I don't mean to brag about my parking job in Traverse City because after all, it's just parking. But I did locate the municipal parking garage on my own, just following what seemed familiar and a couple of street signs, yes. Still, it's not a really familiar city. Anyway we nearly didn't park because the garage was almost full, suggesting that Fridays are maybe not the lowest-crowd days in a tourist town.
On our way to Paesano's and the possible Comet pinball we passed a couple spots of interest. One was a food court with a bunch of grease trucks that we'd vaguely heard of. They're well-rated, anyway, I suppose. They also had an outlet of the Coin Box, the pay-one-price arcade we had found on the other side of Traverse City last year and that had only two not really compelling pinball machines. I'm not clear whether the place had moved or opened a second shop. We poked in and confirmed they didn't have any pinball, so, never mind.
But, ah, Paesano's. We saw it across the street and saw through the window, as promised, that the table was there. And it .. would be a tight fit to play, since the window's table had a seat almost pressed up against it. But we could wait for the people eating there to finish and get in. The place, by the way, was a wonderful classic style pizza place, reminding me of so many mall and strip mall pizza places of my youth, so, all the better there. We didn't get something to eat, since I guess we'd just had lunch, but we so easily could have.
And how was Comet?
Well, we're happy with it. It is, indeed, an early solid-state table, single ball with a bundle of major targets. The playfield's dominated by a ramp, the sort of thing they were just able to do with digital score-counting machines in those days. The ramp represents the Comet roller coaster. It's a classic roller coaster name, one often used. Good theme. On the left is this spiral slide target, suggestive of funhouses (it looks very much like the skill shot on Pin-Bot or Jack-Bot, if you can find those tables more easily, which you can, since both are on Pinball Arcade). On the right is this intersting triple set of holes on a ramp, suggestive of a fairway game. The farthest hole is billed as the First Ever One Million Pinball shot.
... Wait what? How could a pinball game from 1985 have the first million-point shot in pinball history? Well, it hasn't. Some electromechanical games, like Williams's 1957 Arrow Head, have million-point shots. But that's from the era when scores were registered as A-million, B-hundred-thousand, C-ten-thousands. That is, really a three-digit score padded to look big. In more modern games? Well, a million-point shot implies at least six digits of scoring. In the electromechanical era that implies at least six scoring reels, and that's a lot of mechanism to involve. With an LED display you can finally have longer scores without greater mechanical complexity. But LED displays only came in in the late 70s. So ... yeah, this is about when a million-point shot would become possible.
Thing is, making this farthest hole shot is not by itself a million points. It's 200,000 points, still a pretty good leg up on any contest. But the machine lets you build up a playfield multiplier, all the way up to 5x, by shooting up to the lanes above the bumpers. You can get the ball there by plunging the ball, naturally. Or by shooting the spiral slide on the left, where ... it turns out Paesano's was broken. It was possible with just the right shot for the ball to skid over the fracture and settle in to the lanes up top. I did it. Once. But in the main, those shots and so the playfield multipliers just weren't available. Disappointing, but the game was still quite playable.
Anyway. I felt good about the game. Of course, it's easy to feel good about a game when you have several good games of it in a row. bunny_hugger had less-good games, but still, we were left feeling good about the table and mystified by its absence from competitive or collector's play.
The table's got that fun packed Python Anghelo artwork, showing a full scene at the amusement park with lots of people and attractions and stunts and action. The backglass is dazzling, showing a roller coaster and fireworks and you realize, slowly, that the camera --- and therefore the roller coaster --- are nearly upside-down. Comet, like Cyclone and Hurricane, has the backglass dominated by the roller coaster, but this extreme, nearly crazy, perspective makes for a strong graphic design.
The drawback, and the really unfortunate thing because it surely arose from good intentions, is that when you look at the passengers in the roller coaster there you notice ... oh, that's an unfortunate portrayal of black people in the car. The adult isn't badly presented, but there's a kid with enormously fat lips and bug eyes and jagged cornrows and it looks unsettling. There's also a Chinese kid in the row behind that who's not coming across well. It's part of a scene of Sergio Aragones-style people-in-chaos as they ride an impossibly extreme roller coaster. And the intention is surely admirable, that it shouldn't just be a bunch of white people hollering or waving their arms crazily or having ice cream fly into their faces.
Is that what keeps the game out of sight? Surely not. In terms of racially provocative art, well, yeah, nobody's putting Minstrel Man into play (warning: your jaw will drop),</a> but it's not like there aren't a lot of dubious depictions of Native Americans in tables that are welcome in the white-guy-dominated world of competitive pinball. (I haven't found a good picture of the game's backglass that makes the questionable parts obvious. I have some, now, and I'll get around to them in time.) I'm honestly mystified by the vanishing of Comet.
Well, we spent a lot of time crawling around the machine and photographing it and at one point we were interrupted by a woman asking if we were actually playing because her son(?) wanted a couple games. Well, we weren't going to interrupt someone else who wanted to play. I have the question mark after son(?) because bunny_hugger realized the woman was working at the pizza place, so ... what was going on there? Might be her son, certainly, or at least a kid she has supervisory responsibilities for. She did have a plastic baggie of quarters for him to play with. The kid did ask, nobody in particular, about a quirk of how the game worked and I volunteered enough to answer that, but otherwise figured he doesn't need my unsolicited advice. (The game has a common quirk of early-80s tables: the ``inlane'' and ``outlane'' are reversed. That is, there's a little curve in the farthest outlane that sends the ball rolling through a one-way gate to the flipper. If you're not ready for it that's an intuition-defying bit of ball movement. Even if you are ready it's a surprise. But if you don't know what the trick is, it's intuition-defying and faintly magical.)
We spent, overall, about 45 minutes with our discovery of the table, and our playing, and our speculating, and our studying, and our photographing every bit of it for later review. But we still had the rest of Traverse City to visit.
Trivia: Benjamin Franklin wrote The Morals of Chess, including some pointed comments about sportsmanship and graceful victory and defeat, while in Paris negotiating for peace between the Continental and the British governments and after the capture of General Cornwallis at Yorktown. Source: The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin, H W Brands.
Currently Reading: The History of the Calculus and its Conceptual Development, Carl B Boyer.
PS: Even more at Bronner's!
And then in miscellaneous stuff that isn't particularly Christmas-themed: Frankenmuth city ... beer ... boots ... made of glass for the reasons that I feel like is for something I'm not part of.
This must be Easter: a couple of rabbit heads and a reindeer head so maybe it's not Easter after all? Anyway, they're up high enough I'm not sure how you get them to try on. Remember that this photo is from months before WalMart started selling fursuits.
And now the rabbit section of Bronner's Christmas Wonderland. I suppose these are more for summer or year-round display. Some interesting figures there, though.