Marksmen of the Lanes
In extreme cold, one of the first things you’re taught to do is huddle together with other people to stay warm. It doesn’t matter if they’re white people, scorpios, Settlers of Catan nuts, or arsonists, you just do it to survive. Welcome to Fairbanks.
Let’s say it’s Saturday. You and the guys think to yourself:
“Hell, I’d like like to roll some orbs down a waxed plane and try and knock down a cluster of weighted objects”.
That seems do-able. But then you go further:
“We’d also really like to wander through a maze-like series of sky-blue, subterranean hallways, each identical to the last until we feel disoriented, the only landmarks being young korean children who run around in large neon coats.”
Also, this is plausible in Fairbanks. You’re still not satisfied.
“But we’d like to turn a corner, somewhere under the racket of bowlers upstairs in the hospital-like dungeon-crawl and find a simple but fully-stocked Korean Market and restaurant bathed in eerie fluorescent lights and a freezer full of unknowable meats.”
You were wise to choose Fairbanks. All these things and more are possible at Arctic Bowl. Here for bowling? Right this way, sir. Just dropping by for a little beard-watching? Good news, migratory beards are here in record numbers this winter. Just stopping in for a weird marble-soda and a quick shot at the crane game? We wish you the best in your endeavor to throw your health and money away.
Like all bowling alleys of repute, the original cast seems to be in present and in great form. Cast includes:
-Mid-40’s Bowler guy in a sweater who doesn’t look that much like a bowler, really.
-Coupla buds in camouflage with a few brewskies
-Headphoned “millennial”, estranged from his group, seeking comfort in his phone
-Over-tired mother attempting to control small, wild humans
-Young people on a first date, who seem to be having an okay time, but it’s really too soon to tell and they both just look like they need to relax, okay?
-Front-desk employees who appear to have been born and raised in the shoe-rental box
But mostly, of course, we hear the familiar sounds of true bowling: the wobbling thud of timid bowling balls thrown from tender hands, the trundling purr of the gutter’s path, all punctuated with the occasional chorus of singing pins sent packing by marksmen of the lanes.
But if the lanes were made of glass, we would gaze down upon swiftly moving korean ladies serving up food, large happy dudes chuckling to each other as they buy whatever the hell it is they are getting from the market, and bulletin boards populated with “Wanted:” signs that I can’t read, because I’m a regular white dude.
How this union came to be is quite beyond me. Is it a strategic alliance between the military presence of Fairbanks and some lesser-known Korean stronghold? Is it a transcultural affinity for bowling that I didn’t know existed? Mini-Korea seems to exist simply because there is a space for them here, and probably the circuitous real-estate beneath a bowling ally is pretty cheap.
Rarely in life do we wish for a pairing of the most sedentarily-American pastime and the gustative slap that is kimchi, but in Fairbanks all things are possible. For a town that was literally founded by a person crashing a boat and then deciding that of the two options (death being the other), living here seemed the better, it is unsurprising to see such hodge-podged businesses. The spirit of Alaska lives on in the the strange siamese twin of things that huddle together to survive.