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A Proven Source of Genetic Disorder

“Tell me about your Mistress?” 

My Lady friend had just asked me about my Mistress. 

Cold sweat instantly ran down my back and down my crack.

Not having one, I was taken back a bit and wondered just how I had gotten into such deep trouble without even having a shot (or memory) at the associated pleasures of aforementioned Mistress. 

She must have sensed the panic in my eyes, my ears, my hair, my fingernails, my voice, my shaking hands, and delayed letting me off of the hook, just in case I really had one.  I had no idea where this was going, but I immediately did not like the sound of it.

Dad's BCA League Shirt - Honorary "Technical Advisor"

John Belushi’s line to assault rifle toting Carrie Fisher in The Blues Brothers  tumbled through my mind as I concocted my own escape. 

“I didn’t do it!  I’m sorry!  I didn’t mean it!  I’ll never do it again!  That was a long time ago!  It was an accident!  She meant nothing!  Please, please, please forgive me?” or some comparable sentiment sounded plausible.  Fortunately I failed to actually speak the words. 

“Huh?”  I replied, condensing my complete and extensive vocabulary into a single syllable.

“No, not that kind of Mistress, the Mistress of Pool.  The Consort of Cues.  Le’ Bitche d’Billiards.  Whatever you care to call her.  Why do you love her?”

Now it is difficult to convey to a non-player about why the game is so fascinating.  Come to think of it, it is a rather stupid game.  Take a stick.  Knock balls into holes.  Take’em back out.  Then knock’em back in them there holes.  Over and over and over. Then you pass around money.   Or trophies.  Or Ego.  Both.  They are sort of interchangeable.

Sounds like something that psycho Dante’ might have thought up for a sequel to The Inferno.  For those of you not familiar with his work, it is a handbook of exercises about improving your pool game.  The Inferno could be subtitled Really Hot Cue.  In fact, I am truly surprised I haven’t seen any advertisements for it.  Maybe they’re working on the video.  Look for it.

My Mom & Dad supplied me with a picture of my Brother Gary and I playing what must be my first games of anything remotely resembling pool.  We lived on Fletcher Street in Chicago at the time. 

I guess my Brother decided he didn’t like the Official Rules of Dwarf Pool as interpreted by Older Brother that I was inflicting on him and proceeded to scrap all the ball towards the corner pocket, tip over the pool table, mutter “Stupid Game” and wander off.


Before any of you think of my Brother as a lost cause, he went on to become a Baseball fanatic and is still playing well, well  (well squared?) into his 40’s.  (A stick and a ball, as we all know, is the basis for many good games.)

The Folks recalled that I planned, studied, and agonized for untold hours how to get those stupid little balls into those stupid little pockets.  How could my Brother NOT see the beauty and challenge of the game when me, his Older Smarter Brother immediately went into marathon mode upon first encounter with a pool table?  A bent gene, the only possible explanation.  On one of us, at least.

I do not remember the episode depicted in the photograph, but there I am, Cue in hand, the other guy shooting.  Sounds too dang familiar for my liking.

So I have a bent gene?  Hey!  Maybe I can sue my Parents!  That’s the modern thing to do,  if it isn’t perfect, find somebody to blame it on and sue.  Some Dirt-Ball out there will handle the papers for you.


Now if I win, then I can sell their home, toss their wrinkled butts out into the cold and take the cash.  Naw, bad idea.  My Mom could lay a guilt trip on the Pope, just think of the lulu she’d dump on me if I did that.  Scratch the lawsuit.  Scratch?  Yea, I do that too much.  If I could keep the cue ball on the table, I’d crush world champs single handedly even if my teammates didn’t show up.

So I do a third degree on my Dad about the possibility of pool in his deep, dark, sinister background.  "Well,” says Daddy-O, “there is a period of pool in my past.” 

Daddy-O was a moniker my Dad picked up from Dobie Gillis on TV or someplace whenever he first wanted to be a neat, cool,  groovy Dad during the 60's.  He started signing his notes that way whenever he sent me checks at college.  I loved it.  The name too.  I hope he never changes.  His nickname, either.

It seems that he was a pin spotter at the local bowling alley when he was a pup.  A pin spotter, for you rotten sneaky spoiled jaded lazy pampered the-world-owes-me-a-living recent offspring types, is a worker bee who would do his thing at the business end of a bowling alley.  You know, where the pins go flying around and the ball crashes to the back of the pit.  Not a place for skin and bone.  A great place, however, for pain.

Well a pin spotter would normally have two lanes and literally jump back and forth between the two.  Pick up pins.  Load the spotter.  Send back the ball.  Watch out for an incoming ball.  Change lanes.  After a strike, a top pin spotter (A pin spotter's pin spotter?  Take a sip of beer and say that three times, fast.  Now wipe your chin.) could pick up four pins in one hand, the ball in the other, load the spotter’s rack, launch the ball back, pick up the remaining pins, align them, and pull the rack down in three and four fifths heartbeats.  Mark the frame and then hop off to the other lane.  A true maniac with little regard for personal safety could actually handle 4 lanes.  Sorry, no air conditioning or deodorant back then.  Got the picture?

You can imagine the problems of when two bowlers tried to bowl at nearly the same time.  The poor spotter had no place to hide from the projectiles!

The spotter would jump up and hang onto some overhead refuge, curse both bowler’s bloodlines back to a point of juncture with their own, and suddenly get real slow and deliberate.  Maybe even hang on to the bowling ball for an extra amount of time. 

Sweat drops into the thumb hole for the extra evil get-even.  An audible !@*$!#& might also be heard by the bowlers and result in temporary behavior modification or increased opportunity for tip money.

That, boys and girls, is where the courtesy of not bowling right along side the bowler on the next lane got its REAL start.  Distraction was a secondary issue, Don’t-Kill-the-Spotter was the primary purpose.  Boom!  An explosion of pins and rubber and the bruise business prospers while the self preservation instinct kicks into the next higher plateau.

A spotter who hustled could hope for a tip of a coin tossed the length of the lane into the pit.  Don’t worry, they found it wherever it landed.  The wonders of commerce, will they ever cease?  If you make a nickel a line of bowling, then a dime tip after three lines nearly doubles your income.  “Find That Dime!!!”  Bowling cost 10-15 cents a line and a full 25 cents included prize fund contributions. 

The bowling alley had pool tables that needed to be swept.  A whisk broom and a notched brush, a rhythmic cadence, with-the-nap, head-to-foot, sweeping the dust, wool pills and chalk into the pockets.   That, children of the cloth, is the reason for the hole in the bottom of drop pockets, to let the debris out.  Now they use cute little electric vacuum cleaners.

My Dad would brush all of the tables so he could get a few hours of free time.  Three cushion billiards and pocket billiards.  His mentors taught him a good draw stroke, but his real love was bowling.  Stupid game.  No Sticks.  Unless you call pins sticks. 

Hmmm.  Bowling: one Ball, lotsa sticks.  Pool: one stick, lotsa balls.  Both use chalk.  Close enough.  Bent gene mystery explained!

My Dad has now wandered, unwillingly, into his 70’s.  A bad back from age and steel.  Some German tank’s shrapnel from W.W.II still roaming his innards making MRI’s and other modern day wizardry unusable.  (I wonder if he has any embedded bowling pin shrapnel from the pin spotter era?)  Eyesight a bit flaky.  Reactions slow.  A bit wobbly at times.  Extra wheels needed at the airport.  Occasional vacations in the hospital.  Medicines painstakingly hand crafted by Swiss Watchmakers according to the price charged.

But my Folks still have spunk enough to wander out for trips, such as a visit to their Number One Son, the Ace (making my Brother the Deuce, heh, heh,) the light of their life, the spark in their existence, the cream in their shorts, I meant coffee. 

So after a few days of listening to new stories, repeated repeated repeated stories and graphic health reports, my Mom mandates “Get him outa here!”  Translated into sound, “It would be nice if you and your Father went someplace.”  Ed. note: “and didn’t come back!”

Where can I take Dad?  Daddy-O.  Click’s!  Cool, Neato, Bitchin’, Far Out, Golly Gee, a novel thought, my first, ever, honest, wanna buy a bridge?  Who would have ever though of it?  The car was on autopilot setting number 1.

My Dad and I wander into Click’s Marsh and lo and behold, with total shock, be struck with utter amazement, I daresay most unexpectedly, there in residence are all of my associates frantically trying to steal each other’s lunch money, cab fare, milk tokens, children’s medicine fund, socks, beer, rent and bragging rights.  I’ve been meaning to tell them about “Zero-Sum” games.

My Dad watched, and watched, and watched and watched.  He even watches slow after 70.  It’s tough to see the most powerful man in your life, your Dad, slow down. 

I remember one time when a outrageously rude clerk at a currency exchange gave my Dad a rough time from inside his bulletproof sanctuary.  When the jerk slid Dad’s papers back to him through the little tray under the glass, my Dad tried to get a hold of his fingers.  No one will ever convince me that he would not have successfully extruded that rotund clerk through that tray and into the lobby if only his grip had been a bit better.  A little finger sweat must have saved that clerk from becoming toothpaste shaped.  When Dad started testing the walls and doors for a more direct route to his prey I encouraged his departure before legal boundaries might be compromised and we both wound up in the slammer.

Dad is slow now, those days are gone.  As he watched my mates play pool, confusion welled up in his eyes.  The colors blurred.  Then the light comes on.  Brighter.  Brighter!  Somebody’s home.  Flee for your life!  Danger, Danger, Danger!  Codger Alert!

He selected a cue, stepped to the table, and lost 20 years.  Maybe 30.  Maybe 40.  A sparkle when some draw takes.  “Who cares if it went too damn far, did you see me put the wheels on that thing?”  A tender nudge out of a difficult 8 and he’s talking sweetly to the Cue like he would a passionate Mistress pausing in second gear and needing verbal encouragement to kick into third. 

A 4 ball run and I saw him wiggle like he had a wedgie.  A successful Fire-In-The-Hole bank shot with enough cramp English to keep the Cue out of harms way and instantly my teammates turned on me.  They clustered and were actually voting to dump my sorry ass and substitute my Dad!

Dad, Dad, Dad!  Run off with my girlfriend, leave my pool team alone!  Please!  (A Team is tougher to locate, replace and train than a woman.  The sex isn’t as good but they WILL screw you if they get a chance and they won’t cuddle afterwards.)

My Dad told me he didn’t understand the lingo and would I prep him with a loaded line.  Try this one, Dad.  “Well, I don’t know pool anymore but with the Wild-7, One-on-the-wire and the opening break I COULD be talked into races to five for fifty.” 

They loved it.  It was unanimous.  Dad’s in, I’m out.  Hell, even my own Dad turned on me and started zinging me about anything I dogged.  I loved it.

“Well, Son, you should’ve gone the extra rail.....”  My subconscious cries “Ingest solid human waste product and perish from the planet, Dad.”  Something like that, I recall.  Please, don’t anybody translate that line for him, it might have an adverse effect on my inheritance.

The lost years returned within hours of leaving Click’s and it was only because I took him to the airport (kicking and screaming I might add) and rocketed him out of Texas that my team reluctantly allowed me back into their midst.  A couple of rounds of fermented beverages oiled the way.  It always does.

“Well, what about your Mistress?” brought me back to my current problem at hand.  “Well?” again when I didn’t respond fast enough.

“Blame my Dad, it’s his fault!”  Jake Blues Belushi would have been proud!  I should have said “Daddy-O.”  In context it sounds guiltier than “Dad.”  "Blame Daddy-O!"

I gotta think quicker next time, I muse.  Readers, please note the literary use of “muse” so you can claim to be reading high caliber literature, not about a guy considering suing his Dad for installing a bent pool gene.

“How, pray tell, is it your Dad’s fault when he is over 800 miles away?  Explain that one!”

“I’m sorry, I can’t talk about it until the lawsuit is over, Judge’s orders.” 

Silence, as she mulled over my response.

Whew, dodged another bullet.  Damn, I’m good!


Nobody paid me any money to put these links here, I just thought they deserved it.  Tell them Carlo sent you, maybe they'll buy me a beer.

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