Thursday, December 31, 2009

Ten Years After...

Wow, another decade draws to a close. And spare me that crap about how the new decade doesn't begin until next year--That may be technically right, but nobody cares. (Seriously, people who jump into a conversation with this nugget of 'wisdom' just need to be kicked in the nuts for aggravated dorkiness). But the 'Aughts' are over, and now we get to the 'teens.

Everyone knows that the calendar speeds up as you get older, but damn, it really doesn't feel like it's been ten years since that whole Y2K nonsense went down.

Back in late 1999, when I was working at Schwab, they wasted untold millions of dollars preparing for the digital apocalypse that never came, and as big of a pain in the ass as it was, we managed to have some fun with it. Oh, they sent out tons of mailers in everyone's monthly statements, and then had an entire web page devoted to the steps they were taking and the preparations that were being made. But that didn't matter--we still had several, shall we say, 'experienced' customers who had to be hand-held through the whole process. After awhile, it just got to be a pain in the ass.

There was this one old dude that called in about a dozen times a day because he had nothing better to do, and he was on everybody's "ah crap, there goes a half hour of my day" list. His name was "Brooker" and everyone dreaded the phone call. He was a senile old man, but had just enough marbles left upstairs to be a pain in the ass.

One day during Christmas week, Eddie B and I were wasting time over at our buddy Devin's desk. Work had finally slowed down a bit, so we were goofing off over there talking about all the usual guy stuff--fantasy football, the college bowl games, Leslie in Trade Support's legs...--when Devin's phone rang. We thought it would be a quick 'quote call', but it was Brooker calling in. Devin snapped his fingers at us to get our attention, and he put the call on speaker-phone. The first thing the old guy says is Hey, tell me about this whole Y2K thing.

Not a conversation you want to involve yourself in. If you rise to the challenge, the rest of your day is gone. Eddie and I shook our heads in sympathy, thinking, Oh man, that sucks but on the inside we were thinking Whew--better him than me!

Devin, however was pretty savvy. The first thing he said was Oh yes sir Mr. Brooker, we have a team of specialists that can assist you with all of your questions about that--one second I'll transfer you over.

We thought he was gonna just dump the call back into the general call-center 800-line queue, but instead, he transferred old man Brooker to our Chinese Telebroker line. Yeah, it was a voice activated, menu-driven automated trading line, but all in Mandarin Chinese.

At the time, it was one of the funniest f*cking things I've ever heard. We sat there laughing our asses off for a good ten minutes listening to this guy on speakerphone lose his shit cursing at the disembodied Chinese voice on the conference line. Good times!

It's hard to believe that it was so long ago. It sure doesn't seem like ten years.

I've already mentioned in an earlier post how we all had to work on New Year's Day at 6:00 am, because the geniuses at company HQ just knew we'd be getting thousands of calls that morning. It didn't stop us from having a great time the night before.

I took my psycho-girlfriend-with-the-huge-rack Corinne out to dinner at the Macaroni Grill, then we met up with everyone else over at Devin's house for the big party. We bailed at 12:30, went back to my place to crash for a couple of hours, then got up at five to go to work (yeah, she worked there at Schwab, too). The day was a total waste, but at least misery had company. We sat there throwing the nerf football around the cube farm and setting up a full-on 18-hole putting course to keep ourselves entertained, but none of us took a single call. They cut us loose after just three or four hours.

I remember walking out and getting sidetracked by a couple of my friends, and we ended up sitting in the bar all day after that, drinking pitchers of beer and making jokes about what we were gonna do with all the canned goods and bottled water we'd been stocking up on.

But the year 2000 was memorable for a lot of reasons. I remember teaching one of my famous option trading classes in early April, and that Friday, the 14th, we finished up and the entire class escaped the office and went to lunch at Houston's. We were watching the TV in the bar, tuned to CNBC, and saw that the market was taking a huge dump--down around 500 points with just an hour left until the closing bell. Since we were all in the finance biz, that was the topic of conversation all during lunch, and I remember saying Oh well, it just means that everything will be on sale on Monday!

Boy, was I ever wrong. That was the beginning of the end of the tech bubble that not only cost me my job and my house, but almost $80,000 that I'd saved and invested, too. Damn, my kingdom for a time machine--I'd go back, cash out all that money earlier in the week, and then buy as many Enron puts as I could afford!

Besides the market crash, 2000 was also the year I bought my condo (a perfect place for me, and I wish I still had it), and was also the first year of the Sibling Revelry cruise that became a tradition with me and my sisters. It doesn't matter how many cruises we've been on since then, we all agree that there was something special about that first one, and I don't think it'll ever be topped. It set the bar pretty high, and those memories are some of my favorites.

2001 seemed ok when it started, but it turned out to be a tough one. The marked continued on it's downward spiral for over a year, and on my birthday, I got laid off, along with about 300 of my co-workers. The economy in Phoenix was in the shiatter, but I got such a generous severance package that I didn't worry too much about it. I grew up in the 80's and profited immensely from the go-go late 90's, so I had no idea what a recession was. So I said screw it and took the entire summer off. I didn't even bother looking for a job, figuring that I'd wait until September and waltz right in to something.

So I spent my summer sleeping in late and watching MTV, then in the early afternoon I'd grab a 12-pack of Pacifico and some meat for the grill, and head over to Derek's place, where we'd have a few buddies over to eat, drink, and bitch about the market. Since money wasn't an issue, I spent whatever time I could out in Marina Del Rey, taking sailing classes and hanging out on the beach. Ed W got the bug later in the summer, and he joined me. Those were some great times.

Of course, the big bummer of the year was September 11th, and that put a damper on things, although I had a very memorable cruise just a week later. That also put the economy into a further tailspin, and my plan of finding a job in September came up just a wee bit short. It turns out that I went unemployed for eleven months, not finding another decent job until March of 2002. (Well, I did work for Washington Mutual for a few weeks in that stretch, but oh dear god that was the most horrible work experience I think I've ever had).

Early 2002 was about the toughest stretch I've ever had in my life--I went absolutely broke. My boys had chipped in enough for me to go to Vegas for March Madness, and a hot craps roll on our last night in town gave me enough money to pay the rent for the next month (by then I'd moved out of the condo and was living with Derek) and cover my expenses on an Easter weekend sailing trip to Catalina with my buddies. But after that, I was flat-ass broke. I remember the day vividly that I hit rock bottom.

I literally did not have a dime to my name, no more money in savings, my retirement account was cashed out, no unemployment benefits, I hadn't picked up any temp work in almost three weeks, and I was down to accepting a $10-an-hour call center job at American Express. I hadn't gotten the formal 'offer' yet, but I'd been through all the interviews and hoops and such and was just waiting for a call telling me what day they wanted me to start. At that point I was desperate, so ten bucks an hour was enough to live on until I found a real job.

Oh, they called me one morning, and instead of saying Come in on Monday morning, they told me that as much as they'd like me to join their team, there was a sudden hiring freeze, so they were unable to make me an offer at that time...

I hung up the phone and just laid back on the bed. I must've stared at the ceiling for two hours--I had absolutely no other plan at that point, no options. I think the best I could come up with was to have a garage sale, sell all my stuff, and then just move back to Atlanta and live in my dad's basement for awhile until I got back on my feet. That's the best I could come up with. Months of job searching in Phoenix had come up empty.

Amazingly, just at the depth of my despair, the phone rang again. I'd been putting out resumes and applications for months, casting my net far and wide, but until then, absolutely nothing had come up.

But on that very day when I thought all was lost, I got a call from a recruiter who I hadn't heard from in three months, and he had a lead for me. There was a new start-up tech company that needed non-geek people in a bad way. They offered $12 bucks an hour plus commissions, and then after 90 days, full-time work with benefits and a raise.

Oh hell yeah. Salvation was at hand. The name of the company?

I jumped on that job like a Great Dane on a porkchop, thrilled to finally be working again. It turns out that they had all kinds of tech-savvy folks, but nobody that could talk to people--the whole place was full of nerds, and they figured it would be easier to find normal people who could talk and sell and train them in technical matters than it would be to train geeks to talk to normal customers.

Things turned around pretty quickly for me after that. I started making huge commissions, and I also managed to sell my condo for a nice $1000 profit about two weeks ahead of the foreclosure. I took that money and Eddie and I had a helluva great weekend in Vegas. Not only did I triple it, but I hooked up with a cute little blond gal on our last night in town, so it was one of the best Vegas trips ever.

Those huge commissions I was making led to friction, however. Every week, they'd send out a company-wide spreadsheet showing who earned what as far as commissions went, and me and another guy were just crushing everyone else.

It came to a head in October. I had just gotten back from the worst trip to Vegas I'd ever had, and that week we had a big meeting where they told us that they'd be restructuring the commissions the next quarter. That sucked. So I figured it would be time to move on again soon. The week before Christmas, they gave us the bad news. The way they f*cked us over would make me go from making about $500-$800 in commissions every paycheck would knock me down to less than half of that.

I gave my notice less than a week later.

I had a little bit of money in the bank, and after such a tough year, I decided to get out of Phoenix and move back to Nashville.

In January of 2003, I loaded up a U-haul trailer, said goodbye to all my buddies, and Eddie B and I headed east on an epic road trip. We arrived in Nashville 38 hours later in the middle of a blizzard, but we were wearing shorts and flip-flops, having left sunny Phoenix the day before.

It was tough going at first, but I managed to find a decent job on the trading desk of a small brokerage just two months later. I thought it was a great opportunity at first--low stress, good money--but it was the textbook definition of a dead-end job. No bonuses, no chance for advancement, and it turned out to be really boring. Not only that, but I had to put up with the Oxford Mafia. Half the guys who worked there went to Ole Miss, and if you weren't part of the club, well, you weren't part of the club. Besides, living in Nashville was really dull. Aside from the family, I really didn't have any friends or much of a social life besides a regular Tuesday-night card game at the Nashville City Club. That was it--I was bored senseless living there in Tennessee.

I wasn't too upset when less than two years later, the brokerage I was working for got bought out. I was told that I could keep the job, but if I did, I'd have to move to Memphis or Little Rock.

Uh, I'll take "None Of The Above" for $8,000, Alex!

Yep, that's what I got for a severance package, so I decided to take the money and move to Las Vegas and work as a casino dealer. I kicked around doing nothing for a couple of months, and then Amy and I made an epic road trip west in February of 2005. (Oh yeah, that story is another one of those long posts that I'll do someday).

About five weeks later, I got my first job dealing dice at the Golden Gate, and then fell ass-backwards into a real job at a big casino a month after that. I've been at the same place ever since, but a year and a half ago I left the dice, blackjack, and Pai Gow tables for the poker room, and I've not looked back.

I really enjoy dealing poker, and it would be the perfect job if I could just get to do it full-time. But I can't complain too much. There are a lot of pros and cons to working in a casino, and overall, the good outweighs the bad. It must, because this is the longest I've worked for one company in my entire adult life!

But here we are on the cusp of 2010, another decade in the books. It's hard to believe, but I've been living in Las Vegas for going on five years now. If you would've asked me back in 1999 what I'd be doing ten years down the road, I would've said "teaching options classes at Schwab, going to happy hour at Aunt Chilada's every Friday afternoon, and spending all my vacation time sailing to Catalina". Funny how life sometimes throws you a curveball or two. But even with all the ups and downs, Joe Walsh said it best--Life's been good to me so far...

Happy New Year everybody!


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

I Can't Take It No More!

Global Warming?

Can I have some, please? I'm sorry, but from where my freezing ass is sitting, that whole global-warming thing seems like a whole bunch of made-up nonsense that only appeals to oddballs and freaks, like Star Trek or Mormonism. I know, it's much worse for you folks up north, but we haven't seen the far side of fifty degrees in for-f*cking-ever out here in the Mojave desert, which is allegedly the hottest place on the entire continent.

So not only have I turned on the heat for the first time in five years (it's been on for a few weeks now), but I put a sleeping bag and a fleece blanket on the bed, in addition to the flannel sheets. It's been so chilly for so long out here that I also broke down and bought a fleece-lined beanie hat. And I made sure to get one with a Rams logo on it, because nobody would steal that.

I'm ready for spring, if you couldn't tell. Of course, soon enough I'll be bitching about the heat of summer, but at least this year I have a pool--I won't need to sneak into the one at the Paris to cool off.

Anyhow, enough about that. I've been super-lazy as far as writing goes, but I've had a couple of good excuses. One, I've been working a lot. Two, everyone else is still on vacation. I'm cool with the fact that most people read this site while at the office, and this week, my traffic is down by half due to the holidays. No biggie. Since most of my audience is missing in action, I haven't felt the pressure to come up with anything interesting to write about.

Besides that, I just haven't had much of anything interesting to say. But then again, I haven't done anything interesting, either, unless you think going to the bank and the AT&T store are "interesting" (Yep, I now have full-on internet access on my phone. Welcome to the 21st century!).

As far as doing anything interesting goes, I've got New Year's Eve off for the first time in five years, and I have no idea what I'm gonna do. I ran into one of my gals last night, and she was droppin' hints, saying she had no plans for the night, but honestly, I don't know if I want to go that route. Oh, she's nice and fun and easy on the eyes, and the chances of getting some good lovin' are about 110%--BUT, I don't want to get dressed up, try to get a dinner reservation, and spend the money on somebody who I like to hang out with, but that I'm just not that much into.

I dunno, a few years ago, I would've been all over it like a Mississippi leg hound, but I'm just not feeling it. Part of it is because I have to work at 7:00 am on New Years Day, and part of it is that lately I have become somewhat a spendthrift. For awhile now, I've been putting every single extra dime away, and watching it grow has become almost an obsession. And I know that going out on NYE would cost me a couple hundred bucks, minimum. If she was an actual 'girlfriend', I'd have no problem coughing up the money and time, but she's more of a casual aquaintance, so I honestly don't have much of an attention span when it comes to hanging out with her. It's also much easier to take a pass this year since I've missed out on the celebrating for the past four years, too, so it's not like I miss it that much. I dunno, we'll see how I feel tomorrow, but I'm guessing that my New Years Eve will consist of an early game of poker and then coming home and watching the ball drop on TV.

I know--lame huh?

Or... I could work on one of my jigsaw puzzles. I got two big ones as gifts this year, but I told myself that I'm not going to do those until I finish the 'Tahiti' one I started a couple of years ago. I had the entire outside frame done and most of the sailboat put together when I moved out of the Man-Cave I was sharing with Falcon Rob. Then the puzzle sat in the box out in the garage for a year because I didn't have anyplace to set up my work table at my new place. Now that I'm here in my own apartment, I can use my dining room table, so I unpacked the thing the other night and got re-started.

It wasn't like starting from scratch. When I packed the thing up a year and a half ago, I separated the main component pieces into individual ziplock bags. So all the edge pieces and the sailboat were in their own bags, as was the big palm tree.

I worked on it for about three hours, and I've found it's a great way to spend a cold afternoon while one of the Irrelevant Bowls drones on the TV in the background.

I'll probably work on it some more this evening, and my guess is that I'll probably spend my New Years Eve doing the same thing, maybe with a cocktail in my hand. I don't mind. I won't be spending money or having to dodge drunk drivers or cops, so I'm cool with a quiet evening at home.

In the meantime, I'm gonna put on some wool socks, make a pot of hot coffee, and try to keep my fuzzy ass warm, 'cause baby, it's cold outside!


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Where Did the Year Go?

Wow, is it already the end of 2009? I don't seem to remember much of it...

It seems that the older I get, the faster the calendar moves. I'm sure that's the same for everyone, but I'm wondering if it would seem slower if I didn't have a bunch of monthly bills coming at me on a regular basis. If I didn't owe anybody a dime, I'm guessing that life would seem much slower. But that's just a guess.

I hope everyone enjoyed Josie's poker story yesterday--I was certainly glad that she shared it. I really like hearing about big wins, because lord knows, I hear enough bad beat stories every week at work. Besides that, it was nice that I was able to extend my vacation from the keyboard for another day. I've just been so tired and run down these last few days that I haven't felt creative or particularly motivated, either.

On the other hand, the reason for my lack of writing has been that I've been working my ass off. In the past seven days, I've worked more than I have in the previous four weeks combined. And I'm not even exaggerating--I have literally worked more in the last week than I did for a month. That's good for the wallet, but man, it's tough to go from being a gentleman of leisure to being worked like a mattress at Tiger's house (too soon?). I'm glad that the famine is over, but I sure ain't complaining about the fact that the game broke down after just a couple of hours last night and I got to come home early.

I'll chill out for today, but then I work the next two nights, and then I get the highly-coveted 7:00 am shift on New Years Day. Oh yeah, that'll be a great day of work. Actually, I don't mind. I don't care if it's busy or slow, and I'm pretty sure that I'll be out after just four hours anyways. I'll come home and watch the bowl games and just doze for the rest of the day. Besides, I'm off the next day, so I'm looking forward to finally being able to relax for a bit.

Feast or famine--that's my world.

So what else is going on? Well, not much, to be honest with you. My Christmas basically sucked. Oh, I got to talk to the whole family and I unwrapped a few nice gifts, but I was stuck here and I did the hard eight at work that night. And now that my gal Stephanie of Christmas Past has up and gotten herself married, I didn't have my usual holiday companion to stay out all night on Christmas Eve and goof off with.

Instead, I stayed in and drank some spiked eggnog and watched a bunch of Christmas shows that I recorded. BTW, A Christmas Story is still an all-time great, and White Christmas is about the corniest thing I've ever seen. And if you ever stumble across Christmas at Belmont on PBS, watch it--it's probably my favorite holiday show, although it makes me sad that I wasn't able to be in Nashville.

I wish I had some interesting stories to tell today, but lately my life has been a fairly predictable and repetitive cycle of working and sleeping. I truly haven't done anything interesting in awhile, and I haven't even been able to dive into that stack of books everyone sent. I guess the highlight of the week was watching my new copy of The Hangover yesterday. Great flick, and it reminded me that if I ever get married, I gotta go with the sky-blue ruffled tuxedo. Oh, and it also reminded me that if all the hookers in this town looked like Heather Graham, I'd probably have a whole lot less poker money...

Y'all have wonderful Tuesday--I'm going to bed.


Monday, December 28, 2009

Special Guest

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas! For those of you crawling back to the real world today, I have a treat for you. As part of her ongoing debt-repayment plan, and because well, I'm lazy, I've recruited a special Guest Blogger to give you your Monday morning fix--from warm and sunny Boston Massachusetts, it's Miss Josie. She also has the poker bug and is one of the people who actually like my poker stories better than the tales of the coleslaw. We've been talking a bit lately, and it turns out that she's got some experience on the green felt, too. So I suggested that she write up one of her stories and I'd post it here for everyone to enjoy.

Here it is:

November 2009

Just over the Massachusetts/New Hampshire border is the Seabrook Poker Room in Seabrook, NH. It’s about 40 minutes from my house and I play there maybe every two months. They have sit-n-goes, tourneys, and cash games. I went up to play the 1pm $150 daily tournament.

First, let me tell you that most of the guys that play there fall into two categories--older men in their mid-50’s thru mid-80’s, and they are in there all time. I dunno if they’re in there playing every day, but I know they’re definitely in there every week. I always see the same faces, regardless of which day I’m there. The other type of player there is the young guy--wearing his hat, ear buds, and sunglasses, thinking he’s all that. Those two categories make up about 90% of the players.

I’ve played there in the past and have placed in the money more than a few times, and I was hoping that this visit would be the same.

I don’t know if it’s typical of larger poker rooms, but these men always want to split winnings and never play to the end. Heck, they start talking about splitting when it’s down to five players. About six months ago, we were down to the money and there were only four of us left; I was the chip leader and they all wanted a straight split. Um, no. I said “Let’s play until we’re even and then talk about splitting or maybe let’s wait until we’re down to just two or three people.” Anyway, the place closes at midnight, and at this point it felt like the other three guys (all regulars) were ganging up on me and insisted we split. It was about 11:30pm and one of the guys tells me the place will be closing down soon anyway. I admitted that he’s right and I agreed to go ahead and split.

Here’s the thing--I later found out that even though the casino closes at midnight, if there is a final table in progress they’ll let you keep playing until at least 1am. Needless to say I was a little bitter about that. Nobody told me that the guy was handing me a line--not even the dealer. This place is very close knit, and I guess I don’t play enough to be considered a regular. Plus I KNOW the woman thing is a factor, at least with a few of these guys anyway.

Okay, fast forward to the current 1pm tournament. Usually when I play there, people will remember me because I play tight but aggressive, but I like to have fun at the table, too. The first 45 minutes of the tourney go by pretty uneventfully. I usually spend the first hour doing two things; people watching and blind-stealing. I like to monitor people’s betting habits. And people are creatures of habit--they just can’t help it. So that first hour is spent identifying who’s tight and who can’t let go of a hand, and I’m only in a hand if I’ve got the goods. Don’t get me wrong, in that first hour I’ll try to steal as many blinds as I think I can get away with, but if I get called and I miss the flop, I’m outta there.

Before the first break, I got my first good opportunity–a suited J-10. I flopped a pair of Jacks and had a flush draw. I made a big bet and got a call (oh my!). There were two people in the hand – me and this middle-aged biker chick. The turn comes and it’s my third diamond. I hit my flush and I checked. Biker chick goes all in.


Either she’s representing a flush because I acted weak by checking or I guess that maybe she has a higher flush. I think about it for a while and say Puck it, I call. She hadn’t impressed me with her play up till then, but then again, anyone can have two higher diamonds – with skills or without. I’m glad I called. She had Big Slick, but no diamond. It was a total bluff and I got a nice influx of chips right before the break.

Then I got moved to another table. I start chatting with the dealer and I tell him that he’s my fave dealer (can’t hurt right?). But then he gets tapped out and leaves. The next dealer gives me a full boat, and I knock out another person. I tell the new guy that he’s my favorite dealer, and this gets a big chuckle from the table. At this table there are three older guys, three young ones and I forget who else. The old guy to my left tells me that I remind him of his ex-wife and she’s dead. I tell him I’m sorry, and he says don’t be. He said “I have two ex-wives and they’re both dead. The first one died of mushroom poisoning and the second one died of a hit to the head…..because she wouldn’t eat the mushrooms! Do you like mushrooms?”

He’s sitting directly on my left and has made it his business to try to steal my pots and over-bet. I wait and wait till I have something good, like Big Slick. I hit the Ace on the flop and hurt him badly. He’s pissed. He tells me “You’re like a snake. Snakes lick and then they bite. I know you bite but do you lick?” I said Buddy, if you want to find out, you’re gonna have to buy me dinner first. Laughter at the table and the mood lightens. I’m easily the chip leader at my table but I don’t know where I stand in relation to the rest of the tourney. They update the average stack about every half hour, but it’s hard to see the main whiteboard up front from my seat.

There is another dealer change and the new guy seems pretty nice. I win a quick little pot and I say “You’re my favorite dealer!” All the guys start laughing and say “She says that to all the dealers, don’t believe her”. I then told the guy he could be my real favorite if he gives me Ace-Ace. Then the old guy to the left pipes up and says “She licks, you know. Maybe she’ll lick you!” The poor dealer turned red, and I asked him if the old coot is allowed to talk to me like that. Old coot said “I wasn’t talking to you I was talking to the dealer”.


I tighten up and wait. No matter what I play he’s raising and I know half the time he has shit, but I’m just waiting for the one time when I have something great so I can snap him off.

And then I got my chance.

I flopped a straight and he flops top pair. I make a bet, he raised, and I go all-in. He insta-calls and I happily show him my straight. The turn comes and it matches the board. He’s got two pair, but thank God there was no full house made on the river. He’s out like a busted streetlight. Then he starts with the f-bombs and tells me how lucky I am and how lucky I’ve been for the whole tourney. I told him that most of my luck came from sitting next to somebody who would call an all-in with just a measly pair.

Fast forward to the final table--eight places are in the money and there are ten of us left. We decided to take a little money off of first and second place so that everyone’s a winner.

Before long, the short stacks do the suicidal jump, and we’re down to the final five. I had more than double the chip stack of everyone else and they wanna chop the prize money.

NO way, not now that we’re down to four. It was three men and I, and all three men are named Brian. For real. How wacky is that? There’s a nice Brian, mean Brian, and a forgettable Brian. And they all wanna chop!! I tell them to talk to me when our stacks are even. Mean Brian says that he can have me out of the tourney in five hands, and having more than double the chips doesn’t matter. To a certain extent I agree, but I’ve been playing well, the poker gods are with me, so no thanks. Besides, I like my chances heads-up.

First place is $1,800 and I really wanna buy a sectional sofa…which I can do with $1,800. I tell this to the Brians and they say "Split and you can still buy a sofa" (I never bought the sofa, at least not YET). To mean Brian, I say Get close to my chip stack and we’ll talk. Nice Brian is just happy to be there, playing nice, tight and predictably.

Nice Brian goes all in pre-flop and I’m looking down at J-J. I gotta take a chance so I call. He has Ace-Ten and doesn’t connect. He’s out, so it’s down to me and the meanie, and the meanie is one of the young hat-and-sunglasses types, so I really want to bust him.

Second place is $1,000 and if we split it’s still $1,400, but I’m not interested in giving this guy $400. We kept playing, and I started going all-in more often than I should, and steal steal steal. Then I got pocket Kings and do the same thing--All-in, baby!

He decides that this is the hand and calls me with a K-J and it’s over--he never improved and I won the whole thing--Mean Brian is out and I am the champ!

The tourney itself took about ten hours to play, and there was another interesting thing going on. For about three of those hours I was sitting next to this other guy who was like the Mayor or something. Literally seven different men came over, said hello and massaged this guy’s shoulders – every one of them! After his third massage I said Dude, all these guys come over and massage your shoulders, what’s your secret? It happened again and again and we’d laugh about it every time. He was a nice older guy whose wife was playing at another table. Anyway, after he got knocked out of the tourney he stayed to watch, was really nice and supportive and actually came and massaged my shoulders every half hour! Sooo nice. Not a creepy massage – just being a nice guy. He’s a definite regular and we became friends that day. When it was over he gave me a hug and said he was impressed with my play. That made my big win even better.

I haven’t been back there since then, but as soon as I finally buy my new sectional, I’ll be up there looking to score some throw pillows or a nice rug to tie the whole room together…


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Staycation Time

Hey gang, just wanted to give y'all a heads-up that I'm gonna take the rest of the week off from the keyboard. Nobody's working the next couple of days anyways, and you all should be spending time with the family and doing more important things than reading my silly scribbles.

Check back on Monday morning. In the meantime, have a wonderful Christmas and enjoy the weekend!


Monday, December 21, 2009

Lions and Rhinos and Crocs, Oh My!

Man, I haven't done a book report in years, but I just finished reading one that was so damn enjoyable that it would seem awfully selfish of me not to share it with you folks.

One of my favorite readers and friend of this site, Josie, hit up my Wish List a couple of weeks ago and sent me a copy of Death in the Long Grass by Peter Hathaway Capstick. Now, I've never been a hunter by any stretch of the imagination--besides random roadkill, the only things I've ever dispatched to the hereafter were water bottles, grapefruit, and an ill-advised potshot at an I-thought-it-was-empty propane tank. Hunting was something that other people did. It never appealed to me, and the thought of an African Safari has never been on my radar, no matter how much money I would ever somehow stumble into.

But first, let's hop into the wayback machine for a bit. One of my best friends from the ASU days, Flint, used to always be up for a weekend camping trip or a trek out to the desert to make grapefruit explode at a hundred yards, courtesy of a .270 Winchester. Granted, there were cheaper ways to shoot, and we always had plenty of surplus Russian 7.62 x 39 on hand to run through our AKs and SKSs. And as challenging as it was putting a smiley face on a grapefruit at 50 yards with a scoped .22, nothing was more fun than watching one explode into a fine pink mist with a single well-placed shot.

Not only did Flint have a pickup truck and a couple of nice rifles, his parents lived in the middle of a huge grapefruit orchard way the hell out in the middle of nowhere, about 15 miles from civilization at the far southeastern corner of the Phoenix Valley. I believe my friend Julia once remarked, as we were heading to his house one day, Shouldn't the letters BFE be painted on the side a mountain somewhere around here? So not only was it a great place to go shooting--no neighbors to disturb--but there was an endless supply of free exploding targets to be had.

Anyhow, back in the early-to-mid 90's, one of our regular weekend activities was to load up the truck with about 3,000 rounds of ammo, six or seven rifles, three or four handguns, a bag of grapefruit, and as many 2-liter bottles full of water that we could carry, then head out to the desert and go all Red Dawn for the afternoon. My buddy Mike, an avid shooter and gun collector (and Julia's husband), and Reverend Dave, who has an unexplainable affection for square, plastic guns, would also join in the festivities.

One fine autumn Saturday, I had the three of them over at my house, and they'd all brought three or four firearms each. We spent the morning having a cleaning party for our guns, and the plan was to go out to 'the pit' and blow through several thousand rounds of ammunition. The Pit was a huge bulldozed area out in the middle of the desert towards Apache Junction that served as an unofficial gun range to all the local rednecks. It was a couple of acres of war-torn junkyard covered in shot-up appliances and road signs, old furniture, brass casings, spent shotgun shells, and thousands upon thousands of scorpions, the only wildlife hearty enough to live there. Even the snakes were like F*ck this--I'm outta here!

Anyhow, once all the guns were cleaned and all the equipment was gathered, we started moving everything out to the vehicles parked in the driveway. Being such a nice day, my neighbors were outside doing chores--the husband working on the car with the hood up, and the wife tending to the flowerbeds in front of the porch. I didn't know them at all, but they watched with a curious eye as we loaded up several boxes of ammunition and about a dozen rifles into the back of the truck. We were all wearing side-arms at the time (open carry being legal in Arizona), and before we got in the truck and drove away, everyone racked the slide on their handguns, checking the chamber. To the uninformed movie-watcher, it looked an awful lot like we were all getting ready to shoot something, or someone.

Just out of habit, I asked out loud--We got everything? and without missing a beat, Reverend Dave said Make sure you all have your ski masks! The three of us cracked up laughing, but the neighbors dropped everything and quickly made their way indoors...

We still laugh about that, even now.

Anyhow, Flint up and got himself married to a gal that hates camping, hates the outdoors, and didn't much care for his friends, either. So we lost touch. But one time when he was still single, we were sitting around the campfire under the stars telling stories, and he told me of a great book that he'd read--Death in the Long Grass. He was an avid hunter, and sharing a few anecdotes around the safety of the campfire made it sound pretty cool, so I filed it away into my memory banks.

Fast forward fifteen years or so, and there I was stumbling around on and that title jumped off the screen at me. I fondly remembered that night at the campsite as I read the description, so I put it on my Wish List. Not being a hunter or a having a huge interest in Africa, I doubted I'd ever buy it for myself, but just in case I changed my mind and needed some adventure, I went ahead and added it to my ever-growing list. Just a few days after that, Josie went Christmas shopping, and the rest, they say, is history.

So the other day, when I finished the previous book I was reading (By the Dawn's Early Light, the ninth and final volume of the Prelude to Glory series), I was ready to pick up another book and dive right in. It was a cold day outside, and I needed some entertainment to go with my pot of coffee.

I read the foreword, thinking, So far, so good, now I know where he's coming from, and then started with the first chapter, Lion.

Basically, the book is a collection of stories, not memoirs or just one long narrative about life as a Great White Hunter in Africa, as I thought it would be. He devotes a chapter to all the big things in Africa that actively try to kill you, not just the things that can kill you (and the author makes it clear that there is a huge difference). He asserts that there are innumerable things in Africa that can eff you up, but only a handful that will go out of their way to do so. It's an interesting perspective, and one that I never considered.

I figured that a chapter about lions would be right there at the top, but he also talks about leopards, rhinos, elephants, snakes, crocodiles, hippos and the surprising one, the Cape Buffalo. Scary creature, the cape buffalo. I had no idea how dangerous and downright mean they can be. Hell, even lions don't fark with 'em unless they get one all by itself and they outnumber it about three or four to one. And who can forget this famous video?

But getting back to the book--it is a certified page-turner. I could not put it down. Not only does the guy tell it like it really is, but he completely blows up the current crap being spewed by the Discovery Channel and their ilk about all these wild animals being misunderstood and not wanting to harm humans. I've always thought that was a load of complete horse shiat anyways, so I found myself subconsciously nodding my head as I read. (This crap is especially evident during Shark Week. Some numb-nuts may swim with tiger or white sharks with no cage and get away with it a few times, but just ask the Grizzly Man about how living amongst wild animals turns out. Oh that's right, you can't--he got eaten. Enough said). The book is full of first- and second-hand stories of human vs. animal encounters where the humans came out on the short end. And a lot of it is written in gruesome detail, more graphic than any true-crime potboiler.

As graphic and bloody as the narrative can be, a lot of it is laugh-out-loud funny. Especially if you pretend it's being vocalized in one of those understated British colonial accents. For instance, this passage of a leopard hunt gone wrong is one of my favorite in the entire book:

John used to hunt in both Botswana and Kenya, safariing in one when the other had rains. A hunting party was on safari in, as I recall, Block 53, where one gentleman was indiscreet enough to stick a small bullet, a .243, into a big leopard with inconclusive results, the cat vanishing into a horror of thick thorn bush and grass. The professional said his prayers, loaded his shotgun, and went in after it as both the law and hunting morality demanded he do. Ten minutes later he reappeared at the edge of the bush looking like a tattered khaki bag full of corned beef. The client and the gunbearer got most of the major holes plugged and carried him back to camp, where they were able to raise Nairobi on the safari radio, ordering up a rescue plane, posthaste.

Heh. That right there is a colorful metaphor if I've ever seen one. And the book is chock-full of little nuggets of goodness like that, from hair-raising tension to downright disbelief, and everything in between, such as the time he burned down a latrine after coming junk-to-face with an angry black mamba.

The best parts of the book, to me, are the detail-laden accounts of the different hunts he led, from trying to outsmart a very clever crocodile that had killed a native washer-woman, to the time he and a companion were treed by a herd of angry buffalo, bent on trampling them both. You can almost feel the beating sun, the ever-present dust, and the eye-stinging sweat as he patiently stalks his prey, all the while knowing that his prey is stalking him.

The book was written in the 70's, but aside from the disco-style typefaces on the chapter headings, there is a timelessness about it. He takes on the all-animals-are-fluffy-and-sweet philosophy with dead-on accuracy and real world knowledge. You will come away with a different outlook, especially if your only knowledge of the Dark Continent comes from Disney or watching Animal Planet. Once finished, you'll understand the paradox that, just like fires are good for the forest, hunting is essential to conservation. Don't ask me to argue the point--I can't and I won't. But if you read the book, you'll know what I'm talking about and it'll give your mind something to gnaw on.

I have to admit, I was a little skeptical at first--I wasn't sure I'd like the book, but as soon as I got into it, I truly didn't want to stop reading. The author has a very easy-to-read style, and is a master storyteller. As soon as I finished, I immediately ordered another volume of his, Death on the Dark Continent, and added the rest of his books to my Wish List. That should tell you exactly how much I enjoyed it. It was that good, especially for a subject that I wasn't sure that I'd like. But if you're in the mood for a great armchair adventure, you can't go wrong here. Even if you've never bagged anything more dangerous than a grapefruit.


Saturday, December 19, 2009

Saturday, In the Apartment--

I think it was the 19th of December...

Yeah, not much going on around here today. I'm just killin' time until the Cowboys/Saints game comes on in an hour, and then I'll find myself firmly planted on the couch for the balance of the evening.

Last night, I went out and played some poker again, and had some wild swings. At one point, I was up a hundred bucks, and had an offer to cash out and go to Buffalo Wild Wings with some friends. I should've done it, but I was in a game with three of the biggest fish on the planet, and I didn't want to leave. Of course, you know what happened next--I took a couple of amazingly bad 2-outer beats and it crippled my stack, just a few minutes after my friends had left.

That sucked. It seemed like that's where the wheels came off and an hour later, instead of being up a hundred bucks, I was down seventy. Talk about a crappy swing in momentum. It took me almost three hours to build my stack back up, but when the game broke, I was still stuck almost thirty bucks. That pissed me off, but there's not much I can do about it. Just once I'd like to hit all of my draws like my opponents do...

Anyhow, enough kvetching about that. Overall, I still kick ass at the poker table, and my wins this year have far exceeding any losses, but once you get used to winning all the time, a few losses really sting. On the other hand, while I was sitting there in the poker room, one of my favorite gals I hadn't seen in months came strolling in, so I bailed on the game and sat and talked with her for a bit. (And her perfume rubbed off on me and I could still smell it on my pillow this morning when I woke up. Kinda like the morning after going to the strip club with your buddies, but without the glitter or the shame of an empty wallet). So I guess that was the highlight of my night.

Today started off with a whimper, but my phone was ringing bright and early. It turns out that now that I've got this new contract with unlimited mobile-to-mobile calling and unlimited calling to five other numbers, everyone back in Tennessee wants to chat every day. Especially when they're out driving (I'm lookin' at you, Possum!). Amy is especially bad about it, as I don't think she knows how to drive unless she's got an earphone plugged into her head and somebody on the line. And she lives 30 miles from civilization, out in Columbia, so whenever she's on the road to town, my phone rings.

Anyhow, the fam was getting together for a big cookie exchange, brunch, and party for Mamasan--her birfday is on Sunday. Now, it would be ungentlemanly of me to reveal her true age, so we'll just say that Pearl Harbor was still a smoldering wreck when she arrived on the scene... Speaking of Mamasan, she was kind enough to send along another batch of peanut butter balls, along with some ginger cookies. They arrived today, and when I answered the door, the mailman was standing there with a package in hand. I got a laugh when he deadpanned "Here Mikey, I think your mom sent you some Christmas goodies..."

Besides that, the brown-suited Santa Claus made another appearance. Dave P hooked a brotha up with a Coast Guard navigation book (very useful when Eddie and I go sailing this summer, since I've pretty much forgotten all the 'rules of the road' I learned back in 2001). He also sent along a WWII aviation book, which everyone knows that I dig the military history stuff, and also in the box was the board game 'Sequence'. I love that game. I don't know how many of you are familiar with it, but back when I lived in Nashville, my sister Cyndi introduced me to it, and we'd play it a lot at her house. But because everyone else had jobs at the time, early on in my time there, Mamasan and I would play it for hours on end during the day when I was doing my initial job search. And then once my employment ended and I had two months with nothing to do before I moved to Vegas, we played it pretty much every day, wearing the board out almost to the point where it was bleached white. So if you're in the market for a board game, you can't go wrong with Othello or Sequence. They're waaaay more fun than Monopoly, but then again, they're strategy-based, so it's good for the brain, which I like.

Also, a couple more people hit the PayPal tip jar this week, and I appreciate that very much. And I want to give a shout-out of thanks to a reader who wishes to remain anonymous, but I was given the gift of a free year of Amazon Prime membership, which basically means free 2-day shipping on anything I buy--no need to build up to $25 worth of eligible stuff and then waiting ten days to get it. That's quite a deal, and for that, and everything else, I am most thankful to you folks.

I escaped the house for a bit today, and went down and picked up all my work pants from the alterations shop. Just $48 later and I've got four new-to-me trendy black polyester poker pants. Yay. If any of you locals need alterations or repair done to you clothes, I can't recommend 'Alterations By George' highly enough! He's in that plaza on the corner of Sunset and Eastern, over by the airport, directly across the parking lot from the McDonald's. I've been using his services for years, and he does excellent work at a fair price.

Anyhow, once I fetched my clothes, I headed over to Albertson's to use my 'Christmas Bonus'. Every year the casino gives us a $25 gift card. It's not much, especially when I remember back in the day working at other places when the Christmas bonus was a hundred-dollar American Express gift card and a thousand dollars cash... But hey, it's something. The company I work for is bankrupt and likely to be taken over (if you believe the local news), so anything is a nice gesture.

And, every year, the Alberston's on Sunset and Green Valley Parkway gets hit the day after payday by hoards of employees from the four local casinos in the neighborhood, and the liquor section looks like it had been attacked by a hoard of locusts. All that's left on the shelves is Sambuca a few bottles of off-brand gin. But they'd restocked by the time I got there, so I picked up some Bailey's. I was gonna get some more Captain Morgan, but Bailey's had an in-store promo going, with the girls in the tight outfits pouring samples, and the bottles were five bucks off the regular price today. They also gave me a coupon for another three bucks off after I took a sample. Not bad! With the money I saved, I picked up another bottle of Peppermint Schnapps, because I'm suddenly runnin' low. I grabbed a few other things, like Vernor's Ginger Ale (Albertson's is the only place that carries it), and headed on back here to the house. Most of my afternoon since then has been spent cleaning the kitchen and doing laundry.

Although besides household chores, I took some time out for a few hours to finish off one of the books I received last week--I'll do a full-on book report later. But that's pretty much it for my weekend. I don't anticipate going out tonight. After the football games are over, I've got plenty of diversions here at the house to keep me busy.


Friday, December 18, 2009

The Friday Morning Martini Club

To paraphrase Brother Jimmy, It's five a.m. somewhere...

Yep, here it is not even 6:00 in the morning, and I'm sitting at the keyboard like a low-rent Hemingway, sipping on a martini. Ain't it great being a degenerate? Believe me, it's not my usual routine, but I went to bed around 8:30 last night, slept like a rock, and woke up feeling 100% better. I thought about putting on a pot of coffee when I got up, but when I opened the fridge, I saw a carton of eggnog staring back at me. Plus, I have all that booze in the dining room--and if you can't drink during the holidays, when can you drink? Besides, I've got nowhere to be today, so why not?

So I put the coffee on the back burner, so to speak, and busted out the martini tools. Actually, the drink I made is fairly simple. I just took eggnog, added peppermint schnapps, loaded a couple of ice cubes into the stainless steel chalice of happiness, and gave it a shake-shake-shake. Garnished with a candy cane stick, I was good to go.

It's actually quite tasty and festive, perfect for the holidays. Hell, I've even got the Sounds of the Seasons channel playing in the living room, so it seems that I'm just a couple of elves short of a full-on Christmas party. Of course, even a host with my extensive list of contacts and resources might have trouble rounding up a few elves at this hour, so we'll just keep this low-key for today. Maybe next Friday I'll expand the guest list. Oh wait--next Friday is Christmas. I'll probably just expand the drink selection instead.

I know that most people use bourbon or brandy during the holidays to spice up their eggnog. Y'all know that I prefer to use rum, myself. But peppermint schnapps is pretty damn good, too. I think I've got a bottle of creme de cocoa hiding out there somewhere, so maybe next time around I'll add some of that to the mix.

It'd probably be good to add a dash of cinnamon or nutmeg on top of the drink, but since I'm not much of a baker and have neither of those ingredients on hand, my cocktail shall remain unsprinkled for now. But even so, it still tastes damn good. And with it, I raise a toast to all of you working stiffs headed back to your cubes today, wishing that instead of doing your TPS reports, you could be living the carefree life of leisure like me.

But do not despair, my friends. The weekend is just a few short hours away!


Thursday, December 17, 2009

Like A Young Man Coming In For A Quickie

Hey Gang--I just got done watching one helluva great football game, and as much as I'd love to sit here and pound the keys tonight, I just don't have it in me.

I think I contracted some sort of bug at work the other night, and I've been down for the count for the past 36 hours or so. Nothing like the flu or anything like that, as I'm feeling pretty good right now--I'm just exhausted for no apparent reason and I'm moving at half-speed. I thought it was a head cold last night, but now I think it's just some sort of allergic reaction to somebody's funk. I dunno, I'll be fine. I just want to take a super-hot shower and sleep for about ten hours.

Anyhow, the first order of bid-ness; I upgraded the commenting software this evening, so it's a bit more functional--easier to keep the trolls at bay, plus there is the ability for you guys to add pictures and such. Well, at least I think you can do so. I haven't tested everything, but it seems to have a lot more features. So enjoy that. On the other hand, when I made the upgrade, I forgot to check if there was anything in the moderation queue. So if anyone posted a comment after around 4:00 pm Pacific time on Thursday, it has disappeared into the ether, never to come back. My apologies. (See, I told you I was out of it--I usually check that moderation queue about twenty times a day!).

On the Christmas front, I need to say thanks to a couple more people. First of all, to Stan in Portland, the Belem puzzle arrived today. I now have three huge puzzles waiting to go, so once football season is over, I've got plenty to keep me busy. I'll post updates and pics as I get them completed. Also, a couple of things from Miss Josie were delivered, too--a book that I've had my eye on for about fifteen years or so, plus she sent me a DVD that turns my TV into an aquarium. It even has an option to turn on the bubbling noise, so I may find myself occasionally sleeping out on the couch watching the fishies.

I would've liked to gone out and played some poker tonight (I need ten more hours of live play to qualify for my $75 prize money in that big free-roll I never get to play in), but I'm just not feeling the urge. I can tell that my brain is working at Forrest-Gump level tonight and I just need the rest. So as soon as I hit the 'publish' button on this post, I'm heading to bed. I'll catch up on all the email later, too (I'm about four days behind).

Y'all have a wonderful Friday!


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Soundtrack To My Life

This quiz has been making it's way around Facebook, but lacking anything interesting to say today, I thought I'd share it here..

1. What song reminds you of your first love? Sara by Bill Champlin. Candice Withers, little black dress, New Years Eve 1982-83

2. What song reminds you of a bad breakup? Collide by Howie Day. One of Sticky's favorite songs, she loaded it on my iPod a couple of years ago.

3. What song reminds you of your parents? Tijuana Taxi by Herb Albert and the Tijuana Brass reminds me of my Dad because we listened to the 8-track about a thousand times while driving all over Tennessee when I was a kid, and 500 Miles by Peter, Paul, and Mary reminds me of my Mom because she practiced it over and over again for an audition back in the 70's.

4. What song reminds you of high school? When Doves Cry by Prince. Back in '84, it was a HUGE hit, and the big scandal was that rumor was that nobody under 17 was allowed in the concert.

5. What song reminds you of college? Understanding Jane by the Icicle Works. I love me some Icicle Works, and this was a big hit in the late 80's that reminds me of trying to getting freaky with Theresa Monson under a sleeping bag while all five of my roommates were home. Also Red Red Wine by UB40, because it seemed like every time I wandered through the girls dorms, the Samoan chicks were playing it, loud.

6. What song reminds you of your current (or last) significant other? Rapture by Blondie. I don't have a significant other at the moment, but there's one gal I really like a lot and every time I see her, it seems that I hear this song.

7. What song reminds your of your best friend? Beautiful Girls by Van Halen. Drinking beer in the parking lot of the strip club with Eddie and Keith. Good times!

8. What song makes you smile every time you hear it? Paradise City by GNFNR. It's so well produced that I just can't help but get a kick out of listening to it--it makes me want to drive fast, work the speed bag, and do a shot, all at the same time.

9. What song do you listen to when you are depressed? Good Times by the Hoodoo Gurus if I want to get out of the funk. It's one of those songs that you can't help but bounce your head to and start giggling when you hear it. If I'm wallowing in it, I'll listen to I Wish It Would Rain Down by Phil Collins.

10. What song do you listen to when you are angry? You Could Be Mine by GNFNR. Nobody did anger like Axl, and this is some of his finest work.

11. What song makes you think about being in love? I Love You by Climax Blues Band. Great song, very underrated, and timeless all at once. Great for a slow dance with a significant other.

12. What song can you not help but sing along to in the car when it is on? Runaway Train by Soul Asylum. I don't know why, but I've always liked this song, and even as badly as I sing, I can still pull it off, at least in my mind.

13. What song do you sing along to, but would immediately stop if someone heard you? Build Me Up Buttercup by The Foundations. Don't be a hater, everyone has a skeleton like this in their closet.

14. What song would you have played (or did have played) at your wedding? Come Away With Me by Norah Jones. Either this one or I Got You Babe, by Sonny and Cher.

15. What song would you like to have played at your wake? Old and Wise by The Alan Parsons Project. Very sad, but a powerful farewell song. But then, a wake is supposed to be fun, so after that, I'd have them play Don't Forget Me When I'm Gone by Glass Tiger.


16. What song blows you away by how good it is? Hallelujah by Alison Crowe. Just an amazing song--lyrics by Leonard Cohen and it belongs up there in the pantheon of Greatest Songs Ever. I'd love to hear Jakob Dylan cover it, too.

17. What song amazes you that it's so popular because it's so damn sucky? Pretty much anything nowadays, but the leader in the clubhouse has got to be Magic Man by Heart, and Abracadabra by Steve Miller Band is cringe-worthy, too.

18. What song do you listen to over and over again, driving other people crazy? Pump It by the Black Eyed Peas. I can't help myself, it's a catchy tune.

19. One CD only for a road trip. Which one to you take? That's easy, The Joshua Tree by U2.

20. Favorite musician who is no longer with us? Toss up between Stevie Ray Vaughn and Dean Martin. Seriously. Stevie was my favorite guitarist, and I loved his gravelly blues voice, and Dino was probably the best vocalist to ever trod the earth.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Longest Day

...And I'm coming to the tail-end of it.

I've been up since about 10 pm last night, and I am just flat worn out. I'm about to crash like Eldrick after a full day eatin' turkey and sparring with the wife.

First of all, I worked last night. Unfortunately, a couple of the short-stacks went broke early and that has a tendency to kill the game. So once I closed my table and helped the floorman shut the room down, I headed for the exit, just a little too early for my liking. Oh well--I can't complain too much--I'm having a much better week than I was last week.

Once I left work, I headed over to WallyWorld to pick up a couple of things I'd forgotten earlier in the week--paper towels and dishwasher soap tablets. Of course, then I remembered to get a couple of gallons of oil for the deep fryer, wing sauce, and chicken wings. And since they still weren't selling Mexican Coke at Costco the last time I was there, I had to break down and get the crummy stuff in the plastic bottles (as much as I love rum, I don't drink it straight). Anyhow, my quick trip to the store to get a couple of things turned into a full-on shopping trip that cost me damn near seventy bucks.

My phone had been ringing all evening before I went to work--a friend of mine was under a deadline and needed my mad writing skillz. So he showed up at 3:30 in the morning, and we stayed up all night writing, drafting, editing, and formatting his particular project. I have to admit--even though we killed an entire cartridge of printer ink and several pots of coffee, the manuscript in question turned out pretty damn nice. (It's a double-secret probation type of project, so I'm not at liberty to discuss any further details). I'm just glad it's over. I'd been involved in a very minor capacity for some time, but yesterday I was neck-deep. Maybe now I can get back to concentrating on my own stories.

Anyhow, he rolled out around 9:00 o'clock this morning, and I tried to go to bed, but sleep wouldn't come after all that coffee. So I got on the phone and begged Mamasan to send me another batch of peanut butter balls. Not that the first batch are all gone, but damn, there are still ten days until Christmas and I'm not sure they're gonna last. It only took about a half-hour or so of arm-twisting, begging, and deal-making, but I think I might get some more. Happy Holidays to me!

Speaking of happy holidays, I have to give a few more shout-outs. Apparently, I've been a very good boy this year, as my readers have gone crazy with the Amazon wish list! Thank you all so very much! It really means a lot to me because, one, it takes my mind off the fact that I'm not back in Tennessee spending Christmas the way I'd prefer, and two, it makes me feel like all that scribbling I do on this website is appreciated. So for that, I thank you all.

But more specifically, I want to thank T-Rev for the book and the DVDs. He managed to score a direct hit with almost all my interests--poker, WWII, and irreverent comedy. And I've also got to say thanks to Chris the Habanaman. Not only did he send along a great board game (Othello--it's so addictive), but he added some finery to my new coffee table with a large-format book with lots of pictures of tall ships. Love it! I also want to thank Mandy in Arizona for the book about working on the cruise ships. Several people have asked me why I don't go that route and deal on the love boat until the economy in Vegas turns around. The truth is, I don't have a really good answer to that question, but I think this new book might give me some more insight. I also want to give a shout out to the person who sent along the earbuds. They came anonymously, so I don't have a name to recognize here on the blog, but whoever you are, thank you very much. The more time I spend at the poker table, the more times I take my iPod on and off and I've ordered replacement earbuds twice already. Now I've got a year's supply.

So yeah, I'm feeling very fortunate and grateful this week--thank you all again! I'll try and keep the stories coming.

Once I finished begging for peanut butter balls and opening the packages left on my front porch, I had some errands to run. I took a big laundry bag full of clothes to the alterations guy. I had four pairs of those trendy black work pants in need of repair, and a few other things that needed to be taken in. Not that I'm doing anything proactively, but I've gone down a size in the past couple of months and some of my clothes just won't stay on. I even had to bust out the power drill the other day and add new holes to a couple of belts that were just too loose, so I got that goin' for me, which is nice.

After I finished my business at the alterations shop, I headed over to Costco. While doing my surfing this morning, I saw that the local warehouse just started selling the Mexican Coke again yesterday, and I wanted to pick up a case. I also wanted to see if I could get some peanut oil. I bought regular vegetable oil at WallyWorld several hours before, but I'd prefer to use peanut oil in the deep fryer. So off to Costco I went.

First thing--yep, Coke is back on the shelves, so I happily put a case of Mexican Red in my cart. As far as the peanut oil goes, they only sold it in 35-lb. 'Jerry cans'. No thanks. But while I was there, I couldn't help myself--I had to stop by the wireless booth and look at the phones. Just this morning while out driving around, I was talking to Dougie, and my dependable old blue KRZR literally fell apart in my hand. It had a long and dutiful life, but I've just beat the hell out of that thing over the past two years and it was getting close to the time where I have to take it to the cell phone hospice.

For a long time, I thought of upgrading to an Droid and changing to Verizon, but honestly, I've had very good luck with AT&T. They are soooo much better than Sprint, who I vowed would never get a dime of my business ever again. I thought about getting an iPhone, but that whole iTunes restriction on ringtones was a huge stumbling block. Also, I don't feel like I need to have internet access on my phone right now, either, but may want to in the future, and if I got a Droid or an iPhone, I'd be forced to have internet service, padding my bill to an unacceptably high level.

So I've been looking at the LG Xenon every time I went in there, and decided that it was the phone for me. Unfortunately, it was never on sale. All the rest of the ugly phones were always free with a new contract, but never the cool-looking Xenon. So I waited. Finally, the time was right and they offered a huge instant rebate on the thing so I finally decided to do some business (I got it for less than thirty bucks!).

However, since I was no longer on a contract with AT&T and was grandfathered on one of the old Cingular plans that hasn't existed in years, I wasn't able to keep my old phone number--in order to upgrade, I had to change it. Apparently, all those old Cingular numbers have to go extinct at some point.

No biggie. I'd asked about that at other outlets, and they all told me the same thing. So I was prepared. But since I was able to choose my new number, I managed to get a very easy-to-remember one, or as a few people have pointed out already, It sounds like it should be a 900- sex line! Heh.

Maybe it is, depending on who's calling. Know what I'm sayin'?

Once that little chore was done, I hit the bank, made a deposit, dropped off some mail, and came on home. I grabbed a quick bite to eat and started digesting the instruction manual for the new phone, but I'm just too damn tired now. It's been a very long day, and I have to work tonight. So I'm off to bed.

Catch y'all later!


Monday, December 14, 2009

Perhaps I Spoke Too Soon

Well, here I was complaining about how slow it was at work and how poor I was gonna be, and it seems that things have turned around pretty quickly. Suddenly, I'm very busy. Late on Friday night, closer to Saturday morning, I got called into work.

That was nice.

And then on Saturday night/Sunday morning, my phone rang again, asking if I could get down there to the poker room within the hour. Of course I was all over that! But as soon as I got out of the shower and got dressed, the phone rang again, telling me to go into a holding pattern. One game broke and another one was short-handed. No problem there. While I would like to go in and pick up a couple of hours, it wouldn't do much good if a bunch of games broke up. Turns out, they didn't need me after all, but it was a good sign--if we were that busy on the weekend, I figured we'd get a little carry-over to Sunday night. That's usually our slowest night.

So I worked last night, and was happy that we had a good game that held together for most of the night, so I made some decent money again. In fact, I was so pumped up about working a real shift again that I drove off and left a hundred bucks worth of my tips sitting in a rack on the counter in the poker room. Completely forgot about it!

I didn't realize it until I got home and did my usual post-shift accounting and thought Hey, I made good money last night... (pause) Doh!

So I called back down there and the floorman said he'd cash the chips for me and have it waiting in an envelope with the cashier. Whew... Disaster avoided. I would've hated to work all night for a hundred bucks less than I actually made.

As far as that other epic post I was talking about--well, it's on the shelf for awhile. I worked on it for a few hours on Sunday, but then it just wouldn't flow, so I bagged it, temporarily. I'll revisit it this weekend, but right now, I'm just not feelin' it. I thought it would be easy, especially on the heels of the Great Alaskan Road Trip, but I was mistaken. Besides, I've got plenty to keep me busy this week, as I'm working the next three nights and on-call all weekend. It'll get done, just not as soon as everyone is hoping.

That's all for now.


PS--A shout out to Jamie in PA for the book and the CD. Thanks again!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A Gift To My Readers

Now, I'm not promising anything, but there may be another epic post under the tree on Monday. Maybe Tuesday. I'm working on it here at 2:30 in the morning on Sunday, and if it comes together, well, I'll post it. If it doesn't, I'll just file it away for another time.

Oh, and if I *do* post it, Tara and Josie aren't allowed to read it.


Ok, several hours later, and I can see that it' ain't gonna get done anytime soon. I've got lots of football to watch today, and I'm working the next four nights. It's coming, just not right away.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

I Should Be Sleeping

But I'm not. I went to bed fairly early last night, knowing that I wasn't going out anyways, and a got a few good hours of sleep. But then--Holy Christmas miracle, Batman--at 1:30 this morning, my phone was ringing. Yep--the poker room was sending out the Mikey signal. They had too many games still going all night and not enough dealers, so I got the call.

That sure helped a lot--this has been by far the leanest week of 2009, so I was happy to pick up a few hours. And the games were decent, too, so I made a few bucks while I was there. Just a big win all around, if you ask me.

I got cut loose early this morning, and stopped over at Wally World to pick up a few groceries on the way home. Oh, I needed the usual, like milk, coffee creamer, and bacon, but what I was really after was eggnog. Yesterday I got the one package I was waiting for the most--Mamasan's homemade peanut butter balls. They arrived around noon, and of course I ate two of them right away. But it feels more like Christmas if I've got a few candles burning, the holiday music playing, and I'm sipping on a cup of eggnog. So that's the main thing I went to the store for.

As soon as the groceries were put away, that's what I did--turned on the 'Sounds of the Seasons' channel through the home theatre system, lit an evergreen-scented candle, and poured a glass of eggnog. Since it was still so early, I skipped the rum this time. But I'll have some more later today. While I was doing that, I gave Mamasan a call to let her know that the package had arrived and that I was enjoying it. There were also a few gifts wrapped up in the box too, but I was going to be a good little boy and wait until Christmas to open them. But she told me to open one specific package while I was sitting there talking to her on the phone this morning. So I did--it was a really cool throw blanket--it was tan microfiber on one side, which matches the pillows on my couch, and on the other side, it was that curly wool stuff, kinda like a horse-blanket. Very warm. I'm using it right now as I sit and type this. Yep, it's still pretty cold here in Hendertucky.

Mamasan's Christmas package wasn't all that arrived yesterday. About twenty minutes after the mailman dropped off my goodies from Tennessee, there was another knock at the door. Yep, it was the UPS man again. I wasn't expecting anything yesterday, so it was a complete surprise. Reader Jay from Ohio sent along a monster-sized 3000-piece jigsaw puzzle. It's a huge picture of a beach scene in the Seychelles, and I'm pretty sure that once it's finished, it'll be the exact same size as my dining room table. It's gonna take awhile to do it, but once it's done, I'll have it glued and I'll probably mount it on the wall above my booze cabinet.

Very cool--thanks again, Jay! And while I'm thankin' people, I have to give a shout out to the peeps who hit the tip jar this week. My screed about thinkin' that I'd lost my job wasn't intended to be a cup-rattler, but even so, I thank you folks. There are lots of other people out there having a lot rougher time of it than I am, so I'm using a little of that money to buy a couple of things for the local toys-for-tots collection bin now that all my Christmas shopping is done and the bills are paid.

Anyhow, you wanna know what a huge forgetful dork I am? While I was at the store this morning, I completely spaced picking up the frozen chicken wings and the bottle of Frank's hot sauce. Seriously--I thought about it while I was at work, sitting there dealing hand after hand at the poker table, looking forward to making some wings tonight. But then when I got to the grocery store, I completely forgot all about it. I think it's because the deep fryer is still in the box, sitting on the floor next to the coffee table. I'll unpack it today and get it hooked up and in it's permanent place on the counter. Then I won't forget about all the wing-making accessories next time I go shopping.

It's still seems to be freezing cold out here, but the weatherman says it's gonna warm up a few degrees this week. Even so, my thin blood can't wait. Right now, I want to make a bowl of cheese grits, a pot of hot coffee, and a batch of biscuits, just to be able to warm myself up--and the house at the same time. After that, I'm gonna curl up on the couch under my new wool blanket and spend the day reading a good book, with Christmas music playing in the background, sipping on spiked hot cocoa and nibbling on the occasional peanut butter ball.

That's what Saturdays in December were made for.


Friday, December 11, 2009

Dodging A Bullet


Sometimes being a pretty poor prognosticator is a good thing. Yesterday, I would've bet a thousand bucks, (which I absolutely don't have), that I was getting laid off, my career as a poker dealer coming to a screeching halt. I was certain that the bean counters were getting out the paring knife.

Turns out, I was dead wrong. Woot! All that stress for nothing. In my mind, I was seeing the glass as half-empty and not too tasty anyways. I went to work yesterday, certain that it was pink-slip time since it's been so slow these past few weeks. But no, I couldn't have been more wrong in my assessment--all is well.

Back in the day at Schwab, I figured I was much too valuable to the company, so getting laid off back in the recession of 2001 was a complete and total shock. But now, I know that I've got the sword of Damacles dangling over my head by a single horse-hair. Poker dealers are a dime a dozen in this town right now, and if the budget only calls for eleven of us, I'm sure to be the first casualty.

But even though the bad economy has crippled what is already a normally slow time of year for us, I'm in no imminent danger. In fact, as far as the bottom line is concerned, my poker room is doing really well. People are still playing--they're just going to bed earlier, I guess. And being on the bottom of the extra-board, I just get the table scraps as far as shifts go, and when times are this lean, there ain't many scraps to go around. I'll be ok, just poor for awhile. Poor, I can handle--unemployed, not so much...

The general consensus among my co-workers seems to be that business will pick up again on Christmas Day (it's a Friday, so starting that night, the weekend will be strong for us), and that week between Christmas and New Years is usually a good one. And in January, the new promotions kick in, so that'll bring back more business, too. I'm just trying to hang on for the next couple of weeks. Right now, I feel like I'm just dead broke. But I should be thankful--when I work, I usually do pretty well. I've got friends who work downtown and down on the Strip that are complaining about making less than fifteen bucks an hour in tips nowadays. Yikes!

Thankfully, I was smart about that jackpot win and put enough away to live on this month--the bills are paid, but my gift-giving budget is pretty much non-existent this Christmas season. Even so, I was able to do a few things for a few people, but that's about it. I've got a full tank of gas and a pantry and fridge full of groceries, so even if the phone doesn't ring for a couple of weeks, I can hole up here at the Batch Pad and watch football, read books, and work on jigsaw puzzles. But not much else--I won't be having a social life for awhile. I suppose I could do some writing, too...

I just *really* wish this economy would turn around.

Speaking of Christmas, the brown-suited Santa Claus has paid me a couple of visits this week, bringing a little bit of holiday cheer. Besides a couple of boxes from the family back in the CSA, reader and frequent commenter Mr. TC sent along a very cool hiking stick. I've wanted one for almost five years now, and I've really been getting the itch to get out and explore lately--Especially after reading about Falcon Rob's adventures and seeing the pictures he's taken. I've been slowly gathering the gear needed to be smart about it and enjoy it (new daypack, hiking shoes, etc.), and as soon as the weather warms up to above a daily average temperature of 40 degrees, I'm gonna get out and about. Besides, the exercise will do me good.

Also, Lisa Lisa the one I adore back in Massachusetts read my chicken-wing post last week and didn't want me to have to wait until my next windfall to get a deep fryer, so she sent me a new one! How do ya like that--pretty cool, huh? While I appreciate it, deep down, we all know it's just a ploy to keep me writing about my adventures, whether they be on the trail or in the kitchen. Heh. But seriously, both were a nice surprise and I'm very thankful.

Today, my agenda is to hit the grocery store for a few items (chicken wings, peanut oil?), get some stamps, write a few Christmas cards, and get to re-organizing my dining room. The other night, while looking for pictures to use in that epic road trip post, I emptied every single one of the Rubbermaid totes I had out in the storage closet. And now my dining room looks like a promo shot for a 'Hoarders' commercial with all the crap stacked everywhere. I've got to get it picked up and put away.

In the meantime, y'all have a wonderful Friday and a great weekend. If I think of anything else interesting to write about, well, it'll be here. It's not like I've got anything else to do...


Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Lemme Tell Ya How COLD It Is In Vegas!

If 2009 was one of the hottest years on record, they must've been reading a thermometer that was stuck between Al Gore's chafing thighs for most of the year. It seemed like a normal summer--not blazing hot--and even though it's not officially winter yet, it's been downright cold here in southern Nevada.

Oh, it's sunny outside, but that's just an illusion. It ain't warm. And the last couple of days have been cold, windy, and rainy. And remember--I turned on my heater last week for the first time in five years.

Anyhow, I got out of work early last night, but I was dyin' of thirst. Normally, when I finish my shift, I'll have a beer and sit around for a bit chatting with the floorman, a player or two, and the cocktail waitress. But once the game broke last night, everyone scattered. After I clocked out, there was no waitress in the vicinity to bring me a beer, and nobody to sit with anyways, so I hit the road.

It was below freezing when I left work, and even though I was thirsty, I didn't want to go to a convenience store where I'd have to brave the cold and get out of my truck. Oh, I had grape juice and green tea here at the Batch Pad, and plenty of booze, but I just wanted a fountain Coke. So I drove over to Del Taco because the drive-thru is open 24 hours. I ordered my Coke, and a Big Fat Steak Taco to go with it (so good!).

Anyhow, I set the Macho Coke in the drink holder in my center console and the bag with my taco went on the seat next to me. On the drive home, I had to take a sharp left-hand turn, and I did it a little faster than usual to beat a red light. Just my luck, my huge Coke flew out of the drink holder and hit the floor on the passenger's side. The lid came off and the entire drink flooded the carpet.

Yep, I was a little pissed about that, but there was nothing I could do. I got home a couple of minutes later and sopped up what I could with an old hand-towel I had behind my seat, but it wasn't nearly big enough to clean up the whole mess. I came in the house, resigned to the fact that I'd have to take my truck in and get the carpets shampooed sometime next week.

Anyhow, I washed down my taco with a bottle of green tea (feh...) and then just puttered around the house for awhile like I normally do each morning when I get out of work. After sleeping for a few hours, I got up and did my thing for awhile, and remembered that I had to go to the bank and make a deposit.

It was about noon when I left the house, and when I went back out to my truck, there were still several ice cubes sitting on the floor of the passenger's side! They hadn't melted. And remember--it was those fast-food ice cubes, the ones that are barely frozen when you get your drink. Well, they were all still completely intact. And I hadn't parked in the covered spot, either. My truck was sitting out in the direct sunlight all morning.

That's how cold it is in Vegas today.