Robert (gurdonark) wrote,

  • Music:

A Spy in the House of Nickels

"A nickel ain't worth a dime anymore"--Yogi Berra

After a long yet satisfying day, I drove home while Jane Siberry's CD assured me that she was bound by the beauty. My wife had not yet arrived when I did, as she has put in some late hours this week.

After she got home, and we talked about our days, the phone rang. My sister in law called with a set of ideas, and soon our plans were laid. I would pick up my 12 year old nephew for a night of debonair revelry, while my wife and my sister in law would adjourn to a restaurant.

My nephew and I elected to go to that chic boutique, Plano's House of Nickels. I hesitate, sometimes, to set forth the worldly vices in which I engage, for fear that my LiveJournal will show my darkest inner secrets. In the interest of fair and open communication, let me say at once that the House of Nickels is a place of outmoded video games and dubious skeeball.

The concept is wonderful. One pays a three dollar entry fee to the fellow behind the desk. Then, one buys five dollars worth of nickels, placed, as I imagine a gin and tonic might be at a fraternity party, in a plastic cup. The vintage games then all operate on roughly two nickels each.

We had a spectacular night of the video zombies. We played numerous games of air hockey, in which I went down to defeat because my "bank shot" did not equal my nephew's bank shot. My "wrist flick power straightshot/rattle", though, did keep the games close. As a matter of character and setting, let me briefly mention that sweat, which I suspect is called "glisten" in finer establishments, flowed freely down my forehead as I failed to defend the airborne puck.

I did relatively better at Pac Man, which my autonomous system remembers. In the main, though, we focused on games which permitted us to win tickets, which in turn could be traded for dollar store quality prizes. We played one game which was a curious dice poker game. Huge oversize dice rolled up a "hand", not dissimilar to yachtzee (or, if we must be showoffs, pai gow). Then one could either "hold" each car, or "burn and re-hit" a particular card. Here is the curious thing, though. The "re-deal" was done by rolling a ball down a corridor in hope of it entering a slot for the desired number. We won many tickets with our various arrays of full houses and three of a kinds.

One young man a year or two older than my nephew seemed to want to instruct him in proper poker play, but it soon transpired that he actually did not understand the rules at all, and wished to learn how to win the many tickets we attained. I began with an enthusiastic "it's Poker!", but then noticed that his parents' face had that certain downturn that meant I should have said "it's yachtzee!". I felt like a spy from the forces of virtue, nonetheless indoctrinating the innocents in the dogmas of nickel-plated vice. Las Vegas, I understand, was built on such ambiguity, and lots of sand.

We played a very science fiction circular game in which the idea was to press a button when a particular light bulb was lit among hundreds of circled light bulbs. It turns out that I am good at putting my thumb into sync with the spiralling light, and many tickets were won this way.

We skeed at skee ball, achieving scores so high that the unmanned craft Cassini would have to report them, but sadly not high enough to permit us to regularly fill the 10,000 point goal. We threw the tiny basketballs. We did everything any human could do at a house of video, other than perhaps engage in bloody video kick fighting or shoot space meteors with a revolving weapon. I did not see a Galaga, though. I would have loved Galaga.

The crowd, moderate in size in the mini-mall storefront, was a combination of teens and parents. One twentysomething mom might have seemed 18, in her high-school-era shorts and top and flawless looks, but for the diamond ring the size of the entire DeBeers southern mine complex and two children of indeterminate but ancient age. Who knows? Maybe she found them in a tar pit, by the mastodon. Today's paper featured two local genius ten year olds who dig up ancient mammoths and gazelles. When I was ten, I dug up bottles to return for a nickel deposit.

We used the 900+ tickets we won to trade in for a plastic boomerang, a "sticky ball", as to which the plastic was gooey/sticky, and a cheap plastic whistle.
I got the cheap plastic whistle for my own personal diversion, while my nephew commandeered the remaining swag.

We talked of ancient history, such as "when I was a boy, we only had pinball" and "you should have seen the first Pong game". We adjourned to Arby's, where we ate fries and drilled over the names of the chess openings, and we made plans to visit the Dallas World Aquarium by train in the near future.

I enjoyed a night out with my charming nephew, which distracted me from the eternal questions ("185?" and "what shall I do to avoid wasting Saturday morning". I love the House of Nickels. I can hardly wait to go back again.

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