Tuesday, May 24, 2005

The Color of Baloney

Speaking of the Color of Money, I caught scientology’s favorite son, Tom Cruise, on Oprah yesterday. No, I’m not an Oprah fanatic – it just happens to be on at 4 PM when I normally eat my dinner. Oh hell, yes it’s true - I am an Oprah fanatic. Oprah, please make my wildest dream come true – give me a brand new custom made cue. The one I’ve been playing with lets out a wimper every time I drive by Wal-Mart. Guess it wants to get back to its Chinese roots. No, Oprah, I don’t need a lifetime supply of insulin and syringes. I can handle the expense with what I make on my website. I don’t need you to pay my hospital bill. I’ve been gnawing away at that and it looks like it will wiped out in another couple months. But, girlfriend, I just can’t justify spending money on something frivolous like a pool cue. So, bring the dream bus, and take me to the cue mall.

Anyway, I’m no expert on scientology. All I know about it I learned from a guy who had risen to a pretty important position in the organization before becoming disillusioned, dropping out and catching Christianity on the rebound. But, that’s another story. What he told me was as a devout scientologist he had surrendered his will to a little demon who directed his life from a perch upon his shoulder. One day, he went to his friend’s house for dinner and the little demon was telling him that he ought to slip the boney baloney to his friend’s wife, right then and there in front of the friend, no less. That’s when he came to his senses and left the cult.

Anyway, when I see Vincent, I mean Tom Cruise, grinning wildly, apparently oblivious to his well documented string of ex-girlfriends, and proudly displaying the latest love of his life, this one barely thirteen years old, while at the same time explaining to Oprah what a wonderful person he is, I can’t help thinking that that’s his little demon talking.

Pool? Well, I dropped my wife off at the mall last Friday and went down DJ’s and played a couple $10 sets with this kid who spots me the wild eight. If the kid’s on, he should win, but he gets careless sometimes and loses focus and when he does I can beat him. No big deal either way, I figure. He’s always quick to let me know he’d rather be playing somebody for a couple hundred. But, on Friday he developed an attitude, complaining about me shitting in balls and saying I was trying to shark him by moving around when in truth I always try to get out of a guys way if I see I’m standing in his line of sight. I mean, if I lose, I lose. I don’t cry about it – I just pay up. Guess there’s no such thing as a friendly $10 game any more.

Friday night, I went to my regular gin mill tournament, got knocked to the loser’s side right away and then won four in a row before getting knocked out. I wasn’t playing that bad from what I recall, just not good enough. I didn’t bother going to the Tuesday night tournament at the bowling allies. Only eight people showed up last week and I didn’t think it was worth wasting the gas. It’s that time of the year when the less serious pool players are finding other things to do - playing baseball and golf, going fishing and camping. Me, I stayed home tonight and watched the second game of the Jeopardy finals. Till next time…

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Snookered Brainwave Award

DJ’s down in NPR has an all day special that allows one to play from opening until 7 PM for a scant $5. Not a bad deal for those who have the time. Unless I run into someone willing to play a couple cheap sets, however, I am usually content to play a half hour or so by myself. All I want to do, really, is get a feel for the Simonis cloth which is very unlike what I play on in the bars or in the game room of the fogey farm where I live and practice.

So, I go down DJ’s yesterday and at first glance it seems that only three of the eight tables are in use. Picture a three row arrangement with three tables in each row, then pluck out one of the corner tables. That’s DJ’s. Anyway, I point to table three and ask if could play on it. No, says the blond, that’s so-and-so’s table. “Where is he?” I ask. Playing on table two with Joe Shmoe, she replies. “So, I can’t play there.” No, he paid for the table, so it’s his.

I look over at table 5 and notice a case laying on it. “What about table 5?” I ask. “That’s taken.” It seems that whoever had taken it, had paid his five bucks and scrammed. Balls were racked up on table 8, but the dude who was in control of that table was sitting at the bar watching television. To make a long story short, I don’t like to play on the center table where you’re surrounded by tables on all sides with no place to lay your stuff or on the table by the door where you’re too often interrupted by people walking in or out not to mention the glare. So, I didn’t play and spent a couple hours shooting the shit about pool, health and cigarette smoking. It’s one thing to let guys play all day for five bucks, but to let them control two tables for the duration is nuts. Theoretically, you could take control of the whole place for forty measly dollars.

Speaking of which, thanks to a couple fortuitous two-rail kick shots, I came in second in Friday night’s gin mill tourney. There was a low turnout, so my prize was only forty bucks, just enough to buy DJ’s for an afternoon. I am playing better, but improvement is still a gradual thing. My shot-making, especially, is a lot better. Plus, I’m trying to use my head more.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

60's Revisited

Tuesday night – The Bowling Allies on old 54. As soon as I got out of the car I heard the music but it registered in my brain as loud juke box. It wasn’t until I walked inside that I realized we were going to be treated to live music in the form of this old dude (by old I mean my age) armed with an electric guitar and a microphone. His repertoire consisted of 60’s and 70’s vintage stuff. If it had been played by some virtuoso, say like Eric Freakin’ Clapton, it might have been an enjoyable accompaniment to our pool playing. Unfortunately, Eric Clapton he was not and it didn’t take long before his playing began to grate on me. When he finished a number and some of the crowd started clapping, I would inject, “Please, don’t encourage him.”

One guy, one voice, one guitar – this formula never appealed to me. I remember guys, supposedly friends, back in the 60’s who used to pack their guitars around with them wherever they went and who with little or no encouragement would start strumming and picking and playing for you nonstop their entire catalog. Shear torture! And that’s the mood this guy put me in.

To lighten the moment, there was an old couple – they looked like escapees from the Beach Boys nursing home – who got off their stools several times and danced. I mentioned to one of my fellow players that the guy looked like he had taken one acid trip too many. My friend quipped, “It was probably a half a trip, because he went and never came back!” Funny guy.

Anyway, none of this has anything to do with me getting home by 9 o’clock. For one thing, I had an unlucky draw. First game I had to play Toe Knee (I think that’s how you spell it). He’s the best player on the barroom tour and he counts on winning a couple tournaments a week as his income. The only thing that keeps him from competing against the “A” players in the poolroom tournaments is heart, which he apparently has none of. He would sooner travel 100 mile to steal some bar tournament than travel five miles to the local poolroom for some action with the big boys. If only I could shoot like I could in the 60's…

Anyway, he broke and made nothing. I ran 6 balls, safed myself up, and missed. Then, as you would expect from the best player in the tournament, he ran out. Next, I played a guy who wasn’t too good and I won a battle of endurance. My third and last game went almost exactly like my first game and my opponent ran a wide open table.

As usual, I went home swearing not to go back until they start playing ball in hand. Being able to play safe would certainly improve my chances, especially since I have so much trouble running out.

Oops, gotta go. It’s time for my yogic eye exercises. If they help at all, I’ll let you know.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

“Let me count the ways.”

“How do I lose thee? Let me count the ways.” ~ Billy Shakespeare

How did I get eliminated from last night’s tournament? By being stupid. After being shoved over to the losers’ bracket by Dan the Man in my first match, I strung 3 wins together and was looking pretty good, especially since my fifth game was against a nice young lady of moderate abilities.

I scratched on the break, but that caused no damage and I took the lead sinking six of my low balls to her two high balls. I had almost run out but I missed a semi-easy 45 degree cut on my next to last ball. Then she missed a shot leaving me snookered at the far end of the table. We don’t play ball in hand, just honest effort, so I wasn’t compelled to hit my ball but I tried to masse the cue ball around one of her balls and wound up kicking the eight into the corner pocket. Adios, bye-bye, fare-the-well.

Dumb, huh? But I always try to take something away from a match like that, so maybe next week if I’m in a fix like that I’ll remind myself “Whatever you do, Dumb-Ass, don’t make the eight-ball!” There’s a better than 50/50 chance that I’ll forget.

Anyway, aside from the lapse in concentration, I was playing pretty well – making shots and playing pretty good position. If only…

I haven’t been making many entries here because I’ve been preoccupied with my web pages, adding new ones, revising the old ones – it’s a never-ending process. The verdict still isn’t in on whether my switch over to pooldawg.com was a good move or not. They’re nice people and they offer a wide selection of pool cues and accessories, but they’re new to most online shoppers who seem to be a little wary of shopping with someone they don’t know. Take it from me, they’re standup people and you can buy from them with confidence. Besides! What the hell do those geeks at amazon know about pool? Nada! I wore myself out trying to explain to them that Le Pro tips come in different diameters.

I made a new aiming device the other day and remembered a step I didn’t include in that entry. Before you draw your lines you have to sand around the center hole to remove all the rough spots and ridges left from the cutting process. If you don’t, the disk will move around every time you shoot a ball off it. I practice the same shot sometimes 30 times without ever having to readjust the disk.

Not much more going on except I’ve been trying to get to the poolroom more often. I mean, pool should be played in a poolroom not in a bar. From my place it’s the same distance to Capone’s in Spring Hill and DJ’s in New Port Richey. I’ve been going to NPR mostly because it’s close to where my wife works and I can stop and pick her up on my way home. Capone’s is a nice place too. They host a lot of tournaments and give us a chance to watch the pros. It’s nice to watch guys who know what they’re doing. It reminds me of how I used to… Well, truthfully, I never got to be quite that good.