By Rodger Jacobs
What’s amazing is that my deeds went without notice for so long. If I operated a bowling alley I certainly would be aware of such anomalies as someone walking off with all of my bowling balls.
Two weeks before the bowling balls began disappearing I had pitched to a producer, Sid Welch, a story about a pro bowler who enlists in the Army at the beginning of the Iraq War. During his first tour of duty his Humvee rolls over a land mine. The bowler-turned-soldier loses his right arm. From that point forward it becomes your standard tale of triumph over adversity as our hero deals with grueling physical therapy and the reality that he will never feel the smooth sensation of a bowling ball flowing from his arm again. Think of it as “A Beautiful Mind” meets “Kingpin” with a little bit of “Born on the Fourth of July” thrown in.
Sid Welch passed on the pitch. Not the first time and it wouldn’t be the last but I have to tell you that I am getting dog tired of hearing my agent and various producers declaring me a “brilliant writer” and yet I barely earned enough income from screen writing last year to keep my dog in Alpo.
On the Internet you will find a dozen web sites devoted to tracking daily screenplay and pitch sales in Hollywood. I read these web sites with a religious devotion and that’s not just a metaphor. Every day before I log on I pray to God and the universe that some other writer out there hasn’t come up with an idea similar to one that I want to pitch or write up as a spec script.
Last Tuesday God and the universe failed to hear my prayer.
Inspired by the death of former pro football player Pat Tillman in combat in Afghanistan, some punk-ass 22-year old newbie apparently waltzed into Sid Welch’s office and sold “for a high six figure sum” a pitch about a quarterback for the Green Bay Packers who loses his right arm in combat and – get this – has a bionic replacement made that renders him the greatest quarterback ever. How ludicrous and how similar to my pitch that Sid dismissed, yet he buys this twit’s story and not mine.
For the next few days I drank to excess: beer and vanilla extract shooters. My defense lawyer believes we have a good vanilla extract poisoning defense. That’s not what I was thinking at the time. I simply craved alcohol that would shoot through my veins and my being with the force of heroin. It worked.
Shortly before midnight on my fourth straight day of drinking I climbed into my battered Toyota Four Runner and drove from my home in Studio City to the Lucky Strike Bowling Alley at Hollywood and Highland.
I hated the Lucky Strike Lanes the moment I walked through the door, all blue neon and retro crap everywhere and 72-foot wide video projection screens blasting the latest music videos from artists I have never heard of before. I walked over to the ball selection area, chose two of the heaviest bowling balls on display and simply walked out the door with them. No one stopped me. No one gave me a sideways glance.
I felt empowered by my brazen thievery. After I placed the two balls in the back of the truck I strolled back into the Lucky Strike and walked off with two more, a shiny Brunswick Ultimate Inferno and a blue and silver AMF ball. I then retreated to the colorful bowling alley bar, knocked back two bottles of Rolling Rock, paid for the beers, boosted two more balls, and drove home with those giant orbs rolling around in the back of the Four Runner.
The next morning I had a day-old half slice of Twinkie and a beer for breakfast, unloaded the bowling balls, and drove to the Pickwick Bowling Alley in Burbank. Yes, in broad daylight. I didn’t need the cover of night for my deeds as evidenced by the fact that none of the senior citizens occupying the twelve lanes batted a lash when I sauntered through the exit with two balls endorsed by PBA champ Dave Arnold cradled in my arms.
A few days later, after my bowling ball collection was numbering somewhere near twenty, a blue-haired woman at the Pickwick stopped me as I was walking out the door with a red and green bowling ball.
“What – what are you doing?” she said, trying to suppress a laugh.
“I’m with the Brunswick Corporation, ma’am.” I said. I was as serious as a doctor pronouncing a death sentence. “We need to check these balls.”
“Is there something wrong with them?”
“You would be surprised the amount of damage that goes unseen to the untrained eye. After a period of time, the lacquer begins to wear down and that can cause some nasty problems.”
“Really?” She was quite intrigued.
“A ball with worn down lacquer covering can cause injury and even death to a bowler.”
“Oh my is right, ma’am.”
I escaped into the parking lot, leaving the poor old woman to contemplate death by bowling ball.
When my stash reached thirty-five I moved onto phase two of the operation, lubricated by a twelve-pack of Coors and two small bottles of vanilla extract.
I found the Mulholland Drive turn-out easily. It was mid-afternoon so traffic on the scenic drive was sparse. I clambered out of the Four Runner and began unloading the high performance bowling balls one by one, secreting them behind a batch of manzanita and wild scrub at the side of the road. A curious jack rabbit watched my labors from behind a clump of brush.
With all thirty-five balls unloaded I murmured a silent prayer and released the emergency brake on the Four Runner, leaping out of the driver’s seat as it lurched forward hesitantly and then began rolling downhill slowly like a child dawdling down the sidewalk on the first day of school. When it reached a hairpin curve the truck simply vaulted over the edge with a silence that was ominous, followed by a loud crash as it made metal-crunching contact with the bottom of a canyon.
I had one small bottle of vanilla extract remaining. It was tucked in my hip pocket. I scrambled into the brush with my load of bowling balls and waited for night fall.
Sid Welch’s $20 million house of glass and steel was perched on the wall of a canyon below Mulholland, directly across the road and 100 yards below the turn-out where I hid with my precious bowling balls. I was feeling numb from the vanilla extract by the time the sun set over the mountains and into the sea. I think I had reached the saturation point where alcohol was concerned but I still felt giddy as I took the first heavyweight professional bowling ball in hand and, perched at the lip of the canyon, vaulted the ball down into the ceiling of the glass and steel monstrosity below that was Sid Welch’s residence.
The sound of the ball crashing through the glass roof echoed in the canyon like a cannon shot. Car alarms started chirping like demented crickets.
One ball, thirty-four more to go.
© 2004-05, Rodger Jacobs
All Rights Reserved