2010 sucks ass so far
had to deal with random bullsh*t
victim of identity theft
roofied at the Swanee Memorial Tournament
had to deal with not-so-random bullsh*t
my cat died
played great at a tournament only to dog it horribly in the finals (upcoming blog post — maybe)
had to deal with random bullsh*t
had to deal with not-so-random bullsh*t
got my arm and leg crushed in a bus’ closing doors
As you can see, I was seriously looking forward to escaping from LA and running off to…
2010 Super Billiards Expo
Valley Forge Convention Center – Valley Forge, PA
I didn’t take the bus this time.
St. Patrick’s Day
I got up at the somewhat ungodly hour of 4:30 a.m. PST to make my 7:55 a.m. flight. When I got to the airport, it was crowded beyond belief. My careful scheming of leaving on a Wednesday at an ungodly hour had been foiled by… Spring Break. Countless young whippersnappers in various shades of green and levels of sobriety clogged the security checkpoint lanes with their fake-fur blazers, Mardi-Gras beads, and giant green top hats. Bastards! (And bastardesses!) I was saved when they opened up another lane to a (previously) flight-personnel-only security checkpoint and juuust made it to my flight.
If I hadn’t, I would have killed a leprechaun.
Here are some aerial views of the faraway lands I passed through.
This is flying into Denver and the land looks kind of — parched. The restrooms at the airport were PRIME real estate and for more than just their porcelain thrones.
Flying into Philadelphia. I’m easily impressed with rivers that meander since the Los Angeles River is really a dry concrete ditch. The weather was quite nice, about mid 70s. I heard from the locals that this does not happen very often. Go global warming.
Upon landing, I was prepared to take SEPTA (Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority) to the convention center, but, as is often the case for these big billiards events, I ran into someone I knew — John “Mr. 400+” Schmidt — who had access to a rental car via his friend (who had not yet arrived), Bill “Marop” Maropolous. According to Mr. Schmidt, Mr. Maropolous was on an epic journey to Philadelphia whose clusterf*ckishness was, as of yet, unknown, although it seemed to involve triangulation, snow, and Arizona.
Mr. Schmidt and I chatted about pool and the internet in general for a while. We were pleasantly interrupted by Justin “Maker’s Mark Via I.V. Please” Collett of The Action Report. Mr. Maropolous arrived and soon we were all at that fun carnival ride known as the Baggage Carousel.
Here you have a picture of a standard TAR-load. A small issue arose when it came to light that, as befits all ballers in the industry, Mr. Collett did not have any bill less than Ben Franklin with which to tip the luggage elves. Mr. Maropolous to the rescue…
Mr. Collett had a shuttle to catch so I tagged along with Mr. Schmidt and Mr. Maropolous. The GPS unit they had was a little slow to operate so I made good use of my iPhone’s GPS system. This was good. It made me feel more like a navigator and less like a (psychotic) hitchhiker.
After we were all checked into our respective hotels, we went to the Cheesecake Factory where I had their Factory Chopped Salad. I know you all expect me to eat red meat all the time, but when I’m full from the souls of my enemies, a nice fresh salad really hits the spot. On the right is Mr. Maropolous’ salmon-and-steak combo, also very delicious.
As many of you know, Mr. Schmidt is a national billiards treasure, if only for his hilarious and offbeat one-liners. Some of the one-liners I heard were:
“Everyone has a price. For the right price, I’ll kill myself.”
“I’m not kidding you, this man has so many trophies that if you melt them all down, you could make braces for every kid in America.”
“I’d rather be eat by a goat and s— off a cliff than put two dollars in your pocket.” (possibly his most famous line)
Also, I heard the story of Mr. Schmidt’s First Text Message. Apparently, he didn’t know where the space button was and so, he typed out his entire message as one long word. Mr. Maropolous was the recipient of this epic wordsmithing and couldn’t break the code. Luckily, Bob Hunter, Mr. Schmidt’s longtime friend was on hand to instantly translate. It was a request for soup and antibiotics. The request was fulfilled and as a result, we are all blessed with many more years and possibly thousands more one-liners from Mr. Schmidt.
After dinner, I had an after-dinner drink with some after-dinner people.
After all that, I went to sleep.
the Day After St. Patrick’s Day
I was only entered in the Women’s Amateur event which didn’t start until Friday so I had all of Thursday to futz off. I woke up late and then traipsed around the vendor booths. The Super Billiards Expo is a huge event for people selling billiard products. It’s arguably the most important (and lucrative) show for custom cuemakers and dealers every year. More on that later.
I didn’t take pictures of cues this year because I was freaking lazy. I did stop by Jack Justis’ booth (you may remember he made my awesome case) and got a nice picture of some of the lovely cases he had for sale. I also walked past the Brianna Products booth — and then walked backwards for another look. My eyes did not deceive me. They were, indeed, selling luxury sheet sets (this show only) next to ostrich leather wraps.
Later on, I went to the Annual Jimbo Army (JA) Mass Feeding at Maggiano’s. JA is a pool forum which, while not nearly as large as AZBilliards, has a great number of wonderful people. Quite a few cuemakers and collectors post their work and collections there. They also unhesitatingly supported me in the Lord of the Chicken Wing debacle some decades ago. For that, I am grateful. Their many members also like to make sure my weight doesn’t fall below a C-note and they are often my food sponsors at these billiard events. For that, I am *eternally* grateful.
Here’s a not-up-to-par shot of the very long table that seated 90% of us. The other 10% comprised mostly of “the cool kids” had another table a few feet away. There was caprese salad, a blue cheese salad, stuffed mushrooms, chicken parmigiana (yay!), pork medallions in some sort of cream sauce, creme brulee (it was rather substandard — ick) and cheesecake (meh — it was okay — I stole all the strawberries and whipped cream accents).
I was the last one still eating, of course.
After dinner, I moseyed on over to the famed “Action Pit” area to see what was going on. It was pretty tame, really, and nothing I hadn’t seen before. There were your usual NO SMOKING and NO GAMBLING signs up on the pillars, the same poorly lit tables in their usual configuration, and the same tables full of empty soda bottles. I didn’t hear of any big action matches going on. Last year, we had the Puerto Rican contingent betting five figures.
The downstairs tournament area.
This year, instead of charging $10 to play all night, the tables were simply left on free play. I think this is an improvement. I like being able to practice whenever. The racks this year were the rather bulky Accu-Rack (sorry, couldn’t find a website for them) which made sure the rack was always the right distance from the foot of the table. Other than feeling like I was wielding a house-shaped hula hoop that clanked like two soup cans bowled at each other down a hallway when I had to rack, the Accu-Rack was fairly functional.
The United States Postal Service gallantly steps in to help with the growing trash population.
After verifying that nothing really changed downstairs since last year (aside from free play and those redonkulous racks), I went off to sleep.
the Day After the Day After St. Patrick’s Day
I drew a bye for my first match, which automatically made this an improvement over last year’s performance where I drew Brittany Bryant and ended up being a bye myself. This meant I would not play until the second round. The first round was at 7:00 p.m. The second round start time was undecided as of yet. I finally got confirmation that the second round would be at 9:00 p.m.
This year, the format for the women’s event was different. Instead of best two out of three races to 4, this year saw the race increase to 5. I liked this immensely. For one thing, the women’s event was now the same format as the men’s event (hooray equality and all that) and that one game made a HUGE difference in these short races on small tables.
My first match was in the downstairs area which was hot, humid, and badly lit — but when in Rome, do as the Romans command you to do, or forfeit. Off I went into that sauna.
I don’t remember much about this match other than that my opponent was, at times, extremely slow. Naturally, I found this irritating and the irritation often carried over into carelessness in play. The way I tried to deal with this was to remind myself that everyone has a right to want to win. Which means, everyone has a right to take time to think and plan their shots. With this in mind, I did my best to be patient, although I must admit it was downright infuriating at times to watch my opponent get down, get back up, consider the shot, walk around the table, consider the shot again, get down, change her bridge, get back up, get back down, change her bridge again, raise her head, consider the shot, get back down, do some slow warm-up strokes, change her bridge, get back up, stand on one leg, get back down, check her grip, pause, warm-up stroke again, and then — maybe — shoot.
I remembered that there was a time I was mostly likely doing the exact same thing because I wanted to win. I was also unaware of how much time I was taking because I was so focused on the game. I was probably just as infuriating (probably more so). This situation allowed me a chance to work on maintaining patience and focus, the only things that could combat the carelessness that always accompanied impatience.
I won this match in two sets by a good margin, but it still lasted two hours.
Afterwards, I stopped by the JA Party Room*, also an annual installation at the Super Billiards Expo. The hot tub in the room had been filled with ice and put to good use.
Since my next match was at the inhumane hour of 8:00 a.m. the next morning, I did not stay very long. I swiped some sparkling mineral water, got a quick bite of something edible at the late-night eatery, and went to bed immediately after.
* The JA Party Room is a PRIVATE party and not open to the public. Those who attempt to bully/sneak/pull rank their way into a free beer risk the wrath of the party organizers who are a merciless lot of barbarians known to skewer trespassers on spikes of inferior — although fully-spliced — bacote and then inlay their foreheads with malachite and turquoise polygons. Alternatively, they force prisoners to play with super-high-deflection shafts until a state of sufficient insanity has been reached. This has been a public service announcement.
up at 6:30 a.m. and I don’t even get to watch cartoons
My priorities are obviously in the incorrect order.
I don’t even know how I got up on time, but I did. I even managed to look tolerably rested although I was not. Jet lag, the weird “sleep number” bed, and insomniarrgh was coming together to kick me in the (figurative) balls. As I walked down the stairs to the tables (I still wasn’t good enough to merit the upstairs ones), a dude in an orange shirt said to me, “If you lose your match, come find me and I’ll take you to dinner.”
At seven-frakking-thirty-in-the-motherfrakking-morning when the last thing on my mind is losing and then dinner with a stranger.
I gave this dude the benefit of the doubt. There was probably no way he could possibly imagine that a chick would take pool seriously enough to be irritated enough to NOT go and take him up on his free dinner offer. It was quite gallant of him to think that he could rescue me from the depths of underachievement by simply ordering me a special from Chili’s along with (if I was especially charming to him) a watered down margarita with enough ice-chips to clog the Hudson River. I should be happy enough that he said “if” and not “when” I lost my match.
I said nothing and walked away.
I didn’t want someone’s well-meaning ignorance to get in the way of my tournament.
But, yeah. This is my life. I get this s— non-f*cking-stop.
There’s something actually not that pleasant about playing bleary-eyed under flickering fluorescent lights at the ass-crack of dawn but it’s still better than a spectacular day at work. This second match went much quicker than the first. In fact, my opponent this morning was the exact opposite of my opponent from last night. This lady shot very rapidly and was a good shotmaker. She didn’t play much position, but then, when you can make every shot — and you’re playing on a small table — who needs position? I had to be very careful with my play and in the end, it was the safety play that allowed me to win. I had an hour until my next match.
My next match was with a good player from New York. At this point in the tournament, I think all the byes and “easy” matches were petered out. I started off playing very well, but then a strange thing happened. People came to watch me play.
I’m not used to people watching me play. Generally, I go by without notice until I make it deep into a tournament. Most of the times, my friends at a tournament are playing in matches or action and don’t come to sweat my matches. Having spectators and/or friends at a match is a new — and kind of — a nifty thing. As with many new and nifty things, I don’t know how to handle it off the bat.
As the second match began, more people came to watch. More people = more noise/disturbances. Normally, I’m not sharked by these kind of extraneous things because they’re usually caused by people I don’t know. However, I had to deal with something new: distractions by people I actually like. If it was some random stranger talking about my heels and hollering back and forth at the husband of the woman playing next to me, I’d have ABSOLUTELY no compunctions about pausing, going up to aforementioned random stranger and saying, Shut The F— Up and Get The F— Out. No problems. At all. Because I don’t really give a s— if that random stranger lives, dies, likes mayonnaise, hates puppies, snorts chalk, or takes a long walk off a short pier.
I don’t have many people I consider friends, so, when one of them behaves in such a manner during my match, I really have no idea what to do. I prefer not to be a bitch and ask them to STFU and GTFO since they are my friends and you really shouldn’t do that to friends, I suppose. I try to bear down and trudge through it. However, hearing the loud, distinctive voice of someone you know talking about you is not an easy thing to ignore. It’s no longer background noise when you can identify the source. That’s just the way human hearing works.
The more I tried to ignore it, the more it got to me. Although some tried to intervene I think we were all limited by our desire to remain courteous. I know the exact moment I lost the match. I had ball-in-hand and I dogged an easy ball — because I could hear myself loudly being talked about. Once that happened, my opponent gained confidence and I lost that set and the next in quick succession.
Was I pissed?
You F—KING BET THE UNIVERSE’S ASS I was. This was the match to make it into the money.
After evading people who wanted to offer valuable insights as to why I lost, I was rescued by Buddha and Monkey. One Coke and part of a chicken quesadilla (with garnish) later, I calmed down enough to figure out what to do with the rest of my day. I dropped my cue off in my room and hitched a ride with some friends to Classique Billiards, a local pool room.
The picturesque ride there featuring browsing deer and pretty houses on rolling hills was somewhat soothing. On the right is Classique’s Diamond barbox. I took this picture because it looks like someone’s gameroom (complete with fireplace) and not a pool room at all.
275 Schuykill Road
Phoenixville, PA 19460
Classique, I found out, did not serve alcohol. This was bad and good. Bad, because I couldn’t self-medicate. Good, because it forced me to analyze my failure. Let’s Analyze This.
I was half irritated because I didn’t want to have to choose between telling a friend to f— off and winning a match. When someone is my friend, I assume they know what is important to me and respect that it is important to me. The key word here is assume, which, as we know makes an ASS out of U and ME. My friend’s behavior was unintentional. In my place, he would probably not be distracted the same way and he probably assumed, therefore, that it wouldn’t bother me. I, in turn, assumed that my match was as important to him as it was to me. There was no way for him to know how important this tournament was to me without actually being me.
I had put much effort into this tournament and I needed to 1). WIN the damn thing and 2). get in the money to offset the costs of the trip. I realized, though, that it would be very selfish of me to demand that others find the same importance in what I deem important.
The rest of my irritation was simple: had I been a better player, a small thing like this would not have had such a large effect.
My conclusion: accept that there are times no one will respect what you’re trying to do but that should never stop you from doing it, and doing it well.
This was an expensive lesson for me, being that I had traveled far and invested much only to fall apart over something so miniscule. But, if pool was an easy game, we wouldn’t play it. And, if experience came cheaply, we wouldn’t learn.
While sitting outside of Classique, I experienced the smallness of the pool world when a person I had never met before correctly deduced that I was the “writer of that OMG blog”. He said he had to ask since he heard me mention that I was from Los Angeles, and really, how many angry Asian girls from Los Angeles would be in a pool hall during the same time a billiards expo was in town? 😉
Eventually, my little group left Classique Billiards to find a restaurant by the name of Five Guys Burgers. As with many things, this relatively easy project escalated into a mild mutiny which then threatened to erupt into an all out civil war before we found the Five Guys. It was two hours later when we found ourselves huddled at small garden tea-party type tables in a food court eating these burgers. After all we’d been through, I expected to be able to fly after ingesting said burger. I regret to inform you I am still bound by the laws of gravity. The burgers were pretty good, but not worth the amount of suffering they had required. Then again, that was unusually suffery suffering, so maybe on another day, it would totally be worth it.
One amusing thing was that we were sitting next to Fred “Scooter” Goodman of bad haircut and gambling fame. He was identifying potential marks to his posse (composed of another four dudes thus making his posse Five Guys eating Five Guys Burgers) by telling them what the marks’ girlfriends looked like.
The return to the convention center was significantly less harrowing and I went to wander around the tournament floor. After a couple of hours of aimless ambling, I met up with Monkey and Buddha again for a trip to the Cheesecake Factory where I worried them by ordering, yet again, the Factory Chopped Salad. After that, it was back to the convention center. Monkey and Buddha were leaving early the next day so they left to pack and sleep. That left me to haunt the linoleum aisles of a winding-down Super Billiards Expo alone.
While wandering around I ran into a cuemaker and where there’s cuemakers, there’s cue collectors. I’ve never had much of an interest in cues other than using them as weapons of mass destruction. While they might look pretty, their main purpose is to help me club my opponents over the head. In the process, they often get chipped, dinged, cracked, warped, bent, and one time — burned (accidental). You can imagine the despair I have caused many a cuemaker. Since I was no longer playing in the tournament, this was an excellent time to find out about the artistic aspect of cues and cue collecting.
My informant for the evening, let’s call him Sturgeon, was a serious cue collector with a pleasant British accent and required no more than a bottle of Yuengling as a trade for a lecture on cue collecting. Here are some of the things I learned. It’s all paraphrased since I didn’t have any recording equipment (I’m not the FBI or CIA or even electronically savvy most of the time) but as most of you know, I have a fairly decent memory, especially for interesting things. I don’t guarantee absolute accuracy since cues are not my area of expertise. In no particular order, here are the bits of information I gleaned:
Valley Forge Is Like Fashion Week For Cues
This is the comparison I came up with, of course. (It doesn’t always seem like it, but I love fashion. I am a chick, after all…). For those of you who don’t know what Fashion Week is, let me give you the definition via Wikipedia:
A fashion week is a fashion industry event, lasting approximately one week, which allows fashion designers, brands or “houses” to display their latest collections in runway shows and buyers to take a look at the latest trends. Most importantly, it lets the industry know what’s “in” and what’s “out” for the season.
From what Sturgeon told me, the SBE is the biggest event for cue collectors each year because it has the ability to set trends, debut new makers, and set prices. The one instance he used as an example involved a relatively new maker and a vintage cue. (I’m not going to name all names since I can’t verify all the information myself.) This new maker did great work but he truly shot to stardom when a well-known collector sold a vintage cue (Gus Szamboti or Balabushka) and then turned around and purchased a cue from this new maker. This is not so different from when a celebrity is seen wearing clothes from a new designer. Just the mere act of interest from the celebrity is generally enough endorsement to pique the interest of others and from that interest, a designer’s fortune is often made.
The same goes for cues. If you’re a new cuemaker or even an established cuemaker with a new design or technique, SBE is the place to show your stuff to potential buyers and generate buzz. In addition, what’s bought, sold, and traded at the show often sets the prices for cues and cuemakers for the rest of the year. In that case, SBE is also very much like the stock market.
Artistic vs Technical
There are cues out there that look beautiful but either weren’t meant to be played with or play like a stick of spaghetti. Some people don’t care, some people do. There’s a market for each preference.
This Thing Of Ours
Even when seriously high-end cuemakers do crappy work or work that will eventually fall to pieces, their fellow cuemakers won’t out them to the public, even if they don’t like them.
If you’ve pioneered a new technique, don’t sit back on your laurels and expect to be king forever. Others WILL come along who will improve upon your technique and capitalize on it.
Many geniuses are also assholes.
The internet has allowed many new cuemakers to be brought into the eye of the collecting public. However, as with many things involving the internet, anonymous hype can inflate prices far beyond what they should be. This has led to two types of collectors (according to Sturgeon), the informed and the uninformed collecter. A lot of people buy cues with the intention to flip them for a profit and it is the uninformed collectors who generally buy these cues and then are disappointed later to find what they paid is not nearly what the cue is worth. Flipping has become easier with the internet and so, the best thing a collector can do for himself is to do his research into the maker, his techniques, the materials used, etc. If you are looking for an investment, don’t buy just because everyone else is also buying.
Eye of the Beer Holder
It might be an ugly cue to you, but somebody out there will buy it.
And now, some random observations:
- Cuemakers never look like what I think they will look like.
- Dennis Searing, Andy Gilbert, and Tony Zinzola could totally rent a tree and set up a cookie shop.
- Searing’s motto: “Elfin’ magic in every stroke.”
- Tucker Cue Works motto: “Harder to get than a Searing.” I should have owned a Searing last year, then. 😉
- Cuemakers have groupies, too, just like professional players do.
- It’s awkward being around cue groupies when they’re around their cuemakers.
- A few Jiffy Lubes are not financially equal to an entire division of Sprint Communications.
- John Showman wore a Showman Cues hat, a Tucker Cue Works t-shirt and a badge that read “Nitti Cues“. Identity crisis or merely diversifying his portfolio?
- Cuemakers seem to like Florida even though the humidity and heat are bad for woodworking.
- The 2010 International Cue Collectors Show (ICCS) will, naturally, be somewhere in Florida. The website hasn’t been updated in three or four years. I bet the webmaster works on “cuemaker time”.
- The word “tribute” is often a euphemism for “I copied you, please don’t kill me.”
- At a dealer’s display, the expensive cues are in the middle so if you don’t want a heart attack, please start from the ends.
I took a break from this cue collecting seminar to have a soda and see what the heck was going on at 3:00 in the morning. Here are Jason “Trucker Hatt” Klatt (CAN) and Mika “It’s A Messenger Bag, Not A Purse” Immonen (FIN) getting their tries in last-minute at the Straight Pool Challenge.
Two of Tucker Cue Works’ biggest fans, John “Why Are You So Mean” Showman and Justin “Not To Be A Dick, But What’s The Point Of That?” Collett. They were watching two guys futz around on the bar tables doing trick shots and giving them crap. When a successful shot was executed, Mr. Collett would enthusiastically yell, “That’s Yahtzee, motherf—er! Pay the man!”
I asked Mr. Showman what was the ugliest cue he ever made. He replied it was something that was yellow with purple and green accents and some horrid-colored veneers. Sturgeon asked him, “Why did you make it?”
After about a minute of deep thought, Mr. Showman replied, “I really don’t know.”
some day of rest this was
Of course, the Radisson didn’t have late check-out for THIS ONE DAY OF THE YEAR. You bastards. Consequently, I was released early into the crowd and milled about the Mezz Cues booth for a while. By the way, Mezz USA is the distributor for the Magic Ball Rack, a nifty little thing for racking balls. It actually works pretty well, despite its shrinky-dink plastic appearance.
The Mezz booth was THE place to be all event long. WPBA professionals Caroline “Ca-Pao!” Pao, Sarah “Heartbreaker” Rousey, Supadra Geronimo (what a great last name), Jennifer “9mm” Barretta, and men’s professional Mika “Yes I’m Super! Thanks For Asking!” Immonen were always in or near the booth making for a nonstop party there all four days. I hid in a corner and dozed off on a chair.
My road partner wandered around and tried to pass himself off as a Junior Player. No one believed him. Then, he met up with Frank, the Pet Representative for PoolDawg. Frank was nice enough to give him a boost up so they could watch…
…Mike Massey and Florian “Venom” Kohler do a fabulous impromptu trick shot exhibition!
I woke up in time to film two of their shots. I also learned how to use YouTube. I know you’re all very afraid now that I’m armed with video recording capabilities — but, look! Oooh! Pretty trick shots! That’s right… just keep looking at the trick shots… hehehe…. 😉
Alas, it was all too soon when I had to leave.
So long, SBE, and I’ll see you next year…
Scavenger Hunt Results
unfulfilled requests roll over to BCA National 8-Ball Championships
t h a n k s
apologies if I missed you
all the JA peeps in no particular order & more
Buddha & Monkey (“Look! There’s food! Don’t jump off a bridge!”), ScottR, PBat51, ckurzweil (“Bratman!”), Jimbo, Eric. & Susie, Timberly (“I don’t know you so you don’t get a beer.”), Koop (“Pass The Olympic Sausage”), Murray Tucker (“I’m taller than Searing, anyway.”), Catscradle (“Round Ireland with a Fridge”), Icon of Sin (Lord of War), RThomas (“I’m not Ross, I’m just wearing this shirt. But I mean the rest of it.”), JCIN (“Pleased as punch!”), qbilder (“Yeah. Guys really like my wood.”), rodp, CMD, rocketq, blowfish, chris byrne, Rich & Cathy, Jack Flanagan, Matt Taylor (“No, I’M Ross. Really. Well, maybe I’m just an asshole.”), sarahrousey & her Canadian, Cornerman, Worminator & Travis, Sturgeon (great insight into cues & cue collecting), john schmidt & Marop (for dinner & much funniness), Magic Ball Rack dude, Mike Feiman of PoolDawg, John Showman, the entire Mezz crew (even the prissy Finn), easy-e (thanks for the Newcastle), 1pRoscoe & Hidy Ho & Jersey Jer (for not making it there and thereby making us feel extra special).
more peeps to whom I am eternally grateful
AZ – T.H. | CA – E.M., D.H., A.T. | CO – Cue Times Billiard News | MO – C.K. | NV – S.G. | NY – H.K., R.Z. | TX – C.V. | WA – P.A.
If I missed you this year, I won’t next year!
- 2009 Super Billiards Expo (“good, bad, & ugly”)
- 2008 Super Billiards Expo (“the gap is not just a store”)