Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Last Time I Saw Uncle Nicky

During my recent 4th of July trip to New Jersey, Bobby and I ran into Uncle Nicky at Rockaway Billiards. The proprietor was nice enough to snap this picture for us.

Then I snapped one of the Ricciotti brothers, Bob and Nick.

Bobby took one of Nick and me.

And Nick manned the camera for an artistic shot of me and Bob.

Though he was widely known for years as the best pool player in town, family and friends also appreciated his artistic talents. He could draw and paint, and in recent years he had taken up wood carving. On this particular day, while Bobby and I banged the balls around playing nine ball, Uncle Nicky amused himself by going through his repertoire of masse and trick shots. Sort of funny that nowadays this kind of play is referred to as “artistic” pool. In the midst of his routine, I managed to get a shot of him at the table. He liked performing for an audience, so I watched him for a while. He told me that he went down to Carmine's (a playground in Dover) every morning and hit golf balls. He was practicing his wedge shots. Can you imagine - 80 years old and still working on his game, still improving.

A few days later, I saw him again at the family picnic. Everything seemed okay. At one point, I went inside and found him in front of the tv agonizing over another frustrating Yankee game. When I got back to Florida, I remembered I had promised him a Sniper tip for his cue, so I stuck one in an envelope along with a short note and mailed it out. It seems that while I was wondering if he had received the tip and if he had put it on his cue, he was falling ill. Out of the blue, I heard he had been hospitalized. And then, suddenly, after a good day, things made a turn for the worse.

Uncle Nicky will be laid to rest this Friday. He will be sorely missed by those who counted on him, including his three children, several grandchildren and great grandchildren, his brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews and many friends, all of whom loved him very much.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

My Family Reunion

We drove up to Jersey for the 4th of July. (For those of you who are curious, we spent $131 on gas and averaged 34 mpg. Not bad, if you ask me. We ran into a guy at a gas station on rt. 206 who was braggin' that his hybrid was getting 42 mpg. Shit - we're driving a 2003 Hyundai.) Anyway, I didn't get a chance to play a whole lot, but I did manage a couple excursions to Rockaway Billiards. Here's a pic of yours truly (right) with my two legendary uncles, Bob and Nicky.

Uncle Nicky, recently turned 80, can still entertain with his assortment of trick and prop shots. I personally witnessed a couple table length (object ball not on the rail) 90 degree cut shots. Bobby, an artist, doesn't play at all anymore but he still possesses the skills that made him someone to avoid back when we were kids. Somewhere out there is a picture he painted of a poolroom. Unfortunately, for me, his current work is abstract.

We played for a few hours one day - the bill was $31. OMG, I pay $5 for all day down here. Still, I enjoyed myself. Feel free to check out my vacation photos here.