Monday, March 9, 2015

Rack 'Em Up

I must have looked happy going to my first pool lesson.

Walking over to Greenleaf's pool room, a man commented, "I'll tell you what! I would get married today if it was to a fine woman like you."  Pause. "Or you." Um, thanks.

With the church bells on Grace Street chiming, I was unable to linger and see what else he might offer, making it to my lesson only a minute or two late.

My instructor was a smart and funny pool shark (by his own admission) who referred to the game as an addiction and a time suck. "Take up pool if you don't want to have time for a partner, job, life or dog," he suggested.

His first order of business was ensuring that the Pandora station was ideal and he scored big points by selecting an obscure soul station. "I like vintage soul during the day," he said. I like it any time.

From there, he proceeded to try to lure me into loving the game, much like a good drug dealer seduces a wanna-be addict.

After choosing a cue, he instructed me on the importance of frequent chalk usage. Assuming a firm yet relaxed stance was a snap.

Getting the hang of the bridge would have been easier had I not had lotion on my hands, preventing my cue from sliding as smoothly as it should.

From there, I was schooled in the angling of shots, banking and draw shots. He even taught me high English shooting.

After I got my first ball in, his face lit up as much as mine. "There you go! That's the most beautiful sound in the world," he enthused.

From there, he'd tell me which ball to go for but it was up to me to figure out where I needed to hit the cue ball to make it so.

I have to say, it was a gloriously sunny afternoon and the door to the restaurant was propped open, bringing in wafts of warm air that would have made learning almost anything pleasurable, but after a while I was definitely feeling that pool buzz he had assured me I would.

By far, my biggest challenge was figuring out the angles to hit a ball and send it anywhere other than the closest pocket, but I even got better at that after plenty of failures.

Chatting in between shots, I discovered my pool instructor was an avid art historian ("There was no good art after the 12th century") with a host of interesting passions beyond the game we were playing, despite trying to convince me he'd let pool consume his life.

After a while, he just stood back and watched me do my best to sink balls, providing supportive patter all the while. "That's it! Good shot! Tighten up on your bridge!" After I hit in two in a row, it was, "That's it, we're just shooting balls." And by "we," he meant me.

He also took me aside to give me what he called the most important advice of all. He said once I began playing out, men were going to try to show me how to improve my game. "They're going to have more bad habits than you will, so don't let them show you anything." Got it.

Once he thought I had the general hang of it, he left me with a table full of balls to attempt to sink while he went off to make calls. I appreciated that he didn't stand over me as I slowly worked at the task of getting every ball in.

An hour and a half after I'd arrived as the greenest of novices, I thanked my sensei profusely, walking out with a satisfied smile on my face. Still with only the most rudimentary pool skills, but that's more than I'd walked in with.

It was as I was crossing Broad Street on my way home that a guy on the other side of the street smiled broadly at me, no doubt responding to my post-pool glow.

Walking down Marshall Street, a voice called to me from the other side of the street and it was that same guy. "Nice day, don't you think?"

I did and he shouted back more questions and answers (lived here since 1999, originally from Minnesota) as we walked parallel to each other. After a block of that, he crossed the street to introduce himself, explaining that he was a researcher at VCU and using his lunch break for a walk.

Explaining that my job allowed such breaks any time, he said he'd like to switch jobs with me for a day, "Except I'd be terrible at writing," he laughed. And I'd be terrible at scientific research.

At the point where he needed to turn off to go back to his office, we took shade under the awning of a barber shop to shake hands.

A man walked by and said hello to me and I smiled back. "You're looking very lovely today," the stranger said. I told the scientist that learning pool must agree with me because people kept saying nice things to me all day.

"This might seem really forward, but would you be willing to give me your e-mail address?" he asked. For what, lunchtime walks and scientific discussion?

That's when it occurred to me that it wasn't my pool lesson glow that was making everyone so friendly today. It's 71 degrees! More likely it's early Spring fever that's got everyone in such a happy mood.

Ain't nothing wrong with that.

No comments:

Post a Comment