Author Karen Dawn blowdrying her turkey Perry, whom she rescued last year. (Photo by Hugh Slavitt)

CURIOUS CITY — A BOWLING INJURY. ARE YOU SERIOUS? Why do I admit to these things, in print no less?

But many come away from the Thanksgiving holiday a different person. Usually not for the better.

If you’re lucky, you only overeat. But maybe you really overeat. Maybe those magnificent mounds of juicy meat, mountains of mashed potatoes and oceans of thick gravy, and six kinds of stuffing, will tip your metabolism to obesity. Did your clothes shrink by Monday? How did that happen?

Or perhaps it puts that extra cholesterol coating on your arteries that sends you to the ER. If not now, soon. Maybe having 12 kinds of pies on the table was rare and glorious fun but not such a great idea when it pushes you into diabetic territory. And let’s not get started on the drinking, shall we? Oh – you started as soon as you saw who showed up for Thanksgiving? I understand.

Ah, but the family camaraderie. Anyone experience any fights over football? No? Liars. Did you have to juggle the seating arrangement so Cousin Vinny wouldn’t be within earshot of Uncle Ernie’s tippled taunting about his teenage traumas? Usually a prayer is offered before the meal – was your prayer that your daughter would keep it zipped about that disastrous late summer campout? After all, no divorces nor confirmed pregnancies yet, so nothing to tell, right? And Charlie will adapt and have a fine life without that pinkie, I’m sure. Boys and their toys, sharp toys.

My family’s not like that. Oh, the scandals abound, but everyone accepts and supports each other and is genuinely glad to get together every end of November. We’ve been doing it for 65 years, always in Tempe, AZ (on the edge of Phoenix), which was literally a cow town for that first gathering. We had 31 mouths at the long table this year. I’ve seen it approach 50.

It’s a motley crew. Blue and white collar, deeply religious and adamantly atheist, high school dropouts and advanced degrees, pinko lefties and military lifers, exes and currents, cowboys and Indians, Bosnians and Dutchmen, doctors and nurses, teachers and dog sitters, jewelers and waitresses, auto mechanics and actresses, ages 3 to 95. But almost all are intellectually curious and open, and the individual and group discussions are pretty interesting. We all love and respect each other, and I guess that’s why we’ve never experienced any kerfuffles. It helps that there’s no alcohol flowing, a loose rule everyone’s fine with.

We’ve developed traditions, things we usually do as a group. A movie that both young and old can enjoy. (Harry Potter filled the bill for several Thanksgivings.) A round of golf. A little basketball to work off the big meal. Celebrating cousin Pat and Jerry’s anniversary – this one was big: 60 years married. (She was 18 – they had five sons by the time she was 23! – he was a former railroad mechanic turned 21-year-old flyboy, who retired at 40 as an Air Force colonel then joined Boeing and became a VP, retiring again at 60.) An arts and crafts session. Thrift store/swap meet shopping. My visit to the western boot store in Scottsdale. Pinochle (it’s a card game), sometimes bridge. Holiday singing. And of course, bowling.

Golf and bowling, I’m clear, are not sports. Oh, they take coordination and acquired skill to excel, but come on, fat guys do both, and can be stars.

I’ve been bowling since I was a kid. My dad loved it, and when I hit mid-teens we were on teams together. Won trophies. I was a rising star, threw a 259 at age 15 – and peaked. Downhill since then, but I still love the frustrating endeavor. (Though I do not like the loud thumping music light-flashing automated circus that bowling alleys have become.)

But in all those years, never have I been injured, unless you call some skin off a thumb an injury. But how could you? It’s a solitary sport. You go up to the foul line by yourself and throw the ball. What kind of idiot would it take to get injured at bowling?

I guess I’m the one to tell the cautionary tale, then. Good ol’ Doc Solomon, an outstanding general practitioner I’ve been going to for decades, who knows everything from acupuncture to top heart surgeon referrals, told me he had never seen a bowling injury in all his years of practice. I feel so special.

There are many styles but here’s how I do it: Concentrate on where you’re going to set the ball down and what English you will give it, take three steps forward while you begin swinging that 16-pound ball into an arc, slide on your left foot toward the foul line and release the ball from your right hand. Simple.

Not this time. As I slid forward my left foot hit something sticky on the wooden approach. Instead of sliding, low to the ground, my left foot planted, and the unexpected momentum shot the rest of me into the air like a leaping ballerina who suddenly finds her slipper nailed to the floor. I managed to throw the ball – even kept it on the alley – but it became one of those slo-mo events where you see yourself crashing towards the hard wood floor, with your only prayer being to kind of roll with it and land evenly.

Wasn’t to be. My full body weight, including all that extra Thanksgiving stuffing I added the day before, came crashing down squarely on my right kneecap.

I finished bowling, though I changed my style completely to avoid any chance of a replay. I can walk. But dang it’s sore and swollen, and I’m waiting for the x-rays to tell me whether or not there’s a fracture.

So there you have it. A bowling injury. An absolute rarity. I got no turkeys that day (that’s three strikes in a row) but I sure felt like one. If you see me, pretend you didn’t read this.

YOU CAN SKIP THAT $400,000 DYLAN PAINTING I was asking for, for Christmas. I’ll just take one of those $20,000 bike share bikes I’ve read about. They must be awfully fancy.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “Life is a comedy to the man who thinks, and a tragedy to the man who feels.” – Horace Walpole

Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for almost 30 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. You can reach him at

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