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With h brown

Photo(s) by Luke Thomas

Court Jester racks up a pro-pool tourney in the fog


By h. brown


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'.

Rafael Martinez

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.

Hope Bryson

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)

Frankie Giordano

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 balls).

Michael Moore

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 beginning.

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 happening.

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 h@ludd.net.


Editor's Note: Views expressed by columnists published on FogCityJournal.com are not necessarily the views or beliefs of Fog City Journal. Fog City Journal supports free speech in all its varied forms and provides a forum for a complete spectrum of viewpoints.



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