The photo is posed. A newspaper wants "local color" and a pool player (like every one of us) is secretly flattered to be singled out. He is self-conscious and will not directly engage. His eyes are distracted. Maybe a mark just walked in. He's got five o'clock shadow and is surely a "night person". He sports an expensive haircut and a fancy new shirt. What a shirt! He wears it open at the collar where an ornate cross inhabits a mossy, pre-manscaped world. His pinky ring glistens in the Pool Room's fluorescence.
He is a welder, drives a Dodge Charger and has a sexy girlfriend named Suzy. The balls are racked for a game he does not play. This guy plays Nine-Ball. He plays for money and snaps off local tournaments. Growing up, I knew guys like him. I idolized them. I listened to them. They taught me how to spin my rock, how to ease into a score and how to avoid being trapped into a bad bet.
He plays in the kind of joint of my youth. Mine was in Southern California but they were ubiquitous. They were in strip malls and had unimaginative names like Rack and Cue, Cue and Cushion, Rack 'Em and The Eight Ball. Their cheap wood paneling served as backdrops to rows of pin ball machines on a line to infinity (I see one is named Luna Beach) that in turn served as backdrops to each day's drama. They sold toasted sandwiches in plastic baskets and Cokes in frosted mugs. There was nowhere finer in all the world.
Like an ambassador to Byzantium from a distant land, a newspaper photographer sought and found the exotic. He got a glimpse of finery, pomp and ritual. He took back for us an icon, a small souvenir from a courtly world.