Last for the day is Guilty Gear XX; it was one of my personal favorites, and I have to redouble my efforts to withhold tears as I see one of the many machines that I have become very personally attached to, whether I was pounding it in frustration or celebration, gutted and neutered. But into the truck it goes. Before I know it, the day's work is done, and I gather my things and cast my eyes around the place I called home one more time, hoping to burn its dusty, dimly lit majesty forever into my mind. Then I kiss my hand and slam it on the counter one last time and walk out into the sunlight. Goodbye, BEARcade. It was fun while it lasted.
I spend the rest of the day in a depressed funk, trying to revisit all my other old Berkeley haunts - Desi Dog, Buffalo Exchange, Sweet On You - but it just doesn't feel right any more. The BEARcade was the lynch pin that held it all together for me, and without it, the city I once loved had fallen apart. From the looks of it, I'm not the only one suffering from arcade withdrawal; the few regulars I've seen around have all had equally empty stories to tell. Some have caught themselves instinctively walking toward the arcade after class, perhaps trying to catch a peek from outside to see if any familiar faces are around. Others have tried to fill the void with Mario Kart DS; alas, it just isn't the same.
Jokingly, I asked Bihn what he was going to do now that he didn't spend hours and hours at the BEARcade every day; he turned and looked at me with a hint of genuine existential bewilderment and told me that he really didn't know. Later, something triggers the memory of heaving those gigantic metal lumps I've grown so fond of into the truck, never to be seen again, and I cry, pretty confident that I'm not the only one doing so.
And then something falls into place, hours later, while I sit sobbing quietly to myself outside a train station. I think about Thanksgiving, and good friends, and ... well, arcade cabinets. They're just so solid, and heavy, and big, and stable.
Stable. Just like home should be. Arcade cabinets can't just be big because they need to be, they're big because we become attached to them and we want them to be stable so we can feel at home. The BEARcade taught me that I can be at home sitting down at an arcade cabinet hundreds of miles away from the San Francisco Bay Area. That random strangers can quickly become close friends. That I can teach others the way those random strangers taught me, in the hopes that something as positive for their lives will come out of mere video gaming as it has from mine. And it has given me a dear group of friends who persist outside of the confines of the arcade. Yes, there is a time to be mournful for Berkeley's loss; we really had something good there before they took it away from us. But I have plenty to be thankful for.
So thank you, all you employees and managers, students and teachers, regulars and passers-by, for making the BEARcade what it was. I, for one, will miss all of you.
November 18, 2005
Pat Miller has been doing this for way too long.