Saturday, December 13, 2008

Alone again, naturally

As I write this, there is a group of poker bloggers having a rip-roaring time in Las Vegas. From what I have gleaned, they are veteran bloggers, which means they have been at it for more than 3 years, some for 5. While some have pretty much quit writing about poker unless hired to do so, and others in attendance may not have written much about poker at all, when social circles collide, I’m certain a love for the written word provides the glue to keep it all together, and you just have to wrap your arms around each other in a group hug.

And some of these people can turn a phrase, let me tell you! I’d mention names, but I’m sure I’d leave some notables out as I don’t read them all. Lord knows I don’t have the time.

Time. Right now it’s late, or early, depending on how one wants to look at it. I’ve wrapped up a rather successful evening of poker. I’ve talked to the Dear Wife in Chicago twice, and I’m about ready to go to bed. The only thing keeping me up is music. I’m listening to WFMU out of Jersey City. The DJ has played Joy Division, Gang of Four, Shrimp Boat, Suicide, and a lot of other music I know well. I just got off of the phone with him. I was telling him about the time I saw Shrimp Boat at the Czar Bar in Chicago. Now, that was a band! And it was a sad day when they called it quits. He told me about a band called Evergreen, a spin-off. He drives from Philly once a week to do his show, and it was clear that he was excited by his work.

Life out here in the country is paced in such a manner that the conversation I just had constitutes excitement. Now he is playing some old-timey fiddle music, “Richmond Square” by The Highlanders. This is my world. Now, “Amazing Grace,” sung by the Liberty Baptist Church Choir. This is my world.

Ask the Dear Wife. She will confirm that I always listen to music. Ask my poker buddies who I Skype with as we play. Music bleeds though the headset’s mic. I often think in lyrics. It is an old habit, a passion, a comfort, a distraction. As a youngster I found myself in trouble more often than not; and punishment was typically being grounded to the house, or to my yard, and not just for a week or two. Bad grades meant six weeks until the next report card, shoplifting candy meant months, perhaps a whole summer. I listened to the radio to pass the time, to connect to something outside. I slept with the radio on, listening to the early days of FM radio, underground radio. The soundtrack for the counterculture sent me in a direction that would form the person I have become. DW and I first bonded over music, and when our passion’s flames were too hot for either of us to touch, music salved and brought us closer.

Yet, as it was in my youth, music primarily remains a solitary experience. I listen in the basement while reading, writing and playing poker. Three mostly solitary ventures. Mostly, but not entirely. Reading certainly has solitary aspects, communing with another writer, but only through their written words. Writing is less so, as much of it, as with this blog, becomes a correspondence of sorts, And, while most of my poker play is on the computer, as I mentioned above, I do occasionally chat with online buddies. And when I do venture forth, for instance to my home game, R has on an oldies station, and at the pub tourney I endure yet feed a jukebox with a meager selection of artists I enjoy.

I will listen to nearly any music genre, yet that does not mean I appreciate every composition, artist or group. Some music is painful to hear. I admit it: I dislike most pop music from the eighties onward, which seems to be a favorite for most of my pub opponents. Play Boston or Britney Spears or George Strait and I sink back into isolation right before your very eyes. It is then I long for my iPod.

Ah, my iPod. I don’t listen to it much. There’s no need, really, except when I mow, or play poker in a casino, when the hours of acres or orbits seem to drag. I dance and sing in both the tractor seat and casino chair; just a little movement, and enough of a whisper to carry a tune. I look to enjoy myself, and at the poker table, distract others.

I associate my iPod with my annual trip to Vegas. I go once a year with my own special group of online friends from Poker Academy. (We have a great time, although I suspect we don’t drink nearly as hard as the bloggers, as we are there primarily to play serious, serious poker.) Two years ago, DW put a special selection of LV, gambling and card-related tunes on the thing just for the trip, and it has not been deleted. I hope that I am able to go again this year, economy notwithstanding, and, as last year, when someone from the group asks me what I am listening to on my little white box that somehow holds so much music, in a gesture of supreme friendship and generosity, I will hand it over to them for a couple hours. bastin without his precious music!? I would become ungrounded were it not for the distant siren song of the chiming slots.

But that’s another story, and I need to sleep.

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