Sunday, October 12, 2008

Quantum of Solace

Yeah, yeah, I know, this is the title of the upcoming James Bond movie, the follow up to the excellent “reboot” of the Bond series that was Casino Royale. Well as much as I loved that movie and I am looking forward to the next one, this is about something else. So forget about car chases and exotic women in exotic locales and martinis that are shaken and not stirred and just try and think about arcade games or at the very least try and think about arcade games in exotic locales with exotic women and exotic cars. Ok, are you with me now? Good.

I often think about how I got started in this hobby. The forces both seen and unseen that came together and led me down this path. The combination of memories, timing and yearning for days gone by and wanting to go back to a time that frankly was just a better place for me. Guess in a way I was looking for my own “reboot” and for some strange reason I thought I could find it in an old arcade game. But it wouldn’t or couldn’t be just any game. It had to be a Space Invaders. This was the game that I had the most vivid memories of playing. There was one located at the Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlor in the mall near our house. Farrell’s in itself was a place fueled by nostalgia. An old fashioned ice cream parlor loaded with memorabilia, clanging bells, sirens, flashing lights, and ragtime music. The checkout area was a bastion of lollipops, licorice and tennis ball sized jawbreakers. I spent many birthdays there with my parents who by now had passed and many Friday and Saturday nights there while in High School hanging out with my friends. Amidst all the sugary delights at the cash register stood a lone arcade game. That game as you can probably guess by now was a Space Invaders. I don’t even dare calculate how many quarters I slipped into that machine. I just knew that I wanted to own one. I knew it would reconnect me to a time and specific place of good memories. No other arcade game would suffice.

It was sometime around 1993. I had no idea what the internet was. My only hope for finding an old game would be the newspaper. One day I saw an ad in the San Jose Mercury for arcade games. In fact, that is about all it said. Arcade games for sale and a phone number. I made the call. The man that answered identified himself as Yogi. Being new to this I had no idea who he was or what to expect from a guy called Yogi. I asked him if by some miracle he had a Space Invaders. “I think I have 2 or 3 “he said. After talking for a few minutes he explained where I could find him. We set up a time and I drove to his place. This was just too good to be true. On the outside it was just your average beige warehouse type of building. Inside it was another world .I stepped in the door and was shell-shocked. There were several classic beauties all lined up. I remember seeing a Berzerk, Defender , and a nicely restored pitch and bat game among others. Yogi led me through a maze of games and into the back of the warehouse. He had a row of Gottlieb wedgehead pins if I remember correctly and it seems like I remember a Missile Command Cockpit too. Just about every classic title was well represented. With equal parts Willy Wonka and “man behind the curtain” from the Wizard of Oz, Yogi showed me his collection. It was just simply amazing and hard to do it justice with just words. I saw the Space Invaders I wanted and and I also saw an Asteroids that I thought might be my next purchase. We settled on a price. For $400 I could take the Space Invaders home and reconnect with my past. My fate was sealed.

Time passed and I decided I would call Yogi and see about that Asteroids. Apparently I was too late. Yogi had liquidated the games. All was lost. Never mind the how or the why. It matters not. All I could think of was how difficult it must have been to give up such a remarkable stash of coin-op machines. To this day I think only a select few even know of this legendary collection of machines and the man that was responsible for them. To Yogi , if by some miracle you happen upon this blog the way I happened upon your magical collection of machines, may you find at the very least a quantum of solace knowing that a seed was planted and that I have done my very best to carry the torch. I hope all is well with you. May all your games end in high scores and if you ever need anything coin-op related come and see me. I owe you one.

1 comment:

jean said...

hey dave - I went to yogi's in 1994-5 and I had a similar experience seeing all those machines. I picked up a Zoo Keeper (that brett has now) and my Q*bert from him. He definitely is/was a character. I saw him a couple of years ago at CAX and seemed like he was doing great.