Friday, January 31, 2014

The Bowling Alley

My rental shoes, photo by Jeno Berta

Greetings: All:

About a week ago, we went bowling.  We being Dawn and our youngest daughter, Carly.  Cassie, our oldest, declined.  Being 15, I can understand that it was at the unreasonable hour of 9:00 a.m.  I cannot blame her.  If I was a teenager, I'd choose sleep as well.

I had not been a bowling alley for years.  That was not always the case.  My Dad was quite the "kingpin" back in the day and I recall with fondness going to 30 Lanes in Davenport and getting to keep score.  It was great to hang out with the guys, drink 10 oz bottles of grape soda and eat bags of Bugles corn chips.  I remember getting to keep score with a pencil and coloring in the strikes like "Star Wars" Tie-Fighters.  I bowled myself in a Saturday league for a few years and had my own ball.  It was fun.

There is something uniquely American about bowling alleys.  Fred Flintstone bowled, as did Archie Bunker.  I thought I heard that Nixon liked to bowl in the White House.  Then, of course, there is the homage that Hollywood has paid to bowling in such classics as Kingpin and The Big Lebowski.  Bowling is a part of the American culture.  Sad or otherwise, it is also passing from it.  We went bowling early, figuring it would be packed as it was a weekday and the kids did not have school.  The place was nearly empty.  At one point, we were the only people bowling.  Some would call that sad.  Others would say that's just time marching on.  I'll vote for somewhere in the middle.

Photo from Miller Time Bowling in Davenport.  Glad to see "Old Glory" on display and hung correctly.  Photo by Jeno Berta
Bowling's popularity has waned.  I suppose that is understandable.  People now have many other choices with what to do with their leisure time.  When I was a kid, you went to places like the bowling alley to play video games.  Now, you don't have to leave your couch.  Bowling leagues, a staple of American middle-class life, have declined sharply.  Part of it may have to do with economics.  As the good blue-collar jobs ended, so did Tuesday league night.  However, I do not think that is a complete answer.  Kids are in activities and between that, church and other social/organizational meetings and everything else that is "life," bowling leagues have gone the way of the 8-track and the ash tray.

Here's an article from a couple of years' back that lays out the numbers if you would like to read it:

I had a great time bowling.  Well, I had a good time for most of the time.  I did find myself uttering more than once a couple of words ending in "---er" after failing repeatedly to hit the headpin.  However, I did get into a groove and finished with a 140.  Not bad for a lane ball, rental shoes and being sorely out of practice.

The main reason we were there was so my daughter could bowl.  The bowling alley had "bumpers" that prevented gutter balls.  I am not one of those parents who believes in every kid should be a winner and I did cringe in Meet the Parents when the 6th place ribbons were (proudly) displayed by Gaylord's parents.  However, when a kid has not bowled, letting them ease into the sport is a good thing.  After all, we're talking about fun, not a competition.

My daughter Carly bowling.  Photo by Jeno Berta

Bowling is something that I would like to do more of.  Who knows, maybe someday I will get in a league, have a bowling shirt, bag and ball.  In the meantime, I'll come back when there's open bowling.  It is a great family event and a lot of fun.  It is also relatively cheep entertainment and the nostalgia is free.

Be well my friends,

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