Saturday, August 30, 2008

My own worst friend

It’s me. There’s an ambiguity in that title that I must clear up, especially since when last I wrote I mentioned that my buddy from PA, sbstar, was due for a visit. I’m my worst friend.

sbstar just left a little while ago. We had a great time: my home game last night; getting turned around on country roads in the middle of the night and ending right back where we started, almost twice; tweaking my website; playing at PA and chatting it up (not colluding) while playing; eating good food and talking from the heart.

Sbstar, you bastard!

No, I’m the bastard.

No, no one is a bastard. Maybe poker is the equivalent of a bastard. Nah, not even poker.

I prepped sb for the home game. I had him read an earlier post in this blog, and then gave him a rundown on some of the players and what to expect. As you will soon see, sb can handle himself just fine at the table, yet I thought it prudent to provide him with my mental notes on these guys. As he was introduced around, I hoped he would remember who played how.

There was one full table with a mix of the usual suspects and a few other guys I had played a couple times. I started off quite well, and was up 50% in no time. Set of Ks, a couple big folds on flops, a sweet bluff, etc. I have AQoff in the BB. Sb is to my left and limps UTG. Several others limp and I check. Two Aces and a 9 on the flop, and I lead out with a $6, pot-sized bet. Sb calls, everyone else folds. Turn is a 5c, still a rainbow and I bet the pot again. Sb says, “I’ll donate to your cause” or something like that, and calls. Well, I don’t want anymore of his chips, so I say “I’ll check” with the 4c on the river. He goes all in with about $45! Shit!

I have played at least 30K hands with sb. I know how he plays and I know I am 50/50 on this hand. Half of the time he is bluffing/behind. I said aloud, “Only two hands that you could have can beat me.” Those were AK and pocket nines. I discounted the 4 and 5. Funny thing about home games: a discussion ensued. He had a boat when he hit his A5 or A4 suited. Maybe. Ok, now possibly 4 hands. He sure didn’t limp with 23s, so the straight wasn’t there. There was $36 or so in the pot. I mucked. The bastard shows KK.

No, I’m the bastard. Poker is the bastard. Friendship is the bastard. My sister. Slap! My daughter. Slap! My sister! Slap! My DAUGHTER! This is Chinatown.

I am immediately reminded of a hand from my last trip to Vegas. I have 26s in the sb and get to limp. Flop is 345 rainbow. I check, Cut-off fires one off. I raise and he reraises. I decide to be nice and as I reraise him, and say, “Save your money, buddy. Think about it. I was in the small blind.”

He asks. “What you have? 67? Why don’t you go all in then?” and he reraises me. What if he has 67? I had put him on a set or the wheel before I started yammering. I showed and folded. He showed me his wheel. This hand has haunted me ever since.

As soon as I think it won’t look like I’m tilting from sb’s win, I get up and take a little walk. Tilt is when a neck muscle on one side tightens down. I think about the hand. Unwittingly, and ironically, when I checked the turn, I showed weakness. The check said that I didn’t have an Ace. Of course sb would go all in at that point. I broke a poker rule, again. Shut up and play. A little more resolute, some range-of-motion exercises, a fresh beer and I’m back in it.

I’m still ahead. Five of the players at the table are strong players. Five aren’t. I stack L, the king of all donks, and take down some limped family pots. We call it an early night. After all, R’s girlfriend seems to have moved in and she’s sweeping the kitchen floor: a social clue if I ever saw one. No one felt bad because the players remaining were all up. I’ve doubled up, Sb is up 50% and we know where there’s a play money game that goes all night.

I like R’s home game. I almost always come home a winner. Tonight I come home a winner and a bit wiser. By the time we pull out of the driveway, all of the lights in the house have been turned off. Geez, I hope this game continues, and I hope sbstar come back to play. I owe him one.

Friday, August 29, 2008

A little something

Going to my home game tonight and bringing my PA buddy, sbstar. Stories to follow, rest assured. In the meantime, I was looking through the vaults of an earlier time and found this:


The frying pan sits on the campfire, pond water boiling up to the rim, bringing with it the accumulated, previously fused, burnt food from the bottom. In just a bit I will be able to dump the water, scrape the last of the charred remains and ready myself to leave for home.

I've camped here for three weeks, fishing, picking dandelions and pulling cattail roots for food ... by choice. This is something I know about; and it doesn't really require a lot of varied experience. The knowledge that schools impart, or the calm that surrounds me — even the coyotes yipping and howling at night just fifty yards from my tent — all difuses and infuses after the third day or so.

Five days is not enough time to spend here. Dread sets in almost as soon after relaxation, having made this trip many times before, and knowing what my reaction to the traffic, noise, garbage and flurry of inconsideration will be upon my return to the city.

I arrive here with enough water for the duration of my stay. I have seen but three people in the last three weeks. They were all here to fish for a few hours, chat briefly about the pond owners and their own legacy of fishing rights, implying, if I was predisposed to such a thing, an outsider like myself need not get territorial about their presence. Take a few bluegill or crappie for dinner and be on their way. "Me and the wife been comin' out here ever since Fred Sr. put the pond in." I nod. I'd been coming here for well over twenty years myself. His wife nor I have much to say.

I remember my first time here. I was greeted by a heifer, dead two days or so, bloated. On the second day its gut exploded while I was eating a late lunch. The noise, sort of a loud fart, scared me into spilling my water in my lap, splashing into the fire, hissing several pitches higher than the cow.

All week the cow stayed downwind. The flies got pretty thick. The coyotes took care of the rest.

For a while, while I had one, I brought my family here. They loved the spot. The year crazy Fred Jr. tried to drain the pond, we came down here to find the water level at about two feet surrounded by a fifty-foot muddy shoreline of dead fish. We fought the whole time — three days — her wanting to leave right away, me trying to hold onto something nearly gone, the kids crying in the a-ground john-boat. That fall, my wife ran off with a crewing coach. I recognized the irony in that situation only now, on this trip.

So why continue coming to this place? I'm sorry if I've given you the impression that death and only death associates itself here. No, for I love the flies and coyotes, the fish that muddied their backs in the remaining shallows, and the flames that allow me to sit here staring into their cool blue centers, listening to the crying calves a half mile away as they're weaned from their mothers, their pain temporary, somehow not real because it will be forgotten in a few days.

Like the time I walked through the poison ivy that used to line these shores. It eventually stopped itching and draining, healing but taking all the hair on my shins with it. It's okay.

Muskrats and beaver aren't permitted to reside here. My brother comes down for target practice as a favor to Fred Sr.'s grandson who now owns the pond. Bought it from Jr. after the draining fiasco. In fact, my brother comes down here more often than I, visiting with the grandson when he's in town. I imagine them sitting around a campfire remarking how I never leave wood for them. I should tell them that I appreciate the well-stacked pile they leave me.

I wonder if I'm the only other person who camps here for any extended period. There is evidence of others, less respectful of the place than I am of my brother and friend. Beer cans and bottles covered in moss spot the water's edge and come up in the ash pile. I am sure I have spoiled party plans those nights when a car pulls in, sees my camp, turns around and parks further down the road. I hear the bottles bounce off trees or into dirt clods in the fields. I'd call 9-1-1 if I could, if there is such a thing down here.

The ex-Sheriff, now dead, was an old friend of my grandfather. Everyone down here knows who my grandfather is ... was. I felt completely safe in this county, when he was alive. Mere mention of his name meant any trouble would be dealt with by an octogenarian pit-bull. Of course, I was very careful not to get into a situation that called for his intervention, a respect for the family name-thing; an honor to him and his ghost that would surely be in the area, if it were to be anywhere.

At the risk of sounding pap-plus, it is the memory of Grandpa alive, as the memories I carry assure me that I am alive, with the occasional move forward, the feeling of progression adding to the life force; and only recently having gleaned the hope of deliverance to encourage me on. In the same manner of the coyotes and flies feasting on misfortune, and the overcrowded fish waiting for rain or the dam to be plugged, allowing the overcrowded spring to fill beyond its channel, I embrace all of the struggle.

To me, this is balance, and when I return to the city, I try to hold onto this perspective. I try to break through the thick vitreous of the traffic's haze and the "Yo-yo-yo-drugs-here", nowhere-to-go-except-to-an-early-grave neighborhoods I have lived in before and after they have been gentrified, the mixed odors of a multitude of dying cultures carried along the songs of old and young listeners oblivious to notions of hope that are not related to food, clothing and shelter — money — for today and tomorrow. Tomorrow will become today and we shall start again.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

500 Hits

Six weeks now. And google helped.

Someone in Saskatchewan was looking for a "Trespassers will be composted" sign.
Louisiana search: "injured duck guts OR innards OR intestines hanging out"
Someone in England has an aggressive Indian Runner Duck. Most likely a drake.
Texas seems to have a thing about chihuahuas and dogs playing poker. A Virginian wondered when the last time one of those little rat dogs won a major dog show.
My use of the phrase "cervical dislocation" is going to put me on the wrong list. I'm even afraid to mention the organization by name lest it be googled, they find me and liberate what is left of our meager flock.

Thank you, dear readers.

what happens if one googles google? Infinity and beyond!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

And then they were ten.

The walkie talkie crackles and then I hear the dear wife. “She’s dead.”

“OK, I’ll be right out.”

Last night, as I was bringing the birds in from their paddock, I found the odd duck sitting in the high grass along the fence row. She had been spending her day in there the last few days. As I approached, she stood up and then moved out into the field. She was moving slow, so slow that I had no problem picking her up and carrying her into the coop. As we walked, I noted that the feathers near her anus had a greenish tint to them. I took this to mean that she had been either eating a lot of grass, or that she had not eaten at all and this was bile. I listened to her breathing. She seemed to be having a hard time getting air and her quacks came shallow and strained.

By the time we got up to the coop, I had determined that I would have to put her in the infirmary. In addition, I would spike her drinking water with an antibiotic. (This is always a last resort, as our eggs are supposed to be organic. Quarantining her would guarantee that if she was to lay eggs, we could dispose of them.) Even though I had not seen her eat, I had watched her drink, so hopefully the medication might help. My dear wife said she had shown interest in eating worms yesterday, so I put three big worms in the water. Two worms remained in the bowl.

Two ducks in two weeks. I still had a small pile of compost that I hadn’t moved for the earlier burial, so…

The diesel engine of my tractor sounded a bit mournful, or rather, my mood caught a lower register than the ringing sound one usually associates with diesel. I kept the tractor in a lower gear and took the opportunity from my perch in the seat to have a look around. The late season blackberries are ripening; the Gravenstein Apples have a nice color to them; the Italian Plums are almost ready to pick; my dear wife gives me a half-hearted wave as she fills the waterers in the back paddock.

I resolve to pick some berries this afternoon and take a bite of an apple to see if they’re ready. I say to myself that I now have today’s blog entry.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A Quickie

I wish I had the time for one.

Things are picking up a bit around here. I received a call from a client to do a rewrite on a proposal and have been dealing with a breakneck deadline on that. I sent the copy over to the client just an hour ago and have received a positive response, plus another rewrite assignment. While I’m waiting for copy, I thought I’d spend a little time here.

First off, another duck is on the ropes. A younger one this time. It went into a serious molt a couple weeks ago and has been despondent the last few days. No idea what is wrong with her, and we are hoping her unsteadiness and lethargy are the after-effects of the molt as she tries to regrow feathers.

I’d also like to address some of the comments from the previous post. In short, yes, it is a bankroll issue. Work is still sporadic as I ramp up my writing and say good-bye to the farming life. Therefore, we are still in a financial limbo.

Bankroll is key, there's no doubt about it.

I couldn't possibly have contemplated my year-long experiment without being willing to really and truly bankroll myself for it. *gulp*

I will not sit down at a table in a casino this year without at least 5 buy-ins in my pocket. It puts my head in a completely different place.

Only an hour and a half to a real live casino? Cripes, I'd commute there every other day if I had one that close!

Dear Sister Cardgrrl, if I had 5 buy-ins to bring along to the casino, I’d feel like I ruled the world. In that my casino roll totaled 7.5 buy-ins, I guess I was fucked from the start.

Good point from CG. My little trick was putting my casino winnings in a separate container and only ever using that money for trips to the casino. That way, mentally I was playing other peoples money instead of seeing my own hard ended going into the pot. :)

And to my dear friend, Gumpo: I tried that, or rather, a variation on that. Last year I split my winnings with my dear wife. See above. Needed the cash for other things. The result was that when I lost, there was no one to split it with and funds got depleted. This year I resolved to keep all of my winnings for my roll. The poker gods had other ideas.

there are plenty of real money but micro stakes online. You should be able to absolutely kill at those games with all the bad players.

I know it's ultimately not about the money with you, or you wouldn't have spent so much time becoming one of the top 3 PAX players. So it must be more about the intellectual challenge and the thrill of competition. Play .01/.02c if you have to, but play!

And to dear Matt: I have tried those ultra-micros and find them way too frustrating, However, I have not tried multi-tabling them. Where is Yakshi to give me pointers? As to whether the game is about money, an intellectual challenge or the competitive spirit, it is about all three. The first one has my attention at the moment. I have spent so much time on PA under the assumption that by improving my game there, I would have an easier time moving into real money. That has not been the case. In fact, a case might now be made that the longer I play at PA, the more harm it will do to my overall judgment in cash games.(I may address this issue at length later.)

Both Matt and Sandman suggest trying the micros again. I’ll give it a go.

Dear friends, thanks for reading and responding.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Wherewithal

I’m not as young as I used to be…two days ago. Despite ten and a half hours of sleep last night, I am still dog-tired, feeling a bit queasy and, well, ambivalent. A bumper sticker I saw yesterday could sum it up: CAUTION: Driver just doesn’t give a shit anymore. That certainly portrays the last hand I played at the casino yesterday.

Yesterday, I was supposed to meet up with a fellow PA player, Mad Mosby, at the local casino. We had never met before, and, after several attempts to get our schedule to agree, it was finally going to happen, and not a moment too soon. The tourist season was coming to a close, meaning no more easy pickings at the tables. We were going to slaughter them like grizzlies picking off salmon coming upstream.

I was anxious for a last hurrah. So anxious, in fact, that at the last minute I decided to leave for the casino Saturday afternoon.

My dear wife was a bit surprised when I sprung this on her. Well, maybe not that surprised. It wouldn’t be the first time I’d made one day at the casino into two. “If that’s what you want to do, call and see if they have a room for you.”

They didn’t. The hotel was booked solid. Instead, I threw the sleeping cot into the back of the car, grabbed my toothbrush, and off I went, promising that I would be safe sleeping in the car. I had done it several times before.

The card room was fairly busy, but not so busy that I couldn’t be seated right away. I checked out the two 1/2 games going and opted for the one where I knew the fewest players and had the smaller stacks. The last thing I wanted to do was play deep stack poker with my 100 BB.

This weekend must have been the last fling for kids returning to college, as there was a gaggle of them at my table. A couple of them knew each other. There was a young gun who I recognized and seemed to recall he wasn’t so good of a player. There was an old loud drunk, who I also recognized as someone I had played several months before and who was crazy loose and lucky. And there was Mr. Muscles.

Mr. Muscles went on a heater right off the bat. The drunk raised it up $15 and MM would call. Anyone else who raised it up, MM called or reraised big. It wasn’t long before he had tripled up. I was card dead for all of the action except for one hand in which I rivered a boat on some guy’s presumed flopped straight. I checked my set on the flop and he jammed for his last $100. He mucked and left.

My bladder isn’t as young as it used to be either. I was on the button with A5d when it was limped around to me. I called. The flop came smallish with one diamond. The drunk bet $10, MM and another player called, and I folded. I wasn’t going to chase, and besides, I had to pee. As I stood up to leave, the turn was another diamond and both players checked. I walked away. No! I couldn’t resist and turned around to see the river. Yep, another diamond. I didn’t stay to see the betting, but when I came back from the potty, MM had even more chips. I couldn’t help but think some of those could now be in my stack.

The table changed a bit as the hours dragged on. The college students went busto, the drunk got yelled at by another player and he left, MM went over to play 2/5 and I remained card dead. Slowly but surely I was frittering away my earnings, calling small raises and folding, and losing my blinds with 72 off and the like. I saw 72, 73, 82 and other crap for hours.

I was in the BB with K7s when it limped around to me. The flop came with a 7 a 10 and 2 and was checked around. I suppose I could have bet my 7 but I was soooo out of position. I was overjoyed when a K came on the turn. I bet about the pot, $20, and it was folded around to the young gun who tripled my bet. A set? Unlikely. He would have called on a rainbow uncoordinated board. He had a King and I knew it because I had seen him push hard with top pair earlier. He lost that hand too, so I smooth called. The turn was a Q, which bothered me a bit. I checked, waiting for him to lead out. He bet $60, a nice value bet. I called. Should I have jammed the turn on his turn raise? You tell me.

I bought another $100, and sat there for a couple more hours folding. Eventually the table broke and I moved over to another table. More youngsters, plus a solid player who I had befriended. He was doing well, up about $300. I took down a sizable pot with AJ when a guy went all in for his last $25 with A10. One of the kids, an obvious calling station also called the all in. We checked it down and I won with A high, J kicker.

Eventually, however, I could get nothing going after that and watched my stack dwindle once again. My friend at the table lost with his set of tens on the flop to a set of Kings on the turn and left in disgust, saying, “This same thing happens every weekend!” I watched another kid get stacked when his K10d, K on the flop, all in on the diamond turn lost to AQd with another diamond on the river. There was still money to be had, but I had had enough.

I tried to sleep. Maybe it was the coffee, or maybe it was the K7. I tossed and turned a while before getting some much-needed rest. I woke with first light, fell back asleep and went back into the casino at sunrise. I had some breakfast, drank a couple cups of coffee and made my way back to the poker room. I thought I felt okay.

The tables were already going strong. I recognized players from the night before, apparently going without sleep ant sleep at all. After a short wait I was seated at a 1/2 with mostly older guys, maybe some my age, some decidedly older, and a couple young players. One of the young guys was a regular as he knew all of the dealers by name, and they knew his.

By and large it was a strong, aggressive table. Folks weren’t afraid to get their money in, and some big pots were taken down with some big hands. The young regular was out of his league, even though he was right in there with a loose aggressive style. He lost a buy-in in fairly short order and reloaded. A bit later I was in two hands with him.

An older guy on my right opened with a small raise, I called with A9s and the kid completed in the BB. The flop came with an A and the old guy made a C-bet, which I raised by that same amount, just to see where I was at. The kid called, as did the initial bettor. The turn was a blank, the kid checked, as did the old guy and I. The river paired the board and it was checked all around again. The kid flips over trips, the old guy mucks. I wasn’t going to make that mistake again. I should have raised more on the flop or bet the turn. The upside: I didn’t lose too much and I now had information I could use later on.

I was catching some decent hands. Too bad. I limped with KQc and called a good-sized raise after another player did as well. The flop came with a Q. I checked, the initial bettor made a good-sized C-bet, the other player and I called. The turn was an A. I knew I was beat, the other player didn’t. I was down under $100.

Meanwhile, the kid had taken down a few pots with trash hands and was building a stack. I tell myself to just be patient. Qs in early middle position. The old guy to my right has limped and I raise to $12. It folds around to the kid who raises it to $40. The old guy calls. There’s almost $100 in the pot, and hoping the kid thinks his jacks are good, I push the rest of my chips in the middle. The kid calls and the old guys goes all in as well. The flop comes with a K, turn is a K, river is a 10. I know I’m beat. The kids shows Aces and the old guy mucks.

Time to call it a day. Yet, I still have to wait for Mad Mosby to show up, and that’s a couple hours from now, so I go back out to the car to lick my wounds and take a nap. Again, the sleep is less than restful and I wake up in 45 minutes. By the time I get back to the poker room, the kid is down to $60. It just makes me feel worse.

After killing a little time lamenting my session over the phone with my dear wife and chatting with my son in Chicago, I go to meet Mad Mosby. Just as I had suspected, he’s a great guy. I told him about my beats, tried to justify my play, and he listened like a nice person would. We talked about Poker Academy and I hope I convinced him to join us at the 3rd Annual PA Rendezvous in Las Vegas next year. He would make a fine addition to an already wonderful bunch of folks. I just hope I can attend as well.

Suffice it to say, lamentations kept me awake for the drive home. Did I play poorly? Did I play scared, tight-weak poker and then tilt off the rest of two buy-ins? And now, I don’t have enough of a bankroll to return to the casino for the foreseeable future. But do I have any business ever going back? Is my game worse than I think it is? Tight isn’t good enough when I’m not aggressive enough to raise it up or get it all in good before the turn or river, and then get frustrated with the turn and river beats. Or, maybe I just don’t have the fortitude to play this game, weather the beats and move on. Like a whipped dog kept on a chain next to a ratty-looking doghouse, with bad beats and a small roll, I may still have my tail between my legs when the kids come out to play. I’m happy to see someone but I still half-expect to get clocked.

When I told Mad Mosby that I was down two buy-ins, his response was, “What? The guy who has all of my PAX (play money) on Poker Academy?” Yes, the disparity is striking. Oh, I sometimes get clobbered on PA. The difference is that I am not crippled when it happens. I can come back, and always do, gradually building my roll higher and higher. Yet, when it comes to real money, knowing that I don’t have much to begin with, my game goes in the toilet and seems to stay there. The difference? I can’t afford to lose real money.

I’ve been dancing around this realization for a while now. I’ve been telling myself that I’m a good enough player, and that the seemingly constant losses and break-even sessions at the casino or online shouldn’t be happening to me. Others seem to think I’m good enough to beat the game as well. I have had three different people offer to stake me. I have turned them all down, first, because I don’t want to be beholden to someone, and second, because, afraid of losing someone else’s money. I’d still be playing scared. Yes, it is a bankroll issue.

So, what is the solution? I suspect there isn’t one except to quit playing for cash. Relegate myself to Poker Academy play money and the pub tourneys? The thought of it makes me ill. If I swear off the casino, I still have enough of a bankroll left to play my home game. That may be the answer. Still, I worry that the damage done may be irreversible or like some sort of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, and it won’t be long until that money is gone as well.

I love this game of poker. Yet, that doesn’t necessarily mean it is good for me to be playing it at the moment. I’m going to scale back. I’ll stay away from the casino, and stick to PA, my shitty little pub tourney and my home game. After all, this is supposed to be a blog about poker first and foremost, right? Right? So, dear readers, we’ll see how this thing plays out. And you’ll get to go along for the ride.

Will bastin turn his game around? Will bastin go broke and swear off poker forever, only to find new joy in quilting bees? Stay tuned.

One final note: I witnessed my first bad beat jackpot Saturday night. Quad fours against a 7 high straight flush. It happened at a 2345 Limit game. A game at which I can afford to take a few bad hits. No, not really. Not with my bankroll.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Compost Happens

Rain, rain, rain. Yet another weather-related excuse to hole up in the basement. Not that I need much more of a reason than because-I-feel-like-it. I did go out to put the birds in the paddock for the day, take a look around, remember that I still have that tansy to pull out in the back field, and avoid scaring the deer hanging out by the compost piles.

The day before yesterday I moved a maturing compost pile over to cover the newer one that contained the duck and fish remains. The last thing my dear wife needs to see is the remains of the duck scattered about by some enterprising dog or raccoon. The extra compost will cover and hasten the decay.

The first year we plowed the field, our soil, a silty clay loam, had a distinct red hue. Drainage was going to be a problem, and there was a lot of iron. It was clear that the soil needed amending if we were going to get any sizable production from it, so I started my first compost pile. Composed mostly of llama dung from our neighbors and grass clippings, it was on the small side, and as compost piles do, it got smaller and smaller as it cooked. I went in search of sources for a greater amount of compostable materials. I sought out dairy and beef farmer willing to part with their black gold, and it wasn’t long before I had 40 tons in big piles scattered about the farm. In order to maintain a good cook, compost needs to be turned on a regular basis. Up until now I had been turning my pile by hand with a pitchfork. That would no longer be possible, so I bought a new tractor with a front-end loader.

I derived a certain pleasure in building my compost piles. A good compost pile requires a specific architecture and dimensions to work properly. My tractor was my sculpting tool and the piles were my big minimalist sculptures. Daily, I would check the temps on each pile, making sure they weren’t getting too hot or cool. I watered them if the seemed to be drying out. I took pride in my piles.

After the compost matured, taking about nine months depending on its components, it was ready to be spread. The compost we started each previous summer was put on the fields in the spring right before we tilled. Very convenient. Now, five years later, our soil is a rich brown color and kicks ass in production. My dear wife dubbed me “The King of Compost,” and bought me a sign that stated, “Trespassers will be composted.”

Yes, a good-sized compost pile can erase any trace of a human body, for instance, one of the tweakers that crash at a house behind our place. (Don’t worry, it’s just a fantasy.) And, as I’ve indicated elsewhere, our piles have included several beast and fowl over the years: ducks, guineas, possums, skunks, stray cats, a deer, a calf and innumerable gophers.

And one coyote.

The coyote is in a very special compost pile, one that will never grace our fields. It is an art project. Or maybe it’s art therapy.

I had this one idea for an art piece for a while, ever since I grew my hair out. When it is not back in a ponytail, I look a little wild, especially when I have my requisite Great Northwest facial hair going at the same time. I envisioned a photo shoot of me, naked in one of our stunning temperate rainforests with dead animals, specifically a deer and a coyote, hanging from trees. It would be raining. I put a call out to sheep farmers I know that if they should trap a coyote, I’d like the carcass.

Months went by. A long, cold, cloudy and wet autumn, winter and spring ensued. Rain, snow, rain, rain, rain, snow, rain, rain, rain. The weather up here can have a deleterious effect on the soul. Combine that with the variance that is farming and a host of other little setbacks, I sunk into a funk, and my mind turned into mud. I didn’t care about much of anything except poker, my great escape, yet even my game suffered.

I tell you this only to set a scene. For years I worked as a serious artist. I was well-regarded, yet for some reason that still somewhat eludes me, I was unable to get my career started. Farming was a bit of a reaction to that disappointment, and now that endeavor was failing as well. Despite having an enviable list of clients, we just couldn’t make the type of money we needed to justify continuing. We didn’t know what exactly we were going to do next, but it was clear that things couldn’t continue as they were.

I was waiting for a pub game to start when my cell rang. It was my dear wife. A neighbor had a coyote for me and he was bringing it over as we spoke. Did I even want a coyote now? Well, the guy was on his way and I couldn’t leave her to turn him away, so I jumped in my rig and scurried home.

It’s fairly obvious that I ended up taking the canine. It was a female and the wire noose was still around its neck. I put it in a garbage bag, locked it up in the barn and returned to the poker game. I’d deal with it, meaning compost it, in the morning.

Morning came and went. A week went by, it was cold outside, and so the coyote remained. For some reason I couldn’t get rid of it. I wasn’t particularly thrilled with the idea of getting naked in the cold and rain, yet I also kept thinking of the German artist, Joseph Beuys’ 1974 performance piece, “I like America and America Likes Me.”

A short description of the action can be read here:
(For any of what follows to make sense, you will have to read the Tate article.)

Beuys was an early influence for my art. His insights into what can be art had, at one point in my life, given me hope. I revisited “I like America” and found a spark of inspiration. I would use the coyote.

Since 1993 I have had subscriptions to “ArtForum” and “Art in America,” two of the more prominent art magazines here in the States. Thinking that these periodicals were invaluable records of recent art history and criticism, I kept all of the issues. I was mentioned in a couple issues, plus there were a few reviews of exhibits we had at our short-lived gallery, so in a small way we were a part of that history. Yet, the importance of these mags had decreased as my mood deteriorated. They began to represent unfulfilled dreams and goals. I took all of them, along with my video camera, out by the compost.

I made a 5-foot in diameter, 15-magazines-deep ring on the ground of the “ArtForums.” I then draped myself in a plastic tarp and stood in the ring. Then I introduced the coyote to the ring, draped myself again and stood to the side of the ring. I propped the coyote up with all of the “Art in Americas” to make it look like it was running. And, finally, I covered the whole thing in compost and placed the tarp over the pile.

That “action” took place this spring, and I am just now in the process of editing that video. I call it “I like art but.” I view the piece as a sort of catharsis for my ambivalence toward things I used to enjoy: making art and compost. Now that I’m making art again, it looks like it worked. The pile itself has gotten a little smaller and there are plants growing on it, despite it being tarped. I need to go out and weed it. Maybe when it quits raining.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

One of us! One of us!

The full moon is waning, yet, here in rural America, as most everywhere on any given night, the freaks come out to play. Mix in something resembling poker and you have a pub tourney.

This small town hosts two weekly pub tourneys at two different bars. One is on Sunday, and the one I attend is on Tuesday. I have been to the Sunday game, and there are some things I like about it that the Tuesday game lacks. Sunday has prizes after each game. First prize is a cheeseburger dinner, second and third prize are swag with booze logos on it. I like cheeseburgers. Points are given to those who make each final table and after six weeks of play, a final tourney is held for the top point earners and the winner of that wins $75.00. And finally, there are no ghosts to blind off and split up after three levels. The Tuesday game has ghosts, which are a pain in the ass to manage and muck; and winners from each week get extra raffle tickets for a monthly drawing for a $50 gift certificate. The Sunday game is a better value for my time, right? Not necessarily.

Although several Tuesday players go to the Sunday game, the Sunday crowd is, how shall I phrase it, a bunch of loud, obnoxious, loose-passive pains in my ass. Well, not everyone, but there are enough of these types to ruin a game. Imagine a bunch of inbreds with button noses, caved-in faces and rheumy eyes who have drunk too much cheap beer by 4 o’clock in the afternoon. Then throw in a couple loudmouth back-slappers who show up half in the bag and only get louder with more and more cheap beer. And finally, throw in the mousey, chain-smoking, bone-thin sixty-plus year old woman who is drinking that same beer and looking for any excuse to rub my thigh. Let’s call her Vera.

Vera showed up for the Tuesday game.

Fortunately, Vera was seated at another table for the first part of the night. Yet, Vera does know how to play Hold ‘em, so I figured I’d see her at the final table, if I made it that far.
(Sorry, a bit of false modesty there. Or more accurately, a nearly irrelevant statement, for at this game, I often fold my way to the final table.) In the meantime, she had competition for my attention.

The game started on time for a change, if a bit short-handed. We had five players and three ghosts at our table. A man and woman walked into the bar, came over to say hello to Skunk, who was seated at my table, and Skunk asks the man if he was going to play. He said yes with a distinct British accent and in the highest-pitched voice a man could have. I took a second look. A bit on the short side, one really lazy eye, a crew cut, frosted on top, a bit of bling but nothing too garish, slacks, and wind breaker with an Oregon State jersey underneath. I introduced myself to Leslie (no help there!). Leslie rolled the most perfect cigarette. The fingernails on Leslie’s small but rough hands had the slightest point to them. Leslie confessed to having not played much poker, and when one table had several bust-outs in one hand and Leslie and I were moved to that table, I said to ask me if there were any questions.

Please note, dear reader, in the last sentence of the previous paragraph I avoided a more convenient use of a third person pronoun. I could have wrote, “I told him to ask me if he had any questions.” So went most of the evening, for as inexperienced as Leslie was, Leslie managed to catch some hands, thereby prolonging my genderless word-dance. She and he and her and him were circumvented. However, no one else at this table seemed to have the same problem. As far as they were concerned, Leslie was a female, and Leslie never bothered to correct anyone. Hey, what do I know? I’ve only lived here five years. As far as I knew, everyone at the table knew Leslie. Finally, I slipped out a “she,” and then attempted to stumble back from it, causing me a bit of embarrassment, if only to myself. But man, she/he was distracting, which probably didn’t help me concentrate on my game as much as I could have.

It wasn’t that I was making any big mistakes. It was more that there were other distractions. When Leslie and I were moved, I found myself sitting across from a woman with a huge stack who was obviously tweaked out of her mind. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, “tweaked” refers to someone who is exhibiting the physical manifestations of being high on methamphetamines. Her mouth was contorting, she squinted a lot and her arm movements were exaggerated. And, she was a fucking calling station. She was May in November. AK went down to her 94 off with a K on the flop, as well as a 9 and a 4 on the turn. And don’t think that AK wasn’t bumped pre-flop.

The final table. Vera takes the seat to my immediate right. Oh shit. But I luck out and she busts early. Leslie finally bites the dust, along with a couple other players, leaving me, Max and the meth head. The play is slow because Tweaky can’t remember what the blinds are, bets out of turn, forgets that she’s the dealer and digs through her purse for God-knows-what. Twenty minutes go by and I’m thinking, “Donk off and run.” when I feel two hands on my shoulders. I am getting a massage. I think that my dear wife has come to the bar to surprise me. You guessed it. Vera!

“Ooooo, you’re doing well.”

“Thank you.” Cold, cold, cold. Bye.

Max is a solid player, and between the two of us, we eventually got rid of Tweaky, at which point I threw my chips over into Max’s stack. “ You win. I just didn’t want to be beat by a newbie tweaker. I’m going home.”

Blinds are still at $25/$50, the first level. Two limpers, per usual, in early position, Skunk is next to act and goes all in, it folds around to Debbie on my left who thinks a bit and calls. Limpers get out of the way. Skunk flips over A8 sooooooted; Debbie has A5 off. 5 on the river.

Skunk complains, “Rivered! I had a better hand. Why did you call?” A donkey bet and call, not so surprising, really.

I shouldn’t have, but I chimed in, “Why would you go all in with A8?”

“They were suited.”

“But it’s still the first level of blinds. Why risk your stack so early?”

“Listen, bastin, you don’t know as much about poker as you think you do. You have to have confidence. Plus, I only have $1400 in chips.”

“OK, coach, forget I said anything.”

A few orbits later with $50/$100 blinds, there’s a big raise and call from early positions. Skunk pushes again with all of his rebuy. I have pocket Jacks in the BB and fold. The early players fold as well. Skunk shows A8 off. I grab the deck and run the cards. No A. Shit.

I’d love to get this guy in a cash game.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

And this, dear friends, is our poker lesson for the day.

“Do worms feel pain?”

A friend of mine asked that question last week when I took him fishing for his first time. I was showing him how to bait the hook.

“Don’t start!” I admonished.

Of course they feel pain. That’s what makes putting one on a hook a challenge. And the fish feels pain, which makes them fight to get off of a hook jabbed through their jaw. I know it feels pain, and that is why, if I am going to keep a fish to eat, I knock it on the head with my fish club before I bleed it out. I am as merciful as I can be while still fulfilling my goal.

Of course, my friend wanted nothing to do with fishing. He was, however, content to sit with me at the water’s edge, talk and relax. He understood those merits of the activity.

“You sure you don’t want to give fishing a try?”

“No, that’s okay. A little too much blood and guts, thank you. I will concede, however, that I know when I buy meat at the store, I am conveniently side-stepping part of the process.”

We didn’t catch anything to brag about that day; yet, we had a good time gazing out over the water and talking with a few of the locals. That excursion became about something else than fishing, or rather, it was more about my favorite part of fishing: going with a friend.

Yesterday I went fishing again. This time it was with my regular fishing buddy, and we headed up to our favorite river in search of steelhead trout. It was a rainy, cool day. We figured the fish would be biting, hungry after the imposed lethargy of a very hot week and ready to take advantage of food washing into the river. The little cutthroat trout mauled our bait, yet the big fish seemed to have other ideas. We were there for eight hours, working our favorite stretch of the water without a single bite. Then wham! Steve hooked one.

It was a good fight,. The fish made several good runs up and down the river, took to the air a couple times, and finally gave it up after two attempts to get it in the net. Steve said, “It’s a big male.” It weighed about ten pounds, a good, average size for a hatchery-raised Steelie, and it had swallowed the hook. “This one is yours. Take it home and put it on the grill.”

“Nah, Steve, you caught it; you keep it.” My regular readers may remember that Steve is pretty much a catch-and-release fisherman.

“Dude (fellow Lebowskian), last time we came up, I caught two and put them back. You lost yours and wanted one for the grill. We’re having Ahi for dinner tonight, so here you go.”

“Well, thanks buddy. My dear wife will be mighty pleased.”

Ah, my dear wife. Before I left to go, she asked me how long we’d be fishing. Our veterinarian friend was possibly stopping by in the evening to have a look at the injured duck. I said we figured a half-day because we were leaving early and the bite would probably taper off in the afternoon. We had miscalculated on both accounts. By the time we were in an area with a cell phone signal, it was 4:30 and I called home.

My dear wife was indeed delighted that I was bringing a fish home. The vet was coming by after work and would be there before I arrived.

The two women were sitting in the dining room. “Sorry I’m so late.” I walked into the room to see a couple vials and a handful of small syringes and needles on the table. “What have we here?”

“Ketamine.” Good ol’ Special K. The Breakfast of Downer Freak Crackers. She was going to relax the duck to see if we could put the leg back into the socket.

“I don’t think there is a socket to put the leg in. I’ve tried.”

“But you have only tried with the duck awake. This should help.”

So, out to the coop with drugs in hand. I caught the duck, we covered her eyes to calm her down and gave her the shot in the muscle of her good leg. It wasn’t long before she was limp in my arms and the Good Doctor went to work.

“I think she blew out her knee. Wait, I think her knee and hip are gone.” I knew what was coming next. My dear wife was talking about something else as the examination concluded, so she missed “It would be best just to let her go.” I had our vet repeat it. Quiet.

“I’ll take care of it.” I said.

My dear wife asked, “Are you sure? Do you want me to help? “

“No. “

“Where are you going to put her?”

“In the compost.” All dead animals go to the compost.

Our vet had to leave, so the women went back up to the house. I took the semi-comatose bird behind an outbuilding to render the cervical dislocation. Our vet had reassured my dear wife: “With the Ketamine, she won’t feel a thing.” Maybe not, yet the display of nerves firing in chaos was not for the faint-hearted. Somehow, her head turned as if to look at me. I apologized aloud as I made doubly sure the deed had been done.

I suppose I could continue writing and pontificate as I have in the past about life and death on the farm. I could also try to justify killing a fish for food, or a cow for shoes, or the ants we smash as we walk through the grass. I could, but I’m not inclined to do so, just as I declined to talk afterwards about putting the duck down when my dear wife asked if I was okay. Mind you, I had given this bird physical therapy for weeks, I had prayed over it, talked to it, calmed it, and petted the very neck that I would have to break. Knowing that the latter was a distinct possibility, I reserved just enough emotional distance in order to do so.

It’s not that I don’t feel anything.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Mark Making

Home game night. It’s a full moon, I’m wearing my Dead Guy hat and I’ve brought a 24-ounce bottle of the ale with the same name.

As I don’t particularly care to play in the tourney, I came late, just for the cash game. Right away I could tell something was amiss. R, the guy who holds the game, has a new girlfriend. He’s been dating a couple different women. This one was in the bedroom watching TV. I think folks thought their game might be in jeopardy as there was some rumbling about her moving in already. R was smiling the smile of a man getting steady trim, so who am I to judge? If the gig works out and we have to move the game out to the workshop, so be it. Nothing a propane heater can’t take care of when the weather turns. If it doesn’t work out, maybe R will be dead money for a couple weeks. It could happen.

Enough people had busted out of the tourney so we started a 5-handed game in fairly short order. The edge remained. Even M, the jokester was in a mood, and taking it out on T.

We usually play .50/1.00. T insisted that we play .25/.50, Ok, we’ll play .25/.50. T is one of those people you want in a game. He always thinks he has the best hand when nothing could be further from the truth. Top pair or 2 pair (not 2 cards in his hand pairing on the board, but a pocket pair and the board pairs) and he thinks he’s got it tied up. He lost his buy-in in short order. The problem is that when he loses, he gets agitated; and I guess because he’s a big guy, he thinks that if he threatens bodily harm, people will back off of hands. After M takes down a pot with trips against T’s monster bottom 2 pair, the sparring ensues.

“Do that again and I’m gonna come over there and knock the shit outa you.” Yes, the audacity of having a better hand.

M is no small guy, yet he’s considerably older. He says, “I don’t have to go 2 hours with you. It won’t take long at all.”

T retorts, “Are you still talking?”

M fires back, “Why don’t you go piss on some tires, something you’re good at.”

I’m dying as I try to hold back my laughter. Such an oaf.

T wasn’t the only person at the table who was getting under M’s skin. W was there. W is a youngish Asian guy who talks a lot of poker smack. I know W from the casino. He’s a rather affable guy, if a bit superficial. Make that gregarious, and he likes being the center of attention. He never shuts up. He was sitting to my right, which is a good thing as far as the cards go, which I’ll explain in a bit, but it is also a bad thing because he had my ear. My good ear. I’m trying to concentrate on the game and he’s talking to me at a volume just loud enough to for me to barely hear. I’m his confidant?

“Last hand I had flat tire. I woulda won”

I have no clue what he is talking about. “A what?”

“A flat tire.” He asks with some incredulity, “You never hear of flat tire?”


“Jack-four. If you get a flat tire, what is jack for?”

“Ah. Unfortunately I am not caught up on all of the poker jargon. I tend to disregard such as ephemeral, opting to concentrate on what is going on in each hand.” Really, I phrased it pretty much like that.


“Do you know what “ephemeral” means?”


“It means transitory or lacking endurance or longevity. This too shall pass. Maybe I should have said superfluous.”

After that, he toned the chit-chat down a bit. Yet, the table was still a captive audience, or so he thought. W is pure LAG and everyone knows this. J2 is his favorite hand. “Jack-deuce, never lose.” Say that at the casino and everyone says, “You know W, eh.” W leads out with $6 after a couple limps, everyone folds ad he shows a pair of sixes. “Six dollar for pair of sixes, right? I have best hand.” Wrong table, W. These guys don’t always back down, and they will pack like wolves. How much did W lose? $100 or so. Tons for a ,25/.50 game. After he left, R says, “And you guys were bitching and moaning when I told you W would be here.” He does liven up a game.

But with W out of the picture, I shall continue to paint the portrait of T. He’s tatted up pretty good with a nice Ace of Spades on his tricep, Harley verbiage with “fidelity” and other such bullshit, on one shoulder (he’s wearing a wife-beater) and on the other some busy red and blue images I didn’t bother examining too closely. It may have had an eagle in it. Of course. R, Sirius was programmed to a 80s station and T insisted he change it to a classic rock station, which according to T is something along the lines of Def Leppard. (I had to google to make sure I had the correct spelling.) R caught a jazz station while searching and I suggested he hang with that for a while. It was some 50s Miles. A great groove with some amazing minimal harmonies. You never saw a bunch of guys squirm so much. The shit was kickin’ but these shit-kickers weren’t catching it. I came right out with it: “You’re just a bunch of fuckin’ heathens! That’s what it is.”

T starts screaming, “I’m gonna kill myself if we have to listen to this crap.” P chimes in, “I’m gonna kill you (T) if I have to listen to this.” R finds the Motley channel and T calms down. “Hey, I recognize this song.” I repeat: “Fuckin’ heathen. So narrowly defined, confined to your little square box.” I was pushing it and wasn’t so sure that anyone would have my back, or that I could get my knife out of my pocket in a timely manner, so I toned it down after that and went back to waiting for my turn at T’s reload.

I wish I could say it came. I turned a straight on the button and minimized my risk with 4 people still in the pot. T caught a river flush and made it abundantly clear he had done so. Good job, nice hand.

It was getting late and I had told my dear wife that I would pull the plug at 2 AM. A few hands later I caught a set of sixes after calling a 3-bet that turned into a family pot. I bet the pot and called it a night, up $15 from my initial $60. Nothing stellar, but hell, I got a blog entry out of it.

Friday, August 15, 2008


I thought I had pretty much taken care of them. Not all of them, by any stretch of the imagination. Just the worst ones: the thistles, tansy and scotch broom, the three noxious weeks that can render a field useless in just a few seasons. Yet, as I water the ducks in the morning, I can look out over the back seven acres and see at least two tansy plants, one scotch broom, and one gnarly, bonzaied thistle not more than 10 feet from me. Oops, there’s another tansy too. Sunday the temperature is supposed to be a bit cooler, so I’ll get out there and take care of them then.

I try to be diligent. The first year we were here, I pulled up hundreds of scotch broom plants before we made hay. I didn’t see any tansy. Animals waste a lot of hay if it has either plant in it, pushing the bad stuff aside with a good portion of the good stuff as well. I am still killing hundreds of scotch broom each year in the same field. The seeds last forever, and when a gopher plows up a mound, seeds get sown. (This winter I will do a gopher hunt.) The tansy is on the rise as well. We had hundreds of these plants this year, whereas last year we may have had 25. I thought I had gotten them all, but it doesn’t help that a tweaker neighbor of ours doesn’t maintain his own fields. We get a lot of wind-blown collateral damage.

Bull Thistle

As one might expect, I would love to force a parallel to poker. I say “force” only because I cannot come up with a suitable transition from the preceding paragraph.

Somehow my dear wife and I got into a discussion about the WSOP Main Event this morning. The crux of it was my outlining the Tiffany Michelle/Ultimate Bet brouhaha, and the ramifications on poker’s popularity. I explained that when TM went deep, a lot of blog discussion centered around how a woman making the final table, or even winning, would have a new Moneymaker effect on the game, hopefully bringing new players to the tables. I went on to give some of the details of the controversy that came up when she accepted the Ultimate Bet sponsorship for air time on ESPN, how Tony G. had staked her as an employee of Poker News, and the superuser cheating that had occurred at both UB and Absolute Poker. I opined that it now, if there is to be a bit of a poker bump, it will depend on how ESPN decides to produce the last two tables of the ME. If TM gets a lot of air time, there may be a slight surge. And who knows, maybe UB will start getting some new players.

Not surprisingly, my dear wife was intrigued, not by a woman going deep, but by the machinations, the gossip and, as the conversation moved on, by my description of last year’s final table culminating with the new champion, Jerry Yang. She was in stitches. As a person with filmic mind, she started riffing a script for a poker movie along the lines of “The Grand.”

Sorry, but poker movies are dead money.

Still, she was wanted to know more. I told her that neither Yang, nor Jamie Gold had any significant sponsorship after their wins. Nor did Robert Varkonyi. Why is that? And why is Moneymaker credited with the poker boom? There is no straight line to an answer, yet I may make a couple observations that may or may not be random and rambling.

Yang and Gold made for amusing TV, Varkonyi may be too geeky-looking (sorry) for TV, and none of them have garnered respect as poker players. I’m not so sure Moneymaker is thought of as a great player either; yet, he comes across as quiet and considered, a prototypical poker player. As such, he fits into the mythos. The others, each for different reasons, are part of the spectacle that poker has become since becoming televised. Poker players understand this. Spectators might as well be watching reality TV, and the fantasy may no longer be enough to create more dead money. The poker industry outside of the television companies that produce poker shows, depends on television to grow. The rest of the industry seems to still expect a caliber of play/demeanor before it can get behind certain players who would represent them. There is a subtle conflict of interests that may be difficult to resolve, and may be sending the wrong signal to prospective players, that there is a cliquish hierarchy in poker.

The blossom on the tulip may indeed be wilted, or worse yet, a squirrel has dug up the bulb and eaten it, and we won’t find this out until the next growing season. The sexy babe adverts in poker magazines don’t appear enough of a draw to build a poker market. Will the poker industry have to resort to marketing more akin to the sensationalism of pro wrestling or non-industry sponsors as in NASCAR? As the industry struggles to attract new players, and create a new cycle of dead money for the dedicated players it depends on for its integrity, it suffers from the circus it creates in the process of promoting itself. However, there is hope. I’ll call it the “Jerry Lewis” factor and leave it at that.

What exactly does this rambling have to do with weeds? If weeds go to seed, you’ve got trouble. I would put to you that the poker industry as it stands is a field with a lot of potential for growth; how it is managed will determine its productivity and sustainability.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Not So Comfit

It’s a hot one today. The blackberries are ripening and melting at the same time. The lettuce is saying “better go to seed!” and we have the house shut up to keep in what little cool air accumulated over night. I have put a fan in the coop for the injured duck. Her sisters, out in the field for the day, have a sprinkler that they can sit under, which they will.

I have determined that the duck has a dislocated hip. The joint pops and crackles when I manipulate the leg. I have been trying to hold the joint steady, applying pressure as I extend and contract the leg, gentling urging it to realign. She seems to tolerate “swimming” in the bucket of water, and has taken to dunking her head of her own accord, something that is necessary for ducks in order to keep their eyes clear. When I put her back in the coop, she tries to stand, but only for a second or two before collapsing with that left leg askew. She is, however, still grooving on the night crawlers twice a day, and this morning she actually worked her way over to the without any prompting.

Every morning and evening after I complete this regimen, my dear wife inquires after the duck. I wish I could give her good news. We are hoping against hope at this point, and I have asked that maybe we cease having long discussions about the prognosis. I will give it a couple more weeks.

If another farmer were to read this, one with livestock, he or she might think we are foolish to prolong this. Well, we’re not farming any more, so I guess we’re no longer farmers, and therefore have returned to our greenhorn status, wasting time that we wouldn’t have had a year ago. Indeed, a year ago the bird pretty much would have been left to recover on its own or be put down by now. These next few days of 100 degree temps might hasten the decision for the coop can get mighty hot.

On a more positive note, we received a call from a neighbor that there was a picture of my photo “Red Cab Pink Van” in the newspaper today. All of the winners from the Mayor’s show were shown. Hopefully, this bump for the exhibit will garner some sales. The photo is available as multiples.

In the article I was referred to as a photographer. I was a bit bothered when I read that. I’d like to think of myself as an artist who sometimes uses photography as his medium. Maybe it’s a non-issue, for would I take umbrage if someone said I was a blogger? Probably not; yet, in the back of my mind, I would prefer to take some license and call myself a writer. Maybe prima donna, eh?

To be honest, which, in my case, can mean exhibiting an inappropriately high level of self-disclosure, I am hoping that this blog will not only get me back to writing on a regular basis, but also get me some exposure and a few writing gigs. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing, for it occurs to me that posting the blog is really no different than having my art website. Man cannot live on duck eggs alone. Fried in butter, over hard. Sizzle some bacon and home fries.

Speaking of fried, our DSL is on the fritz. Our phone line is snap, crackling and crisp. I am jonesing for a connection. We thought we had the problem solved yesterday, and it did work for a while, long enough to play some poker at Stars and Poker Academy.

I have been following Gumpo’s strategy of uber tight and aggressive, set mining and the like at very loose tables, to very mixed results. At 25NL I had a flopped set of seven cracked by a flopped straight after a guy min-raised from middle position with 89 off. I was felted. Shortly after arriving at another table, a player from middle position raised 3 X BB and immediately had two callers. I was next to act with AA and cut to the quick with $15. Everyone folded. Maybe I over-played it, yet watching the action at the table after that, I’m not so certain. A lot of weeroll action. Both tables were juicy but I’m still having a difficult time catching playable hands.

PA was even worse. Set over set and the river felted me twice. Even though a straight flush didn’t get paid, I fought my way back up to down just one buy-in before it was time to watch “Squidbillies” on Adult Swim. Bolstered by a good laugh and a couple shots of whiskey, I thought about playing some more poker. However, better judgment prevailed, and after the Olympic coverage on NBC went to infomercial, I hit the hay.

Back to top.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


“Is this Amityville?’ My dear wife is swatting flies in the dining room. I’m killing a half dozen in the studio.

Poker Academy Online #39,302,028
No Limit Texas Holdem ($1/$2 NL)
Table Feldspar
August 12, 2008 - 23:36:29 (PDT)

1} bastin $479.00 3h 3d
3) sbstar $233.25 ?? ??
4) RiverKillsMe $274.35 ?? ??
6) Le Poissard $145.30 ?? ??
7) Pingshalott $90.00 5c As
9) Aufbruch * $500.35 ?? ??

bastin posts small blind $1
sbstar posts big blind $2
Pingshalott posts blind $2
RiverKillsMe calls $2
Le Poissard calls $2
Pingshalott checks
Aufbruch calls $2
bastin calls $1
sbstar checks

FLOP: Ah 2h 3s
bastin checks
sbstar checks
RiverKillsMe checks
Le Poissard checks
Pingshalott bets $12
Aufbruch folds
bastin raises $36
sbstar folds
RiverKillsMe folds
Le Poissard folds
Pingshalott calls $36

TURN: Ah 2h 3s Kd
bastin bets $54
Pingshalott calls $40 (all-in)
bastin shows 3h 3d
Pingshalott shows 5c As

RIVER: Ah 2h 3s Kd 4d

Pingshalott wins $185 with a Five High Straight
$3 raked.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Just a little reminder

According to several blogs that I read, there is a wave of game downswings. Some are ascribing it to luck, or the lack thereof, to a slipping power of positive thinking, and, of course, the A-rag calling stations. I, too, am in a bit of a slump. I could argue, in fact, that I have been in a slump/holding pattern for two years. It gets a little frustrating to be card dead for hours, days and months at a time. It just doesn’t seem natural. Big pocket pairs get crushed, sneaky little draws from the SB don’t get paid and sleep gets disturbed.

Oh, I win. Sometimes there are moments of sheer magic and demonstrations of skill. When I ask myself why I even bother with this game, it may very well be that somewhere under all of the negative thoughts lurks an infrequent memory of such hands, and I am driven to return to the tables yet another day. A good run must create some very strong and enduring synapses.

Yet, to lose for an extended period takes one’s head into some very dark, cob webby corners. I would maintain that these are the moments that, as a test of meddle and faith, sharpen our discipline and improve our games.

There has been a fly in my studio for the last couple days, flying around my head, landing on my monitor and being a general nuisance. I have tried to catch it several times, missing until just this moment.

Make that two flies.

I will be patient.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Everything that you think is you.

This simple statement can be found in Dan Attoe’s “Accretion Drawing XVIII,” which is in the exhibit of his work as part of the Contemporary Northwest Art Awards show at the Portland Art Museum.

I drove up to Portland today to see the CNAA exhibit and to check out a few galleries I’ll confess right up front that I wasn’t expecting much from this show, or from the galleries. I figured I’d be seeing landscape paintings, or paintings of buildings, or something equally uninteresting. Yes, I know, uninteresting to me, and not all Portland artists do landscapes.

Hell, I do landscapes, of sorts. In a way, it is almost impossible not to be inspired by Nature up here in the Northwest. The vistas are stunning, the sunsets delightful, and even the cloud formations beckon. The challenge, it seems to me, is to bring a different perspective, to find metaphors or create narratives in that arena. To my way of thinking, it is not enough to photograph or paint a scene in nature, for your shot or rendering will fall short of capturing the pre-existing beauty of what you are replicating. I feel the same way about people who do photographic studies of architectural elements: the building’s designer and builders did it first. At best, one is paying homage.

Five artists made the final cut for this exhibit: Dan Attoe, Cat Clifford, Jeffry Mitchell, Whiting Tennis and Marie Watt. The stated purpose of this show is to showcase emerging talent that has yet to garner a wider audience outside of the Northwest. The one determined to be the best in show receives a hefty stipend. The only one whose work I had seen before was Mitchell. He shows locally. Of the group, Attoe and Clifford engaged me the most, and one might say that they are both artists whom create their work via a relationship with Nature.

Me, You and the big old stupid world
"Me, You and the big old stupid world" Dan Attoe

Accretion Drawing XVIII
"Accretion Drawing XVIII" Dan Attoe

Dan Attoe grew up in Washington State. His father was a Forest Ranger and his life as a child living in the woods is a subject matter for his small paintings and drawings. Yet so are bars and strip clubs, for they are just as much part of the fabric of his inspirations.

Rock Springs, Dance
"Rock Springs, Dance" Cat Clifford

Two Chairs
"Two Chairs" Cat Clifford

While Attoes work is peopled with character studies, Cat Clifford is a solitary artist, alone in the snow, running with the tumbleweeds or exploring abandoned ranch houses. Attoe’s work is text-heavy; Clifford, while using some text, is listening to the sound of her footsteps on an old wooden porch or the winter wind through bare branches.

What makes their art speak to me is that both Attoe and Clifford are discovering something about themselves as they develop a sense of place in relation to the worlds they frequent, and they make it easy for someone else to come along. I would encourage my readers to google these two artists for a look at their work and to read other writers who can do them much more justice than I.

And go here for images from the other artists as well.

Friday, August 8, 2008

The Duck

This is the Chocolate Indian Runner that hurt her left leg. She’s been in the infirmary the whole time she’s been injured. It’s been a couple weeks now and she’s still not standing on the leg. In fact, the leg is somewhat splayed out to the side and appears in danger of being frozen in that position, thereby rendering it useless. We’d prefer that this not happen, for we’d have to then put her down.

For the first week, I would go in, catch her and give her physical therapy, some passive range of motion and then check for muscle tone by pushing against her foot. The leg is still strong, but the splay was bothering me so earlier this week I upped the PT to morning and night. After the PT I set her on the ground and place the leg underneath her. When I let go she tries to stand up, which is encouraging, but soon thereafter the leg is jutting out again. Today I took her outside for a little sunshine and a “swim.” I’d like her to start using the leg a little more and maybe the water will encourage her. The water will also clean her off a bit. Ducks like to dunk their heads under water to keep their heads and beaks clean. She hasn’t been doing this, so she got a bath as well. Despite not liking being held, I believe she might have like the water and a clean head.

We have four chocolate Runners. They are our oldest ducks, so they don’t lay too many eggs anymore. If we had a larger flock, meaning that we had more of an egg business, the old ladies might have been culled by now. They still eat as much as the producers, and feed prices have gone up considerably in the last few years. The injured duck’s appetite is still good. Besides the duck feed that she eats, we are feeding her a dozen night crawlers a day to keep her strength up. We put them in her water bowl to encourage her to drink a bit more, and maybe clean her head. But we have now added another $2.00 to our costs each day.

The price for a dozen organic duck eggs has had to go up to compensate for this increase. Great, huh? No. We break even. And we’re not alone.

Farmers are selling off their livestock. They can’t afford to feed them. Corn is being grown in massive quantities now, yet it goes to ethanol production. Don’t get me started…

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Untoward a Goal

I ran into Yakshi last night playing $25 at Stars. I told him I missed his blog, Government Cheese, which was abruptly removed from the interweb last May. He had pissed off the wrong people who evidently had lawyers who troll the internet looking for sites that name their clients. A shame, really, because the guy has a razor wit.

Right before Govt. Cheese disappeared, Yakshi was running a contest on who was the cheesiest pro. His contest was down to the quarter finals. I asked him who won. “Phil probably, ha ha. Scottie wasn’t cheesy enough.” Phil Hellmuth and Scottie Nguyen, yeah no contest. Scottie may be the biggest cornball, which isn’t quite the same as cheesy, and certainly a far cry from soft, white farmer’s cheese. But now I’m doing Yakshi’s schtick, so I’ll move on.

Nothing much was happening for me at Stars. I lost a little on one table, won a little on another, so it was a wash. I tried Gump’s method, looked for the right tables, found them, and they were tighter than tight. I must have come in at the wrong time, just after the donks got dunked. I’ll try again tonight.

So I poured myself a scotch and went over to Poker Academy. One hand I’m particularly proud of:

1} bastin $124.45 9h 9c
2) Spike6905 (sitting out)
3) ronj5558 $110.10 ?? ??
4) mohgan $67.95 ?? ??
5) LoungeLizard $160.80 ?? ??
6) AlAtrape * $109.50 ?? ??
7) Opinh Bombay $184.90 ?? ??
8) Prez OBAMA $100.85 ?? ??
9) sweet beer $98.13 ?? ??
10) ElkY jr $69.42 7h 8d

Opinh Bombay posts small blind $0.50
Prez OBAMA posts big blind $1
sweet beer folds
ElkY jr calls $1
bastin raises $3.50
ronj5558 folds
mohgan calls $4.50
LoungeLizard folds
AlAtrape folds
Opinh Bombay folds
Prez OBAMA folds
ElkY jr calls $3.50

FLOP: 9s 8c 6h
ElkY jr checks
bastin bets $25
mohgan folds
ElkY jr calls $25

TURN: 9s 8c 6h 6s
ElkY jr checks
bastin bets $25.50
ElkY jr calls $25.50

RIVER: 9s 8c 6h 6s Qd
ElkY jr bets $14.42 (all-in)
bastin calls $14.42
ElkY jr shows 7h 8d
bastin shows 9h 9c

bastin wins $141.84 with a Full House, Nines over Sixes
$3 raked.

I have no idea why he bet out on the river with this hand. Well, yes I do. It was my turn bet. I wanted to show a little weakness and he took the bait. The guy’s a calling station anyway, always looking for the cooler, and I’ve wanted to clock his ass for some time.

Maybe I should have written “waited” instead of “wanted.” Maybe I can do both at the same time. That’s the great thing about Poker Academy: the usual suspects always show up and I can get a great read on a player after several sessions. I find a target and I wait for the right opportunity to strike.

Now, I realize that this may look as if I’m letting my emotions get in the way of my game, or at least be in danger of that. Maybe there’s a bit of anticipation involved, and certainly aggression. Neither of these seems to be out of line in poker. I am anticipating the time when I can felt a player, and when I do, I’m going to do it in such a manner that sends him/her reeling. Ha!

I have a list.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Change of Plans

“What time do you want to have dinner?”

Dear Wife: “I think it’s going to be too hot to use the stove. Can we hold off?”

“But I already wrote on my blog that we were having the tuna tonight, and that I was blowing off the pub tourney in order to barbeque.”

“Ha! Well, I don’t want to heat up the kitchen by cooking rice (basmati). Why don’t you go on to poker. It’s going to cool off tomorrow, so we can have the tuna then.”

“Well, I better get going then.” And with that, I scurried off to the pub.

The parking lot was pretty empty, signifying a slow night and just a handful of players, 11 to be exact. May wasn’t there, nor were several other regulars. But those who did attend were diehards.

I actually caught hands, and from the get-go, I started to amass chips.

Was I on my game? I actually made a few bad calls that were crippling. A guy who calls himself “Skunk,” and who has the world’s longest mullet, went all in when a heart-laden flop came with a K. This guy pushes at the drop of a hat. He had lost a pot earlier with 92 off when he pushed on a 9. I figured much the same here and my K9 may be good. I had him covered and called. K 10.

I had to grind back up, made a wicked bluff, caught a straight and was back in the game. Skunk was to my right and limps with 3 other players to my AA. I counted up the chips on the table and raised 3 times that amount to $16000. Skunk is my only caller. No, check that, he puts me all in for my last $8K and flips over J 10 off. Thank you Skunk. I am now second in chips only to Babs.

Babs is fairly new to poker and has taken to playing several nights a week. Babs never shuts up. Because she had an early dinner, tonight it was all about how hungry she was, and what her food options would be when she got home. This preoccupation would help me later in the game. In the meantime, I made a stupid call when she raised big on the turn and I called. She had caught her boat and I was drawing dead with a pair and a str8 draw. I couldn’t put her on her hand even though the board was scary as hell.

I was once again crippled and had to fold a lot of hands that would have taken the pot. In fact, I was so beat up that I was down to only having enough for the blinds. I had to fold my BB when nothing hit. I was down to my SB with K6 off. K high held and I quadrupled. The next hand I doubled up through Babs as she was still talking about food (Maybe I can have some diet jello. It’s too late to have any real food.) and went “fuck it, I’m hungry” all in and my AQ held. And just like that, I’m heads up with the chip leader, Paula.

Paula has about three times my stack. Paula is a sweetheart. She’s also the table Mom, reminding everyone that they owe a blind, it’s their turn to act, etc. She gets mild shit about this. Her husband is dealing. Paula is not so crazy about being heads up with yours truly. Most of the players in our weekly tourney know that I can play and know the game, despite the fact that I have only won this damn thing once in the two years I have been playing.

Well, I have to say that my two-plus years at Poker Academy paid off. I set a strategy. I played very cautiously at the start, folding a couple small blinds and never raising her limps. The chip situation stayed about the same for the first ten hands. Then I started pushing. Raise with 92c, bluff a flop when she is telegraphing that she didn’t hit, and finally getting it all in with AQ against her Q9s. She went all in with her remaining chips and I called for a mere 2K and J3 off in the BB. J high wins the tourney.

I say my good-byes and walk out to the truck. It’s late. I call my dear wife to let her know I’m coming home.

“I hope you won.”

“I did.”

She squeals with delight. I love it when she squeals.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

That’s Why They Call it Fishing

Well, at least I didn’t get skunked fishing yesterday. I caught a couple Cutthroats and hooked into one really nice Steelie before my line broke. My buddy caught a big Cutthroat and two 10# Steelies, which he let go. He is a catch-and-release guy. I am as well, after I have my first fish for the grill. Can’t keep Cutthroats, so I came home empty-handed. Well, not quite. My fishing buddy also is a chef/owner of a great restaurant, so we stopped off to pick up some tuna steaks wrapped in bacon to bring home. I’ll grill those babies up tonight.

Tonight is pub tourney night. I guess I won’t be going, opting for dinner with my dear wife. If she were cognizant of my schedule, she would insist I go, suggesting that the tuna can wait another day (no, it can’t) and that it’s too hot to barbecue (never too hot or too cold). Perhaps I will be missing an opportunity for a blog-worthy moment, something that will keep me on-topic, that being poker, yet I think I will want to stay home anyway and play online.

My Stars game isn’t going too well. I’ve been almost card dead every time I’ve played. And when I haven’t been card dead, I’ve either been pushed off by a re-raise, made little on the hand, or drawn out on. I’m playing about 15%, mostly at .10/.25. So far, I’m down $20 from the initial $100 I deposited, so I’m not real worried. I’m going to deposit another $200 soon, and this might help get me off of worrying about the smallish amount I have to work with at the moment.

I want to thank those readers from Poker Academy who have given me advice on how to proceed. ( Gump has also offered this:
A couple of general tips that might help:
- in the lobby, I sort by pot size then scroll down looking at full tables which are pretty loose. ~40% played is my minimum. I have a 50-50 rule of 50% played and $5 average pots is usually pretty sweet.
- if i don't find a good seat at a good table, i just don't play. You've got it good as there's typically 120,000 players during the U.S peak hour. When I play after work, its early AM and I'm lucky if there's 60,000 online, so the picking are sometimes slim. Table selection #1 over everything..
-play UBER tight and UBER position. Muck the AQ's etc from EP. When you do play a hand, I find 5BB ($1.25) is a good figure to drive people out so you know where you're at post flop.
- I don't play long sessions at a table, esp. when they starting noticing how tight I play and respecting my raises. Maybe 3 or 4 orbits is plenty. Unless the table is particularly juicy I'm always on the hop.
- any pair is gold at this level. When you hit a set you're a good shot to double up. I limp with any pair and call most raises depending on who and how many are in the pot.
- C-betting is a waste of time unless all the moons are aligned i.e. you're in position, your heads up, you think the person is capable of folding etc
with AA/KK typically limp from early. It's just impossible to know where you're at post flop. If you're lucky, someone will raise so then just come over the top for a big chunk of your stack. You'd be surprised how often you get called cos they think you're stealing with a low pair. The TAG's will see what you're doing and insta-fold but that isn't such a bad thing. You' want to avoid ugly situations where you're out of position trying to figure if your overpair is good.

He’s had success with this method. Yet, as I’ve written elsewhere, this is going to get me down to playing a percentage of hands that is going to be boring as shit, maybe 10% or less. If I stick around for 3 or 4 orbits, I may only play 4 hands, if that. And then I have to go looking for another table?

I can see value in this. For one, if I’m table-hopping, perhaps I won’t get bored. Looking for the next table will be akin to reading while playing, necessitating playing the ABC poker Gump recommends. Plus, I’m thinking that such a playing style allows one not to worry too much about getting a read on the players. It will, nevertheless, take some getting used to. Now, if I can just start getting some cards...

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Why are poor poker players called fish?

Because they “flop” around?

My fishing buddy called this evening. He wants to go to our favorite river and hunt the elusive Steelhead Trout. I say elusive because the rule of thumb is 40 hours of fishing = 1 fish. They’re in there. You can see them. Getting them onto the hook is entirely another thing. Landing them is no picnic either. Pound-for-pound, Steelies fight like no other fish, making 50 yard, spool-squealing runs and 5-foot jumps. Funny thing is, when we lose one, we’re still tickled pink that we had a go at it. I’ll take the camera.

I’ve been playing at Stars the last few nights. The first couple nights I had minor swings and ended even. Last night I picked up Kings in the Big Blind with five limpers and bet it up 11 X BB. UTG called. In that this guy was to my left, I had been watching him and was so far unimpressed. Actually, just nonplussed, as he didn’t stand out in any way. Long story short, since I didn’t put him on Aces, I lost it all to a set of 4s on the flop.

“Ballsy,” I wrote.


And then for the next hour I watched him call down everything, only to fold on the river. None of it came back my way. Finally, I typed: “Figures that the fish would get lucky against me and then donk it all off. Yeah, I know. I overplayed my big pocket pair.

I managed to get 10% of my loss back and headed for Poker Academy where I could chat with friends and pour a scotch. It’s tempting not to play for money. But then again, translate a hand like the one below into cash, and I’d be quite happy. Courage, my dear friend. You just might get your second pair on the river.

Poker Academy Online #41,146,179
No Limit Texas Holdem ($2/$4 NL)
Table Granite
August 03, 2008 - 00:29:33 (PDT)

1} bastin $400.00 Ad As
2) Le Poissard $357.00 ?? ??
3) ManOnFire $927.10 ?? ??
5) patounet90 $367.00 ?? ??
6) sbstar * $559.40 ?? ??
7) Aristophanes $396.90 ?? ??
8) hommell $319.20 Kc Jc
9) SilverHands (sitting out)

Aristophanes posts small blind $2
hommell posts big blind $4
bastin raises $16
Le Poissard folds
ManOnFire folds
patounet90 folds
sbstar folds
Aristophanes folds
hommell calls $16

FLOP: 3d 4s Kh
hommell checks
bastin bets $42
hommell calls $42

TURN: 3d 4s Kh 3h
hommell checks
bastin bets $126
hommell calls $126

RIVER: 3d 4s Kh 3h Js
hommell bets $131.20 (all-in)
bastin calls $131.20
hommell shows Kc Jc
bastin shows Ad As

bastin wins $637.40 with Two Pair, Aces and Threes
$3 raked.

Too bad I don’t have a good hand to post in which I am in it with Le Poissard.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Among Friends

Last night was Home Game Night. I manage to hit this game about once a month. Anywhere from 12 to 18 people show up on the first and third Fridays of the month for a tourney, and after folks start busting out, a .50/1.00 cash game.

The tourney is $20 with a $15 rebuy/add-on, and a $5 kill chip. 3,000 to start and the blinds move at a fairly good clip. By the time the blinds are 400/800, blood starts to flow. I have never made the money in this tournament, and never even come close. A lot of these guys play in pub tourneys four or five nights a week or hit the casino a couple times a week, and a good number of them have been playing each other for years and years. I really don’t stand a chance. We all know that I’m dead money in the tourney, and this is why I have taken to coming late, in time for the cash game. I rarely leave the cash game down.

Last night I made it just as far as I usually make it when I play the tourney, to that 400/800 level. I had a decent stack, about 10K, as I had hit some big hands early on and we had just added on. I didn’t raise enough on the button with my AQ to get an early limper off of his KJs (he went into the tank preflop) and he hit a J on the flop. I had to see the turn and then folded. Crippled, I went all in from the BB with K9h when the Button raised. He had KJ and it held.

The cash game started out well. I won a couple small pots right away. A guy I hadn’t played before raises 3 X BB from early position and I called from the CO with AQ. Hit a Q on the flop and led out. Called. Turn was a blank and got it all in the middle. I had him covered. He shows JJ. 2-outer on the river. This is the way my game has been going the last few days, getting AA cracked left and right, falling for an early limp with AA against my KK. I could feel myself listing and taking on a little water. I managed to mutter a “nice hand” and then worked to re-establish buoyancy. I still had about $20 of my original $50, fought my way back to nearly even with a straight and called it an early night.

I like playing cash with these guys, and there are a couple regular fish/calling stations that make the game profitable. The group itself is really cordial, and, as one might expect with a bunch of folks who know each other well, the jokes and taunts fly. F is the brunt of many of the jabs. F is a good, aggressive player. He had the KJs and eventually took 2nd in the tourney. The standing joke about F is that he has no friends. The thing is, he’s a pretty likable fellow, quite congenial. The joke last night was “Do you know how F gets his girlfriend drunk?” The jokester then pours a little beer into his right palm.

M told the joke. An interesting guy. He likes to be in a lot of hands and will call with nearly anything. He called my AK raise with 10 6 off and hit a 10. The only way to get him out early is to make it way too expensive, which doesn’t make for building a pot, but he also is one lucky SOB. I play 20%, he plays 75%. He has high variance but doesn’t seem to care.

M has lost a little weight in the last couple months. He had to as he had a heart attack. I attended a home game with him just 4 days after the infarction. I was hanging around outside, waiting for the game to start when M pulled up in the drive. We exchanged greetings, and then M told me about his trip to the hospital and all that occurred. He seemed fine but I could tell that he had faced his mortality and it had shook him up. The game had started and he still wanted to talk. He wrapped it up by telling me how another home-gamer, P, and his wife, J, had come to the hospital to see him home.

That night, M was the target of jokes, all centered around his heart attack. “Let M win the pot,. We don’t want him to die on us here at the table.” Stuff like that. Even P was getting in on the act. I was somewhat appalled. I had felt like M had more or less sought me out (the somewhat quiet, sensitive guy) in order to talk through what had happened. The group was laughing in the face of Death. Well, that’s guys for you.

Speaking of death, last night I wore my “Dead Guy” ball cap. It’s a black cap, and the words are spelled out in bones. The cap promotes Dead Guy Ale from the Rogue Brewing Company and it is a damn fine beer. It’s become my poker hat, signifying a little “dead money” subterfuge. I just now wondered if M might have been bothered by it, yet thinking back on the evening, I think he got a kick out of it.

I was hanging around outside waiting for the cash game to start and, after busting out himself, M came outside to smoke his cigar.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Cat Ballyhoo

My dear wife is putting the birds out today. She just called me on the radio to tell me that our cat, Mittens, just crawled into a culvert pipe. She needed me to come out and help retrieve him. Mittens is — or was — well, he still is our outdoor cat, sort of. In the past, that culvert was part of his daily prowl.

The previous owners of this place had 3 cats, which were all indoor/outdoor cats via a cat door in the basement door. They took with them when they moved down the road about three miles. Mittens was one of those cats. He evidently didn’t like the new digs, for by the time we moved in, Mittens was back. We called his owners, they came to get him, and three days later he was back here. It seemed pointless that they come back to get him, so here he stayed. He sealed the deal when he brought me a mouse. A farm needs a good mouser.

Yet, our farm is small, and to my way of thinking, we only needed one cat to patrol the grounds. And Mitts had competition. Feral cats abound.

The first day we moved in I had the shit scared out of me when I walked into one of the barns and a gray streak took off up a ladder into a loft. I climbed up the ladder to see a long-haired Mane Coon-looking cat back in a corner. And over the next couple days I saw a few other cats wandering around out in the fields.

Before I go any further with this story, I want to say that I have nothing against cats. I’ve had them as pets: Freud, an orange tabby I found when I was a senior in High School; and Louie, a tuxedo (Mitts is also a tuxedo) that I got custody of after a divorce. They were good companions. However, feral cats are a nuisance. While they may keep down the vole and mouse population, they also wreak havoc on birds, and that’s where they cross the line. Oh, and they also carry a shit load of diseases. Let me just say this: If I get the opportunity, feral cats get composted.

Yet, when we first moved here, I didn’t have the tools necessary for a permanent solution. I had a pellet gun, a deterrent. And the next time I saw the gray cat, I let him have it as he was running away.

Weeks went by without a sighting. In the meantime, we changed the basement door and got rid of the cat door. Mittens stayed out all day and in the evening we would put him in the laundry room for the night. One day I caught sight of a gray flash from the corner of my eye headed toward the blackberries behind a barn and went to investigate. Huddled under the brambles was what was left of the Mane Coon. He was emaciated and had a long, gaping wound on his back. He didn’t bother to run away when I approached. He was obviously near death.

I went up to the house to get the pellet gun. A properly placed pellet would put him out of his misery. I told my dear wife about what I ad seen, and she insisted that she go have a look for herself. By the time I got back outside, she had the cat in her lap.

I married a very empathic city girl. Four years later, that cat is still in her lap. His name is Granero (Spanish for barn). He stays in the house full time, has a pellet under the skin on his right hindquarter, and he came to us already fixed. A dump job. He’s a good cat, yet he stays pretty clear of me, and I don’t blame him.

All of this to get back around to Mittens.

Mittens has had a run-in with a gun as well. His previous owner told us a story of him laying in one of the outbuilding for weeks recovering from what apparently was a .22 caliber bullet to his butt. He must have strayed onto someone else’s property and crawled back home. Because of this wound, his tail is dead and just hangs behind him. X rays show the bullet still lodged in his innards.

About eight months ago, Mittens had another brush with death when he became lethargic, feverish and quit shitting. We took him to the Vet right away, but it looked like he was a goner. His colon had shut down. Yet, after a week of intravenous feeding, antibiotics, steroids and what have you, he started to turn around. My dear wife was convinced that somehow, something outside had caused his illness, thus ending his days as an outside cat. Dear Mitts was not thrilled in the least. You see, even though he was fixed at some point, he still sprayed. The barns, farm equipment and vehicles (and his limp tail) all have his mark on them. And when given the opportunity to stroll around upstairs, he would attempt to claim that area as his as well, which simply wouldn’t do. The basement was the only place where he kept this tendency in check, so the outdoor kitty became the basement kitty. And he howled in protest.

Since the basement is also my studio, I had to endure his misery and try to ignore it while working or playing poker. It did not go well until a compromise was reached. Mittens could go back outside only if I built an enclosure for him. I gladly took on the task.

We have a small shed behind the garage that we use only to store our generator. It is about 8 feet by 14 feet. I built a pen with the same dimensions on the front of this shed and this is where Mitts spends his daylight hours. He still howls from a perch in his cage, but at least I can write this undisturbed/perturbed. When he comes in at night, he sleeps on a chair next to my desk, allowing me the quiet I require while playing poker.

Last night I put my first $100 into Stars. Wish me luck, Mitts.