On my thirteenth birthday or there about, I came home from school to have my mother lead me downstairs into our recently almost completed recreation room, to present me with a top of the line, brand spanking new, 4 by 8 pool table. How she ever came to this idea, I will forever be grateful and sacrifice every gift I’ve ever received, to what became my lifelong hobby. I suspect her capacity for craft and thrift, induced an effort to kill two birds with one stone. She was an avid dressmaker, sower and knitter so the pool table served the dual purpose of workstation, by simply covering the top with a firm plywood board. She loved shopping for fabric and patterns to maintain an active use of her collection of industry quality machinery. My sisters served as models to dresses and I tended to be the recipient of winter wool sweaters. The pocket billiard table was to become an adventure into the unknown and if my initial enthusiasm was lacking, that changed as I began assessing the games charm and complexities.
On occasion, relatives of the rural kind, would test my mantle by pushing a pistol or rifle into my hands and suggest I take the life of rodent or varmint. I couldn’t do it. City born living had quashed my desire to eliminate a cat or wolf or Richardson’s ground squirrel, primarily for the sake of protecting crops or livestock, but included sport. I received the shrugging of my cousin’s disapproving shoulder’s with embarrassment, as I manipulated the situation into wasting ammo on inanimate stationary target’s. Here in Toronto my Godfather was an avid hunter with the Slovenian Hunters lodge and served for many years, first as director, then as chairman. I had ample opportunity to hunt in Ontario for dear, moose, or rabbit but never had stomach, for joining my dad and others of our clan, on these northern expeditions. Without the inherent violence of hunting, billiards served as substitute for my desire of shooting, with the practicality of living in a city. I had other strong interests and always work, but because I loved pool so much, I began excelling with the intricacies of the game where the real joy lies, as with all things, great.
Billiard’s or pool, at the highest level’s is a sophisticated, intelligent, physical and psychological battle against the widest spectrum of, to be adversaries. To become a world class shooter you need to acquire ability, through volumes of practice and experience, by seeking out players of better quality and varying approaches. The price demanded by the hierarchy for pilfering of said craftsmanship, is cold hard currency. The larger your arsenal of skills, or as I refer to them, weapons, evolved your strategies, nimble the awareness and creative your game, the more difficult it becomes to defeat you. It comes that time, where you are aware, of only a hand full of players that can still challenge your game. In Toronto for me that time came to realization between 1987 to about 1997.
To be an achieved player, initially the springboard to success favours the loner. Being similar, to perfecting a musical instrument, whereby endless hours of trial and error beckons an endless allocation of time to self absorbing practice. You become hermit. To have chance at the long road to master, you love it and all consequence is surrendered. Intermittently you will marvel at air and breathing, or sun and tanning. Then as if butterfly escaping cocoon, you set forth, in quest for refinement and the required teaching, repetitive failure, biting lip advice and the criticism that only harsh defeat can bring, to open yourself to interpretation, in hopes of gaining insight, perspective and intuition. To be a high quality player asks for the examination of all things, in particular those elements that are outside of the game itself. You can not plan to draw a line at some arbitrary point and decide I’ve completed learning, for it would deter you as an absorbing student. To fail, implies any amount of weaknesses that can’t be overcome or aren’t understood. A missing mathematical equation against a well tutored and practiced opponent is easily exploited. The very good seem lucky, because they eliminate the chance of failure and maximize on the potential for success. They exert by ambition, drive, and tenacity a tremendous amount of pressure, on an opponent, effortlessly.
I was recognized as a quick, smooth skating, with excellent foot and stick work, hockey player. Leading scorer or vying. In Canada we have many of these. Father had me playing at Saint Michael’s Arena by age five with the downtown elite Toronto Olympic Hockey Club. Many pro-players, some great, came through this organization. Summer’s I spent in power skating school, at a place if anyone is alive to recall, named Tam O’Shanter, (burned down) the grateful recipient of NHL tutelage. The truth be told I was partial to the grace of figure-skating and dance-skating (also as an aside fencing) observing with keen admiration, the skills training that ran concurrently in the adjoining rinks. Unfortunately, developmentally to be proficient in these disciplines, would require more than passing fancy. My growth spurt came late and I was beginning to suffer serious injury, that logically accompanies six foot tall 180 pound, fourteen year old defencemen with sadist streak. I recall one in particular, whose parent’s appropriately named, Houston. I’d come out of the corner boards as if mauled by African wildlife, by these type’s of ucker’s. I was sadly suspecting that it wasn’t going to happen, this dream I shared with my father of becoming pro. In hind sight, there may have been a chance, be it miniscule and would have required regimented devotion to weight-lifting. Some of my friends were training on a regular basis and I could only gag-on, the concept of. I preferred hours on the billiard table as opposed to the gym. So by my nineteenth I was a sniper shot, unaware of my quality and not caring, because for me billiard’s was an escape from people and school and the overall rat-race of ambition. My hockey career had produced a broken wrist, cracked ankle, intense facial damage, and all around bruising of the torso and legs. The positive that I garnered from these injuries is genetically I heal rapidly, as athlete’s are likely to do, because of increased strength and speed in metabolism.
It was quickly approaching and I was deferring, actually kicking and screaming from the required decision making, the course my higher studies should aspire to, at the conclusion of high school. I was the consummate procrastinator. The recurring theme was social worker, teacher and my secondary choices of journalism or politics as this was consistent with my second obsession, with foreign affairs and history. My high school friends and classmates, to avoid words used on the street, with diminishing (geeks) derogatory fashion, these types, were the intellectuals. I wasn’t hanging with the athletes, the should be natural alliance, or the artists or the pot heads, well any of the factions every school has. The kids I spent time with at lunch, met before school should I choose to go, talked with on school trips or related personal trips, with rare exception, became executives, presidents and vice, lead arbitrage, law firm partners, and as example, to corporation such as IBM, Bombardier, now merged Wood Gundy, other U.S. brokerage houses and Canadian banks. I was Black Sheep. They were securing their future and destiny, I was nomadic, directionless and lost. When I became waiter, I wilfully surrendered to the arbitrary totem-pole of professions and in North America wouldn’t even be considered worthy of any such standing or profile. Personally I never felt shamed despite the stigma, however, the pressure of miscalculating my future weighed heavy. It was as if I prematurely completed school with the worst possible grades but graduated and sent myself to placement.
Pool cue in one hand, serving tray in the other, became my sword and shield on the front lines of mankind’s self-created, by willful ignorance, battlefield, disguised by the presumption of peace. My perspective concludes that the world is constantly at war. Across all income levels mankind at his core is a ruthless animal with periodic stumbles into sympathy or compassion and these too are often used as tools for deceit and survival. Everyone, given enough time to interact, will eventually be recognized as friend or foe. The middle, grey area is only a stage or orbit of interaction, waiting for assessment. My philosophical position’s and statement’s have been visited and revisited by historical scholastic thinker’s from time infinitum. My aim here isn’t to challenge or dissect their position’s and should you have sincere curiosity, university, or a journey of personal research awaits, the study of my regurgitated beliefs.
My new found job and now always hobby, contributed to changing the dynamics of my life. Instead of isolation or feeling always as outsider, hardly a unique phenomena for large portions of the population, I was required to interact with people and fight through insecurities to maintain employment. “You have to take the good with the bad”, well the surprise for me, the bad after considerable effort, turned good. If I was a self described social outcast, the business of restaurant’s opened new and interesting observations about the world and myself in it. Similarly pocket billiards unexpectedly opened avenue’s to new sometimes extreme situation’s and curious dialogue. One of the first, turning to many social situation’s, was during my away from home, in Germany and an invitation by one of three Marines for the weekend to an American Military Base. Soldier’s of any country and all rank tend to socialize around games that include darts, chess, ping pong and of course billiards. My practical experience’s were finding expression in strange fashion. Minus the normal approach to academia these multiplying events, would feed into the schooling I needed to examine, but postponed and would eventually return to by way of alternate route, as a mature student.
Waiter and shooter turned me into a social animal. If I was reserved and shy and under-confident, the continuos enjoyable foray into the observation and conduct of humans, reversed those natural tendencies of my character. I was never without invitation. The party seemed, as if never ending. If one thing wasn’t going, then another was surely happening. I was in the court, of every form of thinking and conceptualizing. Be they soldier’s, sailor’s, spies, be they dentist’s, doctor’s, nurse’s, be they, professor’s, guru’s, teacher’s, be they carpenter’s, plumber’s, bricklayer’s, be they psychiatrist’s, emergency services, or social worker’s, be they, drug dealer’s, bank robber’s or prostitutes, be they banker’s, builder’s or politician’s, be they media giants, weathermen, or journalist’s, all form would come available to my lair, for frank, enthralling and open conversation, when they were so willing. I was sponge.
Rod Stewart———————-Maggie May Eagles————Take It To The Limit
The Pursuit of Happiness–“I’m An Adult Now” Bob Seger——-Night Moves
Dire Straits————————Sultans of Swing Juice Newton—-Angel Of The Morning
Pink Floyd——-Another Brick In The Wall Eagles————-Hotel California