Pizza-Based Life Forms

What on earth was I thinking?"Sure," I said, "Sure Virginia, I'll take Michael and Zack to GattiTown again. And I'll take 'em to a few other of those type of pizza/arcade joints to do a 'play & compare' survey."

It will be fun.

What was I thinking?

Overstimulation? Hah! Nothing new to these kids!Best friends Michael and Zack met in a fit of overstimulation one night when Zack's dad, Jack, a Chronicle photographer, was at our house for a project. Michael had been wending his way through the different levels of Star Fox, a sort of N64 Star Warsian rip-off with cute little animals that blow enemies away. Michael was frustratedly stuck on one level that he couldn't beat. But on this night -- the momentous meeting of Zack and Michael -- my son beat Star Fox. And Zack was there to witness it and shriek with gleeful admiration. Michael insists that Zack is his good luck charm. He seemed to hold back tears as he intimated that it was as if he "was Han Solo and Zack was Luke Skywalker."

To this day, Zack and Michael bond over video games and one other common interest: pizza. Zack's tastes in food reflect that of a sophisticated almost-vegetarian, raised to cover all four food groups. Michael, on the other hand, loves cheese and bread and will pick off anything that looks too much like a tomato in a sauce. Sometimes, their idea of a good meal clashes. But for the most part, they can agree on pizza.


Needless to say, Michael and Zack were beside themselves at the prospect of reporting on pizza arcades -- and so were Jack and I. The trek began at Peter Piper Pizza, skittered over to Chuck E. Cheese, and finally landed at GattiTown. Regrettably, we missed our planned night-capper at Celebration Station. (And man, after all that beeping and booping, my pizzafied butt was ready for those batting cages, let me tell you.) But unfortunately, two certain young men, in a fit of game-playing frenzy, lost all of their notes from the previous two restaurants, so we spent the remainder of our time at GattiTown, tears flowing freely onto the chocolate pizza.

By the end of the quest, our bottom-line dollar amounts for game tokens equaled the money we spent on food. So, in addition to letting the kids have their say (and believe me, it is taking some major tongue biting on my part not to weigh in a little more deeply on this surreal odyssey), I figured that I should log some facts comparing the places to help you decide, should you choose to partake in the cheesy glory of this phenomenal part our very odd culture.

My original intention was to gather comments from parents at each place, since the mainstay of the three joints seemed to be The Birthday Party. I remembered to do this only at Peter Piper, where an affable woman named Diane was throwing dual parties for her kids, Roxie, eight, and Louis, seven. I asked her why she chose PP over other places; she said that her kids asked to go there specifically and that it's bigger and cheaper.

Bigger is right.

It made me wonder about the nature of these prefab parties -- about the irony of taking kids out of the cozy comfort of the home to commemorate their births. I wondered about all sorts of hoo-hah like loss of innocence, loss of intimacy, and loss of personal space.

But when the remaining 20 or so guests of Roxie and Louis gathered 'round their local bakery cakes to sing a rousing chorus of "Happy Birthday to You," the party became as intimate and as personal as any home gathering -- save for the fact that 14 other families orbiting the scene were doing the exact same thing. -- Kate X Messer



You should know that this report (except for Michael's Conan's sidebar) was culled from a one-day adventure. Your mileage may vary, and we do not recommend that you try this at home.

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