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Bye, Kona Lanes and Tiki googie

March 02, 2003

She's old. She's tired. She's not well. Her clothes are tattered and

stained, and her makeup faded away years ago. She's been demeaned,

insulted and abused. And now, the end is near.

Kona Lanes, the grande dame of Orange County's bowling alleys, is

all but done. On Monday last, the Costa Mesa Planning Commission

approved a Kohl's department store for the last remaining piece of

the Mesa Verde Center puzzle, sounding the beginning of the end for

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Kona Lanes.

But don't turn those bowling shoes in just yet. There's at least

one frame left to play.

Mayor Karen Robinson has called up the Kohl's approval to the City

Council for further consider- ation, a bit of deliberation, a dash of

rumination and a dollop of cogitation.

Is "dollop" a great word or what? We should use it more. "Dollop."

There, I just did.

Regardless of what happens to Kohl's, I'm afraid Kona Lanes is

about to be dragged and dropped into the grand recycling bin of

history. By rights, Kona Lanes should have become a fond memory long,

long ago.

To their credit, management has tried everything they could to

keep it alive and then some -- rock bands, contests, giveaways, you

name it.

Kona Lanes is a little bit of 1950s nostalgia, which doesn't buy

much in 2003 Orange County, where the cost of doing business can be

mind-boggling.

The problem isn't bowling itself. Just because you haven't bowled

since Johnny Ray did "Cry" doesn't mean the lanes have gone dark

forever. Bowling may be an occasional, tongue-in-cheek diversion here

in the land of the hip and happening, but in the Midwest and the

South, it's a religion.

I will bet something of great value, for example, that you have no

idea that last Tuesday, at the American Bowling Congress

championships in Knoxville, Tenn., the "Thunderbowl" team from Omaha

surged ahead of the "Supreme Deck" team from Livonia, Mich. in the

final game.

In the heartland, bowling is such a serious business that it has

its own language. Listen to Jay Watts, the "Thunderbowl" team

captain:

"We started out a little slow and waited for the track to break

down a little bit. The second game, we hit the transition, where the

oil carried down and our break point washed out a little bit. We had

to make a bigger step left to get the ball further down the lane."

Holy cow. And all this time I thought the point was to get your

thumb out of the ball.

Still skeptical? Try this:

Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam uses bowling as a social

barometer in his book, "Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of

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