Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Junking find (bowling related)

We won't say who specifically, but rumor has it that one of the esteemed members of Team Third Rail has a spouse particularly gifted at the art of junking. But did she find one of these? Or, better put, five of these? For $2? We think not. So what if they're from a rival alley. They have been washed and readied for our Sunday gathering. Because what could be better than a green, bowling mug full of Stella?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

January 16: Overcoming Inertia

Sunday night, we at Third Rail faced an interesting phenomenon: Bowling inertia. Okay, I can remember Mr. Stern, my 9th grade physics teacher, stressing that “inertia is not a force.” That may be true. But inertia could not be denied Sunday night.

At least the Hoff admitted it. She didn’t totally feel like bowling. Heresy! I felt the same way. For me, it was the Patriots game. I don’t watch a ton of football, but playoff time, with the Jets at the stadium, you’ve got to watch. And early in the week, as I considered the schedule, it became abundantly clear that I’d be facing at least the second half on that teensy, alley screen, sandwiched by bowling score monitors.

Okay, fair enough. I’d taken a few weeks off and needed to be part of the team. But when the Pats game went south, that first round became even more aggravating.

Of course, as the great John Lydon once howled, anger is an energy. My strategy is  always to throw the ball hard. With Brady tanking, I ended up with a 178 on the first game, beaten only by a single point by Varsity and his shiny, new ball.

So what do we do when we don’t totally want to engage in the sport? Let’s quote a football coach for relevance. And to make this more confusing, let’s quote a football coach about another athletic activity.

“There are days when you don’t feel like running,” Tennessee Titans coach Jeff Fisher told Runner’s World in a 2006 interview. “Those are the days you have to do it. Discipline is doing what you don’t want to do so you can do what you really want to do. Got it?”

There’s no quitting in bowling. Didn’t somebody once say that? And we didn’t quit. We actually had a pretty solid Sunday. My scores were my best. Varsity seemed to get a handle on his ball. And Hoff and Flo were steady on their averages. At the end, we seemed to have won every game, despite one of our opponents scoring the quietest 256 in the history of the sport. Bless you, bowling handicap.

A funny thing happened on our way to the second game. The Patriots were toast and I realized I was free. Free to chat. Free to devote the next few Sundays to whatever I might desire. Free to consume the amazing cookies one of the other league members had baked.

I realized that Mr. Stern was right. Inertia was not a force. The Third Rail’s mojo was back.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Team Abides

abide: To remain stable or fixed in some state or condition; to continue; to remain.

It's August 2010. You're facing a string of indefinite Sunday nights. You drive past the Lanes marquee: Fall Leagues Now Forming. New IronMan Pinball.

It all swirls in your mind: memories of bygone crashing pins and foamy beers. Keno at the bar in 1997. The fact that a friend sent you "Let's Go Bowling" as a "song of the day". Your amusement at The Big Lebowski. You decide to BOWL.

You find yourself calling to ask how to form a team. How many members do you need? How many subs can you have. (You know you won't be able...willing? bowl EVERY Sunday from now to May 2011). You poll all able-bodies associates. Who likes to bowl? Who maybe likes to bowl? Who doesn't give a shit about bowling but is willing to leave the known behind and enter League Land for 3 hours once a week? Far-reaching pleas are issued on Facebook and at casual coffee shop encounters to RECRUIT.

You find yourself with an unlikely cohort of filmmakers, homemakers, thinkers, drinkers, smokers, jokers, and midnight tokers willing to roll the big balls. 

You realize you have no idea what this all really means: voting in a league-wide ratification of rules you don't understand; a weeks long hunt for bowling shoes (maroon with green and gold accents and white rubber soles--DON'T WEAR ON THE STREET!); Internet searches for bowling techniques and ball-selection tips; familiarization with phrases such as "That lane bites" and "Pick that shit up"; a membership to the U.S. Bowling Congress (membership card now residing in wallet);  a bank account-draining, cash-only $21/week pony for the "pleasure ?" of barely breaking 100 and solidifying your spot as the team's "anchor woman"; an existential crisis around whether you should have committed to such a long, long season; a muscle strain that screams how pathetically weak you really are and puts you off the team for a relieving but at the same time frustrating 2 months; a compelling desire to show up on league night anyway and drink copious amounts of beer (warning sign, anyone?); STRATEGY.

Weeks go by, and you find yourself heckling your teammates into bowling better because you NEED to be in the top 2 teams in the league.'s $1500 championship money on the line, OK!!??!! Emails fly with thoughts on who should bowl, when, why, who should sub, why and why not. Team members find themselves psyching themselves up in the men's room between frames. You feign shock and laugh about it, but secretly you hope it fucking works to increase the score.

Oh my god, WTF?!? You find yourself wondering...Am I competitive? ABOUT BOWLING?!?

You can't believe it's true. This was just for fun! Forget the bowling. Let's Party. You issue an invitation to your house to just be with your bowling team and celebrate the League half-season with a potluck dinner and a nice chill evening.

You're ready: Bowling bevie naps. Third Rail lightning bolt cake. 

Friends arriving with booze and good cheer. You start playing records. A new team theme song is established. 

White Russians are flowing. You put on the Big Lebowski. Suddenly, you don't just love the IDENTIFY with it! Walter won't miss league night, even if there's a toe on the line. Jesus is resplendent in his purple pantsuit with matching socks and shoes (you WANT to be able to pull that off next Sunday).

The Dude is your hero.

You wake up the next morning with a hammer in your head and a pounding in your heart, and despite the nausea and the vertigo (or maybe because of it), you know: Yes, I am a League Bowler. 

Second half of the season starts Jan 2. Forget the top 2, there's only one winner. LET'S GO THIRD RAIL BOWLING CLUB!!!!!!!! WOOOOHOOOO!!!!!!!!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Weeks 12, 13, 14: Rumdog Reminisces!

My dear friend Al has a bum shoulder. Horrible for her, fortuitous for me as her stand-in on the Third Rail Bowling Team. Al eased my reservations about being a shitty bowler (no doubt she desperate to ease the shooting pains in her right arm):

“You don’t need to be good, you just need to improve”

“You’ll love these guys, they are hilarious”

“There’s beer drinking even!”

So I was sold, but still nervous. I had no idea how freaking cool this was going to be.

Here’s what’s been going on at the lanes for the last 3 weeks.

The Third Rail has won some major awards for high scores over averages: Flo won an 18lb turkey and The Hoff a Pinot duo.

The team has been employing a bunch of self help tactics to get them through some tough rounds:

Varsity has been talking to himself in the men’s room mirror. Edge, rejected the suggestion that he do the same after returning from a week hiatus.

Flo and Hoff tried imagining themselves the protégés of a handsome, fictional, foreign bowling coach named Ricardo.

I’ve been working to improve enough to be invited back by taking in all the great advice everyone from the shoe rental guy to our opposing teams has been offering up. While the advice is all valid, I must admit that most of it beyond, “stop thinking, keep drinking” and “pick that shit up” has been lost on me. I’m trying to stay positive.

This past Sunday Varsity made a huge breakthrough due to the help of G the super-sub. See, the third rail is lacking “stuff”, troll dolls, resin hand drying bags, etc. This week we were down one bowler and enlisted G’s help. Varsity enjoyed a high score the first round and was quickly disappointed in his performance in the second. We thought we would lose him to the men’s room for the rest of the evening until something clicked, and he asked G to use his towel. This may be Varsity’s new secret weapon.

...but still, the Third Rail needs some “stuff”.

I can’t let this post pass without mentioning the Edge’s bowling road show. Please see the video two posts down and be amazed. I was humbled. Bowling etiquette be damned, this is something to see.

Thanks for enduring this post. I promise to be better next time. This is my mantra, for bowling and blogging.

The Scores:
Week 12 The Thanksgiving Bowl!

E: 55/74/104
Hoff: 102/134/136
Varsity: 166/125/122
Flo: 104/136/90 ** winner of an 18lb turkey!

Week 13
Edge: 95/148/144
Hoff: 164/136/135
Varsity: 165/110/120
Flo: 96/135/93

Week 14 Bowling for Wine!
E: 99/95/118
Hoff: 142/162/163 ** winner of TWO bottles of wine!
Varsity: 165/124/130
G-Sub: 181/176/206

Sunday night's the last bowl for 2010! Come on down to Lanes and Games to cheer us on. Third Rail is currently in 5th place and hoping to move up the ranks to earn a CASH prize. We realize this is a long shot; but here's hoping our handicaps help us out. The Hoff promises to bring her wine & dixie cups for all to share ... we may even have a cheese ball.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Week 14: Behind the Scenes

The Edge hinted last week that the blog is getting stale. We need new posts. Not only do we need to up our bowling game; we need to keep the blog up to date! Readers haven’t heard that Flo won an 18 lb turkey at the Thanksgiving bowl or that Varsity heads to the men’s room to give himself pep talks when he’s off his game. I will leave these stories for the real blog update. I’m here to assure you that, while there hasn’t been a new blog post online, there has been plenty of writing behind the scenes!

As you know, Al abdicated her captain position TEMPORARILY; however, she is still very much involved managing the new captains who haven’t figured out team strategy and the importance of pre-game motivational emails. Here’s just a hint of how fun it is to be on the Third Rail EMAIL list ....

As I put my kids to bed Saturday night, I happened to check email …

From: Al
To: Flo
Subject: Weird dream

Hey Flo,
I had a bizarre dream, that you sent out a message today about who's bowling tomorrow night. Anyway, do you know who's attending? Do I need to pay for a sub?

I fired off a quick email to Al and then another one to the team …

From: Flo
To: Al
Subject: RE: Weird dream

A weird thing to dream about for sure! I can send out an email to all ... It's going to be The Hoff, E and Varsity tomorrow night. Our subs couldn't bowl so I think it's just three.

From: Flo
To: Third Rail Bowling
Subject: Sunday’s line-up

Tomorrow's line-up:
The Hoff
Varsity / Twinkletoes
E "needs a nickname"

I will miss you tomorrow! I hope there's lots of action tomorrow, we have two more Sundays to move up in the standings ... show me the money!

I finished putting my kids to bed and was satisfied I had fulfilled my duties as co-captain. Around noon on Sunday, I logged on to email to find that my teammates had been busy …

From: Al
Subject: RE: Sunday’s line-up

I've been thinking about the sub vs bowling with three. If G is there, you're probably better off getting him to bowl as the 4th-he's unlikely to bowl 10 under his average, which is what we will automatically get for our missing bowler. I will pay for the 4th bowler, regardless of what you do.

May stop by for a beer, Al

ps-How bout the Rumdog for E?

From: Al
Alternate spelling: Rumdawg (tougher?)

From: Varsity
Dawg is always tougher- and much cooler.

From: The Hoff
The question is, can we afford to sacrifice Varsity's score for G's...?

From: Varsity
As in he will psych me out? I'm already playing crappy.

From: The Hoff
Yeah, that's what I was thinking, V -- we all know G messes with your head.

From: Varsity
I'll be fine. Only one person messes with my head... Me.

This is when I realized I failed in writing an appropriate pre-game email!

From: Flo
OMG! When Al sent me a friendly email reminder last night asking me to confirm Sunday's line-up, I thought she meant ... remind everyone to come on down to Lanes and Games at 6:30pm Sunday for some bowling and beers. Silly me! In hindsight, I realize I did not read between the lines to see that I was supposed to send out an email outlining our strategy going into week 15 and ensuring a spot in the top 3. I am clearly not cut out for the captain position!

Here is my last ditch effort ....

Third Rail is in 4th place going into tonight's competition. We have two more tries to break into the top three! I believe we have a chance. E has her handicap and, if she bowls above average, has the best chance to move us up. I do not remember whether the Capitalists or Socialists won the vote for cash distribution, i.e. whether winner takes all or the money is split three ways. Regardless we need to up our game, I'd love to see some cash!

My vote is E should henceforth be know as "Rumdog". Once her average is over 100, she evolves to "Rumdawg" and when she breaks 130 she's "DAWG!" ... hey, everyone needs a goal! Obviously, I have been watching too much Pokemon. For myself, I hope to evolve from "Fat Ass" to "Bad Ass" by spring!

Rumor has it Al is stopping by for beers ... you know she's really coming to make sure you aren't slacking and costing us much needed points!

Drink a beer for me!

p.s. Hoff, as co-captain, please arrive at Lanes and Games early in order to place inspirational post-it notes on the men's bathroom mirror.

From: E
Heading to the lanes this afternoon to practice ;)

From: E
PS...I will deny, if asked in public, ever going to a bowling alley by myself ;)

From: The Hoff
Oh, man, I love my bowling team! So Flo, in terms of WINNING!!, do
you think we should have G sub, or go with The Edge's average?

Taking suggestions for post-it notes?
"They're just jealous"?
"You're a better dancer"?
"Your balls are your friends"?

From: Flo
I leave the decision of G or no G to you co-Captain ... boy, am I glad tonight is the night I'm missing. Too much pressure!

I like the Stuart Smalley approach to self help ...
"I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and, doggonit, people like me! "
"I deserve good things. I am entitled to my share of happiness.
I refuse to beat myself up. I am attractive person.
I am fun to be with. "

"Pick that shit up"
"Let's see some pin action"

The post game wrap up …

From: Varsity
The Hoff and Rumdog bowled AWESOMELY tonight. Rumdog had a killer last game and Hoff won two bottles of wine during the second game for highest over average.

From: The Hoff
Not sure how it will all pan out in the standings, but Rumdog and I were both pretty well over.

A good night!

From: The Edge
Great job... Now who is blogging!?!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Greatest bowling shot ever (by Edge)

Let's set the scene, it's past midnight in St. Louis and I'm hanging with a group of guys I met at the film festival, plus by Boston pal Chico. When the festival party winds down, we head down the street to Pin-Up Bowl, a sort of hipster hang-out that's mainly a bar but has about a dozen alleys in back.

Lots of guys with thick beards and tattoos - but less biker and more post-college-I'm-in-a-band-way. Smoking is legal in bars, restaurants, everywhere. So we're soaked in Marlboros as soon as we arrive. And what are we going to do? Hang out in a circle and chug Bud Lights. Nah. We're grown ups. We're going to bowl.

Except for the fact that it's packed on a Friday night and the guy who runs the alley tells us to come back "tomorrow, at noon" if we want to bowl. Heh, heh. So I say to my buddy Chico, "let's try the chair in the alley trick. Gets 'em every time." Never mind I'd never tried the trick. I did see a man who looks like a professional (real shirt, crowd, televised) do a version on YouTube.

But I said it to Chico only really in passing. Having a few weeks of experience on our Sunday league, I realized nothing could be ruder than walking into somebody else's game and putting a chair in their lane.

But Chico isn't on the team. He just wanted to see something interesting. So he grabs a chair, walks into an alley where a group of architecture school grad students are bowling, and sets it down. They stop and look. Now I can't avoid the inevitable.

I play it cool. Nobody knows me here and I figure I can fake my way through to an extent. I pick up a 15. Too heavy. I walk back and try a 10. Hmmm. That might work.

Then, as anybody will attest to on the Third Rail team, I use my normal approach. No thought. No pause. Just jog up there and toss that sucker toward the pins. And toss I did. It sailed halfway down the lane through the air, thumped on the floor on the other side of the chair and thwack. Strike.

"Oh my god," somebody howled. 
"Are you a professional bowler?" another asked, before buying me a beer.

I didn't answer, lest the truth come out. I also didn't pick up a ball the rest of the night - there's no way I was going to sully the magic moment. (Footage is courtesy of Sean Wainsteim.)

To see the shot, go here.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Week 11: The Hoff's Turn

Confession time: Sunday night was the third day in a row last week
that I visited Lanes N’ Games. It has become my home-away-from-home.
The shag carpet wall tapestries, the flag-stone Brady-Bunch stairway,
the sound of the balls rolling and crashing into the pins like waves
at the beach... to me, it’s now as peaceful and welcoming as a zen
garden. Sadly, I am not even being ironic.

It was an eventful night, though our bowling was lukewarm at best.

Cap’n Al is injured, and has taken herself out of the line-up until
January. After a rousing game of not-it, she handed over Temporary
Co-Cap’nship to me and Flo. We will struggle to follow in her
footsteps, gifted as she was at interpreting the byzantine policies
and practices of the League. The good news is, Cap’n Al shares my love
of the Lanes N’ Games ethos, and will join us for beers and
camaraderie whenever she can, until she is back in top bowling

The Edge’s plea for subs last week paid off doubly. DL, who has been
on the roster since we began, but had yet to materialize, finally
came, shared a beer, checked out the scene, and got his league card,
though he didn’t bowl. Apparently, there was more than one strategy
employed to get him there: Al had cleverly tried flattery, and told
him he was our last hope, and we needed him to “save” the team; the
Edge had taken the opposite tack and challenged his manliness,
suggesting perhaps he was sca-oowed and his Mommy wouldn’t wet him
because she didn’t want hims to get huwt. I don’t know DL well enough
yet to make an educated guess about which of these tactics was the
effective one. Anyway, we’re glad one of them worked.

Our other new sub, E, an old friend of Al’s, began the night by
informing us she was a “terrible bowler”, and that her “friend” had
laughed when she said she was going to bowl, “reminding” her  that
every time the two of them had ever gone bowling, she had fallen on
her bum. Nice friend. E was a bubbly, delightful addition to our
team--she started out rough, but as she rapidly improved, she made
little hops of joy whenever the pins went down. Somewhat more
disturbingly, she managed to transmit her bad bowling mojo to a
hapless fellow a few lanes down, who fell--not on his bum; possibly on
his head. His mishap also set off the “over the line” buzzer, which I
had never heard before, and of which I am now petrified. He was ok,
after a moment of alley-wide concern, and Erin seemed to improve even
more rapidly after that. Hmmmm....

Maybe the mojo-transfer was due to Flo’s new good-luck necklace, a
beautiful painted home-made bead necklace made by her 5-year-old
daughter. Flo was apparently at the height of her mysterious powers.
The previous week, one of our opponents had sheepishly confessed to
Flo that she had had a few margaritas before bowling, and was
therefore not really bowling at the top of her game. This week, Flo
had barely arrived at lane 51 before one of our new opponents had
introduced himself and announced to her that he had been drinking Four
Loko all afternoon. Who knows what secrets her sweet face will coax
out of this week’s opposing team?

The consumption of alcohol combined with bowling is a topic of great mystery and debate. Our new friend J, another of last week’s opponents, drinks only classic White Russians, which seem to serve him well, as he has a very respectable 166 average. I thought I had worked it all out--after 2 beers, I seemed to reach a state wherein my mind
quieted and I could achieve the optimal oblique focus that I have decided is the best psychological approach. After 3, this focus disappeared, though I didn’t much care. Then I took the kids bowling during the week, and bowled two personal best games (167 and 186), WITH NO BEER AT ALL. Flo (who was there for the 167) suggested it was the combination of sugar and cheezy 80’s pop-music that may have provided the effect. More research is definitely needed.

The Edge was feeling off all night, having spent much of the day
buying a sectional sofa. He bowled respectably the first two games,
and had some phenomenal Angry Strikes, and some really good stories,
but lost it completely in the last game. Maybe it was the fact that
his high score from the previous week, a personal best of 147, had
gone un-blogged. Probably it was the whole sofa thing.

Our team has been missing a key member. Even GJ, aka “Robo-sub”,
wearing some truly phenomenal plaid pants, strolled over at one point
and asked, “Where’s the Mouth”? Happily, Varsity has been (quietly?)
keeping up his game in strange bowling alleys across the country, and
will join us again this week.

The stats:

***Flo was on the high score sheet from the week of 11/7!! She was 3rd
in the women’s “high series with handicap” section, beating out even
the league leader! Go Flo!***

The Hoff:  132, 130, 164
The Edge: 136, 137, 95
E: 77, 102, 95
Flo: 98, 112, 92

Rounds of beer: 3
Team accidents: 0