Things Unfinished

As long as I can remember, I've loved to make things. Whether I was drawing in a sketchbook, or building tiny shelves for my action figures (both when I was a child and potentially over the coming months), or while I was in college designing clothes, the design, build, iterate, redesign, build, etc process has been core to my life.

Most recently, I've been building my own custom arcade cabinet. The premise was pretty simple: needs to be ergonomically designed for me to use in lieu of a standing desk, must have a 27" display similar to my iMac, must have a beefy gaming rig as it's core, rather than one of these more simple raspberry pi MAME cabinets (because I'm not really into arcade games, I like shooters and strategy, I just really like the idea of an arcade cabinet).

Original Mock Up for the Cabinet done in Autodesk Alias

Original Mock Up for the Cabinet done in Autodesk Alias

I began the design process about 3 years ago, originally out of foamcore, because it's super easy to use and it's really, really inexpensive.

Original Foam Mock Up

Original Foam Mock Up

Same Foam Mock Up 3 years later, with blinders on each side of the display to prevent glare, since there's a 24"x30" piece of plexi across the display area

Same Foam Mock Up 3 years later, with blinders on each side of the display to prevent glare, since there's a 24"x30" piece of plexi across the display area

After a few iterations in foam, I began sourcing materials, estimating costs, etc. Come to find out, you (yes, YOU) can build one of these things yourself for ~$500 (including the display), before you really get into all of the PC stuff. It's a really simple design, and you only need a circular saw, a powered drill, and an abundance of time and patience (drilling 500 little holes for the speaker grills and heat exhaust takes a while and your hands ache after doing so).

Today, the cabinet is mostly finished, as it just needs the front and rear access doors mounted, and either a coat of paint or cut vinyl decals to cover the sides.

Above are some of the images of the build process that I've shared to friends and on Instagram over the last year while finally building the thing. I've got a lot more of stacks of lumber, some ridiculous jenga/tetris skills to fit all of the wood panels into my tiny Ford Fiesta, etc.

Today as it stands (ha, there's pun), this cabinet is in the corner of my living room, mostly completed. All it needs are the above mentioned trimmings and then I'll be ready to begin designing and eventually building the next version of this project, which in true IronMan fashion, I'm referring to as the 'Mark II'. I've also got plans for a Mark III, which is the true, final form for what I've been wanting to build for at least the last 5 years, and who knows, maybe within the next, I'll actually do it.

During this build, I was living up in Rohnert Park, California, just a few minutes from my wife's parents, so they were gracious enough to let me use their garage and renovation space to work on the cabinet when we weren't working on the house.

As you can see in the above photos, there are a lot of stud walls visible, and a non-finished flooring. Ya see, for the last 3 years, we've been working on their kitchen and family room. We needed to replace MOST of the floor of these rooms, level it, and replace the entire rear wall of the house. If you know me in the 'flesh space', you've probably heard me talk about spending my weekends assisting this project where I could (I'm no carpenter, but I can swing a hammer). Originally, we planned on this project lasting about 6 months, and having my father in law, Mike, my brother in law, Peter, my other brother in law, Andy, and Peter's teenage son and step son helping. We thought we'd have a nice little team to rip through stages of the project every weekend for ~20 weeks, and before long, have a really nice kitchen and living room for Mike and his wife, Pam, to retire in, for at least a few years before selling the house.

But, as they say, 'the best-laid plans...' The project has drug on and on, mainly due to Mike's declining health, and Peter and I being the only ones to show up to work on the house, and even then, we both have families and haven't been able to spend every weekend working on the house. As you see in the above photos, this is another project that remains, as yet, unfinished.

So, here's the real reason for this post: Mike passed away yesterday.

For the last 6 and a half years, Mike and Pam have been staples in my personal life. For the last two years, Alexis and I would see them multiple times a week, and usually have dinner with them on Sundays. Right now, I'm still processing the grief, and really doing my best to keep my shit together for the sake of Alexis, since her grief runs so much deeper than mine ever could.

I loved Mike, as a father figure, as a friend. Hell, last week, I spent a Tuesday sitting on his couch whining about car problems and new projects I'd been volunteered for at work. I could list my regrets, but I'm not sure as where to begin, or whether or not it'd seem selfish, as so much of it deals with wanting to share my life and accomplishments with him. I wanted him to see the house I've been designing, I wanted our children to be able to meet him, and he meet them. I'm glad that some of the things on my list were able to be checked off, most importantly that he would be present for his daughter to get married.

Some things make me feel really lucky though, like the fact that for the last two years Alexis and I were living so close, and were able to spend so much time with Mike and Pam. This last Sunday, Alexis and I were up retrieving some of our house plants from their place, and for a few hours, he and I just sat on their front porch talking about things going on and watching planes fly overhead.

I'm thankful for having the opportunity to know such a kind and generous person.

Thanks for taking the time to read this.