It's not about the house.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Go Ahead, Give It To Me

I'm in Oxford. Already. I panicked and came down a whole day early. I had my reasons. By now they're null and void, but I did have them. I usually manage to make up at least one for every slightly crazy thing I do.

See, I had houseguests in Maine all weekend. Since Thursday. The last one left on Tuesday morning, and I when she did I sat back in my once-more lonely house and thought to myself: "Hell. Why bother to get back in my routine for just one day? Why not pack up the damn Routine and take it South? Then I wouldn't have to get my hair cut and my permit both on Friday. And I'm sure I could get just as much writing done down there. Or just about..."

Now, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking this decision had more to do with the idea of a fresh pool table than anything else. But you are wrong. Because it also so happens that houseguests bring all kinds of food that you've sworn off of, plus part of a hostess's job is to drink beer, so after five short days you find you can't fit into those breeches anymore.

So I swore-swore-swore that while in Oxford -- since I have no friends and no plans and no idea where to shoot pool, anyway -- I was going to live like a monk. No beer. No pool. No fun. Just writing and lettuce and chicken breasts and water. Maybe seltzer water, if I've been very, very good.

And then I opened the door to Dad's house.

He closed up when he left on Sunday (this is, apparently, a Thing that Grown-Ups do), and in Oxford today it was 95 degrees. I opened that door and knew exactly how Patsy and Edwina felt when they first hit Morocco. Sweat dripping down my neck so bad I had to change my bra before I left.

Yeah, that's right, I left. It took me all of fifteen minutes to unload the car, throw the dog and cat in the basement (where it's cool) with food and water, suck down the single Budweiser I found in the fridge, and venture out.

Since all the places I know in town are off the table, and since I'm now used to wandering and choosing blind, I picked a direction I haven't gone in twenty years: where the street I grew up on turns right and heads into the town it's named for. I usually take the left up to Route 12, but this time -- while on the radio (I shit you not) Robert Plant sang "There are two paths you can go by, but in the long run, there's still time to change the road you're on" -- I took that right and stayed on Old Webster Road.

I knew where I'd come out eventually, but I'd forgotten how much nothing there is along the way. At 9:00 on an August Tuesday night, it looked like this:

But it still did dump me out on Main Street, Webster, just like it always used to, and at the stop light there I took a left.

Actually, that isn't true. At first first I got a bit confused and took a right. But a mile or so later a sign told me I was entering a third town -- a town I didn't want to enter uninvited, lest the nice young men in their clean white coats mistake me for a basket-weaver and take me away -- so I knew that I'd gone wrong and turned around.

My plan was to drive the mile and a half down Main Street to Worcester Road, assess my choices, then turn around and pick the likeliest-looking bar. I hadn't ever noticed any down that way before, but then, I'd not been looking. This was Webster, after all -- we used to joke that people only lived in Webster if they couldn't figure the way out. A place like that has to be shot through with barrooms. Right? Maybe not ones a single girl should wander into by herself on pitch-black nights, but I'm not stupid. I wouldn't pick just any seedy joint. Are you not listening? I said I'd pick the likeliest-looking one...

But there was nothing. Nothing! Can you imagine? A mile and a half of Dunkin's and McD's and pizza joints and Friendly's and grocery stores -- even an actual restaurant or two -- and not a single likely-looking bar. Not a single bar at all, for that matter.

And just the other day I had the nerve to call this "civilization."

So I turned left at Worcester Road to make a big wide circle back towards home. If I kept going I'd wind up in the center of Oxford, but I already knew what I would find there and it's not my cup of tea. Besides, I had cooled off a bit from the quick drive in the car -- I hadn't sweated through my second bra, at any rate -- so maybe I wouldn't keel over dead in Dad's house, after all.

On a whim, though, I pulled into the Whistle Stop. I knew they didn't have a table, but I asked the bartender if there was anyplace around that did -- she was a young, not-unattractive woman, so I knew she wouldn't send me to Big Dan's. She said she knew of several, actually, and named them.

"Day's End, in the center of town, has a table." I know the Day's End. See above re: things in Oxford Center being Not My Cup of Tea.

"The Oxford Tavern, kitty-corner across from Day's End, has a few." Know that place, too, see: ditto.

"And then, if you want to go to Webster -- oh, no, not Webster," she corrected herself. And then she named the third town. The one that I'd just turned and hightailed out of.

"The best place around," she continued, "not just the most tables, but the best place around, is Sinni's. You go up Old Webster Road [the exact way I'd just gone], straight through the light at Main Street [at a four-way intersection it was the one direction that I hadn't gone], and it's right there."

Well, I'm sorry, but if the bartender at one place is telling me another one's the best around, I don't give a hoo what town it's in. I'm there. White coats be damned. So I went back down the long, black road, this time with Tom Petty singing "There is no sense in pretending, your eyes give you away. Something inside you is feeling like I do, we've said all there is to say..."

My pint of Harpoon IPA cost $2.75.

There were four pool tables, all empty and waiting.

And when I asked the bartender for quarters, he said I didn't need 'em, they take bills.

They what?

Turns out that only two of them really do, but at 9:30 on a Tuesday night I had my choice. I didn't like the one right in the doorway, because my game's been a little touch-and-go lately, and what's the point of having the whole pool room to yourself if anybody can look in and watch you suck? So I chose the other dollar-bill one, in the corner. Didn't even notice it was disco-clear with a rotating ball inside and flashing lights till I stepped back to watch the rack fall down...

Okay, so Sinni's loses a point for the pussy table. But you want to know something? That pussy table liked me, a whole lot. It was a bit embarrassing, quite frankly, especially when she had a little hissy fit and I had to ask the bartender to come in and cheer her up. But after an hour I ran out of singles and played my last game on a different table with four quarters I found in the bottom of my bag. And that other table? Oh, my. I don't know if it'd been standing quietly at my elbow in the dark, waiting patiently to have a go with me all night or what, but by the time I turned to it and bent over, it was so worked-up hot for me, it shook.

It asked me to come back tonight for more. I think I will. Tomorrow, too. Every night while I'm down here, in fact, if it'll have me -- and if I don't do something nuts and scare it off. Knowing me, the chances of that are 50/50. But I don't care. I will take the damn boots off and tiptoe if I have to. Because although I've played a lot of tables and I've handled a lot of cues -- from Boston to Istanbul to Liverpool -- a girl simply does not forget a run around the green like that one. So I've got to chase the dragon, if I can.

Of course, nobody saw me. Just like the one and only time I ever ran the table cold, in Amsterdam. Ah well, what can I say?

Apparently I thrive in Crazy Towns.

1 comment:

12ontheinside said...

I find there's a narrow window somewhere between 3 and 4 beers where I can't miss a shot. Then, I'll take one more sip - and it's all over.
I love those few shots in the magic window.