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Friday, August 26, 2011

You Numbah Waaan!

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!

29 comments:

Joshua said...

Definitely better than being a number 2.

jabblog said...

Great story! Arcades are the domain of the Devil, you know;-)

Glen said...

I never even managed to get on space invader's high score list down the bottom. An attractive woman good at arcade games? now there's a thing

savannah said...

well done,sugar, for remembering a good story when things were easier and your pal is numbah waan forevah

savannah said...

(hit send too sooon)

xoxoxoxox ;)

Tom G. said...

ahhh.... Galaga... I was always more of a Vanguard guy, but I could appreciate the finer points of those swirling alien bumble bees.

Pearl said...

Joshua, being a #2 would be dark mojo indeed.

jabblog, that's what our parents said. :-)

Glen, she was/is a sight to behold!

savannah, we still like to tell each other that we're both Numbah Waaan. :-)

Tom G, I loved the game but between it and Centipede we really couldn't tell which one was going to make my heart explode first...

Crystal Pistol said...

I laughed right out loud many times during the reading of this post. You funny, pearly Pearl.

In addition, you and Karen remind me of me and Coral. SISTERS FOREVER! (It's what we scream out the window when she is drunk and I am driving.)

Anonymous said...

There's a super secret strategy to Galaga! A secret so powerful that I dare not speak its name. Perhaps Karen knows this secret, perhaps not. Regardless, Galaga was the best arcade game ever!! Like, in the history of ever, which, as everyone knows, is quite a long time. Good on ya' Karen!!
Ian

jenny_o said...

I bet she thinks you're Numbah Waan! for writing this for her. Nice post.

Doubting Thomas said...

LOVE Galaga. Love it. Love it so much that I actually bought an arcade game at auction and fixed it up so I can play Galaga to my heart's content. I think heaven is one big arcade with all the games set to "free play." :)

Great story!

fishducky said...

There's an old (1984) movie called THE LAST STARFIGHTER where a guy is so good at video games that aliens kidnap him to help them fight a war. You & your sister might connect with it--but be careful! GOOD FLICK!

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

Wow, I'm a little bit jealous. I've only ever played games on my computer, with no audience. And I'm not fast enough to be numbah waan. Congrats to Karen, long may she reign!

Sausage Fingers said...

Pearl - want to read a story of a young man in the 80's dealing with a vietnamese liquor store owner? Then check out my new post...
I wish you
Sunshine and other sparkly shit...
Sausage.

Russ said...

An attractive girl and good at video games, no problem finding a date I'm guessing.

I was more of a Dig/Dug guy myself. I recently downloaded it on Xbox Live Arcade. Man do I suck at it royally now.

CedarView said...

Ahhh, the arcade. My girlfriend gave me $20 in arcade tokens for my 16th birthday. Sigh. The good ones always get away...

Middle-aged Mormon Man said...

Galaga was MY GAME! When my wife and I were newlywed and only had two quarters to rub together, we would take them to the arcade at the BYU bowling alley. We could dominate the Galaga machine for an entire hour with two quarters. Pity the poor soul who was waiting to play after us.

I'm not as good now, but I have more quarters - so it all works out.

Amber Star said...

I've never heard of that game, but possibly my kids have. My son had a really fun game on his Atari, I think it was, Space Invaders. I loved that game and was sorely upset when it was stolen. Not as much as he was, but still...

Belle said...

That is a great story. Those moments of life where you are noticed and appreciated are special.
I remember winning a dance contest at Shakey's Pizza when I was sixteen. A boy I didn't know asked me to dance and I didn't even know there was a contest going on. (oblivious even then) We won a free pizza that we shared with our friends.

Kal said...

Oh boy do I remember those arcade days. Greasy pizza, orange Crush, jailbait and the SIT DOWN version of GALAGA. That was a good Saturday night when I was 12. Sometimes it's like we lived parallel lives.

Eva Gallant said...

I think I know who's really Numbah Waan here!

Shelly (La Tejana) said...

Oh, that brought back some memories of a particular arcade in my town back in the early 80's...

Susan in the Boonies said...

I want Karen on my Zombie Apocalypse team.

And Pearl, you know, I must have you as well. Because you, too, ah numbah Juan!!!

Gigi said...

I don't remember that game but now Centipede? I rocked at that game! But sadly, I was never Numbah Waaan, but I did get some pretty awesome scores! Hmmm.....wandering off to see if there is an app for that.

Pearl said...

Have been feeling a little down -- see tomorrow's post - but you guys always make me laugh/smile. In my mind, there's an arcade with all of us in it, the Middle-Aged Mormon has brought his quarters with him, and Belle's going to show us how to dance.

:-)

A lovely Friday evening to all...

W.C.Camp said...

At first I thought you were going to talk about your 'Waxing'?? Anyway I have a neighbor who bought a Galaga game for his basement. COOL STUFF! Nice memories - Thanks. W.C.C.

Mrs. Tuna said...

Hmmm....I think I'm number 47.

River said...

I missed that whole eighties scene, seeing as how I was raising four small children then.
Still, I had enough excitement in my life. From the four small children....

Simply Suthern said...

I still play Galaga occasionaly, but my fave was Phoenix. I was Numbah waaan at it for a while. I had a putrid green tee shirt I won proclaiming it. Along with the arcade advetising on the back.