Russell was in town for the weekend, and at his request on Sunday we went bowling at the HP (for “high performance”) Lanes Bowling Center off Cleveland Avenue. Knocking down the pins was fun, as always, but our little taste of modern bowling made me realize how dramatically the bowling experience has changed since I was a kid.
Our bowling alley in those days in the ’60s was the legendary Riviera Lanes in Akron, Ohio. It was a place for people who were serious about bowling. The bowling balls were all black — the only nod to color appeared on the 6-pound balls for little kids, which had red and blue triangles on them — and the only noise was the balls rolling down the alley and scattering the pins. To complete the somewhat somber, focused atmosphere, against one wall there was a huge photograph of President Nixon, with an intense look on his face as he began his approach to the foul line, bearing the title “Our Bowling President.” It helped to lock in the belief of most of the keglers that bowling was the all-American sport.
HP Lanes is . . . different. For one thing, the “house balls” are as colorful as Easter eggs. The area above the pins is a riotous, Mardi Gras-like study in pastels, and there was rock music playing at a pretty healthy volume. There wasn’t any photo of a bowling president around, either. The only link to the bowling days of yore was the color of the lanes, the ball delivery system, and the American flag.