Get SF Weekly Newsletters
Pin It

Float like a butterfly, bowl like a woman at the Chieftain 

Wednesday, Oct 15 2008

Professional bowling is fascinating, but you knew that already. The really fascinating professional bowling happens in the women's leagues, where chicks with '80s hair and about 100 extra pounds each compete against one another for cash prizes. But I have never understood the concept of professional bowling; it seems that once you get good enough you should be able to just bowl strike after strike, but players rarely do. It's not as if you have a pitcher trying to be tricky with a curveball, or wind interference, or your wingman takes ill with mono and you have to play without him. It's just you and those pins, which are always in the same place, at the end of a lane that is always exactly the same. The other strange thing about bowling is that I absolutely hate doing it, but I love to watch it on TV.

A women's tournament was on ESPN when I was at the Chieftain at Howard and Fifth. I was rapt. One lady bowler had a short haircut like Paige Davis of Trading Spaces, with frosted tips. It spiked out all over the back of her head but was completely flat around her face; "the hedgehog," I like to call it. She put a mean spin on the ball. Another lady wore eyeliner about two centimeters deep and pink sparkly lip gloss. She kept missing the spare.

The Chieftain has a popular pub trivia night on Tuesdays, but it also gets a good lunch crowd, which was why I was there. I ordered a pint of club soda and a burger. The inside of the place is pretty darn pubbish, with lots of wood and ye olde finery. It's right down the street from the Chron building, so the clientele is a mixture of newspaper people and other assorted regulars. I was waiting to go to a job interview; killing time, really, and I was a bit nervous. The bowling was soothing to watch.

Finally someone bowled a strike, a young African-American woman. Then she bowled another. Dang, she was good. I think professional bowlers don't always bowl strikes because the ease of the game is deceptive; it looks simple but is actually complicated. One tiny misflick of the wrist and you are sunk.

It reminds me of a story by Ray Bradbury, where a guy goes back in time to a prehistoric period. He is warned to only observe but not touch or disturb anything. Well, you know that's not going to happen, and sure enough, he sees a beautiful butterfly and has to touch it. Then he comes back and the entire world is different, just because he altered history by that tiny little bit. I'm sure that same story was going through the mind of the Hedgehog when she hit all the pins except one.

I got up to go to the bathroom and passed a group of people who were yuckin' it up and eating. One of them had to move over a little bit to let me through, and she stopped telling her story for a second. The same thing happened when I walked back to my seat. So, I ask you, what part of the butterfly wing did I touch, and what effects will it have on those people for the rest of their lives? Did my one second of interruption mean that she delayed her departure by a minute, which means that she would get hit by the Muni that wouldnt've crossed her path 60 seconds earlier? Deeep, man.

My burger came. I'd asked for well done and it was kinda pink, but no biggie. The bartender was really great and happily refilled my soda glass for free. He didn't know it, but his gesture made a difference to me on a day I was a bundle of anxiety. A small kindness like that can have a ripple effect. I could even excuse the fact that I had sat through at least three Sheryl Crow songs in 60 minutes.

No one was watching the bowling but me. The group of friends were talking about McCain's "That one" comment from the debate; some of them thought it was veiled racism, others thought it was silly to notice it at all. I didn't see the debate live, but watched it later. My brother had texted me and told me to watch out for the "That one" part. I had no idea what he meant. I wish he hadn't pointed it out, because when I did hear it, I already knew it was controversial. I wonder if I would've thought it was offensive if I hadn't already heard other people say so; in a way, my brother changed my outcome. It was the ol' butterfly effect once again.

Later, when my friend who is a reporter at the Chron showed up to join me at the Chieftain, he confirmed that the "controversy" was, in fact, overblown silliness. Not that I usually tend to agree with this guy. We once got into a fight about how police should behave at demonstrations. After someone threw a bottle at a cop at one particular event in Oakland, the cops retaliated against people with tear gas. I thought this was excessive and immoral; he thought the cops did the right thing. He was wrong. Why should one guy's action bring down an entire crowd? Big time butterfly effect.

By this time, bowling was over and soccer was on. Yuck. We chitchatted some more about the election, and making a living as writers, and what we would do when the entire world collapses into another Great Depression. Stuff like that. The group of friends at the end of the bar had dissipated, probably off to get hit by a Muni or stumble upon a $20 bill in the gutter. Actually, that woman probably got hit by the Muni while she was diving for the $20. But I digress.

Here's when the butterfly effect comes together in a beautiful way: Through a series of small events, good friends, some good answers in my interview, and a nice pep session at the Chieftain, I got the job. I am no longer unemployed. I'm fluttering again.

About The Author

Katy St. Clair

Related Locations


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed


  • clipping at Brava Theater Sept. 11
    Sub Pop recording artists 'clipping.' brought their brand of noise-driven experimental hip hop to the closing night of 2016's San Francisco Electronic Music Fest this past Sunday. The packed Brava Theater hosted an initially seated crowd that ended the night jumping and dancing against the front of the stage. The trio performed a set focused on their recently released Sci-Fi Horror concept album, 'Splendor & Misery', then delved into their dancier and more aggressive back catalogue, and recent single 'Wriggle'. Opening performances included local experimental electronic duo 'Tujurikkuja' and computer music artist 'Madalyn Merkey.'"