D I A R Y
of a

P O O L    S H O O T E R

The Adventures of FastMikie
in search of Truth and Beauty in the art of pocket billiards.




Sunday, November 06, 2005

In and Out at Hard Times

I re-learned something important about pool tournaments
before I ever screwed my cue together...
before I ever walked through the door, in fact.
Show up early.

Hard Times Billiards is a 90 minute drive
into the smoggy L.A. basin

but that's only 90 minutes if everything goes right,
and how can you count on that?
The first 3 miles of freeway took 20 minutes,
and just when I was ready to take the first exit and go back home,
the traffic evaporated, and I was cruisin' easy all the way.

I figure that the right way to do the Hard Times tournament
(the first Sunday of the month)
is to get a room at The Beverly Hills Hotel
for Friday and Saturday.

Leave around noon on Friday,
spend the afternoon on
Rodeo Drive,
do a little shopping for some threads,
have a nice dinner and get a full night's sleep.
Why hassle with traffic on the morning of a tournament?
And why, dog tired after a long day of competition,
hassle with traffic on the way home at night?

The parking lot is already full when I get there.
I'm not going to leave the Jag on the street,
not in this neighborhood,
so I leave it in a red zone at the edge of the lot,
and take my chances with a ticket.
As soon as I stop, 3 more cars park in the red zone with me.
I guess they figured I knew something they didn't.
They were wrong, but we all escaped tickets anyway.

Inside: Sensory Overload! The place is packed.
Derelicts, pool junkies, hustlers, and it is LOUD!
No way I'm gonna get a practice table,
but I get lucky (as usual),
and get the absolute LAST table available,
and start pushing some balls around, when...

Hey! isn't that Jennifer Baretta? (#12 ranked WPBA pro)
I would know her anywhere, especially after she beat
me two games of 9-ball when she was in San Diego
for the WPBA tournament at Viejas Casino, Alpine CA.

So, here's Jennifer walking around looking lost.
She's from New York City, so I figure I'll be neighborly
and ask her if she wants to shoot a few racks,
and she gives me a look like I'm the last guy on earth,
so what the heck, yeah, sure she'll shoot some balls with me.
Remember, I have the LAST table available.

I mention our last meeting, 6 months ago,
and remind her that she beat me.
I figure she meets lots of people more memorable than me.
But she's not the same Jennifer Baretta I played before.
No personality at all this time. Not even a little bit of a smile.
Almost surly.
This must be her game face.

I win the first game.
And the second.
And the third.
I ask her what's she doing in LA (being a Big Apple girl).
She says only "It's a long story."
Doesn't elaborate.
She wins the next two.
Then abruptly calls it quits in the middle of the 6th game.
Shakes my hand and says she is suffering with some sort of bug
she picked up just the day before...
Eeeeewwwwww!
Probably got the "Bird Flu" and now I'm gonna die!
Her website says she just got back from the Dominican Republic.
That's right next to Haiti.
I can only imagine what kind of bugs they got there!
So I wash my hands immediately, but then go right back
to playing on the same table. Duh.

Hey, isn't that Tina Pawloski?
Who woulda figured that Hard Times would be jumpin' with
good looking girl-shooters?
I have never actually met Tina,
but I sure have seen her around
the San Diego pool scene,
at APA events, and the Swanee gig.

So, this is my chance...

"Hey Tina, wanna shoot some pool?"
Sure, she says, with a nice smile.
I read the story on AZ Billiards website about Tina winning
her fourth tournament in a row, and so I mention this
to her, and congratulations etc.
She asks me my name. Mike.
What's your last name? McCafferty.
From Del Mar? Yeah. How did you...
Fast Mikie, right? Yeah. How did you...
Super Vision! Huh?
Turns out she read my post on the AZ Billiards forum.
Wow! Tina knows me? How cool is that!

Hey, she's actually a nice person.
Sure friendlier than Jennifer, eh?
She wins one or two and so do I.
Can't remember much of the details.
It was just good to hang out with her.
She hears my name called out for my first match.
(I missed it.)
Gotta go. We split up. Good luck Tina. Good luck Mikie.

My day started off pretty good,
and now it turned ugly.
First match was a whitewash.
The kid was good.
What's your name, kid?
Oscar.
Oscar what?
Dominguez.
He's real focused, real good basics,
real good pre-shot routine.
I figure he had a good teacher.
So I ask who taught him to shoot pool.
My dad, he says.
Ok, I'll bite, who's your dad?
Ernesto. Dominguez.
Sounds familiar...
Oh, THAT Ernesto Dominguez.
Well, now I guess I'm not feeling so bad about
getting my butt kicked by this kid.

And it's off to the losers' side I go.
Damn. This place is crawling with hot-shot players!

My next game was with "John"
who was sent to the losers' side after getting beat
by #10 ranked WPBA pro Melissa Herndon.
I guess he was pissed at getting beat by a girl,
and he takes it out on me.
I won a couple of games, but not enough.
I shoulda beat him. Shoulda, woulda, coulda...

So I'm on the road home early.
In and out at Hard Times.

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