Caine’s Arcade: Fun Pass & Fun Times
I woke up this past Saturday in a warm house, surrounded by snow capped mountains as Friday’s storm dumped rain on L.A.’s suburban west valley. It was a beautiful, crisp morning as I headed out the door at 7:30AM to drive 50 miles towards East L.A. so I could support Caine’s Arcade.
I exited Mission Rd. and immediately found myself in what looked like another country. The graffiti-lined industrial road was packed with auto body shops. There was dude after dude standing outside in the street, trying to get me and other passing cars into their shop like they were competing parking lots on Sunset Blvd. It was extremely humbling.
“Most of our business has gone online because we really don’t get the walk up traffic like we used to. So Caine’s chances of getting one customer is pretty hard,” said Caine’s father, George.
I arrived shortly after 8:20AM where only a few people gathered in front of Smart Parts Aftermarket. I initially drove past the shop, expecting to get a cue from a giant crowd out front. I had navigation in my car and still managed to pass the shop (that’s how many auto body shops there are on this street). I turned around and found a spot down the street, said “goodbye” to my car, and walked towards Caine’s Arcade.
The initial vibe in the morning was organically beautiful. A handful of people who had seen Nirvan’s video were there early for Caine’s Arcade opening. Games were already being played: BasketTinFoilBall, Ball In Hole, TinFoilSoccer, The Mechanical Claw, and The Coin Game (unofficial names). Caine was physically located behind the cardboard, distributing tickets and verbally counting down the 20 second play-clock for each game. The most advanced piece of technology Caine implemented were calculators for his Fun Pass authorization. He was very busy and very focused.
At one point that morning, he had to take a call for a Sirius XM radio interview. People naturally formed a line and patiently waited for him in the storefront to resume the operation of the games.
One person asked Caine’s dad, “Are you selling many parts?”, to which he replied, “I had to close today. We were up at 4:30AM, I tell him ‘Okay I’m going to work, see you later.’ He [Caine] says, ‘I’m going with you!'”
Someone else asked why Caine doesn’t have an egg timer to count down on the games. George replied, “He was trying to buy one of those egg timers, he couldn’t find them at the 99 cent store. He was buying them the other day and the lady was charging him 2 bucks and he said ‘No thank you, I’m not buying ’em.’ I tell him, ‘Well, now you don’t have ’em.’ And then he goes, ‘I need to buy them cheaper at the 99.'”
I asked George about the other businesses and what they think of all this. “They love it, they all know Caine. He travels up and down the street with a cardboard box taped to a skateboard and tries to sell them water and snacks.”
Before it started to get busy around 10AM, I had a chance to talk with those that came out to support. I brought a video camera along and then I recorded a song. Here’s what happened:
In today’s world of computers, portable devices and social networks, it’s a beautiful thing to witness the non-organic means of communication inspire and connect so many to such a genuine story. I think what resonates with so many people is the innovative nature to create with little money or electronics. It’s celebrating the purity of a child’s imagination and mentally transporting adults like me back to a simpler time when their imagination flourished as a kid.
Caine’s story has inspired other children across the world to innovate.
A heartfelt appreciation goes out to Nirvan Mullick who discovered Smart Parts Aftermarket in East L.A. by stopping in for a handle for his ’96 Toyota Corolla. Without him, his talent and his old car, the world may have never known about Caine and his unique passion for engineering entertainment.
Also, thanks for not jackin’ it in San Diego.