Sunday, October 30, 2005

Snowy Somerville

In keeping with the trend for crazy weather, it snowed here yesterday! And not just a little teeny weeny bit of snow. We were walking in a winter wonderland! (Actually, I didn't leave the house, except to step out on the deck and catch some flakes).

And flakey they were! It was as if somebody had slaughtered a million chickens in heaven and just let their feathers quietly float down to earth. Isn't that romantic?


I like how the presence of snowflakes turns even our rather dull back-porch view of the Foodmaster and neighbors' houses into a picturesque scene. Now it's 58 degrees and sunny. Go figure.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Candlepin Bowling

Moving to the Boston area involves a bit of culture shock for a California boy. Things that you wouldn't necessarily find out about on a short vacation here bubble to the surface as you wander around and chat with the natives.

One of the most mind-bending encounters I had early on in my residence here was the realization that when people refer to "bowling," they are as likely as not speaking of "Candlepin," rather than the variety the rest of the country is more accustomed to.

Candlepin bowling is just like regular bowling, except it's hard.

That's the two-second summary, but there's a bit more to it. The rules of the game are more or less familiar to anybody who's bowled in their lives, but the ball is much smaller and the pins are much narrower. While I unfortunately have no photos to illustrate the differences, those people on Flickr who think it's fun to share every little visual detail of their life with the world are happy to oblige.

My ten-second summary: Candlepin is like regular bowling, except the ball is small, the pins are narrow, and when you knock something down, it stays put until your frame is over. You can then use this "fallen wood" to strategically knock over other pins that are still standing. Sounds easy, right?

I finally got a chance to play last night, when our neighbor invited us out to Lanes and Games (worst website ever). Walking into Lanes and Games is like walking into any huge bowling alley. There's the pro shop. The lounge. The video arcade. The pool tables. Then you realize that all the bowling lanes are Candlepin, and it starts to get surreal! People are treating this sport like it actually exists! In fact, people are good at it!

Lanes and Games is a two-story bowling alley, big enough to be huge without the second story. The entire bottom floor is (I think) Candlepin bowling, while the second story is mostly regular bowling with a few lanes of Candlepin. So the percentage of Candlepin lanes is a bit more than 50%.

By the way, they call regular bowling "Ten-Pin," which is a name somebody must have come up while extremely drunk or extremely dumb, because there are also ten pins in Candlepin. If it was up to me I would call regular bowling "easy bowl." Since this is my blog, it is up to me!

The first thing you notice when playing a game of Candlepin is that the ball is very small. The lane return is just like an easy bowl lane return except the profile is much slimmer. Overall the appearance of Candlepin is much more elegant, despite the raucous action on the lanes. It was interesting to play Candlepin in the proximity of easy bowl because the speed of Candlepin made the easy bowl look ridiculously slow-motion.

The second thing you notice about Candlepin is that it's hard. You palm this little ball, make your approach sort of like easy bowl, then release the ball while twisting your wrist in an uncoordinated manner so as to hurl the ball directly into the gutter. If you've ever played Skee-Ball, Candlepin is somewhat similar. Now imagine rolling a Skee-Ball to the far end of a bowling lane. This is where it gets hard. When you do manage to hit a pin, the narrow profile can make the whole event much less eventful than with easy bowl. Unless you smack the pin into a chaotic frenzy, it's liable to just fall over, punching a hole in the triangle of arranged pins. When by chance a pin falls in front of a bunch of other pins, it offers a rare chance for a novice "home run." I like to call this "the bulldozer." People much more entitled to come up with Candlepin terminology have apparently settled on the term "barn door." You can learn more of their charming terminology on the International Candlepin Bowling Association website. My impression in this case is that "International" means "New England and Eastern Canada." The site also includes an "official rules" type document, which includes provisions for magical things that can apparently happen in Candlepin games:

8. PIN DOWNED, THEN STAND UP: If a downed pin is caused to stand erect again in the playing area, it shall be judged as down and shall remain on the lane to be played as wood. From:

To sum up the difficulty of Candlepin, I will announce now that my final score in my first game was 39. Yes, they score Candlepin essentially the same as regular bowling: a perfect game is 300. Getting back to the "Candlepin is hard" summary, I will point out that while perfect games in bowling are fairly common, there has never been a perfect games in Candlepin. You just don't get too used to seeing all the pins go down. The best Candlepin game ever played only added up to 245. That's still a lot better than 39, but it's no perfect game!

We ended up playing two games. On my second try, I broke 50! Not a bad improvement. We all had better second games, but were a bit demoralized and decided to try a game of easy bowl to get our spirits back.

2-Second summary of easy bowl: It's like Candlepin, only it's easy to aim, and when you hit any pin, they all fall down.

We only played one game of easy bowl, but even after a maybe 4 years since I last played, I managed a 150+ game. Thank god for easy bowl!

I'm intrigued by Candlepin, and I would like to play again. Fortunately, they hide these bowling alleys around every corner in these parts. Not only do the big bowling alleys have them, they are present in quaint little neighborhood settings such as Sacco's Bowl Haven in Davis Square, where they proudly declare "We've got small balls, but we're big on fun."

Over in Boston proper, a bar called the Milky Way in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood offers karaoke, cushy couches, and Candlepin all huddled together in a hipster-bar environment. We went here once to meet some friends, and I was mighty jealous of the Candlepin players.

Next time you're in New England, give Candlepin a try. It's fun! And it's American, yet it's foreign. At least to most of us.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Tasty Nor'Easter

Tasty Nor'easter Speaking of the Northeast, there's a little phenomenon going on up here involving orange and purple. This is nothing new for those who have lived here all their lives, but for California boys like myself, it may come as a surprise to learn that Dunkin' Donuts is the Starbucks of the Northeast!

Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of Starbucks here. It's just that, instead of seeing them every block, you see them maybe only every 5 or 6 blocks. Seemingly more prevalent than the naughty coffee goddess are location after location of gaudy orange and purple Dunkin' Donuts signs. I find it kind of charming in a, "God I'm glad to be inundated with the presence a completely different chain" kind of way.

There's something less sickening about the Dunkin' Donuts impact on the region. It seems to be embraced more universally than Starbucks is in the West. For instance, I was reading through the latest issue of Boston's Weekly Dig, which includes a reader's poll type "Best Of the Area" feature this week. Included are all the usual categories one sees in these types of things: Best Burger, Best Haircut, Best Pub, Best Dunkin' Donuts?

Dunkin' Donuts is more than a store, my friends. Dunkin' Donuts is a frickin' genre! The winner of this year's "Best Dunkin' Donuts" award is the 750 Washington Street location, where apparently an employee named Claudia is known to shake her booty to dance music while expressing her "love of the Rolling Stones and America in general."

The Rolling Stones and Dunkin' Donuts pretty much sums up America, 'round these parts.

Nasty Nor'Easter

At this point the few of you who are still subscribed to this blog are probably scratching your head and wondering, "punk it up? who is this?" I apologize for the month-plus delay in shouting the news from the Nasty Nor'East. I've been swamped with work and other obligations, and furthermore I've completely slacked in my Foodmaster sign-shooting duties.

While "Nasty Nor'Easter" sounds like the stage name of somebody opening up for Li'l Kim, it's actually a weather term, heard this morning on the local news.

Shit howdy! I kid you not, as I finished typing the above paragraph, the dang Nasty Nor'Easter cut the power for one second - long enough for my Mac to power off. Amazingly, my blog editor (MarsEdit) does autosaving and miraculously kept the above intact.

Anyway, I guess a Nasty Nor'Easter is what you call it when winds up to 50MPH accompany non-stop rain, and the power goes out for one second at a time. Isn't that fun? I'm heading to MicroCenter to get a UPS today, if this is how things are gonna be. Actually, I think only the term "Nor'Easter" is official weatherese, but a search for "Nasty Nor'Easter" in Google reveals that it has been used by at least 600 other people. Even "nor'easter" is cool by itself. How many "official" terms have you seen that include apostrophic contractions?

All in all, this storm isn't bad. I'm not leaving the house or nothing, I mean except to get my UPS, but it's not bad. At least I'm still able to type and publish this, despite the one second power outage. When you won't hear from me is when the cheerful morning shows announce the arrival of the "Nasty Bitch-Ass Fo-Shizzle Nor'Eastin' Mutherfu'er." I'll be hiding in the bas'ment.