Pinball at the Deadwood Institute for Higher Learning | Bleader

Pinball at the Deadwood Institute for Higher Learning

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  • Eric M.
I openly confess to only having played once or twice. I suck at pinball. But I spent the bulk of my college years at an Iowa City bar called the Deadwood. File this under pinball players I have known and loved.

Blanford was a brilliant graduate student in English who cultivated a coterie of brash and funny Chicago lads. Granted, I was a chick, but that didn't stop him from reading me all of The Rape of the Lock in one of the Deadwood's booths, or long selections from Lucian, Herodotus, and Thucydides. He was a stumpy, stout, ginger-bearded man with prodigious powers of memory and storytelling. He'd been raised a la John Stuart Mill—which is to say, force-fed. His rebellions were the Beatles, Coke in bottles, and pinball.

Randy was more of an autodidact, a balding blond film theorist with minuscule handwriting he filled endless notebooks with and a taste for Gramsci, Bakhtin, and the Velvet Underground. He'd bring his young son into the Deadwood in his stroller for his afternoon nap. He was a proto-hipster type, cadaverously thin, with chompers as bad as the British. He was quite affected in his gestures—would you grab a pint glass from the back and twist it around to sip from? His flourishes owed to his elaborately mannered pinball playing.

Paul was one of the ones more obsessed with the game, a regular bent over the front pinball machine in the Deadwood's back arcade. A music geek who worked at the record store over the bar, he went on to do sound for movies like The Accused. He lives in Venice Beach now and claims to know Tilda Swinton.

And yes, it really came to be billed the Deadwood Institute for Higher Learning. I have the refrigerator magnet to prove it.

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