Sunday, 3 November 2013


Curling Rawks!

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 cold months.

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 the house?

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 lead.

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 broom.

No comments:

Post a comment