Thursday, March 13, 2008

Anxious times at The Pool Bar

Luke, the genial owner of The Pool Bar, promised me last weekend that he was about to replace the pool table.

He has said this before and it did not come to pass. On that earlier occasion, I was desperately disappointed because the original table had deteriorated into a pretty ropey state, and it was undermining my game.

Now, however..... well, somehow or other, the venerable old table has come back: it's playing reasonably well again. And so am I. Maybe Luke re-levelled it. Maybe he gave the cloth a good brushing. Maybe it was an infinitely subtle interplay of environmental conditions that started warping the surface (or affecting the texture of the cloth or the liveliness of the cushion rails) in a positive way, counteracting some of those kinks and quirks that had rendered it for a time almost unplayable. Or maybe it's just that I've got used to all those kinks and quirks and am subconsciously making allowance for them - maybe I couldn't play so well on a flat table now?!

Then again, perhaps it's just a confidence thing. I was getting my ass whooped by some the regulars in The Pool Bar just too darned often, and, as my form went into a downward spiral, perhaps I was too inclined to look for excuses in the growing eccentricities of the table. My discovery of a good new pool hall on nearby Jiaodaokou Nandajie - with brand spanking new equipment, perfectly flat tables - just before Christmas may have been the turning point. On those tables, I suddenly found I could play like a god - I could even beat The Chairman pretty regularly. And after just a few sessions in there, I started winning at The Pool Bar again.

It's a mysterious game, all right.

Ah, yes, so now I face the prospect of the table being replaced with some trepidation. Even a very good table has its idiosyncracies to be learned. And however good the new one may be, it's not going to be the old one with which I have become so comfortably familiar.

And I'm really not sure the table needs to be replaced yet. There's only one moderately bad kink in the slate (well, it's probably not real slate, is it? And surely not in one piece?), and I figure we might be able to straighten that out by dismantling and reassembling the table. Just re-covering the baby would probably give it at least another year of useful life.

But perhaps these options are not available in China. Perhaps it's a new table or nothing.

So, I now find myself afraid to set foot in the place. I dread what I may find on my next visit there......

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