Jesse Tise

As luck would have it, five of my comedian cronies share the same birthday month and interests as my kid. So rather than wrestling with our wonky schedules of bookings, tours, and shift work, or pretending any of us can afford more than one birthday party, we’ve gathered for one grand birthday bash at a certain family-themed pizza joint named after a particular cartoon moose.

I’m immediately disappointed to find that our local chapter of said chain eatery doesn’t have anyone suffocating in an oversized fur suit, the interior of which almost certainly smells of liquor sweat and old cigarettes, with a faint whiff of urine. They do, however, have the saddest animatronic music duo I may have ever seen. First of all, they’re a two-piece, which is only cool if you’re the White Stripes. I mean, who are Salt-N-Pepa without Spinderella? Think about it. Second, squirrels lack the dexterity to play upright bass. Thirdly, how does a moose play banjo? And lastly, who wants to hear a banjo and bass duo? Answer: nobody, least of all screaming children gassed up on cake and pizza.

One ride after another body-shames me for being full grown and (nearly) average height. Just because I’m taller than four feet and weigh over 100 pounds doesn’t mean I don’t want to play in a ball pit, climb a rope ladder, go down a slide, or pilot a rocket ship. So I head to the far more inclusive arcade. If you’re older and haven’t been to an arcade recently, they no longer have physical tokens or tickets. You instead purchase a card that pays for games and tracks your winnings. Not to be the crotchety old enby readers already know and love me to be, but it’s just not the same.

Gone is the tactile joy of fumbling about with a pocket full of coins and feeling like an arcade pirate. Gone are the satisfying bundles of wasted paper piled on the floor by your feet, as others gather around to witness your indisputable victory over the house. Gone are the covetous glances cast at toddlers dragging long trains of paper tickets behind their diapered bottoms. Those kids had the wickedest reflexes, and everyone knew it from the trail of tickets.

What hasn’t changed is the quality of arcade prizes and the bitter sting of spending 9000 skillfully won tickets on a ball of stale cotton candy.

I quickly lose my kid to the siren song of go-kart racing for the duration of the festivities, and join an oddly competitive game of miniature golf. It might take a few holes, but I still got my old putt-putt swing. We stay long enough for pizza, cake, and the inevitable competition between two cishet dudes to see who can eat more. Sadly, we have to depart before I can circumvent laser tag FOMO, due to previously mentioned shift work.

All the same, this collective birthday earns its 10 points out of 10.