Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Making Progress

Here it is, Wednesday morning at 2:00 am, and I'm wide awake. I should be working right now, but I'm home pounding the keys instead.

Tuesday was a completely lost day for me--I mean, you could totally take it off the calendar as far as I'm concerned. When the day comes that I walk towards the light and they replay the movie of my life, yesterday is only going to be a test pattern on the cosmic big-screen.

It all started on Monday night--I went in to work and there were still a couple of strong games going at midnight, which is always nice. Eventually, around 3:30 or so, the second game broke, leaving only a really good 1-2 no-limit game. The other dealer went home, and I ended up being locked down all night. It was a great one, too. Had a bunch of fun regulars in the game--I knew all of them but one token tourist--and they played for several hours.

By the time I got done at 7:00, I was wiped out. I'd been up for about 19 hours straight, and I was ready to go home and hit the bed. After clocking out, however, I sat down to visit with the old guys that come in for the morning game that I used to deal to every day when I first started working in the poker room--I rarely see them anymore, but they're a fun group of guys to sit and have a cup of coffee with and shoot the shiat with while they wait for a new game to get started. So I ordered up a tall coffee with Bailey's & Kahlua from the waitress and parked myself for a bit.

A few minutes later, I saw a gal standing by the entrance to the poker room waving at me. I motioned for her to come in. She looked really familiar to me, and kinda cute, but I just couldn't place her. She walked in, gave me a hug and said Hey Mikey--so good to see you again!

You too! was all I could muster, completely at a loss as to what her name was or where I'd met her.

She sat down next to me, ordered a cup of 'whatever he's having' from the waitress, and proceeded to give me a rundown on everything she's been up to for the past few months. I swear, right then, I could've gotten the Oscar for Best Performance By A Dude Who Has No Clue. Seriously, I had no idea who she was.

My buddy James was standing there at the desk watching, mouthing "Who is that?" to me, but all I could do was shrug. It was a rather comical situation. but I managed to pull it off without making an ass out of myself.

Enough of the morning crew started wandering in to start a new game, so I got up from the table. My new friend asked me what I was going to do next. Tired, confused, and unshaven, I must've really been out of it, and said the first thing that came out of my mouth. I think I'm gonna just go home and go to bed.

Oooh--I'm up for that...

Wait. What?

Did she just say what I thought she said?

Normally, when that happens, the only thing I hear in my head is the crowd going wild and the announcer from National Hockey Night on ESPN yelling HE SHOOTS--HE SCORES!!!! but for some reason all I got was the car alarm noise and flashing red lights.

During the pause while I was thinking this, she realized that she may have overplayed her hand a bit and went for the retraction. Oh, I meant to say that we should play some video poker or something and finish our coffee..

Ok, cool.

In the meantime, I was still wracking my brain trying to figure out who she was or where I'd met her. Some random hookup after a night of binge drinking? Someone I met at a party or at a bar? A friend of a friend? I still had no idea...

We found a five-cent triple play machine and sat down to play. I was willing to spend whatever 'breakage' I had in my wallet beyond the big bills--that was nine bucks; a fiver and four singles. I put the Lincoln in the machine and we started playing for minimal credits. On one hand, I was thinking, Oh yeah, gonna get some Afternoon Delight by 9:00 am, but on the other hand, I was still wondering Who the hell is this chick?

As we played, she did all the talking. I wanted to listen for clues and maybe figure out who she was or at least where I knew her from. I'm glad I kept it one-sided, because I started to figure out that she was a serious degenerate gambler and a complete freak. Yep, the more she talked, the less interested I became.

Finally, after about twenty minutes or so, it hit me--She was the kookie convenience store clerk at the Speedy Mart up on Horizon Ridge, about a block from my old house.

Mystery solved. She always worked the graveyard shift and sometimes I'd stop in for an energy drink on my way to work, or maybe a bottle of juice or something after work. Whenever I'd go in there, she'd always be flirting with me. I never thought much of it, and when I moved away to the current Batch Pad, well, I had no reason to ever go to that particular convenience store ever again. So I hadn't seen or talked to her in about seven or eight months, thus forgetting all about my occasional random encounters with her. But she remembered me.

Anyhow, once that realization set in, and then listening to her current life drama, I spent my time crafting my escape. After coming up with some wildly creative excuses, I just figured I'd be honest, and told her that I was going home after we blew through that five bucks.

You want some company?

Nah--I'm exhausted and need a shower and a good six hours of sleep. I wouldn't be much fun anyways.

At that point, she lost all interest, but I could tell that she was just looking for somebody to finance her gambling addiction. (When I first put my players card in the machine and she saw all the points I had on account, she desperately wanted me to convert them into slot-play credits, and like a dog with a bone, she just wouldn't let it go). I chalked it up as another typical life-in-Vegas encounter--just another person wanting to get their hands on some money to gamble with. I see it all the time, and thankfully my well-developed 'scammer radar' was working. Even though she was mildly attractive, she was just too farked up between the ears. And I don't care how freaky, kookie, or downright awesome the nookie would be, she's definitely not a chick I want knowing where I live...

Anyhow, once I dodge that bullet, I made my way home. I was soooo tired, but my phone started ringing. Yeah, I forgot to turn it off.

One of the calls was from my sister Amy, and she was asking me all kinds of questions about her collection of old 401k's from jobs past, where to put her money now, and stuff like that. I told her that while I could guide her, it'd be better to let her talk to an expert and I'd make a few calls for her.

I sent a text message to my old roommate Tammie, who's a VP of business development or some other such lofty title back at Schwab, telling her to call me when she gets a chance. She was in a meeting at the time and said she'd call me back in two hours.

Damn. Still not gonna get any sleep...

I managed to doze for a bit and missed her first call, but it was enough to wake me up and call her back. I gave her all the particulars and she said she'd have one of her people take care of it and get Amy all hooked up. Then she hit me with the bomb.

Hey, if you want to come back here to Phoenix, we could use you again.

What? Really?


Wow, that gave me pause. I really loved working there at Schwab and all of my closest friends are still there (and a bunch of them are running the show now, too). But if I went back, I'd go right back to the beginning and have to start all over again as a rookie broker--I lost all of my NASD registrations and licenses a few years ago, and I'd have to take the Series 7 test again, too, something I *really* don't want to do. And I'd have to start out at like $35K a year, also. (That's not such a big stumbling block--when I first worked there over a decade ago, my salary went up 17K in less than three years--and I've lived on a lot less). But there are bonuses, and benefits, and all that 'real job' stuff to consider.

On the other hand, I've got a pretty good gig going on here in Vegas. I love living here, and while the job situation isn't ideal, it's pretty far from sucky. And once the economy finally turns around, I'll be back to making damn good money again, where right now it's just 'decent'. Still, it's nice to have options and it's something to think about, although I'd rather just stay here in Vegas and ride the wave I'm currently on. Besides, if I went back to Phoenix and started back up again with Schwab, it'd be like stepping into a time machine back to 1997, almost as if the past 13 years never happened...

It's almost too much to wrap my brain around.

Anyhow... we'll revisit this again some other time. I've convinced myself that I'm better off here for now.

Eventually, I got a couple of hours of sleep, but I woke up again around four in the afternoon, remembering that I had to go to the bank to deposit the latest collection of hundies. The electric bill and truck payment are due this week (fifteen more payments and I own that thing outright!). So I put on some clothes and ran that errand. I was hungry, so I hit the Micky D's drive-thru on the way back home and much too late I realized that whatever animal they make the McRib out of, it's extinct again. By then I was already trapped in the traffic maze with cars behind me, so I confused the hell out of the kids in the drive-thru window when I refused to order anything. Seriously, I hate McD's, except for the occasional guilty pleasure of a McRib, and once that goes away, I see no point in ever going there. So, like an idiot, I sat there trapped in the drive-thru line wasting a few minutes of my life...

Still feeling that ache behind my eyes that says "You're exhausted, get some sleep", I came home and went back to bed. Around 11:20 or so, my phone was going off--it was work, telling me that if I wanted to come in at midnight instead of 1:00 am, I could. I said that I needed to shower and shave, but I could be there by 12:30. No problem, I was told, come on in anytime. About fifteen minutes later, the phone rang again.

The last game just broke--don't even bother coming in.

That sucked. But that's the poker biz for ya. One minute you're busy as hell and need another dealer, and a few minutes later a big stack wins a four-way pot and the game is suddenly broken. Welcome to my world.

So, instead of going to work, I got up and worked on my puzzle for a couple of hours. This is what it looked like last week when I posted my last update:

This is what it looks like right now:

All the pieces in the white box are water, and all the pieces in the cookie sheet are sky. And that's all I have left. I will admit that the hardest part so far was that big brown area on the left under the trunk of the palm tree. It was a cast-iron bitch to do that, as many of the pieces are non-descript and most of them were the same shape, so I kept putting pieces in the wrong spots, although they still fit. It took forever to figure it out and get it that far, and yet there still a big chunk of it left to do with about twenty solid brown pieces that don't offer a whole lot of clues as to how they should fit together.

On the other hand, that big white cloud reflection on the bottom of the puzzle went together in about five minutes--it was the easiest part of the whole thing. But once I finish the water, I have to work on the sky and clouds, but I can't imagine it being any more frustrating than all those brown pieces on the side.

Once I decided to stop, I figured I should get on the computer and try to post an interesting update, especially since I've been such a slacker lately. So here it is. Before I did that, however, I brewed a pot of coffee and made a batch of blueberry muffins, and that has fueled this latest creative outburst.

Y'all have a great Wednesday. I'll be back soon...


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