It’s bowling night, a typical Wednesday for my Dad, 1980 in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin. He’s 38, bowling age 38. The name etched into his brown swirl designed custom ball reads “NICK.” The Arial font inscription used to be white. It’s nicotine stained a sweaty-grey/yellow. With a soft right handed curve, the ball leaves his hand and his custom fit tan Velcro wrist guard. Chunk. Roll. Crash. He left 1 pin. His score on the overhead projector at Petroff’s Lanes reads 168 in the 9th frame. The “one eyed whop” as his buddies affectionately call my half Italian dad, picks up the spare and pours Miller High Life from the pitcher into his glass before he sits back down with his Custom Products teammates. If you don't know, the derogatory term "whop" is an acronym for "without papers."
It’s surreal sometimes, especially filling out the racing age on the waiver at Cincinnati’s Wednesday night Ault Park Crit race series. I’m now older than my dad on bowling night. With a zipper instead of buttons and spandex for cotton, I’ve got my sponsor’s jersey on. Custom Products, a metal fabrication company was owned by a buddy of my dad. BioWheels bike shop is owned by my buddy Mitch. The rest is the same. Pro bike. Pro shoes. Name sticker on my bike. Some having raced earlier, wives of friends racing are sitting in the grass with their kids or chatting with friends. No doubt there’s a hidden bottle of Sierra Nevada in someone’s cooler. We’ve got nicknames too, only a little more politically correct. There’s OB and Pistol Pete. My friend I-Pro James has a shaggy snarled greying beard. It’s bowling night, a typical Wednesday for me, 2012 in Cincinnati, Ohio. I reluctantly scribble “45” on the form.
Sometimes I get suckered into thinking I’m just like Dad, which is worrisome. He died in his early 60’s of all the things related to not eating healthy or exercising. I'm sure the blatant racism among his friends didn't help either. I breathe a sigh of relief as I roll up to the start behind a 23 year old. The similarities end with the sponsor jersey, my age and that I’m competing in a sport on a Wednesday night. While most guys around me have a 20oz bottle of GU Brew electrolyte drink, pretty sure every guy on my dad’s team had their own pitcher of Miller High Life or PBR, likely 2 or 3. I’m sure a few guys after the bike race headed for a vegetarian burrito at Chipotle, but still got to bed at a reasonable hour. My dad and his buddies in 1980 could turn 3 games of bowling into an all night affair capped off with an after midnight breakfast at Milwaukee’s famous diner George Webbs. Think Frisch’s Big Boy’s little brother. There they’d pull out the smokes and “shoot the shit.” My dad’s treat to his drunken teammates, a full 20-odd slice butter-slathered loaf of toast.