I woke up yesterday with an urge to go junk shopping. With our recent move, it's been a while since I've had the chance to dig through boxes of old records or stop by Goodwill in hopes of discovering a random treasure. Instead, I got busy with some stuff around the house that we'd been putting off since moving in.
Then around 11:45, my phone rang.
It was my old friend, Derek.
Although we talk pretty regularly, we hadn't seen each other in about a year. For a while, he and I have been tossing around the idea of checking out America's Playable Arcade Museum in McLean, Illinois -- a small town about halfway between where he lives and where I live. We've both got families and jobs that have kept us from making this plan much of a priority, but today Derek's afternoon was suddenly free. It was last minute, but he wanted to know if I was up for a trip to McLean. After getting the okay from my wife, I grabbed a quick shower and was on the road in less than 30 minutes.
With INXS and Kidd Video as my co-pilots, I decided that if I was headed to an actual arcade, I needed to eat a lunch suitable for such a trip. The gas station provided me just what I needed.
I could almost taste 1985.
Forty-five minutes and a full-on sugar high later, I arrived at America's Playable Arcade Museum.
I knew ahead of time that there was an Addams Family pinball machine here. I'd no sooner greeted Derek on the sidewalk outside than I was in the doors and standing in front of God's gift to the pinball world.
Unlike a lot of "arcades" you'll find these days, there was no cover here. No jacked up prices. You simply drop a quarter in the slot, and you play.
Just soak in some of the awesome...
This place was amazing. Seriously.
When we got there around 1:00, there might have been five other people there. By the time we left a few hours later, the place was busy...but not crowded. By that point, as Derek observed, it "smelled like dudes" in there. The crowd that had gathered included a good variety for any amateur people-watcher:
- Bored girlfriend along for the ride while her boyfriend played video games for an hour? Check.
- Dad with his young kids standing at his sides while they watched his arcade skills in action? Check.
- Guy who clearly just got off work and was stopping in for some game action on his way home much like others might stop off for a drink? Check.
- I had forgotten how to play Burger Time.
- Kidd Video is pretty much the perfect soundtrack for an 80s-inspired day.
- I hadn't played a stand-up Pole Position in at least 20 years. As soon as I heard "prepare to qualify," it seemed just like yesterday.
- My brother recently played Tron and said his muscle memory brought everything back to him instantly. My muscles apparently remember things differently because it took me at least 75 cents to get past the tank level.
- The back room was mostly games that came out after the days I would have been in an arcade as a kid. I didn't spend any money in the back room.
- I found myself comparing my Donkey Kong scores to those of the guys on King of Kong. Needless to say, I didn't do so well.
- Large bathroom mirrors on a wall that backs up to the "employees only" room give me the creeps.
- The first time my wife and I hung out together, we ate calzones and played Ms. Pac-Man. I found myself thinking about this and smiling while I played Ms. Pac-Man.
- It never occurred to me as a kid that the "square joystick" on Tapper is a beer tap. Plus the game is a blatant Budweiser ad for kids.
- I cannot handle the pressure of having a limited number of seconds to enter my initials after achieving a high score.
- Any games (pinball excluded) that cost 50 cents got no money from me as a kid, and they got no money from me today. Video games cost a quarter. Period.