The newton is the basic unit of force.
The mole is the basic unit of substance.
The pascal is the basic unit of pressure.
The chopstick is the basic unit of fun.
And at its peak, last night reached 89 gigachopsticks, nearing dangerous levels. Fortunately for me, I just upped my capacity a few weeks ago to 1 terachopstick, so I was under no risk of system shutdown.
It all began with the happiest of text messages on Monday night, as I sat alone at an Italian restaurant outside my hotel in Portland, sipping some orphan wine and jotting down notes for my meeting the next day.
if ur not too jet lagged do u want 2 grab a quick beer?
It was Vahid. I looked at my watch, looked at my meeting notes, looked at my watch again, and replied:
my curfew is 11pm. lets drink!
My curfew was quickly broken as Vahid gave me a sneak preview of what he had in store for all of us on Wednesday. Drinks and food and pinball and karaoke – a certain recipe for fun. For the next two days, I hoarded quarters at every opportunity.
Finally, on Wednesday night, I met Vahid, Brandon, Sibyl, and her BF for dinner, where we quickly fell into our routine of drinking, eating, temporary tattooing, and cruelly text messaging people who weren’t there.
This night was special, though, because at the stroke of midnight, it would be Sibyl’s birthday.
“I hate surprises,” Sibyl said, “So don’t do anything to surprise me.”
Vahid didn’t look up from the text messages he kept sending, but let slip an evil grin. About 20 minutes later, one of Seattle’s finest walked in the door and sat down, at which point we all expressed our joy by taking turns feeding him.
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All my curly-haired boys sitting at one table… I almost cried. Brandon doesn’t like to show his emotion, so he lets his tattoos do it for him. Five lonely, deadly teardrops.
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After dinner, we all headed to a local bar for some karaoke, where Asia finally joined the crew. Vahid and I started off the evening singing the longest and most difficult song in the entire universe, Paradise by the Dashboard Light. There was virtually no background track, so it was kind of like we sang it a capella. And although Meatloaf is typically not meant to be sung a capella, I think we managed just fine. The rest of our table thought otherwise.
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When Asia got an entire bachelorette party onto the dance floor with her spot-on rendition of Bust a Move, we knew that the bar had been raised. Brandon had never sung karaoke before and swore he wouldn’t attempt it unless they had Jim Croce’s Operator. Being a karaoke virgin, he didn’t understand how entirely likely it was that they had the song in their repertoire, so when we told him it was there, he just smiled an uncomfortably toothy grin.
“What’s Dustin singing? If I’m singing Operator, he has to sing something too! Just pick something for him – Christ, he’s been looking through that book for an hour!”
Dustin rolled his eyes, sipped his Apple Pucker and ginger ale, and said he wasn’t going to sing.
He flipped the pages angrily, “They only have one John Mayer song. How can they only have one John Mayer song?”
“Please tell me you aren’t going to sing a John Mayer song.”
“Well, no. But how lame that they only have one. Sheesh.”
“Here – why don’t you sing Edie Brickell?”
“Who’s that?”
“Geez, do they teach you kids nothing these days?”
“That’s old person music, Jenny.”
I almost started to lay a beat down on Dustin, but it was Sibyl’s birthday and I didn’t want to ruin the festive mood at the table. She was exempt from karaoke since they didn’t have her favorite Joan Jett song, so by the end of the evening, everyone else had sung except for Dustin. He finally caved to the pressure and put in a song – a secret he wouldn’t reveal to anyone.
Eventually, his name was called and I shrieked as I saw that he was singing Paul McCartney’s Blackbird.
“Ohmigod I love that song! Wait… where’s Brandon? Where’s Asia? They’re going to miss it!”
The music cued up, Dustin stepped to the mic, and out of his cherubic mouth came the voice of an angel. He was like the male Charlotte Church.
“Blackbird singing in the dead of niiiight… take these broken wings and learn to fly. All your life…”
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It was so lovely, and so incredibly sad all at once, because up until that point, I had no idea that Dustin was a castrato. It’s such a barbaric practice, but after hearing the sweet sounds of this man-boy, I now understand that the Italians had it right.
As it neared midnight, we decided it was time to finish off the evening with a pinball rematch. Asia dominated at pinball the last time I was in Portland, and I was determined to make a better showing this time. My first mistake was letting her pick the machine, because clearly she had somehow rigged The Addams Family machine to make all my balls go straight down the middle and all of her balls go into the BONUS! BONUS! BONUS! FREE GAME! 4,000,000 EXTRA POINTS! COUSIN IT TRIPLE SPECIAL BONUS! YOU JUST WON AN ALL-EXPENSE PAID CRUISE TO COZUMEL BONUS!
Every game ended the same: 20,000,000 for her and 135,000 for me.
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My other big mistake was ever playing pinball with a left-handed person in the first place. Clearly pinball machines are unfairly set to make the balls shoot toward the left flipper. Left-handed people have everything so easy in life, it makes me crazy.
After losing my fifth straight game to Asia, I realized that I was thinking too much. Sometimes your eyes prevent you from really seeing things, so I decided to channel my inner Tommy and see how I would do blindfolded.
“Brandon – you will be my eyes. Just tell me when to hit the flippers and I’ll let my other senses take over.”
In retrospect, I probably should have asked Asia to be my eyes, since Brandon had lost to her every time as well, but I did manage to beat my previous score somehow, even though I’m pretty sure I never once hit the ball.
I didn’t fare much better on the other games – Asteroid, Dig Dug, Burger Time, Dance Dance Revolution, Fake Tetris. But I’m proud to say that I owned Ms. Pacman. Owned her, I say. Stick with what you know, I guess.
At 2:00am, the game room/bar finally closed down, so we had no choice but to end our fun-filled evening. A few unspent quarters jangled in my pocket as we walked down Couch Street to Dustin’s car. Several good-bye hugs later and I was sleeping soundly in my king-sized hotel bed, dreaming of the day I finally find a right-handed pinball machine and beat Asia. And that will be the day I tip the scales at an unprecedented 100 gigachopsticks. Until then, I’ll always have Ms. Pacman.

22 Responses to “PDXtra”

  1. brandon Says:

    I was sure that you asked me to be your ‘thighs.’
    I like my way better! (just never ask me to be your ‘mitts’)

  2. You can call me, 'Sir' Says:

    Yep, nothing better than when your balls go into the BONUS BONUS BONUS. Highly recommended.

  3. You can call me, 'Sir' Says:

    Yep, nothing better than when your balls go into the BONUS BONUS BONUS. Highly recommended.

  4. Don Says:

    They never have Qix anymore. That is an Extreme left-handed 80s video game. To intense for kids these days, don’t ya think?

  5. sizzle Says:

    churroboy can rock a paul mccartney song? this is news! looks like you guys had a fantastic time though i would expect nothing less from you. ;)

  6. sandra Says:

    I just wish there was a podcast of the singing.

  7. churlita Says:

    I’ve never done karaoke before. I’m sure the whole world is breathing a sigh of relief right now.
    Ms. Pac Man? No, Centipede is where it’s at.

  8. Hilly Says:

    Go Churro Boy! And we were thinking of Dustin all day yesterday!
    You all seriously make a lovely bunch of happy people! I can’t wait to hang out again next year!!

  9. jenny Says:

    brandon: that must be why i ended up with a bruised rib from the pinball machine.
    sir: sir, sir, sir. i’m just shaking my head right now. :)
    don: qix? that’s a new one for me, although they did have qbert. wait… you’re not a lefty are you?
    sizzle: the boy has some pipes, sizz. i kid you not!
    sandra: errr, uhh, no. there was definitely no one there recording anything. that’s my story and i’m sticking to it.
    churlita: oh, you must try someday. it’s very liberating, in a humiliating way. AND – we totally played centipede, too!
    hilly: we all had dustin on the brain, i guess. can’t wait to hang out again as well!

  10. Dave2 Says:

    Actually, none of us have Ms. Pacman anymore, because she was killed at the end of Act V in a grisly revenge-murder scenario. I’m still in mourning.

  11. karen Says:

    “…up until now, I had no idea that Dustin was a castrato.”
    Thanks for that. Ever laughed half-chewed pretzels out your nose? Hurts.

  12. shari Says:

    It was excruciatingly cruel… but if mocking my pain lent even a moment of levity to what was obviously your otherwise dull and tedious evening, then I’m only too happy to have been able to help. ;)
    Dustin can sing?? In addition to having his angelic curls?!? That’s SO not fair. Neither is pinball.

  13. asia Says:

    actually nobody but me danced to bust a move. it was your rendition of shoop that had the bodies rockin the floor. but i did high five the crowd all the way back to our table.

  14. PeteV Says:

    The Addams Family is one of the best pinball machine of all time. Did you get to see The Hand?

  15. Laurel Says:

    What fun! But did you guys do the *whole* version of “Paradise”? ;)

  16. communicatrix Says:

    Wait–NO ONE thought to capture any of this on cameraphone video?
    Fffft. I may seriously have to reconsider the fittingness of you guys calling yourselves citizen journalists.
    Oh, wait–never mind…

  17. claire Says:

    Sounds excellent!
    For pinball, I recommend Haunted House (though I don’t know if they have that anywhere anymore). I often got free games off it. Look for a game with multiple levels. That way when you’re in the basement, there’s no risk of losing your ball and it’s all bonus scoring.
    DDR can be tough if the music isn’t loud enough. Step to the music, not the arrows lining up. Also it doesn’t matter if you step on or leave your foot on wrong arrows while stepping on the right one. Sometimes that helps. I love DDR.

  18. Don Says:

    Me? Lefty? Yes. Qix was only in a few arcades because it drove people insane.

  19. vahid Says:

    You totally carried us on the duet Jenny. I have the singing voice of a wounded beagle. And can I just say that if you work on your Ms. Pacman hustling a bit you can probably go home with more money than you came to Portland with, next time.
    P.S. Thanks for letting me sneak you out on Monday. :)

  20. Mocha Says:

    Girl, you are my heroine. I long to go on business trips and meet up with folks and drink and play video games until the wee hours of the morning.
    You’ve never sang for/with me. I have put that on The List. The RunJenRun List of Fun Things To Do.
    Not necessarily to be done in Chicago.

  21. Dustin Says:

    Wow. Calling me a no testicled Josh Groban all in the same post. You know, I could try and get even by posting some horribly embarrassing video of you delivering a flawless performance of “Shoop” by Salt-N-Pepa, but that would be beneath me.

    Yes, definitely beneath me.

  22. jenny Says:

    dave2: but she lives on in our hearts.
    karen: oooh, through the nose? so sorry!
    shari: if only you had been there – we could’ve done a duet! and YES, dustin can not only sing, he can sang!
    asia: ah, i totally remember the high fives. :)
    petev: i got to see it, but only because i was playing against the pinball wizard herself.
    laurel: well, i know we were up there for what seemed like 15 minutes… but i’m not sure if there’s some special part of the song that we missed.
    communicatrix: see dustin’s comment below.
    claire: i’m going to need a private lesson in DDR – the arrows were totally confusing me!
    don: aha! i figured as much!
    vahid: thanks for the surprise text! and i definitely need to get better at hustling on ms. pacman.
    mocha: add it to the list, my friend! i’d love to!
    dustin: now, i would never call you a no testicled josh groban. i think we established that i have no idea who josh groban is. and luckily for me… no one reads the comments on old posts so that video will remain a secret. why didn’t anyone tell me i was a baritone?

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