Bowling Alone

Arcade Lanes is nothing fancy, and Jim Lampson likes it that way. Could this faded jewel be the best bowling alley on earth?

Lampson says he got into the business because he liked watching people jump in the air, and he still does, even if there are fewer strikes to celebrate. He's been here more than 10 hours now, staying late because he didn't have a bartender lined up and a woman called asking whether he'd be open. While he waits for her, a couple of guys show up who stopped by for the first time a few days ago. They were on their way to pick up some takeout food then, but they're back for beer and billiards. As Lampson shows off his Victrolas, one of them tells him he can't believe he's lived just around the block all these years and had never heard about this place. They stay for nearly two hours, not caring that it's too cold to remove their sweaters and wool caps.

The woman who called earlier shows up at 8 with her boyfriend. Both are in their early 20s, and she's entranced by Lampson, who flirts using a license that comes with age. "You're funny!" she giggles as he pantomimes his ear-kissing technique that is guaranteed irresistible. Lampson heads to the jukebox as they stroll to the lanes. Tonight, the music's on him, and he picks it perfectly. By the end of the second song, there's as much necking as bowling going on at lane 7. Behind the bar, Lampson jitterbugs with a make-believe partner to the sounds of "Cab Driver" by the Mills Brothers. He leans over to steal a glimpse at the happy couple and comes up satisfied.

Arcade Lanes is one of two upstairs bowling alleys in St. Louis County.
Jennifer Silverberg
Arcade Lanes is one of two upstairs bowling alleys in St. Louis County.
Arcade Lanes is one of two upstairs bowling alleys in St. Louis County.
Jennifer Silverberg
Arcade Lanes is one of two upstairs bowling alleys in St. Louis County.

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