When I went to Rehoboth beach over Thanksgiving break with my girlfriend, I remember having tapered my expectations since it was off-season. I wasn't going to be able to go onto the beach, nor was I able to experience the beach as it was meant to be experienced. I remember the stores being full of the quirky kitsch I remembered as a kid. The memories came rushing back with full force. I remember looking at the backwards clock in one of the toy stores and remembering the time I saw it when I was younger.
But there was something about it that didn't sit right with me. Instead of a warm feeling of nostalgia, I felt a gnawing discomfort. I didn't quite understand what it meant at the time, but I couldn't quite articulate my thoughts behind it until I returned to the arcade. As before, I kept my expectations lowered. But, even that didn't really help me.
The arcade scene in America has largely evaporated, with perhaps remnants like Dave & Buster's keeping the concept alive in whatever mangled form. Most of what I saw were simple ticket-dispensing games that seemed closer to gambling than anything else, or ports of familiar mobile games. No House of the Dead or Time Crisis in sight, though I did manage to play Jurassic Park. I began to eye the prizes and remember what an introductory statistics course taught me, and I quickly surmised that the amount of tickets far exceeded the actual value of the prize.
Out of all things, I feel like I finally understood why when I was a kid that my parents didn't share the same enthusiasm that I did. There's something surreal about a world that's static, though perhaps I am mistaken and other things changed. I think there was an illusory nature to the beach that I can no longer buy into. But there was still Candy Kitchen, I suppose, and at the very least my girlfriend and I enjoyed some Reese's Pieces fudge.