Tuesday, February 12

I'm Rocking My Peers, Puttin' Suckas In Fear.


The walk through the Dane County Courthouse to my wife’s office takes you through a weapons screening station, and for a good reason: The courthouse is where they take criminals before they go to jail (little sneak peek into the Justice system for you, there). Furthermore, a lot of clientele happen to be armed round-the-clock, and it’s in the best interest of every County employee that they can work a 9-5 shift without the constant fear that they’re about to be capped by someone sick of paying child support.

Of course, when I went through weapons screening, I was ready. I had my belt, cell phone, keys and loose change at the ready, as to not hold up the line. I was making a final slap-check of my pockets when I realized, far too late, that I was carrying a knife.

When I was 17 years old I stole a buck knife from the hardware store I was working at. My dad, a longtime hunter/trapper/Theodore Roosevelt-ian supporter of the Strenuous Life, put it in my head at an early age that one should always have a buck knife at the ready-- not for self-defense or stabbing, but for the myriad other reasons one would need a blade. However, since 1999, the only thing I’ve ever really used it for was opening Christmas presents. Nonetheless, I procured one, and to this day usually carry it on me because it’s part of my routine. If I were ever in a situation where I would need it to defend myself, I would assuredly slit my jugular by accident a nanosecond after flipping it open. Knives, for the most part, scare me.

I have a knife,” I loudly proclaimed to the officer running the metal detector.

Remember, I’m still kind of tipsy. I literally didn’t know what else to do, and thought I was royally screwed no matter what I said. I put my hands up, sure that I was about to be wrestled to the ground and carted off to the nearest lockup (I’m assuming there would be one in the basement). Considering the day I was having, followed by the epiphany that I was probably going to quit my job, I saw no better way for this evening to conclude than by having my wife bail me out of jail with the money we were going to use to buy Christmas presents for our cats.

I was forgetting something, though. Weapons screeners don’t give a damp shit about a buck knife, or anything else for that matter.

Take it out of your pocket, put it in this plastic bag and you can get it back when you leave,” mumbled the cop without so much as even making eye contact with me. I simultaneously felt relieved and terrified for my wife’s day-to-day safety.

On the way home, the Missus and I talked about my snap decision to quit my job. Of course, she wasn’t having it, and of course she was right. Sometimes in moments of vulnerability I tend to jump to the most ridiculous and all-encompassing solution as a way to give up thinking on the whole matter whatsoever. I’m a logical guy, but whiskey and sadness have an ability to make solid decision-making skills circle the drain a bit. I promised her I would take the time to think it over.

It had been a long day, full of emotional turmoil, pity, snap decisions, hard liquor, raving lunatics and museum exhibits. I needed to clear my mind in a more positive fashion. I went to the arcade.


There’s this place in Monona called Rossi’s Vintage Arcade & Pizzeria. For anyone over the age of 25 (or anyone who enjoys fun), it’s a beautiful mecca of not only the classic pizza/arcade places of old, but for the kind of youthful nostalgia people like me long for and constantly try to capture. Their pizza is outstanding and the toys and decorations are one-of-a-kind artifacts of a Pop Culture-fueled childhood lived well. Most importantly, their one-of-a-kind arcade sports over 50 timeless (and fully operational) treasures of 80’s and 90’s video gaming history.

Quick Rossi’s side-story: They make a 30-inch pizza there (for the cost of around $60 and well worth it), but they had to stop delivering it after discovering that the standard household door wasn’t wide enough to get the pizza through without tilting it sideways. This place is a gift from Heaven.

The Missus and I went with our two closest friends, and I made the mistake of peeking into the arcade area before we started eating. This caused me to do something I haven’t done since I was a kid: I found myself eating my pizza quickly in order to leave the table and play video games. It reminded me of the times I would go to Shakey’s for a classmate’s birthday party, shoveling as much Pepsi and mozzarella cheese into my maw as fast as possible so I could run off and play Skee-Ball for three hours straight. It was a feeling so removed from my current lifestyle that I embraced it with giddiness. I was really, genuinely happy to be there.


All games were a quarter. Not fifty cents, not a dollar, but a quarter. This meant that, with 20 bucks worth of change in my pocket, I could easily sample every game at least once. And for the most part, that’s exactly what I did. The arcade area had no direct lighting, just lava lamps, Christmas lights and the colorful strobes from dozens of arcade cabinets chirping in unison. It even smelled like an old arcade; the humid lack of air conditioning, the carpeting saturated with decades of foot traffic, nicotine and popcorn butter. It was one of those experiences of youth I didn’t think I’d ever be a part of again as an adult.

As an added bonus, the owner of the place looks and acts like he might be in the Witness Protection Program. In my opinion, there were one too many Italian Mafia artifacts on the wall to be a mere coincidence. But for the love of God, you didn’t hear that from me. I’m not afraid I’ll be murdered, I’m afraid I’ll get blacklisted from Rossi’s; a fate far worse than any death.

As my wife and friends scurried from machine to machine, I tried my luck with the Tempest machine. Tempest was a game that reached its popularity before my time, so I never really had the chance to get good at it. To put it another way, I sucked terribly, but I was having such a good time that it didn’t matter in the least. In my vulnerable state, this little deviation put an incredible amount of things into perspective for me.


And that’s when it hit me. Hard.

I’m 30 years old. I’ve been an adult for a long time; longer even than I should have been. I have been living with adult responsibilities and decisions since before I could even fully understand the magnitude of them. However, when things got too hard and depression started to make even the most inane and textbook decisions seem like alchemy, I always knew how to balance things out. I never slacked and I never shied away from difficult paths in life, but I always remembered that I needed to be patient and pace myself.

Much like looking at my reflection in the 1990’s Family Room hours earlier, looking at my reflection in the Tempest machine made me remember that I like old video games. I like them a whole lot. I also remembered that I like Pop Culture nostalgia, and I like metal lunchboxes and Saturday morning cartoons. I like action figures and synthesized 80’s music, and I like television and test patterns and monster movies and gumball machines. I like that I can experience all of this stuff through the Internet, and I also like that we live in a generation where a modern-day pizzeria can stay afloat simply by bringing all of this stuff back to me in exchange for my patronage.

I remembered that I forgot. Forgot all of this stuff. For the first nine months of 2012, I had forgotten who I was, and I had forgotten than I can always, always have it both ways. Most importantly, I remembered that I like writing funny stories for my friends, and there’s no good reason I should quit if it makes me and everyone else I know happy. None.

Being an adult, turning 30 (now 31) and wearing a suit to work will only kill you if you allow it to define you, and for some reason, that’s what I did for nearly all of 2012. The homeless guy was wrong; I wasn’t a businessman. I was Ryan J. Zeinert, but if pretending to be one means that I can responsibly continue towing the line between stark adulthood and youthful happiness, then that was a challenge I was willing to accept. I wasn’t going to quit my job; it was quitting stuff that got me into this mess in the first place, and it just ain’t my style.

What a day.

In February of 2012, I stopped writing here (among other things) because I was turning 30 and thought I needed to evolve in certain ways in order to achieve my creative and personal goals. In reality, I stopped doing all the things that defined me, purging the things I used to enjoy because I thought they were hindering me. As a result, any future aspirations were washed away with frustration, anger and depression, and I didn’t evolve a bit. My motives were pure, but after nearly a year of failure, I finally realized that I had made one of the biggest and most personally-neglectful decisions of my life.

I goofed up and I learned from it.

And at the end of the day, that’s who I really am.

Thank you, Tempest. ;o)
Welcome back :)
It's important to do the things you love. Even if they don't seem grown up, you can't be the guy in a suit if that isn't what makes you happy.

Now excuse me -- I need to go shopping for more Legos.
JESS - I find absolutely no inspiration whatsoever in the things specifically designed to inspire me. Everything else, though? RIGHT IN THE FEELS.
BRUCE - Thanks, buddy!
HOSS - We can have it both ways.

I was looking at Legos last week, and it surprised me how many of them were nearly 100% assembled upon purchase. Isn't there a place where I can just buy a giant bucket of assorted pieces, like back in the day?
Ahh.....knives and Christmas presents...
Now I can finally get back.

Target has buckets of them. I would rather have the buckets than the limit-use ones that come with the Lego Star Wars. Both of my kids love them. Lego Friends got a bad rap from the feminists but my 9yr old daughter loves them, and it has been a great seller for them.
DAVE - I'm serious. I never get to stab anything.
HOSS - Target? Rad! I got a Target gift card for my birthday, but I spent it all on stuff to clean my bathroom. THIS is precisely the sort of adult responsibilities I'm trying to abandon, here. Thanks for the heads-up.
I too carry a pocketknife every day, usually a beat-up Swiss Army knife but on dressier occasions a smaller Case knife (it doesn't flop around in the slacks so much). I also bought a monumentally useless 8" Bowie knife during a VW Beetle car show at a drag strip in Union Grove a few years back, the product of a tremendous hangover and the raging surge of testosterone that accompanies watching Bugs with wheelie bars. I insist upon using it to open presents whenever feasible.
"It doesn't flop around in the slacks so much." - The best out-of-context line I've heard all week.

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