“Once I wanted to be the greatest.”

My mom used to have her own business.  She monogrammed names and logos and anything else you wanted onto shirts, flags, baseball hats.  A big chunk of her business came from bowling leagues.  She’d sit down at her sewing machine with a stack of bowling shirts and spools of thread and stitch all the names: Joe, Roger, Barbara.

I’m writing a one-man play right now.  Sometimes when I’m writing I put on music.  Usually it helps distract my mind so that I just focus instead of thinking too hard.  Though sometimes it just distracts me.

Just now I got distracted because a song I didn’t recognize came on by a singer I did recognize.  Then the music video intrigued me.  It features three and a half minutes of middle aged and older women bowling.  They all take it seriously.  They all look so focused.  And then they all react to their performances, in simple but captivatingly honest ways. 

Probably if I saw that video without Cat Power’s voice behind it, it wouldn’t have struck me as much.  But it became so profound-seeming to me when paired with lyrics like this:

Once I wanted to be the greatest
Two fists of solid rock
With brains that could explain
Any feeling

Once I wanted to be the greatest
No wind or waterfall could stall me
And then came the rush of the flood
Stars of night turned deep to dust

A debate has been going on in the YouTube comments under this video about the meaning of the song and the meaning of the older women bowling. One person writes, “Memories of better days and nights. Each of the women in this video could fill hours and years talking about how good and bad life had been, and for some, still is – okay. Cat Power… She brings me to tears for so much we all dreamed about, and where those dreams end.”

Another user says, “The fact that the bowlers are elderly or not in the greatest of shape doesn’t negate their desire for perfection – a strike. It’s almost graceful and ballerina-like – how they step up and try to the best of their ability to match the perfect form. Watch the attempt, the hoping, and disappointment.”

Of course, then there’s this reaction, from a user named “zestytoaster”:

youre all wrong.

the point of the video is that it’s funny to watch old people bowl

Perhaps you’re right, zestytoaster. Perhaps you’re right.


2 responses to ““Once I wanted to be the greatest.”

  1. Wow, those lyrics are beautiful.

  2. Zestytoaster is correct. Youtube comments are normally a representative sample of the left tail of the intelligence bell curve/testament to why universal suffrage was a mistake for America, but in that wasteland of stupidity and bad spelling you can find an acorn or two of wisdom.

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