POSTED ON SEPTEMBER 3, 2008:
A holy quest for Skee-ball has ended. The grail is found
If you've read my column before, you know I've had my eyes open for a site hosting Skee-ball since I moved to Tulsa. You know it because I've said it. It's not something I was actively seeking out, because working to find a location would have taken the fun out of stumbling upon one, but I was in need of a game. If you are unfamiliar with the game, you have most likely been living under a human-size rock for the majority of your life and don't know true happiness. Your loss.
Well, as you may have guessed the sedentary "hunt" is over! I've found Skee-ball in Tulsa, although they were calling it Ice Ball. I know Skee-ball when I see it, and I damn sure know it while I'm playing it. Skee-ball, you elusive devil, I found you.
Incredible Pizza, at 8314 East 71st St., is home to Skee-ball, mini golf, go kart races, bowling and many more games. They also have pizza, which, by the way, isn't incredible. We'll get that out of the way early on, so we can concentrate on the fun. I've made better, more incredible pizza with two hands tied behind my back.
The buffet, consisting of various pizzas, pastas, salad options, and desserts, was extensive. The buffet, mandatory with any entry into the Incredible Pizza compound between 4pm Friday through closing on Sunday, will run an adult $7.99, while obligatory drinks are $1.39 for anyone older than three at the time of entry. Children nine to 12 years of age get a dollar off their dining experience, while senior citizens (aged 55 and older) and children between the ages of four and eight are $4.99.
My family frequented buffets in the 1980s and early '90s, as any American family might have. Had those buffets also had game rooms attached, I might have locked myself inside of one and not come out for three to four years.
For my sister and her sweet tooth, the buffets of our childhood meant a purse full of cookies and candies "for later." I think she licked her food upon arrival at the table just to justify sneaking it out with her once the meal concluded. "Well, it's just gonna go to waste," she'd explain.
"All you can eat" was music to my parents' ears. My siblings and I ate at the reduced child price, although my brother and I could out eat any adult in the place. For my parents, eating at the buffet reduced the number of daily meals they had to make at home from three to one. Today, I'm over the feeling of taking my consumption painfully beyond full. Thus, my love of buffets is waning.
At Incredible Pizza, the food was less appealing than the actual room you could eat it in. The 1950s and '60s are prominent themes throughout the various dining rooms: a diner decked out in memorabilia from the period with golden oldies emanating from the jukebox; a drive-in theater playing a Fred MacMurray classic; a family room with episodes of Andy Griffith, Gilligan's Island, or I Love Lucy and the faux Tulsa High School Gymnasium.
Cristi and I came out for a Friday evening. Game prices weren't outrageous, starting at 35 cents a game for Skee-ball. The go-karts, at $4.50 for a single rider and $5.50 for a double, were the highest priced activity in the joint. The go karts do feature a live announcer, thereby providing the racers with that real race feel, but he could have flossed his teeth while I raced and it would have meant as much to me. The basketball shoot was 60 cents, and most of the arcade games were about a $1, although several were priced at $3, a little much for my game card.
Fridays and Saturdays feature special games like ice cream eating contests and scavenger hunts, so I was prepared to compete when I entered the building. After completing a successful couple of shots on arcade basketball, my confidence was sky high. I heard the game master invite "anyone who was interested" to participate in a shootout near the gymnasium, so I, riding my new found confidence, headed off for a friendly game. About halfway there I noticed the four-foot tall plastic goal and forming line and realized I might not be a member of this game's target audience.
Disappointedly, Cristi and I decided to try our hand at Route 66 mini golf. The nine-hole golf course featured states that the famous road passed through with accompanying factoids. As far as the result of the game... I kicked her ass, but I must say she recorded the game's only hole-in-one.
Earlier, Cristi had been awarded a free $5 playing card by the game master, because she was dominating me at Skee-ball. I also think the game master might have been hitting on her. The $5 playing cards were being awarded to children right and left throughout the evening. I was envious, because children who were merely hitting the backboard during the basketball shootout (back at the 4-foot plastic goal) were given game cards. Cristi got one. All these kids were getting 'em. What about me?
It was like a scene out of a futuristic documentary pointing out the flaws of our economic system. "Children of the 21st century based their intrinsic value on credit card procurement. Here you see little Johnny celebrating his new plastic companion. Eventually, financial institutions would realize that prepubescent children had no place incurring debt, but not before it was too late for individuals and their corporate lenders."
Either way, Cristi's free card meant we split 14 extra games of Skee-ball and amassed an extra 50 to 70 tickets we could redeem for prizes later. As the money on our cards slowly dwindled, our ticket collection ballooned to over 300. By the end we had 329.
I wanted a rubber super bouncy ball and a Sponge Bob Frisbee, but we finally agreed on a bottle of bubbles, some candy, a pencil, and the super bouncy ball. Cristi had earned more tickets, so I thought it was only fair.
Had we stayed for another six to eight years, we would have acquired enough tickets to win a shitty ATV (100,000 tickets). Maybe next time.
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