People once found Gene Ray unique, the way they might fawn over an eccentric uncle who plays the spoons, except Ray's shtick wasn't spoons.
The old Gene Ray, the Gene Ray with the gentle Alabama accent, the Gene Ray who adopted St. Petersburg as his home (and St. Petersburg was charmed), was going to bring cat's eyes and peewees back to popularity in the late '70s. The mayor and City Council proclaimed a ``Marbles Week,`` and Ray, a genial gray-haired man with a gut full of sincerity hanging over his belt, became something of a media sweetheart.
Now it's hard to get anyone to listen to Mr. Marbles, let alone put him in the news. It has nothing to do with his game; it's just that, after 12 years of playing marbles and studying Plato, Ray, 59, has taken a path that makes even friends remember that they have to go home to change a lightbulb.
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