We called ourselves warriors. But we were just another group of stale, complacent, and bored little boys who were too old to be kids but too young to be men. Stuck in a tiny town somewhere between nothing and nowhere while the rest of the world was in turmoil. We smoked Marlboros… holding the butt between our finger and thumb like James Dean, or just letting it dangle from our lips like Bogie.
We didn’t give a shit about anything beyond the next weekend; because in our minds we were invincible. We were brothers…we always had each other’s backs. We were afraid of nothing and nobody, especially when we were together. The place that we were together the most was a dimly lit, dirty, and damp hole in the wall that had the stink from decades of stale beer and cigarette smoke; a place known to us as ‘Shaky Dave’s Pool Hall’.
Shaky Dave’s was a place where five dollars would buy you a lot of camaraderie and twenty bucks could get you some companionship for the night. But it was just about the only place in town where a boy growing up in the turmoil of the early seventies could learn some of the answers. Even if he didn’t know what the real questions were.
I learned a lot of important things at Shaky Dave’s. Things I thought I needed to know. Like how to cuss, smoke, and chew tobacco. There were a few things I learned about the opposite sex there too. We all knew that only one kind of girl would hang out at Shaky’s…and you definitely didn’t want to invite her home for dinner. These were girls who had developed a reputation of sending more than one high school boy off to face the world as a man.
The men who frequented Shaky Dave’s were hard men who’d been there and back again. Even though I wasn’t really sure where there was, I was at least smart enough to realize that it was a place I never wanted to visit. Honestly, I had doubts as to whether or not a few of them that had been there had ever made it all the way back.
These men had their own handshake that sometimes would last for five minutes, they talked in words we couldn’t understand and wagered an entire week’s salary on a single game. Sometimes, more money changed hands in that place on one day, than my dad made in a whole year. Now those men were real men, tough, mysterious and, in a way, exotic.
We played snooker, because that was the game real men played. We drank because they drank…We fought because they fought. We tried our best to be one of them. Because, that was our great expectation from life, to be one of those men… to someday leave childhood behind and be accepted into manhood. To be able to walk through those doors made of heavy wood, order a Jack Daniel’s and a Budweiser and step proudly up to the Snooker table, and claim our rightful place as men of ‘Shaky Dave’s’.