Thursday, April 23, 2009

mar del plata > buenos aires > dallas > lax

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

It took 24 hours to get home.

On Monday morning, I stood in the lobby of the Provencal, a state run hotel in Mar del Plata, Argentina. Nicky checked out at the front desk and signed for her bill - 537 or so Pesos or $146 USD. That was the entire tab for the week which included raiding our mini-bar in the room, the breakfast buffet every morning (with proper bacon but something horrible that resmbled scrambled egg soup), and several nights of drinking at the bar in the hotel lobby. That averaged out to like $10 a piece per day.

Argentina was the least expensive country I had visited through poker including Mexico. London was ridiculously expensive as was Monte Carlo. It was refreshing to go at least $700 under budget on a trip, which I'm going to use towards funding a project during the WSOP this summer.

We stepped out of the hotel and I nodded at the policeman chain-smoking a cigarette. That was a very common scene... cops smoking while standing around on duty. Otis hailed a cab for four of us. We wondered about the luggage situation since Joe had a oversized bag filled with camera equipment. Our cabbie jumped out of the car and grabbed a bungee chord. Within seconds, the old guy fit every single bag into his tiny trunk in a deft display of trunk Tetris.

Argentinian cab drivers were notoriously known for driving fast. Within an hour after the bar fight early on Monday morning, Nicky and I were in the backseat of a cab and our driving wildly sped through the empty streets of Mar del Plata at 90mph. He blew a few red lights but there was not another person on the road.

Our driver weaved in and out of a heavily traversed two lane road hugging the coastline. Our stuffed taxi sped past old cars, trucks, buses, and even a few mopeds en route to the tiny airport on the outskirts of town.

We arrived quickly and the driver was pleasantly surprised when I gave him a tip. He smiled and actually bowed to me. I gave the guy like 12 pesos. Nothing special, but for him, it meant the world. I think he can buy his own cab company now with his new found bounty.

Otis, Joe, Nicky and I were on a 2:40pm flight that also included dozens of other people involved with the poker tournament including staff, players, and other media reps. We sat in the airport for a few hours because our flight was delayed. We did not need an announcement. It was obvious because there was no airplane... anywhere. The tiny two gate airport looked out on a cracked runway. There was not a single airplane to be seen. That's never good. We would only be able to leave as soon as the next flight arrived. That should had been hours earlier but the flight out of Buenos Aires was delayed.

Nicky and Otis took naps. They crashed in an empty row of seats. I shot the shit with Haas, a Scottish video producer, and he suggested a couple of books. I jotted down the names in my notebook. I welcomed all book recommendations from Canadians, Brits, Scots, Aussies, Kiwis, and the Irish. Pretty much everyone who speaks the English language that is not an American. After all those folks on the average read substantially more books than Americans.

Shecky called me with horrible news of Shronk's passing and I was a bit dazed while I waited for the plane to arrive. After a lengthy delayed, the plane finally showed up. They boarded us and we waited almost another hour. Why? There was no pilot. When he finally showed up and took his seat, we pulled out to the runway and took off towards Buenos Aires.

We arrived in the middle of rush hour traffic which was a potential problem since we had to switch airports in Buenos Aires. The regional airport was on the opposite side of the city as the international airport. Despite slight traffic, our second cab driver of the day got us across town as fast as he could.

There were some odd check-in procedures at the airport and I discovered that my departure taxes were paid, while Nicky had to fork over a couple of bucks. MeanGene took the bus from Mar del Plata and he arrived at the airport at the same exact time as us. We all ate one final meal (ham and cheese toasties with the crust cut off) and then said good-bye. MeanGene and Otis were on a connecting flight through Atlanta while we headed towards Dallas.

Joe is a member of the admiral club and he got Nicky and I invited. I sipped fizzy water and ate chocolate cookies while I penned a tribute to Shronk. I was one of the first people to board the plane and realized that I was in the next to last row. The worst part? When everyone went to sleep, the flight attendants gathered in the galley and yapped incessantly. They kept waking me up and I slept about an hour.

I watched Benjamin Buttons and it resembled nothing like the F. Scott Fitzgerald short story that I read decades earlier. Our flight arrived a few minutes late and the immigration officer at the booth said that he thought it was cool that I was a poker writer. Nicky had a short connection and I was booked on a much later flight to LAX. I hustled to the gate and tried to fly Standby. Luckily, they had a seat for me and I didn't have to fart around DFW for 2 hours while I waited for my connecting flight.

My flight to LAX featured Marley & Me and I read the Economist instead. I should have watched the doggie flick for a third time instead. Even though the dog dies, it's still a happier ending that the reality of our global economy.

Nicky and I had almost 1000 Pesos left over and tried to cash them at LAX where they screwed us in the exchange rate. Rookie move there. I took whatever they offered me and headed for the taxi line. It was hot, near boiling at 9am in Los Angeles and it was only going to get hotter.

It was good to be back. I have about 5 weeks before the WSOP and Phish summer tour. I had a lot of shit on my plate and it was time to really go to work.

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