One of the most remarkable gadgets in the world today is called the Mopar Navigation System. According to the instructions that came with the one I recently had installed in my Jeep, "… this premier high-tech satellite guidance system offers the safety and security that comes with knowing not only where you are, but also how to reach your final destination." Of course, all this wonderful stuff applies only when the system is actually working.
It's just like darts. Take for example, the challenging 126 finish. Checkin' out ain't nothin' when you're practicing in the comfort of familiar surroundings. You know what I'm talking.' You set. You stroke. You release. And BAM! There's a 19 for ya! Just north of the triple wire. You inhale. Exhale slowly. Relax. Set again. Stroke easy. Let it fly. And BAM again! Triple 19, dead on. HA! Nothin' to it. Just fifty to go now. Last dart. Set. Stroke. Release. BULL! Yep, nothin' to it, baby. Absolutely nothin'.
It's when you're at down at the pub or at a shoot and money's on the line or you're trying to impress some sweet young thing that your internal high-tech-take-out-the-double-satellite-guidance-system goes wacko. Or maybe it's some weird-ass, space-time continuum thing that causes the doubles to get physically smaller the closer the board you're throwing at is to any point on earth where real live breathing people can actually observe what you're doing? Who knows…
Doesn't matter. It's a fact. When you NEED 'em, just like I need a frickin' map right now, doubles can be as illusive as a home run in the back seat of an old Chevy.
I don't know where I am or how to get where I am going - which is home. It's St. Patrick's Day. It's 3:00 o'clock in the morning. There are drunks with multi-colored hair and pierced body parts everywhere. And my primo, state-of-the-art Mopar Navigation System has bit the Big One.
Yep. I got to the oche just fine. I brought the score down Phil Taylor-style. But I'm stranded in midtown Manhattan. I'm in real-life doubles Hell. Some sneaky muddah has buried the Holland Tunnel!
It all began eight hours ago at a brand new bar in town. Located at 322 East 14th Street, it's called City Slickers. I was invited up by some friends of the owners, Steve Charles and three other guys named Mike, Greg and "Boo" (huh?) to throw in their Saturday night Luck of the Draw and to write a story about the joint. Since I just happen to carry a little hand-held Sony tape recorder with me, I am able to dictate this column, just like a real writer, as I continue to drive around in circles searching for the Holland Tunnel. I know it's here somewhere. At least it was eight hours ago.
City Slickers is a basic darts joint. Nothing more. Nothing less. It's long and narrow, with a little bar on the left. Four dart boards line the opposite wall. As is typical, a couple of wall-mounted televisions compete for attention with a well-stocked juke box. Thanks to early round NCAA basketball tournament play, tonight the televisions won.
In the center of the room sits a small pool table. I was impressed that during the shoot the owners closed down the table in deference to the darters. I can honestly say that I haven't seen this done before. I guess that when Boo and the boys speak people take notice. I also think that Boo and the Boys would be a good name for a gay darts team.
A beer will run you $4 which is $2 less than the toll to get through the missing tunnel and just one-twelfth the $48 it just cost me to get my car out of hock from the garage where I parked in Greenwich Village.
The Luck of the Draw regularly attracts about thirty shooters for a 9:00 p.m. start. Considering the high cost of almost everything else in town, the $5 entry fee is one of the best deals you're gonna find. Even better, with an entry of just 22 shooters tonight, the first place payout was $150. Not a bad investment if you don't draw someone like me.
Have you ever walked into a shoot, casually surveyed the crowd, and then kinda hoped you'd draw a particular person? Of course you have. The damn thing tonight was: Cameron Diaz didn't show up. And Englishman, Graham Browning - who's just moved to the States and won two shoots earlier in the day at the Courtside in New Jersey, made it pretty clear that if our numbers got pulled out of the hat together he just stab himself in the head with his darts and die. But I still did okay. I got paired with a GYMNAST! Whoa baby!
Vanessa was her name and she had attitude -- that unique, kinda sexy, New York spunk, just like Marisa Tormei in My Cousin Vinnie. In fact, except for her seven tattoos (precisely half as many as Phil "Slaughterhouse" Fried) she even looked like Tormei. Anyway, Vanessa and I got dispatched straight away by the bartender, sharp-shooting Jamie Donovan and his partner. I was distracted. I admit it.
I tipped a few with Fried, who's currently angry with me because I didn't show up (I SWEAR that I thought we were only paired for Saturday) to shoot with him on the final day of the Chesney tournament in Philadelphia a few months back. What can I say? That weekend, he was dressed in a red, white and blue Uncle Sam outfit - top hat and all. Would YOU have shown up? Hell, I was afraid I might get drafted. Tonight Fried was dressed like a giant leprechaun. Shirt wide open (now, there's an idea Vanessa). Blinking red lights somehow clipped to his ears and chest. Without a doubt, this boy's got his sights set on runnin' with Bucky Bakalac's torch.
In between his romp to victory with partner, Dave Minasian, Browning and I threw a few rounds of cricket and discussed his move from England, life in the Big City and, well … we also talked about Tina DiGregorio, who spent most of the night sitting on a barstool enjoying a back massage from some little dude with a big grin named Raul. Hailing from the Mother Country of Darts as he does, Browning offered fascinating insight into some of the finer points of our sport. I'd love to share some of his thinking with you here but, unfortunately, I am unable to do so. Seriously, Browning's an amiable British bloke. And a hell of a shot. But, technically, I didn't understand a word he said.
Where the HELL is that tunnel? There's green beer-drinking, weirdo, New York lunatics wandering all over the sidewalks outside my window. Most of 'em look like Fried. At least my door locks are still working.
I also threw for a couple of hours with someone named Kurt (whose last name I've forgotten) who drove all the way from Cape Cod (Martha's Vineyard) to throw the Luck of the Draw. Or he might have been on vacation and just stopped by for the shoot. Who knows? He was there. I threw league off the Cape for several years and it turned out that Kurt and I had all sorts of acquaintances in common. Like Roy and Jason and Smitty and Griz. Unfortunately, we couldn't remember any of their last names (so I don't feel so bad about forgetting Kurt's).
There were some others around who I didn't have the opportunity to meet...
There was a scary Army-looking dude with a shaved head, named Jeff.
There was DiGregorio's partner, Cesar Ramirez, who as you might infer from his name, looked pretty much like any other white Anglo Saxon protestant.
Suzana Vaccaro's husband was in the room but I decided it was best to steer clear of him. I once wrote admiringly about a certain part of Suzana's anatomy.
There was the cook, Mike, and a second bartender, Mark, who I'm reasonably certain, just had his wisdom teeth pulled. Or maybe he was British? Either way, when he spoke he sounded a lot like Browning.
It's been almost three hours now since I stepped over some homeless person and into the street down the way from the City Slicker. It took me a half hour to get the attention of a taxi driver. Bastard.
I spent another thirty minutes arguing with the parking garage attendant over the cost to watch my car. Another bastard.
It's been TWO hours since the little voice inside my Mopar Navigation System informed me that it didn't recognize where I was and, therefore, couldn't calculate my optimum route home. Piece of crap.
But the news ain't all bad. I found a terrific little darts bar. Had a few beers. Watched part of the NCAA basketball tournament. Met a gymnast. And, I have just found the Holland Tunnel! It WAS buried! Under a damn river!
Now all I have to do is figure out how to stuff all this tape back into my Sony recorder.
From the Field,