It’s cold. It’s the winter. The countryside is covered in snow. This is not perfect weather for the Fox Family.
It’s also Saturday. We wanted to do something and not waste a perfectly good weekend day.
A quick check of the paper showed nothing at the movies we wanted to see. The Yale Rep and Yale Cabaret are both dark¹.
I looked for a comedy club. The Treehouse, in Fairfield County, had listings for Wednesdays and Saturdays in November (update the website guys) and December, but is mysteriously empty this weekend.
Finally Helaine suggested we go bowling. She made the suggestion knowing full well I’d find an excuse to say no. I didn’t.
I called our local bowling alley (I’m sure they’d rather be called a bowling center… and they can, on their blog). There were lanes open, but they asked for my name, in case things got busy. No names – I had my info.
We went and had dinner at the local Chinese buffet. Overhead speakers blasted Christmas music from a local radio station. My favorite, Darlene Love’s “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home),” played.
The bowling alley was only a few minutes away. We walked in and found the place more empty than full.
Helaine and I have a history with bowling, and this seems as good a time as any to tell the story.
Back in Buffalo, among other duties, I was the weekend weatherman. Helaine, living and working in Philadelphia, would come and visit on weekends. We were the proverbial strangers in a strange land.
Saturday nights, after the late news, we would join a bunch of people from the station and go to “Moonlight Bowling.” There would be Phil Kavits and Mike Andrei, Rhona Shore (one of our reporters) and Jim Sherlock (assistant news director and her boyfriend).
I’m sure there were others, but this was nearly 25 years ago. Forgive me.
The concept of “Moonlight Bowling” is simple. You turn off most of the lights, light a few black lights, add a smattering of multicolored pins on each lane, and pay bowlers cash when certain pin arrangements come up and they make a strike.
It was a quarter here, fifty cents there. Not big money. It was a blast. And we had fun blowing off a little steam. Like all employees, we weren’t adverse to second guessing our bosses.
This group from the TV station would go nearly every Saturday night. Then, when it was over, we’d get breakfast. That was around 3:00 AM.
It should be noted, somehow in those years I had entered into a pack with the Devil, allowing me to eat anything and never gain a pound. The Devil and I have had a falling out since then.
None of us were ever good at bowling. But, we had a great time bowling.
Flash ahead to Connecticut. When we first moved here, Helaine met some people and ended up in a bowling league. When she bought a ball and shoes, I did too. So, as the title says, we both have balls. Even better, neither of us wear rented shoes – one of life’s stranger concepts.
Over time, we just haven’t bowled much. Steffie had a bowling birthday party while growing up and I’m sure we went to parties thrown for other kids, but that’s a long time ago.
Actually, there’s a better way to demonstrate how long it’s been since we bowled. When we went to unzip our bags to take out the balls and shoes, the zippers were rusted shut! Really. You could see a tinge of green around the immobile zipper.
The bowling bags ‘live’ in the garage, so the culprit is probably salt spray from our cars’ tires. Another reason to dislike winter.
Luckily, the guys behind the counter were happy to help… and much stronger than me. Before you knew it, the zipper was zipping and we were ready to bowl.
We moved to lane 11.
Just as we were about to begin, the lights went out and the music started blasting. It was “Moonlight Bowling” all over again! There was one addition, stage fog, and one subtraction, no cash payouts.
We started slowly. My first ball was a gutter ball. In the first game, I barely broke 100. Helaine wasn’t far behind.
The second game went a little smoother, but I was still out ahead. In fact, Helaine trailed by thirty pins in the seventh frame.
Then, she caught fire!
Helaine rolled a strike in the eight frame… and the ninth… and two in the tenth – four strikes in a row! By the time all was said and done, Helaine had beaten me 158 – 143. She will be tested for steroids later.
Did she want to bowl again? Hell yeah!
We started our third game, and this time it was my turn to get hot. I made marks in my first 8 frames, finishing with 175, my personal best.
Helaine probably won’t admit this, but she’s just as competitive as me. Now there’s incentive for us to go again.
I’m a lucky guy. Two decades and change since “Moonlight Bowling” and I still have fun with the girl I took back then… and I still beat her.
¹ – I’m embarrassed to say we’ve been to neither. That’s a shame. As much as I enjoy theater (and I really do), I need to be taking advantage of local resources like that.