Thursday, February 28, 2013

VINTAGE BOWLING ALLEYS : AN UNLIKELY COMFORT



I don't bowl, yet anyone that knows me will quickly admit that I love bowling shirts (a weakness). I'm not in a league and I don't plan to be anytime soon.

So why am I even bringing this up? I recently attended a birthday party for one of my little guy's school mates at a local bowling alley and I must admit that it was quite an experience.

Before I go any further, let me just say that a bowling alley is the dumbest place to have a kiddie party for rabid five year-olds. They have no coordination; the balls are way too heavy, even the lightest ones; the bumpers rarely work and quite frankly, toddlers get bored by the third frame after waiting up to 8- or 9- minutes between turns. Horrible place to celebrate birthdays if your favorite show is "SpongeBob Squarepants." Just saying.

In any case, I knew we'd be camped there a while so I settled in. Bear in mind that I haven't been in a bowling alley since the late Reagan administration and what struck me as most peculiar was that this particular bowling alley pretty much looked the same. I started to suspect that would be the case for most of them. The time warp willies were upon me - so much so that you could almost smell the camaraderie of working-class guys prying open their third can of Schlitz as they discussed Ike. And then it dawned on me: There aren't many places in our daily lives that haven't evolved. Libraries. Gas stations. Supermarkets. Gyms. All evolved.

With the constant buzz of walloping pins clobbering one another over and over, I decided to take a stroll and look for some sort of change  Besides installing those nifty electronic scorekeepers in each lane, this very well could've been in 1954. All the vintage hallmarks were front and center from the Pro Shop (closed, as they always seemed to be),  the snack bar hawking bags of chips and hot dogs and the formica bar and its three lonely choices of brew: Bud, Michelob and Coors Light.

Stopping a moment, I looked around to see people on this very early Sunday afternoon. they were all having  fun, laughing, and immediately I remembered the last time that I adorned bowling shoes. It was a more innocent time. It was long before iPhones, 9-11 and the first Gulf war. The Berlin Wall was still standing, compact discs were cutting edge and a phone call ran you a dime. You could find a 24-hour diner much easier in those days and and a gallon of gas was cheaper than a bottle of Snapple. That's what this odd afternoon reminded me of - A SIMPLER TIME. Simple? Perhaps.

I may be aging myself but, in a weird way, the sounds and smells of that crisp weekend afternoon were oddly comforting. There was no Sandy Hook, Hurricane Sandy or fiscal cliff concerns. I was in a timeless bowling alley and for a some moment, all was well in the land. All I needed now was some Elvis and it would be bliss.

But then the birthday cake came and the kiddies began to scream and my retro fantasy took a dive.

One thing is certain as these kiddies become adults and pass through time: Bowling alleys don't change and here's hoping they never will.

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  24. That's hilarious, Ant...I have this feeling that I should be changing my name to 'Anonymous' and join the 'cool kids'...

    That's a good obervation about the SIMPLER TIME. True, perhaps a bowling alley is the only place that hasn't evolved with the times (aside for the automated scoring, perhaps). We had one of boy's BDay parties there too...perhaps it was his 8th? Anyway, yeah the kids were more than anying by the 4th frame and one boy behaved like he was on drugs (or should have been) and fired the ball everywhere BUT his own lane and almost knocked my wife down at one point. We didn't do THAT again...

    Hope you're keeping well, sir. BTW, we will be in NYC in late OCT...if you read this before then, and are interested, we should get together for a drink. Alan D.

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