bowling alone

I’m no athlete, though I can kick the occasional ass in badminton.  My parents hoped for a well rounded, renaissance woman.  And for the most part, I am, all except for the athleticism.  Though I can swim, and I’ve a killer two-handed tennis backhand swing.  My mother forced three years of tennis lesson upon me; don’t worry, no one can tell.  I tried Lacrosse, and played sweeper and stopper on the JV and Varsity soccer teams in high school.  I was even a cheerleader, but don’t be confused, it had nothing to do with coordination, and everything to do with my enormous set of… lungs.  I was a student and an actor, a painter come weekends.  And in the winters, my mother took me to the Country Club to bowl.  Um, yeah.  Surprisingly, it wasn’t nerdy.  Italians aren’t nerds; they’ve got too much testosterone, or hair, to be nerds.  In the summers at my Italian country club I swam, on a team, competing and winning trophies and gold medals.  It was the only sport in which I’ve ever excelled.  But come winter, there was bowling at the clubhouse.

Bowling Alone

I never “got” people who owned their own ball until Smelly.  My college roommate Smelly is getting married this August.  From impressive invitations to her man, Smelly knows what she wants and gets it.  Smelly is an entertainment attorney with beautiful features, a kind manner, and an honest laugh.  Smelly is a perfectionist with her own bowling ball… or at least she threatened to buy one last time I told her we were headed to Bowlmore Lanes.  Wow, I thought she meant business.  Actually, she meant sanitation.  You couldn’t pay Smelly enough money to use a community ball.  She’d buy her own, and use it once, bag and all, before sticking her fingers on community balls.  Some girls get the rep of “community chest.”  They hop into bed with anyone when they’re drunk.  Smelly is cautious, and wouldn’t hop into anything, and never mind if balls are involved.  I mean, you’re just begging for disinfectant.   Thankfully her fiancé is just as anal, following me around their apartment with an outstretched hand, covered by a napkin.  He probably sleeps with a Dustbuster under his side of the bed; he despises crumbs.  I can’t think of a better match.  So they’re off the market, now, and if they go bowling, it’s not in a league; they’re in a league of their own.

In our busy syndrome lives we face an unavoidable consequence: “we increasingly shun civic or social duties in favor of more solitary pursuits.”  We’re bowling alone.  We watch TV and surf at home rather than participating in collective activities.  Bowling alone was popularized in 1995 by Robert Putnam in an essay titled, “Bowling Alone: America’s Declining Social Capital.”  Putnam believed we’re becoming “increasingly disconnected from our neighbors and communities, leading to the erosion of civil society.  More Americans than ever were bowling, but bowling league participation was down 40 percent since 1980.”

This got me thinking, in this meth-paced world of ours we’re more alone than ever before.  We’ve got online dating services, more luxuries and services to increase efficiency, yet we’re all too busy.  Every time I ask anyone how they are, what’s new, they quip, “Work, busy.  Swamped.  Same old.  Same old.”  We’re so busy we speak machine gun; those complete sentences become obsolete.  We multi-task and background people.  No one wants to feel backgrounded, denied full attention while our friend multi-tasks and offers the occasional “Hmm.  Sounds good.”  They’re instant messaging while you’re crying your life.  We’re isolated, even with friends sometimes.  And you can just forget your neighbors in Manhattan.  I don’t know any of mine, despite my “Good Morning”s and terrific smile.

So I got to thinking, what would they do if I baked brownies (with nuts because that’s the only respectable way, despite all the possible allergies) and introduced myself?  When is the appropriate time to do the stop by, to introduce the brownies and myself?  I mean, I don’t know these people, what if I interrupt their dinner or lovemaking?  What if someone answers his door in his panties?  I’ve seen the people on my floor, and believe me, there’s no possible date… besides, don’t shite where you eat.  This isn’t, I want more friends.  This is, I want to be a neighbor, an active, kind one, who people come to for sugar or a single egg.  I think I’ll do it, despite my hatred for baking.  Hey, you never know, maybe we’ll go to Bowlmore, drink and kick some ass on the alley.  Or maybe I’ll just get more smiles in the elevator.



  1. I miss those days too. Except sometimes the people were weird who invited me in… one older woman offered me pepsi. Okay, nothing weird there, until she poured it into a glass then poured in some milk. You got cookies. I got pepsi milk.

  2. Hey, bowling is fun –even if you have to play with "community balls." I hadn't been bowling in years until recently, and now I'm addicted. I even want my own ball. *egads*

  3. Darren's right… Don't sweat the door knocking. Would YOU answer the door if you had better things to do??

    You're dealing with the "Ease with the Neighbors" quotient, which holds that your level of comfort with your neighbors is in inverse proportion to how likely they are to have heard your headboard banging against the wall the night before. That's why neighbors in the 'burbs aren't afraid of talking over the fence or waving at each other when they pick the morning paper off the lawn.

    You could leave a small basket with a bit of sugar, an egg or two, and a pint of milk. Then put in a note saying "Just in case you ever needed these, but didn't ask."

    Then again, that's how Martha got started, and look where she's ending up.

  4. A couple thoughts:

    You could go with the "Friends" Monica moment when she made candy for everyone and put it on her door in order to meet more of the neighbors, but that didn't work so well. Hopefully you don't have a "Joey" across the hall so it might work better for you.

    Just bake brownies (leave out the nuts BECAUSE of the allergy thing) and just take them on some idle Saturday afternoon. I for one usually don't answer the door / phone when I am getting my groove on so you shouldn't worry about getting some one in mid .

    I agree we should get to know our neighbors better. I am guilty of not really knowing mine, or hating mine. I know as a kid I knew ALL my neighbors to the point where I would get invited into their houses for a cookie and soda or something of that nature. I miss those days!!

  5. Brian,

    I live in the burbs (NJ) and my neighbors are so unfriendly. Just they other day when I was trying to back out of my driveway and my neighbors were standing at the end of the driveway. I asked them to move and got the hand waved hush…My neighborhood is so full of crappy people. I would sometimes rather them be able to hear the headboard banging against the wall, that way I knew I annoyed them as much as they annoy me.

  6. When I lived in NYC, I never knew my neighbors, just the doormen if I had them. And that's a whole other dimension. Friends, but during the holidays don't even dare mention brownies. I think it's city living. In the burbs now, I have neighbors I adore, the ones that are ready to feed you if you even think about food. And I have neighbors I have to be very cautious around, you know the ones.

  7. I have lived in my building for 3 years and I don't know a single person. In fact, I don't even think I have ever seen the same person twice. The only person I often see other then my dry cleaner is my neighbor who is always standing outside walking her dog. But she is always wearing such an unhappy face so I never say hello. I have often thought about anonymously posting all the doors on the street with a poster for a "block party" on some given Saturday and sees who shows up. However I never will because it takes too much effort and isn't that your point…were all to damn busy.

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