Two of my favorite pinball stories happened while playing alone on location. They’re both sort of bittersweet, but they were some of the best pinball I’ve ever played. And they both involve me being late…
Story number one happened at the illustrious Hawthorne Hideaway in Portland on a very specific Attack From Mars. Back story is that I used to be a regular at that bar when I lived in the area, before I was a pinhead. For a long time they didn’t have any pinball at all, but one day I walked in and they had this Attack just sitting there. I probably wouldn’t have given it a second thought except that I remembered going to this pizza place called Murray’s with my dad when I was a kid. By this point it had been closed for probably 10 years, but when we went it was the mid 90s, and they had a brand new AFM and a Scared Stiff that I would play every time we went. AFM was always my favorite. Eventually we stopped going there and it closed down, and I forgot about pinball completely until that moment at Hawthorne Hideaway when I saw the Attack From Mars, standing in all its glory. A funny coincidence is that Murray’s had literally been in the building right next to where the Hawthorne Hideaway is, so my head canon is that it’s the same machine I played as a kid.
So eventually by being a regular at this bar and playing this Attack over and over again, I caught the bug and searched out the competitive scene in Portland. I learned how to play pinball on that machine. Drop catches, post transfers, inlane passes, live catches, multiball cradling. But I could never quite get the GC on it. It wasn’t a crazy high GC, and it didn’t play super hard, but I think I had a mental block and whenever I would get close I would choke. I got all the way to lighting Rule the Universe but bricked the shot on ball 3. Eventually I moved away and didn’t go there very much any more. But one day before work I decided to go in there and play a few games for old times sake.
I had trash game after trash game. At some point I decided I’d play one more game and then I’d probably take off to catch the bus for work. Of course everything starts coming together. I start playing fucking amazing, I’m dialed on every shot, I can hardly miss, the ball isn’t going anywhere near the outlanes. I could have played 20 multiballs. I didn’t miss the lock shot. On my first extra ball on ball one, all I had to do was destroy mars and I would have Ruled the Universe. But suddenly the realization hit me that my bus was coming in 5 minutes and if I missed it I would be super late for work. So, I had to walk away from the best pinball game of my life. It was such a shitty feeling, because I was absolutely certain that I would have GCed that machine and Ruled the Universe for the first time. It would have been like overcoming my pinball demons by GCing that machine, but it wasn’t meant to be. They took out the AFM there a while back and I don’t know where it went. I’ve still never Ruled the Universe, but I know it’ll happen someday. It’s kind of funny that one machine has been such a part of my pinball journey. Kinda makes me wonder where it’ll pop up next.
I know I said I had two stories but this post is getting long and I need to stop interneting right now. I’ll tell my other story some other time!