The ad said “pool players wanted,” so I answered the ad. The guy lived in West Oakland, not exactly the safest place in the world, but pool is pool, so off I went. And so began my friendship with Bihn.
Bihn was the son of Vietnamese boat people, about 30 years old, and very outgoing. Though unemployed, he lived in a three bedroom suite, where he slept in a tent in the living room. He let the other three bedrooms out to, uhh, the weirdest people he could find, in order to pay the rent. Oh, he also dealt drugs, weed, crack, meth, and was a frequent user of them.
Besides his unusual lifestyle, Bihn also had unusual beliefs. Now I’m no stranger to alternative ways of thinking, revisionist history, or even conspiracy theories, but Bihn was off the charts. The more outlandish an idea, the more fervently he seemed to believe it.
Here’s a few: Pop stars are illuminati agents, Queen Elizabeth is a shape-shifting ancient alien, and racism is caused by melanin envy. Now I’m willing to entertain any theory for the sake of conversation, but for Bihn it was more than entertainment.
I learned to mostly keep my mouth shut, smile, and focus on pool. He wasn’t much of a player, but he had a table, and putting in time on it was more valuable than trying to explain reality to the reality resistant.
Bihn also had a highly elevated image of himself, he was a self-declared expert on everything. Those who questioned Bihn’s authority did not fare well, from toilet paper to time travel, it was Bihn’s way or the highway. I saw many people banished.
One day Binh announced that he was advertising himself as a pool coach. Despite having a pool table, Bihn knew almost nothing about pool. His fundamentals were horrible, positional play non-existent, and knowledge unknown. I cautiously asked, “What are you going to teach?”
He said something like, “All the moves man, how to make good shots…” I just nodded and bit my tongue. A few weeks later, he informed me that his first student was on the way. My inner voice told me to leave before the lesson could begin, but curiosity got the better of me.
The student was an Asian woman in her mid twenties. Bihn began the lesson by asking her what rules she usually played. Her response being that she’d never played before. Bihn handed her a cue and said, “Take a few shots.” She struggled to even hit the cue ball, never mind make a shot. And what was the “pool coaches” advice? “Feel the groove, be one with ball, just relax.”
If she was confused before, now she was even more confused. The ‘coach’ was giving her no actionable guidance at all. I felt bad for her. I waited for Bihn to do something useful, but it appeared to not be coming, so I got up, and showed her some basic things. I knew it was annoying Bihn, so I gave her just enough to start with and sat back down.
She was still struggling, but Bihn was still just spewing out slogans. She looked back to me, in what I could only interpret as a plea for help. I knew it was an invitation onto a land mine, but I stepped forward and helped anyways. Bihn went to bathroom. While he was gone, I made up an excuse to leave, and wished her good luck with the rest of the lesson – not adding that she’d need it.
A few days later, Bihn asks me over to play. Upon arrival he announced a new rule, that the player not at the table would have to sit in a designated chair. Seemed excessive for a casual home game with nothing at stake, and I said so, but Bihn insisted so I said, “Where’s my chair?”
I dutifully sat in my designated chair between turns, but noticed that Bihn did not. Now this did not affect my play or the match at all, but I said, “Hey man, what the hell? You can’t just make up a new rule then not follow it.”
This statement had about as much success as convincing Bihn that ancient aliens were not secretly fomenting racial unrest so they could harvest melanin from African Americans. I won the match handily, 10-0, and left.
Later that night Bihn sent me text message saying we couldn’t play anymore. When I asked why he said, “What makes you think you have any authority in my house?” I replied that I didn’t. He accused me of cheating, I asked how. The more clarity I sought, the less coherent he became. His last text was something like, “I just wanted to see how far you’d push it, and you did not disappoint. I’ve seen many like you Dennis, trying to control me, but they never do.”
I was going to respond, “Oh darn, you are onto my ancient alien tricks,” but he had already unfriended me and that’s the last I ever heard from him.
His ad is still up on Craigslist, though I see he’s calling himself, “Enican” these days.