Thursday, April 2, 2009

Theme Thursday (The Perfect 10)

The Perfect 10



Deliberately, I pick my ball up off the rack. Cradling the ball in the crook of my left elbow, I wipe the tracks of lane oil off of it with a clean, pink towel, carefully chosen to match my tournament uniform. A superstition of mine. After squeezing the little rectangular rosin bag, I, first, insert the tips of my two middle fingers and then the thumb of my right hand into the finger holes of the ball. I look down at the thin, half inch strips of variegated, blond hardwood and rainbow colored dots embedded in the approach. Carefully, I slide the center of my right foot, encased in a well worn, white leather, Lind's shoe, two boards to the right of the second dot. I notice every detail. The satiny feel of my suede sole gliding across the smooth wood. The pleat of my teal and pink cotton tournament skirt flaring away from my suntanned thighs as I find my position. The scent of lane oil. I grew up with this smell. It reminds me of my father, my 12 year old self, and 5 a.m. practice sessions. Quiet. Private. Reverent. No untoward interruptions. No need for conversation or food or anything but pure dedication.

I look out fifteen feet down the lane to the aiming arrows. My eye finds a little brown spot on the lane about four boards inside the gutter on the right side. I have found my target. Taking a deep breath, I slow every thing down. My mind chatter. My heart rate. My vision tunnels...obscuring peripheral vision. My ears quit seeking information in verbal noises and are soothed and covered by the generic, non-specific din of machines and hundreds of voices. The sounds morph into beats and rhythms. As cosmic as the universe. As visceral as my heartbeat.

I purposely ignore the overhead electronic scoring display, garishly braying the task before me. For the last 10 frames of the game, I have knocked down 10 pins each time. 10 strikes in a row. In bowling, the tenth frame is a bonus opportunity. If you strike in the tenth and final frame, you get two more shots at knocking down pins. On the 11th ball, I also strike which brings me to my 12th and final shot. A strike here ensures my achievement of a perfect game. 10 perfect frames. A score of 300. The Holy Grail of bowling.

I feel as if I am frozen. I can not move. Locked in fear of failure. Locked in fear of success. Yearning to realize the outcome of the perfection that I have trained for all of my life. Afraid of falling short of that perfection, I can't seem to move. Truthfully, I have been here many times before, successful in collecting all 12 strikes. But it doesn't "officially" count if it's not in sanctioned play. Nor, does it count if you have 10 strikes in game one and then then two more in the next game. It is not an "official 300." Right now, I am giving "official" the stank eye.

Finally, I rock back to start my movement forward. I push off with my left foot to get my right foot moving on my first step. Simultaneously, I move the ball out and down toward my target. I let it fall into a free wheeling arc while my footwork follows. I feel the ball reach the top of the back swing. I feel the speed of my movement gently sweep my hair away from my face, like the soft breath of a lover. Mentally I say, don't rush it here. Don't force. Wait...Wait...Wait for it. Wait for gravity to kick in and do her job, pulling the ball back down into the swing pattern. And I feel that shift of weight. And I gently follow the movement down like a dancer following her partner. Easy. Effortless. Weightless. Mindless. That's right. Easy does it. Rest between the beat of the moment.

At the bottom of the swing, I feel the inertia shift. It's time to go to work, time to engage my mind. As the ball hits the bottom of the swing, I feel the weight on my hand. The swing advances past center, upward. My thumb slides out. All the weight of the ball rests on the fingertips of my second and third digits. I curl them as fiercely as I can, as if to resist the ball coming off of my hand. And I give a vicious tug straight up. This is how you create those impressive, massive, board swallowing hook balls you see professionals execute on television. Curling your fingers tips with all of your might as the ball comes off of your hand is what imparts the gyroscopic inertia. In layman's terms, ripping the cover off of the ball.

The ball, out of my hand now, is jettisoned in a straight line, skidding through the oil, heading out toward that four board. Reaching its destination, it hits the dry boards and flips like a gymnast off the vault. It begins its high revving trip back toward the right-handers G-spot, the 1-3 pocket. It is homing in on a strike, moving like a heat seeking missile. During a solid strike, the ball slams the 1-3 pocket to knock all ten pins down. The ball, itself, only hits four pins, the 1, 3, 5, and 9. The remaining six pins are taken out by pin action. My ball hits the pocket and the pins erupt in an explosion of red and white.



I watch the ball roll off the back of the pin deck. I watch all of the pins as they blow off the deck. I watch as the six pin does its job and tickles the belly of the 10 pin, the last man to fall. It rocks on its bottom from side to side to side. Another degree of lean and I have my perfecto. Arghh, agony. The lean is not far enough. The soldier settles and stands straight in a one man salute. My spiking elation quickly rides a rapid descent to dejection. The score of 299 is mine. Still a record score, but I am denied my perfect 10. Today the bowling gods withheld one ray of light of my day in the sun.

39 comments:

Tom said...

299 ! One of those what-if moments...it's a ten.

Mrsupole said...

You described bowling and the feeling so great. I stopped bowling about 7 years ago and sometimes I miss it and sometimes I don't. I never had a good average anyway, but was for some reason voted as league president. Probably cause I did that job better than I bowled. I had bowled with those people for almost 15 years. It was exciting when I had been able to be there while someone bowled a 300. The whole place goes silent and no one else goes up to bowl. The pressure put on that person has to be so great, but no one ever wanted to break their concentration.

Funny how we always had so many superstitions and always do the same exact things each time. I would have liked to see you when you were competing in a tournament.

Once my husband got invited to bowl with the pros, back when ABC used to have the Pro Tour on TV every weekend. It was so exciting and I still have the pictures. The girls went googoo gaga over Brian Voss. They thought he was so cute.

I think someday you will get that 300.

God bless.

mary said...

Wow - you're good! Bowling and story telling!

The Clever Pup said...

Nice memoir

Candie Bracci said...

:)
wow very nice what you've done with the theme and yes it's perfectly described.

Alan Smithee said...

Alan Smithee can't stand watching most sports on TV. He does enjoy watching the Olympics and bowling.

Brian Miller said...

wow. my heart was racing, anxious to see the outcome, i was cheering for you...so close. all the fun of the sport. likewise, the scent of the lane oil bringing back memories for you, priceless...great story, well told.

Reya Mellicker said...

Awesome!!

My father was a bowling coach. We had a family bowling team and were always part of a league. The name of our team? The Alley Wreckers.

Fabulous. Thank you.

Marianna said...

I played bowling like...two or three times. It is great fun (and exercise). I did my perfect 10 once and it really was amazing lol

Thanks for sharing your story :-)
Peace
xoxo

Wings said...

Great, descriptive story! You had me hooked! And you surprised me at the end. 299 is nothing to sneeze at, but OH SO CLOSE to 300!

Michael Rawluk said...

That is an incredible description. I tried 10 pin bowling and the only G-spot I hit was the gutter.

Ronda Laveen said...

Tom: It was definitely a what-if moment.

Sherry: I haven't bowled for a dozen years so will probably never get that 300. I loved it for many years but have moved on to other endeavors. You probably got elected league President because you were solid and stable. That's the person I always voted for. Your girls are right, Brian Voss was,and probably still is, quite the hunkster. I have an autographed photo!

Mary, Pup, and Candie: Thanks, glad you blogged-in.

Alan Smithee has good taste.

Brian: Isn't it funny how scents can trigger memories you think you've long forgotten. So cool.

Reya: Why am I not surprised your father was bowling coach. Are you sure we didn't share the same father? Ours were both photographers and bowling coaches! What are the odds of that? I love the team name "Alley Wreckers." We were always the "Alley Kats."

Marianna: It is thrilling when you get a strike isn't it. It is addicting. Once I got the first one, I wanted more and more.

Wings: You are right. A 299 is still an incredible achievement. But still...

Michael: G-spot...gutter. Very funny. I could throw some awesome strikes. I could also throw some awesome gutter balls. I just liked doing either one with style.

Colette Amelia said...

I have only played 5 pin. The good thing about bowling is there is always next time...

Lizzy Frizzfrock said...

Great bowling story. I LOVE the photo of the red ball & the pins!!!

Dakota Bear said...

Thank you for that vivid description of bowling.

It's been over thirty years since I have bowled, but I still have my blue 13 pound ball and blue shoes. My highest score was 197, but I was thrilled with that.

tony said...

STRIKE!!!!!!!!!

Ronda Laveen said...

Colette: I do not know of this 5 pin game. I've heard of 9 Pin and Candle Pin.

Lizzy: I was taken with that picture too.

Dakota: I know what you mean. I have an attic full of bowling equipment gather dust. I keep thinking there must be something creataive I can do with all of those balls.

Tony: I wonder how they decided to call it that?

willow said...

Nice memories! I haven't been bowling since I was a kid.

Roy said...

Cool! A story about bowling. Heh, heh! Makes perfect sense for a "ten" theme. And a story well told!

I grew up in Maryland, where the big bowling game was Duckpins. I was good at that; my Dad was phenomenal. When I went to college they had a bowling alley in the student center, but it was Tenpins only, so I had to learn to bowl all over again, and I was never nearly as good as I was at Duckpins.

Dot-Com said...

The feeling of "what if" or "if only" :-)

lettuce said...

now i know why i hardly ever get a strike, or close - i just kind of pick up the ball and roll it....

;-}

great writing

Holly Jolly said...

Fabulous post...Thanks for the memories!!!~

Ronda Laveen said...

Willow: I haven't been bowling for a while either but do have many great memories.

Roy: Duckpins, I have heard of it but not sure how it is played. It's interesting how many games evolve around a central theme. I always thought I might be good at Bocce Ball but have never tried.

Dot-com: Yes, If only...

Lettuce: You know what? There are times that just picking the ball up and rolling it is better than all that tricky stuff. It all works.

Holly Jolly: Thanks for popping in.

Tristan and Crikey said...

Maybe those bowling gods want to keep you humble:)

Cinnamon said...

Wow- I was right there with you, egging you on! You described the tension so well. I also didn't reallise that bowling was so technical :)

Evening Light Writer said...

Ronda, when you let go of that ball and it went flying down the lane I wanted to jump off my seat and cheer! I am probably the world's worst bowler..hands down..This was really brilliant, I'm just glad I don't bowl against you. I went bowling with my sister, brother, and his roommate last year and I was bloody awful! I had fun though..ohh yes.

Jaime said...

299! wow! in my last 4 games COMBINED i haven't bowled 299

Ronda Laveen said...

Tristan & Crikey: You are sooo right. There is no DOUBT in my mind the Bowling Gods ascribe to human humbleness. Of that, I am convinced.

Cinnamon: At an elite level, bowling is mind bogglingly technical. That was just the tip of the iceberg. It is a game based in physics.

Mindy: As the old bowling standard goes, these days I "couldn't hit my a** with both hands." But back in the day... But I can still teach. Anytime you want--let's go!

Squirrel said...

The way you describe it, I want to try it again!!!! It sounds really wonderful, fluid, elegant. I just thought it was fun.

growing up nowhere near bowling alleys ~ bowling was always a once in a very great while treat. Bowlmore near NYU-- I wonder if it still exists. It was a funky little place. 2 summers ago we came upon a tiny bowling alley that was for sale (on the NY/PA border) we stopped in and bowled-- the place was really cute, but alas the kitchen was closed, so no greasy fun food.

mouse (aka kimy) said...

i've been dreaming of going bowling for weeks....and it will be so las yare at least 4 bowling alleys in town and one only a block from my house

Baino said...

God I haven't been bowling since the kids were little and there's a huge alley near us . .disco bowling, blacklight bowling . . .it's actually having a real comeback as a party venue! I took off with hired shoes on once! Sorry you missed that vital pin, you should have flung yourself belly down and slid to strike the spare! tee hee . . have a good weekend!

Ronda Laveen said...

Jaime: If you say it was 2 games instead of 4, it looks like a 150 avg...creative math.

Mouse & Baino: Back when I was bowling 1-2x p/day, I would have given anything to be that close to a center.

Megan said...

That was great fun to read and oh, soooooo close!!! You have a wonderful descriptive flair. I was all tense!

Lizzy Frizzfrock said...

Ronda, I wanted to stop back by to make a comment about "Cowgirls". You are correct that we do not hear much about "Even Cowgirls...", but it was such a fun read. I loved the name Bonanza Jellybean & decided I needed an alias so I came up with Lizzy Frizzfrock. I think it ranks pretty high in the character names that Robbins uses. I went to a Robbins book signing once and he signed my book "To Lizzy Frizzfrock..." Cool, huh?

Kris said...

I love skittles.

Auntie, aka cagny said...

wow,
i would have never thought BOWLING.
what a cool post.
now i know how much you love to bowl.

subtorp77 said...

Auughh! 5 AM? And you will bowl that 300. I can just feel it! Wish I could still bowl, but the shoulders can't take the punishment, anymore :(

Bendz said...

Good stuff. Nice snaps. You've got a good writing skill.
Happy blogging.
:-)
Insurance Agent

Films.... said...

Hi! Ronda Laveen,
Wow!...a very nice write-up! of the "steps" that you took while trying to achieve the perfect 10 when it comes to bowling. (I'am so sorry! that you didn't bowl a perfect 10!...but maybe next time!)

Btw, excellant use of the number...
10!...Thanks, for sharing!
Deedee ;-D