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“The man who has begun to live more seriously within begins to live more simply without.”
A few weeks ago, I assembled a nice itinerary. It would require a lot of travel, but I was gambling that the trouble would be worth it.
The Purple Line station. The wind that comes from the tunnel of an approaching train is called “train breath” by some.
Union Station train tracks.
|I scurry away from work.|
|I arrive at home and make the decision to start packing.|
|Procrastinate via nap.|
|Wake up. Panic. Pack.|
|After racewalking for a couple of blocks, I catch #720 express bus, but just barely. I silently congratulate myself and vow never to procrastinate again. I silently know that will never happen.|
|Transfer to light rail known as Purple Line. Wonder what makes light rail light. Is it the reduced calories? The use of skim milk?|
|I arrive at Union Station and attempt (as I always do) to fight the wave of humanity to get to escalators first. I fail (as I always do), so I end up shuffling along with other commuters. I get to the escalators, and decide to run up the side stairs instead, never mind that I am loaded with awkward luggage. At the top of the stairs, I turn to laugh at the slow-asses still on escalator. Instead, I wheeze like an asthmatic.|
|I hop on a Metrolink train heading east. I ponder what one would call a train that is not “light rail”. Heavy rail? Thanks to the fabulous intarwebs, I am unreasonably amused to find out that, yes, it IS called heavy rail. Now with 50% more seriousness. Seriously.|
|My awesome friends pick me up from the station.|
|We watch “How Stuff Works” marathon as per usual.|
|I suddenly realize “How Stuff Works” is really an evil time-suck and has trapped me yet again! Panic! A lot! Then I go to sleep.|
|I wake up exactly six hours after I went to sleep. It was not enough sleep. But then again, it rarely is. I swear a lot, and then get ready to face the day.|
|We are at Mimi’s Cafe. The menus list calorie values for each item. Naturally, we compete to find the highest calorie item on the menu. The Crab Cake Florentine Benedict clocks in at 1,290 calories. The Cinnamon Brioche French Toast swoops in just under 2,000 calories while one iteration of the Lemon Poppy Seed Pancake Breakfast actually ends up over 2,000 calories. Daaaamn.|
One of us orders the Avocado BLT Omelette (“garlic spinach and diced tomatoes topped with smoky bacon, sliced tomatoes, jack cheese and avocado”) which, no doubt owing to such — healthy — ingredients, is a mere 553 calories.
The other takes a fork-stab at the Mixed Berry Pain Perdue (“French toast stuffed with cream cheese and orange marmalade and topped with fresh strawberries, blueberries and strawberry puree”) for a modest 643 calories.
I order Mimi’s Original Pain Perdue Breakfast (“French toast stuffed with cream cheese and orange marmalade”) because I LOVE marmalade (the spread and the type of cat). It’s 417 calories.
This ended up being incredibly underwhelming. There was far more cream cheese than orange marmalade, and the cream cheese wasn’t sweetened in any way. “But,” you may say, “the whole thing looks made of sugar — why have the cream cheese sweetened at all? Yuck!” The marmalade was not very sweet (as it should be) and the flavor was definitely overpowered by the thick cheese. Furthermore, since there was so much cream cheese, the strongest flavor present was that slightly soured-milk flavor cream cheese sometimes has. Blech. The eggs, bacon, sausage, and potatoes were great, though.
|My friends drop me off at the pool room, and so it begins.|
After I won, I was sitting with a friend when a spectator came up to me and said, “What’s the matter with you? You played terrible there!”
I looked at my friend, looked at this juicebox, and told the truth, “That’s because I’m a sh#tty player.”
Sometimes, you want to punch a juicebox in the face but you know you have to conserve energy for the rest of the tournament.
This match was the first match where I became acutely aware at how little space there was between the tables. This, in and of itself, would not normally be a problem as it’s a common thing to encounter in pool. What made it a problem was the habit of friends and family members of the players crowding in to watch the match. No one, and I mean, NO ONE ever seemed to have the f#cking clue that when space is at a premium, it should go to the goddam players playing their goddam heart out.
At one point, my opponent’s fan stood up exactly when I shot the 9 and I missed. I didn’t lose my temper at him. I sat down and told him, “Do me a favor, and sit down, will you?”
He agreed, and then went on to talk at length about how it wasn’t his fault because it was terrible to wait for matches and he had to wait a long time and ohmigod he was so tired and blah blah f#cking blah. My eyes glazed over.
When my opponent was up 4-1 in the race to 5, I scratched and gave her ball-in-hand on the 8. She missed the eight. I ground it back to 4-4 and played a safety that juuuust drifted off on the table. She made the 5, made the 6, and got a fairly good shot on the 7. She hit the 7 so bad it went two rails into a pocket. And then she had perfect position on the 8. Of course. And then she won.
As with the previous player, this player’s fan base hand come and taken over all the seats. It can be distracting to hear people talk about you and your game and what you should miss and how short you are, etc., but you are expected to tune all that out. And I understand I should be able to tune all that out. It’s a tad harder when they are rightnexttoyouandyoucannotgetawayfromthem.
There were three people (two men and a woman) sitting at a cocktail table behind me. One of the guys said, “Whoa. What is that?”
“Oh, that’s this thing they got where they get two guys to play, like, a lot, of games — like, a hundred of them.”
Curious, I turned around. They were watching the live feed of TAR 21 (Alex Pagulayan vs Shane Van Boening), currently on its second day.
“Wow, really? That’s a lot of games.”
“Yeah, and they get, like thirty thousand dollars or somethin’ to play.”
There was a brief silence as the men and the one woman watched the feed.
“Sh#t, if they paid me thirty thousan’, I play a hunner games, too!” This was the woman. “I got time to play all day and night for thirty thousan’, y’know?”
“I was thinkin’ the same thing! How you get on that show? You call them or they call you?”
A friend of mine, a very good player, was sitting next to me when this happened.
“Oh my god,” I said. “They have no idea what’s going on there. What do you even say to that?”
“I don’t know. I don’t know, what can you say? They just don’t get it. They have no clue what’s going on.”
We started laughing because, as he said, there was nothing that could be said. These league players must have some knowledge of pool and pool culture, and yet, they could not figure out that two people on a broadcast playing for “thirty thousand” (TAR 21 was actually $10,000 per player for a total prize of $20,000) were most likely not your average league players. I’m not sure if that’s a failure of billiards sense or common sense. Probably both.
This exchange tickled me so much I found a way to relax and won.
My opponent was trying to arrange her things so she had some space. In an effort to be nice, I brought over a stool for her, and then brought over a stool for myself. Her husband promptly thanked me and sat down in the chair I had brought for myself. Sigh. Well, forge ahead.
During the match, a little kid was running high speed laps around our table while the two tables next to us were filled with casual ball-bangers. At one point, I stopped the kid and said, “You’re going to have to stop running around.” He looked ready to snap back but changed his mind and said, “Okay. Yes, ma’am.”
I let a lot of outside sh#t get to me in this match. I fought back mightily and gave every shot I could claw out everything I had. When my opponent was on the hill, I played a safe. She attemped to play a safe back but the cue ball rolled to the corner pocket. The cue ball then hit the protruding edge of the pocket liner and instead of scratching, simply sat on the edge of the pocket.
I was corner-hooked.
I was crap-hooked on a crap table with crap cloth and crap rails. And crap pocket liners. I tried a long-rail kick but hit it too soft. Because I was a crap player. And just like that, my run ended.
The conditions for this tournament were f#cking ridiculous. I had paid the entry fee months in advance and although I did not expect the situation to be this bad (last year’s event was sane), I guess it’s always a possibility. In the end, what I learned from this tournament was worth the loss.
[UPDATE] The men’s side of the tournament finished at 5:15 a.m. while the women finished at 6:30 a.m. Next year, I hope the owner won’t try cramming a tournament of 100 players into one day while simultaneously renting out tables to the banger crowd.
|Somedays, you kick ass, and somedays, the ass kicks you. I had a good run at this particular tournament in the past, but this year was not my year.|
|I don’t have a lot of friends, but the ones I have know me well. My friend came to pick me up and provided a Low-Carb Six Dollar Burger — and a puppy.|
|I ate the puppy and played with the burger.|
|“I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I’m awake, you know?”|
|My phone alarm went off and — tada — it was the beginning of a new day. It was a new day without enough sleep, but, hey — that’s how it goes.|
|I was leaving early so I let myself out of the house. I still had a half-mile walk to the bus stop and I was just a tad concerned. The bus was due to arrive at the stop at 7:21 a.m. and I generally preferred to have at least 20 minutes to walk a half mile.|
|Damn these long-ass suburban blocks. When I’m not weighed down with luggage, I can walk a mile in about 15 minutes. I turn the corner of the block and increase my racewalking. I look stupid, but at least it’s early. I hate this part of any walk to a bus stop. This is because at this point, I can see the bus stop in the distance. It makes me panic because there have been countless times where I’m trudging along and riiiight before I get to the corner, the bus goes by. F#CK! I break into a half-jog, unwieldy backpack, cue case, and all.|
|I stumble over to the bus stop like an overheated hippo and am relieved to see an elderly gent on the bench. That means the bus hasn’t come yet. “Are you all right?” This was the elderly gent. I nodded, and put my stuff down so I could catch my breath. I poked around my bag looking for my envelope full of travel information (I always make one of these prior to a trip). I became aware that the elderly gent, let’s name him Mister Rogers (because that’s exactly — and I mean EXACTLY — how he was dressed) had been talking to me for some time and I hadn’t noticed.|
“I’m sorry, did you just ask me something?”
“I asked, ‘What are you running away from?'” He seemed very concerned.
“Running away?” I was confused for a second, and then I saw all the luggage I had brought. “Oh, I’m not running away! I’m going to Vegas!”
Mister Rogers looked even more concerned and I noticed he was clutching a Bible. “Vegas is NOT the solution,” he said solemnly. “What is it that you will be doing in Vegas?”
I realized the truth — watching two pool players duke it out for $20,000 — might not be an ideal answer at the moment. “Um. Nothing… Really.”
|The bus (#492) arrived. During the ride, Mister Rogers patiently tried to convince me there were other options aside from Vegas until he had to get off at his stop to go to church.|
|I arrived at my stop where I was to switch to the #480 and found myself in a charming shopping area with cafes and boutiques. Almost all the stores were still closed, but a farmer’s market across the street was just opening up.|
I love farmers’ markets because you can often find fruit you won’t find at chain grocery stores. I bought some grapes which were amazingly sweet, and a white peach.
I was incredibly happy to find the plums in the picture up there. I have never found either of those at chain stores. What the vendors called the French Plum is Prunus domestica, also known as the European Plum, also known as the prune. Yup, this is what a prune looks like before it’s dried and packaged. I used to eat these when I was a kid as they were carried by Asian markets when in season. Because of the unsavory reputation of prunes as a laxative, producers now use the term “plum” more often than “prune”. Worf, the head of security on Star Trek: The Next Generation, was a fan of prune juice and proclaimed it “a warrior’s drink”.
The yellow plums above were also fruit I had in my childhood. Nostalgia + tasty fruit = happiness.
|The Greyhound bus I was scheduled for didn’t leave until 9:20 a.m. I checked the map and saw that I was about a mile away from the station. It was a cool morning and since I was now well-stocked with fruit, I decided I’d take a leisurely walk to the station instead of taking the #480.|
|I was still rather early for my bus so I stopped at a Starbucks for a cup of tea. The barista was the most cheerful barista I have ever seen. By the way, when you press the button for the “WALK” signal at an intersection in suburbia, it actually does change the signal within 10 seconds. This happened 10 out of 10 times. Amazing.|
|I arrived at the Claremont Greyhound station.|
You can tell the significance of Greyhound stations by how many “gates” (glorifed term for “doors”) there are. Claremont had one gate. Interestingly, the restrooms at this station were locked and the station agent had to buzz you in.
|The bus arrived. I was the lone passenger from Claremont. On the bus, there was an older Jewish man on the phone who was complaining nonstop. At one point, he paused for twenty or thirty seconds, and then exploded to whomever was on the other end (presumably his wife), “Why don’t you ever let me talk? I can’t get a word in edgewise!”|
|We arrived in Barstow, also known as, “the stop on the way to Vegas.” It was time to get some food. There were lots of fast-food options, but I settled on the least of the evils — fried chicken.|
Popeye’s had this mural on their building depicting crawfish singing merrily, despite the fact they were most certainly being boiled. Fried chicken — yum. 🙂
|Out of nowhere, the old bus driver yelled at me for having a bag on the seat next to me (the bus was half-full when I boarded — everyone had two seats to themselves). I said to him very neutrally, “There’s no reason to yell. You could just ask.” Of course, there was no way I would ever put my cues under the bus. He can have them when I pry them out of his cold, dead hands.|
|Due to unforseen circumstances, my ride to the TAR Studio was unable to come get me. But, that’s all right. That’s what taxis are for.|
|I hopped out of the cab and into the TAR Studio.|
The TAR Studio is a cozy space with everything arranged very neatly. The first thing you see when you walk in is the table, on the right. Above the table, eight of the smaller Diamond lights like what you see at BCAPL events shine down and make sure almost all shadows on the table are eliminated.
Look how bright it is, even under the rails. For those of you only joining us now in the billiards universe, that is Shane “South Dakota Kid” Van Boening racking the balls using the Magic Ball Rack.
I didn’t get an exterior shot of the new “treehouse” commentator’s booth, but here is a shot of the interior (left). It’s solidly built and lined with acoustic foam. It’s definitely an improvement from the previous TAR boots held together with velcro and tape.
Note that there is only one screen for each commentator. This is important. This means that when the commentators are in the booth THEY CAN’T SEE THE FREAKING LIVESTREAM CHAT. So, stop getting pissed when you (and you know who you are) ask questions of the commentators via the chat and then think they’re snubbing you by not responding. If the commentators answered all your questions (stupid and otherwise), it wouldn’t be commentary.
On the right is TAR Central Command where cameras are synced, historical moments recorded, refunds issued, and f#cks not given.
Snacks and drinks were provided, free of charge, for everyone attending the match. A big screen TV showed the stream as did several other monitors scattered throughout the place.
The coffee was very good, might I add. As were the Lucky Charms and Golden Grahams snack bars. Around the corner on the wall was a blank canvas signed by all dignitaries who had visited.
Some of the people that were present…
Left to right. Andy “AndyFace” Chen doing his thang. Jason “Bank2Win” Bryan was keeping statistics for this match and had to watch every shot and correctly catalogue it. John Bertone of Kamui Tips, the North American representative of Kamui who was a stream sponsor of this match. David “Viffer/Dippy Dave” Peat, poker player, consumer of Snickers and Mountain Dew, stakehorse, railbird, strander of cars, and all-around Whirlwind of WTFness.
In addition to two comfortable couches set against the wall on risers, there were cocktail tables and bar chairs for closer viewing.
Left to right. Unknown Dude, Nice Guy (don’t know his name but he kept score for at the U.S. Open 10-Ball earlier this year), Super Nice Lady Who Loves Siamese Cats, Nice Guy Who Loves Running the Bay-To-Breakers Race, Alex Pagulayan’s Cheering Squad, and Scooby, Shane’s travel partner. And that’s Shane hiding behind the Gatorade.
Left to right. Justin Collett, chief TAR monkey. Robert “Cotton” LeBlanc, player, author, and match commentator. Jay “Toupee Jay” Helfert, player, author, and match commentator.
After two days of races to 35, the score stood at 70-67, Shane. This final day was going to be a race to 30 to round out the race to 100.
For this match, the table’s standard 4-1/2″ pockets (which would normally just fit two pool balls) were reduced to 4-1/8″. From what I heard, the tighter pockets may have contributed to both players being a little cautious the first, and maybe even the second, day.
Shane did make an unfinished run of seven racks to close out Day 1, though, so who really knows…
Shane, being the leader from the previous day, broke first.
He’d been in practicing on the table for quite a while before Alex showed up, and he was in stroke right off the bat.
Off topic for a moment. I have found Twitter, the microblogging service, to be SUPERCALIFRAGILFANTASTIC for providing updates of matches such as this one. If you’re a hardcore billiards fanatic, get thee to my Twitter page (or get thee a Twitter account) and follow my Twitter feed @adhesiveremover.
Back to the match. As I mentioned, Shane had been practicing on the table for some time before the match. Alex had arrived much later and got a few racks in, but not nearly as many as Shane.
Shane’s nice leisurely warm up may have contributed to the initial packages he put together. Just like that, Alex was down seven games. But, it’s said that Alex is a genius and some of that genius made itself known.
Alex banked and kicked his way out of many unpleasant situations. According to the statistics, Alex attempted 12 banks throughout the event and was successful on all of them. By contrast, Shane attempted just one bank.
This shooting of incredible shots to get out of situations could mean many things. For me, it either means my opponent is playing safe on me a whole lot, I’m playing safe on myself a whole lot, or I’m consistently getting out of line for the next shot — a whole lot.
I can’t say which, if any, of those is what Alex went through, but I will say he never looked comfortable or confident.
Alex never got into a groove although there were moments it seemed he could forge a comeback. He made a fair amount of unforced errors (hooking himself).
He spent the majority of the match watching from his chair.
Alex’s stakehorse, “Dippy” Dave, was quite a trip. I don’t even know where to start with this guy. I heard he physically sharked Shane on one of the earlier days of the match. Shane was down shooting a ball and Dippy reached out and bumped the back end of Shane’s cue.
During the time I was there, he woofed at Shane and the rail, placed bets, tried to coach his horse Alex, won a bet, and then ripped up the money ($100) he won from that bet because he thought he had won more.
|Shane played some seriously serious flawlessly flawless 10-ball. There was no stopping the “Shane Train”, as Andy put it. The picture on the right gives a good sense of what it was like on this final day. It was as if his opponent, the production crew, spectators, and random internet pests weren’t there. It was just Shane and he was having a typical practice session.|
|Shane’s break was working perfectly. Most times he broke, he made a ball in the side pocket and the 1-ball would roll uptable towards the upper left corner pocket. If it didn’t go in, it usually sat conveniently close to the upper corner pockets — and Shane would run out.|
There’s a part of me that feels the Magic Ball Rack is beginning to do for 10-ball what the Sardo Tight Rack did for 9-ball. It standardizes the way the balls are racked and if you have good equipment, you can get the exact same rack time and time again. These mechanical racks greatly decrease variance. With study, you can figure out a way to break in order to get similar results every time.
I don’t know if that is a good thing.
According to the statistics, Shane is a machine: 38 break and runs to Alex’s 13 over the course of the match.
If you include the dry breaks by Alex that Shane ran to win (11), Shane’s run-out rate is about 50% (49 racks out of 100).
The final three racks sum up the entire final day quite well.
|Alex made great shots, then missed somewhat routine ones. He also got unlucky.|
|Alex was not able to punish Shane for his mistakes when given the chance and he also made unforced errors.|
|Shane would break, make a ball (or two), get a nice open spread, and run the f#ck out.|
And there you have it.
One of the greatest rivalries in pool, Alex Pagulayan versus Shane Van Boening, closes this chapter in what will no doubt be a long, drawn-out history book — and those are the best kind!
In TAR matches of the race to 100 format, they are now tied at one win each.
Alex won in 2008 from being down 15 games going into the final day (he was down 22 games at one point) and that is a comeback we are all still talking about.
This time, the score going into the final day was closer (70-67, Shane) but Shane methodically stretched the lead until the win hit at 100-84.
I look forward to more of these matches.
TAR had provided excellent dinners for all present during the last two days. The final day went by much faster and, as a result, we did not get dinner. Aww. Dippy Dave did have a funny quote related to this: “Shane’s playing so good because he wants to make sure we all don’t get dinner. C’mon, Shane! At least wait til the pizza gets here!”
What’s a bunch of hungry pool players to do?
Do the same thing we always do.
Go to the Peppermill.
After dinner/breakfast, I was to get to the bus station and ride it overnight back to the City of Angels. I’ve done it countless times before and from places further away but this time, I just — didn’t feel like it. I was tired. For once, in this long but rapidly passing year, I was just beat. I took up Andy and Graham’s offer of a ride back (in a car!!) the next day.
We all returned to the studio and while there, Andy and Graham found the remnants of Dippy Dave’s $100 that he had ripped up earlier.
Working together, these fine TARchaeologists managed to retreive enough pieces for a possible exchange at the bank for a new bill.
I slept late and when we were all checked out, it was time to decide on lunch. At my suggestion, we headed for the M Resort’s Studio B buffet. This buffet is one of my favorites due to the HUGE selection, inclusion of beer and wine in the cost of your meal, and did I mention lunch was $16.99? It was.
Here’s what I ate.
Highlights included the tri-tip, which I first got medium and then went back for medium-rare. The tabbouleh, hummus, and tomato salad on the first plate were great. I could have sat there and ate flan after flan (#3) and panna cotta after panna cotta (upper right on #4). But then again, I could probably just sit there and eat for hours. Yum.
After some futzing around at a mall on the way out of Vegas, we finally set out for home in earnest.
It was a clear black night, a clear white moon — oh wait, I’m getting ahead of myself here. No, it was clear afternoon with a great desert sunset and open highway.
That’s Graham up there on the right sporting some miiiighty nice sunglasses and Andy to his left, about to sport some miiiighty angry birds on his iPhone.
We made fast time back and there was even enough time to stop off at this place everyone keeps telling me about: Johnnie’s Pastrami. According to their menu:
Johnnie’s was established in 1952 and has become a Southern California landmark. The juke boxes on the counters and booths are all original. So are some of the waitresses.
The waitress gave us a little dish of deli pickles. Total yummers. Then came the pastrami sandwich.
I know, right?
Good pastrami: it forgives a lot of sins. Then, there was something that made this sandwich better. If you go back to the picture of the jukebox, you’ll see a bottle of Beaver Deli Mustard. This fantastic mustard has horseradish mixed in!
So, even with that horrendous clusterf#ck of sh#touts known as “a tournament” that I trudged through, I still have to say, I’ve got the Best Life Ever.
“…man is not made for defeat. A man can be destroyed but not defeated.”
I lost a tournament this weekend. Was that sh#tty? You bet. Before I embarked upon this past weekend, I had contingency plans in place because it is a fact that, over the long run, you are going to lose more tournaments than you win.
Stay tuned to find out if the plan works.
t h a n k s
EMCA | FHCA | Eric Crisp of Sugartree Cues | Murray Tucker of Tucker Cue Works | PoolDawg | Mark Griffin of CueSports International | Justin Collett of The Action Report | Andy Chen | Graham Mason | Graham Mason’s cute little Volkswagen Golf | John Bertone of Kamui Tips
nice meeting / seeing again
poolist | Jason “Bank2Win” Bryan (he’s the one who did all the stats for the match) | Meezer Girl | Noel
// Related Links //
- Jason Bryan’s breaking statistics for TAR 21 [PDF]
- 10+1 interview with Mark Griffin of CueSports International
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|tea||espresso||burger||steak||2 weeks bus fare|