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The vibe at Windsor Bowl is similar, at least at 5pm. In the warm, wood-paneled interior, a group of men discuss their local Elks Club. A woman sits at the far end of the bar, nursing a beer, and remarks sadly, "I remember the day I turned 40."
And at Double Decker in Rohnert Park, bar manager Shelly Brewer says there's a steady group of older regulars—"some of them really old"—who come in for a drink every day after work. In the 12 years she's been here, a number of them have passed away.
"There's no real label to who comes in here—they're from all walks of life," she says.
But as the Friday evening hours tick by, Double Decker increasingly swells with younger people who weren't even alive when a dollar would rent four pairs of bowling shoes—and it's precisely the bar's dated, dive aesthetic that draws them, according to O'Halloran and Byrd, who sit across from each other on a pair of leather couches like foils in a bromance.
"Nowadays, people go out to get laid or get on the dance floor," O'Halloran says. "Bowling alley bars are still a little bit of a secret, so no one's putting on airs."
He has perfect posture, a black coat and says I should refer to him in this piece as "an Adonis in a scarf." Byrd, meanwhile, sports a T-shirt and slicked-back hair, and sprawls across the couch in a leisurely slouch as he names the supposed vices of other local watering holes. They suffer from a host of things, he says: fraternity assholes, sorority girls, people the pair went to high school with and bathrooms full of pubic hair.
"The thing about this is it's blue-collar," O' Halloran says.
They two both work—one at UPS, the other as an EMT—and live with their parents. Neither of them went to SSU. They met in high school at Rancho Cotate, in a scenario involving a comic book store, an Iron Maiden concert or one of their sisters, but because they keep revising the story, I can't know which one is actually true.
I ask if their lifestyles fit with the working-man image they're conjuring, or if they are, in fact, simply hipsters hopping on the next trend.
"Fuck, yes," says Byrd, when I ask if they're actually blue-collar. "I leave work sweating every day after busting my ass. I'm not part of that hipster bullshit."
But O'Halloran is less sure.
"I guess this is the new cool, like intentionally going to a thrift store," he says.
"We're part of it," he concludes, after considering for a moment and looking genuinely sad. "I should just go hop on my fucking fixed-gear. We're part of the scene that is ruining the bowling alley bars."
After that, their discussion gets heavy. They talk about unions, guns, Nintendo 64, "the fucking iPad," the feeling of disdain they have for other Millennials and their lingering fear that they won't be able to hand a life of security and comfort to their own children in this insecure, post-recession world.
"Our generation is lost," 23-year-old O'Halloran concludes.
On the small stage, a karaoke regular I'd met earlier named Karla Mayer belts out "lordy, lordy, lordy, lordy" and assures the Friday-night crowd that freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose. Her soulful voice fills this room full of pool tables and Cubs fans and care-worn young adults, warming and soothing a glass full of something amber and familiar knocked back again and again.