Landmark Forclosure

One of our nation’s greatest treasures is being forced to close it doors, and no one seems to be able to do anything to stop it. That’s right, San Francisco’s Musee Mechanique will close its doors in September. If you are like I was, you have never heard of this rare “diamond in the rough”, then one day you are riding to work thinking how lame your husband is because he insists on listening to NPR every morning, and a story comes on that piques your interest.

This day’s story centered on a little known part of Golden Gate Park, a place where you could step back in time and experience the past, walk in the footsteps of those who have gone before you, see what entertainment was like 20, 30, 50, even 80 years ago. After hearing this story, I made up my mind to visit there before it closed, so while I was in San Francisco earlier this month, I planned to look for it.

I had a lot of things scheduled during my vacation and not a lot of extra time set aside (especially in the beginning). In typical fashion, I was running behind and not able to do all of the things I wanted to. I had every intention of finding Musee Mechanique, but I ran out of time. We left San Francisco and headed up the coast; I was sad to have missed it, but there was nothing to be done. After a week on the road, we returned to San Francisco to fly home. I needed to go to church, so we decided to go into the city and then watch the sunset from the beach. All of the sudden, a thick fog rolled in and it became evident no spectacular sunset would be visible this evening, and it was too cold to be on the beach anyway, so we decided to look for one last present and get some dinner. I was walking around near Seal Rock, and I noticed a stairway roped off for a wedding. I wanted to go down there so I could get a closer look at the seals, but I didn’t want to disturb anyone. A lady passed by me and headed down the staircase. At first I thought she was really rude, but then I realized the stairway went beyond the wedding area, so I followed her. And, there it was, at the bottom of the stairs, as if fate had led me there. I didn’t know I was anywhere near it; I found it completely by chance.

The place is Musee Mechanique. The reason it is so special is what is inside the building by the seashore, hundreds of arcade games, and not just the kind Atari made famous, the great grandfathers of those games-miniature worlds come to life-a strong arm, fortune tellers, even black and white silent films, all running on your dimes and quarters. These machines would have been long ago discarded if not for the dedicated individuals who keep Musee Mechanique going. They lovingly restore the games to their former glory for us to enjoy today. Each one works just as it did years ago, almost as if the owners will them to work and the people who visit this special place provide the energy that keeps them “alive”.

But the government is out to change all that. You see, these games aren’t big business and Golden Gate Park is just the place for that. San Francisco needs a new restaurant and it should be developed on publically owned lands by the seashore. The owners of Musee Mechanique have been told they must find a new home for their “run down” machines in order to make way for more family oriented entertainment. Since when is an arcade not family entertainment? Since when is simultaneous history and fun not for families? The real tragedy is not the lie the government is using to force them out, it is the sad fact the games don’t have a new home, and without a place to be played, they will cease to function. They only remain operational through the day to day use afforded them at their present location. I don’t know how to keep this remarkable place open, but I do hope anyone reading this will try and visit it before it closes its doors forever, and if possible, send a donation to help the owners relocate. My husband and I have some truly fond memories of this special place which I will treasure always; and I sincerely hope one day, I will be able to take my children there to play. It will be worth the time and effort and an experience they will never forget.

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