So the finals, as I saw them. I was in a group with JIM, who I knew but underrated, KAH from Edmonton whom I didn't know, and PCM from Indiana I think and again didn't know. We start on Dirty Harry, and find I do still have the rhythm for that Magna Force-to-Side Ramp-to-Headquarters-to-Magna Force shot. I score 431 million and feel pretty good about my chances; KAH sneaks out a 504 million point game, and I get second. Next: Iron Maiden. I'd said I was starting to get the hang of this game, and yeah: I put up 171 million. Not my best score on any instance of the game to that point. But close enough. I have a first-place finish and, with that, I'm already assured of advancing to semifinals. So is KAH. The only point of the third game is for JIM and PCH to learn their finishing positions (16th and 11th, respectively). But I don't know that, and pick 4 Square, wrecking bunny_hugger's plans. This is an electromechanical with wonderful simple rules. We have to take it one player at a time; it only has the one scoring reel. JIM puts up 1,393. PCH a really solid 3,231. I come in and toss off 5,128 in a game that feels like it's never going to end; this is more than halfway to rolling it. KAH closes us out with 2,609. I have the morale boost of going in with two first-place and a second-place win in the quarterfinals.
For the second round I'm in a more familiar group. One where I know all the players, pretty well. The drawback: it's AJH, PH, and MWS. They're all better than me. I can beat any of them one-on-one, yes. But in a three-game format? My real hope is that they split the first-place finishes and I can sneak through the round in second. It's a strategy that often works --- the PAPA-style scoring system, where a first place finish earns four points, second place two, third place one, and last place zero, helps this through --- but it depends on them cooperating.
First game. AJH's pick. Iron Maiden. No surprise; like RLM, he's got the combination of accurate shooting and deep rules knowledge that make this suitable. But I have a pretty solid game myself, putting up 117 million. MWS, going first, has some bad luck and never quite gets control; he spins out at 46 million points. Could easily have been me. AJH loses his game momentum when the ball rockets down the drain; it catches everyone by surprise. Also a surprise: he throws his ball cap at the floor hard enough it makes a snapping noise and slides across the room. Everyone's shocked by it, AJH included. He says he'd meant to just slap his hat on his leg, and lost his grip. It's good for me, though: he finishes at 102 million. PH, at 122 million, takes first place. But I've got the second-place I needed and, really, wanted.
Second game, PH's pick. Congo. Much like Dirty Harry, if you can get a good rhythm going you can keep going all day and score a billion points. Literally; the game is a high-scoring one, and a decent game is at least 250 million points. For example, PH does exactly this. I very nearly have this rhythm and get 612 million. MWS pulls in 260 million. AJH puts together 831 million, much of it on the last ball, dashing my hopes that I might secure myself with another second-place finish. PH, with two first-place wins, is through to the next round whatever happens. MWS is doomed unless he can get a first-place finish. AJH and I, both with a second- and a third-place finish, are tied. Whichever of us places higher will go to finals, unless MWS gets a first-place and PH a second-place on the last game.
MWS picks 4 Square. Given the rough time he's had this round, it's the way to go. Electromechanicals flatten out how much advantage a more skilled player has over the less-skilled. On this game our group is nearly enough a coin toss. AJH goes first, scoring 2,666. Nice, solid game. Could easily be a winner. I go second. I have the game of my life. The goal of 4 Square is to hit quartets of standing targets numbered 1 through 4. Each of these lights other targets, like bumpers and lanes, for ten times their normal point value. And I just keep the ball alive, and keep sending it up to already-lit bumpers and lanes. The game grows ever-more illuminated under me, and my game still doesn't end. I finish at 7,683, the second-highest score anyone's put up on the machine all weekend. I have crushed MWS under an anvil, then run over him with a steam roller, and then dropped a cruise ship on the steam roller.
He tries to rally, but nothing doing; he only gets 715 points and I think he might even have tilted, ending his game early. (Many electromechanicals end the game after a tilt.) He goes to lick his wounds while PH plays a ball that can't affect anything at all: he and I are through to the finals. He puts up 2,899.
Finals. Oh yeah wait, I'm in finals in the main tournament. I feel like I'm playing way above my skill level. I've managed top-four in the Baby Food Festival Classics tournament before. But the Main tournament --- this is by far my best finish. Anything I do will be a bonus.
I keep telling myself that after the first game, Knockout. Apart from one game the day before, and one terrible game in Classics finals, I haven't touched the game, other than for my stupid mistake resetting the game on MSS. I'm not just last place; I'm so far back in last place that if my score were doubled ... well, all right, I'd be in third place. But not by much. CST takes first place, and KAH is barely behind him.
Second game. PH's pick. Iron Maiden once more. One bit of hot gossip all weekend has been that the game has not just a skill shot, but a super skill shot, made by plunging the ball just enough that you land it on the left flipper, and then shoot up the center ramp. OK. But also that there's a super secret skill shot, made by plunging just hard enough your ball goes out the left drain, for twenty million points (and returning your ball to play). I had managed this once during the weekend, wild luck in, I think the quarter-finals round. CST had mentioned wondering if the version of the game code with the super secret skill shot had been installed on this particular game, and I told him it was. He got the super secret skill shot, playing this round.
He doesn't have a runaway game. He has a game that, up to that weekend, would have me intimidated, scoring 149 million. But I have a pretty good game myself and am frustrated that I top out at 137 million. PH has a solid run too, but his last ball ends at 129 million and I feel like I just might have a chance at taking a top-three position. KAH has some bad luck and gets only fifty million points. My recollection is he has a particularly infuriating bit of bad pinball luck, when he has the two balls in his multiball crash into each other, neutralizing their momentum, just as they're above the gap between the flippers.
With two first-place finishes, CST has won the tournament. PH, with two third-place finishes, and KAH, with a second- and a last-place finish, and me, with a last- and a second-place finish, are tied. Our order of finish on the last game will be the second through fourth place in the tournament.
The game choice: Dirty Harry. I haven't had an outright bad game on it all day. I feel great. I feel confident. I feel --- wait, where did my first ball go? None of us has a really good first ball. CST has the least-bad one, but it's still a shaky start. All right. Second ball, CST gets his game together and gets to several hundred million. No matter; the rest of us are playing each other. My second ball. I remind myself to relax. I focus on the flippers. I know when to flip to get the Magnum Force shot. To get the side ramp. To get the Headquarters shot. I just have to --- argh. And drain almost right away. The astounding thing is that KAH and PH are racing me to the bottom.
Last ball. CST continues his cool mastery of the tournament and finishes with 537 million. I step up and remind myself, I've done that. To get about 400 million in one ball is hard, but it's doable. I've done it before on this very table. I would do it again on this table four weeks later. All I have to do is not lose my head. The ball starts (as they all do) with my getting to pick a Skill Shot award. I can get a sure bonus multiplier of 2x. Or I can light the Mangum Force shot on the side ramp. Or I can try to load the gun, a shot that's worth a lot of points but that I never make. I've been going for the side ramp shot all day, because I always make it. But I think, would the bonus multiplier be the better shot? I need every point I can get; why turn down, in this case, at minimum an extra ten million points if I don't tilt?
But I disregard my complete failure to make the side ramp this game, and go with the Magnum Force shot, aiming for the side ramp. I miss it. And I brick it, my ball draining and my game ending at a weak and very vulnerable 120 million. I have no hope of PH not catching up; he's not just great, but he knows this table well. KAH, well, I might beat him yet. He's been having as bad a game as I have, and he's not from around here.
He picks the bonus multiplier for his skill award, and he doesn't drain right away. But near enough. When the bonus counts up, he has 129 million.
Yes, I know. I kick myself for not picking the bonus multiplier myself. If I just literally had ten million more points --- ah, but, I did. I thought this was so, and verify it later. Making the Magnum Force shot awards you 10 million points. You get that award, too, if you pick the Magnum Force award on your skill shot. So had I picked the 2x bonus award, yes, I'd have gotten about ten million more in my bonus, but I wouldn't have gotten ten million just for shooting the ball at all. Still it's hard not to convince myself I made a terrible mistake, and I don't actually get to verify that I did not until I get some time to test out Dirty Harry, next Fremont event.
Anyway, I'm resigned to a fourth-place finish. PH is in fourth place, yes. But he's too good a player, and too good at composing himself, to not beat 129 million. He's got a good shot at beating AJH's 537 million. He ... lowers his head into his hands, as the ball just suddenly isn't there anymore and his game ends at 98 million.
CST wins the tournament. KAH has second place. And me ... I've got third place. With a medal and everything.
It's my most valuable, points-wise, finish in any event this year. Probably the most valuable one I could have through to the end of 2018. It's 15.97 points towards the state and worldwide rankings, leaping me six or so places up in the state standings. Maybe a hundred in the world standings. It's a fantastic finish to have going in to Pinburgh, the biggest tournament of the year.
And for all that, I still torture myself with thoughts about how if I'd made one side ramp shot, I'd have second place and another four points in the rankings. (Which, based on how the state rankings look right now, might at best and if just the right things happen, move me up one further spot. Maybe.)
The pinball tournament starts breaking up, and cleaning up, and all that. I find MWS and we go next door to the Moose Lodge, to the Blind Squirrel Tavern. We put in games for the next round of the Blind Squirrel League play; this would be the finals that I missed two weekends ago to be at my aunt's wake. And we find bunny_hugger, who keeps apologizing for missing the finals when she was out getting fair foods.
It's been a long day, and it's two hours driving back for us, and an hour after that for MWS. We decide to go home, a plan foiled when it turns out my car's battery is dead. bunny_hugger and MWS push the car (and I steer) to a free spot where my hood will be available, so that we can get a jump from AAA or somebody. MWS realizes, oh yeah, he could just ask any of the very many people wandering around if they could jump our car and it happens the first person he asks was parked next to where we've rolled our car. And yes, I have jumper cables; after a similar accidental battery drain a few months back we got cables for both our cars. I have three false starts finding where I put them. They're in back of the driver's seat in my car, in a heap of stuff that seems like I should be able to clean out, but every piece of which seems essential. (Jumper cables, first-aid kit, reflectorized orange vest, jacket, bottle of water, roll of paper towels ... it seems like clutter, but can you point to any that shouldn't be in your car? And really, shouldn't I also have some cold-resistant, indestructible snack in there, and maybe a blanket?)
But I get through the false starts, and we get on our way, and have no trouble getting home. Apart from my incessant giggling at how ridiculous it was that I should have finished in third place. How could something like that even happen?
The next week we figure to be truly busy.
Trivia: In 1858 the governments of France, Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands, Piedmont, Russia, Sweden, Tuscany, and Turkey paid Samuel Morse a cumulative 400,000 French francs (about US$80,000) for rights to use the telegraph; each country put up a share based on the number of Morse telegraphs in use. Source: The Victorian Internet: The Remarkable Story of the Telegraph and the 19th Century's Online Pioneers, Tom Standage.
Currently Reading: The Bicentennial History of Ingham County, Michigan, Ford Stevens Ceasar.
More of Traverse City, the city.
Historical site Novotny's Saloon, built in 1886 and for decades a cornerstone of the social life of Traverse City, as a bar and as a social club and as a grocery and as a dance hall, until 1978 when the building was destroyed by fire. This, says the sign, is a ``near replica'' built within a couple weeks.
Lay Park, commemorating Albert Tracy Lay, the other founder of Perry Hannah. (That's what you were waiting for.) His park seems much larger than Hannah's, just a couple blocks away. But he hasn't got a statue, just a plaque on a rock. Lay's plaque mentions Hannah, although Hannah's says nothing about Lay.
Every time we visit Traverse City we remember this hobby shop too late to actually go inside. Anyway, here's the vestibule, including where the ``new'' floor has been worn down to reveal much but not quite enough of an earlier floor.