I love snooker.
The way I love it is close - and pardon me for pitching to my audience - to the way some people love new stationery.
You know who you are. And you know that these sorts of things, when you try to explain them, start sounding incredibly dodgy, if not downright filthy:
It's the cleanliness and the texture of the paper under a fingertip or a moving pen, the unspoilt resistance of the spine of the notebook as you bend it back, the freshness and the possibilities...
So if you start to get that sort of impression while reading this post, you're wrong, I assure you.
I love playing snooker.
I like the fact that it's difficult, so that when a tricky shot comes off, along with that satisfying ker-PLONK of the ball sinking into the pocket, you get a real sense of achievement. I love the colours, the sounds, the feeling of playing, the pace of it. And I love snooker halls in a perverse sort of way - the dinginess, the dust, the seedy feel of an environment composed of sudden pools of green light and spots of colour floating in gloom.
Stepping into a hall with a tray of snooker balls and a cue in one hand with a sense of anticipation is a great feeling for me.
My Dad and I used to play snooker a lot on the Isle of Wight. The Ambassador Club is an old meat storage place, I think, or a factory, in an industrial estate across the road from a carpet warehouse. It has incredibly thick concrete walls and a few doors out of the main hall that look like they were built to either keep heat out or rhinoceroses in. Builders would pad around the tables in stockinged feet, kids would play noisily under VH1 on the lone pool table out in the bar, and the twenty or so snooker tables sat in a silent, almost hallowed world behind some halfheartedly soundproofed plastiglass panels.
Inside the hall there was always a hush, a relaxed restraint. Even when swearing at my Dad for pretending he'd intended to send the black off three cushions and the cue ball twice and into the top left pocket (or when he was swearing at me for the same thing) everything was kept to a forced (if vociferous) whisper out of respect for people on other tables. Sometimes it took a while to cross the hall because you waited before passing in front of someone taking a shot. It gave everything a sense of ceremony, a level of importance.
I loved it.
I've looked for snooker tables everywhere in New York with only a couple of leads about some place in Brooklyn. And by "everywhere" I mean "on the internet".
So when Krissa finally pointed out, as I moaned about wanting to play snooker for approximately the fiftieth time since our marriage, that a basement pool hall near our apartment in Astoria had 'POOL SNOOKER BILLIARD' across the awning, I decided to go and look.
And would you believe it? There were four tables in there. They were threadbare and a little moth-eaten, but they were full size, flat, green and had six pockets, which is what I look for in a snooker table.
Krissa and I stood at the desk asking for a snooker table and the guy checked to see if we were sure three times.
I don't think they get much use.
The place is a little different to the Ambassador Club. The music...how can I put this?
Spanish words, German Accordian, Power Ballad, all in the same song.
That just about covers it.
There's no hush, no waiting to walk by while someone else takes a shot, and Krissa and I were playing while avoiding a couple of BMXs leaning up against the wall (Rarely used snooker tables = bike park area for pool players), but I am thrilled to have found the place.
And there's one just down the street from the new apartment, too!
I don't know, two and a half years without snooker and suddenly tables are everywhere.
Like buses, they are.
Oh yeah, and we're moving house, and stuff.