Saturday, July 23, 2005

The Horror!

I just got back from my practice session over at the clubhouse. My sessions usually run the same – they start off with a couple of racks of straight shots, corner to corner, long-ways across the table. After I start poking them in (and, unfortunately, I do mean poke) with regularity, I switch to angle shots, placing the object ball just off the rail three diamonds up table from the corner (one diamond south of the side). After each shot, the object ball is placed back in this spot. I start this progression with the cue ball along the opposite side rail, one diamond north of the side. If I make the shot first try, I move the cue ball north one diamond and progress around the corner and along the end rail one diamond at a time till I’m shooting a straight in shot. If I miss along the way, my penalty is that I can’t move on until I make two in a row. When I complete this, I reverse everything so that I’m cutting in the opposite direction to the opposite corner… if you know what I mean. Sometimes I tell myself that I’m going to make up a chart and keep track of how many shots it takes me from day to day so that I can see if I’m actually improving, but I forget about it almost immediately. Next, I shoot some spot shots from both sides of the table varying the location of the cue ball. Then, I start playing nine ball by myself, setting the balls up in different formations, or just throwing them out on the table at random.

Of course, the most important part of my session involves practicing the shot or shots that caused me to be eliminated from the previous night’s tournament. Oh, God, I hate to think about it. I beat some good players last night but wound up missing an easy shot along the rail that would have left me with a straight in shot on the eight in the side. The Horror! Unfortunately this kind of thing is all too common. I’m pretty sure the problem lies with my stroke or with that series of spastic gyrations I call a stroke. I’m determined to make my stroke better. Today, I consciously exaggerated my follow through on every shot. I think I’m on the right track.

Anyway, my good buddy, JP, is moving back to Tennessee in a couple weeks and with him gone I can’t see myself going to very many bar tourneys anymore. I played with the A-players at DJs in New Port Richey this past Thursday. I didn’t expect much of myself and wasn’t disappointed. The eventual winner blitzed me in my first match. And after jumping to a 2-0 lead in my second match, I made the mistake of waking my opponent up and paid the price as he came back and ran three games on me. Still, I had more fun than I would have at the bar tournament down the road. Who knows, someday I might actually win a match.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Bowling for Dollars

First, here’s a picture, taken on my trip north, of me and Uncle Nicky. Like I said, Nick Ricciotti was the best player in town when I was a kid, the guy the road players always played. He held his own sometimes, and other times he was out-matched, like when Miami came to town and beat everybody playing jacked-up one-handed. What a player he was! Still, Uncle Nicky was good and, though he doesn’t play often, he still is.

Me & Uncle Nicky

Tuesday night, I passed up the big money down the line and returned to the bowling alley. Frankly, there are a nicer bunch of guys at the bowling alley. Besides, they don’t let you draw numbers down on Hwy 19, and that kind of crap always makes me suspicious, especially when I wind up getting matched up against the best players. Anyway, I came out on top on the loser’s side and might have won the whole thing if it wasn’t for some bad luck in the finals. The bad luck was that my balls were tied up and I couldn’t get a shot.

Last night was two and out in Tarpon Springs. But all wasn’t lost – on the long drive home I conceived another of my little pool stories. It’s called Remembrance of Ignominious Things Past.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Another Kind of Hell

We went up north to Jersey for the 4th of July. I got to play a little pool but before I get into that let me tell you about the trip which was highlighted by the flight from hell. Granted, those who were aboard the ill-fated flights of 9-11 were truly on flights from hell. Mine was a different kind of hell.

A little advice – there’s an outfit that bills themselves as Delta Song. Avoid them like a poolroom full of drunken cheats. Not only were we a couple hours late going and coming, but no one could tell us why. While waiting for our return flight, flight 1991, to leave JFK they changed gates 3 times and had us running around the terminal like headless poultry. In the end, they switched back to the original gate. With the flight due into Tampa after midnight, I had hoped to take a little nap during the flight. The two screaming infants in the seat in front of me made that impossible. Finally, an off-duty flight attendant volunteered to sit with the mother of the two brats and tried to quiet her brood. No luck. Me? Unable to sleep, I decided to play trivia on the screen that was mounted on the back of the seat in front of me. Then the off-duty flight attendant had the attendant on duty instruct me to stop hitting the screen so hard because it was disturbing her. “Are you kidding me?!?,” I responded as the attendant showed me her ass. “Tell her to shut up those frigging babies!” She had no answer for that, just a “screw-you” shrug. Headline: Delta Song Hits A Sour Note.

Anyway, while up north my friend Lee Bender introduced me to his brother John, a fine pool player in his own right who is presently exploring the world of samsara. For some time, John has been gearing up to launch his own custom cue business. Good news for us. Not only has he inherited the woodworking gene from his father, he is also a good friend of Richard Black. I’ll let you know when he starts production.

I also got a chance to accompany my uncles, Bob and Nick Ricciotti, to the poolroom in Succasunna. We played for a couple hours and had a nice afternoon. One difference between here and there is that in NJ pool and golf cost almost the same to play. Here, you can take advantage of the afternoon special and play from opening till 7 o’clock for a flat $5 or at some places $2 an hour.

I returned Wednesday night, rested up Thursday, and last night decided to go down to the local bar tournament again despite the smoke. First game I broke and ran out but it was all down hill from there. I blamed it on jet lag.