Drones Club

Saturday, July 31, 2004

A remarkable addition to the neighborhood.

I was quite delighted this evening to make the acquaintance of a Mr. Waterbury, the new valet at the Smuckles household. I shall not raise the issue of who should be waiting on who, but rather observe that he is a true salt, and I recognized him as such immediately. Or rather, he recognized me: I have a weakness for wearing the old college signet ring, and I was not two seconds in his company before he commented wryly on our cricket team's record this season. Floored a few times over, I was scarcely able to defend our honor before he had offered me a silver-cased cigarette and taken my drink order. I do say, I like the fellow.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

The poor eyes

Lord bless the saline miracles of Visine. For the past eighteen hours I was locked into a bit of an 8-ball bender with the good Mr. Smuckles, walking the tighrope of one carefully-engineered victory after another. Many moments recalled the bleary marathon grind of The Hustler. The good news is that I seem to have hit a give-and-take stride with him wherein he seems comfortable winning one of five games. Around two PM today he treated us to a rather upscale wrap-up lunch at Veltliner, a gourmet establishment which lavishes its care upon the day's lesser-celebrated meals. I enjoyed a remarkable club sandwich at his largesse, along with a snifty couple of juleps which we thought might sail us off swiftly into sleep. I must admit, my medicated eyelids grow heavy even as I check over this entry.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

The Tree is Watered.

My decision to throw a game was a mixed success, and I shall run down the details of it for your amusement here.

Donning the aforementioned shambles of a tuxedo and having practiced my stumble-walk on the way to Ray's, I slurred a quick hello to him before making down an imagined tunnel to the bar. I could feel his eyes on my back as I clumsily mixed up a concoction which, through deft sleight of hand and clever use of the pouring thumb, contained nothing more potent than club soda, ice, and a wedge of lime. Just the thing to totter around with. Soon I sensed him sensing that just then was probably an opportune moment for a rematch, as it was rather early for him to be in his cups, yet here I was with my three sheets, etc. He patted his breast pocket, I pantomimed a greedy grabbing motion, and we were off.

It's not as easy to throw a game to Ray Smuckles as one might think. In the end I was forced to play far more precisely than usual, delicatetly missing my own shot while leaving him a lovely lag for a nice short one of his own. Naturally as his "luck" improved, he began to reward himself with a finger of this or two of that after each game, and always insisted that I take a snoot myself. I don't mind telling you that after a few rations of the Talisker I got a bit of a temper going and, annoyed with having to play so well just to engineer a loss, I began to slip and sink shots of my own. Sensing the tables turning, Ray, incorrigible gambler that he is, became tense and insatiable. Wagers rose as he attempted to regain his earlier glories, and I cut him off at a $5300 take, citing uncooperative pupils and an incipient nausea. As I wandered out of the garden, a bit sick at myself for fleecing him again so quickly, I wondered if my plan hadn't worked too well. Now he'll be calling me more often, the taste of those early victories forever fresh in his mind.

As I shut the gate I heard him bragging about having put a few over on "Poor Old Cornelius." At that I fingered the wad in my pocket and vowed that it would grow by leaps and bounds in the coming week.

Friday, July 23, 2004

What to wear...

Wednesday and Thursday proved a bit of a grind, with Ray rather down at the mouth, though he insisted on playing game after game each night. As an aside, the Austin-Healey should be here Friday next.

For some reason tonight's choice of dress seems particularly poignant. I do not wish to arrive in the nines, as though I were putting on the posh airs of newfound wealth, but I also do not wish to downplay my winnings by arriving in an old college sweater and worn corduroys, for the old boy knows just how much I'm up and it might give him the pique. The best approach is, perhaps, if I come across as rather intoxicated and actually throw an entire game. That might pep the boy up and put more sparkle into the next trouncing. Yes, that is definitely it. You can't keep picking apples without watering the tree. Tuxedo, with the shirt collar open and the tie undone, no jacket—I'll have just come from an afternoon at Napoleon's, meeting with an old friend. That's just the thing. An ash stain on the left leg.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

A Machiavellian Decision.

I suppose some wags will say that I ought not fleece Ray for every penny he puts up for wager, but after a bit of thinking I think I will. The good man certainly does not need the money, flush as he is after all those record deals and that bit with selling the first extant piece of pornography for a half billion dollars. The little chips and dust I gather during our games represent a rather insignificant rounding error in the monthly compounding of his interest. And, should I not be remunerated for the thousands of hours I spent learning the game? Perhaps I will see myself as an honest craftsman in this situation. An artisan, perhaps, creating victory after perfect victory, for the collector.

I have a call in to him regarding a possible game this evening, and have been dreamily leafing through the aforementioned duPont Registry Austin-Healey spread. A red Bug-Eye Sprite with a fetching tan tonneau seems to be looking right at me, its headlights following me no matter where in the room I go.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

What To Do With The Winnings.

I have socked away my customary percentage into savings, and as is my wont I have a separate percentage at hand for discretionary spending. Recently I acquired a lovely new hat, but because my continued winnings have been so remarkable since that indulgence, I find myself at a bit of a loss as to what to do. Better men than I might dole the surplus out to charities, but I've always found that rather dissatisfying. Oh, I cherish the poor and all of that, and I wish them a leg up, but I am wary of the way the funds are managed once they leave my grasp.

So, given that I have several hundred dollars sitting in a pile before me, and no idea what to spend it on, I will repair to the yard for a stroll, a pinkie of Hine, and a hand-rolled. I find that said combination usually puts a new thought or two into my head.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Dirty Pool

It is to my rather great regret that I did not see this coming. Ray, addictive personality that he is, phoned me up in a desperate frame of mind this afternoon, barely disguised as a pleasant social call to see what I planned to do with all of last night's winnings. I could tell he wanted to put more money on the bumpers, so when he invited me over for some mail-order filets mignon he had "forgotten" he ordered, I cut to the quick and asked if I might bring my cue. As soon as I offered I felt the cringe of guilt that parents who shoot heroin into their addicted babies must experience. Well, something like that. Not exactly. But still, rather foul and soul-wringing. Ray took the bait like a crocodile snapping up a chicken.

Dinner was delicious, but markedly curt. There was not even a vegetable, and no drinks were offered. Soon, it was time for the game.

Well, I thought I had seen the end of it as far as bizarre new cue technologies were concerned, but his apparatus for this evening was truly the limit. Instead of a cue stick at all, he wore a thick, futuristic glove on each hand, and onto his head he strapped a heavy set of goggles, just the sort you might see soldiers wear in night combat. There was a small touch-pad of buttons on one side of it, with which he fumbled awkwardly while sizing up his break. Then he took his position at the head of the table, pantomimed a breaking shot, and to my eye-widening consternation the balls scattered about as though they had been struck. Goggles on, he looked at me and explained that the balls were a special set which responded in kind to the actions defined by his gloves. "Kind of like a video game," he offered helpfully. Apparently the set came from Japan, and could thankfully also be struck with a normal, wooden cue.

I noted that the break had not been a particularly good one, having left the entire rack barely scattered at the bottom third of the table, so I was not too daunted to play. I made short work of the first game, letting him sink a shot when he could, as the tension in the room grew. He removed the fancy gear, insisted on making us drinks, and left for the bar. I sprang into action: donning the goggles, I made a quick study of the touch-pad. After selecting a modality entitled "Krazy-Pool!" I set the sweaty headgear down and picked up some overly-lacquered men's magazine.

He had mixed me a particularly stiff drink, so I partook in good sporting (it was Saturday night, after all, and my opponent was about to show me the finer points of "Krazy-Pool!" so I thought a stinging snoot might enhance the experience).

As we play Loser's break, he was at the head again. After re-donning his gear he went to the table and, to my undisplayed surprise, set up to shoot the cue ball into the right side pocket. Then, he shot the cue ball very strongly into the right side pocket. Great accuracy was used, in fact, with enviable topspin.

He took off his goggles to see what had just happened. The table stood silent, the rack pristine and untouched. My mirth could have filled a stadium, but I managed to keep it behind the teeth.

I may faithfully summarize the rest of the evening by stating that after a few more turns wherein the dictates of Krazy-Pool! sent cue ball after cue ball resoundingly into the right side pocket, he abandoned the technology entirely and returned to an actual stick. As is the case with one in a tight spot, he fell back upon the old familiar, the behind-the-back shot. I cut him off at $905 this evening, the last five dollars won on a particularly pathetic parting game of Rock-Paper-Scissors, in his doorway, as I was trying to leave.

Saturday, July 17, 2004

A bit of an underhanded visit.

I had originally planned to not attend Ray's weekly festivities this evening, but a modicum of greed and a particularly stirring Austin-Healey spread in this month's duPont Registry got the best of me. I donned a bit of a downer outfit, a moth-eaten royal blue v-neck over the old college tie and some tired slacks, and legged it for the place.
After the last debacle Ray had made many promises about not being available to play for a few weeks, but I knew this to be a ruse. As soon as he saw me walk into the yard his head jerked a bit and I felt sympathetic pangs in my pockets. We spoke amiably over gimlets and before long he caved and admitted he'd been working on his game, wouldn't I be a sport and put a few dollars on the table, etc.
He had purchased a rather curious new cue, a graphite-shafted number with a rubber grip that seemed to be ergonomically molded. Also, it has been a great number of years since I consulted the rules of the game but I am fairly certain that no provisions are made for cues which have a sliding panel that sits on the bridge hand, mounted on ball bearings, which essentially eliminates the need for hand-chalking. Figuring the new device would be more of a handicap than a help, I ignored its dubious status and let the games begin.
At first I was profoundly struck by his restraint from using the behind-the-back shot, as he mainly opted for slow, almost painful set-ups in the traditional form. It seemed he had sought third-party instruction and had been reined in somewhat. 
Naturally, though, like any player changing their basic technique, he was years from competitive ability. A tortured, forty-five second setup would result in the cue ball rolling a good six inches, coming to rest squarely in the middle of a remarkably vacant stretch of felt.

Let no one say that I drag a good name through the mud unnecessarily. To make a rather long, bizarre and uncomfortable story short, Mr. Smuckles and his Space Rod parted this evening with not less than $5,300 and the promise of a challenging rematch. Giddy and flushed with another pocketful of cash, I repaired to Flanagan's for a late-night meal of pancakes, scrambled eggs and sausage. There is nothing like breakfast and money to make a man feel smart.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

The 1845

As I sat and accounted for my winnings against the good Mr. Smuckles this afternoon I discovered that I was in the mood to do one better than the usual domestic ales one finds around this house. In such a frame of mind I not one hour ago found myself at Lunecchi's, standing before a large open cooler of large bottles of beer. Lately infatuated with white ales, I scanned, left to right, top to bottom, the eye taking little journeys here and there to reminisce upon a favored label. Then, like a cold gust of air it seized me: squat, dark brown, beautiful...a glistening imperial pint of Fuller’s 1845. Ah, how the memories of losing my memories at the old Ensign Ewart did come flowing back like so much of the nutty brown stuff. As I write this now, a tall burnt-orange glass of it sits by the keyboard, capped with a beautiful creamy head. Now I must complete this entry and get to the matter at hand.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004


As I had predicted, Ray would not go another day without a rematch on the felt. His call came precisely at 5PM, as though he were making clean numbers on superstition. He gamely invited me for dinner at 6, with more contest at 7. I shot the cuffs, dabbed a bit of English Leather behind the ears, and wrapped the corpus in a rich burgundy vest. I was sport incarnate.

The good man put out an honest spread of spiced lamb burgers, plank fries and imported cream ale. I must remark again upon the genuine hospitality of Mr. Smuckles, no matter what the portent of the evening. We made easy and wide conversation which did not in the least allude to the upcoming match. Soon, though, we retired to the parlor where his Moroccan battleground stood on all fours. After a lovely post-prandial fume and some calvados it was time to chalk and summon old Euclid.

The first indicator that it was to be a night like no other was just after I allowed him to beat my lag and take the break. He chalked, eyed the rack from four sides for tightness, and then, to my greatly contained surprise, set up for a behind-the-back break. I do not know if I have ever witnessed such a spectacle, but I kept mum for posterity.

Although he had doubtless practiced such a break many times in my absence, it did not seem to have done him much good. The cue bounced embarrassingly from his grasp and he lost footing, falling and striking his cheek on the corner of the table. Despite my admonitions he was content to let it bleed, and so we played. It was my shot, as the cue ball had rolled into a pocket shortly after his tumble.

From there I am sad to report that it only fell away from him, though I did my best to throw a shot here and there. Like a runner who curiously refuses the baton, he contorted his way through the game in a manner which might only be called desperate. Desperate and expensive.

After a few more rounds in the same grain I counted a $2300 sum and bid him adieu, citing a pressing social engagement. He insisted I stay for a cigarette and ticked off a number of his own engagements which would keep us from playing again for several weeks.

I think I am going to buy a new hat.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

A Sudden Flush.

Dear Ray took me at less of my word than I had imagined possible, and I did wander away from his pool table four figures more the aristocrat this evening. I would not disparage the fellow's approach in mixed company but he simply must abandon that behind-the-back shot if he is to make any headway with the game. He is like a golfer who will only ever use his driver, simply because it is the biggest club in the bag. The analogy is scant and does not hit on all cylinders, but there you have it.

At any rate, red in the gills with easy money, I believe I will beat a fresh path to the Aidan online shop for a bit of gentlemen's grooming accoutrement. Tomorrow, a good snoot of Talisker down at Napoleon's, for who knows how long this gusher will render its sweet, green oil.

Saturday, July 10, 2004

An Uncommon Indulgence.

It is not my habit to attend the festivities which Ray puts on every weekend. I am no stranger to debauched evenings, but the regularity of their revelry taxes the resources of a man of my vintage. However, it had been a great while since I had donned my Bacchanalian wreath, so when Téodor dropped by my door, as he always does, to invite me along (bless him, I do like that Téodor), I pushed back from my blotter and donned the houndstooth.

I must say, Ray does lavish a lovely and gracious hospitality upon his guests. A well-rounded menu of meats and thoughtful beverage await the attendee, and tonight the flagship items were marvelously flavored pork ribs, matched rather savvily with remarkably sweet old vine zinfandels, and some lovely imported white beer. The man had even gone to the trouble of hiring a sushi chef, who prepared sashimi, rolls, tempura and teriyaki with a smile and that wonderful Japanese legerdemain. I did nip a bit freely from the sake, and before long I found myself laying into the full bar and victuals.

I have a bit of a flip for the old slate, and Ray made short work of talking me into a wager over 8-ball. He has a lovely burgundy-felted one-piece with marvelous Moroccan inlays about the frame, and I don't mind telling you he's a bit free with his technique. A true lover of the behind-the-back shot, he'll try it at geometry's slightest provocation. Unfortunately, this regular application has not improved his accuracy in said configuration. Also, it can be said that Ray has played a great many games in a casual environment, yet does not adhere to any particular school of discipline, which puts him at a marked disadvantage. Not half an hour had passed before I was five hundred the richer and promising a future rematch to a remarkably giddy Smuckles. It seems the old boy is a bit of a sport, and I envision a rather profitable series of afternoons in the coming weeks.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

A Kitchen of One's Own.

I rose from my writing table rather late this evening and found that the rest of the household had already dined. All the dishes cleaned and put in place, all the diners repaired off to their spicy burps and thickly drawn breaths, I had the kitchen to myself. Making my way through the clutter of the refrigerator I happened across a lovely piece of sole and the makings of a fragrant provençal sauce. I sautéed the garlic, onion, tomato, basil and kalamatas in some olive oil and sauvignon blanc, with a dash of dijon and butter, and nappéd it over the sautéed fish. I took it with a bracingly crisp glass of Frascati and then retired to the back yard with a hand-rolled and a Calvados. Tonight's meal was a pleasure.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Le Danse Macabre

I have thrilling news! For those of you who follow Le Danse Macabre, there is a retrospective on PBS this evening! I do not believe I have been this plussed at the prospect of television since, well, my last post. But Le Danse Macabre is certainly a different specimen entirely. Highlights are sure to include Indice 41, the landmark play that takes place entirely behind the stage curtain, and my personal favorite B.b.B., the story of a young girl whose desire to become a boy is so strong that she emits a constant, low scream throughout the entire production. Chilling, heartbreaking, challenging - Le Danse Macabre spares no-one. 9pm.

Monday, July 05, 2004

That Lauren Graham.

I must admit to a bit of a chink in the old Bear armor: I am positively dreamy over that adorable Lauren Graham. I know I am perceived as a stony recluse whose heart is protected by thorny memories of great loves gone wanting, and for the most part that is true enough. In the case of Ms. Graham, however, I feel quite content to fawn over her television appearances and dip into the odd daydream of champagne among the dense roses at Hampton Down, perhaps a hand held in hand and a titillating repartee with her devastating wit...forgive me. Of all the beauties that are swung across the television screen, she seems the odd jewel with that classic je ne sais quoi. Not to mention the dimples. Oh! She's on Celebrity Poker this evening! I shall repair to the living room with the well-thumbed and nib and hopefully lavish a few lines upon that invigorating Beatrice.

Saturday, July 03, 2004

The 12-hour Shift.

Good heavens, I made the daft judgment error of picking up Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything once again last night late while tucked in with a good snoot of the Very Special OP. I had just worked through a lengthy bit wherein Mr. Bryson treats us to stories of various Yellowstone night-time hikers who fall through the earth's crust into searing underground hot springs and are boiled alive, and I thought the coast might be clear for a while. Not so. He managed to sneak in another chapter about what would result if another meteorite--the type that have been hitting earth every so often for millions of years, apparently--were to strike today (extinction of all living species, of course). At any rate, I couldn't sleep for the thought of all that, especially his use of the phrase "long overdue," so I steadied myself with another finger or two of the VS and watched FoodTV stir into life. As Emeril sliced into a few ahi gems, who should stumble into the house but Lyle, with the bouquet of a long evening about him. So, the sun rose on a nerve-rattled yours truly and his acrid companion passing a bottle of something strong, brown and eventually friendly between them. I am not above such lows, but waking to find that it was 8pm just now has rather put me out. I suppose I ought to get some oil paints and spend a month or two in a field in Aix, far from Mr. Bryson and his overdue meteorites.

Friday, July 02, 2004

Drat, I Have Read More Bryson.

...and it's got me feeling more down at the existential heel than ever. I've just trembled through a chapter which describes the very real possibility that great blasts of lava can come shooting up through the earth's core in unlikely locations without any warning. The busypen even has the great radius to use the phrase "your own backyard." Thank you, Mr. Bryson, for turning my only sanctum into a potential hotbed of deadly magma spray. To paraphrase his apparent philosophy, "life is a game in which you cannot win, cannot break even, and cannot leave." I do not recall the name of the great mind from whom this was cribbed.

All this on the tail of the chapter which outlines in great detail how unprepared we are should a large meteorite decide to cross paths with our planet. (hint: extinction of all life)

The New Bryson

Good evening, dear friend. I should like to take this opportunity to forewarn you against reading any of Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything in bed late at night if you are not particularly sleepy, as the questions raised therein are particularly disconcerting. The way Mr. Bryson puts into perspective the very slim odds that we should exist at all has caused me to become particularly agitated and depressed on several occasions to date, most recently keeping me from sleep well through twilight, at which point I slept only fitfully while the neighbors' landscapers trimmed their Monday morning hedges and blew the leaves. I admit that on one of these occasions I did seek refuge in numbing Talisker, which left me fairly ruined for the rest of the day after I had napped. I did not dress or shave, and wandered the house simply in my robe and slippers. I do need to make more of an effort to put up best appearances. Lord knows I would be alone in such a crusade.