I can remember being 6 or 7 years old, crowding around a Pac-Man machine and standing on tip-toes to watch an older kid clear level upon level, thinking to myself how indescribably cool it would be to be him. About a year and a half ago, I got my chance to be that kid. My wife and I were waiting for a table at a restaurant that had Pac-Man in the waiting area. And I was cleaning up. I had about half a dozen ten year-olds crowding me, gasping and oohing every time I'd narrowly avoid Blinky or Inky and reach a power pellet, and cheering every time I cleared a level. I had their parents watching, too, and laughing at me (well, maybe not at me, but near me). I was thinking, "How cool would they think I am if they knew I have tattoos and can stay out past midnight?"
For as much fun as that was, though, it was also pretty damned sad: that's the only time in the past three years when I've really felt youthful. I mean, it's harsh coming to grips with the fact that there are certain stores in the mall where I can't shop, lest I be the "too old to be here guy," and make everyone else uncomfortable. It's the same experience I had a couple years ago, walking around the campus of my college alma mater in a suit. It's like I'm having a mid-life crisis and I'm only 29 years old. So I run, and I lift weights, and I follow men's fashion trends. (One of my biggest fears -- along with Lyme Disease and tornadoes -- is that I'll be one of those guys who stops changing anything when they've hit the height of fashion. You've seen them; they look like they've just stepped out of 1992 or something, because in 1992 they were the tits. Then the rest of the world moved on without them. I don't ever want to be that guy.)
What's the point of all this, besides me humiliating myself? This year marks Pac-Man's 25th birthday. [Link via A Small Victory.] My God, how did I get so old? Anyway, in Pac-Man's honor, check out this sweet site chock-full of vintage arcade offerings from Midway, the link for which I shamelessly culled from the comments to Michele's post. It doesn't have Pac-Man, but it's still highly cool, if only for its inclusion of Tapper, one of the greatest time-wasters of all time.