Mar. 4, 2011

Diamond Lake Bowling

by Tim Nolan

In the seventh frame projected
on an overhead screen, my father,
Pat N., has a 180 working on a spare.

My mother, Marge N., is just ahead
of Gladys P. and far ahead of Yvonne K.,
who sings in the church choir and doesn't

take this game too seriously. My mother,
Marge N., doesn't take the game
too seriously, but she has a 158

working on a strike, which is fine,
and seems to be enough to beat
Gladys P. and Yvonne K. My mother

wants to beat them by a narrow margin—
enough to win—but not upset their society,
which matters among them most of all.

The men—Bill P., Jack K., and my father,
Pat N., are serious bowlers. They each
release the ball in their own ways,

with controlled madness. Then they wait
for a lacquered thunder to come crashing
down like museum skulls. What a mess!

The women approach the line with quick,
tentative steps, as if they were naked,
covering themselves, then letting go.

Yvonne K. sings "Ave Maria" at funerals.
Makes everyone weep. Here, she is
without talent and gets no action

from the pins—which slowly fall
in soft and mid-age stupor.
My heart echoes in a memory cavern

as I gaze at the blue and broad
Hollywood curtain along the sidewall.
My parents turn to me across the way.

Dear lively eyes of them. My first faces.
Always surprised to see me.
How can I explain this sense, become

serious, that we are picking up speed,
rolling in upon ourselves, and falling
alone down this noisy, inevitable lane?

"Diamond Lake Bowling" by Tim Nolan, from The Sound of It. © New Rivers Press, 2008. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of 19th-century American humorist Guy Wetmore Carryl, (books by this author) born in New York City (1873). He wrote for Harper's, Life, and Collier's magazines, and he wrote parodies of Aesop's Fables, Grimm's Fairy Tales, and Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes.

Among Carryl's tales: "How Little Red Riding Hood Came to Be Eaten," "The Sycophantic Fox and the Gullible Raven," and "The Embarrassing Episode of Little Miss Muffet," which ends:
"And the Moral is this: Be it madam or miss
To whom you have something to say,
You are only absurd when you get in the curd
But you're rude when you get in the whey."

His books include Fables for the Frivolous (with apologies to La Fontaine) (1898), Mother Goose for Grown-Ups (1900), and Grimm Tales Made Gay (1902).

He said, "It takes two bodies to make one seduction."

It's the birthday of Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Thomas Stribling, (books by this author) born in Clifton, Tennessee (1881), the son of a man who fought in the Union army and a woman whose family fought for the Confederacy.

He knew he wanted to be a writer, and left school to do so. But his respectable parents thought he should have some other profession, and he appeased them by getting a teaching credential and then a law degree. He even started working as a lawyer— or at least it appeared that way. Actually, he was showing up at the law office and using the company's typewriters, paper, and time to sit and work on his fiction. His fellow attorneys counseled him to quit the job, and he did — turning to writing full time at the age of 26.

He supported himself by writing pulp fiction for magazines, detective stories, and science fiction. He traveled around Europe and Latin America, and he began to write novels. He loved Venezuela and wrote three novels set there: Fombombo (1923), Red Sand (1924), and Strange Moon (1929). It was his 12th novel, The Store (1932), a serious satire of the Jim Crow South, for which he won the 1933 Pulitzer Prize. He was a contemporary of Faulkner and Hemingway, and his books sold better than theirs. Between the end of World War I and the beginning of World War II, Stribling was America's best-selling author.

In the 1940s, he quit writing novels but continued writing mysteries for magazines, and he lived until 1965 — age 84. Some of his stories were collected and published posthumously as The Best of Dr. Poggioli (1975) and Dr. Poggioli: Criminologist (2004). His autobiography, Laughing Stock, was published in 1984.

It was on this day 220 years ago (in 1791) that Vermont became a state. It was the 14th state to join the Union — the first aside from the original 13 colonies.

It's the second-least populated state in the nation, and only five states are smaller in land area. Of all the 50 states, it has the very lowest Gross State Product. But it also has one of the best unemployment rates in the nation. In the past decade, it's been ranked first as the most healthful place to live — more times than any other state.

It has an eccentric political history. It was an independent nation, the Vermont Republic, for 14 years (1777–1791). It had its own money, sovereign government, and a constitution that explicitly forbade slavery — almost a century before the United States did. It also required government taxes to support public schools.

Since 1856, Vermont voted Republican in every single presidential election except one (in 1964, it voted for Lyndon Johnson over Barry Goldwater). But beginning in 1992, Vermont has voted Democrat in every presidential election. It was the only state in America that George W. Bush did not visit during his two terms as president. It became the first state to allow and recognize civil unions between same-sex partners in 2000, and was the first state to legalize same-sex marriage legislatively (Massachusetts was the very first state to legalize same-sex marriage in 2004, but it was through a court ruling).

It vies with New Hampshire for being the least religious state in the union. Only half of Vermonters say they believe in God, compared with about 70 percent of the rest of the nation. People there attend weekly services at a much lower rate than other Americans, and a much smaller percentage say that religion is important to them. There are, however, a disproportionately high number of American converts to Buddhism living in Vermont, and there are several Buddhist retreat centers through out the state.

It produces more maple syrup than any other state in America. About 2.5 percent of Vermont's population speaks French at home.

From the archives:

It's the birthday of the novelist Khaled Hosseini, (books by this author) born in Kabul, Afghanistan (1965). His first novel, The Kite Runner (2003), was a word-of-mouth best-seller, and it has sold millions of copies around the world. In 2007, he published A Thousand Splendid Suns, and it was also an international best-seller. The novel begins in 1975 and continues to the present time. It tells the story of two women in Kabul who are both wives of the same cruel man.

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