Irving’s pool table

4 Ball

Irving Shapiro died a few days ago. His wife Hope, who is also now gone, introduced my parents. Some of my earliest memories are in their house, which I was in the other day paying my respects to their daughter Julie, my oldest family friend.

One of my most vivid memories of the house is an amalgam of many memories, the center of which is an old pool table in the basement which may have come with the house which Hope and Irving bought around the time I was born (1951).

The routine was, we’d have dinner with them and then after dinner, while the women did something else (I never saw that they did) Julie and I would follow the guys down to the basement and sit on the sidelines watching them play. This gender thing was the equivalent of men riding in the front seat, women in the back, or so it felt.

Pool score abacus

My father was a decent pool player although he never played except on this table during my entire lifetime. He undoubtedly did his share of hustling as a young man but he was not a showy player, preferring to tap lightly and walk away from the table as the ball he’d just called rolled slowly but surely into its chosen pocket. Irving played less carefully although he held his own against my dad. He enjoyed hearing the crack of hitting a ball hard, whether or not it went where it was supposed to.

These two styles: control and finesse and wild-man ball cracking pretty much describes these two guys and it’s both a metaphor and part of my sensory memory of what happened in this room.

There were a few years where the dampness of the basement started to take its toll on the pool table and my father, who was extremely “handy” helped Irving take the felt off, replace the slate underneath, and get the table working again so they could play.

By 1963 we had moved to California and they only played a few more times after that on a few of our trips east.

Pool table leg

Because this house is really the only wormhole left to my early days, this was a significant visit and I spent the whole day visiting with Julie and others who, like me, had grown up with Hope and Irving, and this house, as an anchor point in their lives. I wanted to get a last soak of the feelings.

The basement’s dampness eventually overtook the table and time eventually overtook both my father and Irving and once the house is gone all that will be left will be a story. When I got upstairs and talked with other people paying their respects, I found that each of them had a story, many stories. That was comforting.

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