Tuesday, September 9, 2008

My Greatest Game of Pool: Seattle 1987

Let me set this up properly. When I was in Seattle I was in a deep no good drunk-and-stoned-most-of-the-time depression. I'd dropped out of the Iowa Writers Workshop, I'd gone back to the beach in Florida's panhandle (Walton County) to live with Tee and that had ended very badly. I'd driven by myself in my ugly powder blue Ford Maverick from Pensacola to L.A. and up to Seattle in the middle of winter. Seattle was--of course--gray and rainy and I lived with Matt and Brock in a junked-out apartment in Queen Anne next door to Brock's father's print shop (where I worked briefly). I slept of the floor. The downstairs of this building was used for storage for the shop, but the only kitchen was down there and so when we made meals we had to take our plates and silverware and drinks and go out one front door, turn, go inside the other front door and up the narrow stairs into the dusty unkempt old place. There was no shower, just one bathroom with a single white unclean tub. I lived out of my duffel bag. I was down, almost out, and we wandered the slick streets of Seattle being absurd and acerbic and getting drunk in lowly bars (many which are no longer there).
I was a failure. Unhappy, forlorn and not even getting laid.
I first worked at a restaurant (Duke's) as a damned busboy when I got to Seattle, then at the print shop. I'd left, went up to Bellingham to live and write to stay, but that fell through and I came scurrying back. I worked remodeling the apartment, which only made the place worse as rooms were sealed off with sheets of plastic and dust and debris settled everywhere. I was going broke and getting worse.
We had our places: the Mecca for late breakfasts and Bloody Marys; the Ginza, Sorry Charlie's, the Otter--the rundown Seafarer's Lounge on 1st Street--and other bars whose names I can no longer recall for drinking; the Safeway up the street on First Avenue West for groceries (cheap fatty bacon cuts with grits was a staple) and cases of cheap cheap Heidelburg beer; Matt got pot from some source or another. But the main watering hole we went to was an Irish bar. A pub, maybe Dave's Irish Pub, and I can't for the life of me remember it's name. Maybe I've purposely placed it out of my memory. Anyway, the Irish Pub was where we hung out and knew the bartenders (Greg was a true Irishmen and became a great friend of Matt's--he also was a alcoholic and eventually almost died from it and he and Matt got into great amounts of serious trouble, even wanted by police at one point, over the years) and some of the cliental. 
  So I was deep into my internal misery by the time--at the Irish Pub--I played my greatest pool game ever.
The bar was half-crowded and a group of younger people came in, two guys and two girls. Like I said, I wasn't getting laid in Seattle and of course I perked up seeing the females. I was drunk. They were semi-drunk, maybe not even so much as that. Matt and Brock were there, but we were playing singles and I had the table. I've never been the best pool player in the world. I could be quite good, but had a tendency to get bored with the game, to lose interest down the stretch. (I recall the days in Iowa City, at the Vine especially, when Brock and I would team up and win and win all night long even though we were bad players; we had some kind of good game karma at the Vine.) And, as said, I was not in a good frame of mind personally, so even my pool game had been off for months. But we talked to the new group of people. I tried flirting with one of the girls--even though they were with the guys--but it went nowhere. Big surprise. But that girls guy put his quarters down and we started the game of eight ball at the Irish Pub.
And I played horribly. Stinkily. Bad bad bad. I hadn't sunk a single ball and he had made all of his but one. I watched me beating me and quaffed my Red Hook beer--expensive beer I shouldn't have been buying--and knew I was going down to an embarrassing defeat. And the girl was watching the game the whole time. Finally the guy missed a shot, on the eight--my many balls in his way, no doubt--and I went up for my last round.
I hadn't made a ball. I was gone if I didn't make some now, at least to save face.
But the feeling came over me. A feeling like at the Vine in Iowa City. I had nothing to lose, really. I had nothing but open green, since he had conveniently shot all of his balls into the pockets. And I hunkered down, aimed my cue, and began to drop my spheres into the pockets like they wanted to go there. Like gravity was pulling them into the six black holes on the table. Man, I could not miss.
I just smiled. Took a shot. Drank some beer. Smiled. Took a shot. Drank some beer. He and his girl watched me and I could see him sweat. Could see the girl interested in me now. I was down to a few balls left but felt no pressure. And I made one, made one more, so that all that was left on the green felt was the eight.
"Call your shot."
"Call the shot. Or do you want to play bank it only?"
"I was going to call my shot," I said. "It's a little late to play bank the eight but . . ." And I didn't give a damn. I thought I'd lose and I'd redeemed myself, so, if he wanted to add late rules, so be it. "Okay."
My only possible bank was a long one--across the far table and back to hit the eight and drop it in--the long-cue-ball-first kind of bank. And, without further ado, I let it fly.
In went the eight. Cue ball was safe. I'd won the game. The patrons of the Irish Pub in lower Queen Anne in Seattle cheered (those that were watching, that is). And I was delighted.
My competitor was pissed. The girl came over, facing me, said, "That was great", her eyes lit, swimming with alcoholic intoxication and admiration, sexually flirtatious, until her partner gently grabbed her by the shoulders and directed her away.
And that was it. My big game. My single savory moment of an otherwise unsavory existence that year. . . Oh, sure, I had plenty of fun and good times in Seattle--I love Seattle, as I've said before--but that was a moment I still recall quite clearly out of the rainy gloom. And it isn't much, really. So I came from behind, ran the table, and won a freaking pool game? So some girl briefly shined her bright eyes at me? So the people at the bar on that one miserable night gave me a little cheer? So?
So, it was a goddamn great game of pool, that's what it was.

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