On Saturday night, I attended the second Camp Lohikan NYC reunion and experienced for the first time what many other bloggers have experienced: someone came up to me and said, “I loved your post! I found your blog by doing a google search and absolutely loved it!” In this case, it was an entry I wrote last October about camp. Not only did Karen love it, but she sent it to tons of people that I knew from those days who also loved it. It was very interesting to say hello to people and to have them immediately say, “I loved what you wrote!” Not that I minded…
In the spirit of giving the people what they want, my resolution now is to post more entries about camp and my memories from those halcyon days. Not all be mushy like my first and only camp post. In fact, most won’t be. But, before I move to far along in life and before I forget even more of what I used to know, I’m going to get some of this stuff down. Stephanie has said in the past to post more memoir-style entries, to write more “I remember…” exercises and then post them and I think that camp is the perfect source of material.
So, my first memory is about Canteen, the Rec Hall and the video game Galaxian. When I was in the inter division, we had Cantenn after dinner. Canteen was a time when, with all the other campers in our division, we got to go buy candy ($1 a day stipend was provided before you had to pay out of pocket) and play video games in a room that was in the back of the multi-purpose Rec Hall. There were about 20 stand up coin-op video games in that room, some more popular than others. The popular ones always had a line and I hated lines. Canteen lasted for only a finite period of time and I didn’t want to waste that time by just standing around. So, for some reason, probably because no one was playing it because it was so damn old, I started to play Galaxian, a Space Invaders sort of game put out by Midway in 1979.
This game became MY game, mostly because no one else ever played it. It got to be a joke – “Where is Jeff? He’s at Galaxian, duh!” I played it the entire Canteen period most days during my time at Lohikan, year after year. When I became a senior, Canteen switched from after dinner to after evening activity and when a lot of people were off hooking up at the riflery range or down by Arts and Farts, I was alone in the Canteen with Galaxian.
Over time, I got really good and could go many, many levels without ever losing a ship. Others who would see me playing were in awe — I was that good. It was a zen thing, because I knew the exact patterns for the first couple of boards, it was in essence meditation after a long day. I knew exactly where to be, when to fire, how to bob and weave my way through the missiles that were fired against me and I almost never faltered. If I died on one of the early boards, I just tanked the game and started over. I became one with the machine, and it seemed that my hands reacted faster than my mind could even process the info that was being presented to me. 17 missiles would be coming at me and somehow I would be able to juke them all. It became MY thing – this game was MINE. I would stretch my 3 lives out over 20 – 30 minutes. If I got on the game, basically you were just left waiting. With so many other little things out of my control, whether or not I was popular, whether or not a certain girl liked me, etc this game was one of the few little things in camp I could control and I just didn’t control it, I dominated it.
I think it occured during my last summer but eventually the game wasn’t just mine anymore. An Australian counselor with a pony tail named John (I think he taught music, I seem to remember him travelling about with a guitar) started playing this game as well. It was frustrating to show up and find someone playing – for three years this game usually was empty or if someone was playing, they would die rather fast and I would soon be on it for the remainder of Canteen. He was a different story though for he knew what he was doing. I remember one epic night when we played a 2 player game where we each rung up around 30K – 50K points. We actually attracted a crowd around us because we both were so damn good and this game was such an odd one to feature two video game gunslingers in battle against each other. He would play for 10 minutes, then I would play for 10 minutes, back and forth, past the time when Canteen should have ended. I’m not sure what happened. I like to think that neither of us were defeated, instead we just ran out of time to continue our battle.
Years later, I not only remember the game but the battle and all the other nights that I spent playing it. I remember that when I occasionally found myself in a relationship, I still managed to find time to play it at least once a night. It was my ritual and it needed to be done. I now have Galaxian for the Atari 2600 – yes, I have a working Atari 2600 – but its not the same because you can fire too many missiles. One of the features that I liked about the older stand up coin-op version was that if you fired a missile, it either needed to hit an alien ship or it needed to leave the screen before you could fire another one. The Atari 2600 version allows you to fire missiles at will which means you need a lot less skill to excel at it. I’ve been looking on eBay for a real stand up coin-op version of Galaxian and have seen ones for around $500 – $1000. Once I get a place that is big enough for it, I’m going to thrown down and purchase it. Then it will always be Canteen time in my home. I can’t wait.