Unpaid Bill

vapros

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The road to the Derby

The road to the Derby

Is it just my imagination, or does the interest in the DCC increase every year? At any rate, we’re seeing a lot of discussion threads and a bit of barking and plenty of HOF fan mail. I have never seen the new DCC venue, but a number of people have posted that they would like to see it back at the Executive West in Louisville. As always it will be a show like no other and large amounts of money will be evident in bulging pockets. Not all of it will get into action, and it may be that some of it is for show. Someone, sure as you’re a foot high, will offer to bet he can cover a pool table with C notes, and just as sure no one will bet him he cannot. That’s the DCC. I wish I could collect two bits a mile for the traveling done by our members next month. And another two bits for all the members who wish they were going and can’t make it.

I picked up a video of a snooker match a few days ago on YouTube, just because I spotted Michaela Tabb in the promo. Handsome lady, for a fact. It was a match in the German Masters Tournament, and the famous Ronnie O’Sullivan was playing a guy named Maguire. They played with pointed sticks that had little mushroom tips, and they shot very straight with ‘em. At great distances they were able to feather one of the red balls and return to the farthest part of the table, but they just kept on doing it. One of them finally got the cue ball into the rack (gently) and for several innings they executed what would be fouls in a one-pocket game. I don’t understand the rules. They seemed to agree that nothing was going to happen, so they reracked the balls and started over. I endured more than fifteen minutes of this and heard a lot of polite applause for their nifty safeties, but nary a ball went into a pocket. I got to see Ms Tabb several times, in passing, so it wasn’t a complete bust, in a manner of speaking.

Currently there is a thread here for discussion of the Ten Commandments of one-pocket and it seems they are discussing this over on the Animal Zoo website at the same time, but I guess over there it’s not just for one-pocket. Good suggestions are being posted and it’s evident that our members know the game, but I am concerned that not enough support for Jojo (the white ball) has appeared. Nothing could be more vital than to be on a first-name basis with Jojo, especially for players like yours truly who have little else going for them. He knows the way to the winner’s circle and for that reason I just keep going back to Reyes’ matches at Hard Times several years ago, when he was taking on all comers and giving up 10-7. You wouldn’t learn to beat Pagulayan or T-Rex, but if you are playing lesser mortals you would do well to pay attention. Bata and Jojo.

Video from outdoors in Louisiana – supplied by a genuine 24 carat Cajun named Bordelon. It is called Digging for Alligator Snapping Turtles and Mr. B, in his hip-boots, slogs into the mud at the edge of a drying-up lake and locates the snappers by spotting their noses, which is all you can see. He hauls them out and relocates them to a better area where he sets them free. One animal each year is harvested for a sauce piquante. The biggest one he located on this video weighed more than one hundred pounds and had both the attitude and the equipment to bite your pool cue in two. Also, for all those members who act in movies, here is an opportunity to hear how the Cajuns speak the King’s English. Good, good folks, too.

In case you don’t act in movies but follow organized crime, George Anastasia’s Mob Talk Sit Down #25 went up today. Joey Merlino has gone away to do two more years in the joint, and leadership of the wise guys in South Philly may be up for grabs, with some unfamiliar names in the mix. George and Dave Schratwieser always have the inside dope and tell all in the sit-downs. I’m a fan.
 

vapros

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A limey perp

A limey perp

WWYD if the Derby City Classic were right around the corner and you couldn’t go? Well, a lot of this are in this fix, and I don’t know what we will do until all the warriors are back. We will just have to hope for some fearless correspondents to keep us informed about the battles. There! I have reminded myself of an old, old song about an Indian maiden named Red Wing. It was a sad song, so – as you were, folks. There’s not much hope that all our guys will get rich, but hopefully they will return with some good stories. Whatever else happens at the DCC, it always produces good stories, mostly about money.

Speaking of good stories about battles, in case you have not seen the video of Efren Reyes and Shannon Daulton playing one-pocket at the DCC two years ago it is well worth your time. Down 2-1 in a race to 3, and down 7 balls to 0 and jammed up near his own pocket, you will be treated to one of the best comebacks you will ever see. I won’t say who it was. These two guys are always a fine match. Efren may not be all he ever was but Shannon is one of the all-time powers in the game. Not a tournament regular these days, it seems he can pick up his stick on short notice and play with anyone. And I mean anyone.

Following my own interest in true crime on YouTube, I recently came across a great character named Shawn Attwood. Shawn is British and a strange-looking ex-con if I ever saw one. He is gaunt and pale as a ghost and totally hairless (as far as I can see) except for black eyebrows that look like they were painted on with a felt marker. He came to this country and made millions in the stock market, but he liked to party and thru some good connections he became the supplier of the several partying pills of the rave scene. Eventually, in Arizona he became the king of the ecstasy market as a competitor of the well-known Sammy the Bull Gravano. He and his crew - including his body guards – flew high and spent lots of cash and they all went down together when the law closed in.

So Shawn went to jail for his crimes, including a stay in Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s infamous pokey and hard time in several penitentiaries. When he was released in 2007, he was deported back to England and is forbidden to ever return to the U.S. He is now in demand as an inspirational speaker and author in his own country. He is not the usual drug pusher and former prisoner, but the operator of a YouTube website which is fascinating to crime junkies like me. Lots of interesting guests on his shows.

Attwood tells all about being a convict, holding nothing back, and sometimes he is funny as hell. He encourages his viewers to submit their questions and he answers them on the air – don’t be bashful. There are lots of videos to be seen at your leisure, and he comments on all aspects of prison life. He relates the influence of the gangs in jail, citing the Aryan Brotherhood, the new Mexican Mafia and other groups, each of which is all-powerful in their respective areas of stir. He tells of seeing prisoners killed by those groups or by guards. He describes the five most popular ways to commit suicide by inmates and the initial test in which you fight or get turned out and become for all time the property of others. Sex in jail is a favorite of questioners, and the reality of dropping the soap in the shower or being marked for smashing or death for some slight of behavior toward an insider.

Shawn Attwood is entertaining, but you might not find him as interesting as I do. If you are doing anything that might get you incarcerated, better pay attention. Get a job.
 

vapros

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Anton Raga

Anton Raga

Not being in the know regarding news from the Derby City Classic, one-pocket items are in short supply tonight and I will report instead on the pool scene in the Philippine Islands as I see it on my monitor. Sadly, there seems to be no one-hole action at all but the Pinoys can sure play the rotation games.

Do all you guys know Anton Raga? Well, you should as he is the best ten-ball player in the world. At least that’s what I thought when I first saw him yesterday on YouTube. He was winning a race to 25 over Dennis Orcollo, leaving Dennis on 17 and looking lost. Anton ‘the Dragon’ beat Robocop in every phase of the game, breaking better, shooting straighter, playing safe better and kicking like Bata Reyes. The match happened in the Philippines on the tenth day of this month. The show took three and a half hours and I watched most of it. The stream was not bad, but there was only one camera.

Next up was the same two players in a rematch racing to 35 this time and it took five hours. Dennis won the rematch by 35-25. I looked in on the affair several times, and Anton was still shooting the lights out, but Dennis jumped on top early and won going away. Pool played at that level boggles my mind, and it isn’t only these two, either. The islands seem to be awash in deadly shooters in addition to the ones we already know about. Still on YouTube, you can see Anton losing to Carlo Biado and beating Johan Chua, both whom I thought the best at various times. Raga can also be seen giving Francisco Bustamente two games on the wire going to 22. I have noted before that Efren Reyes can be followed in similar matches with young guys, and some of them give Bata a ball. I think Raga is twenty years old.

Venues for these matches vary widely but some things are the same wherever they are playing. Almost all are without air conditioning and often the players are mopping their faces after nearly every shot. Talcum powder is always nearby and is used liberally. Few billiard gloves are to be seen. Most contestants are in long shorts, and rubber flip-flops are more common than sneakers. There is rarely enough space for more than a few spectators, but the room will have a lot more than capacity. Some seats are available but the crowd is standing room only and it’s common for a player to be forced to delay his shot until enough watchers have edged away far enough for him to swing his cue. Three or four youngsters spring forward after each game to gather balls, wipe the rails and set up the next rack. The one constant is skill. Missing a makeable shot is a rarity and most players are short in stature and make do with some impossibly-long bridges.

These are gambling matches, make no mistake – sometimes the amount will be listed by the streamer, sometimes not. Sources of the money are not revealed but Filipino stake horses must be involved and one must keep in mind that the large amounts mentioned are in pisos, which go for 53 to the US dollar. In round numbers the conversion can be done by multiplying by .02. Even so, hundreds of dollars are in the middle and sometimes thousands. Disposition of the stakes would no doubt be very interesting. Being a top pool player in the islands might be a pretty good gig, especially in light of what we are told about the economy there. It’s no wonder that big name players from the American scene go home to play. It’s not one-pocket, but it’s pool.

Last week I got an offer in the mail from The New Yorker Magazine – twenty-five issues for $25 and they will throw in a year of Vanity Fair. The New Yorker is much too sophisticated for me, but it has the very best cartoons in it, and I am a big fan of good cartoons. Vanity Fair always has some good stuff and I was a subscriber during the time that Dominick Dunne was reporting in depth on the OJ Simpson murder trial. This was a great offer at that rate but there was small print at the bottom – really small print. By signing up I would be agreeing to an automatic renewal at the end of the year, and the price of the renewal would be $149.99!

I have been through this twice before with major magazines. You can opt out of the renewal at the end of the subscription, but by that time it is too late; they had already taken their money two months ago, and your problem is getting it back, and it’s tough. Both times I recovered my money but I had to jump through a lot of hoops along the way. Pissed me pretty good. Much better you should stroll into the Crave Sports Bar in Pasig City and see if any of them little short guys want to play.

They’ve got all the magazines at the public library, anyway.
 

vapros

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The War

The War

Poolroom conversation on a slow day, telling jokes and lies and commenting on a dozen topics with a friend of mine. He began to tell me a story about his father, who has been dead for a good many years. My father was a veteran of World War II said my friend and he fought in Europe or France or one of those countries and now and then he would talk about how bad it was over there. They had to sleep in foxholes out in the weather, rain or shine, and in the winter too. He told about how bad it rained and there was mud everywhere and their trucks would get stuck in the mud and the soldiers would have to get out and push.

If they heard somebody moving around at night they couldn’t tell if it was the enemy or just one of the soldiers. His father wasn’t scared but he said that some of the others were afraid the whole time they were over there. They had it really tough and it was a bad war for sure. That was back in the forties, my friend told me.

Well, that bad war has been over for seventy-four years this year and I remember the time well – it has always been a fascinating time in history for me. The internet has it all in videos – battles, invasions, ships and soldiers, airplanes and rifles – and photos of more dead warriors and civilians of many countries than one can imagine, and I can’t leave it alone. I guess my point is that the soldiers of World War II are about gone now. I was nine when the Japs bombed Pearl Harbor and thirteen when it was over and it’s hard to believe, nearing my eighty-seventh birthday, that I’m too young to have been a veteran. Even more of a jolt it is to realize that the next generation is nearing their own expiration dates. The friend I was sitting with is past the age for Social Security, and has little recollection of any first-hand tales from his father about fighting in Europe or France or any of those countries. The war, like its veterans, has faded into wherever old wars go.

In this country, we didn’t get to see it. We had news on the radio and newsreels when we went to a movie. My own father, who was never in the military, kept big maps on the wall at the house and used colored push-pins to keep up with the location of the front lines in the various places where they fought. He read the Times Picayune and listened to the radio. We had blackouts and air raid drills and food rationing and gasoline rationing and a nationwide speed limit of thirty-five miles per hour. But we didn’t really have a war.

It will be remembered longer and more vividly in most of the rest of the world. Millions of tons of gunpowder and TNT went through cities and villages and people’s houses and schools and churches like a dose of Pluto water. If you have been on the scene of a major hurricane on the Gulf coast you would have some idea of it all, except for the blood and death.

I am just finishing John Grisham’s latest novel, called The Reckoning. One of the characters was called to war in the Pacific in WW II. He was captured and tortured by the Japanese and escaped into the mountains of the Philippines where he fought for three years among a few American soldiers and a large force of Filipino guerillas.

Today, pool has many, many Filipino players and a lot of them compete in the United States. Surely, some of them – Jose and Efren, for example, have heard war stories from old men in the islands, and I am moved to wonder how the war is described in their books and their history classes. Unlike Americans, they had a war, and the old people will surely recall the Japanese. Maybe one day I will have an opportunity to ask a couple of the pinoys about it.

We have had other wars since – bad wars, all – but again they were far away. WW II was The War, and I think of it often. Old man with time on his hands. My elderly friend remembers only that his father said it was tough over there, and I am sure his father was right. Move along, folks – nothing to see here.

And another interest of mine – Mob Talk sitdowns number 26 and 27 are up on YouTube. Philadelphia wise guy did twenty-five years in the joint. When he got out he opened a restaurant. It was a big success and a very popular place to dine on good food. The guy did well and lived well. Now he has been indicted again for extortion and might be back inside before long. Why would he do that? George Anastasia says they just can’t ever leave it behind. It is what it is.

Thanks for reading.
 

vapros

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Holidays

Holidays

It’s carnival time in the states along the Gulf coast and south Louisiana is all painted up in the carnival colors, purple, green and yellow. No pastels for Mardi Gras, folks. One day this week I went to the bakery where I buy my shoe soles. I like pastry - might be the reason for my longevity – or not. Anyway the big window is all painted up for the occasion, Colombina mask and string of beads, all in the bright colors. Down in the corner was the signature; art by Chuckles the Clown, looked like a feminine touch.

Being an old sign painter I am reminded of the traveling window dogs who turned up at holiday time to decorate store windows. For the week or ten days before the event he would come around and for a reasonable fee he would paint your window in the water-based tempera color and with the appropriate items for the season. He seldom spent more than forty minutes on a job and could do as many as ten in a good day. He had his specialties memorized and knocked them out like magic. Everything he needed was close at hand in his truck and right after getting out his stuff he was finished and gone. There are still a few window dogs in action today, moving and selling the displays.

I knew an older guy who liked to tell about the life. He had had a small shop somewhere in Arkansas, Texarkana maybe, and he locked it up when he hit the road for holiday work. He said he had a route that included small towns in nearby areas in Louisiana and Oklahoma, and a number of customers who looked for him as time approached for window painting. Some even had the windows cleaned when he arrived. For the others he carried a sponge and bucket and squeegee. His fee, he told me, was forty dollars by the time he quit, and that worked out to more than three hundred bucks a day. Several decades ago, when he was traveling, he expected to gross between two and three G per trip. That kind of money, a that time, would pay the rent and buy the groceries and leave some for one’s beer and smokes. No doubt – like the pool players - they told the IRS all about it.

I think his name was Lomax or something similar. In February Lomax painted hearts and diamonds. In March it was leprechauns and shamrocks and in April it would be painted eggs and bunnies. Then came stars and stripes and then fireworks. In the fall he did skeletons and witches and black cats, then baked turkeys and falling leaves. When Christmas approached Lomax might be gone from home for most of a month. It was hard work and living out of some kind of camper on a pickup truck, but he loved it.

Then there was Clark Byers, working in the southeastern states for quite a few years. Byers would paint the roof of your barn if you would agree to display the promo for Rock City. See Rock City, or Visit Beautiful Rock City, or See Seven States from Rock City. He would reward the owner with a packet of Rock City souvenirs and the sum of three dollars if necessary. Four gallons of black paint and two gallons of white. He claimed to have done over nine hundred barns in nineteen states. Currently, we are told only about eighty remain to view, and a few of those are being repainted. But not by Byers.

Equally iconic, but not so personal, were the Burma Shave signs posted along the highways for the entertainment of passing travelers. A brilliant promotion, they were in use from 1926 to 1963. A few remain – along old Route 66 for example. **School zone here – take it slow – let the little shavers grow – Burma Shave. **Within this life – of toil and sin – your head grows bald – but not your chin – Burma Shave. ** Free, free – a trip to Mars – for just 900 - empty jars - Burma Shave.

I watched a fine one-pocket match on YouTube last night, courtesy of Railbird Productions. They offer quite a few matches from this years DCC, and the one I saw was between John Schmidt and Niels Feijen. In the first thirteen minutes they each ran eight-and-out, but the third and fourth games featured some great one-pocket action, with first one player and then the other seeming in fatal traps and shooting their way out. Feijen had John shooting uphill most of the way and punished him for each error at the table and won the match by 3-1. Good viewing for an hour and four minutes. The commentator was not too familiar with the game, but the stream was outstanding. Luckily, one-pocket can be enjoyed with the sound off and I often watch it that way.

Today, about fifty years late, I am reading The Valachi Papers. It’s like Goodfellas and the Sopranos all at once. All the famous mobsters of yesterday are in there and all have funny nicknames. I’m loving it.
 

vapros

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Gunners

Gunners

Smash and grab as a form of wealth redistribution did not begin in Washington. It’s a lot older than even the town, let alone the Congress. In a nutshell, if you saw something you wanted in a store window you would come back in the night, pick up a handy brick and chunk it through the glass. Then you reached in and claimed your loot and ran like hell. It became a tougher gig if the window was tempered glass and your brick bounced back and hit you in the mouth, or if all the watches turned out to be Timexes, or if you got too old to make the dash. And sometimes you might not even be able to find a brick. Semi-violent crime, to be sure.

Modern-day smash and grabbers have been turning out in force at the pool tournaments and not only in the rotation games, which have always been semi-violent and not very important anyway. Now they are playing one pocket – maybe you have noticed. Tony Chohan may have been the first. I can recall only a couple of years ago writing in this journal about T-Rex and wondering if the game was making a significant turn or if we were only seeing a big guy with long shirts and short pants having hot flashes at the table. Either way, the gun slingers were sure to be disarmed when they came up against the Filipinos. Not to worry.

Well, you can worry now – and don’t bother looking the other way, either. Videos of the matches at the Derby City Classic are making it clear. Betting on the pinoys is still a sound game plan, but don’t think you are stealing and don’t bet the rent money. A bunch of children, many of them from far-away places and with strange-sounding names, are all over the news. Ruslan Chinakov, Eklent Kaci and Omar Al Shaheen are only a few of them. I believe there is one named Fedor, and I wish someone would ask him how to pronounce it, because if he is a Russian I imagine his name is Fyodor, but we can’t type the necessary umlaut. Along with Billy Thorpe, Chris Robinson and Chris Melling and many more, these guys are pure shooters and can run balls. Most are not accomplished one-pocket players and may not even aspire to that, but man – if they give you a shot you’d better make it. They come to the table with their own bricks, just hoping for a small window to smash. They are bold, unrepentant and deadly. Theirs is not the traditional relationship with Jojo, because they never doubt that the next shot will be theirs, too. How to slow them down? Suppose you make them wait for a shot, choke them and test their patience, would they begin shooting up in the air? Where are you, San Jose Dick?

Last night I watched Omar suffocate Tony Chohan very neatly, winning a race to three. His game management was just as impressive as his shot making, and Tony had very few chances to show anything. He did manage to win the third game when Omar went for a two-rail kick at the last ball, trying to push it down the foot rail toward his pocket and not only whiffing it, but scratching to boot. Tom Wirth could have showed him how to do it, or Jack Cooney or any Filipino. Not much strategic maneuvering in that contest, but we knew that right from jump street. Not with those two.

I’m enjoying these videos and staying up late to watch them. If I understand correctly, Accu Stats has an exclusive arrangement with the tournament, and all the other streamers must record the video only and add the audio at a later time. This being the case, there can be some excuse for displaying the score incorrectly so much of the time if they can’t see the actual balls in the rack. But they can at least see the ones still on the table. Not so with the commentary. If they are doing it at their leisure, so to speak, at a remote location, are there no one pocket players at all that they could enlist to help out? Bad commentary - uninformed commentary - is worse than none at all. More and more I am watching muted videos. Some are frank to admit they don’t know the game, but they comment anyway, and often about things other than the match. I really don’t like to rant. Strike that, I do like to rant. Giggling Sophie with her little girl voice and Mike (?) had a fun time on the audio while T-Rex was being drawn and quartered on the video.

If they were watching in Moscow – and they might have been – they probably said ‘smishno’.
 

vapros

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What's up, John?

What's up, John?

It’s ten pm on Sunday and Jimmy B has just posted the news that John Schmidt, at Bullshooters, has scratched on a break shot, ending his current streak at 350 balls. This seems like an unlikely announcement; certainly one that you don’t hear every day. Just what was involved there, anyway? All I knew about it was that John was putting in long hours on a table there in his attempt to pocket a record number of balls in 14.1 fashion. The original post on this thing appeared a couple of weeks ago, and there are multiple reports of his other failed (?) efforts since that time and we are left to wonder if he does it every day, and for how many hours. Will he start over tomorrow morning? If he doesn’t reach his goal, at what point will he pack it in?

Playing straight pool with no opponent would be pretty much like an endless practice session with consequences – not far removed from manual labor. My own practice sessions on my eight-foot table feature missed shots and a bit of creative profanity. When I miss, sometimes I start over and sometimes I don’t. What the hell, you know what I mean? I can only imagine the level of focus he has to bring to the table and sustain. No mulligans here. Many rumors and semi-sworn reports advise that Mosconi’s best total has been surpassed on several occasions and by a number of different players. For that matter, how well-documented is the golden number, anyway? What body is in charge of pool records, if any is? Other than results from tournaments, I don’t see how there can be official records in our game. At any rate, John’s quest makes an interesting story that has created some needed participation and comments here. I wish John the best and I hope Jimmy’s message tonite won’t be the final one.

I think the recently-completed event in Memphis will be an epic one in the history of this website. Far as I know we have no members who play pool for a living, and while such players would be welcome I think we are better off without them. We demonstrate that there are other reasons to play – good reasons. (My friend BRLongArm has violent seizures when I talk like that.) When each year there are only a few events outside your own area from which to choose, when you must fit them into a schedule, when you must budget your expenses knowing there is only a dim chance you will break even, your life in one-pocket offers different pleasures. You can prepare your game for them; you can go and compete hard against players who may be better than you are. You can win and lose and dine and drink soda pop and laugh out loud and tell lies with the same guys you meet at OnePocket.org. Then everyone goes home and remembers the time as a good time.

For some reason, I feel the Memphis tournament may have been special. Witness the various accounts posted by the guys who were there. Some of them travelled a long way to get there, but they will be at the next one, too. How much better could it be?

We are indebted to Rail Birds and to Bad Boys for bringing us free videos of competition at the 2019 Derby City Classic and we can only hope that sponsors and donations from viewers will make it worth their while. For viewers at home, it becomes a sort of candy store. I have mentioned before that I find the video first-rate, and the commentary generally poor or worse. In a one-pocket match I watched last night, a pair of speakers yakked it up about unrelated things. An easy shot that might well have determined the winner of the game was butchered and missed. They failed to even note it. Later they missed a foul and spotted ball and reached the end game with the wrong score posted. When the shooter made his seventh ball and was still at the table without a shot, they posted the win for him and then wondered whether the mis-count was his or theirs. I muted the rest – no excuse for such as that.

Fantastic one-pocket is played by the youngsters. I saw Eklent Kaci break a rack and Josh Filler responded by running eight and out on his first shot. In the next game almost the same thing happened, except that Kaci ran only seven on Filler’s break. They search the stack like Corey Deuel and Tony Chohan, and if there’s anything to see they go for it and often make it. Balls in the jaws of the opponent’s pocket are ignored. I saw Shane Winters and Fedor Gorst for the first time, and another young guy I had never heard of – Anthony Meglino. Anthony can play.

Another milestone for my journal. It has passed twenty thousand views now. Who knew? And even when I neglect it I’m aware that this forum is important and should be tended. I am still disappointed by the absence of good pool stories – or good stories of any kind. Ross Keith Thompson contributes good stuff, even if he posts it in another category. Speak up – we can’t wait forever.
 

vapros

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Efren and Billy

Efren and Billy

Exciting news this week, and even I am excited. We are told that in the second week of June, Efren Reyes and Billy Thorpe will tie up in a major money match in the city of West Monroe, Louisiana. Neither of these guys has appeared before in any of the recent streamed encounters. Scheduled for a max of five days, they will play races to ten until one of them has won three. Talk about a contrast in styles – more, I believe, than T-Rex and the Robocop. I feel certain that Bata will be a strong sentimental favorite, whether the other bettors see him that way or not. He is still the Magician and in the later years of a fabulous career on the table.

Thorpe, or course, is a gunner and one of the premier shot-makers of today, but he has proven that he can play one-pocket, also, with a DCC title a few years ago. No one has played the game better than Reyes, or as long, but down in the Islands the kids are giving him weight in the rotation games. I’m not sure what that means but it is an indication of something that must be considered.

YouTube (yeah, YouTube) has a series of four videos, all made in a single evening, from 2014, when he played Bobby Emmons in California – maybe at Hard Times? Bobby and his backers came in from Arizona and lost a race to five and a race to seven and then a race to ten games. With stakes and side action I’m sure they dropped more than ten G that night. I rate Bobby Emmons equal to any other shooters I have seen, and I think his plan was to shoot his way out, but Efren is a shooter, too. But Bobby was not a one-pocket player and was forced to shoot up-hill all the way. When he got a shot he could run out, but he seldom got a shot. Efren and Jojo gave the younger man no air. The only thing he had going for him was the 9-6 game and it wasn’t nearly enough. When it was over he explained that he had played ‘horrible’ and was speaking of a possible rematch in Las Vegas. I don’t think he knew just what a bad game he was in, but he was a warrior and never shed a tear.

I have to look back at that match – and I did this week – to get some sort of outlook for the coming game. Without a doubt Reyes will out-move Thorpe and we will find out how long Billy can wait for his opportunities. If he ever starts shooting up in the air it might be fatal. Efren could be over-aggressive and Thorpe will punish him for his shooting errors. Different strengths for certain.

I was mighty impressed with Bata’s performance against Emmons, but that was five years ago – a helluva long time at his time of life. I really hope he will show his teeth in West Monroe. A mere finger of speech, of course.

I watched a little German named Josh Filler win a singles title at the DCC, as his opponent suffered a disastrous foul call that proved fatal. Jacked up over a ball, he touched the wrong ball with his cue tip, even though he did not move it. Then I saw Filler run 285 balls in the 14.1 competition. I know the fans of the rotation games have been aware of him for several years but I had never seen him before. He’s a cool player at the table with no visible weaknesses. We are indebted to the RailBird people for lots of entertaining videos from the DCC.

Watching the 9 ball matches, using the mandatory AccuRack, I could not help noticing how immobile the money ball was on nearly every break. If nothing rebounded from a cushion to move it, it remained right where it was racked. The MagicRack illustrated the same thing, if not quite as consistently. Geometrically I suppose the 9 ball is not supposed to leave the rack, as the force is diverted away from it on both sides, but that’s not the way it is in the traditional racks. But why can’t human hands achieve an equally perfect arrangement? Must be a reason why it usually joins the rest of the pack in touring the table.

I saw Chris Melling go seven rails for position – a pretty unusual tactic. Chris is a fine player who has lost quite a few pounds in the last year or so, and an entertaining guy to watch. His kick shots are carefully calculated and sometimes produce dramatic results. Using his cue as a ruler, he can plot the path of even two or three railers, but he’s no Filipino. His failures can be epic, as well.

That’s about it. If you get a chance, tune in a little Russian girl about so high, who plays out of Roy’s Basement. Christina Tkach is her name and pool is her game. If you get to play her, don’t bet too much. Also, I can recommend Match #27 from the recent US Open 9 Ball Championship. Alex Pagulayan played Aloysius Yapp in a hill-hill thriller. Yapp is a pudgy Asian – from Hong Kong maybe? – who plays a lot better than you might expect when you first see him. Enjoy.
 

vapros

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Here's looking at you, kid

Here's looking at you, kid

I’m a week past the cornea transplant and it seems to be doing fine – I saw the guy again today and he said it was looking good. Been using a lot of exotic drops in the eye and the vision is returning a little at a time. It’s going to be a while, but at least I am a little more comfortable at the keyboard. I can drive my car after a fashion but I am required to send up flares now and then so the other drivers will know I’m back on the street and they should take the proper precautions. Was this a big deal? Yes, it was because it was my eye. If it had been my fist or my pancreas, not so much. Very little pain and discomfort. Three of my daughters showed up at the hospital for the occasion and when a nurse wanted to know about the group I told her it was my favorite daughter and her sisters. They brought me tasty food and sympathy. Good folks.

Since this replacement cornea was furnished by a donor (dead person) my kit included a suggestion that I write a note to the grieving family, so I suppose I will do that. There is an address for me to use, but it will be an anonymous contact. What can you say except thanks for this restored vision? I am thinking the donor might have been a Democrat, because I’m beginning to look at things differently (but still a bit blurry). I hope there is no rule here against cheap shots.

YouTube is awash in good-quality videos of recent matches – from the Derby City Classic and other events since that time – and I am eating them up. One pocket in its new form, with new and ultra-talented players. I have a pretty good collection of older matches, and one can watch and learn a great deal because the execution involved was often within the reach of guys like me. Efren Reyes and Jose Parica are still among my favorites, but there is Buddy Hall and Billy Incardona and Steve Cook and Shannon Daulton and Jeremy Jones and Grady Mathews and Richie Richeson and Nick Varner and Cliff Joyner and many others who performed on my DVDs. Pagulayan and Bustamente were relative newcomers at the time I was stocking my library. I have at least two or three with the late Mike Surber, who was a fine player, by the way.

Currently I watch for entertainment. These guys are doing things I could never hope to copy. They shoot hard and aggressively, and the tide of the game swings back and forth with nearly every shot. A pattern on the table that might seem to make Joe Blow a big favorite can be reversed in a single stroke that leaves John Doe with the upper hand – at least for now. Exciting stuff. The photography is great, but most of the commentary is abysmal and better left muted. At least in this respect the old videos are superior by a wide margin. I am recalling Hall, Incardona, Bill (Weenie Beanie) Staton, Freddy Bentivegna, Mathews, Varner and Danny Diliberto.

With the match in West Monroe, Louisiana scheduled to begin in just a couple of days I asked YouTube for videos of Billy Thorpe playing one-pocket, and was surprised to see there are not many. I can’t recall which year he was the DCC champion, but where are the videos? Most of what is available is for this season. He will go against my favorite, Efren Reyes, this week for cash and I wanted to see him in action so I brought up a couple of recent matches. Thorpe is a very impressive player who shoots straight and knows the game. It’s not hard to see him winning at the DCC tournament, but I did note that he seemed to be quick on the trigger. No doubt Reyes will make him pay close attention and have a good look before he picks his shot. He will find Jojo in some terrible places when he comes to the table.

I hope it will be a good contest and I would love to be there, but I probably won’t. At least I will wait to see how the first day goes, and if I can’t stand it I just might hit the road. I will let the State Police know I am coming, and maybe there will be a fire sale on those $120 seats when I get there. I will wait and see – in a manner of speaking.

Oh, and I want to offer my congratulations to Warren Kiamco, this year’s champion of the US Open One-Pocket tournament. Who knew? I think of him as being one of the Filipinos who has endured for quite a few years in American tournaments. Now I find that he is the real article, obviously, and that is great. He doesn’t make much noise and moves quietly, and I doubt anyone will begrudge him this win. Could he be the next Bata Reyes – a popular guy who can do the job? Pool could use a few more guys like that. Good luck to him.
 

vapros

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Current events

Current events

This journal is long overdue for a post, and tonight it will get one. The topic is going to be, ahhh, . . . . current events. Yep, that’s it – current events, mostly Louisiana style.

Unsure what my opening would be, I have discovered a survey of sorts put up today by my friend, Joe Long (BRLongArm), who I have not seen or spoken with in several months. Joe has a one-pocket coin, one side representing gamblers and the other the tournament scene. As gamblers he describes the one-time road agents who hustled action in pool rooms where they were not known, and who have been severely limited, if not put out of business, by the information age. Joe is a gambler, a promoter and a guy who will put his money where his mouth is, and he notes that we are all here to ‘support and foster growth in one-pocket’.

However, as he offers his coin for a vote by the members, he flips out a great number of dedicated one-pocket players. Like me. Granted, our coins are largely nickels and dimes, but g-d, there are a lot of us. Happily, successful room owners still like us. I’ve got more thoughts on this topic, but maybe they are best left unsaid.

Okay, moving along – a young man from Livingston Parish has won the latest American Idol contest and instantly became a genuine hero in Louisiana. I believe he is a musician, as I have seen photos of him with a guitar, and apparently he is a very good one. I’m a bit embarrassed not to know more about it, but that’s how it is. Big Parade right down Florida Boulevard in Denham Springs.

And in St. Charles Parish, not much farther down the road than Livingston, an alligator has bitten a deputy sheriff. I would rate this a major humiliation, as it was not even a big bull alligator – about five feet long, said the report – and that’s barely more than a large lizard. Nailed him pretty good, I believe. He will hear about it for a while in the department. A bigger gator quite recently bit off a piece of a sheriff’s department patrol unit. Wildlife and the law -I will let you know if it gets serious.

For the second time in less than a year, a big ship has collided with the Sunshine Bridge. This time it was a minor blow, maybe more like a scrape, but last fall there was a bigger impact that closed the bridge for several months as they repaired it. This span is the only connection from the west bank to the east bank between Baton Rouge and Boutte. Big event for lots of people when it is shut down. That makes a total of twenty-one such encounters involving boats and that bridge. The navigation gap is some 685 feet wide, but sometimes that’s not big enough. It’s worth noting that the base pay for river pilots is six hundred G, and it’s one of the hardest outfits to break into that I know of. Congress is much easier, and a lot less picky. The river pilots have to prove they know how to do their jobs.

A lady from here in Baton Rouge has just set a new record for her age group in the track and field area. Julia Hawkins is a hundred and three years old, and in a seniors competition she ripped off a hundred meters in 46.07 seconds. Not sure if it was from a standing start or if she had blocks. This is impressive, and I mean it.

I saw the eye doctor today, and we noted some improvement in the function of the eye that received a cornea transplant three weeks ago. He took out a stitch that he had put in during the surgery. He tried to show it to me after removing it, but I never did see it. Smaller than a human hair, said the doctor, and maybe a quarter-inch long. I thought that was impressive, also.

The chief fund-raiser for the Our Lady of the Lake Hospital Foundation was in court today and pled guilty to stealing more than $550 G over the last several years. The sum of $180 G went to the parents of one of the down linemen on the LSU Tiger football team. More than $100 G went to the family of another player, who immediately kicked back about $60 G to the thief. Combined, that’s more than half of his take, and maybe he should be given some credit for that, since it was for a good cause. Of course I am being sarcastic about that, but not so much as you might think. Major college athletic programs and their supporters have been doing such as that for many years, and it is only a sin if you are caught.

Let’s see , what else? For $89.99 you can buy a four-motor folding drone with camera. That’s pretty spooky. For about the same amount you can purchase a program that will enable you to speak forty-three languages, (tho I’m not sure which forty-three) and I fear I have just passed up a wonderful opportunity to end this post, so I will do it now.
 

vapros

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Hot Day

Hot Day

It’s Sunday afternoon in the city of Baton Rouge and the temperature is 98 degrees. The relative humidity is only 46%, so it could be worse and often is. Have not been out of the house since Friday, and tomorrow is uncertain. I’m not sick, it’s just that it is pretty easy to be cool inside and besides, I have been going out too many times when I didn’t really feel good enough to play one-pocket, and have embarrassed myself. I need energy to be competitive and I don’t always have it.

AT&T contacted me, wanting to know why I had dropped my TV coverage, and I told them that I had quit watching when I discovered YouTube. Now I have a little inside antenna that makes the local news available when I want it. When I broke the ATT package, I saved about eighty dollars a month, and they responded by letting me know that now I would be limited to 1024 gigabytes a month of high-speed internet service. I thought this might be bad news, so I called customer service and asked what my usual usage has been in the past. 48 gigs a month was the answer to that – big relief. I suppose the heavy load is gaming and music and movies online. In the bedroom I also have a little inside antenna, and like the one out front it offers about ten to twelve channels, which is more than I need. However, I miss my nightly doses of Forensic Files. Instead, I can pick up Alfred Hitchcock, Mannix and Cannon. No wonder it doesn’t cost anything. One night I turned in early and got Jack Benny and then George and Gracie. In the afternoons they offer MASH and Andy Griffith and Gomer Pyle. Hardly any infomercials at all – don’t know why. (Yes, I do)

On YouTube I’m a junkie on the subject of WWII, and the more I watch the more they offer me. There’s no end to it – it really was the first war to be recorded at length and in detail. If you have ever watched any battlefield pictures from the American Civil War you may have noticed that all those dead soldiers seem to have died face-up, or else somebody was busy rolling them over. Not so WWII and other wars since, where we can see them as they fell. We mustn’t forget.

In the same vein, I discovered a series of twenty-minute biographies online, featuring many historical characters of that era, especially in eastern Europe and around the Balkans. The series is called Biographics, and it’s put on by an Englishman named Simon Whistler, who lives now in Belgrade for some reason. He is baldheaded, bearded, fast-talking and animated. (I guess you have to wear a beard of some sort to appear on today’s visual media). I have watched his presentations on Hitler, Stalin, Tito, Churchill and such as those. The series is extensive. Unable to help myself I went on to hear about Billy the Kid, Charley Manson, Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer and the BTK guy. Simon knows all about everybody and can’t wait to tell us.

If movie stars and other entertainers is your thing you might prefer the offerings of Jerry Skinner, who does biographies more domestic. You have to like Jerry and his deep south accent – not far from the Gulf coast I imagine.

The Morning Advocate this weekend added a couple of names to the list of clerics ‘credibly accused’ of sexual abuse in the Baton Rouge Diocese. Up to forty-three now and still counting. Nation-wide it’s thousands. I was going to write ‘who knew?’, but the sad truth is that people did know, but wouldn’t tell. That’s pretty sick. Hundreds of millions of church dollars are being spent every year for the victims and their lawyers. Sex is big, kids are small and a lot of people just aren’t worth a shit. Enough about that.

Gonna be a long hot summer, and this is when the coaches discover who really wants to play. LSU should have a good season and a lot is expected from their quarterback. Joe Burrow came south barely a year ago, having seen the handwriting on the wall at Ohio State. He’s cool and smart and he can run a little and we think he will be a winner. But we have to go to Tuscaloosa again – annual bullet to bite. Later -
 

vapros

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Eagles and such

Eagles and such

Well, just about everything I have learned this year has come from Google, YouTube and this website. Everybody is watching TV but all the news there is bad, so I stick to my reliable sources. I suppose this puts a bit of pressure on you guys, but it is what it is.

Jeffrey Epstein made some more headlines a few days ago. He was found laid out in his cell in the pokey with some sort of injuries to his neck. Even YouTube doesn’t pretend to know what happened, so take a guess and you might be right. Appears to be too late for anybody to kill him but maybe he tried to do the Dutch – and if not, why not? It must be tough to be as rich as he is and to be even more notable for something else. We haven’t even been told he was kind to animals or anything like that. Nobody – but nobody – is putting in a good word for Epstein. What will they write on his stone?

I’ve been following a website called Stephen Fry in America. Fry is a portly Englishman on a tour of the fifty states and doing some good shows at every stop. He motors around in a little black sedan – I can’t quite make out what it is. He’s a homely character and it’s not easy to watch him because he resembles that idiot, Piers Morgan, but he is likable and casual and finds people happy to talk with him wherever he goes. Today I watched him travel the river, beginning in New Orleans and tracking the Big Muddy all the way to Minnesota, driving mostly US 61 which goes right through my town on its route.

I also watched the young Big Bear eagle take off on his very first flight, on his one hundredth day of life. All the wildlife cams are wonderful – and the eagle cams especially- but the Big Bear group is a favorite. The TV camera is mounted on the very edge of the nest, way the hell up in the top of a big tree. When one of the parents arrives with a fish, it is torn up and eaten within about two feet of the camera. We can see a river down below, and to the eagles it’s always Friday – they have fish every day. Once we saw one of the wildlife guys show up at the nest and put leg bands on both this year’s chicks, for identification. Later he made the climb again and weighed both young birds. He comes on camera with all his climbing gear on, and it must be a helluva workout to reach that nest. You know how them wildlife people are – they do whatever they have to do and they go where the critters are.

There are also cameras on the bears catching salmon in the rivers and the swift water. There are so many fish that you might see a bear catch one and take a bite or two and toss the carcass aside and catch another one. Down in south Florida there is a young guy who hikes far into the Everglades and sets up Browning cameras that are camouflaged and motion activated. He leaves them up for many weeks and then finds dozens of videos recorded with all the wildlife that passes, day or night. It records the sound, also. Big alligators, by the way, don’t crawl around on their bellies. They get up on their legs and walk. Maybe some of you did not know. But you all care, don’t you? The woods and all outdoors in this country are now full of such cameras. It’s not only the government taking pictures today, so dress nice when you go out hunting or fishing and check around before you pee. Don’t forget what you look like when the weather is cold and a picture of it could show up on social media.

I watched a video yesterday of a dark-skinned man in a jewelry store, who did a very kind thing for a young mother who tried to sell her ring to get money to buy food for her young children. Recorded and sponsored by ‘America For Arabs’. I don’t know what to make of that – never heard of that group before.

I mustn’t forget that this is a one-pocket site and not a Dan’l Boone thing. I watched an old video of an interview with Freddie the Beard Bentivegna in Chicago. If you have been around here for more than just a few years you can remember Freddie. He was very active here from the early days of the site. Good interviewer and a good TV show, very funny. Freddie talked about the ‘old days’ of hustling and grifting and gambling and life at Bensinger’s. He explained what it meant to ‘play on ass’ and what a ‘through ticket’ was and also a ‘shit mickey’. He had been there and had done it all, and he left some great stories here for us. He died too soon.

When I sit here at the computer and watch the matches, old or recent, I do a running commentary aloud. It’s not that I comment that much on the play, but I get pretty excited coaching the players. As I look at the table I generally see the very best shot for the occasion and I point it out to the shooter at least once. He might hesitate, but I don’t cut him any slack – I repeat it until he sees the light or shoots something else. They don’t always pay attention as they should and it’s only blind luck if they succeed without my help. It is just as well that there is no one to hear me.

That’s it. I’m going to bed soon – it’s nearly one AM. High time for the rest of you to call it a day, also – except for maybe Jimmy B – he stays up later than I do.
 

vapros

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Gators

Gators

Always on the lookout for items that might be of interest to readers who spend less time on YouTube than I do. Sometimes there is a superabundance of such stuff, and sometimes there isn’t much. I have long since quit reminding myself that this site is dedicated to the game of one-pocket. There are other forums here for that. If I have any function here at all it is reporting and commenting and always hoping that I can find funny things, which after all are the only things worth much.

I have recently mentioned a young guy in Florida who hikes deep into the jungle-like Everglades to station trail cameras to collect videos of wildlife. His name is Tim Harrell and his equipment is the Browning Recon Force Extreme trail camera. It comes ready-camouflaged. To be honest, Tim’s posted videos – each about fifteen minutes – can be too repetitive to hold one’s interest. There are endless deer, several bears of various sizes, the occasional panther and plenty of birds and smaller animals. The camera records whenever it sees motion. But yesterday I noted a three-minute record of one of his recent adventures.

Tim films as he walks, no doubt with a camera mounted on his chest. He encountered a sign, posted on a tree, to the effect that he should beware of an alligator bigger than ten feet long which had been observed several times blocking the little dirt road in the sun. Cool weather moves the reptiles who need warmth. Sure enough, on his way out, Tim found the bull gator lying diagonally across the road and blocking both tire tracks. What to do? He had to pass, so he advanced to within about fifteen feet and rapped on the ground with his tripod, hoping the beast would yield. It did not. After venturing even closer a couple of times, the gator still played dead. At last Tim dashed the last six feet and leaped across and ran like hell. Looking back we can all see that the alligator had not even flinched. Tim was exhilarated by the leap, the gator not so much.

He labelled the video ‘alligator jumping’ so you can find it if you wish. It begs the old question – where does an eight-hundred-pound gorilla sleep?

Jeffery Epstein, if not an eight-hundred-pound gorilla at least the elephant in the room, was found dead this morning in his jail cell in New York. Apparently he had committed suicide, method not reported at this time. You will recall that he is awaiting trial on a lot of charges related to under-age girls that he abused sexually and supplied to others for similar crimes. The girls, now adult women, are coming forward in force with damning accusations against him and his death leaves a lot of fascinating possibilities hanging and awaiting resolution.

Epstein, himself, won’t be tried now and cannot be convicted and that in itself is news-worthy, especially for his family. However, although he was the only one charged so far, a number of other notables were named and accused by the girls. A lawyer and Harvard professor, Allen Dershowitz, is one of them and Prince Andrew of the British royal family is another. Both have been denying loudly and squirming visibly for several weeks. What is ahead for them, if anything? Can the justice system overlook possible charges of pedophilia, a felony in any state? Only Epstein is off the hook.

Bill Clinton’s name has come up, naturally, and although he has logged a great many air miles in a flying machine with the children, I’m not aware that any of them has accused him of doing wrong. Donald Trump, in turn, seems to have partied with Epstein back in the day, but being a good Republican we can assume he behaved with great restraint – and they have been estranged now for a good many years. But there are others, foreign notables whose names would not be quite so familiar and whose liability in this country maybe not quite so great.

This tangled mess will be noted in history books before long, and presented in various forms by the various authors of the books. Treachery and espionage could be adjudged greater sins, only in that your country might execute you. Sexual abusers of minor children, on the other hand, might have to do it themselves.
 

vapros

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YouTube

YouTube

The U.S. Postal Service thinks I live on Jefferson Highway in Baton Rouge – probably because that’s where they leave all my junk mail – but that’s just where I keep my pool table and my computer – oh, and my bed. Actually, I am living on YouTube, maybe you have noticed. I can’t imagine that I was paying someone good money to provide my TV service. Good riddance. ATT keeps sending me emails with better and better propositions, if only I would come back. What would it take? Well, I might be willing to pay four dollars a month, or maybe as much as four-fifty. Then I could get back to Forensic Files at bedtime.

Here I am, trying to keep up a journal on a one-pocket website even though most of the members here know more about it than I do. That’s pretty cheeky. I have long since posted all my bowling stories and I hate to have to make stuff up (no, I don’t). At the end of the day, as they say in Washington, it is obvious that I should stick pretty much to what I know – which is what? I know how to be old and how to live alone and how to poach eggs and how to do a search on Google. That’s about it.

But I can tell you what I follow on YouTube and save you some time – don’t worry, it’s all great stuff. In case you are into herping (snakes and amphibians) have a look at “NFKherping’, where a sharp young man named Noah Fields and a couple of his buddies are traveling around – often at night – to find these small beasts. Not nerds, either, these guys. They know the scientific names and they take pictures and make videos and leave them all just as they find them. They recently spent several weeks in west Texas and New Mexico, where they turned up some astonishing beautiful and gaudy snakes that look like some kid might have done them with Crayolas. I would never have believed it. Lots and lots of rattlesnakes out there, also. They come in many kinds.

I watch Patrick Bet-David, who does an interview show for TV. Pat gets interesting guests and asks them good questions and that makes him better than the sports guys. There’s Tim Harrell who puts out trail cameras down in the Everglades and lets us see what is prowling the wetlands. There are a number of such cameras mounted high up in the nests of eagles and other birds, and cameras posted along rivers to capture the bears who fish for salmon. I like the shows about organized crime and La Cosa Nostra, and a show called Mob Talk about the guys in South Philadelphia. George Anastasia walks around town reporting about hoods, wire taps, grand juries, crimes, contracts for hits, criminal courts and jails. George posts roughly once a month. Shows about Appalachia are fascinating – one of the oldest wilderness settlements on this side – full of interesting people, poverty, mining, folk stories and music. The kids’ teeth are rotting, and some of the dentists believe that Mountain Dew is the cause. It’s the big drink in that area and many babies are weaned on it. Lots of sugar in Mountain Dew.

I’m a World War II buff of sorts, having watched many videos about the several failures of Adolf Hitler’s Operation Barbarossa that was turned back at Moscow, Stalingrad and the siege of Leningrad that went on for 872 days. Many thousands of German soldiers froze to death in the Russian winters or starved to death and died in battle for the lack of ammunition and winter clothes. The Russians seemed to never run out of soldiers and they spent them like rifle bullets, but they turned the war around, halting the march to the east and starting it back toward Berlin. Never such a bloody war in history.

I will leave it here for tonight and get this posted. There’s a lot more, but it can wait for another time. Today I beat Killer 4-3, and that’s a red-letter day for me. Jojo and I put him up against the wall and made him shoot up in the air. Life is good.

Recently, in a coffee shop, I sat next to a kid who was working on an assignment in his workbook. I could easily see the heading at the top of the page. ‘Calculate your weight in other worlds’. Other worlds? Are they pulling my weenie? Kid looked like he was maybe nine years old. Probably didn’t know the multiplication table. I have lived too long. Later -
 

vapros

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Into the woods

Into the woods

I used to be a woodcarver. At age ten or eleven – this would have been during The War – I acquired an old life preserver. The flotation in it was balsa wood blocks sewed up in the pockets of a canvas vest. I suppose the canvas must have been waterproofed because I have no doubt the balsa would have soaked up water like a sponge. I became the owner of nine or ten sizeable blocks of wood and I had a pocket knife and I carved. Boy, did I carve! Forbidden in the house, I carved in the garage, in the company of two or three milk goats who were good company, indeed. Great animals and much impressed with my work. I don’t recall ever carving a goat.

So I became a great woodcarver? Not. But I did become a fan of those who do it better. Currently, I visit a website called Stinnett Sticks to watch videos of a bearded guy named Michael Stinnett creating beautiful walking sticks. His shop is in Canyon City, Oregon, but the carving is done somewhere else, in the mountains and the woods in beautiful scenery. Along with a fat little fox terrier named Molly he hikes around in the outback carrying a saw and cutting his blanks from downed trees, generally with the bark still on. Imagine this: a walking stick with a diamondback rattlesnake four feet long curled around it and climbing toward a chipmunk at the top. You must begin with a sizeable piece of lumber.

Every scale on the snake would be individually carved and hand painted, or every feather if he is making a bird, and all precisely true to life. I believe they are all for sale, but I imagine you would have to want it pretty bad. Here in south Louisiana competitions are held among the artists who carve duck decoys with similar care and artistry. I envy them all. Solitary labor, like the sign painters. I could do that.

While we are outdoors I would mention the name of Shawn James, whose videos can be found at a site called My Self Reliance. Shawn is in the Canadian Algonquin Park, which is just across Lake Ontario from western New York. I don’t know where he is from, but he sounds like maybe Virginia – he can say ‘aboot the hoose’. He is a writer, photographer, hunting and fishing guide and outdoorsman. I think he teaches survival classes and woodcraft, and has built more than one log cabin. ‘Off the grid’ seems to be a popular topic today – it means living in the woods and perhaps in the mountains. How many of us would love to do that?

Mr. James has a place there in the Park and he just seems to keep building. It’s a log cabin, no doubt about that, but he hauled in dimension lumber to build the roof. He camps out there, but I don’t think he is really roughing it. His cabin has a front porch to catch the sun and a big screened side porch to catch the breeze and see the sunset across a valley. There’s a kitchen inside and another one outside and his oven is in a mound of dirt, maybe like the Indians in Peru, and has an A-frame cover to keep the rain off of it. There’s an outhouse and a shed for the firewood and another for the kindling and another for his tools, etc. He builds everything with hand tools and materials found in the woods and has a three-year-old Golden Retriever named Cali for company. Shawn and Cali can dig in and survive blizzards or whatever might come. If you are a fan of camping or living in the outback you would enjoy seeing what they are doing.

From Baton Rouge I am appalled at the pictures of Minnesota and Michigan in the dead of winter when the snow is up to here and the temperature is down to there, and then I recall that there is a whole ‘nother country north of that and it boggles my mind. I’m told that it gets sort of chilly in Maine and New Hampshire also, but I have never been there. Could be only a rumor. And people live in those places, too. Can’t be all that cold.

I’m certain I have mentioned a guy named Shaun Attwood in this journal. He is a former drug kingpin and distributor of ecstasy in the Phoenix area, and has done some serious time in the American penal system. Weird-looking dude without a hair on his head, but a sharp individual. He is out of jail now, maybe deported back to England, where he does video monologues about life on the inside and the criminals and gangs one can meet there. Recently he has branched out into other subjects and is having a ball with the mess Jeffery Epstein left behind when he died in jail. We are a long way from seeing the end of that, and the media promises that big name people will be held accountable for their conduct – one being Prince Andrew, the Duke of York and the old queen’s second son. The royal family denies the reports of Andy’s frolicking with teenage girls, but Shaun tells us that they are circling the Bentleys in London. Since I gave up woodcarving I like to follow this kind of stuff.

There it is – a journal entry without any one-pocket news, because I don’t know any. I am curious to see how this one is received.
 

vapros

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A terrible choice

A terrible choice

Here is a little story. Not a very entertaining story, but one with a moral of sorts. Some of you may know similar stories.

In about 1965 I had been in the bowling business for six years and was deadly tired of smiling at the public, and I was looking for another way to finance my trips to Food Town. At the age of thirty-three I became a sign painter, or rather that was when I began the long and painful process of learning how. In the beginning I sold my work cheap because it wasn’t very good, but there was a market there in the city of Thibodaux. This was something I could do alone. I built a small shop in my back yard, an adventure I will talk about some other time.

There was only one real sign man in town, a guy who could swing the lettering brushes and I envied his skill. His name was Frank Lusco and he had a one-man shop a block off Canal Boulevard. He was elderly by the time I knew him and he was an old-time sign man. He didn’t do electric or neon, he didn’t do sandblasted signs and he didn’t do changeable-copy signs with individual letters one could move around to change your message – like in front of churches. (Sign broken – message inside) Frank painted and he did it well, but slowly. He was short and chubby and he had a pencil-thin mustache and dark curly hair. I believe he might have been an Italian – did I mention his name was Lusco? He was always busy and always talking about closing the shop and retiring to rest his heart and I hoped he might be willing to help me. But he wasn’t. If I asked a question about signs his answer was that I could figure it out on my own, as he had done. He might talk with me on other topics but my impression was that he wanted to be left alone and that’s what I usually did. But his place was right on my route to the bowling lanes and the big overhead door was usually open unless the weather was bad, and as I passed I could often see what he was working on, and sometimes I would pull over and go and stand in the doorway to watch. I don’t think he liked it but I didn’t care and I didn’t ask questions. He could have closed the door. He was an excitable little guy and it was not wise to set him off. I had learned that early on.

In 1966 a young man with some money paid the NFL a franchise fee of seven and a half million dollars and became the first owner of the New Orleans Saints. I guess he still had some money left, because a couple of years later he bought a Sulphur mine in the swamp near Chacahoula, just southwest of Thibodaux. Bought it from Freeport Sulphur who had closed it down some years earlier. For those not familiar with the area, Chacahoula is on LA 20, between Schriever and Donner. Young John arranged for a grand-opening shindig at the site, with speeches, live music, jambalaya and possibly some beer. His manager had contracted with Mr. Lusco to paint a sign, to be hung at the mine site by the morning of the party. They furnished Frank with a blank on which to paint the sign. The blank was a slab of steel three-eighths of an inch think and nearly as large as a pool table. It weighed a lot and the men had set it up on saw-horses and braced it with diagonal two-by-fours all around. It was to be a double-sided sign featuring young John’s name in large letters with a double outline and a shadow. Other information below.

When I drove by that morning I could see the big sign just inside the overhead door. The name was done very impressively in eighteen-inch letters. I’m sure the other side was the same. I did a double take and crossed the center line of the street and swerved back and nearly hit the ditch in front of the shop. Wide-eyed, I pulled into the Malt ‘N Burger on the corner to consider the mistake I was about to make. After maybe ten minutes of review I left the truck and walked back to the shop and stood in the doorway. Frank swung around to face me. He had a brush in his hand and he was frowning and waving his arms at me.

“Not today, Mr. Bill,” said Frank. “I just finished and some of the paint is still wet and the truck is gonna be here in forty minutes. You just go on about your business!”

I had made my decision while sitting at the Malt ‘N Burger. “Frank,” I told him, “that’s not the way he spells his name.” There on the saw-horses was John Mecom, Jr.’s sign. It read, in large letters, M E A C O M. The little man’s knees buckled and he went pale as a ghost. He turned and hustled across the shop and into the little office. He emerged with a work order in his hand and a stricken look on his face. He charged up to me and pushed hard with both hands to my chest and I stumbled backward and went down on my butt in his driveway. I sat there and watched him tremble. He was near tears and his glare was pure hatred. I got to my feet and dusted myself off and walked back to my truck. I passed the shop again as I was leaving. His back was to the door and he was scrubbing the beautiful display with rags and a solvent of some kind – varsol or lacquer thinner – and already it was a terrible mess. I think he turned his head as I went by but I didn’t let him see me looking in.

I don’t know what else happened that day. No doubt he had a confrontation with the truck driver when he got there, but I had given him an option. He could admit his spelling error or just tell the guy he had not had time to finish it. He could say his house had burned down or his brother had dropped dead or just about anything. It would have all been the same to the truck driver, who probably worked by the hour. Missing a deadline is never good but misspelling the customer’s name is a cardinal sin. If I had it to do over, which I don’t, I would have bought some lunch at the Malt ‘N Burger and gone on to my job at Sugar Lanes. I never went back to try to make amends with Mr. Lusco. And now, more than fifty years later, I’m trying to think of a punch line for my story, but it just won’t come. You will have to make your own.
 

vapros

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Casper the camel

Casper the camel

Before I came back to Baton Rouge, I lived in Grosse Tete for several years. It’s a community on I-10 about twenty miles west of here. There isn’t much in Grosse Tete except for a truck stop with a fairly good café and a big parking lot. It has always been called the Tiger Truck Stop because they kept a live tiger in a pen. The animal rights people stayed after the owner for years about that tiger, without getting much satisfaction, and finally Tony the Tiger got old and had to be put down and that was the end of that. Except that now the guy keeps a camel in a pen out there, a camel named Casper, which leads me into a story the likes of which you may never hear again – even if you live to be as old as Kirk Douglas.

Several days ago an elderly truck driver from Florida, along with her husband and the family dog, pulled into the Tiger Truck Stop and strolled over to look at Casper the camel. Having nothing better to offer the beast one of them tossed some doggie treats into the pen. Casper was not interested but the dog was and he ducked under the wire and went to scarfing up the goodies. This alarmed the man and wife and they also ducked under the wire to rescue their pooch and somewhere along the way they offended Casper, who sat down on the lady. In a panic to get free she bit the camel’s gonads – chomped right down on his family jewels. If I’m lyin’ I’m dyin’. This had the desired effect and Casper got to his feet and the folks were able to escape the pen. The Morning Advocate reported that no one had any serious injuries, but just to be on the safe side some antibiotics were administered – (are you ready for this?) to the camel! I have not heard that the animal rights folks were involved at any point in my story, and I am repeating it here as sort of a public service bulletin. If you ever find yourself under a seated camel – or maybe even a dromedary, I suppose – this is what you must do. Assuming a boy camel, of course.

Those of you who have visited the old Greenway Billiards on Greenwell Springs Road here in Baton Rouge may remember Jessie Romig, the former proprietor. Jessie lives out in Grosse Tete and is currently suffering from a dementia and is in very poor health. He has played host and backer for Buster Merchant and Louie Roberts and others back in the day. Talking history here, guys.

The local police received a report of a mob demonstrating in the street and waving automatic weapons and being boisterous. Responding, they broke up the disturbance, arresting six demonstrators and seizing fifteen of the weapons. Several were assault rifles and several were stolen. Mean-looking guns, displayed on a table and photographed for today’s paper. Turns out they were filming a video for a rap musician! Rap is serious business around here, and the rappers burn more than a bit of powder among themselves and there is an occasional fatality. Gotta have guns for a rap video, apparently.

I just watched a video of a match from the West Coast Swing for 2018. A player named Bryce Avila was the superior one-pocket player and he won the match from Josh Clover. A couple of capable shot-makers and a couple of memorable items from the video. Clover might be the tallest player I ever saw – I mean reaaaly tall – and I was hoping he would encounter a shot that he would have to stretch for, but it didn’t happen. Avila had a BIH shot at two spotted balls, and he set up Jojo for an apparent okey-doke shot, but he didn’t go all out to force the front ball forward. Instead he tried to double-bank the back ball to his pocket and wound up with the worst result one could imagine. The front ball crossed the table and settled right in front of the wrong pocket and the other one caught the side pocket on the way back and followed the front ball to within a foot of Clover’s pocket, too. Luckily, it didn’t cost him the game. It was an entertaining match, complete in an hour. I watched with the commentary muted.

Trying to think of a good camel joke, but I only know one, and I won’t attach it here. Maybe I will post it in the Member’s Café in a day or two. One of my favorites, but a bit long and not for everyone. Later.
 

vapros

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War story

War story

In February of 1951 I enlisted in the United States Air Force. Took the oath at Offutt Field in Omaha, where I was given a handful of meal tickets and put on to a train for San Antonio – a train that had no diner, as I recall. From Lackland AFB in San Antonio I was transferred immediately to Sheppard AFB in Wichita Falls. At Sheppard Field a sort of emergency basic training program had just been put in place to process all the volunteers fleeing the military draft of the Korean War era. Nobody wanted to be in the infantry. Instructors were badly needed and by the time I had been in the military for a month I was an acting corporal and teaching math classes to recruits at all levels. Some groups grappled with the multiplication table, while others could benefit from a bit of solid geometry. Could have been worse. No KP, no guard duty and a Class A pass – except for my working hours I was free to go, and I did.

I wanted to join the Sheppard AFB basketball team, but that didn’t work out. Too many players better than I was. Bowling was another matter – I had my own ball and bowling shoes in a carrying bag and most evenings after supper I caught the base bus into town and was soon a part of the scene at Spudder Lanes. Spudder seemed to be a word from the oil fields – I never knew what it meant. I bowled a couple of leagues each week and averaged about 190, which was pretty respectable in 1951. I was able to make a few nickels in the jackpots to supplement the tiny Air Force pay but that didn’t always work out, either, and a number of times I pawned my watch and/or my suitcase at the hock shop right outside the base gate. If I was not bowling I was in the league meeting room learning to play bridge with a trio of locals, also bowling notables. Dale Hansard, Jimmy Doolen and Clint Humphries and I had a book by Eli Culbertson, the guru at that time. Two-and-a-half honors to open the bidding, etc. We all studied the book when we were dummy in the game. A truly enjoyable bridge game with imaginative insults and righteous derisive noises.

Not all the instructors were good ‘ol boys. There were a number of college grads in the group and they sort of looked down their noses at the rest of us. Less than six years after the end of WW II, there was a Japanese guy named Mitsunaga and a German kid named Fritz von Pilgrim who had been an anti-aircraft gunner in Berlin at age twelve. Fritz looked a lot like Arnold Schwarzenegger.There was also a little guy named Dick B Gates. (Gates was not his real name, but Dick B was.) Not a handsome fella, he had curly hair, thick lips and acne. He was a year older than me and he was in the second year of a four-year hitch and he was miserable in the military. He was shy and not very sociable. He didn’t smoke or drink or gamble or chase girls. He had read all the old magazines in the dayroom four times and sometimes went to a movie at the base theater, alone. Dick didn’t know any dirty jokes and was a poor fit around the barracks. He wanted to get out and go home, but of course you can’t just pick up and do it. He and I spoke a few times, but I was generally in a hurry to get into town.

I began to see him in the bleachers at basketball practices until that was over for me. Then one evening after chow he caught the base bus when I did and got off at the same stop I did and he stopped at the concrete bench to tie his shoe and then fell into line thirty yards behind me – all the way to the bowling lanes. While I bowled, he got a Coke and watched from the spectator seats behind the lanes. When I left the place, hotfooting it up the street to catch the last bus back to the base, he chugged along with me as best he could. Said he had enjoyed the bowling. From then on he was my shadow. When I caught the bus to go to town to the bowling lanes, he did the same. While I bowled he watched. If I went into the meeting room to play bridge he sat out front and watched the bowling until it was time to leave. He said it was okay, he liked what we were doing and I was not to worry about him. He never asked me whether or not I liked it. I didn’t like it, to be honest, but then he was the first fan I ever had. And it did sort of bother me to realize that the other instructors might see us as close buddies, which we were not. Just a guy and his shadow. I could have told him to buzz off, but I never did.

Soon he was telling me just how tough it was for him. He said he couldn’t hang on for another two and a half years – he had to get out. I pointed out that we had a pretty good gig and nobody was riding us very hard, but he couldn’t see it. He wanted to go home, and I could see he really meant it. So, sometime in the summer of ’51 he said to me one day, ‘Bill, I want you to do something for me.’ I asked him what he needed and he said I should go to the orderly room and tell them he was queer, so they would kick him out. Forget it, I told him. There’s no way I would get involved in such as that. I suggested that he go and ask one of the other guys if he was sure that was what he wanted. I think I even gave him a couple of names. He didn’t say any more about it, but it hung a sort of dark cloud over us. A couple of nights later I woke up about three a.m. to find that Dick was sitting on the floor next to my bunk and he had his arm under the sheet and was rubbing my leg. I cursed him and told him to get the hell away and go to bed, and he went. Two nights later it happened again and I ran him off again, but I was sorry for him more than mad at him. In the morning, on my way to the classroom area, I went into the orderly room and sat down with the NCOIC, a Tech Sergeant that day, and told him what was happening. He thanked me for letting him know and that was all that was said. I left and went to work.

All day I wondered what might happen to Dick B Gates and I wondered what he might say to me about it, but when I got back to the barracks his area was bare, as if Dick had never been there. The bunk was stripped, the footlocker stood open and empty and in the wall locker there was nothing but a few bare hangers. I had been gone maybe seven hours and it hit me hard. This was long before ‘Don’t ask – don’t tell’ but I couldn’t believe the speed of the reaction. ‘Queer, you say? Just leave it to us.’ For several days I waited to be called in for an interview but it never happened. No doubt Dick had made no effort to deny it – this was what he had wanted, and he got it. Several of the other instructors asked me what had happened, but I pled ignorance. Everybody had jobs to go to and the building was probably empty when the moving crew got there and no one saw a thing, but Dick was gone, and I missed the little guy. I expected he might write to me, but he never did.

I thought about him several years ago and put his name into the internet and they knew him. He had gone to college in Michigan and had taught English and Drama at several schools in that area. Eventually he left Michigan and took a job at a small medical college in a western state, where he retired as Registrar Emeritus after twenty years. There is a scholarship there in his name. Good for Dick. He died in 2004, age 72 and I believe there was a widow, but that was sort of unclear. His obituary mentioned that he had served in the United States Air Force. I suppose if they had asked me that’s what I would have said, too.
 

vapros

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When in China

When in China

One of the players I like to watch is the Englishman, Chris Melling. He’s creative and I am fascinated by the long and deliberate motion of his cue. In recent days I have spent some time following his adventures in an eight-ball tournament in China earlier this year. I saw him play a couple of long thin Chinese players I had never heard of – Qin Liwen and Abu Lajaing. Fortunately I can prepare this entry in my journal without the need to pronounce them. Writing them is only a little easier. The matches in this event were best-of-29, or races to fifteen, with a time limit of 140 minutes. All the commentary was in Chinese, so I can’t give you any details of that rule. Early in one of the matches, as the Chinese player was at the table, the referee walked up behind him and began to count (I think) in Chinese. She finished her count before he shot and she then explained to him (I think) that the time clock had expired and he was done. He took exception to that and the argument continued for a bit more than ten minutes and involved several other officials, both around the table and off-camera. Melling could do no more than sit through it in ignorance, as no one was sent to enlighten him. Ultimately, the official ruling was upheld and Chris was awarded ball-in-hand. He ran the game out. Except for the long duration of the debate, it was a bit like player/umpire in baseball. As usual, the umpire won. Almost, as though in sympathy, in the very next game she banished Melling from the table for failing to drive enough balls uptable. Abu won that one – what could be fairer?

There was even an instance of a ball falling into a pocket after lingering on the edge until the next player had approached the table. The referee correctly fished it out of the pocket and replaced it between the jaws. Melling immediately picked it up and set it on the extreme edge, where it obviously was before falling. (Who didn’t know that?) She objected briefly but then yielded to his move. Neither Chinese player was timid about calling for the referee to clean the cue ball, and they did so frequently. Mr. Lajaing (maybe he wasn’t Chinese after all?), after losing his argument over the time clock and faced with a straight-in shot less than two feet long on the deciding eight-ball, summoned the lady to come and clean his Jojo. His face showed nothing at all and I did not speak his language, but I could tell what he was thinking anyway. Maybe I’m psychic.

Chris Melling was not at his best and lost both matches. He made some incredible shots, mostly in emergency situations, but had numerous costly misses. Both his opponents were using the clumsy-looking cues that I associate with snooker. Straight taper, coarse dark woodgrain showing, tiny ferrules and cue tips. But they used them very well and played crippling safes when needed. Tough trip east, Mr. Melling.

Other than that I noted that the village of Morganza, Louisiana recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of the making of the film Easy Rider. In the tiny café in Morganza the bikers encountered a bunch of teenage girls and some tough-looking local good ‘ol boys and elected to keep riding. I can recommend that on YouTube you search out the brief videos on SEC Shorts, where a group of amateur videographers make fun of the football teams, coaches and programs of the Southeastern Conference. I suppose there are equivalent shows in other leagues, but these are very entertaining, no holds barred. You might also enjoy seeing Nick Saban’s Lake House, which is not a camp by any stretch of the imagination. Don’t know what he paid for it, but it is described as a multi-million dollar property. His power boat, with which to cruise the neighborhood, would be envied by James Bond. It’s good to be the king. I watched a video on the life of Boxcar Willie and passed up the one on how to clean a moose. Sometimes I follow a few steps behind the NKF herping guys, but you have to like snakes. Some of them serpents are pretty spectacular. That’s about it. Over and out.
 

vapros

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Lions and tigers and bears and coyotes

Lions and tigers and bears and coyotes

When I have watched more than one or two videos on a subject, YouTube picks up on what my current interest is and sends me a lot more choices on the same topic. Usually I have to be grateful for their services, but now and then it’s a pain in the butt. At present my screen is full of Butterbean’s fights and coyote hunting. For cattle and sheep ranchers the coyotes are a never-ending item in their budgets, costing them serious chunks of money by killing the young animals, and most of them are glad to have hunters come and shoot as many as they can. There seems to be no limit on the number of coyotes available. Hunters have high-tech calls of various kinds with which to get the coyotes close enough to shoot from their stands. Even more, some have trained dogs that go out among the targets and interact with them – quite a sight to watch. The dogs charge the coyotes, which turn around and retreat, but before long it goes the other way as the coyotes chase the dogs. It goes back and forth, usually until the coyotes come in range of the shooters. Sometimes there is no gunfire at all – just the spectacle of watching the animals chase one another in turn. A new sport, I suppose, but to the stockmen coyotes are serious.

I have also taken a great interest in the organizations around the world that are finding and rescuing big wild animals from inhumane conditions in zoos, circuses, carnivals and amusement parks – mostly eastern Europe and the Orient. Very much like the animal-rights groups in this country that are saving cats and dogs. It’s one of the few things that can touch even hard old hearts like my own. There is nothing sadder than seeing a big bear who walks figure-eights in a six foot square cage all day every day and has been doing it for many years with no apparent chance of relief. Perhaps when he is taken from the cage and transported to one of the preserves, he might be too scared to leave his container and venture out for the first two weeks. Lions, too, and tigers and elephants with iron shackles and chains on their feet – animals that have never known grass or trees.

Thankfully, some really huge areas of real estate have been preserved in a wild state and made available for this work – and some great sums of money, as well. We are talking big trucks and commercial airlines to move big animals several thousand miles. Two organizations furnishing the visual stories of these rescues for YouTube are Four Paws and AnimalsAsia, and a group in India is engaged in the same sort of activity with much smaller budgets. If you have any feelings about animals and animal cruelty, you know – and the big beasts are much more appealing than the coyotes. Don’t ask me to explain about that.

There are some fine videos from recent tournament matches involving players who hardly ever miss. Many of the players today, especially the younger ones, seem to dress alike; all in black, with stovepipe pants, long sleeves, black shoes. It’s almost like a uniform, and the slim ones wear it best. For the first time I have seen tables with drop pockets that you unload from the bottom rather than the top. Whassup wi’ that? And while I’m thinking about it, how much does it cost to gather up five dozen top players and fly them to Moscow to compete in the Kremlin Cup, and put them up in hotels and feed them, and who is throwing the party? How many of them will make a profit with their pool cues, and what about the others? It’s not like pro golf or tennis . . .

For those of you wanting to know about La Cosa Nostra in south Philadelphia (are you there?) Mob Talk 35 went up today. Also, Sammy the Bull Gravano is the star of a long and candid interview on Valuetainment, in which he comes clean – or as clean as he ever does – with Patrick Bet-David, who continues to bring in interesting people and talk with them. For a guy who confessed to nineteen murders, Gravano has some novel attitudes about people and jail and crime and death and informants. Mobsters, wise guys and made men are nearly always interesting interviews. I continue to want to hear. Lots of good stuff on YouTube.
 
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