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Aladdin's Castle B-Day

By: vkimo

My grandma was arrested for cursing at Galaga while smoking, she thought it was a casino.

Have you heard the tales, Of a magic kingdom wedged deep in the love handles of yesteryear, a place where Jolly Ranchers grow on bushes and Trolls rove in small herds?  It's very hard to find but if you close your eyes, stretch out your hands and wander long enough, you'll find it....Aladdin's Castle!

Soda stains on the carpet, gum on the game cabinets and mean acne faced home away from home

It was my friend's birthday, and like most good things that can happen to a person it happened on a Friday. I was anticipating it all week, along with most of the boys in my 3rd grade class. Raymond, my then best friend was having his Birthday at Aladdin's Castle, an arcade at the mall. Most birthday parties were at someone's house, or if you were lucky a Pizza Hut. Having one at an arcade was on a whole other level of greatness. And I was going. I remember getting out of school that day and blabbering about it all the way home. When we got home I quickly ditched all my school stuff because we had to pick up a present before we hit the party. I forget what we got him, but it was probably an action figure of some sort. It's always tough picking out presents for other kids when you're young. I was probably covetously holding the bag all the way back home..

Home- wait, why are we going back home? My dad told me we had to get my little brother. Looking back I was a selfish brat like that sometimes, but for some reason I did NOT want my pesky brother to share in the experience of a lifetime. Another hamper on my mood was my dad combing my hair back. I never combed my hair as a kid, just let it fall over my head. He combed it straight back and I looked like a goof, I was really mad and whined about it but he wouldn't budge. Even looking back as an adult I don't understand that one. This wasn't Church, it was a birthday party!

It wasn't my party but I'd still cry if I wanted to!

After all the 8 year old drama subsided we finally left for the party. I had my friend's toy all wrapped up and sporting my pompadour, I was ready. Aladdin's Castle was located in the mall, right across from the food court. It had large glass windows from the floor to the ceiling so you couldn't walk by without seeing all the flashing lights and attractions inside. We got there kind of early and walked over to the reserved party area which was a separate room with picnic style tables. It was decorated with balloons, TMNT decals on the walls and a breath taking mound of presents in the corner.

Once we sat down the presents, my dad left and my brother and I went to find my buddy. He was with his dad at the prize stand so I asked him what was up. At this point his dad handed me and my brother a roll of tokens... I wasn't sure If I was supposed to say thank you or fall down and pledge a lifetime of fealty. This was insane! Most times we went to the arcade I'd get a dollar to cash out for tokens at the machine and unless I was really good at the game I'd be done in less than 10 minutes. But this, this was a fortune sitting in my sweaty hands. Turns out everybody who came was getting free tokens to play the games. Shortly after that the rest of the kids came and that's where I let loose.

Unlike the sweet one pictured, Aladdin's Castle was well lit and I hated it. Arcades are supposed to be dark and gloomy.

This party was going to last at least 3 hours and I wanted to be smart and manage my coins to last me. About 30 minutes later I was on all fours looking under Cruising USA for dropped coins. I couldn't believe it, 10 bucks worth of coins gone so soon! My first mistake was falling under enchantment when I spotted a Barry Bonds card in a plastic sleeve buried under stuffed animals in the toy crane. Fruitless attempt after fruitless attempt and all I had to show for it was a San Jose Sharks stuffed hockey puck. After that I had waited in line to play some kids I didn't know in Mortal Kombat. When my turn finally came I was pretty nervous. The defending player beat all the kids in line and I was up. I picked my mainstay, Sub Zero and as soon as the match started I slammed him repeatably with ice slide kicks and freeze blasts. I beat him easily to the cheer of those watching. I was challenged to a rematch and we played again but the kid knew I was a one trick pony and anticipated my moves. I lost and lost and lost, spending token after token trying to salvage my honor to no avail.

I managed to panhandle some coins and even tried "accidentally" bumping the machine with the ledge full of coins and pushing bar but got the stink eye from an employee. Being in an arcade without coins is like hitting up Golden Corral right after getting all four wisdom teeth removed. Thankfully I heard Raymond's mom calling for cake and present opening time. I grabbed my pitiful skee ball ticket earnings and cashed out for a few stale Jolly Ranchers and a Chinese finger trap and made my way to the birthday room.

Nothing like spending 20 bucks to win a 10 cent prize.

The cake was a work of art. The birthday boys name in icing over Gotham's skyline with the Dark Knight swinging down from a cable. There was some serious quarreling over who got Batman's head on their slice but it was reserved for Raymond. There was pizza we had before the cake but it was from the mall and tasted like cardboard secretly doused in tomato sauce. After that though, it was present time. The huge mound in the corner gleaming with bows, shimmering gift wrap. The rest of us stared on in envy as the birthday boy opened up present after bloody present. Batman action figures, GI Joe, Bucky O' Hare (Well I wasn't too jealous then) you name it, he got it. It actually became tedious after awhile and I think the parents sensed it and just saved the rest of the unopened spoils for later.

You can't see me because these guys canned me in the trash bin.

After that we spent the remaining time messing around with all the new junk he scored while the adults cleaned up. It was a great time and really stood out as a birthday experience. Even though it wasn't mine I enjoyed it immensely. I was a pretty shy kid and didn't like being the center of attention so getting to eat cake and play arcade games was fun. I'd like to open up the comments section to your best memories at other kid's parties. Have a friend who's folks were gazillionaires and threw a party on the Queen Mary? Get invited to a party and you were the only one to show up? Let me know and thanks for reading.

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vkimo Posted on Jan 25, 2015 at 01:30 PM

It wasn't wood grain, but I know exactly what card you're talking about. This was a Giants card and his rookie was as a Pirate. I have a few of that card

Vaporman87 Posted on Jan 24, 2015 at 11:11 PM

What year was Bonds rookie card? Was it '87? The year Topps did the whole wood grain look on the card? I have that one, and a bunch of others.

vkimo Posted on Jan 23, 2015 at 09:49 PM

@Hoju - Sadly no Barry Bonds :( But I did have that hockey puck for a number of years before losing it.

Vaporman87 Posted on Jan 23, 2015 at 08:40 PM

That would have been awesome to just have a roll of tokens handed to you. Total bliss.

I had an arcade type of birthday once. It took place at Showbiz Pizza in Parkersburg, WV. (no longer there, naturally). We had a grand time playing games, watching the Rock-A-Fire Explosion perform, and eating pizza. Those were good days.

Hoju Koolander Posted on Jan 23, 2015 at 06:42 PM

Oh the joys of the video arcade birthday and a whole roll of tokens! I bet you did your best to stay in that kid's good graces until the next birthday rolled around. Congrats on the Mortal Kombat victory, however short lived. That's a feat I never managed to accomplish in any fighting game. Did you ever get that Barry Bonds card for your collection, through a trade or something?

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