Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Steal my daddy's cue and make a living out of playing pool

Champion Billiard, requiesiat in chalk dust.

I don't want to compete with this marvelous depiction of life at Champion Billiards, but I can't let its passing go unmentioned.

I spent many happy nights in my college years hopping the Metro up to Silver Spring and meeting my buddies for a round of pool at Champions. Table rental was cheap and they'd never kick you out; I had a fantasy of playing all night and going to Tastee Diner for breakfast, but it never happened. We actually rarely played in the main room which Ted Gup describes above; we tended to play in the smaller nonsmoking room in the front, just past the vending machines and the dark hole of a 2-machine "video arcade". It was better lit and less smoky, and the regulars in there tended to be a little more patient of some young bucks just messing around. Our game was 8-ball or cutthroat, and always for the same stakes: the title of

Master of the Universe, and Surrounding Areas.

I remember pretty early on, noting a bunch of young guys who dressed tough and acted loud messing around in there. And then I saw the looks they were getting from the quiet, normally dressed older guys around the walls. I knew right off whose place it was, and while I never saw any trouble in there, I could tell I sure didn't want to see any either.

Actually, that's only partly true. I did see the one of the all time worst possible dates happen at Champions. Some young thinks-he's-tough had brought a date in; it didn't appear the he meant to teach her anything about pool and she sure as hell wasn't planning on learning. She must've steamed in that chair for 45 minutes while he shot pool with a buddy... until she got up, gave a nearly audible glare, and stalked out. And the poor maroon stood there, wondering what all the fuss was about. He cleared the table before going after her.

Me, I married a woman who plays pool.

But truth be told, figuring out how to get women to talk to us did put a crimp in our pool-playing time. That, and we got seduced by the rise of the swanky high-class pool parlors in the 'burbs, with their new tables and bright lights and full bars and food which could be dated to a reliable day instead of an approximate Presidential administration. But all that comes at a cost... no metaphor there, it really became too expensive to play that kind of pool on a regular basis.

I probably haven't been in Champions in 6 years. Heck, maybe 8 or 10. But any time I passed it, I remember looking into those plate glass windows and seeing the folks bending at the green felt and smiling. It always looked warm in there, no pretention, nothing deep, but honest. And now it's gone. I'm sorry. It makes me a little veklempt. Talk amongst yourselves. I'll give you a topic.

Any place called a "Billiards Cafe", you can neither get a real game of billiards nor a good cup of coffee. Discuss.


Blogger lemming said...

We all need a place or two like this to remember - despite its many flaws, Jimmy's turns up occasionally in my dreams; never again will I taste a corned beef snadwich nearly as good as the one I had there with beer and fries after complting the GRE..

Just bear in mind that Universe alreday has a king.

2:19 PM, March 31, 2005  
Blogger tommyspoon said...

I remember when Mikey, you and me played some pretty horrendous pool there. I'll miss it too...

8:58 AM, April 01, 2005  

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