With h brown
Court Jester racks up a pro-pool tourney in the fog
November 17, 2006
"I feel like I'm in a Charlie Chan movie."
The fog rolled heavily down Geary street in the inner-Richmond.
We were here to watch an African-American play a Mexican-American
while surrounded by mostly Asian-Pacific-Americans flanked by
a few Irish-Americans and at least one Italian-American with raggedy
blue jeans and no shoe laces.
Everyone across the board looked to be tied into some kind of
crime family, but that could have just been because I'd taken
the sensible precaution to pre-medicate before venturing into
Supervisor McGoldrick territory land beyond the looking glass.
The bar maid was a Japanese-American. Her name was Kristine.
"What a rack." That's what I said to FCJ publisher,
Luke Thomas, as Kristine served our $2 Happy Hour Red Hooks up,
and as world-renowned billiard champion, Rafael Martinez, set
up the table in front of us for his first game of '9 Ball'.
Kristine, Manager of Family Billiards
"Right you are, h.." said Thomas as he screwed a much
longer lens onto his kalashnikov.. Like the 40 or so pool players,
Thomas was preparing his equipment for the money shots he knew
would present themselves
while awaiting the arrival of
one, Hope Bryson, his sultry and voluptuous femme-fatale who'd
promised to check in from the Mission district.
It was 'Fantasy Thursday' which as all truly hip San Franciscans
know is preceded each week by 'Fantasy Wednesday' and followed
directly by 'Fantasy Friday'. Anything could happen, and we hoped
that it did.
"No, I'm from the 'Giordano's of Marin'."
('Frankie G' denies St Louis ties)
Like everyone whoever saw 'The Godfather', I firmly believe
that all Italians are in the mob and packing either heavy heat
or ties to Jewish lawyers, either of which can be deadly to an
Irish satirist. I kind of shy away from the topic of the mob but
in this case, the name 'Giordano' rang a bell from far back into
the cloudy and steamy past of St. Louis slum streets and the wail
of air raid sirens mixed with the haunting tunes from the calliopes
atop the ancient paddle-wheeled boats that plied the mighty Mississippi
in my earliest of memories.
Say, huh? No, really, trust me on this one. We were all just
having fun. My buddy, Mike Moore (the musician) had invited Luke
and I to cover a monthly pool tournament out at Family Billiards
at 2807 Geary (15 tables, 5 for tournament that nite, 10 for a
youngishly handsome crowd more focused on one another than cue
Mike's from Youngstown, Ohio and when the young Giordano was
introduced, we got to talking about the old times back east and
why we couldn't ever go back. I asked 'Frankie G' if he was related
to the Mafiosi Giordano's back in St. Louis and he said that he
was actually a mathematician from Marin. I didn't believe him
for a second. When we shook hands in the fog outside, my hand
brushed his heavy cashmere topcoat which had to have cost at least
a couple of grand. I was betting he could have afforded shoestrings
for the sneakers if he'd so desired. We all smiled broadly as
Hope appeared from out of the fog.
The rules of pool
You digging that? It was really fun. Like most of you, I've
shot lousy pool in lousy bars on lousy tables with lousy sticks
for all of my adult life. Never got any better or any worse. Let
me lay down a few things I learned last night which was the first
time I ever watched pool while taking notes.
There's only one ball on the table. That's the cue ball.
You can't win at this game unless you can control the cue ball.
You start trying to put balls in holes. You learn that's only
The game only has two strategies. One is 'playing safe'. The
other is 'running out'. You play safe until you're sure that you
can run out.
Hmmm, so it was lots like dating a member of the Green Party?
I watched the best local player, Rafael Martinez drop the 8 and
9 balls with one shot to finish off a talented opponent named
Seamus Timmons. The crowd, watching intently, while pretending
not to, sighed in disappointment.
"Anybody can win 5 games in a row."
(Jimmy, the retired United Airlines mechanic)
Martinez doesn't look like a hustler. He looks like the guy
who'd show up to rake your leaves or clean out a drain. 50'ish
and just over 5' tall. A well-tended gut that I'd call a 'beer
belly' but I didn't see him take a drink during the tournament.
Or, smile. He wasn't unfriendly. Luke's camera was far from
the first he's seen. He's regularly on TV from Vegas or other
ports of call where he competes with people who don't need handicaps.
He didn't need Luke's shots to put him on the map. Rafael is already
on the map and he was at work. He wasn't off-putting. Just cautious
and calculating. It was like asking a cop to show you his gun.
None of the players ever smiled when they were involved in games.
A few feet away, on the other ten tables, the youngsters whooped
it up and boozed and flirted. Our side of the room was serious
and we were pushed against the front windows where the fog crowded
and collapsed into sweat that streamed down the picture windows,
leaning as close as possible to watch the Latino master make shots
they could return and relate to the stratosphere. (unclear?
sorry, I'm on a deadline here)
The music began with Hip Hop and worked it's way through to
the Stones to finish with a medley of Sinatra. The beer worked
its way up from the $2 at Happy Hour to $3.50 at prime time (bargains
all around) and the racks remained tight and pointed.
San Francisco puts out
That's why I came here and it's the same for you and you know
it. The City gives up memorable experiences every single night
of the year all over town. Whether it's watching Bonds pump his
700'th homer into the Bay or talking about the mob over serious
pool in a fog-shrouded Richmond district, San Francisco is what's
Free poetry readings and freer meetings of the Board of Supervisors
in their magnificent antique oak chambers. Watch a sidewalk musician
for free or try to save the soul of a hopeless Tenderloin drunk.
Making memories. The only things that can't be repossessed. Make
em good ones.
Salon 1-3pm for another.
h. brown is a 62 year-old keeper of sfbulldog.com,
an eclectic site featuring a half dozen City Hall denizens. h
is a former sailor, firefighter, teacher, nightclub owner, and
a hard-living satirical muckraker. Email
h at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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