Note: In his column Serrano Time, Houston's award-winning scribe and goofball Shea Serrano writes about his life and times.
Photo courtesy of Universal Sheaface
It went like this: My college, located in Huntsville, had a billiards club, which I'm just now realizing is incredibly nerdy. I'd begun playing a lot of it in high school, but in college I flourished. My brain just understood what was supposed to happen without anyone having to explain it to me. And so it became ALL that I did, for like two years straight. Gambling was a natural extension of that.
I started out playing pool for $5 or $10 on campus, and eventually for money in different areas of town. I even began traveling to other cities in Texas to find new players. I'd usually go with two or three other people. We'd drive one or two or three hours to pool halls in Houston or Austin or Dallas or San Antonio and set up games. It was fun.
But back on campus, at one point they closed down the pool hall temporarily, to rebuild the student center or something. In the downtime, I took to cards and bowling and anything really that I could gamble on. That's when I started running a football board hustle.
This is something I'd seen my parents and uncles and aunts participate in. Basically it's a numbered grid people use to wager on the outcomes of football games. (Note: People looooove betting on the Dallas Cowboys.) But what I learned is that if you ask people if they "Wanna buy a square?" some will think you're talking about marijuana.
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On our dorm room phone system, if you had a message your dial tone went beep-beep-beep rather than the usual baaaaaaaaaaaaaah. After I started selling squares, I constantly got the beep-beep-beep.
I became a known drug dealer, despite the fact that I had absolutely no drugs to sell. (I'd never even smoked the stuff.) I was the Mexican dude who sold pot. People I didn't know were calling me and asking me to meet them places with my invisible marijuana.
I remember being terrified that the police were going to come to my room and arrest me and put me in prison, despite the fact that the most offensive thing I had at the time was 311's Soundsystem album.
If all of this accidentally happened now, I'd change my ringtone to UGK's "Pocket Full of Stones" and change my Twitter handle to @IceCreamMan and have a good laugh. But I was humorless at the time, and this whole thing became a nightmare for me.
You know what doesn't work? Telling people you're not a drug dealer. People don't believe you -- they think you're holding out on them. And so I existed in a perpetual state of nervousness. Not quite Al Pacino at the end of Scarface, but not far off.
Eventually, I just started telling my people that my connect had dried up, that the person I was buying my hundreds of pounds of weed from monthly had gone rogue. People understood that. People believed that. Some even sympathized with it, which was truly remarkable/stupid.
The whole series of events lasted something like two weeks.
You can still feel free to call me the Ice Cream Man, however.
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