By Ashley Zimmerman
By Dana Krangel
By John Hood
By Ashley Zimmerman
By David Von Bader
By Sayre Berman
By Steve Brennan
By Ashley Zimmerman
When I was growing up, my father and brothers were very competitive, or, more accurately, completely ruthless at videogames, board games, sports, bowling, air hockey, and especially go-carts. My dad is a great man, but he would completely kick my little toddler ass at Candy Land and any other board game I'd waddle over to him with. As my brothers grew, they became equally cutthroat. I went in the opposite direction. As the family softie, I began to dodge opportunities for competition. I'd sit out when my friends went bowling. The idea of my playing an organized sport was laughable, and I had a bad habit of resetting our videogame console anytime I felt losing upon me. Go-carting? The time my brother put me in the wall to get me out of the race was the last time I ever did that.
If I end up drinking and driving on a Monday night, it's never planned, but I read Xtreme Indoor Karting has an indoor go-cart track as well as an adjoining full-liquor sports bar and an expansive arcade. Though a place with so many different arenas for gaming might be a bad spot for someone as unnerved by competition as I am, there is one game I don't often lose: drinking. Also, I'm a helluva good spectator.
Ambiance: Xtreme Indoor Karting (5300 N. Powerline Rd., Fort Lauderdale) is an all-in-one extravaganza that's pretty much heaven for a young adult male with a lot of expendable adrenaline. (All that's missing are racetrack bikini babes.) The 90,000-square-foot building is divided into racetrack, refreshments, and arcade games. A half-mile asphalt racetrack and sideline sit comfortably positioned behind glass, sound-proofing the rest of the building (the simultaneous growling of 25 go-cart engines could make it really hard to focus on slurping down cheese fries and eradicating zombies on the House of the Dead 4). Black-and-white-checkered tile cover all ceilings and floors, creating the sensation that you have somehow wound up inside a race flag.
I walked past the cashiers and through the arcade, plentifully stocked with gambling games, air hockey tables, videogames, Dance-Dance Revolution, and an assload of racing games. I saw the faint fluorescent glow of what my brain registered as a place where beer might be procured, so I darted down a corridor with a row of conference rooms on one side and a bright, colorful "children's arcade" on the other. No doubt positioned so close to the bar so Mommy and Daddy can leave Junior to play lonely rounds of ski ball while they liquor up.
Bartender: Xtreme's alcohol hot spot is low-lit, with several red-felt pool tables and flat-screen TVs (all showing sports). Mike, a bald-headed guy in an orange "pit crew" shirt, was occupying the bartender with a story about his cat's inclination to lick people's eyeballs. (No, seriously; it was a slow night.) The place was clean, with a small stage in a far corner and a dartboard and popcorn machine nearby. Jennifer, the full-figured, blond bartender, brought me a bowl of freshly popped corn (and several more throughout the evening).
Drinks: "Are you going to race today?" Jennifer asked me when I tried to order a Newcastle.
"No," I said. "But what if I was? You against drinking and carting?"
"We can't let you drive if you've been drinking," she said.
"I bet it's pretty dangerous out there in those little carts," I said.
"Well, the carts can hit 45 miles per hour," interjected Doug, the events coordinator, a pale man in a shirt with Helsinki printed on it.
"So what if I change my mind and decide to race after imbibing?" I said. "Who's gonna stop me?"
"Well, for starters, you can't race in flip-flops," Mike said, leaning forward to point at my feet.
"The guys up front will smell the alcohol on your breath," said Jennifer, raising an eyebrow, possibly daring me to try it. "They'll give you a Breathalyzer."
One's first Breathalyzer test should be a special experience. My first was not going to happen in front of a bunch of bratty adolescents playing arcade games.
"So do you guys take bets on the highest blood alcohol levels you see in a day?" I asked.
By now, I'd earned enough trust for them to put a delicious Newcastle in my hand.
"No, ours just detect alcohol. It doesn't matter what your level is; if you have any booze in you, you can't race," Mike said.
But Mike had a gleam in his eye. "It would be much more fun if we could see the actual levels," he conceded. "We could put the numbers out on the big racing display screens, like first, second, and third place."
Patrons: I ventured toward the racetrack, hoping to see drifting aplenty. Along the way, I encountered the friend I'd brought along who had disappeared into the maze of arcade games and pinball machines. He was staring at the screen on a Silent Scope machine, gripping the game's plastic gun. "You couldn't stop the terrorist attacks," the screen read solemnly, announcing "game over."
"Fuck yes, I did," he growled at it, his trigger finger twitching as he prepared to pay for another go. No arguing with a machine,