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recent post, I’m a fan of empty spaces, Annie Proulx, free-roaming pronghorn antelope, and just can’t get enough of America’s least populous state. When faced with a day off in Wyoming, I booked a room at a Travelodge Hotel in bustling downtown Laramie. Adventures awaited—-Wild-West style.

The fun began before I set foot in Matthew Shepard’s former home. In Rawlins, a microscopic town 1 1/2 hours west of Laramie, I feasted on summer rolls at Anong’s Thai Cuisine. One does not expect quality Thai amidst the harsh winds that blow through Dick Cheney’s home state. Still, satiated by Anong’s ginger tofu, I was better able to endure the Travelodge-sponsored adversity that awaited.

“Can I have a late check out?” I inquired of the Travelodge innkeep in Laramie.

“Check out is 10:00 a.m.,” quoth the innkeep.

“Curses!” I said. “10:00 a.m. is too early!” The miserly innkeep was none too sympathetic, but begrudgingly granted a checkout of 11:30 a.m. Nothing sours my mood like an inexplicably early check-out. How would I salvage my psyche?

I had spotted a bowling alley on the way into Laramie—-not a yuppie approximation of a bowling alley, but a proletarian bowling alley proud and true. It’s no secret that I am a bowling enthusiast. Though I am none too skilled at the sport, I am a Moyer, and the Moyers are an accomplished Pennsylvania bowling clan. My paternal grandfather’s kin were known to bowl on any occasion—-birthdays, wedding days, and, famously, after funerals.

“I will bowl my early check-out pain away!” I cried. I secured a lane and a pair of size 8 shoes, and burned through 30 frames. The results:

Game #1: 122 Game #2: 93 Game #3: 89

Local bowlers did not hesitate to remark upon my diminishing scores.

“Look at that!” said a young woman in the lane next to me. “You’re getting worse!”

“It’s true,” I said. “I am a small man, and tire quickly.”

“Well, whatever,” said the young woman. She chewed on her tongue piercing and flaunted a devil-may-care bowling philosophy. She had failed to break 75. “I’m too drunk to care!” she exclaimed.

Post-bowling, I retired to my Travelodge to watch a Sopranos episode on A & E. The episode was a winner—Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) must protect sister Janice Soprano (Aida Turturro) after she shoots her fiancé Richie Aprille (David Proval). The episode features choice dramaturgic exchanges between Tony and his mother Livia (Nancy Marchand).

The Sopranos really was much better before Nancy Marchand died, I thought. I turned off the television and fell asleep, dreaming of dreaded 7-10 splits. Outside, an unexpected storm flung sleet at my Travelodge. By morning, all traces of this storm had melted into a salty, cruel dust that stuck to Laramie’s streets like taffy.