Dispatches, thoughts, and miscellanea from writer Jon Konrath

Tornado, even-number nostalgia, Commodore, etc.

That tornado last week hit the south side of South Bend. I think it was an F-2, and touched down right across the street from Ray’s old apartment at Irish Hills, which is just a touch east of where Scottsdale Mall used to be. It hit a daycare center dead-on, completely destroyed it. Luckily it was a Sunday, and nobody was there. No other real damage, except a few people with uprooted trees and broken lawn furniture and whatnot. Lots of idiots recording the funnel clouds from a hundred yards away for Facebook likes.

It’s weird because I very specifically remember that exact location. I used to drive from IUSB to Scottsdale mall every payday (I’ve told this story a million times) and that drive involves going straight down Ironwood from the school, then hanging a right on Ireland, and driving about a mile to the mall. Said tornado was just to the left of that Ironwood/Ireland intersection. The entire route of that drive is crystal clear in my head — not just the landmarks and the scenery of the drive, but how it felt to make that drive on a Friday morning. I remember very specifically listening to a Helloween live album one morning, and I have no idea why that specific trip stuck in my mind. But when I made the same trip last December, I instantly remembered that morning, for some damn reason.

I’m starting to have a lot of stupid even-number nostalgia lately. Luckily, I have no concept of time and can’t remember at any given point if it’s April or June or May or what. I passed my 30th anniversary of graduating high school. I don’t remember the specific day; I could look it up, but whatever. It was in May, I guess. So there’s a bunch of 30-year marks that hit in the next few months, none of them worth celebrating, but all of them being an annoying little itch in the back of my brain I can’t really scratch.

(I don’t know if my class had a reunion or not. I would not have been able to attend, but I wonder if I’ve moved enough times that I’ve fallen off their list, or they’ve all banned me on Facebook, or everyone’s too busy with their grandkids or posting speculation on a new Chick-fil-A location in Elkhart.)

There’s also a lot of 20-year things coming up, because that’s when I left Seattle and took my big extended trip across the country. I wrote a book (more or less) about this trip, and I often think that it needs to be unfucked and put into context and heavily edited. I just re-read the Chuck Klosterman book Killing Yourself to Live, which is ostensibly about visiting the death sites of rock stars, but is 80% about his own shit knocking around his head during the deep introspection that happens when you take weeks stuck in a car alone to drive across the country. This made me go back and read my trip book (which used to be online, but I pulled it down long ago) and it’s so wooden and horrible and so far off-brand there’s no fucking way I could publish it without a complete rewrite.

Someone is supposedly coming out with a new Commodore 64 for Christmas. This company had a mini-64 which looked cute and played all the games on a modern TV set, but the keyboard was fake, and you had to plug in a USB one. And although I did play a lot of C-64 games, I think the main reason I would want one is to screw around with programming it. The thing is, I can run an emulator on my computer, and this re-release is nothing more than some system-on-a-chip Linux computer that’s running the same emulator, most likely. It will be neat and cool, for like fifteen minutes, and then I’ll get bored of it. And not only do I have that emulator on my computer, and a Raspberry Pi that has that emulator, but I have a real C-64 in storage.

I think one of the reasons that doesn’t interest me as much anymore is the time constraint issue. When I think back to 1985 when I first got a Commodore, I must have spent hundreds of hours a month fucking around on it, playing the same four games over and over, typing in programs from Compute’s Gazette, and trying to write my own games in BASIC. Now, it takes me a major scheduling coup to get more than an hour to waste time on something. That’s why I tell anyone I know under the age of 18 the same thing: either get a $100 guitar and practice scales and modes until your fingers bleed, or memorize every programming book you can find, while you still can remember things. Burn that shit in, because there’s no goddamn way you’re going to memorize anything once you hit 40.

I took the next week off, because the last two months have severely burned me out. No plans or trips, just trying to write and not work. We’ll see how that goes.


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