Bowling and rolling no more | Best of Chicago 2021 | Sports & Recreation | Chicago Reader

Bowling and rolling no more

Will we ever rent shoes again? It's a required act for two of my favorite activities, one that feels downright irresponsible in a post-pandemic, hyper- hygienic world. Just thinking about being in a bowling alley or a roller rink incites a scent memory of greasy foods, stale beer, sweaty socks—I can practically smell the germs. Still, I miss the lanes at Fireside Bowl, the snack bar at the Fleetwood Roller Rink, the camaraderie and sense of athleticism that both activities afford to even the most sedentary indoor kids.

Roller skating at least took on a life of its own in the past year, thanks in part to viral TikToks and humanity's desire to discover as many new hobbies to distract them as possible. Over the summer, the lakefront trail, parks, and sidewalks were full of skaters in shades and headphones, some skillfully weaving through crowded paths, others slowly scooting and trying their best not to wipe out. Every glimpse of a four-wheeled skate gave me butterflies followed by a deep longing to be sailing in circles under a disco ball to 80s tunes with a rink full of people.

Some speculate that bowling alleys might not survive the pandemic. And it's not hard to imagine why—there hasn't been the same urgency to save recreational spots as there has been for bars, restaurants, and venues, not to mention the "sticking your fingers into holes other people have stuck their fingers into" of it all. But for now, Fireside Bowl's doors remain open (with the proper precautions in place), and once I'm all vaxxed up it'll be one of my first stops to make sure it stays that way. In the not-too-distant future I'll be rolling strikes again. Soon enough, I'll be fishtailing around Fleetwood Roller Rink. And when the time comes, I'll be ready with a gallon of hand sanitizer and my very own pairs of shoes and skates, just to be safe.