"St. Pete or Bust! 2000" story # 23

St. Petersburg, Florida           January 31, 2001

For Ewan "Johnny" Smith's 22nd birthday, we decided to outfit ourselves in 70's apparel from the local thrift store for a first-ever night of 70's bowling. Here were the players:
     Cory - a blond-haired Minnesotan and my companion for "St. Pete or Bust," with an explosive gusto for fun. He dressed in a bright blue collared shirt, a short matching jacket, and white pants decorated with blue and red squares. He gave his hair a part as sharp as cheddar cheese, and his boyish looks resembled a porn star.
     Luke - a short-haired kid who's loyal and down for anything. He wore light yellow slacks, a white polo shirt with blue and yellow stripes, and a shiny blue jacket. A yellow old-timer's cap completed his ensemble, and he looked so much like a taxi driver I kept expecting him to turn around and ask me, "Where you going?"
     Johnny - my roommate, a 6'8" former basketball player with big, round features and a gut he'd gained proudly after quitting sports two years ago. He's a beer-guzzling, stories-from-the-country-telling, flatulence-loving man's man. His outfit consisted of a white undershirt, a light brown checkered dresscoat, a pink gentleman's cap, and a long pair of pink pants so tight, as he said, "you could see (his) teeth when he bent over." After he somehow managed to button his pants, his gut hung over, and his round glasses and jolly smile gave him the look of a 70-year old Englishman.
     Me - a saint of a guy with the athletic prowess of an ancient Greek olympian, the strength and agility of a cougar, and the charm of James Bond. I wore a leprechaun's suit, with a sharp-collared orange shirt beneath, buttoned low so my chest-hair protruded. My greased hair was parted down the middle, so I was dressed to sell used cars. "These beaut's are marked for as low as $499, with low-monthly interest and no money down! They're going like hotcakes, so hustle on down to Modern Oddyseus' Lot of Alotta Cars Blowout Reduction Liquidation Close-Out Sale!"
     We consumed close to ten beers each, went with some friends to the bowling alley, and ordered a couple pitchers of beer.
     A 15-year old took an interest in our dress. We explained that it was for a birthday, and we asked the kid how old he thought Johnny was.
     "I don't know ... fifty?" he said.
     We bowled. Full of beer and the high spirits that follow, we started cheering like crazy for everyone who stepped up to the lanes. Common chants for a bowler included "C'moooon, Luke!" and "Here we go now, big strike!"
     All the cheering became too much for me, and I wanted a competition. I carefully chose a girl, Emily, to pick on, based on that she'd only bowled twice before in her life. "You stink. You sti-iii-iii-ink!" I yelled. "You're a loser. LOOOOOOOSER!"
     The cheering went on for the others, and we'd brought many different bowling styles to the lanes. Cory, in his tight blue suit, grew serious when it was his turn and performed calisthenics before bowling. He straightened his arms to the side and rotated them in little circles, then did a couple of deep-knee bends and toe touches. I bowled a straight, ungraceful ball, but, each time the ball left my hand, I swung my right foot in a wide loop to the left and held my empty hand in the air for a pose suggesting I could've been a professional. Johnny, meanwhile, only sprinted to get his ball and finish his turn so he could run back, hi-fiving people on the way, to his beer.
     Midway through the first game, the mounting pressure of Johnny's pants burst when he bent wrong to pick up the ball, slicing a hole in his crotch and giving way to red boxer-briefs.
     Somehow - I'm still not sure how yet - I entered into my last frame trailing Emily by six pins. I faced certain, endless taunting from my peers if I ended up losing to the third-time bowler I'd been ridiculing all game. I fell short on my first ball. I threw another fast ball, knocking over a few pins. I doubted I'd knocked down enough. How was I going to face Emily? The scores showed up: Emily - 101. Justin - 102. I'd gotten enough!
     An enormous, rosy-cheeked, drunk smile conquered my face. "Wooohooo!!!" I yelled in Emily's face. "You suck, Emily! You su-uuu-uuu-uuu-uck!!!" She couldn't have enjoyed that much, I guess, because she went home soon after. But, hey, I never said I was a saint or nothing.
     In the second game, Johnny's suitcoat ripped down the back and fell off, leaving him in rags. We continued cheering for each other, sending echoes throughout the building. "And, straight out of Baltimore, it's . . . Luke Seipp-Williams!" Or: "Making the long journey all the way from France, it's Frenchy!"
     By the third game, we were buried in empty beer-pitchers. Never before had a game been bowled so poorly, or, at the same time, with as much celebration as that game. Cory threw a ball that bounced over the lane-divider and went down my alley. One ball I bowled managed to hit a ball I'd thrown earlier, sending both balls into a machine which was setting up the pins and then knocking both balls backwards all the way up the gutter and back to me. (This, I suppose, was very unlike the athletic prowess an ancient Greek olympian might possess - guess I was wrong about that description)
     Rarely, someone threw a strike, and he was hugged and tackled by a mob of overhappy celebrators who should've been catching disco fever. Once, I tackled Cory, screaming, as soon as he bowled, and it turned out to be a gutter. Another time, Johnny threw a ball to a chorus of "Yah's!" from the crowd and sprinted back to hi-five each of us, yelling confidently, "I knew it right when I left my hands," though, in actuality, he didn't hit a single pin.
     Frenchy was sober, so she drove when it was time to leave. Only a mile from my apartment, I steered her: "Okay, Frenchy. Are you ready with those huge fingers of yours? Turn NOW! ... no, wait, that was wrong."
     "I took the wrong turn?" she asked.
     "We're lost!?" Cory mocked concern. "Oh ... no!"
     "What do I do now?" Frenchy said.
     "Oh, dear Lord!"
     "OK, put on your left turn signal ... NOW!"
     "Oh, no. No, no, no. What are we gonna do!?"
     "Where should I go? What should I do?" said Frenchy.
     "Just get us home," Cory whined. "Oh, no, I'm never going to get back to my bed. We're gonna be lost forever!"
     "OK, you're gonna have to turn left ... NOW - no, wait, not th- NOW! NOW! ... NOW, Frenchy!!!"
     Cory buried his face. "Oh, no, dear Lord. No!"
     When we got to our apartment, Johnny immediately went to our freezer. Cory, Luke, and I ran for him, and we engaged in our ages-old tradition of wrestling for ice cream. Johnny held the prize over his head and hurdled over us and into the living room, where he quickly was subdued to the ground. I jumped on top of him, followed by Cory and Luke, and we scrapped around with our spoons, hoping each to get a large chunk of the ice cream.
     Cory and Luke got up and called for a fight. "Justin versus The Birthday Boy!" My roommate and I went at it, throwing each other on the ground and into the walls until I was on bottom. "Ow!" I yelled. Hopeless to overpower him, I got crafty and grabbed my bike from its position near the wall and started ramming it into Johnny.
     "Get the bike off him!" yelled Frenchy. "The pedal is cutting into his skin!" She and Luke and Cory struggled to pull the bike from me while Johnny slammed me into the carpet, but my grip was unrelenting. After a minute, Johnny had been cut in places, but I'd been banged up and bruised beneath his weight.
     Satisfied, Johnny stood. "There! That's how to whoop your as*!" (What he didn't know was that I just let him beat me up because it was his birthday, the fool!)
     Johnny grabbed a spoon, and I had no choice but to attack to defend my ice cream. This time, I was really whooped around and thrown at the wall and body-slammed so that I thought my back was going to break. Hmm, maybe I don't have the strength and agility of a cougar after all.
     Finally, Johnny took the ice cream into the bathroom and locked the door - a famous move of his that finishes nearly every ice cream war.
     Although it was 2 in the morning, I was defeated and ice cream-less and drunk, so I picked up the phone to hit on girls. The first girl I called was asleep. I yelled at her roommate, "Wake her up! Wake her up!"
     So, the girl got on the phone, sounding cute but also so tired that she probably couldn't have told me what year it was. I began babbling incoherently and nonsensibly. "Maybe we could go out some time, you know, what are you doing this weekend, we could go on a little scavenger hunt I've devised, it'd be fun."
     "I'm going to be busy this weekend," she said.
     "The whole weekend?"
     "Every second of the weekend."
     And, with that, I've come to realize that little "James Bond's charm" thing I mentioned earlier was a bit of a mistake. In fact, that whole sentence had been a typo. I'd meant to say: with "the harm of Jane's blond." An easy mistake. Typos happen often in my profession. See?:
     Hippos burn dry if sunny.
     I mean -
     Happy birthday for Johnny!

later, Modern Oddyseus

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