The Secret Code is 508479

David Plays Pinball
Chicago, USA
June 7, 2014

Megan's suggestion sounded like a sentence last uttered sometime in the 1980s:

"We could go by the record store. There's a new LP out that I want to pick up. And they have a video game arcade there, too."

We'd just finished an early dinner in her neighborhood: drinks and slices at a local pizza parlor with airy back patio, the Boiler Room. Supper over and no other plans set for the evening Megan proposed walking the long way home. A visit to a record store and a video game arcade sounded like fun to me. I brought the conversation back to even older technology:

Megan and David
at Boiler Room
"Yeah, I'd love to play some of the old video games I remember playing as a kid! But, does the arcade have pinball? That was really what I used to enjoy playing. You never see pinball machines around anymore... "

"They have lots of pinball machines. Some really nice older ones, too," Megan said.

We walked up California to Fullerton and made a right. A few blocks down an old sign announced "Logan Hardware". The shop clearly sold no tools. Rather, stacks, and stacks of records filled the store with a shelf of vintage audio equipment on offer at the entrance. Megan looked around for her record album. I browsed the 7-inch selection. Seeing the occasional familiar jacket or label evoked an immediate nostaligia that made me want to listen to whatever track was in the sleeve. One such design I recognized was a cover that had the handwritten logo "Whodini" scrawled over a photo of the group. Another was the colorful floral patterns on the label of a Prince song. I decided to buy both of those 45s to mail to friends who I thought would experience a similar visual throwback, who would also want to listen to that track upon seeing the old, familiar artwork.

I took the used singles the cashier. After I paid he asked me if we were interested in visiting the arcade. Sure, I said. Though, the way Megan had described where we were going I had expected that would be in a completely different building. There was nothing but audio equipment and records visible around the shop.

The cashier took a hand stamp, pressed it first to an inkpad and then finally to the back of my receipt. It read in a blurry, sticky green:

"The Secret Code is 508479"

Megan was familiar with the routine. We walked to the far end of the store where stood a door with a keypad against a plain white wall. I read each number aloud while Megan pressed the corresponding digit. The lock popped open, we pulled the handle, then stepped together into a back room filled with decades-old arcade machines. There were all set to "Free Play" mode.

Megan Plays Pinball
As Megan promised, there were indeed many pinball machines. I played several over and over. But, I was surprised by how, once I saw the selection of vintage video games, it was many of those crude older games with blocky graphics that I chose to play over the pinball offerings.

Most of the games I played weren't the blockbuster hits or their era: Moon Patrol, Elevator Action, and Burger Time. Megan spent her time mostly on the really old pinball machines, the ones that tallied points with rotating mechanical counters and awarded clever shots with high amounts of points and actual bells ringing. There were several dozen machines filling the room; we had the backroom arcade entirely to ourselves the entire time we were inside.

After we left, I commented to Megan that I hadn't expected the arcade to be in the same building as the record store.

Logan Bar
"Oh, that wasn't the arcade," Megan said. "Those were just some machines that they keep in the back and let you play for free if you make a purchase. Their full arcade is further down Fullerton."

We walked down the street to another storefront with a slightly less misleading sign than where we'd left: "Logan Bar". In contrast to "Logan Hardware" the establishment was at least in-part what it said what it was. There was a full offering of drinks and cocktail hostesses working the rounds taking patrons' orders. The place was beginning to fill up with people out on a Saturday night. It was just the opposite nature of the secluded speakeasy arcade we'd left.

But, what mostly filled the front and back rooms were video games and pinball machines. These machines all required quarters to play--but that didn't keep us from staying on to play game after game after game after game.