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I was a winner (for Atari Age)!

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A long time ago…

In a galaxy far, far, FAR away.

I subscribed to a magazine called “Atari Age”.

(I have been an avid gamer since I was 8 years old – duh)

ANXIOUSLY anticipating what was coming down the pipe for video games, I would bolt to the mailbox around the time the postman would drive by, barely able to contain my enthusiasm for what to look forward to next.

On a particularly hot July summer day, after spending most of the day inside my house, the mailman popped by with the latest issue of the Atari Age magazine.

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Pixelated driving? I remember being less than thrilled at the issue’s cover.

I still poured over the issue – and came across the contest of this issue.

Throughout my youth, I had been somewhat tortured.I was always picked last for sports because whoever I was with was guaranteed to lose – I sucked that much. Not only did I have no endurance, I had absolutely no coordination.So I’d never been a winner with sports.

With girls. I’d try to talk to the ones I was interested in, only to get insulted or worse.

So at 13, I was never a winner with the women.

In fact. There’s not a whole I really was good at.

With one exception. Video games..

And Atari Age – geared towards the video game nerds like me – offered me hope of being a winner in the form of a contest on a monthly basis which I religiously entered.

Normally, the contest consisted of doing a puzzle…. Which offered me both the opportunity to figure out a puzzle – which I loved puzzles – and to maybe win something for my effort.

So as I flipped through the magazine – I found the contest on Page 28.

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I sighed in dismay as this contest didn’t have a puzzle.

Despite my dismay, I read through the contest requirements:

All participants were to submit a photo of themselves, which would be selected from a pool of photos by the office manager.

I looked at the grand prize, and my eyes nearly popped out of my head:

Prizes

My face would be able to appear in my very own Atari Age comic book?

I had collected comic books since I was 7 years old, so needless to say I was absolutely thrilled!

But I had been rejected by my peers and the women my entire youth, and I couldn’t help but think someone’s going to pull my photo out and then throw it back in the pile.

That’s how tremendously insecure I was in my youth.

I read further. And saw the second prize: An Atari 600xl computer system!

My mom and dad couldn’t afford a computer.

I suppose it’s one of the few times I actually prayed for anything.

And as I went through the instructions, line by line, I made absolute certain that I dotted my i’s and crossed my t’s with my submission. I didn’t want to risk elimination because of a trivial mistake.

I dropped the letter in the mailbox that night.

And waited….


Six months later, the issue arrived late.

What had prior to this point been a bimonthly event.

Had suddenly changed to become four months.

I was still excited to see I had gotten mail that day in November 1983….

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I anxiously flipped through the magazine and found on page 10..

And… I found in small print.. The solution section…

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I think time stopped in that moment as my heart raced.

Winner

I ran to tell my mom. In fact. I think I remember screaming like a little girl.

“Mom, Mom, I won, I won.”

I was beyond excited, but I do not think she really knew what I had actually won.

I had actually won in something.

It was a first.

And sincerely, my last time I have actually won anything substantial in my life.


Within a month, I received the computer system.

That month, I bought the book pagecover

I was 13 years old.

And entered every computer program there was in it.

First I played with the computer program for Star Trek

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Line by meticulous line I entered all day long. But this led to a problem at the end of the day.

My mom unplugged the machine to vacuum that next morning, pulling the cord and losing my work.

And I wasn’t being realistic – Even over the course of two days I wouldn’t be able to enter the entire program for this thing..

So I convinced my mom to buy me a tape drive to store the information on it at the end of the day without fear of power loss. Here’s a computer like the one I had with the tape drive:

atari600xl;withtapedrive

Over the course of the next week, off and on I entered the Star Trek program.

And it bombed, repeatedly. But with nearly 1000 lines of code to a 13 year old, I went through what I missed with a fine tooth comb. Line after line. It was my first experience with debugging code.

After a week of pulling out my hair, I finally succeeded – and had built my own Star Trek simulator.

But it actually turned out to be pretty boring…

So I experimented with changing the code. I made weapons do more damage to finish fights faster. I expanded the quadrants to have more space to explore, i did so many things to that game that eventually made it interesting to me and rewarded me for my effort.


Over the course of the following week, I stumbled on another program.

Hammurabi.

A computer program based on the leader in ancient Babylon.

I typed in line after line after line into the computer again…

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This one was MUCH easier to make changes to without it crashing, and I should have played with this one first, as I played with the code for the first time – I found this little game was amazingly refreshing and easy to make changes to without everything crashing!

I spent a month playing with this little game. Tweaking things. Trying new things out. When I failed at something, the responses and fixes were obvious and easy. Failing was easier with this, but failure quickly led to me learning how to really code for the first time.

It was from this I learned how to taunt old ladies at Sears.


But from there. I got brave.

And the changes I had made in Hammurabi helped me learn to code – which helped me really start to have fun with another basic program I typed in called:

Stock Market

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With Stock Market, it and the game Fur Trader were arguably my favorite games to play with. I made all kinds of changes to both – adding in new items to both markets – and played with dynamic changes of prices and buying and selling. It was too much fun for a nerdy little kid like me to play with.


Over the course of the next year, I typed in and played every program in that book.

I fell in love with what would become my profession.


That love lasted until 2011.

From 2007 until about 2011, I struggled with a nasty cocaine addiction while working as a programmer and analyst for Prudential and Universal Technical Institute..

I’d met a great group of people.

But having been through three marriages, and having met and lost the woman of my dreams – Rachel.

You could say I was on a fast track to kill myself.

It’s not that my jobs were horribly stressful. They really weren’t.

I just wasn’t happy with who I had become.

Despite having a girlfriend – Kena Patel – Sex was so infrequent and it felt like I had to work for it.

I felt alone. More alone than I can begin to explain.

In 2011, I got a call from a contract company concerning a position at Wells Fargo in Charlotte, North Carolina. The call was conveniently timed, in fact it was miraculously timed – as I had just learned I had lost my job at UTI due to budget cutbacks.

I looked at this as an opportunity to escape a toxic relatively loveless relationship I was in.

In the process, I loved someone else who wouldn’t have me anyways – Jaclyn Killeen.

And despite all this. I longer for a woman that was untouchable to me. Rachel Gooch.

So In 2011, I jumped at the opportunity to move to away from Phoenix, Arizona.

I could get away from my cocaine supplier.

I could get away from the toxic relationships and environment which was presenting me nothing but frustration and … well. frustration and dissatisfaction with life in general.

And maybe. Just maybe. I could get my life back on track and find a way to turn it around from being an overqualified, underemployed 40 year loser who loved the 20 year olds but never amounted to really anything personally or professionally.

I wasn’t feeling down on myself.

I was simply looking at myself in the mirror.

But when I got to North Carolina. As “Senior Enterprise Architect” making $75 an hour.

Two weeks went by without cocaine. Without the nose bleeds.

Without feeling strung out, unable to get sleep.

I was feeling fine at first.

But I quickly became overwhelmed.

Another week went by.

As my blood pressure skyrocketed.

I went up for a flight lesson.

I am a private pilot and was hoping to take my mind off the withdrawals.

It didn’t work.

I wasn’t wanting to admit to anyone I had an addiction.

Including myself.

So I checked the internet.

I imagined – there HAD to be a legal stimulant I could use to overcome the craving for cocaine, something over the counter – something I could avoid discussing it with a doctor who wouldn’t report me to the FAA or DMV.

The WORST thing imaginable to me then would be to not be able to drive.

This is where I came across Bath Salts – which had not made news by then – and were available at most spice shops in the area.

It was arguably the beginning of the end of my addiction.

But not before getting fired from Wells Fargo for spontaneously taking a three day weekend after wigging out with the event horizon imagery hallucinations I saw which made me question reality itself.

And not before driving across the border of Calexico to Mexicali with my Lexus RX450h car loaded with 8 computers, all my clothes, nearly 1000 software applications and video games on CD, nearly $15,000 dollars in comic books, and my Atari 600XL computer system….

At 8pm. I met a random Hispanic man at an OXXO mini market.

Who looked … poor.

Having seen things in the months prior to this day that had me believing…

That I was Jesus.

That night, I shared a drink with this man.

As I watched his face contort in front of me to my father’s face.

I cried.

Having been convinced I had traveled back in time.

I became convinced in my hallucinatory state that I was the reason that my father was an alcoholic.

On Bath Salts and Alcohol.

The man let me ‘crash’ in front of his house. I knew I wasn’t able to drive.

But as the lights turned out. I realized I wasn’t going to sleep thanks to the stimulants.

It was then I did probably the most selfless act I have ever done

I took the keys to my car. And put them inside the gate to his house.

I threw my wallet and passport and for some reason my shoes – into the car.

And that night, I wandered around south of the border of Mexico.

And as I started to walk back to the United States.

I walked through a mall I swore was a cloaked version of the vessel that appeared in the television show Stargate Universe.

And later – as I looked up to the morning sky seeing the rings of Saturn from the ground, – I swore I saw the trails of a space craft launch launch that morning from the vicinity of the mall go to the sky.


Throughout that event. Time was weird. At first it was morning and then it was night.

I walked over to California, and felt the pull of something behind me, and struggled to walk on the side of the road.

My mind was telling me a black hole had formed behind me.

And to ‘Put on a good act for the camera’?

What camera? Why. Things were clearly not normal with my mind.

I saw images in my mind of being a devil like creature and my skin and body being ripped away in the black hole that was behind me.

About then. Two police officers pulled up alongside the road:

“Are you ok?”

I got up. Promptly. And kept walking.

Off to the side of the road I saw weird signs – things like  “Congratulations to the KIng.” and “The King Rules”. It was weird.

It was the first time I felt like I had been the ass end of a joke, and that something had jumped in front of me, and a celebration ensued .

But what the hell was I going to do? Without a car. Without money. Barefoot no less.

It felt like my mind was torturing me. Which made absolutely no sense. Why would a hallucination wind up in a form of self mutilation and torture.

In fact. It felt like I had been profoundly.. manipulated. And when I saw the KIng signs.

I remembered my trip to Guatemala and my laptop getting replaced by someone else’s laptop that looked the exact same, who had a log in of “The King”

Was my mind playing tricks on me? Was I seeing projections from my mind?

It was too hard to tell.

But I was convinced. Utterly convinced I was Jesus or Doctor Who or something of the sort.

But wandering in Calexico.

Not knowing where to go and what to do.

I came across a weird fountain.

And saw the ground reshape. Like things were on the pavement trying to attack me.

This was causing a physical deformity of the concrete. And somehow, using my mind, I was trying to push them away. But these weird things came at me from all directions.

I jumped in the fountain. Which felt electrified when i touched the edge.

And into the water.

The things coming at me could not ‘get into’ the water. It seems like they were physically unable to move to the waterline.

I was safe.

But then…

Whatever the heck the things that were moving at me on the pavement were – they managed to get into the water.

I told myself to calm down.

Breathe.

Relax.

Some But I couldn’t.

And something told me the sun was a black hole and it was sending these things at me.

I was tripping. Hard.

Something convinced me – through thought – I could stop the black hole from forming.

I held my hands up to the sun and tried pushing away the things with my mind.

Cars are zooming by this little side street. A police. car zoomed by, all reminding me of imagery I had seen in Transformers. Then two kids drove by fast. Stopped. Pulled out a camera. with me ‘holding back the sun’. And laughed as they took the picture with me tripping balls in the fountain.

I finally realized I can’t do anything about this.

And calmed down.

But I became convinced there was an underground complex under that fountain.

A real time machine was under it.

And inside the motor was a giant brain.

As I pondered what to do. the sun set.

I walked towards the fenced off area containing the motor to the fountain.

Touched a pole.

And as if by magic – a light flipped on in the adjacent parking lot.

I could swear a car that wasn’t there before suddenly appeared.

I thought “HEY this is my gift! A time traveling truck!”

I dont know why I was so fixated on time travel at that point.

I walked over to the truck. And proceeded to get inside.

The “owner” of the car came out, and proceeded to pummel me with the armrest.

I ran.

Not 100 yards.

And ducked under a tree where a mattress was laying.

And all I remember hearing was numerous officers screaming at me:

“Put your hands above your head!”

I had my hands behind my back, but was too afraid to move.

That’s when I felt the sting of the first tazer fire.

In that moment. It felt like I was jumping through time. As I felt another sting. And another.

I still have memories of seeing my own body flopping around in suspended space.

And then.

An officer puts his knee to my head.

Another memory. My head getting squished like a melon underneath his leg, my brains quite literally getting squished outside of my head.

Later they asked: “Would you like to go to the hospital or to the police department?”

It was the weirdest question I have ever been asked.

Here I am. Bloodied, Nose bleeding. Cut on my head.

No miranda rights.

And they are asking where I want to go to?

That night,  was injected with something, I dont know  what it was as the hospital checked me out. . The overseeing officer said something about me being a 2->3 and something inside me knew there was something called a 1-> 4 and that’s what I wanted to be.

What the hell my mind was trying to tell me was beyond me at that point.

When I was processed into the jail. in Calexico the weirdness persisted.

I was placed in a blazingly hot cell, alone.

I was burning up in fact

There was a buzzer which rang the warden that said ‘do not press’

I continuously pressed it. I was too fucking hot. i had to get out of that cell.

This annoyed them. But they did take me to a general area from there.

But the weirdest things were going on.

I had an image in my head of a beautiful blonde woman who was completely nude – and something was telling me this is what all these men saw when they looked at me.

So people in the ‘common area’ kept walking by me. Behind me.

I could feel them.. moving.. .and doing something behind me.

My mind told me they were ‘fucking’ the illusion of a woman they all saw.

The ground shook. Literally. As if a thousand footsteps thundered behind me as they would pass.

One man – I remember his name distinctly – Gabriel – came across like the fictional demon, and would clack two balls in his hands together that would make a loud noise, and would echo in my head 0 quite literally hurting my mind.

Another man. Thor. Wanted to be my best friend.

But as each one walked behind me. Paced behind me like animals.

The ground shook.

It was bizarre.

But then something happened. And everyone simultaneously looked up – this sent the hispanic men into a room doing the cross sign and start to utter verses from the bible. Something they had seen scared the shit out of them.

And then I saw what they saw in my minds eye – an angel had drifted up and outside of me.

They’d killed whatever was inside me. She was departing.

They all ran and hid in a room.

I walked in. And they couldn’t look me in the eye.

Something in me told me. They knew who I was.

This was the first time I started thinking. I am God. Not just Jesus. But the man himself.

Still unable to sleep. It’s now daytime. Going on four days by this point.

I hang out in the common area.

But it feels like something is firing at me.

Like squadrons. Terminators. Whatever can shoot. Is trying.

It was like – the walls around me were merely illusions to them – and they were shooting at me and I wasnt dying.

Gabriel and a few of the other guys kept looking behind me – and would make comments about ‘damn that’s huge’. My mind told me that it was like I had some big black amorphic monkey like object on my back containing all my ‘past sins’ and they could see what I could not.

It felt like I was being pummeled from all directions.

About then. Two at a time. As if getting ready for prize fights. The guys would exit with an officer. Then they’d return with ‘You tried your best’, and the next ones would exit. This happened until quite literally everyone in there had left and returned in pairs. except me.

With showers inside the jail. What they went to do.

My mind told me they were literally entering some form of combat with my own mind.

Over the next few days, I finally managed to sleep.

It took me a full year to fully ‘kick’ the bath salts habit.

As I just knew there was more to this and hallucinations that I needed to understand.


I have been substance free for two years.

And have come to my own personal truth about those events.

The world’s different now. Than it ever has been in my life.

I think differently now. Freer. Than I Ever have in my entire life.

My truth is: – and my mind – emerged from a black hole.

And what I experienced.

Was nothing more than the trip of a lifetime as I emerged past the event horizon.

Into this world.

A world where the geography itself and people have all changed in ways that defy simple logic.

Calling them hallucinations is a cop out.

To me. I came alive.

And I emerged from a holographic like reality ad the black hole was contained in into this analog reality.

Life’s different now.

But for the first time in my life.

I feel like it may be possible to be a winner on a consistent basis.

THIS is what I fought for.

My own mind.


Do I regret giving away everything I owned?

Yes and no. That’s really tough to say. I didn’t really own the car. And with the exception of the 8 computers and clothes and passport, I really wasn’t using any of it – it largely took space up in storage units.

I never did get the comic book with me in it. Atari Age quit publishing the next issue, and – Atari age the comic book – had actually not gone past that issue either.

But three years ago. I took a trip to the comic store in Portland, and saw MANY issues of Atari Age I had never seen before. Weirder yet – I also saw issues and entire series of comic books I had never even knew existed – in and around the time period I was an avid collector.

What are the chances that I would have missed those issues? About as slim as the chances of me missing Firefly on it’s original release.

For me, it’s become all too obvious that what I went through was a transition.

My belongings getting ‘redistributed’ by my weird selective placement of Mexicali may have actually been like a cosmic toilet flush that saw my timeline ‘get updated’ with a number of additions in media that had never been there before – or occurred in alternate realities that were then ‘shifted’ to mine once I was expulsed out the ass end of a black hole.

Do I think I’m Jesus?

Let’s be clear about this: .Whether you believe in God or not – the fact of the matter is – we came from something. Did I walk some of the footsteps that one of these beings walked before me?

I think that’s undeniable.

I suspect we all have our story of creation.

Mine just happened to involve drugs. sex. and an addiction to exploration.

Don’t judge me for my choices of what got me here.

And I won’t judge you.

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