CDP’s Top 30 Atari Games Of All-Time (15-1).

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Finally, the second half of the CDP‘s list of the Top 30 Atari 2600 games of all-time. This is my own personal list based on games that I’ve been fortunate enough to play over the last 26 years, and by no means is a complete document of well-researched Atari 2600 history. Please enjoy.

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15. Asteroids

Proof that classic and timeless games don’t have to look good at all to be amazing, Asteroids looked identical on almost every platform it was released for, including the 2600. Most games from this era had no ending; you simply played until you died, and that always gave me an anxiety complex at the time. Even though I loved Asteroids, I’m pleased that we’ve more or less moved on from ‘high score’ aspect and focused more on rewarding the victor with a cheap cut scene or poorly-dubbed dialogue. We’ve come so far.

Semper Fi, SS Triangle. Semper Fi.

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14. River Raid

River Raid always reminded me of Spy Hunter if it was set in a river (such brilliant insight by a published author). This was yet another one of the many spectacular games created by Activision for the Atari 2600, and one of the more popular at the time; everyone I knew had River Raid before I did. I was never any good at it, but I always came back in an attempt to conquer it, which is a sign of a classic game, in my opinion.

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13. Berserk

What an interesting and groundbreaking game. Enemies that couldn’t be killed, one of the first examples of speech synthesis in a cartridge, maze-like levels and a Boss that actually killed players in real-life. If you’ve been previously unaware of Berserk, click the links and get educated on one of the weirder chapters of early gaming history.

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12. Centipede/Millipede

Also known as Panic Attack: The Game, the Centipede/Millipede combo was fast-paced, frantic, worthy only of skilled players and capable of causing all-out brawls between friends competing for high scores. I think I remember getting punched in the face as a direct result of a Centipede marathon. I’m sure I was in the right, whatever the argument was.

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11. Crystal Castles

The older I get, the more I appreciate and enjoy Crystal Castles. Sure, ‘Bentley Bear’ is one of the more feminine and un-intimidating lead characters in Video Game history, but this was the first attempt at taking a Pac-Man-style game and putting into the third dimension. There used to be a Crystal Castles machine at the laundromat next to my best friend’s house in the Third Grade, reminding me that the best memories are sometimes made in the most awkward and depressing places. I’m so happy that I own my own washing machine.

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10. Seaquest

Seaquest holds an interesting place in my heart for being the only game in history that my mother could destroy me at. She loved this game; absolutely adored it for some reason, and practiced hard and often at consistently taking me to task over and over again. She never showed this level of compassion or obsession for any other game since then, which I find incredibly bizarre, yet endearing. From my own standpoint, the sound effects and gameplay are addictive and the premise is fun and endlessly replayable. I love Seaquest, although probably not as much as my mom did.

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9. Breakout

When it comes to simplistic, addictive games, Breakout is nearly on par with Tetris as being stylistically perfect. The ‘seconds to learn, a lifetime to master’ element shines with full-force here, all but cementing Breakout‘s status as a game that will be played for generations to come. No honest storylines, characters or objectives to speak of here, just a fun exercise that has entertained millions for almost 30 years now.

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8. Pole Position

The racing game that essentially created all racing games to follow, Pole Position was an arcade staple; In fact, I’ve seen more of these machines at various arcades over the last 20 years than any other games I can think of, with the exception of Ms. Pac-Man. The Atari 2600 transfer wasn’t 100% perfect, but for me, the idea of never having to pay to play Pole Position again was an awesome feeling for my 7-year-old self.

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7. Space Invaders

Oh, man. What else is there to say about Space Invaders? The sheer paranoia brought about by the grating sound effects and ever-advancing alien army. The fact that it’s one of the longest-lasting and revered video games ever made. The fact that, even after all these years, it sort of scares me for some reason. There’s just something about Space Invaders that we’re all well-aware of, and that’s neat to me. Maybe the nostalgic feeling of the game has long surpassed the actual credentials that Space Invaders realistically entails, but isn’t that what all good things do?

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6. Jungle Hunt

Stage One: Swing through a series of vines. Stage Two: Swim with (and subsequently stab to death) bloodthirsty crocodiles. Stage Three: Jump over/run under advancing boulders of various sizes. Stage Four: Jump over two evil cannibals that plan on eviscerating your girlfriend. Repeat as necessary. The sound was tight, the graphics did exactly what they needed to do, and the realization that the ‘girlfriend’ you just saved was a pigtail-swinging 10-year-old make Jungle Hunt an absolute must-play Atari 2600 classic.

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5. Frogger

As you’ve probably noticed with this Top 15 list, it’s really hard to list the shortcomings or downfalls of the bulk of these games. When you talk about the greatest Atari and Arcade classics of all-time, you’re dealing with games that have transcended their electronic limitations and changed our lives in one way or another. Ranking some of these games is arguably next to impossible; they’re all worthy of the highest praise. Frogger is no exception. By taking a simple task, throwing a simple storyline atop of it and adding simple twists to appeal to gamers, Frogger is a perfect example of flawless game creation in action.

With current games boasting 90 minutes of cutscenes, downloadable content, online play and endless button combinations, it’s good to remember that myriad options does not necessarily a classic game make.

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4. Spider Fighter

Sweet merciful Jesus, do I love Spider Fighter. Apart from the awesome cover art and downright-disgusting instruction manual art for the game, it is without any uncertainty the fastest and most difficult Atari 2600 game I’ve ever played. You can click on the accompanying link to see the gameplay in action if you wish, which is an absolute blast and improving on just about everything that its influences had created in the past. When it came to producing quality Atari games, Activision was in a class all its own. There is a ‘plug-and-play’ game out there now with Spider Fighter on it; I strongly suggest you shell out the $9.95 and own it for yourself.

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3. Missile Command

February 1, 1987. A day which will live in infamy. The Atari 2600 is given to me by my parents for my 5th birthday, which includes a copy of Missile Command. A mere handful of hours later, Missile Command becomes the very first of hundreds of video games that I win. The feeling was incredible, and I’ve been a changed man ever since. My sister was born the day prior to this, but I’ll stand firm in my theory that my Missile Command victory had the longest and most profound effect on me.

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2. Pitfall!

Three years before Super Mario Bros. took over the world, Pitfall Harry made gaming history for the Atari 2600. With an astounding 2.6 million copies sold, Pitfall! is one of the most popular cartridge games ever made, and rightfully so. This was a game; there were objectives. There was a beginning and an end (not a great one, but a definitive ending nonetheless). There was strategy, a time limit, and many different ways to complete your missions. In short, this was a brilliant example of what would later become the home gaming explosion of the late-80’s. For my money, Pitfall! was the greatest game ever created specifically for the Atari 2600.

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1. Dig Dug

After all this time, after all these years and after all these advances in entertainment and video game technology, there is one game on this Top 30 list that I will come back to again and again, and it’s Dig Dug. It’s the perfect combination of strategy, pattern recognition, high score maximization, sound effects and theme music (which only plays if you’re moving around, hilariously), increasingly difficult levels and the feeling that you can always get better at it. Dig Dug is a true, original classic. It’s still fun, still conjures up good feelings and memories and can be played by anyone. To me, it’s what best represents the Atari 2600 Age, and those who were fortunate enough to live in it.

Thanks for reading. Sound off in the comments section and enjoy your day.

"It’s A Tire Blowout! Try Not To Get Killed!"

A Life Without Tires.

(NOTE FROM THE CDP: At 8pm last night, I suffered a serious tire blowout a few miles from my house. Me and the car are fine, minus a gash on my finger that bled like crazy and the couple hundred bucks it’s going to cost me for two new tires. I’ll be spending most of Friday morning at the repair shop, but more importantly, it should be noted that I changed the emergency tire flawlessly. This is due entirely to the following classic CDP essay from 2007, titled ‘A Life Without Tires.’ Please enjoy while I tend to my little incident; the conclusion to the CDP’s Top 30 Atari 2600 Games Of All-Time will arrive Monday. Thanks for understanding, and enjoy your weekend.)

At 6 o’clock this morning, I heard my wife’s cell phone ringing.

Wiping the crust out of my eyes, I pinched myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming and rolled out of bed. Just seconds ago, I was celebrating my incredible and inspirational win at the PBA Championships, rolling yet another perfect 300 game; my 19th perfect game overall. This occasion was all the more historic, however, because I had been shot in the ankle by a rival bowler just prior to the tournament. I saw through the pain and persevered though, hoisting my trophy while “We Are The Champions” played and I was carried off by my legions of fans. This was all happening in slow-motion, of course.

Yes, this is what I dream about. But I was awake now, and the phone was still ringing.

We didn’t make it out to the phone in time, so the call was dropped. As we both goose-stepped around the kitchen, hypothesizing as to who it might have been on the other line, my cell phone began to ring. Clearly, someone was trying to get a hold of us now, and it couldn’t wait until after The Price Is Right. Hell, it couldn’t even wait until Regis & Kelly.

I wonder who died,” I said to the Missus before I answered.

People don’t call you at 6am with good news. It’s always bad. Trust me, since the birth of the telephone, nobody has ever been rushed out of bed because their friend won a tin of jellybeans at the County Fair two towns over. That kind of story can wait until after brunch. Nope, I’ve never gotten a call between the hours of 2 and 6am that I’ve looked forward to, nor will I ever.

Naturally, I was cringing when I said hello. I was waiting for the sobs of a grieving relative on the other end of the line. Either that, or the sound of a Federal Marshall informing me that they were in my driveway, and I should just come out with my hands up before they put a large hole in me. I even checked my bare chest for the red laser dot.

Hello?

Hello!” chimed a voice far too cheery for an early-morning phone call.

Um, hello? Who’s this?” I said back. I was so groggy and out of my element, it could have been my doppelganger on the other line, and I still wouldn’t have recognized the voice.

It’s Sherry.”

Sherry who? Are you a telemarketer? Because if you are, you just ruined an awesome Bowling Dream, lady. You should be ashamed–

I hate you.”

As it turned out, it was our lifelong friend (we signed a contract) and new neighbor, Sherry. Apparently, she destroyed her tire on a pothole yesterday, and awoke to find it flat just before she was heading out to work.

I was quite aware of the pothole in question. We have a PetSmart on the East Side of town that has nothing short of a living, breathing sinkhole in the parking lot. I’ve seen ice cream trucks disappear into this thing, and Sherry thought she could just speed up and go over the top of it.

Now, her right front tire was shredded and she was late for work. It needed to be changed, but she didn’t know how. Ruh-roh!

Sherry’s husband Ben was working two hours north at the time, so she called me. I get the feeling that she must have called everyone she had ever met in her last 22 years on Earth before she settled on dialing my number asking for automotive assistance. I’d rather attempt to explain the ending of 2001: A Space Oddesey to a dog before even considering popping the hood on a car.

Hey, do you know how to change a tire?

So, there I was. Standing in the kitchen in my boxer shorts, six in the morning, approaching a huge crossroads in my path to becoming the least dependable person on the Goddamn planet.

Um….no.”

Yeah, that’s right. I never learned how to change a tire. Oh, I know I should learn, you can save the lecture. It just has never come up until now. I always figured that when I finally got a flat tire, I’d just leave the car for dead and settle into whatever town I happened to be in at the time. Maybe get a job at the local grocery store; start a new life. A life without tires.

You don’t know how to change a tire? But you’re a man!

Yeah, but just barely. Here, talk to my wife.

My Father-In-Law could change a tire in his sleep, so we arranged to have Sherry call him up. If anything, he’d tell her to call a tow truck and shuffle back to bed, much like me and the Missus were about to do. Guilt and feelings of worthlessness were plaguing me, but I didn’t know how to change a tire, therefore I had no way of really helping her out.

Trust me, she did not want me to come over there and start tinkering with stuff. Within 30 seconds, I’d have a pulled groin, the bumper would be completely removed for some reason, and two other tires would be flat. I was actually doing her a favor by leaving her out to dry.

As I was getting ready to go to work, I was feeling like a real douche nozzle. I felt like I had let down a friend that had a certain amount of faith and respect in me. I mean, if you let someone down once, chances are they’re not going to ask you again if they need help. It may have been the easy way out, but I honestly didn’t want that. I may be functionless and lazy on the surface, but deep down, I want to be the person you call when you get locked out of your apartment. When you need a pickle jar opened. When you need to put your cat to sleep. I want to be that guy, but I refuse to take the necessary steps to be in that position of responsibility.

Looking in my bathroom mirror, I looked back at myself and scowled. I was a turd.

An hour later, I pulled out of my driveway and headed off to work. Down the street, I saw Sherry, still sitting in her car, looking pathetic and talking on her phone. Sure enough, her tire was still seriously flat; and sure enough, I still didn’t know what to do. I pulled in to let her know that I was a monolithic loser, and she shouldn’t ask me to do anything for her ever again.

As it turned out, she was waiting on a tow truck, and she would be charged a little for them to come out and throw the spare on. However, because she was a Saturn owner, they would replace and take care of all the other stuff at the dealership for free. I guess there are some perks to driving one of the worst cars on the road today (don’t tell her I said that; her car is way nicer than mine). In the end, she was just a little late for work, and probably out about 20 bucks.

This was a big deal for me, though. Karma isn’t good to me, and I knew that this meant that I was going to get a flat tire of my own…and soon. I’d probably deserve it, too.

Furthermore, this meant that I needed to start accepting more adult responsibilities now that, you know, I’m 25 stupid years old, and I’ve lived on my own since I was 18. How I’ve made it this long without crashing and burning is beyond me, and I realized that I didn’t want to find out.

I buy self-cleaning litter boxes because I’m too lazy to provide basic turd-scooping needs for my cats. I live in apartments and condos because I don’t want to do any lawn care or landscaping. If anything breaks in the house, I call a maintainence guy to come over and fix it. The last time I looked under the hood of my car, it was to change the brake fluid, and it took me over 5 minutes just to find the right hole to dump the liquid into. I have jumper cables in my trunk that still have the ‘Happy Birthday!’ tags on them, and my wife already knows not to call me when something goes wrong.

For God’s sake, is there anything more unappealing and sad than a guy who can’t do these things? I mean, it’s absolutely pathetic. This flat tire was the wake-up call I so desperately needed to function at the base level as every other guy in the world. Yes, it took a borderline-emergency situation to make me realize that I was completely unreliable.

Hey, if you need a Haiku or poem written, you know who to call! Can’t remember the name of that one guy that used to be on that one show? I’ll be there in a jiffy! For everything else, forget about it! You know I can’t get my hands dirty! So what if I only live 50 yards away! Hell, do you know how long it took me to write this entire story? An hour. I can yank a hilarious and meaningful essay out of absolutely nothing in less than 60 minutes, but I can’t work a freaking wrench?

DAMN!

Yes it was just a flat tire. Sure, it wasn’t even my flat tire. But it made me a better person.

After work tonight, I’ll hit the gym for an hour. Then I’ll spend an hour in my garage, forcing myself to become a tire-changing machine.

It’s the least I can do.

HOW TO CHANGE A TIRE:

1. Find a safe spot to pull over. If you’re on the freeway, pull over as far onto the shoulder as you can. Don’t park in the middle of a curve, where approaching cars can’t see you from far away. Also choose a flat spot; jacking up your car on a hill can be a disaster. If you have a manual transmission, leave your car in gear. Be sure to set your parking brake!

2. Turn on your hazard lights. Get the jack, wrench, and spare tire from the trunk of the car and bring them over to the tire that is flat. Use other tools or supplies if needed.

3. Use the wrench to loosen the lug nuts. You may need to remove the hubcap. Don’t remove the lug nuts at this point; simply loosen them by turning the wrench to the left (counter-clockwise). If the lug nuts are really tight, try placing the wrench on the nut and standing on the wrench arm to use your full weight on it. You can also try hitting the wrench arm with a rock.

4. Use the jack to lift the vehicle off the ground. Different car models may have different places to put the jack; consult your owner’s manual for specific locations. Once the jack is securely in the correct spot, jack up the car until the tire is about six inches off the ground.

5. Remove the lug nuts and pull the tire off the car. Make sure to place the lug nuts in a pile that won’t get scattered, and pull the tire straight toward yourself to remove it from the wheel base.

6. Place the spare on the car. Line up the lug nut posts with the holes in the spare, and push the spare all the way onto the wheel base until it can’t go any farther.

7. Put on the lug nuts. Don’t put them on tightly, just make sure they’re on enough for the spare to stay on the car for a moment.

8. Lower the car back to the ground. Use the jack to bring the car back down to ground level. Remove the jack from underneath the car.

9. Make sure the lug nuts are tightened. With the car back on the ground, you can now tighten the lug nuts. Rather than tightening them one by one in order, start with one lug nut, tighten it about 50%, move to the opposite nut (across the circle) and tighten that one about the same amount. Keep tightening opposite lug nuts gradually in turn until each lug nut is as tight as it can be.

10. Put your flat tire and tools back in your trunk. Make sure you don’t leave anything on the side of the road.

CDP’s Top 30 Atari Games Of All-Time (30-16).

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Finally, the first half of the CDP‘s list of the Top 30 Atari 2600 games of all-time. This is my own personal list based on games that I’ve been fortunate enough to play over the last 22 years, and by no means is a complete document of well-researched Atari 2600 history. Please enjoy.

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30. Air Raid

Air Raid is one of only two games on this list that I haven’t actually played. I did, however, feel the need to include it for the sheer rarity and mystery that it conjures. The shape of the cartridge. The fact that it’s worth thousands. The artwork on the game itself. This all perfectly represents the nostalgia and wide-eyed wonder of the Atari Age.

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29. Star Raiders

Star Raiders utilized a computer keyboard that I didn’t have the instructions for in 1986, so for the first year that I owned the game, it was essentially impossible to play. Once I located the manual and keypad directions, it became significantly more fun, as you would imagine.

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28. Bobby Is Going Home

Sure, Bobby Is Going Home was a bit of a Pitfall!-style ripoff, but at least they picked a decent game to cannibalize. I played (and enjoyed the hell out of) this game when I was in the 4th Grade; it belonged to an old friend named Dave. Judging by how rare the game appears to be now, I certainly hope he held onto it.

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27. Atlantis

Combining elements of Space Invaders and Missile Command, Atlantis is a game that holds up just as well as the afformentioned classics (Just to be sure, I played it again last weekend). The only thing I don’t like about it is the generic cover art for the cartridge. It’s almost as if they knew it was the generic equivalent to Missile Command, so they packaged it as accordingly.

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26. Grand Prix

I hate Grand Prix. Loathe it with the blazing intensity of a thousand suns. A few months ago, I almost broke the game over my knee. Why? Because Grand Prix reminds me that I’m an idiot. With just a tiny bit of memorization and pattern recognition, you can blaze through racetracks like a man possessed. Hell, you could probably train a chimp to play this game better than me. I on the other hand, have yet to get a mere 70-second track devoted to memory. This is, presumably, because I’m an idiot, and Grand Prix sucks for reminding me of that.

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25. Haunted House

Without Haunted House, there might not have been a Resident Evil. Seriously. The survival horror genre hadn’t been invented before Haunted House forced you to walk through a dark mansion in an attempt to retrieve an urn from the ghost of the former owner. On long-term influence alone, Haunted House deserves recognition.

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24. Escape From The Mindmaster

This was the other game on this list that I actually haven’t played for myself. I did, however, watch someone play it for hours on end (I didn’t own the cassette add-on required to play it), and it was positively groundbreaking and expansive for its time and primitive technology. And while it looks to be nothing more than an early example of that maze Screen Saver that comes pre-loaded in Windows 95, the mini-games and twists were more than enough to keep you interested for weeks.

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23. Galaxian

This would be a good time to explain some nuts and bolts that went into this Top 30 countdown. I’m trying to rank my favorite Atari 2600 games of all-time, not ‘arcade games in general.’ This needs to be taken into consideration when you see that games like Donkey Kong, Pac-Man and Q-Bert have been omitted from the list. The reason being is that while these were timeless and classic arcade games, they more or less sucked a boatload of ass when reformatted for the 2600. Galaxian is a little bit of both; not graphic-intensive enough to suffer when re-packaged, and not memorable enough to sit alongside of multi-format classics like Asteroids and Space Invaders.

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22. Yar’s Revenge

Much like Star Raiders, Yar’s Revenge was not a ‘jump right in’ sort of game if you were lacking the instruction booklet. However, once you understood the missions at hand, it became a strategy masterpiece for the 2600; perhaps overrated in 2008 but underrated at the time of release. Also, the sound effects for this game were fairly epic, and I just read that in 2005, a sequel was created. Rad.

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21. Joust

Joust holds a bittersweet place in my heart for being the final Atari 2600 game that I purchased new as a kid. I think it cost me $35, which is absolutely hilarious to me now that I can find used copies for a quarter at the Video Game X-Change at the East Towne Mall.

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20. Adventure

The main thing I want to mention about Adventure is the same thing that everyone likes to mention concerning Adventure. Apart from the fact that it’s a groundbreaking-er, adventure game, it’s the first instance of an ‘easter egg’ in a video cartridge. By following a secret area, a hidden screen reveals the name of the game’s creator, thus paving the way for disgruntled developers to implant messages into their games for decades to come.

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19. Defender

Boy, I loved Defender, but did I suck at it. In fact, this game is constantly referred to as one of the most difficult of all-time. I haven’t played it on the 2600 or at an arcade for years, and with good reason. I’m too old to get sodomized so violently by a 30 year old game that I look back upon so fondly. It would sort of like imagining your grandmother in hell.

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18. Burgertime

Burgertime was one of those great arcade games that transferred less-than-beautifully onto the 2600, but I still included it because it was still endlessly replayable and just as fun. Also, I’d say that this was a precursor to Tetris in getting my Obsessive-Compulsive disorder on the right track.

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17. Tempest

A 3-D vector game with no ending that was created when the main developer had a nightmare about monsters crawling out of holes in the ground to kill him. You know what; I don’t even care that the Atari 2600 port of Tempest never got past the prototype stage; this game ruled.

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16. Kaboom!

This paddle-based game relied on you catching and defusing bombs with buckets of water. Kaboom! was yet another of the ‘catching things before they hit other things’ game, but a high score of 3,000 points or more got you access into the Activision ‘Bucket Brigade;’ an exclusive club that I have yet to be invited into.

The conclusion to the Top 30 will arrive tomorrow and round out the week. Sound off in the comments section and enjoy your day.

Related Goodness: The CDP’s Top 15 NES Games Of All-Time.

We’ll Sleep On Ice When This Bed Is On Fire.

CDP Liveblog.

I’ve never tried ‘Live Blogging’ before, so here’s something altogether new for the CDP: The following minute-by-minute log was written by yours truly yesterday, while doing administration duties for a particularly cumbersome and nerve-wracking examination at a nearby hotel. It’s a bit lengthy, but it’s worth the read in my opinion. Enjoy.

8:15 AM – I leave home at 7:05 am, and after getting lost twice and hitting road construction thrice, I arrive to the Rodeway Inn at 8:05 am, just in time to set up my equipment for the Pharmacy exam and obliterate the free continental breakfast.

8:29 AM – I eat two doughnuts, a bagel drowning in cream cheese and two glasses of orange juice. I ask for milk, but the concierge never comes back. I think he thinks I’m homeless, and I offer no explanation as to why I am not.

8:48 AM – Due to new testing protocol, the amount of work that I’m supposed to do today has gone from ‘entirely too much’ to ‘don’t bother showing up until noon.’ I’m needed for five seconds every 10 minutes, and quickly realize that I brought along no acts of subterfuge to break the monotony. It’s going to be a long day.

8:51 AM – I just ate a rhubarb muffin by accident. I swear to God, that crap tastes just like pennies and battery acid. Who enjoys this stuff? I take my first of what will assuredly be hundreds of bathroom breaks throughout the day.

9:35 AM – We have our first exam failure of the day, and it’s a spectacular one. In fact, the girl in question only scored a few points more than I did. Bear in mind, I didn’t take the test at all. I feel sort of bad, but I can’t help but chuckling when determining the pass point. She has a better chance of winning the Gold in Men’s Javelin than becoming a licensed Pharmacist.

10:00 AM – Bored already, I call my wife at work. She’s less than sympathetic. There are about 35 people on staff today that are running around and making sure things go smoothly, and I’m sitting in the corner, brushing up on my Excel formulas and eavesdropping on stories about meth labs and children named Walker and Mackenzie.

10:21 AM – I’ve just been told that we’re running way ahead of schedule, and there will be about two hours of total downtime between the 9:45 and 12:45 group. I silently contemplate what I will do during this time; either walk to the nearby Denny’s for a halfway-vegetarian lunch (the hotel catering staff stuffed everything with meat), or take in the scenic views of the Madison Beltline. In the end, I decide to kill myself.

10:28 AM – Someone walks past me with a glass of milk. Where did that jackass get milk? Intrigued, I decide to take a walkabout.

10:32 AM – No such luck. From what I can gather, that dude poured himself a glass of milk in his car. I change the wallpaper on my cell phone, and try for the billionth time to connect to a wireless network through this laptop. Not happening. I saw a kid in the lobby with a MacBook; maybe he’d be willing to trade for a 10 year old ThinkPad that’s property of the State of Wisconsin and weighs a shade under 30 pounds. At the very least, he could use it to beat potential muggers to death.

10:45 AM – I take a walk around the hotel. No pool, but an arcade that features such classics as Lethal Enforcers and Cruisin’ USA. Their candy machines are all but empty, and their soda machine still carries Slice. I haven’t had a can of Slice since the last time I was at this hotel; they may be the last place on Earth that still stocks it.

10:47 AM – Man, this electric stapler kicks ass.

10:49 AM – I read a USA Today article on George Carlin. I find it a shame that the media typically focused on nothing but his obscenity trial and ‘Place for your stuff’ routine. I mean, that was all fine and good, but come on; the guy recorded 23 albums and performed for over 50 years. When Jerry Seinfeld dies, will they eulogize him with the headline, “The comedian about nothing?”

10:55 AM – Actual critique from one examiner’s grading sheet: “Candidate wasn’t wearing socks.” I’ll make a note of that; thanks.

11:06 AM – Got busy there for a second. Coffee smells really good right about now. They’re bringing lunch in, and I’m eying up that mixed green salad like you wouldn’t believe.

11:20 AM – Someone just asked me if I carpool to work. I told them that I like singing in my car far too much to share a morning commute with strangers. They laugh heartily, but they don’t realize that I’m serious.

11:30 AM – For the first time this year, it’s amazingly hot outside; maybe 90 degrees while standing on the blacktop. A nearby cottonwood tree covers my clothes with its deposits, while I stand in the parking lot and carefully examine the decisions I made in life that got me to this point in time. I start to get all burny, so I head back indoors.

11:41 AM – A group of people behind me are sharing a very specific set of stories: times that they got caught in traffic on their way to Canada. As weird of a storytelling genre as this is, most of the people have halfway-entertaining tales to tell. I have a couple, but I’ll keep it to myself. I don’t give things like that away for just anyone.

11:50 AM – Catering took the coffee pot away in the main ballroom in anticipation for lunch. This pleases nobody, as I’m once again reminded that caffeine is an addictive drug that turns people into assholes when they’re neglected of it. Grow up, kids.

11:52 AM – Man, I could go for a cup of coffee right now. I broke my eight year caffeine strike a couple of times while me and the Missus moved into our new house. Since then, the thought of consuming more has been in the back of my head for days now. Weird how that happens. Oh, and don’t bother with the ‘drink decaf’ discussion. That is sheer pointlessness.

12:00 PM – A cheese sandwich and potato salad for lunch. Better than I assumed it would be. Miracle Whip instead of mayo, white instead of wheat and Sierra Mist instead of 7up. I feel very proud for being able to make such sacrifices without causing problems. The things I do for the betterment of the state of Wisconsin is staggering at times.

12:05 PM – As the elderly examiners and proctors file into the ballroom for lunch, I’m reminded that senior citizens love nothing more than to talk about their various ailments, surgeries and friends that have died of one horrid disease or another. I suppose there comes a point in your life where you dedicate it to merely staying alive on a day-to-day basis; therefore you’d probably have a lot to say on the matter when it comes up. I should be so lucky.

12:07 PM – Colon cancer. Chemotherapy. A neighbor kid slashed the tires on my boat trailer. My feet hurt. I can’t eat with plastic silverware. I can’t live without meat. And so on, and so forth.

12:09 PM – I miss the Internet. I miss the CDP. I miss the Earth so much; I miss my wife.

12:19 PM – I’m two-thirds of the way through this examination. Even though this is the smoothest year of administering it that I can remember, I sometimes miss the disasters and candidate freak-outs. We once had a girl that refused to get off of her cell phone to answer questions or speak to anyone. Another girl threw up. This is a big damn deal to a lot of recent graduates, and they sometimes handle the pressure with less than grace. Women, mostly; although I’m not making a statement of any kind. Guys typically just up and leave when they’re frustrated, as is their nature.

12:23 PM – I’m sweating straight through these khakis. Whoever invented the term ‘business casual’ needs to have their ballbag pounded flat with a rubber mallet.

12:34 PM – Tragedy strikes. The electric stapler runs out of bullets, and I’m forced to go back to manual. This is like going back to dial-up when you’ve been conditioned to cable. I do some brief wrist exercises and stretches. Should have brought sweatbands.

12:40 PM – I wish I could listen to the new Girl Talk album right now; it’s pretty terrific. I’d say that it’s right on par with Night Ripper, but as is the case with both albums, the profanity and disgusting lyrical content of some modern hip-hop samples keeps me from blasting it when the Missus or my friends are around. Maybe I should remix a clean version. Sort of like a fan edit, only for something that was already good in the first place. Fan edits keep fans of crappy directors naïve and ignorantly unaware that their favorite movies suck.

12:45 PM – Entertainment Weekly proclaimed that Pulp Fiction was the greatest movie of the last 25 years, and I agree wholeheartedly. But they went on to say that the Purple Rain soundtrack was the greatest album of the last 25 years, which couldn’t be more wrong.

12:54 PM – I guess men aren’t doing too well on this exam, as there is a question involved in the interview which may imply that the female subject is pregnant. I guess none of the men are catching on to this, which surprises me none. Guys tend to overlook things as subtle as a pregnancy.

1:00 PM – Somebody puked. I eat an oatmeal raisin cookie. It’s pretty good.

1:08 PM – For as prim, proper, professional and formal as some of these female board members are, I bet they’d get a real kick out of me talking dirty to them. Some of them are just begging for it, what with their pantsuits and handbags. I try my theory out on a girl in particular that has been keeping an eye on me for most of the day. I make a crack about guys not recognizing subtle hints (see above note), and mention that ladies need to lay the flirting on pretty thick for a typical guy to take notice. She laughs deeply, brushes her hair back and puts her arm on my shoulder. She totally wants me.

1:11 PM – The girl in question continues to ask me questions. Even though this is, without question, the most fun I’ve had all day, it’s probably best that I excuse myself. “Will I see you next week?” she asks, in reference to an upcoming meeting at our office. “If you’re lucky,” I shoot back without skipping a beat. Her eyes light up in a nearly giddy way, and I’m reminded that older women need excitement, too. That was fun.

1:16 PM – I’d call the Missus and apologize for flirting if I could get any reception in this hotel. I’d go outside, but it’s got to be 120 degrees out there right now. Besides, she couldn’t care less.

1:28 PM – There’s not even Solitaire on this computer. No Minesweeper; nothing.

1:37 PM – If the dude with the aviator glasses asks me one more question that I don’t know the answer to, I’m just going to tip over backwards in my chair and start kicking wildly into the air. It used to work for me to get out of jams; I haven’t tried it in awhile.

1:40 PM – The last time I was here, it was for a training seminar where they catered us with a punchbowl full of apples. If you’ve never heard what it sounds like when 30 people silently eat apples in unison, it’s damn near impossible to keep a straight face.

1:42 PM – I sure could go for an apple right now. When I get bored, I eat like Kobyashi at Coney Island. I’ve also ingested enough fiber and grains today to keep me regular until Halloween.

1:55 PM – Another note from an examiner; “Candidate was wearing a lab coat.” Poor bastard thought he had to show up in uniform; I wish I could have seen him.

1:57 PM – I wonder how long I could walk around my house wearing a lab coat before the Missus started with the questions. I sometimes think about stuff like that; just yesterday, I was fantasizing that when people donated their hair to Locks of Love, the sick kids were to get the exact same hairstyle as the people who donated. I then laughed myself to tears thinking about various kids in wheelchairs, sporting haircuts by the likes of Busta Rhymes, the Nelson brothers and the guy with the flattop from Kid-N-Play.

2:03 PM – Eighteen seconds. That’s how long I could wear a lab coat before the Missus would inquire.

2:05 PM – If I could have any famous person’s hairstyle grafted onto my head, it would probably be Mike Ness from Social Distortion. I think widow’s peaks are amazing.

2:21 PM – Current background conversation: “My husband got his vasectomy reversed so we could try to have a baby.” Song that I’m humming in my head to drown out such unpleasantries: “Superstar,” by the Carpenters.

2:22 PM – “He wanted to have sex, but I told him it was too soon, and he’d pop a stitch.”

2:23 PM – Baby, baby, baby, baby, oh baby. I love you. I really do.

2:26 PM – Looks like I’m going to get out of here early today; maybe as early as 3pm. In past years, this exam was like…the opposite of Christmas in terms of excitement and fondness, but in recent years, I’ve been a credible hand in streamlining it out of existence. Hell, if I’m lucky, maybe they’ll fire me.

2:31 PM – Aviator Glasses Guy just asked me another question. I didn’t have a tantrum, but I threw an imaginary throwing star into his back as he walked away. Take that, Tom Clancy!

2:38 PM – I was having an e-mail conversation with Pointless Banter’s Kevin Palmer the other day, and we were talking about what we’d do if we suddenly became billionaires. My first order of business was to install a tap in my kitchen that emitted a steady flow of Butterscotch Snack-Pak pudding. I’m unaware of the logistics behind such a project, but I’ll see to it that it reaches completion.

2:43 PM – I could go for some mini-golf right now. Maybe a Tuesday night in Wisconsin Dells is in order. We could survey the flood damage and give back to the community in the form of Shipwreck Lagoon Adventure Golf.

2:48 PM – The exam is waning now, and it’s been more or less flawless. My job has gone off without a hitch, and I’m about 30 candidates away from calling it a day. I want to get home early and surprise the cats. I sometimes think that while we’re gone, they cook meals and take cans to the recycling center for spare change. Today, I’ve got the jump on them. I’m on to you, cats.

2:55 PM – After nearly 7 straight hours of back-breaking labor, my work day is done. See you next year, Rodeway Inn; keep a supply of Slice on hand for yours truly.

Sound off in the comments section and enjoy your day. The CDP’s Top 30 Atari 2600 Games Of All-Time is on deck.

Life Is Worth Losing.

Hero.

Some brief words on the passing of George Carlin.

Last week, it was announced that The Kennedy Center was to award George Carlin with the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor; the greatest award that a humorist can receive, and only the 11th recipient of the award overall. This was to recognize his 50+ years of performing and contributions to the world of Comedy. Despite the nature of his act, I know without question that Mr. Carlin would have been gracious and humble to accept it, and it was a shame that he passed away before the ceremony.

From a personal standpoint, I consider George Carlin to be one of my greatest influences. Not necessarily concerning comedy, writing or performing, but my personality and outlook overall. Carlin made me realize that everything needed to be questioned, authority didn’t have to be respected, religion didn’t have to be believed and the freedom of speech needed to be upheld. The traditions and iconic figures (including Carlin himself) that we hold so dear need to be held up to the microscope and examined, in the hopes of finding the true meaning of life; that we’re here to enjoy the show. Be nice to those around you and do what you can to make a better life for yourself and your loved ones, but don’t fear judgment and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

George Carlin made me realize that the greatest comics do so much more than tell jokes. As a 12-year-old, I remember discovering 70’s Carlin material by rooting through my uncle’s record collection while visiting my cousin for a weekend (along with Steve Martin and Rodney Dangerfield, among others). His pinpoint delivery and borderline-slapstick mixed with social commentary, one right after the next, absolutely blew me away. It wasn’t the profanity and occasional ‘obscene’ nature of Carlin’s work that impressed me so much as a kid, it was the way that he did everything so seamlessly, had a specific point of view and had a brilliant way of making people understand the absurdity of our own existence. Carlin was a true genius.

At the age of 70, a point where most men would be happy (and fortunate enough) to live a healthy life of quiet retirement, Carlin recorded his 14th HBO comedy special, which turned out to be one of his best in a decade. When fans of Carlin’s work silently worried that the old man had lost his edge and social relevance, he once again defied expectation and created a fitting and astoundingly brilliant final masterwork. The drive and intelligence of this man was astounding; we should all be so lucky to continue to form new viewpoints and remain so current and bright at the age of 70.

One of the things that I’ll miss about Carlin was his off-stage demeanor. Critics state that Carlin was a grumpy old man; a reformed addict that pushed his atheist agenda to the point where it was no longer funny. However, every time we saw Carlin interviewed or accepting yet another award for his achievements, we all were able to see Carlin for who he truly was; a humble, sweet, brilliant and intelligent performer that always knew exactly what he was doing at all times. Anyone who negatively judged Carlin based on his stand-up persona was missing out on a huge portion of who he was as a man. I humorously remember the first time I saw Carlin on The Tonight Show; I had fully expected some tongue-lashing tirade about the English language or the current President, but instead, I was met with an interesting, logical, calm and quiet discussion. He always surprised me.

George Carlin has made me more intelligent. Harder. More angry at the world. More accepting of human beings but continually frustrated by the groups that they attach themselves to. George Carlin has allowed me to accept that there are certain things completely out of my control that I cannot allow myself to worry about. George Carlin reminded me to sit back and enjoy the show. To continually evolve and never accept what people tell me is right. To trust my gut. To make it a personal goal to make at least one person laugh every single day of my life. For all of this and more, I cannot thank him enough.

When Kurt Vonnegut passed away last year, the big joke among his fans was to state “He’s up in heaven now.” This was in reference to the following passage in God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian:

“I am honorary president of the American Humanist Association, having succeeded the late, great, spectacularly prolific writer and scientist, Dr. Isaac Asimov in that essentially functionless capacity. At an A.H.A. memorial service for my predecessor I said, “Isaac is up in Heaven now.” That was the funniest thing I could have said to an audience of humanists. It rolled them in the aisles. Mirth! Several minutes had to pass before something resembling solemnity could be restored.”

In many ways, I considered Mr. Vonnegut and Mr. Carlin to share similar worldviews, and I cannot help but think of this quote now that we’ve lost them both in a little over a year. And it makes me laugh. Hard. And much like Vonnegut, part of me thought that this day might not ever happen, that these heroes would live forever and continue to shine through the garbage until the end of time.

I won’t say that Carlin is in Heaven now, but if there is one, he’s there.

Thank you so much for everything.

Queen Vandals, Bomb Pops & Old-Timey Boxers.

1. Today is the deadline for the CDP Worldwide Mix-Tape Exchange #3, so get those mixes in the mail by the end of the day today! Unless you haven’t already gotten back to me and your Mix Buddy with a damn good excuse, don’t expect any sympathy from myself or the CDP faithful when it’s discovered that you’ve gone deadbeat. It’s just like when you don’t get the Big Wheel around all the way on The Price Is Right; even the elderly and frail get booed when they’re unable to accomplish such a simple task. Don’t let me down.

2. It was one year ago this week that I changed the Internet forever with my very first (and to this day, only) YouTube clip. Please step back to 2007 and enjoy my instructional foray into creating your new favorite Summer drink, the Bomb Pop; featuring the kitchen of my old apartment in all its tiny glory.

3. The always entertaining, vibrant, funny and well-scrubbed Emily Mills sent me this short clip last weekend in promotion for the Kino Louisville Spring Cabaret. Starring herself and Madison filmmaker extraordinaire Rob Matsushita, they were kind enough to throw a CDP shoutout within. Furthermore, Emily can officially do whatever she wants and still look cute. It’s quite the talent, I must say.

The CDP’s Top 30 Atari 2600 Games Of All-Time will arrive on Wednesday and Friday of this week, so stay tuned. Until then, get those Mix-Tapes mailed out, get a hold of me if you’ve hit a snag somehow, sound off in the comments section and enjoy your day.

Everything Plus One.

High School Graduation.
(Me and the Missus at my High School graduation in 2000. I was as awkward as you’d expect me to be at 18, and the Missus was looking unbelievably hot in her Band uniform.)

Today, me and the Missus celebrate our fourth wedding anniversary. Allow me to reflect upon this in the nostalgic, personal and hilarious manner you have grown to expect and appreciate from Wisconsin author, blogger and humorist, Ryan J. Zeinert.

The very first time I became aware of the Missus’ existence was when I was a Junior in High School. The Missus had an older brother named Tyler that I always found intriguing and intimidating, and we shared a Business Enterprise class during his Senior year. Tyler was a pretty hardcore punk; he wore the same hoodie covered with patches every day, screamed his guts out in a local metal band and appeared as if he was constantly high (he was). This always interested me, and I was perpetually looking for ways to talk to the guy; to infiltrate his world. Now that he’s my brother-in-law, he’s no more than a really nice guy I see from time to time that is endlessly interested in the Civil War and has a fear of loud noises and balloons. Funny how things turn out.

Anyway, I remember one day in the Business Enterprise class, while working on the latest copy of the School Newspaper, our principal barked over the P.A. with a list of people that needed to come to the Front Office. One of the names was one that I had never heard before, but her last name was the same as Tyler’s. “Could it be that Tyler has a sister?” I thought to myself. “And how fast can I make it up to the Front Office to confirm this theory?

As it turned out, Tyler did have a younger sister; a Freshman named Celia that I had somehow never noticed until the day her name was announced to me over that loudspeaker. I immediately needed to get this girl into my life somehow, and the whole thing started rather creepily, if I may say so myself. A friend of mine gave me a photo of Celia, which I hung in my locker before even speaking to her. There’s a great song by a Milwaukee band called The Benjamins which contains the lyric: “I’ve got a picture of you that you didn’t give me. Be careful.” I didn’t really understand the emotional worth of that line until I became a living example of it. Chances are that I was going to push Celia away before even saying hello to her, which was my style at the time.

The first time I laid eyes on her, I knew that I was instantly in trouble. She was alluring as hell; her eyes sparkled with rebellion and intelligence, and her hoodie was also covered with patches, but for bands that I actually listened to. She seemed angry all the time, and was a National Honor Society member that loathed the distinction and shunned anything that brought attention to her accomplishments and 4.0 GPA. This girl was dangerous, and it was as if she fell out of the sky to complete me. Truth was, however, that this wasn’t the first time she had this effect on yours truly.

If you recall from my legendary essay, titled ‘The Homecoming Quadrilogy,’ you’ll remember a chapter titled ‘J. Crew & The Mystery Girl.’ To give you the short version of the chapter in question, there was a beautiful girl that I had never seen before at my Homecoming Dance, and while I spent over an hour attempting to muster up the courage to ask her to dance, I realized that she was actually there with her boyfriend, leaving me heartbroken and destined for loneliness until the rapture. The M. Night Shyamalan twist to this tale was that the mystery girl in question was the Missus, and I would eventually go on to see her naked and marry her. Staring at her photo every day in my locker failed to click the connection in my cloudy, 17 year old head, but meeting her in person made me realize that fate was seeing to it that we end up together.

Apart from worshipping Celia from afar, the first time we officially spoke was in the Summer of 1999. Me and my friends ran into her and her friends at a punk show in Oshkosh, and I truly became smitten with her. She was bright and funny, tentative and shy. Reserved with moments of wide-eyed astonishment. She was either very deep, or astoundingly bipolar; either way, I was going to find out. I invited her to a concert that my band was to be playing later that month, and when she showed up, I felt like the luckiest guy in the world. Only problem was, she still had a boyfriend; the very same Mr. J. Crew that ruined my night at the Homecoming dance.

We all know what it’s like to want someone that you can’t have. It’s a feeling that unites all of us in solidarity; the wretched, helpless, emotional longing and overtly-whiny pain that comes with wanting so badly to love and be loved in return. To combat this pain, you do what all teenagers (and adults) do when faced with such a cruel fate. You start acting really, really weird. You lock yourself in your room all day. You stop eating. Your poetry output increases by 400%. The Smiths suddenly become your favorite band, and you sit on your roof, shaking your fist into the night sky, wondering why God would put such a perfect human being in your life that you couldn’t touch. To this day, few feelings are more dense, affecting and crazy annoying.

That night, at my band’s concert, we did a cover of Green Day’s ‘Basket Case,’ and I invited Celia onstage to belt it out. As I sat behind the kit and watched her studded jacket sway in front of about 50 of the drunkest kids I have ever seen, I felt way worse than I should have. This sucked. I wanted her.

When the show was over, I slurred in her ear, “Do you believe in fate?” I honestly can’t remember how she answered, but it didn’t matter. I believed in fate, and that’s all that counted.

2001
(Me and the Missus (along with two other guys) conquer Wisconsin in 2001 with the power of Punk Rock.)

After the concert, I started to develop more of a speaking relationship with Celia. I became friends with her friends, we wrote letters and may have even exchanged a phone call or two. In retrospect, it’s clear that Celia liked me at this point, but she was smart enough to know that friendships are ruined by relationships, and besides, she had a boyfriend in another city that was older, handsomer and richer than me. I hadn’t a chance, so I stayed polite and remained the quirky background noise in her life.

To pass the time and dull the unbelievable pain this was causing me, I tried out other relationships that were almost instantly ruined by the obvious fact that I was hurting. I wanted to be with nobody but her, and it showed. My emo phase was at critical mass, only it was real, legitimate emotion (besides, the term ’emo’ was barely a blip on the radar at the time). The peak of this came while I was at a concert with Celia and her boyfriend, and I had to stand behind them for the majority of the evening and not puke all over the bar. Soul-crushing, this was.

Fortunately, the cards were in my favor, mainly because Celia’s boyfriend was an absolute prick with little-to-no redeeming social values. It was only a matter of time before he shot himself in the foot, and Celia took this opportunity to get out while the getting was good. She dropped the news on me while I visited her at the supermarket where she worked (which had the brilliantly original name of ‘Food Mart’).

MISSUS: “Hey, I wanted to let you know that I broke up with ____.”

CDP: “Oh wow, really? Gosh, I’m really sorry about that.”

(In reality, my stomach had gone ice cold, as I realized that nothing stood between us. It was scary as hell, and as someone who has never been dealt a fair hand, it almost made no sense.)

MISSUS: “It’s okay. I’m happy.”

CDP: “Let’s go out for dinner.”

MISSUS: “Okay.”

To this day, Celia’s ex-boyfriend is one of only three guys whom I would pummel with my bare hands if I ever saw in person again (The other two will be revealed at a later date). You may think that this is due to a long-standing and completely unnecessary grudge I hold against him for keeping Celia away from me for so long. Truth is, it has to do with a verbal confrontation we had shortly before they broke up. I won’t get too far into it, but the guy didn’t take too kindly to his relationship fizzling out, and he did some things to the Missus that I see no need to forgive. Furthermore, it’s been a long time since I’ve hauled off and cracked someone that deserved it, and I think that my Homecoming story deserves a more heroic ending, even if it is nine years after the fact.

That night, me and Celia went out for a dinner at the best Italian restaurant I could afford with a $6 an hour job; Fazoli’s (say what you want, those breadsticks are incredible). We spent the next few hours getting to know each other beyond the music, preening, posturing and various other crap that kids do to maintain the image they want to present to others. It was that night that I became aware that me and Celia connected on a far deeper level than what bands we thought were cool. Sure, I had no idea that she would be doing my laundry a couple of years later, but I still thought it was a good talk.

We tried to stay cool about everything. We tried to pretend that we weren’t becoming a couple. We tried to act like all normal friends wrote ten letters a day to each other and drove to graveyards in the middle of nowhere just to talk. Truth was, we were hopelessly falling in love with each other, and it was so effortless that I felt as if it was almost too easy. The girl that I worshipped from afar, the girl that was always just a little bit out of reach, was now calling me. Writing me. Kissing me before classes and hanging my photo in her locker. It was too good to be true.

2001
(The Missus mocks my haircut in 2001, and I mock her choice in soda.)

The next few months were the most romantic and memorable of my life, as me and Celia took our love to the streets and became inseparable in every way. Food tasted better. I could listen to pop radio without crying. We made fun of everyone and everything in our path. Nudity was commonplace, and the sky rained down gifts of forgiveness and acceptance onto my person.

The feeling of suddenly loving someone and being loved back is the most addictive and potent feeling in the world; it’s what married folks refer to as ‘The Spark.’ We all want to experience ‘The Spark’ non-stop, that’s how amazing of a feeling it is. Hell, marriages end because of people jonesing for ‘The Spark.’ For the time being, our Spark was cresting over us like the second wave of a DMT trip, and it was unlike few things I’ve experienced. We had built this dream together and were standing strong forever; nothing was going to stop us now.

But there were roadblocks.

For one, I had a lot of bad habits to shake off. The women I had previously dated allowed me to get away with such obnoxious habits as wearing bowling shirts, listening to Rap Metal, not reading books and generally being a douchebag. Celia, on the other side of the coin, was prone to bouts of craziness. Many a night, I would have to sit on the phone for hours and take barrage after barrage of accusations that, in retrospect, had almost nothing to do with my moral character. Mostly, they were just because I would forget to call or something.

Hmmm…maybe this wasn’t such a good idea after all.

I could imagine Celia’s late-night revelations, while sleeping on the floor of her constantly-messy bedroom. “My God, I’m dating a…..dude! A real-life, acne-speckled, Limp Bizkit-listening dude! I’m so much better than this! I’ve read The Catcher In The Rye 18 times! There’s a Screeching Weasel patch on my jacket! I saw the Descendents live when I was 12 years old! How could I have possibly ended up with this lowlife?

Back at my house, I was having similar moments. “I should have known she’d be insane. I mean, look at her. She’s beautiful, she’s too smart for her own good and she sees through absolutely everyone. Nobody like that can stay uncrazy for long; it’s impossible. It’s only a matter of time before she stabs me to death with an Olive Fork, and I’ll deserve it for trying to hard to acquire her. Fate is a cruel bitch, and I had it coming.

The fights we had during the first year of our relationship were some of the worst we’ve ever had. I punched walls. She broke antiques. I cried a little. She cried harder. The arguments were more so than any fight about money, work, time management or any other ‘adult’ problems we’ve faced since then. Teenage emotions cannot be reasoned with, and the superficial things we argued about in 2000 seemed worlds more important than the crap we shuffle around in 2008. That’s the way it always is; when adults tell you that you’ll look back on the things you worried so much about as a teen and get embarrassed, don’t listen to them, because at the time, they’re the most important things in the world. Hindsight is for losers; live in the present, and never feel bad about the things you hold dear, regardless of how big of a pansy it makes you look like.

2002.
(In 2002, the Missus was still beautiful, and I was still wearing braces. Ignore this, please.)

Anyway, me and Celia had experienced our first year of courtship, which had taken us from the top, to the bottom, and back to the top as far as our love for each other went. I graduated from High School in June of 2000, and decided to do absolutely nothing with my life until she graduated in June of 2002. During that time, I worked at the Hardware Store and socked away enough cash for us to move to Madison and go to college. Who said I’m not responsible?

Well, I’ll be paying off the student loans until the end of time, but hey, we own a house, so suck it.

In the span of those two years (2000-2002), we had started a band and toured all over the state of Wisconsin. We released an album, experienced celebrity on the lowest of levels and got engaged. I began to realize that we were capable of taking on anything that stood before us, and I knew we were ready to take the next few steps into eternal adulthood: Living together, College and Marriage.

In 2002, we moved to Sun Prairie, and the rest is history, it would seem. As you’re well aware, I graduated college in 2004, launched the CDP in February of the same year and married the Missus that June. I also realize that I don’t have a single CDP essay about my time in college. Weird.

PhotobucketPhotobucket
(In 2008, the Missus owns you, and I’ve done what I could to salvage my dignity.)

We’ve been married for four years, and we’ve been a couple for almost nine. I’m proud of this, and I’m proud of my wife. Never mind the fact that she buys me groceries and makes sure I don’t leave the house with grape jelly on my pants, but I’m proud of what she made me. If you, the CDP reader, find me the least bit interesting, alluring or worthy of sharing a beer with you, you can thank the Missus for whipping me into shape. In tune, the Missus can thank me for turning her into a more patient and logical soul, even though I still always have to help her calculate the tip everytime we go out to eat. We’re still working a few kinks out, it would seem.

I will spend the bulk of our anniversary in my garage, itemizing a ton of old clothes and pants that we’ve accumulated and subsequently discarded over that last decade. As I do this, I’m reminded of an episode of The Simpsons, where Marge and Homer spend their anniversary at the dump, looking for a new motor for their refrigerator. It makes me laugh, and as I look at the remnants of our past, comprised of faded shirts, CD’s, books and toys, I’ll do so with the comforting thought that I’m one of the luckiest guys that I know.

If you had asked me in 1999 where I’d be in ten years, I would have given you some dumbass answer that I actually believed was the truth. I would have told you that I’d be a sports broadcaster for ESPN, or perhaps still working at the hardware store, making six bucks an hour and living in my grandparent’s basement for eternity. In reality, I live in a big, new house with my wife of four years, and my non-intrusive office job gives me the financial security and free time necessary to pursue my ever-evolving career as a writer. None of this would exist without the Missus, and quite frankly, it can all go away forever as long as I still have her with me.

2007.
(Taken the first day we got our iMac in 2007. We’re the biggest idiots you’d be privileged enough to meet.)

This essay was more than a little masturbatory and probably uninteresting to anyone who isn’t Celia, but screw it, this one’s just for her. Just consider yourself lucky that I don’t write stuff like this every day, because I totally could and I totally wouldn’t get sick of it.

Happy 4th Anniversary, Celia. I love you more than everything plus one.

Sound off in the comments section and enjoy your day.