We are a generation of people raised on Snoopy snow cones and Superman sheets. But at some point we started saying things like "escrow" and "effective time management"--and things went horribly awry. Now we can only sleep on Egyptian cotton and won't even consider eating food unless it's been "braised" by a guy named Jean-Pierre (never mind that I am writing this from an $800 Herman Miller desk chair).
We must put an end to this immediately. Loosen your A/X tie, get off your Pottery Barn couch, and get your ass to the arcade. Go to the skating rink. Eat something on a stick, for Christ's sake.
As usual, we've done all the work so you don't have to decide--oh the horror!--what to do with your free time. Take it from us: gray is the new black, short is the new long, old is the new new, and these are the places to go if you want to redeem yourself and your sell-out of a life. Grab your quarters, and we'll see you there.
Name: Starcade (inside the Century Eastport 16 Theater)
Location: 4040 SE 82 Avenue
Necessary Accessories: Mesh T-shirt, ground lights for your car.
Scoop: No sooner have you crossed the threshold than you're welcomed by the warm, green glow of the Dynamo Hot Flash black light air hockey table. Air hockey, in case you aren't a student of history, is the reason humans developed opposable thumbs. And the advent of black light air hockey was the primary impetus for the Renaissance of the 14th Century.
Thus, I believe it to be the barometer of arcade quality, and it's the primary reason why the Starcade won me over immediately (that, and the fact that the place is totally Jersey). The air hockey table is so good it will make your pink parts tingle. If, like me, you've got a custom puck and paddle engraved with your name, this is the arcade for you, as there is little else to distract you from your singular air hockey mission of total destruction. They've got a pinball machine and a couple out-of-order Star Wars games, but other than that, the only thing worth mentioning is the Marvel Super Heroes Vs. Street Fighter game that'll make you wish you had buttons labeled "fierce" and "roundhouse" in place of nipples.
Plus, after you've incurred all the air hockey injuries that are possible for one evening, you can walk 20 paces and see a movie.
Name: The Avalon
Location: 3451 SE Belmont
Necessary Accessories: Dancing shoes, library card, extra pair of underpants.
Scoop: It costs $2.50 to get in, but then all the games take nickels instead of quarters ("Mom, the more I play the more you save!"). There are two shining stars at the Avalon you won't see anywhere else. The first, called Panic Park, is entirely in Japanese, thus allowing you to make up the rules and the object of the game as you go along. A real highlight.
The second game of note is Ocean Hunter, which is beautiful in an entirely different way: the bench you sit on while shooting innocent marine life with semi-automatic weapons vibrates so much it should come with a wet-nap dispenser. Bring a date.
But the far and away, number one reason to check out the Avalon is to witness for yourself the phenomenon that is Dance Dance Revolution Extreme. This is less of a game and more of a lifestyle choice, really--one that entitles the 11-14-year-old boys who play it to a life of celibacy. "DDR Extreme," as I like to call it, involves placing your feet on sensored squares (in a revolutionary manner) to correspond with little arrows on a screen whipping by in time with cheesy electronic pop music. The better you get, the more quickly you have to move, causing the more advanced players to look like sweaty, pimply blurs twitching away to Debbie Gibson. A subculture has formed around this game leading to the fiercest of competition between these boys who are quick as gazelles and will never get laid as long as they live.
Don't be surprised to see a row of student ID's and library cards stacked in front of the machine, holding the places in line of the eager young dance revolutionaries. When I walked over to the crowd of onlookers (it truly is more entertaining than anything you've ever seen), one red-headed twitcher approached me, sleeves rolled up, sweat beading off his brow, and said: "Been playin' long?"
"No, never actually."
"Well, you really should."
"How often do you play?" I inquired.
"I come here a couple times a week just, like, to practice."
Name: Ground Kontrol
Location: 610 SW 12th
Necessary Accessories: Roos sneakers with Velcro closure, matching terry cloth wrist bands.
Scoop: This is the real deal. Purely lo-fi, old-school games like Space Invaders, Q. Bert, Ms. Pac Man, Tetris, Frogger, Donkey Kong, Centipede, Marble Madness, Asteroids, and Mario Bros. The place smells like your junior high and the sounds from the machines alone will heal you. However, if your wounds are deep, you should purchase a can of the panacea (Tab cola) from their cooler and take pulls off it while destroying the bad guys. After you've saved the world, you can buy as many vintage home video games (Atari, Nintendo, ColecoVision et. al) as will fit in your Jem and the Holograms lunchbox. Don't spend more than a half-hour at Ground Kontrol, though, or you will decide to quit your cushy computer job and live the rest of your days in your parents' basement making Shrinky Dinks and playing Pong.
Name: Chuck E. Cheese
Location: 9120 SE Powell
Necessary Accessories:Stun gun, anti-bacterial soap.
Scoop: Unless you're there for a child's birthday party, you may be asked for some I.D. "You have to be over 18 to be unsupervised in the arcade," said the 16-year-old ladychild at the door. Apparently, the Chuck E. Cheese higher-ups feel it is inappropriate for you to play Skee Ball alone until you're old enough to die for your country.
But, let me tell you, Skee Ball row at Chuck E. Cheese is the place to be, for a number of reasons: They are miniaturized, which will give you a sharply inflated sense of your Skee Ball prowess; you will be godlike. Also, you will be interrupted with some frequency by muscousy little boys asking for your balls. This can be very exciting.
And if that wasn't enough, the Skee Ball machines shoot out tickets--as if to say "you are so hot on this machine that we feel the need to provide you with additional reinforcement"--that you can claim later for completely worthless prizes! Just think: $65 worth of Skee Ball fun can net you a Hot Wheels key chain, a package of Spree candy, or a plastic fist!
Once you've thrown out your back, given away all your balls and/or played enough to attain the highly coveted Chuck E. Cheese whoopee cushion, you should divest yourself of your shoes (make sure to put them in the appropriately designated cubby hole) and crawl through the elaborate series of overhead tunnels that was clearly not designed to withstand a human being over 42" high.
I would also like to recommend the police car simulator for making out. It will provide you with the greatest potential for traumatizing the most children (it opens out onto the entire room via a fish-eye window) and, you can make revving sounds with the gas pedal while you're getting a handjob.
Name: Oaks Park and Skating Rink
Location:They don't have an actual street address. But they can be found at the east end of the Sellwood Bridge. Go down the hill on SE Spokane street and cross the railroad tracks. Take the first right and follow the winding road (and sounds of screaming children). Or go to www.oakspark.com for equally vague directions.
Necessary Accessories: Iron stomach, crappy frog tattoo on left shoulder.
Scoop: An evening at the amusement park will take you back to your college days when fun could only be had if there was a remote possibility of someone throwing up. And if you time it just right (have the blue raspberry Slushee before riding the Screamin' Eagle), vomiting at Oaks Park should be no problem.
My suggestion to you: start with The Scrambler and then move on to The Round Up. Now is the time to have the aforementioned Slushee. Make sure you drink the whole thing. Then wait in line for the Screamin' Eagle with a throng of prematurely-sexualized teenagers, but do not watch the people on the ride or you may risk stepping out of line. Just suck it up and know that, as your reward for making it to the front, you will get to see pieces of my spleen on the safety bar on the second seat from the left. After the Eagle has divorced you from your lunch, go to Bonanza, the creepiest amusement game/shooting gallery ever created. Aim for the frying pan on the back wall.
If you want a less vomitous good time, check out the skating rink at the park. They rent four-wheelers for next to nothing, and it's your chance to impress the hell out of everyone with your "cross-over."
photos by Jason Kaplan