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

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Third Rail: The Next Generation

Al is injured.  Third Rail needs a bigger roster.  The Edge has put out a call for subs.  He’s written a compelling article, reeking slightly of desperation, imploring you to join our motley crew incredibly hip team on Sunday nights.  Flo and The Hoff have another idea.  We’ve created a feeder team.  

Friday afternoons at the bowling alley are a big hit with the 13 and younger crowd.  What’s not to love?  Bowling, laughter, high fiving and dancing.  Lots of dancing.  Oh, and candy.  Love the candy selection at Lanes & Games!     

I loved watching the kids bowl.  None of the pressure to perfect your technique, it’s all about the fun.  Boo (5yrs) bowled candlepin with the little balls.   She held the ball high over her head, obviously practicing her sun salutations, before bringing the ball down to the floor and letting it roll.  Once the ball was on it’s way, she sat down, watching it slowly roll down the lane and JUMPED UP as pins went down.  Her other favorite technique was to throw the ball like a shot put.  This was the one and only time I was thankful she throws like a girl and didn’t dent the floor boards.  The boys (both 12yrs) bowled 10 pin.  They started out seriously, obviously intent on beating their mothers.  As the game wore on, they loosened up and started goofing around.  I loved watching as they perfected the Kung Fu approach … wildly dodging imaginary bad guys as they made their way up to the lane to throw the ball.  Mayhem!

After every good bowl, there were congratulatory yells, high fives and dancing.  Jump for Joy (while holding hands) Dancing.  Bowling Shoes Slide So Well on the Oiled Floors Soft Shoe.  And of course the all important Victory Dance.  Lanes and Games provided a steady steam of 80’s music over a sound system that was clearly installed in the 80’s.  

The kids were extremely well behaved.  The Hoff, on the other hand, was not.  How it happened, I don’t know.  Boo’s candlepin ball ended up in The Hoff’s ten pin lane.  We had been warned not to roll the candlepin ball in the ten pin lane; that little ball could break the ball return machine.  Bad news.  The Hoff, trying to help, ran down the middle of the lane ON THE NEWLY OILED FLOORBOARDS, to retrieve the candlepin ball.  The manager came out from behind the counter to stop her.  He was too late.  Her size 7 foot prints were clearly visible on lane 35.  The manager must not have been too mad.  He offered to hand wipe the oil off The Hoff’s shoes so she wouldn’t slip and fall on her ass.  Now that would have been fun to see.  

I remember the very first night I met The Hoff, she turned to Varsity and said “Do not tell me what to do!  Do not coach me!”  I’m sure he’s tried since then, but I guarantee she didn’t listen.  I found it quite ironic that, during our second game, Charlie turned to his mom and said, “Your advice isn’t working for me at all.  I’m going to do it my way”.  He turned around and threw the ball his way.  KAPOW!  Perfect strike!  Don’t tell those Hoffs what to do!  

The Hoff and Flo are doing our best to find future subs from within the ranks.   We are teaching our kids the joys of bowling, friendship and dancing with oily shoes.  These are skills that may not get them through life; but they will certainly get them through college. 

Third Rail: The Next Generation will be meeting at Lanes & Games on miserably cold, grey Friday afternoons this winter.  Parents welcome as long as they dance.  

The Hoff    167    128
Charlie       121     99
G                78    114  
Flo *          115     89
Boo                      82

Candy Bought: Skittles, Nestle Crunch, M&M’s

·      Okay, as a matter of pride, I must disclose the boys bowled with bumpers; moms did not.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Subs where are you: The call up.

The Edge here.

This is a call. A call for a substitute. Why waste precious bandwith on such a request?
Here's why. One of our key team members has an injury. She can't bowl. Our team needs four, dependable, trash-talking, beer-swilling, occasionally-confessional, always-dapper members to hit the lanes every Sunday night. Varsity, Flo, the Hoff and Edge are on board. But what if one of us has to stay home to feed his or her raccoon? Hence, the call up.

What will you get out of the bowling team? I can only speak for myself. Before the Third Rail Bowling Club, my life was a barren cubicle, a series of meaningless interactions, and lonely, TV dinners. Wait, that’s not true. Let me start again.

Before the Third Rail Bowling Club, I thought I knew all the answers. I run, I write, I go to the movies, I go to rock shows, I have friends. But I don’t do anything regular, like poker night or boys night out or Sunday football hang-outs. I see people when I see them. It wasn’t until we started bowling that I realized the comfort of a club. And not a club that's based on membership dues or going through a rigorous interview process or praying to God or dousing yourself in creamy Italian dressing and traversing the campus on a set of crutches until Thursday. Hazing? No way. In fact, to join our bowling club you don’t even have to bowl well.

To me, the key to Third Rail is knowing that there’s always going to be a group of friends gathering at 6:30 on Sunday night at Lanes & Games to stick three fingers into a hardened melon. You can go every week. You can skip a month. But whenever you return, you’ll find somebody buying the first round of IPAs, somebody suggesting onion rings, and somebody with whom to exchange high fives.

I never high five people in real life. In fact, I never actually compete. Sure, I’ve got a job that's driven by the need to fight, almost daily, for space on the front page. I'm also trying to keep other papers from beating me on particular stories. But there's something at stake in those cases. And there are people (bosses) watching me (worker) to make sure I don’t get beaten.

At the alley, there's competition with no repercussions. It may be hard to understand the Zen of Lanes & Games, with its rusty-colored, wall-to-wall carpeting and the giant, ‘60s era ball washer in one corner. Think of this: You compete against others and you compete against your own history. In my case, I barely knew how to bowl a couple of months ago. In fact, my first time out I put my pointer finger in one of the holes of the ball, sort of the equivalent of trying to strum your piano. I've learned, in just a few weeks, how to be more consistent. My average - established in my first three sessions - is 118. But in the last two weeks I've rolled games of 147 and 154. And you know what? I felt good rolling a 154. I kicked ass.

Final reason to answer the call up: The people, both on the team and off. I missed three solid weeks in the season and returned to find Flo and the Hoff chatting with some dude with a giant wrist stabilizer and a nice lady about her boyfriend issues. I suddenly realized there had been some serious bonding going on here and not only with other Third Rail members. We were part of the Alley. Last week, something even more shocking: I saw a guy order a steak from the kitchen. And he told me he liked it.

That’s all from here. I could list other reasons why you should sub – the potential for shirts, the Playboy pinball machine downstairs, the shoes – but that would take too much time. For now, I’d like to hear from somebody who understands why it just might be fun to hit the alley on the occasional Sunday night and be part of the prestigious Third Rail Bowling Club.

Oh, before I forget… last week’s scores:

The Hoff: 124, 117, 145
The Edge: 130, 154, 131
Sub Craig: 161, 186, 167
Flo: 103, 105, 132

Weeks 9&10. Bowling hazards.

Last week, Varsity took his game on the road and sent dispatches from the Wild West of bowling exploits involving FROSTY BEER MUGS and 14 pound balls with more comfortable finger holes. Finger holes are vitally important, as we've learned by now, thanks to Flo's technically edifying posts and emails. Ball weight is clearly key, as well, as illustrated last week!

Speaking of ball weight, it has been the cause of a bowling team casualty. (Although it could be argued that woeful weakness and muscle disuse factor in.) Al is on the Disabled List, following a repetitive strain injury from swinging the 8-pounder 60 times per Sunday night for the past two months. Where is the training staff when you need them?

This raises the pressing need for a replacement team member. It could be you...basking in the glory of high scores, high-fiving with passion, tossing back beers and Lane fare from the fry-a-lator, and getting to know a whole cast of endlessly interesting bowlers assembled weekly just miles from your regular life. 

So, spice it up! Let us know! We're cool people! Oh, and... we're desperate!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Week 7. Family Life.

Sunday night marked my return to the Sport after a 3-week hiatus. It's hard to believe I had gone so long without hitting the Lanes with my "Sunday night family," as they've taken to calling themselves. It seems a fitting moniker, given the general level of crazy present in the fellowship.

At the Lanes, Hot Toddies
are served in paper cups.
Take, for instance Varsity TT, who showed up to the bowling alley and ordered a HOT TODDY because, as he said "I'm sick, but I still want to drink." I don't know who goes to a bowling alley decorated with full-scale wall mural carpet art and a vending bank that offers Yoohoo! chocolate soda, and orders a drink preferred by English manor lords. Well...actually, I guess I do. My new brother in-bowling. The guy who also shows up with the Girl Scout Candy Catalog and works the lanes between his turns: "Hey R., while you're flying high off that strike you just made, can I interest you in some malted milk balls?"

Seven cash sales to show for it!

I really can't complain about him as a family member, when I think about some of my own. I don't know if it's the hot brown liquid in the paper cup that calls it to mind, or the sensation of spending hours sitting in four seats occupying only 20 square feet (such as the ones at the head of lane 45 Sunday night, or such as the ones inside my family's Bronco as we drove hundreds of barren, empty miles across West Texas on our way to New Mexico ski country when I was a preteen), but I got to thinking about my dad... 

On those Dantean roadtrips, my brother and I were united in the penance of doing time, while my dad had his mind solely on making time. It's possible he had factored into the trip the cost of receiving a ticket for speeds clocked at up to 40 miles-per-hour over the legal limit, for how comfortable he was racing hellbent to the jagged, punishing peaks of Taos. 

These drives would always result in an inevitable, incredible bladder-searing pain due to inability to stop because we hadn't reached "the right point." My brother and I would spend hours parched and numbed in the backseat, listening to his lectures about Ancient Greece and the philosophy of the Spartans, willing ourselves to NEED NO LIQUID for any reason, just like any good Spartan could. 

Alas, we would always be faced with the felling temptation of a drive-thru McDonalds or quick stop at a convenience store... which brings me back around to bowling and Hot Toddies. 

My brother always being more impulsive and pleasure-seeking than I, broke down and bought himself a drink during one of these stops. It wasn't a big drink--just a modest-sized paper cup of life sustaining liquid. It must have tasted so damned delicious. I can't remember him drinking it, but I can so vividly recall the look of strained pain on his face 2 hours later as he couldn't hold it any more. The pronouncement was handed back solemnly from the front seat: the empty paper cup. And yes, you can be sure, it rode with us, steaming and full-to-the-brim until my dad determined exactly the right point to pull over and leave it on the side of a long, desolate West Texas highway just East of New Mexico.

Sorry, Varsity TT, for possibly forever ruining the Hot Toddy for you. But, hey, it's the least a little sister could do. 

And so, with that, let us hasten to the results from Sunday night:
The Hoff: 153 (all-time high game), 81 (all-time low game), 125
Al: 81, 120, 120
Varsity TT: 118, 126, 113
Flo: 122, 88, 109

Rounds of beer/Hot Toddies: 3
Games won: 2
Authentic(?) bowling sayings picked up from Super Sub G.: 5
"That's gonna hold!"
"Somebody call the police! You were robbed!"
"That lane bites!" 
"That lane is torched!"

Just in case you were waiting with baited breath for this week's revelation of the TRBC's newest drinking game, it involves one of Varsity TT's Authentic(?) bowling sayings: "PICK THAT SHIT UP!" One drink for every time he shouts that out. That's alot of drinks when you're playing with the TRBC, because we're so often so very "robbed."

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Week 6. (In 500 words or less)

Brunswick PowrKoil XF*

Apparently, the punishment for submitting a 2000 word essay in lieu of a blithe blog post is being told to try again, in 500 words or less. And so I write. I am not sure who is being punished, you, the reader, or me, the writer. I am hoping it is you.

There has been some debate between TRBC members on whether or not bowling is truly a sport. Our team is divided. I am having trouble accepting bowling is a “real” sport; but, then again, I am also having trouble knocking down the pins. Granted, bowling requires skill and concentration; but physical strength and endurance are not a prerequisite.

Those who know me know I like my sport with a side of adrenaline. I enjoy a physical challenge. I love pushing myself to the limit. I love the rush of endorphins flowing through my body. I like not quite knowing whether I’ll be heading home or to the hospital at the end of the day. What gets my blood pumping? Climbing the cable route of Half Dome mid-Winter with ice picks, crampons and no cable. Sport. Surfing Ocean Beach by the light of the moon, not quite sure if the waves will break behind me or on me. Sport. Running 35 miles through the Sierra Nevada’s in the dark while hallucinating the trees are going to grab me. Sport. Swimming across the Maui Channel hoping the captain keeps his promise to keep the boat between me and the shark that’s been spotted. Sport death.

But these are stories for another blog.

Motherhood has obviously changed my life. I need to be 100% certain I will be home to kiss my babies goodnight. To that end, I decided to take up bowling. The biggest thrill I’ve achieved to date is walking back to my seat and realizing someone drank my beer. Come on! Worst injury? Broken nail. But I am trying to keep an open mind.

I arrived at the bowling alley Sunday as G., professional sub you met in Week 3, was struggling to get his huge roller bag through the doors. Seriously, his bag for one night of bowling was bigger than my carry-on for a week-long business trip. Of course I had to ask what was in there: shoes, 4 bowling balls and the robotic arm*! I watched, fascinated, as he strapped on his robotic arm and adjusted the lever to account for ball velocity, lane dry: oily ratio (FYI: the lanes are usually dry by Sunday), brain wave frequency. The Hoff asked the question which has been on all our minds, is the robotic arm connected to his brain. The answer: YES. Cool.

* Brunswick PowrKoil XF Bowling Wrist Support
 Feather light, durable aluminum construction.
 Lateral adjustments position the hand for changing the roll of the ball.
 Adjusting screws allows fine-tuning of forward wrist cup positions for rev control.
 Available for left or right hand in small, medium, large, and extra-large.
 Extended index finger support enhances side roll for improved length and back-end hook angle

Our opponents Sunday were Team “Dork, Dork, Dork, Goose”. A cute name, but, as M. (Team Captain) pointed out, it’s kind of lame when it appears up on the big screen as “Dork, Dork, Dork”.

R. and M. of DDDG, G. and I tore up the lanes during practice bowl. My teammates were nowhere in sight. I was a little worried that TRBC wasn’t taking the game seriously!

Is it just me, or does G. remind you of Tim Meadows as The Ladies Man? He is “THE DUDE”. He bowls in two leagues, is a sub in two different leagues and enters tournaments on the weekends. His average is 247. As one guy told me last night, if G. gives you any advice, listen to it. Two weeks ago, I asked G. how to improve my score. His advice? Stay home. I did not listen to his advice. I am back, with G. bowling in my lane. I needed to step up my game. I needed to break 100. Heck, I needed to break 90!

Varsity and The Hoff arrived just as League Bowl began. Varsity proudly debuted his new shoes. Black with skulls. The Hoff was sporting her glow in the dark stars shoes. The bowling alley really needs to get ultra violet lights so we can see The Hoff’s stars shine!

Game 1 started slowly. Varsity and The Hoff weren’t in the zone. Varsity knocked 9 pins down on his first bowl, only the 5 pin remained. Easy shot. As he stepped up to bowl his second frame, G. yelled “NOBODY MISSES A 5 PIN!!!” … guess who missed the 5 pin.

Varsity did manage to get a strike a few frames later. G. yelled out “WHO SAID DAVID CAN’T GET A STRIKE!?”. Varsity yelled back “THE EDGE”. G. was making snarky comments all night. G. is now an honorary member of the TRBC.

Someone actually called Varsity “JV” this week. To his face. He was not happy. His game was off. There was no mayhem. There was no dancing. He beat me by only TWO points, that’s right, TWO, in the first game. I’m secretly happy. I’m getting into this sport.

The Hoff spent a lot of time trying to figure out what the “little numbers” above our game total mean. She thought to ask G., since he’s THE DUDE and all. His reply? “I never look at that crap!” Well G., you don’t need to when you’re bowling a 250!

D. stopped by for a visit. She was having a rough night. D.’s boyfriend dumped her the night before and her head wasn’t in the game. She was very depressed, she was wearing an LL Bean crew neck sweater and her hair was in a ponytail. That’s not the D. we know and love.

A member of another team remarked that all the winners of the big League Jackpot have one thing in common: they all have mustaches. The Hoff loudly announced that she is stopping all laser treatments in hopes of growing a handlebar mustache. I admire her commitment to TRBC. I can’t wait to see The Hoff walking around our town sporting her bowling ‘stache.

G. got the highest score over average for the night and won a pizza. He was happy. G. was on track to win the Strike Jackpot of the night, $1324. He made 8 strikes. He missed the 9th. He didn’t win the money. He was not happy. He still shared his pizza and bought TRBC a round of beers. We were happy.

TRBC may not be know as the highest scorers in the league; but, I’m happy to say our reputation as the fun new kids on the block is solid. Other bowlers stopped by to check out our crazy dance moves, unload their heartaches, throw back a few beers. We are hitting our stride!

Sunday Night Stats:
The Hoff: 128, 128, 117
Varsity: 137, 106, 146
Flo: 135, 105, 129
Current League Standing: 6 place
Games Lost: 2
Games Won: 1
Bars of Soap: 0 Team DDDG is much more tolerant than our last opponents.
Rounds of Beer: 3
Slices of Free Pizza: 1

What you’ve all been waiting for … the handicaps! Drum roll please.
Varsity: AVG 137 / HC 93
The Hoff: AVG 135 / HC 95
The Edge: AVG 118 / HC 112
Cap’n Al: AVG 114 / HC 116
Flo: AVG 94 / HC 136

What I learned last night:
Bowling with G. is a sport.
There is money and pizza to be won in bowling.
I had more fun when I didn’t care. I had more fun when bowling wasn’t a sport.
I cannot write a blog post in under 500 words.

Your punishment is over.

Next week we debut our new drinking game ….

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Roster. Sunday, October 17.

Flo. The Hoff. Varsity TT. *bowling with 3 tonite.

And...a pep-talk, of sorts, to get you seeing red--or maybe it's orange--before stepping into the coliseum tonight. Hold the gaze and go reap some hell:

- - - -
I don't know about you, but I can't wait to get my hands on some fucking gourds and arrange them in a horn-shaped basket on my dining room table. That shit is going to look so seasonal. I'm about to head up to the attic right now to find that wicker fucker, dust it off, and jam it with an insanely ornate assortment of shellacked vegetables. When my guests come over it's gonna be like, BLAMMO! Check out my shellacked decorative vegetables, assholes. Guess what season it is—fucking fall. There's a nip in the air and my house is full of mutant fucking squash.

I may even throw some multi-colored leaves into the mix, all haphazard like a crisp October breeze just blew through and fucked that shit up. Then I'm going to get to work on making a beautiful fucking gourd necklace for myself. People are going to be like, "Aren't those gourds straining your neck?" And I'm just going to thread another gourd onto my necklace without breaking their gaze and quietly reply, "It's fall, fuckfaces. You're either ready to reap this freaky-assed harvest or you're not."

Monday, October 11, 2010

Week 5: The Pre Bowl

I learned two important lessons this week: 1. snarky comments don’t count as blog posts,  2. never join a team consisting primarily of writers if you have graphophobia.

This post was originally to be written by Varsity.  He was swamped with work.  The Edge gladly jumped in and offered to post, writing being both his vocation and avocation.  However, in reading “the snarky comment,” he suddenly remembered he was swamped with work.  I, on the other hand, am not swamped with work.  I am frantically trying to get ready to host my 5 year old’s Princess Butterfly Birthday.  She wants a magical fairy princess castle cake.  Since I have not been able to magically produce a fairy princess castle cake, I may have to resort to the old fashioned method: Baking.  I hate baking.  I think I want to blog.  Be forewarned, I blog as well as I bowl!

In order to understand Tuesday, I have to give you a little more insight into Sunday. Clearly, Al was in a happy place when she wrote Week 4.  Let’s just take a moment to read between the lines …

Mayhem was the watchword of Sunday evening” Specifically, mayhem was The Hoff’s word of the night.  Each time her ball connected with the pins, whether it be 1 or 10, she would turn toward her team mates and yell “MAYHEM” while waving her hands wildly.  The Hoff claimed she was channeling Daniel Larusso, the original Karate Kid.  Twinkle Toes insisted she was perfecting Fosse jazz hands and really should take a dance class (or 10).  Clearly, The Hoff is secretly auditioning for the role of Sally Bowles in the Bowling Alley Production of Cabaret. 

“Pins flew willy nilly”  Let’s be honest here.  Pins were flying willy nilly for the other team.  This team came to bowl.  Their team average is 250.  There was no talking, no high fiving, no beer swilling.  Theirs was a game of precision.  They had no patience for Third Rail’s laughter, dancing and MAYHEM! 

“Beers spilled decadently”   I really don’t remember any beer spilling.  I suspect Al took some creative liberty here.  I did learn an important lesson Sunday.  Always buy the first round BEFORE the game begins.  I had offered to buy the first round Sunday; however, when I got the alley, I was actually focused on bowling.  Really!  My main goal was to find the perfect ball and get some practice bowls in.  Beer was the last thing on my mind.  I bowled two spares and a strike in pre-bowl.  I was ready.  The Hoff started us off with a POW! 

Pins went flying.  We all reached for our glasses for a celebratory drink only to realize, NO BEER!  Oops!  I ran to the bar to order a round, thinking I could make it back in time for my turn.  To my surprise, there was a line at the bar!  Specifically, two women ahead of me debating what they wanted to order for dinner.  Who orders dinner at the bowling alley?!?  After much debate, they decided on cheeseburgers and chardonnay.  Who drinks chardonnay with a cheeseburger!?!?   There were 2 women working behind the bar that night.  As one of the women went to unscrew the chardonnay, I waited for blondie to take my beer order.  I waited and waited.  Apparently, blondie is the keno girl.  Keno girls talk to barflies and sell Keno tickets.  Keno girls do not serve beer.  I waited some more as I watched the minutes click by on the clock wondering what deep discussions I was missing back at the lane.  One of my teammates ran in and yelled “WHERE IS OUR BEER!?”  Our beer was still in the keg.  I didn’t realize how long it took to unscrew the chardonnay.  I ran back to the lane to bowl.  The other team didn’t look happy.  They couldn’t bowl until I finished bowling.  I had disrupted their rhythm.  My team was not happy.  They still didn’t have a beer.  

“Club members were accused of using "potty mouth" at the Lanes”   I just want to make it clear that only one member of the team was accused of using “potty mouth”.  The accuser actually offered to bring a bar of soap to the alley next Sunday.  Beware.  We all were secretly thankful the bowling alley bathrooms have liquid soap dispensors.

“(now we know what Varsity lettered in)”  There has been some discussion on whether or not “Varsity” is really the best nickname for David since he never played on the varsity bowling team.  Al sweetly suggested we rename him “JV” to which he yelled “I HAVE NEVER PLAYED ON A JV TEAM IN MY LIFE!!!”  Can someone do a little fact checking here? 

“Yes, week four saw the TRBC solidly at home in the league”  Truer words have not been written.  The bowling alley is our Sunday night home away from home.  TRBC took over our lane like a bunch of oversized teenagers hanging out on a Friday night.  We laughed, we chatted, we teased, we drank.  Unfortunately, we forgot to bowl.  As we began our third game, I looked up and realized everyone else had finished bowling.  All the other teams had gone home.  TRBC had one game left.  Our opponents had to stay till we until we finished in order to calculate the evening’s score.   They did not look happy.  This is about the time Twinkle Toes was threatened with a bar of soap.  We stopped talking.  We stopped drinking.  We focused and bowled the fastest game in the history of TRBC.  We closed the place down. 

That was Sunday.  Now, onto Tuesday.

Due to busy schedules over the Columbus Day TRBC decided to pre-bowl on Tuesday night.  In the words of The Hoff, “Nothing good happens when Sunday is moved to Tuesday.”  I was the first to arrive Tuesday night and immediately noticed the alley had a different feel.  The lights were harsher, the crowd was smaller, the help behind the counter wasn’t as friendly.  I walked up to the counter and said I was here to bowl.  The guy looked at me and said they were full.  I looked out at the lanes and noticed only 30% were taken.  I told him my team had a reservation at 8pm.  He stared at me and said he did not have a reservation.  Did I mean candlepin?  Candlepin is downstairs.  CANDLEPIN?!?  Candlepin is for 5 year old birthday parties and first dates.  I’m here to BOWL!  I told him I was part of the Sunday night league here to pre-bowl.  Apparently, these are the magic words.  I passed the test.  He gave me a buzzer and told me he’d let me know when our lane was free. 

When I say “lane”, I actually mean “lanes.”  Pre-bowl is supposed to mimic Sunday night as much as possible.  To that end, we bowl 3 games against an imaginary team, alternating lanes each game; just as we would on Sunday’s with a real live in-the-flesh team.  Sound simple.  Not so much.  The problem is that since our imaginary team doesn’t bowl, we are bowling two games simultaneously.  As soon as the Hoff started us off on game 1, lane 32, she was immediately up again for game 2, lane 33.   Every time I looked up, it was the Hoff’s turn to bowl.  She didn’t have time to sit.  Heck, she didn’t have time to pick up her beer.  I, on the other hand, am the anchor of the team (i.e. LAST!  I actually looked that up!)  I felt like I was bowling a completely different game.  I sat. I drank. I put my feet up. Every once in awhile I got up, picked up a ball and made a feeble attempt to knock a few pins down.  I didn’t need to get up, the Hoff was up.  AGAIN!

As I sat, drinking my beer, waiting for my turn to bowl; I spotted the Hoff out of the corner of my eye.  Yes, it was her turn again!   As she leaned over to pick up her ball, I noticed her turning her head back and forth over the hand blower.  Her hair was flying.  She was trying her best to imitate D.  D., one of our Sunday night bowling friends is a shorter, bubblier version of Tia Carrere with long, think luxourious locks.  We all envy D hair.  Twinkle Toes suggested the Hoff start carrying around her own personal wind machine.  Clearly, the Hoff can rock D hair! 

We finished three games in remarkable time.  Tuesday night's pre-bowl scores:

The Hoff:  103,132,143
The Edge: 132, 110, 118
Twinkle Toes: 150, 147, 145
Flo: 85, 97, 90
Rounds of Beer: 2
Beer Spilled: None

L., the League’s treasurer, came over at the end of our game to collect our money and validate our score sheet.  She took one look at the Edge’s new-to-him shoes and promptly declared “those are going to fall apart”!  She decided to give us a bit of free advice.  In order to improve our scores, she highly recommended we invest in some well fitting bowling shoes and a reactive bowling ball with custom drilled finger holes.  Novice that I am had no clue reactive bowling balls even existed!  Apparently, there are four basic types of bowling balls:

Urethane bowling balls are softer than other makes. These bowling balls also drag on the wooden bowling lane, which increases their hook potential. For those who tend to bowl toward the gutter, this hook can help drag the ball back to the strike zone in the center of the lane. These bowling balls can be sanded or buffed to help limit the amount of hook if desired.

Reactive resin bowling balls are similar to urethane bowling balls in many ways. To create reactive resin bowling balls, small particles of resin are added to the same mixture used to make urethane bowling balls. Resin tends to be sticky, so it further increases the bowling ball’s grip on the lane and creates more hook potential. At the same time, resin bowling balls tend to skid across the oiled bowling lane and, therefore, reach faster speeds.

Particle bowling balls are reactive resin balls with small ground pieces of glass added to the mix. This glass increases the bowling ball’s grit, which helps it grip the lane. Professional bowlers generally prefer particle bowling balls because they help make spin and hook easier to control.

Plastic bowling balls are the most common type because they are the cheapest to manufacture. Made from polyester, plastic bowling balls handle intense wear and last much longer than urethane, reactive resin, or particle bowling balls. Professional bowlers avoid plastic bowling balls because they tend to skid across an oiled bowling lane rather than roll, which makes them harder to control.

I had no idea bowling was going to be such an investment!  Bonds, balls, shoes, shirts.  This is seriously cutting into my beer money.

I’m off to study the structural components of fairy princess castles.  I wouldn’t want the castle sliding into the moat, at least until the picture is taken!