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The sights, sounds, smells and tastes of summer bowling

The Summer Bowl

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Bowling is an all-around sense-o-rama.

First there is the rush of going from the humid air outside into the meat-locker temperatures in the alley. Then there's the slight buzz you get from a nose full of disinfectant spray at the checkout counter.

The bowling sensations are tied up in agonizingly tight or clownishly floppy shoes. They're weighed in a hernia-sized, polyurethane ball, felt from that weird hand dryer on the end of the ball return.

Even semiconsciousness is a possibility. You usually get that feeling after hours of late-night all-you-can-bowl and heavy eating. Like honey on deep-fried chicken tenders from the snack bar, bowler's torpor slowly drizzles over the unsuspecting, who are constantly jarred awake by the relentless crack and rumble of strikes and spares.

Whether it's the 1970s-colored carpets or the 1990s neon balls, bowling alleys are the 10-pin shellac palaces that time forgot. The best have at least one absent letter on the sign, like missing a tooth. The worst are full of flashing mirror balls and black lights. But they are meant to be campy, so you gotta love even those bowling alleys, too.

Did you ever notice that bowling is the only time total strangers share shoes? It's a small price to pay for jalapeĀ¤o poppers, cheese fries and the possibility of attaining perfect form and follow-through.

Like a disappointing summer blockbuster, the alley's ability to pack in the crowds is also tied directly to the heat index. But the movies never offered such people-watching. On any given night, you're virtually guaranteed to find the lawless gang of first-graders, the lone teen-ager dropping his last silver into a video game, and the way-too-serious bowler honing his skills alone with personal shoes, ball and bowling glove.

Load up on the onion rings, grab a lane and plant yourself on a Formica bench. It's going to be a long, hot summer. And you probably need the

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