September 12, 1998. Walt's Lounge. Summit Street. Columbus, Ohio, USA. Drinking the cheapest beer in the house. Billy big brother who sells used cars bought me a round. Crazy fucking Jenny bought me one too, as she continued to berate me, shoot me her middle finger, and babble on in her whacked-out Jack Daniel's haze. I've seen her sit by herself and just laugh her head off. She holds a job, has a boyfriend, but she is A-1 nutso. It's mid-afternoon, OSU is winning 49 to zip (like I care), and besides talkin' to Carol the bartender's boyfriend Mick, the highlight of the day is slippin' 4 quarters into the DRACULA pinball machine for a 2 player game and winning 2 free games. You top 110,000 points and you win. It's better than Vegas. I've been THERE, dropped 2 rolls of quarters in the slots, and split. The '96 tour, 7,000 miles. 21 days. Me and Squid, the 'merch-man', had a rental car. Rest of band w/girlies had a van. Left 'em in Venice Beach. They knew the way home…
I've never been known to play the kind of SPORTS that make ya sweat. I play pinball. At Walt's Lounge, I seem to be one of the only people to play the DRACULA machine. When I was 10 and enjoying my boyhood life in Vermont, my family hijacked me to a sad slow-moving town in central FLAWRIDA. I hated it. When I got out of high school I moved to Ohio w/2 friends and we started the band Vertical Slit.
The only thing in that hot swamp-land town that made life tolerable was the Hi-Lan Lanes Bowling Alley 2 blocks from the house. I was an addict. It was the machines. In the early '70s, I was a young teenager. I was also a pinball wizard and a pool hustler. Grown men would weep as me and the V. Slit drummer Dave Mikula would call the 8 ball four rails in the corner and make it. Back in those pre-video days pinball was a whole different animal. The scoring numbers rolled around on cylinders and to get the ball to pop up so you could shoot it you had to push in a lever. Big machines back then were 'STUDENT PRINCE', 'METEOR', and 'HOT ROD'. It seemed we spent half of our lives at the bowling alley. The fuel to feed out addiction was quarters. Any way we could get 'em, we'd get 'em. Steal change from the parents, go door to door "collecting money for the junior high basketball team" (which wasn't actually collecting money for any 'cause'), and…well, all the quarters would go into the machines at the bowling alley. Eventually it would go for other things like cigarettes, dope, and liquor. I scored a dishwashing job in the restaurant at the bowling alley. This would provide chump-change for the machines.
Pinball is pure magic. It's not like playing pool, bowling, contact sports, or playing cards. It's one on one. You against the machine. You can't touch the ball (or the 'multi-balls'). All you can do is pull back the plunger, let the ball go, and work the flippers. I used to push on the machine, shake it around, but I don't bother w/that much anymore. It's a game of skill, and when you can win 2 games on a one-dollar investment…friend, you are a damn good player.
I create music. I drink. I play pinball. Right now, those 3 things seem to be the focus of my earthly existence, but that's fine. I never wanted to be a prize-fighter, and I won't work with the suits. Every night when I get off my 2nd-shift job I head to the bar. Walt's Lounge. I play pinball. Sometimes, me and a girl friend each play a flipper, but her reflexes are kinda slow and she'll make the ball drain. Hang out w/the middle- to old-age working class drinkers. I feel safe there and lemme tell ya, when I kick the machine's ass I feel a sense of satisfaction unlike any other.
Pinball is one of the most worthwhile things on the planet, it's been a huge part of my life…and when you're a master player, hey, it makes the evening quite alright…
-Jim Shepard of V-3 9.14.98