Wednesday was a driving day. We had to gather stuff out of the hotel and get on the road and get to Pittsburgh. If we got going early enough we'd get to a little pre-Pinburgh tournament. If we got going late enough we'd surely be in town at or after JTV and his wife. They work for a hotel, and were using their employee-discount to get low-cost accommodations for friends. bunny_hugger and I, and separately MWS, were the beneficiaries of JTV's employee discount. This was after several weeks of intense and nerve-wracking negotiations and alterations and hopping between reservation schemes which left, at one point, ADM with several extra rooms that I think went ultimately unclaimed. All a little daft. But we did worry about getting to Pittsburgh much before JTV and CVK since who knows if we could get our rooms, derivative as they are of their reservation, before they had checked in? The timing worked out fine, of course.
We got to Pittsburgh early enough for the Pre-Pinburgh Tournament. This thing, hosted by the Pittsburgh Pinball League in a concrete bunker of a space in what looked like the middle of the Warehouses Where People Get Abducted In 1970s Universal TV Shows district, was a pin-golf tournament. You pay for fifteen dollars and play six of the tables they had there. The goal: ... well, it depended on the table. But it was to meet some objective in as few balls as possible. Some of the tables had boring goals of just getting enough points. Some were more interesting, get some objectives, like collecting the extra ball on Gorgar or getting a 500 million-plus point Casino Run on Jack-Bot. bunny_hugger and MWS and I made a natural threesome and we found someone we didn't know at all to make a quartet, and we waited for our chance to start playing. Also to look up just how to meet some of these objectives. Gorgar's would be met by hitting the drop targets a lot.
Now the thing about the Pre-Pinburgh Tournament: a lot of the people who'd be at Pinburgh, and who could be fairly considered the best active players in competitive pinball, were going to be there. So the goals were set, it turns out, kind of hard. And the tables were unfamiliar to everybody except the regulars in the Pittsburgh Pinball League. So they were tough tables and tough goals and ... well, none of us in the group made the objective on the first table we played (Knockout), although I was feeling pretty cocksure on the second ball when I had the skill shot dialed in and realized if I just kept shooting up top and didn't lose the ball success was inevitable.
There were a lot of people there, so there were waits in-between games and they even resorted to queueing systems for the latter games. Nobody had any luck with Gorgar; I forget how many times you have to knock down all the drop targets to light extra ball, but nobody got more than once. On Stellar Wars the goal was to build the bonus multiplier up to 3x, and I came closest, but while I did somehow manage to light and collect an extra ball, I didn't. It was a frustratingly hard course.
Not just for us. There was a lot of cursing and people hitting lockdown bars and storming off furious. Pin-golf lends itself to that, I think; to be so obviously near a goal and miss is a very hard thing. But more than half of the people who competed failed to meet any of the six objectives. This includes me, dear reader. I got close on several games, but never actually achieved any of the goals.
MWS did, managing on (I think) Taxi to light the million shot. And on the last game --- after a long wait --- and a lot of protests about how she was no good --- bunny_hugger managed to get the enormous Casino Run jackpot on Jack-Bot. On two balls. This --- successfully getting a hole-in-two on one ball --- would land her in the upper half of all the competitors, tied with MWS for 48th. Me, I finished in the 36-way tie for 99th and last.
Still, at least we didn't have to worry about being in the finals and how that might make for a late night when we needed to rest for Pinburgh in the morning. We drove from the suspiciously empty areas without being kidnapped, into downtown, and the Embassy Suites that's a couple blocks from the Anthrocon convention center, and figured to try our chances before JTV and CVK arrived. This worked fine, it turned out.
The hotel is a kind of weird one as it's the top ten or so floors of the skyscraper, and the lobby is on the topmost floor, available by express elevator and that all just felt very strange. But we checked in without any great trouble, and divided up rooms. bunny_hugger and I would have one suite; MWS, JTV, and CVK the other. MWS, he self-reports, snores with an intensity known to make buildings tremble. bunny_hugger is a light sleeper. I am an expert snorer myself, but she has standing to jab me in the ribs until I roll onto my chest and stop snoring. We don't have that kind of relationship with MWS. JTV and CVK have no issue with snoring, or at least said they didn't.
The suites were far bigger than we expected, even allowing that we knew going in they were suites. Each room was bigger than my grad student efficiency apartment, and the view was spectacular. We were maybe 25 storeys up above a pavilion and little park way down below and bunny_hugger was having none of it. She's more afraid of heights than I am, and wasn't even happy with my walking up to the windows since, you know, those things can fall out.
After dinner --- we went to a bar/restaurant that turned out to be a little disappointing-for-vegetarians but okay (and afterward I found this salad place chefmongoose had recommended) --- we met up with JTV and CVK, who were just arriving in town. We could guide them through the construction-blocked roads to the parking garage, and point out the construction cherry-picker that was for whatever reason on posts that made it appear to be hovering off the ground.
And then --- unwinding. Just settling in, relaxing, catching up on all the Internet we'd missed all day. (This was the day that Fireball ride had the horrific crash at the Ohio State Fair, and I think we passed through Columbus just hours earlier.) Seeing an estranged friend's tweets that his runaway cat had returned, as if nothing had happened. I tweeted back congratulations that went unacknowledged. Well.
Sometime after midnight, based on my photos of the fantastic view out the window, I settled down to bed, hoping that I would not do terribly the first day at Pinburgh. (Spoiler: I did, but it worked out okay.)
Trivia: Six thousand people gathered in Grand Central Terminal the 12th of April, 1938, to watch Richard Whitney, former New York Stock Exchange president and governor, in handcuffs, board the train taking the embezzler to Sing-Sing. Source: An Empire of Wealth: The Epic History of American Economic Power, John Steele Gordon.
Currently Reading: The Restoration of Rome: Barbarian Popes and Imperial Pretenders, Peter Heather.
PS: something fine to see near Flint.
Snowman and polar bear bench at Crossroads Village. We visit this historical-museum village every year at Christmastime, when they give up on all period-appropriateness and decorate like crazy.
Main street at Crossroads Village, including the general store (gift shop), a cafe (a cafe), and the opera house where they put on fun little plays. Also a dentist's office that's not in service anymore.
Reverse angle on Main Street, showing the general store/gift shop, and on the right what I think was a hotel and is now a different gift shop. Puttering along in the back: the Huckleberry Railroad, a train that goes past scenic light displays that oh yes, you will see.