Birth – for the old folks arcade gamers of Phelindaba

 *The beginning of this something

I have never had an interest in gambling. My ignorance extends from as far afield as the casual game of cards to a game of Dice. I knew a Knoxman while still at high school. Here was a man whose ways were outlawed from his garb to his disdain for protocol. Despite our school’s rules and regulations his feet were always kicked into a pair of All-Star Converse with some Grey Dickies spilling over them instead of the conventional Toughies and Grey Flannels. Occasionally he’d swap the Converse for a pair of Florsheims, always looked dapper the pantsula way that gent; I suspected that the game of chance, his mind always drifted towards during the course of the day, had something to do with money-Kachin that jingled in his back pocked whenever he chested into class or chested out either at change period or our breaks or when he decided that that was the day for him and He would rather go off to start his skool sa ma’dice some where in the school’s premises, especially those undiscoverable corners where only our School Principal braved to check in during his rounds. Mr. Knoxman forced issues with his kickers and overall attire until the teachers tolerated him

Believe it or not I have went through life without dipping into any game of chance, zweppe or Kopi Dice, except inserting coins into the belly of an arcade game at Super Stadium’s Old Café or the Mareka Café. Now washed away by the caressing seeping water at the shores of nostalgia’s grey silver laser that burns the things we abhor or hold dear deep within the creases of our brains and bosom, a tug at the heart here and the disturbance of balance there, for a thrill worth Two Bob; A teen of about fourteen or fifteen moves from café to café; Selbourne-Side-Sabona-Mlambo, Matebeleng-Mareka, Madiba-Tserama, Ko sekwareng Kgomo; Ta! Sekhamorogo Complex – yep one of the first shopping complex in Atteridgeville halfway Oudstad mfana son! Ko Jones, Ranki wola

Through shifting of a balled knobbed Red Joy Stick he mechanically presses two hardened orange buttons and shifts the joy stick to simulate and interaction one button punched softly and frequently while the other one is hit infrequent and gingerly. Hit and jump you savvy? The teenager huddles from place to place, hunches before an arcade and waddles from an arcade game to an arcade game, facing the luminous screen. Sometimes he plays and finishes the game sometime he loses. But one day becomes that one day when he smoothes-swooshes through all levels to face the last nemesis of a woven arcade lore•

Pacman, Tarzan, Donkey Kong, Kung Fu Master, The Vigilante, Rally X, Commando, Elevator Action, Double Dragon, Altered Beast,…yet I abhorred gambling; but there I was inserting coins into the belly of a simulated joy scroll for a temporal thrill. Was I gambling? To be honest with you I have never thought of it as gambling until…


‘Anything you do as long as it has an element of win and lose is gambling. Take marbles for instance, or Chess’ Says my son on one of those philosophical mornings when we are getting ready for work and school, he was trying to persuade me to play a card game. Did I tell you how I also hated playing cards? (I just had a peek at what I said above and there is no mention of it) Anyway this epiphenomenon occur on a morning that happened to be my birthday. What more of a birthday present can one wish for if not a fresh way of looking at one’s self! Thanks to the eight year old it appears that I am so conservative I did not even get to realise that every time I played chess with the kid or an Xbox game I was gambling. I have been gambling all along except that it was not for money, it was with my time. And it was mostly worth it discounting my teens•

This wise comment by the boy got me to also think about the fact that I had recently concealed my birthday date from being visible to my friends on social media because I had gotten tired of people I have never met in person or seen in a long time wishing me a happy birthday; I had had enough of the short lived attention stint received from people who may not genuinely know my birth date. It felt fake and pretentious this whole thing and I wanted out. I was the culprit too, I had committed the same act of wishing people whom I have met only once or not at all ‘happy birthday’ because I was mechanically reminded by the configurations of our virtual reality. What if I removed the notice on my own profile? I wondered before adjusting my privacy settings. Will the world forget me? What good will this act achieves? I resolved it by concluding that people that genuinely hold you dear will remember your important day no matter what, even if it’s a few days later. I gambled. I was never disappointed because quite a handful of people who are genuinely interest in my existence or writerly pursuits (or if you will antics) did remember me and sent warm messages or took time to call me. The world did remember me. My only loss is that perfect strangers and acquaintances who have not attached any significant meaning to the day I was born on did not get to sprinkle me with the confetti of falsetto. Let us see what happens at 40




27 September

© Mmutle Arthur Kgokong MMXV