Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Life on the billiards table with those terrible lurking lizards.

This morning I and a neighbor will once more attend what has become a weekly Wednesday morning ritual. We will shoot pool. We started this a couple months ago. Pool has always held a particular fascination for me because it engages both sides of my brain simultaneously.

There's the math and science side. That of geometry, its angles, and physics with its velocities and momentums. Then there's the artistic side with all the beautifully colored balls racing across a luscious field of green. And, of course, there's that part of the male psyche that just feels empowered when holding a big stick or phallus in its hands. That may be the real draw of the billiards table, baseball diamond, golf course, duck hunting or soldiering.

So besides the art and science of pool, there's the mysterious psychology of it. I remember how taken aback I was the first time I crushed an opponent. The trash talk and humiliating of my rival was so un-me. Where was that coming from?

I decided I'd unearthed a deeper, prehuman lizard part of the brain, lying dormant my first 21 years. It was ugly. It was scary. Fortunately, I'd witnessed this in my own humiliations on the pool table when being thrashed by an opponent. As a result, I managed to rebury, deeply, those evolutionary reptilian urges.

Pool is a skill I was taught by the army. And it, along with the GI bill, were two of the more pleasant manifestations from that long three year experience. But this morning, as I and a neighbor venture out for a few games of billiards, my immediate neighbor of over 27 years will be having a very different experience. That's because "Ned" will be having a kidney removed.

Ned is a very interesting fellow who took on a quasi-father image for me when losing my own shortly after moving in next door to him. Ned had flown in B-29's during the war and the tales he can tell could fill a book. And in all of his hours in one of those enormous flying tin cans, he cheated death more than a time or two.

There were the crash landings on some speck of land in the middle of the western Pacific. And that most chilling tale of anti-aircraft fire that scored a direct hit upon the wing of his bomber. But rather than exploding, it passed through only to explode somewhere above them. I always listen in awe, remembering the last time I did the dishes and cut my finger on a steak knife.

Ned stayed on after WWII, flying in B-52's, irresistably drawn to their Russian temptors like a moth flirting with a flame. In the early 70's Ned retired. So for as long as I've known him, he's been leading the vida loca.

Ned's a very likeable sort. Save for one thing--his politics. And I confess on the occasion or two when our conversation slipped into that abysmal subject, I've wanted to kill him.

See, Ned's a die-hard republican. The compassionate conservative type. You know, a guy who hates paying school taxes. Why should he? He doesn't have any kids going to school. That type of good citizen. Inevitably, whenever I've hinted at anything that resembles compassion for those less fortunate, he resorts to the line that sends me ballistic.

"Why should you care? You're not starving!" Immediately, that part of my lizard brain that first surfaced over a pool table and that I'd reburied so deeply resurfaces.

We were face to face the first time he used that on me. And being at least 20 years his junior, I'm sure I coulda taken him down. But I was determined not to be the fate god had saved him from him from so many times decades ago over the Pacific in a flying tin can. Always I managed to wrest my reptilian beast into submission. To re-rebury it again--and again.

So this morning as I venture out for my art appreciation, math and physics lessons, and exemplify good mental health by containing the beast in my brain should I demonstrate superiority on the green fields of the pool table this day, Ned will be on a different mission. And hopefully, once again, he'll be back soon to do what he's done so many times before--beat the odds and cheat the Fates. To return to the 'hood and do what he does so well: tickle the reptile brain buried deep inside me.

10 comments:

some_maineiac said...

hey, dada, this was a great glimpse at the mind of the man behind the daily...besides being an iconoclastic economist, you admit to an urge to throttle compassionate conservatives whenever they open their mouths...you'll have to keep that urge bottled up, though, there will ALWAYS be conservative nitwits around, even when we eventually succeed in throwing them out of office...

I used to cringe and shut up as a young boy whenever my father would launch into one of his tirades against blacks at the dinner table...and I kept my mouth shut and nodded my head whenever my conservative, fundy ex-in-laws got going about republicans and god's plans...I was outnumbered, first of all and violence would have landed me in jail (cops in the ex's family as well)...and I did respect my ex-father-in-law for the man he was, despite his views...to his credit, he wasn't a bigot

I have not shot pool in years, but absolutely love the game, especially the crestfallen look on my opponent's face at a perfectly executed bank shot...not to mention my own surprise...I usually choke up on the easy shots, though, and end up on the short end of any competition...

Anonymous said...

Wise man, maineiac. I like the idea of thinking violent thoughts.

An actual practical use for geometry, eh Dada? And you can always beat back that lizard in your brain with a pool cue (a real one, not the euphemism in your post)! I hope Ned does well, sometimes a good opponent is almost as fine as an ally.

Billiards is not my game; I play pool like Gerald Ford plays golf if you know what I mean. But my dad ... he actually supported himself for 2-yrs in Alaska with his pool-sharking skill. You know what pissed him off, though, what really rattled his lizard-brain? That once-in-a-blue-moon moment when my mom would actually beat him at his own game, and then apologize for her skill. D.K.

dada said...

Maineiac: I usually am a bit better than my neighbor at pool. And I can totally relate to your description and experiences of that game. Well, last week I lost to my neighbor.

So today I chose to wear my Virgen de Guadalupe t-shirt, a gift from a friend last fall. She looks a lot like Enigma's "Venus" on a half shell, only with clothes on. But I figured after last week, maybe she would smile down on me during a few games of 8-ball.

Yeh, that'd be truly hypocrital of me because I hate athletes who pray before the game for their team to win. And yet I wore the shirt. (But, honestly, I don't believe it helps. Well, today I was back to form, so who knows? J/K!)

As for family, friends and in-laws and their varying views? It's interesting to ponder how sometimes we turn out the way we do. Maybe totally different from familial influences. More often not, I suppose. But I sometimes wonder how my dad--a lifetime democrat--woulda been handling this siege the nation's under?

Probably better he's not here to see it. But I had a very radical aunt who worked for Angela Davis, and an equally extreme leftist uncle (not married to each other) and it's even harder for me to imagine how they would be dealing with this band of crooks. And I think it would have been even worse for them. Much, much worse.

some_maineiac said...

yeah, I think the heart of it is that most people are good, or have the capacity to be good, but they become tainted by the dark sides of their philosophies...greed, bigotry and religion on the part of conservatives and anarchy, chaos and bomb-throwing revolution on the part of liberals...or they are made desparate by their economic circumstances...no job, no place to live and nothing to eat...

dada said...

DK - now look what you've done by your remark, "I like the idea of thinking violent thoughts". You've triggered Maineiacs comparison twixt conservatives - "greed, bigotry and religion" & liberals, "anarchy, chaos and bomb-throwing revolution". Yeh, okay, I can buy that.

It starts with holding a sign at a peace vigil, then maybe a protest rally, march or two.

Those greedy bigoted religious bastards better stop pushing me 'cause according to Maineiac's sliding scale of chaos, it only gets worse from here.

Anonymous said...

I can think of a few places that warrant a powerful STINK bomb (maybe the kind the military is developing that can overpower an enemy without a shot). Oh that's right, they wouldn't even notice since their nostrils are already full of the stench of our fecefied (former) paradise.

And maybe maineiac can clarify the diff between anarchy and chaos. Does one precede the other; which one gets us to revolution faster? Just general info; I'm not advocating, just so we're clear on that. D.K.

some_maineiac said...

well, DK, I would say that bomb-throwing and violent protest might be the quickest way to start a revolution, but the result might be chaos and an anarchic government, so in that context, chaos would precede anarchy...

the flip side of that coin might be a backlash against whatever noble ideals might be behind any violent revolution, said backlash coming from the current powers in government, who would be backed by law enforcement (civil or military) to respond in kind, and a perceived mandate from the majority of americans who might despise any destruction of property (private or public) and the collateral damage of serious injuries or deaths...recent history would be my witness for the probability of a backlash, Nixon got elected in '68 on a law and order platform which was directly related to the violent tendencies of certain factions of the counterculture...

so, you could qualify me as a pacifist...not in the sense of placating or appeasing, but in the sense of mollifying and chastizing, through words, ideas, civil disobedience and peaceful protest...

or the current government might fall apart under its own dead weight...witness the plummeting approval ratings of Bush and the republican leadership in general...if these forces of change can be harnessed by any other political party, then we can have what we want, a revolution without blood...all that needs to be done is to educate the public to vote appropriately...

and now I need to act according to my conscience...I'm about to commit civil disobedience in a microcosm by driving a mechanically sound, but uninspected vehicle, rather than an inspected vehicle with failing brakes...

dada said...

That was a nice delineation between anarchy and chaos, Maineiac.

I especially liked the way you wrapped it up--by committing a microcosmic act of civil disobedience.

I remember in youth committing a few of those. It always gave me a minirush; some sense of power, if for only a short bit.

But that was a different age, when it was more a cat and mouse game between the impetuousness of youth vs. the duty of authority to contain it.

I've seen too many Rodney King type videos in recent years. It appears the fun is gone out of the game. Authority's lost its humor.

Anonymous said...

Hey maineiac I just read your anarchal revolutionary review of chaos. Maybe it's just this time of year, but lately I've been thinking more along the lines of a tax revolt (a la 1775) to FFWD to the final chapter of the bush family saga. We can all protest in the streets, email & ph congresspeople, blog til we drop, but in the end, we're still dutifully sending our taxe$. Didn't people go to jail during Vietnam for refusing to pay that portion of their taxes devoted to the war effort? "A Revolution without Blood" as you pointed out! D.K.

dada said...

Ah, I was just imagining a number of people comparable in size to the immigration reform demonstrators withholding taxes due the gov't.