My travels landed me in New York this week, where my friend Mike was reading from his book “The Card: Collectors, Con Men and the True Story of History’s Most Desired Baseball Card.” The reading was at a bar on the Lower East Side called The Happy Ending. Dubious, I grabbed a cab and headed downtown.
The Happy Ending was tough to spot. The cabbie looked a bit confused. But my directions said to look for a sign that said “Health Club.” After a little searching, there it was. And it wasn’t a massage parlor after all, though apparently it was at one time and that’s where it got its name.
Mike did a great job at the reading, but the highlight of the night came when Sports Illustrated writer L. Jon Wertheim read from his book, “Running the Table: The Legend of Kid Delicious, the Last Great American Pool Hustler.”
Actually, it wasn’t Wertheim who was the highlight. It was the fact that Kid Delicious and his sidekick, Bristol Bob, were in the bar and took the stage. They were hilarious, especially when Kid talked about pool hustles they pulled in the South. Birmingham seemed to cause him particular trauma. Kid was a sort of seizure-driven version of Jackie Gleason, spreading a thick Jersey accent onto the microphone as he spoke. Bristol Bob was one of those guys who oozes cool. Their method was for Bob to make the scene first and play several games. Then Kid would show up, overweight, acting a bit clueless, dribbling cake crumbs and looking vulnerable. While Bob’s a very good pool player, Kid is a genius who would proceed to dominate the hall and walk out with everyone’s money.
I talked to Kid for a bit after the reading and was impressed. Apparently, they’re talking about turning the Wertheim book into a movie. That would be cool …
To top the night off, Mike and I drank a beer on a doorstep of a Lower East Side apartment, enjoying the late night sounds and smells of Indian Summer in New York. What an amazing city.