Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Picking it Apart

I love Thanksgiving. I don't think that's neither too unusual nor crazy. But for me, the best part isn't seeing relatives I haven't seen in a year or walking in parades - it's spending all the time with my family.

Like most families, we've scattered. Mom still lives in the old house, but I now have an old house of my own. David has his apartment, and Mike lives in Tennessee. I spend a lot of time with David - we play kickball together, we both enjoy playing poker, but for Mike, visits home are somewhat rare. I don't begrudge him this - he has his own life, plus a visit to Iraq or Afghanistan looming, but spending time together is still welcomed.

We spent our post-Thanksgiving dinner at Mom's, watching The Donald kick poor Andy out the door after he self-destructed (Andy -- don't give professionals cash as a bribe - they find it insulting. Me? I'd take it, but I'd still probably be insulted - and $100 richer). Then we found the turkey.

It happens every year - by 9:00, no matter how stuffed we were a few hours before, we're ready for the next course. So Mom prepares the backup turkey.

Now, we didn't eat at Mom's - we always spend Thanksgiving at my aunt's house, but Mom still prepares the turkey breast, knowing we'll give it a good home later. So there we stood, David, Mike and I, hovering over the bird, carving off slices and eating them. Some would say it's uncivilized. Some would call it uncouth. But I would say that we don't like washing plates, and my family has a long, proud tradition of picking at food. So while they may have their movie watching or night of bowling, we pick at a turkey breast.

The carnivorous display didn't last too long. We dug out the Trivial Pursuit and I handed out the whuppins - because who knows more about trivia than me?

In any case, these days, with war, travel hang-ups and demanding work schedules, it was a great way to spend a Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

You've Taken Your First Steps Into a Larger World

I'm sitting here relaxed and happy. Trudy is busy gnawing on her kong in the next room, and there's a nice pile of cash on the desk next to me. Yep -- daddy won a poker tournament tonight, so he's on a bit of a high right now.

A few weeks back, David let me know that his friend Jason was organizing a tournament. $25 buy-in no-limit Texas Hold-'Em. I was in, because I want the practice for Vegas. Plus, when I win big at Vegas, it'll impress Wayne Newton (I threw that one in for you, Aaron).

So now, I'm going to bore all you non-poker players with tales of how I outlasted 16 players and walked away the big winner.

Two Rules

Going in, I set two rules for myself:

  1. Play only premium hands; and
  2. There's no such thing as "pot committed".

And there but for the Grace of God I went.

The First Turning Point

I opened the game by stealing blinds. I sat at the tight table early, and no one made a bet larger than $25 - we each started with $1000 in chips. So I stared betting $50 - $75 and the other players just handed me all sorts of money. The funny part is I caught NO flops at any time. Not one.

But they started figuring out that I was playing with them, so I started having to fold. My stack started dwindling down, until I caught a pair of fives. I decided to switch gears and play it slow, so I limped into the flop - K-5-8 rainbow. I checked, hoping someone would open betting, and Dan, sitting next to me planted his foot right in the trap. He raised. I reraised. He went all-in and I followed suit. He showed KTo, and unfortunately for him, the King he caught on the River only gave me a Full House. One down.

That Flashing? That's the Tilt Sign Over My Head

Neil was short-stacked. I wanted his chips. I caught a QTo and limped in again, figuring he was more likely to call if I played it slow. The flop? AQ7 rainbow. Neil pushed in his stack and I stepped into the tank. I had second pair. Did he have the ace? Probably, but if he's clever, he went all-in figuring I would figure him on the ace. But maybe he knows this is what I'll think, and he does have the ace. So yes, I sounded like Daffy Duck just before he pulled the trigger and blew his beak to the back of his head. So I called. And then doubled Neil up when he showed the ace.

I went on a nice losing streak then, catching NO cards for awhile, so my stack looked a little anemic when I moved to the final table.

The Worm Turns

I went from a big, snarling mean dog to a yappy little mutt within about 20 minutes, and the blinds were starting to sting. Fortunately, the poker gods smiled on me and I was looking at KJh in the big blind. Play it smooth, said the little voice in my head, so I checked and hoped my head wouldn't explode when the flop came up K-J-4. Being a good student, I recently read my Brunson, so I checked, keeping two callers in the pot. The turn? A Jack. Angels sang from on high, and I hoped my hand wasn't shaking as I threw in a modest bet to start the action. Dave (not my brother, who was already out) went all-in, so I had him figured for a straight draw - he hadn't raised the pot yet. All aboard! shouted the little steamboat conductor in my head. The other caller folded, and Dave showed his QT, meaning I just doubled up (and had the satisfaction of taking out the dude who had taken out my brother a little while back).

Don't Play a Player

Thom had a slight edge on me, and there were only four players left. One more player out and I was in the money. I looked at my cards, and saw a pair of sixes staring back at me. I raised the pot and Thom called. The flop showed A75 rainbow, and Thom moved all in. I crawled back into the tank for a good think: Thom had been playing many, many bluffs all night, and he was showing signs that he wanted the game to end - meaning he was playing reckless. I knew he didn't have a pair - he tried limping into the flop (slow play wasn't in his vocabulary), and I didn't figure him on the ace, so he had to have KQ or QJ. I called, and sure enough, he showed QJ. After getting no help from the turn and river, I had a comfortable chip lead, and Thom was all but out.


Thom finally handed me all his chips, and it was down to Mike and I. I was dealt A2c in the small blind and raised, with Mike calling. The flop was A72, so I bet $1000, forcing Mike all in. He had ATo, and after he drew dead on the turn and river, I was counting my cash.

I drove David (my brother) to Dairy Queen and bought him dinner, then dropped him off so he could play in the second game. I needed to head home and get some sleep, plus Trudy was probably eager to get out.

In any case, it's nice to know the lessons I learned at the boat and in various other games and tournaments have been paying off. And it just means I'm feeling that much better about my odds on taking other degenerate gamblers' money away in a couple of weeks.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

When Faeries Cry

I stumbled from my warm bed just before dawn and slipped on the clothes I laid out five hours earlier. Trudy looked at me like I was insane. Why would anyone be up at this ungodly hour?

The answer is simple: I had to get my parade on.

Every year, I volutneer for my friend Keith, who has a balloon in the Thanksgiving Parade downtown. And every year, I go, despite the cold and general lack of organization. People always ask why I subject myself to this -- if you're cold and miserable, they ask, why not sleep in? Why not indeed? The reason I put myself through this is because every year, something just cool enough, just out-of-the-ordinary enough happens to make it worthwhile.

Enter the faeries.

We were light on volunteers this year. Instead of 20 of us huddled together for warmth like a herd of sheep, there was only 12 or so, and that's not enough to carry a baloon. Those things are mighty big. How big, you ask? Well, as I walked up to the staging area I watched one balloon float away. An organizer tried grabbing it - without wearing gloves - and he cut his hand to the bone. Heavy AND dangerous.

So anyway, short on volunteers. Next to us was a large group of renaissance fair enthusiasts - there were kings; there were pirates; there were faeries. So after some discussion, they sent the faeries over to us.

Keith now ran a group consisting of the much-coveted 30-something-semi-alcoholic-yuppies and the under-21-faeries. Interesting combination.

Our crew took to their ropes, where we discovered that there weren't enough ropes on the balloon - a big elf, and they were all on the backside. Oh, and the balloon had a slow leak. As we began walking, our elf looked kind of limp, like he'd just come back from a wild night of partying with Dasher and Blitzen.

But before that, we waited. And waited. And waited. Our balloon was at the end of the parade. So all of the balloons at the end stood in line waiting. I froze. The faeries froze and huddled together. The pirates appeared to be getting restless - one liberated a fallen cotton candy and distributed it to her fellow pirates. Finally, our part of the parade started. Well, not really.

Due to the aforementioned problems, the elf just couldn't get it together, and our professional, who set up the balloon - incorrectly I might add - took the time-honored route of blaming everyone else for his mistakes. So halfway through the parade route, he started screaming.

And that's when he made the faerie cry.

Imagine you're a teenage girl (no, it's not something I do regularly), you're dressed in a pretty light costume, it's cold, you don't really know what you're doing, and some jackass starts yelling at you. Me? I'd hand him the rope and go home (or hit him with an empty whiskey bottle), but she stuck it out and was upset. And I don't blame her. The whole thing was a joke. The lone pirate with us comforted her and calmed her down.

That's when they gave me the golf cart.

One of the parade organizers drove up and asked if I'd mind driving it alongside the balloon for the rest of the parade while he straightened things out. So I hopped in and drove the last half of the parade route. One of my fellow parade-walkers hopped on the back and shouted instructions and encouragement through her bullhorn while I drove along.

Finally, the parade ended. Our "professional" threw a temper tantrum at the end of the route. While I generally don't wish this on anyone, I hope he gets fired. There was no need for that. Some of us who had done this before went around to the faeries and thanked them, telling them they did a good job.

And I hope they come back; they seemed like nice people and they wanted to have fun - not be screamed at by some dipshit.

In any case, I returned to my car, drove home, cleaned up and enjoyed a nice Thanksgiving with the family, which I hope everyone else did as well.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

I Want to Thank You All . . .

For Nothing. Nothing. Nothing at all. Sorry -- I was feeding my iPod and listening to Wilco. Misunderstood was playing, and I realized I need to do my Thanksgiving post. So here it is, things I'm thankful for this year.

  • My brother gets to remain in country for at least a few more months.
  • My family is all safe and generally happy.
  • Vegas.
  • I have a new job, a new car and a much-improved outlook on life these days.
  • Trudy, for helping me to realize that to truly enjoy life you need nothing more than a long nap and a belly rub.
  • Did I mention Vegas?
  • My iPod (which I've renamed to "My Precious").
  • Recovering from illness.
  • That I have the greatest friends a person can ask for, and that they're all succeeding in whatever ventures they choose.
  • Vegas, anyone?

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Enjoy the holiday and spend lots o' time stuffing yourselves and spending it with friends and family.

Monday, November 22, 2004

New Hobbies, Challenges, and Vacations

After I fired my return salvo against the invaders Saturday (I poisoned the hell out of them). I sat down to enjoy another hobby that has been taking more of my time lately. I call it my retirement plan. Some others call it poker.

I've always enjoyed poker, but I wasn't very good at it. I always figured folding a hand was a sign of weakness, and by God, no one calls me weak. Except for my mother, friends, co-workers and family - but no one else. So I would stick it out to the bitter, bloody end.

There was also the sad, sad day when some slacker dude somehow tricked me into thinking he had a better hand than a full house, which I had. So I folded. That's weak.

But I stared playing more hands against friends, and I still sucked -- but I was having fun.

Then two things happened: The Mt. Willis Tournament and I discovered the Internet; well, to be more precise, Internet poker. I've always known the Internet was there. It's a great source of information. And porn. But mainly information.

I never really played Texas Hold 'Em until that tournament, but I played fairly well against people who REALLY played. I bounced out in the middle of the pack. So I started playing. And playing. And playing.

Okay, so I'm thinking a call to 1-800-BETSOFF may be in order, but I can live with my problem. Haven't missed a mortgage payment yet . . .

Then I found the poker rooms at the casino. I took an ass kicking, but I learned valuable lessons, that I applied to home games.

In a few weeks, I'm returning to Vegas. I'm excited about this trip, but I'm also curious to see how I stack up against people who play down there. I won't be in any high stakes games, but the competitive beast is awakening. And I really want to take some poor tourist's money. Forgetting, of course, that I'm a poor tourist down there.

Ultimately though, it's great to have a new hobby. Something to pass the time and learn. Challenges are always welcome and good; in the past, I tended to shy away from them, but lately, I've figured that challenges are what makes life liveable.

So, in a few short weeks, I'll be hitting the tables for a much-needed vacation. The clock is ticking and I can't wait.

Friday, November 19, 2004


I walked in from dinner, deposited my leftovers in the frigde and crawled upstairs, wet and worn out.

A change of clothes later, I felt almost human. Trudy pranced into the room, so I pounced on the floor in front of her and proceeded to rub her belly for awhile. We wrestled around the floor while the television babbled and the mouse watched on. I grabbed Trudy's nose and . . . the mouse?

No, that CAN'T be right. There's no mouse. I looked back up, just to see the little guy scamper right out of my sight. I jumped up to follow, but he was gone. No trace. No tracks. No mouse.

Maybe I hallucinated? Maybe this was my subconscious telling me I needed to listen to the little voices in my head more (even though I've spent years trying NOT to listen to them)? Maybe it was my spirit guide? No -- I covered that - hallucination. Well, I must be plumb crazy.

So this morning, I bounced downstairs into the kitchen and found that I'm not crazy.

My name is Brian, and I have mice.

By the time I returned home tonight, my imagination turned two or three rodents into millions. Mice clinging to the ceiling; climbing out of the drains; carpeting the floor. I envisioned running into the house with a shotgun, blasting holes in the floor, ceiling, walls, just to excise the cancer out of my home.

And that's the worst part. They're invaders; uninvited. My house has been violated by dirty rodents who want to eat my food and tear up my shit. I alreay have someone who does that. Her name is Trudy, and she does a fine job of it. She doesn't need help.

I considered bringing in an expert to handle the problem. He's lazy and fat, but only one mouse has ever survived contact with him . . . but he eats like a fat kid at a buffet. Tigger. Destroyer of mice. Hunter. Cuddler. The only reason he hasn't batted 1.000 is mom scared his prey off one time. Otherwise, he's perfect. But I don't need another pet. Besides, he's my mom's cat, and he whines.

So eschewing millions of years of evolution, I'm going for 10 years' experience and calling in an exterminator tomorrow. I prepared by scrubbing down my kitchen, depriving them of any food. I'm not a neat person, and cleaning doesn't come easy. But I did it with gusto tonight. And no mice ran out to take away the broom; to bite my finger or cause me to chase it around the house.

In short, my home is again my home, leaky shower and all. Tomorrow, the mice will no longer be an issue and I can return to normalcy.

Until I envision the next disaster to befall.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Wish I Could Say This is Surprising

I've read this series approximately 16 times. I pulled this here quiz thingy from Meshuggenah. Stop on by and give a big shout out to her.

Lord of the rings
J.R.R. Tolkien: Lord of the Rings. You are
entertaining and imaginative, creating whole
new worlds around yourself. Well loved, you
have a whole league of imitators, none of which
is quite as profound as you are. Stories and
songs give a spark of joy in the middle of your
eternal battle with the forces of evil.

Which literature classic are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

My Mission

Shortly after I started my job about six week ago, I noticed them, huddled around a table in a conference room. Young, good-looking, and they sit in the same position from before eight until after five, inputting documents into laptops.

This is unnerving. I can't sit longer than an hour, before I become restless and start twitching uncontrollably. If restrained, I start sweating. Then salivating. Finally, I convulse, shrieking, screeching and . . . what was I talking about? Oh yeah. These people don't talk. They just crunch numbers. Then it hit me.

They're androids. And they're slowly taking over. How do I know this? There's more of them now then there was a few weeks ago. The stacks of paper? They're growing.

How do they communicate? Through their laptops - that must be the answer. I've started watching them more closely in order to discern their nefarious plot; I haven't uncovered anything yet (other than the blonde is very cute), but I don't buy the whole lame "auditors" argument. It just doesn't fit, dang it!

If I disappear suddenly, you know why. I think they've gotten to the dog. She's been looking at me funny lately.

No, I've been getting plenty of sleep lately. In between bouts of coughing. And caffiene. Oh, and there was that stomach bug that gave me weird dreams. But I'm okay. I just lie there and dream about coffee. And soda. And tea.

Must go save earth . . .

Monday, November 15, 2004


To me, the worst part of being sick is not remembering what it was like to be well. When I catch a cold, or say, a really fun stomach virus, I crawl into a shell, cut myself off from the world and try to remember what sunny skies and a non-churning stomach feels like.

Perhaps its the self-inflicted isolation; however, even my own mother wouldn't come into the house - she just left some supplies on my porch (which I do appreciate; I was in NO shape to drive that night).

But the funniest thing is how when I'm really sick, it becomes the norm. I think wistfully about being well, only remembering that it was better than how I feel at this moment. Generally, my stomach rumbles in agreement.

Returning to work today, people gave me a healthy distance in the halls. Plague. Infected. Unclean. Avoid contact. All that was missing was a biohazard sticker over my cubicle.

But even though I'm feeling better, part of me still clings to illness. As I picked at my lunch, I carefully monitored my stomach, wondering if it would turn against me again. It didn't. The sickness lingers.

In a few days, I will have forgotten all of this. I'll eat chicken for dinner and not worry about Immodium, Tylenol and NyQuil. But until then, it's soup, crackers and Gatorade for me.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Music Matters

So I've become cool and picked up one of those iPod thingys. Yep. Now I'm hip. I could feel my hipness just flow forth from me the minute I began playing it.

And I'd share my "Guilty Pleasures" list with you, but frankly, I'm not up for the relentless teasing. However, if you can guess three songs on it, I'll share the whole list with you. But I'm not giving any clues. Because once you saw the list, I'd be shunned from human society forever.

But that started me thinking. As I organized my music collection into something more cohesive, I know I have several albums that few others have. Everyone does. Here's some of mine:

The Complete Works of Goober and the Peas - WAY back in college, I went to see this band called Uncle Tupelo. They'd just released their second album, "Still Feel Gone" and my buddy Ryan convinced us to go. My musical tastes were never the same. The second time I saw Uncle Tupelo, this small band of guys in cowboy suits opened for them; they were tight; they were fun, and they threw straw all over the audience. They were Goober and the Peas. I found this album in a used record store six years ago, and I shall never, never, never, never part with it.

Hem - Rabbit Songs - I heard about this band on NPR one day. Their lead singer has one of the most beautiful voices I've heard (and they found her by placing an ad in the Village Voice); they sing traditional folk songs, and every song on this album is perfect. I always return to this album; it's comforting, reassuring and simply lovely.

Josh Rouse - Under Cold Blue Stars - How many albums do you know that tell the story of a young couple, recently married, who inherit a house in the South, start raising a family, suffer through poverty, marriage troubles and ultimate reconciliation? Not too many, huh? This one always finds its way back onto my playlist, and with good reason. "Miracle" and "Nothing Gives Me Pleasure" capture the sheer joy of being alive and in love.

The Innocence Mission - Glow - Acoustic songs about growing up, faith and friendship. It's a nice change of pace from a lot of "music" you hear on the radio or elsewhere today. I frequently write while listening to the Innocence Mission. Hell. I'm listening to it now. It's slow, quiet and reflective - perfect music for a Sunday evening - or any time you're looking to just have a nice sit and think session.

So now I've told you some of my selections, what are yours?

Monday, November 08, 2004

Open Letters

To the nice couple ahead of me in line at Subway:

You seem like nice people, who strive to do the right thing, but perhaps you're a little slow, so here's some advice:

Waaayyyy back, before computers, before the internet, before Ronald Reagan, communication wasn't particularly good. In fact, if you wanted to make a long distance call, you had to learn semaphore or smoke signals.

But then Samuel Morse came along, and invented the telegraph. This allowed people to communicate nearly instantaneously over large distance. The drawback? You needed to learn Morse code.

Fortunately, Alexander Graham Bell popped up, along with the telephone. NOW, you could TALK to people over long distances. All you needed to remember was a 7- or 10-digit code to input before making your call.

But what's this? What if I don't know the number, you ask? Well, some people came up with the idea of a book, listing ALL the telephone numbers, called the "telephone directory". This "directory" later split off to the Yellow pages, which lists only business numbers.

So now that you know how these things work, you won't think of going into a Subway at noon with orders for 12 sandwiches, two wraps and two bowls of chili - along with chips and sodas in hand, effectively holding the restaurant hostage while the staff worked to complete your order during the lunch rush, instead of, say, CALLING IT IN TWO HOURS EARLIER! Jackasses.

To the guy in the TrailBlazer making a left turn onto Olive at the aforementioned Subway.

Dear sir, since you can afford a TrailBlazer, I can only assume that you make lots o'money. And, to make said money, you must be educated. But I can't wrap my head around this simple problem: why would you try to make a left turn on Olive, when there's a clear "NO LEFT TURN" sign right next to your vehicle, and there's about 20 or so cars waiting to turn right behind you. Prick.

Thanks to all three of you fine people for wasting my lunch hour.