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September 5th, 2009

spare | strike = A Red 189

Callicoon, NY

The one consistent thing when I travel lost or when I otherwise need it, it turns out, in a way I wasn’t aware of until last night, is the alley.

Now I have no idea how to even bowl correctly nor do I want it. I went some growing up and enjoyed it enough during my brief 3 years in Texas close to family in the 80’s. Then it faded.

In college, (fall 1994, same time as the Promise Lane story and then again in summer 1997 after leaving and returning), when the color print processor was having troubles, I hit the alley. I went in the morning before the leagues and then later the same day after. So much so the owner/operator just shook his head at me and started comping me shoes and games. I would be put on one end of the alley and just left alone, throwing the ball, throwing the ball and throwing the ball.

When traveling on assignment bowling is a great way to kill the time in between not otherwise filled with details. One can always find an alley if one looks. I have been to 43 of the lower 48 states. I have bowled in at least 25-30.

In 1999, after a real deep love had left just days prior and I dropped communication with many of my friends, I was in West Virginia on an assignment for a major news magazine on one of the most emotional subjects I ever had the privilege to witness. I had just left the home and had 3 hours before I needed to get to the airport to go to the next heart wrenching home in Indiana. I was driving over a bridge when I saw a sign right next to the bridge that simply said BOWL and had an arrow pointing straight down. I found the alley, almost under the bridge I had just been on and went in. I was alone in the place except for 3 people on the lane 2 lanes over. Two older women and one old man, the kind of old man you know is smarter then you and hope to be someday. They were all laughing and having a nice time. I started bowling. Throwing the ball, throwing the ball and throwing the ball. I noticed I was around 100 by the 5th frame and that they had stopped bowling. When I looked over, the old man was looking at me, “You alright son?” he asked. I smiled, said “Yes” and looked at my feet, I felt awful I ruined their bowling moment. I got to frame 10 and left.

A year later I accepted an invitation to go bowling here in NYC. I had a broken foot and was on crutches, the people who invited me didn’t know this until I showed up. I still bowled.

A year after that on September 10, 2001, I was out till about 3am, bowling. I slept through most of the events that morning of the 11th until I heard my answering machine playing out loud a friends voice of long ago asking me through her tears, “Are you okay, are you okay?”

Snoqualmie, WA

I only bowl but maybe once a year. Somehow, it always feels significant. Last night it was, I was throwing the ball, throwing the ball and throwing the ball surrounded by good friends. I finished with a red scoreboard at 189.