Rich is estranged from his 86-year-old father who ditched Rich’s mother and moved back to the Philippines where he hooked up with a woman sixty years younger and wrote a will favoring her only. Rich still sees his sister and mother at Thanksgiving, but they live in San Jose which is an impossible trip for him without a car and only his skateboard.
Rich spent ten years driving for United Parcel. He fell asleep at the wheel one night, awoke with barely enough time to save himself and the cargo, but decided this was no way to live; he would certainly die on the road. So he quit.
These days he is a dog walker and trainer.
Karma is Rich’s dog, a very good natured pit bull. She is a dusky brown with white paws, white on her breast plate and a white Indian arrow head on her back at the neck line pointing to her skull. She answers to her name and I like to say, “Good Karma. Bad Karma.”
Karma is Rich’s means of power on his skateboard. She is trained to pull him. Rich wanted to make movies of his brother who is a professional skateboarder. With that in mind, he acquired a copy of Final Cut Pro for his laptop and learned it well enough to make a video that has been seen more than 40,000 times on YouTube.
Mark, with the $30 piece of chalk, dresses like a lumberjack complete with cap and hunting jacket. He grew up in Humboldt County, learned coding on his own and is now a high mucky muck with Apple. When I learned he was on the team that created the latest version of Final Cut Pro, I told him Rich is expert in it. I asked if Mark knows the program: “Heck no. It’s way too complicated.” Mark plays league and wears a tee shirt with the statement, “Be quiet or I will turn you into a very small shell script.”
Rhys was born in Wales, took a Ph. D. in mathematics and moved to San Francisco where he bought a condominium half way up one of its famous hills. He describes his work as, “You know how people turn on the tap and expect water to come out? Well, it all has to do with pipes. I maintain the pipes that deliver the Internet.” Rhys has two tattoos, one on each arm. They are no larger than two inches wide and both are mathematical terms. One is in hex and reads 4E 4F 20 47 4F 44. No, I’m not going to translate that for you; look it up yourself. The other is not something I ever wrote down, but when I asked Rhys he said it is Euler’s Theory of Everything. Yep, you have to look that one up as well.
One day I introduced Rhys to a visiting Londoner saying Rhys is Welsh.
“Pat Welch? John Welch?”
James is a big man with black hair and a full black beard. He always wears a tight fitting bucket hat with ear flaps that look like what Cromwell’s round heads wore only made of cloth. James goes through several pints a night and laughs at every shot he takes on the pool table. He laughs before he shoots, then stands there laughing afterwards, marveling at how it turned out.
Amy does not like this; she is convinced he is laughing at her. Amy recently completed her B. A. majoring in statistics. Her initials form the word “asp” and that’s how she signs up on the board. She often wears a snake Ouroboros on her wrist. She is quite proficient on the table and came over to me a couple days ago displaying seven fingers, smiling with glee, still holding a cue in her hand, indicating she was on her seventh game in a row.
Tommy, who scoffs at Mark’s chalk, is a mechanical engineer in the employ of the United States Government in the Presidio. He is an artist whose medium of choice is oils and admits to being a pool addict. He will play pool to the exclusion of everything else, including eating and painting. However, he hikes mountains and lives for weeks at a time every year in isolation alongside a stream. That stream could be in the Adirondacks or Yosemite, just so long as he sees no more than one or two others on the trail.
One evening after a PBS program about the doctor who treated John Wilkes Booth’s broken leg, Dr. Samuel Mudd, I showed up at the club to find Tommy on the table. I mentioned the program and how the phrase, “Your name is Mudd,” is not one “d” but two. And I told Tommy about the Dry Tortugas, which means turtle in Portuguese, where Mudd was sentenced to live out his life instead of being hanged as one of the Lincoln conspirators. And then Tommy asked, I thought at first rather incongruously, “Do you know my last name?”
By the time he had his wallet out to show his driver license, I kind of figured out why his question. He is, indeed, named Thomas Mudd and when I asked if it was the same family, he said it was. I told him there is the argument that Dr. Mudd was innocent and the family is still attempting to this day to have the name cleared. Tommy said that is not entirely correct and there is the belief, even among family members, the doctor knew Booth in advance of him showing up in the middle of the night for treatment.
There are three Sams who regularly play pool at the Watt. Like everyone else, they must sign up on the boards and to distinguish one from another, they sign up as plain old Sam, Sam L and Pork Chop.
Sam was born in Gaza and was eleven when Israel seized the territory in the 1967 war. He was twenty when he came to America with the help of his brother who is a U. S. citizen. “You got to have someone pull you out,” Sam explained. Then he spent the next thirty years on the streets of San Francisco as a crack addict. Eventually, he got clean, found work in a rehab center, showed up at the Watt and signed up on the board. Nobody could read his handwriting so he was almost skipped that first night. Nor did he know how to play very well and nobody knew who he was or where he came from and no one wanted to find out or become friendly with this guy who wore six large silver rings on various fingers, had a chain attached to his wallet and dressed like a recently unemployed hippie, if there ever was such a thing.
Then one of the most amazing transformations took place during the course of the next several years. A personality blossomed and people began to be able to read Sam’s scrawl which gradually changed to three very legible letters and he entered a math class and an English class with the idea of passing the GED test to earn his high school equivalency.
In the mean time, Sam was accepted into an assistance program, obtained a subsidized hotel room, receives a monthly stipend and was able to qualify for a medical marijuana card that keeps him supplied. Plus, he learned to shoot, joined a team and last season won a trophy for the Most Valuable Player among all members of that league.
Sam L, on the other hand, has been a Muni bus driver for twenty years. He drove the 38 Geary, but has been on disability for the last year and intends to return to work soon. Sam L is an avid cinematographer and posts videos of pool players on YouTube.
Pork Chop is an unknown quantity who only shows up occasionally wearing a funny hat.
Brian drives a taxi and two days a week dispatches. Brian Boyd hasn’t been coming in for some time now. Anybody named Brian knows his name will be misspelled “Brain” by anyone else who writes it. I sign Brain up that way on purpose. When I asked Brian Boyd if he ever misspelled his name as Brain, he said, “No. But the only anagram that can be made out of my name is ‘brain body.’”
Chris V and Chris T sign up using the first letter of their last names to distinguish one another. One night when his name came up and before I knew who wrote it like that, I shouted, “Christ! Christ is up! Is Christ here?
Henry and Hussein were both born in Amman, Jordan, but met in San Francisco. Henry is an excellent pool player but Hussein could stand a few lessons. One night I was playing Henry and it was my shot. I indicated the ball was to come off the far rail and into a corner. I said, “Back here.”
Hussein said, “Hunh?”
He wasn’t even playing, so I again said, “Back here,” and pointed out the intended pocket. Turns out that was his last name: Bakeer.
I told this story to Bill. He came back with, “I was playing a guy from Djiubouti. That’s in Africa near Egypt. He said he was a Sheik. As in Shake Djiubouti.”
Stay tuned for Part Three
Author: H.W. Moss
Editor: Shaylyn Troop