Saturday, March 26, 2011
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.