Game can be lifelikeDo you play pool? I do, not because I’m good at it, but because I have a pool table and it keeps begging me to “rack ‘em.”
By: By Kevin Holten, The Dickinson Press
Do you play pool? I do, not because I’m good at it, but because I have a pool table and it keeps begging me to “rack ‘em.”
It’s old, at least 120 years and very big, probably the biggest in the state, featuring more green than the Badlands Activities Center has turf and the north 40 has pasture.
I’m serious, this pool table is so long that you can lay a basketball team on it lengthwise and still have room for half a pool cue that you unscrew and keep in a leather case to make it look like you know what you’re doing when you walk into a pool hall. In fact, it’s so big that you could shoot the cue ball from a cannon during breakfast and still have it barely tap the tip of those racked balls by noon.
Plus it weighs more than a completely full cement truck and everything on it rolls to the southwest, which is why I like to shoot it hard, so as to overcome any gravitational pull and give myself a chance to make it in at least three or four other pockets, in case I miss the first one, which I frequently do.
If you can win on this table you can dominate any other, simply because every other table seems like a dwarf, Shetland or some kind of miniature, or like you’re a second baseman that went from the big leagues back down to the minors. In fact, if it was a pair of men’s pants, it’d be sold at a “big and tall” store rather than J.C. Penney or, if it was a vehicle, it’d be sold out of a motor home or trailer lot rather than a car lot.
The pockets are leather, repaired and repaired again, and can only hold so many pool balls and you’ve got to pack a lunch and hike around the whole thing in order to dig them all out and send them back down to the other end for the next game. Which is why you can only play about five or six games in a 24-hour period and also why we to refer to playing on it as, “aerobic pool.”
Meanwhile, this table completely destroys the “keep one foot on the floor at all times” rule, sometimes requiring you to lay completely lengthwise on the southeast end in order to make the eight ball into the corner pocket to the northwest, to win the game. And women love any man that can sink a long shot, from one corner to the other, over that much green, especially with velocity. They love him more than they love a man on a Harley, on a bucking horse or in a Chippendale’s lineup, because to win on this table it takes a real “man,” not some snake oil salesman or a dancer from the Carnival Cruise Lines.
As to where it came from, I have no clue, but it’s otherworldly, like it was played on by the gods who were giants and then dropped it from heaven; it’s as much like a regular pool table as a man is like a boy, a Caterpillar like a riding lawn mower and a water tower like a 5-gallon bucket.
The bumpers are so old and “bumped” that you can never be certain which angle the ball is going to come off at; like your kid’s baseball ricocheting off the jagged-edged rock barbecue in the back yard or the big green monster in Boston’s Fenway Park.
It could fly anywhere, simultaneously eliminating all cockiness and arrogance residing within the pool participants, be they Minnesota Fats or Johnny Archer.
Plus, as if you were putting on a golf green, you have to compensate for the roll, or go with it, sometimes using it to your advantage, and other times watching it rob you of your victory like a druggie who steals money from the register at a nearby convenience store.
Either way, it’s interesting, adds intrigue and drama, and allows you to dominate while letting you know that you can always be dominated.
In fact, it’s a lot like life that way, unpredictable, demanding, frustrating, stupid and unfair, and seasoned with occasional glimpses of victory, glory, ecstasy and awe.
You find yourself trusting nothing and no one, taking things as they come and following Theodore Roosevelt’s suggestion to, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”
That’s about all you can do; unless, of course, in life you do it with love and that’s when it starts to mean something.
Holten is a freelance columnist and cartoonist from Dickinson.