...or: How I Misspent My Youth.
(My Entry for RetRose Tinted: Corrective Lenses Competition)
When I hear people talk about their childhood relationships with their parents, at least when they talk about the "good times", I tend to see the following themes repeated:
-The Family Vacations - Beaches, Lakeside Camping Trips, Family Reunions, or Occasionally a once-in-a-lifetime trip to some exotic locale, that precipitates some serious bonding and learning the value of family.
-Helping Dad fix the family truckster, or some other technical endeavor. Learning the intricacies of internal combustion engines, or the ins and outs of TV repair, maybe some Ham-Radio goodness.
-Playing a game of catch, or having Dear old Dad coach the little league team, and all the lessons that come with the joys of competitive sport.
You know, that All-American apple-pie kind of thing.
I don't have any of that. Our family vacations consisted of 2 weeks each summer driving from Pennsylvania to Wisconsin, and traipsing around the eastern part of that sate from Milwaukee to Oshkosh visiting my Mom's family. They're all great folks, but for a kid from the city, pulling weeds with your cousins in their family "Garden", is not the stuff of great vacations. And as far as technical ability - my father possesses none. Fixing the family truckster was left to professionals, and the man is a technophobe. He didn't even learn how to program a VCR until 1993, when my parents moved to another time zone, and I could no longer be counted on to take care of such complex tasks. Sports were a thing to be watched, not engaged in, and as a short, skinny, nerd growing up, I had no qualms with that assessment.
No my dad and I certainly didn't have the stereotypical relationship. Not by a damn sight. By today's standards, my old man did things in a decidedly nontraditional fashion. And I'll never stop thanking him for it.
My dad made made a living as a Salesman. Fortunately not the door-to-door type, but nothing too glamorous either. He sold Vending machine services. For reasons, that I'm not entirely clear on, or rather, I never questioned him on, many a Saturday afternoon was spent in various Pittsburgh area watering holes socializing with business associates. Many other Saturday afternoons were also spent socializing with old acquaintances. And still more Saturday afternoons were spent going out for a drink. Amazingly, I was often along for the ride. Now before, you get concerned about how this is going to turn into one of those "I had to call my mom to come and get me and my drunk ass dad home from the bar" stories, relax. Dad was pretty controlled in his imbibing, and there was never a scary moment. And before you get all worried about taking a 10-12 year old to a bar in the first place (You wouldn't, I know - this is Destructoid after all), I'd just like to mention the valuable lessons I learned in these frequent trips to the Steel city's finest dive bars:
1. Drinking to excess aint pretty. I never so much as touched a drop of alcohol until I was 22. Seeing men your father's age and older obliterated at 1 in the afternoon, will put you off drinking for a loooong time.
2. Dive bars make the best hamburgers. This is fact. Please do not try and debate me on it.
3. Dive bars of the late 70's and early 80's in Pittsburgh always had at least one each of the following: Pinball machine, Video Game, Video Poker Machine.
With these above points made, maybe now the picture is getting clearer. A Saturday afternoon, hanging out with my dad, a gloriously prepared Bar-burger, a plate of fries, a cold coke (in a Glass!), and a stack of quarters made for some great times. I can remember PLying my first Vector Game at the Castle Tavern - Rip Off, not asteroids. Discovering the pure visceral joy that can only be had while grasping the sides of a pinball machine - Gorgar (first talking Pin), as well as getting copious amounts of Play on now classics like Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Space Invaders, Berzerk, and countless others, all while my dad watched and cheered on every new high score. Never once did I think "I'd rather be playing catch"
It never occurred to me that these places should be off-limits to me, after all I was always there with my father, and he always seemed to know every bar-maid, waitress or tavern owner, like they were old friends. As far as I was concerned, I was having a great time with my dad. I think I spent a lot more Saturdays hanging out with my Father than my friends spent with theirs. Who needs a vacation to make memories?
Pittsburgh had it's share of arcades, and as I hit my early teens, and was more able to travel to them unattended, I spent more and more time in them. But when I look back at my love of video games, I always go back to the bar. And "My Misspent Youth".