Venture into the velvet underground

So I’m back, to the velvet underground
Back to the floor, that I love
To a room with some lace and paper flowers
Back to the gypsy that I was
To the gypsy… that I was

– Opening lyrics to “Gypsy” by Stevie Nicks, Fleetwood Mac

Gypsy is one of my favorite songs, performed by one of my favorite rock bans, Fleetwood Mac. The “velvet underground” reference is relevant in that when I was younger, and single, a woman I was dating likened the words to my lifestyle at the time. I’m now single again (for nearly 20 years, actually) and visiting (and enjoying) the velvet underground once again here in Batam.

Twenty years ago, my underground experience was mostly about chasing the opposite sex. Now, it is more about finding a good game of pool (although the pretty, and attentive, ladies do not hurt the experience. But where to find the good players here in Batam? I certainly was not playing the best at Goodies, I thought.

So when I learned about a 9-ball tournament being held at the Planet Holiday Hotel in the Nagoya district, I asked for more information and headed into town after work to find out what was going on.

Planet Holiday has 17 full-size tables in its basement floor that rent for about $5 an hour, which I thought a little steep given the wages Indonesians earn. The room was full of Indonesians and Chinese-Indonesians. I was the only bule (Westerner) there.

A Westerner in such an environment is often approached by someone who speaks a little English, especially if they hear you trying to ask questions of someone who does not understand. So, through the help of strangers I learned how the tournament operated and the cost to enter (50,000 rupiah – $5).

While I waited for the start and practiced, I took time out to observe some of the people playing on other tables. The ambiance of the room and the skill level of the players reminded me of my days in Sarasota, Fla., when I would play pool almost nightly at the Beer Mug, where the tables were free and the competition was stiff. These guys are good, I thought. As it turned out, most of the people I was watching did not even enter the tournament, which might suggest I would be out of my league when the competition started.

I waited around for about an hour while the organizers waited to get eight players, who would vie to qualify for the finals competition two days later. They held four days of qualifying matches to determine the finals participants. So all I needed to do was win three matches against superior players to qualify (sarcasm). I didn’t even know what the prize would be, and didn’t really care as I did not think I had much of a chance anyway.

This underground adventure was more about the experience.

I was told that it was a single elimination format but once the matches started I learned it was a race to five, meaning the best of nine wins each match. I figured that would at least give me a chance. Wrong!

My opponent was a burly 30-something Chinese-Indonesian who wore a black glove on his bridge hand – never a good sign but sometimes people don the extra equipment more because they want to look like they’re good then because they are. This guy, however, was good. Also, I suspect my being in a strange place with unfamiliar people all around affected my play somewhat, as in game 3 when I missed an easy 9 ball to win. But he was good, running the table on the next game.

In short, I was shellacked 5-0!

The format, however, allowed me to buy back in for 30,000 rupiah. It was late, however, and I was obviously in over my head this night, so I said thank you and good night. And the gypsy had another velvet underground experience (and fodder for this post).


About 2bagsandapack

Lifetime journalist, author, magazine editor and publisher, now semi-retired and traveling the world. My plan, after living in Costa Rica for 14 months, was to visit a new country in southern Europe every three months to experience the culture and the challenge of adapting to a new environment, while on a fixed income. That plan was sidetracked when I was offered a job in Indonesia, providing an opportunity to explore Asia. Indonesia lasted for a 4 wonderful years but I have now moved on to Hua Hin, Thailand.
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3 Responses to Venture into the velvet underground

  1. Jacj Ettinger says:

    hey buddy.  I made it to AZ.  will try to skype you, but my skype is slow here.  enjoyed your posts. J

    Jack Ettinger Adventure Dining 506-8352-9419 Check out our NEW WebSite


  2. 2bagsandapack says:

    Her name is Zara and she moved in yesterday. Told her she couldn’t still work at the bars if she lived with me, which she ignored and came to my place at 7am this morning. Not pleased. And yes, I know I can beat those local pool players (I think I was a little distracted because it was the first time at the place, new crowd, I stood out as the only bule there). The problem is it takes two taxi rides to get there and back and the tables are rented. The guys come with their buds to play. And tournaments are irregular. Glad the sling is off and you’re doing better. Don’t hurry and reinjure it though. Take your time. BTW, almost 11 months after my mishap, I’m still hobbling. The knee might never be good again.

  3. Anthony Flagiello says:

    Don’t give up you might still win. I’ve beaten some of the best snooker players at my club so you never know. My problem is consistency. How is Kara you “DOG”? My sling is off went to the doctor yesterday he was surprised by my ex-ray so he told me to start a gradual rebuild of my muscles. Maybe in three weeks I can start playing snooker and riding my bike. Ant

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