Thursday, October 23, 2008

Bonker's arcade in San Fran has seen better days.




I'm going to cut and paste my Yelp review of bonker's arcade, because I thought you might enjoy it:




My friend and I stopped by this arcade,because we were staying up the street at the Hilton during a software developers conference.

Whenever I'm in a new town I always try to search out any nearby arcades just to get a feel. I saw the great old "bumpers" arcade painting in the second story window with a classic Pac Man Mural and I figured this place might have a few classic arcade games.

When you first open the door you are greeted to a narrow, dank, dimly lit stair way leading up to a landing that is half filled with random broken furniture and dusty boxes.

We opened the door and looked up and both of us paused. Our fight or flee instincts kicking in big time. Before heading up we poked our head into the italian food place that is right down stairs from Bonker's. The dudes in the Italian place just laughed and said "don't bother". But then one of them cautiously said it was "OK". This must be some use of the word OK that I was not previously aware of, as there is nothing "OK" about bonkers. Bonker's is to the world of Arcades what the downtown Sacremento Greyhound bus terminal's 2nd floor men's room is to the world of Day Spas. Meaning that it isn't anything even close to the definition of OK.

But we were intrigued by this guys qualified endorsement and figured that we had nothing better to do so we pushed aside the slightly agape door and headed up.

Upon reaching the top floor we were greeted by a sight that was as terrifying as it was surreal. On the floor near a dusty assortment of inoperative frankenstiened arcade cabs was a man who could not possible weighed less than 350 pounds. He was completely passed out face down on the floor. At least I hope he was passed out. I didn't really want to nudge him.

The only other two individuals were a 65 year old chinese woman who was smoking and leering at us as if she was waiting for us to whip out or badges and hall her in to the INS. And a bleary eyed transient who was playing some sort of slot machine game that was housed in an old Rastan Cabinet.

The assorted cabinets and pinballs were impressive, but the only ones that were "operative" were either hacked together mah jong games in classic arcade cabs or had screens so burned in that it was hard to tell if they were even on or displaying the game the marquee claimed them to be. None of hte pinballs were on. Several of the pinball tables were in various states of disassembly and one corner of the shop was completely given over to someone's bicycle work bench.

We silently and slowly turned around and headed out without saying a word. The place was deadly silent as we headed downstairs. None of the machines had audio and no one spoke. It was the creepiest two minutes of my life, and I've spent several new years eves bartending at a cat house in Nevada...so I've seen my share of scenes that would disgust and horrify even the most jaded of street thugs.

Speaking of street life, we were passed on the stairway down by a Amazonian woman in tight shorts and a tank top. I'm not sure which game she was on here way to play...but it led me to believe that Bonker's is a poorly envisoned front for either prostitution or drug dealing. Or most likely both.

Do not be tempted to go to Bonker's. It looks pretty promising from the outside, but the inside is little more than a sad shell of what may at one time have been the best arcade in China Town.

1 comment:

Rabscuttle said...

Wow, that was sad to read, but at the same time, great and riveting writeup. :)

Check out www.futurepinball.com to tide you over till you find a more savory arcade. I just discovered it, and though I never was interested in video pinball before, these are free, and WONDERFUL.