Monday, November 14, 2022

Sega CD Summer on the Stone Age Gamer Podcast

I had the opportunity to talk to the Stone Age Gamer Podcast about Sega CD Summer!

Hosts Kris and Dan cover retro video games on a weekly basis. I reached out to them about my book, and they were kind enough to read it and offer some feedback.

It all resulted in a fun interview in which we talked about the book's inspirations, video games, baseball, publishing, and more.

You can listen here or find the show on your favorite podcast app. I'll give you fair warning that there is some salty language here and there!

Thursday, November 10, 2022

Lenny's Last Ride

This is my all-time favorite picture of Lenny

In May 2018, Anne and I welcomed a leopard gecko into our home. The little guy was named Lenny, and we christened him Lord Leonard Attenborough Adams, Viscount of Quail Run. We believe Lenny was 6 years old at the time. 

He was uncertain about us. We were uncertain about him.

Eventually, we bonded, mostly because Lenny liked wax worms and dubia roaches and we could provide them.

Rest up, sweet boy

Lord Leonard was a mostly nocturnal creature, sleeping during the day and becoming more active at night. His habitat required daytime heat lamps and a heating pad for night. Before I'd go to bed, I'd see him pressing his little belly against the heating pad, which kept him warm and aided in digestion.

Sometimes, he liked to hang out in a pair of nets Anne had put in his tank. Sometimes, he sought refuge in his "moist hide," a little retained moisture to help him stay hydrated. During the day, Lenny spent most of his time inside his little cave, where he slept until he was ready to get a drink of water or grab some food.

Lenny in his moist hide

Reptiles aren't exactly known for being warm and cuddly, but Lenny eventually opened up. He'd let us hold him and sometimes liked to amble across the top of the couch when he was out of his habitat. Before we got our dog, Howard, we'd let Lenny clamber across the carpet. We had to keep a close eye on him, though, because he was tiny and could be easy to lose!

Once, he climbed underneath our recliner; we lifted the footstool to see him hiding proudly behind the chair's wooden foot. Another time, he got into our coat closet. Thankfully, we quickly found him and returned him to safety.

Unlike our other pets, Lenny didn't make much noise. Our turtle, Willy, has a shell and tends to bang it against things when she walks. Howard, our dog, barks and sniffs and snores on occasion (it's really cute). You didn't hear much from Lenny's tank, which we always took as a good sign. The only real sound we ever heard from him inside the tank was his little footfalls as he ascended the top of his tiny gecko house or perhaps the gentle lapping of water from his bowl.

Getting a drink

Honestly, the only time we ever heard him make an actual noise was the first time we introduced him to Howard, resulting in a high-pitched squeal we tried to avoid ever repeating.

In recent months, we noticed little changes in Lenny. He started to have some trouble shedding, so we tried to make sure his habitat had a little more humidity and also helped him pull off some of those difficult-to-shed pieces of skin. We noticed he wasn't eating quite as well and realized his night heating pad wasn't getting as warm as it should.

We ordered him a new pad just a few weeks ago, and it seemed to help. We also took him to the vet a couple times in the last two months, which was alarming. Of our three pets, Lenny seemed the heartiest, kind of like a tiny gecko tank with the constitution of a vending machine.

The noblest of geckos

But over the last few weeks, he didn't seem as active. A sure sign of a healthy gecko is a nice, plump tail. We noticed he was losing weight and his tail had thinned out considerably. He rarely ate his wax worms, one of his favorite foods, and the vet gave us some medication and a special diet powder.

We were hopeful these things would help him get back to normal. The new heating pad seemed to help. Just a few days ago, he actually ate a wax worm!

But those hopes were dashed over the last few days. Lenny was lethargic and his breathing was labored. I don't think I realized how bad it had gotten until I saw him in his tank last night (Nov. 9), where he barely moved and his breaths seemed sporadic.

Anne and I took him out of his tank and tried to get him to eat. He didn't want any of the powdered food, which you mixed with water to make a paste. He had loved the stuff. Last night, though, he refused to eat it. He showed absolutely no interest.

This picture is from Oct. 22, 2022, just about three weeks before we said goodbye

Usually, when I held Lenny, he'd climb all over my hands, up my sleeve, up my shoulder, and around my neck. He'd climb up and down my shirt, always exploring. But last night as I held him, he just sat in my palm, eyes closed, as if to say, "Thanks, Dad, but I don't feel good. I think I'll go to sleep right here."

He showed brief spurts of activity, but his breathing became labored and we called the emergency exotic vet. We had previously scheduled an appointment for him for today (Nov. 10), but we felt like it couldn't wait. We put him in his portable habitat and drove him 40 minutes to the north side for emergency care.

It's a funny thing: while I don't really remember the drive, I'll also never forget it. Anne, in the passenger seat, held Lenny's habitat on her lap, hands atop it as she whispered encouragement to our little leopard gecko. I would, on occasion, take my right hand off the steering wheel and place it atop the container, just hoping it would provide Lenny with some reassurance.

It was Lenny's Last Ride.

Comin' at ya!

When we arrived outside the vet's office, they took him in for an examination. He was breathing on his own, still, and his heart was still going. His breaths came slowly, however, and his heartbeat wasn't very strong. They could try to take life-saving measures, the vet told us, but we felt Lenny was suffering and wouldn't recover. The vet also noticed a mass that hadn't been there last month when they'd last seen him.

So, with heavy hearts and more than a few tears, we decided to let Lenny go. We didn't want him to suffer, and it would be selfish for us to try to prolong his life when he clearly didn't feel well. It is a sudden, devastating loss. As I type this, his habitat sits empty. We had his lights and heating pad on smart outlets that turned on and off on set schedules. Perhaps the hardest part was turning off those schedules last night, knowing our little gecko didn't need them anymore.

The vet took impressions of his little feet and tail so could take a part of him home with us.

A beloved gecko will forever live here

The worst thing about pets is their generally transitory nature--we will, in most cases, outlive them. But the best thing--and the thing I will remember most about our strong, gentle Lord Leonard--is how much we love them and how much they love us.

Right now, Lenny's loss is a gaping hole. In time, however, we'll heal and have a lifetime of memories about the leopard gecko who spent more than four years of his life with us in a loving home, his belly pressed up against his heating pad at night as he awaited his next adventure.

Friday, November 4, 2022

Magical Williamsburg

The little town of Williamsburg, Indiana, features prominently in Sega CD Summer.

It's where much of the action, such as it is, takes place. I grew up in Williamsburg and visit there several times a year. My parents still live in the same house I grew up in. My brother and his family live in Williamsburg, too, in a home my grandmother once owned.

Needless to say, the 'Burg means a lot to my family and me. It's not a particularly impressive place and is about as small as "small town" gets. We have a single traffic light at the intersection of U.S. 35 and Centerville Road. A volunteer fire station. A youth league ballpark. A community center.

Some of these locations are mentioned in the book. The post office, for example, is where that rogue Mr. James Glad posts a "wanted" poster featuring Tommy Guggenbiller. The ballparks play a big role in the book, as they're a major setting of the baseball scenes. Not much in the book happens at the community center or the volunteer fire station, but they're two of the few notable locations in my hometown.

Let's take a little tour of "Magical Williamsburg..."

The Ballpark

No baseball scene would be complete without baseball diamonds. When I was a kid, Williamsburg had basically three baseball fields, each of which could be used for a couple different leagues. 

This is now designated as Diamond 4 for Majors
There was the Pee Wee diamond, which could also be used for some Minor league games; the Minor/Major diamond, which as the name would suggest hosted Minor and Major games; and the Colt diamond, which could host Colt and Major league games. It probably hosted a Minor league game on occasion, too. There is a fourth field--a softball diamond--that wasn't there when I was growing up.

The Williamsburg Lions Club manages the ballparks. The sign reads, "Williamsburg Lions Club Community Park"
My family spent a lot of time at the ballpark. My dad and other volunteers cut the grass, maintained the fences, chalked the baselines, and dragged the ball fields to smooth out the dirt. Dad was also instrumental in getting the dugouts built. Before those were constructed, teams baked in the sun.

One of the ballparks; you can see one of the dugouts there on the right
What baseball experience would be complete without a concession stand? It's probably the most important building at the whole facility, right? The Williamsburg Youth League Concession Stand served up some pretty tasty popcorn along with a "curated" selection of candy and gum. You couldn't go wrong with a Snickers bar or Reese's Cups. The Super Ropes were pretty popular, too.

This building was essential to a good time at the ballpark
We also served up hot dogs and fountain drinks. My mother could change the soda syrup in a flash (those canisters are heavy, by the way). It was usually customary for someone to buy drinks for the team after the game. Some kids lived for ordering a "suicide," which was all the different soda flavors combined into one cup.

I was never a fan.

The Post Office

What is there to stay about the post office? It's where we get mail.

I've lived in the Indianapolis area long enough to get spoiled by mail delivery. I mean, that's how it works for most people, right? Residents in Williamsburg don't get their mail delivered. Sure, they'll get the occasional package from Amazon or another online retailer, but letters and magazines go to the post office. You have a postal box and a key; you have to drop by the post office every day to pick up your mail.

The P.O. box thing has caused all kinds of grief over the years. You see, my parents' house has a street address. However, that address is not the legal mailing address; the P.O. Box is. The thing is, P.O. boxes are so often used by scammers that some places won't ship stuff to them. And then the Postal Service gets a little bent out of shape if things end up going to the street address because, again, it's not their legal address. It's confusing and frustrating. My mom hates dealing with it.

And if you're wondering why the non-existent street address exists, it's so that emergency responders have an identifiable place to go in case of, well, an emergency.

A wanted poster of the paperboy would've been posted here circa the early '90s

The Community Center

The Williamsburg Community Center once housed a school. It contains a gymnasium that could double as an extra from Hoosiers. The place hosts events and the occasional basketball game or camp these days.

The exterior of the Williamsburg Community Center
One of my fondest memories of the Williamsburg Community Center didn't make it into the book. My family used to have a set of keys to the place, so my brother and I would go over there and shoot hoops on occasion. During one memorable afternoon, my brother and I delighted in singing the Gatorade "Be Like Mike" song while intentionally throwing up the worst shots imaginable in an attempt to parody the insanely popular ad campaign.

You really haven't lived until you've seen Craig the Baseball Prodigy jump 360 degrees in the air and brick a layup that hits the underside of the backboard.

Okay. Maybe you have lived. It was a good time, though.

The Volunteer Fire Station

Being a small town, Williamsburg has a volunteer fire department. It's located just past the town's single traffic light near the intersection of U.S. 35 and Centerville Road. This civic gathering place was used as a voting site for people in Williamsburg.

The exterior of the volunteer fire station

For a long time, the fire station had a pop machine (or soda machine, if you prefer). The thing looked absolutely ancient, but it had a nice selection and always made pizza night a little better if we were out of Coke at home. It wasn't uncommon for my brother or me gather up some quarters and come back with a couple cans.

The machine, as you can see, is no longer there.