Monday, January 12, 2009

Modern Bowling

This weekend the girls and I have been bowling (both virtually and in reality).

I have recently achieved a promotion to PRO in Wii bowling, but as my skills are inconsistent, I frequently slip below and above cut line. Once Sarah realized that such a goal could be achieved (with a fancy looking new bowling ball), she set out to achieve it with determination.

Grace found that she enjoys Wii Sports (Golf) and is surprisingly good at the Beginners Level. I was extremely proud of her on Saturday when she rammed home a sloping putt from about fifteen feet away. I shouted in glee and she gave me a very proud look, immediately coming over to get a hug. It is nice when we can celebrate with each other.

As a result of all this "sports" action, and because the weather has gotten colder and they were inside more, they asked if they could go bowling for real. So, on Sunday I took them across town to an alley that wasn't infested with league play and actually allowed regular human bowlers to participate before the sun went down.

I've been to this particular bowling alley before, but it's been a while. They have done a nice job of sprucing the place up and this is the first alley I've visited in years that didn't smell at all like smoke.

As is true of all bowling alleys now, paper scoring has been replaced by computerized calculating screen with animation between frames. While this is certainly eye-catching and fun, I feel the art of actual hand scoring is being lost. And what was so hard about it anyway? But never mind.

Oddly, for all the modernizations in today's bowling alleys, the hold onto the decorative styles of the past remains strong. Here is what I mean:

(I apologize in advance for the poor quality of most of this pictures. My camera phone is not very swanky and you're just going to have to work with me.)

Here is a picture looking down the lane we used. You can see the distinctive diamond-shaped pattern that spells BOWL above the lane as well as being reflected in the wood below. Now, nothing says Fifties Bowling more than this diamond pattern . . . except for the next two images. (And yes, Grace picked up the spare here.)

This blurry fellow was on the large wall that paralleled the lanes to my right. He looks like he's a happy-go lucky Joe enjoying his night out with his pals from the sales team. Sure Kitten is at home cleaning up the pot roast dinner and getting Alice and Mike to sleep, but it's real nice to put away the gray flannel and slip into the swanky red pants, white bowling shoes, and navy blue bowling shirt. He deserves this, dontcha think? At least the weekly bowling helps him forget the nightmares he sometimes gets about trying to land that balky P-51 on the swaying deck of an aircraft carrier when he damn near out of fuel and one of the engines is threatening to quit on him . . .

Now Jane here is the kind of girl that Joe on the opposite wall saw painted on the nosecones of B-17 back in the Pacific. She's got a no-nonsense attitude, fills out that dress, and wears those bobby socks with a certain air that says "I handled a rivet gun once upon a time fly boy and I know what I'm doing!" Joe likes that kind of confidence in a lady. And he likes watching her pick up that 7-10 split (if you know what I mean). Anyway, Jane likes to get out with her girlfriends now and then to show the boys she can enjoy herself too. Life isn't all about pot roast and pearls.


You get my ham-handed point, right? Even here in 2009, we still view bowling through the decorative eyes of the Greatest Generation and the post war abundance that made bowling so popular. Is it the distinctive diamond shaped font treatment? Is it the starburst fireworks things that you can clearly see around Jane (and would see beside Joe if that hadn't turned out so blurry)?

Don't get me wrong. I like a lot of that decoration, as any habitual reader of James Lileks must, but it just got me thinking.

BTW, I have my own bowling ball, bequeathed to me from a very nice man that was a member of the first church we joined here in Ohio when we moved. For all I know, he first bought it during this flowering time of post war bowling. His initials BWB are engraved on the ball, below the finger holes.

I have always said that the BWB stood for Bowling W. Ball.

Seems appropriate.

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