austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

The tourists do marvel, they touch my cold marble

It might strike you that I've spent two days talking about the Ann Arbor Pinball Museum and haven't yet got out of the small room in the back and into the main hall. The place was like that. There were something like two hundred pinball machines in the place, and it was open --- that Friday --- for five hours. It's not possible to exhaust the place in that time (even if we hadn't ducked out for a half-hour for a snack and to sit a while and rest; they had a patio outside grilling some foods, which was doing poor business, because it was a chilly and rainy evening), though we'd ended up exhausted.

The hall is just filled with machines. There are a couple spots of obvious organization, as for example a pair of alcoves with 1950s-era machines that proved surprisingly compelling. They don't have the deep rules set or frantic action, but they make up for it with a remarkable grace and magnificent ability to frustrate you as a shot that looks like it should be easy just won't work for crying out loud. It's wonderful.

We realistically could have spent the whole night just on one aisle of games, and there were four of them. Any one aisle would make for an impressive vintage arcade, too; the aisle we started on had a blend of the newest machines, as well as classics from the 90s --- The Who's Tommy particularly, and they had an Apollo 13, which has a staggering 13-ball multiball, but which I failed to get the chance to play. It was always packed. More historic machines were there, too; bunny_hugger eagerly texted her brother when she found Haunted House, an early-80s classic, with three levels, that he'd loved back in the day and envied us for finding.

And yet we kept discovering new machines, including Viper with its curious Sorayama-esque robot wrapping a snake around her, or the supremely weird entries like Embryon or Elektra or Vector that look like a severely 70s science fiction novel exploded onto the backglass, or Farfalla, an early-80s Italian game that's just set in a fairyland. Who'd imagined such things even existed?

They had a special treat for me: Strange Science, which was one of the first pinball machines I ever played regularly, back as an undergraduate. On playing it for the first time after decades of remembering it, I'd say ... well, it's pretty good. A shot that I could never make back in the day I still can't make, but maybe if I had a couple more games to rehearse on I'd have the chance.

And the last discovery was one of the great ones: they had a Dragon machine, probably the one we'd seen a few weeks before in the Pinball At The Zoo event. It'd probably more accurately be called Hydra, as you're hitting down targets --- weirdly-shaped ones, of a kind I haven't seen on other machines --- representing the monster's heads; with each one you knock down the machine roars electronically. We got to this just as they were closing, and bunny_hugger got a few games in as they were walking around turning off machines for the night. It's a mightily interesting machine.

And some of bunny_hugger's pictures:

Trivia: The time betwen the vernal equinox to the summer solstice is roughly 92.8 days. Source: Mapping Time: The Calendar and its History, EG Richards.

Currently Reading: Pedestrianism: When Watching People Walk Was America's Favorite Spectator Sport, Matthew Algeo.


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