In my magazine editing class from Fall 2010, we had to write four articles, one of which was called a “Talk of the Town” piece after The New Yorker‘s staple column. The below writing is one of the earlier drafts, so there are transitions missing, and a lot of details that could be removed and edited down (or up?) for clarity. I hope you enjoy it. The whole experience was a pain in the tush.
It seemed easy: visit a 24-hour bowling alley throughout different parts of the 24-hour period then write down what I see. Yeah, easy. Right. The following chronicles my venture to, from, and at Dorchester’s Boston Bowl, then my eventual decent into madness.
12:00 p.m.: I buy the bowling shoes I’ve wanted for months. Brand: Dexter. Color: blue with gold glitter bits. The pool hall is empty. Kids, they’re everywhere.
12:17 p.m.: I try explaining to the manager why I’m here and what I plan to do. I tell them I called last week. It is obvious nobody takes me seriously. Nobody believes me.
12:29 p.m.: I speak to a manager named Tanya. Then I speak to a guy on the phone named Paul. I leave, still unsure if they understand my plans.
5:18 p.m.: First visit to bowl with my Dexters. I bring along my friend Kaitlyn. Tanya promises to send a manager to talk to me. A kid: “Look, mom. Free socks!” He waves them in the air triumphantly.
5:21: I look down. The tables in front of the lanes have little bowling balls and pins in pastels that mach their adjoining chairs: mint greens, light reds, sky blues and purples reminiscent of old cotton candy. I rise to bowl and slide a lot in my new shoes.
“I’m not gonna get that one down,” says Kaitlyn.
“You’re on a roll.” A pause. “Get it?” I say.
She gives me a look.
I don’t think she gets it.
I take note the alley is split into candlepin and tenpin bowling. G-WIZZ Action Games, the arcade, has a red neon sign.
5:41: My first score, a 156. I’m OK with this. I notice the bowler names to my left: Louis from France and Grant the Man.
I find Kaitlyn and I are boring. We have used our first names.
5:47: Kaitlyn spills chocolate on the table. She cleans it up with a free sock.
6:06: My second score is a 105. I blame my shoes.
9:46: I am back at the alley with my friend Susan. Susan is more adventurous with our names. She is Big Bowlin, and I, Super Roller.
The candlepin side glows under blacklights. I stand jealous. Thought: If only I had glow-in-the-dark nail polish.
10:05 p.m.: I realize I make a face when I throw a bad ball. I sort of twist my mouth sideways. This makes me uncomfortably self-aware. I look around at teenagers: girls in tight jeans and large hoop earrings; boys with their hair slicked back and their hands in their pockets.
10:10: I bowl a score of 116. I frown.
10:18: Bowling etiquette is absent with our bowling neighbors on lane 16.
10:34: I bowl a 120. This displeases me, too.
10:30ish: I mark the contents of the vending machine: lighter, nail clip, bowling birthday party invites, grip bags, batteries, wrist guards, tampons, camera, Tylenol, Alka-Seltzer, and condoms.
10:51: I eat fried chicken and french fries from Deadwood Cafe and Brewery.
10:56: I sing along to “What is love (baby, don’t hurt me).”
10:57: Baby don’t hurt me, no more. Yeah, yeah.
Around 3:50 a.m.: I pull out my phone to comment on what I see on the road. Then I get carried away (recording 2 and 3 done in fake sexy radio voice):
Recording 1: It’s 3:51 but you know it’s late when you see the Boston Globe delivery trucks on the road. Umm, pretty empty right now. I’m on my way. I’m tired as hell. I really hope there’re people at this bowling alley or else I’m going to be creeped out. Creeped out! Umm, yea that’s all…Good evening.
Recording 2: Hello, this is Alexa (a dramatic pause) coming to you from a (a pause) vehicle near UMass Boston. Yes, oh yes, we are recording now. It might be 4 a.m. but we’re awake, oh yes we are.
Recording 3: Late night in Boston, 3:57 a.m., and I’m on my way to the bowling alley…yea that’s creepy but it’s part of my assignment…of which I assigned myself. Stupid me. I guess I just like talking like this because I feel, I feel connected. I feel connected in a way I never felt connected before as I pass the CVS and the (a pause) National Wholesale Liquidators, as I pass the Ramada and I have to make my little U-turn to Boston Bowl. I’m having quite a nice time here. There’s a random car in the Lambert’s parking lot, very creep-tastic, they’re probably having sex. All right then, well I’m gonna get back to bowling and my observational hell. Have a great day Bahstan. By—(I get cut off by my slipped fingers).
3:58 a.m.: I arrive back at the bowling alley, alone.
4:20: I talk to an officer, let’s call him Huey. He tells me I missed the club crowd. Thought: Damn it. I wanted to see the drunk people. Huey and I talk about “Gilligan’s Island” and “Family Guy.”
4:40 a.m.: I worry that this second wind will lull me into a false sense of security that I can, indeed, stay awake to make it to my next trip to the alley.
5ish: I fall asleep. It is an accident.
7:45 a.m. All the lanes now polished, but shrouded in shadows. balls neatly placed in their UFO-shaped holders. I am the only one, except for one worker, here. This bowling alley is a ghost town with what sounds like 80’s rock to replace the hip hop of hours past.
7:47 a.m.: Hello, Tanya. It’s lovely to see you again. Since I saw you yesterday. And you saw me. In the same jacket and jeans. God. A janitor passes by with a determined look. I wonder if it matches my face. I probably just look tired. I leave to the promise of sleep. Good morning. Good afternoon. Good night.