Tuesday, March 02, 2010


I am the whitest, blondest girl you'll ever meet. I don't spend enough time outdoors and if I did, I still wouldn't tan. My skin is practically reflective, my eyes are blue-gray when they're not bloodshot from smoking and I blend in far better on the streets of Copenhagen than Punta del Este.

Why then, did every Uruguyan railbird choose to come up to me in media row and start rattling off questions en espanol, rather than the ten or eleven other people who fit a Spanish-speaking profile far better than I?

It boggles the mind.

* * * * *

I spent the last week covering the LAPT Punta del Este in Uruguay. It's a journey that requires about 24 hours of travel on each side and a six time-zone shift eastward. I don't know if I'm just getting old or what, but this was one of the more exhausting tournament trips I've had in recent memory. Never underestimate the extra sleep one acquires when staying at the venue rather than commuting.

On the morning of the final table, I woke up and went about business as usual. Shower, wrestle with hotel hair dryer. Attempt to look presentable. Hit up hotel breakfast buffet. As I came out of my room, PokerNews' Eric Ramsey was passing by on the way back to his own.

"8.8 earthquake in Chile. Ray's watching CNN in his room."

Holy mother of God. 8.8. I still can't fathom what that feels like. Well, maybe I can. It has to feel like the end of the world. I've been twenty miles from the epicenter of a 7.1 and that felt like a bullet train passing through our living room. Windows blew out. The chimney of every house on our block fell into the street. Anything glass-- gone. The refrigerator detatched from the wall and fell flat on its face in the middle of the kitchen. Mariniara sauce everywhere. We were cleaning up for days.

We didn't feel a thing in Punta. Not even the smallest rattle. Then again, we were more than 1,000 miles from the epicenter. That's greater than the distance from Denver to Los Angeles.

Still, I knew my mother would be freaking out. I checked my email and sure enough there was a frantic message waiting in my inbox. I assured her we were fine, that we didn't even feel anything, and we'd be fine getting home.

I watched as the disaster-mongers on cable news waited with baited breath for the resulting tsunami, almost as if they wanted it to happen. Cameras were poised everywhere, waiting to capture the destruction. It sickened me, and thankfully only mild surges lapped over the shores of Hawaii and the west coast. Later, the scene on TV switched to the looters, many of whom were ordinary Chileans who could afford their groceries and wanted to pay for them, but were driven to desperate measures.

"I think we'd better get some more canned food when we get home," said Pauly.

Both of us are supposed to be headed to Chile in two weeks for the next LAPT tournament in the coastal town of Vina del Mar. Naturally, that event is now up in the air. I was in Vina last January and remembered marveling at the houses built into the hillsides that were literally standing up on sticks, much like they do in the canyons of the Hollywood Hills. The mountains are back only a few kilometers from the sea and in the flatter part of the city, massive apartment buildings with floor-to-ceiling glass windows line the streets.

A view of the hillsides in Vina del Mar, Chile

An apartment building two blocks from the beach in Vina del Mar

Canal-side buildings in Vina del Mar

Sign for tsunami evacuation route

My to my mother's delight, we got home without incident. We took a short hop from Montevideo to Buenos Aires, where we both scored business-class upgrades for our long leg from EZE-DFW. After hundreds of thousands of miles of bad beats, we finally sucked out.

Of course, I immediately sat down in 9E and broke the seat, requiring the assistance of flight attendant Tom to get it back in its upright and locked position. Flight attendant Tom also helped close the sticky handle on my wheelie and put it in the overhead for me. When it appeared not to fit vertically, he just shrugged and stuck it in sideways. Such a violation in coach would get your luggage angrily gate-checked and lost on the ground in DFW. Instead I got two full meals, three glasses of wine, a loaner pair of Bose headphones, enough room to stretch out and sleep comfortably, and most importantly, treated like a human being instead of cargo. Usually my emails to American Airlines are filled with venom about my last travel experience. This time, I got to write one about how courteous flight attendant Tom was to us. I hope he gets a bonus or something.

As we deplaned in Dallas, one of the other flight attendants got on the PA and shilled for votes for Alex Lambert on American Idol. Apparently his mom works for the airline.

And speaking of Idol, I have a lot of catching up to do before tonight's episode. Uruguayan TV aired the Olympics, but not Ryan Seacrest & co.


lj said...

i have trouble believing you're whiter than me. :)

wow at the ai shilling. i HATE dfw, worst airport experience of my life. glad you guys are ok.

Littleacornman said...

I was at your $12 ,45 player turbo table last night and knocked you out with AJ v your 66.As I read your ( and Dr Paulys) blog I meant to say hi, but may have ended up coming across as an plonker instead.Apologies if that was the case and gl at the felt.
Acornman ( Zagga on Stars)