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Eight Ball and Omelets : CITY SMART: How to thrive in the urban environment of Southern California

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

The perfect Southern California Sunday morning. Blue sky. Shining sun. Cool breeze. No plans.

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For the record:

12:00 a.m. Sept. 16, 1995 For the Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday September 16, 1995 Home Edition Metro Part B Page 3 Metro Desk 1 inches; 34 words Type of Material: Correction
My Place--A column in Friday’s editions of The Times about a Long Beach restaurant, bar and pool hall referred to some of the clientele playing pool as “underage kids.” This was not meant to imply that any minors are illegally served alcohol there.

Head down to the beach for a bike ride? Go for a hike in the mountains? Cruise out to the desert? Nah.

Stroll down to the local bar, scarf a greasy omelet and rack ‘em up.

I am not a complete slug, but two of my beloved escapes are patio dining and shooting pool in a darkened dive. There is one oasis in Long Beach where I can do both, with Garth Brooks wailing “I’ve got friends in low places . . .” in the background setting the mood.

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Who’s on Fourth, on the corner of Temple and 4th streets in Belmont Heights, is a breakfast-and-lunch joint; its sailing-themed menu features items such as “Batten Down the Hatches” and “Outrigger.” I always order the Hobo: bacon, sausage, ham, green pepper, onion and mushroom and lots of Cheddar cheese slathered atop the eggs. With hash browns and buttered toast. I always sit outside, legs up on a plastic chair, paging through the paper or chatting over coffee as the warmth streams through the broad umbrellas.

Attached to the restaurant is O’Connell’s, your classic neighborhood Irish joint. Thedarkened barroom is crowded Sunday mornings, with gray-haired ladies and full-bellied men belting scotch or nursing bloodies. They read the paper too and watch football and play Keno and talk. What bridges the bar and the restaurant is a dingy room whose walls are dotted with poorly framed pictures of battleships--many of them, inexplicably, afire. There’s a dirty poem about a nun and a horse, typed on yellow paper and framed, in the corner. There’s a noisy pinball machine with garish cartoons of ladies busting out of bikinis. There’s a jukebox, six songs for a buck, filled with Sinatra.

And there are two beaten-up tables with worn green felt, sitting like statues in the center of the room.

My old roommate Willson and I would come nearly every weekend. We’d cruise in the side door that only the locals know about, nod to the bartender, amble over to the poolroom. We’d check in with Lisa, our favorite waitress, then shoot a round while we waited for a patio table.

On Lisa’s break, she chain-smokes and chain-plays pinball while her husband, part owner of the bar, pours other people’s drinks. Lisa spends her days off by the pool or in her garden; her days on, she plays pinball.

It was here that I beat a bunch of freshly shorn Coast Guard cadets, surprising them--and myself--with a perfect jump shot. It was here that my friend Rene, on one of her first outings, snatched a $20 bill from me after making an impossible shot with just so much English. It was here I learned to throw my hips into the break, bank the eight ball, keep a shot straight across a whole lot of green.

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On noisy, crowded nights we’d meet sharks and washouts and underage kids. On Sunday mornings, though, it is usually empty, and Willson and I could play as long as we like.

He always won, but I always got another chance.

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