Wait … those aren’t real pins.

duckpins? what?

As I stared out of the window of the Metro Friday night watching Prince George’s finest blur by, I got an unexpected text message.

“I have a plan.”

Well, now that sounded promising. After a long five days, I could use something out of the ordinary.

And that’s exactly what I got.

People who know B and I pretty well sometimes make fun of us for our octogenarian tendencies — we like breakfast for dinner, we go to bed early and we like to bowl.

Yeah, that’s right. I said it. We like to bowl. I don’t know how it ended up being a repetitive theme in our relationship. Maybe because we both love “The Big Lebowski” and have a cat named Walter Sobchak.

For me, it started in my childhood. When I was in kindergarten, it was only every other day. During that time, my Mom (a teacher) was working at another school in my county and my Dad (a welder/construction worker) wasn’t working at all. He’d been laid off for quite some time and his job, at least for that period in our lives, was child care while Mom worked.

On my days off from school, it was a BIG deal for Dad and me to go to the small bowling alley in New Martinsville, have hamburgers and french fries and bowl a few games. I remember I could barely roll a six-pound ball down the alley but I giggled and loved every minute of it. I asked every day I stayed home with Dad if it was bowling day. Because his heart was huge, almost every week had bowling day.

Now, about 23 years later, those memories are still vivid in my mind. My 29th birthday party was a bowling birthday party. I was turning 29 and it was a rock-n-glow bowling alley with a bunch of teenagers. The decorated bowling pin (a gift to me from Galaxy Lanes in Kanawha City) sits on display in my new place in Maryland. It’s as much a trophy to me as the Tiffany crystal vase that sits on the shelf above it.

But flash to this past Friday — we ate dinner at College Park Diner (a unique experience highlighted by bad service and a ONE refill policy on all drinks … hell. Simply hell.) and went a little bit farther down Route 1 to College Park Lanes. It was bowling day.

Here’s where things get a little out of the ordinary … We walked in to the bowling alley and made our way to the counter to get our shoes. As I case the joint (which was remarkably empty) I started noticing that there weren’t any ball racks. I turned to face the lanes. Midget pins.

“Wait … those aren’t real pins.”

And then a pause and then realization …


Never in my entire life had I actually SEEN duckpin bowling. I’d vaguely heard of duckpin bowling somewhere, but I’d never seen it actually in play anywhere.

What is duckpin bowling?

Everything you ever wanted to know about duckpin bowling can be found here. But here’s your executive summary: You bowl with an oversized skee-ball. You bowl down the same sized alley, but you throw at wee pins. You also have three rolls per frame instead of two.

Three rolls? BONUS! No. Not as easy as you thought. We didn’t even bowl right the first game until we flipped the score sheet over and saw that you got three rolls per turn instead of two.

Let me assure you, it’s hilarious. It takes you at least three or four frames to figure out HOW to adjust to throwing an oversized skee-ball with enough finesse to knock over pins and not put it in a gutter. Throw it too hard and it bounces. If you throw it like a weakling, you knock over all 10 pins.

Because I’m a geek, I came home, energized and fascinated, and did research. Duckpin bowling was invented in Baltimore. You can get a state of Maryland license plate for Professional Duckpin Bowling Association. I also have a new life mission. I’m going to become a professional duckpin bowler.

They take it seriously here, too — the College Park Lanes has a TON of duckpin bowling leagues. I can’t even wait to see what kind of league fits into my schedule so I can smoke Misty cigarettes and use a lot of hairspray and hang out with women who are 70.

Chances are, unless you’re from this area, you’re not going to see it where you live. It’s really a regional thing. But if you’re from back home, you gotta come here and try this out. You’ll laugh your ass off and then you’re hooked. And you’re not gonna get that kind of action at the Galaxy Lanes.


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