Friday, September 29, 2006

Total Recall

Thanks for all the invitations. Just so you know, they're binding. I have a vague idea of what I want to do, but since I just exited a long relationship, I'm a little commitment-phobic, so let's keep it on the friendship tip and feel free to date other people for now.

I'm definitely going to New York at some point. That is a gaping hole in my worldly experience. Maybe take a look-see at the 2007 baseball schedule when it's released to see when the A's are in town so I can risk life and limb tramping down the Bronx in my kelly green and gold. SXSW is another event I should undoubtedly attend. It's at a reasonably good time of year and I can combine it with a swing through Arizona for some spring training (and card-slinging with The Heads) and maybe pick up my buddy Salk (Underground Punk Rock Superstar) in Albuquerque. I might even get tour shirts made.

As for G-Vegas, you gentlemen make a strong case. So strong, in fact, I think I'm leaning more toward moving there than I am visiting. I will need further info on late-night taco stands, however. Big Pirate, in particular, uttered one of my magic words: sundress. I loves me a woman in a sundress with the smell of spring in her hair. So much so, that I'm compelled to tell a story.


She thought I was a jerk, she told me later. The first time she saw me, I was leaning on my right arm, which was pressed against the paneled walls of the fraternity rec room. I was grilling another young co-ed, flirtatious pressure amidst the stench of spilled beer and rampaging testosterone. The scene was cliched, she said, and she marked me down as another frat boy a-hole, interested only in getting drunk and getting naked. I never did remember who that girl against the wall was, but before the night was over, I'd met someone I can't forget.

I was introduced by her friend Kelly, a chirpy blonde sorority pledge whom I'd met briefly at another party. Emma was her contrast, dark hair, petite (five-foot-two..."and three-quarters!" she'd always add), slim waist and inviting hips. Taken separately, her features would seem out of place. Her nose was long, with a unique extension on the end, as if it was placed there later. Her teeth were adorably crooked and formed a slight overbite. Her eyes turned to slits when she laughed. But together, they fit her face, framed with high cheekbones and a strong chin.

We danced, and the way she moved stirred me, forcing heat through the keg-induced haze and sharpening my senses. Her hips seemed to bend every which way, effortlessly, the enticing curve of her backside rotating, thumping.

I thought I was doing well with her. We laughed, we drank, subtle touches and probing questions. She was leaving, she said, and I offered to walk her and Kelly back to their apartment just a block away. She demurred, shook my hand and walked out of my life.


Durazo was a pledge brother, a couple years older than I, more confident, more strident. "I thought of you because you won't make an ass out of yourself," he said to me, by way of explaining why he'd invited me to join he and his latest lady friend--and her roommates--on a Friday night trip to Tijuana. "And you won't try to hit on my Alter or Rich." I laughed.

"No problem," I said. "What about the friends?"
"All cute. One's annoying as hell, but she's got a boyfriend. Then there's this Hawaiian chick, a little stuck up. The third, I think you'll like her."

We knocked on the door and Kelly answered. We were both startled to see each other and my heart started jackhammering in my chest. Recovering, she kissed Durazo and invited us in before adjourning to the bedroom. We shot the shit with the other boyfriend, a guy in a wheelchair whose name now escapes me but who I saw many years later on a short-lived primetime soap opera. When Emma emerged from the bedroom, confidently, my stomach did a little flip. "Hi!" I blurted too loudly, rising from the couch and giving her an awkward hug. It had been six weeks since that first meeting and she had crossed my mind on several occasions. And this...this must be serendipity.


Margarita's Village was a staple on the SDSU Underage Drinking Circuit, but this was the first time I'd made it to the underground lair. The seven of us sat around a table drinking swiftly, in the manner of kids hell-bent on cramming as much fun as possible into their first day of summer vacation. Emma sat to my left and because of the noise, I was forced to talk close into her ear, a frequent act which made me feverish. We danced some more, those hips beckoning.

Ever had a tequila popper in Mexico? I hadn't either, so when I was seized from behind and involuntarily forced to consume alcohol in a hailstorm of whistles, complete with the requisite neck-snapping by the waiter, I briefly thought I was being jumped. My tablemates laughed at my naivete, which I took good-naturedly, but every time I hear a whistle in Tijuana--to this day--I instinctively assume the duck and cover position.

As you might imagine, the popper took my drunkeness to new heights and with it, my boldness. Soon, my hand was lingering on Emma's thigh. Our dancing became more overt, closer. At one point, leaning into her again to speak, I turned her chin toward me and kissed her softly, momentarily. For years after she would term any resemblance to that moment's tenderness a "Mexico Kiss."

We spent that night together and one other before the Winter Break commenced. We both went to our respective homes at different ends of the state and had just limited phone contact those five weeks. For my part, I was looking forward to seeing her again, in the typical manner of sex-crazed 18-year-olds. I would soon find out her anticipation was considerably less.

That first night back in San Diego, she was distant. I stayed at her apartment because the dorms didn't open until the next morning and all I got was stilted conversation and a buddy hug. Days later, she'd admit she got back together with her high school boyfriend over the break and that she was trying to figure out what she wanted. I was able to sluff off this news, in the typical manner of sex-crazed 18-year-olds. I was at San Diego State, where 70% of the student population had an STD. They didn't get that way from being chaste. So I went on.


About a month later, I was again (still?) at the Frat House, talking outside with a dirty blonde sporting a nice rack (though I would find out many months later, after she gave it up for my roommate, that she had hairy nipples). It was going well and as midnight approached, I began to seal the deal. All at once, the lights went out, plunging the patio into darkness and eliciting drunken whoops for the masses. Laughing, I rubbed Karen (yes, I remember this one's name) on the shoulder and said I was going to go find out what happened. As I carefully strode away, the lights returned and I was staring face-to-face at Emma.

She greeted me enthusiastically, a tight hug, a kiss on the cheek, grinning wide. Karen became an afterthought and, for the next couple hours, Emma and I caught up. She was different, more open, than the last time I'd seen her and while she didn't take me home (or let me walk her home), she did agree to join me the next afternoon at a picnic with people from my dorm room floor.

It was early March and the weather in American's Finest City was postcard perfect. Emma showed up at my room in a yellow sundress. The thin straps clung wantingly to her wintry white shoulders. The hem came down to her mid-thigh and seemed to float there, a willowy destination, a secret promise. I hugged her and was enveloped by her scent, fresh and reassuring, like spring itself. I never left her side all afternoon, so intoxicated was I by her presence. She had an easy manner about her, comfortably meeting all my friends, joining the conversations and laughing gayly. I couldn't keep my hands off her and she accepted my touches, reciprocated with caresses of her own. Suddenly, in the midst of it all, she leaned into me and whispered in my ear, "Let's go back to your room."

My roommate, a foul, sloppy young man named Chris who had been paired blindly with me because of our shared affection for "heavy metal," which would have been a reasonable bet if his preferences didn't lean toward Stryper and Lita Ford, while mine bent toward Venom and Slayer, was out of town for the weekend, so we were alone. The expiring afternoon light forced its way through our tattered curtains as Emma sat on my thin mattress, her delicate calves crossed, feet hovering over the pock-marked linoleum floor. I leaned over and kissed her, using one hand to steady myself, the other to run my hand up her thigh, brushing the hem of her sundress, cautiously moving it aside. She fairly pulled me into her and we crashed unconsciously onto the lumpy bed. But this was not an assault. It was a dance, a slow jam. We took our time with each other's bodies, pausing to breathe, examining every inch. The sundress remained, though folded and pulled and hiked, its cotton arousing to the touch, tickling like a feather. The heat of our coupling caused perspiration, tangy and sweet, like morning dew, and it mixed with her perfume in an alluring potion, a unique aroma I've not smelled since, nor ever forgotten.

We spent the rest of the day there, napping from pure spent emotion, waking again to explore. Dusk fell and still we held each other, our bodies slick, mingling. I never wanted her to leave, telling her so as darkness surrounded us. Neither of us moved for a light or a candle, only laid there, seeing by touch, by memory. She said she'd stay and she did, even as the whole experience took on a hazy, dream-like quality, endorphins retreating, leaving behind only indelible recall, the certainty of that moment.

She left in the morning, but she didn't leave my heart. I fell in love with Emma that day, deeply, unassailibly. It was a reckless love, the hard-headed and cocksure belief of two young people not really ready for the demands of the emotion. We thought we were, but when we were married less than six months later, we doomed ourselves to hard lessons. Still, that day, that sundress, that woman. Nobody since has touched the part of me she did that day. I suppose that's one of the reasons I can recall it so vividly, more than 20 years later. It rustles some leaves, this recall, sweeps the cover off some other dormant memories. Makes me wonder how she's doing. Makes me wonder if she remembers, too.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

I Love Tomatos

So Manfred Mann never did get, or advocated getting, wrapped up like a douche. That's stunning to me. Not simply that I've spent every post-release day on the planet thinking they had, but that I never questioned why someone would, indeed, enjoy being packaged in such a way. The song has now lost all meaning.

It reminds me of Marsh, a childhood friend who was notoriously hilarious about mis-heard/interpreted lyrics, like his take on Judas Priest's "Take These Chains," which go, in part:

Take these chains offf
Take 'em off my heart

Marsh's version?

Daisy's Danger
Take a walk on by

Oh if you only knew how funny that was.

I have a little post-Bash malaise, a Fun Hangover, if you will. Nothing I see on my immidiate social calendar provides a comparable level of anticipation or promise of debauchery. I am going to see the AL West Champs on Saturday night at the Big A (-hole), but with Loaiza (The Tijuana Turd) starting in front of half a Triple-A squad, my main enjoyment will stem from hearing all the stupid things said by Angel fans around me and, 'round about Beer #5, my sarcastic retorts to them. I'm mulling drinking a fair amount of adult beverages this evening and romping through the field in the Stars Crazy Re-buy, but that'll probably be a game-time decision, because I have a full slate of weekend activities that will require me to be rested and responsible.

I'm taking requests for my next trip. It's not exactly an experience on the level of DonkeyPuncher and Bobby Bracelet invading your home game. More like me crashing on your floor, complete with snoring and beer farts. I have an offer from the lovely April for South by Southwest in March, which is a definite possibiity. I'd love to hit up the NYC crew, take in an afternoon at The House That Ruth Built (before The Boss un-builds it) and feel the vibe of the City (not a euphemism. I don't think). The Land of 10,000 Lakes would be swell. Ah, who am I kidding, Minnesota sucks. But it'd be fun to play unsociable online poker at the bar with Chad. Seattle? Nah, I'd get arrested coming off the plane. Anyway, make a bid. I'm thinking spring. But I'm easy. Convince me.


I've been filing through the mental rolodex to satiate the huge public desire for more Donny stories. The problem with many of our adventures is they don't translate well to the page, what with the juvenile behavior fueled by excessive drug intake. An equally important factor is that we, along with Schotty and Kool Breeze, tended toward esoterica, inside jokes that only we would enjoy, so many of the more hysterical moments would take a lot of back story to explain. Others, like Marsh above, are simply "had to be there" moments. You had to see Donny with his new buzz cut doing Rickey snap catches and a little dance every time he made a play at the Hot Corner. Had to hear the utter confusion and tangental trainwreck when he said, "Are you my statement of you're just's not...that I'm not that really stoned." Needed to be in the back seat with Kool Breeze and I, laughing our fool heads off as Donny drove in the opposite direction of the miniature golf course, even though we smoked the Fatty in full view of the establishment's parking lot.

But I'll see what I can put together. In the meantime, if you haven't seen these yet, I've had two Donny stories in Truckin'. Both are as true as far as I remember them, which is to say, based on a actual events.

With the Lights Out

I'll Do Anyone


Mean Gene blew off the sandy beaches of Malvern, PA for a gig in Aruba, a head-scratching decision if ever there was one, but, you know, I suppose it's working out okay for him. He's been stalking doubleas in recent posts as our favorite Pressure Poker-ist makes his way through the field. I know Gene is heartsick over missing the Bash, so perhaps you can cheer him up by following his reports on the Ultimate Bet Blog. Good luck, gents.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Manfred Mann-Crush

It's three (four?) days later and I still have that bleeping "Mr. Brightside" song slamming around in my skull. I hate you all. I'd have preferred "wrapped up like a douche." Did anyone else know it's actually "revved up like a deuce?" I didn't 'til now.

I feel like I'm trailing life by a furlong or so, trying to catch up on events that transpired during my Lost Weekend while also fielding reams of homework assignments from AJ's kindergarten, not to mention scheduling parent conferences and ordering school photos and fundraising (anybody wanna buy a cheesecake?). He's reading 20 minutes a night ON TOP of the homework which means there's really no place to put poker in this little scenario (unless you have Monday off and can sneak into the Hoy to pull out a 2nd place finish) and there's barely enough time to watch the A's clinch. Add to that, I've been fighting this cough for a few weeks. I finally got to the doctor for some antibiotics which have put me on the teeter-totter of phlegm. In the mornings, I'm all stopped up and it takes me a few hours to clear the plumbing. After that, I'm as dry and dehydrated as a bone. I'm also still looking for my first solid post-Bash bowel movement. That Yuengling knows how to grease the skids, or skid the greases.

It's too bad about the lack of poker time, 'cause I'm playing g00t. Comfortable, not getting myself into too many marginal situations, making good laydowns. The main change is that I've pulled back the aggression a bit, picking up pots with more of a three yards and a cloud of dust mentality than going for the Hail Mary. I've had a tendency to go blind in big pots, where the amount of money invested defines the decision rather than actually working through the mechanics of the hand and settling on a read. A few times recently, I've shut it down correctly, leaving me with a flesh wound to the chip stack, but still in the runnin'. Now if I can just resist that urge to bluff AlCantFold off a weak ace.

I wish I could write more about the Bash. I've sorta tried. But my memory of events is poor. All I know for sure is that I'm appreciative of whatever events have conspired to bring me into contact such such a diverse and generous group of people. My life is enriched (and was even, dare I say, saved) by your friendships, your willingness to lend a hand or an ear and by all the laughter. It truly is, for me, the best medicine. For those of you whom I met for the first time, it was a pleasure. I hope to see you again at future events and I hope you were able to experience what has made these gatherings so special. If not, I have a pic of drizz's Captain Morgan's underpants and that should do the trick. Just shoot me an e-mail.

Last but not least, a public show of massive gratitude to Donny Primetime for coming down and melting effortlessly into the spirit of the proceedings. As I repeated over and over to all of you, we've known each other since Little League and I was not only ecstatic to see him (and his family on Sunday), but proud to introduce him to all of you as my best friend. And if you learned some 20-year-old humiliations about me, so be it. Next time Donny meets the bloggers, we'll tell stories about him. Or you can just shoot me an e-mail.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Division Champs!

I have spent most of the month contemplating a third straight September Gag Job by my beloved, but all-too-frequently gutless, Oakland Athletics. I suppose my lack of excitement at their lead and my dearth of assurance they would close the deal, were defensive measure designed to protect my fragile psyche. Since 2000, I've had to deal with two feeble-minded managers, regular season MVPs who disappear and even forget how to run the bases in the playoffs, mental and physical errors of such rarity as to be almost fictional and, of course, the Fucking Jeter Flip Throw. But at least they made The Dance those years. The last two seasons, in which the less-talented Angels, eliminated us on our own field, coming from behind both times in the final weeks, those stuck in my craw like a soup bone. And I wasn't gonna let the green and gold get me wound up until they clinched.

I'm wound up. And in two weeks, I'll probably be crying in the fetal positon after they blow another 2-0 lead in the ALDS. But I've got this. We're partying tonight. Me and Medium Hurt.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Love Boat

I might try to wax philosophical, find the subtext, the underlying thematic guts of the Bash at the Boathouse. In the meantime, I'll note the decadence.

Playing High Card Out of the Muck with Pauly is about as -EV a game as one is about to encounter. The stakes eventually settled at $20 (theoretically, you know, if we were making actual felonious bets) and The Doctor pulled Aces as often as The Rooster talks to women, which is to say, constantly.

Sometimes, when beer and poker and a less than strict adherence to card integrity come together in a perfect storm, you get Kat and Maudie in a raising war on the river of an O8 hand, with both holding the nuts. High and Low. Yes, we had two aces of spades and two threes of spades in our deck.

Tripjax was Epic on Friday night. I didn't think he was gonna last, his excitement and desire to trade shots with Reverend Al seeming to seal an early fate. Yet, he not only lasted but theoretically cashed in the theoretical poker tournament. An impressive feat. But every action has an equal and opposite reaction. In this case, Trip felt Super Human, as if he could repeat his feat the following night at the Bash. The over/under, set by BG said he was on his back by 11:15. He beat it by nearly two hours.

Bobby told me to keep an eye out for Gavin at the airport, since he was arriving about the same time as me. Oddly enough, I ran into him in Atlanta. We were both on the same flight to Philly. I was connecting there and he'd been in town for the Georgia Tech game ("We slaughtered it," he said). He also said he may or may not have been up all evening. All I know is, by the time I boarded and passed him in his Business Class seat, he was in a coma.

The Bracelet may have weakly surrendered his blind to Gavin throughout the whole tourney, but he did give Gavin a new word to play with. Wanna guess what it was?

Speaking of guessing games, when I push from the button 4-handed on the bubble, who do you think might wake up with Aces in the SB? As sure as the sun rises. So yeah, I bubbled. But before I did, I caught perfect-perfect to bust Lewey (it was a race, with all-in on the flop, but still a riviting moment. He flopped the set, I hit runner-runner straight. Norman Chad woulda soiled himself). I also got Gavin to call two grand on the river when I had a turned full house, a move I perfected by bluffing into him twice in previous encounters. Each of those times, he stared me down and called inside of a millisecond. I think I have a tell. One that goes away when I'm wasted.

You have not lived until you've drunk too much and talked Theology with The Doctor.
I made 11 wardrobe changes. Twelve if you count the shoes.

The locals were extremely helpful. I tried to ask for a Yuengling (when in Rome) and mangled the pronunciation badly and repeatedly until Al took me aside, patted me on the head like a simpleton and said, "Just ask for a 'Lager.'" That I can do. That I did do. For about 36 hours.

At no point in the festivities did I ask humans of the female persuasion to exhibit their mammary glands in my direction for the promised reward of Mardi Gras beads. I did, however, bare my own nipples at least twice to receive said beads.

When it was suggested that we go to a gas station to grab some late night (early morning) grub, I was skeptical. I was even less enthusiastic about the name: WaWa. But I dutifully assumed a seat in the packed shuttle van for the two block trek. And what I encountered on arrival was nothing less than a revelation. Hot sandwiches, made to order, with a plethora of condiments one would not expect to find in such an unassuming environment. Horseradish, roasted peppers and provolone thrown in with the roast beef, all of it ordered via computer, a fabulous benefit for us Internet Celebrities who don't like to talk to actual Humans, let alone gas station service workers. Mine was gone before we left the parking lot, which is surprising because I normally eat very slowly and am loathe to eat on the run lest I stain one of my fine, ironed garments. No higher compliment can be given to WAWA! And yes, having 14 bloggers descending upon the sleepy store like ravenous wolves was pretty funny, too, aside from the fact we also drew three police cars.

My major problem with these events is that I get so giddy that I rarely find time to stop and smell the roses. I feel like there's never enough time to spend with everyone and I'm forever bouncing from group to group and living in that unique moment. I regret not talking more to some of the new people I met, like slb, a long-time supporter of this here blog and a nice guy who I managed to make fun of almost immediately (and I should note here that it's only when I STOP making fun of people that they should worry about my positive feelings about them). Like Karol and Dawn who seriously fucking crack me up. Like brdweb who can certainly teach me a thing or 11 about crushing the online tourneys.

But there's just not enough time. My ADD kicks in after about 4 beers. Between 4 and 10, I'm a Giddiot. After 10, there's no telling. After two days in Malvern, PA, I was beyond sense. Even so, the smile--you know the one, you've seen the pics--is not alcohol-induced. It's the pure enjoyment of the people around me: drizz with his sign requesting that he only be served water from then on out. Brandon filling our beer pong glasses with beer AND gin. Blood stridently lifting me a good four feet off the floor with one arm. Gus and Platkat inspiring a dial-a-shot to April that I could neither hear nor adjudicate, beyond the fact I slammed my beverage. Kat not having enough goddamned tattoos. Carter, Brandon and Gavin belting out The Killers like it was karaoke night in West Hollywood.

It took me 14 hours to get there. Twenty to get home. I'd hop on a plane tomorrow if I had the chance to do it again.


When degenerate gambling blogging alcoholics kneel to pray, they turn their faces in the direction of Malvern, PA and Flanigan's Boathouse. I survived the Bash at the Boathouse 7, no thanks to the fine folks at Yuengling and Delta Airlines, the latter of which went 4 for 4 on delayed flights, including a sick three hours spent on the tarmac at Philly International on the way home, pinned next to an old guy with pointy elbows and a Suduko fetish.

Words are never adequate after these events. So I have pictures. It was awesome to see everyone, great to meet a new group of folks, fantastic to have my Main Man Primetime make the trek from New England to experience what these things are all about and a sincere pleasure to know and be able to be in the company of the charitible people who made it all possible. So thanks to Al (and Eva and Big Mike), Mr. Bracelet and Gavin for giving us all an excuse to abuse ourselves and still manage to feel good about it in the morning.

Details forthcoming. I think.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Santa Sucks!

Circa 36 hours until wheels up and my airborne steel tube of death whisks me off to tropical Malvern, PA for the annual Bash at the Boathouse. It's my first time. Be gentle. I've been doing some research and am looking forward to such Philly-area traditions as city fountains flowing with beer, the traditional handing out of free cheesesteaks and, of course, booing Santa Claus.

I'm taking the red-eye tomorrow night, four hours to Atlanta, then two more up to Philly. I hope to sleep during all of it with the aid of my foam neck pillow which served me so well during my trip across The Pond this summer. Not one to put all my eggs in one basket, I also bought a portable DVD player yesterday. If sleep doesn't come, I'll have Vic Mackey to keep me company. I just finised Episode 4 of Season 3 last night (not a good one for Tavon) and was struck by the realization I only have 22 more episodes left (Season 5 has no release date that I can find). I'm already anticipating the withdrawl.

It brings to mind a time during the mid-90s when my roommate, Paddy Dynamics, and I would faithfully watch NYPD Blue re-runs every night on FX (midnight on the west coast; check your local listings). They were running them in order, which was a boon to me, since I'd only been a sporadic viewer the first two seasons. The first season is still the finest cop show ever. While Mackey may be able to hang with Sipowicz, he doesn't have a Det. Johnny Kelley on his staff.

I'll be among the first to arrive in PHI and hopefully I'll be somewhat rested, 'cause I'm meeting up with Trip and gracie (and Sweet, Sweet Pablo) at, (where else?) the airport bar, roughly 8 a.m. body clock time. We're not going to be having OJ and Eggs Florentine, I'm guessing. I'm fully prepared for my internal organs to take a massive hit this weekend, but I want them to be able to function in high gear for as long as possible. I wanna be coherent to see Derek puke and rally, to watch F-Train drink twice his body weight in SoCo, to wager on which inanimate object Blood will use to skull somebody, to draft off The Rooster and, finally, to raise drizz off a better hand (theoretically speaking).

I'm also hoping my good friend, loyal American and long-time drinking buddy Primetime will be able to make the trek down from New England on Saturday to join in the festivities. He says it's only a 5-hour drive, but that's assuming the freeways aren't cluttered with Red Sox fans leaping to their deaths from freeway overpasses. The self-proclaimed Idiots are staying home this fall, which tickles me to no end, what with their bloated payroll of suck and saving the rest of the Free World from Joe Buck soiling his trousers then smearing the Yanks-Sawx overhype all over his body, though Boston fans take heart, you'll still be the lead story on Sportscenter every night.


Not much else going on. AJ takes up a lot of time with homework and twenty minutes of nightly reading (that's HIM reading, not me reading TO him). He's pretty strong with the words and I couldn't be more proud. He gets frustrated ("Just like you used to!" says my Mom) when he doesn't know a word immediately, but he also has this satisfying look when he figures it out. I did play a $50+5 90-seat SnG on Stars last night after he went to bed and made it to the final threee tables before losing a 60-40. The only hand of note was one where I tried to isolate a short-stack push with AQ from the BB, got called by a limper. Flop was KTx and I check-folded to the limper's bet. Guess what he had? That's right, KQ. That's five in a row. I believe that's known as an outlier. It's the poker equivalent of the Dodgers' 9th inning on Monday. The lesson, as always, AQ is a filthy whore.

I like morons. I especially like them when they call me one. The other night, when I final tabled the Paradise Re-buy, I was somewhat short nearing the bubble. As my loyal readers know, this is one of the places in a tourney where I turn up the aggressiveness, a tactic I especially employ in the 'dise tourney because the blinds escalate so quickly. I had 22K, which was good for an M of 5+. We were 15 or so from the money bubble. With AJ in the CO, I pushed over two limpers, both of them similarly stacked. By the time it got to me, there was already 6K in the pot. That's free money. If one of the limpers was dumb enough to limp with a hand that dominated mine, so be it.

Anyway, everyone folded and I gave myself a little breathing room. The funny part was being chastised by the BB, who said that I must be "retarded" for pushing at that point of the tourney. My read was that he had a playable hand, but folded it because of the bubble (I, of course, made no return comment). Which is EXACTLY why it (usually) pays to be aggressive there. If people are trying to fold to the money, you can take the blinds and antes with any two, as you will only get called with 5 hands or so, making it a statistically +EV play. Have I bubbled dong this sort of thing? Sure. But I've also made deeep runs because I was able to fatten my stack at that juncture.

The key is to attack the small-to-medium stacks. Big stacks will call you with all kinds of shit. I know. I've done it.


Happy Birthday to the illustrious Dr Pauly, my patron, my hero, my friend. Can't wait to see him, and the rest of you degenerates, this weekend.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Big Hurt, Medium Hurt, All the Little Meridians

I'm exhausted right now. In the last 10 hours I've scrubbed toilets, been kicked in the head, make several 50-yard tracking runs and threw batting practice to AJ until the sun went down. Did I mention it was 97 degrees today? I can't even sit down for fear of simply passing out. It's 7:15.

But I'm here to talk poker. Okay, not really. No analysis outside of the simple fact that I've been playing better, which for me means playing with more confidence. I don't have much time to play these days, maxing out at one or two tourneys a week. But I've felt increasingly more solid and though my ledger hadn't yet illustratee that fact, I felt it was time to dive in a bit more. So I played four multis this week (one a Stars 180). And I final tabled two of them, finishing 9th in the Special Re-Buy on Paradise and chopping the first and second money in the 180.

Yay me.

I also had a nice run in the Stars re-buy on Wednesday, pushing deep into the third hour mainly on steals and re-raises. Had nothing of import in the pocket a huge percentage of the time, but had a weak-tight group and stole enough orphans to stay alive. Until AQ lost to KQ.

About that...I'm 0-my-last-4 with AQ v. KQ. The very same hand knocked me out of the $9K on Friday night. But, I'll let it go. Because, for once, I did get lucky. In the 180, with 6 left, the chip stacks were almost equal. I held a nice chip lead when the money kicked in, but each of my raises--some with actual holdings--ran into re-raises for like half an hour. I was getting awfully sick of it. So when a guy pushed over my AQ raise, I called partly out of frustration, partly because that was the only play the guy had made for 90 minutes. Of course he had QQ. And I spiked my ace on the river.

Down to two, it was nearly 3 in the ayem (this morning) and we both had Ms over 30, so I immediately suggested the 50/50 chop. He readily agreed and hello $900. Coupled with the 'dise finish (where, to be honest, I picked a wrong time to make a play and donked my way right out of it), I feel like I have an online bankroll again. It's not anywhere near where it was when I withdrew everything for mortgage payments, but it's at its high water mark since. Picking four-team parlays helps, too.

I made no bets on the NFL this week. I had some games in mind, but was too tired to do them last night. Figured I'd lock 'em in this morning. Too bad the power was out. Even fucked up my TiVo of Arsenal-ManU. So AJ and I cleaned the house, with nothing better--or able--to do. Smells like bleach in here. Which is better than socks.

The head-kicking occured in my soccer game, the primary component of my tiredness. Still have me playing on the wing and all that running is...quite simply...bullshit. Anyway, I rose to meet a corner with the net gaping and right before I put forehead to ball, "Don't knock it over!" screamed into my mind. I suppose I over-compensated since I drove it almost straight into the ground from 6-yards out, it bouncing up and hitting the underside of the crossbar. It was still loose, so I stabbed at it, only to have my leg hooked from behind, knocking me forward into a scrum. How the ball didn't go in, sitting there longingly on the goal line, I have no idea, perhaps due to the couple minutes of blurred vision and inability to do basic math.

Because of AJ's love for Frank Thomas (and really, which A's fan in the universe doesn't have a huge man-crush on the Big Hurt right now), I kept calling him Little Hurt as he sprayed line drives all over the park. He didn't like it, because he doesn't want to be thought of as "little." So, if you see my boy about, please refer to him as "Medium Hurt."

That settled, he wanted to know what he should call me. How 'bout "Old Hurt?"

Friday, September 15, 2006

Football...You Bet

No, not about my NFL picks for the weekend. Every time I publish my picks, they suck. And I haven't made 'em yet. The title, in fact, is a stupid line from a brief TV series called "San Pedro Beach Bums." My mind is filled with these sorts of useless tidbits and I often wonder about the randomness of memories and why I've kept this recollection, but forgotton countless others. Which is why I need help remembering things.

Wil wrote today about the toy which defined his childhood, immediately causing my answer to surface in the somewhat muddy pool of memories I possess. First, I wanted to find a picture. People of my age and slightly less will know exactly the game I'm speaking of. Woman and children, probably not. So, I wanted visual aides. Instead, on, I found the following description of the game which sucked vast quantities of my youth:

...judged to be one of the most historically and culturally significant games published since 1800.


There's a pre-pubescent photo of me somewhere, bent over the game in rapt concentration, wearing a Buccaneers jersey (Ricky Bell). It's the late 70s, my neighborhood as yet unpenetrated by electronic games though on the cusp of Mattel hand-held football, Atari 2600 and cable TV. It could be a snapshot of the last days of innocence, the raw working of mind and hands before the explosion of technology.

The game was Electric Football.

The soothing hum of the vibrating board. The linemen, intimidating with their fists meeting beneath their chin, elbows out and parallel to the lined, green metal field. The ends, arms splayed to the sides, palms up as if feigning innocence. The receivers, locked forever in a sprint and the backs in perpetual stiff-arm.

Each year's edition came with the previous season's Super Bowl teams and for half a dozen years, I had each one. This was largely because the games didn't seem to have much staying power, would break down frequently because of faulty wiring or some other unknown reason. Of course, if the board refused to work, one could always make due by rapidly tapping the gridiron, which would cause the players to move, if in a less orderly fashion.

The players were mounted on green plastic bases with bristles on the bottom. Somewhere in there, the makers added a directional disc so you could theoretically make a player turn. I don't recall that ever working especially well, though many a time the ends, with their arms wide, ended up locked in a circular and infinite dance, spinning unendingly.

The ball was a little piece of foam that you jammed into the painted arms of whatever player you pleased. Eventually, the QB came with a movable arm and a lever you could flip to make him throw the "ball" downfield, resulting in a completion if you hit your target.

Sure, it was about winning. It was about formations and strategy, though many of the preferred arrangements flauted several NFL rules. I always liked the pyramid structure, with the ballcarrier at the point, bulling forward behind three stacked lines of plastic fury. But it was also about the humor, the previously mentioned twirling ends, a back who got turned and would glide mechanically the wrong direction, two adolescents furiously drumming the broken board while shouting.

Imagination, competition, ridiculousness. Historically and culturally significant, too. What more would you want?

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Second Wave

In the last couple of months, life has been progressing well, a fact which has shoved the turmoil of the year's first few months into the background. I've always been aware of what's behind me, but it has rarely caught up and overtaken me in recent days. That happened yesterday and I was reminded just how fragile my situation remains.

First of all, what is the fucking deal with every book I read having infidelity as a major theme? I'm not seeking these things out, I promise you. Don't you authors have some other soul-crushing plot turn you could mine? Thanks, I'd appreciate it.

My latest not only features an obscene betrayal, but also kept secrets, secrets on both sides which erect an inpenetrable wall between the married couple at the center of the book. Riding home on the train, I hit the section with the cheating and that dormant anger rose up in me to the point where I was shaking and had to resist the urge to rifle my paperback the length of the car. What is wrong with people? Cowardice, avoidance, the inability to share their concerns with those closest. How the fuck can one live their life that way?

It was eerie, the thought process of this fictional character, albiet one whose trials and actions are all too common in real life. It was as if the passage was designed solely to tilt me. Unhappiness, bolstered by silence, leading to treachery, a breaking of all trust. And for what? Nothing more than physical relief, a temporary mirage of feeling, of imaginary emotion.

I lived that hurt. And I re-lived it yesterday for tortuous minutes, the images--both sweeping and pedestrian--flooding back. And while I've been able to accept what happened, I still don't understand it. Not for a moment. It's a helpless feeling.

What took center stage in my over-active brain yesterday were a number of things X said to me in those early days, declarations that have proved to be laughably false. I'm not talking about her deception, but rather her reasoning, her views of her future. Those pictures she painted have proven to be the opposite of the life she currently lives, proclamations of independance and freedom, dreams which crashed--if they ever existed at all--on the rocky reality of single parenthood.

What angers me about all this is the disregard for AJ. Let me say up front that I don't think her actions are malicious. They are naive and selfish, however. In her rush to build her new life, which revolves almost solely around the Doouchebag Poet, she has made our son an accomplice in her neediness. This freedom she claimed to aspire to has been replaced by a wholesale dependance on her boyfriend, her boyfriend's family, with whom she spends nearly all her time, both when she is caring for AJ and not.

I called her last night, needing information. Her cell went directly to voice mail and after a couple attempts there, I called her home phone. She answered. At least I thought it was her and began to talk when the female voice interrupted. "This is (?)," she said. "I'm (the Douchebag Poet)'s sister. I'm baby sitting."

I fumed. Silently. My son, my son whose life is in upheaval, whose insecurity is palpable, is alone with this stranger, someone I don't know, someone whose only connection is that she's a sibling to an adulterer who willingly busted up a family. The very idea sets me on an edge so thin that I can hardly focus my vision. And there's more.

One of the legally-binding agreements in our child custody mediation is something called "Right of First Refusal," which means that should one parent need a babysitter, they will first ask the other parent if they are available. I was available last night. I was not asked. I was given another in a long line of bullshit excuses as to why.

Here's what I think. X felt guilty that she spent one of her custody nights away from AJ. And that's precisely the sort of feeling, that shame, she a) always kept from me and b) most definitely doesn't want me to know about now. Let's forget for the moment that every single one of these "withholding of the truth" moments has eventually come to light. I ALWAYS find out. Instead, let's examine how this behavior remains the primary m.o. in the way she deals with people, not just me, but others. She will NEVER admit to something she feels casts her in a bad light. If confronted with her shame, she will close up and defend, illogically, threateningly.

I've tried to explain to her, without a modicum of success, how her actions affect our son, how we both need to be vigilant about regarding him before making decisions. I'm certain she sees my advice as spite, that my actions are motivated by a desire to place a wedge between her and the Douchebag. I think the technical term for that is projecting. She's so familiar with her own lack of integrity that she sees the same in the actions of others.

So how do I convince her I could give a fuck about her and the Douchebag? I care only about my son, about the confusion she unhesitatingly subjects him to by trying to plug him into this "new family" of hers. (And really, how must they see her? "Mom, Dad, Brother, Sister...This is my girlfriend X. She's married. She cheated on her husband with me.") Half the time, she's free to do what she wants, unburdened by having to care for AJ. Yet, that's not enough. She pulls him along wherever SHE wants to go, not seeing the possible ramifications, not even pausing to think about them.

It's funny, I was in a very 'blah' mood yesterday. Though I'd just spent two days with AJ, I was missing him more fiercely than usual. Intuition, I suppose. A Daddy's instinct to protect that fragile life. Next time, I'll be more proactive when that feeling hits.

I'm not perfect. I've made mistakes with AJ. But I've tried not to repeat them and I've certainly avoided making them an endless pattern. I keep telling myself that X will have a lightbulb moment. In fact, I thought she had one a few weeks back after a custody mediation session where the lawyer not only agreed with some of my more graver concerns, but amplified them. Sadly, these truths have not taken root. My remedies are few, my influence almost nil. It's a frustrating place to be. I was wrong. So many issues are NOT behind me. They surround me. I wish I wasn't the only one who realizes that.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


I'm Under Suspicion.

This morning on the train, I was dozing lightly when I received a tap on my shoulder. I removed an ear bud and opened my eyes to see a big moon face inches from my own. "Could you turn that down?" the Moon Face asked. Of course I would and as I shook off the cobwebs of my sorta sleep and reached for the iPod, she started to say something else, indicating that it wasn't actually my music that was bothering her (which began to make sense since she'd been sitting across the aisle from me for a good 45 minutes and I'd been rocking out the entire time). So she asked the guy seated behind me to turn his down, but immediately turned back to me. She was trying to figure out which of us was annoying her and the only way she could do that was to say, "Which one of you is playing Duran Duran?"

Busted. It was on shuffle, okay? "The Reflex" for those of you scoring at home. And yes, I'm aware I've been Under Suspicion well before now.

Which reminded me that the 80s are back in a huge way, illustrated by a trip I took to the local fashion mall on Saturday. Leggings, short skirts, ankle boots, wide belts. Pat Benatar rules! I made a joke to my shopping companion that next up will be long, shaker-knit sweaters that hide the ass so you ladies can stop going to the gym. It wasn't 5 minutes later that we saw exactly that. Where can I buy stock in leg warmers and off the shoulder sweatshirts?

After a couple months of soft cajoling to cut his hair, AJ, quite out of the blue, demanded a shearing. Well what sort of cut would you like son? A mohawk. Hells no. Now, I don't now where my son got the idea of a mohawk. Perhaps he's been playing my Clash CDs on the sly. But he was adamant, until we reached the fauxhawk compromise. The cut didn't exactly come out that way, but it's funny to watch him try to push his hairs together to form that fin. It was even funnier to watch his soccer coach do a triple take before she figured out who he was seeing as she'd never really seen his face before.

The new 'do led to a special moment this morning as I readied him for school. I lovingly wetted his hair and began to expertly weave in some product (some Dads teach their boys how to throw a curveball). I got some semblance of the Faux, but the cut is a bit too short and his hair is opinionated, just like mine, so neither of us were satisfied with the results. He was, in fact, quite fussy and there may have been some foot stomping as Daddy did not get it quite right. Finally I did and could only look on pridefully as he examined himself in the mirror from every angle.

Then, of course, I drop him off at school and this darling little kindergartener in a powder blue dress makes a 20-yard beeline as soon as she sees him, screaming his name and attempting to envelop him in a hug. He sorta gave her the back of his shoulder and didn't return the greeting, physically or audibly. She followed close behind him as he stashed his backpack and lunch box.

Time out for tangent. Actually, there are no lunch boxes any longer, no metal Super Friends or Fonzie containers. They're all made of soft material so it's more like a Lunch Cozy or a Meal Cushion. How is one supposed to defend themselves in the Playground Jungle without being able to wield a metallic box?

ANYWAY, my boy ignored this poor girl the entire time I was there. I didn't know whether to be proud that he's so quickly mastered the art of playing hard to get or to wonder if he was just deathly afraid of girls. Could go either way.

Just to make a slight correction from the comments yesterday: LOSING parlays are for pussies. Winning ones, such as the one which caused Calvin Ayre to personally deposit several hundred dollars into my account last evening, are hawesome. Couple more weeks like that and I'm thinkin' I'll be invited down to the Costa Rica compound, thereby completing the Mansion-Bodog double in a single year.

I'm willing to admit the following might be irrational. Doesn't matter. Every time I see these women on the train in their business suits paired with tennis shoes and bootie socks, I wanna punch something. This bothers me well past the point of a peeve. I understand the reasoning, blisters and comfort and all that. But when did it become permissible to "feel good" rather than "look good?" Fashion is painful, people. Just because you put on your heels at your desk does not mean you get a pass from me. First of all, it's not like you're walking FAST, picking 'em up and laying 'em down. I get trapped behind these thick-legged folks constantly coming down the tunnel. Secondly, these shoes are invariably white, pristine white, with nary a scuff or mark, while the skirts and jackets run to the winter colors. It's offensive. It's maybe 20 yards from the parking lot to the train. Fifty yards from the train to the subway. And no more than two blocks from the subway to a random office building. You can't make the sacrifice in the name of good taste? You don't see people at the gym with sweatsuits and heels, do you? So what makes the opposite okay? I don't have a solution, except to ask that you please stay out of my way and sight line.

AJ has a reading program at school where the parents are tasked to have him read 20 minutes per night and to sign off on a form. We started last night with Dick and Jane. I don't remember reading Dick and Jane when I was a kid and I surely don't recall reading in kindergarten. I know I did in first grade, though, and my love of reading was cemented early. I think the first I ever read was Plato's Republic. No? Yeah, maybe not. I loved the Beverly Cleary books (Beezus and Ramona, Runaway Ralph) and, of course, Encyclopedia Brown, but my favorite was the Matt Christopher books. If you're not familiar with those, they were sports stories, all with lessons, usually the outsider or low achiever who triumphs in the end. Titles like Catcher With a Glass Arm and Sink It, Rusty are burned in my memory forever. I hope that even in this quick-cut world we live in, AJ will find as much enjoyment in those as I did. Plus, it will prepare him for a life of winning sports betting.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Week One

A buddy once asked me what were the finest three words a woman could say to you. As I was several beers in, I answered, "You're so big!" That was wrong. The real answer was something far more appropriate and sappy. So, my question to you, dear reader, is, what are the finest TWO words in the English Language?

I'll get to the answer later.

I've been awfully busy lately. I alluded to the reasons in the previous post. I feel like I am several people, all contained in a single body. There's AJ time, social time, work time, hanging out with an attractive woman time, filling out endless forms time, soccer pictures time, housecleaning time, even some poker time. And then there's ME time. Today, on this mostly lazy Sunday, I got some of that.

I'm currently enjoying my third beer, having finished watching Peyton beat his little brother, with considerable assistance from the officials, so thanks guys 'cause I enjoyed the outcome thoroughly and you should all know it wasn't because of any affinity for the Colts (hint!).

I've played a bit of poker this week--am even playing right now in the Stars Crazy Re-buy. Can't you feel the testosterone?--and it was mostly okay. I lost a 41K pot the other night when I got the guy all in on the turn as a better than 6-1 favorite, but the board paired turning his trips into a better boat than the one I made on the turn. Distressing, but I've come a long way as far as handling tilt, so I was pleased with my reaction, which was simply not to play any more.

My cards are terrible in this re-buy, but I'm only in for the minimum and there's still plenty of time. My table is garbage, which naturally means I have the second shortest stack. I may have made a poor fold on a KK9 flop when I got check-raised holding QQ. I felt it was a good fold at the time, but having seen the guy showdown a few hands since then, I'm not so sure.

I'm struggling a bit in this space because, as you all know, I usually lay my soul--and personal life--bare here, but I'm currently in a state where I like my private life exactly that. If you're interested, I'll be more than happy to share in person in Philly on the 23rd. What? You're not going? That is tragic. for those of you that are, I can't wait to see you fuckers again.

Remember when I used to live-blog the Crazy Re-Buy? Used to do it all the time. The combination of multiple beers and my meandering brain was a fun--and one hopes entertaining--thing to do. Of course, that was before Felicia pointed out how a truly pathetic and uninteresting pursuit it really was and I'm inclined to believe her. Turns out not everybody thinks I'm as funny as I do. There was certainly no poker knowledge value in those posts. Regardless, I'll put those long-winded solliloquoy's up against anyone's if there's ever an Olympic event.

I'm in the bottom 20% of the field in this Re-buy, but my M is still better than 10. I suppose that's why I love this tourney. More play for your buck, not to mention a better than $60K pool for $31 entry. Sure, I'd like more chips, but the last time I played this 'un I had 19K at the end of the re-buy and was out by this time (don't worry, I was ahead).

Is there anything on TV on Sunday night? Now that the game's over, I'm watching Roggin's Heroes, which is a fantastic show if you enjoy idiotic sports highlights, a face-lifted, hair-tinted Talking Head making an ass of himself seemingly on purpose and "trivia" along the lines of "What color is blue?"

Hahahahahahahaha. Said Talking Head just asked Oscar de la Hoya how he's enjoying retirement. The answer? "Actually Fred, I'm not retired." Nice crack research team over there.

So, what is there to watch? Had "Entourage" on the TiVo, but the season's over. There's my "The Shield" DVDs (well into Season Two), but those demand full attention. Can I just say again how hawesome that show is? When I do get a chance to watch, I find myself hitting three episodes back-to-back, especially if there's some sort of cliffhanger.

How 'bout them Packers?!?! Gonna be a long winter, stb. Of course, the depth of their suckitude is not secret, so betting the Bears today was as close to a gimme as things get (hint!). My main man Schotty is a long-time Bears fan, so I'm sure he enjoyed that.

From paragraph B to now, I've not played a single hand, roughly 23 minutes. I've moved up the leaderboard in that time, so I've got that going for me, which is nice.

None of this is even remotely as interesting as my abject sorrow. I know. I'm aware. But I'd rather be creatively bankrupt thankyouverymuch.

Wow. Just wow. I call a min. raise with KQo. Q62 rainbow flop. Min. raiser bets like a third of the pot. I pop it. Get a call from LP (scary!) and min. raiser. Turn is a jack and I have 2400 left into 8000 pot. I push and get called by both (!). River's another jack and they check it. 99 and QT. This is why I bluff online about as often as Elton John makes out with women. Oh, and I tripled up to better than par. So thanks, tablemates for not recognizing the guy who hasn't played a hand since the Ford Administration was betting hard there. Surely, I must be bluffing.

So who was the winner of the Worst Performance of NFL Week 1? The Bucs? Drew Bledsoe? Caught the tail end of the Drew Bledsoe Experience and I've seen more lively deers staring down four-wheelers.

Guess my table image finally hit folks, since all three limpers and blinds folded to my AA button raise. I'll drink to that. The two words are not "Pocket Aces" by the way.

Gah. Folded the best hand pre-flop. In my defense, a push and a re-push made my 8s less than sexy. It was also the best hand after the river.

F-Train had a reasonable point the other day. It is my personal opinion, one that is not backed by gold or a posse who will seek out dissenters, that poker instruction has reached a saturation point. I still stumble across interesting hands or thought processes, but those are mostly by accident, because I will skim--at best--a poker post on a poker blog. It's nothing personal. It has simply reached a point where I don't find a large percentage of poker-related tales to be interesting. I used to. I used to eat 'em up like Skittles. I suppose it's a been there, done that thing, but I do not, in any way, feel like I am "above" that sort of thing. The drivel contained herein is in no way better than other people's expressions of their own play or thoughts. It's simply that the subject matter no longer appeals to me, which goes for the writing, too.

That said, if doubleas or Sound of a Suckout have strategery posts, we'd be fools not to read. For the MTT specialists, you have Ryan and Hoyazo. No, I don't actually read Hoy, but that's only because there are not enough hours in the day. Do you sleep, dude?

I might pass out or bust any second, so the two words are...


I'm the Chargers covering the 3 away tomorrow from hitting a four-game parlay. They should really win by more than that, the Black Hole on a Monday Night notwithstanding. Speaking of things in Oakland that are terrifying, how 'bout the A's having a team ERA of roughly 72.00 since the start of September. That they are 5-4 is a miracle and that miracle's name is Frank Thomas. Unbelievable. His OPS is nearly 1.000 since The Break (I'm not looking up the exact number, but it's close) and even higher than that in the last 10 days. Homered in five straight and 7 of 9. The A's have crashed the last two Septembers and have lost two games to the Angels in 10 days. That really isn't too bad, but the precedent has been set and even the most optimistic A's fan...okay, let me rephrase that..even the most optimistic A's fan with functional brain activity has to be feeling pretty squimish at this point. They got their lead on pitching and defense and both have been horrid lately. Meanwhile, the Halos are throwing up zeros all over the place, though I must say today all their pitchers had to do was get it to the catcher in the air for it to be a strike. When Troy Glaus gets tossed for arguing balls and strikes, you know it's bad. I've been impressed with Jared Weaver and all, but I have a hard time believing EVERY pitch he throws is on the black at the knees.

So, six games up in the loss column with 20 to play (19 for Angels), including 7 head-to-head in the last two weeks. Somebody hold me.

And I just busted. Lost a race to Big Slick, thought "lost" isn't the best way to say it since the flop was AKK. I feel like Jon Gruden.



Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Endless Summer

Labor Day, the traditional end of summer, a reality that forced its way through the muggy heat this morning as I sat on the train with the usual assortment of misfits. I could write about the train everyday. It's a strange sub-culture and full of quirks that sometimes makes me want to play "get into their lives," guessing and fictionalizing people's existence based solely on observation. It, like poker, is a game of incomplete information. Today, an enormous purple thing sat next to me. I couldn't even turn to look at it, because its sheer size pinned me against the window. But I know it was purple, iris-searing purple, regal purple you might even say if it was velvety instead of polyester. This person--I have to assume it was a female, though I never saw its face, and I'm not willing to give up the possibility that it was some kind of African tribal leader--threatened to smother me with its sheer size, flaring my nostrils with its scent of an over-heated engine. And then, just like that, it was gone. Found a better seat. Or two.

I think there's an Andian parable about the arrival of the Purple Beast signaling the end of summer. If there isn't, there should be.

The last three months have been curious. I feel unmoored, at times. Others, I'm so firmly rooted to the ground that small children climb on me. It's a dichotomous life I'm living. Half the time I'm ultra-responsible, attentive father. When AJ's at his mom's I'm flying around like a kamikaze. This weekend alone, I managed to see every member of my immidiate family, in three different cites, gorged on ballpark brats and barbequed hamburgers, while also finding time to squeeze in a date that included an octopus salad, the prime suspect in a Labor Day of intestinal distress that saw me foul each of the four bathrooms in my sister's new McMansion.

This summer I kneeled at the edge of the Cliffs of Moher and sat in a tiny kindergarten chair listening to "The Giving Tree". I donated hard-earned money to various charities and check-raised a girl on the river. I went on dates and built Lego airports. I drank $100 bottles of wine in swank restaurants and pounded well tequila in dive bars. I spent a number of couch-ridden nights pressed into my mini-sectional (in charcoal grey microsuede) by the oppressive heat, energy sapped to the point of a coma and played 95 minutes (yes, 95. Overtime, you know) in an epic soccer semifinal in a near-triple-digit swelter.

More than anything, it was a summer of blind curves. Both unanticipated pleasures and sudden strife. A year ago, I knew where my life was headed, or thought I did. Now, I have no fucking clue. And if some mornings I have to consult the multi-hued calendar hanging off my refigerator to remind me of where my son is, I still think I'm starting to get a handle on this Single Dad thing.

I had a great summer. Punctuated by a perfect final weekend filled with laughter, family and the electric touch of a more-fantastic-by-the-day woman. Summer's over, but tomorrow has promise.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Let's Go Oak-land

Usually, we'd sit in the left field bleachers. Two bucks, then $2.50, for space on an unforgiving wooden bench, but inside the park, and with the expansive foul ground at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, the bleacher seats were closer to the field than any other. They were also the best seats for a Businessman's Special, mid-week day games in the dead of summer, with sparse attendance, so you could sit on one bench and lean back on the other, exposing your bare chest to the sun aiming directly at you from over the rim of the stadium.

Those were the "good ol' days" when Schotty, Kool Breeze, Donny and I could make Hegenberger Rd. in a half-hour, 45-minutes tops, when Schotty's older brother's ID was sufficient to order four 32 oz. beers, or even more if the guys behind us happened to be willing to trade illicit beers for illicit green bud and if this barter system ended up in us not remembering anything of the game but the fact that Oil Can Boyd shut us out, well, that was okay, 'cause we had fun. Didn't we?

In 1986, Oakland hosted the All-Star game and, for my birthday, the lot of us went to the "workout and skills competition" the day before armed with two half gallon jugs of OJ and Pink Lemonade, both liberally spiked with vodka. Schotty served us mixed drinks from the back seat of the Country Squire station wagon on the way over, all 8 of us packed into this leathered and paneled blast of automobiles past. At the park, we walked right in with them. Simpler times, times when one of the A's three representatives--closer Jay Howell--was booed by the hometown fans because of his horrid sucking in the week prior to the break.

On Little League day at some point in the 70s, lead-footed catcher Jim Essian managed an inside-the-park Grand Slam, a feat only slightly diminished by the fact it came against the expansion (or near-expansion) Blue Jays. Paul Splittorff breaking my heart with a gem on the night I first sat in the lower deck, a prized ticket won with superior paperboy accomplishments, a night I walked into the stone arena KNOWING my A's would win for me on this most special of occasions. The almost-free tickets right behind the visitor's dugout for a double-header against the Twins, all four of us ducking madly when a foul liner whizzed over our heads, taking a ton of flak from our section.

Sitting with my Dad on a frigid April night, him mainlining coffee to stay awake, me enthralled by the Mighty Yankees of Munson and Guidry and Reg-gie, Reg-gie taking on less legendary A's like Dave Revering and John Henry Johnson. The seagulls invading the third deck in the late innings, easy passage through the outfield opening with the Oakland Hills and Bay beyond the iceplant, until Al Davis and his monstrous facade removed all sense of flavor from the building.

It still smells the same, from my first time in 1976 to the 2000 ALDS when we knocked off Clemens (again) in the post-season to my trip last year, this ugly bowl plopped down in the middle of industrial, criminal Oakland, an oft-ignored relic, but one that reflected my dreams, spotlighted my heroes, provided a meeting place for things and people I love.

I'm going back tomorrow. Section 109. My Dad, my brother, AJ. Baseball. Seven-and-a- half-game lead. Eighty degrees with a sunny high sky.

You can't beat it.