End of an Alley: Farewell to Leilani Lanes
Sorrows were being actively drowned in the lounge at Leilani Lanes on the night of Friday, March 31. No one watched the bowlers through the tinted windows looking out onto the lanes, but they bowled quickly, with sang-froid and skill; nearly every ball was a strike, and no movement was wasted. Every minute mattered, for at midnight a name would be drawn from a bucket and the last ball ever would be bowled down the glossy blond wood of lane 25. After 44 years of operation, the tiki-themed Greenwood institution will soon meet the wrecking ball, and what passes for progress will continue apace.
Behind the bar, a hand-lettered sign advised "Leilani Drinkin' 1 DAYS LEFT." Upon reaching the front of a long line, everyone ordered doubles, and the implied annihilation of a drink called a Smith & Wesson was in high demand. As his beverages were being mixed, one gentleman requested "a shot of tequila for me to throw back right here"; behind him, another liberated a neon beer sign from a wall ("Where are you going with that?" a bartender with an artificial tropical blossom behind her ear said halfheartedly).
Many commemorative photos were taken, with the lounge's gas fire—suspended under a massive, hammered-metal hood—providing a stygian backdrop. The farewell graffiti that had accumulated in the past weeks ("NO! Say it's not so," "IT'S SO") had been hidden out of respect under a fresh coat of paint, making it almost possible to pretend that it was some other night, that there was more time among the burnt-orange vinyl chairs and bamboo railings and paper garlands.
Back on the lanes, the manager, dapper and sorrowful in a tuxedo, announced a 10-minute countdown until the end. The bowlers bowled faster. In the bar, Sharpies were produced and new graffiti appeared—"Everything has its end but they can't take away our memories," "Ness was laid here a lot!!!" "IN HIS DREAMS."
Soon a chaotic, surreal scene would unfold: a bagpiper playing "Amazing Grace" and treading the patterned carpet solemnly, finally finding a place out in the middle of the lanes while mourners walked or ran or slid up and down the gutters and polished boards, gathering pins as mementos from their formations at each lane's terminus or from the bristling wire pin-setting mechanisms up above. Teenage girls would mill around listlessly, arms full of bowling pins, awash in tears. But first the sad honor fell to one Sharon Guidry—an employee, as was her father and her son—and the collective breath was held, and she bowled gravely, a beautiful curve seemingly destined for a strike. One pin was left standing; the crowd moaned as one. Sharon turned and walked into the open arms of the nearest stranger, saying, "Now I can cry." And she wept.
The effects of Leilani Lanes will be disposed of at public auction on April 11 at 10:00 a.m. (www.murphyauction.com).