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Play pinball, live to a hundred

Steve Kordek, widely credited as the Godfather of Pinball, died last week, aged 100. He didn’t invent the pinball machine, but he came up with many of the innovations that make the modern pinball machine familiar.

Dual flippers. Multiple balls. Pop-up targets. He designed hundreds of the things.

But not the one in the picture, Jungle Queen. That was my machine.

I mean, I played it a whole bunch. The four or five months between the time I turned 18 (and thus could legally go into bars) and the time I went away to college, that was my passion: a brandy alexander, a roll of quarters and Jungle Queen. With bonus games, that could last me a whole evening (or until the third brandy, which stole my superpowers).

See those triangular things near the top? Those are two rows of five drop-targets with monkeys on them. If you caught the ball on the flipper and held it to a standstill, then slowly let it fall and popped the flipper at JUST the right picosecond, you could sling the ball down a whole row of monkeys and take them all out in one move, pop-pop-pop-pop-pop.

God, I loved those monkeys.

The last time I saw Jungle Queen — actually the two-player variant, Jungle Princess — was in a fairground in Rhode Island. It was like bumping into my best friend from High School (what the hell – Jungle Queen was my best friend from High School). I had spent a quarter and won a free ball on the first go and I was feeling fine, when a young man with Down’s Syndrome pushed me away and started playing. My bonus round.

I stood there a moment calculating how bad it would look if I got interrupted in a shoving match with a handicapped person, and then I walked sadly away.

February 27, 2012 — 11:11 pm
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