Valentine’s Day weekend. Nine-ball tournament. Women only. Bar table. Race to 5 on the winner’s side. Even better, race to 4 on the loser’s side. Rack-your-own. Nine counts in the bottom two corner pockets. Fuck it, it’s something to do.
Nothing like early morning weekend bus and train rides to stretch my nostalgia muscles. I do love that Los Angeles features a lot of art in many of its bus and train terminals and I will be sharing that art with you against your will on this blog. <3
The piece below I’ve posted before. It’s at the downtown terminal on the way to Hard Times in Bellflower, but I rarely get out that way so a repost for the good ol’ days is definitely warranted.
Shooters of Riverside was the host room for this tournament. In my last post, I said I hadn’t been to the Las Vegas Cue Club in more than ten years. For Shooters of Riverside, it’s probably about thirteen or fourteen years, and I’m calculating this thinking it was in that Era Before This Blog when they used to host the $10,000 Labor Day Shootout which was one of Southern California’s biggest regional events.
If you walked in through the main entrance, you would have seen some ratty bar tables and a few tired big tables, and then wondered how it was possible to run a 128-player field with races to 9 in three days. You had to go to an innocuous, dirty white door with the classic black-and-gold sign, tarnished and peeling, reading “PRIVATE.” Behind that door was at least another dozen, well-kept, tight-pocket Brunswicks, along with an old 10-foot Brunswick from the 50s or 60s converted to snooker pockets.
In one of those Labor Day tournaments, I played the legendary Arturo Rivera (RIP, Mango Man) on the elimination side. I think it was the bracket before cashing. I was such a bad player. I cannot even begin to convey to you, dear reader, just how bad I was at pool. If that gunky, tangled hair clump stuck in your bathroom drain became sentient and decided to swing a cue around–it would have been able to give me at least the seven.
The great thing about being a shit player was that I had no pressure. It was and still is an unparalleled fantasy to be 100% the underdog, to know all bets are against you, to have no expectations. When Arturo and I met in the brackets, everyone, including me, knew the match was merely a formality, another yellow brick in the road to the Emerald City.
Arturo was known for being slow, and, well—ya’ll already know me. I honestly don’t know how long the match actually lasted but I’m fairly sure it went over three hours.
In the hill-hill game, he left me a hard cut on a 7-ball and I went for it, made it, and scratched. He took about a year to shoot the 8 and 9. Later, he told me that when I was shooting the 7, he had to turn and face the wall because the strain was too much. He made the hand motion of a heart beating in front of his chest. “Heart attack.”
It was a fluke match for sure, and I think people didn’t know if they should congratulate me because it was a loss, but then again, what the fuck, I got close to beating a legend, but then again, also go fuck yourself because that goddamn match stole so many hours from your life and you will never get them back again. Ever.
In the end, most people stood a somewhat respectful distance from me with their arms hanging oddly at their sides while I glared at them and stomped out.
Getting that close to the cash when you’re a shitty player really does things to you.
And so, here we are, back again, a bajillion light years later.
Shooters has obviously changed a bit since those days. There are a lot more bar tables now and as far as I know, that magical secret tournament room is gone.
The bar tables were quite fast, and had varying ball sets which meant I likely looked forward to smashing my head against the wall in frustration at least a couple of times.
And indeed, that is how it went.
Both matches I lost from my opponent breaking the 9-ball in on the hill, with the last match being hill-fucking-hill. But, those are the rules and we agreed to them once we paid that fucking entry fee, no? So it goes.
I hate losing and after I lost, I commented that I hated that I had played so bad. A fellow lady tournament player remarked pointedly that she wished she played that bad, if that was what I considered to be bad. I told her if she kept losing, one day she would.
It was a good tournament with an impressive turnout—no less than 45 women showed up the tournament and thanks to the efficiency of tournament director Anthony Munoz, it finished in a day. Thanks also go to event sponsors Live on the Fly, Hooked Clothing and Apparel, and GoPlayPool.com for supporting women’s pool!
Best part of the tournament was running into my friend from collegiate pool days. I could never beat her. She was just heads and shoulders above the rest of us.
In our last collegiate tournament together, she put me to the losers side and I clawed my way into the finals where she was waiting. In a long, long, hill-hill fight, I lost. I was completely crushed. These tournaments only allowed the winners to advance to the finals. I swear my organs began to shut down one by one as I stood there (I lost because of a miscue) looking at that old carpet the color of rotting algae contemplating death when the tournament director trotted up and jauntily declared, “Hey, so both of you are going to the finals since we’re the hosting region, and the hosting region gets two spots!”
I said to him, rather slowly, “You—you didn’t think to tell us that. Before this match?”
“Well I didn’t want you guys to take it all easy knowing you were both going! I wanted you guys to really fight for it!” Big, toothy grin. I looked around aimlessly, somewhat confused.
I turned to the men tournament players. “Did you guys know this? That two people—would go?”
Bless his tournament director heart, he never saw the murder in my eyes because well-meaning fools never do. He waited expectantly for me to, I don’t know—be happy? Instead, I walked calmly to the bathroom where I punched a hole in the wall. When I returned, the men were surprised at my bloody knuckles, but the women were not.
When my friend finally, FINALLY graduated, I went and won the regional tournament and went on to the national tournament where I got third by losing in yet another long, hill-hill battle.
I did not eat during the tournament but my friend saved me half a sandwich which, when warmed up in the hotel’s microwave, was pretty fucking amazing.
I slept well.
The next day, my road partner and I went to TJ’s Steaks Pasta & Spirits in Palm Desert, CA, where the Don Weir Memorial Tournament was being held.
Just so you know, TJ’s Steaks Pasta & Spirits does not have Steaks or Pasta, but there are Spirits. Don’t go there too hungry. The steak fries are pretty good though, I like that they came out hot enough to let off steam after you take a bite.
The format of the tournament was akin to the Andy Mercer Memorial Tournament (a.k.a. “The Rum Runner”), races to 6, winner breaks. There were only sixteen players in this tournament which made for a nice, unhurried event.
After a lovely dinner sponsored by my friend junksecret at Ristorante Mamma Gina’s (HIGHLY recommended, but the wait for a seat on the bar side of the restaurant can be long if you’re not there early) my road partner and I headed back toward Los Angeles and regular life.
As always, you can find me on Instagram. I am liking their Stories feature which allows for frequent posting but less clutter on timelines. Plus, I can obnoxiously decorate posts with gifs and graphics.