*THIS IS THE MOST RIDICULOUS POST EVER - CONSIDER YOURSELF WARNED*
As I alluded to in my last post, this past Tuesday myself and ten others celebrated our good friend Peter's birthday with what anyone would call the typical birthday party celebration...for an eight year-old.
We started the evening with pizza and old school 2-liter bottles of soda (NOTE - I don't know why I think 2-liter bottles are old school, but I do), complete with Spiderman paper plates and napkins, and Star Wars plates for dessert. Dessert was a huge brownie with birthday candles...the re-igniting, impossible-to-blow-out, sparking kind. The only thing we were missing were the cone-shaped party hats (major bummer).
After having our Moms wipe our faces and making sure we'd all been to the bathroom, we piled into a caravan of cars and made our way to the main event of the evening - Laser Tag at ULTRAZONE.
That's right ladies and gentlemen, we celebrated a 26 year-old birthday by going to teeny-bopper central. And it was maybe the most awesome night of my life!
Let me first say that for what appears to be a chaotic, unorganized war for kids, Laser Tag is not for the faint of heart. I went in there expecting to wreck shop on a bunch of little munchkins (redundant, I know), so you can imagine my surprise when we found ourselves in the "instruction room" with very few kids and a ton of people our age and older. The following is a detailed account of the events that followed.
THE "INSTRUCTION ROOM": RULE #1) There is no running allowed, for safety reasons. You have no idea how infinitely harder this makes the game. "Oh no, he's gonna shoot/tag me, I'm in the wide open! I guess I better speed-walk until I find cover!" Which leads me to...
RULE #2) There is no speed-walking allowed. Yep, none of that either. Although I find this somewhat of a subjective rule to interpret for the supervising "Game-Masters" (a discussion topic in themselves), it nonetheless was a stated rule. So now if I have someone pointing a laser at me, I'll just take a leisurely stroll until I find a place to curl up in the fetal position for the remainder of the game. Which leads me to...
RULE #3) There is no crawling allowed. The only body part allowed to touch the ground is your feet. No knees, no butts...just feet. For an inflexible, 6'3" string-bean of a man, ducking under a 3ft wall becomes problematic when there are impossibly-accurate snipers on the roof. I mean, these guys can shoot. Which leads me to...
RULE #4) Both hands must be on the laser-gun for it to fire. There is a heat sensor on the bottom of the barrel that must be touched for the gun to be fired. Talk about a game-changer!
So...any delusions I had of popping out of a somersault in a dead sprint while one-hand wielding my laser bad-ass sideways style and picking off little blue-lit-up munchkins had to be left behind in the instruction room, along with my chance of survival.
THE TEAMS Once the Game-Master finished giving the field-leveling "rules", it was then time to break into three teams. Because we came in such a large group, we were informed that two of us would need to break apart and be on a different team than the rest of our friends. After a bizarre moment of silence where all us adults starting crapping our pants as we battled with immature thoughts like, "But I wanna be on Tom's team!", I leaned over to the birthday boy and said "Let's do this!" My logic was the following - why would we go play Laser Tag if we can't even aim at our friends? We would soon find out that we couldn't have been more right.
So our nine friends, from now on referred to as the Blue Team, exited the room, glancing over their shoulders giving us the "dirty traitor" looks, and I'm pretty sure I saw somebody give me the "I'm-gonna-slit-your-throat" gesture. This was war.
Peter and I were relegated to the Red Team, and while we were in full planning mode on how to rip our competition to shreds, it was announced that our seven teammates would be Billy, Tommy, Bobby, Joey, Johnny, Timmy, and Ronny from the Mickey Mouse Club. Yep, that's right, Peter and I weren't going to be shooting the little munchkins, we'd be helping them. We weren't sure if this was awesome (cuz these kids gotta know what they're doing, right?) or horrible (cuz they are 10 and won't know how to operate the gun). But before we could change our minds, we were shoved into the vesting room, united with our Red munchkin friends.
"But wait a minute, who's the third team?" Funny you should ask. After estranging us from our friends and ordaining us babysitters for the evening, the Game-Master had one more surprise for us. As we walked away, we overheard him say "Oh man, I left you guys together? That's not even fair!" Uh-huh. That last group of people left in the instruction room were RINGERS! We're talking those people that butt-in while the rules are being given so they can clarify how much they know about the rules. We're talking the people who, if given the opportunity, would bring their own laser to Ultrazone. We're talking...gulp...experts.
So we began our death march to the vesting room, suddenly not giving a rats-ass about our ex-friends on the Blue Team because we were too busy looking over our shoulders as the Yellow Team started looking like the MonStars from Space Jam.
THE VESTING ROOM As we entered the vesting room, we found the Blue Team starting to gear up and laughing as they looked down at their vests. At first I thought they were laughing at how ridiculous they looked, but then I realized they were laughing because all the vests have character names attributed to them. So they were wearing vests named Juggernaut, Predator, Darth Vader and Voldemort, and I got excited to see which vest I randomly chose for myself.
I selected a vest off the assembly line, geared up, strapped on the vest, and looked down to see what glorious bad-ass name my light-up screen displayed, ready to boast about my killer character. And the name that was shining back up at me was...
Yep, in the biggest grudge match since Frazier vs. Ali, the gruesome Blue Team, led by Predator, would be facing the Red Team and their fearless leader...Kyle. But not to worry, I still had my trusty sidekick to boast about. So I turned to Peter to find him struggling mightily with his vest because the last laser-tagger honored with wearing that vest was apparently the size of a lawn gnome. No matter, no matter. After having to help him adjust the straps on his back and waist to free him up, we looked down at his vest in hopes of showing off his villainous character. And boy did we ever, because he had the kick-ass name...
Now, I would find out later that there was also a "Kenny" on our team and we were named after South Park characters, but the emotional damage had been done. My wall of confidence and bravery had been shaken, and now I was off my game as my mean-spirited friends made fun of me like I was back in 2nd grade home-room. But I digress....
THE ZONE After everyone had their laughs, the doors abruptly opened and the Game-Master told us we had fifteen minutes. Just like that, it was on....
Stan and I hung together for the first five minutes, exploring the two-tiered level, looking for areas to pick people off and snipe them from far away distances. We also ran into the excruciatingly annoying problem of our munchkin teammates shooting at every person they saw, including us. Before we could yell "SAME TEAM!", we found our shields deactivated and lasers dark for 5 seconds before we could continue. Little Timmy, Tommy and Bobby ran by us with their heads down, just audibly whispering, "Sorry." Damn kids.
Well, we had no luck finding a sniper post, so we decided to cut the crap and start charging Rambo-style (walking, of course) and ducking (but not crawling, of course) and shooting everyone we saw (with both hands on the gun, of course).
This proved to be way more difficult than I expected. I was being totally ineffective. I was getting frustrated. And then, all of a sudden, I looked over at the birthday boy, and something inside me just snapped....
"Stan! Enemy over your left shoulder, 8-o-clock, now! I'll flank you. Go! Go! Go!"
I turned into a mad-man. I started screaming strategies and commands, ducking and flattening my back against walls as I tried to disguise myself against the fluorescent walls. Stan looked at me for a second with a confused "Are you serious?" look, but quickly held his tongue when he realized "This isn't Marc anymore. This is Kyle." I definitely yelled "Go! Go! Go!" at least thirty times, and soon we found our munchkin-land teammates, and before I knew it, I was standing back-to-back with little Ronny saying "You go for the base, I'll stay down and cover you. Go! Go! Go!" And the best part? Ronny tore off for that base like a bat outta hell (walking, of course) and got us some much needed points. The kid had now found his new best friend, and for the remainder of the game, wherever I went, Ronny stayed right on my side. Good soldier, that Ronny.
THE GAME-MASTER I mentioned earlier this guy was a piece of work. After making some of the world's worst jokes in the instruction room, he was then charged with the task of staying inside the Zone during our game to supervise the running, crawling, shooting rules. But when I came across this dark figure with no laser vest, what did I find him doing? He was raving and cryp-walking in a corner by himself! And I mean busting arms, legs, ankles...everything. He was getting down with his bad-self. So what did I do? After firing at him about thirty times before realizing he wasn't playing, I stopped, stared...and got deactivated as little Bobby shot me on accident again. Damn kids.
CATWOMAN I am still quite bitter about the Yellow Team and its ringers, but it would be an injustice to this night if I did not mention their fearless leader, "Catwoman".
This sassy little blonde vixen was there for blood. I got lit up by her so many times, I was her own personal Christmas Tree. She would run by screaming "You're Mine!" and proceed to destroy me and make me quake in my boots. Then she'd get hit by a random girl and would yell "YOU BITCH!" It was amazing. I appreciated her dedication to the game. I think I was in laser-love. Ah Catwoman, we had a good run, you and me. But Kyle's got bigger fish to fry.
THE RESULTS Mercifully, the music stopped, the sounds halted, and the Game-Master directed us to the vesting room. We de-vested, I parted ways with my alter-ego Kyle, and made my way to the main room, cuz we were done...but I forgot one thing...
They post the results. The reason we had character names was for them to track our hits, base-steals, sentinel kills, alien shots, and times we were tagged. I was not ready for this, because I knew I sucked. I slowly raised my head to the monitor to see the damage, and saw a bar graph, with the three teams totals represented in their respective colors. Not only was my team last, but if you combined our score with the ex-friends Blue Team, we still had less than the Yellow Team! Bastards.
Then they passed out our individual results, and we all laughed as we compared who got hit the most, who we hit the most, and everyone asking "How often does Catwoman come here?!" Shockingly, I (Kyle) was the second best of our friends, falling only to Predator, the leader of the ex-friends. I was ecstatic. I had made my mark. I was an effective laser-tagger.
I will miss Ronny. I will miss Stan. But don't you worry UltraZone...I'll be back.
I'm already watching conference tournament games on ESPN3.com, and I don't even care who wins. But the style of basketball immediately changes when March hits. Every basket is contested. Every game is close. Every big name school has a target on their back. Inevitably some small school grows a huge set of balls and makes a deep run in their respective tournament (so far I'm enjoying watching Colorado of the Big 12). And all of a sudden every game comes down to free throws, clock management, and a fadeaway jumper for the win (for today's dose, go watch UConn's Kemba Walker destroy Pitt's defender on the final play).
I am taking next Thursday and Friday off with my buddies to watch the opening round of the tournament (and don't waste my time with the whole "That's technically not the opening round anymore cuz the field is 68 teams and there are two play-in-games" crap) and I'm already counting down the hours.
UCLA is looking like a not-so-fun matchup for anyone in the tournament. They have good size, and they are streaky. I'm looking forward to them prepping themselves in the Pac-10 tournament, and then having intense games in the NCAA Tournament. Yep, I said games, plural.
UCLA will be a #7-seed UCLA will beat the #10 seed in first round UCLA will face either Pitt, Notre Dame or North Carolina in 2nd round (that's all for my predictions for now)
As you all know, this past weekend I went to the L.A. Clippers game against the Denver Nuggets at Staples Center. And although a lot of the big name players (Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Baron Davis) had been traded long after I got these tickets, I was still excited to go to the game, mainly because of my favorite player - Arron Afflalo - as well as to see Blake Griffin, who is obviously good for at least 2.5 dunks/game (or at least that was our over/under bet walking into the arena).
Well, after an abnormally fast drive up to L.A. and a wonderful dinner at Roscoe's House of Chicken 'n Waffles (I got the "Scoe's #1" - Fried Chicken and 2 waffles and a side of fries with some awesome seasoning salt), we made our way to Staples.
(*EDITOR'S NOTE - I hate the "L" in the Staples wording. For those of you who haven't noticed, it's supposed to look like a staple:
Well, not only does it look like some sort of mix between a candy cane with a handle and the top of a "Hangman" game, it totally ruins the logo. I know otherwise this would be a boring text logo, but man that staple-L kills me. Thus ends my rant.)
Back to the game...
The game started off fast-paced (complete with lame-ass music being played during the possessions, another NBA pet peeve of mine), with the Nuggets getting out to an early lead before the Clippers battled back. During this time, I focused on Afflalo on offense and defense, with an occasional quick glance at Griffin on offense to see how he moved without the ball to set up all these dunks he's been showcasing in 2010-11. I cheered every time Afflalo touched the ball, yelled shoot every time he passed, and got generally frustrated that the Nuggets were content running their offense through Nene and Ty Lawson to start the game.
Arron started off BAD. He was woefully short on his first two attempts, barely drawing front-rim, and then was long on another 3-point attempt. After a brief stint on the bench, he came back in the second quarter and nailed a 3-pointer with that picture-perfect form, causing me to sit on the edge of my seat and get excited for the offensive clinic he was about to unleash.
Now, his team knew he was hot, and the next possession they found him in the corner, and he faked his defender up in the air, put the ball on the floor and took it hard to the rack, and then got fouled hard as he tried to slam it home, hit the deck, and came up limping...
He missed the first free throw badly, then after noticeably limping and trying to fight off the pain, he sunk the second one and went back on defense. After a Clippers turnover, Nuggets coach George Karl called a timeout, Arron walked from the court to the locker room...
And never came back.
That's right. Arron Afflalo, the one player on either team I actually cared about (and my FAVORITE player at that), the one guy who hadn't been traded, the only reason I came to the game...was out for the game.
It came out later that he didn't hurt himself on the fall to the court, he actually strained a hamstring on the dribble-drive to the hoop. And just like that, he was done. Injured and unable to play. And in the first half? That sucked. But the hell he was about to go through didn't even come close to mine. Why?
Because, I now had to sit through an entire half of an NBA basketball game, with no reason to watch. That's like watching "Two and a Half Men", Charlie Sheen OD'ing in the first 5 minutes of the show, then realizing you still have another 25 minutes of watching just the gay guy and the fat kid.
So there you go. My day had turned so bad that it caused me to make a topical Charlie Sheen joke. I hate Charlie Sheen jokes.
Thank goodness we went to Roscoe's, cuz otherwise, the trip would have been a total bust.
Oh, and by the way....BLAKE GRIFFIN DIDN'T HAVE A SINGLE DUNK.
1) Poor Baron Davis. He goes from playing with Blake Griffin and the upstart Clippers, to being traded to the lowly Cavaliers, fresh off a 26-game losing streak.
Now, I know Baron is his own worst enemy (or to be specific, his stomach is his worst enemy) and has been known to quit on teams, but I don't care who you are...that trade sucks.
2) I'm bummed. For about three months I've been planning on going to the Clippers vs. Nuggets game in L.A. this weekend. The Nuggets have my two favorite players...Chauncey Billups and Arron Afflalo. I'm still going this weekend...so why am I bummed? Cuz the Nuggets just traded Chauncey to the friggin Knicks (not to mention the third best player in the league - Carmelo Anthony). Thank goodness they still have Afflalo!
3) I officially signed up for the Rock n Roll Half-Marathon in San Diego on June 5th. So now I have no excuses not to run since I need to train. Running started up this week...we'll see how that goes.
4) For Valentine's Day, I bought Julie a new game for Wii. It's called "Wipeout", and it's based off the show on ABC where people jump on those red balls and do other random tasks and inevitable get pummeled the whole show. This game is ridiculously fun. Not only do you get to watch your friends get absolutely ruined going through the course, but the game offers players the ability to throw balls at the others while they try to navigate the course. If you hit 'em, you send them flying in the air and they have to start over. I can't tell you how awesome it feels to absolutely tag Julie's player in the face right before she's about to finish the course. Now that is love.
5) For my Valentine's Day present, Julie got me the coolest gift ever. Back in January, we went on a tour of Anchor Steam Brewery, and in the tasting room, I saw this sign:
I thought it was the coolest sign ever, and wanted it so incredibly bad for the man-cave (by now I would hope you loyal readers know that our house has a room we call "the man-cave"). Well, sure enough, on V-Day I opened my gift from Julie and lo and behold, there it was! She found it online and purchased it for me! I heart her. (Not to be outdone, Julie bought a second sign to appease her Star Trek love, which reads "Beer Me Up Scotty!" - so lame!)
That's all for now - sorry for the lack of posting. I haven't been too busy, I've just had nothing to write about.