Tuesday, February 9, 2010


I'm a fucking no-balls cocksucker.

Let me back up. I'd been playing an overly-friendly Jewish lawyer, a man who claimed to have heard of my boss via a hamburger documentary my boss had no involvement in, a man who had the annoying habit of announcing each of his misses with a sharp "nope", a man who was a life-long New Yorker bitching about how Amsterdam's best days were behind it, a man who was so cordial and friendly I had no business being agitated by him so recognizing this made me even more agitated(what kind of horrible person am I?), a man who was playing even with me, a man in a tiebreaker in me, a man lining up the match-winning nine ball after I had missed a long shot into the corner pocket.

A shot I should have made, but missed - badly. I'm a fucking no-balls cocksucker, I thought, rounding the table to slouch in my chair while the lawyer unwrapped the gift I'd left him. And he did, but as the final ball dropped, I looked past him, and saw a face.

A beautiful, smiling face, half-ducking because she thought she might distract me if I saw her. Alex stood next to her, laughing. I'd lost 6-7 in a tiebreaker. I'd been up 3-0 in nine-ball, then my opponent got a nine on the break, fluked a nine ball in the corner, and barely avoided scratching on a combo attempt the next game to even the race at 3-3. I'd played like shit half the time. Walking around the table after missing a match-winning shot, a crucial shot, a shot that I could grab, pin and use to label myself as "clutch"...I was shaking my head, cursing myself. No-balls...no-balls cocksucker. Then I saw her face.

Seeing her face, I was happy. Really happy. Drinking with her at the bar later, I felt like a winner. A real winner.


My team had a rough night. Besides my loss, Alex had lost 3-5, playing a three. Giving up three balls is tough, especially to someone who shoots glacially slow. Jen had lost 4-7, Princeton(subbing for a vacationing Mike) lost by the same score. We dropped from third to fifth.

We drank to forget our troubles. Well, Alex, Andi and I drank. Jen left, and Princeton was playing with his fiance in the back of Amsterdam. No shots this time, only beer: Heineken for Alex, Guinness for Andi, and Budweiser for me. I'm not sure why I drink Bud; I give all sorts of reasons: makes me feel American, it's cheap, even the aesthetic appeal of the goddamn label. I love that Andi drinks Guinness. No strong opinions on Alex's choice of Heineken.

Amsterdam was dead when I had arrived just prior to our nine o'clock match time, but now, close to eleven, it was jammed - jammed with annoying, loud people.


Someone was actually shouting beer.


Jesus Christ. I couldn't really hear Andi or Alex. We left after two drinks. I walked with Andi to a cab, kissed her and said goodbye. I couldn't wait to see her the next night. I also had to pee.

It was after midnight. Could I hold it for the 45 plus minutes it would take to get back to my apartment?

I started walking back towards Amsterdam. The bartender looked at me, eyebrows raised and apart, as I hurriedly hit the head. I came back, saw that the shouting dipshits had left, and made my usual unwise Wednesday decision: Hell, I may as well stay for one more beer.

Sophia, the bartender, gave me the first beer for free. That's why it was the first, and not the only. I had two more. With Amsterdam cleared out, Sophia had time to talk. I gushed about Andi, she told me about a great date she'd had recently, we traded relationship war-stories, and compared frequency of trips home(we are both from Maryland, funnily enough) .

It was almost two-thirty when I left. I still couldn't wait to see Andi the next day.

Friday, February 5, 2010

The Price Of Mutiny

A new team, a new name: Different Strokes. I suggested TMI, but Alex and I decided that might be too obvious. Our old captain was still in the league(though we wouldn't find out he'd switched to Wednesday nights too until later), why risk even more awkwardness?

Looking at the league standings, it's strange not to see our old team name. When matches are called, I have to remind myself what our new team name is. The price of mutiny.

The actual playing on Wednesday nights instead of Tuesdays hasn't taking much adjusting to - the two aren't that different, in the context of the work-week. Same Amsterdam crowd, just different faces. The cocktail waitress is now the bartender; the bartender now circles the hall with her little tray. Which is fine with me, because I get along better with the Wednesday bartender. Chris still announces the matches in the same place, with the same jokes(that are still funny).

The only new thing(mostly) are the opponents. The first week we played some familiar faces, but scanning the team rosters, I knew they were the exception. Tonight, I faced off against Cho, an 8 I'd never played before. Alex and Jen were playing even, while Mike was spotted a ball.

Cho told me he'd taken a season off, but was no stranger to league play. That was obvious when the houseman, Steve, knew him on sight. He was pleasant without being too talkative - the perfect opponent. Small talk, game talk, and nothing else.

Now, as I've explained before, the league uses a handicap system to keep games competitive between players of different levels. I'm a 7, and Cho was an 8, so I had a one ball advantage in eight-ball; I could take the last ball in my group off the table without having to shoot it. This is a big advantage.

Or at least it would have been if in the midst of running the table I hadn't forgotten about the handicap. Confidently lining up a shot on my last ball, I thought about the easy position I would have on the eight, and how great it was running out the first game. Then Cho rose slightly from his seat.

"...um, sorry, but you have to take that ball off."

I sat up, looked at Cho, and laughed.


Sighing, I dropped my last ball(the two) into the corner pocket, heard it crack into the ball return, and gazed at my now shitty position: instead of shooting the two and following for an easy eight ball, I had a table-length bank.

"Yeah sorry about that, if you shot it would be a foul, and who wants to win that way?"

I liked this guy; he could have taken the foul but chose to let me save face and have a chance at winning. I missed the bank, though, and he won the game.

Chuckling to myself, I took a swig of water and sat down. This could be the start a long night, I thought.


It wasn't, though. Cho was either ranked too high or was having an off night. I won eight-ball 3-2, and nine-ball 4-1.

Talking with Mike about our matches back at the bar(He'd won 5-2 and had his handicap raised by Chris, which wasn't surprising because Mike was winning over 70% of his games), I was surprised when he closed out his tab without ordering a post-match Stella, then I remembered he was going to India for three weeks. I told him I'd hook him up with my friend Ian, who was in Mumbai, knowing Mike would come back with some epic tales. I tried to talk him into staying for one drink; I wanted him to meet Andi. Andi...a girl I'd been on a couple dates with. Beautiful, smart, sweet, witty - and coming by for some drinks. I'd met Mike's new girlfriend, Beth, so it only felt appropriate. He had to trip-prep, though, but he'd meet Andi eventually. I had a good feeling about her.

After Mike left, I recapped the night with Alex, Jen and her boyfriend. Alex had lost 3-7, Jen 6-7 in a tiebreaker. Still, overall our team was 21-19 on the night, and still in third place.

"My opponent took so long to shoot," Alex said. "So I kept ordering beers, and lost focus."

"Maybe that was his strategy, when he realized he couldn't out shoot you," I replied.

Alex laughed. "Yeah maybe, because he couldn't."

Jen was quiet, because Jen is always quiet. Chris jokes that he hasn't heard her say a full sentence yet. That's probably true. Her boyfriend was equally quiet. Now, Jen's boyfriend has a name. It's Casey. I had forgotten that, though, when Andi arrived. We kissed hello and I made the introductions:

"Andi, this is my friend Alex, this is Jen, and this is Jen's boyfriend....," I trailed off, hand extended in Casey's general direction.

"Casey," he finally said.

Whoops. Andi broke the uncomfortable silence:

"I have to tell you about my day, something happened."

"Uh-oh, it this a good something or a bad something?"

"Good," Andi said smiling, a rich, deep, beautiful smile...but ANYWAY. "I had just been to Starbucks and I was standing on the corner. Suddenly, I felt a tap on the shoulder and a voice says 'Excuse me, where'd you get the Starbucks?', I turn around and it's Al Roker!"

"Al Roker? Wow!"

"Yeah! So at first I'm exactly like that, 'Wow, Al Roker!', then I just told him where the Starbucks was."

I smiled. She smiled. This is the start of something good, I thought.

Jen and *Casey* soon left, leaving Andi, Alex and I to drink and talk. We ended up doing three shots of tequila while joking about Andi and Alex facing off in a drinking contest. I already knew I couldn't keep up with Alex, and Andi out drank her English co-workers when she worked in London. I was a lightweight sitting between Ali and Frazier.

But it wouldn't happen tonight. Andi stopped with the third shot, but I ordered a fourth for me and Alex because we hadn't been out drinking in a while. I changed it up though, and ordered Jack Daniels.

That wasn't the best idea I'd ever had - especially on a work night. My judgement would be even more questionable a week later.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Now On Wednesdays (Mutiny!)

Teams break-up for a lot of reasons. Sometimes people lose interest. Understandable - pool isn't for everyone. Sometimes a common time-slot can't be agreed upon. This is New York City, everyone is busy; it can be hard to nail down four people for something once a month, let alone once every week. Other times, the chemistry just isn't there. Not everyone gets along, there's a personality conflict, an inability to relate...or, in my team's case, the team captain turns out to be a borderline sexual harasser, compulsive sharer of too much information, and gives everyone the willies. Which in a pool hall - with its usual cast of derelicts and scoundrels - is no easy feat.

Take my first opponent of the winter season. Married, with kids, yet he talked to everything with a vagina that walked by. But his case of the bitches aside, I could talk to him. He was charming in a roguish kind of way. I was never creeped out, and at least half of the women he accosted enjoyed the attention. And he never pushed things past personal boundaries.

This was not the case with our former captain. Every night had a level of awkwardness that swayed between uncomfortable silence and clunky conversation to abject revulsion. Maybe we were too judgmental(but probably not).

Either way, for the winter season, the team lineup is me, Alex, Mike, and our newest member Jen. We mutinied over to Wednesday nights, hoping to avoid awkward encounters with our former leader.

Of course, he joined a Wednesday team too. Game on.


As I said, my first opponent was a pussy-hound. No shame in that(depending who you ask), but it did make for an extremely slow match. He flirted with the waitress every time she passed by(and I'll admit, I didn't mind that this kept a beautiful blonde at the table for at least five minutes at a time).

He had played Alex the season before, playing well above his six rating. Smoothly telling Alex he didn't usually play this well, he ran out the first game of eight-ball and didn't look back. That rubbed Alex the wrong way, and he was pissed after he lost the match. Talking to the guy later at the bar, I could see why Alex hated him, though in person he was almost impossible to hate to his face. He was polite with a facade of modesty. He oozed used-car salesman charm. I tried to act surprised when he told me he was currently a broker; I didn't have to act when he told me he used to dance professionally for the Metropolitan Opera. He hit on a trio of twenty-something girls pre-gaming for a night at Webster Hall moments after telling me about his triplets. If he was on my team, I probably would have liked him; called him a 'devilish rogue', doing shots while noting which waitresses were the cutest.

He wasn't on my team though, and this night, I wanted to beat the crap out of him. Enact some revenge on behalf of Alex. And I did(sort of).

I won 6-5, but it should have been 7-4 or 7-3. And by "should" I really mean "could" which really means "I fucked up, but I have an excuse I half believe".

I was clearly the more-skilled player, even though I dropped the first game of eight-ball. From there, I won three straight, making some impressive shots. We were on Table 11, which had tight pockets. Knowing that bothered my opponent, and it kinda bothered me, but I was still making the shots I should make. Until nine-ball, anyway.

Our match was almost two-hours old by the time we got to nine-ball. He took frequent bathroom breaks. He yammered on about his name, his kids, his wife - in addition to the flirting, this was putting us in danger of finishing sometime around 10:45(after a 7:45 start time!).

After winning my third game, ensuring I'd win the match 6-5 worst case, I said(well, thought) fuck it, and dismissed any competitive imperative I might have had three hours earlier.

The worst case ended up coming true when I, hungry and tired, jawed a nine-ball. I shook his hand, wished my best to his damn wife and kids, went to the bar and ordered some food and a beer. Hunger won out over fatigue, but by the thinnest of margins - I was slumping and eating with sloth-like speed after my boneless buffalo wings finally arrived. I tried my best to engage Mike in conversation. He and Alex had won, our newest member Jen had lost in a tiebreaker, making for a much better start then the last two seasons.

It was after midnight when I got home. I put my cue in the corner, dropped my things, let my jacket slide off and crumple to the floor, fell into my bed and to sleep. I woke up a half-hour later, managing to get undressed and hang up my coat, retaining some kind of civilized dignity.

I was exhausted, and it was only the first week.