Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Bill Lawson - Pool Player

In the 1960's there were five pool rooms in downtown Winston-Salem.  Pool was so popular with the RJ Reynolds Tobacco workers that a law was passed stating there would be no pool games in the city limits after 11pm.  That was so the third shift workers would go to work.  You could tell which room Bill was in by listening for the sound of his break.  WHACK!!!!! the cueball would hit the one ball so hard that you would think surely the cueball or oneball had broken in two. 

Bill didn't look the part.  He didn't look like a world class 9-ball player.  In fact he didn't look like much of anything except maybe a wino with his old tattered sports coat on, his uncombed hair, and that week-old stubble on his chin that he somehow managed to always have.  He stood about six feet tall but had the long torso of someone six-four or six-five.  That's about all anyone noticed about Bill, unless you were (like me) someone who had spent countless hours playing pool and watching hustlers play the game.  I saw something magical when he bent over a pool table and wrapped those huge hands and very long fingers around a pool cue.  He never went one-rail to get pretty good position on the next ball -- he would go 5 rails and get perfect position.

I only met Bill a couple of years before he passed away.  At that time it had been 2 or 3 years since he had played in (and won) a major tournament.  This was 1982 and Bill had long since left the road and returned home to Winston-Salem.  His health was poor and he didn't have a nickel to his name, but he could still play pool at a level that made us all stop and watch when he would practice a little bit.  I say practice - but Bill Lawson never practised.  There was no reason to practice - he was a master of the art.

I had heard that road players, when going up and down the east coast from Boston and New York to Florida and Texas, would take a wide detour around the Winston-Salem / Greensboro area.  They didn't want to risk losing their bankroll to Bill Lawson.  I witnessed the truth in this when one slow evening a couple of black guys walked in carrying their personal cues.  One of them I recognised - a local player with just average ability.  The very tall guy with him was a stranger - but after I played him a few games for $5.00, I could tell he was laying down.  That is - he was playing well below his ability in an effort to get
me to raise the bet.  He let me win a few games and then started his spiel about betting more.  I told him he could win it back the same way I won it - $5.00 at a time.  He knew I was on to him.  At this point he wanted to know if there was anyone around town that would bet big.  He didn't care who they were - he "just wanted to gamble big time".  Sure I replied.  I'll get someone here to play you!   I called Bill at his boarding house and told him the deal.  He said "Curtis, I don't have any money and no way to get there."  Well get a cab, get here, and don't worry about the money.  A friend of mine and I agreed to put up $200.00 for Bill to play with.  Twenty minutes later Bill walked in the door - and the tall black guy said "Damn - I didn't say I'd play a damn world champion."  The tall stranger it turns out was none other than Willie Munson.  Willie was a pro himself and had recently won the US Open in Norfolk.  He wanted no part of Irving "Bill" Lawson.

Bill couldn't drive himself to the pool room because he reportedly had never owned a car or for that matter never had a driver's license.  There was always a backer who would drive him around the country from pool room to pool room.  The tournament circuit in those days did not have purses high enough to encourage many men to turn pro.  They could make a lot more money by traveling the country and stopping in every town, large and small, they all had pool rooms.  They also would have a local champion who was always foolish enough to take on all comers. 

Bill was very humble.  He would never brag about his winnings, but when we were able to drag a story out of him they were always utterly amazing.  He told us about the time he was in a small Georgia town for a couple of days beating the local players until he finally got the chance to play and beat the local champion out of around $2000.00.  Bill then promptly got on a bus and and headed out of town with his winnings.  After a few miles a sheriff's car pulled the bus over.  They took Bill off the bus, took all of his winnings, and threw him in jail for a night.

Billy Johnson (or as he sometimes went by "Wade Crane") came to my poolroom one weekend just to get Bill Lawson to teach him how to break a rack of nine-ball.  Billy was already a well-known pro at that time.
Bill Lawson passed away around 1986 in his late 50's.  He died penniless -- but he died knowing he was the best at something.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Music Web Site

I've tried maybe a dozen different web sites and applications for playing music.  Pandora,, and are all great.  Sometimes I just want to quickly play an artist or a song right now.  This is where Puniz excels.  Fast - Free - Legal - Simple!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

TED Talks

One of the greatest things about this computer age we are now living is the ease with which we can all learn about new and exciting things.  TEDTalks is a series of 18-minute presentations by some of the smartest and talented people on the planet.  From their web site ---- "TEDTalks began as a simple attempt to share what happens at TED with the world. Under the moniker "ideas worth spreading," talks were released online. They rapidly attracted a global audience in the millions."

These enlightening presentations will knock your socks off!  There are now over 500 available for viewing and there is "something for everyone".

Here are three of my favourites:
Micro Sculpture
Swimming the North Pole
Dirty Jobs

Check 'em out.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Shameless Self-Promotion

After writing that previous blog about the benefits of using Linux I've come to the realization that not many people are going to take my advice.  That's perfectly understandable for a couple of good reasons.  Linux for the desktop has made tremendous advances in "ease of installation" and in "user friendliness" in the past few years.  The reality is that not many people want to take the time to learn something new when they are happy with what they have.

Should you be happy with your W-Doze operating system?  When you went to the local retailer and bought that desktop or laptop it came with Doze already installed - but you paid for it.  If you bought the same set-up with no operating system installed you could have saved over $100.00 and installed Linux for free.  When W-Doze comes out with a new version you will need to upgrade your system to stay current - again for a price.  Linux distro upgrades are free - and are released much more frequently.  Oh yeah - you'll need to pay for anti-virus software for that Doze machine - unless you want to go through the headaches and cost of having someone replace or clean up your hard drive.

What can you do on Doze that you cannot do on Linux?  Not much!  There are software games that will only run in Doze.  That's about it.  If you're like me and mainly use your pc for music and video, internet, email, graphics and office applications - Linux beats Doze.  It's faster!  No more viruses - and never crashes.

Still sceptical?  Here's where the SSP comes in.  For $40.00 I will install Linux on your laptop or desktop.  I will make it a dual-boot system whereby you can boot up into Doze or Linux.  I offer same-day service and free e-mail consulting to help you get started.  For good performance your machine should be less than 3 years old and some older machines may benefit from additional memory.  If additional ram is needed - I will install it for free -   you just pay for the memory chips.  Any questions: email me with "Linux" in the subject line.    RAKEMUP@YAHOO.COM

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Tongue-in-Cheek (or not?)

Things I've discovered in 61 years that you might consider ---

1- If you want someone to be your friend, get them to do something for you.  (Yes, I said it correctly.)  After they do you a favour they will realize that you now owe them.

2- Be who you are and say what you feel ... because those that matter won't mind ... and those that mind .. don't matter.

3- When you're screwing up and nobody says anything to you any more, that means they've given up on you.

4- To handle yourself, use your head.  To handle others, use your heart

We're putting the band back together - but my guitar has coloured buttons - and no strings.

And --  for my tombstone:  "I spent all my money on beer and women  .... the rest of it I wasted!" - Steve Forde (from the song Beer and Women)

IBC Memphis 2010