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  • Kevin Bilchik

Pinball Logic

What is the difference between chance and fate? My grandpa answered that question by saying, "You only find out when you stub your toe." (Grandpa never said that.) He actually said, "Shut up and get me a Phillips-head." (Never said that, either.) But in all honesty, I don't think we can ever answer that question. I suppose that life is more like a game of pinball. You can flap those dang flippers all you want, but you can’t always control where the ball goes. The real question is, what do we do when the ball comes to us?


A few months ago, I was packing up my gear after a gig when I found a note in my tip jar, buried under a pile of ones and a few lucky fivers. Written in black permanent marker, on the back of a receipt, it read simply, “I’d like to record you sometime.” Now, I could have crumpled it up and thrown it away, and the story would have ended there. But something about my life at that moment felt stagnant, and I said to myself, "Why not?" I ran through the possible scenarios in my mind. Perhaps this note was written by a budding 10 year old mix engineer with a Walmart microphone and an iPad. Or maybe it was someone’s idea of a joke, perpetrated on an unassuming singer-songwriter, to be played out in some embarrassing fashion on a hidden camera exposé. God forbid it was written by a blood thirsty axe murderer with a grudge against musicians and a penchant for live streaming. As it turns out, what it was... was an opportunity. A pinball rolling in my direction.


So, I said "yes." It seems I’ve spent too much of my life saying "no," finding reasons to imagine worst case scenarios and staying inside the known, protected by a shell of imagined security. To make a long story short, he didn't have a collection of axes (not the sharp wood chopping kind, anyway,) and we ended up recording a quick batch of five songs in his apartment studio on a Tuesday afternoon, just my voice and a guitar.


Like most things that are "real," the takes are chock-full of imperfection (or as I like to call it, nuance,) but maybe that’s what I like about them. They’re a true piece of me, in the only way that they could be in that moment. No overdubs, no pitch correction, no do-overs. I realize now that if I can learn to love them, warts and all, then I can also learn to accept myself just the way I am, a work in progress. And maybe someday, if I give it the old college try, I'll beat that high score, in life and in pinball.

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© 2020 by Kevin Bilchik.