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).