December 10, 2005
The hardest part about bowling, for me, is finding a ball that fits my finger size and pattern preferences. I usually go for a 12-pounder, which I can huck down the lanes with some level of accuracy and momentum.
I cruise up and down the rows of segregated-by-weight fluorescent balls, tapping the tile with my slick-bottom bowling shoes with every step.
I wedge my fingers in each three-hole pattern looking for a perfect match, which I never seem to find. This dark green one will have to do.
My buddy has already found an adequate fit and taken his first shot; he starts the night with a strike and our friendly $1 wager turns into a serious competition.
From 9 to 10 at night, the scene at Orchard Lanes, at least on this Tuesday, is relaxed and friendly. Of the 16 total lanes in the place, 10 are in use, by bowlers ranging in age from two middle school fellas in lane 10 to a three-generation family in lane five. A girl in lane six is doing homework in between frames with her family.
Normally, I wouldn’t be caught dead in shoes like these. But the local bowling alley is exempt from the fashion-police, so I tight-roll my corduroys above my ankles, pull up my mismatched grey and white socks and strap down the bright green and orange Velcro.
In 2003 Orchard Lanes went non-smoking, much to the satisfaction of many local bowlers and families. The father-and-son-run business has seen several changes in recent years, including the addition of black-lighting, which is the reason for such flashy fluorescents. During Saturday night “Rock and Bowl,” the overheads dim, the music gets loud, colors radiate in the black-light and the disco balls on the ceiling spin freely, casting fractals in circles across the lanes.
There is no disco party tonight, however, just a quiet night of family fun.
I am a mediocre bowler at best. I’m a straight shooter who has never learned how to properly put spin on a ball. The middle-schoolers in lane 10 seem to have the technique down; even the girl multitasking homework and bowling has better form than mine.
Sometime around the sixth frame I realize I might not break 100, which has always been my measure of a decent game. My buddy is at 99 already and looking to seal an easy $1 payout.
An average bowling pin — made of maple and coated with plastic — weighs just over 3 pounds. Interestingly enough, the distance from the foul line to the head-pin is the same as the distance from the pitcher’s mound to home plate in baseball. “It’s only 60 feet,” I tell myself. “All I have to do is roll the ball straight and hard and let momentum do the rest.”
Of course, 60 feet is long enough to multiply even the slightest inaccuracies. By 9:45 p.m. I’ve thrown three gutter balls, three spares and a strike. Fortunately for most modern bowlers, Orchard Lanes is up with the times and equipped with the standard automatic scorekeeping. I finish with a 121-game, topped by what my buddy is calling the best game of his life: A whopping 141.
Around The Clock appears each Saturday for 24 weeks. The one-hour-at-a-time series started in August and will conclude in the Dec. 24 Hood River News.