If ever you have spent any time with me and my family of friends in Taiwan, you have likely heard the call, chugged the beer, sung the song, and hopefully received a name. It’s also likely that you woke up the next day cursing us for the copious amounts of ale and swill that you were required to drink as a result of transgressing our numerous rules. (That was me yesterday morning.) Nevertheless, despite the sandy mouth and wretched hangover numbing your brain, you no doubt found yourself oddly eager for the next month when the call would be made again. I am talking about the call of the Buffaloes!
Started in 1998 by my brother, our other brother (who we never had) and I, Buffaloes is a visionary club that combines fashion (blue Hawaiian shirts), athletics (bowling) and Taiwanese gold (Taiwan beer). It is social group organized to unite the Hsinchu foreign community and more importantly to show the good people of Taiwan how to properly act like drunken fools.
Our goals at the inception of the Buffaloes were rather simple: to drink fast and bowl hard. We had but two rules: 1) that initiates must imbibe 500 ml of Taiwan Brown Bottle Beer in twenty-five seconds or less without losing so much as a drop; and 2) to be able to bowl a game of 125 or more at least once during the night. Our priorities seemed clear given the fact that the inability to bowl resulted in an extra shot of hooch but the inability to guzzle beer kept you out of the club. Nonetheless, not wanting the Buffalo name to be tarnished with the label of being exclusive, we provided those poor souls unable to chug their beer with the chance to try again (I think our record stands at three in a single night.) and after enough failed attempts an honorary Buffalo status.
After successfully knocking back a tall glass of Taiwan’s best, members were and continue to be given a Buffalo name by which they must be referred for the rest of the evening and for the rest of their Buffalo nights. Failure to do so results in a shot. Buffalo names are given to reflect such things as ability (Hoover, Tunes), personality (Giggles, Bear), history (Teabag, Gerber), and character (Tex, Trooper). Once given a name, you are a Buffalo and remain so for life (even if Bicks tells you differently!)
Our meetings start with a song that epitomizes the Buffalo experience – The Flintstones Theme. Of course the lyrics have been altered slightly to fit our particular brand of tomfoolery; nonetheless, it is sung loud and with enough verve to make Fred himself a proud.
We’re the Buffaloes.
We’re a modern drinking family.
From the town of Hsinchu,
We’re a gulp right out of brewery.
With the family down the street.
Through the courtesy of hops and wheat.
When you’re with the Buffaloes,
It’s a yabba dabba do time,
A grabba brew time,
We’ll have a drunk old time.
From there we have five minutes to consume a 500ml bottle of either Taiwan Gold or Taiwan Brown Bottle. And then the games begin. We divide our numbers between two or three lanes and start to bowl. Marks (strikes and spares) allow you to give shots to your fellow Buffaloes and gutter-balls are rewarded with the same. Games are usually slow and sloppy but never uneventful. It is not uncommon to see Buffaloes doing push ups in front of their lanes (another form of punishment), or running along the gutter in order to retrieve stray balls. As the night continues, discussions grow louder, antics wilder and the games much, much slower. By the end of our twentieth frame (two games), the lanes each seem to be filled with twenty dancing pins and we have about enough energy to have one final game of speed bowling before calling it a night. Well, a night of bowling anyways. We always seem to have enough tingle left in our toes to raise a thirty minute ruckus outside of the alley before heading on home.
There used to be a Buffalo tradition at the end of each night wherein we would show off our agility and sobriety (or lack thereof) by walking along narrow pipes that bordered the parking lot outside the lanes. The Buffalo who could walk the length of the pipes back and forth without falling off was adorned with the praise and adulation of anyone still possessing enough focus to understand what had just happened. Unfortunately this was never me. I have the balance of a Barbie doll even when I am sober and a night full of beer and whisky rarely did anything to improve my dexterity. The one time I did come close to walking the full walk, I proved that some weeble wobbles (Remember those toys?) do fall down. My last few steps on the tubes turned into a shuffle, a stumble and then a dive into a table full of chicken wings and broth. Surprisingly, that was the first and last time I ever saw a vendor set up shop at that particular location.
As with all things in life, Buffaloes has evolved over the years. Nights still end a little on the sloppy slide, but it is nowhere near as debaucherous (or reckless) as it was back in the days of tequila bowling. (Seven people + countless beers + a bottle of tequila = exactly what you would expect) Rules, and shot sizes have been changed to make the night a little more Buffalo friendly. Usually, it is only the birthday Buffalo who ends up retching in the parking lot. (Mind you, there are some Buffaloes, Hawk, who seem to fall outside of the norm. They’re special though.)
Time has also changed the face Hsinchu and our beloved bowling alley has been torn down and replaced with a pile of rubble. (Urbanomics at its finest!) Our meetings are now a thirty minute cab ride away and have therefore become a little more sporadic. (This weekend marked the second meeting of the year.) Nevertheless, when the Buffaloes unite, our vision remains the same – drink fast and bowl hard.
I found myself struggling to find a track to fit this post. Other than the Flintstones Theme, music has had little to do with our club. There used to be a jukebox at the old bowling alley, but the sounds of our pins falling and voices rising always seemed to drown the melodies out. Therefore, I had to dig a little deeper and find a song that best represented what bowling meant to me.
Relax, by Frankie Goes To Hollywood, actually brings me back to grade eight, my peach fuzz mustache and the raging mullet that I somehow thought would transform me into a chick magnet. Not so much. It was one of the many songs I played when I DJ-ed at one of our dances. Yep, I started my DJ career hitting buttons on a tape deck. At the time, I don’t know if I had the affinity towards music that I have today. I think I just assumed that no girl was going to dance with me and the fuzzy beaver tail running down the back of my neck and decided to play some tunes that would get everyone else on the floor.
I chose Relax as the track for this post because of the title. This is what I do every time I prepare to toss my ball down the alley. It used to be that I was the worst bowler of all Buffaloes. I could barely break 80 let alone 125. As with most things I do, I tried too hard to excel. I was so intent on throwing the perfect ball, on being the best, that didn’t realize how tense I had become. The more I concentrated, the stiffer I got and the worse I threw. And then one day, I paused a moment, drowned out the noises around me, forgot about trying to win, and just focused on the ten pins in front of me. I took a deep breath and tossed my ball. Holy shit. I got a strike. I did this again the next frame and wound up with another strike. All it took was that moment (Ok, in reality it was a minute of me standing there with my lips pressed up against my ball…ohhh… that doesn’t sound so good…) of focus and relaxation and I was able to nearly double my score. And now that’s how I bowl. All Buffaloes know to put me on the lane with less people because I pause, focus and just breathe before every ball I toss (That sounds worse.). It takes me a bit longer, but no-one can argue with the results. What I need to do now is find a way to implement this process into everything I do. Life would be a heck of a lot slower, but who knows where it could take me.
If ever you find yourself bored in Taiwan on the first Saturday of the month, head over to the JuNan bowling alley. Look for the bald headed foreigner who looks like he is praying to his ball or just listen for the boisterous, obnoxious group of rowdies. Make sure you have a brown bottle of Taiwan Beer or two in tow and get ready for a night that you won’t forget (or possibly remember). And, whatever happens just go with the flow and relax!
Relax youtube link