Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Related items

We received this email tonight. It had been copied to all of the people on the Neighborhood Watch list who have the internet:

Suspicious Vehicle Today, Our Road, 3/30/10, approx. 2:30 pm - 3:00 pm
Hello from B R, 00000 Our Road
My son was coming home from school today and saw a red honda accord with chrome rims pulling into several driveways, even going up to one house and knocking on the door but no one came out.  After he saw them pull into 3 or 4 driveways, he called me to ask who to report suspicious activity to.  So I called 911 for him while he waited at the end of our driveway, they pulled into the driveway across the street so he asked them if he could help them.  A young thin man, and a young woman said they were looking for a house to pick up a friend at but didn’t have a name nor did they know where the house was.  The girl said they would looking for a brown house with a red barn.  He pointed to L H's house and told them the tweeker's house is over there.  This comment made them nervous so they just sat in their car and never went to H's.  After a few minutes, they chose to head back to town since my son was still watching them.  Then 2 sheriffs show up, one sheriff to look for the car and one to talk to my son.  Sheriff #2 parked down the road a little ways.  As Sheriff #1 was talking to him, the red car drives by again he tells the sheriff and sheriff #2 pulls the car over.  The Sheriff said they had no stolen property and found nothing to arrest the couple for but believe they were up to no good and thanked him for reporting the suspicious activity.

I received a phone call today. My shotgun had been cleaned and repaired.
It’s a Sears Ted Williams Model 75 20 gauge shotgun, made by High Standard in 1968. It’s somewhat of a collector item these days and it’s loaded with #6.

Monday, March 29, 2010


Much to my chagrin, I have a John Denver song running through my head. It has been stuck there for the last 36 hours; nevertheless, it is good to be back home again.

Yesterday it began to rain and it hasn’t stopped. The pond is overflowing its banks, as is the seasonal stream on the back 10 acres. The dog and I went to scout it out, and when it came time to ford the stream, she reminded me that she is from Southern California where water goes in a bowl and does not flow except from a spigot. A little gentle coaxing found her on the other side, but we still were in a smaller stream running down the hill in front of us. She may not have enjoyed it, but I certainly did.

My readers will be glad to know that I have been able to stow the lip balm that was my constant companion in Vegas, and my extremities have reduced in size and level of discomfort. There is something to be said for humidity in the air.

Since last Monday the Italian Prune tree, the Bartlett and Asian Pear trees, and the Gravenstein Apple tree have bloomed. The grass has grown two inches and the flowering plum trees have dropped all of their blooms. The blueberries are budding up as well.

Las Vegas can be put to bed for a while, but not before one more table.

Saturday morning found me fairly well-rested with four hours of sleep. I had packed the night before so I wouldn’t have to scurry for the 11 o’clock check-out. I checked my bags with the valet, grabbed a bite to eat, and happened to run into Cardgrrl. We said our good-byes and I took a walk to try my hand at photos of — gasp — people.

I then decided to look in on Harrah’s poker room, and what did I see to my delight? A 1/2 table where several players were throwing back shots before noon! I so badly wanted to sit, but had to wait a bit as another table needed players. Eventually, I was sat and watched closely. Opening bets were huge, so I tread lightly. I had to fold AK once but finally came in with pocket sevens against the person I most wanted to be up against, a Hawaiian gentleman who was visibly drunk and aggressive.

He led out for $15, and with two callers behind me, I obliged. Everyone else folded. The flop was 535, he bet $30, two folds, I counted out $70, announced my raise, and he folded. I then watched him play blind to other raises, suck out and amass a sizable stack. Oh, how I wanted a piece of him again, but alas, it was time to leave.

I’ll hold onto the lip balm.

Oh, and a photo from that morning:

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Road trip

Before heading out to Vegas, Crash and Wolynski organized an excursion to Hoover Dam and the desert for some fun with our cameras. Uncle Trick from PA came with us, and we burned up the megapixels. I am still going through the photos, not quite in a fine tooth comb mode, but I have managed to pull the ones that stood out. Wolynski already has a few up on her Vegas Images site. I'll get UT's flickr account and link it and Crash when they have photos to share.

Our first stop was in Boulder City. The U.S. Government has a building with a nice view of Lake Mead and some of the city itself. I took a mix of photos.
Next stop was a little park that was a parking area for walking trails that led up to the dam.
Then the dam, where, it seems, I took more photos of everything else but the dam. It made sense to me. Still, the dam made the short list.
We drove for a bit until we found a place in the desert that looked like it had some potential because of some Joshua Trees.
Our final stop was in Searchlight, Nevada. There was casino there with slots that paid out in nickels and quarters. This photo pretty much says it all.

PA Pictures

All but Pokergirl have returned home from the 2010 Poker Academy Meet Up. I arrived home at 2:30 this morning and it may take another day to fully recover from the LV lag to the point where I can write a coherent paragraph. In the meantime, I have a few more photos from the trip specific to PA.
The view outside my hotel window.
Tuesday night dinner. Left, front to back: UT, Mad Mosby, Cactus 52, Cat Balou, YdidiIcall, Pokergirl, Poker Grump (Pokergirl's BF), me. Right, front to back: Sandman, Gustifer, Opinh Bombay,  Mike (My friend), Crash, KevinB68, eptigs.
Wednesday's PA Tourney
Cat's version of Raymer's glasses.
Final three. Sin City (standing) was the bubble.
Poker Chip Opinh Bombay had made for the group.
Card protector Gustifer made for the group.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Vegas, Baby (maybe)

It was rather cute: the elderly gentleman hobbled up to cashier at Starbucks with his Grande cup and asked for a refill. She tried to explain to him that refills were not something they did, at least not for anything less than the price of the original. He complained and then he conceded. "Worth a shot." I heard him mutter to next person in line.

Not really. Yes, the old man hobbled and tried his best to understand that another cup of joe would be at the minimum $2, and he left muttering, yet he wasn't shooting an angle. Or, at least he wasn't fessing up. It was my mind. As incredulous as the old dude was, so was I. Who has been where for a lengthy period of time to not know that everywhere else except the local eatery where the coffee comes out of a carafe into a ceramic cup or mug, and is instead individually made and sized portions is there such a thing as a refill? Therefore, I did not rule out the scam. I was firmly in the grasp of the Vegas mindset.

It is easy slippage for me, twenty years in Chicago not too far from standard midwestern dialect in which I project that I am the one with the gun. Likewise, it is easy for me to ignore those card clickers (or whatever they are referred to on the streets here), the pan handlers and "hey sweetie" comers. No, that's not what bothers me.

I never sleep well when I am here. Right now I am working on two hours plus an hour nap yesterday evening. The point of exhaustion is elusive. Maybe it's being away from home and DW. I'm sure that plays into it, away from my routine and familiar surroundings, just like the codger who misses his Kountry Kafe koffee klatch. It also could very well be the oxygen that they supposedly pump through these casinos (I don't buy it), but at the very least, I think I've nailed it down to the air, or rather, the climate.

It took less than 24 hours for my feet and legs to become swollen, dry, itchy and sore no matter how well-hydrated I try to stay. I anticipated this from my experience in years passed and purposely brought my loosest-fitting shoes. Still, it is painful to walk. The inside of my knees are chaffed for cryin' out loud, and that never happens at home. Moisturizer offers some but inadequate comfort, so, now that the bulk of the PA responsibilities are out of the way, here I sit in my room, paying $12 a day for internet service instead of grinding it out at the poker tables.

I could be home. That is what keeps returning to my thoughts. I could be sound asleep at 4 in the morning instead of  being awakened by the persistant itch on my right calf.

Suck it up, Bud.

And so I do. Take last night for example.

In that it would be the last night in town for my Chicago buddy, I hoped that we might get together one last time, but for various reasons that didn't work out. However, I did have a tweet from BWOP asking if I was going to be playing poker. (Forgive me, my blogging friends, for not linking. If I were at home, I'd just pull up your blog on my sizable monitor and make the link. On the laptop, I am too lazy. For other readers, look right.) I hadn't planned on playing, yet I hadn't met BWOP, and in that she was 'next door' at the Venetian, I didn't want to pass up the opportunity. I squeezed my swollen dogs into my boots and off I went.

My boots. I should take a moment here and digress. As longtime readers might remember, I come from farm stock, of which there are two types: tall and lanky like how one might invision a rancher; and those who are built closer to the ground with the lower center of gravity that comes with such the squat build. I am one of the latter. And a common feature in our group are feet that are tapered in such a way that the shoe box might be a better ftr than the leathers within. Consequently, we aren't provided with a wide selection of shoe styles that others are afforded. EEEE, and anything less elicits the sound of that letter's grouping.

I found my boots in an Amish general store ten years ago in central Illinois. They are black, ankle high, round and capped-toe. I don't have an occasion to wear them often as they are a bit on the dressy side, but they seemed perfect for this trip as I was sure to be eating in one or two nice restaurants, plus I anticipated the swelling.

Listen to me, going on like an old fuddy.

Further tweeting led me to BWOP's table and we greeted each other warmly, as if we had known each other for some time. Blogging, I guess, will do that to some. She told me that Pokergirl/Cardgrrl and Grump were going to stop by in a bit for some food and asked me to join them. "Are you going to play?" she asked. As I looked around the huge room with almost all of the tables going, I couldn't resist, even if it was just for a short time, and let her get back to her game.

I was immediately sat at a table and scoped out the competition. A few locals, a couple guys who looked like conventioneers, one young gun, an Asian guy who sat shortly after me who was very intent on getting in the game, and Mr. Yapper to my left.

I watched the action for the first round and quickly figured out the nits, the table captain and the spewer...Mr. Yapper. It seemed appropriate. He was persecuted, and to prove it, he kept calling bets. I watched his stack dwindle to half of its size within the first eitht hands I was at the table. And it was at that point I picked up KK UTG.

Most opening raises so far had been in the range of $11 or $12, and I suppose I could have gone with something along those lines, yet  I was worried that a raise of that size UTG might set off some alarms. Plus, with so many players left to act, I figured I'd see at least one big Ace and a pair call with me OOP. I settled one $7.

I was not surprised when Mr. Yapper called, as did one convetioneer in middle position. The flop was 38J rainbow and I led out for $12. Mr. Yapper raised it another $12 and the other guy folded. As I sat there, earbuds installed, he couldn't help himself and said, "I can beat a Jack." Well, you know I called with that angle. If he had a set, I suspect even he would keep his mouth shut. No reraise preflop, likely meant no hand that could beat mine. The turn was a blank and I led out with $30. More chatter that I pretended to ignore, only now he was truly perplexed. He had $45 behind and put it all in. I called, the river was another blank and he flipped over AJ.

And with that, it was time for dinner.

Four bloggers sit down for dinner, and you know what the primary topic was. Still, it was delightful. BWOP and I sat for a while thereafter and before I knew it, it was time to call DW to update her, and, tell her how much I miss her.

I then hobbled back to my makeshift dungeon.

I am scheduled to go out into the flora and fauna of the reall desert in three hours with Crash and Wolinski, so if you'll excuse me, I think I'll try to close my eyes for a bit. I'll let you know how it goes.


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

2010 Poker Academy Meet Up in Vegas

Things got off to a slow start for the Poker Academy group as a group, but I can’t say many of us have stood still long. We did have one member who arrived ill, who I have since learned is feeling much better this morning via a phone call that under other circumstances would have been to remind someone that it was time for the cow’s morning milking.

Although I have not been to Vegas in two years, it all came back to me quickly, the forty-five minute wait in a half-mile long line for a cab, the wide assortment of folks from all points from Arkansas to Albania, the oxygen-tanked keno players, MILFs with bolt-ons,young boys selling their mouth, and low rollers looking for an angle appropriate to their pimped-up attitude. Perhaps I am being too harsh, and there are certainly others who write about this city who write about the underbelly and liposuction better than I. However, my tongue always goes to the sore tooth.

And, as seems to be a Las Vegas ritual for me, although I was the PA Meet-Up organizer, when I arrived at the inn, the was no room in my name. Of course, I do not mean to imply that I should be represented in frescoes with a halo over my head, but I do have a nice view of duct work and the variety of items that those in higher rooms discharge from their windows onto the roof just outside my window.

Moving on to the fun parts.

The first night found the bulk of us at Harrah’s poker room for a friendly 1/2 game. Friendly, because there was so little activity, they sat us all at the same table. There were a couple strangers at the table who played a fairly loose and aggressive game, and members of our group eventually benefitted from this. For my part, I was either card dead or blown off pocket pairs both large and small and retired early, before the game got good, so I will let the others tell their stories if and when they see fit. I will say that Crash was on fire late in the session.

Much of the discussion has been over where we should play. We wanted softer rooms that would fit both those of us who have played live for a while, and those who have less experience. First on the list was Bally’s, so we hit that room after Cat Balou busted out of the 11:00 tourney at Harrah’s Tuesday morning. Pokergirl was already there and had informed us that it was a good choice. There were enough tables running so that there was typically only two or three of us a any one table, which was a much better situation for us as we didn’t feel so much like kissing cousins, if you get my drift. I, for one, don’t particularly like playing with a bunch of friends when other options are available.

Again, I can’t say that I had a stellar performance, and there certainly are not any memorable hands, except one, perhaps when I limped with A9c from early position and saw a cheap flop. CK knows what happened because I had Pokergirl tweet her. I turned the flush and was pretty damn sure the guy to my right had a smaller flush. I managed to keep another player in by smooth calling his bet, but I had to slow down when the board paired on the river. Nevertheless, it was my biggest win so far. I managed to leave with a small profit. Again, I will let others tell their stories.

Because I know my organizational skills are limited, when I chose to take on the task of arranging this year’s Meet Up, I kept things simple: block off some rooms, reserve a table for fifteen for dinner and schedule a little tourney for iur group. Tuesday evening was the dinner at Flavors Buffet at Harrah’s. All but one of our group was able to make the dinner, and we had two guests: a friend of mine from my days in Chicago (another post at a later date) and Pokergirl’s friend, Poker Grump. It was great to have nearly the whole group together for a decent meal and great conversation. It was here that we toasted, shared stories about, and set a place for our dear friend, Ben Kramer.

Opinh Bombay was first with an Air Force toast for our friend who has gone before, Pokergirl shared her memories of first meeting Ben and subsequent visits with him and his family, Sandman could be heard reminiscing at the other end of the table, and I told my tale of when I tried to play Yenta (unsuccessfully) for Ben and a friend of DW in Chicago. They were stories we had told before, but they brought Ben to the table for us, and that is important. Some of the newer players had never played poker with Ben on PA, and there were those who had but had never met him, yet by the end, all knew how special he was to us lucky ones.

We took pictures.
(Left to right)Back row: YdidIcall, Crash, Cat Balou, Gustifer, My buddy Mike from Chicago, MadMosby, Cardgirl, Sandman, KevinB68. Front row: Opinh Bombay, Uncle Trick (UT), eptigs, Cactus52, bastin
Of course, after dinner we had to decide where we would go for some more poker. My friend from Chicago told us that there was a beer distributor convention at Mandaly Bay, and we set out en masse with aspirations to take the pennies of some drunks.

After a monorail ride to MGM, we walked the rest of the way to MB. It was a hoof, but I’d venture to say that most of us could use the fresh air, and it was a nice warm evening.

The trouble with ten or twelve friends showing up at a poker room all at the same time is that the room sees an opportunity to start a new table. A few of us were fortunate enough to get seats at tables already underway, but the rest of us were sat at a ‘must-move’ table with three strangers. We bided our time while a local basically ran over the table, and waited to be moved. Instead, they started a new ‘must move’ table, which sucked. I was fortunate to ask about a table change at the same time a young fellow from another table wanted to move, so we changed places. A set of fours did me well, and again, I called it an early evening. I have since heard the Mad Mosby did well for himself in the wee hours.

Wednesday’s tourney started at noon. It was a $60 buy-in with a $40 add-on. Now, here is where we wanted the whole group at the same table. I dare say everyone had a great time. At Cat Balou’s suggestion, people brought card protectors to exchange, and a couple players went out of their way with the idea. Opinh Bombay had 11g poker chips made with the PA logo imprinted and distributed them to the group, and everyone also received protectors that Gustifer crafted out of fishing bobbers and chips.

The tourney itself has pretty steep blinds after level five, yet we had plenty of time to chat, and jocularity ensued before it became a jamfest. Uncle Trick (UT) bubbled, Sandman took third, Cat Balou finished second and KevinB68 too it down. There was over $1000 in the prize pool.
KevinB68 with the ever-deadly K3 off.

After the tourney, everyone went their separate ways. Some went to the Mirage, others to the bar, a couple opted for naps before returning to the tables for the night, and I wanted to get a post out before I forgot any more of what has gone down.

Before I close, I want to give a shout out to a couple folks: First, I’d like to say hello to Bricks from PAO. You are missed, girl and hope that next year we will see you at the tables (and I missed on your prediction); also, I’d like to thank Shawn from Poker Academy’s support and development team for finding $500 to put toward the Meet Up. Dinner was on PA and we even had a little left over to sweeten the pot for the tourney finalists.

I would also like to say that I am working on my new laptop, which is a Windows based bugger. I have tons of photos that I don't have the patience to post at this time because I'd have to bother to learn this non-intuitive and intrusive software. When I get home next Sunday and back to my Mac, there will be much more.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Herds and hordes

I just awoke from a nap. It wasn't as long of a nap as I had hoped for, yet, it being on the couch, and my rotator cuff giving me fits, not to mention the dream, I was probably lucky to catch the rest I did.

DW was doing dishes. I was in the dining room and I noticed a long-haired tuxedo cat trying to jump up onto the deck. It was having one helluva time at it, getting its front paws onto the wood, pulling the rest of its body up, only to tumble backwards time and again. I went into the kitchen to tell DW. 

As I stood next to her I could see more cats from the kitchen window: more tuxedo adult cats, some all black kittens, eight in all. I was appalled. "Eight cats!" I yelled. I thought about getting my shot gun but it was in for repairs. "Eight cats!" I said again, expecting some reaction from DW but getting none.

I decided to go outside and investigate, and as I stepped out the door, as if often the case, the scene had changed. The cats were gone and I was no longer at home, instead looking out toward the barn at my grandparents' place. No matter. I was on a mission and headed toward the woods behind that barn.

More animals. The first ones I saw coming between the tress were almost tiger-like, if tigers were somehow cross-bred with domestic cats. Again there were several and they were about the size of a bobcat, except for the last one bringing up the rear. It was a full-sized tiger, which set me on a course back to the house.

As I headed to the house I saw other animals: goats, giraffes, camels, and by the time I reached the cistern top, a heard of elephants made their way between the barn and tool shed. Then people. Lots of people waiting for a train that ran next to the cistern.

DW came out of the back door, walked over to the crowd and spoke French to a woman.

We must have gotten on a train and headed north, for the next thing I knew we were on the streets of Chicago. It had to be Chicago because I had a copy of the Sun-Times with me. I was walking ahead of everyone else. We were looking for an address. It was getting chilly and I wondered if the newspaper would make an adequate jacket.

DW was trying to nap also. I heard her say something to our ailing cat and woke up.

A matter of perspective

Wanting to get one more blog entry in the books before I leave Monday, I intended to start today’s post with a blow-by-blow of mowing the yard today:

The unusually dry, warm late winter has meant that the OCD neighbors have mowed their lawn at least a dozen times since mid-January…twice this last week. I mowed ours for the first time today, a good month earlier than I normally would. In past years the ground stayed too wet until mid-April.

It really was a somewhat involved process: a dead lawn tractor battery two days ago; a crumbling rubber washer on my gas can and the attempt in vain to purchase a replacement; the length of the grass, longer in some places than others, yet all too heavy for the grass catcher to handle on the first round; and making a second pass hours later to pick up the clippings. But I realized that the doing was a barely more interesting than the telling, so I packed my carry-on bag.

Shall I list what I am bringing to Vegas?

Maybe my neighbors are just overly enthusiastic, the anticipation of a quarter inch of growth a nearly ecstatic experience in and of itself, and therefore I should cut them some slack. Besides, I mowed my lawn twice today. 

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Slow night

R isn’t getting the numbers at his games that he used to, which in the past two games has meant that they opt to skip playing a tournament and play cash. I thought about not going this week, so close on the heels of Vegas this coming Monday, but I told myself I could use the practice. To make a long story short, my best starting hand was a pair of twos in the SB and my only win was with Q7 (two pair on the flop) in the SB. I couldn’t hit the straight and/or flush draw to save my life against the super LAG to my left, yet he stacked off nicely to others who did. If I was in a hand, it did not escape comment.

“You have to change up your game.” was Mike’s suggestion. Little does he realize that I’m not just playing top pairs. Others seem to think as Mike, that if I don’t have JJ or better, I’m not playing. The thing is, I have shown down much more variety, and they still see me as a rock. I should be ecstatic, right? I would be if I could hit a flop. And believe me, you have to hit a flop in this game. A 6xBB open means nothing and only small pots get stolen. It might as well be PLO instead of NLHE as 3-bets and check-raises mean almost nothing to a baby flush draw. These guys are here to gamble.

Down 14BB after 3 hours, I pretty much had it. It’s a repeat performance of the last game at R’s. I figure I have two choices: catch a big pair and stack off to 36off, or go home. I chose the latter.

So, why aren’t I doing better? I want to write it off to just not getting cards. I suspect it’s something else.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Short List

With my trip to Vegas four days from now, the anticipation is palpable, but not too palpable, if you catch my drift. In fact, because of the latter, I anticipate a more sedate five days than in the past.

Still, I am going there to play some poker and, by golly, poker I will play... just not 15 hour days at the tables. The marathon sessions themselves seem to exact a toll on the aging physiology. No, instead of sitting all day, I plan to take some walks and take some photos. Yet, it will be on those walks that I find a poker room to hit, and with this is mind, I have done a small amount of research to find destinations where I stand the best chance to come home Saturday having fully paid for my trip.

Here's my short list:

Hard Rock
Bill's Gambling Hall - per Grump
Mandalay Bay
Excalibur - The only one I've been to before.
Treasure Island

Now, I know that I cannot hit all of these places in five short days. Yet, some are situated close enough to each other that I may be able to spend a couple hours at one and move onto the next if the first one isn't doing it for me. Just in case, though, I have shortened the list a bit more:

Treasure Island

Of course, I am aware that a few of my readers are residents of Las Vegas, or have spent considerably more time in that fare (sic) city, and may have other ideas.  If so, I'd appreciate your input. I will say that it is my impression that with the NCAA playoffs in full swing, there will be some easy pickings from young men more intent on watching the game on the monitors than what is happening with their $100 on the felt, and I would like to take advantage of that.

BTW, if I haven't mentioned it before,  my laptop and camera are going with me, so expect some late night/early morning, inebriated/exhausted postings.

Today's seeing

Tonight's reading

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

“What day of the week is it?” I ask DW.

“What day do you think it is?” she responds with light sarcasm, accustomed, yet perhaps a little weary of my disconnect.

“It is three days after the first buzzard over our back field, two days after the purple finches joined the juncos at the bird feed, and one day after the house sparrows scouted the nesting boxes, a matter of poor timing for today the violet green swallows have returned.” And adding a bit of conformity: “I had a crown put on a molar yesterday and that was Tuesday. It is Wednesday.”

I haven’t seen the bluebirds around the barns the last week or so, yet I have seen a pair out back, so I hope they have already claimed one of the boxes out there, and that the swallows remain by the barns. And the lean-to has an increased amount of owl scat about the floor but see know owls in the rafters. Perhaps, just perhaps, one is already sitting on eggs in the box we put up for them. The mallards are still hanging out on the pond, despite the frog cacophony that surrounds them.

Everything is early this year, and if I worked real hard at it, I might be able to write off my disorientation by blaming the weather pattern.

I am not Irish. Maybe that’s it.

Back story

Some days are just too good. Not that everything goes swimmingly, but the balance gets tilted in the right direction to such a degree that I get, well, giddy.
 Our DDIL sent us this picture last night. Look at that baby. Is he not the cutest little guy you’ve ever laid eyes on? No matter whether you think so or not, it just warmed my heart so much that I had to share. The DS is a nice lookin’ kid too. Good genes all around.

I have very fond memories of DS when he was the age his own son is. I worked nights at a psychiatric hospital and his mom worked during the day. DS was therefore my responsibility during the majority of the daylight hours. I was there when he first rolled over, crawled, walked and spoke.

I use to have a fair number of pictures of DS, but when his mother and I split up, most of the photos from his youngest years were left behind. Still, I kept photographing him. He was equally photogenic way back then. Someday I’ll have to scan those photos, but for now, I do pull them out once a year or so. And once in a while, the shots will come up in our conversations. They’re icons of sorts. And they’re not bad photos either, given what I was working with:

The photos DDIL emailed us had me thinking about those days, and the camera I was using twenty-five years ago, so I dug it out to take a look at it. (I even have the flash attachment.) Poor thing. It’s been in a bottom drawer in my dampish dungeon for six years. And before that, it spent time in a box with a bunch of other old photo stuff in the basement of our place in Chicago. I will see if I can clean it up some.

The camera has a history of basements. It was my father’s camera before it was mine, purchased, I believe, when he was in the Air Force during Korea. At least that’s the story I’ve given the camera. We never talked about it. However, the basement part is true.

My dad, I’m sorry to say, had an erratic, volatile personality. As kids, the five of us learned to cut him a wide berth. The slightest provocation would send him into a frenzied tirade. And something innocuous one day became provocative the next. Therefore, it doesn’t really matter what precipitated his mission to throw everything away that was in storage in our home’s basement. As far as I’m concerned, it just happened. The cellar door was laid open and stuff spewed onto the driveway. It was then I inherited the camera. It wasn’t given to me; I didn’t ask for it; I just took it to my bedroom and put it in a drawer. After all, he didn’t use it. There are no 35mm pictures of us kids.

Now, I realize that readers are unaccustomed to reading accounts of my childhood, and may understand why not. (Mind you, it wasn’t all bad, yet the good moments, by and large, are those that didn’t involve the Old Man.) If you feel uncomfortable reading such disclosures, imagine how I must feel. Still, as personal as this blog may seem at times, a large amount of discretion goes into the pre-edit. But sometimes, like today, when I look at the picture of my son, and his son, and I feel the joy and love that rises within me, so much so that I cannot help but share it, I know that the story is not complete, has no context without a fuller understanding of my own.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Touched & It's OK

(Yeah, I know.)

One more item of business before Las Vegas

With a little more than a week to go before the trip to Las Vegas for the Poker Academy Meet Up, I cannot help but think about previous trips, and, of course, the organizer of previous Meet Ups, Ben Kramer. I wrote about Ben last August, shortly after his death, and have just reread that post, this after one thing led to another, namely, searching for Ben’s nic in the PA Forums.

Among the many entries Ben had posted, I found this exchange between the two of us from November 2008:

Me: I know that boat is put away for the winter now. Get your ass back to the tables.

To some it may be too early to even think about THIS. For others (like me) we've been thinking about IT since last February. And what I'm thinking is doing IT during March Madness again.

Ben: Yesterday the tarps were put on the boat in the yard. I've been reluctant to admit sailing season is over.

I've been away from PA for the season and been busy, like most Americans (and the rest of the world), worrying about the economy. My concerns about the economy include the questions "Will people be interested in the Vegas Trip this year?" and "How will the economic situation and more people playing with "scared money" effect poker and Vegas?".

For the last few weeks I've been planning on launching a discussion in the private "Rendezvous" discussion group to check on interest levels and dates...

And you should see me at the tables again soon.... been busy.

I do miss all my friends from PA and would love to get together in Vegas to catch-up.

There was some additional chat from previous Meet Up attendees afterwards, but the economy sucked so bad, we decided to put it off for a bit.

I remember seeing Ben at the tables just one more time, which I wrote about last August. But truth be told, I wasn’t at PA much by then either. And now, like a lot of “old timers,” I only drop in for short periods, more just to see who’s there and say hey than play poker.

I cannot help but associate Ben’s death with the demise of the Poker Academy community of yore. Yes, there are still people playing there, and they are making new friends, just as we did four years ago, but the ‘spirit’ of the community has waned, perhaps best evidenced in the Forums. Folks still post a few hands for discussion, and the results of special tourneys get announced, but often the only post on a given day is spam. It wasn’t always this way.

Back in the day, back during the poker boom, the PA Forums were busy. Members had questions and other members had answers. A lot of people were engaged, as many of us were just beginning our poker education. Ben was one of the few members who had been playing poker for a considerable period of time, and he was very generous with his help, usually in the form of a story. You could say “cheese steak sandwich,” and Ben had an anecdote.

Ben: Best way to get razz experience is head to Miami and look for old men, especially old Jewish men, heading for their card game. For many years razz poker was the standard game of the retired and moved to Florida set. I've always believed that after a lifetime of experiences and poker the attitude becomes, "If I spend my whole life getting dealt bad hands, I might as well play a game they might do me some good in!" If you see a bunch of old ladies sitting around playing cribbage, you might want to ask, "So where are your husbands?" After they get over being flattered that you might be hitting on them, they may direct you to where the boys are playing cards.

I must confess, I haven't been to Miami recently, and I haven't been hanging out with the old men (when I lived on the east coast I'd see them during their winter / summer migrations from Miami to NY and back...), so maybe the razz players have died off or made their games less accessible by moving into gated communities.

Ben was also a diplomat, which was a great asset to have both at PAOnline and in Vegas.

This was in reply to a Forum post that to many of us, myself included, appeared to be spam soliciting players to write poker articles in mere minutes (cheaply):


Yes, we do take our poker very seriously here and as a community we are very protective of the forum. I'm glad you can appreciate this and took the time to write a response to our responses and aren't just spamming the site.

On one hand, there are many poker sites out there and a lot of news and information available. On the other hand, you may have some new ideas or have identified things other sites are weak in and may be adding a valuable resource to the poker world. Without knowing anything about you or your site, I'm sure you can understand our skepticism. If you have a site up and running to look at or interesting information (please no sales pitches), I'm sure we would like to learn more.

Finally, because this is turning into a much too long post and I really cannot do justice to the man, I give you two links to the PA Forum. They will give you a better idea of the man as you read the threads.

Ben, we miss you. You better believe I’ll be wearing my PA shirt in Vegas. Not for PA, Buddy, but for you.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Teacher let the monkeys out

The remote class, "Picturing the Body." taught by Jonathan Worth at Coventry in England is winding down. The students who are taking the class on site are finishing with some practicums, and as those classes are not accessible to yours truly, the culmination of the module involves gathering a selection of photos for consideration to be curated into a final exhibit of the students' work. George Rippon, another student, is responsible for the curating.

While the other students have been fine-tuning their darkroom techniques and such, I have moved on to other projects, primarily the text-photos, and the time has afforded me some distance from the photos I made for the module. I returned to the files today to have another look and make the final cuts for George to look at.

George and I have corresponded some this past week, mostly so that I might have some direction on how to proceed. He suggested that I send him up to forty images. I laughed. I knew I did not have that many images that I felt were worthy. I wrote, "closer to four." However, when I began going through the images, I was surprised at the number I actually did like. Furthermore, some images I initially thought were the best no longer had the same appeal, and those I thought were iffy were now seen in a more favorable light.

Now, dear reader, I ask your indulgence. Below you will find my final selection. If you are so inclined to look at all of them, I'd ask that you also try to determine which one or two you find most appealing, and leave a comment as to why. I know that this request will involve a bit of your time, yet I hope that at least one moves you to a degree that you are inclined to remark.

I thank you.

These first three photos are from the first assignment for the module. We were to photograph a stranger and I chose to ask a woman who works at the local liquor store. She is not a complete stranger to me as I have a penchant for cheap scotch; yet, neither of us knew the others' name, nor had we spoken more than necessary to complete a transaction with my credit card, so I hoped she would qualify as a stranger.
The last photo remains my favorite. The woman was very animated once she was comfortable with the photographing, many other emotions still lying below the surface. I see the photo as her almost in repose, the wisp of hair through her glasses lending a certain grace were it not for the tight lips. I also like the color and texture of the photo as it suggests an acrylic painting of the subject.

The next assignment, appropriately enough, was to photograph people we knew, or, as Jonathan put it, members of our tribe, which is a reference to a phrase used by the photographer Nan Goldin. I chose two women who farm up the road from us. These women are in many ways an exercise in contrasts, yet both equally loved by DW and I. While I like several of the photos I have of them, I chose the two below to perhaps best depict their different natures.
What I failed to accomplish in this assignment was a photo that contains both of them in a frame that shows the contrasting personalities. I do have video footage that more than exemplifies this, but it may have to wait to be seen at another time.

The next assignment, "Nude vs Naked," found me in a bit of a quandary. Aside from myself, I had little idea of whom I might ask to be my model. Yet, after an inquiry to a local gallerist, I had a name, and soon thereafter, a person willing to disrobe in 50°F weather for a modest fee.

"But you don't know what I look like." was her only hesitation.

"I don't care." was my response. She had experience as a life drawing model, which would be a good start, but the one thing I knew I didn't want to do was do what I see as the fairly stereotypical nude photo of the lithe female with her back arched "just so," suggesting availability no matter the setting.
This photo is very much a pose, and the pose is one commonly found in a life drawing class. What saves it is the window clouded over with cobwebs and dead bugs.  Yet, I was looking for something even less conventional.
I have to ask myself, what would this setting look like with a model more suited to high fashion photography? It might be an idle fantasy, and I suspect it would make the photos seem more contrived than they already might appear. These strength of these photos is that they tell a story, albeit bizarre, and for a reason. They, along with video from this session, will be used in an ongoing project that revolves around the compost pile with which she is burying her feet.

It would makes sense, no? that the following assignment would involve the clothed body.  I tried, but I'm afraid that this assignment did not turn out as well as I had hoped. I have one photo that I think works half-way decent, and that is "Résumé Photo."

As I mentioned, I could have used myself as a model for a series of nudes, and in fact I did, although I don't know if you could call them nudes, per se. The final assignment (there are several embedded links to different days of blog posts about this assignment) for the class centered around the topic of aging, so, as a man who can no longer take his age, multiply it times two and hope to reach that sum, I am certainly aware of my own aging process, and made me a suitable model.

This assignment was by far the hardest for me; yet, as I look back on it, I took more time considering an approach than with the previous sessions, and in today's selection process, I found more photos that I thought had potential from this final assignment than all of the others combined. Furthermore, the distance from the time I took the photos until now has made some of the photos I felt were too unflattering more palatable to my vanity.
Fear of Irrelevance

I have written about the last two photos elsewhere. If you're not too exhausted, you can read it here and here. Otherwise, I thank you for your time.