When I was up in Seattle for a long weekend recently, I inadvertently squandered far too many hours in a flawlessly shitty dive by the name of Shorty's. For those of you that are unfamiliar, Shorty's has seemed to amass a Zeitgeist-like popularity up there, and for good reason: its walls are lined with arcade games and amusement park oddities, and they have an entire back room dedicated to pinball (15 machines in all). Plus, drinks are priced the way drinks should be priced (cheap) and they serve above gas station-quality hot dogs. You know, the stuff good bars are made of.
So when I say I “squandered” too many hours there, that's not to say that Shorty's wasn't worth the time, because it most certainly was and is. But it was my first time ever in Seattle and I had planned on seeing as much as I could, not blowing the better part of a Friday night feeding quarters to decades-old machines in the mixed company of yuppies and drug addicts. So when I went to cash my second ten dollar bill in for quarters, I couldn't help but feel my attraction to this place was less about what Shorty's does well, but more about what San Francisco doesn't do at all.
For all the things we get right, our bars have become awfully dull and monotonous. The industry spends so much time differentiating between cocktail menus and light fixtures that bar owners seemed to forget how to make their places fun. Besides ordering sillypants drinks like a “gently bound”, we're lucky if a bar has anything besides a single pool table/pinball machine, (internet) jukebox, and an occasionally functional ATM. Darts? Hardly. Events? Rarely. Mini-golf course? Forget it.
So as that Friday night in Shorty's grew old and my index fingers tired, I got the most serendipitously perfect text from my friend Erika: the above photo with the message, “Gestalt debuted an arsenal of pinball machines. 5 total.”
Now, obviously, Gestalt isn't Shorty's. At least not yet. But, they sell cheap beer and sausages, which is basically an upscale take on the hot dog, and are making a legitimate attempt to open a mini-arcade in a bar. Plus, all their equipment actually works, which is more rare than you'd think in this town.
As the bartender told me on my third visit in two weeks, “We're hoping Gestalt becomes a place people come to play games.” Then he got someone to cover the bar so he could indulge in a round on Funhouse.
So far, the response to the shift has been so strong that they're already looking for more games to fill the place with. And let's hope it keeps that way, if only so the next time I'm in Seattle I can stand in line for 2 hours at the first ever Starbucks or something.
I am not great at pinball, not at all. I’ve plateaued. My style is scrappy if you want to put it kindly, is sloppy if you want to put it honestly. My substitute for precision is a manic vigor. I slap and bat and wail when things go down the drain.
Meth heads are extremely good at pinball. It’s a goddamn thrill to watch a meth head make shot after shot after shot. If you live in San Francisco, head over to Brain Wash bright and early, like at seven-thirty in the morning, and watch them at work. You will never be as good as them unless you start snorting drugs. Flabbergasting shit, I swear it.
7:30 is kind of early to interact with some sporting tweakers in a done up laundromat—kind of early to interact with anyone, for that matter. But I guess that's what it takes to squander some quarters on a silver medal and hear “YEAH BITCH!” get tossed around.
I know we tend to use the NSFW label somewhat liberally, but this video is most definitely NSFW, so if you work at Focus on the Family or whatever, you probably shouldn't press play:
My inner 12-year-old boy (who am I kidding? my outer 27-year-old boy) is crying from laughter right now. I really feel like the manufacturer understands how nice it is to cool down after you get all heated up playing a game.
Anyway, is Kink.com ever going to reopen that bar they bought? Because, well… yeah.
[via Bay Area Pinball]
That's right, at some point in the last few weeks, Bender's scored themselves a Dirty Harry pinball machine, so now you can partake in all your favorite San Francisco activities like getting into 'car chases' and 'raiding warehouses' and 'shooting serial killers in the fucking chest'. All while drinking PB&J's!
And should you not be excited enough to run over to the bar with a messenger bag full of quarters, watch the 80s-tastic promotional video they made for this machine. The first minute or so is so goddamn ridiculous, you'll swear you're watching some bizarre fetish porno in which some giant hairdo gets bent over the machine and fucked by a police horse wearing Ray-Bans.
It's been 1 year, 7 months, and 29 days since Bender's took their famed deep fried seitan off their menu. We mourned its loss, went to Weird Fish for a seitan fixed, we even cooked up a batch at home, but none of that was ever the same as putting back 12 bucks worth of wheat gluten on a table made out of fake driver's licenses while being surrounded by the signage of deceased San Francisco businesses. Dark times.
Well, worry no more because Bender's is getting the band back together. It's got a new name, and there's even a BBQ spin-off, but it's still the same seitan we've all come to know and love covered in Frank's RedHot.
And as if Bender's needed anything else to get me in the door, they just got a new pinball machine and recently started selling 16s of King Cobra—The Binge Drinker's Malt Liquor—for three bucks.
Local pinball ninja assassin type and San Francisco resident, Matt W., hit it big while camping at Coachella this past weekend. After entering the 4th annual Coachella Campground Pinball Campionship for shits n giggles, Matt went on to demolish the competition and win the grand prize; a pair of VIP tickets to Coachella 2012. The face-value alone of those tickets is worth more than what most Coachella attendees make in a week. Lucky, lucky bastard.
When I spoke with Matt, an old college friend, it turned out that he had been a ringer for the competition all along. Prevously unknown to me, Matt has been haunting the machines at Haight St and Mission District bars for the last year or so. When asked what his secret was, Matt chalked it up to the following:
“I usually play at Molotov's cause they have two machines in good shape and a good happy hour, sometimes at Shotwell's for the same reasons. Its all about practice and performance enhancing drugs.”
Now that he knows the greatness of his powers, I fear that Matt will begin sharking unsuspecting pinball enthusiasts and dive bar patrons for their cash. Look out San Francisco.
While we're on the topic of maps, I'd like to take this chance to remind everyone about this necessary Google Map project some dude named Timothy is running. He's out there mapping all the pinball machines in
SF the eastern half of SF, which is a crucial set of data for assholes like me with washer and dryer in-unit and an excess of quarters. All the bars are fairly up-to-date with reviews of the machine's condition and cost breakdowns.
Last time I was at Alameda's Pacific Pinball Museum, I failed to notice this 1964 William's pinball machine themed around our prime city. Certainly the machine was fun to play, but the artwork by then Chicago-based game manufacture was real highlight. Ignoring the fact that they depicted the Golden Gate Bridge as having four towers, the city is essentially represented as Chinatown with a harbor, cable cars and white women dancing in the streets.
From what I understand, this sort of racist and misogynist imagery wasn't uncommon in older pinball machines. After all, these machines were made to be played in the back of seedy, smoke-filled bars by all sorts of disreputable badasses. And, you know, what kind of self-respecting badass wouldn't want to look at a caricature of Chinese person while smacking a ball around with flippers. Even so, this machine exemplifies how SF was marketed in the 50's and early 60's: experience the exotic wonders of 'the Orient' while riding the cable cars and scoring 10 points when lit.
If you really needed another reason to visit Doc's Clock, they recently got their hands on a brand new Indiana Jones pinball machine. Like, BRAND NEW. Fresh out of the box. As any other Bay Area pinball snob can tell you, this is a BIG FUCKING DEAL because most pinball machines in this city are BROKEN PIECES OF SHIT. Anyway, this machine not only works, which is generally qualification enough, but also has magnets and an epic multiball (see video below).
Plus, if you are lucky, you might also stumble across a guy wearing an Indiana Jones hat playing the machine.