These are some things that Bethie already knows about, in a very particular order:
You know that stale smell of cigarettes and mixed alcohol? That, and this all pervasive greasy machine odor, commingled with ozone and accentuated by the roll crash of bowling pins, not to mention video game Game Over theme songs?
Well, I do - in the era of Battlestar Galactica I scammed quarters from my father most every weekend, while he did the three step ball swing at Lucky Lanes (now a card room casino monstrosity), Golden Gate Lanes (a Target superstore - Circle X to you and me) and Albany Bowl.
Every strike brought forth Blue Chip stamps, you know, the premiums that you collected in books adorned with squirrels, eventually traded in for lawn darts and transistor radios.
That was way back in the day, all Galaxian and me in the upstairs afternooncare center, betwixt the blox and nilla wafers. Confinement lasted as long as my more prominent baby teeth, and soon enough I was entrusted with a dollar or two with which I would call forth pinballs (then 5 per game, now 3 for twice the price).
I also was partial to 10 cent bouncy balls and nickel gum, handfuls of stale chicklet knockoffs, and the ever present jawbreakers (even now, I still salivate and remember almost chipped teeth).
I was a chewer, a run around the alley crazy boy with lots of hair and all the secret joystick twitches, and sometimes I bowled too (took lessons way back when), but mostly I watched my father and marveled as his precision. That, and the cool half glove with metal inside, that I borrowed sometimes to power my atomic air punch (no, I didn't call it that).
Of the three, Lucky Lanes provided the most corners to hide in, not to mention pool tables and cheap greasy food and empty glasses filled with ice and small plastic straws everywhere. Plus, lots of bowling ball cleaning machines, and bathrooms way way in the back, so no one'd see you when you (that is, I) took the aforementioned bouncy balls and threw them down towards the pins.
Oh yeah, and candy machines! Vending joy, first in the compartmentalized variety (maybe 8 choices, tops), then the progress-spawned corkscrew treasure chest which still persists, to this very day. Soda machines - bottled, canned, and canless - and a popcorn vending box if I remember correctly. Pro shops with trophies. The requisite cocktail lounge, with televised sports and darts. The snack bar, and the restaurant with sassy sitcom waitresses.
Kind of like an amusement park, only a lot louder and smokier, and instead of big headed cartoon characters, you got literal dirty old men and loose change left in the cracks. Slapping that metaphor to death, Lucky Lanes was Disneyland, Golden Gate Lanes Six Flags Magic Mountain, and Albany Bowl Great America. Not that that makes any sense, but hey, I'm on a nostalgia bike ride here, asking the guy at the desk for change for a five.
Looking back, I truly see the lost opportunity for massive juvenile delinquency, with loose girlfriends and graffiti on the vinyl booths, but alas, my imagination wasn't that great.
During early high school, I regularly went to Albany Bowl with my father one of the middle weekend evenings (don't remember which one, maybe Thursday), and wrote stories or did homework while he did his duty.
He owned his own bowling shoes, baby, but I never got that involved. I did learn how to aim at the target in urinals, and now I hardly ever miss.
Food Farm, Food Farmless
As supermarkets go, Food Farm was the promised land, with lettuce mist.
I remember conveyer belts and carpet cleaning machines and grocery store toys, the really cheap kind that everyone loves to burn under magnifying glasses.
4 video games way off in the corner, rotating on a regular basis with a pinnacle point including Dig Dug and Donkey Kong Jr., and when you asked the checkers for change they'd smile, even the 5th time.
Milk is always in the back of the store, even after Lucky came into town and strangled my beloved tree of life off in the alley by the collapsed cardboard boxes. Soon after that the liquor store closed - where I bought my first comic books and stole my first sugar products.
The laundromat, with the bathroom in the back that, fear of puddles or no, came in handy when you really had to go, is thankfully still there. As is the donut emporium, although under different management. The video store died a few years ago, due to Blockbuster pressure, and Olympic Savings, which I entrusted my first non-spent money to, hiccuped into Coast Federal Savings around the time that Family Ties was more funny than the Facts of Life.
Now, there's Tap plastics where the alcoholics used to hang, and instead of movies you can buy signs like Danger and Beware of Dog, 3 for a dollar. Everything's a dollar in the new grand-opened store; I took a look at their junk a few days after they unlocked the doors, and the cashiers watched my potentially happy handed ass all throughout the store. Only 2 students at a time, leave you bags at the front - sometimes I get nostalgic for the wig shop, you know?
Glow in the Dark Frisbee
I used to have one, all pavement scratched and flying up in the air at just the right angle to come back down all karate chop skip jumping off the church parking lot across the street.
I used to throw rocks at my friend's bicycle (well, just once, until his head got hit). Water balloons and garden hoses. Wrestling in the grass with older kids I worshipped, only I won, usually. Tackle football by the penitentiary Alvarado Elementary, and I could run the fastest, and knock the wind out of your brother and his friends.
Action figures in the tall weeds. Backyard swing set, all rusty metal with green chipping paint. Glow in the dark frisbee over the roof, or stuck up in some fucking bushes, never to be seen again. I'm still looking skyward for the best come back down angles.
Cheerios and Raisins
Shag carpets require raking, like sticky dead grass, and when I did it too hard, I'd break off plastic teeth.
That is, the rake would, and while there wasn't hell to pay, I got a bunch of heck when afterschool bowls of cereal and snacks got lost in the yellow brown yarn. The ants would come; raisins love to stick to everything and your feet.
When I was sick, my mother would help me make a fort with blankets and kitchen chairs, right in the middle of the living room, so I could peek out and watch Mary Tyler Moore reruns.
When it was cold, my father would make a fire and throw in chemicals he brought home from school. The flames would turn unnatural ocean colors temporarily, and I'd watch in wonderment as last week's newspapers blackened and crumbled.
The new carpet came from Wards, and the installation men smoked, and had heavy toolbelt butt cracks. Now my father makes me take my shoes off when I sit in my favorite chair.
Straight A me, I almost got my first and only F when I was too scared in the 5th grade to give an oral report about our neighbor to the north. Cried right in the middle of class.
Mrs. Paulson didn't take any crap though, in a loving way, and a few days later I taped National Geographic maps to the blackboards and sung songs of me wanting the hell to be sitting back down in my seat. Everyone clapped in the end, even my not-so-secret crushes.
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