Friday, June 17, 2011

Observations from a poker road trip

I woke up at 4:15 last Sunday morning and drove 225 miles, played poker for 8 hours and drove right back. Some would say that points to addiction, but I prefer to think of it as pursuing a goal. I fell short, but the day wasn't a total loss. I learned a few things that day.

The commercials suck, but the product works.
I hate the 5 Hour Energy commercials. A lot. And if you know me, you know that I usually won't buy a product that uses badvertising. But I've become a big believer in the product.
I only slept about four hours before I left, and by the time I hit the Iowa state line, I was yawning. Hard. You know those yawns you get sometimes that can be described as violent? The kind that make your eyes water and your lungs hurt? Yeah... I had those.
I stopped and picked up a 5HE and it worked very well. I had this weird kind of warm sensation, but I was alert and the yawns stopped entirely. The one downfall though, was two hours later I had 5HE burps, which was far worse than any whiskey burp ever.

Dan Aykroyd still has the Blues brother.
I like blues and I was running through stations, because southern Iowa on a Sunday is no place for an anti-country music agnostic to be relying on the radio to help pass the miles. I had about given up and was ready to pop in my wife's new Adele CD when I heard a familiar voice. I'd found Dan Aykroyd's Sunday morning blues show and he does it in the character of Elwood Blues. He shouldn't. Elwood was a crappy harp player and a crappier singer. Pretty good dancer, though. Elwood is nothing without Jake. Come on, Dan. You're a big supporter of blues... have been for years. No one questions your blues cred. Why can't you just do the show as yourself?

It's always nice to see family.
My cousin, Eric lives nearby and also plays. We met at the casino and played for quite a while together, then had dinner. I haven't seen him in a dozen years and it was nice to catch up a little and find that we have more in common than DNA. He had a good run in the tournament, finishing in the money in 8th place.

I hate playing poker against women.
I feel like they always know when I'm lying... er, bluffing. But I can never tell when they are. I also feel bad when I knock one out. I don't have the same feeling of remorse if I knock out a dude. 

Poker-playing football fans play stereotypically.
You can tell a lot about a poker player by the gear he wears. A Raiders fan sat to my left during the tournament. He exemplified every stereotype I've ever witnessed or heard about Raiders fans. When he was winning, he was a cocky, mouthy, condescending turd. When he got beat, he was a sullen, mouthy, disrespectful turd. It would not have surprised me if he would've started launching batteries at me after I beat him in a hand. And it took him entirely too long to get over getting beat.

Two chairs to my left was a Denver Broncos fan. Like his team, he was predictable. He'd use one play for a while then another, just like the Donkeys did. They were a passing team under Elway, then he retired and they were a running team. Sure the passing attack worked for a while, just like it did for this fella. He'd won a few pots, then he just started betting huge. Unfortunately, I could never find cards when he was in a hand. Like all Broncos fans, a little success went to his head, and he was still talking when he won two in a row much longer than he should have been.

Poker tournaments are now my second favorite place to people watch.
Airports are still Number 1, but a poker tourney leap-frogged little league baseball game AND bar on St. Patrick's Day as a great place to people watch. You see the pressure take hold and whatever the person is going through in real life comes through in how he plays. You can tell who is a good person by how he wins and loses hands and how he exits when he's eliminated. You can also tell which douchebags don't tip servers and who thinks it's always his turn to go at a four-way stop.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Addressing the Midlife Crisis

I've been thinking a lot lately about becoming a grown up and I'm not handling it well. Growing older is inevitable to be certain, but it's time for me to get a grip on things.

The responsibilities of adulthood are the price
we pay for the beauty and joy of being a child.

That thought just stuck in my head yesterday. Sounds like a quote from Whitman or Frost, doesn't it? But it's not. It's mine. I'm thinking of having some t-shirts made. Or maybe one of those posters with a cool stock photo of a kid riding a bike or blowing the stuff from a dandelion.

Not to get all philosophical or anything, but I'm not where I thought I'd be at this point in my life. But dreams of playing in the big leagues for most has to remain that... a dream. Just like Doc Graham says in 'Field of Dreams.' Incidentally, my dreams of baseball glory were dashed when my high school coach cut me because he didn't know what to do with a guy who could handle pitchers, but couldn't really see to hit and could time his 40-yard-dash with a sundial.

I know that's a longshot, but I thought I'd be in New York or Chicago or LA writing commercials and print. Who knew that I'd finish school at the exact time that package goods advertising hit the skids and print started its decline. I always had the journalism degree to fall back on, but if you get fired from the big paper's advertising department, there's not much chance of writing for the news department.

Don't get me wrong. I've got a pretty good life. The suck factor is pretty minimal. I have an amazing wife and two great kids. I have a really cool, but pain in the ass dog. I have a job... and let's just leave it at that.

Lately, though, I've been trying to figure out where my dreams now lie. You can call it a mid-life crisis, but I don't think there's a Harley in my future. I keep asking for one, but Ashley says no way. (Meanie.)

I think it's because I'm missing the innocence of youth, the power of dreams and the thought that I could just pack everything I own into one carload and see what happens next. Maybe it's time to re-read 'On the Road' and Kerouac can set me straight once again. It's also been a while since I've read 'Catcher in the Rye,' which I used to do every June.

I miss being cool. Or at least what I thought cool was. Maybe I never knew what cool was, but at least I did cool things. I performed with an improv troupe. I went white-water rafting. I wrote poetry. I traveled through Scotland and Ireland for three weeks with no plans or reservations. I hung out. I fished and hunted and drove country roads till I got lost. I watched storms. I met people. I felt like I was involved.

Will doing those things again make me happier? Probably. I think it will. Maybe not... I don't really know, but it could remind me of some dreams I once had. Or it could help me find new goals, and remind me that you can still be a cool guy, even if you're past your cool guy phase. I'd like to remind myself that you can approach life with zeal and optimism. Because that's the guy I was in my late 20s. I'd like to see that guy again. I want my boys to know that guy.