the near side of the world

 

some post-Thanksgiving procrastination for you…

 

the near side of the world

And it must follow, as the night the day, that upon my return from a Grand Expedition on the far side of the world, there would be much work awaiting me on the near side of the world.

Since I took a couple of days off to go win the grand prize of a date with Jack Sh!t in Tampa, I had to make up for lost work and time. I slept very little and worked very much during my first week back. Throw in the jetlag and by the weekend, I was looking forward to sleeping in.

There was a local women’s tournament on the weekend but I did not plan on going because I was 1). tired and 2). “local” in this case meant 136 miles. In my younger days, 136 miles would be nothing, but now the thought of getting up at 4:00 or 5:00 a.m. to bus it via city buses and then Greyhound and then more city buses — yeah. No.

After having settled down into the feathery thought of snoozing all weekend, I got The Call. A fellow friend and pool player made The Call. What separates The Call from a call is The Line delivered by aforementioned friend after some idle chit chat about the weekend’s upcoming tournaemnt. The Line is, “I’ll go if you go.”

F—.

 

Sometime around 6:00 a.m. the next morning, I was bleary-eyed and riding shotgun, having been (very easily) bribed with the promise of pancakes and coffee before this week’s Grand Expedition. I’d probably sell my soul for a donut (but only if it has icing AND sprinkles).

We made good time and arrived early enough to be stylish but not late enough to be fashionable.

Here is my trip through the brackets.

 

1.

In time-honored road-trip tradition, I drew my road partner and, more importantly, Person-With-A-Car-And-Valid-Driver’s-License. We had a long-drawn out match (I believe we were second-to-last match to finish) but ultimately, I snuck away with the 7-6 win.

 

2.

I played a very nice local player in my second match and, somewhere along the way, the wheels fell off my bus. I lost 7-4.

 

* * *

My road partner was out and here I was, waiting waiting waiting for my loser’s side match. We sat down on a bench. Through the occasionally opened doors, you could see that it was turning out to be a very beautiful day — all sunshine and bluebirds and maybe even a beer or two fluttering about — if you were not a pool player waiting for something. We sat there unspeaking, and I became comfortably numb. I said, “You know, we could go to the beach. There are really nice beaches out there. It’s still early.”

“Do you want to do that? I’m cool with that.”

“Yeah. I’m so freaking tired. Be nice to take a break from pool for a bit, you know?

“I know.”

“Okay, then. Let me go wash my hands and then I’ll forfeit.”

“Okay.”

I went to the restroom and when I returned, I noticed my road partner looked tense with contained excitement. She blurted out immediately upon seeing me, “You can’t forfeit. You can’t.”

“Why not?”

“Do you know who you’re playing?”

“No.”

She broke into a smile and said, “You’re playing ‘The Red Angel’.”

 


pause Do you know who The Red Angel (not a euphemism for anything — maybe) is?
FORWARD! YES! I am aware of The Red Angel (not a euphemism for anything — maybe).
  May I offer my (dubious) congratulations! Proceed reading.
REWIIIIIND! NO! I am not aware of The Red Angel (and what would that name euphemize, anyways?).
  How’s that rock you’re living under? If you have not had the chance to meet this Sultana of Skullduggery (or would like to kill more time) you may read the whole enchilada or read a refreshing appetizer archive of things she has publicly posted about pool players.

 

Forfeiting was out of the question.

 

* * *

3.

I walked over to the table. She oozed arrogance the way bacon sweats grease. (Sorry, meatlovers, there wasn’t a better analogy.) She smirked at me and for a brief moment, I recalled all the put-downs and attitude she had slung around the internet and in person about women pool players, some of who were my close friends. Was she The Red Angel? I suppose so, because I saw red when I remembered all that fucking bullshit she did in the name of pathetic self-promotion at the expense of others.

I glanced down at the carpet.

It is well-known that, unlike most players, I operate extremely well when I have reached a certain level of anger. Not the yelling, cussing, sarcastic anger you are all aware of, but the much rarer (and scarier) white-hot anger when I am on a mission from Hell. The red turned to white and when I looked up again, I did not see her at all.

She no longer existed as a person. She was the muddy puddle in the middle of the sidewalk. She was the last ten minutes at work on a Friday. She was the angry ogre I had to outrun to get the best bargains at a Black Friday sale. Most of all, she was the last thing separating me from my dinner at the moment.

She was a minor inconvenience.

I nodded to indicate I was ready to begin. She won the lag and broke. She had an excellent break. The cue ball jumped off the table and three balls went in. I took ball in hand and missed the two-ball. With ball in hand. The rest of the balls were hanging in the pockets. She ran out.

Early in the match, I noticed whenever I was shooting either the seven-, eight-, or nine-ball in her direction, she would wave her cue back and forth or kick her legs. I remember looking up at this gorilla whose subtlety rivaled that of a herd of dancing hippopotamuses (hippopotami?) , and feeling only mild amusement.

I bore down and played harder.

There was one particularly difficult long-distance back-cut eight-ball I had to shoot and on this shot, she abandoned all vestiges of subtlety and swung her arms and cue like she wanted to land a plane or participate in a Richard Simmons Jazzercise session. She twirled back and forth on the barstool. I glanced at the carpet. When I looked up again, the waving of her arms was nothing more than the mildewed straw ends of a sloppy scarecrow blowing limply in the wind. I drilled the eight-ball and made the nine.

I walked over to mark the score. I commented to no one in particular, “She’s sharking the shit out of me.” I looked up. The spectators nodded. I caught the eye of Pooh Bear, who has known me for a long time. I looked at her and smiled. Pooh Bear’s eyes widened with recognition at that smile. She knew what was coming.

I bore down and played harder.

As the match progressed, she tried a different tactic: she began to flirt with a photographer covering the event. She talked loudly about herself, hee-hawed loudly with donkey-laughter, and tried to act like she didn’t care about the match. She didn’t care? That was fine with me.

I bore down.

I played harder.

It ended at 7-1 and, by the accounts of those watching, after that first ball-in-hand miss, I played near-flawless pool. Most suprisingly, I had said nothing more than the phrases “thank you” and “push” throughout the duration of the match. I did not shake her hand after the match. 1). I don’t fucking like her, and 2). I did not want to catch anything from her.

You know what I mean.

I am happy to say that I have now notched a win against The Pool Player With The Most Friends On Facebook. Hoo-Fucking-Ray. I can only dream of aspiring to the greatness my opponent has so effortlessly achieved in the realm of Total Bullshit. Unfortunately, I am fully aware it takes rare asshattery and PhotoChopped looks to attain so many friends on Facebook.

I have neither the asshattery nor the Chops.

I’ll settle for bearing down and playing harder.

 

4.

If I won this match, I would return for the second day.

I had to wait a long time for this match, and furthermore, my road partner had headed home. There was no turning back now, I had to win. If I was going to Greyhound it home, f— it, I’d better make it worth it.

This was a hard-fought match for me and I made some spectacular shots. Seriously. I made shots that just — I don’t know — I am not capable of making in my wildest ice-cream-and-bacon-and-alcohol-fueled dreams. I chopped in one nine-ball at an almost 90-degree angle eight feet down the table. Unbelievable. As I stared in pleasant surprise after making that shot, my joy was tempered by the thought that, as great as that shot was, it was worth EXACTLY the same as the ball-in-hand nine-ball the previous game — which my opponent had made.

Reality.

Verily doth it bite.

I racked the balls and broke. In the middle of this game, my friend Tinkerbell who had been sitting a little ways away said the four little words all pool players need to hear once in a while: “I saw that shot.”

🙂

I went on to win.

 

* * *

Having made it to the second day, my new goal was to find a not-sold-out hotel room for the evening at Starving Pool Player rates. I was unsuccessful, but Tinkerbell was nice enough to let me stay at her house after warning me that her mother would probably try to overfeed me. Really? A place to stay and food? Bring it on!

After a fabulous night of sleep on a couch in a well-stocked library, I was ready to go. However, I had one minor problem — I couldn’t find my contact lenses. The ones I had worn the day before ended up having tears in both and I had thrown them out. Now, I couldn’t find a replacement pair. I’m a squirrel when it comes to contact lenses. I stash them in all my purses, travel bags, cue cases, jacket pockets, etc. Eyesight is important and a hundred times more important if you’re playing a game that is often won or lost based on your aim. Well. I had finally run out. Due to frequent traveling lately, I hadn’t replenished any of my stashes and now I had to suffer the consequences of carelessness.

No need to panic.

Tinkerbell mentioned there were two optometrists nearby, one at a nearby Wal-Mart and a Lenscrafters at a mall near the pool room. Cool. This debacle may yet be salvaged.

We went to the Wal-Mart only to find out they didn’t open until 11:00. My match was scheduled for 11:00. Arrgh.

No need to panic.

We went to the Lenscrafters to see if we could have any luck there. They, too, weren’t open until 11:00. I explained my situation to the lady working there and she said if I could get my optometrist to fax over my prescription, she could at least give me a sample pair. Sweet! I called my optometrist and kept getting the answering machine. After some internet research, we found out my optometrist’s office didn’t open until 12:00 noon on Sundays. Not so sweet.

It was past 11:00, and the tournament director had sent me a message letting me know I was on the clock to forfeiture.

Is it time to panic?

Never.

Tinkerbell asked me, “What are you going to do?”

“Play blind,” I said. “I should have packed an extra pair of contacts, but I didn’t. Nothing else to do now but play anyways.”

When we got in her car, Tinkerbell remembered she occasionally kept a spare pair of her contacts in the car. She rummaged around the storage compartmentes and — miracle! — she found them. We looked at the prescriptions and although they didn’t match my own, one of them was at least somewhat close. In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.

So, having armed myself with one contact lens of an incorrect prescription in one eye, we floored it to the pool room.

I made it in time.

* * *

 

5.

This match was interesting.

After some intital craptacular and shanktastic play, I figured out which of the balls in my double-vision I should aim for. Once that fell into place, I managed to find a rhythm. My opponent’s play went in the opposite direction.

She seemed ill at ease and scratched a lot. At one point, I had pushed out after the break and she picked up the cue ball. I told her I had pushed and she threw her hands up in the air in frustration. I told her to just put the cue ball back where it was and shoot from there. I did not take the foul. We all have those days and I knew she was just “out of it” and had not meant to take ball-in-hand on purpose.

It didn’t get better for her as I could see the frustration compound over and over again. She took to lengthy stays at the table after a miss or scratch as she stared on in dramatic disbelief. When she scratched, she bounced the cue ball on the table towards me instead of leaving it on the table or handing it to me. I understood how she felt. Who among us has not? I patiently waited when she took her — moments — to vent her feelings.

I won 7-3.

 

She went and complained that I had SLOWPLAYED her and that is why she lost.

Really.

I’ve been called a lot of things in my time, most of them unprintable, but the general consensus is that I play FAR too fast for my own good.

If you’ve got to dig down THAT fucking deep, way past the 6-foot under mark, past the dinosaur bones, and into the very molten core of the earth to find a reason why you lost to me, I think it is safe to say that the blame lies not with the equipment, nor the opponent, BUT YOUR OWN GODDAM SELF.

YOU, my dear, are one of the SLOWEST if not THE slowest player EVER in these events. Now, I went out of my way for you, and you KNOW this. I didn’t take that foul because I felt sorry for you. I didn’t complain about your dramatic pauses because I felt sorry for you. I felt that you were, like me, just another player struggling to get better and I know how tough it can be when it seems everything is going against you. I had a modicum of respect for you.

I have nothing for you now and I swear, if I can, I will blank you every single time we play.

Also, in case you forgot, I BEAT YOU WITH ONE EYE.

Thank you for this lesson: no good deed goes unpunished.

* * *

 

From now on, whenever someone has an excuse or reason for me as to why I won, I will agree. Some recent gems from this tournament and others:

“The pockets were too big.”
Why, yes. They were. And only when I shot. After I made a ball, they immediately shrank back to 1.75 inches. Those sneaky Pocket-Shrinking Gnomes must be stopped!

“You play too slow.”
You’re right. Although I play at Mach 6, I really should aspire to play at light-speed. Thank you for your input and enjoy your stay in the chair as I run out at 2 041.74 meters per second.

“You play too fast.”
I was trying to help you out by sabotaging myself, but, okay. You’re right. To hell with impulsiveness and carelessness!

“You don’t talk enough.”
So sorry. Me no speak Engrish.

“You talk too much.”
I’ll try not to breathe.

From a guy: “You’re a chick and I have trouble playing chicks.”
Let’s chop off your testicles right now and we can play as you bleed out.

From a girl: “You’re a chick and I have trouble playing chicks.”
Perhaps you should practice by playing with yourself. And leave the pool playing to pool players.

* * *

 

6.

Fueled by my last match, I won this match as well. For those of you who wanted to know how I got into such a high gear for this match, it was my opponent’s complaint about me from the previous match. I love playing angry.

 

7.

Unfortunately, all good things must pass, and my anger was no exception. I lost this match, 7-3, due to many careless errors. I have to bear down more, and play harder.

All in all, it was a good experience and I’m glad I played. This event taught me how to play again with a closed bridge, something I haven’t done in many, many years. We’ll see how that works out.