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Chuck E. Cheese

A friend described it as ‘Las Vegas for kids’. Its essentially gambling, thinly disguised as family fun. But along with the commercialism, ever-present TV screens, and blaring dance music, there is a carnival aspect and it has a garish charm.

Anyway, Rada and I were there for a good-bye party on Saturday. It was fun to surrender to the surreal atmosphere for a while, and to talk with like-minded grownups at a table somewhat removed from the action. Through a series of convoluted events, Rada ended up losing a sneaker in the crawling tube. It was not found until the next morning, so we had to go back and get it.

I made a deal with her that she’d only have 5 tokens for the Sunday trip, enough for a brief visit. But when she made her purchase, the clerk was in a charitable mood and gave her half a cup’s worth. I forced a painful smile, realizing I’d been suckered into another round of games, rides, and candy. But Rada was in her glory. In many ways, for a kid, it gives a taste of an emancipated life. You get your cup of tokens, wander around playing games, earning tickets, and making all the choices.

I sat there, staring blankly into space, wishing I’d brought a magazine.