Friday, September 26, 2014

Donkey Kong and a Fistful of Bicentennial Quarters

It was the summer of '82 when I became somewhat of a subject matter expert of the arcade video game called Donkey Kong. It wasn't easy, because there wasn't a bonafide version of the arcade game within striking distance of my yellow Schwinn Stingray Jr. The closest Donkey Kong was at a pizza restaurant some six miles away. Getting there involved crossing a major inner state freeway and traveling hilly roads with no shoulder. I could only hope and pray that one of my classmates was going to have a birthday party or sleepover or something at that pizza place so I could get my chance to square off with Kong.

Yet while Donkey Kong was miles away, there was a decent knock-off version called "Crazy Kong" nearby. Crazy Kong, or "Monkey Donkey" as it was sometimes referred, was discovered by my older brother Matt at a cut-rate gas station called "Fas-Gas" about a mile from our house. After he told me about it, you could spot my yellow bike leaned up against gas station's pane glass many afternoons while I honed my skills on Crazy Kong. Sure, it wasn't the real thing, but it was close enough. And I became good at it a dollar a time. Sometimes, when I was broke, I just watched others play.

Inevitably, the day arrived when a friend invited me for a sleep-over, and we were going to the pizza place that had DK. I was finally going to get my chance.

Now, I have a confession to make. This admission of my guilt is directed to my dear ol' Dad. The rest of you can be my witness. Public confessions are always the best way to handle such things. Just get the mess all out there in public and everything. It's yucky, but sometimes it needs to be done. Anyway, here's what happened.

Before I left the home that day, I raided my Dad's top dresser drawer -- the underwear one -- where a small (single) goldfish bowl had been re-purposed for use as a cache of quarters. Now, they were not just any old quarters. They were commemorative 1776-1976 Bicentennial quarters.

Granted, they were in circulation (not mint), but still. He was collecting them because they were special one-off versions of quarters long before the US Mint had the notion of creating one for each of the 50 States. Back then, and for as long as anyone could remember, there were just two valid quarter dollars: the standard, and the Bicentennial quarter. The former were meant to purchase a postage stamp, the latter, apparently to hoard and treasure.

The fishbowl was Dad's temporary holding queue until he had the time to roll and deposit into the safe in the basement. At any rate, my Dad had a trove of them.

That night, before heading out the door, I purposefully went into the master bedroom and stuffed fistfuls of those Bicentennials into my pants pockets. It felt dirty, but 'Kong was waiting.

And with that, it was on like Donkey Kong.

It took about 40 of Dad's Bicentennial quarters before I blew up the machine's high score that night. There must have been ten kids watching me as I made a mockery of Kong, cycling through his world seven times while he stomped and made futile attempts at tossing barrels at my tiny, pixelated-head. When I finally stepped away, my initials, BCM, were above all the rest. I was the top dog, the #1 Donkey Kong killer at that place: 89,000+ points of pure mastery--

Oops, I got a little carried away there. I believe that I was in the middle of an unfinished confession.

Dad, I regret all of these years having passed and I have hidden this from you. Please know that this was the only time I can recollect taking anything from you. Not that it makes it right. Once is bad enough in itself. It felt as dirty then as it does now. I mean, except for the glory of destroying Donkey Kong for an hour or so. But, uh, other than that hour of joy, it was all wrong. All of it.

So here goes: Dad, I own you an amends.

I was wrong for stealing those Bicentennial quarters from you.

I am sorry.

Please forgive me.

Wow, I feel a lot better now, like having a load of bricks lifted from my chest. Indeed. For the first time in three decades, I think I should sleep peacefully tonight.

Well that brings us to the end of another post. Thanks for reading, especially you, Dad. :-)

Happy Friday everyone.


  1. I kind of wished I read this before I saw you... you need to watch king of kong documentary

  2. Thanks, I'll check it out. I might learn a new trick or two