Most people hear that word arcade and it immediately summons up images of videos games, old fashion pinball games, and maybe some of those new interactive games like Extreme Dance Dance Revolution. For me, it was, is, and always will be the first soda shop I ever knew.
Located down on Circuit Ave, right in the heart of Oak Bluffs, it served as one of the gateways to my little world to the Campgrounds the place of the gingerbread cottages. A huge, towering edifice of wood, it was always painted bright yellow, and had just a few touches of gingerbread scattered here and there across its visage; as if signalling that it was near the Campgrounds, yet not truly part of it.
The neatest thing about it was the tunnel.
Passing right through the center of the building was a big boxy tunnel the passageway between the world of commerce, out on Circuit Ave, and that of our world within the Campgrounds. As wed walk through leaving the quiet peace of the cottages behind the soda shop was on our left. The side door was there, and a few large picture windows so we could see if it was crowded or closed and it was the absolute stereotype old-fashion soda shop. There were the tables, the counter, the round stools attached to the floor that we could spin around in until the manager told us to stop and there were the gadgets and gizmos behind the counter that held the sodas, syrups, and other delightful concoctions available for a price.
The right side of the tunnel was a closed shop; nothing was ever in there, and we something wondered why. Of course, being small boys, we had all manner of wild theories: a dead body lay in there, the place was haunted, it was cursed, and so on. We decided it was best not to dwell on such things, and instead focused on the tasty treats to be had on the other side. Now that I think of it, that's probably why we thought something evil and sinister had to be on the right. Even at that tender age six, seven and eight we knew there had to be balance in life; there was no such thing as a free lunch. If the left had such tantalizing creations to offer us; well, then, the right must have equally diabolical dangers fermenting within its walls.
Oh, and just so you know I'm not making any sort of political statement here, if you came through the tunnel going from Circuit Ave in to the Campgrounds, the sides would be reversed. There now; I hope Anne and Rush wont think I was being too liberal.
So, to continue.
As the Arcade was right near the Campgrounds, it was an easy walk from our cottage. So, my Mom was not opposed to me going there by myself. For a boy of eight, that was a big deal. Of course, she was always telling me to get a burger or sandwich something (ugh) healthy before having my ice cream.
It usually didn't work out that way. Actually, it almost never worked out that way; unless she came along to supervise. It was at the Arcade that I first tried a new form of dessert; something called a sundae. I was confused by the term at first; after all, it wasn't Sunday when the soda jerk (yeah, that's what he said to call him) offered it to me. Still, if it was connected with ice cream, I figured it had to be good.
So, I gave it a try. First came the ice cream three scoops of vanilla (not my favourite flavour, but I was willing to overlook that) and then this dark sauce he said was hot fudge. I have to say, that part confused me putting something hot on ice cream? Wasn't that, like, wrong? I mean, it would melt the ice cream! Still, I decided to go with it. After that came the whipped cream and a cherry, and he asked if I wanted nuts on it.
I said no; nuts on ice cream made about as much sense as nuts in brownies or bread to me they just didn't sit well. So, I passed.
After that, I was presented with the little metal bowl and a spoon. First, of course, the cherry went down quite tasty and then the whipped cream got scrapped off. After that came the first spoonful of the ice cream and hot fudge combo. I wasn't too sure about this mixing hot and cold foods yet, I was determined to try.
Oh, what a heavenly blending of exciting elixirs! By the time I was done virtually scrapping the metal off of the bottom of that bowl I was certain of two things. First, that a sundae was Gods gift to eight-year-old boys; and second, that the Devil lived across the tunnel from the soda shop.
Only the ultimate evil in the universe could possibly counterbalance something of such divine origins.
Today, the Arcade is still there, albeit a bit changed; the classic soda shop look of the place is gone, and the other side has a little shop in it now. Last time I had an ice cream there, it was okay. In my humble opinion, throwing the place out of balance with the Cosmos may have allowed for a shop to open on the other side, but it had come at a price.
Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.
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