Tejo & Alcohol & Gunpowder: Week 233

Locals at a tejo court in Minitas, Manizales

Tejo is underappreciated by the youth of Colombia. This great national sport combines throwing heavy objects with explosions and alcohol. That description alone should be persuasive enough. However, on a Saturday night, the tejo court in Minitas was filled with elderly men and crates of empty beer bottles.

While it was not the demographic I was expecting, the elderly tejo aficionados were very welcoming and answered all our questions. It was obvious that they knew what they were talking about because they played on a full court and their throws were very accurate. The sound of a gunshot frequently rang out from their lanes.

The first thing we realized was that there was no hourly cost to play. Instead we were expected to be ordering alcohol, as tejo and drinking go hand in hand. This was easily accomplished with a half crate of beer, a small bottle of rum, and two bottles of Coke. We were then given a xeroxed scorecard from page 90 of the The Practical Manual for Native Sports while our court was prepared.

A tejo court being prepared for play in Minitas: Manizales, Colombia

A tejo court has two wedges of clay at either end and both were moistened with water before their top layer was loosened up with a shovel. When the clay was smooth, two red triangular packets of gunpowder were plucked out of a plastic milk jug tacked to the wall. These packets were placed on the almost imperceptible lip of a metal pipe that was in the center of the wedge.

Each player throws their own metal disk (tejo). Once everyone had thrown in one direction, the points are tallied, the tejos yanked out of the clay, and everyone aims for the wedge at the other end of the court.

A mecha explosion during a game of tejo in Manitas: Manizales Colombia

There are four ways to score points: the closest tejo to the center scores one point (manos), exploding a packet of powder is three points (mecha), landing the tejo in the center is six points (embocinada), while exploding the packet and landing in the middle is nine points (monona).

A mecha might only be three points- but it felt like hitting the lottery. As soon as the tejo made contact, there was the crack of a gunshot and then a bursting flame. I jumped every time one went off.

For the regulars, our game was both a source of humor and an opportunity for instruction.

The regulars helping out during a game of tejo in Manitas: Manizales, Colombia

Maybe the reason why the youth aren’t crazy about tejo is that it’s not a glamorous sport. We didn’t wear our nicest clothes because everything was covered in a layer of red dust. When the sun began to set, a man walked over to our court with a bamboo ladder in one hand and a light bulb in the other.

Hanging out with friends at a tejo court in Manitas: Manizales, Colombia

Then, about halfway into the game, I realized that the little sink to the left of our target our target was actually a urinal. When people were using it, it was a bit of a distraction.

Hanging out with friends at the tejo court in Minitas: Manizales, Colombia

Truth be told, I had been feeling a bit depressed all week about leaving my 20s. But after celebrating my 30th birthday with tejo, I realized there is still a lot of cool stuff ahead.

Forget bingo- when I’m 80 I want to be drinking with my friends, throwing tejos, and exploding stuff. I also expect to be good enough the use the full court by then.

How to get to the tejo cancha in Minitas: Take a taxi or buseta to the intersection of Calle 63 and Carrera 11c. The entrance to the tejo court is on Calle 63, just up the hill from a Virgin Mary shrine.

A little girl hanging out at the tejo court in Minitas: Manizales, Colombia

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Bolero Multibolo: Week 232

Illustration of bowling alley attendant manually setting up the pins. By Barret Thomson

On a Saturday night, the basement of Multicentro Estrella is filled with cosmic bowlers.

Bolero Multibolo only has six lanes, but each one holds a large group of people. The lights are low and a small green laser beam flashes from the corner of the room.

On the other side of the venue are the pool tables and the service desk. Bowling shoes cost $.75USD to rent and are handed over with a small white bottle of talc. The wall behind the desk has a large display of candy, chips, soda, beer, rum and aguardiente.

Our group buys a bottle of aguardiente to share every time someone lands a strike. The shot glasses are little plastic sample cups which remind me of the cups dentists use to hold toothpaste when they are cleaning your teeth.

We start off by throwing a few practice balls each down the lane. Once everyone has a go, we divide into two teams and begin bowling.

There is an initial rash of beginner’s luck and as we toast, our scorekeeper tallies the points on a sheet of paper. The shins of the bolero employee quickly shuffle around the pins and all ten are upright within a few seconds. It is low-tech, but it is also faster than an automated service. Bottoms up.

How to get to Bolero Multibolo: In the basement of Multicentro Estrella, Cra 23 # 59-70, Manizales.

Illustration by: Barret Thomson

Cricket World Cup: Week 207

2015 Cricket World Cup at the Sydney Cricket Ground: Sydney, Australia

My line of reasoning went- if I only ever go to one cricket game, I need to make it count. That’s why I bought tickets to one of the Cricket World Cup matches in Sydney.

The only Sydney game Australia was scheduled to play was already sold out, so I picked the next best thing- the cheap seats for the South Africa vs West Indies. Despite being two far-flung countries, the Sydney Cricket Ground was still packed with fans.

Although our seats were as cheap as they come, they were close to the turf and also right by the most enthusiastic fan in the entire stadium. Every time a troupe of drummers stood up on a podium, this guy jumped up in front of them to lead them with his whistle. With his lips firmly clasped around the instrument, he used his hands to anchor himself against the field’s perimeter.2015 Cricket World Cup at the Sydney Cricket Ground: Sydney, Australia

Only after our friends arrived did we begin to understand the nuances and terminology of the game. The most important thing I learned is that cricket is not baseball. The ball isn’t pitched- it’s bowled. The batter is not a batter- he’s a batsman and there’s two of them (from the same team) on the field at all times.

Test cricket, which is a shorter version that’s played for international competitions, only has two innings. However, two cricket innings are actually equivalent to just one baseball inning. That means that one entire team bats until they strike out (oops-there are no strikes!) or 300 balls are bowled. Then the other team tries to catch up. Then the game is over.

“Wouldn’t it be more exciting,” I asked my friend, “if they took more turns?”

“No.”

“Why not?” I pressed.

“Because it’s not baseball.”

“I know it isn’t baseball, but cricky would…”

“It’s not cricky either. It’s cricket.”

“You don’t like the name?”

My friend replied without a moment’s hesitation. “No.”

“Why not? If football’s called footy, why isn’t cricket cricky?”

“Because footy sounds manly and cricky sounds…. Not manly.”

I wasn’t convinced. The first reason being that whenever I hear the word ‘footy’ I think of baby socks. The second reason being that nothing is more appropriate in Australia than a good abbreviation and there is surprisingly nothing for cricket.This is why I have decided to coin the term ‘cricky’.

Unfortunately, not even the most anti-sports person at work agrees with me.

“It sounds too much like crikey.” One colleague complained.

“That’s great!” I replied. “You could say something like- Crikey the cricky was good!”

“That sounds terrible.”

“No way, I’m loving this nickname even more!”

I definitely think I’m on to something.

About: 2015 Cricket World Cup

Ride the Night: Week 189

Brochure for Sydney RIdes Festival 2014

Every now and then I have a very uninspiring week- the kind of week where I just want to lounge around the house in pajamas. I’m not saying that’s bad, but it just makes it hard to do my ‘new thing’ for the week. After browsing the weekend newsletters in my inbox, I realized that the only thing I had any chance of attending was ‘Ride the Night’. It was one of the last events of the Sydney Rides Festival, a two-week long bicycle celebration.

The only problem was that just before Ride the Night was slated to begin, storm clouds came rolling in over the city and Barret and I didn’t even have our bikes. They were still stored at our friend’s house.

“You sure you want to do this?” Barret asked before we caught the bus headed through Newtown.

“I think so.” I replied.

The weather wasn’t any better by the time we reached our friend’s house and the delicious kitchen smells also didn’t help. I was having a hard time convincing both myself and Barret that we should head into the nebulous fog that cloaked the CBD.

“I think my neighbors took their kids to that.” John mentioned as we hemmed and hawed on the comfortable couch.

In the end my project prevailed. I needed to do something new.

Ride the Night ended up being an illuminated circuit along Mrs Macquaries Road in the Royal Botanic Gardens. There were more people than I was expecting for such questionable weather, but luckily the rain stayed at bay. A few light installations were placed along the route, the most prominent being the multi-colored spheres.

Compared to the seasonal Gift of Lights drive-thru Vegas Christmas extravaganza that I grew up with, Ride the Night didn’t come close. Not by a long shot.

However, my fellow bike riders made up for the underwhelming light display. Their bikes came in an incredible assortment of styles and were covered with LEDs and bubble machines. Ride the Night wasn’t all it cracked up to be, but a night ride through Sydney is almost never a bad thing.

And, on the way back home, Barret and I found ourselves at the Night Noodle Market. It was the last evening so everything was discounted! In the end I was glad I scraped my lazy butt off the couch, but I think it goes without saying how my Sunday went- wonderfully uneventful.

About: Sydney Rides Festival

Kayaking on the Occoquan: Week 183

Polaroid of Barret kayaking on the Occoquan River: Manassas, Virginia

My parents store two kayaks along the southern side of their house. One is red, the other is orange and the both of them are covered with a few days’ worth of cobwebs. It was hard to navigate them around the corner of the house and when I finally had the right angle, I bashed into a beautyberry bush. The impact caused small purple berries and a variety of spiders to scatter across the cement.

“The spiders come be back an hour after you put them away,” my Dad warned me as he stated brushing them off with his hand. “You can’t keep them away.”

He was right but I grabbed a broom anyway. I didn’t like the idea of being trapped in the middle of the river with a spider crawling up my leg. Once the kayak was swept down I plugged in the leaf blower. The nozzle blasted all the plastic crevasses and then I positioned it so that the air created a spinning vortex of debris inside the kayak. Nimble little spider bodies swept along the walls like those dizzying theme park rides that just spin and spin and spin.

When the kayaks were as spider-free as they were going to get, Barret and I carried them down to the Occoquan. The river was one of the reasons my parents bought that house. You can’t see it from the windows, but it’s only a short stroll through the patch of trees on the other side of the road.

Because it was summer, a million miniscule bugs bounced along the surface of the water, their bodies so light that their movement doesn’t even cause a ripple. As we paddled down river we saw jumping fish and turtles resting on water-logged branches. One statuesque white heron watched us approach before it suddenly burst skyward.

Colvin Run Mill: Great Falls, Virginia

Most of the homes along the river use the water for recreation. However, it wasn’t too long ago that these bodies of fresh water were important for food and transport. The Colvin Run Mill, which is 45 minutes north of my parent’s house, is a beautiful example of an early 19th century mill. The mill is still used for grinding and the nearby gift shop sells bags of cornmeal, grits, wheat and buckwheat flour.

Polaroid of flowers at Colvin Run Mill: Great Falls, Virginia

While my parent’s bend of the Occoquan is too tranquil for a watermill, it is the perfect speed for a gentle kayak ride. There is nothing better a hot summer’s day than a shady river and the rhythmic splash of a paddle breaking the water’s surface.

How to get to the Colvin Run Mill: 10017 Colvin Run Road, Great Falls VA 22066

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