My only experiences with bowling have revolved around birthday parties for childhood friends where sporadic granny-rolls were interspersed with running amok around the lanes, annoying the shit out of the grown-ups who were there to bowl seriously, and wondering when the fuck cake was going to be served. In fact, the last time I ever set foot in a bowling alley was twelve years ago and I didn’t even bowl. Instead, I pretended to know how to keep score for my friends and some wrinkled ho working the counter kept coming over to yell at me for doing it wrong, all wrong.
But for some reason, lately I have been having this strong urge to re-visit the bowling scene. Even if I never actually bowled, I always enjoyed the atmosphere, especially of the dingier, old-school alleys.
After trying unsuccessfully for a few months to round up enough people to join me, it magically gelled. And that is how Collin, Dyanna, Justin, Alisha, Henry and Blake found themselves joining me at Dormont Lanes for THE BEST NIGHT OF THEIR LIVES.
Alisha came over early and I pumped her for info.
“So like, what do we do when we get there?” I excitedly wondered.
“Um, we go up to the counter, pay for the games, and get shoes. I think you will be disappointed with how anti-climatic it is.” Then she briefed me on some bowling etiquette, like how I should never bowl at the same time as the person in the lane right next to mine.
“And probably I shouldn’t be too vulgar, right?” I added.
“Well, that’s just COMMON etiquette,” she said. That Alisha, she always was so smart.
What. I like to be prepared.
It was a nice evening so we decided to just walk the several blocks to the alley. Dyanna and Justin brought a six-pack since I read that the alley was BYOB, but Henry kept drilling doubt into me because I was going by several outdated reviews that I read online. We weren’t even a block away yet and I was starting to worry that this alley wasn’t even open anymore.
So when Dyanna pointed to a house across the street that had decorated its rock garden with bowling balls, I laughed nervously and said, “They probably got them from Dormont Lanes after they went out of business.”
And when we got to the small shopping center that Dormont Lanes is underneath, the parking lot was all but empty and there was a giant FOR LEASE sign under Dormont Lanes.
“Yeah, it’s real crowded, Erin,” Blake sarcasm’d, since earlier I was panicking about that as well.
Much to Henry’s chagrin, it was a storefront that was for lease, not the bowling alley. However, there was a sign on the alley’s door that advised against glass bottles. I looked at Dyanna and Justin, toting their six-pack of glass bottles, and said, “Oopsies.”
They decided to each drink one outside while we waited for Collin to arrive. Justin had the sense to at least be a little discreet about it, but Dyanna was all, “What? I’m drinking a Mike’s out in the open, ohwellzorz.”
Dyanna and Justin slid the rest of their booze behind the propped-open door, but Henry was really nervous about this. You know, the latent police officer in him and all. After paying for our games and getting shoes, he paced back and forth at the bottom of the steps, waiting for Collin to arrive so he could stash the contraband in his car.
Inside the alley, I clung excitedly to Henry while he paid. I was immediately enamored of the alleys dingy wood-paneled 1970s interior and hoped to see some sideburns and bell bottoms trouncing around. Dormont Lanes even has their own surly lane technician who I’m sure stashes the slumped corpses of his conquests behind the pins after hours.
Ideally, I’d have preferred to bowl in my socks, but Henry goes, “You aren’t a seven year old,” so I settled for those ugly two-toned shoe things. I wasn’t sure if I should get my shoes in a 7 or 7.5, and the sun-ripened broad behind the counter leaned in and said, “You can’t exchange them if they don’t fit.” Then, laughing at my sad face, she followed with, “Oh, I’m just kidding hon!” Look, I was really anxious about this entire process and plus I’m naturally gullible and tightly wound, so it wasn’t funny! Henry laughed, which made me angry. Then everyone was all, “Go pick a ball” and that was a task in and of itself. I wound up with a delightful ball of pink and purple swirls, only to find that Dyanna had previously picked an almost exact replica, that ho!
The teams were picked without me. I’m not sure how I feel about that, but I’ll tell you how I feel about having my name entered for me on the scoreboard: APPALLED. I pushed past Alisha and typed the elegant and regal APPLEDALE over top the plain and bourgeois ERIN. The people lucky enough to round out my team were Alisha, Henry and Blake. I’m sure Collin rejoiced when he arrived LATE to find that he could get cozy with Dyanna and Justin on the enemy turf.
I was a little bothered by the fact that it was 4 against 3. I like things to be even. Henry tried to explain a dozen or so times that even though we were on teams, it was still every bitch for themself. And even still, I was bothered.
Collin brought his own ball. It was green. I laughed.
With Alisha’s guidance, I managed to not make too much of an ass of myself as far as form and gutter balls go. (Though Collin and Blake are probably sitting somewhere with raised hands, waiting to interject.) It was my first time doing it the right way, fingers plugging the holes (oh, ho ho ho) and all. I wasn’t able to perfect that cute little kick-thing that you professional/non-Erin bowlers do though, but at least I didn’t fall like Henry almost did. (I missed it and Blake said it was a magnificent moment. Fuck.)
Somewhere during the first game, I got my first ever strike and everyone was pretty much like, “Why? How?” Collin looked especially nauseated, especially when I approached him after my big show and said, “Collin, isn’t it funny how I’m so good at every single thing I do?” I think if I was a boy, he’d have cold-cocked me. Instead, he asked me to please go away.
I was having so much fun that I could barely stop laughing. I’m not sure anyone else was having that much fun, though. In fact, Blake seemed pretty annoyed by me and Henry was off somewhere calling sex hotlines.
The counter lady came over to wipe down the video game I was sitting next to, and struck up a convo with me. I bragged that I hadn’t been bowling in twelve years, and apparently I’m some kind of natural. She praised me, as was expected, and then began talking about how painful Blake’s gauges looked. I was a little turned off, since we were no longer talking about how I’m a secret sensation, but I humored her nonetheless. By the time we both admitted to crying when we had our cartilage pierced, a lifelong bond had formed.
By the end of the first game, I was tied with Blake for last place, but Alisha and Dyanna said it was still respectable considering it had been thirty years (in Collin’s words) since I last bowled.
The second game is a blur to me, mainly because I was so used to getting strikes by then that it was no big thang at that point. My fans just pretty much expected it from me, you know? Plus, I had found out that the jukebox had free requests and I spent a large portion of my time looking for the perfect jam and then trying to get Blake to give it to the counter lady. Alisha finally grabbed the slip of paper and turned it in for me so I wouldn’t have to talk about cartilage-crunching again.
And then, at the start of every song, Dyanna and Alisha would ask, “Is this your jam?” And it never was.
By the time we started the third game, I noticed that everyone was slinging excuses left and right. “I’m tired,” was the general consensus, but the two bitch-babies — Blake and Collin — were complaining of mysterious thumb ailments, though I’m pretty sure I saw Collin squatting behind a table, self-inflicting a flesh wound with a switchblade to make him look less girly for losing to me.
Oh, I didn’t mention? I BEAT COLLIN AT THE THIRD GAME. In fact, I beat almost everyone, except for Henry who is suddenly gunning for sponsorship. Blake at one point said, “Maybe if I bowl like Erin, I’ll do better.”
I guess he meant “like a professional.”
But yeah, that third round, I totally dominated. I ended up with 120 points, 289 overall. AYO! I guess that means I can buy MY own ball now. Right, Collin? And now I’m completely amped to go back soon, very soon, wish-I-was-there-right-now soon.
On the walk home, everyone was saying things like, “Oh ho, I’m so tired. We’re going to be so sore tomorrow, ya’ll!” But I wasn’t tired at all when we left. I forget who, but someone said, “Probably because you weren’t doing it right.” Or maybe I said that about myself. In any case, it was clearly tongue-in-cheek because I am amazing and very swan-like in my bowling form.
I’m in the process of making t-shirts for my new bowling crew. Except for Collin because I don’t want him to get the impression that he’s included. (We were going to have league until Henry explained that you have to pay for that shit and Collin added that the whole point of leagues is to win, where I thought it was just to hang out, be stupid with matching polyester shirts, and maybe at some point be on TV.)
We never did get to hear my jam. (Omarion’s “Ice Box,” I know you were dying to know.)