Thoughts While Pondering The Year Without A Santa Claus, Plus Trains


What if Santa isn’t always cancelling Christmas because he’s kind of a jerk and instead he’s just wracked with the sort of Imposter Syndrome that my whole generation is dealing with all the time? Like, “This mouse wrote something mean in an upstate New York newspaper in September! A competent Santa doesn’t have to deal with issues like that! … And it’s snowing too? Oh I can’t even.”

Which I’ll grant is not all that deep an observation, but the alternative is to fret about the ways the rules of that snowfall magic seem to get tossed willy-nilly about in Frosty’s Winter Wonderland. I mean there’s something about just tossing in a snow-parson into things that seems dangerous. So let me conclude with this observation from Wikipedia’s page on Frost’s Winter Wonderland:

The engine on the train is a 2–4–2 or an American type steam locomotive. Locomotives of this wheel arrangement were used most common during the 1800s on American railroads, and from the 1830s until 1928, were given the name “American” in 1872, because of how they did all the work of every railroad in the United States. These types of engines have eight wheels (two leading wheels, four driving wheels, and two trailing wheels).

This means something. (It means I’m very tired.)

An Impostor’s Dream


So apparently in my dream-world life, I’ve been a staff writer for Conan O’Brien for about five years now and despite that it occurred to me during some kind of special event show that I couldn’t remember having ever had anything I’d written turn up on air, ever. Which is a bit humbling, but what was really bad was during the taping of the show I realized I didn’t even know who I’d give a comedy sketch to, if I ever wrote one, if I ever wanted to see it maybe get on the air, which it wouldn’t. So that’s a bit humbling.

Anyway, I was mulling over whether I had any kind of job that meant anything in the dream-world, when I got caught up in one of those conversations which will not end with the guy playing the Conan show’s newly-minted midwestern-mayor character Roberto Boblo (his primary gimmick being an obsession with what he insists is a gold bar, but which is obviously a plastic hairbrush spray-painted kind-of-gold-ish), who refused to break character as he tried to shake me out of my funk. The upshot of this is that while wandering away from the taping I got hopelessly lost in an unfamiliar area of the Great Adventure amusement park in Jackson, New Jersey.

I think this offers lessons useful for all of us.

How The Pinball Machines Broke Down


This is, to the best of my ability to reconstruct, how the various pinball machines broke down during what proved to be Demolition Derby Night at the league.

  1. TOTAN. I would like to begin my defense by saying that I was acting properly with respect to normal operational use of this pinball machine. To wit, I was aiming at stuff and hitting the flippers and all that, while the machine wasn’t giving the correct response of very many points. One may speculate that the machine was just coming off a bad night, perhaps after quarreling with an old friend or getting bad news about its car’s brakes. But we must dismiss that hypothesis because it was certainly giving plenty of points to the other people playing in the group with me. Anyway when the left flipper stopped flipping, up, down, or sideways, that was that for Tales of the Arabian Nights.
  2. IJ. While it is true that I was not doing a lot better on Indiana Jones: The Pinball Adventure, I can’t take any blame for this machine going down because it was the league’s champion player, a kind of supernatural entity manifested whenever sufficiently many machines are brought together in the spirit of fair competition and $2.00 Pabst Blue Ribbon Night, who broke this one. During the “Well of Souls” mode, a portion of the game in which an estimated eighty balls are launched simultaneously on the playing field and you’re left to deal with that, at least one ball showed a previously unsuspected ability to stop being so-called “solid” matter and become some kind of Bose-Einstein Condensate, passing through the thick rubber bands and getting stuck inside that little triangular kicker that’s right above the flippers. I don’t want to seem ungrateful because seeing a ball stuck in such a freak position is a kind of privilege, but this does mean he’s taken the league’s crown for “balls stuck in freak positions”, which I had previously held by getting a ball stuck on the parapets of the castle on Medieval Madness.
  3. G: HS II. I’m completely innocent and uninvolved in this one because we were upstairs glaring at, oh, I’m going to guess The Simpsons Pinball Party, which was only broken in that it’s kind of a lousy game. But while we were there, Getaway: High Speed II‘s ball plunger suffered from a sudden onset of “impostor syndrome”, my age cohort’s great neurosis, and felt so ridiculous at the idea that it was expected to launch pinballs out onto the playing field that it couldn’t do that anymore and just hummed nervously. The curious side-effect of this was making its impostor syndrome no longer a syndrome, because it was right to believe it wasn’t up to the job it was doing.
  4. CQD. Old British telegraphic and wireless Morse Code distress signal, superseded in 1906 by SOS. Not in fact a pinball machine, although the way things were going that night, it was the best game of the lot and I came in eleventh. Passengers were unloaded onto the Aquitania and the ship ultimately towed to Halifax.
  5. FT. So I had this terrible first ball that drained instantly, which at least brought up the “fed up with briiIIIiick!” sound clip from the Father Ted pinball machine, and the second ball was no good either, and when I heard the “what do you say to an extra ball?” sound clip I was ready to swallow my pride at take the pity-award extra ball, and then someone who wasn’t even in the league came over and pointed out nobody ever made a Father Ted pinball machine and we had to scrap all the scores for that too, which is a shame because I’m almost positive I could have got Rabbit Rock Festival Multiball and that would have changed everything.
  6. WtCJ. My continuing insistance that there was too a pinball named Welcome to Cactus Jack’s, about an Old West saloon where cactuses polka dance, drains my credibility every time I bring the subject up and encourages speculation that my time in grad school was one of hallucinogens and eigenfunctions. I insist this is only partially true.

All things considered it was a pretty rough night.