The Indie Pedant

Stories and observations from the bars, taverns and pool halls of the American Midwest.

Last night, I was shooting pool at a local pub. Great spot. One of three bars which I have discovered in this town that still allows smoking inside. I myself am not a smoker but if I am looking for a game of pool, the first place I track down is the seediest dive I can find with a table. Beginning with recommendations from the locals there, I work my way up until I find a place that has just the right mix of accouterments, a good sound system with a jukebox stocked exclusively with compact discs released before Y2K, and perfectly cooked fries with nacho cheese sauce. A place with personality, an even ratio of grime to grinning faces. A few dark gray smudges on weeks-old felt from the ash of a precariously dangled cigarette, maybe a damp spot that slows the cue ball, beer spilled during a Saturday night rush, when the young horned-up cretins and the Gram-goblins come out of their cubicles to discharge energy and fluids in equal measure. Fair play to them, they liven the place up with their wanton disregard for pretty much anything that isn't themselves. 

I like a place where the barmaids, with waning remnants of beauty and charm, stopped smiling once they noticed how tits and tips tend to decline at the same, precipitous rate. 

Lucky for me, there are a few places like that around here. They aren’t hard to find. Just listen for the echoes of the ancient world, You can hear the hymns playing through the frayed wires of olden speakerboxes bolted in the corners of the bar. You can feel the vibrations, the hum in your bones, like fire on a wire, building, building until the drum begins to beat your chest… BOOM… BOOM… BOOM… unintelligible chanting just out of earshot… the music gets louder, words grow clear but seem to make no sense… bawitdaba da-bang da-bang, diggy-diggy-diggy, said the boogie said up drop the boogie. The congregation of swillers sways in unison as the voice of an angel rings out from the choir...


The people around here LOVE THEM some Kid Rock. Unironically, unapologetically, they just fuck with his music. I dig that very much. The Kid has some jams. Even if he is a fucking poser.


Occupying stools at the bar, I notice a yellow knitted winter hat sitting next to a woman with Rapunzel hair. Familiar faces from another pool hall. I go to say hello. For some reason, at that moment my body declares feeding time so my whisky-fuzzy brain takes over and I announce my presence with a tap on Rapunzel’s shoulder and a request. "Hey, could you ask the bartender to grab me a menu?" Weird way to say hello. My presence is unexpected so her entire body yips as I touch her shoulder. But she quickly recognizes me and we laugh it off. I've played pool with her and her boyfriend a few times and they are great people. However, her friend in the yellow knit hat is offended.

"You need to drop that sentence from your lexicon." I apologize again to Rapunzel then to the yellow hat girl. “I’m so sorry! I didn’t mean to scare you. But what do you... what do you mean about dropping that sentence from my lexicon?”

“We don't work here. Don't ask us to grab you a menu.” One of her eyeballs glares at me while the other eye searches for a quick escape route from her skull. There is cheap beer on her breath.

“Oh my bad, I-“

"No, it's rude and you need to drop that sentence from your lexicon."

There are no moves with argumentative drunks that will quell the situation so I concede. "Yes, ma'am." I say. "Sure thing." I say. Apologizing profusely for the entire interruption, bowing slightly over and over, I recuse myself from the tongue-lashing and head back to my table.

Dammit, forgot the menu. 

Shortly thereafter, my gross need for adoration rears. I figure I'll buy the yellow-headed ladies a couple drinks, smooth everything over. But Rapunzel and the Knit-Wit have already dipped out. So, I do the only sensible thing one can do to alleviate the jitteriness of a perplexing confrontation: I order another bourbon for myself, toasting Knit-Wit wherever she is. Here’s to you, here’s to me, may we never disagree. But if we ever do disagree… well then fuck you, here’s to me.


More pool players arrive. Good players come in and out of this place like hookers at the free clinic. Unfamiliar players stay long enough to lose to the regulars a few times, realize they are in over their heads, then move on to a more genial environment. Pool is big in central Indiana. No one here is going to let you win a game or two just so you stick around. One of the few perks of living here is the ease with which you can find a cash game. We mark our turns with stacks of quarters between center and corner pocket. If I lose, not only am I out $20 but there are six players in rotation. Could be an hour before I get back on the table. That’s a lot of time to get cold, lose the touch. Ride the stool too long and muscles tighten, I lose the vision, angles disappear, start kneeling over too far to line up my shot; clank some slop around the table, scratch, then it’s ball-in-hand for my opponent. You don’t want to give any of these players ball-in-hand, the ability to place the cue ball wherever they want on the felt, because next thing you know you’re waiting another sixty minutes on a stool at the bar. An hour more of listening to some ol' boy complain about how crime is ruining Broad Ripple, about how "it's moving North now." I ask him what “it” is, what should I be on the look-out for? He mumbles something as he slugs back a gulp of suds. I compliment him on his white sweatshirt, especially the hood. He gets quiet. 

I keep waiting. Another hour of inane conversation in a hall of mirrors. They all just want to talk about themselves, tell you all the boring little details, how this whole white wide world is going to shit and why. They share every little thought, intimate details on a whim, desperate to connect. The openness of strangers, the vulnerability, used to pluck my heart strings, but now, I can’t bring myself to care; I’m just waiting until it’s my turn to play. I hate waiting. Patience is not my pal. 

So I try to keep winning. It's more fun if you hold the table, rack up those free games from incoming marks. From the outside, it may not look like I do much winning, but sentient white trash can be deceiving. Interesting thing about that though - seems like no one wants to talk to me when I’m winning a lot. They like you when they think you’re one of them, or better yet, when they know they can beat you. But when you set yourself apart, well, now you’re in the wilderness alone. You may not be surrounded by wolves but the cows and pigs aren’t about to share their food when the butcher’s block is covered in blood.

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