Monday, January 24, 2005

Rhode Island Stories: See This

It's been almost two weeks since my trip to Rhode Island. I never wrote up any stories. I've been sick and swamped with more writing to do that ever before. Sorry for the delay...

12 Jan 2005... I got off the subway at Times Square and exited the number 1 train. I walked down a flight of stairs and down that long tunnel connecting 7th Ave. to 8th Ave. to get to the Port Authority. There's always a couple of immigrants selling pirate DVDs on a blanket along with the random guy with a musical instrument. On that afternoon, a guy with a saxophone was playing The Girl from Ipanema. I hurried past all the tourists, cold New Yorkers, and a swarm of happy Christians wearing red smocks that had big white letters reading PRAYER TEAM. They were handing out pamphlets for redemption. I see this all the time; busloads of pious Jesus freaks from the South and the Midwest trickle into the city and try to save God's lost children. I lost touch with the Big Guy many moons ago... I ditched God in the back of a seedy bar in New Orleans sometime in the early 1990s and only ran into him a couple of times since.

I brushed past a young girl with a bible who was trying to connect with a homeless person. I was late for my bus and had no time for personal salvation. In the terminal, I ran past a couple of cops with bomb sniffing dogs. I held my breath a prayed that the dogs were searching for plastic explosives or chemical weapons... not herbal supplements.

To cut down on expenses I decided to take the bus to Foxwoods Casino ($26 roundtrip on Greyhound) instead of renting a car ($65 a day plus taxes, gas, & insurance). Senor planned on picking me up at the casino and driving me to his house, about forty minutes away in Narragansett, Rhode Island. The next morning we would drive back to Foxwoods to play in a poker tournament. Sounded like a great plan and there was very little pressure on me to win big in order to cover my expenses. All I had to do was win one pot playing poker and that would pay for my entire trip! The bus to Foxwoods has some advantages (cheap and you get a $10 food coupon/free buffet so in theory the trip cost $16) but it also has a ton of disadvantages... mainly being that due to the fact that Greyhound is the cheapest form of travel, you have plenty of sketchy characters riding along.

I luckily got the only express bus from NYC to Foxwoods. Usually there's one or two stops (New London or New Haven) or as many as five or six stops along the way. Aside from a crying baby in the back of the bus, everything was fine. I had my own seat and zoned out on the ride. It was a wet, ugly, gray, sad, winter day and I was happy to be leaving the gloomy vibe of the city. The bus got to Foxwoods fast (no traffic in midafternoon) and even had time to stop at a rest area somewhere in Connecticut. The driver, an ex-Vietnam vet who looked like Charles Oakley, gave us seven minutes to pee and grab McDonalds if we wanted. I decided against it and snuck behind a few trucks to blaze a doobie. I spent the last hour on the bus to Foxwoods buzzed and listened to a Medeski, Martin & Wood CD.

Senor and Jay got to Foxwoods just as I was pulling in the bus depot. It was perfect timing and we were off to Rhode Island. I almost considered running into the casino, but we decided against it The ride seemed quick this time and I missed the grey ocean as we drove down the road to Senor's house. Jodd was asleep and Ang was busy making us dinner. She prepared a tasty baked brie with berries and nuts. it was served with apple slices and French bread. Diner was awesome. Ang cooked steak with bacon and sauteed mushrooms. Senor is lucky... Ang is not just a good cook, she's a chef in the kitchen!

Jodd woke up and he gets bigger everytime I see him. He's got a few more teeth now and he's speaking more, but nothing coherent just yet. Lots of utterances. When he wants to be picked up he throws his hands up in the air. That's his symbol to get Senor to hold him. It's kinda cute at first. I was blown away later in the evening when he walked over to me, smacked my thigh and put up his hands.

Jodd has picked up a few phrases. Random ones too, like "See this!" he'll point with his hand and finger and say, "See this!" It's kinda funny especially when he points to the TV. He also throws out an "Oh yeah?" once in a while. He gurgles a lot and laughs all the time. For a while he was a little excited and running around when he was playing with Jay and myself. We were tossing around a small cushion toy and Jodd would pick it up and toss it underhand over his head and scream as loud as he can. He would repeat this action and everytime he yelled we'd all laugh. He'd break into random fits of screaming at the top of his lungs. Senor said he had never done that before. Maybe he was excited and all riled up because he had playmates.

Jodd walked over to me and smacked me in the head, something that he likes to do. He'll smack me in the side of my head and laugh. That time he did it and screamed in my face. I screamed back and I guess I was a little loud because he stood silent. He looked like he was about to burst into tears when Senor and I began laughing. He held back the tears and started laughing himself. He then went back to screaming and running around.

I watched Jay play a tournament online at Poker Stars and we caught some of Jodd's favorite cartoons as Senor explained to me what Sponge Bob Squarepants was all about. We decided to crash early. We had to be on the road by 7:15am to get to Foxwoods by 8am to sign up for their tournament. I set my wake up call for 6:30am. I didn't fall asleep until almost 2am. I read a little and watched the late night talk shows since I was crashing on the couch. An hour into my slumber, I was woken up by Jodd. Senor had taken him into the walk-in closet upstairs to play and he was making a ton of noise. I thought that Senor gave him pots and pans to play with... because that's what it sounded like he was banging from upstairs. Normally he takes Jodd downstairs, but since he thought I was sleeping they were in the huge closet. I went upstairs to see what was up. There was Jodd with a big smile on his face banging a bunch of hangers against the wall. Senor took him downstairs and we watched some more cartoons.

"Five years ago, did you ever think we'd be sitting around watching cartoons with your kid at 3:30am... in Rhode Island of all places?" I asked.

"Not in a million years," Senor answered.

Jodd eventually got sleepy and they went back upstairs. I was wide awake and watched the end of a Kate Beckinboobs flick Laurel Canyon. I passed out and the next thing I recall was being waken up by Senor. I got ready and we were on the road by 7:20. It was a foggy day with very low visibility. It looked pretty trippy out there and we eventually arrived at Foxwoods by 8am. It's a good ten minute walk from the garage to the poker room. We waited in line for five minutes and I got registration #149. There would be 250 players in the tournament, $100 buy in ($5000 for first place) and Senor, Jay, and their cousin were also playing. We had ninety minutes to kill before the tournament started. I still had a free coupon for a buffet so I took advantage. I never had the breakfast buffet at Foxwoods before. It was better than I expected. I had lots of bacon, French Toast (it was dry), two kinds of potatoes, sausage links, orange juice, and a biscuit. I had a small plate of fruit and I was ready to play poker after eating a decent meal. I'm not an over eater, so I always feel that I'm not quite getting my money's worth at casino buffets. If I didn't have a poker tournament I probably would have stuffed myself and had a second or third trip back to the buffet. In my eyes, the breakfast buffet is the best when you are eating it after a night of heaving partying and gambling... and just before you crash.

I found Senor and the gang and I gave Senor's cousin a few tips on how to play in a 250 person tournament. He's never played live poker before in a casino and it was his first no limit tournament. He was a little nervous and I told him to relax and avoid playing marginal hands early. And as my luck would have it, I was knocked out within the first hour! It was a bad beat too. Nothing I could have done. I was a little irked and played some regular poker while I waited for everyone else to get knocked out of the tournament. Senor outlasted all of us! And he played well. He did not make the money. Jay did the last time we made it to Foxwoods. I grabbed lunch with them and they went back to Rhode Island. I played a few more hours. You can read all the specifics about the poker here in my Foxwoods write up from the Tao of Poke.

I was down $225 for the day ($100 for tourney and $125 in ring games) and left on a late afternoon bus. It was the bus ride from hell. I rather not write about it because it would just bring up some awful memories of this dude yapping in Spanish on his cellphone while sitting next to me from Stamford all the way to the city. I was so happy to get off the bus and I ran past the bomb sniffing dogs and past the Jesus freaks in the red Prayer Team vests and past the musician in the tunnel all the way to the subway. As the doors closed I muttered, "See this!"

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