We've come, ladies and gentlemen, to the end of yet another workweek and yet another chance to wax superstitious about the prophetic qualities of my iPod.
What's that? Surely you've heard! It's perfectly true: my iPod, set on shuffle and played during my morning's commute, foretells the future!
Songs played during said commute are reflections of the iPod's owner and should not be used for gambling purposes.
Anti-D by The Wombats
Burning Inside by Ministry
One Day by Kings Go Forth
Frank Sinatra by Cake
The Puzzle by Brother Ali (Explicit)
On The Take by Bridge Club
Electric Feel by MGMT
Hmm. Looks like you're gonna want to have that prescription filled.
So. Do we have time for a quick story?
If you were around Minneapolis in the early 80s, then you were there in time for the arrival of the Hmong. The Hmong, AKA the Boat People, came to us out of Viet Nam after extensive layovers in Malaysia, Thailand, and a number of other hot, sticky places you're likely to find refugee camps. The Lutherans sponsored them by boat loads; and Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Madison, and San Diego, almost over night, got a lot shorter.
It was around this time that Karen and I discovered the arcade. Our parents, failing to see the entertainment value in purchasing an Atari Home Entertainment System -- and thereby depriving us of the life-altering skills that could be found within such games as "Frogger" -- forced us into the arms of the Picadilly Circus. Housed within the confines of the local mall, the place was a maelstrom of flashing, booping lights; teenagers in pants tight enough to qualify as tourniquettes; carmel corn and Cokes; and our favorite machine: Galaga.
Ah, Galaga. Repeating patterns of spaceships, some of whom will try to capture you, all of whom will try to kill you. Faster and faster they come, leading to faster attacks, chances at extra points, and heart palpitations.
We rocked at Galaga. Or, to put it more accurately, Karen rocked at Galaga. Cool under fire, if aliens ever do come to Earth, shooting in repeating patterns, you will want Karen manning one of the battle stations.
Karen was on Level 367 (approximation), when she drew the crowd that day. Her drawing a crowd was not unusual, as Karen is, aside from being a mean shot, also attractive. What was unusual was that the crowd were Hmong. Like the first time you wore lipstick or the first time you backed into a car, this was memorably, for us, the first Hmong crowd.
Five teenaged boys, mullets and acid-washed pony jeans, slapped us excitedly on our backs, gathered around speaking words of encouragement.
"You goin' long time"
"You goin' win for true!"
"You numbah waan!"
Karen whirls away from the game, looks at me, eyes twinkling.
I throw an arm around her. "You hear that, Karen? You win for true this time!"
Karen pulls away, laughs, her eyes back on the screen. She reaches backward blindly with a leg, tries to get a footprint on me. She misses.
The crowd hollers appreciatively as she fights her way through another dozen levels or so, until she dies in a spectacular double explosion.
She's number one on the list of Galaga-ites that have gone on before her. She enters her initials. She is, indeed, Number One.
"Hey!" A good-looking boy in a pink Izod polo thrusts three pink carnations at Karen. "You numbah waan. You numbah waan!" His friends are leaving for pizza, and he backs out of the room, his fingers raised in the peace sign. "Don't forget. You numbah waan."
It's been 30 years since then, but Karen's still Number One.
To Karen: Who maybe could use a story about now.
Don't forget: You Numbah Waan!