Billiard boys

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo Jerry Judah aims for the four ball Wednesday at Baxter-Curren Senior Center. “That’s the cowboy way to shoot,” Bud Johnston said as Judah sank the ball in the side pocket.

By Liliana Castillo: CNJ staff writer

Amid the clack of billiard balls, laughter and wisecracks, four old friends try to beat each other at a more challenging version of eight-ball.

But companionship seems to be a greater object than winning.

Some of them have been playing for two or five years, while others have been coming to Friendship Senior Center to play pool for 15 years.

The group can run anywhere from two to 15 retirees at a time.

“(Pool) used to be in a back room, dark and smoky with hustlers and gamblers. It’s not that way anymore,” James Miller said, never taking his eyes off the table.

Miller has been playing pool for 15 years, while some of the other players, such as his partner Desi Pacheco, have only been in the game for a year.

“He’s the ace,” Pacheco said about Miller, who sinks a shot in a nonchalant fashion.

Between shots, the men crack jokes at each other.

“You played pool with Moses,” Pacheco says to Cladio Beldran, who’s been playing for 15 years.

Members of the self-proclaimed “Over the Hill Gang” play against and learn from each other.

“He’s training me,” Pacheco said, pointing at Beldran.

Pacheco surveyed the table mid-game, realizing he had no shot, turned to Beldran and asked him what to do. Even though Beldran was on the opposing team, he gave him pointers, and Pacheco made the shot.

Winning isn’t the only object of the game at Friendship.

“Our friends are here. We get entertained and we socialize,” Pacheco said, as he tipped his cue off with some blue chalk.

Across town at Baxter-Curren Senior Center, four men are playing the same game.

“Each one is trying to beat the other one,” Jerry Judah, 68, said. Judah plays the role of chairman, watching over the pool happenings at Baxter.

“We all like to play other games, but pool is the main thing we get into,” Judah said. “Some of our guys don’t have anyone, they are by themselves, so this is a good thing to pass the time away.

“We all have a good time.”