Stories Told

Killing time

I grew up in a very sedate family. We weren’t joiners and we weren’t goers. So except for grocery night on Thursdays we were home, Dad hidden behind the evening paper and the rest of us in front of the television. On the weekends I mowed a couple lawns for a few extra dollars, but that didn’t fill the time so I read a lot. I didn’t appreciate all the time I had on my hands. What I wouldn’t do for that kind of time today!

Instead, I whined and complained about being bored. My mom would say, “If you’re that bored, you can (insert chore here).” I did a few extra chores before I learned to be less vocal about my boredom! Then Mom decided I needed to be more active and take an interest in sports. She never insisted, but I was bored enough to take her up on trying out for basketball a couple years, going to sports camp one summer, and joining a bowling league in high school.

The Skid Row Bums, because we were always in the gutter.

The Skid Row Bums – always in the gutter

I actually sort of liked the bowling league – even though I was a lousy bowler, and even though the only way I could get to the bowling alley was to ride my bike three miles up a U.S. highway while carrying my 14-pound ball – because before and after I bowled I could play the games in the arcade room. This was in the era when video games were just starting to crowd out pinball machines. I liked to zip around the field in Tempest, shooting the flippers, tankers, spikers, fuseballs, and pulsars (play a clone here), and I liked to chase the vector-graphics tanks in Battlezone. But I loved pinball. The bowling alley had one of the first electronic pinball games, the classic The Black Knight. When you dropped a quarter into The Black Knight, it growled, “The Black Knight will slay you!” And slay me it did, over and over again, its silver ball streaking across its bi-level play deck. But I got better and could play longer and longer on each quarter as I figured out the tricks to activate the Magna-Save electromagnet, enable multi-ball play, and win an extra ball (at which the game said, “Fight me again, Knight!”) I could happily spend all of my lawn-mowing money fighting The Black Knight every week. What a great game!

Oh, yeah, and our team won the championship. One of my former teammates reminded me of that today.

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8 thoughts on “Killing time

  1. Lone Primate says:

    Oh, man… riding a bike with a bowling ball? I get tired just thinking about it. :)

    Battlezone was one of my all-time faves… we had one at a grocery store half way between my place and my best friend’s place and that was Saturday morning for around a year. I loved Tempest too — I was stunned by the fact that they finally had full colour (instead of monocolour) vector graphics — but I stank at it. Took me longer to fish the quarter out of my pocket than to waste my three C-shooters. :)

    My all-time fave was Berzerk… remember that one? With the robots and Evil Otto? The game so intense it killed kids (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berzerk#Berzerk_in_popular_culture)? Man. :)

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  2. ant says:

    I love pinball. Unfortunately I don’t remember specific games. The arcades back in the day had so many of them.

    With regards to arcade games, I loved Gorf. Seriously, totally loved Gorf. Donkey Kong was fun, too.

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  3. LP, I rode my bike everywhere in those days and had the thighs to prove it! I do remember Berzerk! I didn’t know about how two kids died after playing it, though!

    ant, I totally remember Gorf! My brother was a master of that game. We even had a version of it for the Commodore 64 and it was pretty good.

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  4. Lone Primate says:

    Oh, yeah, GORF! Man, I forgot about that one. That’s one of the few video games I actually got good at. :D I made it to Space Admiral. That was sweet. Man, that was a fun game.

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  5. i remember when my brother was a kid in the 80’s..he was 10 year youngerthan me and thought he was a pin ball wizzard played the song all the time. really liked pin ball..
    this was a fun post t read..reminded me my own “leave it to bever” days..although you might be too young to remember the show..

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