Sunday, September 2, 2012

Accomplishment #43: Enter a Sports Competition (#34)

If you know me at all (and even if you don't, you could probably guess), I'm not much of a sports person.  I was the stereotypical "picked last for the team" in elementary school, and would sit in the outfield, picking at the crabgrass and watching disinterestedly as a ball would come near me.  I swam in the summer but couldn't fathom getting up at 5 for Swim Team practice; I played tennis and was okay unless I had to hit the ball back to someone.  (Hey, I had a good serve!)  I hated P.E. in high school so much that when I learned you could get credits for it by being in the marching band, I signed up -- despite the social stigma and the fact that I could not play an instrument.  (Talk about social stigma -- my friend and I, and our lack of talent, annoyed the "band geeks" so much that even THEY hated us.)  It was TOTALLY worth it to never have to change into shorts and run around a football field EVER AGAIN.  To this day when people want to go to the gym or play baseball or go running, I assume that they had much better P.E. teachers than I did, or were better at kicking balls.

However, when I got to college, P.E. was kind of ridiculous.  General P.E. was run by one of the coaches for some team or another, and he didn't know who anyone was so we all got A's.  Nice!  Then I took tennis, slept through most of it, and managed a C thanks to that serve.  (I told you.)  And then, senior year, I fulfilled my last P.E. requirement:  BOWLING.

Bowling!  A sport where you could drink and smoke (back then) at the same time, and most of that time you're sitting and drinking and smoking!  That's what our teacher, Nanci, did anyway.  She was about 100 years old, had short frosted hair, wore giant tee shirts tied fashionably at the waist with patterned leggings, and smoked those long, brown cigarettes.  I think she lived at the bowling alley.

Bowling was great because for the first time I wasn't necessarily worse than anyone else -- everyone was fairly bad except one kid whose license plate said "SHEFTY" so that's what we called him.  He didn't put his fingers in the holes of the ball; he'd slide the ball down the lane and it would hook and curve and he'd get strikes.  I was fascinated, but whenever I tried to do that, I'd get a gutterball -- though it wasn't much different than any other time I tried any other way.  In the end I got an A and felt like I got away with something.  It was a sport that was fun, even if I sucked at it.  Plus it was a good excuse to wear my Seagram's bowling shirt I'd found in a thrift shop. 

Over the years I still went bowling, bragging to everyone that I took bowling in college.  Of course they assumed that meant I was good, but they figured out quickly that even with professional training I was still lucky if I got a strike.  For a few years a group of us would get together and bowl -- mostly because we could wear our thrifted bowling shirts and drink -- the bowling was secondary.  We would even go to different bowling alleys in the area (most of which are sadly long gone), and even took trips to Reno and Tahoe to bowl. (And drink.  And gamble.)  We never joined a league -- it was just fun to get together and hang out.  Yet despite all that, all those hours spent hurling balls down many lanes, I never got any better it.  But it was really fun.

A few months ago, I was emailing with my beloved friend and old roommate, Marcia, and we decided to meet somewhere (in person -- what a novel idea!), and decided to go bowling -- more fun than just lunch or shopping or whatever.  It was great -- we got caught up, and as we were leaving, we saw a flyer for the summer leagues.  Called "The Groove League," it was 2 months long, every Monday night, and included in the $16 fee was shoe rental, pizza, and a pitcher of soda -- and black lights and music videos.  The flyer had pictures of bowling pins and pizza on it, and just looked so earnest.  It sounded so goofy and fun that we decided to do it -- but we needed to find two other people for our team.

I had two ladies in mind that I thought would be perfect, down to the fact that the four of us all wear vintage cat-eye glasses. One was my friend Shona, whom I adore. I'm in a supper club called Les Dames aux Gateaux with her --every month, a group of smart, lovely and most fabulous ladies get all gussied up and go to old restaurants.  (It's pretty much the best thing ever, and I'm still thrilled and honored I was asked to join.)  Shona, the founder Baby Doe, and I even took a field trip to L.A. and went to Phyllis Diller's house and Richard Simmons' aerobics class!  (Doe and I didn't do it, but Shona did.)  Those are all stories for another time, but I knew that Shona would totally get into the bowling league idea -- she's fun and fabulous like that and up for anything.  I was totally right.

The other prospective team member was my newest friend, Moe.  We "met" online because we had mutual Facebook friends, and then met in person at a Nancy Drew reading at a local bookstore.  (Um, could anything be better than that?)  I thought she was one of the funniest people I had ever met: quick, witty, and genuinely awesome.  I loved our online interactions --  we spent hours picking out hobo names for ourselves, and I laughed until I cried.  Still, I was worried that since I didn't know her well, she would think I was super weird if I asked her to join a bowling league.  But she said yes right away.  I guess my fears were unfounded -- after all, there's some heavy bonding, and a touch of good weirdness, when two people spend hours picking out hobo names.

Most of all, I was sure that all of us would totally get along.  Shona and Moe went to the same high school but hadn't seen one another in years, but reunited at a Tupperware Party at my house.  (I know, I know.  We sound like we stepped out of 1962 with that statement.)  And I knew that they both would love Marcia and her quirky sense of humor as much as I do, and vice versa, and that we would all laugh a lot.  I was even betting that we'd even have more fun than these ladies.


The first night, Marcia, Moe and I met up along with all the other league members in the bowling alley bar (Shona couldn't make it), and before the meeting started, Marcia pulled out a notebook with a list of names.  Oh, I wish I had that list because it was GENIUS.  Everything from "The Happy Hookers," to Strikes on a Plane" to a nod to Ida Blankenship from "Mad Men."  But we decided on "The Gutter Gals," because we knew it would be apt.  And minutes later I knew that Moe and Marcia would love one another.  We were handed a piece of paper detailing the rules, but it had printed funny, and the first letters of words from each column had been truncated.  "What's an 'andicap?'" I said, joking.  "It's when we get drunk and go home and beat our wives," Moe quipped, and the three of us started crying from laughing so hard, and started Googling Andy Capp's wife's name.  I knew that this would be magical. The Gutter Gals were officially Official!

Meet The Gutter Gals!

And sure enough, it was magical.  By the second week, when Shona joined us, half of the people who signed up had dropped out, so that left the league with only three teams:  "The Blues,"  "HIGH OCTANE," and The Gutter Gals.  We could tell that Mike, the secretary, was bummed at the low turnout, but we were delighted.  Inside jokes were instantly established, our favorite pizza was chosen, and after a couple of bumpy weeks playing contemporary hip hop, they abandoned the videos and started playing 80's music along with the disco lights which we definitely preferred.  So not only did we bowl, we danced to Rick Astley, Genesis and Whitesnake.

Moe rocks out to Whitesnake
The first order of business was to buy matching socks from the vending machine:

And to take "official" group photos:

And to check into Facebook:

Have the right accessories:

Pay homage to Phyllis Diller when she died:

Oh yeah...  And bowl!

 Marcia, our captain, was clearly the star bowler.  Look at that form!

 About to throw another gutter ball

Bowling is glamorous

There was the thrill of victory

And the agony of defeat.

But it didn't really matter.  Every Monday, I could not wait to get to the bowling alley, where I would get to hang out with these fantastic friends and bowl and gossip and eat pizza and drink soda and do dumb dance moves to Men Without Hats and have a blast.  We really were a team -- clapping for one another (but we would clap excitedly for anyone who got a strike, regardless of what team -- the other people thought we were weird), and rooting for each other, even when we didn't do so well.  The Gutter Gals became a fun unit, and here's an Accomplishment in itself:  I started to love Mondays.  I never thought THAT would be possible, but I just loved what we were doing and these gals so much. 

The summer and the 8 weeks flew by, and last Monday was our last night.  We wore our bowling ensembles and tiaras:

and I brought the world's meltiest and ugliest cake for everybody.

Of course it was superfun as usual, but it was also a bit bittersweet.  We bowled our hearts out, and Shona bowled her best game ever! 

STRIKE on the first frame!!!!
But when it came time for the very last ball to be bowled, we were all pretty sad.

Then it was time for the award ceremony -- after all, this really was a competition!  We had been paying dues into a kitty, and now it was time to show us the money.  (Or not.  Remember, there were only three teams.)

Drumroll, please:

We came in second place -- $20 each!!!!  WE WON SILVER!!!!!!

Our buddies HIGH OCTANE came in first.  They won ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS.

Marcia won for best lady bowler!!!  FIVE DOLLARS!!!

And get this:  I won $5 for ladies' highest handicap!!!  I'm not sure what that means, but I think it means Best Worst Bowler!

But I won!  I won at a sport!!!  ME!!!  I never, ever, EVER thought THAT would ever happen. That felt pretty good for someone who was always picked last, and spent more time bored in the outfield than up at bat.  I don't suck so hard after all!  I know it's not as exciting as an Olympic medal, but clearly I'm happier with my awards than SOME people are with theirs.

What.  Ever.
As we sat and ate our last pizza together, I felt sad.  While Marcia, Moe and I signed on again for Winter League (it's the Big Time -- against real bowlers AND a trip to Reno!), Shona can't do it this winter because of her schedule.  So it was truly the last night for the four of us.  We sat and chatted and laughed and reminisced, and thanked each other for making the summer so much fun.  I loved being part of this group, and our mighty little team.  I loved that the three of them became good friends, too, and I know that all of us will stay friends and in touch.  And I loved that we tried something new, had fun, and were totally rewarded in many ways.   And as we sat there,with Moe pulling the cheese off her pizza and Marcia eating the crust (their usual routine), the music that came on was "I Believe I Can Fly" and it was straight out of a chick flick.  Except, since it was us, it started us on the topic of the weird video where R Kelly was in the closet and how he liked to pee on people, and what is THAT all about...  See?  Our team was magic.

Summer leaguin' -- had us a blast
But I am excited for our new league -- our friend Barb is joining The Gutter Gals as our new fourth, and she's so much fun that I know we'll have a great time.  Plus we recruited 8 other fun and fabulous ladies -- two other teams -- so that is going to be awesome!  We'll be bowling with and against some serious bowlers, so it will be better to have some goofiness, and not take it too seriously.  And who knows.  Maybe we'll win something again.  But let's face it -- it really isn't about how you win or lose.  It's how you play the game...  And what you're wearing.  Duh!

Forty-three down, 54 to go.