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When I was considering what to write about for this week’s blog post, I had two possibilities: my looming birthday or my Atari 2600.

Looking ahead a month or so ago, it seemed natural to write about my birthday. Blogging is, by design, a narcissistic activity and listening (or reading) someone droning on about their own birthday seemed to be the epitome of that. And besides, I don’t think of myself as middle-aged, modern science being what it is, but that’s getting increasingly hard to deny. So, goddammit, I’ve earned the right to blog about it, or whatever.

So, that’s it then. The birthday blog.


A couple weeks ago, I was cleaning the office and saw my wife’s old, little TV, the one from the tiny apartment she had when we were dating. It sits there now, unused. The remote has disappeared. It’s not a flat screen. But, crucially, what it does have is the correct audio and video connections for the early-eighties technology of the Atari 2600 game console.

So, I plugged in the TV. Works! Then I pulled out the Atari and game cartridges salvaged from my parents’ house years ago. Would they work? Well, see for yourself:


It’s not a great picture, but the game on the screen is “Missile Command”, a fun little game about defending your cities from nuclear annihilation. Right out of the box, thirty-odd years since last I played, I scored 28,000 points.

So I was going to to write a post about this. About revisiting Frogger and Pac-Man and Pitfall. About the Joy of showing my kids these games I played when I was not much older than them. The five-year-old, in particular, was thrilled to find the “Superman” game. I was thrilled, and a little surprised, to find that out of a couple dozen cartridges, the only one that didn’t work anymore was “Donkey Kong”; a tragic loss, but only one causality is not too bad.

I could go on and on about his, but the idea of the birthday post still nagged. Which one should I write? Atari or birthday?

Then I noticed something else.

For the past couple weeks, I’ve been surrounding myself with things from my past: the Atari was first. I recently felt compelled to pull out of storage some old Star Trek and X-Files collectibles. The other night, I watched “Back to the Future”. Yesterday, I pulled out of the closet an old pea coat I really liked but hadn’t worn in ten years. Just because I felt like it.

These all seemed to be random exercises in recycling old junk. Then it hit me: could I be doing these things because it’s my birthday? Some sort of subconscious reconnection with youth as a defense against yet another turning of the calendar? Maybe. And it kind of works, I guess, with a little wishful fantasizing.

But here’s the thing. They say you can’t go home again. You also, it turns out, can’t completely return to your youth again. Here’s how I know:

That pea coat fits great and has an inside cell phone pocket with a Velcro flap to secure it. Nice, right? Only, the pocket is a little snug for the modern smartphones. Back when I wore this, everyone had smaller fliphones. Times change. Jackets don’t.

Nothing last forever. The Atari post and the birthday post are one in the same because past and present are linked. On paper (or pixels). But in life, the chain between past and present is there, but you can only move forward.

Man, I need a huge slice of cake. And a Jameson’s. Make it a double. On both.

Happy birthday to everyone with a birthday this year!


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