Five States, Ten (and a Half) Games, One Man (With Lots of Help)
A nap almost killed it.
I knew I would have to sneak in some sleep, so I figured a little two-hour nap around 9 p.m. would be just what the doctor ordered--if, in fact, doctors were ordering five-states-in-one-day bowling tours to celebrate World Record Day (the culmination of National Bowling Week, as if I had to tell you), which I'm pretty sure they're not. Then again, I don't go to the doctor that often, so things might have changed.
Anyway, the two-hour nap would give me time to get to Bowl Rite Lanes in Union City, NJ, just before midnight, start my two games at the stroke of midnight, hop on the bus to the Port Authority Bus Terminal, and then hoof it down to Lucky Strike Lanes on the West Side Highway (Leisure Time Bowl in the Port, the obvious choice, only lets you bowl by the hour on Fridays and Saturdays, and $60 seemed like a bit much for a quest that would only really mean anything to me). Then I could go home to sneak another hour or two of sleep, get up to go back to the Port Authority and catch a bus to Philly, bowl a couple of games at Pep Bowl in Philly around 10 a.m., take the train to the Riverfront Blues Festival in Wilmington, DE, for a break, and then meet up with my friend in Delaware (provided his nine-months-pregnant wife didn't decide to give birth) to conclude the tour at Elk Lanes in Elkton, MD, and First State Lanes in Wilmington, all before the grand finale back at the Riverfront Blues Fest.
Seems simple, no?
Well, I overslept. And when I woke up and saw it was 11:45, my mind started racing. Should I still carry on? Should I skip Jersey and hope I had time to get somewhere near the Delaware border when I went down? Should I skip New York and just make it a four-state bowling tour? Should I maybe just drop the whole idea and not run around like an imbecile on a Saturday?
I still didn't know what I'd do when I got to the Newport Light Rail station around midnight. But if I was gonna do this, I really wanted to start in Jersey. So I decided to press on to Union City and hope that the buses were still running out of Union City to NYC, where, if they were, I would still have enough time to get to Lucky Strike (which I recalled as closing at 3) and get back on track. Sure, the extra two hours of sleep I'd hoped to get would be out, but I would probably be tired enough to sleep on the bus to Philly. And who needs sleep anyway?
And, so at around 12:50 a.m., after walking from the 9th Street Light Rail stop in Hoboken all the way to Bowl Rite, the Five-State Bowling Tour was on.
I didn't take many pictures at this stop, because I was just trying to bowl fast and get moving. Plus, when you're by yourself at a bowling alley on top of a CVS pharmacy at 1 a.m., taking pictures doesn't really seems like a fine idea.
I felt pretty good bowling, until midway through the first game, when I started getting a little light-headed (probably due to the half-hour walk/sprint through Union City carrying a bowling ball bag, but it's hard to say). I was almost able to hit my average over two games (164 and 131), which, all things considered, was a decent feat.
Then it was time for the walk to the bus stop, another 20-25 minutes or so. I knew there was a bus that could take me to the bus stop I needed to go to, but I wasn't sure if it was still running, so I just headed out on my own. I also thought about taking a cab into NYC, but I'm against cabs as a rule, and I didn't feel like breaking any rules.
I eventually made it to the bus stop and then began praying there was still a bus going into the city. I saw one of the gypsy shuttles coming back from the city, but nothing heading in. Finally, as I was about to suck it up and call a cab, the 190 bus appeared and all was right with the world. I would be at the Port a little before 2 a.m. and would still have enough time for my first trip to Lucky Strike. Phew.
So, I get to Lucky Strike, walk through the door, and...
"Um, what time did you close?"
"We shut down at 2."
I was going to explain to him that I was pretty sure the website said 3 a.m., but he was significantly larger than me and seemed genuinely disgusted by my presence. So I just walked back out the door. And, to be fair, I was completely wrong. The website actually says they're open until 4 a.m.. Pigs.
So, what to do? Well, I knew Brooklyn Bowl in Williamsburg was open until 4, and as much as I didn't want to go all the way to Williamsburg at 2 a.m. (or, truth be told, any time of day), I didn't have much of a choice. So, I hopped on the A train to 14th, got on the L, and made it to Brooklyn Bowl a little before 3. All right. Back on track. That's a right on Wythe, and...
"Hey, buddy, we're closed."
"But I thought your website said you were open until 4."
"Yeah, we're closed. Manager just gave the call that we're closing."
Take your hipster bowling alley and stick it up your ass.
This wasn't looking good. Brooklyn Bowl was my last shot for the night/early morning. The only other option I had at this point to keep the tour alive was to eat my nonrefundable bus ticket to Philly, get a train or bus directly to Wilmington instead, bowl somewhere in NYC in the morning (or, later in the morning), and hope to have enough time to get to an alley in Pennsylvania between blues festival sets and games in Maryland and Delaware.
But that would be a lot of work. And to what end? To satisfy you, dear, sweet three readers? To top last year's five-borough bowling tour, which, as far I could tell, no one was asking me to top?
As I walked home from the PATH train around 4:30, after my train had been delayed and had to return to Christopher Street about two minutes after we left Christopher Street because there was "an emergency" in the Hoboken station (re: some numbnuts probably puked on the train after leaving Bahama Mama's), I decided that, for reasons completely and utterly unknown, I had to persevere. Somewhere, the bugles were sounding. Somewhere, the spirit of Earl Anthony was urging me not to quit. Somewhere, Mickey was telling me, 'Get up, you son of a bitch. Mickey loves you."
Or maybe I was delirious on two hours' sleep and hearing things.
Whatever the case, I got on the computer when I got back to my apartment, sussed out the possibilities, and regrouped. There were two bowling alleys in Brooklyn that opened at 9, and an Amtrak from Penn Station that would get me to Wilmington right on time. Unfortunately, Amtrak's fare system blows, and that train would've cost me $90. In the words of the great Roger Rabbit, "I may be idiotic, but I'm not stupid." So I went with a Greyhound that would allegedly get me to Wilmington about 15 minutes after Matt "Guitar" Murphy's set started but realistically, once Saturday New Jersey Turnpike traffic was figured in, probably would get me to Wilmington just in time to miss Matt "Guitar" Murphy's entire set. But if I had to sacrifice that to keep the Five-State Bowling Tour alive, so be it. Sorry, Mr. "Guitar" Murphy.
So, things were back on track again. I would sleep for a few hours, leave my apartment at 8:30, and get to Melody Lanes in Brooklyn by 10 for a quick two games before going back to the Port Authority for the 11:30 bus to Wilmington. I printed out a set of directions to the AMF Conchester Lanes in Boothwyn, PA, the closest alley in Pennsylvania, went to sleep, and hoped that tomorr, er, three hours from now, would be better.
I didn't oversleep the second time around, and I made it to Melody Lanes in the Sunset Park section of Brooklyn just around 10 a.m. Stunningly, no one else was bowling, so I had the whole place to myself. And, as another bonus, the interior was so bright that I had no trouble staying awake.
I'm not sure if you've ever bowled in an empty bowling alley on a Saturday morning while "In Da Club" plays over the in-lanes PA, but if you haven't, I highly recommend the experience. Once again, I was pretty consistent, and I managed to improve slightly on my Jersey performance, with a 161 and a 154. I also messed around with the timer feature on my camera to take some action photos for you. And also, so you can see just how white my legs are.
I was back on the subway by 10:35 and just did make it in time to get on the Wilmington bus (in a moment of stupidity, I left my Greyhound tickets under will call, something one should never, ever do because it forces you to rely on the allegedly helpful Greyhound computer terminals, which consistently don't work). As expected, we hit lots of traffic and, as also expected every time I get on a bus, there was almost a fight on the bus when, two hours into the trip, a guy decided that he didn't want to hear the guy two rows behind him talk anymore. And once he expressed that opinion, the next 20 minutes were filled with the sound of the talking (and much, much larger) gentleman expressing disbelief at being spoken to that way. Good times.
Anyway, the bus pulled into Wilmington just as they were striking the stage after Murphy's set (the festival was next to the bus and train stations, which, if everything had worked out as planned--or if anything had worked out as planned--would've been very fortuitous), so I waited outside the bus station for my friend to pick me up (I had called him when we were getting ready to cross into Delaware).
I knew his wife was due to give birth at any moment, and I suppose if I had really thought about it, I might've been able to predict that she and their three-year-old son
would come along, too. It would, after all, be much better if my friend were around as his wife went into labor, rather than in, say, Elkton, MD. But since I'd been running train and bus schedules through my head for a week, I was a little surprised to see that the whole family had come to pick me up and join my adventure. After working through my guilt about dragging a nine-months-pregnant woman and a three-year-old child across at least two states (Pennsylvania still wasn't a definite yet), however, I embraced the "more, the merrier" approach and grew excited at the thought of having the whole family along for the ride. Plus, it was the three-year-old's first bowling excursion, so I felt proud to be able to make it part of such a memorable day.
The first stop was the kind-of-run-down but kind-of-awesome Elk Lanes in Elkton, MD. According to the sign on their door, they weren't even supposed to be open for another hour or so (need I say that their website said otherwise?), but there was a birthday party going on, so we walked in and began on State #3. We even got to use a newly constructed ball ramp, or at least the three-year-old did. I declined.
Elk Lanes was easily the least fancy stop on the tour, but I am a fan of all things not fancy, so I felt pretty comfortable. There was also a jukebox, so I helped DJ the birthday party, with a ton of selections (Four Tops, ABBA, Michael Jackson, Sam Cooke) I'm sure the preteens and teens hated immensely. As I chose the songs, though, I was careful not to repeat a mistake I made at the Bowl-o-Drome in Ithaca once, when it was just me and a birthday party and I forgot that "Misirlou" on the "Pulp Fiction" soundtrack is preceded by a scene from the movie that features, oh, language 10-year-olds probably shouldn't be exposed to, particularly at loud volumes. Oopsie.
With plenty of good music playing, I recovered from a shaky first game (143) and rebounded with a 182 in the second. The three-year-old seemed to be enjoying his bowling experience, despite a few balls that didn't make it all the way down the alley after he got bored with the ramp. So it felt like, finally, the Five-State Bowling Tour was in the proper gear.
The next stop was back in Delaware, at the First State Lanes in Wilmington. It was a bit more high-tech than the Elk (and with a nice billiards room in the back, too), but no less enjoyable. And they also had one of the greatest things I've ever seen.
That, good people, is a plastic bowling pin bottle that you can fill with soda for $6. Absolutely phenomenal. It made Lucky Strike and Brooklyn Bowl a distant memory.
I didn't bowl particularly well at First State (152 and 137), but who cares? I got a bowling pin bottle! I also bowled about half of the three-year-old's game, because he grew tired of bowling right about the time the french fries arrived, and his dad had tweaked something in his forearm and was having enough trouble finishing his own game (yet, he still beat me, so I think I was hustled by the both of them). So I stepped up and gave him a few good frames to end his day on the lanes and add a little bonus to mine.
My friend thought the tour was over at this point, as it was getting closer to 8:30 and dinner was of the essence for the nine-months-pregnant woman and the hungry child. Unfortunately for them, I'm a stubborn jerk, and I reckoned that there was still enough time to make the dream come true. I told them they could just drop me off in Boothwyn and get something to eat while I bowled, but eventually the decision was made to sit and watch me bowl Game 9 (and 1/2) and thus complete the Five-State Bowling Tour.
And, so that is what happened. We made it to the AMF Conchester Lanes in Boothwyn around 7 p.m., and I fought my way through the sluggishness that was starting to overtake me as I bowled a 149 in Game 9 (and 1/2). There was much applause from my posse, until I informed them that I kinda wanted to bowl Game 10 (and 1/2). I couldn't end on a below-average game. They, understandably, looked at me like I was a lunatic, but, to their credit, let me continue on my quest (though my friend expressed concern about what would happen if I bowled another below-average game). There is a special place in heaven for all them, and also for the little girl that has, as of this writing, still not made her way into the world.
For poetry's sake, let's say I bowled my last game for that unborn child and her folks, because, just as I did last year on the Five-Borough Bowling Tour, I saved my best game for last.
That open frame kind of kills me (would've broken 200 with a mark there), but I was still pleased with a 193 to wrap up the day.
Then we ate dinner at a nearby diner, they dropped me off at the blues festival, I had a good time there, and I made it back home just about 24 hours after the Five-State Bowling Tour began, a true success if ever there was one.
And then I woke up at 6:30 a.m. to get on another bus to go see Pete Seeger and someone called Princess Wow in upstate New York. Wait until you hear that story.