Friday, November 27, 2009

Til Thursday, my friends

DW and DD (daughter) head to their respective coasts tomorrow. I hit the road with DM for a few days then return for one more peek at the infant grandson (DIG) before heading home to the animules and a kiss at the door.  Until then I will be sans internet. Notebook and camera will be in tow.

Be groovy, y'all.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


I was waiting, which makes for great watching. In that it was at the airport, it was even better. A young man approached, slicked down hair, jeans and hoodie, and asked a neighbor waiter if he might have an extra smoke.

The young man had a look about him, one I had seen before: furtive, figuring, running the numbers. He smoked the bummed cig with some urgency,  and with his free hand practiced rolling a quarter over its knuckles.

He played. I just knew he played. He just hadn't gotten it down yet, is all.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

More "In the Old 'Hood"

So, no, this place isn't home again, nor did we expect it to be, having willingly left six years ago. We had our fill back then, and it doesn't take much to top it off on a return. DW and I both enjoy seeing a few old friends, and then there is family. These are the things that keep s coming back; little else.

We are staying in a neighborhood that is very familiar to us. It is the neighborhood where we lived, met, dated, and fell in love. We ung out in the independently owned coffeeshops, danced until 4 am in the clubs, and ate tamales from the street vendors. But even back then things were changing, and even though we didn't care to face it at the time, our early presence in the neighborhood was bringing about the eventual gentrification. It was a neighborhood artists could afford to rent in, and since artists lived in the neighborhood, it became the hip place to live. The demand made rent prices increase, artists moved out in search of cheap rent, rinse and repeat in the next neighborhood over. Eventually, artists learned that to stop the cycle, they had to beg, borrow and steal enough money for a down payment, buy a building in the next neighborhood, wait for the suits to move into the area,  sell the building to them for five times the original purchase price, and move out of the city with the proceeds. Artists don't make money from art; they make it in real estate. (More on this in the future.)

So, now, instead of five panhandlers on the main six-corners, there's is one. Most of the bodegas and taco stands are gone, as are the druggies and gangbangers. The are replaced by fancy restaurants, valet parking attendants and little combo coffeshop/wine store/green grocers.

The kids needed some groceries today, so I went into one of the latter establishments today. It was three blocks from the place DW and I met. She lived on the second floor, I lived on the third. The neighborhood was run by the Cobras to the north of us, and by the Mob to the south. Both stayed out of each others' way, yet the Cobras had to contend with other gangs, and as a consequence, there was often gunfire right outside of our building. More than once I had to corral my children into my daughter's bedroom, the only room that didn't have windows exposed to the street.

The woman who waited on me today at the store commented on my ball cap. I was wearing my "Dead Guy" hat. "Is that from Rogue Brewing?"

"Yes, or a latent wish."

"Or, a 'don't mess with me unless...' hat."

"Well, I suppose there is a little of that left in me. Twenty years ago I lived three blocks north of here." I wanted to reclaim a bit of what used to be.

"Quite a bit different back then."

Yes. Even the graffitti has changed. No more gang symbols or cartoon figures with doobie in hand. The taggers speak to the new residents:

The malaise of entitlement.

The ethereal 187.

Gotta love this.

In the old days taggers would write and draw over or rivals work to claim and relcaim territory. Now, they leave comments.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Setting the scene

There are leaves on the ground, some remain in the trees. Flowers here and there, but mostly dead or sleeping. Geese just flew overhead, but that doesn't mean anything for they're everywhere nowadays.

It amazes me that I lived in this city for nearly twenty years. In six short years much of what I knew is gone, replaced by banks and Starbucks and hip clothing stores. Community Service workers clean the streets for another night of littering.

The bed sucks. The train runs every ten minutes not 100 feet from the window. The folks staying upstairs have a toddler who likes to run the length of the flat and bang on the piano at 0630.

The water tastes funny.

Friday, November 20, 2009


This blog may become all about Baby in the next few days (thanks again for all of the kind words), if I post at all. Taking my camera to Illinois with a 4 gig card and lots of batteries. My DM wants me to accompany her to a slot tourney, so I may get a little time at a live table. At the very least, in ten or eleven days there might be an ├╝ber post a la Iggy's constant tease.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

I became a grandpa yesterday

His name is Kainoa. He has the bastin nose.

Circa 1973

The picture is bit haunting. For me. The social media has upped its ante by showing the interests of others, the friends of friends. The more the merrier. Make a comment someplace else and it shows up in another social circle. Someday they will round us up and put us in the appropriate pens.

I know three of these people. Three of the four. The fourth, whose name is familiar, is lost to me otherwise.

Left to right:

The big guy lived up the street from me. He’s wearing a shirt with a racing stripe, full beard and short shag. Older, he and his brother shared names with my brother and I, which provided us some grace. Tough guys. I heard that prison time was involved some time after this photo. His eyes are half-closed, not from bad timing as much as the booze he holds in his right hand. I may have played euchre with him.

Next, the playboy, the only one looking at the photographer. His shirt is open to the third button from the top. Dark, wavy hair well below the ear, as was a style back then, and goatee. His head is pitched forward, perhaps from the pressure of a much shorter man’s arm around his neck. His own right hand is resting on the bigger man’s shoulder. He dies drunk when a telephone pole and his car have a contest.

These are friends.

I cannot say much about the short man to whom I assume the picture belongs. As before, his name is all I recall. Like the other three he wears a wide brown belt, hair below the ears. Bangs. He has a garland around his neck, blue, like his shirt, also open to the third button, white t-shirt underneath. His eyes are fixed on the man to his left, the last man. Younger than the other two, both of them have weak mustaches.

I know the last man best. His posture is more liquid than the others. Brown leather jacket, a mauve flower-print shirt, purple slacks, a white boy’s fro and bangles around his neck. I am guessing he is drinking a slow gin fizz. I played hookie with him. I drank and smoked pot with him and his closer friends. I did not do the downers. I saw things. He was a cop for a while.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

“Winter Count” by Justin Blessinger

One of my reader friends, Crash, wrote elsewhere, and with some dismay, that recently I had shortened the length of my blog entries. The reasons are legion, yet not all of the voices are foreboding. I’ve had a couple writing assignments, so the cobbler’s children have gone without; there is a list of maintenance minutiae with my name on it regarding preparation for time away from the homestead; throw in a smattering of art-related matters as well; and then there’s always that dagburn poker demon (you can call it them the poker gods, I don’t).

Tired of the variance that comes with Omaha, I went back to where it all began and played some NLHE, doubled up in quick order, quit out, did something else (wait for it), went to Poker Academy, tripled up, and then watched my favorite cartoons, “Metalocalypse” and “Squidbillies” on Adult Swim. Just another night of entertaining distractions, except for the “something else.”

While in Portland this past weekend I picked up a copy of a small publication, “bear DELUXE” (#29). I was familiar with the magazine because of a writing contest the publisher holds. I had thought about submitting an older piece for the current contest (#30), but then let the deadline pass. Maybe I’ll get around to it for #31, but, I thought, in the meantime it might be good to see what the writing is like, and thereby partially determine if I would make a good fit. Reading the winning story “Winter Count,” by Justin Blessinger, was, indeed, something else. An amazing, riveting short story.

The story takes place in the cold, godforsaken North country of Montana. Blessinger opens with a school bus and the last few students at the end of the day.

Hers is the last stop. She doesn’t care that the older girl is still riding. Very little remains mysterious, least of all the impatient squirming of the older girl and the furtive flicks of the driver’s eyes into his mirror. He’s not checking on her safety.

The dark-haired girl waits without anticipation for her stop. With a resigned but effortless shrug, she heaves her book bag up onto her shoulder and walks with barely a sound to the front of the bus. She can feel Mandi’s excitement crescendo as the door opens. Christ, she’s all but panting. But it doesn’t matter, and she steps off the bottom step and into the dark and toward the dark house where her father and she live. Alone.

They live on a cattle ranch. We are never told the main character’s name. If I may, alone doesn’t need a name.

The door bangs open, and her eyes snap back open. The news was still on. Her father fills the doorway, a mass of layered coats and hoods and a heavy, fur-like hat. The door thumps closed behind him, and the pressure concusses her ears. She stands quickly, snaps off the TV. “I just got in.”

“You got a cow down.” His too-big glasses had iced over in the sudden heat, giving him mean, insectile eyes.


286 was Madeline.

The girl bothered to name the cows. It gives them dignity.

Madeline was calving in February, way too early. Not because she was early; she had bred early. The calving does not go well. The calf puller is ineffective, the attempt verbalized.

A sickening, loud pop punctuates the exchange, and for a moment, everything is still, and the barn is silent but for the heater. Then Madeline emits a long moan that ends in a grunt, and drops her head.

“Pelvic bone. Split.”

The father is then able to remove the calf, dead, but the afterbirth does not follow. When the father reaches up into the cow to retrieve it, he finds a twin.

“Lift her hip. It’s keeping me out.”

Grasping Madeline’s leg, she begins to lift. “That’s it,” her father says, satisfied. His arm slides easily all the way up to his shoulder. And that’s when Madeline bolts. With astonishing force, she heaves her forelegs under her, twisting her rear end, forcing it to follow, despite the fact that her rear legs refuse to hold any weight. She lurches almost halfway to a standing position, her rear still low, and her father still buried ridiculously deep inside her before she slips and crashes backwards, her rear legs collapsing under the pain. There is another bone-snapping pop but she stills for a moment, her eyeballs rolling up and back as if trying to spot the girl, who stands with her weight on one retreating foot, as if she might run from the barn, from the farm, from Montana.

Her father’s arm is broken in two places, and a compound fracture in his forearm has “fish-hooked” into the cow’s innards. The bulk of the remaining story details the girl putting the cow down with a rifle, and utilizing a chainsaw and knife to extricate her father’s arm. It is graphic, and a milder temperament might find it difficult to read. Yet, given the situation in which the characters have found themselves, nothing is out of line.

His daughter is still hovering over the cow, intent. She had always been attached to the animals. He steps forward, and then realizes she is cutting the opening in the cow larger still. He begins to speak, to tell her to stop, when he sees something move inside the cow. A black hoof protrudes from the wound. The other calf.

Aside from the excellent writing, I suppose I am moved by this story on several levels, the first being the isolation of country life and the independent spirit that is required and tested; and the second, part of the first, certainly, is the cycle of life and death on the farm. (Even mine. One false move, one distracting moment on or near the tractor and I end up like a distant cousin, long dead from a rollover.) Yet, it also reminds me of what is sometimes necessary in managing the life and death of those animals we steward.

I married a city girl. Six years on the farm has seen her change, grow, buck up when a duck has to be put down or a feral cat needs to be dispensed. Our life is considerably more comfortable than that of Blessinger’s characters, but we want to be of the same ilk. A stern blend of compassion and fortitude.

After reading “Winter Count” I contacted Mr. Blessinger to tell him that I liked the story. In that I had a link to my website in the signature of my email, he took it upon himself to have a look and wrote back some very nice words about the “Field Burns” and “Lawnmowers across America.” I thought I’d return the favor with this post. I just wish there was a link I could provide that had the complete story.

And, Crash, is this long enough for you?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


I saw these yesterday when I ran my errands. I made sure to bring my camera along today. The concrete was wet, and it occurred to me that they might be even more interesting as the area began to dry. A return trip might be warranted.

This one might be my favorite.

Monday, November 16, 2009

A little poker music

You know you have someone's attention when you sit down to the right of the big stack and double up through them on the first hand.

He min-raised UTG, and by the time it got around to me in the BB, I was getting 6:1 to throw in two more cents with 7-10-J-Q. The flop was 77Q. After he raised my flop bet, I check-called until I was all-in. I wasn't going to lay it down, so I should have just jammed the turn, but eh... Only one hand beats me, and this is Omaha. Pocket Aces no good.

After that, any time I raised, he came in, I imagine looking to get a little payback. Since the guy had position on me most of the time, I knew I had to pick and choose my spots carefully.

As the game wore on, I noticed that it wasn't just me. He was calling everyone's raises. He also did a fair amount of raising himself. And he was losing. And it wasn't because he was getting bad beats while playing stellar hands.

PokerStars Pot-Limit Omaha, $0.02 BB (5 handed) - Poker-Stars Converter Tool from

saw flop | saw showdown

BB ($4.65)

UTG ($4.05)

Hero (MP) ($9.20)

Button ($3.33)

SB ($4.85)

Preflop: Hero is MP with 8, J, 10, 9

UTG calls $0.02, Hero bets $0.09, Button calls $0.09, SB calls $0.08, 1 fold, UTG calls $0.07

Nothing new here. Even 6-handed, three players will call a raise at The Deuce.

Flop: ($0.38) 9, 2, 9 (4 players)

SB checks, UTG checks, Hero bets $0.38, Button calls $0.38, 1 fold, UTG calls $0.38

Somebody else has a nine. let's see who it is.

Turn: ($1.52) 8 (3 players)


UTG checks, Hero bets $1.47, Button calls $1.47, UTG calls $1.47

Well, we can't all have a nine. Someone has a big pocket pair, or three deuces.

River: ($5.93) 7 (3 players)

Talk about a redraw!

UTG checks, Hero bets $2.18, Button calls $1.39 (All-In), 1 fold

Total pot: $8.71 | Rake: $0.40


Button had J, K, J, 3 (two pair, Jacks and nines).

Hero had 8, J, 10, 9 (straight flush, Jack high). And I got paid!

Outcome: Hero won $8.31

You just have to wonder sometimes.

The beauty of neglect

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Don't let 'em get there.

Short-handed, as we all know, plays a bit differently than full tables. Lesser hands sometimes hold up, and one can increase the number of hands that have some speculative draw potential. As always, it depends.

Last night I managed to get stacked in the deuce game with Aces in the hole, and then recovered with Kings in the hole. I saw some big hands go by when I didn't play the slightly odder combinations, which is okay. I missed a lot of draws but managed to keep from investing a lot to see the turn. And perhaps most important, I can't remember getting rivered by a two-outer. A good night overall, as I ended up a couple bucks.

I suppose playing the micros is not all that exciting to read about. No monster wins to crow about. I play to win most of the time, yet it occurs to me that what I am really doing is playing to learn, to think, to challenge myself. (Is this crowing?) And, when a hand goes down that gets my attention enough to think it is blogworthy, I get excited.

PokerStars Pot-Limit Omaha, $0.02 BB (6 handed) - Poker-Stars Converter Tool from

saw flop | saw showdown

UTG ($3.65)

MP ($4.61)

CO ($4.96)

Hero (Button) ($5.18)

SB ($4.39)

BB ($1.10)

Preflop: Hero is Button with Q, 9, 8, K

UTG calls $0.02, MP calls $0.02, CO calls $0.02, Hero calls $0.02, SB calls $0.01, BB checks

Flop: ($0.12) 4, 6, 10 (6 players)

Not much for me here. The ten gives me a gutshot and that's about it. But it's a good gutshot, and the pot is still small, so I call with position.

SB checks, BB checks, UTG bets $0.12, MP calls $0.12, 1 fold, Hero calls $0.12, 2 folds

Turn: ($0.48) A (3 players)

Well, well, well. Any Jack, any 7.

UTG checks, MP bets $0.26, Hero calls $0.26, 1 fold

River: ($1) J (2 players)

MP bets $0.52, Hero raises to $1.04, MP calls $0.52

Total pot: $3.08 | Rake: $0.15


Hero had Q, 9, 8, K (straight, Ace high).

MP mucked 6, 10, A, 3 (two pair, Aces and tens).

Outcome: Hero won $2.93

Had the guy bet the pot on the flop or turn, I would have had to fold.  Top two are always hard to play, but you have to find out where you stand ASAP, before it gets expensive. And you have to at least try to get rid of the questionable draws against you. If an opponent comes back hard, then you can fold to a set and be done with it; or at the very least, that is when it's time to slow down, not from the get-go.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

A Different Nature

DW and I went up to the big city today. We had a few errands to run,  art to see, a goodbye dinner with a friend, and homage to pay.

I listen to a lot of different styles of music. There is very little that I dislike, and will even endure those styles low on my totem pole if the mood is right. I could wax about music being the language of the Spirit, but I won't.

I owe this eclectic taste largely to college and community radio stations. While we have a rather sizable selection of music at home, I find it efficient to listen to what others want to play, people much more informed than I who do it on a volunteer basis for the sheer love of music. I am comfortable in their hands.

Not too long ago, the DJ for one of my favorite radio programs passed away. His name is Richard Francis. I don't know much about Richard, and most of what I do know I have learned after his death. What I cared about was the music. Richard's show, "A Different Nature," was what might be referred to as experimental: ambient, spoken word, musique concrete and noise; in other words, what might best be described as avant garde. The radio station at which he volunteered held a sale of Richard's music CDs, albums and cassettes, books and VHS movies today to help defray some of the costs his family have incurred associated with his death. We wanted to help, and I wanted to pick up some music that I knew I would be hard-pressed to find elsewhere.

I came home with 43 CDs and DW bought several books. Money well spent.

I thought about making a list of the music here.  Instead, I thought I'd try something a little different.  A lot of the music I picked up I am unfamiliar with, and some I know the artist but not the work. So I thought we'd discover a couple of them together by way of YouTube.


Friday, November 13, 2009

Today’s Joke

A barber and a doctor follow another patron into a bar. They all sit next to each other.
The bar has a wall of mirrors on the wall to their backs and also behind the bar.
The barber says, “Our reflections thin to a razor’s edge.”
The doctor says, “Insulin needle.”
The bartender waits on the other customer first. “What’ll it be?”
“Nothing, Man, nothing.”

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Missed photo op

DW routinely walks the pooch, Annie, around the perimeter of the back eight acres. The dog loves the walk (one can tell) and anticipates certain stops along the way to look at horses, touch noses with the neighbor's llamas, and also do the nose thing with a white-faced-heifer another neighbor has been grooming with three other feeders.

We received an email a couple days ago from the latter neighbor that a truck would arrive Thursday, today, to butcher White Face and friends. Annie said her goodbyes yesterday.

This morning's walk came with cell call updates from the field. Burly guys. Hanging carcasses. You get the picture.

This is the highlight of the day?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

When I came down from the bedroom this morning, DW was prepping the animals' food. She turned to me and exclaimed, "Good morning, my vet!" I looked around the room, half-expecting to see our veterinarian sipping a cup of coffee. No, she was speaking to me, and kissed my morning mouth. I was surprised at this greeting because, aside from my veteran status and how it applies to my health care, the subject just hasn't come up, not even on Veterans Day.

I grabbed a cup of coffee and went to the dungeon to do my reading for the morning. I had an email from Crash, thanking me, vet to vet, for serving. Again, I was a bit surprised. Back atcha, buddy. A couple fellow bloggers had some Veteran Day messages on their sites, so I was well-primed for reflection.

If I hadn't mentioned it before, would you, my dedicated readers, ever think I had been in the military? Be honest.

Me either. Yet, my story is probably not much different than a lot of guys around my age who served. I was against the war, yet my lottery number was 8, making me a very likely candidate for being drafted. I did poorly in Community College, wanted badly to be out of the house, knew a guy who was in the Navy who talked it up, and not seeing many options, volunteered. Two minutes into boot camp I thought I had made a horrible mistake.

But I made the most of it, which was easy, actually, because I was already used to sometimes illogical authority, and had a goal, which was to get medical training and help with the care of returning soldiers. I was assigned to be the Recruit Chief Petty Officer of my company (093), graduated as an E2, and had tested so well that I was asked if I might prefer to go to the Naval Academy. I declined. Hospital Corps School was a breeze because I already had a bit of medical training, and Ocular Tech School was even easier, as I had a year's experience in the eye clinic at my first duty station (Annapolis - Ha!). At the end of my B School, I was asked if I might be interested in taking over the School. The only provision was that I would have to re-enlist. Again, I declined. As much as I liked the job I was doing, I looked forward to the end of my four years.

I didn't see any action (the war wound down shortly after my enlistment), and because of that, I've never really considered myself a soldier — more of a lesser veteran — but a caregiver to soldiers. That part I carry with me.

Reading done, breakfast eaten, chores completed, I prepared to go into town. On top of the mail to be sent out was a note asking me to pick up a "memorial flower." I do every year, and either wear it in a button hole on my work jacket or wrap it around the rear view mirror in my rig. I was curious why DW wanted one but didn't ask. (She later said she wanted one because the one I had put in her car several years before had faded.) Instead I wondered how I might ask for two.

There were four guys from the local VFW at the entrance of the Safeway. I peeled off five singles on my way to them.

"Hello young feller!" He was about eight years my senior.

"Well, bless your heart for thinking so!" I handed the guy the bills and he reached for a poppy. "Can I get two, please? One for my wife."

"Sure thing! And thank you!"

 "Yes, thank you." Another vet. With a neurological disorder. His eyes showed a deep, struggling-to-engage, sadness.

I used to tend bar. Not a fancy bar; a neighborhood place in a very questionable neighborhood. The bar was the headquarters for the local yet powerful gang, and the only reason I was hired was because I dated a woman of their ethnicity and therefore I could be somewhat trusted. (I could also count and knew how to handle a gun.) The place survived on the regular patrons who weren't gang bangers: Postal workers, Mexican day laborers, suppliers for the gang (the only tippers), and their women.

Occasionally, strangers would walk in, middle-aged white guys. No, make that gray guys. They always came alone, never said a word, had a couple drinks while staring at the counter, and then left. The same eyes. Nam vets.

I say thanks. I give thanks. I also mourn.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Lessons: the pain

When you live and breathe by the sword, the short end of the stick gets tough going.

Or something like that. At least I have my sense of humor.

I hate going to bed thinking about a hand of poker, and unlike a lot of other schmoes who sat up listening to the WSOP ME HU battle, it wasn’t one between by Moon and Cada. (Just to be clear, I was listening.)

Truth be told, in the last couple of days I’ve been clocked a couple times by the same type of draw I’ve been crowing about in recent posts. Last night took the cake. After the hand was over and the villain immediately disappeared, I typed “idiot” into the chat box. It did not escape me that I could have just as easily been referring to myself.

Villain was the maniac shortie to my right and who started firing pot-sized bets right off the bat in the six-handed game, position be damned. He took down six or seven hands in a row without a showdown. I knew the drill: Wait for the big hand and get it in.

PokerStars Pot-Limit Omaha, $0.10 BB (5 handed) - Poker-Stars Converter Tool from

MP ($6)
Button ($6.85)
Hero (SB) ($13.95)
BB ($10.05)
UTG ($15.90)

Preflop: Hero is SB with K, Q, Q, K

1 fold, MP (poster) checks, Button bets $0.45, Hero raises to $1.55, 2 folds, Button calls $1.10

Flop: ($3.30) 7, A, 4 (2 players)

Hero bets $2.30, Button raises to $4.60, Hero calls $2.30

Turn: ($12.50) 6 (2 players)

Hero checks, Button bets $0.70 (All-In), Hero calls $0.70

River: ($13.90) K (2 players, 1 all-in)

Total pot: $13.90 | Rake: $0.65


Button had J, 5, A, 3 (straight, seven high).

Hero had K, Q, Q, K (three of a kind, Kings).

Outcome: Button won $13.25

I could have, no, should have check/folded on the flop when the Ace hit. I figured him for an Ace. I didn’t figure him for much else and thought that if I could hit either a K or Q… well, I did. It took a minute for it to sink in when the chips didn’t get shipped my way. As much as I would like to rationalize “wide ranges” and "Button steal," I can’t.

I eventually fell asleep, and forgot about the hand until I fired up this infernal machine this morning. It’s just one hand, and just $6.85, so I suppose I’ll eventually get over it. Or rather, learn from it. If I couldn’t to do that, I would have to quit the game. And we can't have that.

So, what have I learned so far? I already knew preflop margins are slim in Omaha. I forgot my PLO mantra of "patience and paranoia." That's the main lesson. I also have a sneaky suspicion that I need to read up on strategies for playing short-handed PLO as the game seems to rely on more aggression than a full table (as it should be). 

I'll get back to you.