Boo cabs. Hooray bowling!

I’ve wanted to go bowling for awhile now but it’s not an activity which ever really gets worked out in San Francisco. That’s partly because there’s not a bowling alley that’s really convenient – the ones I know of in the city are expensive and either seem to keep odd hours occupied mostly with leagues (Metreon) or are not near public transportation options (Presidio). But a friend of mine turned twenty five this past weekend and there’s something about that quarter century mark that makes some of us kids panic and think we better do something a little bit kid-like, so I finally got invited out bowling. And, although it was something of an ordeal figuring out the getting there and back part, it was absolutely wonderful fun!

On a map, it appears that getting to Presidio Bowling is easy from where I’m at in North Beach. But San Francisco streets are nothing like they appear on two-dimensional maps. It would have taken two buses and some walking to get there. So, we decided to take a cab. Try getting a cab in the northern part of North Beach on a weekend night and you will rapidly realize what a feat it is. There certainly must be a cab stand around here somewhere, but I haven’t found it yet, so we stood on Columbus for more than forty minutes, watching full cabs with their For Hire lights off pass us by. We called the taxi number twice to get a cab, but if one showed up either of those times, someone else must have snagged it before we did. Almost an hour later, we were nearing the bowling alley, and I was beginning to wonder if any sort of bowling could possibly be worth the energy that it took to get out there.

When we arrived, we discovered that the bowling alley is an alley of only twelve lanes. Twelve packed lanes. And that the wait for a lane was an hour – or approximately the length of a cab wait. Which ended up working out okay because it turned out that the birthday boy’s group had as many cab problems as we did (the cab they called came but wasn’t seeing them) and they arrived an hour after we did. That gave us ample time to consume adult beverages and people-watch. The adult beverages came in bottles which were shaped like bowling pins which wowed my roommate and made for great picture taking.

The people watching made for great story telling. Neither my roommate nor I are from here. Where we’re from, bowling takes place in alleys with thirty five lanes filled with diverse people who are best summarily described as “really ghetto”. In San Francisco, at least at Presidio Bowl on this particular night, the twelve lanes were mostly filled with people best summarily described as “yuppie”. The disparity between our previous experiences with bowling alleys and the present experience inspired both of us to remember numerous occasions from those previous times which we shared over our bowling pin beer bottles. It was a far better setting than any bar I’ve been in recently.

And the bowling, once it commenced, was truly fabulous fun. There’s not really much that can be done to make bowling a bad experience for me. It’s basically a fun thing to do. But there are things that can be done to enhance the experience and they were all in place. First of all, there were plenty of fairly light bowling balls in the place, which may sound like not a big deal but I’ve actually had problems at numerous other bowling alleys so this one got points for having the right equipment. Secondly, bowling alleys are required to play good music and Presidio Bowl passed the test. Third, there is okay company for bowling and then there’s really super wonderful fun company for bowling. I was lucky with the latter – a birthday boy charming enough to get a group of people out to the Presidio for bowling on a Halloween weekend night and a group of people who were creative, witty, interesting, entertaining and good, but not excessively good, at bowling so that I was actually able to somewhat hold my own in the game.

At the end of the night, we encountered the cab problem again. We called two of them, and they appeared on a street near the bowling alley but didn’t see us and left. So we called two more and they never showed up at all. So we called a third time, spending probably forty five minutes outside of the bowling alley in weather which was probably nice but felt chilly to us kids from warmer climates. And you know, waiting really wasn’t too bad. The Presidio is a strangely interesting part of San Francisco that I’ve never really taken the time to explore. The nature filling this urban/residential area is unique from that of the other places in the city where I’ve spent time and it creates a crispness in the air which is unlike that experienced elsewhere in San Francisco. It’s a place which I think deserves some more exploration on my part. But that’s another story for another time!

3 Comments so far

  1. Poormojo (unregistered) on October 31st, 2006 @ 8:28 am

    There’s actually a bowling alley that’s very easy to get to from the Colma BART station, it’s seriously just across the road from it. It’s not very fancy, but it’s serviceable and has enough lanes and pinball games to please all.

  2. anna (unregistered) on October 31st, 2006 @ 12:23 pm

    I love taking the bus through the Presidio- it’s like taking the J-Church up through Dolores; pretty public transit! Take 41 to 43, or 30 to 29. Also: the 30 gets you to the Lombard gate and the main post, which is a short walk to the bowling alley. Re: cabs on weekends– esp. if you’re north-north beach, Bimbo’s sucks all of the cabs like a black hole. Go to a fisherman’s wharf taxi line and they have good relationships with cabs and even on notoriously busy times, they’ll hook you up (tip nicely). I recommend the Holiday Inn on Columbus. Big online bus map:, bs lines: 28, 29, 30

  3. Philo Hagen (unregistered) on November 1st, 2006 @ 5:28 pm

    As a cab driver who roams the city at night, I have to tell you that calls from businesses are tricky. Why? Because people often call for a cab and then take the next cab they see, whether they called for it or not. I show up at a business and I don’t see someone, I go in and ask, and no one is there and I find that I’ve wasted my time and gas.

    Another big problem is that most cab companies are radio dispatched, so everyone gets the call and another cab driver may have already swooped in and picked you up, so if you don’t see someone you think you’ve missed out. I drive for Luxor Cab which is computer dispatched – truly a better system for all. The call goes to one driver only, nobody else hears it or receives it, so you have one cab coming to get you and a bigger commitment from the driver to make sure you’re located. No competition. No confusion. No hassle. Give us a try.

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