Saturday, September 08, 2007

Plug Me In

Having insomnia without a wifi connection is brutal, especially when you are sharing a room with someone. I can't actually turn on the TV since it would wake Nicky up. I tried reading in the bathroom so the light would not disturb her, but I had no desire to read the book I was reading. I picked up a different book. I was given a poker book written by Doyle Brunson the other day. His press agent was kind enough to give me a copy. It's a bathroom book of 160 pages and I finished that in an hour. After that, I was still wide awake. I complained to the front desk, but the night person was clueless to the ways of the internet.

Around 8am, after a second consecutive restless and sleepless night, I finally connected on for about twenty minutes before I got shut off. I have work to do. I'm way behind in several projects. I have football picks to do. And I'm tired. Exhausted after almost five weeks on the road. If I can't sleep, at least I could catch up on work. The frustration builds up when I can do neither. I should have just left the hotel and walked over to the 24 hour internet cafe, but part of me had hope that the hotel staff would get their shit together which meant I kept trying to reconnect to the intertubes every fifteen minutes to no avail.

Aside from the internet problem in my hotel, London has been a positive experience. We did some sightseeing on Tuesday before we had a work meeting for a couple of hours. I returned to the casino that night for a party. I was told I was on the list and found out that I wasn't so I snuck inside. Like most of these functions, it's the same people I see in Las Vegas on a constant basis. The only exception was that they were drinking in London. I saw a few people that I had not seen in a while which was a bonus. I made an early exit and snuck out in the same stealth manner I snuck in. I guess you can say that I put in an appearance.

Wednesday marked the first day of work. I had a tough 10 day schedule ahead of me. At least the stint in Barcelona helped get me back into the swing of things. I had been rusty after a long layoff and a bender in Amsterdam. Overall, my time (not working) in Barcelona was a blast. We lived in a cool part of town. But the actual working part sucked. When you have to work in a public situation, your entire work day can hinge on the atmosphere. For a couple of days in Barcelona, it was extremely hostile due to the rudeness of the people in that casino and the "I don't give a shit" attitude of the casino staff. You can read about it on Tao of Poker or over at Nicky's blog. Suffice to say, I couldn't wait to get out of Barcelona and get to London.

Londoners are much more civil and I have not had to worry about that aspect of the job. In Las Vegas you sometimes have to deal with overzealous poker fans and the occasional drunks, but so far in London, everyone has been chill.The biggest challenge at work for me the past two days were technical issues. Everyone on our team has to deal with the same problem. The word frustrating comes to mind. You just do what you can and hope technology works. Sometimes it does. Sometimes it doesn't.

London is not just expensive... it's hyper-expensive, and that's coming from me who is used to NYC prices. That was the best part of Barcelona was the availability of cheap food. Everytime I walk into a restaurant in London, I know I'm going to get raped. For example, breakfast on Friday morning cost me $36 US. All we got were pancakes (apple for Nicky and bananas & chocolate for me) and drinks. Unreal.

The best meal I ate was on Thursday at this random place called the Burger Shack just a block away from the casino. It was a lot better than Hamburger Union (also located on the same block). We sat outside and the waiter asked me for my credit card as a deposit. I guess they have a lot of ditch and diners at that place and I reluctantly complied. We ordered a bottle of wine and drank while we watched the flow of people pass us. The burgers were top notch. I went with a bleu cheese burger with onion rings. Great choice.

While we ate our burgers, I had a homeless person ask me for spare change. We sat at a table outside the restaurant and he said, "Governor, can you spare a pound?" Governor? What the fuck? Are we reenacting a scene from a Charles Dickens novel or something? That was a bittersweet moment. I have always wanted to be addressed as "Governor" but he had the audacity to ask me for the equivalent of $2 US. At least the bums on the subway in NYC simply ask for spare change.

On Friday night, we went to dinner with Peter Birks, a local writer that I play poker with online from time to time. He grew up in London and took us on a quick tour of the Soho side streets which included dinner at a local curry house. It was half the price and just as good as the swanky place we went to on our first night. He told us some great stories about the ever changing face of a city like London and pointed out interesting tid bits like the former club where The Who got their start or a great place to get Chinese food.

My roommates from Amsterdam are here which is cool. Johnny Mushrooms is settled in for about a month while Benjo arrived the other day. He's covering the same tournaments for French based publication. We were able to get together at a local pub the other day.

My biggest freelance client is an Australian based company and over the past eight months or so, I've routinely worked with a group of cool Aussies. They have been sending me all over the world and paying me well for my services. Aside from the SoCal born and raised Schecky, all of the higher ups are Australian. Our multimedia crew is made up of Americans (Shronk & Tiffany), a photographer from Portugal (Felipe), and for this particular assignment, they hired Nicky and myself along with a few local London-based writers (Barry, Snoopy, and Jen). They are a hilarious bunch with an amazing sense of humor. Or is it humour? Working with them is a sincere pleasure. Plus they are some of the best in the business which forces me to elevate my writing game.

Over the summer, I worked with a much larger group of people with a few Aussies but mostly they were Americans. I had been a solo freelance guy the last few years and never had to deal with more than a handful of people. And usually they were thousands of miles away when I was on the job. Aside from a brief stint on Wall Street (or what I call my WS 2.0 experience), I had not worked in an office environment in a decade. Having to put up with office politics and dealing with personal side dramas was something I avoided. Alas, the assignment at the WSOP during the summer entailed me working with 40+ people for two months straight. The majority of them were hard working and great individuals, but a few of them were constant headaches. When you have to work side by side with someone for 16-18 hours a day, you really want flexible, open-minded, and entertaining people that you can trust. Luckily, that sums up our crew in London. Now if we can just get the fuckin' internet to work...

Update: I was told to come down to the front desk to get a cable and connect to the hard line in my room. They charged me £10 pounds for the rental of the ethernet cable. Of course I head back to the room and it doesn't work. Nicky woke up and said that the wifi works int he hallway and sure enough it does. But it won't work in our room. What the fuck? Why did it work the last few days and not now? So, here I am sitting in the hallway of my £150 pound a night hotel (that's $300 US a night) trying to catch up on work. For $300 a night, this is completely unacceptable.

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