I remember how I laughed the first time I was that on my pool-player
buddy's tee shirt ... back when I was still a novitiate to the
fields of green; back when pool was just a recreational pastime; before
I understood it is as infinite as time and space, bound only by table
time. Before I discovered it is a green door to a community, to a
gathering of some of the most unique individuals I have encountered
in a lifetime filled with many really unique individuals.
The game of pool (I cringe saying that) has some interesting side effects. Talent, or lack of; ego, or abundance of; attitude, even or odd; these things tend to level the field of acceptance. Think about it. Look at the behaviors, attitudes and even personalities that are tolerated regularly within our "game" environment that would (and often do) otherwise create social loners. The world of green - the world of endless challenge - where we are really only competing against our ouwn ability to do that which we know and feel. The world where we expose our whole psyche on the felt each time we shoot. The world where we acknowledge and applaud the beauty and finesse of someone's game regardless of the someone. The Great Common Endeavor.
Recently, this amazing commonality of community was brought home to me. My best friend, my beacon light into the unknown world of greens, my buddy who often exclaimed how great the pool community is, died. Gathered to celebrate him were 200 of his "community". Friends, many of whom like me had gotten to know him on and around the felt. Unique people who would otherwise probably never gather together, bound initially by the love of the game, missing a small piece of the whole. These ties that bind are round rolling orbs that spin into our hearts and minds.
Truly, marbles IS a game.
Holidays. Family and friends. So many degrees of friendship.
There are social friends; there are work friends; there are cool
friends and pool friends (sometimes the same); there are old friends,
good friends and, hopefully, good old friends. Someone we know
casually may gift us with the surprise of understanding when we most
need it. Someone we trust may deny us nurturing when we are most
vulnerable. Sometimes a glance at someone new to our life reveals a
gossamer binding of spirits that will endure a lifetime, genderless
and strong. Sometimes enduring relationships are constructs of
persistence and history.
On its face, friendship seems to glow with its own clarity. Either it is present or it is not.
It is said we are lucky if, at the ends of our lives, we can count 5 true friends. So, to define friendship - let's see… A friend is someone who is nice to us. That is about 90% of those we come into contact with. Hmm. A friend is someone we care about. That is probably at least half of those we see regularly. A friend is someone we trust. Ah! Perhaps this will clear things up. Let's see. We trust one with our car and our finances, but not with our confidences. We trust another with our heartsecrets but not with taking care of our kids or our money. We trust yet another with our lives but not with understanding our vulnerabilities. So, that criteria also has many facets. Or, a friend is someone who is there for us. A surprise package, that. Unconditional quickly becomes corralled within tight parameters, whether our own or theirs, intentional or not. Regardless of parameters, friendship is the prism for celebrating each person's vibrant colors.
The one certainty is that we each will be whoever we are. So, as Forrest Gump's mother might have said - friendship is like a box of chocolates. I wish you each a lovely replenishing box of "chocolates" for the holidays, enough to last and sweeten your lives always. Merry Christmas.
One of the very best parts of playing pool, in addition to the
mystique and sheer fun of it, is all the new beginnings. Think about
it. Each time we approach a table, we have the opportunity to start
a run of success. We have the chance to leave behind our paltry
performances of the past, and let out our inner Willie Mosconi. We
have lovingly, painfully nurtured that embryo from our first
tentative strokes. Pool players are by nature, but not always
obviously, very optimistic personalities. We never cease to
hope/believe that THIS time we will find the zone and stay there for
the duration. Just give me ONE MORE chance at the table!! Just wait
until I BREAK again!! Oh, boy, am I going to play a GREAT safe on
this character, NEXT time I get to the table...
Pool! Each shot, each turn at the table, each game and match, is a world of its own, orchestrated rhythms of clack and thunk; the quickening pulse of our dedication. One pure stroke can be both the doorway and the magic kingdom beyond. One sweetly finessed shot, one perfect pattern can turn the tides, in our confidence, in the opponent, in the outcome. We unceasingly believe in the possibilities, certain we have yet to attain our highest level. And we are right. The sirens sing to us from that place - that place of perfect stroke and instinctual understanding. Sometimes we crash on the rocks; sometimes we serenely sail into safe harbor.
I have always looked at pool as a microcosm of the worlds we each inhabit. Some of us are a-mazed, complicating our path with dead ends, wrong turns and great confusion. Some travel around the world to cross the street, running when stopping is better. Others of us pick our way through simply, doing what we can and accepting what is given us. Some slip and slide in and around, not warping the pattern while weaving a masterpiece. Others are construction workers - hammers and saws, rebuilding again and again in pursuit of an ending that will stand. Some are magicians and some are drones. But we each believe in fresh starts. Beginning and ending and beginning again, spinning as surely through these seasons of cycles as the balls over the felt.
I wish you each a New Year filled with many new beginnings, magical paths and a wealth of good endings. Happy New Year!
February - Valentine's Day. Hearts and flowers for our
sweethearts of choice. Life christens us with a bounteous bouquet
of choices. Sometimes we consciously craft those decisions, and
sometimes our hearts play Captain. Choose to follow or to lead;
choose to run; choose to hold real still. Sometimes we refuse
accountability for those choices; sometimes we rejoice at being
given the light to see our destiny. Sometimes we listen to the
Spirit; sometimes we run raving away, covering our ears like the
first little monkey. (No - I am not going to discuss what the
other two little monkeys were doing!)
Pool is such an exercise in choices. Chalk. Cue. Locale. Opponent. Partner. Team. All that, just to get to the table. Then infinite paisleys of patterns array and display for us on the break - after we choose which break to use! Serious players are not usually afloat in the USS Wishy-Washy - though we sometimes bob about in its wake. Our cue is the rudder guiding us through a plethora of choices - obviously not unerringly, or we would all be pros!
I sometimes believe that pool is a great natural therapy device. (Yes, I know many of us probably NEED therapy - sometimes not until after we have played this game for a time...). The sight and sound of the balls spinning, clacking, falling, is comforting and calming. Visceral satisfaction is found in making good choices - great safeties and table runs are our friends. The pocketing of balls - a visual putting away of things; making order of chaos; patiently parting the pattern from its colorful camouflage. Even the frustration this all sometimes engenders has a balance within it. Pool is, after all, another snapshot in time of our "other" life; that life where felt implies feelings and not greens; where our choices guide us onto or away from the path to fulfillment, not only to the successful completion of the project at hand. Balance beckons from within and from without (which is undoubtedly why there is both 8-Ball and 9-Ball!).
Well, here is to good choices and fun "therapy"! Happy Valentine's Day from one li'l sweetheart to all you others!
On a fine brisk evenin’ near sundown
I wandered over cue in hand to me pub.
There the folk were all runnin’ ‘round
Gigglin’ and laughin’ - quite a hubbub.
I looked and I peeked tryin’ to see
What could possibly create such a stir.
There was naught I found in the melee
But a small bouncin’ bit o’ blur.
As we all gathered near to the scene
Wantin’ to stand close off center-ring,
We spied right there on our own pool green
A wee leprechaun wildly dancin’ the fling!
Now, of course, we’d had a bit o’ the suds
And our eyes perhaps weren’t reliable
But he was wearin’ a wee darlin’ set o’ duds
And was holdin’ a cue - testifiable!
First, he would hold that cue and hop over.
Then he’d wriggle about and bend in the limbo.
He did very near all but roll over
Til he was frazzled and his clothes all akimbo.
We worried the poor laddie was tipsy
And might totter off o’ the table.
With all that whirlin’ like a crazy gypsy
He surely could not be very stable!
He finally wobbled and came down to a stop.
Grinnin’ broadly, he reached for the chalk.
Twirled twice round that cue, then he flopped.
Asked of us, "Anyone shoot or are ye all talk?"
Of course a challenge like that was too much.
Our game honor demanded we defend.
We eyed one another for this clutch.
This time on luck we could not depend!
So all our best we did gather together -
One to be bridge, one to smooth stroke.
But he and his game were birds of a feather.
Quickly went all our hopes up his pipe smoke.
The moral of this long sad pool lament
Is certifiably true and concrete.
If too far down the beer path you went
Don’t play leprechauns that spry on their feet!
Happy St. Paddy’s!