By Joe Carrel, Buffalo Exchange Tempe
There’s a moment in The Big Lebowski where The Dude is relaxing on his rug, eyes closed, as his Walkman plays the soothing sounds of… the 1987 Venice Beach Bowling League playoffs. Strangely enough, I can identify. Some of my clearest early memories are backdropped by that distinctively resonant rattle of colliding pins.
In those days my main goal was simply to rustle up enough coins for vending machine Junior Mints as my grandmother rolled her frames, but tonight I’ll be revisiting those very same lanes for a very different purpose.
To explain tonight’s bowling alley excursion I need to acknowledge a lady named Jean. She’s that aforementioned grandmother, the only avid bowler I knew growing up. Through the quirks of adulthood, Jean never once had a time without children under her roof, so that bit of comradery she found each week with her girlfriends at the lanes was just what the doctor ordered.
Jean first joined a bowling league in the mid-1960s, and remained active in them through the age of eighty. When she finally passed on to “life beyond the 10th frame,” I received, amongst other mementos, her bowling bag (pictured above). The alley she rolled at is still around – the only one in these parts whose in-house balls are comprised of actual people’s bowling balls (instead of the indistinguishable neon ones).
Which brings us to tonight. After work I’ll make the trip to her old lanes and bowl myself a few games. For the last one though, I’ll be using my grandmother’s bowling ball. After I’m done, I’ll peruse those ball racks and inspect the marbled spheres with names like Edith and George and Dottie etched into them. And as I leave with an empty bowling bag, no one will notice the extra ball that’s been added to that lineup. But I’ll know it’s there, ever-ready to roll.