Saturday, March 26, 2011

Bowling Observation.

So my new Jersey City buddies had been craving a bowling outing for a few months. Suggestions of where to go was thrown out. I was gonna offer the Union bowling alley walking distance from where I live but it was too rundown without that desirable rundown charm. Other places were thrown around but it seemed like a forgotten topic until last week. That's when we finally arranged to get together to go bowling.

Now, I like bowling. I don't do it too much mainly because it's not a great activity to do by yourself and I'm never good at getting people together. Now, I'm not that good at bowling but I'm not pathetic at it. If I had to guess my average, It would fall in the 117-119 range. My highest score ever was 198 and I do my best to make sure I bowl at least 100 or failing that not to be in last place. It's getting hard to go bowling these days. Many places continue to close, especially in the Seattle area. However, Some new ones crop up with that modern "spirit" to entice people to come into a place they think is uncool. However, I have some gripes about what they consider an improvement in the bowling experience. It's the same ideas that seems to plague other public gathering spaces. The idea that you need to add loud music, video screens covering all wall space and of course, "gourmet" food.

Consider, Chelsea Piers. When I lived in NYC back in the late 80s it was an underused cargo ship port. A bit of creative urban renewal came into effect in the 90s that created what is now the Chelsea Piers Sports & Entertainment Complex. It includes studios where all the New York set Law and Orders were shot. It also features ice rinks, health clubs, dance studios and an impressive bowling alley called the 300. It's very attractive place with a mostly unused night club hovering over all the action, An impressive selection of video games, and video screens all over the place. And therein lies the problem.

You see the bowling alley at Chelsea Piers is dark with light mostly illuminated by the video screens all over the place. Some of the screens behind the alleys were useful in posting the score and screening little computer animations related to the actions on the lanes. Nothing new, That's been around since the late 80s. Most bowling alleys are dark but have well lit lanes. Chelsea Piers on the other has dark alleys with day glow stripes on the pins and lanes. Not enough to make for good bowling strategy. Then there are the TV screens at the far end of the lane where the pins are located. The whole wall was splattered with either images of the NCAA tournament or videos of today's music that may or may not have been put there by customers on s jukebox I didn't see.

Either way it was a very distracting thing to contend with. It was so loud, You COULDN'T hear the pins drop. Not that it was an excuse for my sub par scores of 117, 119, and (gasp) 87! But I hate going to places where I'm NOT there to hear music and be bombarded with music that I can't even stand. Ugh. Though they did make me aware of a great new Cake song "Sick of You". Nice to see a band in their 40s do a great song.

Another thing about the place that bummed me out a little was the cost of things. Okay, I get it, A bowling alley is like a movie theater and a sports ballpark in that the real money is made on concessions, so I expect that the food and beer is gonna be a bit expensive. However there is this new meme that says that one must make the food an "experience" instead of just something to eat even in places where you're there to do something else.

Looking up the menu, I was looking for something I wanted that was snack but filling. I spotted a menu item for three kinds of chips for $8.50. I got three tiny soup cups with potato chips, french fires, or Pomme Frites if you're pretentious and the latest trend in fried foods, sweet potato chips. Yeah, I was still hungry after the three seconds it took for me to eat it. And if you're gonna charge an arm and a leg for beer and bombard us with loud auto-tune infused music can you at least have s good selection of beer? Sam Adams is good, But as the only alternative to Coors products makes it a let down. Oh well.

Still, I had fun, the bowling balls were great and the shoes were newish but it doesn't make for a proper bowling experience to not be able to see the lanes and the pins properly. I don't need the visual distractions of bad music and sporting events I have no interest in.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Consider The Humble Milkcrate....

Ah, College, or at least art school. They were some of the best years of my life that's for sure. It was my time away from my parents in one of the greatest cities in the world, New York. It was the late 80s (pity, that) and the city still had its edge. IT was very expensive but reachable if you were clever or lucky.

Now, During my four years at SVA I lived in the dorms. Truthfully it was at the YMCA in Sloane House. We had two and a half floors to ourselves. The rest of the floors were occupied by tourists, old people and other schools.

Now we all had our own rooms but they were tiny. We also shared a studio with a fellow student. The rooms because of its size were sparsely furnished with a mustard yellow wardrobe, a metal cot-like bed with the same mustard yellow headboard. The rooms definitely didn't leave room enough to practice any decent interior design skills. So you had to work around the limitations. And one of the best pieces of equipment to setting up your room to a more livable space was the milk crate.

Not just any milk crate mind you but the kind of milk crates that were common place in the 80s. They were made of polyethylene plastic and measured 13"W x 19"L x 11"H. The ones that measured 13"W x 13"L x 11"H were good but nothing beat the bigger one. They were used primarily to carry jugs of milk but were so versatile they came to have so many other uses.

It was the perfect size to carry vinyl records. And when you stacked them one on top of the other, Eureka! Instant shelving space gets created. Of course you can stack the milk cartons in any fashion to hole other items of interest. They were steady enough to stack vertically three high and horizontally at least 6 crates high. You can lay them flat and store things in them and slide under your bed, out of sight for quick access.

They were good to sit on when you ran out of chairs. They made for ideal ottomans when you didn't. Heck, You can use one milk crate vertically for a chair and the other one horizontally for an ottoman. You can place a wooden plank on top of four strategically place milk crates and voila! You're no longer a bum sleeping on a mattress on the floor! Heck you can practically furnish a whole room with milk crates!

If you were fortunate, You might be able to color coordinate the crates to make the room attractive. When you moved it was easy to move your things around because they were already "packed" in its own box. Easily stacked in a car and van to take on to your next destination.

So, Where does one get milk crates? Well, You can buy them in some of the cheap department stores, But beware, They are more likely to be flimsy knock offs of the real thing. And the real thing? Where do you find these wonderful crates?

Wherever you can.

You see, For many years even before milk crates were plastic, It was a found object. Sometimes discarded, Sometimes stolen, Sometimes given. But the hunt was always the pleasure. I lived in New York City so they were sometimes easy to find. They were in dumpsters, Outside of closed stores, Sometimes in the middle of the street and maybe in a subway station. If I saw one unbroken and it was relatively clean, It was mine!

Early on it took awhile to get them. I got one quickly but it took forever to get the second one. I dreamed of hitting the mother lode and I finally did! Well into my second year when I moved into a bigger room, I was able to get a dozen. It's where I put most of my clothes, my comic book collection and of course the remainder of my vinyl albums I had. I used it to hold my sketchbooks and lent it to a friend who used it to dry his animation cels one weekend.

Possessing milk crates was not without risk. It was against the law for regular folk to possess them. Even if you just found them. The missing crates were costing the companies money and they tried to find ways to get them back. They always talked about law enforcement in getting them back but it didn't amount to much more than bluster.

Anyway, I kept many of my crates for many years though I got rid of them as I bought real furniture over the years. However, I still get a slight twinge of excitement if I come across a discarded perfectly usable crate. I'm still a hunter of found objects, particularly furniture that you won't find in a store. The hunt and the finds still excite me.