Grok My Enthusiasm (50)

By: Amy Thielen
December 21, 2016

One in a weekly series of enthusiastic posts contributed by HILOBROW friends and regulars.

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On many a dark Friday night in the rural north country, you will find me at bingo at Ice Cracking Lodge, where the wine is so bad it burns your throat, the broasted chicken so hot it burns your mouth, and the game is played telecommuter-style, communicated via headset among twenty-five roadhouse bars on White Earth Reservation.

Without irony, I can say that bingo — a mindless game of luck — ignites my simple rural heart. It requires no strategy, not a lick of skill. A person can easily play four cards drunk. A sober one can play eight or more. What no one can do is play it alone. Like an empty dance club at the opening bell, the music echoes weirdly without the crowd, sounding too insistent without the echo-bounce of bodies. Bingo solitaire… can you imagine a sadder scene?

No, this is one of those ridiculous group pastimes that starts to feel right in the dark, crazy-making days of pre-solstice early winter. When the sun starts to sink at four p.m., the evenings run long. You spend the whole fall preparing your winter nest, and then the very minute the dark descends you feel this strong need to crawl out of your cozy lamplit house and rub elbows with strangers for an hour or so of collective fabricated stress. As proof of the power of daylight hours to affect mood, everyone has the same idea. The place is packed. But I’m no rookie; I’d made my table reservation the week before.

The first right move in a fateful winning bingo experience is picking the right dauber. The orange one was ugly, too safety-orange. The yellow was too light; hard to see under the dim lights. The hot pink one was dried out, marking the paper in rings like a sloshed coffee cup — but the neon purple one was just right. The ink bubbled up and soaked the foam. Like the fluid flowing through my central nervous system, the purple one was pure liquid luck.

It seemed like a good omen, but as the caller shouted out the numbers — “O71! B9! N34! — that familiar sick bile feeling began to rise up. These cards were bad. My blots were clotting in dreaded groups, not lining up at all. I was an idiot: should have played four cards instead of just two. The pot was five hundred dollars.

My shoulders were hunched over my drink with worry, as were everyone’s. One hundred people in the room, and it could have been a wax museum; no one made a sound. “I19!” And then the dreaded words, “BINGO IS CALLED!” The crowd groaned moodily.

The caller sounded apologetic. “That’s a good bingo on coverall… at Ice Cracking!”

At least it was one of ours. The adrenaline receded. Everyone threw their used cards into a central pile, called for their checks at once, and came back to life, laughing and calling to each other and shrugging back into their coats, full of enough made-up, make-do spirit to last until next week.

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GROK MY ENTHUSIASM: Rob Wringham on THE THEORY AND PRACTICE OF LUNCH | Gordon Dahlquist on WEEKEND | Joe Alterio on MILLION YEAR PICNIC | Adrienne Crew on LA BARONNE EMILE D’ERLANGER | Josh Glenn on THE SURVIVAL SAMPLER | Alix Lambert on THE SKIES BELONG TO US | Adam McGovern on PENELOPE and CHAVEZ RAVINE | Rob Wringham on THE LYKE WAKE WALK | Mark Kingwell on NORTH STAR SNEAKERS & GWG JEANS | Gordon Dahlquist on FELLINI SATYRICON | Erik Davis on AH! | Devin McKinney on WHISPERING AFRAID | Mimi Lipson on 1973 SEARS ROEBUCK CATALOG | Jessamyn West on MOSS | Josh Glenn on THE SCOUT HOW BOOK | Brian Berger on SLACKER | Alix Lambert on ABSOLUTE BEGINNERS | Chelsey Johnson on MONOTREMES | Devin McKinney on THE BUTCHER COVER | Flourish Klink on ONE DIRECTION | Gordon Dahlquist on FULL METAL JACKET | Allegra Huston on CLOTHESLINE | Jenny Davidson on POWERLIFTING | Evan Narcisse on REZ | Deborah Wassertzug on VEGETARIAN MEATBALLS | Chris Spurgeon on WALLACE AND GROMIT | Mandy Keifetz on BENEFICIAL MICROBES | Annie Nocenti on MARKS ON WALLS | Molly Sauter on THE GREAT BRITISH BAKE OFF | William Nericcio on LAND OF THE LOST | Dan Fox on “VOICE OF GOD” RADIO DJS | Brandi Brown on WIKIPEDIA TALK | Claire Lehmann on THE APPARATUS REVEAL | Alice Boone on COSTUME JEWELRY | Colin Dickey on WIDESPREAD PANIC | Anshuman Iddamsetty on THE FULL BODY PROJECT | John Hilgart on MAKING GRATEFUL DEAD ALBUMS | Rob Wringham on STEVEN UNIVERSE | John Overholt on DECKLE EDGES | James Hannaham on HABIT PATTERNS | Jessamyn West on THE PUBLIC LIBRARY SYSTEM | Adam McGovern on THE SPACE GIANTS | Brian Berger on MEDIUM COOL | Chris Spurgeon on THE DUNNING-KRUGER EFFECT | Joe Alterio on TABLETOP WARGAMING | Mimi Lipson on TRASH PICKING | Jason Grote on CZECH CINEMA | Roxane Gay on AUTOMATED CAR WASH | Dan Fox on JULIA DAVIS | Amy Thielen on BINGO | Steph Burt on FEIJOA.

MORE ENTHUSIASM at HILOBROW

#SQUADGOALS (2017 weekly): THE WILD BUNCH | BOWIE’S BAND | THE BLOOMSBURY GROUP | THE HONG KONG CAVALIERS | VI ÄR BÄST! & dozens of other squads | GROK MY ENTHUSIASM (2016 weekly): THE THEORY AND PRACTICE OF LUNCH | WEEKEND | MILLION YEAR PICNIC | LA BARONNE EMILE D’ERLANGER | THE SURVIVAL SAMPLER | & dozens more one-off enthusiasms. QUIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2016): “Tainted Love” | “Metal” | “Frankie Teardrop” | “Savoir Faire” | “Broken English” | & 20 other new wave songs. CROM YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2015): DARKER THAN YOU THINK | THE SWORD IN THE STONE | OUT OF THE SILENT PLANET | THIEVES’ HOUSE | QUEEN OF THE BLACK COAST | & 20 other fantasy novels from 1934–43. KERN YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2014): ALDINE ITALIC | DATA 70 | TORONTO SUBWAY | JOHNSTON’S “HAMLET” | TODD KLONE | & 20 other typefaces. HERC YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2013): “Spoonin’ Rap” | “Rapper’s Delight” | “Rappin’ Blow” | “The Incredible Fulk” | “The Adventures of Super Rhyme” | & 20 other old-school hip-hop songs. KIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2012): Justice or vengeance? | Kirk teaches his drill thrall to kiss | “KHAAAAAN!” | “No kill I” | Kirk browbeats NOMAD | & 20 other Captain Kirk scenes. KIRB YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2011): THE ETERNALS | BLACK MAGIC | DEMON | OMAC | CAPTAIN AMERICA | & 20 other Jack Kirby panels.

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Enthusiasms