I grew up bowling. On many winter Saturdays we grew up listening to Chris Economacki and Billy Welu cover the current PBA tournament on television. Back then the Pro Bowlers Association was headquartered in my home town of Akron, Ohio and its founder, Eddie Elias was a regular golf partner of my step-father. But it was mostly my father who got me into the game.

Dad is a bowler. Make that a good bowler. He hasn't thrown a 300 game yet, but he has a couple of 800 series to his credit. To shoot 800 in three games means you have to average 267 for each game. To offer some perspective on that, if you throw a game of all strikes except for one frame where you leave one pin and pick up the spare, that usually leaves you with a 279 game. Only very, very good bowlers ever throw an 800. And Dad is one of those guys who gets better with a little money on the line. He used to think about going out for the pro tour. Except that bowling is a blue collar sport. If you watch a PGA tournament you see ads for Mercedes-Benz cars and Rolex watches. The 2010-11 bowling season is sponsored by Lumber Liquidator$. The payoff for winning a tournament is similarly diminished. As an professional engineer, Dad made a good salary, good enough that he'd have to be among the top twenty on the tour in order to do significantly better, and he'd never be at home with his family. So Dad remained a league bowler, but he's also one of those guys who gets asked to join a team rather having to ask.

So I grew up bowling a lot of Saturdays with my father. Which meant I had coaching, and developed a smooth, fundamentally sound style. But I was never anything special. I am a geek, and back then nobody had a computer they needed a geek to work on, so geeks were distinctly low-status individuals. Back then they called us nerds, or worse. I was very self-conscious so relaxation was impossible in an age where relaxation is often difficult. I was my own worst enemy most of the time, and so my scores reflected my personality more then my skill. Again nothing unusual for teenagers, but I had a worse case then most.

And my friends decided to stop bowling. League bowling is a team sport, and it's a lot more fun when you like the people you're bowling with. I bowled in a Saturday morning league with a couple of my best friends for one year. The next year they dropped out and I bowled with one friend and three people I didn't know. Then I went off to college, didn't make the college bowling team, and well pretty much dropped out of the game.

For thirty-five years. My shoes no longer fit. I kept my bowling ball, but putting my fingers into it turned out to be a fantasy.

Then about four years ago I dated a woman who was a mystery shopper and she often got bowling alley shops. We'd go in and throw a few games (they insisted that we had to use alley balls and shoes--- no problem since my stuff no longer fit.) I found I liked it and mentioned it to my father. A couple weeks later I found myself at Riviera Lanes getting my hand measured by Donnie, the pro who drills my father's balls and a bowler Dad admires. Which means he's really freaking good. Make no mistake, all pros are not equal. He measured me, tested my limberness, and on Christmas Eve I found a new ball and bag waiting for me under the tree. Dad took me bowling and started coaching me like he did in days of old.

Only things are a little different now. Back then, I hated myself. But somehow in the intervening thirty-five years I managed to get laid. Today I'm comfortable in my own skin. I'm much more willing to take coaching, and am relaxed enough to understand what Dad's really getting at. He tells me to do something, and it usually works. In 2009 a local bowling alley staged a free summer league for businesses and my company sponsored a team. I liked it, and tried to join a winter league. Lesson to self: If you want to join a winter league start looking in August or very early September. Most leagues are full by mid September unless you're bringing a whole team with you. This year I started early.

So I found myself on a team with two guys I'd never met before in my whole life. I expected I would suck, because while my game showed promise, I couldn't quite put things together over the previous year. So I came there deciding that, for me, 150 was a good game. I just hoped I wouldn't get humiliated and find myself on a team that didn't want me.

But once again Dad proved right. He told me it would take about a year or so before things "clicked in'. Lo and behold they did on my first night of league competition. I averaged a solid 177 with a high game of 226. And I've been getting better ever since. I've beaten everyone on my team all but three games that we've bowled together. I'm the anchorman and have won a few games for us when I struck out in the tenth frame to pull us ahead. I'm not the best bowler in the league by a long shot, but I've beaten some good bowlers. Now people nod at me when I come into bowl and call me by name.

Now all I have to get a few more kinks worked out, because I think I'd really like to bowl in a tournament with my Dad. I think he'll have me as a teammate. In fact, I'm sure of it.

I am displeased.

This time last week I was working (slowly, painfully) on my thesis, thinking first and foremost about what I needed to cover in today's lecture to wrap up the Arab-Israeli conflict.

This morning my department head (who is also my Graduate assistant supervisor) sat in on my class for annual evaluations.  She didn't have a single bad thing to say, not even constructive criticism.  This is quite an improvement over last year, and I'm proud of that.  It was probably the best class session I'd had all year, which is a great deal of luck, since normally these things work out the other way around.

I was discussing the presence of fairly high-tech rockets in the hands of Hezbollah and how, even following the Israeli-Lebanon war in 2006 in which munitions bunkers were taken out en masse, Hezbollah not only increased the frequency of rocket attacks in Israel (to 150 rockets/day at one point) but they were using increasingly sophisticated long-range equipment.  Where do these weapons come from?  Lots of places.  Old Soviet weapons held over from the 80s, old US stingers gifted to the Taliban to help fight off the USSR, and plenty of support from Saudi Arabia and Syria.

One student mentioned that, since this was going on in 2006, that there was also the internet.  i wasn't sure what to think of that, exactly, and my response was this:

"I don't think that you can just order rockets online."  There were a few moments silence before, from the back of the room a girl announced "That's now my Facebook status."

I'm having an effect on the world now.  Influencing someone's Facebook status is more change than most teachers can hope for in a given lecture, so I'm happy about it.

It took a few minutes to get class going properly again after that.  Turns out by "there's the internet" he meant that plans for the construction of weapons were widely available online at this point.  He was right, one could theoretically make a rocket from old soviet scrap with the right knowledge, but these were professional, polished, high-quality weapons and not salvaged ones.



Then, I went to the graduate school, where my thesis proposal had been drifting through the twisting nether since May, and was starting to really tax my sanity.  It turns out that it was approved and filed five months ago and they had somehow managed not to notify me or my thesis adviser (who is also my Graduate Assistant supervisor, who is also my department head).  So there was never really a problem to begin with, and I could have ignored this and things would have worked themselves out magically when graduation rolled around.

Next step, email the dean about that class I took from him last year and see if I could get him to write me some reference letters.  Score.  I shot out other, significantly less awkward emails to two other professors (one of whom is also my thesis adviser, who is also my graduate assistant supervisor, who is also my department head).  Agreement all around, the application process is underway.


I'm displeased because last week i was comfortable (if not necessarily happy) in my daily routine, and now I'm making real plans to attend a PhD program that will involve a cross-country move and huge changes to my life.  This has gotten way too real, way too fast.  This is the part where I panic.

DON'T PANIC

 

 

I went to the ER yesterday because of double vision and cloudiness in my right eye, rule out a subdural hematoma, and more swelling from BOTH brain mets. Dang SQUID BRAINS!

To two friends with metastatic breast cancer: I have 12 lymph nodes currently involved, right collarbone, trachea, and last summer one under my left arm and one in my right hip. Everything is currently stable, but the are sneaky little buggers, aren't they?

Jeannie, my dear, I prescribe eggnog, and a fire, and a REALLY good book. Pure self indulgence. I am sewing tutus for little girls who will be doing the Nutcracker next week, including TWO for me, one for the teeniest little ballerina you've ever seen, my girl who is 12, and a couple of other people. My whole adult ballet class showed up yesterday either in costume, or in tutus, just because I asked them to. Princess dresses make me feel happy, as do magic pink toe shoes.

I'm feeling really sad about some drama over this past week, and loss of trust in a couple of relationships that are extremely important to me. I hope they will mend over time, since I seem to lack the energy to mend them myself. I've cried a lot.

I'm enjoying putting up my tarot cards on my blog. Several are really complicated, and some are very simple. I love hearing reactions, and wertperch finds some of then very creepy, like my poetry can be creepy and disturbing. This is probably ok; cancer is creepy and horrifying, as well. Not all tarot cards can be positive. I've been pulling the hanged man, the tower, death and the devil a lot lately in the old italian deck. Nothing really means the obvious choice.

Love to all,
grundoon

I have a hairline fracture along the growth plate in my ankle, I will be in a walking boot for approximately three weeks. The night before last I was goofing around on a razor scooter I put my left foot under the deck, jumped, and kicked the deck with my foot. It spun! Once! Twice! It slammed into my ankle and I fell hard. As my ankle hit the pavement it rolled inward. I hobbled up the driveway and got into bed, thinking the pain would fade overnight. I was wrong. That morning the pain was intense. It took four minutes to get one sock on. My dad checked it out before school and said it was probably sprained. I hobbled to school, and during science class I asked if I could go to the nurse. In the nurse's office I got an icepack, and orders to lie down while the nurse called my mom. my mom drove in to pick me up, and when I went to the science classroom to get my books I found it was locked. Today I went to the doctor and was diagnosed with a hairline fracture along the growth plate. The Doctor gave me a walking boot and orders to take it easy. Thank god for E2 or I would be bored out of my mind.

Just a few days ago I met up with someone from my high school years, more than an acquaintance, not quite a friend. Not sure what defines a friend, but I am pretty sure that if you never visited each other’s houses, you did not make the cut for friends. Nonetheless, we were friendly through high school - nights spent together at marquesina parties, marquesina being a unique puertorican construction, a sort of concrete shed with an open back and wrought iron swinging doors that would usually house a car or two, but for the evening was filled with fifty to a hundred sweaty teenagers marinating in a soup of their own hormones in the funk of an overhot tropical night, tree frogs singing in the yard - crystal blue persuasion blaring from the rickety stereo.

But I digress.

So my friend (let's keep it simple) is in my neck of the woods - Boston - as a dangling spouse and to visit his middle daughter, currently a frosh at Boston College. We have reconnected through a common high school chum that is very sick and facing his own mortality has decided to reunite us all, all 113 of us, even if just on Facebook. He messaged me on Facebook at the last minute being in town already and we decided to meet. He was on full on tourist mode and as such was heading to the Museum of Fine Arts. Now, the MFA has just opened a new America wing with all its Copley’s, Cassat’s and other assorted Americana as well as a budding colonial Latin American collection , not to mention that the burger at the new cafe had gotten a good review already, three days before it opened to the general public. So, I told him I would meet him there for lunch. Awkward.

It was not awkward at all - not the clichéd picked up where we left off - but closer than the gulf of years would lead you to believe. Maybe is just our age, at fifty you tend to talk more freely about real stuff and spend a lot less time on the chit-chatter, sweet . I for one, had a great time, the burger lived up to the build up, the cafe space is monumental and we got to spend a fair amount of time catching up as the service was brand-new-restaurant slow.

It was a very bittersweet reunion - there we were - thirty years on, old but not aged, yet, reminded of our mortality in the most direct way - how could the vital, beautiful, carefree teenager I remember could have turned into the middle aged balding person across the table from me? And yet, the sweet, that familiarity reaching across the years salved the bitterness and achieved that wonderful balance of laughter through tears - the human condition redux - the joy of life and the forward memory of death.

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