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!