Ten Pin

By Alexander Gilbert


Something of a street alley—a solid alley with a tarnish, and off the beaten track look, creates a fascination. From Compton to abandoned buildings the shrouded and offbeat interest us. The bedraggled alley appearance, a far cry from preferred exterior design, is further released from the structure of someone’s planned fabrication. (The system maan) Bringing into being the offbeat appeal that is quintessential to American culture.

Alleys have some universal connection because the street alley charm is detectable at bowling alleys. The old bowling alley that has a space age theme intermixed with a beach and ocean look; accompanied by booze signs, and whatever else plopped on the walls over the years is such. Surely unconsidered and irregular. Demonstrations to the allegiance of authentic grunge. And in return lessening vanity, and into the thrones of American selfhood.

All the style for the avid bowler goes into the shoes, the ball, and game. Where there needed. Make no mistake about it, this is a competitive sport, as the lady at the front counter said “who’s going to win?,” upon getting a pair of loaner shoes. Cajoling out your competitive drive that you’ve been stashing away inside from the person you’re bowling with.

The lanes are an open foray of pins being knocked. Splashing of shock waves as bowling balls hit there mark. The sound is indisputably bowling. One after another. An unobstructed floor plain of sound and sight. Making bowling neither quiet or private. And hopefully psyching by the classic rock song that any twenty-four-carat American culture bowling alley would be playing.

Forget the projection screened—technology equipped, newfangled bowling alleys. This is all found in the environs of an old-growth, time worn, bowling alley. Character needs time to grow.

The openness allows anyone’s attention to stray on another bowler. By watching you can see how each one of us has our own approach to the line and release of the ball. There are fundamentals but each person individualizes this in varying degrees. Dance moves being busted out on every approach and roll. Superb encores expressing frustration or joy as well.

The acknowledgement that another is watching your so called dance on your turn also adds a certain self consciousness to the game. That this is a public sport. When you turn around from your bowl, say you even got a strike, and you make eye contact with a large bellied gentlemen with a wrist support sleeve and Crown Royal t-shirt, a coolheaded nod, may be required on the way back to the seat to keep up appearances. That’s how it is down at the alley. Just don’t call any of the numbers on the bathroom stall.

It takes getting into it. Allow the mind to focus on the subject of pin destruction, channel any old animosity, and huck fourteen pounds at it. Why the hell not, at times it feels like a game derived from jerks, then you realize you’re not bowling well, and it’s actually you rather than the sport. The push and pull of any good game. One’s emotional pendulum and self worth suddenly becomes contingent on how you roll a bowling ball at pins. Exciting! Get a couple of strikes—love the game, throw a gutter, and the game’s for jerks.

From being banned by a king in the deep past for being a distraction from archery practice—bowling has had its place in the world. Though in the land that adores its distractions we’ve encouraged the game rather than inhibit. As a toy loses appeal overtime; the bowling alley is nudged to the wayside from popular culture. But forever remains profoundly American and present.

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