Pat Castaldo is co-founder of Buy Olympia and proprietor of The Land Gallery. But knowing about his collection of vintage pinball games, we couldn’t help but talk about that.

Show Notes


The Interview

Ray:
Have a beer.
Pat:
Just so you know.
Middle of the day. Why not.
Yeah.
You got a kitchen here.
Oh no. We were out. We went to Cheese Bar. Have you been?
Yeah. I’ve only been once though. With Vinnie. Oh, right. You interviewed Steve the other day. I saw that.
See, there you go. You actually don’t even need to listen to the podcast. Just follow it on Instagram.
I’ve talked to Steve before. I talked to Tom.
There you go.
This is … I know what their voices sound like.
Yeah. It is like you’re …
I actually loaned … Tommy had a birthday party for his kid once and I let him use Spiderman – my pinball machine – because that is what the kid was really into.
Kids love Spiderman.
OK. Hello. I’m here with Pat Costaldo. Welcome.
Hi.
Pat is … What are you? Co-founder of Buy Olympia?
Uh-huh. (affirmative)
And a proprietor of the Land Gallery.
That’s right.
And owner of many snazzy pinball machines. So of course, that is what I want to talk about today. But first, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself? Where are you from?
Sure. I’ve lived in Portland now almost five years, which is crazy because prior to that it was sixteen years in Olympia, Washington where we started Buy Olympia. I moved there when I was 17 to go to college and before that, it was Boston Mass. So I have basically lived three places.
Off to a great start here. OK. So, yeah. Pinball. Let’s just talk about pinball. What’s the thing about pinball with you?
Well, here’s the thing thing. I have always played pinball. Even since I was a kid, I have played pinball. There was this flyer … Literally, I was down at ground control. This was three, four years ago, and I was like, “oh, this is cool.” We didn’t have any arcades in Olympia. I was like, “This is the best.” I can drink beer and play pinball? This is great. My son could come during the day. So I saw a flyer. It was like, oh, pinball tournament. I was like, all right. I’ve never done that before so I’ll try it. It ended up being 128-person, giant, all-day thing, and I ended up coming in fifth. Or Seventh. I think it was fifth that year.
So, like, I might have a real career here.
Yeah, like, wait a second.
This is like, I’m going to run a gallery and stuff–
Also just like all of a sudden you’re seeing 127 other people who are as into pinball as you are, so It is like, “Oh.” That is where I just ended up becoming friends and into the pinball community and realized that owning pinball machines at home was something people did and I could do. That’s sort of how … I mean, I’ve always been into it, but that is how I got back into it and started playing competitively for money.
Are you playing competitively now?
Yeah. I play competitively weekly and then I travel to go play. Like in a couple months, I’m going to Pittsburgh where there is the Pinburgh. It is this giant pinball tournament with 400 people who are playing from all over the world, and It is two straight days of competitive match play where you end up playing four-player games against as many people as you can. You try to work up a ranking, work up the ladder to win. In the pinball universe, there is about 8,000 registered players. Like, people who actually play and compete. Right now, I am 213 in the world. Which is all right. I could do better. I’d like to do better, but that is the competitive angle. Most of the tournaments around here, five dollars and you see if you can win. At the end of the night, you might win 60 to 100 bucks playing pinball for a night, drinking beer, hanging out with friends. Hard to beat.
Where do you find pinball games?
In terms of buying them, it starts out where you’re hanging out with all these pinball guys and one of them is like, “Oh yeah, I’m selling this machine.” I was like, “Oh, I’ll buy that machine. How much is it?” You pick up your first pinball machine. It is heavy and you lug it down into the basement. You end up buying 15, 16 more of those machines and keeping them in your basement.
So how much more room do you have? What is your capacity?
I don’t have any more room right now. In fact, number 17 that I just got last week came because I loaned out number 16 and there was a space to put it. So when it comes back, I need to rejigger some things.
The fire marshall has been through that basement.
No, No.
I’m sorry, no more pinball buddy.
Yeah. No. I did have to add an amp though. A new circuit, for the pinballs because it was too much.
That’s how you know you have got a problem.
Yeah. When you’re actually investing in the infrastructure behind it, for sure.
New wiring. How much do you play at home?
Surprisingly, not as much as you would think. Part of that is because I don’t get home till six or seven after work and then there is this hour window before my son goes to bed. Maybe we’ll play a couple games with him, but maybe not. So I end up playing – during the week – just a couple games a day. Which maybe is a lot for most people, but It is not compared to others. It is not as much as I could considering how much I have, I guess.
I always thought of pinball as a game of luck, but apparently that is not the case?
It is not the case at all. In fact, there is this big famous trial that happened in New York City to actually prove that it wasn’t luck. It ended up with this guy – Roger Sharp, whose sons are actually still really involved in the pinball scene and help organize the tournaments and things like that. One of them was even out here for a big tournament we had this weekend. Roger Sharp testified and then was able to call shots and show by making certain shots that it wasn’t luck. It was skill.
Was this to prove that it wasn’t gambling?
To prove that it wasn’t gambling. Basically make it legal again in New York.
Oh, OK.
Because it wasn’t. Around Prohibition – at a similar time – all of these things ended up being thought of as pure gambling devices. They definitely were, prior to the addition of flippers. There were these bagatelle machines which really were. You plunge, and that’s it. You could try to shake it, but ultimately it was more luck than skill.
To me, that is what I think of pachinko or something.
Yeah. It is more gambling. And they actually … In some of the earlier ones, they did pay out and there were underground. There is actually a sordid history in Portland, as well of backroom pinball parlors. We’re lucky in that regard. Living in Portland, we have more pinball machines on location – out in bars, out in public – than anywhere else in the country right now. There are over 350 machines.
Per capita? Or just total?
Just total. I mean, not even per capita. You name a big city – San Francisco, New York – they don’t have nearly as many pinballs out on location as us. So, per capita for sure, but even just in terms of any other cities, none of them really rival Portland in terms of number of machines on location.
I had no idea.
That’s just it. We get spoiled. You live here. You go to a bar. There is a pinball machine. No big deal. We can play if we want, but in a lot of places those went away. They went away in the early 90s after the hey-day with games like Addam’s Family was the pinnacle of the last resurgence of the arcades. After that, things have died down and you stop seeing them in places.
Is it expensive to keep a pinball machine functioning?
It really depends on the machine, but it is a … I compare ourselves – me and my fellow collector friends – to British sports cars. Something is always breaking. They are designed to have to repair, basically. You’re always going to have to replace rubbers and the ball is going to get dirty and plastics are going to get a crack. You’re always repairing them in that way, but it doesn’t have to be super expensive to repair.
Is it generally like, you can do these repairs yourself?
Yeah. For things like changing the rubbers and some of that stuff, yeah. Replacing circuit boards and that kind of stuff, or actually soldering. Because in some cases … There is these 80s … from 1980s to 87, there was this solid-state pinballs that all use basically the same boards. One of the boards in it is called the Squawk and Talk, which is the brother to the Speak & Spell that kids had. It is the same chip. Basically the next chip in the line was for this Squawk and Talk board. A lot of the other boards are easy to replace. You can buy a new board much like you would buy a new CPU for a computer. The Squawk and Talk, that’s it. The Squawk and Talks that are out there in the universe are all that are made and nobody has made a sort of replacement Squawk and Talk. If one dies – like I had one die recently – you actually have to go in and figure it out on the circuit board where the leads are broken, re-solder, maybe order the chips because a lot of the chips are still available. The actual board as a unit … You don’t want to fry your Squawk and Talk board. It is a case of it might not just be money to replace it. It might be luck.
Wow. Is that like you’re just kind of … you probably do a lot of bonding over basic pinball repair and have your pinball … Is there a name you call fellow pinball players?
No. I jokingly refer to other people, like when you go into a bar and there is somebody who is playing a pinball machine and they obviously don’t play, I just call them civilians. I mean, it is just … But nobody refers to themselves as pinheads or any of that kind of …
Oh God, that one is taken.
That is a name, but we would never … You would never call yourself that.
Yeah, I was gonna … No. It is … You know.
It is interesting, though. There are basically two camps within pinball … Two major camps. There’s players and then there’s collectors. It is rare that you actually find player collectors that are really good. It is more that the collectors are one group. They are the type that – much like British sports car analogy – will get a machine, mint it out, put in neon lights, really deck it out like a Pimp my Pinball sort of ride experience. Then there’s the players who are more interested in competitive pinball, who would never put an LED in their machine, for example. They would never invest money in a topper, which is the thing on the back of the back glass where It is like if you have an Addam’s Family, you might get a replica hand and stick it on top. Like that kind of thing. So there’s definitely collectors and players.
Wow. If you see another pinball game out there that you really want, are you going to get rid of one that you have? Or are you going to move?
No, I’m not going to move. But I would consider … And this is where the collector rabbit hole goes. It is like, oh yeah, I have all these machines. Of all my 17, you can play them. They are all working and they are set up. I have friends who have more than 17 and 8 of them are on their side in the garage or the shed. If there is something I really wanted, I might either sell number 17 and buy it, or I might just put it in the garage instead of in the playing area. I hope I don’t get to that point and neither does my wife.
Are these laid out where there is just enough room to hit the flippers?
Yeah. They are next to each other and they take up the entire basement.
Does it get warm down there?
No.
I guess it is a basement.
Basements are surprisingly cold in Olympia. I mean in Portland.
You have lived in Portland in this house for five years?
Yeah. Just about five years.
OK. Are you still kind of running Buy Olympia, just from here?
Yeah. We run by Biolympia in the back of Land.
Is that a dirty little secret that I shouldn’t …
No, not at all. We told everybody. It is one of those interesting things. Biolympia started now thirteen, almost fourteen years ago in my apartment with my partner Aaron. We started it basically as a way to help our friends sell things from town. It was sort of poorly named because within six months of us starting, some of those friends moved away but we didn’t stop carrying their stuff. Over the years, we’ve expanded. The Olympia focus in Biolympia has long since dissipated. It is primarily Northwest artists, but mostly because It is still primarily people we know and meet and have run into and have good stuff. It is not an exclusive focus, but it is where we started.
It is kind of curated maybe you would say?
Yeah. It is for sure curated, and It is changed over the years. We used to do a lot of other stuff like we used to power people’s stores. We would run other people’s stores.
I wouldn’t know anything about that.
It was one of those things where at the time … When you are starting a business and you are trying to make it grow, you do anything you can to make money. Oh yeah, we know how to do that. We can do that. So now, our focus in terms of building Biolympia is really growing Land and that synergy. Now that we have a retail shop, It is really buying for the shop with that in mind for both things. The physical space and online.
I didn’t realize this. So Land is affiliated with Biolympia?
Yeah.
OK.
Land is basically our retail store of Biolympia. We weren’t going to call it Biolympia because we would get even more flak from people.
Right. You don’t want to … Yeah.
The Olympia name. Land is basically the physical incarnation of Biolympia, expanded to include art shows and things like that.
That’s on Mississippi? Is that right?
That’s on Mississippi. The the warehouse is just … the Biolympia warehouse is just the backroom of that gallery.
OK. I’ve been there at least once. I get up there so infrequently. That’s a nice space. You just have art shows on the second floor there?
Yeah. We got a little … It was serendipitous that we found that building because originally we were just looking at warehouse-type warehouse spaces down here, so no retail aspect at all. When we were looking for places, we had these requirements. We need to be able to walk and get a good cup of coffee. There has to be places to eat. We didn’t want to be car-centric at all. That was one of the reasons moving out of Olympia was in order to get a warehouse like that, you couldn’t it do it downtown. You couldn’t do it in a neighborhood. You would literally need to be out in the suburbs. It is like, well, that is not fun at all. None of us want to commute to the outer regions. We like being able to walk and get a cup of coffee. We like that the coffee people know our names. That kind of thing. That type of community around where you spend eight to ten hours a day is really important to us.
Is it Fresh Pot that you go to over there?
It is primarily the Fresh Pot that–
Is there a new game in town over there?
I actually … Well, in the mornings I go to Extracto before I go to work since I live closer over there. Extracto is my coffee shop, but for sure the coffee shop for Land is Fresh Pot. There is that new Stash tea store which is also what people are into. Stash opened their retail location. They have a crazy selection of teas.
I guess we don’t get their tea here. We used to get their tea here. It is good stuff. Maybe I can ask you about a couple of the games in your collection.
Sure.
So first of all, the pinball game that I have played the most is Earth Shaker.
Uh-huh. (affirmative)
You don’t own an Earth Shaker.
I don’t own an Earth Shaker, though there is one for sale right now.
Is that a popular one?
It is fairly popular. I mean, that’s the–
EarthShaker!
That sound … It is right before the digital matrix displays. The big screens? That was before that. That year in between where it wasn’t just putting up the score but they started to do animations.
In the number area.
In the number field.
Yeah.
There are a few Earth Shakers on locations.
Do you know what year that was?
If you look … It is the same year as Whirlwind, which I think is in my collection.
What’s the age? All right. Let’s see here. Whirlwind.
I’m horrible at these years in terms of in my head.
Oh OK, so 1990.
Yeah. So it was right before … It was one of those last eras of non … They call them DMD games. The ones with the digital matrix display.
It looks like you have one that goes back to 1970.
Yeah.
Skyrocket.
Skyrocket. It is an electro-mechanical machine, so there’s no computer electronics in it at all.
So that has the numbers that roll over.
It has the numbers on the reel and It is all circuits and interrupting these physical giant switches. You talk about pinball repair, that is a different type of person who can help you fix one of those versus the later ones. A lot of that is actually literally filing down metal to make sure connections are … Sandpapering connections to make sure they are still clean and crisp and things like that. It is a much different beast. Motors that are spinning. There’s no micro-electronics. It is fun to watch and see the difference. The sounds are made by literally a little thing hitting a bell.
I mean … Wow. I mean, are there transistors in the thing? Is that a dumb question?
No. There’s no transistors. It is all physical circuits and electro-mechanical devices.
Can I ask what year you were born?
1973.
Yeah. OK. That game is older that either of us.
It is. It is, but at the same time, those were still on locations. I grew up going to arcades every day after school and there were pinballs. There were still Ems … We call them EMs. The ones with the reels. On location at that point. It was also that was the real … The 80s and the late 80s were around when everything went solid-state in a big dramatic way with sound. They were really trying to compete with sound and speech. They were really trying to compete with the video games at the time.
When is the era of the modern pinball game – with flippers and the score and all that – when did that begin? How much longer before 1970 was that?
Oh, I think in the 50s flippers were introduced in the woodrails, maybe even before. Prior to their current look and feel – even Skyrocket, which really feels more like a 60s game than an early-70s game – there were ones that didn’t have metal rails but were made of wood. When those were introduced, that is when flippers were added. There are a lot of woodrails that don’t have flippers, where they are the plunge and shake. Once they added flippers, they got a lot more use and that, again, revitalized that whole industry.
So on these old ones, you were literally supposed to shake the machines?
Yeah, and there is this misconception, especially when you see a really talented player play, they’ll do slapping and they’ll do bumping and it is all controlled. It is literally trying to influence the physics of the ball. When you see someone do something and they get away with it, you’re like, “Hey. You’re cheating.” Or something. It is like, no. The game is a lot like … You can set how sensitive that is with a tilt bob so you can actually control how much hitting or shaking you can do.
That’s configurable.
That’s configurable. It is literally a stick with a metal bob at the end. A triangular-shaped bob. That is around a ring and It is weighted, so as you bump the machine that metal weight swings. The pendulum swings, and if it hits the outside it makes a connection. That is what causes the tilt. You can lower that or raise that.
Oh yeah. So when you’re playing tournament play or something like that, is there a …
The idea that tournament play and they’ll pop a level which is the Professional and Amateur Pinball Association level play. The pop a level play, the tilts are a lot tighter. They make the games as hard as possible, so when you go and play games in the bar right now, they tend to be set easy to medium. When you take out … there are outlink posts that control where the pinball goes. Normally that gap is an inch and a half to let the three-quarter inch ball through. But you’ll take that out and it could be a two-inch gap or a two and a half-inch gap. That makes it harder because you are less likely to be able to save. You might take some of the rubber off the edges, so instead of bouncing off the rubber it hits metal and just dies.

At the professional level play, there is a lot … You make the machines as hard as possible, basically to reduce ball times. If you’re really good at pinball and … You see people camp out at machines. They are there all day. That’s not fun for anybody. They make the machines as hard … It is a balance of hard and fun.

So before flippers, the only real way you could influence once the ball is in play, is by shaking the machine?
Yeah. It was bumping and […]
Did they have tilt back then?
Yep. They have had tilt bobs for a long time. That was the whole idea. Then early back in the games … So you would put your quarter in and you would get five balls. If you tilted … Now-a-days, you tilt on a modern machine, you just lose that ball. If you tilt too early on one of those old ones, your game was over. So you wouldn’t even get the remaining four balls.
Harsh.
It is harsh.
Are there any good … I’ve seen a really good documentary somewhat recently. I’m sure you saw it, too. About a video game tournament. I don’t remember what the game was.
Oh, the King of Kong.
Yeah. There you go.
There is a good tournament one. There are two great documentaries. One is Tilt: The Battle to Save Pinball, which is actually made by a guy Greg here who lives in Portland now. There is an awesome documentary on basically the last pinball machine made by Williams & Bally, which was the titan of the industry at the time. Pinball machines are still being made by a company called Stern, and they have also been around forever. Bally was the one that made any game – like they made Earth Shaker – any game you could sort of think of in that era, that was Williams & Bally.

In their final throes, they made this thing called Pinball 2000, which is basically they tried to incorporate a little of the video game aspect into the pinball. They basically had a giant monitor in the back glass that reflected almost a hologram type illusion like you would find in an old funhouse. You would actually be hitting things that weren’t there, but the game would register those hits and give you points and stuff like that. There were only two of them ever made. One was Revenge From Mars, which was a sequel to one of the most popular games of all time, Attack From Mars. So it was like they had this formula, they knew this game was really popular, so to launch this Pinball 2000 thing, they built Revenge From Mars which was sort of a sequel to that with the same theme and familiar game play.

Then they made a Star Wars Episode I pinball, which they put that out. Nobody liked the movie, and the game wasn’t that fun so they both bombed together. That was the last game they ever made. Williams Bally. The company is still around, but what they made is slot machines. If you ever go to Vegas or those things and you see those Whiz!Bang slot machines or … I’m pretty sure they also make the gambling machines you will find here in Portland, too. The video poker and stuff like that. They are still in the manufacture of those types of games.

So It is just Stern now really.
It is just Stern. Stern is the primary one that … The new ones that you see come out. There is a couple other ones. The new, exciting kid on the block is this one called Jersey Jack. This is a guy who owns a bunch of video arcades and stuff on the east coast and was also a distributor. He was selling a lot of pinball machines to people. The way it works, It is a sort of classic distribution mechanism. The manufacturer doesn’t sell direct. They sell to a series of distributors. The distributors then sell to either retail outlets, direct to people, or to operators in this case.

So when you go into a bar, the bar doesn’t own the pinball machine usually. It is the operator who does. It is a guy who comes in and collects the quarters and fixes the lights when they go out and those kinds of things. Stern is the main game in town. Jersey Jack is making new pinballs. His first pinball machine is the Wizard of Oz. Why it is exciting is he hired a bunch of the people who used to make those Williams Bally-era games and they are also using Williams Bally part. Because there were so many of those machines, there is a big repro market of replacing those parts, so the parts have kept getting made even though the company went out of business.

That will be the first pinball that sort of feels like that. I think it is just coming out now. It is one of those things where developing a pinball is a lot harder than you think software-wise, the rules are more complex than you give them credit, so they have gone through a few revisions of building a pinball machine from scratch, but on the way they set up a whole new factory. They spent a lot of money to create one pinball machine.

Do you think pinball is making a comeback?
I think it is. It is in Portland, for sure. Just over the last couple of years, we have seen the number of machines on location grow. In terms of going to weekly tournaments, when I first started going, we would would be lucky if we got 24 people. It was usually just 12 to 18. Now we regularly have 36 or 40 people, which for a Tuesday night at 7 o’clock is impressive.
Do you do that at Ground Control?
There is enough machines in enough bars that we are able to do it at 13 different locations every year. We play a single location four times. We reserve Ground Control for some of the bigger tournaments. The C-Bar is another popular place in Portland. It now has 14 machines, I think.
What? The one next to Yoko’s?
Yeah.
Wow. I had no idea there were even pinball machines in there.
Yeah. There’s a back room.
Oh, OK.
In fact, when I talked about loaning out my machine number 16, that is where it is right now. It is at the C-bar. It is a machine that you don’t see on location very much. It is Corvette themed. There’s a little engine that shakes and stuff. Why you don’t see those on location a lot, one is because the engine breaks a lot in the pinball but then also because they try to theme pinball machines so that the market who buys it isn’t just the operators but also collectors. I bought mine from a lady who collected Corvettes. One of those people who, “Oh, I collect everything Corvette.” That is why there is a Lord of the Rings pinball machine, or a Hulk pinball machine. It is like your a Marvel person or you’re a Token nerd and you have enough money. Which when you get old enough, you do. You buy a pinball machine.
OK. Actually, that’s funny. We were just talking about the Six Million Dollar Man today and I joked that I bet there is a pinball game themed after that.
I own one.
And you own one.
What’s insane is, we joke about that game because it is the only six-player machine that Bally ever made. Most games are four-player. Bally made this six-player. So we joke when we’re playing for it because we also … Me and my friends hang out by our pinball machines. It is like, “I’ll bet you a dollar on this game.” You will all throw a dollar onto the glass and you will play. So I bought Six Million Dollar Man one, because I watched it as a kid, but two, now we can have six dollar games. Six of us can play and instead of just winning three dollars if you win, you can now win five dollars.

We joke though that it is almost like, “Dear Bally, I am hanging out with five of my friends, but alas, no pinball machine supports our needs for competitive play.” It is funny though, because the machine used the existed parts for all their four-player machines, every time It is in demo mode when no one is playing it, you hear this “Bzzz bzzz bzzz” as the power supply strains to power all six displays. Originally it was only designed for the four. So you hear this audible bzzzz like an engine that is trying to start to power all six displays.

Must be stressful. Do you have a current favorite among your games, or is that just not fair to your children? You don’t want to …
No, I definitely have ones that I like more and I like them for different reasons. The funniest one in my collection is this one called Future Spa, which is a wide-bodied Bally, which means it is a little wider than your average pinball machine. The reason I like it is is this 80s Utopian version of the future where people are working out by lifting laser weights or running across a rainbow bridge with these giant digital shoes on. There is this one scene in the corner where there is this woman obviously topless but hidden in a tub with an 80s dude with curly chest hair just sort of like, “Hey, you’re here at the Future Spa?” Oh, yeah.” It is one of those games that has a cult following because there is a Future Spa Twitter account where they jokingly do announcements from the Future Spa.

Future Spa is definitely the funniest one because people can’t get over how crazy the back glass is because it is 80s to the max. That is my favorite in terms of, “You got to check this out.” In terms of playability, though, it changes all the time. I have a Spiderman one, which is a new one. I play that a lot because It is more like a video game. You try to complete the levels and get to the wizard mode. It is like beating the big boss. Some of the earlier ones obviously don’t have that concept. At the same time, the one I just got is one that was made in Spain in 1972, I think. It is a Spanish pinball game that is EM, so it is all electro-mechanical. It is just hard. It is really hard, but it is fun. It is a card-themed one where you try to knock down the cards. It is fun mainly because it is my new one. I haven’t played it to death yet.

Do you own an iPad?
I do.
Ever play a pinball game on it?
I do. There is …
Are they just shit? Are there any good ones?
No, they have the one that does – I think it’s called Pinball Arcade – that actually has virtual versions of popular arcade ones. We talk about that when we are playing tournaments. It’s like, “Oh yeah, did you get that one on your iPad?” “Yeah, I didn’t realize you could do this. Great, now I get to try it out in real life.” On the digital ones … The huge thing between the digital and real life, things behave predictably on the iPad. So you can successfully trap a ball – which means to catch it with the flipper – every time out of a scoop. Versus in real life, that scoop doesn’t always eject in the exact same place. But on the computer one it does. It’s a great tool to one, be able to play to midnight without waking up your family. But then also to learn rules and just practice different strategies of, “If I played this in a tournament, what would I do?”
Are these reproductions on the iPad that accurate that you can get those kinds of …
They actually use the ROMs from …
Oh, wow.
Yeah. They are basically emulators.
Interesting.
They use the ROMs and the software from the actual games. So they are 100% in terms of rules and behavior. Playability is a different beast, because the things that effect how playable a pinball machine is … Is it on a flat floor? Did they raise up the back an inch? It makes a huge difference, even a half-inch, on how playable a pinball machine is, how fast it is and stuff like that. So yeah, they are fun enough. The fantasy ones, there is a lot of fake pinball machines. Those aren’t as interesting to me. I know some people like them, but to me the real ones are where I can apply those skills.

Like, there was a game Firepower that was in the tournament this weekend. It’s like, “Oh, I figured out a better way to do X.” In pinball, a better way usually means a safer way. A shot that is less risky, less likely to drain. In competitive play, it’s all about controlling and taking shots you know are going to succeed. You’re not just slapping silly.

Right. Is is true that you have written Cobol?
I have. I used to work for the State of Washington. I was responsible for all the financial aid systems and there was this period of time where they were converting all the Cobol mainframe-based systems to web-based stuff like c sharp .net stuff. So while we were doing that, I had to maintain both. I would have to write new procedures in Cobol to help feed the new systems and make that transition.
Oh, OK. It is just that you are so young. I imagine […]
I’m a computer nerd though.
Fair enough. Yeah, you have done Mac software?
That is a big part of our business. We write Endicia for Mac. It is a postage-printing software.
You still maintain that?
Yeah. We still write it. Basically our deal with them is we will write it. They do the support and the maintenance and the marketing. That is why for us, we are able to do that and Biolympia and Land and still only be a few people.
Do you have a favorite restaurant you can recommend right now? Somewhere you like to eat in Portland?
You know where I like to eat that is surprising? If you had asked before I moved down here, I used to hate chicken. I was a vegetarian for 16 years. It was like, I’ll never eat chicken. That seems always gross and default. When my son was born, who is now eight, I was like I’m not going to deprive him the experience of having a hotdog or something like that. I’ll give in. I went full bore. It started with just fish. Next thing you know, I’m eating bacon-wrapped dates every week. That kind of thing. Where I like to go–
Which by the way are delicious.
They are delicious.
They are delicious.
Where I actually go like once a week is Fire on the Mountain.
Oh, OK. Is that BBQ? Hot wings?
It’s like hot wings. Yeah. They have like 17 different sauces.
I have never even been there yet. This is on Burnside, or is that another–
There is one on the interstate up by our house. It’s between the home and office so I’ll stop there and bring wings home for the family. Also salads and healthier fare, but you know. Six hot wings.
You don’t come for the salad. You bring that home so you don’t feel guilty.
Exactly. We go there surprisingly. Like, if you had asked me where you go. In two years when you move to Portland, where are you going to eat every day? I was like, “Oh, I’ll probably find some pizza joint I like and eat there every night.” While I do eat a lot of pizza still, it’s … Hot wings are just one of those things. Like, let’s just do wings. They know us at the wing place. That kind of thing.
Yeah. For us, it’s a Chinese restaurant that is down the street that is actually remarkably good seafood, but yeah. They don’t even have salads. I always feel guilty when I go there. Before we go, would you care to recommend someone interesting in Portland that I should interview?
I feel like the pinball one I think would be an interesting one. Greg, because he has made a documentary. Not just because he has made a documentary about pinball, but I think putting out a documentary himself that is on Netflix. It was well-received. That kind of thing is interesting in terms of that is not what he does every day. He works at Panic, actually. He works on software projects. I think the interesting things about people is often their side jobs or what they do for fun. Like I secretly collect pinballs and play competitively or he wrote a documentary about it. That is one of those interesting things like what do you do when you’re not working kind of things. It’s like I made a movie. Crazy. It’s on Netflix. You can rent it.
Yeah. The first thing I thought of when you were coming down was, “Oh, we will talk about pinball.” But it’s like, you know … Ironically the podcast is called The Job, but that is not really what I wanted to talk about and that usually isn’t. You know what I have always wanted to know? Who decides … Who I would want to interview if it was just Portland-based and this is a Job one for sure, is … Who is the guy who decides what the timing is on the lights coming up MLK? Because sometimes I can make it through. Other times I stop at each and every one. I just want to know.
That would be interesting. I would imagine that the actual person that does that is probably not a very good interview subject. But then again, you never know.
You never know. That is one of those questions where it is like what do I always want to know? It’s like, how and why? Why are they timed that way? Because it is possible to make it through all the way up from the viaduct to where MLK merges back into Grand. Where Grand and MLK merge? It’s possible and I’ve done it. I’ve been thrilled when I’ve done it. To make it without stopping at a light if you vary your speed correctly.
There is a book you should check out called infrastructure. It’s kind of a coffee table book. It has a lot of pictures. Each chapter is about some sort of like The Power Grid, or The Phone System. Each one is about some sort of industrial framework.
Right. I remember reading an interview with the author and he was saying how the book was really hard because for a lot of the chapters he had to take pictures of power plants and this was right after September 11 so he was constantly getting harassed by authorities for taking pictures of actual infrastructure. Like, why would you be doing that? But the book is fabulous.
It sounds good.
I don’t know if I still have it. Great. Well, Pat Costaldo, thanks so much for coming by and chatting with me.
No problem. Thanks for having me.
Cool.
That was it.
That’s it.
We talked about pinball.

The Job is a talk show about design, music, business, culture, technology, the web, and Portland, and featuring interviews with interesting people. Hosted by Ray Brigleb and brought to you by Needmore Designs.