Beware the Ides of Smarch, Day 3: Desert Delights

I awoke to an absolutely perfect day.  I used the treadmill in my room to run 3.5 miles before getting cleaned up for Mat to take me to church at Our Lady of Mt Carmel.

It was packed today due to visitors attending spring training for the Arizona Diamondbacks baseball team.  Another truly uplifting service before Mat and Dave came back to collect me to return to Casa del O’Donnell y Langlois.

Mat prepared a homemade breakfast of taiyaki which is a Japanese fish shaped pancake stuffed with a sweet sauce (chocolate and vanilla custard in this case) and thick cut bacon which I used to make a sourdough bacon sandwich.

After breakfast (or brunch, depending on one’s point of view), the four of us played Tetris 99 which is a competition Tetris game where you play against 99 other online players to be the last person standing.  After a few rounds of this, we met on the battlefield of Super Mario Party once more.  Once again, I fell one star short as I lost to Carolyn, but at least having the satisfaction of topping Mat and making certain that Dave, as the accursed Yoshi, stayed in the basement of the rankings.

DSC00850

StarFighters Arcade

At 3pm, Carolyn left for a concert while Mat, Dave, and I went back in time to the 80s and visited StarFighters Arcade, a vintage arcade.

I’ve visited several vintage arcades, but this has to be the top of the heap, so far.  For starters, it has the lowest price for an all day pass at only $11.  It also has a very varied selection of classic games and pinball machines with some serious old school stuff in here.  It also feels like a traditional arcade with 80s music being piped in and the place is so noisy, you have to practically shout to be heard.  80s movies also play on a couple of screens in the arcade.

I got to play some games that I hadn’t played in years such as Haunted House, a three tiered pinball game and Baby Pac-Man, a hybrid video and pinball game with the catch being that there are no power pellets, but you can escape to the pinball section of the game.  I also played a surprisingly fun Popeye pinball machine, battled Mat around the world in Karate Champ where he edged me out in duels, bested Golden Axe with Dave as he’s the best partner who’s ever worked against me, and even played original Dragon’s Lair and Space Ace games.  I had a pretty good run on Dragon’s Lair and may have been able to best it if I had focused my entire time on it.

We left the arcade machine shortly before closing time and stopped at a traditional Chinese restaurant called Shaanxi Garden for dinner.

DSC00868

Shaanxi Garden

Shaanxi Garden is known for its homemade noodles and huge servings.  Each entree is truly family style, so I highly recommend sharing one entree among your group.  Mat ordered some cheese wontons as an appetizer and I enjoyed a few small servings of Stir Fry Pao Mo which is a braised, spicy lamb stew.

From the restaurant, we made our way to the Desert Botanical Garden to visit its Electric Desert light show.  This was also where Mat and Carolyn held their wedding reception and I was shocked to see just how small a space the venue had actually been.

It was a peaceful evening as we watched cacti light up like pinball machines, a mountain replicate the experience of a desert storm, and watched psychedelic colors dance over plants and rocks.

The night seemed over too soon before it was back to Mat’s and bed for tomorrow would be road tripping time.

The Arizona Chronicles, Vol. 2, Day 5: Catastrophe at the Castle (N Coasters)

It’s amazing how nearly dying truly opens up the mind.  As I sailed through the air, I saw the whole truth of the mystery for a brief flash, but it faded as I blacked out.  

I survived thanks to dumb luck.  While Arizona Mat’s lawn was the last thing I saw before fading into oblivion, the trajectory of the blast actually put me onto the roof of his house making my fall only a few feet.  I was slightly banged up and bruised, but none the worst for wear.  Later we found the remains of a bomb in Arizona Mat’s pool.

“Great!!  Now they’re after you,” said Arizona Mat.

“No, they’re not,” I replied.

“Did you hit your head when you hit my roof?”

“Think about it.  What do you normally do at night?”

“I take a swim.”

“Right.  The assailant was expecting you to be in the pool that night.  It was just coincidence that I happened to be in there.”

“I can’t take this anymore.  I’m scared!!” cried Arizona Mat as he ran to his bedroom and hid under the covers.

I paced around Arizona Mat’s living room, trying to think through this mystery.  I desperately tried to regain the momentary flash I’d had as I flew through the air.  I sat down on the couch for a moment and saw that Arizona Mat had left his phone unlocked.  I idly grabbed it and noticed it was on his FB page and there made an amazing discovery.  I was now certain as to the identity of the culprit, but knew I needed to give it an acid test.

After arranging the stage, I knocked on Arizona Mat’s door.

“Go away, Mr. Killer,” said Arizona Mat.

“It’s me.  I think we need to get out for a while.  I read about this place called Castles N Coasters.  Why don’t we stop there?”

“Are you sure it’s safe?” asked Arizona Mat.

“So far, the attacks have been focused solely on you and the attacker has tried to avoid Mongrel and myself.  If we’re in a place where there’s a lot of people, I think you’ll be all right.  You can even wear your disguise.”

There was silence for a moment.  Then Arizona Mat opened his door a crack.

“OK.”

Castles N Coasters is a small fun center/amusement park in the downtown Phoenix area.  It boasts 4 miniature golf courses, a decent arcade which includes a section for classic games, and a little amusement park area with 2 roller coasters, a log flume, bumper cars, and other such rides.

Despite 2 of the courses being closed, we actually had a grand day and Arizona Mat began to loosen up a bit.  He managed to defeat me at mini golf as a couple of bad holes at the end finished me off.  We enjoyed playing classic games such as Tron, Killer Instinct 2, Joust, Donkey Kong, and various pinball machines.

At 5pm the rides section opened up and I crushed Arizona Mat in a Go Kart race, rode the log flume multiple times, enjoyed a spin on the roller coaster, and dueled Arizona Mat on the bumper cars.  As we got ready to leave the park, I persuaded Arizona Mat to do the obstacle course at the front of the park.  We got hooked up as if we were going to go ziplining and had some fun walking balance beams, rickety rope bridges, and walking high wires.

“This was actually a good idea,” said Arizona Mat as he walked the rope wires on the third level.

Suddenly a shot rang out severing the rope Arizona Mat had been holding.

“This was a terrible idea,” said Arizona Mat.

After the first shot, I unbuckled myself from my harness.  I grabbed the severed rope and swung for all I was worth.  Using my feet, I gave Arizona Mat a mighty shove and pushed him to the far edge of the platform where he would have some cover under the pylons by the stairs.  A second swing brought me over to his position.

“How did he find me?” blubbered Arizona Mat.

“Because I used your phone to post that we would be at Castles N Coasters,” I replied.

“Why would you do such a thing?!!!!”

“Because I needed to confirm a theory and now I’ve done that.  Why do you think I suggested doing the obstacle course?  I knew it was the best time for the assailant to make another go at you.”

“Are you insane??????”

“Relax.  I took precautions.  See, there’s the police coming now.”

“I truly admire your bravery in the face of my danger,” said Arizona Mat.

“Don’t mention it.”

With the wail of the sirens, I was able to get a visual of the shooter.  She or he was too far away to see, but the person immediately got into a nearby car and burned rubber getting out of the lot.  The police were in hot pursuit and I prayed that they were able to catch the attacker.

They didn’t.

“I’m going to die!!!” squealed Arizona Mat.

“You’re not going to die,” I said.  “In fact, if the officers are willing to come back to your place, I’m ready to reveal who’s behind this whole scenario.”

To be continued. . .