each of us lifting on a corner of the machine to prop it up against the windowsill on the back porch and gently force it through the area where the screen had been.  After putting my corner on top of the sill, I quickly ran underneath the machine, up the steps and onto the porch to be in a position to receive it - by myself.  As they pushed the machine through, it was my responsibility to guide it down into a position where it could rest on the floor.  As I pulled on the machine, I backed into the table that Pat and I had moved.  Luckily, Pat was already up on the porch helping with the other end.  As we lowered the machine down into the cramped porch, I kept looking for a place to put my left foot so that I could pivot my right foot out once the machine was down.  Pat and I communicated poorly, and the machine came down earlier than I thought it would - on top of my left foot.

Ouch.  Stupid decision #2.

No one even noticed it was on my foot for a couple seconds, when I finally said, "Hey, lets get this fucking thing off my foot."  A good laugh was shared while I writhed in pain, and we prepared to swing it through the glass double doors and into its final resting place in the back room.  Pat, Rico, and Brian grabbed a hold of it as the three of us had done earlier, and swung it through with conviction, accidentally jamming the side of the glass door.  It very well could have been stupid decision #3, but once again the Lord was looking after us and the glass thankfully did not break.  Hallelujah.  They lifted it through and into its final destination.

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We all knew what it meant when that machine finally reached its destination.  It meant that the first part of our journey was complete.  But as is always the case, none of us knew where the journey would be taking us.  We looked around, as satisfied as God on the seventh day of creating the heavens and the earth.  And just as Jehovah (fictionally) did on that day, we rested.  We took time to reflect on the work we had accomplished, and on the pain we had endured in the hopes of bringing the greatest game of all time back to the masses, and we paid homage to the man whose vision led us to underake such a mission ...

But we only did that for about 10 minutes.  There was a fucking NBA Jam arcade game in the house and we weren't going to wait any longer than that to play it.

(Part II: coming Wednesday 12/15)