Like you, perhaps, I have seen the Caine's Arcade video by Nirvan and been inspired by the nine-year-old boy who realized a real amusement center out of cardboard, while his dad ran a used-auto-parts store on Mission Street, east of downtown. Nirvan's video of a flashmob descending on Smart Parts Auto has gone viral, and Caine's Arcade is a success. It's an Internet story, but it's also a local story. And a fun attraction. So last weekend, I drove to Mission Street with my daughter, a friend of hers, and a friend of mine, Nicole Panter, who had been invited to participate in a staged enjoyment of Caine's wonderful Arcade as Nirvan builds on the video he made earlier this year.
We arrived at about 1:30 on Saturday to find 30 to 40 people milling around the arcade. There was a line to buy passes, and a line to play the games Caine Monroy had made by hand. Unlike in the video of the flash mob, Caine had a staff of relatives -- his mom, his cousin -- and others close to the family working behind the counter, giving instructions, handing out tickets for wins, exchanging tickets for prizes.
A mariachi band had been called in for the occasion, and they played some folk norteño style songs, an Iglesia-ish pop number, and they learned the Caine's Arcade song in time to play it for the cameras. There were lots of cameras. There was also a neighborhood dog that Caine's father didn't recognize, but who I had seen a couple of blocks away when we parked. The big orange dog came by and took a nap on the sidewalk in the midst of festivities.
Caine himself looked a little bored by all of the attention. But he was game, smiling when asked, singing when asked, poking around as his staff ran the place. To date well-wishers have donated some $200,000 to his college fund, and there are matching pledges for a foundation to encourage other kids to be creative in his name.
My daughter didn't want to stop playing the games when we were all called to come out front to sing the Caine's Arcade song for the cameras. But when she was promised she could get back in line at her old spot she agreed.
Later, she was delighted with her prizes. She had won a set of Pokemon cards, some miniature parachutes, Caine's Arcade sunglasses.
On our way back to the car, we passed a different used auto parts place -- a single cinderblock room -- with about two dozen dream catchers of different styles and sizes hanging from the ceiling. There were no tickets to buy, and no games to play, and we kept going.
It was Cinco de Mayo, and it was Arcade time on Mission Street.
Previously on LA Observed:
Caine's Arcade passes 3 million views and $130,000 - this week