BY YESTERDAY MIDAFTERNOON, I was steadily losing my will to live. My daily workflow has slowed down to a bare trickle; our January 2007 newsletter issues are the last that our design group will do before the outsourcing gnomes take over. Each printed advance that comes in puts us one step closer to the end, which could be hastened if it is perceived that we are filling no needed role here. Combine my barren inbox with a short stretch of sleep last night, and the afternoon becomes a deathmarch of futile combat against the opium-scented breath of Morpheus.
I decided to take a walk to wake up. The winter weather had eased somewhat since the morning, but I anticipated that the crisp breezes off the nearby Hudson would invigorate me. My default destination used to be a dog spa two blocks from my building, a storefront in which lazed around a dozen daycare-ditched dogs, draped over leather couches, curled in pools of afternoon sun, or eagerly accepting Liver Snaps from spectators who could buy them from a gumball machine near the entrance. As befalls many small businesses in Manhattan, this one succumbed to a rent hike, which I discovered while seeking refuge one crappy day last month.
At first, I figured I’d just walk along the Hudson for a while, but upon spotting the nearby Chelsea Piers complex, I chose to visit that instead. I’ve never visited this large sports conglomeration. When I noticed that it had a bowling alley, I grew curious. I foresee needing an escape if I am stuck here for the full term and I don’t find a job before the end. A couple of midday games on the lanes might be just the thing to shake loose the cobwebs between sending out interviews and building my experience at Photoshop.
The complex was depopulated. What patrons were there may have been at the gym, out of sight to a casual visitor like myself. Drifting around the grounds, looking for the entrance to the bowling alley, reminded me of a particular theme from some of my dreams. In these, I wander endlessly through a decades-old facility of some type — a high school, college, hospital, or asylum — searching for a way out, but finding locked exterior doors, bolted windows, or no stairwells or elevators in which to descend to ground level. Think of the set design in the institutional scenes of Conspiracy Theory or Jacob’s Ladder and you’ve got an idea of what I mean. I finally found my way to the wing that contained the bowling alley and entered, happy at least to break the connection to my dream-self.
As with the rest of the complex, the bowling alley was thinly patronized. Employees outnumbered bowlers. Bad, light hip-hop played on the house PA system. A young guy was decorating a table along one side, crafting large white napkins into careful sculptures with practiced ease. One of the front-desk crew explained that a birthday party had reserved the joint. Sounded like a fun time. I used to bowl in high school, and a couple of years ago, my gang got on a bowling kick and would roll a couple of games on weekends. This dried up, as will many casual attempts to reconnect with activities of our youth.
I lingered as long as I could stand with the truly crummy music in the background, then headed back the way I came. It was then that I thought about a connection this destination had with current (if comparatively obscure) events — specifically, the death of Robert Anton Wilson.
Wilson, the coauthor of the seminal Illuminatus! trilogy, author on his own of various pieces of conspiracy-nut and anti–control agency fiction and nonfiction, and living prophet of Operation Mind Fuck, died Thursday. Wilson and Illuminatus! collaborator Robert Shea based much of the trilogy on the Principia Discordia, the nongoverning noncanon of the religion of Discordianism. If you ever played the Steve Jackson Games offerings Illuminati or its collectible cousin, Illuminati: New World Order, you owe a debt to the Principia and the aforementioned trilogy. The authors of the Principia, Greg Hill and Kerry Wendell Thornley, first crafted the precepts of this faith in a Whittier, CA bowling alley.
If I had to believe in a religion, I would certainly like to believe in one in which I had been guided to this Chelsea Piers bowling alley by the unconscious Brownian ministrations of Erisian forces.