Sunday, December 09, 2007

Aces High

Jordan left me a message assuring me that our room was ready as soon as I landed Thursday afternoon in Vegas. G-Cox waited at the door and slapped me on the back. And Iggy pinned a golden hammer on my shirt as I sat on a barstool in the middle of the Imperial Palace, watching the kinds of hugs only longtime friends give to each other and wondering how I was going to break that ice.
The hammer was only a goofy pin. Iggy bought them by the gross, it looked like, and the Crown Royal girls (note to self, say no when Andie and Allie ask me if they can do that for a career) just couldn't seem to grasp its meaning.
"It's a poker hand. We just like to play poker," I told her.
"Oh, OK, Mr. 7-2 split," she said a couple minutes later.
But the pin also meant something. It's the most important thing I learned from this weekend, besides TripJax showing me how to dominate a poker table filled with bad players with the kind of (drunken) aggressive play that I only dream of doing one day myself.
Everyone seems to leave Vegas with a regret or two, despite the notion that what happens there stays there. But as I sit here in the airport with two hours of system and a peppermint shot bought by Al and Waffles still sloshing around in my system, I only have one, and that's playing a little too much poker and not talking to enough of you more, including Drizz, who is one of my better girly chat friends and was in the IP bars late Saturday night, but I could not pull myself away from the table.
I wasn't sure what this weekend would bring, and as you read in the last post, I was noticeably nervous about meeting so many new people.
Those nerves come from a long-standing mistrust of just about everyone. I'd much rather put on headphones and look out the window during a flight than learn something new about parenting from the housewife in the middle seat reading her Oprah magazine. It's not that I don't like people, I really do. It's just that I prefer the time to myself more.
This weekend I had maybe a half-hour to myself, and I loved every minute of it.
I can't really list all the fun times I had, and you're probably only getting around to reading this after your favorites, and yet another trip report about the mixed games, how someone stumbled because they were drunk and what they ate at 5 a.m. probably will just get this blog a "Mark As Read" on Google Reader.
There are no highlights because every minute was a highlight. I told myself to check my anal-retentiveness at the door and just go with it, and it was the best advice I ever gave myself, other than telling myself that I did indeed need kids in my life.
I loved how organic it all was. Plans changed every 15 minutes. People showed up to talk and faded away, only to re-appear again with an idea on how to spend an hour. Sometimes a quick bit of talk was the last time you were ever going to see that person (I left a lot of goodbyes on the doorstep of the IP, and that may be regret number two). I floated along, nodding my head like a bobble doll to just about anything that was suggested, and every time the unexpected turned into another great moment.
Here's Love Elf leading me away from the Venetian poker room after I busted in the 30s from the tournament, with Al and Smokee in tow, and doing a shot with the man himself. There's Speaker showing me some old-school Metal Church on his iPod, which led me to a buffet dinner at Harrah's with Katitude, and that brought me back to the IP, where TripJax and I (ahem, mostly TripJax) tilted a guy who looked like Mayweather's bodyguard and another guy who was divorced probably because his wife got tired of him straightening the dishtowels every three minutes and yet called Trip's all-in A-Q with K-8 because he was so blitzed by the Trip and then berating Trip for "getting lucky all the time."
I can't and won't list all the new friends here because I'll inevitably leave some of you out, and my brain is still trying to comprehend the misty three days and finding the wispy thoughts and moments are too hard to grasp. I believe it will just refer to it as "The Blogger Weekend in Vegas" and leave it at that, pulling out a memory or two to help me along when work starts to hit bone on bone or a run starts to hurt.
As much as I enjoyed Bad Blood's metal talk and CD, Elfie being Elfie and Smokee being Smokee, Mary's laughter, mixed games at the MGM, Carmen's hugs, TripJax's drunken friendship ("I love you maaaaan"), Gracie getting the kinds of hands at Pai Gow no girl as sweet as her deserves, Buddy Dank telling me that he had climbed all the 14ers in Colorado, only to discover there are more than he thought, the Black Widow's boundless energy, JJok's bright eyes and bushy tails, CC giving me crap for playing tight (so I raised his blind with 5-7 os), Stb's Hyde over lunch and time in the cab and his Jekyll at the poker table, Waffle's surprisingly mellow being, Falstaff's critiques of his play, Biggestron's ability to open a beer without a beer opener, Drizz buying the IP out of every last gray chip (others are right, that never gets old), Iggy's general warmth and welcomes and April's smirk whenever I would bitch about how hard it was to have twins, I can't list it all here without someone thinking that they didn't resonate with me.
You all did, and here's what I learned about this weekend.
I learned that I can do this. I can hang with Al, if only for one shot and only on a fresh head and clear stomach. I can play Omaha, even live in a casino with people who know how to play the game much better than most. I can introduce myself to people over and over without the slight ache in my gut an encounter usually brings.
And most of all, I learned that it is indeed worthy to talk to housewives on airplanes. It is worthy to fly out to Vegas for a weekend and leave your family, no matter how painful it is (and I miss said twins, Jayden, Denali and my champion wife dearly at this point), to meet a bunch of quasi-Internet strangers. It is worthy to let a bunch of people who are nothing like you, save for a shared vice for cards and maybe an interest in writing, and let them into your life.
I can't assume anything. After all, they say what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but I think I've made a couple friends for life, or at least until next year, when I hope there's another one of these gatherings, including G-Cox, who was always there to hang with me and guide me through the vast collection of folks I might have been afraid to approach myself, and Jordan, who almost acted as my tour guide for the weekend and was the best roommate I could have picked for this trip.
I need to remove the hammer pin, the symbol that instantly told me that I was part of a special group regardless of any trepidations I may have lurking behind my eyes. It snowed five inches at home this weekend, and I need to shovel the driveway. I need to unpack. I need to kick some major ass at work these next couple of weeks, when I'll need to finish two major writing projects, do about a thousands interviews and continue to feed the hungry machine that is the daily newspaper business. I need to feed my girls and change their diaper and read a book to Jayden. I need to hold my wife and tell her thanks for letting me go to an awesome experience.
But when I do remove the pin, a way to tell myself the weekend is now officially over, I'll also tell myself to remember what I've learned this weekend. What happens there stays there? I hope not.
Life may go on, but life begins now.


lightning36 said...

Nice report, Peaker. And ... yours was only the second one I read!

katitude said...

Peaker, it was SO great to meet wasn't until I was on the plane coming home that I realized I forgot to purr for you. It'll have to wait until Friday's donkament *grin

TripJax said...

Weird...this was the first read on my list in my Google Reader. I have a good feeling it is one of the best trip reports/posts out there. Actually, less of a trip report and more of just stellar writing/emotion.

Great meeting you and, as always, great reading. Looking forward to our next venture already...

smokkee said...

good times peaker. cool hangin' with ya. vg post. cya next time.

StB said...

No matter what you do, you will have some kind of regret the first time you venture out on a WPBT trip. The second time around you will spend more time hanging out with people and then regret not playing enough poker. What you do not realize at the time is how many conversations and new people you have met until later. No one gets the magic formula down but we generally have a great time.

Cool to me you. Hope to see you again soon.

Ignatious said...

really a great post. might be my fave thus far.

great meeting you and i'm really glad we had some time at the tables.

looking forward to next time.

GaryC said...

Like others have said, there will always be the what if's and why not's when you leave Vegas after one of these. Me being the 2-year veteran that I am, (cue rim shot) we all have our regrets and our highlights.

It is very evident that you are one of the writers of the group, just by reading this trip report.

Great meeting and hanging out with you Peaker and, if I made it any easier for you, it was truly my pleasure. Any time, brother.


ckbluffer said...

Peaker - So grad I got to chat with you, even if it wasn't as rong as I would have riked.

See you in chat land.

Mondogarage said...

Wonderful, wonderful trip report.

And yes, yours was the second one I read. When I read such good enjoyable writing, I feel embarrassed at my pretty much complete withdrawal from blogging. (Writing continual bad beat stories seemed rather unnecessary.)

Someday I'll join youse, someday.

But in the meantime, keep sharing your life-affirming insights. And shovel my driveway too, while you're at it.

jjok said...

great post and glad I got to meet you man......

Otis said...

Wish we'd had any time to talk. The only good thing about missing time with you is the ability to say, "We'll do it next time."

Maudie said...

I was so glad to meet you at last. Nice trip report. I always have some regrets - usually the 'never enough time' sort... I look forward to the next time!

Instant Tragedy: Just Add Water said...

Never have regrets... Just enjoy the moment.

Sometimes the moments you think are missed are those you weren't meant to have.

You keep going, keep loving those twins, hug your wife, telling her how special she is and remember...

We are out there and we ARE reading you!

Godspeed my friend!


Falstaff said...

Good to meet you brother!

Drizztdj said...

I'll mimic Otis' comment.

"We'll be doing this again, and chat then"

Not chatting more with you was one of my regrets.