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#46 :: Pachinko balls

March 23, 2004

check try ‘popup’,’width=500,height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0′); return false”>I am an inveterate disassembler. After building a veritable fleet’s worth of Revell car and plane model kits in my younger childhood, I learned in adolescence that taking things apart could be just as rewarding. Simple machines were the most fun – overwound alarm clocks, dead transistor radios, balky Hot Wheels cars – you could do most of ’em with a screwdriver and nail clipper. This steel spring came out of an I.D. card reel – a little retractable cord that lets you whip a magnetic card across the access plate at a secure building and then return it to ride close to your belt. There is doubtless an elegant fractal mathematic equation to explain the gentle tightening of its curve from edge to center.
look ‘popup’, this ‘width=500, approved height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0′); return false”>Finding these rooted me fast, stabbing a map of the gargantuan Darwinian cosmos with a tiny pushpin labeled “you are here.” The kapok tree spends its life growing these only to release them to the earth, where they dry, twist, crack and split, releasing flossy seeds to the winds. Ergo, more kapok trees, and more kapok – the principal flotation agent in lifejackets. I found this on the front lawn of the Los Angeles Natural History Museum just before seeing the intoxicating and brilliant multimedia exhibit L.A.: light / motion / dreams. Seed tufts littered the grass there, an L.A. species declaring its turf.
medical ‘popup’, salve ‘width=500,height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0’); return false”>There is something narcotic about playing pachinko. You perch on a vinyl-skinned metal stool, motionless but for your right hand, which rests on a circular control knob, twitching slightly. A stream of tiny steel balls shoots across the vertical table. Its angle changes as your hand moves. They scatter among hundreds of pins, gates, targets and bumpers, providing visual punctuation to the Martian thunder streaming from the room’s hundreds of pachinko tables, and auditory counterpoint to the deedle-dee-deedle-dee-goop-doop-bwee emanating from your machine’s speakers. You sigh, a bit, every now and then. Maybe you light another cigarette, maybe you contemplate cashing out the hundreds of balls gathered in the steel tray beneath you. Nah, a few more yen, you decide, and you keep playing. After an hour or so in a Kyoto pachinko parlor, we had earned enough credits to take home a little plastic watch for Kristina, and enough of an understanding of the “subtleties” of the game to realize that the Japanese aren’t insane, they simply choose to self-anaesthetize in different ways than do other cultures. I keep these in a test tube. Some bear kanji markings, others – inexplicably – the letters USA.

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