The Price of Nostalgia: Part One: Introduction

Within the past five years or so, there has been a gigantic surge in companies paying tribute to their past in every way possible: You’ve got companies like Capcom doing Ducktales: Remastered, which is basically a love letter to the fans of the original game. Capcom also recently announced a new entry into the Strider series, which looks to be taking cues from Metroidvania games.

Hell, Nintendo is making a ton of cash on games that are more or less straight re-releases, be it with their Virtual Console offerings (Earthbound, hell yeah!) or their 3D updates of Starfox 64 and Zelda: Ocarina Of Time.

As awesome as these re-releases are, sometimes you just need to play a classic game on the original console.
Emulators are great (especially for capturing footage of games that happen to be on handhelds with nigh-opaque screens), but they’re not the real thing. They never will be.

Sure, emulators are playing the same games as the consoles did, but there is something magical about playing Super Mario World on my original console that my dad got me as a birthday gift over 20 years ago.

Nostalgia is a powerful thing. It’s comforting, and it allows us to think back to a time where things didn’t seem complicated, or depressing. It’s our own little happy place. And that’s not a bad thing at all.

Unfortunately, people like to take advantage of this.

Right now, all of those kids who grew up in Nintendo’s golden age are just leaving school and getting into the “real world.” The oldest of them have probably settled down right now. A lot of them probably gave up their old video games in garage sales or they traded them in at a game store to pay for something expensive. After months and years of working towards a degree or towards a promotion, those childhood memories of all of the stuff that we gave up or gave away start to creep back into our minds. It’s inevitable.

Picture it, if you will: After a particularly grueling Friday at the office, answering phone calls that never seem to end, you’re looking to spend time with a video game that you absolutely love. What better way to kick back and unwind from the personal hell that is your life than with a few hours of Mega Man X2?

“Hell yeah!” says your sub-conscience, “Mega Man X2 was amazing! A real product of its’ time! Nothing like it!”
Indeed, my friend.

You know that your SNES is still locked away in your closet. After a dusting and some TLC, your console will be up and running. Only one fairly important problem: Your mom and dad made you trade in your SNES games so you could buy a PS2 and a copy of Smuggler’s Run.

eBay’s pretty much your only choice for SNES games.

So, you rush to your computer, which you can barely see because your eyes don’t want to see another goddamn computer screen for the rest of the weekend. As you type in “SNES Mega Man X2″ or something similar, you’re stunned to find that you’re gonna have to cough up some serious dough to relive your childhood.

In the immortal words of Ralph Waldo Emerson:

“Man, nostalgia is expensive as shit, yo.”

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A Sega Game Gear Overview

My dad bought me a Game Gear when I was still a toddler. I probably got it when i was two or three. I had a grand total of three games for it: Sonic The Hedgehog 2, NBA Jam, and Aladdin. I played the everloving hell out of Sonic 2, but I have grown to hate that version of the game with a passion due to the zoomed-in screen, which makes things significantly more difficult since you can’t see enemies until they’re right on top of you. The Master System version of Sonic 2 doesn’t have that problem. Play that one instead.

The Game Gear was Sega’s attempt at cutting into some of that delicious handheld gaming pie.

I bet that pie tasted of AA batteries and liquid-crystal screens. Nice and crunchy.

Atari had previously tried to overthrow Nintendo’s Game Boy and claim dominance in the handheld market for themselves, but Atari’s Lynx handheld wasn’t quite up to snuff. Sure, it had color and a backlight, but it drained AA batteries inhumanly fast. The Lynx game library was also quite poor, with little to no third party support.

The Game Gear came out in 1991. To Sega’s credit, they definitely made a nice-looking handheld. The Game Gear fits in with the style of the Sega Genesis quite nicely, easily cementing its’ status as the “kid brother” to the Genesis. The game library reflected this ideal, as well. Most of the games were ports of Genesis titles or side-games that tie into existing Genesis franchises.

At least, that’s the case for games that were originally made on the Game Gear. A small percentage of the Game Gear library consists of ports of Sega Master System games. At its’ core, the Game Gear was a portable version of Sega’s Master System, a console that did not quite catch on in the United States. It was an interesting device, but, as Alton Brown always said on Good Eats, “That’s another show.”

The Game Gear had everything done right on paper: It was wider-shaped than the Game Boy, which made it easier to hold for long periods of time. It was in color and it had a front-light, as opposed to the Game Boy’s green/black monochrome screen, and it had a lot of games that would never have come out on the Game Boy for one reason or another. What went wrong?

A few things.

1. The battery life was abysmal. Six AA batteries would get you roughly three hours of play. If you were a kid who took long car rides to school or liked to get in some gaming to alleviate boredom on a road trip, three hours is nothing. This hurts more when you realize that the Game Boy can get 10-12 hours of battery life with four AA batteries.

2. The LCD screens Sega used for the Game Gear were some of the worst offenders of the classic “ghosting” issue. Games that had too much action going on at once often blurred together, at its worst becoming an unplayable mess and showing afterimages at best. This made things like the first boss in Sonic 2 completely impossible, as you couldn’t see the projectiles that were being thrown at you. RPGs were easier to deal with since the action wasn’t necessarily real-time, but whenever movement happened, it was hard to see. This issue is something that plagued not only the Game Gear, but the Game Boy, the Atari Lynx, and NEC’s TurboExpress as well.

3. The biggest flaw with the Game Gear, by a wide, wide margin, is the issue with the Game Gear’s inner-components. Every Game Gear that was made had faulty capacitors installed within, so they would go bad prematurely. Bad caps aren’t an uncommon problem with electronics, but they’re usually never widespread. As far as I know, EVERY Game Gear ever made had faulty capacitors installed, which, once they failed, would ruin some aspect of the Game Gear, from the sound dying to the screen being impossible to see unless you held the console at an odd angle. It’s not just a bad batch of consoles, like with the Xbox 360 “red ring of death.” This issue was much larger than that.

It’s not a matter of IF the Game Gear will break, it’s a matter of WHEN.

It WILL happen, mark my words. 95% of the Game Gear consoles I’ve come across in the wild have had some sort of issue related to bad capacitors. I haven’t seen a 100% working one in years.

Now, before you toss out your broken Game Gears and curse Sega at the top of your lungs, know that there is a solution to this problem. Replacing the bad capacitors will solve any issues that they have caused. The biggest problem with this is that this requires knowledge of electronics and soldering, and you really should know what you’re doing before you decide to crack open your Game Gear and perform surgery.

As for the effed-up screen and the battery drainage, that’s a whole ‘nother beast that I’m not willing to tackle right now.

If you don’t mind losing true portability, there are people out there who “consolize” Game Gears for people. Basically, they make this handheld console into a regular one, by allowing you to hook it up to a TV and run off of an AC adapter, possibly allowing you to use a controller as well. That’s a fairly-difficult process, though.

Honestly, that’s a lot of work.

I own around 80 or so Game Gear games. The only reason I own so many is because I got a ton of them in a lot at a local game store. They were willing to cut me a break since nobody buys these games. Here’s a recent purchase, from last week:

Sonic Spinball
Streets of Rage
Cliffhanger
Poker Face Paul’s Gin
Road Rash
Shining Force: Sword of Hijya
The Itchy & Scratchy Game
The Simpsons: Bart Vs. The Space Mutants
Ren & Stimpy: The Quest for the Shaven Yak

I was all psyched to play Shining Force when, all of a sudden, my Game Gear decided to break.

Seriously. These consoles are a goddamn time bomb.

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Zoop!

It’s just fun to say, isn’t it?

Zoop!

Zoop was a video game that was hyped to hell and back as being incredibly fun, challenging, addicting, and family-friendly. It was marketed to hell and back as something similar to the world’s next “Tetris”, and, as a result, the game was marketed with unattributed quotes such as “America’s #1 Killer of Time!” and “I Can’t Stop Playing This Game!”

Zoop is also one of those games that was released on every console in existence. Zoop was released on: Super Nintendo, Game Boy, Sega Genesis, Sega Game Gear, Sega Saturn, Sony Playstation, and MS-DOS. That’s what many would call “over-saturation.”

Zoop is, primarily, a puzzle game. This is something that is INCREDIBLY PAINFULLY OBVIOUS by the, quite frankly, amazing box art:

ZoopSNESCover

Look at that. That is gorgeous. This is a game that is probably more known for its’ box art than the game itself, and that’s because it tells you absolutely nothing about the game. Other puzzle games like Tetris and Dr. Mario had covers that depicted the game’s content, albeit in a stylized way. The only way the Zoop cover depicts the game is in the colors of the lettering of the word “Zoop.”

Anyway, the gameplay of Zoop goes as follows: You control a cursor in the middle of a grid. Outside the middle of the grid, different-colored shapes constantly stack up towards the middle. Your job, as the cursor in the middle of the grid, is to swap pieces of the incoming shapes and match colors together to make pairs of them disappear. If any of the shapes on the outside make it into the middle of the grid, you’re gonna have a bad time.

It has just dawned on me that Zoop is a very confusing game. Here’s a YouTube video showing the gameplay. It will make more sense:

Puzzle games are usually a “do or die” thing. Of course, being easy to learn and hard to master is essential, but puzzle games, more than any other genre, need to hook a player in right as they turn on the game. Zoop definitely takes a few tries before you get the hang of it, but it does give a great sense of satisfaction when you’ve managed to turn a huge mass of colors into an empty grid. It’s just a little complicated. Because of that, it’s more of a curiosity than something that one can go back to regularly, like the aforementioned Tetris and Dr. Mario. Zoop is more of a game that you play every few months because you remember liking it, but then you put it away again after you get bored.

Despite that, Zoop is definitely worth a quick look. Hell, it’s one of the cheapest games I’ve ever seen on the aftermarket. Pretty much every version is incredibly affordable. Just know that you may not get a lot of mileage out of it.

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Scenes From a Leather Recliner

I own a sweet leather sofa (It’s not an Italian Leather Sofa, unfortunately). It reclines. I also do the bulk of my video game playing from it. This is going to be an ongoing series where I post videos and info on some of the video games that I’ve been playing recently. It could be anything. It usually is.

Here we go.

Mega Man X2 for the Super Nintendo.

The Mega Man games follow a simple premise: You’re a humanoid robot. You can jump and shoot. There are eight boss robots for you to defeat, each being housed in their own stage, stylized on their particular gimmick. Upon defeat, you gain their special weapon, which you can use to defeat the other robots. That’s gist of it. Mega Man X2 is the sequel to Mega Man X, which was released in 1993, intended as an update to the classic Mega Man formula. You’re still jumping and shooting like in the original Mega Man games, but in this series, you’re a lot more mobile (you can climb walls and dash), and the detail is significantly greater due to the X series originally appearing on the Super Nintendo, as opposed to the 8-bit original Mega Man games. X2 is a particular favorite, as I rented this game all the time from my local Blockbuster. Seriously. Every week. Even after the Nintendo 64 came out and I should have been done forever with the SNES, I’d still check out MMX2 because it’s that damn good. It’s not a particularly ambitious sequel (none of the core Mega Man games really are), but Capcom knew to stick to what worked. To this day, Mega Man X2, as well as the other MMX games on the Super Nintendo, are well worth playing because they’re just as fun and playable today as they were in the early 90s.

Snowboard Kids 2 for the Nintendo 64

I’ve mentioned this series in passing before. Snowboard Kids 2 is a racing game for the Nintendo 64, developed by Racdym and published by Atlus. The game is unique in that it’s a Mario Kart-styled, item-grabbing, screw-your-friends-over-at-the-last-second racer with snowboards and oddly-designed player characters. The courses to race on are all very well-designed and eye-catching, and it’s hard to turn this game off once I start playing. It’s not really “addictive”, but it definitely is fun enough to keep coming back to. Like any racing game of similar type, this game is an absolute blast to play in multiplayer. It’s still incredibly satisfying to launch a frying pan or ice blast at a player just before they cross the finish line and then to zoom past them for first place. The soundtrack is an odd thing, though. It’s a lot of electronic stuff that seems really out of place. Hell, I know that when I was kid, I used to refer to a lot of techno as “sounding like music from Snowboard Kids.” Snowboard Kids 2 is actually a game I haven’t owned until very recently – I’ve owned the first one since I was a kid, but the second one was never really available. Being an Atlus game, it’s very hard to find. It’s a shame, though. Snowboard Kids 2 is great fun. As is the original.

Batman for the Nintendo Game Boy

I own approximately 200 Game Boy games. That’s a lot. That is more than anyone had back when these were new. I love the Game Boy. It’s my second favorite game console next to the Super Nintendo. I’m actually writing a review of the original Game Boy and the launch titles for it as of this posting. But, far too often, I sit on my couch, and I look at my large box of games, hoping to find something to play. I decided on Batman, because it’s friggin’ Batman. This particular Batman game, which is somewhat-based on the ’89 movie, is a run & gun platformer in the style of Mega Man or a primitive Contra. You control Batman, and shoot down crooks and destroy blocks that impede your progress through a level. It’s very similar to Super Mario Land in that regard, except this game actually has decent controls. When I say that this game is a “run & gun” platformer, I actually mean it: Batman’s main attack is to shoot a projectile at enemies. For those of you that didn’t grow up watching Batman cartoons and/or watch any of the movies, Batman’s kind of got a thing against guns. In that he’s never used one to take down a foe because he doesn’t need them. Batman himself is enough to scare a criminal without the use of a gun. That’s the point of being a masked vigilante. I don’t know if there’s any justification for this in the game’s manual or something, but it’s just plain odd that this is how it’s done in this game. It’s almost like this game wasn’t originally intended to be based on the Batman license, and they shoehorned it in for another movie cash-in. Despite the odd mechanics, the game itself is actually quite fun. It’s more fun than it has any right to be, since movie-based games are generally rushed out to meet deadlines and they’re quite poor as a result. In the giant landfill that most movie-licensed games eventually belong to, Batman for the Game Boy isn’t bad.

Oh, and for the record: None of the above videos are my gameplay. They’re just Youtube videos of the game in question. Eventually I’ll try to make my own playthroughs of games and put them on my Youtube account, but until then the above gameplay videos are the best I can do.

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Wave of the future!

I finished Bioshock: Infinite on Wednesday, which was a day after its’ release. I think it’s the fastest I’ve completed a game in over a year. Last time I finished a game that quick was when I played the everloving hell out of Deus Ex: Human Revolution.

Anyway, I was feeling the need to play something else after finishing Bioshock. So, I did what anyone would do and I fired up my Nintendo Virtual Boy. After putting in some V-Tetris, I was off to a red-colored land of falling blocks and painful eye strain.

The Virtual Boy was Nintendo’s attempt to make a virtual reality game console in the mid 1990s. Y’know, since virtual reality was the wave of the future back then. The Virtual Boy looked a hell of a lot like what you would expect a virtual reality device to look like; it was a big pair of goggles that you had to look into to see the game, and a nifty game controller that had two directional pads, which was kind of novel. Note that I said “novel”, not “useful” or “needed.”

Sounds pretty cool, right?

Well, yeah. It is. It’s friggin’ sweet. There’s a few very glaring flaws with the system design, though.

- The system uses special black magic to allow the user to see games in 3D. This is something that’s all the rage right now, so to see it on a console that was released in 1995 is pretty amazing. The flaws of stereoscopic 3D still plague the system, however. It is very hard to play games for more than a few minutes at a time due to the eye strain that occurs when looking at the screen for long periods of time. There was even a disclaimer on the box that warned that children under the age of 6 shouldn’t play the console due to the potential for it to cause PERMANENT EYE DAMAGE.

- The Virtual Boy used a red and black color scheme to display its games. This, coupled with the 3D issues listed above, made for a sometimes-disorienting game experience. Some people have claimed that it also makes red things harder to see once you stop playing, as well.

- There were a little over a dozen games released in the US, so there isn’t much to choose from. It’s unfortunate, too – A lot of the games are really good. Even more tragic is the fact that most of them haven’t been released since.

The game lineup was… interesting. Here’s a few of my favorite games for the console:

- Wario Land is probably the best game on the Virtual Boy, and it’s usually the first one that people track down for the system. This was the game that made me need a Virtual Boy, back when I played one in a Service Merchandise while my mom was shopping for school clothes and stuff that actually mattered. It’s a ridiculously fun platformer, where you play as Mario’s even-more-overweight and greedy opposite, collecting coins and elbowing enemies in the face. This game plays similar to the rest of the Wario Land series, but it’s most similar to the first one on the Game Boy. Despite the fact that this game was more or less the killer app for the Virtual Boy, it hasn’t seen a release since ’95.

- V-Tetris. This was actually a Japan-only release, developed by one of my favorite companies, Bullet Proof Software. They’re the people responsible for games like Yoshi’s Cookie, Hatris, and… Michael Andretti’s Indy Car Challenge. They haven’t made much. Now, Tetris is a game that is hard to screw up. And, honestly, BPS didn’t really screw up here. The biggest hurdle to overcome was the 3D effect with the Virtual Boy, and they didn’t quite do it. Now, don’t get me wrong. The 3D works fine. It’s actually a really cool effect that made me flinch a little bit because it actually kind-of-sort-of looked like the blocks were actually coming towards me. The game plays great, as well. The problem is that Tetris is an addictive game. Putting an addictive game on a console that can physically harm you is a terrible idea. I played this for about an hour straight earlier today, and I felt awful afterwards. Most of the Virtual Boy games are designed for short bursts of gameplay, so you can take a break from playing when you feel lousy. Tetris doesn’t quite work like that.

-Nester’s Funky Bowling. There isn’t anything particularly “funky” about it. It’s just a bowling game, starring Nester. Who is Nester, you may ask? Well, he’s was the long-time mascot of Nintendo Power, which was a magazine that recently ended, just after the launch of Nintendo’s Wii U. Nester appeared in a monthly comic strip for Nintendo Power, which highlighted a different game for each comic. Nester’s Funky Bowling is one hell of a bowling game. It’s a genre that I honestly have no interest in, but this one manages to actually be enjoyable. It’s satisfying as hell to actually get a strike, and Nester’s reactions whenever you don’t get one are very amusing.

The Virtual Boy’s library was small. Most of the games didn’t see a release outside of the console. There’s a few more gems in the VB library, such as Vertical Force, a shooter by Hudson Soft, and the incredibly-rare Jack Bros., which is a dungeon crawler in the style of Gauntlet. Jack Bros. is actually the first game in the Shin Megami Tensei series to be brought over to the US. It was published by Atlus, which basically means that it’s incredibly expensive on the aftermarket because Atlus didn’t make nearly enough copies of the game, like always (see: Run Saber, Snowboard Kids 2, Ogre Battle 64, and any of the Shin Megami Tensei games).

The Virtual Boy was a gigantic failure for Nintendo. In fact, it was their first “real” failure in the game industry. The general public just didn’t catch on to the whole craze of virtual reality once all of its’ flaws were apparent, and the sales of the VB reflected that. This thing was nearly given away by 1996. It’s treated as a huge black mark on Nintendo’s history, even moreso than the mistakes they made when developing the Nintendo 64. Needless to say, Nintendo really doesn’t like to talk about it right now.

I think a lot of the criticism is valid. The console is not well-designed, and the pain that can be caused by LOOKING AT THE SCREEN is a huge issue that cannot be avoided. Despite this, a lot of the games on the VB are really good, and it’s a shame that a lot of people didn’t experience it. Most people who have heard of the VB in passing will dump it with truly horrible game consoles, like the Tiger Game.Com or the Hyperscan. That’s not really fair. Te Virtual Boy actually has good stuff on it, and you owe it to yourself to at least give it a play if you ever see one. Just make sure to bring some eyedrops.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go build a vest out of my spare copies of Michael Andretti’s Indy Car Challenge.

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MegaCon 2013

I try to go to MegaCon every year, against my better judgment in some circumstances. This year, much like every year, was fun as all hell.

Now, for those who aren’t playing the home game, MegaCon is a comic book/sci-fi/anime convention that meets in Orlando, Florida around late February/March. It’s a gigantic mix of dealers selling comics and plushies, a ton of awesome panels that feature actors and writers discussing their craft, and tons of people in costume. It’s a blast.

This year, I managed to make it to a single panel: The “Voice Actors Gone Wild!” panel. This particular panel put Billy West (Phillip Fry and Zoidberg in Futurama, as well as others) John DiMaggio (Bender in Futurama, Jake in Adventure Time), DC Douglas (Albert Wesker in some of the Resident Evil games, Legion in the Mass Effect games), and Christina Vee (An actress whom I am not familiar with) together to act out scenes from the Lord of The Rings movies as the characters they voice. It was insane to see these actors pull off their voices so damn well, and even funnier to hear John DiMaggio make fun of the crowd (“Nerds!”) when there was a particularly hard-to-pronounce word in the script. The only real downside is that Tara Strong was supposed to be at the panel as well, but for some reason she was not there. Oh well. This panel was the only one I wanted to go to, and it was well worth waiting in line for the hour or so it took. The small group I was with was actually one of the last to get an actual seat at the panel, as well. It got to standing-room-only level pretty quick after the doors opened, and a ton of people were turned away once the room was past capacity. It was nuts.

I don’t do a lot of actor-meeting at these conventions. This year, the majority of the cast from Star Trek: The Next Generation was there, doing autographs and photos. I didn’t particularly care for it, since I’m not a huge Star Trek fan.

I was primarily at MegaCon for the merch.

So much merch.

My main goal for this convention was to find stuff to display in my new game room. Y’know, stuff that was videogame-related. Stuff that I couldn’t just buy at a regular store. I succeeded on that front. My main purchases consisted of:

- A black Yoshi plush

A plush of Yoshi that is black in color. You don’t see that every day. This is going with my Super Nintendo games. Woo.

- A Kirby plush

It’s Kirby! Kirby is an icon of gaming, mostly due to the fact that he’s a video game character made of a substance that is more adorable than a pile of kittens. It also helps that Kirby’s video games are some of the most fun ones ever created. Kirby Super Star is still my favorite game of all time. This plush will go great displayed next to my Super Nintendo collection.

- A figurine of Strider Hiryu

Strider was an arcade game made by CapCom. The character hasn’t made a ton of appearances, but his appearance in Marvel Vs. Capcom in 1998 was enough to warrant ToyBiz to make an action figure of him in their Marvel Vs. Capcom series of figures. MvC is one of my favorite arcade games, and Strider Hiryu happens to be my second-favorite character to use in the game. This will look awesome on top of my arcade machine, right next to…

- A figurine of Captain Commando

Captain Commando. CapCom’s flagship character, who first appeared on the back of Nintendo Entertainment System games that CapCom published, as a sort of mascot for the company. Hence the name CAPtain COMmando. This figure is based on his appearance in Marvel Vs. Capcom.

Those latter two figures have been something that I’ve been looking for since I was a kid. It’s good to finally own them, as they’ll look awesome in my game room. I don’t collect a lot of that stuff anymore, mostly because I enjoy having women at my apartment and I also can spend my money on other things that are more important. A few of them are good for decoration, though. It makes my game room a lot more interesting.

I didn’t go to MegaCon in costume. I don’t think I ever will. Not my thing. Other people, though, made some friggin’ amazing outfits. One guy made an Iron Man suit that looked like a goddamn movie prop. It even had a flip-up faceplate. I’ve got a video of that that I’ll be putting on this site later.

All in all, MegaCon was fantastic. Just wish I could have stayed for more than a day.

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“The Enigmatic” Opening

(This is an excerpt from a story I’ve been working on. It’s not much. It needs work. But it exists, dammit. Enjoy.)

Colin Gear sat at the bar, glaring at the television in the upper-right corner of the liquor shelf, which was broadcasting CNN. The time read 9:30 AM.
Colin barely noticed the bartender, who was shifting around bottles in preparation for the upcoming breakfast rush.

“What’ll it be?” The bartender asked.

Colin took a second to think.

“Bloody mary.” said Colin. “Actually, make that two.”
“Expecting someone?”
“Not particularly.”

The bartender picked up a plastic jug, full of tomato juice.

“How much spice do you want in ‘em?” The bartender asked.
“More than usual.” Colin replied.

The bartender shrugged and began to make the drinks.

Colin got up from his chair and faced the large glass window to his right. The sunlight poured into the bar area, illuminating the room without the use of the flourescent lighting that hung above the bar.

“What’s checkout time here, anyway?” Colin asked.
“Noon.” The bartender replied.
“Good. Gives me time to recuperate.” Colin looked at his right arm. His watch was scratched and loose on his wrist.
“Rough night?” The bartender asked.
“More than usual.” Colin said.
“That’s too bad.” the bartender said, as he set two pint glasses of bloody mary on to the bartop in front of Colin. “Maybe this will make it a bit better.”
“Here’s hoping.” Colin said.

As Colin sat at the bar, he nursed his bloody mary and occasionally checked the time on the television. The bartender came over to take the empty glass after Colin started on the second glass.

“Another?” the bartender asked.
“No.” Colin said. “What do I owe?”
“$14.”
“Hm. One moment.”

Colin reached into his wallet and took out a $20 bill. He gave it to the bartender and returned to his drink.
A few minutes later, a hotel employee came into the bar and approached Colin.

“Excuse me, sir. Are you Colin Gear?”

Colin turned to the employee.

“Can I help you?” Colin asked.
“I was told that you’d be here this morning. And I was asked to give you this.”

The employee handed Colin a small white envelope.

“Who’s it from?” Colin asked.
“She didn’t give me her name.” said the employee.

The employee left as Colin opened the envelope. Inside was a small 3×5 notecard.

(650) 555-3120
Thanks.
– Ana

Colin sat the card down on the bartop. The bartender came over to look at it.

“Someone you know?” the bartender asked.

Colin took the card from the bartop and put it in his pocket.

“No. Someone I knew.”

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