August 5th, 2013

krazy koati

We've been waiting but we're next in line

Also along the boardwalk is one of the handful of Fascination parlors left in the world. The game's played on seated tables, with an alley a couple feet wide and maybe six or eight feet deep, with a five-by-five array of holes. You roll a rubber ball down into the track, and each hole a ball drops into lights up a corresponding light in a bingo-type card, with the winner being, well, whoever achieves the bingo objective first. What makes it particularly challenging, besides that it's hard to roll balls fast enough to get over the lane's small hump without going so fast they roll right back, is that a ball going towards a hole will almost always have just enough english on it to send it spinning wildly unpredictably, sending it on this weird twirling dance across the field of play. And, of course, the more time it spends deciding which of all the possible holes to go into, the less time you have to just roll another ball already because all your competitors are rolling balls and you're waiting to maybe score a hole you didn't have before.

When we entered the emcee was trying to drum up enough people to play (and promising us that later in the day the whole room would be packed), and he got us to play some practice rounds until the minimum third person came in. And we discovered that the game is really, really addictive. There's a good steady flow of action, the games are quick --- quicker the more people there are --- and since it doesn't get you any closer to winning to roll a ball down the same hole a second time, the sense of suspense or frustration grows as you get closer to the end. Most of the games we'd played were for a simple five-in-a-row, but the emcee has the discretion to put up some different challenges, one of which was getting a diagonal row, and one of which was using two balls and trying to cover all the holes on the board instead.

We did pretty well, bunny_hugger better than me, and got enough tickets to trade for some wonderful cheesy trinkets, including a tiny aquarium-style plastic toy with seaside props and glitter dust inside. Our streak of good play lasted pretty much until a fourth and fifth person came in to play, which I suppose says something about the randomness of the game.

Sadly, considering the game seems well-designed to be lightly social and fiercely competitive, there aren't many Fascination parlors left in the world, and there's a lot of cannibalization for parts for these electromechanical games. It turned out in a couple weeks bunny_hugger and I would be by two of the other remaining ones.

Trivia: In the 19th century ``thein'', ``matein'', and even ``guaranine'' were used to refer to caffeine as isolated from tea, maté, and guarana. Source: The World of Caffeine: The Science and Culture of the World's Most Popular Drug, Bennett Alan Weinberg, Bonnie K Bealer.

Currently Reading: The World Of Jimmy Breslin, Jimmy Breslin.

PS: Just Answer 1/e Whenever Anyone Asks This Kind Of Question, a mathematical question inspired by our recent trip which took us to the oldest roller coaster still in operation.