This is the big one: my Pac-Man machine. As I was being born, this 1981 stand-up cabinet and thing of analog beauty was rolling off the assembly line. Removed in great shape from its one-time home in Coney Island, it's made its way across three different states, five different apartments (three of them upstairs), and emerged from numerous house parties unscathed. The spring-action click of the power button, the low hum of the CRT monitor, the crackles of warm static ... it will make the hair on your knuckles stand up the first time you fire it up. It's exactly as awesome to own as you always thought it would be. If you're still reading this, that's because you never wanted a Harley in your mid-to-late thirties: you wanted an arcade machine. And you wanted The King of classic arcade machines. You wanted a Pac-Man.
If you are going to buy this thing, you're going to need two relatively strong people, gloves, a refrigerator dolly and a truck or trailer to haul it out of my place. Bungee cords recommended. I just sold my only other machine, a Baby Pac-Man stand-up cabinet, and we got it down my stairs very easily. And I believe it was heavier than this particular machine, despite what the name "Baby Pac-Man" implies.
This 1981 Pac-Man stand-up cabinet has a custom Free Play button. The back wooden panel of the machine is kind of messed up, but if it's pushed up against a wall it's altogether moot. Keys to the coin box are included. Put tape over the Free Play button and grift your friends for laundry quarters. It's ok if you do.
The game board is very rare, and has a very interesting backstory, as it's actually a bootleg of sorts. Though I'm a Pac-Man purist, I actually love this version for its variety in gameplay. The aesthetic, noises and everything are the same as Pac-Man without any variation: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hangly-Man
Of course, once the cabinet is yours, you may put just about any PCB board or modification you want into it.
The CarFax on this game: This machine was first picked up by my buddy Adam and me from Long Island back in...2005 or 2006? God, it's really been that long.
I had gotten a Pac-Man tattoo at 21 or 22, and this was the next logical step. Before I got engaged, I asked her if she thought she could be with a guy who had a Pac-Man tattoo on his arm. She didn't flinch or anything. She's what my great-grandmother called a keeper.
Anyway, I bought the machine from a guy who maintained the games on Coney Island and moved several of them to his house for his personal use once he retired. In fact, you can see the shadows of little gang signatures that have since been removed, and one petrified chunk of gum on the top back corner. Some would call this a flaw, but I call it character. That kind of thing gives it history. Some ghosts show up when you plug it in, and some hang around when its off. Wonderful stuff.
The man's grandson glared at me as we carted the hulking yellow machine away to begin its long trip to North White Plains. I think this was his favorite machine of the lot.
My friend Kris has been tricked into assisting with moving this machine twice, including that evening, shortly after arriving in town for a visit. We didn't think to measure the doorway until we were sweat clear through, stuck at the top of some winding steps, screaming FUCK FUCK FUCK at ourselves and putting our shoulders into it. It was a nightmare. It didn't work once it was inside. Kris and I looked at schematics that might as well have been ancient tomes, and after hours of tinkering realized it was a very simple fix. We played that game all night and drank all the Killian's Irish Red for miles.
We laughed our happy asses off the way someone does when they realize they just survived a very serious accident completely unscathed. The machine has worked fine ever since.
I think I was 24 or 25.
It wasn't long after I purchased this machine that my new wife and I adopted our cat, Champ, who loved to sleep on top of it. Then the magazine industry I worked in started to tank, and we missed our families quite a bit, so we left with the machine and our Manhattan-born cat for Illinois. Before we left though, we had an enormous and raging Pac-Man themed party. All our friends came and even signed the machine, many of them well on their way to be very famous authors, comic book writers, artists, musicians and personalities. My buddy Rickey wrote "PENIS!" on it, which I quickly altered to say "BONUS!" during its temporary storage at my parents house. You can, of course, paint over these signatures once the machine is yours. But you may also find that, again, they add character, warmth and history. You may even add your own.
We eventually moved the Pac-Man out of my folks house and into our rental in Springfield, where it occupied the back corner of the house around 2007. It was rarely played this entire time. The later years in Springfield were particularly dark for me, and that's all I'll say about that here. Again, the machine collected dust and was mostly used by Champ to sleep on.
I was hired for a job in St. Louis in 2011, and I moved that goddamned thing once again into another second floor apartment.
My wife was set to move to St. Louis much later, after she could find a job. My cousin Reggie and my friend Kris -- who was once again duped mere hours after landing at the airport to visit -- helped move the machine upstairs to the new place. I was more or less too pre-occupied to play the game at this point -- the city and job were new and exciting, unlike the cloudy, strange blur Springfield had become. Champ was able to get from the high stool, to the fridge and over to the machine to sleep on top of it.
My wife eventually moved out to the city, and things became strained for reasons that are mostly my fault. I knew I was now a completely different person, long gone from the 23 year old I used to be. We couldn't bear to split up the cats, so she insisted I take both Champ and Cricket (a recent adoption) and I felt guilty about that every single day after the divorce. It's a little funny now: the lawyer's papers actually say "Husband to receive Pac-Man Machine, wife to receive PS3...". We didn't own any property. We owned toys. We never had any kids. We had cats.
At 32, I moved the machine down the street with the help of Ryan, my childhood buddy, and Kate and Allan, my new friends. A friend who will help you move an arcade machine is a good friend: end of story. We moved it up another harrowing flight of stairs without measuring the door first, and then into a spacious spot in the corner of my place. We probably could have wheeled it down the street like George's Frogger in Seinfeld -- my new spot was only a few hundred feet away.
Champ was able to get up on top to sleep, by way of a humidifier and a guitar case.
I maybe turned it on once in those first six months alone in that place. Really just to see if it still worked. I rarely felt like playing it. I talked about arcade parties and housewarmings that would never take place.
I came home one night and Champ was gasping and panting. Something was definitely wrong. Panicked, I rushed him to a vet. We had always known he had a little hole in his heart and that this might cause problems down the line. The x-rays revealed his lungs were filling up with fluid, and I was told prolonging his life wouldn't be a life worth living. It was then when I realized I had never had a real pet before or been in this situation. I called my ex-wife. We both sobbed over the phone. She got there as quickly as she could. We held hands, almost breaking each other's fingers. And Champ was still. We petted him, and his eyes just slowly, slowly closed. And as it was all happening I realized this pet was the last thing my ex-wife and I still shared together. The only thing we truly had joint ownership of, or an existing emotional bond over. This was really it. It was one of the saddest moments of my entire life. I took Champ out to my folks' farm and buried him with Snake, his favorite toy.
Every time I look at the Pac-Man machine, New York seems longer and longer ago.
Machine dimensions are (H)70" ,(W)24.5",(D) 32". Weight is about 250 lbs. $650 OBO. Cash only.
Location: Tower Grove South
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