Thanks to my new iPod, I’ve now attained the semblance of a social life by becoming a regular at the Sports Academy Pool Hall down on Sukhumvit Road. Whereas in the past I had limited my visits because of its often blaring hip hop, my special Christmas present to myself (a brand new iPod Shuffle) lets me now block out crude black singers — shouting about their huge penises and the women they are going to abuse — with good old Mick Jagger. Defiantly submerged in the driving fury of Gimme Shelter, I sometimes have to resist the urge to raise my middle finger up at the speakers.
Sports Academy opens at four in the afternoon and pool is free the first two hours. To be sure of getting a table, it’s a good idea to show up ten to fifteen minutes early to beat the half dozen or so Japanese who establish their own little private enclave while talking amongst themselves in their staccato language. Not a very gregarious people. When 6:00 p.m. arrives, signaling the end of the free pool, they soon scatter to avoid paying even a few baht. I like to make my appearance soon after this exodus, which gives me my choice of tables and female playing partners.
For New Year’s Eve, I delayed my usual arrival a few hours in order to be around to usher in 2014 with the staff, who became increasingly tipsy as the evening wore on. I contributed to the revelry by punctually buying my two lady pool partners (Newt and Fone) drinks every half hour. This allowed me to play my special prank on Fone. It’s called “watered down tequila” and works like this: after her drink has arrived, when her attention is temporarily diverted, I pour the alcohol out and refill it with water. The three of us then exchange the obligatory “good luck” before taking a gulp of our refreshments. Fone reclines her head, tosses back the water, then grimaces in anticipation of the booze’s sharp assault. After a couple seconds, the tightness on her face is replaced with puzzled look. One can almost hear her asking herself if the problem is weak tequila or her level of inebriation. Newt and I, who are almost biting through our lips trying not to laugh, then confess to the crime. Or rather I confess, and quickly refresh Fone’s shot glass with the real stuff.
Such mischief is especially appropriate on an evening like this, which almost demands heavy drinking. Trying to be a good sport, I did my best to match the girls’ frenetic pace with glasses of red wine, though the effects on me were far less dramatic. I am a reserved person and when playing pool remain serious regardless of how many cue balls I’m seeing through my blurred vision. It made for an interesting contrast. At one point, I was grimly focused on a touchy little cut into a side pocket (which seemed to waver) beyond which my two opponents were dancing. It was about this time we began having trouble recalling whose turn it was. A half hour beyond that, we no longer cared. Reclining on a cushioned seat with Fone draped over me, I was perfectly content to let Newt have as many tries as she liked. When she (eventually) pulled off the winning shot, she raised her hand to her lips and taunted me with a kiss-off gesture. I retaliated by buying her another beer.
Finally, the anointed hour was at hand! The large screen, which usually is featuring some stupid football match, was tuned to a Thai channel that provided the dramatic countdown. Most people were already whooping and hollering, so when the count reached zero there was only a token increase in the volume level. Many stepped out onto the terrace to take in the fireworks. I remained inside to do a special toast with my two grinning companions as we shared our wishes for the new year. Newt wants a boyfriend; Fone stronger tequilas. For me, I hope I can continue learning how to have fun.
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I goin’ to kick your ass!