Mobile Gaming

Mobile Gaming
Mario Smells Like Mothballs

Russ Pitts | 5 Dec 2006 07:02
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Boston's Logan International Airport is more than 80 years old. This comes readily to mind every time one flies into or out of Boston. It's apparent in the dilapidated structure, barely-sufficient terminal access and the many absent amenities hard to put one's finger on, but which, when present in other airports, make the whole experience of traveling much more pleasant. Logan, to put it bluntly, is a miserable airport.

Boston itself is hundreds of years old, and to be fair, the city's considerable age shows just as well (or as poorly) as the airport's, but you have to give a city with a history and culture like Boston's a bit of a break. Besides, if the crumbling buildings, too-narrow streets and countless miscellanies associated with life in a historical monument get you down, you can always move. The downside there, of course, is that you would then have to drive even further to get to Logan; which is the situation in which I found myself last Christmas.

I lost nearly an hour of my life riding shotgun on I-90, playing Mario on my GBA as I was driven to the airport (The Drive). Shortly thereafter, I lost another hour waiting in line to be screened for explosives and/or carpet knives (The Screening), and prior to settling in to lose still a third hour waiting for my flight (The Wait), I set off in search of what is known in the traveling trade as "The Seat."

Back when Logan was last renovated, sometime in the 1980s, electrical outlets were only good for plugging in the occasional vacuum cleaner and were located on walls or columns easy for cleaning workers to locate ... and away from most of the terminal seating. Therefore, most often, The Seat is not even a seat at all, rather a space of floor near an outlet upon which a power-seeking passenger must squat. But every once in a while, a Logan traveler will come across a Seat that is exactly that: an honest-to-Vishnu chair near a power outlet.

In the past decade or so, these Seats have become as rare as unicorns, and last Christmas, as I trundled from The Screening to The Wait, I spotted one. It was empty. I almost wept. And then I ran.

As I flung myself into The Seat, bags flapping around me like dislodged feathers, I emitted a barbaric yawp of glee and reached into my bag for my GameBoy Advance SP. It was nearly dry from The Drive, and after The Wait, I was in for a long "The Flight" down to Texas. I wanted to be sure I had enough juice; there was a lot of Mario to be played, after all, and now, thanks to The Seat, I could juice it up from the comfort of ... well, The Seat. In that exact moment, when I'd plugged my GBA into the providential outlet, fired up Super Mario World and thought about Texas, it occurred to me that Mario evoked the smell of mothballs and that mothballs smell like Galveston, Texas.


Galveston is a sleepy little town on the Texas Gulf Coast. Once the gateway to the almost-fertile, wide-open expanses of one of the nation's newest states, Galveston, in the 1800s, welcomed ships from the old world with open arms. Countless scores of European immigrants were added to America's melting pot by way of Galveston, lured by the smell of prosperity and the hope of the American Dream. But that was before The Hurricane.

In 1900, the deadliest storm ever recorded struck Galveston head on. Known as "The Galveston Hurricane of 1900" or, colloquially as "The Hurricane," the storm took more American lives than any other storm either before or since and officially ended Galveston's halcyon days as a major metropolitan city. The city would never recover from "The Hurricane" and today it is home to little more than a flotilla of shrimp boats, a small army of retirees and the headless friend of a member of the Dupont family. The aroma of prosperity has been replaced by the smell of low tide mixed with mothballs.

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