Monthly Archives: April 2016


Went to an amusement arcade in town yesterday evening, a friend had invited me to join a “pool” league that was forming. I have shot pool about four times in the last 30 years years,  but was sort of interested because of that very reason. So, I went.

However, turns out it was not going to work for me because of my plans and activity for the not-too-far-in-the-future move; it did however bring back a lot of past memories about a portion of a mis-spent youth.

The first real pool-hall I ever entered was Pannessa’s Pool room in Newburgh, N.Y.

It was like the pool room in “The Hustler”, with two rows of chairs around the wall and raised up from the floor about a step so that people could watch, and kibbitz, and bet.

There were two really nice billiard tables, a half dozen regulation pocket tables for straight pool, and about four or five for mostly 9-ball and 8-ball games, the last category existed because the balls were often hit very aggressively and the tables were a little beat up, but still in very good shape. You could not play those games on the good tables.

I skipped school and went there during the day. Old man Pannessa, as we called him, always asked what we were doing there and how come we weren’t in school. He always accepted whatever story we concocted and we were the ones who had to keep an eye out for the Truant Officer, who was an employee of the schools, and looked for kids like us throughout the day. Yep, it was a different time.

I learned how to shoot “straight-pool”, where two players agreed upon a winning score (50 or 100 etc.), and then took turns whenever the other player missed a shot. The skill of this game was consistency and being able to position your cue-ball so that you had another shot lined up after each ball you made. All the shots had to be called. An object ball had to be hit and either it, or the cue ball, had to at least touch a rail if the shot wasn’t made. Yep, it gets more complex than that, but I’ll stop there.

The 8-ball and 9-ball games were purely quick gambling games with loads of variations in the rules depending on what the players agreed upon.

The main dynamic in the place was to learn how to play. How to gamble and to bet. How to hustle another player. How to not be hustled. And, above all, to not “show your true speed” i.e. ability. Ever.

One, also learned a lot about side-bets as a spectator, and about proposition bets, and all manner of hustles that involved gambling. Every year, at the very end of Spring, groups of men traveling in pairs or threes, would show up in cars from other states and other areas of New York. They were part of the annual hustlers migration that followed the birds and the opening of race track season as the northern states warmed up.

These guys, for most part, could play pool, billiards, golf, bowl, and any card or dice game known. They made their living betting on their skills or the cleverness of their betting propositions. A fe years later as I continued my learning curve in the Virginia suburbs of Wash. D.C. and the pool halls in Arlington and Alexandria, they usually showed up about a month earlier.

I have seen and on occasion played with some of the legends of that world. Luther Lassiter, Weenie-Beenie, T-shirt Steve, The Baron, and others whose names don’t come back readily. I was just a smart-ass kid, but a real aspect of that world was that you learned through the kindness, skill and and cut-throat competitiveness of these pros. It always cost you something to learn from those that were better, but many times they were just whiling away some time, waiting for a “real game”, while playing with a youngster. A tune-up.

My best friend in High School, Wayne Hawk (great name, huh?) and I, were planning on quitting school after our Junior year to hit the road as pool-hustlers to see if we could do it.

During the last days of that school year I was working as a bus-boy at a restaurant in Fairfax, VA, when I got the call from a classmate that Wayne had drowned at the Great Falls of the Potomac; during an art class outing when he fell into the Falls. I couldn’t go that day because it was a Friday and I had to work.

Wayne and I were good artists and I ended up finishing the mural we had begun work on in the school’s hallways. He had a huge funeral at Arlington Cemetery and I was a pall-bearer for him. Wayne was always being suspended from school because he wore his hair longer than his collar (1965). I was always being suspended for non-attendance (go figure:).

Anyway, I lost interest in the pool-halls after another year or so because I became enamored of a more intricate lifestyle and pursued that for a while.

Our lives seem to be made up of interlocking, yet quite separate aspects of ourselves.

Hey Mister! I see that you smoke

Pall Malls. I’ll tell you what, 

I’ll bet you my Two dollars to

Your One dollar, that I can

Take one of those cigarettes, and

Tie it into a knot, throw it on

The floor and let you stomp

On it with you foot. Three times!

And then I’ll untie it, and you can smoke it

While you hand me one dollar.





Just a thought…

A nice day started with a powerful acupuncture treatment, a shopping trip to Costco and a bunch of other stuff including staying in touch with old friends in far-flung places from disparate  parts of my travels from there to here, physically and temporally.

We are all challenged by being whoever we are, especially if we have any degree of self-awareness and are working on being that way, and that’s the only kind of people I choose to spend time with nowadays, life is too short. However, it can be even more of a challenge to be our friend, or partner, or mate, or any combination thereof.

I used to comment to my wife that she was driving me nuts, and she would point out that it was a putt, not a drive. We all have some real Bodhisattvas in our lives. People who not only put up with us, but choose to spend time with us, and, often choose to live with us. Yikes!

I have certainly been blessed with the people that I can call friends and those that act that way towards me. Go figure!

In a conversation with a friend this evening a formulation occurred regarding dealing with hurt feeling or a sense of personal affront. It went something like this.

We offer the “resentment” up in the opened palm of our hands, both of them, as if it were a stunned bird we found on the ground. We hold it up so it can become aware and gather its energy up for the flight back to where it belongs.

It may take some time for this to take place. So we wait, palms open.

In the meanwhile we also see (visualize) our hearts opening up in the same way the palms are offered. Open and up. Then, we can see that our open palms are also in the position to accept the help that comes to us from the Eternal. And, we need not know what the particulars of that help are, just be prepared to be, in a position mentally, physically and spiritually to accept what is given.

We will be aware of something going on in this process because it will actually feel like the right thing to do. And that, is sufficient.

Just a thought…

A movement of the mind,

The heart, the body; all

Three in concert being

That whole which is

Greater than the parts.


Unmoored in a good vessel…

So, apparently I write a new post on this blog every five months whether I need to or not.

When I restarted this blog I was moving to the Bay area in June of ’14 Now it’s almost May ’16, and I’m going to move back up North in September. Lots of movement, lots of changes and lots of hecticity on some levels but mostly leveling out.


This time of actually re-entering the world since my wife Linda’s death in Jan.’14, has been very rich and discomfiting, things are always like that when I have to face uncomfortable aspects of myself. My childishness, my yearning, my unwillingness, my being stuck; and the dichotomy that exists in that I also contain the exact opposites of those aspects of my Self. The serious grown-up who accepts his age and place in the culture and is comfortable in his own skin and sees those yearnings as the old habit patterns of a lost boy, the Zen practitioner who is sometimes so willing that he feels almost completely un-moored and drifting in concert with That Which Is.

All those seeming opposites just part of the whole. All is one. All is different.

I’m going to get back in the habit of writing for my own pleasure and practice  the Way of Being Teachable. There are so many things and people in my life that teach me constantly, I just have to remember that a good student can see connections that hint at meaning; that point one in a direction where there is no solution, no closure, no surety, no “I’ve got it.”; but rather to “That’s interesting.”

An old friend told me she had read all of my posts on this blog, so I reread them myself and was surprised what a shallow self-involved twit I can be, but also somewhat relieved to see that I was trying to Reach Out from that Self. And that’s OK.

I was sitting in meditation in the little Meditation Hall

At Kanzeon Home, where I live; and offering my practice

For the benefit of all beings because

I don’t know what else to do.

Everyone has to be somewhere, and

Everyone has to be doing something.