Monday, February 09, 2015

A Peek

Today is Monte’s birthday.

I never know if he is going to want a “big deal” made for his special day.

Or just a low key family celebration.

His reaction is different every year.

This year, he texted me earlier in the week that he wanted a “smallish group” to gather and go to a place he had researched called 16-Bit Arcade.

Yes, you read that right. 

An arcade.

This arcade has all the old standards from our 80s childhood.

Pac Man, Frogger, Centipede, Galaga, Asteroids. 

And several I had never heard of.

While I enjoyed a good arcade game from time to time in the 80s,

I was never a high-score-get-to-put-my-name-in-the-machine type of player.

Monte was.

He worked at Chuck E. Cheese’s in high school.

Just let that sink in for a minute. 
Don’t rush it.

He made pizza, steam cleaned the carpets EVERY NIGHT and even had to wear the Chuck E. costume to entertain the kids once.

Just once.

Because the costume was too short for Monte’s 
over 6-foot body and the amount of skin that 
was exposed from the ill-fitting getup, 
scared the kids.

Clearly this is not Monte in the costume. No skin exposure
while Chuck E. is holding the birthday kid in a head lock.
And all the kids are smiling.

Dear word.
It’s a wonder Monte is only afraid of clowns.
And dolls.
And leprechauns…
Ok, now things are making more sense.
I can still hear the loud mechanical clicks and whirs of every eye lid shutting and opening and every head and hand gesture. The mouth movements never did sync up with the words or music. Wasn’t that duck a cheerleader?

When the managers of the Chuck E. Cheese’s went into their office after closing,

(it was south Florida so Monte now feels that they weren’t just “counting the receipts of the day” back in the office but maybe several other things that were plot points in episodes of “Miami Vice"),

Monte and his co-workers would get a stack of tokens for the arcade.

Monte had lots of “after hours” time to perfect his technique on the simple joy stick and one button push games as well as the roller ball games that came out later.

He was quite often the high score on ALL the games.

Which is kind of mean when you think about it, 
what was the average age of the kids playing 
arcade games at Chuck E. Cheese’s? 

Back to Monte’s birthday.

When I shot out a quick, last minute text to the “smallish group” about Monte’s birthday arcade idea, it was very apparent who was just as excited as Monte and who was not.

We were surprised at the crowd at this arcade.

We were BY FAR the oldest people there.

I thought there would be more of “our generation” there.

They were selling candy cigarettes in the vending machine. 
Were we they only ones who’d remember getting 
these Trick or Treating?

There were a lot of people there, just not a lot of people that would’ve been alive when these games first came out.

How is it that the people of the generation that play games that involve slashing out someone’s intestines be satisfied with a game called “Dig Doug”?

I kind of wanted this to be a place “just for us”. 

The people unspoiled by the horrifying realistic graphics of today’s games.

The people that remembered what it was like to be weighed down by the quarters in their pockets and actually saw the faces of their opponents (because they were standing right next to them).

We were the generation entertained for hours by a game called Pong that involved the stimulating imagery of 2 moving lines and a bit-mapped dot.

And somehow I still managed to get beat by the machine.
Every time.

Hipsters aside,

Monte was in his element in this arcade.

I watched him fall back into some sort of video game rhythm as he played his favorite games.

There was a stance he assumed.

Hand techniques that came back to him as naturally 
as if he was riding his old bike from childhood, 
the one with the banana seat.

It was like a peek at the exposed skin in Monte’s Chuck E. Cheese costume.


Let me try that again.

It was a peek at Monte as a teenager.

I wish I had a picture,

but there was a moment with Monte and his friends standing by a video game 
laughing and cheering each other on that was as if, 

Mark in his own world. 

the little boys in each of them snuck right out 
like an untucked shirt tail. 

We laughed that their geek was showing.

But they didn’t care.

They were in their element.

Yesterday, Monte kept complaining that his hand hurt. He thought maybe he did something to it at the gym.

Lifting weights.

It was late in the day when Monte finally realized his hand hurt from playing video games. Hitting that roller ball over and over again with the palm of his hand, bruised him.

He’s out of arcade shape.

Plans have been made to go back and remedy that.

Happy Birthday, Monte! I love you!


  1. Lori Castle6:37 PM

    Glad he had a goid time! Let us know next time.

  2. Happy Birthday to your hubby - what a fun way for him to celebrate. I can't help but wonder if working a Chuck E. Cheese was somehow training for the adventure of a beautiful life with you and all the laughter and joy your family celebrates.


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