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Finding my home in stranger-filled pool hall

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By Meaghan Downs

I am a woman with no hometown.
Like a magpie foraging and stealing things to bring back to her nest, I surround myself with bits and pieces of my former lives in other states to recreate a feeling of home.
Nothing tangible, no knickknacks.
I’m not a snow globe or porcelain doll kind of person.
Local watering holes, like Jim’s Pool Room, are more my style.
Recently I had the privilege of meeting Mr. Jim Hyatt (look for the full feature story in our sample edition next Monday) to learn more about the legacy and community of the downtown pool hall.
They say math is a universal language, understood by all despite differences in languages, cultures and backgrounds.  
To me, most mathematics (with the exception of some calculus) might as well be hieroglyphics.
In my opinion, the universal language for humanity is the local diner, bakery, bowling alley, coffee klatch gathering or bar.
One step through the doors of Jim’s Pool Room, and I found myself back in Nebraska at the Sparetime bowling alley, sitting at a sticky table with a pitcher of beer and my college friends with country music on the jukebox.
There’s a little bit of South Dakota, Minnesota and New York in there too, if you look hard enough.
Because loyalty, that fierce attachment to a fixture integral to a community’s lifeblood, transcends all state lines.
Talk to an 18-year-old me about singing the praises of a pool hall or bowling alley in writing, however,  and she would have thought you were crazy.
Back then, my insanity came in the form of the idea that I would write The Great American Novel by the time I was 22.
Right.  
I’d be able to find my name on a Barnes and Noble bookshelf between the dust jackets of Dostoevsky and Dumas, not a on a copy of the weekly newspaper.  
Journalism and I fell in love later in life.
But that’s a story for perhaps another column.
Instead of looking for my name on a book spine, I’m now searching out a seat at spelling bee competitions and settling into my regular chair at city council meetings.
I’m walking into a pool hall of strangers with a notebook and a pen and discovering a strange feeling of home.
And despite what 18-year-old me might have thought, there’s no place I’d rather be.