Drooling on the Pillow

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

The Zen of Skee-Ball 

My favorite boardwalk is Point Pleasant. As I crossed the hump of my mid-teens and my taste in mischief grew a little darker, I spent some time in Seaside Heights. But that really is a nasty town, or, at least it was in the late '60s and you could get in a world of trouble there without really trying. I'm not a hard guy, I'm not any more than more than normally self-destructive and I can be frightened, so I usually found myself drifting away to more family-oriented dens of iniquity.

Asbury, apart from the music, was already terminal. By the way, did you know Southside Johnny is touring again? July 3rd at the Stone Pony pavilion, some August dates at Martell's Tiki Bar in Point Pleasant. These are not exactly stadium dates.

I'd get up as far as Keyport and down as far as Beach Haven, but the vast majority of the time spent looking for drugs, girls and liberal carding policies was spent in Point Pleasant. Just enough carney, not too much carnage. And Jenkinson's is a great beach.

But the two summers I spent working the boardwalk were in Manasquan. Just over the inlet, it was a smaller, paler version of a boardwalk town. It was like a little town in Ohio had been transported to the beach and given a boardwalk and they didn't really know what to do with it.

I was a change boy. That's right, kids, they used to pay people to hand out change. And to do some of the simpler maintenance and fixes on the games. When the crane started picking up and depositing toys in the bucket with every nickel play, I knew how to loosen the slack so that every player was a loser.

Like I say, Manasquan boardwalk was not a happening place and most of our traffic consisted of people for whom Point Pleasant was too racy. Or were too dumb or lazy to find their way to Rt. 71. And when the weather was a little messy we had no traffic at all.

Which is how I became master of Skee-Ball.

Hour after hour, sometimes day after day I bowled those wooden balls, my arm swinging like a metronome. I heard it my sleep like this: rrrrrrummmm-punk, rrrrrrummmm-punk, rrrrrrummmm-punk. At the end of the summer Mr. Constantine was letting me lock up so I would stay an hour or two and practice.

50s are easy, 100s are hard. That's the main thing. You want to bank it off the same point on the side wall every time. At the same speed. That way you avoid the bubbles and bumps on the alley. But every alley is different. I would master one and then start on another. I found, though, that after I mastered three or four alleys I could go to any Skee-Ball game on the shore and my second game would be all 100s. My consecutive 100 record was in the low three figures.

The other thing is, it's not like riding a bicycle. I was humiliated by Grace not too long ago at a Chuck E. Cheese. I acted all happy for her and everything. But it hurt.
Weblog Commenting and Trackback by HaloScan.com Listed on BlogShares