Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A Traveler in a Strange Land

Every time we passed the Berkeley Bowl, one or the other of us said, "Maybe we should go bowling." A perfect activity on one of the many rainy days we've grappled with during our stay in Berkeley. And each time, one of us commented, "I haven't been bowling in years!"

The parking lot at the Berkeley Bowl was always jammed. Drivers waited in their cars until a space opened up or drove around the block and then back again. Even on warm, sunny days, both week and weekend, the place was packed. Bowling and Berkeley made strange bed partners, at least in my mind. But, hey, residents of this progressive town have always been ahead of the curve. Apparently, bowling had regained its popularity like so many other recycled pastime activities.

A few days ago, we mentioned to a local that we were thinking of bowling a few games at the Berkeley Bowl. She started to giggle. Okay, the image of two seniors donning bowling shoes, balancing heavy bowling balls, and mightily throwing the balls in hopes of knocking down a few pins was, well, funny. I guess.

She continued to laugh. "What's so funny?" I said, a bit miffed.

The longtime Berkeley resident tried to stifle her laughter by putting a hand over her mouth. The giggles slid out sideways.

I didn't get the joke and found myself getting angry. "Okay, fill us in," I said, unable to hide my growing frustration.

My husband joined in. "Is bowling uncool or something?"

Unable to stop giggling, the loca l- now our nemesis - tried to answer his question. Her answer was unintelligible.

I'd had enough. It's one thing to guffaw at somebody else's expense but quite another to keep up the game.

Now aware of our growing angst, the dear local took her hand away from her mouth and managed to spit out in bits and spurts, "The . . . Berkeley Bowl is . . . a . . ." Here she started to laugh hysterically. "It's a grocery store."

The next day, I checked the place out. Sure enough, our bowling alley was a 40,000-square-foot warehouse-like building with rows and rows of everything that is grown on this green Earth. The speciality here is produce, and the BB boasts the largest selection in northern California. Want green almonds? They're here. Need California red velvet apricots? They've got em'. In fact, the market's Web site boasts that that this is the place for just about any hard-to-find produce item. Bins and bins of nuts, mushrooms, squash, potatoes - the list is endless.

Come to think of it, one of those big purple heads of cabbage would make a great bowling ball.

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