Updated: Jun 26
You may recall that in last week's article I promised to detail our unplanned Arizona vacation. (But if you don't, I won't hold a grudge.) My wife and I went out west for what was supposed to be two days. Adrienne needed to see a specialist, and was ultimately diagnosed with hypothyroid and anemia. A winter storm put the kibosh on our return flight to upstate New York.
We were at an impasse. We stood at the ticket counter with the option of flying as far as Baltimore that day, or hanging around Arizona for another four days, when the next connecting flight had open seats. We didn't know anyone in either state. Our cash was low, and our credit was limited. Adrienne had been through a lot, and was understandably at a loss. She deferred the decision to me. I told the ticket agent we would stay in Arizona for those four days.
My wife and I were officially stranded in the Phoenix International Airport. She was nervous, I was hopeful. My logic: We would definitely have to get a motel and provisions in Baltimore, and we would be cold and miserable. We might have to fend for ourselves in Phoenix, where we would be in an area we loved. We'd discovered that people in Arizona are shockingly nice; there was the possibility of someone in the Phoenix area helping us out. The worst that could happen: We would pay for food and lodging in a tropical paradise, rather than the same scenario in an arctic tundra.
I put an S.O.S. on Killer List of Video Games, my arcade message board, where I've been an active member for nine years. (I consider trolling an activity.) In less than two hours, Kent Ponterio, a.k.a. "Coindork," had stepped up to the plate. We took a forty-minute Uber ride to his house, grateful for the help. Our arrival was made even sweeter by the driver's terrible taste in music.
Kent, his awesome wife Trish, their kids, extended family and greyhounds, made us feel right at home for the duration. We were part of the clan: Dinners by Trish, unlimited Cokes, an open pantry. Kent even gave us some rides and took us out to eat a couple of times, including our introduction to In-N-Out burgers!
During our first day on the town with Kent, we met some other guys from the message board at a repair party, all of whom were very friendly. Back at the Ponterio residence, our bedroom was adjacent to the games, and we even had our own bathroom. We never wanted to leave, but with unfettered access to a home arcade like this, who could blame us?
William's Moon Patrol is a favorite of Mr. Ponterio, the marquee art serving as his avatar on the message board. And it was great hearing Sinistar's spine-tingling "Run! Run! Run!" while we were talking in the kitchen with Kent's mom, Catherine.
Mr. Ponterio's Space Ace, Dragon's Lair and Dragon's Lair II cabinets are running on their original LaserDiscs and players. This was my first experience playing LaserDisc games, and Kent could tell. Weird story: While we were at that repair party, we decided to take our first-ever January walk. Just a couple of blocks away, we came across an old guy with Dragon's Lair and Space Ace cabinets in his garage!
One of my favorite games at Kent's house was Atari's Subs, an obscure release from 1979. He recently purchased this cabinet new in box, with only thirty-three plays on the meter! Try to torpedo the other player's sub as best as your sonar and intuition will allow. Kent and I had an epic fight underway, until the machine deep-sixed a breaker. Subs uses black-and-white monitors; the green playfield and red sonar are achieved via a plastic overlay.
Needing no introduction is Pong, Atari's first commercially-successful arcade game. Mr. Ponterio is actively looking to acquire one of three correct 1970s televisions for this cabinet, which currently has a '90s TV installed.
I was really impressed with Kent's lineup of Atari vector games. With their razor-sharp graphics, Quantum, Space Duel, Black Widow, Battlezone, Red Baron and the Star Wars cockpit were all doing the '80s proud. I had a blast being introduced to Quantum.
Battlezone, a first-person perspective shooter, is one of my favorite vector games. How can you not love looking through that viewfinder? A modified version of this game, called Bradley Trainer, was produced for the U.S. military.
Kent's daughter managed to trigger a notoriously-difficult glitch in the game, awarding her this astronomical high score.
Battlezone and Red Baron also rely on that plastic overlay trick to present their "color" graphics.
The painting of Lenin was one of Mr. Ponterio's dumpster finds! (And it wasn't even his best one. We'll get there.)
Kent makes a mean burger! I had four that night.
Sega's Sheriff is an electromechanical game. Kent bought this cabinet from a crackhead, who was paranoid that someone was going to steal it: She had the machine stored in a box trailer on cinder blocks, enclosed by a chain link fence with no gate! We won't even mention what else was inside said trailer.
In Sheriff, you've got about one second to shoot the crooks after they stop moving. (The butchered-English instructions use "badman" as a plural.) If the player gets prematurely trigger-happy, the ornery varmints duck for cover like lily-livered cowards.
I feel that Sheriff "warrants" a gameplay video. The cabinet is so rare, Retro Injection has the only footage of it on YouTube!
Kent's pinball machines got a lot of play while we were there, and Adrienne became a certified pinhead! (That's way better than crackhead.) I'm looking forward to playing with her at Moonwalker Arcade and Robot City Games.
Not even the Ponterio's kitchen is immune to the lure of the arcade, hosting this countertop multigame.
Kent found this incredible truck stop arcade sign laying by a dumpster! He plans on putting it in his main pinball room. The best thing I ever found while dumpster diving was a lame Action Max console.
Mr. Ponterio and I went a few rounds on his recently-repaired Atari Warlords cocktail table. This arcade game may be the only one that's more desirable in cocktail form, due to allowing four simultaneous players. If you're like me and don't have three friends, the computer fills the other positions. This is basically competitive Breakout, and as Kent is fond of saying, "It's rad."
Incredibly, the Ponterio family rotates the pictured machines with a garage full of more games. In all, Kent has ninety-one arcade cabinets, and he's on the hunt for more! We were privileged to play them at our leisure. A huge thanks goes out to Mr. Ponterio and crew for putting up with us for a few days. Adrienne and I were enamored with Arizona, and I'm applying for jobs out there. (Update: We Moved Fourteen Arcade Cabinets Across Nine States in Three Days.)
During our time with the Ponterios, Kent and his brothers-in-law built a phone booth in the span of 24 hours! His kids' school's '80s day will now have a Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure time machine. Kent and Trish also rented a DeLorean for the occasion.
After an entry this epic, what can be said except...
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