On my bio, it says that I'm an actor, writer, husband and father. I love being every one of these things, and somehow I've managed to strike a good balance among them in the ten years I've kept all these plates spinning in my life.
It's been remarkable that I've managed to keep them all going without a catastrophic failure for so many years, and I guess it was not so much a question of if, but when, one of them would wobble and crash to the floor.
Yesterday, I ended up spending more time than I expected working on a voice acting gig. I got home from the recording session just in time to pick up my son from school, and didn't get to start writing until late in the afternoon, just in time for him to come into my office and ask me what we were having for dinner. My family has always come first for me, so I stopped writing and took care of feeding him. I went back to work, just in time for my wife to get home from work. I hadn't seen her all day, so I took another short break before I went back into my office, closed the doors, and went back to writing around 8.
My brain, apparently very unhappy with me for starting and stopping so many times, refused to work with me, and I spent more time gnashing my teeth than actually writing for the next five hours.
Around 1:30 a.m., I sat in my office, without even iTunes for company, banging away on the column I'd meant to turn in thirteen hours earlier.
I was starting to feel equally punchy, frustrated, and unable to write the column I wanted to write, so I tried to do something silly to give my brain a kick in the cerebellum, which resulted in:
yes, it's a bunch of unicorns …
…inflatable unicorns, actually, from the 2007 LA County Fair. And Spider-Man is there, too, in case the unicorns need some help fighting crime … but which one is the REAL Spider-Man? DON'T YOU WISH YOU KNEW?! Before you pick a fight with one of them, you'd better ask yourself … do you feel lucky, Punk? WELL, DO YOU?! KA-POW!
“Why did you impose this on the world, Wil?” You ask?
Oh, well allow me to tell you, person-I-just-made-up!
Because if posting a stupid picture of a stupid bunch of stupid unicorns to Flickr when I've been awake for 19 hours and I'm almost 12 hours past a writing deadline and I can't make the words come out in any way other than “all weird” is wrong, then I don't want to be right.
I giggled for a moment, and got back to work. The words still refused to come out, but I was getting closer to completing this column about how much I miss the drive-in movie theaters and arcades of my youth. I had just written:
“It was just this weekend that I realized, to my horror, that I'm starting to feel my age. I mean, I'm not old, I'm not even going to be 37 until July (at which point the King of England will likely ride by me on a pretend horse and we'll have an argument about it) but I'm aware that things I loved while growing up have been steadily vanishing for years, and will likely be completely extinct before we know it; drive-ins and arcades are just two of the more tactile examples.
When I was a pre-teen, my parents took me out to Northridge almost every weekend to visit my beloved Aunt Val. On the way there and back, we drove past a huge multiplex on Winnetka, and there was always something magical for nine-year-old me about trying to see and identify which movie was playing on which screen. I guess this seems as quaint and relevant as trying to shoot a buffalo from a wagon train, but it was a small and important part of my youth.
When I hit the double digits in 1982, and for at least five years after that, our trips to visit Aunt Val frequently involved visits to a Malibu Grand Prix, where we'd spend what felt like hours and seemed like a small fortune on dozens of different arcade games, from Robotron to Galaga, and from Punch Out!! to Bagman. I don't remember when it closed down, but an overpass appeared in its place shortly after, and I'm pretty sure a Vogon poetry boutique opened where the sit-down Sinistar machine once was.”
“Ah,” I thought, “that's funny. First drafty, but we can fix it pretty easily. Great jorb, Wheaton!”
The next stop on my journey to completion and victory was the Pakk Man arcade in Pasadena, so I wrote, “in YEAR GOES HERE the city of Pasadena finally won its fight to force the Pakk Man Arcade out of town, so the good residents could finally have that area rug store they'd been clamoring for since the 1980s.”
I splat-tabbed into Firefox and went to Google, where I searched for the date. The first page of results for “Pakk Man Arcade Closed” wasn't helpful, but I remembered writing something for my blog years ago about a rally they were having to try and save the place, so I searched for “wil wheaton arcades,” and found all the information I wanted … in a column I wrote for the Suicide Girls' Geek in Review two years ago, about how much I miss arcades and what they meant to me growing up.
And imaginary plate with the word WORK on it slowed and wobbled. I reached out to give it a spin, but all I did was hasten its crash to the floor, where it exploded in a spectacular display of FAIL.
I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. I was too tired and too deeply into the Gumdrop Mountains to really get angry about it, so I admitted defeat, e-mailed my editor and told her that I'm so overwhelmed by work and life, I thought that I had an interesting column idea for this week, but as it turned out I was unintentionally plagiarizing myself. Whoops.
When a computer tries to run too many applications at once, it tends to slow down until it becomes useless and crashes. This is what happened to the computer in my brain yesterday. (I bet you didn't know that I'm a robot. Don't tell anyone, okay?)
The best way to fix a computer with a maxed-out CPU is to close all the open applications, give it some time to cool off, and then reopen only the essential files. I'm going to do this with my positronic brain, and reboot. I'll see you all again on April 6.
Wil Wheaton invites you to join him in a facepalm.
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