Monday, March 29, 2010

Dogs that play the piano and other mysteries

A couple of weekends ago I participated in a late St. Paddy's Day pub crawl. I wasn't particularly in the mood to drink all day, but I had a friend who insisted I keep her company. So I agreed to stick around, and we would move along to the next destination a half hour or so ahead of everyone else to get some time to catch up, and warn the bartenders that they were about to be inundated by the temporarily Irish.

Fortunately, for me the last three stops of the crawl had pool tables.

For the final stop, we were a good hour ahead of everyone else, and my friend and I got in some good conversation, and some half way decent pool, on a pool table that was so bad it was probably still in the bar because it would cost more to get rid of it than to just keep it there. Once the crowd appeared, I played one game, and then was prepared to sit down, as there weren't really any serious pool players in the bunch. Earlier in the day, after I had held the table for awhile, people stopped wanting to play, so I just stepped aside to let others have a turn.

As I was about to give up the table, some guy came up and put quarters on the rail. I told him that the table was open (not because the pool was free, but the whole ball return & coin mechanism were completely broken), and that he could have the table and play whoever he wanted to. He said, "No. I want to play you."

We played several games, and then some doubles. He was actually very good, even in his inebriated state. But I was having a pretty good day, making banks caroms, kicking balls in...which was particularly surprising because the table was so bad.

At one point he said: "So, did your Dad play pool?" "No. He bowled." He contemplated this for awhile.

Ten minutes later, "Are you sure your Dad didn't play pool? How about your older brother?" "Nope." He furrowed his brow, finding this very confusing. As he was racking, he looked up and asked, "Boyfriend? Did you/do you have a boyfriend who plays pool?" I shook my head. Again, puzzlement.

At some point, you might imagine that he would ask if my mother or sister had played pool, but no such luck. Several times he returned to trying to get me to admit that my dad, brother or boyfriend had taught me to play. As I was leaving the bar, he tried one last seemed to defy all expectation, like seeing a dog play the piano: a woman shooting a half-way decent game of pool. The only possible explanation was there must be a male mastermind behind such a pygmalionesque creation.

Of course, I've learned a lot from both men and women: instructors, teammates, and the few months when Coach helped me. I guess if I had to really pick the most influential, I'd have to say that a few good lessons early on when I started and then a few years of league pool gave me a foundation. But so much of what I know wasn't given to me by a mentor figure, but by hours alone at the table, or watching matches over the internet, and studying DVD's and books on my own.

I was so amused, I never gave him an explanation, but let him ponder this strange phenomenon, like what is the sound of one hand clapping or how could a creature without a Y-chromosome use a pointy stick to put balls into holes?

If all I ever accomplish with my mediocre pool game, is to have confused the hell out of this poor drunken soul, I will consider it all worth it.