Eddie “KON” Castro is crazy about pinball, and he's not afraid to show it. He's got the Williams Electronics Inc. (a pinball manufacturer in the '70s and '80s) logo tattooed on his chest, three balls inked on his right wrist to symbolize the three balls you get when you start a pinball game and a plan for another tattoo of a pinball machine that incorporates elements of his life. It will take up most of his right arm.
The 37-year-old body piercer has had pinball fever pretty much all his life. He remembers attempting to play a Space Invaders machine at a Laundromat with his mom when he was growing up in Sherman Heights.
“I would sit on this little stool while my mom did laundry and try to play, but I couldn't really reach or see the balls or anything,” he says.
In high school, he spent afternoons playing pinball at the now-closed Aztec Amusement. These days, he plays whenever he gets the chance.
“For me, it's almost like a meditation,” Castro says. “It's like my yoga, my chance to get out of the busy world and out of my head for a minute and kind of let my fingers and the machine dance together.”
Castro dabbles semi-seriously in the world of competitive pinball. He's traveled to Pittsburgh, Seattle, Portland and Las Vegas for competitions, and though he hasn't placed at any of them, he's become inspired to get more serious about his game.
“I always want to get better,” he says, “especially after seeing that it's really competitive in those circles.”
For now, though, he holds the grand champion title on three local machines: Lord of the Rings at Jolt'n Joe's, Big Buck Hunter at Lancers in University Heights and Medieval Madness at Kearny Mesa Bowl.
Castro (who goes by “KON” in the pinball world and uses it as the name for his high scores) acknowledges that it isn't a very social pastime.
“Pinball is kind of, in a lot of ways, a loner sport,” he says. “I'll take friends to go play, but then I'm, like, sitting on a ball for, like, 15 minutes or whatever, and they're bored.
“Most of the time, honestly, I find myself alone in really weird places like bowling alleys and gay bars,” he says.
“There's not many places to play pinball that have the social scene that I like,” he adds. “Bar Pink is kind of the exception because they have Addams Family there and there's usually shows that I like to go to.”
As for mixing heavy drinking with serious pinball playing, Castro laughs. “Pinball is hard enough as it is!”