Day 7: June 4, 2017 – Road Trip/Novel Writing Insights
And the Pool Halls Shall Unite Us All
Let me state it here and now. There is no generational divide in a pool hall. Whether you’re a pool player or the partner who is watching the pool player – everything is equal in a billiard parlor. Of course, this statement presumes that the people shooting are of equal skill. And they were last night at Scafiddi’s on Milwaukee’s popular lower east side near the trendy Brady St. After dragging my husband Mike across the country from California just so I could be inspired by actually living in the neighborhood where I grew up, we decided our walkabout last night should include a stop at Scaffidi’s Hideout so Mike could shoot pool. Scaffidi’s is a “new” addition to the lower east side – “new” as of 1971, ten years after my mom and dad and I had moved away from the east side to the south side in ‘61.
So Mike and I took a warm walk down to Scaffidi’s Hideout on Kane and Humboldt, winding around streets whose names were as familiar to me as my own. (The 94-degree heat in June in Milwaukee was not as familiar to me; however, but we soldiered on.)
I don’t think Mike ever has any expectations when entering a new bar to shoot pool. He just wants a beer and a chance to knock around some balls. But usually, after a time, someone will lay down a quarter which I’ve come to understand is a desire to play a game or two with him. And always I’m impressed by the young people who do.
Nate and Sam
This night was no exception. Two young handsome 30 year-olds were waiting for a table and watching Mike. I love it when there are two people who have come together. That way Mike gets to shoot pool with one– and I get to talk to the other one who is waiting to play the winner. Sometimes the guy who’s waiting just wants to watch without talking, and other times he (or sometimes she) is sweet enough and polite enough to indulge a chatty woman who has to dye her gray hair brown every few weeks. Nate was one of those open-minded, open-hearted kinds of guys. He started our conversation telling me how he could see that Mike knew what he was doing. “You just know from the way a player holds the cue and how he moves around the table.” I think Nate knew that would make me proud. As we talked I found out that his partner, Sam, who was playing Mike was going to be married in a few weeks to a school psychologist (my favorite kind of person, having seen school psychologists in action over so many years, working with deaf students I’ve had.) When I had a chance to talk to Sam I learned that he worked for Eaton in Milwaukee and had traveled all over the United States growing up.
And so, the evening wore on. I asked Nate if the group that hangs out on Brady St.is made up of Millenials or Yuppies, Gen-Xers, or what. He explained that the lines between these groups are extremely blurred and it’s hard to define exactly who’s who. (With Baby Boomers, it’s not so difficult; although I must say, we have former Hippies, want-to-have-been Hippies, and the never wanted-to-be, among our group of aging faces.)
After the guys were all “played out” and Nate was just getting warmed-up with the karaoke group that was gathering in the front of Scaffidi’s at 11 o’clock, we said goodbye and walked away. As we trudged back in the heat to the old apartment where I grew up, I was hoping I might have said something this evening that may have been useful to these young men. (Being useful at this age is the best thing you want to be.) Whether or not that was the case, there is one thing I do know for certain: this evening directly affected the novel I came to Milwaukee to write! Unequivocally I now know that the male character in “If Not for War” is definitely going to know how to shoot a mean game of pool. He might even have a conversation with a 70-year-old couple who come walking into a bar like Scaffidi’s. And I know for sure my female protagonist is going to smile at him as she watches the scene.