But since the time is right, and I've been so eager to put this feature together, I've decided to get a jump on things. That is, I'm going to start with what I have and then proceed to add in more imagery over time as it becomes available to me. I hope you don't mind.
So let's get going with part 1 of this feature: "The Places," wherein I'll be providing you a view of the locations that comprised the world in which I grew up and formed a love of video games.
Let's begin with the house in which I lived for the majority of my existence.
There it is: The red-bricked house located at 1157 83rd Street between 11th and 12th Avenue in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn. This is place where I made just about all of my life's best memories.
There you see the mile-long staircase that all of our mobily challenged relatives would complain to us about, especially during snowy winters. It's the same staircase up which my friends and I would excitedly run whenever we were in a rush to get to get indoors and play a newly acquired video game.
To the right is the front porch, upon which we'd hang out, play some handball, and generally enjoy being goofy kids. I was always the fastest of the bunch, so the responsibility would fall upon on me to chase down the blue ball whenever it would bounce over the railing and roll down the street. And since the block was sloped--the street constructed at around, say, a 35-degree angle--this usually meant that I'd have to sprint an extra two or three blocks to catch up with it.
Behind the three porch-level windows is the den, which I'll show you in a moment. The three above those belong to my parents' bedroom. And the two at the top dare you to imagine what wonder and mystery lay in the attic resting beyond. In reality, there wasn't much of anything up there. Really, I'd only peeked into it two or three times over the years. The reason: In order to access the attic, you had to place a ladder in one of the second floor's cramped closets and climb up to it. I have no idea why it was designed that way. All I knew was that the process was incredibly uncomfortable and I had little interest in partaking in it.
To the left and right are two separate entrances to the backyard, which wrapped around the back patio to form a C-shaped space. On the left was the barbecue and dining area, while the right side housed an above-ground pool (well, it did until problems with leaking forced my father to remove it). The two sides were connected with by a narrow path that was sandwiched between the patio wall and blanketing foliage (unpruned tree branches plus overgrown plants and shrubbery) that completely obscured your view of the sky; there was always an air of eeriness to that spot, and the feeling of which would only become magnified if it was a dark and cloudy day.
It was a great area. There was tremendous atmosphere to it: It was quiet and peaceful. A lot of the houses were old (we're talking 80-plus years), their presence working to imbue the surrounding environment with a pervasive feeling of nostalgia. And the whole aesthetic was just perfect for a kid like me, who found great value in letting surrounding environs--and even mental images of them--form the backdrop to my art and gaming sessions.
I tell you, man: I really loved that house. I was so sad to learn that the new owners tore it down and replaced it with something more modern-looking. For the longest time, I held on to the dream that I'd one day accumulate enough wealth to buy it back and raise a family there--give them what my parents had given me. Then suddenly all of that was crushed.
"But it's probably for the best," I've since come to think. It's clear to me now that you can't hold onto the past forever. If you do, you just wind up anchored in the same place forever. Life is too short for that. There comes a point when you simply have to move on.
Still, you'll never convince me that the old house didn't have 100-times the character. They'll never make 'em like that again, and that's too bad.
Here's the den (the left side of it, at least) that I've spoken about numerous times in the past. This was my domain--my base of operations. It's where I spent many an hour watching cartoons and old sitcoms on our big-screen TV (located on the room's right side) while working on my art and writing projects. It's also where I stored all of my toys, which were piled into a number of large cardboard boxes. Years later I'd move my gaming systems out from my room and into the den so I could play them on a bigger screen.
The den's was an L-shaped design. It was completed by the little nook that could be found to the left of the rearrangeable couch. Back there was a cabinet stand whose shelves housed my parents' record collection and the record player that my friends and I would routinely mess around with--mainly for the purpose of playing records in slow-mo mode, which would produce hilarious results.
The walls are provided a comforting brand of visual conveyance via their lovingly remembered wood panels, with their brown diagonal strokes. Looking at them, I'm reminded of how superior wood-paneling is to the plastered, blandly monochromatic coating you find on the walls of all houses built after 1995. I miss it dearly.
If you look left of center, you'll see the hanging light fixture that served as the room's main source of illumination. This was the light under which I'd park myself whenever I was playing games the Game Boy or Game Boy Advance games that desperately required its radiance. I spent so many hours in that spot playing Metroid II: Return of Samus while watching TGIF sitcoms.
In the later years, this room became my office. We cleared away all of the toys, replaced the existing couch with a smaller piece, and installed a corner desk in the far-left corner. That's where my first computer went. It's also where my current computer is, since I'm still using that same desk, with the same sofa rocking chair. Both are a little worse for wear these days, but hey--they still get the job done.
If you moved two rooms over, you were here, in the dining room. On any holiday, this was where all of the action was. Many Thanksgiving and Christmas feasts were enjoyed here. If it was New Year's Eve, people were endlessly cycling in and out, family members and friends alike vying for the chance to grab themselves a slice of pizza or their preferred Chinese food item. And when everyone was sick of eating--after everyone was finished stuffing their faces with dessert--my father would break out a deck of cards and get a game going. And for the rest of the night, the room you see before would become the site of the most fun, liveliest Poker games you'd ever see; we'd play every possible variant of it (5-card, 7-card, No Peek, Klondike, Draw, and whatever wacky games my relatives would make up on the spot). Sometimes we'd mix in a few rounds of Pokeno, which offered a wonderfully entertaining combination of Poker and Bingo.
These gatherings meant the world to me. They were a huge part of the reason that I couldn't wait for the holiday season to arrive. I cherish my memories of them.
It's just too bad that it all had to come to an end.
Here's the entrance to the dining room, beyond which is he living room. You can also see the entrance to the den in the background. I hope to find better photos of these locations.
Until then, enjoy looking at those three kids, whoever the hell they are.
This is the basement, which is difficult to accurately depict, since it underwent a number of renovations and remodels over the years. Originally the gray support poles were hidden from sight by the four-sided love seats that were built around them. My brother, James, talked my father into removing them so that he and his friends could use the additional space to set up a pool table. In the back you can see the bar, which survived several remodels but ultimately succumbed to design realities when the basement was transformed into a small apartment in light of the house being placed on the market.
To the left of the photo were a number of cabinets, all of which were ripped out and replaced by the shelves that formed the newly installed entertainment center. My brother placed a TV on the top shelf, and he positioned a coffee table out in front. Thus, this area became the basement's gaming space; all of the consoles were placed on the table for easy access. This was the setup as I described it in my Final Fantasy II and Doom pieces. The general area around the bar's right side was the vantage point from which I first viewed these games.
"Who's the guy holding the pool cue?" you ask. I've got no clue. My brother had hundreds of friends.
Here's the basement's right portion as it came to look a few years later. By then the pool table was gone (my brother and his friends decided to also use it as a Poker table and summarily destroyed it), and an L-shaped couch took its place. Also, the smaller Sony-brand TV that occupied the corner was replaced by a big-screen TV, whose presence helped to cement this side of the room as the basement's new gaming space.
Oh, and here's one of those (poor-quality) pictures I mentioned in my Super Mario Bros. 3 piece. This is one of those that my brother took at 2 or 3 a.m. on the night when I beat the game for the first time. It was a school night, and I couldn't sleep. That's why I wearing pajamas in one of the shots.
Don't think for a second that you're ever going to see that one.
The dining room's northern exit led into the kitchen, which also featured an L-shaped design. At the time, its appliances were considered "technologically advanced." In the middle-right you can see the pullout toaster, which stopped working after about, oh, five years. In the foreground (not depicted) was an embedded range whose center hatch revealed a flame grill, which our mother forbid us from using, since she hated cleaning it; to the left of the range, and the jutting countertop it overlooked, was a newfangled refrigerator that boasted both water-dispensing and ice-making capabilities! Wow! And you know what's even more incredible?! They both broke within five years! My father never bothered to get any of the appliances fixed; to him, all that mattered was the illusion they created.
Among those you can see are the red counters I've mentioned in a couple of my "Memory Bank" pieces. Directly to the right of the depicted couple (the Catricolas, who you might remember from my Blaster Master piece) is the counter upon which my brother and I play-tested the Nintendo DS and specifically Metroid Prime Hunters.
Around the bend was the far side of the kitchen. The dining portion wasn't originally part of the kitchen; before this area of the house was remodeled, it was a separate room--a ceramic-tiled "playroom" that my brother and I shared. Basically it's where we stored all of our toys. And to answer your question: Yes--this section of the blog is named directly after that playroom. It represents a personal space wherein I can do whatever I please.
The pullout, adjustable TV seen in the upper-right was concealed by cabinet doors, which was an interesting design choice. For guests, it created an air of mystery--made them feel as though they couldn't be sure what was awaiting them whenever they were opening a cabinet or a closet door. They wouldn't know that, say, there was a washing machine and a dryer hiding behind the foldout doors in the foreground.
I'll have plenty of additional pictures to share in the future. I'll be sure to bump this piece to the front page whenever it sees an update.