|random thoughts and thoroughbred selections|
|"All life is 6-5 against" - Damon Runyon|
Friday, January 14, 2005
Just for starters, if you’ve ever seen horses ushered into the paddock before any thoroughbred race, you’ll see a steward checking for the “official” tattoo under the horse’s lip that both matches the horse to his identity, as well as confirms that the horse is, indeed, a thoroughbred.
I can’t tell you how many problems I have with the new movie Racing Stripes.
Then again, maybe I’m just on edge because I’m waiting for someone to tell me what really happened between Brad and Jen. If it involved licking chocolate pudding from between the toes of Angelina Jolie, I’ll make sure we keep the news from Pauly. He hasn’t been able to look sideways at a tub of Swiss Miss since someone put that image in his head.
By the way, I don’t think there’s anything short of killing a man I wouldn’t do for Angelina Jolie if asked.
I didn’t watch Tilt last night, as I’m counting on umpteen encores on ESPN over the next few days for Tivo purposes. I had read a couple of “reviews” that weren’t reviews as much as they were criticisms that none of the poker players in the promos were large and doughy or small and Vietnamese. I think these people have a point. That blonde on the show? Tell me that body she’s rocking doesn’t improve the unfortunate hairline and semi-fuggly face about a solid point and a half on the ten scale.
This weekend threatens to be filled with wall-to-wall football viewing for yours truly. As a primer, here is my breakdown of the games this weekend. As is my history with sports gambling, take two of my picks as gospel, and go the opposite on the other two. I wish I could tell you which will be which.
NEW ENGLAND HOSTS INDIANAPOLIS: Line is NE –2.5
Are you kidding me with this line? New England may be decimated in the defensive backfield, but they’ve got most (if not all) of their solid front seven intact. And they’ve owned Peyton Manning and the Colts. All this hubbub about leaving the field uncovered is a psychological ploy, and I don’t read much into it. What I do believe is that Corey Dillon will go for 120 and 2 TDs, and New England will control the clock. What I don’t believe is that the refs will turn this into a flag fest, penalizing the Pats DBs for every time they so much as brush against Harrison, Wayne, and Stokely. I’m aghast that all the TV talking heads are picking the Colts. Are we forgetting these are the World Champion Patriots? Take the Pats and they’ll cover.
MINNESOTA AT PHILADELPHIA: Line is PHI –9
Randy Moss this, rusty Eagles starters that. Whatever. This is a bad Vikings defense that is susceptible to a jitterbug RB like Westbrook, and a QB that can step up in the pocket and make some plays with his feet. If the Philly OL can keep the pressure to the outside (Udeze and Kevin Williams particularly), they’re not getting to McNabb. That being said, I can’t see Philly lighting up the scoreboard in this game. Without Terrell Owens, their passing game is far less dangerous, and without a true grinder at RB, they aren’t a ball control team on the ground either. I like Philly to win, but I think this game is going to be closer than the nine points. Take the points for Minnesota.
NEW YORK JETS AT PITTSBURGH: Line is PITT –9
Here’s my one “take it to the bank” lock of the weekend. This Pittsburgh team is not going to be denied. Their defense is just too good. Sure, Chad Pennington certainly has given the Steelers defense something to worry about with the way he threw the ball downfield last week, but I believe the Jets are a solid, slightly overachieving team and nothing more. I’ll be impressed if they can keep this within two touchdowns, and thrown off my rocker if they can win. Pittsburgh to win and cover.
ATLANTA HOSTS ST. LOUIS: Line is ATL –7
Here’s a game I really don’t know what to think about. Is Atlanta for real? Do they have any offensive weapons besides Vick and Crumpler? Can their defense stay with Bruce and Holt on the outside? What about the Rams? Can they keep Bulger from getting flattened? Can they manufacture a running game? Will they need to? All I really know about this game is that when Mike Vick wants to win one, he can go win one. That Carolina game on Christmas night is a perfect example. So I think Atlanta will win. As for the line? Let’s assume Mike Martz gets out-coached this weekend. Safe assumption? Atlanta will cover.
Tinfoil Hats and Major League Baseball
What did I do?
That’s what I was left wondering a couple days ago when I checked my site stats. I got a hit from someone at CIA.gov.
Yes, I do know a couple of people who work for the Government, but not a single soul who would be visiting me from the CIA. I scrolled through my recent posts looking for anything that would resemble a flippant and sarcastic remark against the President.
Maybe I buried it in my archives? I was at work, and thought better about a Google or Technorati search using terms like that. Besides, I don’t think I’ve ever said anything remotely inflammatory about anyone associated with the government, save the time I mentioned what I’d do to Alexandra Pelosi if given thirty two minutes, a video camera, and a tripod.
So I am forced to jump to conclusions…
Terrorists are reading my blog. You heard me Akhmed. I’m on to you. And so are the good people at CIA.gov. They’ve been tracking your footprints on the web, and have been following you looking for those super-secret code-laden websites from which you’ve been getting your instructions.
By the way? The onions are ripe and flying tonight. The infidel cabbage will drown in the sauce of the slaw with little slivers of carrot. Salt and pepper to taste.
Let me give my friends from abroad a little piece of advice. I may be a way station on your path to self-immolation and supposed martyrdom, but if I can teach you people anything, it’s this…
You can lead a semi-productive life without anger after not getting laid in high school. I swear this to be true my friends. Don’t think I’m not enamored with the idea of forty virgins as well, but getting yourself all blowed up is not the answer.
Let me be your role model. Remember that girl from eighth grade? You saw that ankle peeking out from under her burka, and just wanted to give her father all your goats right then and there for just one stolen glance under her hijab? You, my friend, are experiencing my pain. My frustration. My encouragement? Bitch about it ceaselessly. I don’t know what Allah says about this stuff, but I have to figure nowhere in the Koran it says anything like, “carry your teenage frustrations out against American infidels.”
So you didn’t get laid. Let’s talk about it. Start a blog. I’ll do my best to get the CIA off your ass if you just agree to wring your hands into inactivity instead of doing anything dangerous. Deal?
Thursday, January 13, 2005
A couple weeks ago I was doing a little grocery shopping. Now, it bears mentioning that I’m fairly talented in the kitchen, although cooking for one is certainly not the easiest thing in the world to do creatively.
I bought more meat than usual. Normally, I’m loading up on frozen pizzas, some pasta, and choosing some more ready-to-cook type entrees to make it easy on myself on weeknights. That day was a little different. I bought beef, chicken, pork, and veal – of which I have only eaten the veal (breaded/fried cutlets, and damn were they good).
I make mention of this because when I’m looking at a three quarter pound package of veal cutlets, I’m not just flipping through a mental rolodex of recipes. I’m going through my kitchen inventory, wandering through the produce aisle, dreaming up a marinade, and wondering if there’s something that I’d like to try to do with these beautifully pink and tender cuts of calf that maybe I haven’t thought of yet.
Maybe I don’t always execute the complex game plans I’m formulating in my head, but I’m thankful that even though I might not be keeping my culinary skills on the path they were a few years ago, that side of my creativity hasn’t wandered out of my grasp as of yet.
That being said, I feel like I need to trot out my skills and actually try something new. I’ve got that charity auction rapidly approaching, and as I will be needing to impress to some extent with my creativity, I think I need to rehearse a little bit.
I’ve been back to the store a couple times since that trip, and each time I’ve visited I’ve found myself in the meat case staring at veal shanks and bones in various sizes, all perfect for veal stock.
I’m evaluating the bones and imagining a velvety gorgonzola laced veal sauce over gnocchi with some perfectly tender chunks of veal on top. I’m envisioning sort of an Italian barbecue thing with a red wine and chili veal sauce tossed with pulled veal off shank on crostini. I can almost taste a well-executed simple risotto with a finely crafted stock providing the flavor. Maybe a veal bisque.
Stock is the foundation, the jump off to all these different avenues of exploration. There’s something deceptively complex behind building a great stock. It’s not simply bones and water, it’s not just adding root vegetables, it’s not about bouquet garni carefully bundled and in measured amounts.
The key to any great stock is time. It’s all those things above to be certain, but (and don’t bother excusing the pun) it all boils down to time. A rushed stock makes for an average risotto. A well crafted stock can make that same Arborio transcendent.
I understand this in the kitchen. Few things bring me more joy than spending eight straight hours at the chopping board and over the burners creating something delicious for that night’s dinner. In the kitchen, the higher quality your foundation, the more impressive your end product.
And great stock takes time.
Another blogger said to me recently, “I gloss through a lot of blogs, but I READ yours every day.” That was flattering. I know what it is I’m doing here, and it absolutely satisfies a creative jones that I’m not going to let wither away. But, and I’ve mentioned this before, I’ve got this nagging feeling that I’m not really writing the way I want to be writing right now. When I told Otis this weekend that “I feel like I’m all over the place,” I don’t really mean that in a literal, subject matter sense. What I mean is that I often re-read what it is I’ve just typed up, and I’m not hearing what I want to hear. I’m not saying “I suck,” but when I read something that is focused, I hear it. It breathes. It communicates. It has a singular voice.
I know I get there from time to time, maybe even more often than I give myself credit for. The feeling I have, however, is that I have something to say and that I just haven’t figured out how to say it yet.
And you’d think after nearly three quarters of a million words (how staggering is that to think about?), I’d have it nailed. Actually, rephrase that. “I’d think” after nearly three quarters of a million words, I’d have it nailed.
It was about 1AM on Friday night when Otis, Al, Eva, and I ended up back at the bar in the casino. I expressed this, maybe not as articulately as I did above, to Otis. I think he understood what I meant. And what he told me – about years of writing in composition books, then weekly emails to his friends, and finally in the framework of a blog – helped me take stock with a little more comfort. It took him awhile to get to where he wanted to get with his writing. And it’s probably going to take me awhile too.
Which gets me back to veal bones, root vegetables, and bouquet garni. I’m learning that it’s the foundation that matters. I may feel inconsistent and unfocused at times, but what I’m doing in this space on a near-daily basis is allowing myself the time to build that stock and boil it down to something concise but delicious in its simplicity.
Once I’m happy with what I’ve made? Then I just have to figure out what to do with it from there.
Wednesday, January 12, 2005
Gimme San Diego State, Drake, and Gonzaga with the T'Wolves and Jets...
It’s just a little after 4AM.
I’m naturally wary of cabs, but even more so when there’s no valet around, no cops, and nothing but non-uniformed Bahamian nationals trying to hustle you drugs (which is a good story in and of itself that maybe I’ll tell you later) and get you hooked up with a car to take you back to your resort halfway across the island.
The first thing I noticed about this cab? The seats had been effectively shrink-wrapped with some sort of industrial strength plastic. It’s not the stuff your grandma had on her divan, it’s the stuff she used as a rug runner, down to the cleated backing of thorny plastic.
Is this so he can hose out the tourist blood when we’re executed island style?
Welcome to late night Nassau. It was Saturday night/Sunday morning, and I had survived another day in the wake of Hurricane Can’t Hang. Now, if I could just survive the cab ride back…
Getting Al out of bed on Saturday morning was no easy task. Despite the nearly legendary status America’s Wingman has as a drinker, I did witness first hand the aftermath of an epic binge. He may be well equipped to go ten rounds with Tyson, but that doesn’t mean he bounces out of bed singing show tunes at the crack of dawn.
No, Al Can’t Get Motivated.
I wrote something on the plane about breakfast (and, frankly, about Eva bouncing out of bed at the crack of dawn singing show tunes), so I’ll type that up at some point. For now, I had reminded Al and the Mrs. that if we were to want to find a spot in which to watch the football games in the too-small sports book, we absolutely needed to get there early. This wasn’t me rallying the troops for altruistic reasons. No, this was an act of pure selfishness. One, I had a headache. I figured a drink and a comfortable chair would take care of that. Two? They had horse racing piped in.
I’m a big fan.
We finally got out to Atlantis again, checked in with Otis and found out G-Rob was on the beach recovering from the night before. Apparently, G-Rob felt like he had taken a dive off a large pile of rocks ass first. Drinking with Al will do that to a man. We walked the eighteen and seven eighths miles over to the casino, and camped out.
For the next ten hours.
I had a headache, Al had a headache, Eva was tired, and G-Rob took nearly all day to find his second wind from Friday night. We were a sad bunch. And my bankroll was getting sad too. Since I had been the recipient of some unbelievable generosity from the Can’t Hangs, and since I had basically eked through Friday $20 to the black, I figured I’d treat them to breakfast and a round of drinks. Here’s the basic rundown of my spending from 10AM-1PM:
Breakfast:No, you’re not reading that wrong. $108 on food, beverage, and transportation in just under three hours. And it’s not like I paid extra to get a fucking leprechaun to pee in my margarita, I didn’t get it served in any sort of collectible tumbler, and I’m fairly confident that the sausage with my breakfast was the Swift Premium Brown n Serve stuff (no kidding, really).
I’m not going back to Nassau without a platinum card. By the way, French Dip Sandwich, fries, and cheese sticks for lunch later? $35. I’m just saying.
Consider for a minute that I was capping my spending for the weekend at $450, and you’ll see how fortunate I was to end my poker session Friday night +$174. I had $80 in my wallet heading to the airport Friday morning, yanked $300 from an ATM, and pulled away from the airport on Sunday night with $40 in my wallet…
…Oh, and three Bahamian dollars. Fuck those bullshit people in the airport gift shop. Yes, there’s a sign on the register that says, “We do not exchange Bahamian for US dollars.” OK, fine. I’ll buy something with my Bahamian $5 I had forgotten about. How about a can of Coke for $1.50?
Sure enough, she counts me back $3.50 Bahamian. The quarters I don’t mind. Whatever. But I ask about the dollars and she just points to the sign. So even if I spend money in your little shop, you’re not going to be gracious enough to make the exchange? Their dollars are worth the same fucking thing as ours! Difference is, I can’t use this bullshit funny money that has a picture on it of some dude that looks like a cross between Ossie Davis and Don Cheadle’s dad at my local Sonoco. Fuck you Nassau Airport Gift Shop. See if I buy any more pop from you.
Now that I got that out of my system…
The day was actually pretty uneventful. I managed to blow about $100 on the horses (hit my first bet for a minor payout, was wide left from then on), waited in line behind Josh Arieh at one point while he was making a pick of his own, and watched him and his boys celebrate when some incontinent nag with a bad wheel ended up lapping the field and paying some absurd seventy plus dollar win pool. Nice handicapping guys. I’m no genius at this horse racing stuff, but there’s a reason horses get to be 38-1. And it’s usually not that you know more than the rest of us.
What really irks me is that guys like that are capable of blowing $100 on a win ticket on something like that, and making off with nearly $4k in the process. And yes, I’m just pissed off I didn’t have that horse on my ticket.
I did have a pretty live parlay ticket going deep into the night that was fairly exciting:
Jets +7.5 (SD Chargers)This was a $10 parlay to win $200. I had accidentally given the girl at the window the Jets’ number and not San Diego to cover, but once I saw the mistake, the game was already on. What was cool was that all these games ended up finishing within an hour of each other.
First, Drake spanked Bradley by five. G-Rob looked at me like I was from another planet when I told him I had Drake on my ticket. “Do you even know where Drake is?” I told him it was either Chicagoland or Northern Indiana, and that they were the Bulldogs. If pressed, I think I could have told him Hersey Hawkins went to Bradley, and they were in the Philly area. I think. So Drake won, and that was one down.
The T’Wolves ended up losing to Washington, but miraculously only by three points. Two for two at this point.
We were winding down in the Chargers/Jets game, and about halfway through the fourth quarter it became apparent that even if the Chargers found a way to win, there’s no way they were going to do it by 8 or more. I had that one locked up too.
All that was left were the other two.
I had visual stimulation overload for the next hour. On the bank of TVs on the wall, the NFL game was going on, an irrelevant (to my bet) NBA game, and some horses were running somewhere too. On the “big boards” on either side of the book, the casino kept a running scroll of “live” scores from around the country. Problem was, they weren’t remotely close to live, and it took forever as they ran through all the scores to show you an update on one you were interested in.
But there were little TVs in the row right in front of me. I found ESPN2 for their scroll and camped out over it, watching intently. Sadly, there’s an NFL playoff game on TV in front of me, and I’m watching the scroll on the Deuce. Even more unfortunate was that they were showing non-competitive pairs figure skating.
I can’t tell you how many people thought they were being funny when they walked by and saw me (presumably) watching sequin studded ice dancing, and couldn’t seem to keep it to themselves. Thanks dicks.
Then I saw it. SDSU 69 – BYU 62 (I think that’s what it was). Doubly sweet! SDSU covers and BYU loses! All I needed now was nationally ranked power Gonzaga to pull through in a “pick ‘em” game against no-name St. Mary’s. That’s gotta happen, right?
One win from $200.
On the scroll, eight minutes left, Gonzaga down a dozen.
On the scroll, five and a half minutes left, Gonzaga down eight.
OK, let’s get it rolling guys.
On the scroll, three minutes left, Gonzaga down five.
I’m pacing madly and chewing my nails to the quick.
On the scroll, two minutes left, Gonzaga down three.
“Go Dawgs! Get a win!” I’m close. So close. All we need is three, and…
On the scroll, thirty two seconds left, St. Mary’s by six.
I can’t bear to watch. John Hall just knocked it through the uprights to give the Jets the win, and I’m left muttering the only phrase that would come out of my mouth for the next five hours.
Eva and I were the only ones of our group left in the book, and we took off on our Trail of Tears-length walk across the casino to the poker room to catch up with Al and Otis.
It was 1130PM. Al had just closed another bar. We shuffled back across the hotel to the casino and again found a table at the Atlas. We were destined to close that one down around 3AM, and shortly thereafter came the infamous butter knife incident. First, however, Al managed to both manhandle an honest-to-god WSOP bracelet, and then tell Barry Greenstein that he was a hero to most of us.
By the way, Barry is absolutely as bizarre looking in person as he is on TV.
Aside from the butter knife incident (read Sunday night’s post if you haven’t already), it was a fairly low key and uneventful evening.
So it was, at 445AM, bouncing along in the back of a van either destined to a night’s sleep in the hotel or to be power washed out of my seat directly into a shallow grave. I was doing the math in my head, counting up less than 32 hours before I’d be face first in front of my terminal, doing my best to not just quit my job and sell coconut art to tourists from a skiff off the coastline. Still, despite all the wonderful generosity I’d been graced with by Al and Eva, despite getting to spend some quality time with some fellow writers, poker players, and degenerates, and despite spending nearly seventy two hours in paradise, there really was only one thought in my head riding white knuckled down Bahamian back streets alone and in the dark…
Twenty Things I’d Have Blogged About If There Were Blogs Back Then…
The rise and fall of Rick Schroeder
Those commercials for applesauce where the kid has “got the Motts”
Scott Baio gets all the chicks
Seventy Two Letters and Still Alyssa Milano Won’t Write Me Back
Which Breakfast Club cast member would win an Oscar first (would have went with Sheedy)
There’s Something About Jody Leary’s Boobs…
Kissing a Moose – My Recurring Dreams About a Canadian Television Icon
Rookie Card Investment and Speculation – Buy or Sell – Teddy Higuera
Seventeen Channels and Nothing’s On: Why I Love Cable TV
Dave Coulier is Out of Control
Breaking Down Total Recall: Climbing Aboard the Sharon Stone Bandwagon
Scrambled Pay-Per-View Porn vs. the SI Swimsuit Issue
One Hundred Reasons It’s Jo Over Blair
Abstinence in High School – Pretending I’m Mormon Isn’t Helping
Red Lobster Is The Best Restaurant In The World!
Me and My Z’s – Parachute Pants, Pinstriped Jeans, and Other Unfortunate Clothing Choices
I Am Ducky and Morgan Stewart – Sharing A Life With Jon Cryer
Lisa, Jessie, or Kelly – Why I’m Going With Lisa
That weenie singer Howard Jones
The Subtle Genius of 227.
Tuesday, January 11, 2005
“Is that Isabelle?” I pointed to the girl in the black skirt who looked an awful lot like the girl on the PokerStars banner adjacent to the door into which she had just walked.
Otis nodded his assent. “I met her for a bit yesterday, she’s really nice.”
“Can you grab her for a picture next time she walks by? We’ve got to get one for Gene.” Actually, we had taken a picture of the banner with Isabelle’s image about ten minutes prior, just because we thought that might get Gene’s blood pumping. The other picture is what we really needed to piss him off.
We got our picture, she hustled off to nowhere in particular.
But a few minutes later, as the whole filthy lot of us are standing around the doors having a cigarette, I hear “Can I bum a smoke?” walking up behind me. It’s Isabelle. La Petite Fleur.
Maybe I’ve made a bad assumption about people who play poker professionally. I may have pessimistically de-romanticized the lifestyle as one that’s inhabited largely by those who seek solitude and have an inability to function socially off the felt. I mean, did you see the ESPN “The Nuts” segment during last year’s WSOP where Phil Ivey and a couple others went golfing together? How forced did their “good time” seem?
Isabelle was quiet, lovely, and disarming. She either had or played that demure personality beautifully. She was polite and accommodating, which I’m sure was genuine coming from a French-Canadian. In the course of conversation, Eva asked where she made her home. “I do not have so much as an apartment. No bills, I follow the games.”
Honestly, I wasn’t “star struck” with Isabelle, because I hadn’t actually seen her on TV before. It’s easy, however, to become instantly enamored with her. I’m reminded of one of my favorite exchanges in recent movie history:
Penny: I’ve made a decision. I’m gonna live in Morocco for one year. I need a new crowd. Do you wanna come?That’s how it is with me and beautiful women. Had she, in the first three minutes I spent talking to her, asked me to go to Morocco, we would have had that same conversation. However, to quote William’s sister from that movie, “Someday, you’ll be cool.”
I don’t know that it would come to a surprise to anyone who’s met me that I’m a self-diagnosed borderline sociophobe. That’s the fancy way of saying I’m horrifically shy. The picture you’ve seen of Mrs. Can’t Hang molesting Greg Raymer? That started when I caught Raymer out of the corner of my eye walking by and pointed through my chest behind me while whispering to the rest of the group, “There’s Raymer.” Of course, G-Rob and America’s Wingman are up out of their seats calling after him, and I’m glad they did. Greg was one of the nicest people you could possibly meet, and was very gracious with his time. We spent a good five minutes with him, and I captured these two pearls of poker wisdom in my notes, just for you guys:
”You can’t always do it in a tournament, but I’m always going to chase +EV in a cash game.”See? I am capable of delivering poker wisdom here from time to time. Even if it isn’t my own.
By the way, it goes without saying that beer and whiskey are being drank here, right? This, of course, leads into some semi-uncomfortable looks of horror by various passersby. Starting with…
“JJ!” Al spots John Juanda walking by, and when you see a guy who looks like Al yelling at you as you’re passing, it’s hard to immediately assess the level of belligerence that’s behind the goatee. He turns on his heel and tosses a weak smile that looks as much like stomach discomfort than anything. “Good luck John!” I yell after him, hopefully easing the perception that there’s some sort of bone to pick with us.
It’s not two minutes later when I see G-Rob perk up from the couch and yell “D-Dub!” It’s David Williams, and we get another uneasy smile. I’m just shaking my head.
A little while later it’s Daniel Negreanu who gets the business. He’s walking by and Al yells to him to ask if we can get a picture. His head is elsewhere, but he stops anyway and we get our shot. Because I’m actually just a little bit uncomfortable, I mumble something along the lines of, “There’s another starfucker moment for the memory books Al.” Daniel heard me, turned and shot me the weirdest look, but G-Rob later told me the whole thing was more funny than anything.
It was really quite amazing to be in the midst of the tournament like we were, and to see so many world class gamblers around. Speaking of world class gamblers…
“Dude, my brother and I go down to New Orleans every year for the SEC Tournament. You haven’t come close to doing New Orleans until you’ve hung out with my brother and I.” Can I give you a guess as to who uttered this unfortunate quote to whom?
That’s right, G-Rob had just called out Al Can’t Hang.
Look, I really don’t know who you guys think you’re dealing with, but if there were some sort of Alcohol Olympiad, I guaran-damn-tee you Al and Big Mike are on the team, if not carrying the flag into the stadium. You are not fucking around anymore, this is not a drill.
G-Rob knew what he was doing too. I have no doubts that he came into the batting cages swinging three bats and a fungo, licking his chops at the pitches he wants to knock over the right field wall. Problem is, he picked the wrong cage. Fastballs.
He does use Moises Alou’s strategy for gripping the bat though. Just so you know.
You know the old saying, “It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon?” Friday was a marathon being run at full speed. I think it was about 9PM that I caught up to G-Rob at the bar getting yet another round of drinks for the table when he said, “I don’t know if I can hang with the Can’t Hangs.” No kidding… I don’t really know who can.
Fast forward to about 130AM. We were done with poker for the night, and had migrated over to the Atlas Bar, approximately six and three quarter miles away in the casino. As was the custom in the Bahamas, most of the bars quit serving sometime around midnight. This made no sense to me, as the whole island was awake because of Jaganoo.
Jaganoo was the New Year’s parade that had gotten bumped out a week because it was a little windy outside on actual New Year’s. It started at 9PM, and ended sometime around 3AM. It was kind of like a Mardi Gras parade, in that the religious themes and imagery were right there alongside general costumed buffoonery. Sadly, no one was tossing beads around that I could see. We watched the parade on TV in the bar, and the only part of it I really found memorable was when a guy doing the Jesus/crucifix/crown-of-thorns thing was being danced around by a guy who looked like a black hobo version of Mr. Monopoly. I’m not really sure what the message was there. Maybe you had to be plowed.
G-Rob was plowed. Al was plowed. Eva was plowed. And Otis was on his way. As for me, I’m not really a drinker, so I was able to remember some of the good stuff along the way.
From much earlier in the evening…And it did get ugly. For example, G-Rob did bodyslam Al in an attempt to wrassle the hiccups out of him. He also attempted some sort of similar thing with Mrs. Can’t Hang as well, who spent the latter part of the 2AM hour emasculating him with barb after barb. All the while G-Rob thought he could badger Otis into letting him crash in his room with non-stop begging (”Can I have the key? I swear I’ll go right up to bed. Just give me the key.”) but it wasn’t going to work. Otis, I believe, had a $14 Toblerone in the mini-bar that he was afraid G-Rob might eat in his absence.
G-Rob did, however, buy me a piece of cheesecake. He’s the man.
330AM hit, the bar had long since closed, and both G-Rob and Al have their heads down on something. Otis looked tired, G-Rob looked defeated, and the Can’t Hangs wanted to head back across the island. I can neither confirm nor deny anything that happened with Otis and/or G-Rob from this point, as we commandeered a stretch limo (only another $12 more expensive than a regular taxi) to take us back from whence we came.
Thank god it was winter in the tropics. Were it June, we’d be in danger of getting home in the early daylight at that hour. As it was, I crawled into bed and fell asleep to HBO’s Taxicab Confessions. It was still Friday, so far as I was concerned. Saturday would kick my ass soon enough.
Glazed, Dazed, and Delighted
It only takes about five minutes in the Nassau airport to understand the Bahamian psyche completely.
Walking off the plane through the terminal, you can’t help but notice that every chair lining the sides of the walkway contains yet another female Bahamian police officer, slouched low in her seat, maybe even napping. Were I to have removed an automatic weapon from my bag and started shooting up the place, I bet I’d get that “Tch tch” noise islanders use to get your attention and then a stern admonishment to not disrupt the slumbers of those around me.
No, gunfire down here would probably be impolite. And no one wants to get themselves roused past the point of laconic bliss anyway.
It’s also worth mentioning that there are constant reminders to the locals about maintaining nationalistic pride. This is evidenced clearly by the Bahamian Wall of Champions, a series of enormous photos that line a section of the terminal, celebrating various athletes and their accomplishments. Actually, there’s probably only a dozen athletes on the wall, with one soccer player and ten track and field stars from the 90s. The one that interested me most was the last picture on the wall. It was a huge print of a 1962 Topps baseball card featuring Chicago Cubs shortstop Andre Rodgers.
In other words, Ernie Banks’ caddie. This is kind of like if I kept a poster of Howard Bailey, a former pitcher for the Tigers in the early 80s, up on my wall because he was from my hometown. The Dominican Republic this was not. I guess if you can get one player in fifty years to the big show though, you might as well put his picture up next to a bunch of bronze medalists from the Pan Am games.
Off topic, but just for the hell of it, here’s a picture of Enos Cabell. Man, that dude had a great afro.
Fast forward a few hours through customs, a cabbie who wasn’t “cool” (if you know what I mean), meeting up with the Can’t Hangs at the resort, lunch and drinks in a café on the beach, and the most interminably long six mile cab ride of my life, and we’ve finally reached Atlantis.
Atlantis is the big dog property on Paradise Island, and presumably in the Nassau area as a whole. It’s absolutely enormous, subtly ostentatious, and unforgivably expensive. Of course, this is where we’re going to have to find Otis. First, there’s a little matter of meeting up with G-Rob.
Al had told G-Rob to meet us “at the bar by the craps tables,” as he knew that the lure of tossing a few dice around the baize was going to prove too powerful a draw for he and I. Mercifully, the lowest limits going on any table game were $15, so we were able to keep our low limit bankrolls going toward what really mattered – beer and cab fare.
Eva and I disappeared while Al was grabbing drinks when I challenged her to play some competitive slots. I do believe that instead of being set on “show them a good time,” the payout mechanism was ratcheted up to “fuck ‘em, they’re tourists.” I never hit anything more than a 15 coin winner, and pissed through $45 almost immediately.
Slots are stupid.
We got back to Al, who had been joined by regionally marginally well-known aren’t-you-that-guy level celebrity G-Rob, who was sharing the glazed, dazed, and delighted look on his face I had been sporting since the unbelievable generosity of the Can’t Hang family had proposed to take us along for the ride. (By the way, fifty one words in that last sentence of mine, and you wonder why the publishers aren’t flooding my inbox with offers to turn this blog into the most verbose and overly ellipsilated [not a word, I know that now] tract laid to press since Infinite Jest, or at least Everybody Poops)
We now had to find Otis.
A half a mile walk through the casino, shops, hotel(s), and lobbies later, we do manage to find the ballroom where the PokerStars WPT tour stop is running flight two of day one. Actually, we had a hard time finding the ballroom until we asked a hotel worker who told us to “follow the smoke, they all smokers over there.”
Sure enough, there it was. And thankfully, there too was a bar, right in the lobby. But the challenge at this point was finding Otis. We walked in the ballroom, which was easily 300 thick with poker players, and the very first thing you notice is the subtle yet persistent click click click click of chips. It reminded me a lot of crickets at night in the summertime, where their chirping is obvious and noticeable for only a few minutes until it becomes an unremarkable part of the atmosphere as a whole. The second thing you notice upon walking in is Evelyn Ng. She was smack in the middle of the room, sitting in the 10s at her table, a full head taller than anyone (due mainly to her posture) within fifty feet. I didn’t get to meet her at the WPBT breakfast, so I think I was ill-prepared for how tall and lovely this woman really was. Even from 90 feet away.
But we couldn’t seem to locate Otis. Some of the PokerStars crew working the event were pointing us in different directions when we asked where he was, so we split up and sent Al for drinks.
As Al and I were outside the ballroom having a cigarette, Eva came skipping out, and in close pursuit were G-Rob, and finally Otis! We had missed the moment of “what the hell?…” recognition inside, but what the hell? We were here to bail out our brother-in-blog, and he looked legitimately thrilled to see us.
He looked tired as hell too. I believe I counted three bags under each eye, and wondered how beaten up he really was over the last few days. It was obvious from watching the blog that his days were at least fifteen or sixteen hours long, and the volume and nature of comments he was receiving grew to such a disturbing level that he was possibly doubting the ability of the PokerStars brass to see value in his efforts.
Thankfully, his hard work was paying off for him. He mentioned that although he hadn’t seen much of the beach or sun since arriving (!), one of the point people for PokerStars had complimented him on his work, and had mused that they may have good use for his skills in this capacity somewhere down the road.
He was definitely pleased by that comment. I don’t think it’s far fetched to imagine that there’s at least some part of Otis that’s entranced by the idea of being a freelance writing gun for hire. I know that if I were given an opportunity to blog for $50k a year, I’d take it in a heartbeat. Otis is a guy that obviously takes a great deal of care and pride putting the words he intends for himself and the rest of us on his blogs together. Any indication that there might be some sort of opportunity beyond these seven nights in Nassau represents more than just dollar signs dancing around in his head. Even if you have a great job, you can dream about pointing the Harley west, donning the stars-and-stripes helmet, the leather jacket, and just rolling. For most of us, it’s just a dream. I think someone may have just given Otis the helmet. One step closer.
Anyway, Otis was working and with the egregiously high table limits, we weren’t about to tell Kenneth to press anything in the casino. So we found an area of the lobby with a couch and a couple chairs, got some drinks, and spent the next six to eight hours camped out waiting for Otis’ day to end.
Doesn’t mean we didn’t have some fun along the way though…
Monday, January 10, 2005
Assault and Battery
”You only wear a dress like that if you want the rest of the table to think you’re playing with Daddy’s money.
I’m curious if that quote from Tilt applies to $1/$2 No Limit Poker or not, because she played every bit the part of a real life wet dream in that red dress.
It had taken hours to get a table on Friday night. So long to get some action, as a matter of fact, that G-Rob and Al started to get fidgety.
“How much from here?” G-Rob was gesturing with his empty six ounce water bottle at a trash can about thirty five feet away. “Ten to one?”
“I’ll give you three to one,” I offered, “From right there.”
“Weak. Al? Ten to one from here? C’mon…”
Al took a look at G-Rob, the empty bottle, and the trash can in succession. I can’t be sure, but I think he even licked his finger and raised it above his head, not that the trade winds were gusting through the ballroom now bereft of tournament action. “Ten to one. Let’s see it.”
I’m not sure G-Rob played sports as a kid. A natural lefty, he raised the bottle above his head and tossed a dart that skipped its way to the goal, glancing harmlessly off the trash can in the process.
“Didn’t your dad ever teach you to step into your throws?” I was cracking on him to be sure, but he certainly didn’t make his bread in high school throwing middle relief with that noodle attached to his shoulder.
Al, like myself, was a catcher growing up. We’ve got virtual howitzers popping out of our sleeves, but as I had long since retired mine, I let Al take his crack at the can. “Do I get ten to one from here too?” G-Rob nodded, and Al popped the cap off the water bottle and tipped his head back to slug it down to throwing weight.
I really believe the difference was in the ounce of water Al left in the bottle as ballast. Well, that and he doesn’t throw like he’s afraid of being laughed at like a little girl. Thunk! The bottle was dead-on, and was thrown with enough heat to rock the can on its heels just a little bit in the process.
“You got action on this?” Some dude and his buddies wandered into the fray as they watched G-Rob toss Al his bones. “What’s the game?”
After a little preliminary negotiation, it was decided that one of the guy’s crew was going to get a shot to sink a bottle from the same thirty feet. G-Rob, knowing how difficult the throw was with an empty bottle, was smart enough to bet the Don’t Pass line this time. Dude drained the bottle, capped it, and stared the can down to get a feel for the necessary arc and velocity.
He went for the lob. Bad idea. Instead of hitting the can, he two-hopped it to the pole. Everyone in the vicinity went nuts. The losers groaned, the winners celebrated, and we caused a hell of a scene.
Enough of a scene, in fact, that a rather well-dressed local who was wearing his papers on his lapel felt obligated to shut our little game down. That’s right. The Bahamanian Gaming Control Board put a stop to our side action on the spot. I asked the gentleman if the Board would like a piece of the action to allow us to continue, but apparently the game wasn’t approved by the government, so we were stuck.
Stuck waiting for a new table of $1/$2 No Limit to open up, that is. I had gotten us all on a list, and instead of being seated at a game already in progress, we waited as a group to be seated together. Hopefully, by the time they finished the tournament chip count and got all the mess from the day’s event cleaned up, Otis would be off shift and able to sit down at our table and play.
11PM hits, and they finally give our group the call to the post. While Eva went out into the lobby to fetch the other guys, I was directed to the table. I was the second to arrive. Already in the 5s was Jeanne. Polynesian, young, gorgeous, and showing enough décolletage in that red dress to where I knew I was going to have a problem staring. I took the 7s, hoping perhaps Ralph Sampson or Refrigerator Perry might take the seat between us to obscure my view. She was riffling chips in her right hand, and her left hand was doing that sliding-up-and-down-the-nine-inch-stack-of-chips-I-made thing. Where was I again? What’s my name? Can you tickle the stack just under the top with your fingernail for me? Yeah… that’s the spot.
“We can go heads-up if you’d like, how about it?” was her introduction to me. Uh… I think I mumbled something back to her about waiting for my friends or something smooth to that effect. Coherent conversation is not my biggest asset when it comes to being (effectively) alone with a good looking woman.
The players were mercifully starting to populate the table, and once we had a quorum, the cards were in the air. The table, to the best of my recollection…
1s – a young guy, followed by another young European guy with facial piercings
2s – Mrs. Can’t Hang
3s – Terrence Shaw (was playing in the main event)
4s – older dude
5s – Jeanne in the red dress
6s – Mr. Gullible
7s – BG
8s – Jodi, the soft-spoken photographer from PokerStars
9s – Al
10s – G-Rob
Very first hand we saw a flop of AAK. I quipped, half under my breath, “Who says online poker isn’t rigged?” and got a few chuckles. That hand was relatively uneventful.
Hand two, however, featured Al making the first pre-flop raise of the table, setting the $10-$15 range as the cost of doing business from that point forward. He got a caller when older dude wanted to see the flop.
Who says online poker isn’t rigged?
I’m going to let Al tell you how he played this one, assuming of course that he remembers. I will tell you that Al did have the case Queen, and he did manage to get every last dollar extracted out of older dude’s stack. Brilliant play, and yes I did just say that Al made a “brilliant play.”
G-Rob was also in the mood for some early aggression, and quite a bit of table talk as well. As far as his poker strategy with his chips and cards is concerned, he strikes me as a man after my own heart. Variance is a bitch to people like he and I, as we tend to swing for the fences maybe a little more often than we should. He pushes his stack around, and seems to hope that a few loose calls will turn into a few monster pots somewhere down the road.
Like I said, a man after my own heart.
But it’s the table talk tonight, far more so than the play, that’s keeping me amused. “I’ve never played live poker before,” is G-Rob’s early mantra. I’m not certain anyone at the table believes him, but he does take Mr. Gullible for a couple of rides a little later on. First, there’s the “I own a bar in Aruba. It’s right next to the Hilton, and it’s called Slick Cheese.” thing. Mr. Gullible seems to adore Aruba (which is funny, because I had him pegged as a child prostitution in Thailand sort of guy – now watch my Google referrals pile up), and wants to talk nothing but Aruba with G-Rob.
By the way, seconds after I told Mr. Gullible that I was from Michigan, G-Rob tells him I’m from Aruba too. Nice. Way to hang me out to dry. I concocted some sort of cover story about being a consultant for his business, and I really have never been anywhere in Aruba besides Slick Cheese, because my consulting business doesn’t allow me to do much besides work. Had he asked, I would have told him I’m an expert in culinary procurement, specializing in Northern Caribbean and Mexican import laws. I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t have wanted to get into that conversation with me, especially if you know how worked up I am about the recent perversions to Mexican produce tariffs and the trade embargo on non-domestic coffee in Jamaica.
Anyway, the other thing G-Rob did early on, which was just fucking brilliant, was answering Mr. Gullible’s question about how G-Rob seemed to know he was bluffing when he re-raised him. “You have a tell.” That’s all he said as he was stacking Mr. Gullible’s chips up from that pot. “I have a tell? What is it?” G-Rob just shook his head, as if he wasn’t about to share trade secrets.
That really set Mr. Gullible’s world on tilt. He got ridiculously timid with the cards, and bugged G-Rob consistently for the next two hours to just give up the info and tell him what his tell was already. He was already a moron, at least someone had the good sense to neuter him and prevent him from becoming a maniac.
In the meantime, I’m bleeding some chips away slowly on some dubious calls. I give a few to G-Rob, and quite a few to Jeanne when both re-raise my aggression on some flops I missed wide. I was down $40 from my original $100, and bought myself back up to a full stack while slapping some goddamn sense into my head to play better cards.
Something must have worked, but it didn’t hurt that the deck started hitting me over the head either.
Pocket Aces in the hole, and I’m geeked. I’m the one to raise (to $15) and Jeanne follows me into the pot. QQJ on the flop (who says online poker isn’t rigged?). She checks, and I push all-in.
Whoops. She calls immediately.
Now, this isn’t like you see it on TV where they flip the cards and you get to see how far ahead or behind you are. I never actually got to see Jeanne’s cards in the hole, but they were either KQ or KJ, of that I’m almost absolutely certain. Most likely KQ. The minute she called, I knew I was behind.
The turn, however, brought a beautiful Ace. “I hope that’s my help right there,” I said, even though I was pretty sure that she didn’t have me beat anymore. The river was something irrelevant, and I flipped over my Aces and apologized for sucking out…
…Well, actually, the apology went something like this:
”Hey Jeanne? I’m sorry for sucking with that Ace and all, but to tell you the truth, my ex-wife was named Jean and she was a complete bitch, and I’ve got to tell you that taking money off a woman named Jeanne is actually quite emotionally satisfying. But still, I’m sorry about sucking out and all.Eva told me she was laughing. I couldn’t see anything above her collarbone.
All of a sudden I’m the big stack at the table, and loose-aggressive BG came out for an appearance.
You’ve got to understand, I really like loose-aggressive BG. He does play some crazy hands in horrible, crazy ways from time to time, but when he catches cards, he’s virtually unstoppable.
Poor G-Rob got in the way. K4s in the SB, and after Al folded UTG, G-Rob comes in with a $5 raise. $5? Shit, I’ll see a $5 raise…
…into a 449 board. I check, and I know G-Rob is going to bet whether he has a nine or not. He pops the pot for $15, and I notice the two clubs on the board and bounce it to $50. That throws G-Rob into the tank. He takes another look at his cards and somehow decides that I don’t have the stones. He’s all-in for another $80.
And you’re damn right I’m calling that. To add insult to injury, the next card is a King. I turn them over, G-Rob kicks himself, and I announce loudly, “They were soooted.” He owned up later to having A9, but I think there’s an off chance he actually had JJ or QQ, as he’s as liable to lie about it as he is to tell the truth.
I’m way up at this point, having tripled my way to about $360. I steal a few small ones, piss some chips back to the table, and as soon as Al busts out for good, I chase him and Otis out to the bar.
On a side note, you heart needs to bleed for Otis right now. He signed some work permit thing with the Bahamanian government that he didn’t really need to, and that one unnecessary signature prevented him from so much as dropping a nickel in a slot machine. Let me put this plainly: Otis can’t play poker in the Bahamas.
In what was just a little too cool, I was in line to cash out behind Humberto Brenes, who pocketed $2300 at the $5/$10 PLO game right behind my table. I don’t know what he bought in for, but I’m guessing that’s not a huge night of profits for him. I think 50BB is an okay buy in for a NLHE table, but PLO? He may have actually been down for the night with that cash out.
I cashed out (after stashing a $1 chip in my pocket as a souvenir) $314, putting my profit at $174 for the night. Damn, did that feel good – especially with Jeanne and Terrence at the table. Both knew what they were doing, and were better players than I am to be certain.
I caught Al on the way to the bar and he asked how I did. All I could say was:
”They should bring that deck up on charges of assault and battery. It was hitting me over the head and just would not stop.”And if I was going to survive another day in paradise without hitting the ATM again, +$174 was almost exactly what it was going to take.
Sunday, January 09, 2005
Yep, we're back...
One quick story, and I'm headed to sleep. You'll see more about the Bahamas in the days to come.
They roll up the sidewalks pretty early in the Bahamas. Despite Friday night's enormous Mardi Gras-esque festival (Jaganoo? Djiridoo? Budokhan? Something like that), and Saturday's crush of tourists swamping the casino, it's nearly impossible to find more than one bar willing to pour you a drink after 1230AM.
Of course, if anyone can find that bar, Al can.
So the whole filthy lot of us have just caught Otis getting off shift and have moved our party a good half mile from the Beach Towers lobby bar (near the tournament ballroom) to the Atlas Sports Bar, which is in the heart of the casino, an interminably long walk away. One by one the hot girls in mini-skirts and the guys spending way too much on them to try to get laid are peeling out of the bar, and it doesn't take too long for last call, 3AM, and a nearly empty bar to be our atmosphere.
It's obvious that they want us to go at this point, but we're not budging. As a result, the busser politely asks if it would be okay to set the table before he leaves for the night.
And then? It's just the five of us.
Well, the four of us and what was left of the good sense of Al Can't Hang.
As soon as the busser leaves the restaurant, and it's obvious we're alone, G-Rob makes the motions as if he's going to pocket the silverware for later. I pipe in with, "I like to rub the butter knives on my balls when they leave." Al grabs a knife off the table and says, "Me too."
"Al, come on..." I'm really disgusted by this, having worked in restaurants for years, and having heard and witnessed countless horror stories before. "It's funnier said than done, really."
"I'm gonna do it." Al's holding the knife out like Arthur with Excalibur, the maniacal gleam in his eye guaranteeing we're about to see something egregiously wrong.
And we did. With a yank of the waistband, he thrust the butter knife inside his pants and started swabbing it around. I don't remember if his wife was laughing or not, but Otis and G-Rob lost it. I was growing pale by the second, and promised myself at that moment I'd never use silverware I couldn't boil on my own beforehand again.
Otis passed the final verdict. "He proved you wrong BG. In this case? It was funnier done than said."
Bill Simmons @ ESPN
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