We walked into the Crestwood Curling Club
last Friday night and I prayed that the membership had turned over in the
course of two decades and that no one would recognize me.
It was the winter of ’92, I think. Maybe
’91? Memory becomes ever hazier as time fades away. I remember the winter as
cold and dark but I remember every winter that way. I remember Morris
suggesting the idea to me and Denis over happy hour beers at The Gas Pump on 114th Street,
about a block off Jasper Avenue.
We would curl in a men’s league Tuesday nights. The slo-pitch season was over.
We had to get out of the bar scene for at least one night a week during the
Curling? I heard Don Chevrier intoning over
some monumentally dull television. There was the creepy eroticism of women
yelling, ‘Hard!’ My own experience was limited to writing and art directing a
staggeringly brilliant Safeway grocery ad for some brier program: Nothing in
We would need a fourth and Morris recruited
a fourth, another regular at The Gas Pump although I cannot recall the fellow’s
name. Morris as our skip and our squad’s sole experienced curler made all the
arrangements. Collected and paid the fees and sourced our brooms and sliders
wholesale. Skipper may have gone a little overboard as the four of us became
proud owners of matching burgundy sweaters with roll collars. We were
embarrassingly terrible. Trouble was, happy hour started at 5:00 PM and we
curled at 7:00 PM, or more lethally, 9:00 PM.
My own shortcomings were exacerbated by
difficulties with my left and right sides (don’t ever ask me for directions). I
shoot left in hockey. I bat and throw right in baseball. Bending elbows and
smoking cigarettes I’m ambidextrous. Curling was much like a vice. Coming out
of the hack I could shoot a rock with either my left or right arm. So I did.
First one left, second one right. Inward and outward turns become problematic
when you’re alternating sides on each shot. And one puny arm was stronger than
my other punier arm so the weight of any particular throw never had an X
constant. I never got comfortable. Nor did I immerse myself in the strategies
of the game; embracing the nuances of a new sport long after childhood is as
difficult as learning a new language as an adult. When the long, frustrating
season finally ended I decided, never again. God knows whatever became of my
burgundy sweater, my broom and my slider. I have not seen nor spoken to either
Morris or Denis in this young century. We were good friends then. God knows
what became of them.
So when my close personal friend and
sometime noir associate Ann signed us up as substitutes for a mixed curling
team, I thought little of it. What could possibly happen? Worst case, I
figured, was that she would have to play and I would read a book in the lounge,
watch sports on TV and drink beer. And then some couple whom I’ve never met but
now hate decided to go to Australia
for a month. Bastards. Anyway, we walked into the Crestwood Curling Club last
Friday night and I prayed that the membership had turned over in the course of
two decades and that no one would recognize me. I was out of retirement. The
first thing I noticed was that I was the only person wearing jeans. Everyone
else was in loose black pants: Adidas, MEC and Lululemon Athletica (I couldn’t
help but notice some pilling of the fabric, parting seams and a becoming
sheerness beneath the arc lights). I did some tentative crouch testing in the
hack and groaned involuntary old person noises. I realized ambidexterity wasn’t
an option anymore and decided then and there that I would curl to the left.
Somewhere a tailor laughed.
The houses at the end of the each sheet
always remind me of RAF roundels, Spitfires and ME-109s, and mod Who pop art.
War and rock ‘n’ roll in an arena and they both neatly fit. Suffice to say, my
head’s never in the game. Good God, curling is slower than lawn bowling. At
least sweeping is something else to do and doesn’t feel like a chore. We lost
last Friday night but we weren’t skunked, unlike those tilts during the winter
’91. Or was it ’92? Anyway, I was not totally, completely, wretchedly awful as
Next Friday I’ll be perfect, provided the
crippling soreness in the knuckle of my left big toe, my groin and both my
thighs goes away. My back aches. My arms hurt too, both left and right, mostly
the left. Sunday afternoon, it’s snowing now. Chickadees are swirling about the
bird feeder hanging from the birch tree in front of the dining room window. The
cats believe the weather outside will be different if they can just slip on out
the back door. The walks and the driveway must be cleared. Think I’ll use a