Hey kids, lets get in the time machine and go back, back, back. Before Wii, before the Sony Game Cube, before Playstation, Nintendo and Gameboy. Hell, I’m dragging you way back before Pong to the deep dark ages when I was a wee little lad.
I was a preteen when I used to go camping every summer upstate New York with the Boy Scouts. Yes, I was a Boy Scout; I guess they will take anyone. And yes, I cannot remember my cell phone number but I still can remember the Scout Motto, Oath and Law. “A scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.” Hmmm, after reading that list I guess you can see why I have not been a Scout for a very long time.
Every few days at camp the whole troop hiked to nearest store called Bob Landers. (‘Liar’ was not up in the list was it?) Well, OK, we actually did not walk there. We usually just piled into the leaders’ cars and drove to the store. (There was no mention about ‘stretching the truth’ in that list either was there?) Well, OK, it was less of a store and more of a bar/restaurant that sold some snacks to the kids and beer to the adults. The leaders would sit and have drinks (well earned having put up with us) while we gorged ourselves on potato chips and waited around to play the old beat-up pinball game.
Each of us lined up our quarters up on top of the machine marking our turn at the flippers to play our five-ball game. We stood around and watched the other Scouts play, careful not to rattle the easily tilted old rickety game. Unless you were good enough to win a free replay, you usually only had the time to play one game before it was time to go back to the campsite. If a really good player was there, they could rule the game by continuously winning free games causing a lot of us to never even get a chance behind the machine. I was not a pinball wizard and usually my five balls unceremoniously disappeared past the flippers in rapid succession. I was younger and less experienced then most of the other kids and my piss-poor pinball playing was just another item on the lengthy list of things I was embarrassed about.
Years later, pinball games started to get a lot more sophisticated with multi-levels, habitrail-like tubes, and complex themes. One game that I loved called Xenon featured a female robot voice that cooed several double entendre comments like “enter Xenon” and “try a tube shot” that my buddy Mike and I still quote. Along with the boom in freestanding video style games like Pac-Man, video arcades started popping up everywhere. During my first year at college Mike and I occasionally hung out at nearby arcade that for a while offered a ‘by the hour’ price instead of the usual quarter per game. For a bad player like me, this was a very very good deal.
I was not particularly good at the popular games like Ms Pac Man, Galaga and Centipede but for some reason I was an idiot savant on a lame one called Pengo that featured a little penguin that scored points by shoving ice cubes around the screen. Although the real reason I played Pengo was because it was the only game that was not a quarter vacuum for me, I told a few friends I played it because I liked penguins. That started a steady stream of penguin gifts that kept coming for years. I do not dislike penguins. They are cute and in a dapper wacky sort of way but I do not want to surround myself with them.
That is the problem when people find out you like something. You might get excited in a store when you see a figurine because it looks similar to something your Grandmother had and reminds you of her. A friend sees your reaction but does not see why you reacted that way and suddenly you wake up one day with a floor to ceiling curio cabinet filled with Hummels and Precious Moments. Ack!
So to make it official I ended up with a bunch of penguin crap because I sucked at Ms. Pac Man. Besides, monkeys are a lot funnier. Hell, I think the word ‘monkey’ is humorous and the word does not even throw it’s own shit at people. My wife knows I like monkeys and occasionally gives me some monkey-related wacky gift but I cringe when anyone else learns about the monkey thing because I fear the holiday and birthday time flood of lame monkey related presents. That is why I do not tell anyone about the dozens of rubber ducks my wife and I have in the spare bathroom…. oops.
CLICK TO SEE PENGO