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Go Spotting: “Down the River unto the Sea”

Chris Garlock | Published on 9/11/2023

In a NYC bar, in Walter Mosley’s “Down the River unto the Sea”
“Pop an’ me used to play Go after he closed,” I said. “He told me that his clientele wouldn’t like a man of my shade playing Chinese checkers at his bar.” “Atty tried to teach me,” she remembered aloud, “but I just didn’t get it.” “They say Go is harder than chess. Pop said he picked it up on a tour of Southeast Asia in the merchant marines.”

A few chapters later:
“I stayed there in the bed so that at least my body could be at repose. I tried not to think about the cases or the things I had done that day. I finally settled on remembering the retired merchant marine Athwart Miller and how we’d play Go in his bar after it was closed at night. I could have picked up whatever information I needed in a few minutes, but he always had hot grog ready and the board set out at the far end of the bar. I never even came close to winning. He was far superior to me, but I was the only person he knew who’d come to the bar and play him. I once asked why he’d even waste his time playing someone so inferior to his skill. He said, ‘I play you because you’re here and every time we sit down you’re a little better. The best you can ask for is an opponent that improves. It’s like looking into a mirror with your eyes closed.’”

Spotted by Lawrence Gross and Phil Straus.

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