I have recently become more aware
of the essential nature of Patience.
If I wait, wait, wait...
until I get that special feeling,
in my body, when I'm taking warm up strokes
and seeing in my mind where I want the balls to go,
and sensing the weight and balance of the cue in my hands,
and sensing the speed with which
I need to deliver the cue
to the cue ball,
and with what spin,
and with what draw/follow,
and with what follow-through,
so that the cue ball goes there
(and maybe after going several rails to get there)...
that perfect place on the table so that
the next shot is easy.
When I get that special feeling,
I almost always make the shot,
and get shape on the next shot.
The problem is that I get greedy,
I want that feeling sooner than it wants to be there...
That special feeling comes to a quiet mind.
A confident mind.
A relaxed mind.
This feeling in the body may be
the elusive "rhythm" which El Maestro revealed to me,
but which I have seldom attained.
Look what I won!
The US Amateur Championships
was held this weekend
and I won a really neat patch,
with an official APA US Amateur Championship logo,
commemorating my "Break and Run in 9-ball".
What it doesn't tell you is that
my opponent was on the hill at the time!
Talk about clutch play!
Way to go Mikie!!
And, it also doesn't tell you that while
my opponent was on the hill
when I popped a break and run on his
out-of-town pool playing self,
I was headed for a complete wipeout!
Nothing could be more humiliating!
At around 4-0 I started to think
I couldn't shoot pool at all,
that everything up to now has been a hallucination.
What was I thinking? Check this:
We lag for the call (break or game).
He wins by a half-roll,
and chooses to have the break,
and then I call 8-ball...
What was I thinking?
8-ball is my weaker game, by far.
And this fact has been pounded into me
several times over the last few weeks.
I always choose 9-ball first,
but for some reason decided to choose 8 this time.
He won all 5 games of 8-ball,
and then had me one down in the 9-ball segment!
Six to zero!
One more game to complete annihilation!
Where does a man have to go inside
to recover from such a situation?
Is it even possible to recover?
All things are possible.
He missed a shot, and opened the door for me.
That's when I discovered my stroke,
and starting sinking balls and getting shape.
Six - One.
And then I popped the break and run. Six - Two.
And I won the next. Six - Three.
And then he won that last game, and the set,
with an excellent offensive safety.
Analysis: My mojo was late at the gate.
Gotta work on that.
The next set we play 9-ball first.
I won handily at 7-2.
And I made some really nice shots.
That was fun.
That was the end of Saturday's play.
Gotta be back Sunday morning for match at 10am.
How civilized... I was outta there by 7:30pm,
and now I can go home and eat a decent meal,
and relax for the next day.
I check my email.
one of my best friends,
This is the man who taught me to fly.
A true American Hero,
a P-51 Mustang fighter pilot in WW II...
He and I had many flying adventures together.
Worth a book...
Now he's gone.
(more about Lowell Williams, click here)
Sunday morning always comes earlier than you want,
so when I get there at 9:30am
it's precious few strokes for me.
This morning we're playing 9-ball first,
and after 8 games of 9-ball
Fast Mikie (that's me) is ahead 5-3,
and we head into the 8-ball format,
and all I need is two games, he needs 4 in a row.
He got 4 in a row,
and now I get to go home and
think about why I am such an idiot at 8-ball.
I'm making shots ok.
It's strategy that's killing me.
Gotta work on that.
I have an entire year to prepare for
the next US Amateur Championships.
I'll be a lot better by then!
Congratulations to the lucky ones:
Men's US Amateur qualifiers:
John Troy (San Diego)
James DeCicco (San Diego)
Chuck Jacques (Orange County)
David Deninno (Orange County)
Brian Parks (Bakersfield)
Ladies US Amateur qualifiers:
Shar Young (San Diego)
Luz De Lira (San Diego)
Because I get better at this game every day!
I'm taking a break from practice right now,
but about half an hour ago, when I was shooting,
it kept occurring to me that my skill level
is so much better than it was a year ago.
I am hitting the ball with much more authority.
I have so much more confidence.
My position play is so much more accurate.
Strategy is at a much higher level.
Imagine how much better I'll be next year,
and the year after, and the year after that!
All of this is just a preface to the real story
I have been trying for a week to put into words...
El Maestro came by Mikie's Fun House last Friday,
his day off from work, and the first chance to
check out my game since I returned from my Road Trip,
to see if there was any improvement in my game.
We shot a couple of sets of 9-ball, races to 7.
He won the first, I took the second.
We took a break for some coffee,
and it was then that he said that he was done with me,
that I had learned all he could teach me,
and now it was up to me to execute.
We both knew it was coming for some time,
and we had several times talked about it coming,
but now that the end of an era has come to pass,
it will have a major positive effect on my game.
I feel a lot like I did when I was learning to fly,
and after many lessons on the ground and in the air,
on one fine day of take-offs and landings,
my flight instructor had me pull over
to the side of the taxiway, then he jumped out and said:
"Ok, you're ready to solo!"
It's a very liberating feeling,
and at the same time a little bit scary,
to be up there all alone for the first time.
(The consequences for screwing up are a lot greater
in the air than they are when you miss the 9-ball!)
Although a pilot's first solo is a major milestone event,
it certainly doesn't mean you have all the answers,
because that will never happen, not in this life.
It simply means that you know enough to solo,
and you can now spend the rest of your aviation life
continuing the endless pursuit of the aviator.
In the immortal words of Lao Tsu:
"The greater the island of knowledge,
the greater the shoreline of wondering."
And so it is with pool.
El Maestro has set me free,
given me my solo wings,
but more than anything has given me the
insight into how to think about pool
from the perspective of a great player.
He has taught me how to learn,
how to continue my search for perfect control,
and the confidence that I am on the Path.
It has been a most memorable two and a half years,
during which El Maestro has come every Saturday
to teach me secrets he has never told any other person.
I don't know how I got so lucky to be his student.
What could he have seen in me that would make him
change from his long standing refusal
to take on any student?
I guess it doesn't matter, the reasons why.
It happened. He taught. I learned. It is over.
Life goes on.
It was a great privilege, Tony.
As an eternal optimist, I can feel good that
I won two matches last night
(compared to winning only one last week),
but the realist in me must admit that it was not pretty.
I lost my first match to some guy who made it thru
to the quarter finals.
He played well, and I didn't.
In the second match, I was down two games (race to 3)
after missing a very easy 9-ball in game one,
and, in the other game I missed a
very easy 8-ball for very easy shape on the 9.
It was disgustingly, embarrassingly humiliating,
and at that moment I actually had the thought of
giving up the game of pool for good,
but instead I just dug down deep and resolved to play on.
Thankfully, I won the next 3 games in a row,
and the match.
And then I won the next match 3-1.
But lost focus in the last match and
joined the ranks of the spectators.
There are some seriously good players at this tournament.
I'm looking forward to the day when I win it all!