Monday, January 11, 2010

The Memory that Goes Pong

This is about the first New Year's Eve I remember as NEW YEAR'S EVE, and no doubt this was a late revelation for me, say when I was 12 or 13, but I'm just that way--slow to what matters most. You have to forgive me, or admit I'm more like you than you'd like. For this is a memory of first buzzes, and in a lifetime of them, that means something (that I can remember them, yes, wise guy). What's lovely (and yes, there was childhood lovely, not that it ever felt that way being a child, of course), is so much of childhood gets wrapped up in this neat little bow that lets loose an arrow that pierces the Sears catalog, Andre Cold Duck, and Pong, not to mention my neighborhood friend Dennis Puglia, as it was at his house this happened, his parents' largesse that plopped the world's first home video game and two glasses of infernal bubbly in our probably barely teen laps, as if barely teen laps didn't have enough to deal with, suddenly recognizing what they were for and having no (beyond solo) way to do anything about it. Sometimes for years.

But there was this, Cold Duck, the first humble suggestion there was something delightful in bubbles, and no doubt miserable, but what does a 13-year-old know. He certainly didn't know what Wikipedia says now: "'The recipe was based on a traditional German custom of mixing all the dregs of unfinished wine bottles with champagne. The wine produced was given the name Kaltes Ende ('cold end' in German), until it was humorously altered to the similar sounding term Kalte Ente meaning 'cold duck.'" For if anyone knows humor, it's the Germans.

So we downed our unbeknowst to us thigh-slappingly named fizzy stuff, knowing only it made us fizzy, too. What grace, not to have to worry about the badness of things, the declasse-ness, though no doubt we made jokes about Andre wine and Andre the Giant, and no doubt felt about as body slammed by one as the other might have. We were 13.

And, of course, we tried feats of coordination and skill. (Was this to prepare us for drinking and driving? And don't be mad MADD, as this was years before that national bugaboo, when the drinking age was still 18 and America almost ached to be European a tiny bit, till that Puritan streak glowed brightly and smote fun.) That meant something the kids these days would consider as old as Lascaux, and as exciting -- Pong. The first home games of it came from the Sears catalog, even, and how cool is that, the poorly printed wish list for kids for years for Christmas, at least the ones wise enough to know mom and dad footed Santa's bill at the local mall (this was NJ, folks, and without swamps and malls, NJ would Brigadoon never to be done again). That the Sears Catalog wasn't just where you could pick out the latest games you'd want, but also where you could sneak peaks at bra ads years before Victoria unveiled her secrets was also a fine fine thing for a growing young man.

But, of course, that meant nothing, so you could always bat a little televised dot about. Via a dial. Wired to a console, wired to your tv. I mean, we're talking about an era pre-widespread remote controls for television. We were still not quite to the point with the magic cable box, even (and the hope for more illicitly spied boobies on HBO).

Even the marketing looks to be from another era. How simple we were in the 1970s. We could (well the adults then) even vote for Jimmy Carter for president. But I've got far away from two buzzed boys trying to twirl little controllers to keep the pong pinging from side to side. What a thrill that was, yet we had no idea. So much would get past us over the years beyond the little blip, eras of electronics, legions of liquor (at least in my case, or cases and cases I guess), plus each other. All those years of childhood friendship washed away in difference and lives and a desire by one of us not to be much New Jersey at all, for better or worse.

I raise my glass of sweet sweet Cold Duck to a couple of kids, then, anyway. We didn't know how sweet it was, did we?



Blogger Queen Whackamole said...

Cheers to the teens that were and the lean mean teens to come. I'd forgotten all about Andre...

Is that you on the pong box?

8:32 AM  
Blogger E-6 said...

Whatever Happened To Pong?

9:13 AM  
Blogger Ironicus Maximus said...

Did not know that about Kaltes Ende. Explains a lot. At least a lot of what we can remember. The rest...well there has to be a statute of limitations on stuff like that, no?

1:22 PM  
Blogger Rickey Henderson said...

Fucking Germans. They're a neverending source of frustration for Rickey.

1:32 PM  

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