Monday, March 16, 2009

Pool, 'The Greatest Game,' and surrounding dramas

I went to the movies today with my son Dan and grandson Dante, which was incidentally (Dante's choice) "Race to Witch Mountain" about two alien kids trying to recover their lost space ship in which 'worm holes,' telepathic communications, government villains, and UFO experts abounded. There was even a UFO convention, so I did not stray far from the subject matter that has been interesting me lately. I, in fact, discussed the David Sereda UFO footage on the video he made about NASA and urged Dan to look at it. I am going to send him the link.

After the movie and lunch, Dan took me to a huge used book store up on Northern and I bought a novel there called "Billy Phelan's Greatest Game" which is about pool. "Legs" and "Ironwood" by William Kennedy are the other two novels included in the same book, which cost me $5, a bargain I thought.
This naturally caused me to think about pool, the game I spent so many years trying to master, and about who ultimately destroyed my fascination and caused me to give up playing.
You have probably guessed it, men, who just could not give respect to a woman playing 'their' game, no matter how devoted and determined.
Pictured above is one of the masters I played with. I call a man a master that you can hardly beat unless you run the table on them. Besides the masters there are a lot of other great pool players just not quite as good. I have known and played with at least 5 masters, and I cannot think of another game where so many great players would be accessible to an ordinary impecunious woman player. I sought them out. I knew where to find them. I wouldn't gamble. I wouldn't drink, but I managed to persuade a lot of men to play with me. The masters hardly ever drink either. They know it will hurt their game. They let the other players get drunk and then they take them for every penny they have got. Pool hustlers!
I earned the name once of Westward Ho pool shark, but then I quit. My heart just wasn't in it anymore. So I bought this novel to see what this writer says about pool. I doubt if his pool dramas are as turgid as mine. I know I could not even get my stories published for pool is a shadow man's game, since for years women were hardly even allowed in pool rooms. And they get bad reputations even now if they hang out in pool bars.
So as in every environment where women do not venture, eventually there is sexual by play between the men. My father loved the game so much that when he built his last new house, he put in a big pool room and purchased a pool table. I had not ever seen him play because of the taboo against women in pool halls, especially in Utah among the Mormons who so frown on drinking and smoking. He didn't have anybody to play with, so I never saw anybody play on his table until my scond husband to be, father of Dan and my daughter Ronda, came into my life. He went crazy when he saw that pool table, and he started teaching me to play. I took to it. I was just so darn frustrated by then about my attempts to play other games.
I loved tennis, but nobody would ever play with me. So I bought a ping pong table and nobody would play with me. But I found out that in every bar men who fancied themselves great pool players hung out. At long last I found some players for a game I was willing to learn if I could just get some action. Thus began my years of hanging out in pool bars. I even used to go to Mexican bars when I was living on the west side and played with a Mexican pool hustler hustler once who acted like I simply could not be allowed to beat him ever, or he would never be able to live it down. I hung out in another pool bar owned by a master and I watched him and another master duel. Great players both of them. The pool bar owner only condescended to play with me once or twice, but the other master gave me lessons everytime he came in, and the one time I ever beat him by running the table he was so proud of me he called it to everyone's attention, but the men kind of shrugged off my triumph. Well, that was the first and practically the last time I ever ran the table. I guess he inspired me in a way nobody else ever did.
I picture Pierre, my last companion, looking down on me and feeling sad because I don't play anymore. He taught me more about playing pool than anybody ever did bcause for four years he insisted that we play pool nearly every single morning. He was also the guy who was the most responsible for me quitting the game. After all that practice he just would not take our game any further. We were going to go try out for the senior Olympics, but he never got around to it. You see he also loved to play poker and gamble. And the master pool player who ran the poker games, too, liked gambling behind closed doors more than he did playing pool in an open room. Things got to the point where I warned Pierre that if he went back to playing poker behind closed doors which he did for months when he was married, we were through. I knew him well enough by then to know he had another personality that came out when he thought he was alone in in a pool room or somewhere playing poker for money. He would get very vulgar, say 'f---" every other word. I accused him of using that kind of language for sexual purposes, causing the other men to get their thrills in more ways than one. I told him I would not put up with kind of infidelity. When he started playing poker again anyway, I felt so strongly about it, I was never intimate with him again. He just shrugged. There was a deep corruption going on there I just could not affect.
He played a few months and talked quite a bit about a guy he liked that had started to play. I knew as soon as I saw him he was the big spark. I made plans to break with him completely when the pain started. And never let up. Until he died less than a year later.
And do you know what? None of his poker playing buddies even called him while he was dying, or came by. Well, see, he was a tough guy who never complained and hated going to doctors, and so he didn't even know he had lung cancer that had spread to his liver, brain, and bones. I think they were all mad at him because he quit playing poker with them and they were out to punish him. They punished him for hanging out the next 9 months with a woman. He only knew for less than a month that he was dying. They found out that he was dying but they still didn't come around. I was the one who accompanied him to the doctors, rubbed his shoulder blade every little while when cancer hit it, and held his hand all day long when he started slipping into a coma. I know he felt sad about how everything turned out.
I was so mad at those guys I didn't go play pool with them for a long time. When I did I got them all told that they made me mad. Pierre never played pool with me once over there. He and the master pool player preferred poker behind close doors where they could talk just as dirty as they wanted to. After I got them all told off, I didn't have the heart to play with them anymore. I was still too mad. Pierre knows he can't blame me.
Doc doesn't even know what sexual interplay between men is all about. He is one of the most innocent men I have ever met. But he's smart. You can talk to him about anything. He is intellectually curious about all human drama, and somewhere along the way he became addicted, but just to alcohol. Alcohol pure and simple.
That's a relief. Oh the alcohol consumption gets to me. But not like that other did. It ruined a beautiful game for me. I dont know if I will ever want to play the game again.


Amrita said...

Oh I really envy you Gerry.Pool is one game i really want to learn how to play and i imagine I can do well at it.

In India also not many women play pool and its reserved for the rich and privilleged folk.

Glad you had a good time with your son and grandson.

sober white women said...

I remember when that movie came out years ago. I have not seen the new one yet.

Nelishia said...

I never mastered it as no one cared to show me in the previous relationship I was in. I was only made a fool of and laughed at when I tried without instruction. Dirk is interested in teaching me CHESS. He thinks I have a great mind for it.

I always like to hear of your visits with family, especially any Dante events.


LaRena said...

After Terry's divorce from Karin he dated a girl named Diana. She was a pretty little thing but I felt she had fried her brain with drugs and alcohol. Still one night they invited me to go to "The Red Onion" with them to play pool. Terry was a very good pool player and hustled more than a few guys by playing with money. I'm quite sure that's how he got his collar bone broken in Colo. He had been playing with a bunch of Mexicans and I'm sure walked out with their money. On the way home to his motel he was hit with a two by four, and remembered no more until he awoke with the broken bone. (and probably no money.) Anyway back to Diana. I was so amazed when she got up to play pool as she was steady as a rock and made fantastic shots. Terry was quite proud of her and I was dumb founded that she could do it after all my negative thinking about her brain cells.

Robert used love the game until his major leg problems. I don't think he has attempted to play since. Sometimes I watch the champion games with him and I like the woman's compositions best. I tried to get my boys to teach me pool and it was rather hilarious. Terry was very patient with me but Robert was so frustrated when we would play once a year that I couldn't remember what he had taught me the year before. I thought his expectations were rather unrealistic. You were a natural, I thought, and it's too bad you gave it up after Pierre.

Connie said...

You never cease to amaze me.........


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