January 18, 2008

First Person:


By Al Carlos Hernandez

Last week, I once again tried to get the hang, “the gusto” of bowling. I went to a local alley with a group of casual friends, two of whom have never bowled. We had a fairly good time, but I am not ready to join a Moose Lodge. The whole experienced seemed weirdly mid-American sub-cultural to me. I felt like buying a van conversion.

I have three or four buster-bust bowling experiences under my belt and am in no position to give any advice. Suffice to say, rent the whack shoes. Don’t try it in Stacy Adams and try to knock them all down the first time, so no one from another lane tries to coach you.

Some families have a tradition of bowling as a culturally honored activity and many have the hubris to tout the fact that their uncle had two, three hundred games, or that their Dad, Mom, whoever was a member of 9 teams at once. Although serious to some, bowling is never a job, unless you are a compulsive gambler, if so you have bigger problems anyway.

You hear disjointed inane often pointless stories about some step cousin who angled a split, then picked up a spare in the last frame which gave him a pin up to win the tourney… The suds was a flowin’…

A word to bowling-aholics, it is virtually impossible to impress an urbanite with bowling lingo, it’s like wearing a pair of overalls and a bow tie.

From where I come from, any public display of math skills was avoided like the plague. It’s a good thing that all of the scoring is done by computer; this is done so the scorekeeper doesn’t get sucker punched.

My Dad worked at a bowling alley as a young man, but never encouraged us to take it seriously. This was years before the invention of those aerosol shoe disinfectants, and automatic pin setters.

Bowling is now family friendly, and this alley which looked like a wooden parking lot had a mug shot of Rodney Dangerfield up on a TV screen in a red Vegas tuxe mugging you if you rolled a gutter ball. I saw his face more than once. “Our high school football team was so tough, after they sacked the Quarter back, they went after his family…”

During college, my friends and I hated bowling because it was one of Richard Nixon’s favorite past times; he even had an ally built in the white house. Tricky Dick was wrong about Viet Nam but maybe right about bowling. I saw lots of folks my age trying the get their roll on.

Lifelong bowlers assume a smug often nerd-like bravado as soon as they put on their pastel paneled shirts and lace up their special education looking Ringling Brothers styled shoes.

I do however like those South of Market chic bowling shirts, the kind you can buy at the Segunda (thrift store) the ones with the names like Buddy, Lucky and Ace embroidered over the left front pocket.

There should be some standard bowling rule that docks someone who owns their own ball, bag and shoes a few dozen pins per game.

Bowling to me is very much like golf in that, any competitive activity that can be accomplished in everyday street clothes, in my opinion cannot be considered a real sport.

It seems reasonable that any sport that you can play in church clothes, which cannot cause grave injury couldn’t be that physically challenging, and should be categorized as para-sport.

What is great about bowling is that it is the most multi-ethic activity I have ever seen. Every race represents, and bowling is no respecter of ethnicity, there is no racial dominance in this para-athletic endeavor. Bowling teams represent churches, businesses, social organizations, political ones, and is no respecter of gender either.

If you can bowl, know how to work the shirt and the shoes, someone will want you on a team. I have been given no offers at this time.

It would also be helpful if the pins could be painted to look like, ex-girlfriends, “the boss”, political figures, DMV clerks, IRS agents and insurance salespeople.

Al Carlos Hernandez writes from Hollywood.

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