A few weeks ago my wife Claire had to pick up some new fabric from a shop in the famous Haight Ashbury neighborhood in San Francisco. I needed an excuse to get out of the house (we both work at home), so I decided to come along with her. Just as we were heading out the door, Claire (BLESS HER HEART) said, "We should check the pinball map!"
We pulled up the neighborhood on pinballmap.com and saw that there was a location called "FREE GOLD WATCH" that supposedly had a ton of machines. We tracked down their website, which had absolutely nothing about pinball on it. "Well," I said, "we'll give it a shot!"
We found the place without too much difficulty, and their sign revealed that it is a screen-printing shop that makes T-Shirts and posters and stuff. Here you can see what it looks like from the outside, which is to say, not much. BUT! Please note the little sign which reads "HOME TO THE MOST PINBALL MACHINES IN SF!" As I crossed the street, I wasn't really sure how this little storefront was going to deliver on that promise, but luckily I was pleasantly surprised!
It turns out that the screen-printing shop is waaaay in the back, and the owners took a long hallway that leads from the street to the shop and turned it into an awesome lineup of pinball machines. When we were there, they had all kinds of great machines like: Demolition Man, Dirty Harry, Dr. Dude, Jokerz, Jurassic Park, Lethal Weapon 3, Pinbot, Space Shuttle, Terminator 2, Whirlwind, White Water and World Cup Soccer, plus a bunch of others.
Talk about a great lineup! There were some games I knew really well, and a few that I had only played once or twice. On the whole the machines were working great, with a few minor exceptions. We didn't have a ton of time to play, so I pretty much just went down the line and played one of each game. I think the craziest game I played was Dirty Harry (Williams 1995). I was shocked to find that it was a very complex game, with a dot matrix display, lots of ramps and a deep ruleset. It's hard to imagine now, but I love the thought that in 1995 Williams was willing to make a new pinball machine based on a movie series from twenty years prior. If only that were still the case!
The only tragedy is that this place is a real hike from my house. It takes about an hour of walking, BART and bus rides to get there. Oh well, if I'm ever in that neighborhood again, you'll know where to find me!