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Tag: Category: Off Topic

Off Topic: Pinball Wizard

By Joe Carrel, Buffalo Exchange Tempe

I feel about pinball machines the way I do about drive-in movie theaters – yes, there may be far less of them than there used to be, but I sure hope they don’t disappear. I mean, it’s not like either has been rendered obsolete. Video games offer a similar diversion as pinball, but lack that visceral feeling of knocking an actual ball around inside an actual, physical, space. And drive-ins strike that happy medium between the relaxing space of the home theater and the group experience of the multiplex. So while my nostalgic side loves both, I can’t exactly afford to buy a drive-in.

A pinball machine on the other hand…

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Three quarters of an inch. That was the difference. In my years of hitting up thrift stores I’ve never run across an actual, full size, pinball machine – so when I saw the “Lady Luck” on my way out of Tucson, I knew it would be coming home with me. The only problem: after taking the legs off, it still was a smidgen too large for my trusty old Volvo station wagon – three quarters of an inch to be exact.

Fortunately, my ever-obliging parents came through, and a couple hours later the machine and its new owner were riding back to Tempe in the bed of a borrowed truck. And after a hernia-inducing 3-man heft into my apartment, the Lady was finally home. And, ya know… broken.

Did I forget to mention that the game was all kinds of beat up? Probably – my joy of discovery often clouds little details like that. The wood and glass told a woeful tale of abandonment, of prolonged exposure to the elements. I began to realize why it found its way into thriftdom. So, yes, I have a pinball machine, but it is tattered, non-functional, and currently in my kitchen.

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Ah, but like all good Buffalo customers, I’m one for reusing – so that’s what I went about doing with ‘ol Lady Luck. With the assistance of a mechanically-inclined friend, I went about saving our 47 year old patient. Just replaced the power cord’s plug, drilled open the lock (keys were, of course, inside the machine), replaced some rubber rings and a solenoid coil (“Hey, no more burning smell!”) and it was as good as new.

Well, almost new. I don’t have the money (or patience) for a full restoration, but that’s just fine with me. I prefer things a little worn in, items that proudly wear their age. Anyway, now the game plays great and I’m glad I made the effort. Consider my nostalgic itch scratched.

Until I can afford to buy that drive-in.

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