The Sunday Index - 5.12.19

No Open Frames

Yesterday I went bowling for the first time in, oh, years.

The first 10 years of my life had regular bowling alley visits every Saturday, sometimes throughout the week too. I was in a bowling league for some of those years, but only as a kid. I stopped bowling regularly sometime around 11-years-old, and kind of abandoned it completely in my teens. After I stopped, I went along for the ride as my brother continued. Sometimes for when he participated in the state tournament.

Both my dad and brother are great bowlers. And I don't mean that lightly. My brother has bowled something like seven perfect games. Maybe even more I'm unaware of at this point. I grew up knowing it was impressive to "roll a 600 series", only understanding much later what that meant. Three games together form a series, and if you bowl a 200 or above in all three, there ya' go, that's a 600 series. My dad was always commenting on how close my brother - or he himself - got to this achievement, or celebrating because it'd happened.

I've never rolled a 600 series. It doesn't mean I don't hold myself to that standard though, or contemplate what I could do to make it happen. And again, I bowled for the first time in *years* last night. Yet after two games, one a 135 the other 142, I stood near some vending machines (a classic bowling alley tableau) contemplating my open frames.

An open frame is where you get something other than a strike or spare. They are like the broken windows of an abandoned building, gaping and still jagged.

A lot of those early Saturday mornings were struggles to maintain a positive attitude. I hated not being able to produce an outcome I could see, especially when my older brother could so easily. Or what I perceived as easily. It was hard for him too, sometimes, holding onto the joy of bowling. We weren't *forced* to bowl, either. Dad liked it, so almost naturally we ended up interested, maybe at first for no other reason than proximity.

Bowling has a lot of pleasing tactile and aural treasures though. There's the ball itself, smooth and mirrored, sometimes holding swirls like the universe's art projects. Or maybe a ball had a logo etched into it, some trademarked representation of excellence. Like a fucking shark.

The shoes, no matter how recently produced, with mismatched panels like saddle shoes, almost always colored in the style of Good & Plenty. A smooth plastic heel, with polished leather soles that freed you from the friction of being tacked onto the world's skin through gravity.

I could write about all the different molded plastics, the benches in the locker room where a weary bowler could rest their ball in a perfect concave nest, all lined up down the middle of flat and slippery seats on either side. It was bright orange, vaguely insect-like because of its legs. The horrible carpet patterns; indecipherable pinball voices warbling in between random sound effects; weak lighting; shining floorboards; ball returns with their steady breath of chilled air; coffee scent; cigarette smoke (for a while at least); everything inside a bowling alley always feels slightly temporary and cheap.

None of it compares to the pins, however. It's not temporary when they explode under your freaking powerful cannonball shot.

Or even if it's only one, the sound of a bowling pin being struck by a ball is one of the great zen sports experiences. And a strike, imagine that sound multiplied, echoing in the cave at the end of the on ramp.

It took me years, but the appreciation I found for a bowling alley, all of its components, simultaneously the testing ground for a skill we made up just for fun - this was weird and unexpected. As a kid there came a point where the only reason to go to the bowling alley was to read (the novelization of The Death of Superman is a big memory) or to play my Sega Game Gear while everyone else bowled. Twenty-some-years later, it all makes sense maybe. I couldn't imagine going to a bowling alley and doing anything other than rolling a ball.
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Learning the history of science-fiction is important to me, and for a while I didn't realize my reading habits were sort of working around the edges of that aim. It started somewhat recently when I found my way to the sci-fi section of a used bookstore, one that charted a good amount of years for the genre. I've always loved sci-fi, I guess I didn't quite realize it was my favorite genre. Now I have a novel by David Brin in front of me, Sundiver, which I started reading last night. Obviously The Overstory didn't work out yet. I actually jumped into Seveneves by Neal Stephenson but put it down because I wasn't clicking with. I liked it, just wasn't flowing for me at the time.

Right now I'm also reading (kind of "studying" I guess) Sci-Fi Chronicles, edited by Guy Haley, which is an awesome encyclopedia of the genre across many mediums. I've also started picking up sci-fi films I've missed. First up is Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Still need to watch it.

More next week!
*austin