Marko in Portland

As if our 2018 Pool Hall Road Trip didn’t confirm my suspicions about pool hall players, we met Marko. 

League play was going on at Sam’s Family Billiard’s when we walked in, and a young man was just ready to give up his table to the league players when Mike walked over.  “Wanna shoot?” Mike asked. The young man was hesitant, obviously considerate of the league needs.  The league director, though said “Sure go ahead. Use the table. You have time.”

Game on. “Hi, I’m Marko,” and he shook Mike’s hand. Meanwhile I just sat at a table close by drinking a vodka tonic reading a book on my cell phone. I was close enough to hear Mike and Marko talking a bit while they were playing.  I detected a very slight accent and thought maybe Marko was from Canada! At the end of the game I heard Mike say,  “I hear a little accent.  Are you from Croatia?”

Now I know Mike has a good ear, but I’m thinking to myself, “How in the world did Mike pick Croatia? Marko might have wondered too because at that very moment, he told Mike, “No one has ever guessed my accent correctly before.  You’re the first.” For some reason I felt proud of Mike.  It seemed like he was a some kind of bon vivant who traveled the world somehow without my knowing.

As Mike and Marko finished putting their cues back in the cases, Mike brought Marko over to the table to introduce him to me. Mike explained a little about our road trip visiting pool halls on the West Coast and Marko seemed interested. I hadn’t intended to interview anyone at Sam’s and didn’t even bring my notebook.  But sometimes you meet people that just radiate openness, even kindness, so I asked Marko if we could chat for a few minutes.  Mike went to the bar to order a beer.

I started our chat with my usual question about work. Given my interview with Christina at Fast Eddie’s in Santa Cruz and Brian at Hard Times in Sacramento, I was not at all surprised when Marko told me that he was a Storage and Data Protection Administrator in Computing Infrastructure Services at Portland State University.  (I swear if I ever go back to grad school, I’m going to do research on the correlation of billiard players to computer technology and other sciences.  Strong and Campbell were right on way back in the 70’s devising a test*** that would guide you into a career based on your outside interests, but I digress.)

When Mike came back with his beer, I told him what Marko did for a living. That’s when my eyes started to glaze over as the two of them began speaking in another language – not Croatian of course – but “Computer-ese.” When they finally got back to words I could understand, I found out that Marko is doing graduate work at Portland State. (That’s one of the reasons he doesn’t actually belong to a league at “Sam’s Family Billiards’ – studying takes precedence over shooting pool.)

I asked Marko how he got interested in shooting pool. It seems there are not a lot of pool or billiard halls in Croatia, but he told me he was always fascinated watching the game on TV.  “That’s how I learned,” he said.  “From watching it on TV!”  Now I was the one who was fascinated!

Of course when you’re a seventy-something interviewing a thirty-something the “mom gene” kicks in and you feel you have permission to ask questions that normally you wouldn’t just blurt out.  So of course, as you might guess, I just went ahead sans boundaries, “Do you have a girlfriend?” Marko’s face lit up.  When he told me that his girlfriend’s major was in the area of Linguistics I was intrigued. We started to talk about the phenomenon of right brain people being attracted to left brain people and vice versa.  Because Marko is such an affable young man I could share with him some of the idiosyncrasies of Mike and my relationship.  I think I might have thrown in a commercial for my app, “The Perfect Husband App”, but since I wasn’t taking notes, I’m not sure.

The most exciting outcome of my interview with Marko is that he plans to take a trip down to Orange County, California when his parents come to visit.  I told him about my article with a one-day itinerary, “What to See in the OC,” and being the open-minded agreeable guy he seems to be, I’m pretty sure he’ll check it out.  Most of all I hope he sends us a text message if he happens to go to Balboa Island.  We’d love to have lunch with him and his parents.  And as always, the best part of interviewing people on road trips; you might meet them again along your path!

*** More about the Strong Interest Inventory