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Palm Coast Saturday, Mar. 31, 2012 8 years ago

Out on the town: It's not personal, it's bowling

by: Mike Cavaliere Multimedia Director

Coquina Lanes was mostly empty mid-afternoon on St. Patrick’s Day, and I preferred it that way. The place reminded me of when I’d played there as a kid, the summers when Matt Clay and I had nothing to do but ride bikes and spend our parents’ money.

It’d been too long since I last bowled, and I was hungry for victory. I wasn’t Mike anymore, I was Frank, a name I’d chosen for myself years ago as a twist on the bloated titles we give ourselves at alleys, but I ended up scoring a freak 200.

I’ve bowled as Frank ever since — the guy’s a warrior, decked out in wrist-stabilizing glove, Mickey Mouse shoes and safety goggles (because you can never be too careful). But the rest got nicknames.

“I’m first!?” said Special K (aka Kelby), jumping out of her seat.

“I can be last if you want,” The Em is Mightier (Emily) said, holding a pink ball in her hands as if she were hauling a ham to a potluck.

And then it happened. Records scratched over the loudspeaker. Party horns blared. The overhead lights turned dim and dark blue.

It was cosmic bowling. At 5:30 p.m. If you turned your head 45 degrees, you could see, clear as day — well, day. It was right there, burning sunlight like gangbusters through the double-doors.

“Alright, alright, alright!” a DJ announced, dropping beats from a hub beside the front desk. “Happy St. Patty’s day, ya’ll! If you’re over 21, ladies drink free after 10!”

That was four hours away. And watching a little girl doing the cha-cha on a nearby chair, I was sure not another soul in the place was a day over 16.

Uncensored gangster rap filled the air then was quickly replaced with Michael Jackson and more horns.

“Does it always start this early?” The Code Enforcer (Cody) asked.

“This is Palm Coast,” I shrugged. “You think there are rules?”

In middle school, I remember Rock ’N’ Bowl was huge on Saturday nights. This was before Epic Theatres or Steak ’n’ Shake, and so the alley was where you went to be seen. It was crowded, alive. You got to stay out late. And that girl from class who always smiled and held your gaze an extra second might be there.

But this time was different. The music blasted. The alley was empty. At 25 years old, I felt like the weird older cousin crashing the kids’ party. 

After a few games, I returned my shoes to the desk and left the ghost of Frank there with them. Then we rambled back into the parking lot, squinting.

Behind us, balls thundered down the alleys, rolling hard like no pins could ever stop them, barreling by as if they'd coast like that forever, loud and fast and with nothing to lose.

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