Me and Chairman Mao
  Do you have ten-pound balls?
Last night we to our local, one-hundred lane bowling alley (what, you don't have one?) with some other Microsoft people. Sadly, it was not quite as weird as I was expecting it to be. Picture what you would think a bowling alley would be like in the middle of downtown Tokyo--everything bathed in neon, bad pop music blaring out at a volume two to three times above what it needs to be, and rows of weird video games that involve dancing, shooting, or shaking maracas in the proper sequence (really)--then move it into the center of Beijing, and there you have it. Well, almost: throw in an unhealthy fixation with Goofy--yes, the Disney character--on top of it all, and that should give you a good mental picture of what it was like. Well, a mental picture, anyway. You can judge for yourself whether a gigantic, noisy, neon-covered, Goofy-centric bowling alley is good or bad.

Otherwise, it was--almost disappointingly--pretty much just plain old bowling. Although the graphics on the computerized scorekeeping screens above the lanes were kind of funny because they were so very Chinesey, if you'll permit me to use a word that is not, in fact, a word. For example, if you got a gutter ball--not that I ever did, natch--you might see a short animation of a red, gold, and green Oriental (Chinesey, if you will) dragon appear from beneath the lane and swallow your ball whole just before it hit the pins. How a dragon eating a bowling ball at the last moment is the same as rolling your ball straight into the gutter and not even coming close to hitting any pins, I have no idea, but whatever: tomato, tomatoe; potato, potatoe; chopstick, fork; and so on.

Another odd thing is that the Chinese people bowling on the lane next to us seemed to have very little concept of ownership or possession--as in, "hey, you're using my bowling ball!" (Granted, it's not mine--it's the bowling alley's--but you know what I mean. And if you don't, who's reading this to you?) Rather than being boring and using the same ball every time, the aforementioned people seemed to pick up whatever ball was handy when it was their turn. This led to some interesting bowling. (And bowling, as we all know, is already so very, very interesting.) In the first frame, I might find myself using a twelve-pound ball with holes so big I could hardly hold it; then, in the second frame, I would be forced to use an eight-pound ball that I could barely squeeze my fingers into. I don't know how it happened, but I'm pretty sure the ball I had started out using--a nice purple ten-pounder--somehow ended up on the rack for an entirely different lane. It made choosing a ball interesting, anyway. That's probably why I did so poorly. Yes, that's definitely it …

And finally, we come to the beer. Now the beer in and of itself was fairly normal--your standard brewed-in-China, German-pilsner tasting, twelve ounce bottle of alcohol. The difference was that everyone was drinking it from little paper cups, the kind most people have in the bathroom for rinsing after you brush your teeth and things of that nature. I'm not really sure why they preferred their beer in tiny cups, exactly: maybe people here like to drink all their alcohol in shot-form; maybe they all like to take really, really small sips; or--most probably--the beer bottle is, in fact, that dirty. Either way, who am I to argue with someone else's culture? (Okay, I'm totally one to argue with someone else's culture, but this time--due to the possible dirt issue discussed above--I went along with it.) So here I am, at the bowling alley, with my fake Diesel sweater and my Dixie cup full of beer.


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