Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year, Y'all


Received a new batch of pictures today. A perfect way to start out the new year.

Thank you for your indulgence.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Upbeat Downbeat

The film clips interspersed are from the film, "Flirting with Disaster." If you haven't seen it, well, you haven't seen one helluva funny flick.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Like a Prayer




 "I've been thinking a lot lately about whether or not I'm becoming too self-absorbed."  -  Dick Stein, KPLU


This quote was at the head of an email I received from a friend whom I had written to respond to an earlier email of his that contained bad news. News that I knew was coming, more or less, but concern for which I had let slip. I had apologized for being self-involved. He’s a good guy and his forgiveness was ready.

Still, I remained sad for him, and compounded the sadness by thinking of others I know whom I have neglected to inquire about. For instance, Snowman. If you scroll to the bottom of my blogroll, you will see “Diary of a Crap Poker Player.” Don’t bother clicking on the link, for the blog is no more. Snowman became ill about a year ago. We corresponded a bit and from time-to-time about his health, which seemed to be improving, and I encouraged him to keep writing. “It helps,” I told him. And now, no blog. So, I wrote him again, and await an answer. I want to get one.

The list, virtuals and those known by sight, is longer than I care to consider.

I studied philosophy as an undergrad, primarily because of questions about human suffering. I had seen a lot of it while working in hospitals, and as a young man, I wanted so badly to make sense of it all. None was to be found; just acceptance that we suffer. We must? That is the real question, for we are duty-bound to engage that constant.

It is the end of a calendar year. There is a mandate to reflect and resolve. I’ve never done well with authority, imagined or otherwise. I prefer to stew, reheat until the eventual mush. It is no small wonder that I find myself in my current condition. The clock is not broken; it needs a good cleaning.

I hear compassion makes for a good solvent.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Variation


Sunday, December 27, 2009

Night of the Big Hands

With the KQh in my hand, I rivered my first live Royal Flush tonight, and I got paid. The crowd went wild. But the pot was small in comparison of things to come.

There was some discussion at R’s before we started to play. Since there were twelve of us, some people thought we should do a tourney. I was not in that camp. Others were apathetic, and I successfully bent their ears. We played two tables of six. I love me a cash game.

The RF was not my first big hand of the evening. Despite dropping half of my buy-in right off the bat chasing open-enders, second-best flush and the like, I went on to make a nice profit on a Q high flush, my Jacks held up in the SB, and, I was soon up a good $40 over my initial $80 buy-in (.50/1.00).

Lin raises to $3 from UTG +1. Fuck Phil calls from the SB. I find Kings in the BB and pop it to $16. You would think that would narrow the field, but both players call. Both players are calling stations preflop, and both will play almost any hand, making ranges hard to figure. Even though both will see a flop at almost any cost, but FP is a much more sophisticated player than Lin. If Lin had Aces, he would have re-popped me preflop. The flop comes T 8 7 rainbow. Either one could very well have a set. Yet, FP will also play connectors, J9 suited and the like for any price if we’re deep. And we were, at least for this game, at 60+ BBs.

FP will let you do the betting for him. I felt I was restricted with the one pair, and played accordingly weak-tight by not making it too expensive to continue. Not that betting big would have helped. Last time we played FP, defended his blind (67 off) and snapped my Aces on the Button. I didn’t want a repeat performance, and by the river (I had them both covered), FP was acting like he had it by going all in with his remaining $32 in a $100 pot. Lin had pittance left but I couldn’t call FP’s bet with just the pair. Lin had QQ, FP had a smaller pair and straight draw. I was beside myself.*

It took me a while to regain my composure. Lin was sitting over there grinning like a Cheshire, and FP (back in for $80) was sulking. Even though I was again below my buy-in, I sat determined.

The game is dealer’s choice, and after a couple orbits of J4 off and the like in NL Hold ‘em, when it came to my deal again, I decided to shift the odds to my favor with some NL Omaha hi. It limped around to me with 7d7h8s9h. To make a long story short, a flop of 568 did the trick and I bet the pot. Two callers, Lin and FP again. I had FP all-in on the turn (T), Lin folded, the river was a J, and FP failed to improve on his set of eights. I was now over where I was before the Kings debacle.

AQ pre from the Button brought me more good fortune with two pair, Kings were good to go against a shortie with Jacks all-in, and I left a hundred up. New Year’s Day R is having an all-day game with both tourneys and cash games. I’ll be playing with other people’s money.

* I spoke to Phil about the hand later. I asked him his rationale for taking me off of the best hand when it was clear he was behind both Lin and I, and it was equally clear that Lin wasn’t folding. His response was “I had to do something, and I thought you might have AK.” I’m going to be thinking about this hand for some time to come, for within it lies answers to how I might improve my game, and further disguise it at the same time.

One of the greatest songwriters, R.I.P.



DW and I were talking about him the other day. Do yourself a favor and listen to several of his songs.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

I took a drive today


The sun is low on the horizon and the temperature is such that if an area stays in the shade, the frost from the previous night's fog stays stuck. There is snow at some of the higher elevations to the east. I thought I'd go find some frosty images.


And a waterfall.

How was yours?

Now that we have that out of the way… well, not quite. There’s always an aftermath, even if it just comes in the forms of a full dishwasher and thank you cards.

Thank you.

I received a text message from R this morning. Game tonight, by popular demand. Most likely a cash game. He said he had received a lot of calls and text messages inquiring, so he will oblige. The regulars must be getting a little stir crazy, holed up with their families all day yesterday. DW and I are holed up most days and she says to go and have fun.

And just in case you missed it, here’s my favorite part (up to 2:15):




Thursday, December 24, 2009

Something in common





It's the change to a minor key.

However you celebrate, enjoy, dammit.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Fake money

It seems that I have an Italian bank account that is about to expire. Imagine that: a bank account that terminates itself whether or not one has ever put/had money in said account. It must be a very important matter, for I have received numerous notifications from various addresses over the last few days. Too bad I don’t read/understand Italian, otherwise I would not let such an oversight go untended.

So, if I don’t know the language, how do I know what today’s warning states? I used an online translation program. But I don’t trust the accuracy of such programs, and, so unsure of what the email is about, I guess I will have to let the account lapse. Pity. It probably had very little money in it, perhaps about as much wit as the above.

Meanwhile, I went looking for a buddy of mine on the social site. He cleared $1,000,000 playing poker. (Yeah, if only it was real money, and if only the poker rooms of the world were full of social site poker players. There are 225,000 people playing at the time of this writing.) While searching for him, I saw that the folks at the poker application are having a contest of sorts to win a 13” MacBook. I just happen to be in the market for that very same machine, so I thought I’d give it a shot.

There are three tiers of shoot-outs one must make it through to eligible…for the drawing. Five computers will be given away. Yet, to make it worth one’s while, one can accumulate more fake money for various good hands, winning the shoot-out, etc. Once one wins a first-tier game, one can move up to the next level. If one loses at the second level, one has to start at level one again. If one loses in the third level shoot-out, well, I don’t know what happens. I assume that one has to start all over again. I’ll let you know.

I played about three hours tonight. The first level was predictably easy. The first hand several players jam. If one doesn’t hit, another game is ready to start up almost immediately. I won one such jam-fest with JQ off when I caught a Q on the river. I knocked out five players. And, of course, I won that shoot-out.

The heads-up play is atrocious. And this is coming from someone who very rarely plays tourneys. A basic understanding of HU strategy almost assures a win. In the three hours of play I won three first level games, placed third in two of the second level games, and won my third attempt.

I almost didn’t play the last second level game. Even though it is fake money, I don’t play any way except as if it is the real thing, and inasmuch, my adrenalin is constantly pumping. Not so much fun for the ol’ thumper. Nevertheless, I steeled myself with a scotch and went for it. Heads-up was odd. The guy just quit playing. Perhaps it was my 3 to 1 chip lead. Who knows? I know that my dear readers would not give up so easily. Nor would I, and (brag) I know that it is possible to come back from a greater deficit, say 8 to 1, to take the thing down, as I did in a first tier game.

Now that I think about it, in the first-tier tourney that preceded my second tier win, two players voluntarily left the table (chips do not remain in play), including the chip leader. If anything, aside from a spouse coming into the room to find the other playing poker YET AGAIN, this is a testament to how little value people put in these games, and therefore the free poker. As a reformed pub poker player, tell me something I don’t know already.

But I am done for the evening. I’ll give the third tier a go tomorrow as I cook the brisket and cranberries for Christmas Eve dinner. We are having guests, so I won’t play much. The house needs a once-over as well. Still, I have no doubt that were I to find sufficient time over the next two days (the contest ends Christmas day), I would become eligible for the drawing. And then the luck factor really kicks in.

Monday, December 21, 2009

DW and I step out

In case one wonders if DW and I had a nice time away from the animals and farm yesterday, yes we did. Any desire to recount can be partially attributed to the fact that someone googled the orchestra and found this here blog. They might return. Also, there might be an off chance that I write my way into something witty.

The orchestra did well for a small ensemble, perhaps twenty-five members in total, maybe less. The chorus did well for themselves also, and, in that I have been a fan of theirs for several years, must admit that we attended largely to see them perform. Twenty-two voices never filled a hall so well and they did a beautiful job. Finally, the soloists, in particular the alto, tenor and bass handled a very difficult score; however, the alto seemed to have a hard time getting much of her voice past her throat and above the orchestra. Perhaps she was ill, and if that was the case, brava for the effort. 

As predicted, I did shed a couple tears of joy, both times at very predictable points in the score. What I could not have foreseen were several irksome people in the audience. For instance, the family of four directly in front of us. Eldest daughter brought her knitting, a constant need to know the time indicated on her phone, and a whisper that carried nearly as well as the alto. She confided to her father, immediately to her right; and perhaps she felt a need to speak up, for it was clear he was enraptured by the performance of a piece with which he had no small familiarity. He conducted both voice and instrument with precision and compassion. I so wanted to nudge the back of his head with my knee. My joy would have been joined by mirth.

Tone change: Man, that was one long-ass concert. Handel sure knew how to drag out a phrase. Don’t ask me why I believe this, for I have no background whatsoever for my assumption, but I think he must have had a thing about Bach. Had something to prove. Still, a beautiful piece, and I cannot do it justice here.

We ate dinner with the Anarchist vegans, and inasmuch, were initially the only customers. The food was good, the service prompt, even though the wait staff, cook and dishwasher were all the same woman. And it was clear that she took great pride in her work, for before she served us, and the young Goth couple who came in shortly thereafter, she photographed the plates of food. I can only assume she is building a portfolio for better opportunities to come.

We bussed our own table, thanked her for the food and said goodnight. The restaurant was not too far from our next destination, the dance club. And since Sunday was Goth night, DW and I speculated that we would see the other couple again shortly. They may have driven by and decided against it, for we did not see them, and it would have been easy to spot them in the nearly empty establishment. Or they might have just had dinner and called it an early night. After all, Monday is a workday.

The small crowd made for a spacious dance floor, and since the DJ was proficient, both DW and I made use of the tiles. Yes, I danced. The music and the sight of DW doing her thing brought back memories of earlier years back in Chicago when she and I would tear up the floor in a very meaningful way. Pitter-putter be damned! We left contented, with only one minor incident, for which not wit can be mustered and therefore I have no real need to relate at length.

Even so, the event was cause for discussion this morning with people who know much more about such things than DW and I. We are going to attempt to duplicate the episode of concern in a linear fashion next week. After that, we will know where and how to get to the heart of the matter.

It is always difficult to wrap a post like the above. I look for a common theme and find only one, and a very subjective one at that, sure to be somewhat lost on the reader: I love sharing this life with my wife.


Sunday, December 20, 2009

Until Monday…

The slump continues. Sure as shit, as soon as I write something about how well I’m doing at the tables, I lose all of what I made, plus a bit more. I’ve been here before, a few times. Draws don’t come in for me but they do for seemingly everyone else, flop the nut straight and end up splitting, Aces over Kings loses to quads, I start to play thinner edges, and eventually fold the better hands more times than I care to admit. Time for a break. Perfect timing.

Glum is easy, and as such, it may also be lazy. One must bother to turn on a heel for something better. By this time tomorrow evening I will have enjoyed a performance of Handel’s “Messiah,” by the Portland Baroque Orchestra and the vocal chamber ensemble Cappella Romana. (Go ahead, YouTube them.) It will be hard to not sing along. I’m certain to get watery-eyed at least once. After that, a light dinner, and then off to a dance club. I won’t be dancing (I wish I could, and will find out the ifs and whens Monday morning), yet I will watch DW in the midst of everyone else dancing alone. Ah, the palest of youths! We won't be dressing up or down.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

More to My Point

I have been reading. Now writing. Played a little poker earlier. Lost my shirt, got a sleeve back. Looking down, I see two sleeves.

The reading? An article, “The Labyrinth and the Urinal,” by Robert Morris in the new “Critical Inquiry,” a periodical out of the University of Chicago. Near the end of the essay, he makes this observation about another’s writing:

And it is in the everyday that Cavell locates the uncanny. It is the “oddness” of the “ordinary” that Cavell sees the uncanny emerging, in those places where the remarkable and the casual coincide, places “in which everything and nothing differs.”

A Conceptual Minimalism? Morris is best known as a writer and a minimalist sculptor, so it makes sense he would take this path. Out-sublime the sublime with the irony of a grand yet self-effacing or mundane gesture. It is a difficult aesthetic stance to maintain in that it disregards the expectations of the audience, and therefore their “investment” in the spectacle. If one shoots oneself in the foot in the forest…

Do it anyway. Just make sure you get footage.



Friday, December 18, 2009

Another one


A guy walks into a bar and sees his therapist sitting in a booth by herself. He orders a drink. As he waits for the cocktail, his therapist stands up and comes over to him.

“Would you care to join me?” she asks.

“No thank you,” he says, “it would be a tight fit.”

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A good read

I flat-called with Jacks in the SB when the Button raised. The BB called as well.

What?

Yes I did. The Button had been sitting there without playing a single hand for at least 42 orbits.

I knew the BB had some A-whatever shit, as I had clocked his short-stacked ass a couple times already, once with Kings in the hole from the SB, and another time with AK from the BB. Dipshit. Mr. Button was another story altogether, for it was blogger-extraordinaire-in-abstentia, King of the 24-Tabling Deuce, Yakshi. When a K came on the flop, I gave him credit and moved on. The cat plays less than 10%.

We chatted a bit. He noted that I must be taking a break from PLO (lol variance) and complimented me on this here daily thingy. He promised to return to his witty self when the economy improves. I promised to be less saccharine.

No I didn’t.

Good to see you again mate.


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A very good thing.

They really do bring happiness, those bluebirds.

Some time ago I did a little photo trip around the farm for this blog. I took pictures of our bluebird houses and lamented how the swallows ran off the bluebirds each year, building their nests on top of those the bluebirds had constructed, often right over freshly-laid eggs. Nope, I don't like it one bit, yet without an effective method of interference, I stay out of it.

Somehow, somewhere, the bluebirds do manage to get the job done, as we continue to have them year after year. They sit on our power lines to the barns, and when they see a yummy bug on the ground, dive down to catch it. By October, they're gone, and usually return around the end of February.

A few weeks ago I saw a bluebird on the wire. I figured it must be a male that was too old to make the migration. We get a few bug hatchings during the winter months, but certainly not enough to sustain the bird. And with last week's bitter cold, I thought for sure the bird would be dead. Not the case.

As I was putting the finishing touches on the new plumbing in the barns, DW was bringing in the ducks. It was dusk. I saw the bluebird on the wire again and pointed it out to DW as I walked over to the pump house to turn the water back on. As I was coming back, I asked her if it was still there. Yes, she replied, and another bird had joined it.

In the time it took me to walk the forty paces back to where she stood, three more joined the others. Five bluebirds were fluttering from the wire to one of the birdhouses usually used exclusively by the swallows.

I did a little research. Evidently, bluebirds only migrate a very short distance, and those that reside a hundred miles south of here don't migrate at all. They survive the winter by eating bugs and dried berries. Bingo!

A few years ago we planted a number of native trees and shrubs, all of which bear small berries.  In addition, we allowed the same types of bushes and trees that were already out in the pasture to stay and multiply. We have created a habitat.

With any luck, the bluebirds will get a jump on the swallows this year by not having to travel.

Yeah, this makes me happy.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

More from the squid

http://video.adultswim.com/squidbillies/mass-media-wont-tell-you-this.htm

A fair day.

Any plumbing that was above ground and made of PVC had to be replaced today. In a conversation with the Asst. Mgr. at the Ace, I learned that we were not alone.

A Golden Eagle landed in one of the fir trees at the edge of our property. It was the second I have seen in six years as they generally reside on the other side of the Cascades.

We tried to sell our 20-gallon salad spinner to some nice young folks just about to start their second year doing what we no longer do. They didn’t buy, and we still gave them some winter squash, garlic, and in that they know less than we did before we began, tons of free advice. I told them they could come back in the spring for seed potatoes (theirs froze). They gave us hugs, and perhaps colds.

Doubled up in the 8-Game and then gave a little back later...just 2.5 buy-ins.

We received fudge in the mail. We get it every year as a gift from a long-time, dear friend. The monks flavored it with bourbon.







Monday, December 14, 2009

Work in Process

Looking for clarity. So what else is new? No, that’s not it. Not exactly. I get occupied with a notion and work it around like hard candy, maybe a jawbreaker, until it’s of a sufficient size where I can safely bite down. Then there’s the picking it out of the teeth.

This week it’s a sense of urgency, what that’s been like, and why — the usual.


Last week it was conclusions, final products, ends of discussions.


And the week before, short, with more than a hint of taint.


This last phrase will be in an exhibit next month, part of a fundraiser. (The words are the piece, not the words on a particular piece of paper; therefore, I can make as many as my little heart desires, and I am also released from the conundrum of whether the photo is also a piece.)

Next week there will likely be another, but I’m not going to push it. Not this time. This week’s lesson, you know.

I posted these images elsewhere. My buddy Sunil remarked, “Looking for the value proposition…” I thought I knew what he meant, but I had to look up the phrase, just to be sure. Yeah, twenty-five years as a marketing copywriter and I’m not certain about the guiding principle…

I responded thusly: “OK, they ain't worth nuthin' without my JH. And that absence makes them priceless. Nihilists have goals too, you know.”

And that is the meaning of the pieces. More or less. Or the expectation.


Sunday, December 13, 2009

So far, yet

I don’t like social media, or rather, I don’t care for the site, the software as it is displayed, nor the constant attempts to monetize chit-chat. No, I am ambivalent, as I do appreciate the opportunity to reconnect with folks that would have otherwise remained off the edge of this flat planet.

With that said, the connection remains somewhat tenuous. I give my recent trip back to Illinois as evidence. Did I attempt to connect with anyone in the area? Aside from my friends M & B, and my favorite bartender in the whole wide world, no. Granted, I had a pretty full schedule, so I’m not feeling too guilty about it all.

Moving on.

My morning routine of a cup of coffee and firing up this here infernal machine brought a pleasant surprise from my friend Brian, one of the previously lost. It seems he was looking for one thing and found another. This:


I remember. Not much has changed, word-wise, which makes the remembering easier. The misspelling of “you’re” is troubling, but I probably have an excuse: that nag, urgency, pursuing my own, albeit more esoteric, Alger moment.

I could go on.

I have another memory of Brian. He saved the day with his graphic art abilities. I had never done a magazine layout before. I had the words and photos and knew not what to do with them. He made it look so easy…and good.

Thanks, Buddy.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Friday, December 11, 2009

Routines, new and old

Just so you know, the pipe unfroze and froze again. Evidently we should have left the space heaters on along with the 2-gal/minute drip. Heaters back on (just now DW calls from upstairs that we have water once again).

No writing yesterday. I have my reasons, dealing with lots of words already out there, with more to come, the meanings of which have to be sussed with great care.

In such times, reading helps distract, which led to this little ditty, a cover of a Joy Division tune:


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Degrees

It’s cold here. But we’ve been over this before. So, never mind that the pipes are frozen in the barns and water has to be hauled to the birds, first from the pond, until that completely froze, and now from the house. The heat lamps are as close to the water buckets as I dare in case the birds splash water high enough for a mini-explosion. The shards…

Other folks have no water at all, and won’t for days to come. I suspect I will be replacing spigots in the not-too-distant future. It’s not that I am ungrateful for my warm house, but I say we blame the Canadians. Or better yet, the Russians. Like this one:

PokerStars Pot-Limit Omaha, $0.05 BB (5 handed) - Poker-Stars Converter Tool from FlopTurnRiver.com

Hero (BB) ($12.14)
UTG ($1.69)
MP ($6.35)
Button ($6.70)
SB ($4.17)

Preflop: Hero is BB with Q, A, J, A

UTG calls $0.05, MP calls $0.05, Button calls $0.05, SB calls $0.03, Hero bets $0.30, UTG calls $0.25, 1 fold, Button calls $0.25, 1 fold

Flop: ($1) 8, Q, 5 (3 players)

Hero bets $0.95, UTG raises to $1.39 (All-In), 1 fold, Hero calls $0.44

Turn: ($3.78) 9 (2 players, 1 all-in)

River: ($3.78) 7 (2 players, 1 all-in)

Total pot: $3.78 | Rake: $0.15

Results:

Hero had Q, A, J, A (one pair, Aces).

UTG had 8, 7, 2, 5 (two pair, eights and sevens).

Outcome: UTG won $3.63

It’s not like I’ve been running cold. Quite the opposite, increasing my roll by one-fourth in the last week, and doubling how much I started with after the last cash-out. Then there was yesterday and today. The draws stopped coming in. Two outers. Sure, sure. Too hot, as in that hubris thing? No, no, I assure you it is just variance. And I’m down just one and a half buy-ins. A buddy of mine who haunts the same rooms as I, and whom I know is a good player, lost most of his roll last month. So, the theme continues. There but for…

“How’s the back?”

“Getting better,” she said. “I have more flexibility than I did.” She was in a car accident months ago, a drunk driver. He broke her back, this young woman at the pet store. “That’ll be $103.98.”

“My lord!” It always takes my breath. More than a third of my roll. I get no response, and realize something: “I’m sorry every time I come in here I complain about the prices. I know you don’t can’t do anything about it.”

“That’s okay. I think they’re insanely high too.” I feel better.

I like this young woman, and as I leave, want to leave on a positive note. “Feel better.”

“Others have it worse.”

“Yes they do, but that doesn’t mean you can’t express how you feel about your ordeal.”

She says, “I have a six year old niece with leukemia.”

That night I get a call from an old friend. We haven’t spoken in years. He says he’s scheduled for an angioplasty the following day. Seems he had a heart attack last May that went misdiagnosed for six months as asthma. Doesn’t make sense, given his family history. I would be demanding an EKG. But there you go.

The conversation eventually gets around to me. Now what?




Addendum: No water this morning. Space heaters have been put in the pump house.


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

At your leisure...or not at all














Yep

I tried embedding and that didn't work. Then I tried typing out the html and it made my page go wacky,so, as a last resort, a link to one of my favorite shows and the nerve it chorded.

Color and the lack thereof

It’s a small town, that we’re clear on. And granted, it’s made smaller because we don’t live in it; rather, we go to it, run errands that take us along the same few roads to the same few places, and we don’t otherwise participate much. Many of the streets have gone unexplored, and I cannot tell you what the inside of the public library or pool look like. You see, we don’t live there, and therefore we would have to pay a fee. Even though our mailing address is town. (Frag.)


One errand is going to the post office. We pick up our mail as opposed to having it delivered to our new, never-used mailbox across the road from the house. Why? Mail theft is rampant in the sticks. Tweakers with an urge and a car. I can’t sit in front of my house waiting for the delivery. Won’t. So I take the rig for a spin.

Did I mention it’s cold here? I should, because I need to describe something peculiar to this area. Men wear shorts in freezing weather. Not all men, just some. Shorts and a heavy jacket. It is odd.

Today was the coldest day so far this late Autumn. So cold that I thought I might have some difficulty with the rig, but I didn’t. So cold that I kept my errands to a minimum, and the post office was the first stop.

There is an apartment building kitty-corner. It is an historic building, or so said the realtor that asked if we might be interested. But I have been going to the post office long enough to know that while the building may be old, its residents are of a somewhat transient nature, and rest assured have histories.

Not all of the residents are short term. There is the short, obese guy with the cane who sits out in front and screams at other tenants. Alto-tenor screams. The building manager and his wife have been there for at least as long as we have lived here. He’s tall and skinny, she the opposite, and both are somewhat elderly. Each morning they hold hands as they cross the street to the bar where they will remain for the better part of the day drinking tall boys of Busch Light. (I used to play poker at that bar.)

Perhaps because today was 20°F with a wind chill to-boot, I only saw the (How should I put this?) albino crack whore watering the frozen planters the new landlord has placed to spruce up the place. She was wearing gym shorts and a midriff t-shirt. Keeping with the local frosty fashion, she did have boots on. I’ll give her that.

I have wanted to write about this woman for some time. The long lead-in can be understood as hesitancy. She is not unattractive. Her age is hidden by the drugs. Otherwise, I know very little about her. And to be honest, I am not certain of her profession. (I'm leaving the above description as it is; I don't like it either.) However, I do know what she sounds like, the words she uses and they way she uses them, all of which speak to another place, a better time, something more than burned lips and a sore throat in Section 8 housing.

When I came out of the post office, she was gone. We received a Christmas card from the widow and daughter of an old high school friend. I then went to get wood pellets for the pellet stove. Tonight is supposed to be colder yet.


Sunday, December 6, 2009

Crops

Sometimes puns are demanding, rude, ugly little beasts. If only one could find a way to put them in their place, do violence to them like one can with those veritably smug clich├ęs. Perhaps the best we can hope for is to acknowledge them and then move on.

Much of the Midwest is flat, flat, flat. Yep, I shit you not. I wonder why people complain about it, kinda like bitching about the weather. Sometimes you have to look hard to find that something is easy on the eyes. But then the question becomes how to show it to others. To remove is not exactly the same as to distill.

These have the working title, "Landstrips." Please don't enlarge right away.











 




































 











15 mins.

I read on Tao of Poker that there was a charity tourney on FTP today for Justin Shrunk. I thought I might, just for kicks, play and live blog the thing.


Starting at my table, one Rigged IMHO is immediately to my left, Mr. Peter Eastgate (really?) two to my left. Played first hand with JTs UTG, flush str8 draws go nowhere with Top Pair. QQ takes it. Sit on my hands for a level, get Aces, as does another player. Eastgate flops a set of sevens.

End of game.

One thing leads to another

I had not recharged my phone since the ride down to Harrah's and the battery was pretty low the morning after arriving back in Chicago. I was staying with some friends, M already off to work and B still snoozing, or so I thought.

"Did you take some pictures?" he asked with a smirk. "I saw the flash."

"Yeah, I was looking for a socket to plug in my phone and just had to document the outlet situation."

No, not there.

Still a little too busy for my taste.

Okay, if I must.

I told a half truth, for I did not stop with the electrical.








Now, in case you think my friends are completely off of their rockers (every outlet is on a 20 amp fuse), I should explain that B is in the film industry. He does location scouting and set design, among other things. Much of what you see is "just in case" stuff. He has a collection of liquor bottles full of colored water "just in case" the film needs a bar. He has five paper staplers, a number of clocks from various time periods... you get the idea. Combine his profession with a degree in industrial design, and well, he just has to have six vintage Electrolux canister vacuum cleaners.

M tolerates the clutter, pretty much all his doing, yet she has made certain that the theme to "Sanford & Son" is playing in the background on their answering machine.

I almost forgot... Amidst all the paraphernalia are two ancient bastin clay sculptures.


Pen & Brush
 
Reclining Nude

Saturday, December 5, 2009

All things considered

We have had a hard frost. Several, in fact, evidenced by the inch of ice in the duck’s water buckets back in paddock six. The ducks had not been back there for a couple days, the crunchy grass deemed too cold for more than a jaunt to the pond before returning directly back to the coop. Yesterday the sun shown bright enough for all but the shadowed frost to disappear, and when I walked the birds to the back, I found the frozen buckets, and the hose to refill them with an inflexible solid core. I dug the ice from the buckets and consolidated the remaining water into two buckets.

“It’s probably time to move the ducks up into three” was my conclusion upon reporting back to DW. “I’ll clean out the hoop house tomorrow morning.”

“I’ll help.”

And that was the first chore of the day. Tomatoes and eggplants were uprooted, loaded into the tractor’s bucket and dispersed in the tall dead grass; ground cloth was lifted, old soaker hoses rolled, and both were removed to the pile destined for the dump; the good hoses were pulled from the grass and left on the concrete pad to thaw.

The ducks and guinea seemed to like the new digs, and the coop is twenty-five feet away. The shorter hose drains better too.

As the day wore on and the sun slid just over the top of the firs to the south, a sizable hatching of very small flying insects danced up and down over the warming ground. What purpose they serve is a mystery, and with more cold to come tonight, I imagine this will be their only day to do what they have pupated to do.

DW asked, “What about the squash in the barn? The temperature is supposed to drop to 17 by Sunday.”

“The garlic is in there as well.”

It was decided that we should move them into the shed where three bushels of potatoes were already stored. DW did the deed, and a small milking heater was set on low. I counted twenty Kubocha winter squash and guessed about fifteen pounds of garlic. Two squash had already gone to the house for dinner.

At the hour I had determined would give me enough time for preparation (two hours to eat by 8 o’clock), I cut the biggest squash (nine inches in diameter) in half, scraped out the seed cavity, preheated the over to 350°F, and set the two pieces on a cookie pan with a water bath. After forty-five minutes the skin was easily removed. I processed the meat with chicken stock, placed it in a pan with more stock and a good-sized chunk of pepper jack cheese. DW steamed carrots and green beans, and made toast. We cracked a suitable bottle of wine and ate while watching Werner Herzog’s “Encounters at the End of the Earth,” a film about the people who live and work in Antarctica. It’s colder there.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Family entertainment



A supposed newbie raises it up big in PLO on Stars. I have one of those hands that can take down big hands, middling straight with nut flush draw. I hit two pair, Aces and eights on the flop, with my flush draw and get it all in. He and another player are also all in. He holds 3 jacks and catches the case. “Sorry,” he writes about three times. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

In the middle of the hand, another player tells me he enjoys my blog. A good reason to call it quits for the night to tell you about the live session I played at Harrah’s outside of St. Louis. After all, I walked away with a nice profit.

It didn’t start out that way. I was sat at a $200 NLHE table where it was a either a multi-way limp fest, or three callers for a 10 x BB opening bet. A bit schizo. My pair of tens, Jacks, AQs, AKoff didn’t stand a chance if there was no improvement on the flop. Working with only an ATM card, I bought in for $140 and was down $100 in an hour and a half. And to make matters worse, my hands were shaking and my heart was racing, and we know what that means. I walked away to see how DM was doing on the slots (not any better than I).

I was gone for about an hour. When I returned, there was quite a long list, and after a bit of a wait, they opened up a new table. I like new tables. Fresh start for everyone. No monster stacks. No shake. TQs flopped two pair, Q8s rivered a boat, a set of sixes held up on a straightening board, 7s over 4s killed 4s over 7s, and a host of other hands saw me up over $300 by bedtime. I never had Aces, Kings or Queens. The designated table captains were victims of a very quiet junta.

But I couldn’t sleep. I tried, believe me. I prayed, to no avail. The double of Red Label I threw down before going upstairs had no effect whatsoever. I almost fell asleep several times, but something — no, several things — always thwarted a full slumber. I relate the reasons with some trepidation.

As readers know, DM loves the penny slots. And in that her birthday was in November, as the mailer she had received told her, she was eligible to participate in a slot tourney for November babies now of legal age. Plus, she knew that I would most likely be staying at Harrah’s in Las Vegas next March, so she saw this as a chance for me to perhaps get comped a room for a few nights when that time came.

DM knows about comps. Even though she only plays penny slots, and never spends more than $20 of her own money on any given trip, she receives free rooms two nights a month, and all of her meals (and on this trip, mine) are free through her rewards points. If she loses her $20, she reads the newspaper, does the crossword, watches TV and waits for the free bus that brought her to take her back home the next day.

She does not go alone. Her slightly younger brother, my uncle, goes with her. Now, I could write a novella with my uncle as the sole inspiration. My DM may be the comp queen; Uncle is, among other things, an old angle shooter. He knows the house odds on every game, is able to somehow make money off of losing tickets at the horse track, is convinced that the poker dealers take more rake than they should, and hasn’t slept in a bed for years. The fourth item may not seem to be related to the first two, or even the third, but it is.

My uncle goes to the casinos a lot more often than DM. He also spends only $20 a visit, either playing craps (the least % for the house) or plays the slots… a quarter at a time, for comp points are evidently accumulated for time spent at a machine, as well as for money inserted. He isn’t in any hurry. Now, whether he uses his points for both food and rooms, I am not certain. Maybe for food, but since he sleeps sitting in a chair, I believe his car suits him fine in all but the coldest weather. I don’t dare ask, nor does DM. However, when DM goes for an overnight, they share a room on DM’s comps.

The subject of sleeping arrangements arose before DM and I went to the casino. If Uncle was meeting us there, and they typically share a room, I would be happy to get a room for myself. I was told to not be silly. Uncle would use his comps for a room, and I could have one of the queen-sized beds in her room. But, I protested, I may be playing poker until very late and I would not want to disturb her sleep. She assured me that I wouldn’t, and I relented.

Uncle didn’t get the memo. There he slept, propped by pillows, hands somehow hovering over his chest, head back in a somewhat open-mouthed cadaverous position, on his way to becoming an apparition. DM was lightly snoring underneath sheets and blankets to her neck, and the room was at least 85°F. Even in my skivvies I was sweating.

Oh, but it gets worse. Someone in the room directly above ours either had the flu or way too much to drink, for they flushed the toilet every five minutes for the two hours I laid in that bed. Despite the fact that I had to drive back to Chicago the next day, I knew I would not be able to sleep for many hours to come, so I dressed, and at 0230 headed back to the poker room.

The poker room is a good-sized room. I would guess there are twenty tables. Three were still going. One was a 3/6 structured game and another a 1/2 PLO game. As much as the latter was a temptation, I had sweated it earlier and $50 preflop pots were a bit too steep. Instead, I sat at the $200 NLHE game for two hours, played four hands and made $5.

The casino closes at 0430. I wrote notes for the above games while I sat outside. I talked to a cabbie. I listened to the early birds singing. If I would have had the rental car keys with me, I would have pulled an Uncle.


Thursday, December 3, 2009

Memes

There’s a wind farm north of Odell. Never been to Odell, nor given it much thought, yet it’s on the map now.

Otherwise the trip downstate from Chicago to see my Dear Mother was much like the hundred or so other trips I have taken on Interstate 55, old US Route 66. Almost like the others. The context had shifted.

Let’s start out trying to explain by noting that I was already in a nostalgic frame of mind, initiated by roaming around a much-changed Windy City, holding a baby boy much like I did twenty-seven years ago, and sitting in a bar for the first time with my now-of-age Dear Daughter. (She asked questions about things that had weighed on both of our minds, and I believe I gave satisfactory answers.) Oh, and Thanksgiving dinner.

DM makes pies and cobblers. She makes a blackberry cobbler (far left and third from left) like her mother did. That was for Thanksgiving, and I made sure to have two pieces. A pie was waiting for me upon my arrival, a special request: banana/coconut cream. It just makes sense, you know, to combine the two.

“I thought about making a chocolate cream pie too.”

“Maybe a chocolate/banana/coconut cream. That would be the perfect pie.” She wouldn’t buy it, but she will make it for me, I’m almost certain. I’m her son.

We don’t talk about it much, but he’s often on our minds, her other son. The blackberries came from transplants she brought over from his yard to hers. When we eat the cobbler, we think of him. No, he is there.

As I eat the cream pie, she fixes a basket of plastic Christmas flowers. “He probably wouldn’t like all of the fuss.”

“No, but too bad. You want to do it, so do it.”

And, we did.

Again, “I wonder what he would think of all of this? Do you suppose he ever thought that his death would have such a devastating effect on so many people?”

“While we may consider our own deaths, I don’t think any of us know how it will effect others. It is too painful to think about. And, as for the flower basket, he would inspect the job I did hanging it and approve of how it is wired to the hook.” We both chuckle. And sniff.



There is a culvert behind the grave. A small woods. We would have explored it as children. Instead, we will lay by it.

The ride back to Chicago was in the dark. When I drove past Odell, all I could see was the red blinking lights atop the mills.