austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

I wanna be the very best

bunny_hugger and I were invited to the Michigan State Pinball Championship, as the 11th and 10th seeds, respectively. Part of that comfortably high rating is our playing better, and especially playing well at some high-value events. Part of that is our several visits to the Blind Squirrel League in remote Fremont, where AJH has learned to turn a small town not even on any major highways into a points mine. Not all, though. And it's not as though the rest of, at least, the west side of the state wasn't able to benefit from the Blind Squirrel points mine.

The finals would be held in a private venue this year, in MJS's pole barn. In the spirit of fairness and in compliance with the rules about hosting state championships in private venues MJS opened his place to all practicers for several weekends ahead of time. He reportedly had this place open for eighty hours of practice over the course of a month, which is really exhausting when you ponder it. We went the first weekend MJS had the place open, in order to get on and practice every machine and work out what we could know about it. We went out two days in a row, coming home for the night, because we had just gotten our new pet rabbit the week before and didn't want him to have to deal with being left alone overnight or being taken to bunny_hugger's parents so soon.

MJS has something like forty machines, about half of them modern 90s-and-later machines, about half of them solid-state or electromechanicals. Over the course of two days we played every one of them (except, I realized later, I missed Terminator 2 somehow). My goal was to get some basics down: about where is the skill shot? About where on the flipper is the mode start shot? About where should I shoot for major target banks?

It was this wonderful vibe, all told. Just a couple people there at any time. Relative quiet so we could hear stuff that's otherwise lost, like, the merry little music cue on Cirqus Voltaire when you get a Sneaky Lock. (A Sneaky Lock is a freak shot that puts the ball into a lock's scoop before you hit the light-lock trigger.) Just, you know, playing. Lots of good machines, lots of time, people on hand who could answer any mystery and could advise on the really good shots that aren't obvious until you deeply know the rules.

The night before the finals --- one week ago as I write this --- we did leave our pet rabbit alone for the night. We'd wanted to get a couple hours of practice in the night before and that's just what we did get. It was packed; nearly everyone who'd be at the finals, and the first couple alternates, made it out, for good reason. I figured the best thing I could do was think of the games SMS, my scheduled opponent for the first round, would likely pick and try to figure them out. My guesses for most likely were Tommy, Godzilla, Spider-Man, Dirty Harry, and Star Trek: The Next Generation. I was right about three of these.

In an amusing little scene I'm pretty sure I saw SMS watching me practicing games, and going to machines I'd just walked away from to brush up her scores. I finished the practice session as sure as I could be that, come 10 am Saturday, I'd be playing SMS on Tommy. I would be partially correct.

Trivia: In 1875 Henri Nestlé (approaching 60 years old) sold his company, and the right to his name, for one million Swiss francs. Source: Chocolate Wars: The 150-Year Rivalry Between The World's Greatest Chocolate Makers, Deborah Cadbury.

Currently Reading: The Honor Code: How Moral Revolutions Happen, Kwame Anthony Appiah.

Tags: michigan state pinball championship, pinball

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