Classic Dishes...

Game Over

I’m in California this week, visiting my parents for a few days, then spending the latter part of the week in San Jose for the Sharks’ first two home games, before I fly back home on Sunday.

Well, today, because I haven’t had a good proper burrito in far too long, I went to one of my old haunts, Papa Chano’s, for lunch. (And, damn. You folks back in Seattle who always listen to me complain about Taco Del Mar are gonna get it with both barrels when I get home; I’d forgotten how good a Mission-style burrito is SUPPOSED to be. It was magical.)

After lunch, I went driving around town a little bit, partially because I needed to run my auto insurance card to Mom at work so she could photocopy it for some reason or another, and partially because I was interested in seeing how Monterey had changed in the three years since I’d been here. (And, really, the last trip home doesn’t count, either…I was sick as a dog and didn’t do much exploring.)

And I discovered that Edgewater Packing Company was no more.

Colloquially known simply as “The Carousel” because of the 1908 merry-go-round that was its centerpiece, I had first heard about Edgewater at the tender age of eight years old, when I was taken to watch a family friend play in a Little League game. An older friend spoke of this wondrous place that had this ginormous carousel, a huge video game arcade, and an ice cream parlor, all in one incredible building on Cannery Row. I was wide-eyed. This news was the closest I’d ever come to believing in a benevolent God. This was a place I HAD to go to.

And so I pestered my parents relentlessly to take me to this ethereal paradise, and finally, one weekend (it had to have been a weekend, as we went at night), my parents took me there. And it was EVERY bit as amazing as I had been told. I rode the merry-go-round, and ate ice cream, and played video games and air hockey and skee-ball, and we took home a giant box of caramel corn from the candy shop inside. There was a toy store upstairs, with a kid-sized entrance that looked like you were walking into the mouth of a lion. There was a MAGIC SHOP upstairs. It was the best thing EVER, and it was truly the start of my video gaming hobby.

Over the next, oh, 20 or so years, I would go back there. A lot. Almost every weekend through most of the rest of elementary and middle school, then later in high school, and even into college. I would be taken again by the folks, then I would ride my bike down there, then Mom would drop me off and I would have to remember to save back a dime to call for a ride home on the pay phone. Then, my friends got cars, and would drive us down there. Then _I_ got a car and would drive myself. Sometimes I would be there just to play games, sometimes I had business at the magic shop or the comic book shop inside (that pretty much covers middle school), but no matter how old I was, no matter where I was in life, I always had a reason to go to Edgewater.

Over the course of my life in Monterey, four arcades had come and gone; Electric Light Arcade, the game room at Weird Harold’s Sandwich Shoppe, and Time Out all had their little runs, but Edgewater Packing Company was first, and it was last.

And now it’s gone.

I did some digging to see if I could find out exactly when it closed up shop (Mom couldn’t remember), and I never was able to. I did find out that apparently some developer wants to turn the building into an IMAX theater. Which is all fine and good, but you can’t play Paperboy, or Cyberball, or Star Wars, or Tapper, or any of an entire GENERATION of pinball machines, at an IMAX theater.

Wikipedia has an article on That’s The Question, a game show on GSN that to date has aired exactly two episodes. It does not have one on Edgewater Packing Company.

And if you ever need proof that there ISN’T a benevolent God, there you have it.

2 comments to Game Over

  • Brandon

    Arcades in general seem to be fading into oblivion. Here in S.E. Virginia, Space Port and Aladdin’s Castle were the big spots in the mall, and I’m sure they were there from the early-80s up until the last five-or-so years (I remember SP up until 1999, AC up to the last year or two).

    In addition, all the Putt-Putt miniature golf courses (which had indoor arcades) closed down within the last five years as well. I refuse to believe that home video game systems are to blame, otherwise arcades would’ve bit the dust 25 years ago.

  • Nick W.

    “The carousel” has actually closed and reopened under different management couple of times since you left town. The last owner was the now-defunct “Cowboy Pizza Company”, which also ran an arcade/pizzeria in Salinas near the rodeo grounds. I honestly don’t know if it could have stayed afloat if it were well managed, but boy did they ever fuck it up. A partial list of their offenses:

    – They installed those keycard things instead of using tokens or quarters, and that never sat right with me
    – For some time, most of the downstairs was taken up by these $5-6 a play panoramic NASCAR games. It would have a sweet setup except that it was NASCAR, so it’s just driving in an oval and overtaking another car every five minutes or so. And I remember thinking Hard Drivin’ was expensive at $.75 a play
    – The rest of the downstairs was taken up by a never-finished (?) pizzaria.
    – Offbrand skee-bal, with plastic balls. Unsatisfying.
    – The upstairs, now an open area, had every “Nobody plays ’em” game in the book (including a Neo Geo cabinet with GOLF as the only game)
    – Only one fighting game, but they did have…
    – A mechanical bull and…
    – A “miniature golf course” which was just three or four raised platforms with astroturf on them.

    And who tries to make money opening a pizza place two blocks from Gianni’s? Idiots. That’s who.

    Whatsisface has been trying to get an IMAX on Cannery Row for over a decade. He might succeed, he’ll probably fail, but I don’t think an arcade could ever make enough money anymore to pay the lease there. Maybe if it had shops too, like in the old days…

    Glad to hear that you got yourself a Chano’s burrito. I work in Ryan Ranch now and I’ve made a point of trying all the burrito joints in Seaside, but I always go back to Chano’s. One thing they always get right is the amount of grease. Too much grease (Papa Chevos) soaks through the tortilla, not enough grease (Chipotle) and it doesn’t even taste like a burrito.

    I don’t think I could live in a place without good burritos…

    Brandon: See, back in the day, most (well, many) of the home games were watered down arcade games. It used to be that the arcades had the cutting edge technology and the newest games, and 12 to 18 months later, you’d get an anemic home version. Now, so much money and time goes into R&D that the arcade games, more often than not, are actually running on modified console hardware. That, and the console market is so huge now that there’s far more money to be made releasing games for home.

    One thing I miss the ‘arcade style’ game, something you and a friend can blow through from start to finish in a half hour or so. Even a ‘short game’ these days is several hours long.

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