Bowling books beer, all you need.

Bowling, books, beer. Perfect strike.


Two million people watched that day in January 1963 when my father choked at the pro bowling championship at the Showboat in Las Vegas. Everybody he knew had seen it, and he had plenty of time to think about that on the drive home to Sandusky.

I didn’t know about any of this when my father took me, his skinny, brown-haired daughter and only child, to the Galaxy Lanes for the first time ten years later. It was my ninth birthday, November eighth, 1973, and he’d just gotten a promotion at Engineered Fittings and so he said we had a lot to look forward to. And not only that, he said, his old coach Leo Florida was back in town. There was of course no way for me to understand what this meant to him even if he’d tried to explain it: who he’d been before I was born, what he’d hoped and dreamed for, and how I figured into any of it….

….By the time we left—hours later, it turned out—I’d fallen in love with bowling the way you love a food and can’t remember what life was like before you tasted it. I loved it for the way the ball curved—hooked, my father explained—magically into the pins. But, no, he said; it wasn’t magic. A hook took years to get right; it was a fingerprint, the full expression of a bowler’s movement, traced across the boards. I closed my eyes and listened—I loved the way he sounded, explaining everything to me, and I believed he had come back to bowling not just to see Leo Florida again, but because of me, because of us.

My father wanted me to know that perfection could still be had in the form of a ball curving with just the right spin toward its target. Correct action could prevail. “Don’t let Leo make you think the how doesn’t matter,” my father said to me over and over again. Maybe he worried from the beginning that Leo would ruin me like he’d nearly ruined him. Anyway, I didn’t care—I believed my father when he said the past didn’t matter. The important thing was that he was my coach, and we were the perfect combination: natural-born talent and experience. All we needed was each other—we knew this the way we knew the order of pinfall in a perfect strike, left-handed or right-handed, or the number of boards a ball had to hook across to make that strike.

What we didn’t know was the number of years and months and days we had left together, which were seven, five, and two, respectively. That math, simple and final as it turned out to be, was beyond us.