So what better way to spend the relaxing days of June than driving way off to the end of the world to play pinball? The thing is that way the heck off in Chesterfield, Michigan, on the shores of Lake Huron, is this bowling alley. With as they call it the Sparks Pinball Museum. It's got about fifty games, nearly all of them 80s and 90s tables. And a league that meets most Mondays, but mostly during the school year. We can't ordinarily attend because even without traffic it would be at least two hours getting there. Typical league nights end around 11, when bunny_hugger has to already be in bed for Tuesday classes. Ah, but spring break? That we could make. And summer? Great too.
Except that they usually take summers off. This year, at least, there was a little rally for a short season, possibly to lure bunny_hugger into playing. Maybe me along side. And so three weeks out of four in June we made the hour-long drive to Flint, there to be picked up by MWS and begin a 90-minute drive through a lot of really tiny towns to get us to Chesterfield. (The drive avoids the highways which, at rush hour, get really rage-inducing.)
League night format is group four-strikes. You play in groups of three or four people, drawn by computer, and playing on a table drawn by computer. The bottom two players get a strike. Four strikes and you're out for the night. (So you breathe a lot easier if you're assigned to a four-person group.) When we visited during Spring Break bunny_hugger had a great night, coming within one lucky bounce of finishing in first place. The first time we went during summer break, she had a less-compelling great finish, again taking second. But she would have needed to do more than win just one game to take first, then. She had a worse time the next league night. But for finals she came back strong and finished in third place, so she's been collecting trophies like mad.
Me, I did okay during Spring Break. First league night over the summer I had a great first game and then was lousy afterwards, which at least gave me time to go off and play tables on my own. And did better each night after that, taking home a third place trophy during the last regular league night. In finals, came in tied for sixth, but still, felt pretty good about that. Along the way I had some great playing, which always feels good.
There's rumors of a one-off tournament being held in August and I hope they do. It's a long day, going out there --- it's on the far side of Detroit from us. But it is a sweet collection of tables. Half of them are from the 90s, the golden age of modern pinball, with a lot of the tables I loved as I learned how to play pinball. And the rest are from the 80s, late solid-state tables that have weird themes and challenging rule sets and often a remarkable giddy fun to them. They've got, for example, both Bad Cats and Mousin' Around, these nice cartoon-mayhem-themed tables. Also a great bunch of people, enthusiastic and fun and mostly people we don't know from other venues. It's hard to get to the end of the world but you meet some novel people there.
Trivia: The first P-51 Mustang fighter planes went into action with the 8th US Army Air Force in December 1943. Source: History of the Second World War, B H Liddell Hart.
Currently Reading: A Short History of Machine Tools, L T C Rolt. It's this very nerdy sort of industrial history of a kind that's strangely comforting and easy for me. I cannot explain why I feel myself lightened to read a book with chapters like ``The Precision Grinding Machine and its Influence'', but I do and that's that. Possibly just because this is extremely nerdy, technical stuff and feels like a nice break from the world to read stuff like this.
PS: Checking back in with Casino Pier That Is.
Checking back on the new Musik Express and I don't think this one sprays out bubbles, which puts it behind the older one in terms of general greatness.
Folks getting a night ride on Hydrus where you can really see the humidity and how much bunny_hugger wants to clean my camera lens.
And a last check in with the Floyd Moreland carousel.