Thursday, February 23, 2006

On a Freeway in Los Angeles

"When I was a kid, I didn't just want Wil Wheaton's career. I wanted to BE Wil Wheaton." -Showcase

We were passing the Normandie exit when the red truck pulled alongside my car on the 10 East. Pauly had just passed me the tiny glass bowl and I leaned in for a toke as my knee steadied the steering wheel. As I exhaled, Pauly burst into laughter and pointed at the pair of Mexican guys that were giving us the thumbs-up through the window, holding aloft their own tiny glass bowl and sporting shit-eating grins. After a little over a week in Los Angeles, I think Pauly finally understands why so many Southern Californians love weed.

"You people all have to be high to deal with this fuckin' traffic."

Even a few short trips down I-5 titled poor Spaceman to no end. My city is not for some. He showed me a series of photographs he had taken of a bonfire in his backyard, which is really not a backyard, but acres and acres of fields and rolling hills. I could see all over his face just how much he missed it.

With my temporary roommate Pauly down at the Commerce every day covering the WPT, my actual roommate Showcase on a cruise ship in Mexico with Ricky Schroeder, and really no current structure to the life I am living, I've spent a large portion of the last week playing poker, from Poker Stars (where I just turned SILVER) to the Commerce Casino NL tables, to Murderer's Row. I sat out the tournament portion of the evening over at HDouble's last Friday, but bought into the cash game and proceeded to win what a few believed was the single largest pot in Murderer's Row history.

Columbine. It's a 4-way all-in. AA vs. JJ vs. 78o vs. snowman-taterlegs on a 783 flop. Ephro of course had the taters. Rini had one of the big pairs and gazed at the felt in utter disbelief, glassy-eyed and weaving heavily from his Heineken-laced bloodstream as I tabled my top two pair to rake in a pot worth over $250. I couldn't fucking believe it. And this, after a horrible beat I put on the Geek when he got his money in with two small pair and my AA spiked a set on the turn. This must be how Katkin feels every week.

Sofia, of course, was in rare form. After all, this is the woman who had me in stitches only three hours after being shitcanned from my job. At one point after more than a few beers, she looked over at Rick Wampler, who was smiling shyly after dragging a pot.

"Oh, look at Reek. He's so cute I want to breastfeed him. Sorry, Henry."

I really should work on my Sweidish accent now that I have lots of time on my hands. Sofia tells me I always sound German when I try to do her voice.

I hit Commerce with Pauly yesterday. I met him in the lobby after driving over because I couldn't get up to the tournament room without a press pass. Gotta protect those celebs from their stalkers. He introduced me to Steve Hall, formerly of Poker Pages, who, no joke, was toting an autographed Liz Lieu poster. What a goddamn cliche.

While Wil was up in the tournament ballroom, collecting chips in the WPT Invitational and trying to bust Scientologists for $27 each, I sat in a juicy $200 NL game downstairs. A burly, vaguely Phishy dude in a black Card Sharx shirt sat two to my right. He had a shock of what looked like recently un-dreadlocked hair, and the scowl of a man already on his third rebuy.

"Goddamn it. I mean JESUS FUCKING CHRIST! All night I get these great hands and on the flop? NOTHING. You people think it's skill? It's all luck, man." He slammed his fist on the edge of the table before digging into his pocket for another two Benjamins. His friend joined us, taking the empty seat on my immediate right. Phishy guy's friend freaked me out a little bit, not because he was creepy or anything, but because he looked a helluva lot like my evil ex-boss the Big Man. Same beady eyes and leathery skin and gelled hair. There was stubble on his arms and wrists, which made me wonder if he was one of those dudes who shave all their body hair.

As much as he brought back bad memories, the Big Man's doppleganger was the fish of the table, passing his companion's lack of skill by leaps and bounds. As he talked about all the great "suited hands" he was picking up, I could see Ricardo, a jovial, thirtysomething Latino guy I'd played a few sessions with this week literally licking his chops at the thought of busting this dude. I like Ricardo a lot. He's fun to play with and I've never seen him in a bad mood, even when losing. He's also one of those guys that folds if I make so much as a move toward my checks on the river. I'd say at least half of what I took home last night was collected during that very scenario, and I rarely had anything better than an ace high.

After cashing out, I had a drink in the bar with Pauly and Wil, who was celebrating his survival to Day 2 of the Invitational. Though Wil and I had met briefly on my infamous night in the MGM Grand back at the blogger gathering in December, I had barely any recollection of it, and given the Soco-soaked state I was in, it's probably all for the best. Wil did his mentor, Lee Jones, proud-- check-raising ex-sitcom actors with aplomb and calculating his M with lightning-fast precision. He was confident about his play, save for one laydown against Jason Alexander that he questioned. Wil's a cool guy. And he really is "just a geek."

Wil would go on to outlast every celebrity in the event, finishing 23rd. His finish also managed to get Pauly out of trouble with some shifty nihilist Norwegians. Read all about it on the best damn live blog in the business.

Speaking of the doctor, I hope to get the both of us outdoors and into the sunshine this weekend. Aside from my hasidic Jewish neighborhood on the fringes of Beverly Hills, the walls of a South L.A. cardbarn and a twenty-mile ribbon of congested freeway, the poor guy hasn't been able to see much since his arrival. Though he israther fond of the palm trees outside my window. The other morning he told me he forgot where he was until he saw one swaying in the wind.

And though I have made him cookies, I still owe him a lasagna.

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