Wacky bowlers illuminate day in dark alley

Originally Published 09/09/99

The scents of stale beer, cigarette smoke and rented shoes greeted me as I opened the door to “Nick” Rinaldi Lanes, at 2945 South Glebe Rd. in Arlington, Va.

The guys responsible for discovering this palace of sketchiness, fully equipped with broken lanes and inexplicable quotes in the company name, were my friends Alex, Mike, Jared and Jeff. (I refrain from including my friends’ last names out of a desire to prevent embarrassment.)

I have known the boys since freshman year, and they have taken me to some strange places – a Greek festival, Paramus, N.J. and Priyu’s birthday bash (an even longer story) – but this bowling alley beat them all.

Making the adventure even more intriguing were Papa and Mama Di Meglio, my parents, whom the boys convinced to come along.

Papa was soon caught up in the idea of a testosterone-filled day of bowling, complete with high-fives and trash talk. At 53, he had no trouble fitting in with college guys. Mama and I were quite proud.

As the banter began, the last thing I expected was meeting other GW students at this real-life throwback to 1950s America. But, as always, destiny had other things in mind.

The day turned into an impromptu reunion of the fourth floor of Thurston Hall, class of 2000, as Alex, Mike, Jared and Jeff ran into some of their freshman-year neighbors. I never lived on the fourth floor, but I hung out with the residents often. Finding more of them here was definitive proof that they were an eccentric bunch.

Thus far, the only one of my freshman boys missing was Gabe. But we found him there too, ironically proving he is one of us despite his many attempts at escaping. This is a valuable lesson for anyone who tries to fake sanity – everyone has a little weirdness in them, so get over it.

Like an afternoon at Sholl’s Cafeteria, locals more outlandish than this flock of GW students streamed into the alley. (I did not think that was possible either.) To the far left, a group of adults wearing Scooby Doo birthday hats cheered at every roll of the ball. On our right were drunken twenty-something men, who used everything from gutter balls to strikes as an excuse to touch their female opponents.

My boys tried to bowl unfazed by the company, but our broken lane proved to be an even bigger stumbling block. The reset button became our dearest companion because the staff was no help. The man behind the counter blatantly ignored our numerous complaints, but even that somehow added to the charm of “Nick” Rinaldi Lanes.

I could not help but delight in this shady haven.

As we settled into our cozy plastic chairs, “Baby when we’re grindin’, I get so excited,” blasted over the falling pins. My Italian aunt refers to this melody, in her broken English, as the “Sex-a-Song.” It never fails to amuse me.

As if that were not enough to keep my spirits high, the wall above the concession stand was painted to resemble the Partridge Family bus. Quite frankly, any place that reminds me of David Cassidy deserves a resounding, “I think I love you!”

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