Get a Life—May 19, 2006

By Jane Lopes

I’m always eager to recreate preadolescence. Especially when finals are creeping up and I think back to a time when I didn’t measure my life in terms of what week in the quarter it was. A time before disinterest became cool and before good, clean fun became lame. But as playing with Barbies is no longer an acceptable form of entertainment, I had to settle for the next best thing: bowling.

Bowling in my youth consisted of renting oversized shoes, scouring the racks for the lightest ball with the most fun color, hurling it down the lane from in between my legs, and considering it an achievement if the ball hit the bumpers fewer than three times. Ah, bumpers. One of the greatest inventions to emerge from the 20th century, in my opinion. Thank you Mr. Bumper Man, for saving me from psychoses-inducing strife—although I still managed quite frequently not to knock down any pins on a given throw. Zero pins with bumpers. A feat harder to achieve, so I tell myself, than throwing a strike.

Despite my obvious bowlic (man, I really wish this were a word) failings, I was thrilled when my friends invited me to their joint bowling birthday party at 10pin. (Well, it was the co-ed part of their birthday party. In yet another bout of mid-90s nostalgic brilliance, they had an all-girls slumber party replete with cartons of Ben and Jerry’s, fortune telling, and—this is almost too good to be true—Ouija.)

10pin is the bowling alley inside the House of Blues hotel in Marina City. It is nothing like the bowling of yore. It is bowling made consummately hip, even by Chicago yuppie standards. The huge alley is doused in black light and the balls glow in the dark. And instead of normal, old-school jukeboxes, they have video juke boxes. You choose a song, and the music video plays on giant screens behind the pins. In yet another moment of middle-school nostalgia (this time a moment of weakness rather than of brilliance), I requested “No Scrubs.”

The video jukebox system was, unfortunately, experiencing a few glitches: Throughout the whole song, the video was stuck on the first frame—some giant, futuristic room. My friend Sarah thought the video’s literalness was inspired (“I certainly do not see any scrubs”) and that it would have been fantastic if TLC had done it intentionally. But, as it happened, it was just kind of disappointing when one was waiting to see T-Boz, Chilli, and Left-Eye dancing in silver jumpsuits, standing on oversized metallic swings, and being generally windblown.

But all in all, this is a minor complaint. 10pin offers everything good about bowling, just filtered through self-conscious trendiness (the food too—you get crackers and artisan cheeses instead of nachos, snickerdoodle martinis instead of beer, and strawberry shortcake instead of vending machine Skittles). You won’t feel out of place like you might in regular bowling alleys, being surrounded by either a group of sticky nine-year-olds or a group of beer-bellied men too lazy to have mid-life crises. On the downside—that’s kind of the kitschy fun of bowling, right? Times inevitably change, though. And although I still seek out the lightest ball in the brightest color, I have evolved from throwing the ball from in between my legs. There are some things you just can’t do past a certain age. But don’t worry: Although they are highly mechanized and produce distracting light flashes, 10pin does have bumpers. You are never too old for bumpers.


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