Monthly Archives: May 2010

‘backyard, alaska’ at MTS

Scenes from a multimedia installation by Michael Walsh.  Featuring Alaskan vernacular artifacts; films with historic and environmental images; and soundscapes.  Visit MTS Gallery Sat. and Sun. noon to 4:00; Wed. and Thurs. 5:00 to 8:00 pm — through June 11th.  3142 Mt.View Dr.

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park lanes, 1961-2010

Bowling was never really my game.  I could roll a strike once in awhile, but usually was lucky to score in triple digits.  So it was easy to forget that there was a full service bowling alley in easy walking distance.  Still, I was disappointed to learn it was closing in April after 49 years in Mt. View.

The building sat in a little hole between the low bluff wedged against six lanes of the Glenn Highway.  The only announcement of its presence within the neighborhood was a tall sign at the corner of Mt. View Dr. and Park St.

Businesses come and go all the time — sometimes even ones that have managed to hang on for two generations or more.  But it seems like kind of a shame to lose a place that’s so much fun.

A friend of mine wondered why Brunswick and other suppliers haven’t been more proactive helping to make sure bowling was still turning up in pop culture.  It’s been a long dozen or more years since The Big Liebowski.

The parking lot was about half full and there were lots of people inside on a sunny spring Saturday.  In the smaller chamber with nine lanes [there are 24 in the main area] a child’s birthday party was being held, and between frames some of the twentysomething adults in the group popped into the lounge next door for shots.

I came back another time when there were only a handful of customers.  I wondered how many people had sat in these seats over the decades, and about everything that had ever happened here.  Bowling can sometimes get ugly [just ask Lesil McGuire] — maybe because it’s one of those sports, like frisbee golf that people do while they’re drinking.

I’ve been wrong about these feelings before but this place gave me the impression it has been mostly the scene of happy interactions.

One Saturday morning there was a youth league there, filling all of the lanes, warming up to compete for a $13,000 first prize.  There are plenty of young teenagers in this town who can throw strikes at will and make it all look easy.

The hand painted mural across the back of lanes 1-24 is a treasure of the building, a whimsical treatment featuring bowling alley elements played out in a typical Alaskan outdoor setting by happy bears and other animals.  The lounge the bears are sitting in is called Clementine’s.

The machines behind the end of the lanes that reset the pins and return the balls were made by AMF, a company that during the 1970s was dominating the sports equipment supply chain.

The machines still work well but also need frequent intervention, when a ball or pin gets stuck.

I can picture this room during the pipeline construction era of the 1970s, jam packed with people boogieing down to funk and disco.

Bartender mixes a couple drinks –she’s been working at this bar since Ronald Reagan’s first term.

League bowler with metal wrist stabilizer guard.

High scores of the month are shown on this charming 1960s board with movable lettering.

Maybe the modern world has too many high tech distractions to make a bowling alley as much of a draw as it used to be?  Spenard’s Center Bowl, five or six miles away and built in 1957 survives, for now.

I drank a beer with a friend on one of the last few days the lounge was open.  The place was mostly darkened and only a couple other people were there.

There are rumors a self storage building will be built on the site. 

[Complete photo collection at my Flickr page.]

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art zine F covers gerstenfeld, street art

The May 2010 issue of F has two excellent articles about Mt. View.

A feature article about local octogenarian and self-described “Mt. View relic” Sol Gerstenfeld.  There’s a little bit about me in the piece, as well — I gave them the story tip.  She does a pretty good job breaking down Sol’s persona, without going too deeply into his philosophy and various endeavors and advocacy work. 

Sol can be a tough case, but he’s also a valuable asset in our neighborhood.  When the neighbors were discussing whether or not they wanted to be annexed by Anchorage in 1954, Sol was probably in the room and can still recall what was said.  He doesn’t focus on the past, though, like a lot of people his age — because it tends to steal energy from current projects.

F also has a story about the Mt. View street art project — how it was funded and planned; the selection process; a bit about the selected artists and installations; and thoughts on the likely impact after the pieces are installed in four or five locations along the length of Mt. View Dr.

Despite ten years of solid work on revitalization and renewal, Mt. View still has a serious image problem [partially deserved; mostly not].  The transformative effects the presence of artists and art making can have are beginning to show.

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