It’s the summer between my freshman and sophomore years at the U-M, and I’m coming home from a birthday party with a friend. We had to walk down S. Forest to get back to his apartment, and like many times freshman year walking to Sadako or No Thai, we passed Pinball Pete’s. However this time, I’m slightly schlitzed — and we all know that’s when we make the best impulse decisions. Down the stairs and into the retro wonderland of Pinball Pete’s we go …
Flash backward a decade earlier. One time my grandparents took my sister, my cousins and I on a Caribbean cruise, but for some reason, before we departed, my grandparents announced we would have to skip going to one of the planned island destinations. I don’t remember why — I was 11. All that mattered to me was the fact that to compensate for this setback, the cruise gave everyone like a hundred bucks in credit that could be used anywhere on the ship. There was an arcade on deck, and my tween ass blew through that Benjamin faster than a kid with access to their mom’s credit card buying “Fortnite” cosmetics.
I bring this bougie anecdote up because I am a child of the wild and wacky 2000s, and arcades, the pop culture staple of the the ’80s and ’90s, were on their way out by then. They only time I could play “Galaga” or “Skee-Ball” was at pizza parlors and skating rinks (the latter of which are sadly on their way out as well). I thought the coin-operated gaming bliss I ascended to on that cruise ship would never again be matched.
The acoustics of Pinball Pete’s are perfectly geared towards the sweet symphony of flippers, bumpers, bells, bleeps and bloops which plays ‘round the clock. There’s more neon than Nicolas Winding Refn could shake a stick at. My friend and I turned a couple of dollars into a cup of quarters, and in they rolled into the “Guitar Hero,” “Mario Kart” and “Mortal Kombat” machines. There’s a video of me stomping out of sync to Smile.dk’s “Butterfly” after triumphantly proclaiming how good I was at “Dance Dance Revolution.” Yet I’ll look as stupid as I please tapping, strumming and flicking away at Pinball Pete’s because it’s one of those rare places where you truly feel like a kid again.