Sidecar is the restaurant and bar closest to my apartment. Last night I was there with my friend Jason Vaughn enjoying a burger—one of Sidecar’s only two reasonably priced entrees along with the Club sandwich; fortunately the two are my favorite items there—and we heard a commotion towards the back. A group of about half-a-dozen kids of varying ages crowded around an old Spy Hunter arcade machine, each jockeying for a turn. It’s a scene I haven’t seen in ages, especially since the invention of portable gaming consoles like the Game Boy. These kids were in a rare social zone that made playing their games at the dinner table inappropriate, but being sequestered in the back of the restaurant around an arcade stand-up perfectly acceptable.
Spy Hunter itself has special memories for me. One of the towns where I grew up—Buffalo, Missouri, where my grandparents lived—had pretty much nothing to do. We’d walk around the town during summer days, maybe traipse down to my great-grandparents’ farm to look for arrowheads in the scrub grass and clay, or hang out in the town square peering through the windows of businesses long since closed.
They opened up a Wal-Mart one year and stuck a Spy Hunter machine in the vestibule. My cousin Greg and I rifled through my grandfather’s change jar in his bedroom, extracting probably ten dollars in quarters, then walked down the highway to Wal-Mart with our pockets heavy. We spent several hours trading off plays, mine always considerably shorter than Greg’s, who could get to the boat section nearly every play. A few months later I sifted through Grandpa’s change jar again looking for any strays, but came away with just a few from the nickels and German coins—souvenirs from a trip to Europe they’d taken in the ’70s. Grandpa Lemons had been laid up in the hospital with cancer for a few months, his time for breaking bills into change soon over for good.
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