The Factory Floor: The April 2007 Poker Report

(Editor’s Note: This mother only took six days to post. A new record. It’s too bad that I haven't written a word of fiction in months, but I’m trying really hard not to think about that.)

6 April 2007

(Editor’s Note, 23 May 2008: I never did go very far beyond writing a very rough rough draft of Huggy Bear Feels My Pain, the below-mentioned Special Poker Report. The only reason that this section is still here is because of the title of that never-written Poker Report. Come on, Huggy Bear Feels My Pain is genius)

Huggy Bear: If you read Huggy Bear Feels My Pain: A Special Las Vegas Poker Report, you know that Huggy walked away with half of a $60+ pot that should have gone completely to me except for the fact that a guy lost his mind and gave away the fact that I wasn’t holding the nut hand.

At the time that it happened, I was pretty pissed, and I said something to the genius who boned me against Huggy Bear. Huggy Bear, being Huggy Bear, played it cool.

(Editor’s Note, 26 May 2008: And that’s it for this section; like I said, my notes were lacking. I’m wondering now what was going on in my life that I couldn’t get it together enough to jot down better notes.

I must say, though, that Huggy Bear was a class act. After my big bro and I had left the game and had gone to eat at the nearest restaurant n the casino, we ran into Mr. Bear out front. We had a lovely discussion. A real pleasure.)

An Analogy: Jesse deals the last hand of the night: Omaha. I’ve got A-8-7-5, with a suited ace. Not a great hand, but it has possibilities. Then I flop trip eights with an ace kicker. I’m golden, but there are two diamonds on the board and a gutshot draw for a straight. I’m first to act, and, in my usual style, I check my monster hand so that I can get in a check-raise when one of my homies inevitably makes a bet. Sure enough, Jesse bets out $2. I immediately make it $7 to go, and Bert and Arizona fold out. There are now $10 in a pot for a $5 call for Jesse, so he’d be getting exactly—

(Editor’s Note, 26 May 2008: And that’s it for that section. I don’t know what to say, other than that I feel like a complete failure, but that’s pretty much the norm around here.)

What I Know to Be True: I made $40.50, upped the YTD to +$250.75, and took the overall to 8-7

13 April 2007

First, There Was a Lot of Blood: I walk into the kitchen, and there are Arizona and Seann, getting down on some pizza. I look at Seann’s hand, and see all kinds of red stuff smeared along the thumb side of his lower right palm.

I assume, of course, that Seann’s just a sloppy eater and that he’s managed to get food all over his hands like some little four-year-old. (I, myself, like to eat my pizza with a knife and fork; there’s a pretty good chance that that’s slightly weird, but I just don’t like getting my hands all greasy, and, besides, it makes me feel like a debutante.) Nope, he’s bleeding all over the place.

Turns out that he had been moving a table a little before the game got started and that he had gotten a splinter stuck into his hand. He showed me his hand, and I could see something dark and menacing jammed way up in there. That something was so big that I was surprised that it wasn’t sticking out the back of his hand.

You’d think that such a splinter would require medical attention of some sort, but Seann had a plan: he said that he was going to cut his hand open a little bit and then go in after the splinter.

I almost passed out (I’m not very hardcore when it comes to blood or to “cutting oneself open”). After I managed to stay on my feet, I said that probably trying to tweeze the splinter out was perhaps a better idea.

Seann disappeared into one of his many bathrooms and, after a few minutes, returned with what I can only call a bloodied log. The bastard was huge, and Seann said that he had had to fight it out.

I was doubly impressed with Seann, first that he could have the composure and the steady and strong hand to wrestle half of a tree out of his hand and, second, that he didn’t die from a massive loss of blood.

Poker Is Like Medicine: So, after a discussion by the Executive Council (basically Bert and yours truly; my big bro is also a member, but he’s more hands-off and serves in absentia), I send out the e-mail on Tuesday that the game would be held at Seann Gee’s. The next day, I got an e-mail from Bert that he has strep throat and that he probably won’t make the game.

Bert and I had spent the previous week in Las Vegas, which is a gigantic Petri dish. It’s a miracle that anybody gets out alive. Everything is dirty: the slot machines, the poker chips, the dice; just everything. I always have to remind myself to never touch my face with my hands, lest I simultaneously want to get syphilis, gonorrhea, and, somehow, a yeast infection.

Still, I came home with a scratchy throat that, while it hasn’t gone away, hasn’t turned into anything more serious.

I figured, then, that Bert was a definite no-show, but then I got the call that he was on the way. Sweet. I knew that poker would cure him.

I am reminded now of this thing that I had seen on TV a few years ago, about a NASCAR driver who was dying with the flu but who was still going to race because, apparently, being in a hot-ass car for a few hours will cure you of the flu, something about the temperatures and all of the sweating. So now you know: if you’re crazy sick with the flu, join NASCAR.

Another cure for disease? Poker. Bert, as dedicated a guy as I know, had missed a whole week of work, but there he was, getting his chips into play.

Work, It’s a Nightmare: So there’s a chance that I’m out of a gig in a few weeks. I’m neither here nor there on the gig, or keeping the gig, or being gigless. Basically, whatever.

I despise the job, but it’s more like a light despising. There are whole stretches where it seems tolerable, but then there are all of the minor to major annoyances that make me want to throw stuff through windows.

If I were without gig, I could probably handle it. I might even like it: get the novel done (or realize [finally] that it’s beyond finishing/saving), finish up a few short stories that might be okay, get some poems written (yeah, that’s right, I used to be a poet), and maybe finally catch up on my little website here.

But hating your job isn’t really a good enough reason to quit. I mean, most of us hate our jobs, so what would happen if that were a good enough reason to bail?

What, No Invite?: My big bro’s running late because he’s got a wedding rehearsal. Not a problem. I’ve known about this wedding for weeks and have known the bridegroom for about fifteen years.

I met the guy through my big bro, and the guy’s always been cool. I remember that he used to come by my apartment looking for my big bro, but my big bro had a lot of stuff going on, so I’d end up talking to his friend in his stead. There was even a time when he and I would take our then ladies out dancing together, usually at this hotel bar called Beethoven’s.

(And Beethoven’s was so much fun. The dance floor was small, but that made it that much cooler. Packed in tight and the music trying its hardest to make you deaf. It was great. )

Then I realized, wait a minute, where the hell was my invitation? I had had to hear this dude bitch about his love life and had then offered up wise counsel, and nothing? I’m sure that, had I not intervened in this guy’s wreck of a love life, he would have made any of a number of mistakes that I instead talked him around or through.

But, no grudges, I hope that his marriage is a lovely one, though I refuse to impart any further wisdom/advice without first receiving acknowledgement that, yes, he owes me a lot, and, yes again, that I should have been invited to the celebration of his loss of selfdom.

The Results: Another winning night. That makes it two in a row. And this week was better than the last, by exactly a quarter. I don’t mean twenty-five percent. I mean twenty-five cents

Instead of clearing $40.50, like I did last week, I took that bastard all the way up to $40.75. Even better, I got the YTD to +$291.50 and the overall to 9-7.

20 April 2007

Mountain Dew: I’m off of Mountain Dew. Down at the factory, I used to kill one or two cans, and then I’d handle two more in the evening.

Why mountain Dew? The caffeine, bro, the caffeine. But then, starting in early June of 2006, I decided to try to get healthier, with the stated goal of trying not to die any more stupidly than I had to.

One of the first things to go was the Mountain Dew. Yes, it had the caffeine that gets me through my busy days, but it also had a ton of calories per can, and four cans of that stuff was adding up to more than 600 calories a day that I didn’t need to be consuming.

So the Mountain Dew was out. In its place was Diet Pepsi. That shit tastes horrible, but it is calorie-free while still being packed with caffeine. It’s the kind of trade-off that mature people make all of the time, and I’m pretending to be mature nowadays.

How complete was my abandonment of Mountain Dew? I still had four cans of it sitting in the 36-can box that I had purchased about a year ago. As I was getting ready to drive to my big bro’s house for Friday’s game, I remembered that he was getting low on paper towels, so I went to grab a roll from my huge stash. (One of my core beliefs is that one should keep plenty of paper towels on hand.) I then somehow entered clean-up mode. I walked by the abandoned Mountain Dews and decided top take them with me, too.

Remember how I said in an earlier Poker Report that all of my new dietary restrictions aren’t in effect at poker games? As I was driving to the game, I stopped by a Jack in the Box and picked up some Jumbo Jacks.

With what did I plan to wash those bad boys down? That’s right, the Mountain Dews. When I had gotten to my big bro’s I threw them in the freezer to get them nice and cold while I set up the room.

In short order the room was ready to go and I sat down to this highly anticipated super-deluxe dinner. I guess that I’m not doing such a good gob at pretending to be mature, but I don’t care. Those Mountain Dews, my first ones in a little over ten months, tasted and felt so good that it felt as if my cells were trembling with joy.

I’m not going to lie: I would slit my own throat for a Mountain Dew right now.

The Celtics Blow: I hate the Boston Celtics. If that hatred costs me readers in Boston, I don’t care. (In my defense, I do like the Red Sox [mostly because I despise the Yankees and any team that can punk the Yankees like they punked the Yankees in '04 is okay with me], though the Patriots make me sick.)

Growing up in California during the '80’s, I rolled Lakers. They were beautiful to watch: Kareem, Worthy, Rambis, McAdoo, Coop, Byron Scott, A.C., Magic running the show. Sky hooks, Coop-a-Loops, fast breaks. It was lovely.

And then there was Boston. Boston got much love, even though theirs was a much uglier version of basketball, even though they had Ainge (a whiner deluxe) and even though they wore green (and nothing looks good in green). True, I liked watching Kevin McHale do his thing in the post, but I love low-post play in general (my favorite low-post player was, of course, Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon; watching him score was thrilling and moving and somehow life-affirming), so he got a semi-free pass on being a Celtic.

Let’s be real: The Lakers were clearly the better team and theirs was a more aesthetically pleasing version of basketball. Also, one team was from Massachusetts and one was from California. In other words, one was from nowhere and one was from paradise.

And there was Ice, rocking his Celtics hat. In California. I couldn’t let that shit stand, so when it was Ice’s turn to act, I started calling him by the names of former Celtics players, but not the really good ones.

“It’s your call, Ainge.”

“You're first to act Jerry, Sichting.”

And, my personal favorite: “Go for it, Greg Kite.”

Ouch, that one had to hurt.

While the Doobie Brothers, It Is Universally Understood, Rocked, They Didn’t Perform Every Rocking Song: Usually, we listen to a little background music while we play. Most of the time, Jesse brings along his mix CDs and throws one into my big bro’s boombox. I know those CDs so well that that I’ve given two of them nicknames, I call one the “Hard Rock CD” because it’s got your Zeppelin, your Guns and Roses, and even, yes, your Def Leppard. I call the other one “The Jams” because it’s got all the jams: Earth, Wind, and Fire; the Gap Band; the Dazz Band, the Zap Band, the SOS Band, etc..

Jesse wasn’t in the game tonight, so my big bro problem-solved and turned on the radio. I've been off of radio for years, but tonight it was locked in.

The first song of note was The Who’s “Who Are You?,” one of my faves. I used to have this Who compilation, “30 Years of Maximum R&B,” that I used to listen to all of the time, though I lost custody of it, but I still have a pretty good grip on how hard the Who rocks.

So the song’s blasting when Ice asks, “Who’s that, the Doobie Brothers?”

Shocked was I by this question, shocked and indignant. How can any worthy human being not know the Who’s oeuvre? I felt that I then had to hold forth on the Who’s awesomeness and then place them in the bronze-medal position of British rock. The Stones, the Beatles, then the Who.

Now I know that some people will passionately disagree about the gold and the silver, and I’ve got no beef with those who give the gold to the Beatles. Well, my only beef is that they’re wrong, but I try to be a big person and not point this out.

I guess that I had been too indignant because every time that a rocking song came on, Ice would again ask, “Is that the Doobie Brothers?” which was pretty funny.

Well done, Ice, well done.

Yes: I won again, if only $5.25, but that’s three in a row. The YTD is now at +$296.75 and the overall is at an almost respectable 10-7

27 April 2007

Out on the Factory Floor: It’s been a nasty, soul-destroying year at work. Management bullshit, at nearly all levels. An incredible amount of churn from last year to this, again at all levels, which probably helps to explain much of the management bullshit. A general sense that it’s not going to get better anytime soon. And no way to get out of it. I’m completely burnt.

It’s the end of my Friday shift down at the factory. I've gotten through another week, and I just have to get through six more before the busy season ends. (The odds are something like 70-30 that I’ll make it, but we’ll see; truthfully, at this point I’m neither here nor there on making it. Make it more like 65-35) I’m doing some last-minute things before I can get out of there when a familiar face walks in through the door, a face that I hadn’t seen in about ten months, not since the end of last year’s busy season.

It’s a former coworker, a guy, let’s call him Cormac (because I’m reading The Road right now), who left after one year, his first as a factory worker. I remember my first year, when I was essentially on my own and had to try to figure out the job on the fly; it had been brutal and it had been exhausting and there were long stretches when I had thought that my first year would be my last.

I was wrong; it wasn’t my last, but not because anybody had decided that I was doing a good job; I could really have been screwing up, but, like I said, I was on my own, and nobody would have noticed.

Cormac and I spent much time in my area of the factory after work, with me helping him however that I could. I could tell from early on that he had it and that he would be successful. He ended up being really good at the work—in my years here, his department is the only one that’s out-performed the department in which I work—so it’s not at all surprising that this place couldn’t find a way to hold on to him.

Cormac’s at another factory now, but he was in town and wanted to check in with me. We chatted for a little bit, catching up on what’s happened in our lives, comparing our factories (it turns out that there are very few good factories out there), and then exchanging e-mails. Cormac then left to go find another co-worker with whom he had worked closely.

Cormac couldn’t find him, and then he popped back into my doorway. Have you ever seen how shy two guys get when they are about to “share” with each other,? Well, Cormac then proceeded to thank me for all of the help that I had given him, to tell me that he was still using a lot of the stuff that he and I had talked about, and to say that I had made an important difference in his professional life.

It’s been a nightmare year at work, and, little by little, the fight’s going out of me, if it’s not already gone. It’s funny, in that non-funny way, how defeat can come on so slowly that you don’t realize that you’re losing until you’ve nearly or already lost.

But Cormac’s and my talk today helped to take some of the sting out of that loss. Have you ever been in a room that’s dark because it’s overcast with swiftly moving, wind-driven clouds and the room all of a sudden momentarily and brilliantly brightens because there’s been a break in those clouds, only to immediately re-darken, so immediately that it seems as if the room never brightened at all or that you imagined the darkness disappearing ? It was like that, and it was probably the work highlight of the year. Those few seconds. Which is just sort of tragic when you think about it.

It’s Like Baseball:
Ivan disappeared from the game nearly six months ago. He got a special lady and has been spending much time with her, as one does in such situations. Good for him. Happiness is hard to come by, and when you find it you hold on to it and you do not question.

His departure coincided roughly with Surge’s semi-regular entry into the game, though they did play together a few times. Shortly after Surge’s becoming a semi-regular, Ice, Arizona’s homie, entered our game and has become one of our most consistent players, which has also been great because Seann G., the artist formerly known as Pumpkin Boy, has taken a sabbatical while he attends to stuff.

At this point, with all of the regulars and semi-regulars, the game’s become like a self-sustaining organism; it just somehow seems to always come together, though the makeup of the table might change from one week to the next.

But Ivan had been in the game from the beginning, and I had always considered him to be a member of what I had taken to calling the Classic Five: my big bro, Bert, Jesse, Ivan, and Big Daddy. (I’m Big Daddy.) I don’t want to get all sensitive dude on you, but I had missed not having Ivan around.

Happily, however, Ivan has come back into the crew a little bit lately, having already played twice this year before surprising us with his presence tonight. The other two times that Ivan had played, Ice hadn’t been there, and Ice is almost always there, so tonight was their first meeting.

Ivan had no idea who the hell Ice was, but Ice knew a little bit about Ivan. How? Through my website, my friend, through my website. So not only is my website sort of funny sometimes (when I get lucky), it can also be informative.

Sometimes, Sensitive Is Too Sensitive: It’s getting warm, finally, after a strangely cool spring. We play poker at my big bro’s in two different rooms, depending on the season: During the cooler months, we play in the living room, where the fireplace is; during the warmer months we play in the big room in the back of the house, a room that stays cool because it’s surrounded by some rather tall trees and for other mysterious environmental/structural/perhaps spiritual reasons about which I have no clue.

It’s about time, I think, for us to move to the Summer Room, as I and no one else calls it. It’s about time because tonight we played in the Winter Room, as I and no one else calls it, with the front door open because it was a little on the warm side, finally.

My big bro’s house is out in the country, and there are a number of orchards out there. If the breeze is just right, he’ll sometimes get an orange blossom-scented breeze blow toward his house. To be honest, I’m not sure where this mystery orchard is located, though I do know that it has to be north of us somewhere and could be traveling quite a distance because there are no tall buildings or other obstructions that could impede a breeze.

Tonight, then, with the front door open and with a northern wind blowing (Or is it southern if the wind was coming from the north and heading south? I've no clue.), we kept getting these lovely breezes blowing through.

I don’t know why I particularly enjoy the smell of orange blossoms, but it probably has something to do with spring and with how beautiful orange trees look, what with their shiny dark-green leaves contrasted with the color of the oranges themselves, and with how hopeful everything feels when it finally starts to get warm.

After a particularly delightful breeze, I turned to Bert and said, “Hey, Bert, do you smell that?” and he sniffed and nodded that he did.

I then felt that, as the resident poet, I should hold forth on the wondrous smell of the orange blossoms and then find a way to freestyle from any insights that I could generate about orange blossoms to other insights about beauty, pleasure, memory, love, and (because any insights about love —the great mystery and topic of literature and life—have to lead to the second greatest) death.

I’m going to be honest, I love riffing on stuff. So I began the riff and was barely getting started.

But then I stopped myself because I knew where this train of thought was going, and it wasn’t going to any type of macho or manly place, certainly not a place to which you want to go when you are playing poker with your homies and there’re $500 in chips in play.

It’s Been a While: I've settled into a style where it’ll be really difficult for me to really get killed at the table. I’d always been a pretty tight player, not seeing flops with crummy starter hands or being able to get out of hands when my cards hadn’t hit,

Tonight turned into my best night since January. I got into some big hands where either my cards held up or where pot odds and outs forced me to stay in a hand and I caught.

At the end of the night, I ended up with a three-figure win, +$105.25, took the YTD to $402.00, and got the overall to 11-7.

It was a nice way to end April.