I remember the strange visceral thrill the first time I “snuck” into a bowling alley with my best friend, Jack Stares. It wasn’t that the bowling alley had an admission, or banned grade school kids from bowling, it was the simple fact that it had been made clear by my mother that, “We don’t go there. It’s not a nice place.”
This was the same vague warning that went along with almost anyplace that my mother deemed “low brow” or “below us.” But it wasn’t until much later in life that I figured out the real reason to the “Miller family aversion to bowling.”
But at this moment, I didn’t care…I was standing in the “Gateway Bowl” and drinking in every sight and smell that the glorious, modern, and seemingly foreign wonder of wood and plastic had to offer. It was a lazy, week-day, summer afternoon, and there were fewer than 1/3 of the “24 modern lanes” with their “automatic pin-setter technology” and “Visi-Score” display scoring, in use.
I watched an older guy (everyone was older when you are 11) go through an intense ritual of drying his hand on the air dryer, slowly fitting his hand into the gleaming, black ball with the red swirls cast into it, and then pausing, while staring intently down the alley at the pins glimmering before him. There was “easy listening” music playing softly in the background, barely audible over the din of balls being rolled on other distant lanes, and the mechanics of the ball return and pin setters clearing and setting pins. But as the man began his approach toward the pins, his arm swinging back in a graceful arc, I remember holding my breath in anticipation of the outcome.
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