Nothing is what it seems. Early last night, I was awash in pre-event percolation, all lubed-up and ready for what promised to be a polyurethane fantasy of vibrator races and wheels of fornication. Copy editor Jessica and I had applied enough irony pink to our cheekbones to be mistaken for common rhetoric whores, and my chain-link panties were playfully chafing my scrotum to the tune of "I know what boys like … boys like me!"

So you can only imagine the limpness of our respective members when what we encountered at Austin Coffee & Film was only a mass of Indian-style-sitting early 20s roughly approximating a flannel comforter tossed on a dusty floor, all in the name of Planned Parenthood and boredom. That, and folk music. What's up?

"I feel like the fifth non-blonde," I blanched.

"I was just going to say that," Jessica bleached. And we sneaked away.

Fully intent on grabbing today by the balls and hoping for a more substantial kind of emission, I pop by Wally's for my weekly housewife-bottle replenishment, carefully gazing downward so as not to invite any more false promises. It doesn't work.

"You're a ‘weekly,' aren't you?" pipes a baseball cap from the corner.

"I suppose I am," I respond, weakly.

"What's your name?"

"Billy Manes."

"Oh shit, man. I sincerely voted for you!"

Which is funny. But when his friends laugh at him for not recognizing my hair or something, he tells them that I change it all the time and that I'm a "fucking chameleon."

Yeah, Karma. I come and go. Nothing is what it seems.

Something I can depend upon, though, is a quality team-building exercise with my other weeklies. Something of a longtime tradition, the staff bowling excursions always bring out the best in the whole sales/editorial dynamic: all the pretties and all the uglies thrown together for a few shining hours of quantitative point development and qualitative beer drunkenness. In the past there have been car crashes, arrests and sex in the aftermath, all peppered with various narcotics and regrets. I remember. I was there. But I'm not there yet.

"Your team is wondering if you're going to make it on time," editor Whitby cell-phones into my transit.

"My team? I wasn't actually planning on lifting a ball," I relax my drinking arm. "Who's on my team?"


Awesome. I'm on the publisher's team. Naturally my head races through its team-building resources, stumbling over various unqualified points of reference: Og Mandino, Dale Carnegie, Norman Vincent Peale. "Who moved my cheese?" I think out loud. There must be no cheese.

But there is. In addition to copious pitchers of light beer, the Weekly has sprung for a decidedly un-liberal batch of Domino's pizza. And if you want to make a joke about shoving greasy fingers into holes, or worse, balls, make it here.

A man with fewer fingers than most, mostly because he's missing a hand, sizes me up from behind the shoe counter. And although he's correct in his guess of size 9, my dirty mind is already wrapping itself around the idea that maybe he's in possession of an internal calculator for the sizes of other appendages, some intriguing phantom sense. Does he know that I have a 14-inch cock? Surely he must.

Maybe that would explain why my first two "practice" rounds go straight to the gutter, like my life, benefiting and suffering at the knee-knocking slap of my ample endowment. Or maybe it's just because I suck. In fact, I'm not even sure what the purpose of this sort of company event is: middling humiliation? Sore shoulders? Yet another chance for me to figure out that I'm somewhere between a boy and a girl because I can't fit my greasy fingers in the shiny pink girl balls and I can barely lift the dull blue boy ones over my poking-out ribcage?

Regardless, it all ends up being a fairly good time. My team — a mishmash of departments including Barb (accounting), Rick (God), Ryan (sales) and me (unemployed, but famous) — pretty much sucks ass by comparison with closet(ed) bowling professionals Whitby (God No. 2), Jeff Billman (editorial haircut), Brian Martin (classified bear) and Shan (new art guy), but we've got the loudest claps and the best form by far. What we don't have is a good luck charm. We'll leave that to James Carlson (editorial new guy, Nazi pretender) who is toting what appears to be a drowned black Mardi Gras baby doll to ensure his strike ability. Scary!

My new favorite sales girl (because I always have one), Lara, is in the lane next to mine. When we approach the lane at the same time, she coyly queries, "Do you want to do it together?" Which makes me love her.

"You have to answer the phone," she mandates, raising her greasy bowling fingers to the ear/mouth in a simulated dismount. Who cares if she only hits one pin?

And although team-building has given way to something more akin to white-trash leisure with pizza, I've still one-minute-

managed to garner some kind of lesson from the whole affair, some feeling of camaraderie peculiar to people with bowling league bellies. And I've hit, well, 83 pins.

"The style is more important than the pins," teammate Ryan assures me, tossing me a lesson that I cannot make any sense of.

Ah, yes! Nothing is as it seems.

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