Billiard chalk is not chalk at all. It is a combination of talc silica and aloxite (aluminum oxide) in frangent crystals. “Frangible” means breaking or fracturing easily without implying weakness or delicacy.
Modern cue chalk was invented in 1897 by William A. Spinks, a world class professional billiard player, and William Hoskins, a chemist. It is made by crushing silica and the abrasive substance corundum or aloxite, into a powder. This is combined with dye, usually blue-green, green and sometimes red, then compressed into a cube that pool players hold up in front of an opponent who miscues on the break and say: “Chalk is free.”
Believe me, everyone who plays pool at the Watt knows Miss Cue.
The purpose of cue chalk, which is not chalk at all remember, is to make the tip of a cue stick stick, not slide, on the cue ball when struck. It is not unusual to put such an angle on a shot, known as English, the tip skips off without making proper contact. Cue chalk prevents this. Most players swear by it and chalk up between every shot. Many carry their own preferred brand with them when they come in to play at the Kilowatt.
Mark recently showed off his $30 cube of cue chalk which, he claimed, is worth every penny. Cue never skips. Tommy, on the other hand, thinks it’s a huge scam.
Daniel grew up on the Self Realization Fellowship meditation retreat called Ananda which is in Nevada City, California. His mother is a disciple of the Paramahansa Yogananda and Daniel escaped as quickly as he could. At sixteen he ran away from home and moved into the back room of a record store in Grass Valley.
These days he shoots on Jerz’s team and earns his living making high quality wood furniture. Daniel tried his hand at commercial contracts, but soon learned they are much less profitable, and business people more devious, than the public élite for whom he makes specialized sofas, couches and parlor chairs. Daniel’s dog is named Cocoa and her fur resembles spilled mocha on a white floor. She is the offspring of a bitch named Steve and Daniel always brings her with him to the Watt.
Daniel rents a work space off Bayshore in which he lives. He was riding his bicycle in front of French Hospital several years ago when the vehicle in front of him abruptly stopped and he crashed into it, rolled off. His leg was crushed by the car behind him. The injury was so severe he nearly lost the limb, but because he was so close to a hospital, care was almost immediate. The leg was saved, his limp has all but disappeared and his gait returned to normal. Only trouble is, Daniel had no insurance. He now has a $260,000 outstanding bill which he will never be able to pay.
Daniel signs up on the board at the Kilowatt as Daniel to distinguish himself from Danny who is from Leitrim, Ireland. Born in 1957, Danny looks to be the oldest person in the bar, but he is not. Like all his kinsmen exported as laborers in the late 60’s, Danny was in construction, but arrived in the City in time to take advantage of the housing boom of the late 70’s. He now owns several multi-unit buildings and is worth millions, but he maintains them himself. He recently complained of having to pull a toilet and pull paper towels out of it for the second time in two weeks. Danny’s prowess with a pool stick earns him the distinction of being among the top five pool players in San Francisco and he regularly goes to Vegas for the national playoffs. Danny can out shoot everyone in the room, most of whom are half his age.
Danny’s ability is, of course, due to good hand eye co-ordination, but also partly to the fact that Irish pubs tend not to have pool tables as large as those in America. The average Irish pool table is half the length and width of an American table, the balls about the size of ping pong balls and the sticks toothpicks. The pockets are tiny, but Irish pool shooters become proficient at potting balls on this size table and when they come to the States have an immediate advantage.
“Bookets,” the lads are prone to say. “Pockets big as bookets!”
Danny’s back was injured early in his construction career and he often suffers bouts of spinal pain which he relieves with copious amounts of marijuana, alcohol and tobacco.
Diogo was born in Brazil. Notice the spelling of his name. It is a Portuguese boy’s name which means “representative.” Diogo speaks fluent Spanish, Portuguese and English without an accent. At 32 he is nearly Danny’s equal on the pool table. They play on the same team for Skip’s Tavern in what is sometimes called the Dream Team. Diogo married an American girl out of love, never got around to getting his citizenship while they were married, but did so several years after they divorced. One day a woman came into the bar and a legend was born: “The Dyke Who Looked Like Diogo.” The two were not in the room at the same time, so it is likely they looked nothing alike, but the idea was planted and, since she never returned, it was later said Diogo has a female twin.
Hannah is six years younger than Diogo and wears a ring through her septum bull-like. She has no other distinguishing piercings, brands or tattoos. She is a paramedic on an EMT truck having completed six months’ of free labor as an intern. She turned up one day, signed the board as HH and won her first game against Diogo. She shot well enough to be invited immediately to join a league team and if she continues to progress, stands a good chance of playing in the National Championship finals.
Peter, the owner of the bar, is a licensed electrician. Kilowatt. Get it? Motorcycle racing photos of him in protective riding gear cover the back wall above the pinball machine. He has two massive golden retrievers, but rarely brings them into the bar. However, it has become widely known that Kilowatt is dog friendly. At least 50 framed photos of patron pets rise on the wall above the pool tables. At any given moment, there can be several dogs inside, some on leashes, some roaming freely.
Noah was born in Germany, but grew up on America’s East Coast. He speaks and reads German, sounds like a Southern Californian. Bald with a short trimmed goatee, he admits, “Every other time I shave my face I shave my head.”
Noah favors Radeberger Pilsner which is served in a tall mug. He carries it around the bar held high in his right hand as if it were the torch in the hand of the Statue of Liberty. He has the stout body of a Hofmeister. Noah’s face is round and his eyes bulge slightly. You can see the bottom of his whites, the sclera, a condition called sanpaku which, when asked said he had never heard the term. President John Kennedy had eyes sanpaku.
Mid-thirties, Noah is a sound engineer and a voice technician with the title Senior Sound Designer. He has also done voice over work, narration and intoned characters for two of Mattel’s Sing-A-Ma-Jigs. But he does not know which two because he did the work independent of the toys. And when speeded up, you can’t tell they are human voices even if you listen hard.
When you are on the eight, Noah non-surreptitiously pulls from his pocket imaginary Pixie Dust which he sprinkles in the subject of your shot, the hole you’re aiming at. Sometimes the magic works, sometimes it doesn’t.
Kelsey is Noah’s dog and she accompanies him everywhere, even to work. She is a rescue dog, half Basenji half Labrador mix with short black fur except for a white breastplate, four mottled white feet and her tail which has a white tip. Noah believes the mix ought to be considered a special breed. When you look at her front on, Kelsey’s face and pointy ears look like Yoda.
“Girls with Guns” is the title of a photo which shows the four ladies with bright smiles each holding a shotgun. It appears on two of their computers as a screen saver and on all four of their cell phones. The occasion was a Whittier skeet range outing which is ironic in light of the fact that city was founded by Quakers. Two are sisters, all four are pool players, but only Tanner, Jaime and Khanh come into the Watt regularly. Also of note: Whittier was President Nixon’s birthplace.
Jaime pronounces her name with a hard “J,” not an “H.” Her Mexican mother wanted a boy.
Stay tuned for Part Two
Author: H.W. Moss
Editor: Shaylyn Troop