Monday, October 1, 2007

Weddings and poker

The entire group got to bed fairly early the night before, about 11:30 PM. The boathouse incident was largely forgotten in the hustle and bustle of the morning though. I woke up at about 8:30AM and, as usual, was the last one in the house to wake. I got more restful sleep having my own room that night and I was feeling somewhat de-stressed. I met Gary, the groom, in the kitchen and asked him if he wanted to get some breakfast with me in town. He and his cousin Aletia came along. I was hoping for a nice rustic country inn that would serve homemade muffins, jam and scones. Instead, I got the local diner, which is very nice and quaint but a little more pedestrian than I’d hoped for. Still, this isn’t my wedding and it was easy enough. We ordered eggs and toast and blueberry pancakes for the table and chowed down. At 11AM, Aletia had to run to get her hair done which left Gary and I alone for some long-awaited ‘friend’ time. It had been a while since we were able to just hang out and talk and we walked along the water catching up on life. For those who don’t know, this is an important part of the marital day process. The groom’s best male friend MUST take the groom aside and get him in a relaxed state of mind because, believe me dear readers, nothing is going to prepare him for the onslaught to come. While walking along this beautiful New England town, we came across the local dance school preparing for a recital out on the lawn in front of the bookstore. Little girls in full ballerina dress danced choreographed twirls to the music of Swan Lake. It was right out of a Norman Rockwell painting.

We picked up Aletia (nice hair!) and started to drive back to the condo. On the way, we ran into the bride and the rest of bridal party. The bride looked jubilant and the rest of the bridal party looked miserable. I hope the ‘boathouse incident’ hadn’t gotten in the way. J When we got back to the condo, it was time to pack up and drive over to the country club. Once we were there (thanks GPS gods for the great directions), it was up to the rooms to dress in the tuxes and start getting ready for the big shindig! I looked great in my tux, if I don’t say so myself. ;-) There was one little moment of panic on my part when I tried on my clip-on tie and found it was too short. I adjusted the length to what I thought was the longest setting and it didn’t fit. I went to Gary and said, “We have an issue”. He was right on it though. “Nothing two safety pins won’t fix.” Good call. But I felt like an idiot when Lauren, Lynn’s fiancĂ©, noted that I actually had the tie strap doubled over and, therefore, had it at it’s SHORTEST setting, not it’s longest. Duh Duh Duh. Oh, look. It fits great.

At 3:15, I was tasked with handing out programs to the arriving guests. “Hello. Welcome. Hello. Welcome. You look lovely today.” I was made for this. At 4PM, the ceremony started and it was wonderful. The scene was outside in absolutely perfect weather. 72 degrees with a little breeze blowing, overlooking the lake and the mountains in the background. Completely perfect. I was asked to give my poem reading and I did a great job (judging from the multiple comments). I only had one near faux-pas moment in the whole ceremony. That was when Brita, the bride’s friend who was giving a different poetry reading which I hadn’t heard, got to a line in her poem that went, “The arrow of my love has found it’s target”. I had to bite my lip to keep from laughing. Sue me for having a dirty mind.

After the ceremony, we went down to the gardens to take pictures for about an hour with everyone gushing and tending to the bride. We even got some impromptu shots down by the beach on the lake. We all walked through the sand, looking like a JCrew ad in out tuxedos and bridal dresses while the photographer directed us (“Cue the spontaneity!”). Then it was back to the room for the party of a lifetime. Good weddings are made by the guests (trust me, I have more experience than you do) and this was a good mix. The bridal party and the bride and groom’s parents and friends were all dancers and the dance floor was jumping and moving like the currents of the ocean. The bride set up the wedding in a very interesting and novel way. Instead of starting out with a salad, and then some dancing and then the dinner and then some dancing and then desert and then some more dancing…she did the entire food portion first followed by 3.5 hours of dancing! With most crowds, they wouldn’t have been able to handle it, but this crowd was young, hip and awesome. We danced straight until 11. I’ve never been so sweaty (oh, maybe last week with the rock scrambling) but feeling so completely amazing. Even the song selections were great. Groove is in the Heart into Pump up the Jam into Bust a Move. Old school, baby! I got into a Karaoke rap-off with one of Karen’s friends to see who knew the lyrics better to Bust a Move and Groove is in the Heart. I won, just barely. Paul’s boyfriend Zach had us rolling making up dances on the spot. “Do the Gravedigger! You shovel, you throw, you shovel, you throw. Do the Qtip! Swab the ear, now throw it away. Swab the ear, now throw it away. Do the Harvest! You pick the apple, put it in a bag. You pick the apple, put it in a bag.” Outstanding stuff and the kind of genuine laughs that you remember for years after the actual event. Karen’s brother started a trend by ordering an Apple-tini. Paul wondered if he wasn’t really trying to say something when he drank it with his pinky out. J The prodigious number of Apple-tini’s drunk by Karen’s brother resulted in Paul giving him the nickname ‘Tini’, or was it ‘Teeny?’. The double entendre was intentional on Paul’s part. (Smart-ass Doctors!)

After the wedding was over, I took a nice walk on the golf course with a lovely young lady (get your minds out of the gutter) where we walked in the cool night and listened to a coyote howl in the distance (not a joke or a pun of any sort). As we made our way back to the club and our rooms, it occurred to me what a completely fantastic day this had become. Given the company I was keeping, the fun I was having and the miracle I was witnessing, it was possible this was the all-time Best Wedding Ever. I can’t gush enough.

In the morning, there was a 10AM brunch planned at Karen’s Parent’s friend’s house. Not just any friend though. The woman throwing the party is the very recent widow of the former Comptroller of Anheuser Busch. She is rich. Very Very Very rich. How rich? The mansion next door to hers, which is about 1000 yards down the shore of the lake, belonged to Madame Chang-Kai-Shek. The house was enormous, immaculate, tastefully furnished and possessed of the biggest master bathroom I’ve ever seen. It’s right on the lake (naturally), has a huge 8 column veranda and the whole scene reminds me very much of the large southern plantation mansions I’ve seen in New Orleans. Only it’s got a more colonial feel to it. Every aspect of the house is impeccably designed. And that’s just the main house. The carriage house, complete with originally restored Ford Model-T, is about 2000 square feet by itself as well as the boathouse which has two boat lifts and 2 boats in it, natch. The bartender served us wonderfully made Orange Juilius’s, which I’ve never had before but evidently are Creamsicles in a cup. They beat the hell out of straight OJ for a morning drink with breakfast. The breakfast meal was buffet affair with everything tasting incredible. Special kudos go to the Spinach Fritatta and the Brown Sugar bacon which was deemed ‘Candy Bacon’. At about 1PM, people started to filter out, needing to drive back and catch flights and whatnot. Not me though. I had to start the rest of my weekend!

My plan was to see the sights and foliage that day while the sun was still out and then to do a sweep of poker rooms in New Hampshire (there are some) that night and the next day before my flight home. Everyone I had spoken to recommended the Kancamagus highway as the scenic route through the White Mountains to see some foliage. It’s in the North Central part of the state and only took 45 minutes to get to from where I was. I took a detour first in North Conway because the bride’s father gave me the advice to stop there. It’s a lot like Wolfeboro, in the sense that it’s a tourist destination, but small. I spent an hour or two walking around and hanging out. There was a great railroad station that gave sightseeing rides on an authentic steam train, but the ride would take two hours and I couldn’t do that AND the highway at the same time. So I skipped it and decided to do the drive.

The highway was pretty good, or at least it got that way. The highway itself is about 35 miles long but there isn’t too much to see for the first 15 or 20 miles. Most of the highway is tree-lined, so it blocks most of your view of the mountains. I got out at most of the spots designated “Scenic Views” but for the most part they were just OK. There was a nice brook and some decent mountain views but nothing heart stopping. Later on, though, it got much better. As the altitude increased, the view got more sweeping and majestic and some of the mountain views towards the end were nothing short of spectacular. It’s not the Rockies, granted, but I’m not in Colorado. There was some decent color in the foliage, but you can tell that the peak foliage season isn’t going to be for about another 2 weeks. There were some red colors, some yellow and some orange but not on a vast scale. It’s still mostly green. The ride was still worth it though and it cleared my mind completely.

At the end of the highway, it was time to start playing poker! The nearest destination was the Lodge at Belmont. In New Hampshire, poker parlors are legal if they are registered with the proper state authorities and 35% of the profits go to charity. This results in some higher than normal rakes although I haven’t yet been able to tell what the rake is. There is no No-Limit play and games are of the Florida $2 straight limit variety. However, Omaha/8 is popular (yay!) and the quality of play tends to be really really bad. Tournaments are very popular too, and the main draw, but I didn’t have time in any of the card rooms I visited yet to get into a tournament so I’m sticking to cash. All of the pari-mutuel facilites (horse, harness and greyhound racing) have poker rooms in them. In addition, there are multiple other sites with poker rooms, but not all of them well advertised so I know I’m going to miss a few on this trip. The Lodge at Belmot is a very small poker room (about 10 tables) with awful equipment and awful dealers. When I got there, in their dingy little room, there were 3 tables going. Two of the tables had the nice custom printed chips and one had the crappy gold stamped plastic chips. When I got to the cashier’s cage, I asked for a spot at the cash table and she directed me to the crappy chip table! It seems tournaments are so much more popular than cash, that they used the money on the good chips for them. I played with possibly the worst dealer ever who was slow because she talked to all the players and shuffled her cards so I could see most of the cards from position at seat 10. Awful. She pitched her cards too high and was generally disorganized. The tables were also of a very cheap quality. It was painful to play there. I stayed for about an hour before I could take any more, though I won $20.

Getting in my car, the next room on my list was the Seabrook racetrack in Seabrook, NH. It took about 90 minutes for me to get there, driving in the country night of New England. My GPS didn’t fail me for a minute though. I pulled up at about 9:30PM and took a seat inside at a new Omaha/8 table that was opening up. The tables here are very nice, the chips are professional and the dealers were excellent, though talkative. The room was comfortable, well-lit and there were about 25-30 tables in the place. All in all, a very well-run operation. I cleaned up at Omaha there to the tune of about +88 in 45 minutes. I wish I could have stayed but I had one more room to hit before I could go to bed. I drove another 45 minutes south to Salem, NH where I hit the Rockingham Park track. Again, there were about 30-40 tables in a well-lit room. The tables were about average for a casino and the chips were lower quality than what I’d expect, but the dealers were good and the players were awful to average, so what could I expect? Here’s where I ran into my first problem with this whole “I’m going to see every poker room” experience I’ve set up for myself. The room closes at midnight and I got there at 11:15PM. What if I don’t get on a table? Do I still consider it a visit? Not by the rules I’ve set up for myself which says a visit means one orbit at a raked table. I was second on the list but I got lucky when, 10 minutes later, 3 people busted out in one hand at the Omaha/8 table and opted not to rebuy. We filled the seats quickly and play commenced. Play moved along slowly, especially when 2 asian guys who were sweating each other decided to switch chairs. The dealer caught this and asked the new guy to post as a new player even though he was playing the same stack! Awesome! That took some of the swagger out of the guy but it slowed us down when he argued and the floor had to come over. The place was shutting down and they wouldn’t be open again Monday so I was anxious to get a full orbit in. At this pace though, it was possible I would miss it. When I was two hands away from completing the orbit, the floor announced last hand. Oh no! Someone spoke up though, a regular, and got us an extra hand. The luck continues. Oh yes. On the last hand, which I knew everyone was going to play, I made sure I was fully stacked and called with a junk hand in middle position. I had 5h6hKh9s. Crap, crap and more crap. But I hit a lucky flop when it came 664. I led out the betting and it got capped by the time it came back to me. There was a very good chance I wasn’t good here but the turn came with a 9, giving me the second nuts. I got nervous though, when a guy in front of me led out the betting! I was very worried he had 99, because when I re-raised and it got to him, he capped it out! But the play was so awful that I decided to keep going with it on the off chance he was betting two pair or some other shit like that. The river was an 8 and there was no flush on the board. I now had the third nuts. The betting went the same way on the river and I tabled my sixes full. The guy who was raising had the lock low draw and was betting the come, but he got 6thed when two other people had the same low! Ha ha ha! It was the first hand I had won at the table but it was the monster and it got me back to even for that session. I’m sure, given more time, I’d be able to rock those donkeys.

I didn’t have any set plans that night on where to stay, so when I was dumped on the sidewalk at midnight, I didn’t know where I was going to lay my head. GPS to the rescue again! I dialed in a map of all hotels/motels in the area and got hooked up with a Holiday Inn about a mile away. They tend to rape the walk-ins ($120 a night for a Sunday in Salem, NH?) but that’s the price you pay for spontaneity I guess.

In the morning, I had a slow and decent breakfast in the empty cafĂ© in the hotel and made my way to Nashua. There are three more rooms I have to hit today before my flight at 8PM. Nashua has an Elks lodge run by a place called Sharky’s Poker (they have three locations) and they open at 11. When I got there today at 11, they were setting up and there was no one there! Uh, when do cash games get going? Not ‘til the afternoon usually, was the answer. I called the other two places I had to go in Manchester and they had the same story. Nothing to do but hit a Starbucks and catch up on my blog entries, which is what I’m doing right now. It’s 2:20 PM now. I’m going to go back and see what the deal is. Hopefully, I’ll be able to catch some action.

One last blog entry on this weekend to come good friends!

1 comment:

bluejay said...

"The bride looked jubilant and the rest of the bridal party looked miserable."

Something about this sentence made me spit out my coffee all over the keyboard in a hysterical fit. Thanks for ruining my shirt JAW.

Keep it flowing dude.