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Review: The Atomic Arcade

I looked up lots of things about the Salt Lake City area months before moving there: schools, housing prices, utility prices, jobs, restaurants, retro arcades.

Retro arcades? Well, yes. I’d think you would have to be completely new to the blog to know that Fayetteville, Arkansas’ own Arkadia Retrocade was quite rightly regarded by the entire family as “the happiest place on Earth”. Before or after the divorce, if we needed a stiff shot of undistilled happy, we headed up I-49 to Fayetteville to visit Arkadia’s vast collection of working vintage arcade video games, where you pay five bucks at the door and get a great big dose of happy.

Both of my boys have been weaned on the classics of the ’80s – Little C is a Q*Bert and Ms. Pac-Man fan, while E is a fan of more elaborate console quests like Super Mario and Legend Of Zelda. Finding a good family-friendly retro arcade along the lines of Arkadia on our new turf is seriously a top priority. I’ve heard a lot about Flynn’s Retrocade in Roy, Utah, but that’s further away from our current home base than Fayetteville was from Alma – it’s at least an hour’s drive north, closer to Ogden than to Salt Lake City. Much closer than that is The Atomic Arcade in Holladay, just slightly east from Salt Lake City. Online reviews were a muddled mix of positive and negative. My overall impression from a brief visit with my kids tended very much toward the negative. Read More

The Packening III: The Packening Continues

As is generally well known at this point, once my house was mine alone (and my kids), I started taking great strides – well, as many as I could afford on a tight budget – to make the place my own in a way it hadn’t been before. When I was married, there was a kind of clenched-teeth agreement (or at least it seemed that way to me) that, since I wasn’t going to suddenly become a different person and shed all of my interests and hobbies, those interests and hobbies were not to be visible beyond the confines of the room I was graciously granted as a sort of man cave. I never really worked out what was acceptable as decor in the rest of the house, because it quickly became a hoarder’s paradise. (And to be fair: we both contributed to that.) Once she was no longer in the house, I pretty much reversed that, not so much as an act of rebellion as an act of preserving my sanity in the early post-divorce days: once properly cleaned up, the house just seemed big and empty. A few lucky on-sale Hobby Lobby finds let me put my true colors on the walls.

Signs of the times

Signs of the Time Lords

When the Art Of Atari Poster Book came out, and I figured out Wal-Mart had frames all but ready-made for prints of that size for five bucks, well, things just kind of went from there.

Signs of Spacetime

Oh, and don’t forget the handful of arcade marquees that weren’t donated to Arkadia Retrocade.

Fantasy

How will all of this play out in Utah, where I’ll likely go from being a homeowner to a renter who’s forbidden to drive a nail into the wall? Believe it or not, there’s a solution in hand for this problem. I’ll cover that in a future post. Until then…all of my smaller wall hangings are ready to be hung on another wall.

Wall in a box

Everybody’s geekin’ for the weekend, part four: do it again!

Whoosh!In February, the fine folks at Oklahoma City’s Starbase Studios announced another of their open house events, during which all and/or sundry are invited to tour their exquisitely detailed replicas of the original Star Trek shooting sets, free of charge (though it’s hoped that visitors might be impressed enough to drop a few coins in the hat, donating to the upkeep of those sets so future fan-made productions can make use of them. My wife was pregnant with Little C when Little E and I tagged along with some friends to visit the sets last year, and that was before they had built sickbay and started work on a transporter room (!). There was no way she was going to miss out on this open house.

As the date got closer, Little E expressed disappointment that we weren’t going to repeat the entire trip with the Martins – i.e. Friday night at Arkadia Retrocade, and a visit to the Stafford Air & Space Museum in Weatherford, Oklahoma (almost an hour further west from OKC). Since he was so keen on doing it all again, we reserved a hotel room in Weatherford and decided to make it a whole geeky weekend getaway. (It should be pointed out that the timely arrival of a tax refund was pretty much the pivot point where we went from “go to OKC and back” to “make a whole weekend of it.”)

What follows is a ridiculous record – over 60 photos – of the geeky weekend in question. Ready to beam up and go to the moon?

OKC+WXford trip
Click on any photo below for the full-size version – I took “the good camera” this time and didn’t rely on my phone for much of the picture-taking this time around.

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The two seventh birthdays of Little E

An Ewok in a party hatLittle E turned 7 on the 19th – wow! Despite numerous suggestions that he was going to get a baby brother for his birthday, I wanted him to have one last big birthday bash all to himself. And so did he – after attending two birthday parties in the same weekend, two weeks prior to his birthday, he suddenly announced that he wanted to have a birthday party too, one that all his friends could attend. Maybe at the park. Maybe the park with the ducks. Which, with two weeks to go, is quite the bold declaration. Attempts to look into reserving the park with the ducks yielded little information, and in any case the forecast for his birthday was looking like an outdoor party might be a bust. I started looking around for possible venues, but it was too close to the actual date; a second birthday party would have to be held a week after the 19th. Read More

Everybody’s geekin’ for the weekend, part three: Space (the final frontier)

An enterprising visitHaving gone to Arkadia Retrocade on Friday night in Fayetteville, followed by a Saturday morning visit to the Stafford Air & Space Museum in Weatherford, Oklahoma, we headed homeward, but with one more stop planned in Oklahoma City itself (40 minutes east of Weatherford) before returning to Fort Smith.

The second leg of the central Oklahoma space pilgrimage took us to Oklahoma City proper, in a part of town that we might not have visited otherwise but for the presence of a starship. In a rented space next to a roofing repair company in Oklahoma City is one of the only two 360-degree classic Star Trek bridge sets in the United States, replicating – if not improving on – the Enterprise set from the original ’60s series.

Starbase Studios was holding one of its rare open house events. They’re rare because the bridge is a working film set, and exposing it to the public puts it at increased risk of suffering accidental damage. Keeping the entire set fully lit (rather than the usual practice of only lighting those sections needed for a particular spot), and running fans to make the already-warm studio space tolerable for visitors, runs up a considerable electric bill, even for a single day.

We joked en route that the directions to the nondescript studio building sounded like a ransom note – in between lines of the directions I had printed out from the studio’s web site, I was riffing helpful additions like “place the money in an unmarked paper sack inside the newspaper vending machine on the corner; do not look around you, you are being watched.

The verdict? Totally. worth. it. Read More

Everybody’s geekin’ for the weekend, part two: Space (race)

Gemini and ApolloWith everyone in agreement that the two space-related destinations in central Oklahoma were worth going to, we set out from Fort Smith in the Martins’ vehicle to strike out westward. The kids were surprisingly well behaved for the whole trip; it occasionally got a bit noisy, but since the back set was filled with boys, that’s hardly a surprise.

Our first Saturday destination: the Stafford Air & Space Museum in Weatherford, Oklahoma! And then to the stars. Warning: there are over 50 photos after the jump. Read More