out of the very Heavens,
each mighty blast spawn of our
deadly dadly brawn.
The atmosphere tears asunder.
Way down on the Earth,
they tremble and scatter;
groveling for shelter from the fearsome
pounding of the merciless Legions of Zeus.
Then just as a gathering calm ripples
false assurance to the weasly mortals below,
we tipple our frothy grog,
and in the haze of Olympian cumulo-nimbi,
again, and again, and again.
It was beer-frame,
and we were drunk again
on Media League Bowling Night.
Now, I never had the fleet-footed
twinkly-toe power delivery of say,
the awesome Fred Flintstone,
but I could kegle with the best of 'em,
even in Bedrock;
even through the expected and
beastly boozy haze.
Bring on the cactus juice and
I'll bring you in the Brooklyn
side every time, baby.
But "berling" (as even James Thurber
might tell you they call it in C'lummis, Ahia),
ain't the dadly badge of valor it
once was, I must sadly report.
Indeed, the sport of berling has
adopted the sort of developmentally
appropriate practices that are
bringing civilization to its very knees.
Once, it WAS a rite of passage.
I'd get dragged to the alley and slather-up
a basket-o-blackmail fries
with a flood of canker catsup
("...here --- now eat 'em and shaddup,"
the old man would say),
and display my own acumen with my acquired
lexicon of berling epithets,
which I would hurl at all
the appropriate moments.
"Sit down sitDOWNSITDOWWWWN!"
you'd yelp when a strike was imminent.
"Pick 'em up!!"
"BRING 'EM BACK!!"
would work equally well for
a spare or a split scenario.
I was coming along just fine,
and had even berled a coupla wenis
kiddie leagues my own damn self, when
I made off to none other than the
kingdom of the Soviet Satan for a
semester abroad, where I copped a
wildly surreal faux-commie kegle.
From that point on I knew
berling was forever changed.
And those monumental changes set off
a domino effect of ruination evident
in the mounting malaise of
Gen-X'ers, and in our own
up-and-coming sniveling spawn.
Come back with me now, dear readers,
back, back to the frightful and
paranoia-wracked days of the
C-c-c-cold War and Nikita's Wall,
back when the boozy breath of Brezhnev
levied a merciless dictatorship
of the proletariet in none other than
(Fear not, patriotic patriarchs --- I vow we shall
return for the most part
For three glorious months in my
waning pre-dadly days I was filthy
stinking rich; rolling in rubles
from the brazen sales of black market
jeans, jeans, jeans;
a side job while I pretended
to be a language student.
While our Komsomol instructors
bristled with politically-correct
anti-capitalist horror, we
C-c-c-cold War running dog imperialists
hot-boxed the finest Havana stogies,
commandeered Moskvich cabbies
for the most mundane of school commutes,
lunched on the finest Beluga eggy-weggs,
and swallered enough champanskoye
(and this is the God's truth my little droogies),
to float even Don Ho's bubbly boat.
Yet, as often happens amongst the moneyed
intelligentsia, boredom quickly set in.
The only panacea --- well of course,
you've guessed it --- was a sojourn
to the sole set of Brunswicks
in all of the vast Land O'Lenin.
Yes, in all of Mother Russia's respoobleeki
there was at that time just ONE berling alley.
Huffing a papirosi ciggy,
a butt so vile, only Gulag folk smoke 'em,
('cept Solzhenitsyn who was too busy bummin'),
and properly zorked from black market hooch,
we got off the metro and shambled into
a world unlike any the PBA has ever imagined.
Devochkas in stilettoes bounded down the
Brunswicks hurtling the pitted
alley balls aloft, that
and punished the lanes like a
malicious meteor strike.
Malchicks in thick street shoes
hully-gullied past the foul line
smacking down pins they felt should
have fallen with their bare
Ciggy butts smouldered dozens deep in the gutters.
All of this might be forgiven,
and even welcome by the western eye
as a sure sign that our correct
capitalist culture was finally making
inroads against the Great Satan,
excepting for one minor peccadillo-ski.
The Russkies hadn't been fully
briefed on the proud traditions
and heritage of berling.
Aye, verily, nobody remembered to
tell 'em the A-B-C's of The Game,
so they doo-my-yood their own spin:
1. Choose your weapon from the ball return
2. Take a careful aim
3. Hit the pin reset button
4. Fire the freakin' ball as fast as you
can down the alley.
OBJECT: drop as many pins as possible
before the reset rack drops.
As you might well imagine, within
days of Brunswick's bold entrepreneurial
investment behind the Iron Curtain,
every last stinkin' lane had been
nuked by the overzealous sputnikies.
My facial tick returned, heightened
in intensity by an additional and
uncontrollable thigh twitch.
Still, I sauntered to the control
counter, kopeks in hand,
to rent berlin' dags.
"Mozhno twoflee pozhalsta?"
I asked in a clear and confident
Russian dialect (acceptable absolutely
everywhere out East back then).
The silver-toothed Svetlana behind
the counter rotated her lumbering
frame and cracked a gruesome grin
that lit up her full, glorious
complement of ciliated facial
pustules and pimples and
boils and beasties.
She didn't get it.
My duodenum floppy-flipped.
She peered down her nose at my Western feet.
"Oo vas OO-ZHE twoflee"
("You already have shoes")
Overcome with despair,
and with no meaningful recourse,
I proceeded to berl
an undocumented perfect game in my chukkas;
mooned Lenin's mausoleum on the
way back to the hotel;
and grabbed the next Aeroflot headin' west,
trembling, and mumbling under my breath
in the many tongues foretold by Babel.
It's all been downhill since that
heinous time, dear readers.
Everything is different now.
Automatic scoring devices have
supplanted the entertaining fisticuffs
that would forever break out over
arithmetic errors, leaving an entire
generation of children the option
of learning math only in school.
There are non-smoking Leagues.
Yanni blasphemes the jukebox
(now referred to as a
Johnny Red is dead.
Increasingly, Fruitopia is the
drink of choice in dadsville.
And for our kids, the ultimate tragedy;
You see, in bumper berling, kiddies can't lose.
Inflatable lane-long wieners fill
the gutters on either side so
that no matter how junior shanks
the shot, a few token pins are
guaranteed to fall, in turn
guaranteeing that junior's ego-wego
will not become permanently bruised
by the humiliation of a gutter
goose egg on the LCD overhead.
You can't lose. And you don't really win.
I say bah!
Nowadays, kids are junked-up with
Ritalin when their highs get too high.
They're pumped-up with Prozac
when their lows get too low.
In school, they all win first prize
for every academic competition.
Smileys abound on substandard
work that just a few years ago
would've been enough for a front
row seat in the corner
with dunce cap adornment.
But for now, it was beer-frame.
And bearing the unendurable weight
of all of the foregoing, my strategy
was crystal clear.
No one saw me leave the lanes that
November night; no one saw me walk
on out to the wind-swept
bridge; no one saw me commit my
personal Brunswick to the black,
black winter waters of the Olentangy River.
Making a silent covenant in the cold,
I walked, and walked, and walked
until the reverberating crash of the pins
became a distant and malignant memory.