I recently looked up to find a giant kid standing above Cesar Chavez Ave. Towering above the road with his arms folded proudly across his chest, the boy is featured on a billboard that reads: Caine's Arcade. I was amused by this, and my curiosity instantly heightened upon noticing cardboard constructs behind him, along with the line: "A cardboard arcade made by a 9-year-old boy." I found it especially difficult to go about business as usual that morning. I opened up a few emails but skimmed through them, answered a call and struggled to focus on the conversation as my interest drifted back to that billboard, the boy and the numerous cardboard creations.
Throughout the morning I grew tiresome of overhearing details concerning adult problems that really aren't that bad. "Just get on with it," I wanted to say. Doing a bit of research, I remembered coming accross the boy's name before. Yes, this was Caine Monroy -- the boy who, at the age of 9, had created an entire arcade using cardboard and creativity. I watched the video made by Nirvan Mullick, which tells the story of Caine, his father's auto parts shop, and the summer Caine spent building an arcade using the material surrounding him in abundance: cardboard. When it is mentioned in the video that Caine hid behind one of his games and pushed the tickets through, I simultaneously experienced amusement and a tiny hint of sadness. I missed being a kid -- or more specifically, I longed for the days when curiosity guided my actions without the interruption or influence of those annoying complexities that come with age. Sure, I was in a bit of a slump and my temperament wasn't in the best condition, but my weekend plans had been made. I was going to Caine's Arcade.
I was excited for my visit. I woke up early, ate breakfast, and made sure I had cash to buy a Fun Pass (watch the video and you'll understand). When I arrived at Caine's Arcade, I saw a boy perched on a table, putting up a toy. It was Caine. "I'd like a Fun Pass," I said, before taking a close look at the games. While some kids thrive on a competitive spirit with hopes of seeing others fail, Caine wants his visitors to do well. He was very attentive -- checking his games, giving tips on how to win. The football game was impossible, but I was still given five tickets for my effort, and the ticket grab machine was pushed into a corner. "Does it need maintenance?" I asked. "Yes, maintenance," he smiled. I asked how he was going to fix it. "Cardboard," he answered. Ah, but of course, and I felt a bit lame.
I observed Caine's behavior that morning as he put up his prizes and kept an eye out on his customers. He carried himself with a sense of pride and exhibited kindness to everyone. While playing the claw machine, he advised that I try to hook the tag, but I failed. It was ok -- I was genuinely having the best morning I'd experienced in quite some time. My thoughts rewound to a time when I was 10 and used to write short stories in notebooks, then tear the pieces out and group them together in random order. When I left Caine's Arcade that morning I had to return to an adult world, but reminded myself that it didn't have to be so bad. I resolved to continue trying to achieve that sense of joy and excitement experienced when I was younger, when my happiness was born in the process of creation without wondering what would come next. I am thankful for that morning at Caine's Arcade for reminding me that in creativity, I am truly happy. Also, I plan on returning this month to conquer the football game, even if I have use all 478 turns left on my Fun Pass.
J.L. Sirisuk: I was having so much fun playing games that I almost forgot I was gonna ask you questions.
How are you today?
I noticed the billboard of you above Cesar Chavez Avenue. Have you seen it?
How does it feel to see yourself almost a hundred feet tall above the street?
C: It feels cool.
So what do you usually do to prepare before all your customers arrive?
C: I fix the games, dust them off and stuff like that. I put prizes up.
How long does that usually take you?
C: No more than one hour.
I know that a while back you were kind of nervous about turning 10, and you've been 10 for a little while now. Has anything changed?
C: No. (smiles) It's just a double digit.
When you're not building your arcade games what do you like to do?
C: I just play legos.
Do you have a favorite lego game?
C: Yeah, City. City Lego
What's City Lego?
C: You build your own city!
Super cool. Are you working on building new games?
C: No, not yet.
When you go to the arcade what game do you like to play?
C: Deal or No Deal.
Out of all the awesome games here, which one is your favorite?
C: The claw machine.
C: Because it's real easy for me.
Because you built it?
C: (laughs) Yeah.
I feel like there have been so many people who have been inspired by your creativity. Not only children, but adults like me. How does that make you feel?
C: Good. It feels cool that I get people inspired to make arcade games.
You've taken your arcade outside of Los Angeles. What's one of your favorite places where you've taken your arcade?
C: To the mususem in San Franciso.
That sounds like a lot of fun. Out of all the places in the world..in the universe..where would you like to take your arcade?
C: Ummm....can it be a planet?
Anywhere...anywhere on this planet or the galaxy...
C: (smiling) To Jupiter.
For more information and to watch Nirvan Mullick's video about Caine, please visit CAIN'E ARCADE.
Want to visit Caine's Arcade and play some awesome games? Visit Cain'e Arcade on Facebook to find out when he will be there.