Many many years ago, not long after the squabble with Jackson Pollock (blog passim) and as a result of that squabble I entered into one of my periodic bouts of depression.
I was living in the apartment of my old friend Ingmar Bergman at the time and annoyed the man greatly by painting everything black including the balls on his pool table. The pool table was in his bedroom which I thought a curious thing. Ingmar told me he suffered from insomnia and pool helped him get through even the darkest nights.
Ingmar would have thrown me out for painting his balls black but for the raging fever that swept through my body that winter; for weeks I lay in that Swedes bed storm tossed in a sea of swelter navigating that fine meridial line between this world and the next.One night, when I was in a momentary state of lucidity, a figure entered the room; Tall, gaunt, bony fingered, wearing a dark hooded cloak thing and carrying a scythe.
'who are you'? I enquired.
'You know perfectly well who I am and why I am here'. He replied.
Indeed I did know that it was Death himself arrived to carry me off. But I was in no mood to cross the Hudson let alone the Styx. I told the man (oh the arrogance of man to cast death in his own likeness)
that I was not prepared to go without a fight.
He suggested we play a game of chess to decide my fate.
I informed him that there was not a chess set in the house... 'But what about a game of pool'.
Death agreed to the game of pool but was taken aback by the sight of 15 black balls resting on the green baize.
We played that hellish game of pool for a month, day and night, without respite. The scores remained resolutely on 0 -0 as each of our 'breaks' resulted in a foul as we pocketed black ball after black ball.
On the 15th of December Death gave up. He threw down his cue in exasperation, picked up his scythe and swept out of the room hissing: 'You cheated me this time Jan Nieupjur but next time I will be ready for you'.
I then fell into a deep, peaceful slumber, awaking some days later to find my fever departed and the depression lifted.
A few days later I told this story to Ingmar over a game of chess - I had lied to Death, there was a chess set in the house - Ingmar (smiling for once) took notes in a little red book. I did not see him again, he departed for Sweden and a new film project.
Next time Death comes calling I shall challenge him to a game of 'happy families'.