•    Melody Lanes and its unusual Bartender   


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    A popular bowling alley that attracts the residents and the visitors alike, Melody Lanes must be a landmark of some sort. It is historical. Step inside and feel the old wooden floor, R&B music, and an aura of laid-back professionalism from aged, old-school bowlers who are leisurely executing their skills. At the center of the bowling alley is a small barroom with an Italian bartender, whom we encountered serendipitously and had a conversation that did not quite turn out the way we expected.

    Our Journey to Melody Lanes

    Getting off at 9th Avenue on a D train, we walked on 37th Street along the cemetery in the direction of 5th Ave. There it was, at the intersection of 37th St. and 5th Ave, but only after checking out the cemetery did we visit Melody Lanes. We looked around inside the bowling alley and began talking to a woman managing the front desk. She has been working there for 13 years, and though she used to live 5 blocks away from Melody Lanes, she currently resides in another nearby neighborhood. (Bay Ridge, if I remember correctly) When asked a question about the ethnic makeup of Sunset Park and how it has changed over the years, she gave us some insight.

    “I feel that it used to be much more Hispanic, but now there are Chinese and others,” she testified to the growing diversity. Then came a string of phone calls, which abruptly stopped our conversation, and a bartender, who came back after changing his clothes, invited us to his spot.

    Our Encounter with Peter Napolitano

    In a crisp, white dress shirt and a red bowtie, Peter Napolitano was more than just a hearty, high-spirited bartender. Regulars called him “Pete” and exchanged relaxed greetings and smiles with him. Enclosed by three transparent glass walls without a door, the rectangular barroom was open and inviting. I easily figured he was a veteran bartender, from the way he conducted his business, but alas, no one of us expected our “interview” to veer off into something so… metaphysical? Philosophical?

    He made us sit down and insisted that we do not have a conventional interview, in which one person keeps asking questions to another. Being “comfortable” with each other was the key. “A.C.E. (Analyze, Conclude, and Embrace) the moment,” he said with much energy. “This need not be some business matter. We need not be strangers, eh?”

    Peter the Bartender had an impressive philosophy of his own: the theory of existence and human relationships, somehow all based on the “A.C.E.” idea. From one of his drawers, he pulled out a bunch of papers with geometrical shapes and calculus that supposedly outlined his philosophy, (in my opinion, it was all nonsense calculus that did not have much to do with his philosophy. Sorry, Pete) as well as a New York Times article written about him.

    The interview turned into some kind of mentor-mentee talk. He dragged the conversation as long as our ears could afford, occasionally sipping from a plastic cup containing Jose Cuervo tequila. We hoped to elicit answers about the immigration history of the neighborhood, although he would always end up talking about his philosophy. Following Katie’s suggestion, I asked, “How has the clientele changed over the years??”

    “This is a magical place,” he remarked. He has been working there almost 20 years and served “Africans, [people from] Far East, Middle East…” He lived in Bay Ridge all his life and was a drummer at one point.

    Pete was a genial papa figure to his regulars.