I went to the Greyhound station to take the bus back and found that ALL their buses were out of service. I waited many, many long hours until Greyhound finally rented charter buses from a tour bus company in the area. By the time I got back to Los Angeles, I had already missed a full day of work…
…and I needed to make up that day of work.
A couple of days before, I was told there was a spot available at the Women’s Professional Billiards Association’s 2012 U.S. Open 9-Ball Championships and this missed Monday was a vital stitch in my tightly-knit plan that could not be allowed to unravel.
Let’s all get in the Time Machine and see what my dumb ass (and its dumbass thought process) did to get stuck in this situation.
When I got The Call for the open spot, I did not react the way I thought I would.
I knew that if the WPBA was calling me, they must have a shortage of players. I am not nearly qualified enough to play in these events and I hadn’t done well enough in regional events as of late to justify an invite to their biggest event of the year (or at least it was the last time I was actively chasing the Tour). In order for me to be called, there must have been a significant number who turned down their invites.
Knowing I was the scrapings at the bottom of the barrel did not stop me from having the itch to play. So, I, like any person besotted with noble visions of glory, said, “Why the f#ck not.” Cheers to bad decisions.
The tournament started on Wednesday (players’ meeting) with play starting on Thursday. I got the call on Thursday, May 31, and would have to be at the venue in Tulsa by June 6. That was less than a week. By the way, when I got the call I was told I needed to pay the $500 entry fee plus the $150 registration fee, like, RIGHT THE F#CK NOW. I could pay it tomorrow (I’m not one of those people who has $650 just lying around like so many used tissues). I was told that was fine.
Then I was told I was not guranteed a spot after all and had to wait until someone ahead of me in line had declined the invite.
Okay, that’s just weird. Don’t call me and have me sell off blood and ramen futures until YOU are SURE I can play, y’know? Jeez. The next day, I had the money ready, but was still put on hold. Whatever. When finally I got the go ahead, I sent the money and then turned to the logistics of time, travel, and expenses.
In order for me to ask for time off from work with so little advance notice, I had to do what I really, really, REALLY did not want to do: I had to tell my boss why I needed the time off. I don’t like telling people at work what I do outside of work. I certainly don’t like telling them about pool or how far gone down the rabbithole of billiards I am because it inevitably piques people’s curiosities and I AM NOT the person who likes to satisfy their (often inane and Color-Of-Moneyesque) queries. I got the time off but it would be unpaid. Also, I had to finish all projects before leaving. Okay. Now the mission was to get to Tulsa without breaking the bank.
When you have less than seven days’ notice to fly halfway across the country during a time when fuel costs are quite high and you have to check in your cues, flying becomes a luxury. I could not find a round-trip flight to Tulsa for less than a thousand dollars. Uh, no. That is not going to happen. Furthermore, the host hotel was $100+ per night. Ugh. When possible, players are to stay at the host hotel. Great.
After some planning and A Little Help From My Friends, this is what I came up with:
- Greyhound to Tulsa (because it was waaaay cheaper than flying)
- stay at the cheapest hotel I can find within a reasonable distance (if I was fined for this — oh well, “check’s in the mail”)
- fly home (I still had more than 7 days before the day of departure and I HAD to get back to work because, you know, I’m a working stiff and not a pool player)
I would leave Tuesday morning and hopefully, after 33 hours, I would be in Tulsa in time for the players’ meeting.
And now, I had missed an entire Monday of work because Greyhound’s buses in Vegas were all non-operational. I did not get back to the city until evening. My work was, to say the least, disappointed in my absence, especially since my time off for Tulsa was contingent on my being there Monday to wrap up my projects.
|I tried to salvage the situation the only way I knew how. I went to work at 8:00 in the evening and did not leave to catch my buses to the Greyhound station until 4:00 in the morning.|
|It was standard business hours, just in reverse.|
|The city buses did not start running until after 5:00 in the morning so I had to walk a little over a mile with all my gear to the first stop while the sky was just beginning to turn light.|
|I did not have to wait too long for the first bus and I was off and running toward the east.|
|Dawn was breaking right when I made it to downtown. The Palace Theater seemed to know me better than I knew myself. 😉|
|I had no trouble catching the next bus which took me through the more interesting parts of the city.|
|I made it to the Greyhound station with some time to spare.|
|Shortly after 7:00 a.m., the bus rolled out of the station and on to one of the many freeways heading east.|
Since I did not know anyone on the bus, I did not speak to anyone. In an ironically funny twist, the bus driver, who was a Chinese immigrant (Asian Greyhound drivers are not common), assumed I did not speak English because I did not speak at all. He tried making conversation in Chinese. This, of course, is a twisted version of the most common run-in I have of non-Asians assuming I don’t speak English. I did not reply because I did not want to talk to anyone and my taciturn nature operates on an equal-opportunity basis.
The cactuses/cacti of Phoenix gave way to cooler temperatures and conifers as we headed north.
|Keeping the cell phone charged is important. I used my cell phone for playing music and the occasional Tweet.|
|I was surprised at how many passengers had higher-end personal electronics. iPads were common.|
|The constant fighting between the half-dozen kids over the iPad amazed me. They seriously never slept. Unbelievable. There has to be a way to harness that kind of energy. Let’s throw them on a treadmill and feed them an endless supply of lollipops.|
|At every stop, the children would rush out and plug in the iPad to charge it up as much as they could.|
|Once it was operational, they would begin to fight over it.|
|We ran into the road construction that the driver warned would delay us by three or more hours.|
|These are the components of a tuna/sardine salad you can eat on a bus trip. Tuna is more odiferous so I use high-quality sardines (thanks, Norway!) out of consideration for my fellow passengers and also because it tastes better.|
I know I’m getting close to the Midwest when the dirt begins to turn red.
|One of the children told me (with some pride) that she dropped the iPad and cracked it. Then her little brother picked it up and dropped it. Then her mother picked it up and in the midst of scolding the children for dropping the iPad, dropped it herself.|
There was a man in a wheelchair riding the bus. When there was a break, they opened his special loading door so he could smoke.
|Crips in the Midwest. Who’da thunk it.|
|Since we were very far behind schedule, the backlog of passengers waiting to connect to this route was enormous. The last two passengers were a young man and an old lady with a cane. There was only one seat, however. The young man had boarded first and would not give up his seat. The driver told the lady she had two choices: she could wait for the next bus or she could stand or sit in the stairwell until the next stop (about two hours away). She chose the stairwell. Luckily, this gentleman in the red hat gave up his seat so she could sit and he took her place in the stairwell.|
And so, I arrived after 36 hours on various buses.
I had arrived too late to take the public bus system to my hotel so I hailed a taxi. When I got in, I told him to go to my hotel, the Tulsa Select. He turned around and asked why I was going there. Because it’s my hotel, I said. He considered this for a moment and then told me the Tulsa Select was a hotel well-known to contain hookers and drug dealers and most cabdrivers would be wary of picking up from that hotel after dark for fear of getting robbed. I said I was neither a hooker nor a drug dealer and that it was my hotel and that was where I needed to go. I thought the driver was being overly sensationalistic.
When I got to the hotel, I found out the driver was at least half-right. The place was a complete dump. But, in the interest of being affordable, this is what I signed up for and it would serve its purpose. During my stay, there were a few fights, including one that started in the room next to mine. It was a big drag-down beat-the-sh#t-outta-em kind of fight that went into the hallway and continued up and down the hallway until one of the dudes got KO’d or died or whatever. I didn’t bother to look because I had a television and cable. Woohoo.
The next day, three police cruisers pulled up as I was leaving the hotel for the tournament venue. Exciting. I did not stay around to find out what happened.
Now let’s take a look at the venue, the River Spirit Casino. It was quite nice and I received a goody bag which consisted of a nice tote bag (still use this for grocery shopping), a bunch of pens, many small boxes of mints (perhaps my sardine salad was not as subtle as I thought), a Magic 9-Ball keychain (I asked it if my trip was a bad idea, it said, “YES”), two t-shirts (no use for those), a VIP Lounge pass (with the wrong name on it), and a sterling silver Tiffany keychain engraved with the River Spirit logo commemorating this momentous event.
The two practice tables.
The playing arena at the beginning of the event.
Many people asked me where my high heels were. I told them I wore only the boots that were made for walking since I did not have the luxury of flying. I brought only the bare minimum in clothing choices on this trip since I did not want to be weighed down with luggage.
One of the first things I heard was about the local qualifier for this event. On Tuesday, a qualifying tournament was held in the area for four spots in the tournament. Five women showed up.
Another spot was filled by the friend (she was a pool player) of a player in the event who had initially come to be a spectator, but was able to pay the entry last-minute. She got the call while she was at the airport.
I lost my first match 9-7.
I lost my second match 9-7.
Here is a lame stitched-together panorama of the arena set up for the TV rounds. You may click to embiggen.
The arena was very nice. The folding chairs were very comfortable and they had interesting red-white-and-blue decorative elements scattered throughout. The staff were very nice as well.
|The trophy (by Tiffany & Co. — swanktastic) in its case and some of the avant-garde decorative elements which were lit from the interior by LED lights.|
|Something else I noticed was the shortage of foreign players who had previously been one of the tour’s biggest draws. It may have been, though, that there was an overseas event going on at the same time and that is what drew them away.|
|There was a small concession stand outside the area. It was $5.99 for a hot dog.|
Ewa “The Striking Viking” Laurance interviews Monica Webb after her victory over Brittany Bryant.
Ah, the life of an actual professional pool player.
Finally, it was time to go (via aeroplane) home! On the flight home, I noticed a guy brought a hockey stick on board the plane. This irritated me because, according to TSA, I cannot bring my pool cues — they define them as “club-like objects” on the plane — but this dude can bring a completely murder-capable skull-bashable hockey stick onboard like it’s nothing. Don’t even get me started on the cheap-ass guitars, tennis rackets, etc., I also see from time to time.
My irritation inspired me to create the following picture (which has become quite popular):
If she can’t help us, no one can.
When I returned to work, I found out, sadly, that my boss decided to tell my entire f#cking department where I had gone. Sigh. People never understand that just because it’s something you would like, it doesn’t mean that everyone would like it. As expected, I had to patiently answer a lot of questions and when they were surprised I went all that way to throw an 0-2 BBQ party, I said, “Sometimes, that’s just how it goes.”
That was an interesting trip.
It’s been a while now and I’m still not sure how I feel about it. I do know, without a doubt, that I do not play well enough to be on the tour and I’m not sure I would play in it again (if by some random weirdness I got another invite). The very first time I received an invite to a tour event years ago, I felt that it had meant something — I had put in my time and (SH#T-TON) of money and I felt I deserved it, that I was called upon to play because I played well enough to be there. This time, I think I was just a warm body and dead money.
It was a fun (if expensive) experience and it was nice to catch up with people I hadn’t seen in a long time. It was most definitely nice to play and this tournament, like all the ones before it, will be dissected, analyzed, and the findings filed away in the hard drive of my brain for future reference.
I think with enough funding for practice and whatnot, I could play well enough to be on tour, but “being on tour” no longer holds the same cache as it used to — and I can’t find a specific reason why. I mean, there was a time that was all I wanted to be was a WPBA touring professional, and now — not so much. Perhaps that is the responsible cricket on my shoulder telling me that glory is nice, but so is owning a home, eating on a regular basis, having a full supply of blood in my veins, moving up the corporate ladder, and not having to take Greyhound across the country. It’s about time I grew the f#ck up.
I also realize that despite my mildly fanatic dedication to this game and competing, people don’t take me seriously as a pool player. This is probably my own fault since I attend a lot of pool events and write about them on a blog. One person’s initial reaction was that I was going all the way to Tulsa, via Greyhound, to watch the tournament. I am a f#cking pool nut, that’s for sure, but even I’m not that nutty.
In spite of all the frustrations, I am truly grateful to those who support me and my, uh, slightly ridiculous mission of being a somewhat decent pool player. They do a good job drowning out the clueless peeps I often have to deal with in this game and really, they may be the only reason I continue to play.
In the meantime, I am busted in regard to vacation days and tournament funding so I will FINALLY (for realz this time) begin my summer vacation from pool.
Life is good.
|t h a n k s|
|EMCA | CAJL | HCSG | LJCA | FWCCA | Murray Tucker of Tucker Cue Works | Eric Crisp of Sugartree Cues|
|first time hello & hello again|
|NWPA (Liz Cole, Tamre Rogers, Shari Ross, Suzanne Smith,) | NorCal (Callado & Callado, Miss Mary “As Seen On TV!” Rakin) | AWBT (Susan Williams, Sara Miller, Susan Mello) | & more (Miss Stephanie “Body Slam” Goens, Teruko Cuculleli, Pauline Mattes, Jennifer Barretta, Ewa Laurance, Kelly Cavanaugh, the SoCal ladies who see me all the time 🙂 )|