Dr Strange vs Shuma-Gorath

“Before all was, I was. Before time was, I waited. I fed on the screaming souls of the universes. I drank the spoiled milk of dead stars. I am the emptiness outside all understanding. I am Shuma-Gorath.”

In my early twenties I, a recovering Stanford graduate out in the real world with a worthless degree in psychology, worked as the assistant manager of a now-gone pizza parlor in south Palo Alto.  It was in a bad location on San Antonio Road, with nothing around but light industry. We got noon business and night shift workers on their lunch break, not much else. Sometimes a biker group would roar into the big parking lot late at night and drink lots of beer.

This was the early 70’s.  No cellphones, no laptops, no home computers, but we had one of the first video arcade games, Pong. Actually, we had two of them. Put in a quarter, and two people could play until one of them missed.

Management supplied employees with quarters marked with red fingernail polish that were recycled indefinitely. I think the rationale was for employee activity to attract customer interest, but mostly we played after hours.  An informal hierarchy developed, and I had the distinction of being the best Pong player. I could rally indefinitely — if I concentrated, I never missed a return. Some might have disputed this claim.

The game went on until someone missed, and sometimes the contest became one of bladder pressure, or simple fatigue — we were playing after closing, after a full shift of slinging pizzas. When I say I was the best, it was on average over a long time. Sometimes I lost.

My closest competitor was a fellow refugee from the Stanford Group Mind, and a gentle soul. Even though it’s been 50 years, he is someone whose name I deeply regret forgetting.  Maybe it will come to me.

We were both serious fans of Bob Dylan and Marvel Comics. For competition purposes he called me Dr. Strange — “Strange” for short. He called himself Shuma-Gorath. “Now, Strange, feel the might of Shuma-Gorath!” and the little blob of light would dart across the screen to a difficult corner…



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