Free Pizza

by Matthew Edward Hawkins

In this post:
1. took part in a SF2 tournament in Willamsburg
2. then, went down to Coney Island
3. finally got a PS3!
4. and dealt with the MTA’s latest blunder
5. and am struggling to give away a pizza to a homeless person

Street Fighter Club 2

So Sunday was that Street Fighter 2 Championship Edition tournament I mentioned at the tail end of last time. The action went down in the heart of hipster hell, Willamsburg, at Mishka, this Russian owned and operated clothing/design space…

… Been meaning to check the store out for some time now, ever since I first got wind of their semi-customized SF2 cab, primarily for my big NYC game scene article in the latest zine. In the end, I just didn’t have enough time to run out and take a picture, but better late than never I suppose….

And here we are around 2PM, as folks are signing up for the tournament…

… Unfortunately, Dave Mauro was out of town, visiting friends upstate, but at least my other ace in the hole, Joe Salina, was available. I actually ended up participating myself, despite my rather not so great SF2 skills.

The deal is this, and I’ll be totally honest here: I knew without question going in that Joe would be the victor. Why? Because he’s one of the best fighting game players I know, plus I assumed this tourney would be filled with hipsters who… and no offense to anyone out there… are categorically horrible when it comes to video games in general. Why else center a tournament around Championship Edition of all things? Which was great in its day, but is now totally irrelevant thanks to Turbo. But hipsters love old shit from their childhoods. Again, I readily admit that I suck at most video games myself, especially fighting games. But I still had my reasons for assuming I’d have a fighting chance this time around.

Plus, I’d much rather play alongside hipsters than a bunch of Chinatown Fair rats, who are the types of folks who normally turn out for tournaments, that’s for damn sure. Again, apologizes to my fellow diehard gamers, but then again, I’d like to think I have far better social and hygiene skills. As for who actually turned out, it was an interesting mix of the aforementioned arcade rats, but not many, along with a few vaguely hipster-ish types, but no more than Joe and myself. Translation: no jerk-offs that you see crowding the L Bedford Ave stop. That also meant that the people on-hand actually knew how to play!

But before going on, some additional shots of inside the store…

… That’s Joe, who had a super strong showing in the beginning. But in the end, it was not to be. And here he is again, a moment before his final match, in the semi-finals…

… And just a few seconds later, the moment of defeat…

… Joe was upset, though more annoyed than anything else, and one can’t blame the guy on either count. The main problem was the controls on the cabinet; the buttons and especially the joystick were way too tight. The stick also had a nasty habit of re-centering itself too much. Both Joe and myself both got hit unnecessarily even though we were blocking, though apparently we weren’t pushing back hard enough. And forget about pulling off fireballs motions, hence why we stuck with charge characters. And not once as Blanka could I do electricity, thanks again to wonky buttons.

But hey, this isn’t EVO or a “proper” tournament, so there’s not much room to really bitch. Yet I still found the overall lack of organization a tad bit annoying; as for how I personally did, I lost in the first round to a store employee. Thankfully, I wasn’t totally creamed in ten seconds, which was what I was afraid of most, and my opponent was actually a really cool dude. It was best two games out of three, and it literally went down to the wire, the last round of our third match. The controls once again were not helping, plus I had forgotten how to grab, thanks to it being different in each subsequent Street Fighter since, but ultimately shot myself in the foot with a stupid mistake. Also, I was hardly in any real shape to compete due to the night before, which was Mike’s housewarming party, where I was up fairly late drinking tequila from a gun and talking about random nonsense, like folks who frequent the OTB and Ninja Warrior. Though the guy who beat me never played again; apparently all the store employees simply filled in for each other, which was, I dunno, a tad bit unfair. Yet once again, this was just a nice casual little thing, so I wasn’t seriously upset (and I think everyone knows how easily pissed I tend to get).

Here’s a funny moment, late into the proceedings, when these two kids hopped onto the machine while the next players were gathering. She said that they couldn’t play at the moment, but the two could have cared less….

… In the end, neither Joe and I walked away with the grand prizes, but Mishka was nice enough to provide everyone who participated with a goodie bag, including a large eyeball pillow (unfortunately, I don’t have it handy to take a pic, since it’s still in the back of Joe’s car I believe). Which easily blows away a XXL shirt like most tournaments generally give out! BTW, for anyone that’s interested, you can check out their own take on the events.

A Fake Diamond In The Rough… But A Diamond Nonetheless

Afterward, Joe’s girlfriend joined us and we all decided to beat the heat by heading down to Coney Island for the rest of the afternoon. Unfortunately, traffic was far more congested than expected, plus Google Maps pulled an epic fail on us all. Couple with the annoyance that is trying to find parking anywhere in NYC, especially Brooklyn, it was pretty much early evening by the time we actually set foot on the boardwalk, but at least that meant dinner time and a chance to munch of Nathan’s excellent hot dogs and french fries! It had been a while, my first trip to Coney Island all summer actually; this was the very first year in which I skipped the Siren Fest, something that even Joe Simko passed on as well. I myself at least had an excuse of sorts, Otakon, whereas Sweet Rot was simply not interested.

Back to the cuisine: I found myself seriously tempted by the numerous new eating options that were available on the boardwalk. And on a related note, the entire place was in surprisingly good form! I was half expecting large piles of rubble strewn around the park, and maybe there was, just nicely hidden. I had also clearly underestimated the draw of Barnum and Bailey, because they certainly attracted an army of families, which directly led to our parking headaches. The beaches were also totally swamped, making those long bathroom lines especially long and intolerable (at least if you were a female).

In addition to the brand new food selections, Beer Island appears to have expanded, instead of being just a ten foot wide circle like in years past, though I didn’t partake in any booze this time. Aside from having way too much that weekend already (in addition to the night before, once again, got super loaded while watching Gundam on Friday), it was dehydrated as it was from the extreme temperatures; for those who aren’t in NYC, we’re in the midst of a heat-wave at the moment. Besides, the thing that interested me the most was the much advertised Flea Market, which I made a bee line to after our meal; when I first got wind of the thing earlier this year, I couldn’t help but expect a train wreck and had to see for myself what the real deal was. And according to Salina, who actually did make it out for Siren, there was a decent amount of Willamsburg hipsters selling silkscreen shirts and other overpriced goods that can be found on Etsy for tons cheaper the last time he checked. But on this particular afternoon, there was just one person selling such ares, and the rest was the same swap meet junk you’d find anywhere else (including Coney Island in years past, which always had a flea market component, just not officially). Basically, tables after tables of cheap sunglasses and bootleg DVDs. Including one guy selling a copy of Black Belt Jones!

I actually have it on DVD already, which was created from a VHS source. Specifically a LP recording from The Movie Channel, circa sometime during junior high. Joe theorized that what I was buying was perhaps the same thing, and I figured it had to be at least a little better, but lo and behold, the dude was completely correct. It is based on someone else’s crappy video tape, hell maybe my own somehow, since I have made copies for friends. Still have to check. Moving on, check out this fine assortment of luchador masks…

… They ranged between 10 to 30 dollars, and the quality was fantastic! Far better than these Michael Jackson watches at another table…

… Back to the rest of the park, the thing that got shocked me the most was the plethora of sideshow acts. There was one right in the middle of Astroland that I initially thought was the same group that’s always been near Surf Ave… The Great Fredini, Koko The Killer Clown, and the rest of that game… but soon realized that it’s a totally different outfit. There was like three additional acts in addition to the main one, which I think is pretty neat! Sorta felt like the golden area of Coney Island back again, or so in my mind. Besides, instead of seeing a bunch of animals forced to humiliate themselves for a meal (sorry, but I still loathe Barnum and Bailey from their idiotic unicorn stunt back in the 80s, and I understand that they actually treat their animals with respect instead of abusing them, I’m still not a fan of the circus on principle alone), I’d much rather see humans do the same.

We also checked out some of the arcades that’s on-hand, and Joe agreed with me how every new game these days still looks like stuff on the Dreamcast. The only real disappointment was discovering that the Ms. Pac Man machine in the El Dorado bumper car rink/arcade is now 50 cents to play! At least it’s still there and fine operational condition. Better get my hands on it before it gets classified as a historical object or something. On the flip side, I ended up getting roped into one of those carny games and ended up winning Katie a stuffed dog! So yeah, a fun day was definitely had. One of these days, I’m gonna have to drag either Katie or Hilary to check it out.

Here Comes Number Three, And There Goes The Number One

Guess the big news of the day is Sony finally spilling the beans on the PS3 Slim, which was formally announced at Gamescom this afternoon. As crazy is it sounds, I had serious doubts that they’d actually owe up to the damn thing, due to them being so (needlessly) tight-lipped up till this point. That and it’s Sony and how they’re so hopelessly retarded these days. Many folks out there also didn’t believe the pics that had been floating around, and can’t say I blame them. This….

… looks hella chintzy, and that logo totally screams Chinatown bootleg. Which should have been everyone’s first clue as to it being legit! Again, Sony has been both frustratingly and even a tad bit fascinatingly inept this generation. Anyway, once it was finally final, I at last had my signal to run down to the one and only Gamestop in Manhattan that isn’t manned by complete morons and actually pick up the system! And that’s just what I did; I am now the new, proud owner of the PlayStation 3. Haven’t set it up though… gonna wait till my new television table comes in; the current one can barely handled the weight of my set plus the two Xbox 360s (one’s a debug unit btw… would like to get a third one from Japan to be totally honest).

As for this actually decent Gamestop, it’s located on 105th Street and Broadway; the people who work behind the counter are honest to God totally cool and perform their jobs admirably… meaning they actually know what they’re pushing and aren’t annoying about it…. especially in light of the customers they’re forced to deal with, who unfortunately are the same gang of idiots you’ll find generally anywhere else. Basically, loud mouthed gangstas or sweaty mouth-breathers who are dying to “talk shop” with anyone who might know a little about video games, since no one in their immediate circles are into them, or perhaps are but are simply too repulsed to actually engage in any sort of dialogue. Also, these people generally know nothing about gaming, despite thinking they do. Anyway, heading down there meant taking the 1 train…

Where I live, which is on 181 Street, there’s two trains to choose from, the A express, which is literally around the corner from my apartment, and the 1 local a few blocks away. I generally take the A obviously, but will sometimes utilize the 1 if it takes me closer to where I need to go, like the aforementioned Gamestop near Columbia University for example. And despite being a local train, it’s often faster than the express at certain parts of the day, for reasons I don’t even have to explain to any seasoned subway rider in the Big Apple. Well, yesterday morning, the roof collapsed in the 1 station, so a significant portion of the line has been shut down, with the end result being complete chaos, more so than usual from the MTA. In lieu of the train, which goes all the way up to the Bronx, people are now forced to use shuttle buses that go, no joke, 2 miles an hour (I saw some poor woman on the train claim on the news that it took her over two hours to get home last night, which should have normally taken her 30 minutes). Or commuters are forced to transfer to the A train at 168 Street, which is now where the 1 shuts down. The big problem here is how the 168′s 1 train platform is not designed for the heavy flow of foot traffic that final subway stop stations are supposed to accommodate. Basically, there’s four elevators that brings people between the tracks and the entrance upstairs, and they’re located behind a wall, where there is normally no place to stand while waiting for the next elevator. Again, anyone with any remote familiarity with the architecture of subway platform can attest to how completely nonsensical they are, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve fantasized about getting in a time machine and killing every singe person that created the floor plans for all the stations as children. Oh, I’ve also heard all the excuses, and unforeseen jump of people using the space or not, some of the design choices, like walls directly in front of elevator doors make zero sense no matter how you rationalize it.

Anyhow, considering how difficult it is for people to get on and off, but multiply their numbers by fifty at least, and the end result is not just insanely frustrating but legitimately dangerous. No joke, the entire scene is a terrorist’s or crazy person’s wet dream, something that every single person who has to deal with such nonsense is fully aware of. Adding to insult to injury of course is how the subway fare was recently increased. Even better is how it’s been recently revealed that this collapsed roof could have been avoided if the MTA had heeded the multiple warnings they were given, all of which were summarily ignored. Of course. A local representative recently called out the organization, and while I normally cringe whenever anyone tries to paint themselves the victim due to race needlessly, the guy had a rather valid point by noting how, if such a thing had occurred at Grand Central, the problem would be fixed in one day. Meanwhile, the MTA claims that it’ll take a week to clean this mess, and anyone knows them at all is well aware of how they take forever to do anything, plus it’s always the stations in the poor, minority neighborhoods that get the shaft. My part of Manhattan, Washington Heights, has a heavy Hispanic and Latino population, btw.

Though what made my trek to pick up a PS3 so absurdly difficult, which culminated with me getting stuck in a sea of people trying to get in and out of an elevator for 25 minutes, with a near riot almost taking place (the heat-wave certainly doesn’t help anything, and another wonderful slice of bullsh*t is how every 1 train I took today had faulty air conditioning), was the look of all the MTA employees, who were so clearly annoyed to be forced to do something else that their usual bare minimal. It’s truly disgusting actually. Mayor Bloomberg as of late has recently begun talking about his 33-point plan to fix mass transit. Many of this suggestions sound totally awesome, though most are completely obvious and should have been instituted a long time ago. I just wonder how he’s going to pay for it all, let alone actually motivate the MTA to in-act any of it. I want to like Bloomberg, but I still hate the guy for being a pussy the first time the MTA went on strike, early into his first term. The billionaire mayor simply suggested us New Yorkers deal by going out and getting bikes. What an *sshole.

What Does A Guy Have To Do To Get Some Homeless People Up In Here?

So earlier this evening, I decided to order a pizza, cuz I was just too lazy to make dinner, and wouldn’t you know, the pizza joint messed up my order. They added anchovies onto my pie, which I tried to pull off and give to the cat, but it just wasn’t happening. So I called and lodged a complaint, and a new pie was eventually sent over, but I still had this whole pizza that I didn’t want.

Well, instead of just tossing out food, which I hate to do, I decided to go out and find a homeless person who might appreciate a meal without the need for dumpster diving. And it was surprisingly difficult!

I was just going to hand it over to the one guy that always hangs by the corner deli, but for the first time ever, he was absent, so I had to look around. Not to long thereafter, I spotted a dude in the distance that was clearly destitute across the street. As I approached, he began harassing some woman who told him to f*ck off and die. Instead of being docile like most homeless people in NYC, or at least Manhattan these days (I swear, especially compared to those found in San Fran or Baltimore, they’re practically Disneyland-like characters), his spastic body language told me to avoid this guy like the plauge. Plus upon closer inspection, he was also eating Chinese food, so the guy already had dinner covered.

Moving on, I spotted a second candidate, but as soon as I got close, he had finished stealing some bike that was resting against a street light and rode off. Drat. The third homeless guy I came across was actually the neighborhood crackhead who my super uses as a part-time slave to do menial jobs in the building. I’ve always been annoyed by how he gets so much free crap from all the white people in my neighborhood, who all have a serious case of white guilt.

But this guy was my one and only semi-deserving recipient, but I still felt conflicted, and tried calling Katie for her advice. During this, two dumb college students came up and passed along $40, so he can get his own damn pizza if he wanted I immediately decided. So I ended up bringing back the unwanted pizza.

I’ll try again out later tonight.

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