So, lunchtime. I think the Thursday, the first day, we tried eating inside the convention hall, because they had a ramen place there. If not, we tried it Friday. We wouldn't try it again. We might be spoiled by our local hipster barcade having a ramen restaurant providing its food service. (Most days. Sundays, for reasons known to someone, they have a burger place working the kitchen instead.) But the ramen from the convention hall was ... all right. Kind of tepid. Not hot enough, in spice or in temperature, to be really good. Change of pace from eating vegetarian burgers or just lots of pretzels, at least. If they had hotter water it'd be good enough.
Round four. The after-dinner rounds start at 6:15. People often make the mistake of supposing it should start at 6:00, which seems reasonable and is a harmless mistake. Or 6:30, again reasonable but catastrophic. Nobody in our groups makes the mistake. It's easy to make, though. Last year one player who was a good bet to make A-Division finals came in late, and his standing never fully recovered. 6:15. That's the important hour.
bunny_hugger is on Set 25, Blackwater Multiballs. It's a set designed to raise her ire. The modern game is Stern's 2015 Game of Thrones, which has as its short-game multiball objective Blackwater Multiball. She has a basic handle on how to do that, if she can get the locks lit --- a hard shot, harder on tournament settings --- and shoot up the center. The electromechanical is Bally's 1976 Freedom, a bicentennial-themed game that's about drop targets and spinning targets, a comfortable stranger. The early solid-state is Gottlieb's 1982 Haunted House, the first game with three separate playfields and a game she loves, even if it doesn't necessarily love her. And the late solid-state game is Bally's 1988 Blackwater 100, so you see why this is a very cleverly named set. The rules of the game are obscure, but you start with a three-ball multiball and you see why this is an even more cleverly named set. bunny_hugger goes 5-7, including (I think) a good controlled Game of Thrones where she stuck to her objective and won it. Her record rises to 19-29.
And me? I'm on Set 40, Hotter Than A Convention Center On A Monday. It's got several quasi-friends. One is DAD, the father of the father-son team that's quietly taking over the eastside's tournaments. He doesn't seem to quite believe me that we're playing the same group of games. He also keeps wandering away, likely to check on his son. Also to consult with GRV, who's offering strategy. We start on the electromechanical, Gottlieb's 1977 Centigrade 37. I've played it in several venues, including the Silverball Museum. It's got a neat 70s-science-fiction women-in-sciencey-tubes theme. I take third place. Ah, but, I can make it up on the late-solid-state game, Gottlieb's 1988 Time Machine. I've played it some, at the VFW Ann Arbor Pinball Museum. bunny_hugger used to play it in her dorm but the ball got stuck every game, something she now wonders might have been a misunderstood ball lock making progress toward multiball. It's a Back To The Future ripoff theme. I do everything needed for multiball except getting multiball; it's good for second place. The early solid-state game is Williams's 1981 Jungle Lord, a game with playfield divided into upper and lower regions. The point of the game is to keep it in the upper playfield, something I learn after my first ball does not. I never figure out the trick, and get a last place. Well. The final game is the modern-era game, Stern's 2009 NBA. I have played this game once before, in 2017, in my third round, second day at Pinburgh that year. My perfect round. If there's any game I can take first in, it's this. There is not; I take third. I go 4-8 for the round, and my record droops to 24-24. But if I can go 6-6 this last round, I might yet make B Division; if I can get five wins, I can at least earn my guaranteed C Division standing.
MWS, on Set 19 --- One Cactus per Seashell, which bunny_hugger played two rounds earlier --- goes 5-7 and drops to 23-25, the first time all day he's been below .500. JTK is on Set 2, the extremely named Anansi Storytime, the Fairy Tale Audio Drama spiderstorytime.com. He has a catastrophic round, going 1-11. Had I known that at the time I'd have reminded him that at my first Pinburgh I went 0-12 one round. His record drops to 18-30.
Round five. bunny_hugger is put on Set 27, 60 Seconds On The Clock, which I had played two rounds earlier. I give her what intelligence I can. She goes 4-8, finishing the round --- and the first day --- at 23-37. She's placed in D, but because a player with as high a world ranking as she has isn't allowed in the novice E division. It's not a mercy; the highest D Division players have six more wins than she has, and making a net gain of that many on Friday will be hard.
I'm put in Set 42, One Cactus Per Dummy, which JTK --- stop me if you've heard this before --- had played two rounds earlier. It's a set with a couple of familiar games. We start with the early-solid-state game, Italian pinball maker Zaccharia's 1982 Pinball Champ. I've played it a little at the VFW. More in simulation, as the Zaccharia tables have an excellent simulator app. Also look at that backglass and try to not feel better about life. I come in last place. The modern game is Williams's 1998 Cactus Canyon, which again, a little VFW experience and more Pinball Arcade app simulated experience. I don't quite get my act together on the game, and the woman --- the first one I've played on Thursday, by the way --- after me has a great game. I get third place.
The electromechanical game is Williams's 1977 Liberty Bell. Most of the day I've been choosing to go second, because that's kind of my routine. But after several bad games in a row --- and a bad round before it --- I decide to break this up, and take my chance to choose to go fourth. I spend my time watching everybody else's play closely, with the laser-eyes that CST has noticed of my observation. It pays off: I beat everybody's score by more than fifty percent. Finally a first-place finish again.
The last game of the set, and for me of the first day, is Williams's 1990 Funhouse. On the one hand: hooray, Funhouse! My favorite game! On the other hand: also everybody else in pinball's favorite game! It's going to be set impossibly hard. I notice to start out that the mirror award is for Quick Multiball; this is great. A soft plunge of the ball, and it'll be set up to collect a nice easy two-ball multiball offering a chance for cheap millions. All of this works well except for the cheap millions; I never get near collecting any of them. Nor to getting to the ordinary, three-ball Midnight Multiball. But nobody else does, either; we put up a bunch of terrible scores. The highest of any of them is five million. The lowest of them is 2.6 million. It's mine. And just another 200,000 would have at least given me a third-place finish.
I had joked after my 11-1 first round that I had peaked for the tournament. But it's been so. Since then I haven't done better than 6-6 for a round. My fifth round I went 4-8, dropping my record to 28-32. I'm below .500 for the first time. I'm put into C Division. I haven't earned it. I was restricted into C, on the grounds of finishing in the top four in the D Division in 2017. By merit alone I belong in D.
I'm not as badly off, relatively, as bunny_hugger is. The lowest players who earned their way into C --- including pinball podcaster Nate Shivers, by the way, to drop a name you will not recognize --- went 29-31. And the top of C Division is only 32-28. It's still a net gain of at least three wins on the top of the division, though, to make playoffs. And against people who've been consistently better than me.
People like MWS. On set 59, You'll, Uhh... Find a Way (were you previously aware there's a Jurassic Park pinball?) he's gone 7-5, bringing himself back up to 30-30. He's in C Division, and fairly earned. JTK, on set 21, Steve Ritchie Is Kool, nearly wipes out his terrible round four. He goes 10-2, bringing himself up to 28-32. My record, but since he's not division-restricted he's placed into D.
It's late. We're tired. We get back to the hotel before its enclosed 7-Eleven closes, which it does at 11. (It opens at 6 am, although on weekends it waits until 7 am, just like they were taking themselves seriously.) It's a lot of time with me insisting that no, bunny_hugger is not a bad player and people don't think she is. After her disappointing finish in the Baby Food Festival it's hard convincing her, and I fail to do so.
Before we go to bed they've posted our scheduled games for the first round the next day. bunny_hugger's is all games she's played before, and knows tolerably well. One of them she's nicknamed Agony. Everyone else who plays it has nicknamed it that, too. Another is Medieval Madness, which, like Funhouse, everybody who plays pinball knows and loves. It's going to be set on impossibly difficult levels. And me? I know three of the games I'm supposed to be playing. The one I don't is the electromechanical. I insist there's reasons for us both to hope. We'll know in ten hours.
Trivia: The English East India Company's annual imports reached £ 800,000 in 1684. Following, among other things, the Moghul War (1686 - 89) they fell to £ 80,000 in 1691. Source: The Honourable Company: A History of the English East India Company, John Keay.
Currently Reading: The Smithsonian Collection of Newspaper Comics, Editors Bill Blackbeard, Martin Williams.
PS: Leelanau State Park, and the section of it right near the waterline.
Panoramic view of the edge of the shoreline, to the little spot where we set up camp, to the flora behind.
A look at the rocky beach underneath the region where waves crashed up.
And then a closer look from the ground at the water coming in.