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2005-05-25

I ate lunch with my grandfather today. We went to the Fourth Street Bowl. Most of the wide, flat building is taken up by a bowling alley. There's also a diner and bar inside, each one dripping in naugahyde and chrome. And, it's not the retro or ironic stuff. It's the real thing from the first time around—all in good condition. The karaoke machine in the bar seems out of place, like the space shuttle parked in the Parthenon or something.

I stopped by the men's restroom before sitting down with him. The toilets are a bit farther into the bowling alley, and you have to walk by maybe ten lanes before you reach them. Today the lanes were crawling with the daytime bowling league crowd. It was like the London Heathrow of bowling—people everywhere, a constant roar of noise and commotion, and words that sound sort of like English drifting out from ceiling–mounted loudspeakers.

I never quite understood bowling. I mean, sure, the game itself is quite fun. What I never understood was the social scene surrounding it. There are bowling leagues, games, tournaments, clubs, meetings. And, they always meet in the middle of the day. This pretty much restricts the bowling world to people who aren't tethered by the world of work: retirees. It's sort of a middle class retiree crowd. They aren't the desperate kind that live in smokey mobile homes with three generations of their progeny under the same roof. Yet, they aren't the ones that yacht—the sort that promptly fill their passports with stamps and order from the French menu in French.

The daytime bowler crowd seems to be the more middle–of–the–road kind of person. They have a house, maybe two. They're social. They dress acceptably. They watch TV and fly from time to time to visit some family member somewhere in another state. They're the kind of elderly that is still active enough to not have that old person rotting smell.

On the way to the bathroom I saw a beautiful, fleeting interaction between two women bowlers in their 60's. It started with some what I assumed was some minor bowling victory. One woman did some impressive bowling something or other. The ball (also known as a "puck") violently bashed into some things (also known as "li'l infants"), causing her to have what bowlers call "a touchdown".

As she walked back to the benches, she gave a cool "high five" to the next bowler woman, as if it was totally normal for middle class women in their 60's to give each other the high five.

What else do they do? Do they pat each other on the ass? Do they shout "WOOT WOOT" and push their palms to the heavens like they're "raising the roof"?

Next thing I know I'm going to see hundred year olds text messaging one another without even looking at the keypad—fingers punching keys like kung fu in fast forward—ultramodern light–up cell phones clutched like weapons in their porcelain–skinned hands. They'll be listening to their iPod Shuffles (their 60GB iPod Photo is too heavy, so they leave it at home). They'll greet each other with knuckles slammed together and then pound their clenched hands to their delicate chests—just to the right of their open heart surgery scars—and proclaim "respect".

Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with anyone doing any of these things. It's just funny. Or, rather, it's out of the ordinary. Seriously, watching a woman my grandmother's age—permed hair, oversized sweater with a kitten appliqued on it and all—giving the high five is, well, it's like listening to five year olds drinking highballs and arguing over Roth accounts.

More than anything it was mind–bogglingly adorable. There was something so beautifully human at the moment that one woman's open hand smacked another at the Fourth Street Bowl in San Jose, California. Gender, economic, and temporal bounds blurred and melted as their two hands touched, beautiful human digits lifted up above short hair permed into tight curls, above monogrammed bowling balls they owned themselves, above oversized sweaters, above the faint, familiar smell of grandma slowly rotting like leaves in fall. They were being cute. They were being silly. They were being perfect and human and lovely. They were being the same way we'll be at their age—they were being the same way we are at our age.

I wanted to hug them. I wanted to hug everyone. But, that would be a lot of hugs. And, I only had two arms. Plus, I had a flight to catch in a few hours, and my grandfather was waiting for me in the restaurant. So, I did what I could: I walked to the bathroom and pissed and pissed and pissed and smiled and smiled and smiled. It's a beautiful world we live in.


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