One of my friends, Dave, recently held a birthday party for himself at a joint in Ann Arbor, MI called “Revel and Roll.” It’s located a short distance away from “The Big House” (what the locals call the University of Michigan stadium). It’s undergone a huge renovation over the past few years, opening its doors to the “new hotness” in 2015, which you can read about here.
For his birthday shindig, family and some friends gathered first in the restaurant/bar, which is now all open to the rest of the facility, including the bowling lanes. When I’d visited the old Colonial Lanes in the past, the bar/restaurant was a completely enclosed separate room. I used to go to the “Cubs AC” bar for its karaoke scene (even before smoking was banned in Michigan restaurants). The smoking ban certainly made karaoke nights much more pleasant!
For the sports fans, there is plenty of sports memorabilia adorning the walls. I got to see what Bob Ufer looked like as a young track star – long before he became the legendary “voice” of University of MEEECHIGAN football (there is a lot of Bob Ufer hero worship in my house). When I went to the Detroit “Auto Show” with my dad a couple of years ago, he INSISTED I look at the Bob Ufer plaques in the corridors of Cobo Hall (he’s so funny when he gets on a high horse about something). I played along!
Quick review? Revel and Roll is visually… impressive! A 120-foot TV screen over all of the bowling lanes will make even a golf game look exciting! In this case, a tennis match was on the screen, meaning a giant Serena was there for everyone to ogle. It would definitely be a fun place to bring a group of kids. We were there on a Friday evening, and the place was hoppin’! Or “rolling,” if you will…
I took a look at the cocktail menu. Pretty pricey drinks! $4.50 for a Miller High Life. Yes, I know it’s the “Champagne of Beers,” but still.. $4.50 for a bottle? No thank you! Hand-crafted cocktails such as Moscow mules were about $9, I saw some other cocktails listed for about $12. The cheapest cocktail offering I saw was a white Russian for $7, which was obviously a nod to the bowling-themed film The Big Lebowski.
Actor Jeff Bridges supplied his own wardrobe for his character “The Dude” in The Big Lebowski. Here he is enjoying his favorite cocktail – a white Russian.
So the post-dinner activities were put to a vote. Who wanted to bowl? Dave, the birthday boy, wanted to bowl (which is why he held the party at Revel and Roll), but a recent trampoline accident resulting in a bruised rib put the kibosh on those plans. And sadly, no one else wanted to bowl (but me). What? I wore my socks and tennis shoes for nothing? So the rest of the group voted to adjourn to the “game room,” which includes a variety of video and arcade games. Neither my husband nor I were interested in partaking of the game room – me because it’s not my scene – my husband because of arthritis in his hands (oh the humanity). He also didn’t want to pay $2 for a card that would give him “game credits.” He just wanted to plunk in some quarters. He’s old school, and a man of principles – I can dig it!
So we decided to say our good-byes and took off. There was actually a live music show going on in Milan I wanted to check out that night, you can read more about that here. We had been planning to go to this show for months… I talked to Dave later, and said we needed to to a “re-do” of his birthday bowling party and to let me know when he healed up. I’ll suggest going somewhere a bit more “low brow,” for cheaper drinks.
So what’s my connection to bowling? I was in a youth bowling league for a few years in middle school. It recently dawned on me that I learned a good deal about life while in this bowling league! So let’s roll with some of the key life lessons I learned while I was in my bowling league in the early to mid 1980s!
Forgive me, this was a “drive-by” shot. Clio Bowling Arcade in Clio, MI. I’m pretty sure the Miller High Life bottled beer doesn’t cost $4.25 in their lounge!
League bowling is a team game – usually with 3-4 players. You and your team compete with other teams for trophies, bragging rights, etc. Since your team counts on you to be there every week, if you had to miss a game, you would usually have to get a substitute.
As a kid, you probably got your first exposure to profanity while listening to Daddy undertaking a home repair/home improvement project – or listening to him watch a sports game on TV. But “bowling night” was when YOU would have a chance to refine the fine art of profanity yourself! We weren’t coddled like kids are now – we didn’t have “bumper bowling” in my day. Sometimes your throws would result in gutter balls. Sometimes you wouldn’t pick up the spare. And since it was just you and your friends, you could let the profanity fly if you wanted! Gutterball? Shit! Didn’t pick up that spare? Damn! The girl on the other team just had three strikes in row? Fuck! What better place to learn how to deal with life’s disappointments – and revel in life’s little glories – than a bowling alley?
Actor Jimmie Dale Gilmore and John Goodman in The Big Lebowski.
Bowling alleys have rules. You have to wear special “bowling shoes” when you’re out on the lanes. If you rented your shoes, you have to give them back when you’re done. And since rental bowling shoes are usually super gross, you’re not likely to just abscond with the things (usually the bowling alley will hold your shoes as collateral while you use their rentals) And there is also bowling “etiquette” – you wait until the person in the lane next to you bowls, then you bowl. You don’t cross the foul line with your foot. The character “Walter,” played by John Goodman in The Big Lebowski pulled a gun on a rival player for crossing the foul line and not making his score zero on the sheet. However, most bowling alleys these days have automatic scoring. In my bowling days, we had to do our scores ourselves. Which brings me to…
Since we had to tally our own scores, bowling helped keep my math skills sharp! Well, addition skills, anyway! Adding up my bowling scores would not help me pass high school algebra, sadly enough…but I can add numbers up really super well!
Seeing a Family-Owned Small Business in Action
I would guess most small-town bowling alleys are “family” affairs. The bowling alley in Clio was owned by a family with two (fraternal) twin boys who were about a year younger than I was. They worked right alongside their mom and dad in the bowling alley – and would occasionally be called upon to help us add up our score sheets! To this day, I think at least one of the twins still runs the Clio Bowling Arcade!
Appreciation of Junk Food
Liquid cheese nachos. That’s all I’m going to say…
Competition Can Be Fun
With bowling, you can be as hard-core with it as you want like Walter from The Big Lebowski – or just go out there and have fun. Brandishing a gun to a rival player is likely to get your ass disqualified (I wouldn’t recommend it)! In a recreational league, no one is going to care if you throw three gutter balls in a row. When I was a kid and I was on a team with my friends (and not a team the bowling alley assembled for me) I had a BLAST listening to the ’80s tunes, goofing off with my friends, getting all sugared up beforehand at an ice cream/candy shop (it was SO nice when calories didn’t actually count, LOL). Bowling is what you make of it. You can view it as a game of precision, or (as an adult), an excuse to enjoy the yellowest of the yellow beers, the whitest of the white Russians – and the junkiest of junk foods. Anybody can do it…have you got the “balls” to give bowling a try? 🙂 If you don’t, then the bowling alley will have “house balls” you can play with! 😉