Monday, October 20, 2008

Vegas Baby!

Katie and I just got back from Vegas; we were celebrating our 3rd anniversary. Throughout the weekend, we had a good time. I lost a little money playing blackjack, but won it all back and then some playing poker at the Hooters Casino. Katie was not so fortunate. We were at the Bellagio (Sunday) last night when I noticed that a World Poker Tour event was starting today (Monday, October 20th). I've wanted to hang out for the beginning of a major poker tournament for a long time. The last time I was in Vegas, I left about 5 days before the WSOP (World Series Of Poker) started. So Katie agreed to come along with me to watch the beginning of the tournament. We were walking into the Bellagio when I looked up and who did I see walking at me? It was the 'Orient Express' Johnny Chan!!!
(Note: For those who don't know me, know that I am a huge poker fan. I generally spend at least 2 hours a week watching it on TV. I've read about a dozen books on or about poker, and know scores of top notch poker pros on sight. If you haven't seen the movie Rounders or don't know who Johnny Chan is, I apologize for the gratuitous name dropping I am about to do)

Johnny Chan

As we made eye contact, my eyes bugged out of my head and I said to Katie 'Holy Sh*t, that's Johnny Chan'. Before I could make a scene, Johnny averted his eyes and picked up his pace. Snubbing aside, I was ecstatic! As we hung out, I was thinking about whether or not I should have said hi (I'm thinking probably not). I decided that if I happened to see anyone else, I wouldn't be shy. After all, how often to you get to meet some of your idols? The answer for me today was 'quite often'. The next half hour before the tournament saw me hanging out near and sometimes talking to a bunch of my poker heroes. I saw Erick Lindgren and Gavin Smith hanging out with Bill Edler.

Erick Lindgren / Gavin Smith
Bill Edler /
I decided I would go say hi. I walked up expecting to be denied. They were extremely polite and even agreed to a picture with me until security stopped us. Erick said 'I think there's a robbery over there' in an effort to get the security guy to let this one go, but it wasn't to be. I shook their hands and thanked them for their time. Bill Edler said some really nice things about how lucky I was to be with Katie. Besides these 3, I also managed to shake hands with and say hello to Hoyt Corkins. Minutes later I saw the only person to win both the WSOP Main Event and the WPT Championship : Carlos Mortensen and said hi to him. After shaking his hand, I introduced him to Katie and wished him luck. He wished me luck back. Just then I turned and saw the number one person on my 'List' - Jennifer Harman. I was going to say hi to her, but I saw her husband Marco Traniello and chickened out. A girl next to me called her over, and there I was: within an arms' length of a girl my wife would let me sleep with and have it be okay. Afterwards I joked with Katie that I had come closer to sleeping with anyone on my list than she has with anyone on hers. Before we left I saw Phil Ivey, Chau Giang, and a few others.

Carlos Mortensen / Hoyt Corkins
Chau Giang

Jennifer Harman / Marco Traniello
Phil Ivey

While this was going on, Katie patiently let me be starstruck. Some people get really excited over celebrities or musicians. I think I've said before how I don't get too worked up over those types. I've always had a tremendous amount of respect for top notch poker players, though. Their ability to handle swings in the game just astounds me. This trip in general and today in particular was great. I think I'll remember it forever. How many days in your life do you get to fraternize with people you look up to so much? I wish I could have taken a picture or two, but I will settle for my memories.
Here's a useless bit of information for you: I mentioned 10 names in this post. Those 10 names in total have accumulated about 50 million dollars in tournament victories throughout their careers. And most of them only play tournaments for fun!!!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Things I'm Glad I Did

On May 16, about 5 weeks before his sudden passing, I got a chance to see George Carlin at Abravanel Hall. I managed to get seats in the second row for a buddy and me. I didn't know that until I showed up, but when we got there and sat down I was stoked!
I had first experienced George Carlin like a lot of people from my generation: from watching Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure. Reading his books and listening to his records through the years, I knew that I had to see George soon. When my friend Dan mentioned he was in town, I jumped at the chance. I have to thank Dan for my renewed interest in Mr. Carlin. If ever there was a guy that knew more about pop culture than me, it would be Dan. His attention to the finer things in life gave me the opportunity to see a legend.. weeks before his death.

In November of 2005 I had been married for about a month. In the midst of the wedding festivities, my soon to be father-in-law mentioned to me that the Rolling Stones were going to be in town. He asked me if I was interested in going. Was I ever! Our threesome included Katie and we had a blast! I think my life since I met Katie could be set to a Rolling Stones soundtrack. When we first met, I gave Katie a copy of Beggar's Banquet. She fell in love that album even quicker than she fell in love with me. When we started dating I was drinking and that was our 'Some Girls' phase. We listened to that album over and over hanging out. Right before we were married, the Stones came out with their 'Bigger Bang' album. That was the album they were supporting on tour. There were 2 or 3 of those songs we heard quite often. My father in law, Terry, was fond of the funky 'Rain Fall Down'. That album stayed front and center until 5 months later when Terry got sick and died after a brief illness. At that point, the song was 'It's Only Rock and Roll (But I Like It)'. Terry loved that song and it's still tough to hear it without thinking about him doing his shoulder dance while listening to it. Earlier this year, Marty Scorcese came out with a documentary film called 'Shine A Light'. We had been waiting for it anxiously and it didn't disappoint. That soundtrack and a song from a different era called 'Cherry Oh Baby' are 2008 for me. I know that as we stay married a different album or song by the Stones will continue to capture that time. I'm glad I got to see the Stones with Terry. I didn't get long enough with the guy, but at least I got the Stones with him.

Friday, October 3, 2008

You Know What Would Be Uncomfortable?

You know what seems like it would be kind of awkward to me? Introducing your wife to a girl from your past that you've fooled around with. You're having a conversation with your wife at a party when you see a ghost walking at you from across the room. You pause mid sentence. Your wife notices your sudden silence and the pale hue your skin has suddenly taken. Your mind races as you try to figure out how you're going to handle this train wreck waiting to happen. Do you pretend you don't know this girl? Do you acknowledge you know her and try to beam eye rays of 'Don't say anything about us' to the fling from your past coming towards you? When she finally walks up to you, you stand there like a wet end. Your wife is clearly wondering what she missed. (Of course, 98% of women will have already picked up on the weirdness and know EXACTLY what is going on) You mumble a 'Hey, how ya doing? Long time no see' as you say a silent prayer longing to be somewhere else at this exact moment. Anywhere else. And God forbid you forget your flings' name. Both women staring at you waiting for introductions as you feel the heat rise to your head. Can you imagine how uncomfortable that would be? Yeah, me neither, I was just asking....

You know what I think would be more awkward than that, though? Your wife introducing YOU to a girl from your past that you've fooled around with. "Troy, I want to introduce you to a friend of mine. Her name is ....' Man that would suck. I hope that never happens to me.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Crash! or LT contemplates a new career

No, I'm not talking about the movie. Or the video game character. I'm talking about one car running into another. It happened to me a couple of days ago. There I was, driving down the road minding my own business when a lady tried to nose out into traffic to turn left. I honked my horn and had 2 options that I saw: 1 was to go into oncoming traffic or the traffic sign at the beginning of the island in front of me. The other option was to pray to the brake gods that mine were good. I went with the second option and found that, while my brakes were good, they in fact were not good enough. Bummer.

All in all, it seemed to be not that big of a deal. There was no broken glass or headlights; no fluids leaking. I was upset that the cop didn't ticket the lady for her obvious infraction, but after I started raising my voice to the cop I quickly remembered an incident earlier in my life. An incident where I got vocal with a cop. That cop in turn got violent with me. Rage in check, I opted for the more traditional 'work it out with her insurance' route. I filed a claim with her insurance company, hoping that my insurance would never hear about my little fender bender. About 10 minutes later I received notification that she had filed a claim with my insurance. I was pretty upset for a minute. After I spoke to her insurance to give a statement, I was genuinely concerned. They seemed rather combative. Within a day, though, they called back to tell me they were accepting liability. So the Road Warrior (the name bestowed upon my 2002 Mazda Protoge) is in the car hospital getting fixed up. With so little damage, I was surprised to learn that despite the lack of broken glass or leaking fluids my car had nearly $3,800 in damage. Yikes! All over a little bit of plastic. That's about half the value of my entire car. All in the bumper. I would have thought the engine might be worth that much. Or perhaps the transmission. Nope. Just the bumper.

That got me thinking. I'm in the wrong industry. I need to be making plastic bumpers for cars.