|random thoughts and thoroughbred selections|
|"All life is 6-5 against" - Damon Runyon|
Saturday, April 08, 2006
More from the Falstaff song meme. This song fucking kills me, and I flat-out stole phrases verbatim in a dozen or more spots here to put this together. I don't care if it works or not, it was a hell of a fun experiment...
Do the midnight street lights extinguish purposefully for you and I and shall we walk on by, content not to read between the lines?
I shall believe the night time light is conquered by the shining in your eye, confident and I'm the one that's truly conquered as we walk and talk in gardens all wet with rain. That we can be now, and weren't then and couldn't possibly have been - that's the cosmic irony of you. And I. But you, and I and I will not remember anything but to fight the rising of tomorrow's sky.
I raise my hand to brush your hair behind your ear, so eagerly you couldn't interrupt me and you and I talked about now instead of then without a worried notion of where Sunday morning might take us and go. In your eye the recognition of an intimate and tender connection that might not ever have been and still might not ever be without you and I and I take you under my arm as if your body might need the warmth you're so clearly capable of radiating from your heart.
Where were we at fifteen or nineteen or twenty-six is a fleeting notion, but you and I would rather dig it all and not to wonder why again. Your breath carrying sweet thing odes that leave me so satisfied, so satisfied I want to drive down your streets and cry out in triumphant glee, "Hey, it's me," and have you raise your eyes to mine and take me in your open arms. And I will tell you tales of it all. And I will shine a beacon open light into your eyes and never let that light betray the nuance of your shadows and night. And I will not remember that I even felt the pain, so very long ago, not count the stars or recount the shame.
We shall walk and talk in gardens all misty and wet with rain. And I shall never ever grow so old again.
"Sweet Thing" written by Van Morrison off Astral Weeks.
And These Visions Of Johanna Are Now All That Remain (repost)
Johnny started the music meme, and despite this being a fairly recent post of mine, I thought I'd trot it out again because it fits the theme all too well...
Ain't it just like the night to play tricks when you're tryin' to be so quiet... (Dylan, yo)
Somehow, I had heard she was looking for me.
There was a note she'd tack to the tree embedded in the sidewalk outside her walk-up, a note she'd take down every night, then replace the next morning. It read, "What's been going on?" There was a small section at the bottom with a coupon where a reply was expected, and instructions to leave the returned information in the mailbox mounted to the left of her door.
I missed her, I've always missed her, and when I found out the invitation to reconnect was out there, I had to take it. I found myself on her street, brownstone-style apartment buildings lining an urban street framed in green by towering trees. It was an unexpected environment, a central casting block that was something out of an NYC-based Nora Ephron denouement.
I found the brownstone, calculating which window might be hers. It was darkened, so I turned to the street to find the tree and the note, which was right behind me.
"What's been going on?" was the question, with that small coupon looking for an answer.
I ended it about ten years ago. It ended with dinner, her hand dropping to my thigh, and finding my way inside her moments after shutting the front door behind us. It was her last-ditch attempt to connect in the best way she knew how, and I nearly caved in. I can still close my eyes and remember telling her it was over. She was expecting it, and disappointed, but the sadness or frustration I expected to see was replaced by something else. She blinked slowly and raised her eyes to meet mine, subtly moving her hand from the table into my lap. "I'll miss you, but can I start missing you tomorrow?"
She wasn't more things to me than she was, but what she was... She wasn't my first, but she may as well have been. She was my confidence, my swagger. And she was the first girl who ever loved me in that unabashed and unembarrassed sort of way.
She was, and continues to be my fantasy.
All I've ever wanted was to be loved like this, totally and uncontrollably, with incredibly satisfying sexual chemistry added to the mix. We worked together, and the connection started brewing from the first time we met. The flirting grew more frequent, more intense. On the first chance, first excuse, we had to be together outside of work, she spent the night with me. And the next.
There was nothing self-conscious about the girl, she wore her shy smile like a challenge or invitation. Even in the first morning together she would roll over in bed and toss the covers behind her, totally naked and unconcerned as I fumbled around the bedroom to find suitable clothes to make a run to the fridge for us. She willingly gave herself to me, and took everything she could in return. She let me find in her the pleasure and satisfaction that I didn't know was out there and didn't think I deserved.
But she wasn't smart enough. She was too young. She wasn't in college. She wanted two-hour phone calls and jumped into relationship assumptions before I was ready to assume them myself.
And she told me she loved me.
There were so many things that were right, but the rest was enough to know I had to walk away. I couldn't return the sentiment, and in spite the hedonistic devil telling me to stick it out, I couldn't do it.
I let her go.
She had never left my thoughts though, and still remains the object of the recollection of so many fantasies fulfilled.
And she was reaching out after ten years, wanting to know I was still here. "What's been going on?" Simple question, complex answer. Ten years represents a series of interconnected events that either do or don't enter into the ledger of things worth remembering or moments of emotional impact. These events can be credited and debited from my psyche, reshaping my life in the constant wake of things that matter.
Ten years, three or four failed relationships, an emasculating and horrifically unsatisfying marriage, a career, a few jobs, and another career. Unscalable debt, four years as a hermit, and a sincere effort in my head to cleanse my palate of all the unpleasantness I managed to let seep into my world. Yet I'm still of a mind that wraps itself up in the warmth that she brought. Warmth that I refuse to forget.
In the three or more years I spent with Jean, I refuse to believe I ever was loved like Angelique loved me, which makes her the last piece of purity in my past, the last good thing that ever happened to me.
"What's been going on?" was what she wanted to know, and I thought about how to best answer that question. Then, somehow, the right answer came to me.
Nothing had happened, at least nothing like what we had put behind us ten years ago. Everything in-between was corrupt, and didn't matter. The question wasn't literally, "What's been going on?," the question was, "Did you find the rest of what you were looking for?"
No, I hadn't. And I'm not sure I ever will.
I tore the coupon from the note and penciled "Nothing" into the appropriate spot. I let the coupon hang half-out of the mailbox, ensuring she'd notice when she got home. I took a seat on some stairs across the street and waited.
She didn't come home, at least not before I woke up from the dream.
I don't miss Angelique, really. I miss the idea of a beautiful girl naked in my bed, satisfying me and fulfilling me physically and emotionally and spiritually. Despite her flaws, she was the last woman in my life who didn't intentionally let me down.
I miss her badly, but only physically. I miss the swagger she gave me, but I have no desire at all to see her (even though I'm fairly confident I could look her up).
I like the idea that for a short period of time I had my fantasy. For a few moments, ten years ago, I was fulfilled. And that's why she continues to live in my head as my ideal, the one unspoiled woman in my past.
I was loved, and that love was never corrupted.
And that's enough. Always will be.
Now, little boy lost, he takes himself so seriously
He brags of his misery, he likes to live dangerously
And when bringing her name up
He speaks of a farewell kiss to me
He's sure got a lotta gall to be so useless and all
Muttering small talk at the wall while I'm in the hall
How can I explain?
Oh, it's so hard to get on
And these visions of Johanna, they kept me up past the dawn (Dylan - "Visions of Johanna")
Friday, April 07, 2006
Sometime in late February my boss called me up and told me about an opportunity I should really consider within my division. There was another program where a peer of mine was being let go (for incompetence I continue to try and untangle), and since the need for someone in my role at my current client has diminished, this was a good chance to shine for my company.
It was made clear I could say "no," especially if the recovery from surgery was going to preclude me from contributing. I didn't say no, and spent the entire month of March traveling to Allentown, PA and back every week to try and save a dying account.
By all accounts I'm kicking ass out there, and have regained the confidence of our client champions that our company can produce.
Two weeks into my travels there a few other things hit the radar screen internal to my division. We landed two huge accounts out west, and one mature account with which I have familiarity developed a need in Chicago. My stock was rising in the company, and I'm one of the very few people in my current role in the division who could easily pick up stakes and move anywhere in the country without hassle. I felt like I had every ability to look at all the opportunities in front of me, and could pretty much target what I wanted and go after it.
I had some discussions with the Regional Manager who oversees the Allentown gig a few weeks back, and he agreed. He said that the new openings out there were great opportunities to grow my skillset in the company and I should absolutely go after them. He also mentioned that if he had his way, he'd add me to his team in a heartbeat, both in the interest of stability for the Allentown program and because he has a reputation for "stealing all the good people" for his region.
So I looked at what was out there and ranked them. Going permanent on the Allentown gig was my number one, but there was a contingency that needed to be met. It's a small change situation, and we've been pursuing a larger roll-out. If the roll-out were to be approved, I'd get the training/implementation experience I was chasing and the story that would follow me through the company would be that "he took a program we were about to lose, turned it around, and more than doubled its size." Who doesn't want that to be their reputation? Thing is, the timing of the roll-out wasn't agreeing with my decision-making timetable. There would be no chance we'd land the expansion that I thought would make this job attractive. Without it, I figured there was no way they wasted the onsite slot I was filling with someone with skills. Whenever someone internally asked me about this position in my recent interviews, I always said it'd be my top choice if all the pieces fell into place. I didn't think that was going to happen.
Portland, Oregon was the more realistic scenario. It was a huge program launch, in an environment where I'd get my hands on some new technology with a client that asked for a lot of "what ifs." Problem solving via my knowledge of the limitations of our technology is one of my strong suits, so I was excited. They were also going to be putting an external Program Manager in place out there, which meant (I assumed) they'd want to go with an experienced #2 in the role I was chasing. I also found out I had no internal competition on this position. Add these things up, and I figured that Portland was pretty much mine to lose.
I've been mentally gearing myself up for Portland for a few weeks now. I've got friends out there, and the way we've been talking lately has been less than hypothetical about my imminent arrival. I believed in these truths:
1) I was going to be moving to a different opportunity in my company before July.
2) The roll-out in Allentown was highly unlikely, and they wouldn't waste a small program slot on someone they could better apply elsewhere.
3) If I made it clear that I wanted to increase my skillset with this move, they would oblige by giving me the launch/implementation/training stuff I was looking for.
All this added up to Portland. Portland Portland Portland. I've been laser-focused on that opportunity in my recent interviews, I've been making it clear to anyone who asks that I wanted to end up there, and lately I've been lead to assume that a job like this is mine to lose.
You know where I'm going with this, don't you?
Here's the thing... I should be flattered that my company is choosing to send me in this direction. Actually, I am flattered, but I'm shocked as hell too. About 4PM yesterday I got a call from the Regional Manager, and he told me he'd like to make the offer to get me down there full-time.
He said that it's been agreed among the leadership that since expansion (which will be on a huge scale) is still on the table, we need to keep the stability we've promised them in place. He said that he needs someone in there that can institute the processes and program controls that the previous person didn't, that way when the business does expand it'll be a smooth and efficient effort. He said my efforts over the past four weeks have taken this program forward in a way it hasn't been in a long time, and that my contribution has not gone unnoticed.
He said it's been agreed that I'm too valuable in this role right now to move elsewhere. I asked if I should still pursue Portland, and he said that "this is where we need you."
So do we have any indicators that this sleepy program will expand? No. Not only is the massive roll-out thing still "under discussions," but the best-case for it is 2007. As of right now we're even on a short-term contract renewal that, while likely to be renewed, could theoretically evaporate just as easily. "Don't worry about that," the guy said, "if this program somehow dries up, we'll just move you to the 'Operations Team.'"
Because there is not a full-faith confidence that this program will be renewed, the Regional Manager is exploring 90 days of temporary housing for me in Allentown. Basically, the scenarios could play out in any number of ways, but here's the thumbnail sketch of the possibilities:
1) They give me temp housing, the program goes away, and I'm on the Ops team working from Michigan.
2) They don't give me temp housing, I pull up stakes and move to Pennsylvania, the program goes away, and I'm on the Ops team working from Pennsylvania.
3) The program is renewed for a long period, I move to PA, I get the chance to put this program back on the tracks in a controlled and detailed manner, I impress the shit out of the higher-ups, we get more business from them, and I get a promotion, money and kudos.
That's the bright side of this. Despite the relatively unattractive geography of this situation, I'm really in a no-lose scenario. Basically, unless I do something really dumb and/or ignorant, if we lose this program it's not for my lack of trying. So it's not on my head. If we get renewed, which is the most likely of all scenarios, I get a pressure-free environment to put everything together they way it should have been, and I look like a superstar for basically cleaning up an atrocious mess.
And if we get to expand the business? I'll be Caesar, conquering hero.
Ultimately, this is a really positive thing. I'm in the no-lose scenario, I get to show the leadership I can make a bad situation better, and maybe the Winston Wolf thing becomes my calling card for the future. I get challenged to untangle a lot of bullshit, and I get challenged to put processes on paper and in play. I get exposure to responsibilities I haven't had before, and I have every single opportunity in this role to shine. And there's no reason I can't
But it really felt like a stomach punch yesterday to learn that Portland was most likely off the table. I never thought Allentown would come around as a viable move without the business that I knew wasn't going to be secured anytime soon. All I've done over the past few weeks is think about Portland and troll Craigslist Portland and look at apartments and such online in Portland. Having that yanked away is a little frustrating.
Even if what is being asked of me has as much potential or more for my career. And I've got to keep my head focused on that end of things. It is a good shot. I am willing to go anywhere if it'll help my career. I will learn to live in a BYOB restaurant world.
At least I've got the Al Can't Hang home game to look forward to...
Thursday, April 06, 2006
Here We Go Yo
NFL Draft coming up in three weeks, so let's play with some scenarios in the top ten, shall we?
1) HOUSTON - Reggie Bush, RB USC
This is as big a foregone conclusion as you can find out there right now. Every other scenario assumes this much, at least.
2) NEW ORLEANS - Mario Williams, DE NC State
Since you already landed your franchise QB, can you pass on the next Julius Peppers?
3) TENNESSEE - Vince Young, QB Texas
Rumor has it the Titans really like him.
4) NYJ - AJ Hawk, OLB Ohio State
They probably won't go QB - this year - but the consensus out there that
D'Brickashaw Ferguson is the guy might be waning a little. Ferguson isn't Walter Jones, and there's some question on the upside he's got. Pairing Hawk and Jonathan Vilma in the LB corps would be devastating.
5) GREEN BAY - D'Brickashaw Ferguson, OT Virginia
With or without Favre, this is a need pick. The OL has been picked apart in free agency the last couple of years, so this is a need pick. Moving William Whittaker back to the bench should thrill the cheeseheads.
6) SAN FRANCISCO - Vernon Davis, TE Maryland
This is the year someone drools on the 4.5 40 TE and picks him too high. They aren't all going to turn out to be Antonio Gates you know.
7) OAKLAND - Matt Leinart, QB USC
What?!?! Leinart lasts this long? Look, the only team with a true need above them is Tennessee, and they got their QB already. If Leinart starts to slip out of that top three, someone's going to leapfrog Oakland to go get him.
8) BUFFALO - Winston Justice, OT USC
Justice's workout was enough, he's got as much upside as Ferguson and Buffalo needs to protect McGahee and that piece of shit QB they drafted a couple years ago.
9) DETROIT - Chad Greenway, LB Iowa
Way to paint yourselves into a corner Detroit... the scenario shakes out where Cutler falls into your lap and you've already got four QBs on the roster. Congrats. Greenway steps in and moves Teddy Lehman into the Earl Holmes understudy role, and adds some badly needed smarts to the SLB position James Davis manned last year.
10) ARIZONA - Jay Cutler, QB Vanderbilt
No way Arizona goes another direction here. If one of the big three are there, Cutler gets snapped up.
NEW ORLEANS TRADES OUT SCENARIO
2) NYJ - Matt Leinart, QB USC
Yes, I know... they didn't take him by NOT trading up in my other scenario. Shut up, it's my website.
3) TENN - Vince Young
4) NO - Mario Williams
5) GB - AJ Hawk
6) SF - Michael Huff, CB Texas
Huff's versatility is intriguing, and the San Fran defense could use a big play guy in the backfield.
7) OAK - Jay Cutler
8) BUF - D'Brickashaw Ferguson
9) DET - Winston Justice
Detroit can now put Kelly Butler in a reserve role, and with their free agent signings will have one of the deepest OL corps in the league.
10) AZ - Haloti Ngata, DT Oregon
Big athletic guy can fill up at NT would be welcome on any team's DL.
NEW ORLEANS REALLY TRADES OUT
2) MINNESOTA - Matt Leinart, QB USC
What does Minnesota give up to get here? "Too much" is the likely answer. They sold Randy Moss and Daunte Culpepper for pennies on the dollar, who's to say they won't overpay to get an identifiable "franchise" guy on what has turned into a fairly anonymous team?
3) TENN - Young
4) NYJ - Jay Cutler
What??!!? Shut up.
5) GB - Mario Williams
I can't believe he'd slip this far, but here you go Packer fans.
6) SF - AJ Hawk
Best player available.
7) OAK - Michael Huff
Oakland hasn't hit with a DB pick in the first round since Charles Woodson, and he's not expected back. Buchanon needs some help.
8) BUF - Haloti Ngata
Buffalo has fundamental needs on both lines, they could go with a tackle on either side of the ball.
9) DET - Vernon Davis
What?!?! Another first round receiver? Mike Martz kids, Mike Martz...
10) ARI - D'Brickashaw Ferguson
Best player available.
THE WILDEST SCENARIO THAT STILL RINGS SOMEWHAT PLAUSIBLE
1) OAKLAND - Matt Leinart
Wow!?!? Blockbuster, eh? Look, Al Davis has a team with a lot of holes, but knows that bringing a franchise QB in can put fans in a better state of mind right away. Plus, he's crazy.
2) NYJ - Jay Cutler
Scared that Tennessee trumps them for the local kid, the Jets trade up.
3) TEN - Reggie Bush
Tennessee officials later pat themselves on the back for a ruse well executed during the great March/April QB hunt, seeing as they got two teams to trade over them, letting Bush drop.
4) ARI - Vince Young
Arizona makes New Orleans an offer they can't refuse, and the Saints are now flush with seconds and thirds from moving down twice.
5) GB - D'Brickashaw Ferguson
6) SF - Mario Williams
7) HOU - Winston Justice
8) BUF - AJ Hawk
9) DET - Michael Huff
Yes, I know they're my home team and I've picked for them four different ways now... I'm just seeing how the rooks look in the Honolulu Blue #1, that's all. Huff could replace either Terrence Holt or Fernando Bryant, and I'm not complaining either way.
10) NO - Haloti Ngata
Williams, Justice and Ferguson all gone? Not the best case scenario for the Saints...
Anyone want to debate any of these picks?
Tuesday, April 04, 2006
I am Poker Champ.
Sunday, April 02, 2006
New Feature at LasVegasVegas
Going up sometime in the wee hours of Monday morning I've got a new feature called "Las Vegas Vegas Rates Your Home Game." I'm really quite pleased with how the first installment turned out, and think you guys will enjoy it too.
An example, culled from the post going up later:
Shaggy haired hipster + ironically framed sunglasses + Aztec blanket could take you anywhere. Add poker chips and the presumption of narcotics to the mix, and you've got Rep. Bob Goodlatte's cautionary tale. Great, as if the Christian right needed more ammunition to squeeze poker players. Rating: Ruining It For The Rest Of Us
(Flickr credit will be in the LVV post)
Thing is, in order to keep this one going, I'll need your help. If you stumble across a picture of a home game that is a little quirky or different somehow, don't hesitate to send me the URL. I've got the "poker" tag at Flickr covered, but anything else you stumble across, kick me an email.
Let me come up with the funny though. I hate feeling like I'm stealing, so I'll take care of that end.
Anyway, hope you enjoy. We're trying to take Las Vegas Poker blog and the Las Vegas Blog in a couple of different directions while still maintaining what Prof and FlipChip and Pauly have been good at for awhile now. In other words, I'm getting free reign to be a sarcastic goofball again. So if you like what you see, try to circulate it out a little bit - message boards, tell your friends, confess to your clergy, whatever works. Let me do the math for you...
The success of LasVegasVegas gets all poker bloggers more exposure. More exposure means better advertising offers for everyone. We really think LVV is going to smoke everyone else's coverage at the WSOP, but what's going to bring and keep the casual reader is good quality and variety. We need your help to bring the casual reader in pre-WSOP, so if you find something interesting, talk about it. That's all we ask.
Lastly, I'd just like to illustrate a point I've been trying to make since Thursday... In order for a post to come off as honest and legitimate, it must come from a point of plausibility. It's crucial to set up your thoughts with enough expository information that allows you to take the arc of the story where you want it to ultimately end up - again, from a point of legitimacy, not caricature. It helps to paint the arc with fine strokes as well, rather than attempting to slap broad strokes out there that obscure the nuances of your intent.
It is entirely about the path to get there, not the end result. I think people tend to forget that too easily. These little waltzes through my skull aren't necessarily pre-planned, but they're often careful in their execution. It's never enough for me to say, "I was here. This happened. The end." There has to be more behind the journey than just the destination - that's the salient point here.
Too many times too many bloggers sit down at their keyboards with only the end result in their heads. "I've got to tell them how I bounced out of the $17K," or, "I want to write a Vegas trip report." Guess what? Life is filled with more little moments that tie what's going on in your present to what has happened to you in the past than you realize. No matter how small the emotional impact you think you're experiencing, I think you can always find some way to internalize what you want to write about by, essentially, method acting.
You have been there before. When you're trying to recall what getting your Kings cracked in June felt like, maybe you flushed your Spider-Man figure down the toilet on your trip to Traverse City as a kid? I know I did. Whether or not what you're writing about actually happened or not, as that email asshole I've been griping about didn't (aprilfools' to y'all), you know what it feels like to go there. Find that little nagging pull in your head wherever it lies and give it some help. Pull on it. It might be uncomfortable, but it certainly adds to the honesty and reality behind whatever it is you're trying to portray.
Fine touches, not broad strokes. Happy little trees.
Bill Simmons @ ESPN
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