It is often the case that when hanging out with my friend Mike that we have, as he puts it, “wacky adventures.”  This may be due the fact that we are both rather easy going, so when things go askew, we are more apt to adjust to the new circumstances then become bent out shape.  Of course it could also be that we are rarely out do anything of major importance to anyone but ourselves.  Such was the case this past weekend when I flew in to visit my friend after a three year hiatus, and we went in search of a working and entertaining pinball machine.

We undertook our quest in a 1987 BMW that no longer has a functioning odometer, sports a broken passenger-side door latch and faded paint job, and what is thought to be over 200,000 miles on it.  The car also handles, accelerates, and sounds like a racecar, and it has, in fact, been used as such.  Thus, we were perfectly equipped to search out a form of entertainment that is just as exciting as any race, but which the general public’s eye would slide off just as readily as most people would discount this marvel of German engineering and durability.

In the age of the iPhone, movies on demand, the PS3, and a marked decline in the prevalence of arcades, pinball machine have all but disappeared.  The bumpers, lights, ramps, all became either too costly to repair or simply no longer generated profit enough for most companies to justify the expense of making new ones.  Mike and I were both aware of this, but it did not stop the quest.

So we searched.  Not in any planed way, but by driving to the local Dave and Busters to see if they had a machine. Predictably they didn’t, and while they did give us a lead on a place that might have a machine they were not really sure anyone still had them.  This particular arcade had dispensed with their last pinball machine over a year ago, and both the employees that we spoke to felt that most other establishments would have done the same.

With no other real plan, we wandered the midway.  There were games aplenty, but for the most part they were video games (one that caught both our eyes was a “Rambo” game…we decided it must not have been any good, as they only showed clips from the various movies and not the actual game).  But lo! There was something hidden in the bowls of that room that was worth the trip, a coin drop machine.  Shaped like a pentagon, it has two levels both loaded with coins.  The object is just to drop a coin on the top level which slides back and forth, so that the drop-coin, when compressed into the mass of other coins, forces one or a group of coins to move and forces those perched on the ledge of the first tier over the lip and down below where the process in repeated.  The more that fall, the more tickets you get.

While enticing, it would probably not have sold us, if it were not for the CD kiosk hooked up to the iTunes store.  But once that gleaming display of near obsolete technology showed itself to us, we were both hooked, and dutifully began the process of acquiring enough tickets to make a rocking burn-CD.

It took both of us playing the coin machine for fifteen minutes and more than 20 bucks to get enough tickets to claim our prize.  However, in the end, both of us stood in front of this kiosk, iPods in our pockets loaded with music, and made a CD.  We took it in turns to pick a song, which were mainly old hip-hop and rap (think OPP and James Brown).  We never did find a pinball machine, but we did wind up finding a technological relic (the CD) nevertheless.

On the way to meet Mike’s fiancée for diner we rocked that mix-CD harder than Motley Crew hit the bottle.  We zoomed down the road with huge grins on our face.  Our mission not even remotely accomplished, and yet, it was an awesome outing.  The kind of trip that results in a story that will be probably be told, exaggerated, warped, and recounted more than once.  In short, the kind of story that we all have with our good friends.  So if you have a story like that with a friend that you’ve not seen in a while, call them up.  Share a laugh. And go find a pinball machine (Particularly in the Washington DC or San Antonio areas) so I will know where to go get my fix!

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