Words at the Java Lanes

Today’s Zippy strip is a triple riff on masspop culture — on bowling as recreation, on the Googie style of architecture, and on Polynesian-stye “Tiki” culture (architecture, food and drink, and entertainment) — enlivened by our Pinhead’s fascination with words (and the images they call up), here with: bowl, Java, lane, cocktail, alley, ball. Cocktail, with its combination of sexual associations (plus penumbral associations with mai tais and other Polynesian-associated drinks), gets a panel all to itself, so setting the tone for interpreting the rest:

(#1) As usual, the setting is taken from real life; those are drawings of Java Lanes in Long Beach CA (3800 E. Pacific Coast Highway) — but a Java Lanes from the past, since the place was demolished in 2004, almost 20 years ago, to be turned into condos

The historical setting, first from the bowling point of view, then from the architectural and Tiki-culture point of view:

From the Southern LA County USBC [United States Bowling Congress] Association website, “Bowling in the Wind — Java Lanes in Long Beach closes 2004”, posted 7/21/10:

Strike another bowling record.  Long Beach has no alleys to spare as most split long ago. … those with long memories and high scores are estimating various figures of how many alleys populated our town at any one time. Some say the score was as high as 17, though our research reveals that in the bonanza year of 1961, an even dozen bowling alleys existed in Long Beach.

… Built in 1958, Java Lanes and The East Indies Room in Long Beach, CA were part of the wave of Tiki-inspired bowling alleys that popped up across America in the late 50’s. Going to Java Lanes was like “stepping into an island paradise” with its A-frame roof and lava rock walls. It was said to be the very last of the authentic Polynesian style bowling centers in Southern California, and was a Long Beach institution until it was bulldozed in 2004 to make way for condos.

A current map showing the area in question; 2nd & PCH is the condo complex where Java Lanes used to be:


There are still bowling alleys — and roller skating rinks — but these places of massculture recreation have been steadily contracting, as the activities become niche hobbies (in my area, see the Palo Alto Weekly story “Final strike for Palo Alto Bowl: City’s last bowling alley closes after 60 years”, by Casey More on 9/23/11).

Googie and Tiki go bowling. From the SoCal Landmarks site, Category: Long Beach, “Java Lanes”, posted on 1/13/22 by Andy:


Java Lanes was the oldest bowling alley in Long Beach. Built in 1958 by the firm of DeRosa, Daly & Powers, it was the very last of the authentic Polynesian style bowling centers in Southern California. Java Lanes’ swirling neon ‘BOWL’ sign was a stunning example of postwar Googie. Waning business enjoyed a revitalization in the 1990s when restaurateur Mark DiPiazza reactivated Java Lanes’ long-dormant entertainment license, opened the exotic Lava Lounge and put together years of high-energy music shows by local bands and touring acts. In 2002, the Long Beach City Council revoked the venue’s entertainment license in response to increasing complaints from local residents and calls to the police. In 2004, facing slow business, the owners sold their property. A zone change allowed Brookfield Homes to build 79 condominiums on the site.

From the bowling, on to Googie. From my 12/4/09 posting “Weekend comics 2: Googie”:

Googie …  the name of an architectural style of the 1950s and 60s, named after the L.A. coffee shop Googie’s (now demolished). There’s a Wikipedia entry, with pictures.

And then in my 1/15/15 posting “Norms”:


In the news from L.A. today:

Yesterday, the LA Conservancy posted an alert on their website that a demolition permit had been approved for the iconic, Googie-style Norms restaurant on La Cienega at Rosewood Avenue. The Norms chain sold late last year. The eye-catching 1957 building was designed by Googie gods Louis Armet and Eldon Davis, and is both a textbook example of the endangered and whimsical Googie style — the Jetsony look emblematic of Southern California in the Jet Age — and the quintessential California coffeeshop. (link)

And finally from Googie to Tiki. From my 5/2/16 posting “Where is he now?”, about Brad Parker and Tiki culture:

(#5) Trader Vic’s Palo Alto in 2005 (photo by Humuhumu)

(#6) Tiki carving and face masks at the restaurant in 2005 (photo by Humuhumu)

… religious figures and practices are quickly put to popular or folk uses, often coalescing with figures and practices from other traditions entirely; think what’s happened to the Christian figures and rites associated with Christmas, Mardi Gras, Easter, and Halloween. So it was with tikis. From Wikipedia:

Tiki culture is a 20th-century theme used in Polynesian-style restaurants and clubs originally in the United States and then, to a lesser degree, around the world. Although inspired in part by Tiki carvings and mythology, the connection is loose and stylistic, being an American form and not a Polynesian fine art form.

Tiki culture in the United States began in 1934 with the opening of Don the Beachcomber, a Polynesian-themed bar and restaurant in Hollywood. The proprietor was Ernest Raymond Beaumont-Gantt, a young man from Louisiana who had sailed throughout the South Pacific; later he legally changed his name to Donn Beach. His restaurant featured Cantonese cuisine and exotic rum punches, with a decor of flaming torches, rattan furniture, flower leis, and brightly colored fabrics. Three years later, Victor Bergeron, better known as Trader Vic, adopted a Tiki theme for his restaurant in Oakland, which eventually grew to become a worldwide chain. The theme took on a life of its own during the restaurant’s growth in the Bay Area. The Trader Vic’s in Palo Alto [now gone] even spawned architectural choices, such as the concept behind the odd-looking Tiki Inn Motel, which still exists as the Stanford Terrace Inn.

The words and what they evoke. The words are bowl, Java, lane, cocktail, alley, ball. Cocktail is an entertainment in itself, offering both cock and tail. Usable for mantras: cocktail shaker, cocktail waitress, cocktail napkin; champagne cocktail, tequila cocktail, shaken cocktail. (Rehearse them.) The initial Bs and rounded vowels of bowl and ball. The excellent compound ball bat / ballbat, calling up the Dingburger bar bat / barbat. The aggressive name Java.

But, oh the images! Background from my 10/26/26 posting “The counterpart of phallic symbol”:

The counterpart to a phallic symbol is an image that calls up a sexual concavity, or the external appearance of the entrance to such a cavity. Such an image can be interpreted in different ways by different viewers, depending on their sexual desires and practices: a hot dog is a symbolic penis for everyone, but the bun means different things to different viewers.

Another layer of complexity is that actual mouths and lips can serve symbolically as vaginas or anuses, in much the same way that erect nipples on a man can serve symbolically as penises — one body-part standing in for another.

Such cases might provide a route to the term I’m looking for: a bodily concavity that isn’t itself sexual but can stand in for any of the three sexually receptive concavities. I nominate the navel, in ancient Greek the omphalos. So: an omphalic symbol (omphalic already has uses as a medical term).

A bowl is an excellent omphalic symbol. Interior passages (like alleys) are more indirectly omphalic. More generally, there’s a huge trove of symbolic imagery for sexual reference. There we find:

— symbolism of the (external) anus or labia: the rose, especially; but then any entrance (like a doorway) or concavity (like a bowl)

— symbolism of the (internal) rectum or vagina: enclosures (tubes, bags, sleeves, etc.), thoroughfares (alley, lane, etc.; note joking on the idiom up someone’s alley)

— symbolism of the testicles: various round or oval objects (balls, eggs, nuts, etc.)

— symbolism of the ejaculating penis: a firing rocket or gun, a train blasting out of  tunnel, a volcanic eruption — for example, one associated with volcanos on or near the island of Java (the Java in Java Lanes might be taken to refer merely to coffee, but given the Lava Lounge there and other Polynesian features of the place, a volcanic allusion is clear)

So much to ponder while you’re getting your bowling ball out of its bowling bag, so that you can fling it down the lane to smash against the pins, POW!

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