Czarina isn’t her last name, but we’ll get to that later.
She was off toward the back, shooting alone at a table at Fast Eddy’s in Santa Cruz, CA, and I was intrigued. Watching people is not my style. Growing up left-handed has made me extra (perhaps overly) sensitive to people watching me doing anything from opening a door to frying an egg. I imagine everyone is as nervous as I am to have people watching on the periphery, and so I was careful to steal only short glances out of the corner of my eye. But just from those few glances, it was obvious this petite woman who was totally engrossed in perfecting her shots, knew her way around a pool table!
It was a sunny Sunday afternoon and that added to the mystery of this woman who seemed as if she would be equally at ease out on Monterey Bay, adjusting the jib of some sailboat, shouting “Ready, about”. But here she was, not talking to a soul, appearing totally in the zone and focused, shooting one ball after another into a pocket on the billiard table.
After about a half an hour of waiting for Mike to finish a game of One Pocket with a guy named Locker, I noticed that the woman at the other end of the pool hall had finished her solo game and was ready to start another. Great time to ask where the restroom is, I thought. That was all that was needed to start up a conversation. She was gracious. She told me her name was Christina. I explained that Mike and I were on a road trip blogging about pool halls on the West Coast, and I was doing the human interest portion of our tour. And interesting is exactly what Christina is.
She told me she started shooting pool in her teenage years because …“You see, there was this boy.” She was 16 in Long Island and her love of pool grew from there. Being that pool is so related to lines and angles of geometry, I myself have always theorized that those who shoot pool have something special going on in the same side of the brain from which Mike operates – the side that works with coding, math, and logical thinking. And sure enough, I found out that Christina’s career before she retired, was a systems software engineer, high-level programming for operating systems! They called her the “GUI Goddess,” she said. GUI (pronounced “gooey”) is the acronym for Graphic User Interface. Have I lost you yet? I had lost myself at that point, so I quickly called Mike over and ten minutes of discussion took place that I’m sorry to say I can’t translate for you here because I don’t speak Geek.
When Mike left us to shoot back at his old table, I found the reason my intuition told me to interview Christina. She is a woman of “eclectic desires,” she told me. She loves to sail: “I grew up with my feet in the water in Long Island. We had dolls that we made from planks of wood and ‘taught’ them how to swim across the canal.” Christina talks about blue water sailing and being part of the crew on a 47-foot yacht that has sailed from Moss Landing to Catalina like it’s as common as breathing.
Christina is also a member of a long-standing book club whose members read everything from Proust to current New York Times bestsellers. She is an avid flower gardener and talks lovingly about her adult daughter. Oh, and the name “Czarina”? That came from a pool league that she started at her workplace 25 years ago and which is still going. “Wow, running a league is a lot of work,” I noted. “Well, my nickname tells you how I ran it,” and a picture of efficiency popped into my brain.
However, over and above all of these accomplishments and interests, Chistina is a very spiritual person who quoted from Proust when I told her we were taking a road trip: “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but seeing with new eyes.” When I told this Princess in a pool hall that had great insight, she told me she thought it’s more important that we have oversight. She defined oversight as the ability to be outside of ourselves – to be of service to our community – to create a space of sacred love, to wrap ourselves in this sacred space that’s shaped by “angels or whatever.”
And there you have it – all of that from a woman shooting pool at Fast Eddy’s on a Sunday afternoon.