The Tale of The ELK - ‘you do not choose your initials’
(My apologies - I was encouraged to do the long version).
My original initials were WIZ. Growing up in Denmark just north of Copenhagen next to the worlds oldest amusement park (‘Dyrehavsbakken’) getting your initials right was a part of any natural childhood development. As kids we would break away and bike the five minutes through the woods to the wonderful machines whenever we could. I remember a discussion with my peers (age of 9 or 10) on weather you needed three quarters in your pocket to defend going - or if you could go with only two quarters. I knew from the start that a TAG with just the initials of my name (Mads Kristensen) was too boring and after playing around with MUM and RIP the choice was WIZ also to display the love for pinball - vs. the computer game kids.
In 2010 I moved to Berkeley, San Francisco with my family. I got to play with the wonderful bunch of people at The Bay Area Pinball Association. Andrei Massenkoff, Tim Hansen, Walter Hurwitz, John Olkowski and many more. In this company the tag WIZ just did not seem right. I was two time Danish Champion upon arrival in the US, but during BAPA league nights I was just an average player. At locations I would some times run into Marc Conant or Neil Shatz - realizing that there was real pinball wizards in the world. It became clear that I had to get new initials.
During that year Neil Shatz enrolled me in the School of Shatz. He introduced me to players, places, machines and playing strategies in what naturally became my best pinball time ever. It was also NES that introduced me to The Radio Bar in Oakland. The Radio Bar was home to The Pinball Union (battling the legendary Pinball Mafia - playing out of The Stork Club). And those Union guys had some kind of deal with Stern to always get the newest Stern machines as one of the first locations in the US.
I turned out that this time, I was not to choose my initials. They would be given to me. Or somehow come to me. Like an Indian name. And it would happen in that Radio Bar in Oakland.
A brand new Big Buck Hunter had arrived and while AMN and NES would exchange punches to determine Grand Champ - I got in there early - eager to get my initials on the board. In the middle of a great game ‘what must not happen’ happens. On this crispy new machine I manage to shoot of the toy elk. And it just lies there. In the middle of the playfield. Dead. Long was the steps up to tell the bartender (and Pinball Union Member) to tell that I had broken the new game.
A couple of days later I came back to the Radio Bar. I sneak to the game, relived to see that it has been fixed. But before I get my first quarter in, the bartender (another Union member) stops me and asks: “Are you the man that shot the elk?” And I answer “Yes. I am the man that shot the elk.”
And that was how I got my new name. ‘The man that shot the elk’. Or just ELK.
(I ended up with a good relationship to the Pinball Union people. They kept calling me by my new name. Eventually I had to leave the Bay Area. Returned to Denmark (and also got my third Danish Championship title) but never considered being anything else than ELK - no wizard - just a grateful pinball Indian).