Wednesday, May 31, 2006
Or rakeback, more precisely. If you haven’t checked out World Poker Exchange yet, shame on you, or shame on your bankroll. There aren’t any cool referral codes, no goodies through the fine folks at PSO or PokerSavvy, no deposit bonuses of any kind, actually. So why bother, you ask? Well, I’m glad you asked, young whippersnapper!
There’s no rake.
No really, there’s no rake.
Actually, there is. All hands are raked normally, but you are refunded 100% of your rake on a weekly basis. That equals to ALL OF IT. Now I’m no poker genius, or even a Geek or Nerd, but I knows money. And 100% rakeback is quite possible the best deal going. You get paid to play, period. If you play 10 raked hands, you get back whatever rake you contribute. If you play 1000 raked hands, you get back more. I’ve put in a whopping 90 minutes at the $50 NL level so far, and I’m looking at $8 and change coming back. That’s a pretty decent chunk coming back home, so I’m pretty stoked about it. The paradigm has always been that the lowest limits are unbeatable because of bad play and rake; well one of those factors is now completely gone.
Yes, the traffic is low. Yes, the interface is less than stellar. No, I don’t really care, because I get back all of my rake, and the more that people hear about it and try it out, the more people will be on there playing rake-free, and the more fishies we’ll find. Right now the games are decent, at least from my super-limited sample size. I was able to be profitable, and that, coupled with 100% rakeback will keep me playing at least a part of my time there for the foreseeable future. And I owe Tripjax a shout out for telling me about it. Thanks, man.
And I’ve been trying out a bunch of new sites lately, what with bonus whoring through the nice folks at PokerSavvy (click the link on the right and we both come out winners!). I’ve finished my bonus requirements at Sun Poker, but will likely keep a little money there because they have a $40/month for 200 raked hands ongoing bonus, and the games were soft like butter. I finished my bonus requirements at 7 Sultans in one night, proving it to be pretty easy to clear, but I doubt I’ll keep a lot of money there because I kinda hated the interface and the deposit bonus is almost impossible to clear (something like 600 raked hands for $20 of bonus, no thanks). I’ve been donking around on Titan with the $10 they sent me for free, and if I can ever get any traction there I’ll probably withdraw pretty quickly because the interface is just sooooo bad.
So I’ve been of two minds on bonus whoring since I started playing the poker. One, deposit bonuses are good ways to pad the bankroll, as long as you’re a decent player to begin with. On the other hand, if you’re extremely profitable at PokerStars, why would you take time away from a site that’s making you a boatload of money to play on a site that has fewer fish and may not be as profitable? 100% rakeback aside, that’s a good point. Most of my play is on Stars or Full Tilt. I try Party every now and then, but I’m the only person in the world that can’t string together two winning sessions there, so I only venture into that fishpond occasionally.
I started this last round of bonus whoring because I wanted free Nevada Jacks chips. So I signed up for Pokershare, finished out my PSO bonus slightly ahead, and then dumped the site. Then I decided I wanted to use these bonus chances to get free money, so I signed onto Sun and 7 Sultans, to earn a $100 Party Poker gift certificate. Sun was very profitable, and I came close to breaking even at Sultans.
But the sweetest rakeback or bonus deal in the world won’t make up for a losing player. If I’m playing like rancid ass, it doesn’t matter if I’m getting hookers and blow delivered straight to my house for every 50 raked hands, I’m still gonna go broke. So that’s my only cautionary tale from my recent whoring around, you still have to play solid poker. No matter how many people have told you that the players on Titan are the stupidest players in the world (but they still kick my ass), if you’re not playing your best game, the deposit bonus isn’t going to help. If you’re lucky, really, really lucky, you’ll be able to use the deposit bonus to keep you even when you’re done clearing it. And that feels kinda like kissing your sister (or her donkey). It’ll get you through the night in a pinch, but it is not what you’re looking for on a good day.
That may have been pointless. Oh well, at least I got to talk about whores without needing a shot afterwards.
Monday, May 29, 2006
Yep, two whole days with no updates, but I’ve been in full theatre festival immersion, so not much in the way of blogging. Let’s play a little catch-up, shall we?
Friday night’s performance of Intim@te E-Pistles was great, Glenn has made a lot of improvements to the show since I saw it in a reading two years ago, and the cast has fantastic chemistry, so it was a helluva show. Small audience, about 16 people, but they were very appreciative, and I felt like it would give us some good word of mouth press, in addition to the posters and postcards we were passing out right and left.
Then on to the opening night gala at Windows on the Park, at Pack Square. What a blast! We had the Kat Williams Band returning from last year, and what a singer Kat is. Kristian, one of our actors, was the belle of the ball, shaking his sexy Latino booty all over the lawn/dance floor, much to the delight of several Stoneleaf donors. I jokingly told him that if I’d had a poster with me, I would have stapled it to his ass, since that’s where most eyes were focused for much of the night. I realized later that I wasn’t joking, and he passed out boatloads of postcards at the gala. Good marketing sometimes consists of having a hot guy with a Spanish accent passing out your press materials.
There was drinking. There was quite a bit of drinking. I had a couple, but Emily got absolutely plowed. Suzy and I told her on the walk back to the car that we knew she was drunk because she had stopped limping. Em had twisted her ankle loading up the van Wednesday night, so all the walking inherent in a trip to Asheville wasn’t working so well for her.
Saturday I had the greatest of intentions of getting up early and going to see a show at noon, but like so many great intentions, that went straight to hell. We rolled into downtown with enough time to drop Em at the Bebe and for Suzy and I to get our tickets to I am My Own Wife up at UNC-Asheville. Playmakers Repertory Company from Chapel Hill brought this show, which won the Tony and the Pulitzer a couple years ago, and it was absolutely fantastic!
It’s the story of Charlotta von Malsdorf (almost certainly misspelled, deal with it), a German transvestite who lived in Berlin from the 1930s until the late 20th century, and the tale of how she survived the occupation by both the Nazis and the Communists is absolutely stunning. She became a collector of artifacts from the 1890s, and at one point relocated an entire Berlin gay bar into her basement to save it from destruction. The guy playing Charlotta plays about 8 characters through the course of the play, and he was absolutely flawless. His characterizations were specific, crisp and his vocal work was distinct and clear. He managed several different accents and genders, and all his characters were fully fleshed out, not caricatures. An amazing production top to bottom.
At 8 that night our whole company (minus Suzy, who left to go home and take care of the pets) went to see our buddy Charlie in NC Stage Company’s production of Stones in his Pockets. It’s a 2-person show where the two actors portray the residents of a small Irish town that’s overrun by Hollywood types when a movie is being shot in their town. I described it to someone as “Irish Tuna, with a point.” There’s a lot of hysterical scenes, but also a very touching point in the show, as these two extras who are the focal point of the play pick themselves up by their bootstraps and move on to greatness (relatively speaking). Charlie and Scott Treadway were the two actors, and they’ve worked together several times (including last year’s Stoneleaf smash production of The Compleat Wrks. Of Wm. Shkspre (abridged)), so their chemistry is fantastic. Their comic timing is also great, and they handled the serious moments of the play extremely well. A great show, and a packed house to boot made for a great evening of theatre.
Sunday was a jammed day for our folks, with a show at noon and 8PM, then 5 hours to kill between. For me, my role this time ‘round was strictly producing, so once the checks were written and the introductions made, my work was done. So I crammed three different plays in two theatres into my day.
I started off at noon with War Bonds, by EbZB productions, a husband and wife touring company out of Raleigh. Honestly, I didn’t have a ton of interest in going to see a musical revue of songs from the 1940’s and letters home from soldiers from WWII, but David (the husband part) is a friend of mine and I wanted to support him.
Good call, me. It was absolutely charming, an alternately poignant and funny show looking into the lives of ordinary and extraordinary people during an extraordinary time in our nation’s history. One particularly telling moment was when David read a letter from Chester zum Brunnen, from Morehead City, NC, telling of the horrors he experienced liberating a Nazi concentration camp. David’s dad wrote that letter and was the inspiration for the show. It was a great piece, and I need to look into bringing in to Charlotte for a weekend run, I think it would do well.
Next up was ice cream at the Marble Slab Creamery with Glenn, Emily, Christy and Mykel. Christy was in The Vagina Monologues for me up here last year and she and Mykel had such a good time they planned their entire vacation around the festival this year, planning to see 18 of the 20 shows on offer this week! After ice cream, we went back to the NC Stage Theatre to see Elephant Sighs, a co-production of Greensboro’s Broach Theatre and Asheville’s Occassional Theatre Company.
It’s the story of a men’s club, and a new guy in town comes to join, and tries to figure out why he’s there and what the club is about. It’s a small play that asks big questions, and I enjoyed the hell out of it. Very well done, with a great performance by my friend Derek, whom I’ve met at NCTC and SETC conferences, but never had the chance to see him onstage before. That’s one of the things that’s great about this festival, the opportunity to see companies from all over the state without driving all over the stage. It’s such a fantastic concentration of talent, a must for any theatre lover in the area.
I also bumped into an old friend up here. Dan Kelly was in my senior directing project at Winthrop in 1994, and I haven’t seen him since then, until I noticed he was ushering at I am my Own Wife on Saturday! He and his wife were driving up from G-Vegas each day, volunteering for a shift, and then getting free theatre tickets in exchange. Not a bad deal to see free theatre! It was cool seeing Dan, and boy, did he marry up! I can’t remember his wife’s name, but she’s very pretty and very nice. Funny how a dozen years will change folks.
Last night I went back up the hill to UNCA to see Beautiful Thing by Raleigh Ensemble Players. Last year, REP brought Killer Joe, one of the most intense shows I’ve ever seen. This one was very well executed, but it’s a coming-of-age play about two British boys in the ‘80s realizing that they’re gay. And like so many issue-oriented plays, it just felt a little dated. It’s a very well crafted play, and was brilliantly acted, but the script just feels slow.
So I’ve seen 6 shows in three days, and I’m very re-energized about doing my own theatre work. I’m ready to get home and meet with Chris about the Tower Project, plan a season with Glenn and do some art again. I’m not interested in pointing lights for a show I could give two shits about, I’m not interested in being a gun slinging director-for-hire for any POS community theatre Neil Simon piece of drek that they’ll send me a check for, I’m ready to go back and do art that matters again.
It’s been a little while (almost a year since God’s Country) and I’m gearing back up. Not sure I’m ready to jump fully back into the fray of producing a full season, but I’m starting to be ready to produce something, but only on my terms, and only something that I can really get behind. That’s why the Tower Project is appealing, because it will be my art on my terms; with people I trust and care about, about things I care about. And that’s how I’ll change my world. How will you change yours?
Go see a show, especially if you’re going to be anywhere near Asheville next week. The festival runs through next Sunday and Suzy and I are gonna day-trip up next Saturday to see two or three shows. Lemme know if you’re interested, maybe we’ll see you up here.
Friday, May 26, 2006
This year, we decided to actually tour a full show, Intim@te E-pistles, written by Glenn, our artistic director. So we brought along 3 actors, a 7-foot sofa, a couple of doors, a couple of bookcases, and a pile of props. No big deal, right? Yeah, well. So I decided that a cargo van would be plenty to haul all our shit around, and if you’ve ever driven through downtown Asheville, you know that’s also about the biggest vehicle you can successfully navigate the streets with. Unfortunately, not all of our set would fit in the van. So we had to cut a set piece, and decided to build a door frame on site rather than try to carry two with us. Not a big deal, really, just a couple of 2x4s and a moulding set from Lowe’s.
Except Emily, our production manager manages to fall out of the van loading the couch and twist the ever-loving fuck out of her ankle. So loading the van Wednesday night was an adventure. Then Thursday morning we’re a whopping three hours late getting out of town for various reasons (SunCom sucks), and we have to reschedule to get someone to cover our light hang duties that afternoon. Fabulous.
SO Em & I finally get to Asheville several hours late and check into a surprisingly roach-free Best Western. When I booked the cheapest rooms I could find for this jaunt, I figured it was totally going to be one of those sleep on top of the covers fully dressed after wrapping the bed in Saran Wrap kind of lodging arrangements, but the Best Western Asheville West was actually clean and comfy, despite the circa 1972 Sunshine Yellow tile in the shitter.
Dinner at Applebee’s (yawn) and then back across the expanse of the parking lot (Applebee’s makes more sense, now, doesn’t it?) to play a little heads-up for $5 a match. And Emily owes me dinner for tonight. Glad to see there was someone I could beat yesterday. For the record, the people that play NL100 during business hours are tougher competition than the donks that play the same level after work/dinner hours.
I have a theory on why the Stars NL100 tables are actually softer than the NL50 tables. When you log into Stars and click on Low Limit Texas Hold ‘Em, the level at the top of the screen is NL100. You actually have to either rearrange the columns or scroll down to get to NL50. SO the newdonks, who don’t want to start of with “micro” cause they know how to play poker, and who want’s to admit to playing a “micro” table (except me), log in, click “Low” and find the first open seat, which is at the NL100 level. And it’s truly donkilicious.
And yesterday I was the live one. So for a couple of days I’ll scroll down halfway down the screen and play within my bankroll, before bumping back up to the big fishpond.
So today, like all good, highly-prepared theatre professionals, I’m sitting in Staples updating my blog while the nice copy center lady runs off programs for tonight’s performance. I would feel more like an idiot for this if I hadn’t heard from a little bird that the high mukey-mucks of one of the largest companies in NC had just left Staples right before I got here. Heh. Budget does not equal preparation.
More later, and the cool opening night gala runs tonight, so I’ll hit you back with updates tomorrow.
Thursday, May 25, 2006
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
Over the course of that day and night and the winter blogger gathering in Vegas, I got to spend more times with the mountain of cool that is BigMike, and have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the man. Not many other bloggers (and I use the term loosely, since I think he still holds the record for most comments on a non-post) would have their telephone even turned on at 4AM, much less answer it, crawl out of bed for a dial-a-shot and then sing a rousing chorus of Jo-an-a-da along with me, Iggy, Grubby and Maudie. BigMike is simply put, one of the coolest, most generous, kindhearted souls I’ve ever met. He’s a voluminous drinker, an enabler of drunkenness in others, a generous giver to those in need, and far, far, overeducated for the company he routinely keeps (just kidding, Al).
And today, he needs your thoughts and prayers. BigMike lost his mother last night, and I can’t even really imagine what that’s like. Al will have more details soon, go there to read about arrangements. It’s been a really rough year for so many of us, and this is the latest in a string of tough beats my friends, their colons and I have endured. So think of the big guy when you say your prayers tonight. And hug somebody, because we’re all seeing hard lessons this year about living in the moment and telling people you care about that they matter to you.
PokerStars Game #5035117501: Hold'em No Limit ($0.25/$0.50) - 2006/05/24 - 01:05:02 (ET)
Table 'Aldebaran' 9-max Seat #7 is the button
Seat 1: pokerlarry ($61.45 in chips)
Seat 2: MossSauce ($13.25 in chips)
Seat 3: davisjj627 ($54.85 in chips)
Seat 4: the3bigO ($65.85 in chips)
Seat 5: Soply ($65.50 in chips)
Seat 6: Jhartness ($43 in chips)
Seat 7: JRDOE ($6.60 in chips)
Seat 8: kengineer ($18.50 in chips)
Seat 9: B.Perrone ($49.25 in chips)
kengineer: posts small blind $0.25
B.Perrone: posts big blind $0.50
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to Jhartness [8s Ts]
pokerlarry: calls $0.50
davisjj627: calls $0.50
MossSauce leaves the table
Jhartness: raises $1.50 to $2
kengineer: raises $3 to $5
Still.iLL joins the table at seat #2
pokerlarry: calls $4.50
Jhartness: calls $3
*** FLOP *** [Js 9d 9s]
kengineer: bets $5
pokerlarry: calls $5
Jhartness: calls $5
*** TURN *** [Js 9d 9s] [6h]
kengineer: bets $8.50 and is all-in
pokerlarry: raises $9.50 to $18
Jhartness: calls $18
*** RIVER *** [Js 9d 9s 6h] [Qs]
pokerlarry: bets $15
Jhartness: calls $15 and is all-in
*** SHOW DOWN ***
pokerlarry: shows [Ad Ah] (two pair, Aces and Nines)
Jhartness: shows [8s Ts] (a straight flush, Eight to Queen)
Jhartness collected $48.75 from side pot
kengineer: shows [Qc Qh] (a full house, Queens full of Nines)
Jhartness collected $53.75 from main pot
kengineer said, "nh"
*** SUMMARY ***
Total pot $105.50 Main pot $53.75. Side pot $48.75. | Rake $3
Board [Js 9d 9s 6h Qs]
Seat 1: pokerlarry showed [Ad Ah] and lost with two pair, Aces and Nines
Seat 2: MossSauce folded before Flop (didn't bet)
Seat 3: davisjj627 folded before Flop
Seat 4: the3bigO folded before Flop (didn't bet)
Seat 5: Soply folded before Flop (didn't bet)
Seat 6: Jhartness showed [8s Ts] and won ($102.50) with a straight flush, Eight to Queen
Seat 7: JRDOE (button) folded before Flop (didn't bet)
Seat 8: kengineer (small blind) showed [Qc Qh] and lost with a full house, Queens full of Nines
Seat 9: B.Perrone (big blind) folded before Flop
PokerStars Game #5035161269: Hold'em No Limit ($0.25/$0.50) - 2006/05/24 - 01:10:05 (ET)
Table 'Aldebaran' 9-max Seat #4 is the button
Seat 1: pokerlarry ($49.75 in chips)
Seat 2: Still.iLL ($50.20 in chips)
Seat 3: davisjj627 ($54.35 in chips)
Seat 4: the3bigO ($64.85 in chips)
Seat 5: Soply ($65 in chips)
Seat 6: Jhartness ($103.45 in chips)
Seat 7: JRDOE ($7.35 in chips)
Seat 9: B.Perrone ($48.75 in chips)
Soply: posts small blind $0.25
Jhartness: posts big blind $0.50
pmaverick: sits out
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to Jhartness [2s 2c]
Still.iLL: calls $0.50
Soply: calls $0.25
*** FLOP *** [Qd Tc 2d]
Jhartness: bets $1.50
Still.iLL: raises $2.50 to $4
Jhartness: raises $6 to $10
Still.iLL: raises $39.70 to $49.70 and is all-in
Jhartness said, "this could hurt"
Jhartness: calls $39.70
*** TURN *** [Qd Tc 2d] [3c]
*** RIVER *** [Qd Tc 2d 3c] [2h]
*** SHOW DOWN ***
Jhartness: shows [2s 2c] (four of a kind, Deuces)
Still.iLL: shows [Th Ts] (a full house, Tens full of Deuces)
Jhartness collected $97.90 from pot
*** SUMMARY ***
Total pot $100.90 | Rake $3
Board [Qd Tc 2d 3c 2h]
Seat 1: pokerlarry folded before Flop (didn't bet)
Seat 2: Still.iLL showed [Th Ts] and lost with a full house, Tens full of Deuces
Seat 3: davisjj627 folded before Flop (didn't bet)
Seat 4: the3bigO (button) folded before Flop (didn't bet)
Seat 5: Soply (small blind) folded on the Flop
Seat 6: Jhartness (big blind) showed [2s 2c] and won ($97.90) with four of a kind, Deuces
Seat 7: JRDOE folded before Flop (didn't bet)
Seat 9: B.Perrone folded before Flop (didn't bet)
I didn’t type TQB in the chat box, I was afraid he might find a way to kill me.
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
I have registered to play in the PokerStars World Blogger Championship of Online Poker!
This Online Poker Tournament is a No Limit Texas Holdem event exclusive to Bloggers.
Registration code: 7330476
Monday, May 22, 2006
I broke even, even after reaching back into my pocket a couple times. The new chips were a moderate success, although the pink and orange Nevada Jacks do look a little too similar. But here’s a great success story for you – customer service isn’t dead after all! Saturday morning as I’m cleaning up after the game, I noticed a couple of problems with some of my chips, so I emailed NJ support, expecting not much since I did get them as a signup bonus, after all.
Well, Kim from customer support took care of my little issues promptly and is sending me out replacement chips for the ones that are screwed up, with no arguments! What a great company. I really recommend dealing with them for your next chip acquisition. Which, if it’s coming soon, should probably happen through Poker Source Online. They’ve got a deal through the end of the month for new PokerRoom.com signups to get a free set of CUSTOM Nevada Jacks! So go visit, and show some love to bonus code FALSTAFF while you’re at it.
I’ve been on an absolutely sick run at the NL50 tables this weekend, pushing the online roll well into uncharted territory. That’s right folks, 4 Figures. This is definitely my biggest month since taking down the Stars tourney last year, and that’s with only 4 tourneys played total, and none cashed. All ring games, all the time has been my mantra, and it’s been paying off. And the fine folks at Sun Poker were prompt with their bonus payout, now let’s see about cashing out a little profit from there.
So I think I can actually for the first time play at my levels (NL50 2-table or NL100 1-table) without being ridiculously underfunded. I’m putting a hair less than 10% of my bankroll on the table any time I sit down at 2 tables of NL50, or 1 table of NL100. Is that fairly safe? I feel like I can drop a couple buy-ins without having to move down in levels at this point. And not that I’m in any rush, but when should I look at moving up? When a single buy-in at NL100 equals 5% of my roll?
Leave advice in comments, I’m gonna go read DoubleAs BR post from last week and see if I’m too wrong-headed.
And my deepest condolences to G-Rob and Otis, who lost a good friend this weekend. My heart goes out to those boys.
Friday, May 19, 2006
In English, it’s the inflammation of a fatty pocket that is attached to the colon. In practice, it’s 7 hours in the emergency room, a CT scan of my most impressive body part (unfortunately, my gut), injection of iodine dye into my left arm after failing miserably to find a vein in my right hand (proving that I would make a terrible smack junkie, crossing off one of the careers that a degree in acting left me perfectly trained for), ingestion of a half-gallon of some type of lemonade-flavored contrast solution, two courses of antibiotics, and a bottle of hydrocodone that I’m thoroughly enjoying.
I thought it was gas. I was on the road Wednesday, and had a late lunch, which always leaves me a little pooty. I think I even remarked in the girly chat thing that my Applebee’s had left my gassy. I was a little confused when my gut still hurt Thursday morning, but figured maybe I had a fart stuck somewhere and once I got to moving along, I’d pass a good three-octave window-rattler and I’d be fine.
When I stood up after lunch and almost fell down from the pain I figured it might be something a little more serious. Given the location of the pain (left side, right along the beltline), I thought maybe a hernia. That didn’t make much sense, since the heaviest thing I lift on a regular basis is my ass, but stranger things have happened I suppose. So I call my doctor.
“I’m sorry, we don’t have any doctors in the office this afternoon.”
Huh? It’s 1:15 on a Thursday, and the Wachovia Championship was two weeks ago, so I can’t imagine what important golf outing has them tied up. Not to mention the fact that my doctor is spherical in shape, which always makes me laugh when she tells me I’m overweight. She doesn’t see the humor. Odd.
“So what am I supposed to do?”
“You can go to urgent care or to the emergency room.”
I wasn’t really looking forward to the concept of the emergency room, as I didn’t want to hang with the dregs and the near-dead, so I trundled my sore ass (gut, actually) off to the urgent care facility in the yuppie part of town. They were very helpful, telling me that to diagnose severe abdominal pain it would require either an ultrasound or a CT scan, neither of which they could perform. So I should go to the emergency room. Well, fuck.
So I do, and am immediately triaged and put into the queue, leading to a three-hour wait while I watch some Mexican construction worker with a scratch on his forehead some in after me and get seen before me, a 923-year-old woman almost wet herself waiting for her ride back to the nursing home before she can convince someone to take her to the pisser, Gilbert Grape’s mother trundle in riding an overworked wheelchair with a trashcan in her lap for more convenient puking telling everyone that she’s suicidal and thinks she’s OD’d on her Xanax. This doesn’t make sense to me, since if you OD on your antidepressant shouldn’t you just be annoyingly perky? But who am I to question the collected wisdom of what is obviously 8 generations of trailer park education?
Then there was Tracy. I call her this because she looked a little like Tracy Chapman after a 9-year dessert bender, and to refer to her with anything resembling Buckwheat references would probably be deemed racist, regardless of the fact that she really did look like what happens when Buckwheat’s kid sister grows up, and in a greater case, grows outward. Tracy walked up to the check-in station, picked up a pen to sign in at the desk, and immediately passed out sideways in a building-jarring thump (and kind of a wet slapping sound, like a 200-lb uncooked pork tenderloin hitting the tile) leaving one Wal-Mart sandal looking forlorn in front of the check-in station.
I leaned over to Suzy and said “I think I just got bumped one spot down in the treatment line.”
After three hours of watching the very old, the very underinsured and the egregiously stupid traipse through the ER, it was my turn. Went back, put on my little gown (which they do apparently make in size Xfatass), and laid down on the less-than-comfortable stretcher. I had the foresight to bring a book, having spent far more of 2006 in a hospital than I care for, and Suzy was there for chat and to serve as my remote control.
I caught part of Sportscenter, and then Dr. Fratboy was in to see me. Dr. Rollin Fuller, MD was a very nice guy who with a first name like Rollin either got the shit beat out of him a lot in 8th grade, or tried out with for the lacrosse team to meet chicks. Yeah, I
know, inappropriate, but I was channeling Bobby for a sec.
So Dr. Fuller thought it might be diverticulitis, based on the position of the pain, and scheduled a CT scan. So then cute Nurse Lisa came in to try (and fail miserably, thus ending my dreams of ever being as slim as Kate Moss) to find an easy vein in my right arm, then the left. We got the IV going, I got a shot of happy juice, and then it was more Sportscenter until my ride down to Radiology. We got in line behind a hi-tech bed with three drivers, a hanging bag of clear shit, green shit and brown shit, all dripping into Methuselah’s grandma. I told Ashando, my chauffer that she could go first, looked like she was a little more fucked up than me.
Watched NFL Live in the hallway waiting for the scan, thus making it official that I’ve watched more broadcast TV in hospitals in 2006 than I have in my own home. Then I got in the tube, got zapped, went back to the holding cell, and watched Law & Order:SVU. About 15 minutes into Criminal Intent Dr. Frat boy came back and told me what the deal was, gave me a note to be out of work for two days, and sent me packing. I gave the nice cashier lady my Visa for the copay, and hobbled my gutshot ass out to the Cruiser to go home. Hiding the “no fried, no meat, no spicy” Dr’s instructions from Suzy, I sent her ahead in her car to pick up Lone Star BBQ chicken for dinner, and we watched Battlestar Galactica until time for sleep.
And since this is a poker blog, not a busted gut blog, my Nevada Jacks chips that I got from PSO came in yesterday before I left work for the ER. I took the $99 upgrade from 300 chip standard set to a 500 chip customizable set, so we’ll try those out at tonight’s homegame. Hey, I might be high on Vicodin with an ice pick in my gut, but my priorities are still perfectly in order. And I missed the jackpot hand at Stars this afternoon by less than 50 hands. Bastards.
Thursday, May 18, 2006
And hey, does anybody wanna play my seat in the Absolute freeroll this Saturday night? I've got a live game and can't be there.
1. What is the biggest mistake people make at a NL table? Pushing too much. I find a lot of people down at the depths of low limits where I play that are willing to push with 2nd pair, Top pair, bad kicker, things like that. It may stem from impatience, but the mistake is the overuse of the all-in move.2. What is the biggest mistake people make at a Limit table? The one I’m the most guilty of is the call “just one more bet” when I think/know I’m behind.3. Why do you play poker? I’m a competitive person, and poker allows me to blend a couple of my favorite things together, competitive endeavors and sitting on my fat ass. How can it get any better?4. If you weren't playing poker, what would you be doing? Producing more theatre, writing a lot less, having not even the hope of profitability, and playing more Neverwinter Nights.5. What is your favorite poker book and why? Harrington on Hold ‘Em opened my eyes to a lot of ideas about tournament poker, but I think overall Phil Gordon’s Little Green Book has been the most beneficial.6. Who is your favorite poker player and why? Gavin Smith, ‘cause he’s come out for bloggerdom’s current favorite charity so strongly. Barry Greenstein and Marcel Luske will always have a special place for me for taking time out of the WSOP last year to call Charlie Tuttle, Spaceman’s friend who was dying of cancer. That takes a special person, and being a good human being is far more important than pushing a pile of chips around.7. Which poker player do you dislike the most and why? I used to say the obvious answer of Phil Hellmuth, but that’s kinda changing too, for the same reasons that I like the other guys. I guess I’d say the donk that hit a 2-outer to fet me last weekend.8. Do your coworkers know about your blog? Some do, some play in my home game. Upper management does not. Let’s keep it that way. 9. What is the most you have won in a cash game or MTT (both live and online)? Live was the BBSOP win this January, around $400. Online I won a $5 MTT on Stars last year for about $1300. 10. What is the most you have lost in a cash game or in one day total (both live and online)? $300 in about 90 minutes at the IP last December. That hurt. I was losing 100 BB/hr. Nice.11. Who was your first poker blog read? Hdouble had a post linking a bunch of blogs, and that stayed bookmarked for a long time. Linda and Iggy were the first ones I read daily, and Iggy’s was the first (and I think only) one that I have gone back and read all the archives to.12. What satisfies you more, your aces holding up for a big pot or a bluff working for a big pot? The bluff. It’s easy to win with aces, it’s hard to push three lemurs off a pot at 2/4 limit with air.13. Why do you blog? I always wanted to be a writer, now I are one. It’s the same creative outlet that used to be fulfilled through theatre, now is fulfilled through writing, both here, and at Truckin’, and at Pokerworks.com. 14. Do you read blogs from an RSS reader like bloglines or do you visit each blog? It varies. Most of the blogs I read daily I go through bloglines, but then I usually follow links from those to other sites, or use Up for Poker as a secondary bloglines listing. 15. Would you rather play poker for a living than do what you currently do for a living? I don’t think so. I love playing poker, but I don’t think I’d love it if it were a job. I like my job a lot. It’s still a job, and sometimes is still a grind to get out of bed and come into the office, but I think a lot of my enjoyment of poker would be gone if it were my job.16. Do you wear a tin foil hat on occasion? Yes, but I’m not telling you where. And never at the same time as the kilt. 17. If you had to pin it down to one specific trait, what does a great poker player have (or do) that separates them from an average player? Mojo. It’s an undefinable trait, we frequently refer to it as “getting it,” and you can never explain what that means, but you can always tell who has it and who doesn’t. 18. Is Drizz the coolest person on the planet for naming his baby Vegas? Second only to myself, of course. 19. What is your primary poker goal and are you close to accomplishing it? Play a WSOP event, and I’m doing it in July. Also, to be able to supplement my income to a point where I can cash out frequently and spend that money on trips with the wifey, cool toys for the house, shiz like that. Not anywhere close to that one. 20. What is your primary online site and why? There are 3 – Stars, because it was my first site (after Truepoker, which just blows) and there are always so many games going, Full Tilt, because there are always bloggers around, they are nice enough to sponsor this blog and the limit tables are incredibly beatable, and wherever I’m working off a bonus right now (Sun Poker for the moment). 21. What site do you dislike and why? Party. Have never been able to string together enough winning sessions to make it worthwhile. Also I don’t like the fact that your avatar changes depending on your seat, it confuses my widdle brain.
I’m still cruising along at Sun Poker, playing well above my bankroll at 2/4, but being fairly successful. Pokershare has taken an ugly ride on the variance train for me this week, with Jordan getting to witness me suck out a straight on the river against an incredibly passively played middle set, then get re-sucked by a rivered boat. Long term, I want that guy to just call me down with my pot-sized bet on the turn, but I really don’t want him to catch his river. In his defense, my straight was a two-gapper (leave me alone, I was BB in a limped pot and flopped the open-ender) so he probably thought he was still ahead at the turn.
Actually managed to cash out a tiny bit from Stars last night, the first time I’ve had money running in that direction in forever, and after busting down to $35 on FTP, have run that up to $150 with the help of my monthly sponsorship from FTP (bonus code FALSTAFF). The limit players on Full Tilt are just flat-out bad, but bad in a tight-passive way, not bad in a loose-suckout Party Poker way. I still can’t put together any long-term success on Party, clearing a bonus there this month and still managing to finish up down $55.
My style of play (LAA according to PokerTracker) is much more successful at a tight-passive table, because I play a lot of pots, and count on being able to outplay people post-flop. This only works for short sessions, because any player with any brains can catch up to what I’m doing after about 45 minutes, and then they can simply let me do their betting for them and pick me off with their big hands. So I bounce from table to table a lot and count on quick hit and runs rather than a long session with the same folks.
When I vary this is when I play a little higher than normal. I typically play $.50/$1 limit, but when I move up to $1/2 or $2/4 it’s on a site where I’m trying to clear a bonus, and lately that’s been on a smaller site with fewer table options. So I can’t bounce around the way I do at Stars and FTP, so I adopt a more traditional strategy of nut-peddling. I’ve found recently that even when I get really tight and focused on my play, I don’t do well when I play super-tight. My winning sessions are in the VP$IP 28-33% range, much higher than some folks like to roll, but that’s what has been working for me, and my online bankroll is currently higher than it’s ever been. Not that it’s exactly flush, I’m still pushing to crack $1K, but I’m knocking on the door at least, where a couple of months ago I was down to nothing.
So how did I rebuild? The old-fashioned way. I redeposited. I had about $200 dedicated to playing poker at the beginning of this year. So on January 1, I took it all to G-Vegas, and played solidly enough and sucked out HUGE twice (both on Gamecock) to win the thing. For the record, I fended off the suckout powers of the Luckbox heads-up, thereby leaving myself vulnerable to his kryptonite for the rest of 2006. That boosted my live roll up nicely, and the good folks at Full Tilt came on board this here blog as an advertiser, helping that out as well. So I worked my way up live and online to have a combined roll of about $1100 by the end of February, when the wheels fell off and I went broke. It took two months to do it, but by the end of April I was pretty broke. I had also redeposited another $200, and was still broke.
But I had $600 sitting in my little cash box for live play. Great and all, but I pretty much never need more than $200 to play the little games around here, so I took half that cash, stuck it in the bank, and shifted it over to Neteller. Then I took the rest to Merlefest and figured I’d start rebuilding when I got paid off my last design job. So I did. I stuck $200 on FTP and started playing limit, higher than before. I’d been playing the smaller tables, the ones I could “afford.” Remember, I’m playing with discretionary income, so the losses, while painful, do not affect my quality of life other than the wife not being thrilled with me for losing that money instead of buying things for us.
This time around, I jumped up a level. Ill-advised by all sound bankroll management strategies, but effective. My game was not working at $.25/$.50, but was consistently profitable at $.50/$1. Interesting. Wonder if the same thing holds true at NL? And indeed it has, paying me off far more at NL50 and NL100 than I’ve ever managed to clear at NL25. And not just in dollars, but in BB/100 win rates, which is a fairer measure. So this has only been going on for three weeks now, and it is entirely possible that I am riding the positive variance and will soon see a correction down to the levels I should be playing, but really, wouldn’t I rather play higher while variance is on my side and lower when she’s killing me?
And variance is one thing I’m trying to absorb. I’m trying to come to terms with the fact that I play a high variance game. Period. I’m going to get in there and mix it up, see a lot of flops and try to force something to develop either with cards or with pure aggression. The next step for me is to realize when it’s not clicking or when a table is no longer good and to run, not walk, away. I’ve recently (last week or so) gotten to where I can feel when I’m in my groove online, when I’m calling the right people down with A8 for my third pair to bust their unpaired AJ, and when to drop my unmatched AK like a hot rock (still having trouble laying down KK in limit, even with the flopped Ace), but I can’t yet get a good handle on when it’s not coming, when it’s not gonna happen and I need to move on. So that table sense is something for me to work on. That, and saving bets when my gut says I’m beat. I’ll trust that gut when it says I’m ahead, but not when it says I’m behind. And when you have a gut like this one, it’s of a size that must be listened to.
Wow, this got long. If you’re still here, go on over to the Internet Live Music Archive and download the String Cheese Incident set from Merlefest 2000, with Sam Bush on Mandolin, it’s got a final song that’s simply an amazing jam.
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
It’s my fuckin’ blog and I’ll post pictures of my cat, my fat ass in my kilt, the adorable Jen Leo and my fat ass in my kilt or anything else I damn well please! I’ll write what I want when I want and fuck them all quite eloquently if they can’t take a joke. For the record, I typed that with both pinkies extended to be more eloquent about it.
Seems somebody in The Real World went and visited Bobby’s blog, and got their panties bunched about it. Whattadick. So unfortunately, somebody has decided that he’s inappropriate, and rather than have unpleasant repercussions about his blog in his Real Life, One2Many is going away. I suppose I’m fortunate to work in an industry built on the backs of flaming queer performers and guys doing 8-balls in the back of the bus, so I’m not too worried about how inappropriate I get. Because I only tangentially work in The Real World. I’m not as far removed as certain Professional Actors and Writers and Hollyweirders, but it’s a pretty fur piece, as they say in hilljack country. So you’re probably stuck with me uncensored, for whatever that’s worth.
So if you do work with me, know me from work or any other part of my life outside of poker and bloggerdom, and find anything here that you don’t think is appropriate, I hereby give you permission to read something else. And to kiss my ass if you really feel strongly about it. Frankly, we’re back to “it’s my blog and if you don’t like it, start your own.”
But Bobby will be missed. He has not only a voice that is hilarious and a warped view on the world that I always look forward to when it show up in bold on my Bloglines, but he’s also been using his blog lately (along with his status as the 860th greatest poker player in the world) to do great work for a little girl who lost her mom to cancer. So go to For Peyton, where soon you’ll be able to bid on the chance to get your ass kicked by Gavin Smith in a STT that may or may not happen around another charity event highly publicized by this drunken hippy. And then tell every big-wig corporate schlub with a stick up his ass to match your donation.
Monday, May 15, 2006
Now book your flights for July, dammit! If I get enough requests, I'll pack the kilt. If there are prop bets, I'll wear it to the Excal poker room!
So my epiphany? It’s not much of one, just that the texture of some sites fits different parts of my game much better than on other sites. I cannot log a winning session at $.50/$1 or $1/2 limit on Stars to save my life, but the NL$100 game there has been a gold mine for me. Okay, more like pyrite, remember we’re talking a triple-digit bankroll that really has no business playing a NL$100 table, but the play at that level suits my game better than the limits that I can actually afford.
Full Tilt, however, creams me at NL, but pays me off slowly but consistently at $.50/$1 Limit Hold Em. Full table, not short-handed. My limit game is much more about multi-tabling and nut peddling, so short-handed tables don’t work so good.
Sun Poker is home to my $1/2 limit play, mostly because I’m working off a bonus and I need to play that level or higher to accumulate My Poker Points in a timely enough fashion to clear the bonus before it expires. It’s a decent bonus, through the good folks at PokerSavvy - $50 after 200 points, another $40 after 250 points, then the PokerSavvy bonus at 600 points. I figure 20 points per hour at ½, I play there a little more than an hour a night, I’ll clear all the bonuses by mid-June. And if I understand it right, the $40 is an ongoing bonus for any month that you earn 250+ points, so I’ll try to time it right so that I finish up my PS bonus straddling 2 months, to net me $130 cash bonus plus my SavvyPoints. And I’m actually very slightly profitable on the site so far, up about $18, so that’s good as well. I figure I’ll try out a few new sites, try to stay even while I clear a bonus, and see if I can make a nickel.
I haven’t done much in the way of bonus whoring in the past, since my ring game play has been so terribly unprofitable, but when my SNG game went broke last month, I started playing a ton of cash games. And making money. So I’ve played a grand total of one tourney so far this month, a satellite to the FTP HORSE tourney. I sucked, but I really just wanted to play a little HORSE, so I didn’t mind the –EV. I also cleared my Nevada Jacks bonus with Poker Source Online this weekend, so a nice new set of chips are on their way to the casa. I’m not really sure why I even wanted another chip set, but I really like the way the skulls look, so they’re shipping soon.
The PSO promotion was on PokerShare, a site I’d read about on doubleAs blog but never tried. It’s mostly European players, so it’s sometimes tough to find a decent game in the evening US time, but I managed to be pretty profitable there, cashing out $200 above my deposit, and clearing my PSO bonus as well. I’m still plugging away at the tables there, because I have a $150 cash bonus to clear, but that’s going to take a good long while to clear, because it takes 1500 points to clear, and you get one point for every hand raked $1 or more. That takes a while at low stakes, but they do give partial points and the tables a somewhat soft, so I’ll plug away at it for a bit.
Not really sure where I’m going with this, kind of just a state of the state thing I guess. I’m not broke anymore, thanks to some writing I’m doing for Pokerworks, and thanks to some bonuses, advertisers and (gasp!) actually winning a few hands. If I don’t screw this up too completely, this could be my most profitable month since last March, when I actually won a tournament. So far I’ve had the best month of 2006, even with the slight correction I experienced this weekend. Just need to take tonight off, get my head straight, and get my game back on tomorrow night.
Coming soon – The Grand Experiment: where I solicit your help in turning my wife into a profitable multi-table small stakes limit hold ‘em player. Yes. Wifey has decided to consider poker a part-time job, logging a minimum of one hour each evening online with me. And I have decided that to make it profitable, we’re going to embrace the nuances of the small-stakes limit game. Let’s see how far we can take her $50.
Saturday, May 13, 2006
Friday, May 12, 2006
Well, Tuesday morning I got another one of those phone calls. Those of you with elderly parents understand the italics. My sister called me at 7:30 in an amazing panic, telling me that my mother had experienced a serious stroke and they were on the way to the hospital.
“I’ll meet you there.”
This was followed by a quick SSS (shower, shave, shit) and trucking down the highway to glorious Rock Hill, SC. Fortunately I’m close enough to home to be able to rush off when these emergencies crop up, which has been happening with disgusting regularity lately.
So we spend all day Tuesday waiting for tests and admitting and all that jazz, and I get to see my mom, and she seems okay. Not like anyone who’s just had a stroke. No slurring, no paralysis, none of that stuff. So I figure it wasn’t a stroke, but that we’re going to be there for a while trying to figure out exactly WTF happened.
Damn, I’m good. An MRI, CT scan and EEG later, we know that it wasn’t a stroke. It looks like she has a problem with blood pressure that is causing her to pass out. Apparently as we stand up, the blood vessels in the legs constrict, increasing blood pressure to get enough blood to the brain. Well, some people as they age begin to lose some of this constricting action, and their blood pressure drops drastically as they stand up, leading to fainting, or almost catatonia, which was what happened to Mom on Tuesday.
And since the spell hit her while she was sitting upright, the body couldn’t compensate, because the blood flow still wasn’t going right. It didn’t catch up until she was laying flat, right before they put her on a stretcher to haul her out. By then my father was absolutely losing his shit, and my sister was convinced that our mother was going to die.
Compound this with the fact that the numbnuts ambulance dispatcher gave bad directions to the ambulance which sent them 25 minutes out of their way along rural roads, and you’ve got a bad morning.
But Mom’s okay. For 73 and senile. So I spent three days sitting in the hospital, one to see if she was going to be okay, and two to meet with the doctors because she gets confused really easily and can’t remember what the doctors tell her. Natural progression of aging. What a muthafucker. So we’re not sure when she’ll get to go home, maybe tomorrow. And we’re not sure what to do with her when she gets home, because if these spells continue, she can’t stay alone. And there aren’t exactly a lot of home healthcare options in Bullock Creek, SC. Think Mayberry, only without all the urban development and infrastructure.
So we wait and see. I feel like a bad son for thinking it, but all the way down there Tuesday all I could think was, “If it was a stroke, I hope it’s the big one.” I watched my great-aunt lay in her hospital for two years praying to die after a stroke left her partially paralyzed and completely incapable of taking care of herself, and I just hope as we get to this point in the lives of my parents that it can happen quickly, and that neither of them have to suffer through that pain and ignominy.
Thursday, May 11, 2006
What will those crazy kids think of next?
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Wednesday, May 10, 2006
Sorry for the delay in posts, I’ve been working on clearing a bonus through the kind folks at Poker Source Online (I love my sponsors). I managed to clear the Pokershare bonus in about 1500 hands, and was able to net a decent profit at the same time. I highly recommend folks check our PSO and their neat gifts, it’s a good way to get cool stuff or money while checking out new poker sites.
But when we left our heroes, we had just had a fantastic time at Merlefest Friday night and crashed in our hotel in Lenoir. So Saturday dawned clear and beautiful, not hot at all and looked like it was going to be another absolutely perfect day at the festival.
So the plan was to get up around 9 or10, eat the Shoney’s breakfast bar, and make it to the festival around noon. Yeah, well ,anyway. So we got up, made it to Shoney’s and got to the festival around 1:30. Suzy was rolling up from Charlotte with her aunt to meet us at the festival, and they were running just a little behind us. So we got there, got set up around the Watson stage, and cruised back up front to meet Suzy as they came in.
The Watson stage didn’t have a ton to attract me on Saturday, so my plan was to check out other stages, try to catch more Duhks and Mammals, maybe see a little Guy Clark, and definitely see Laura Love and John Cowan at the Dance tent. Good Plan.
And it mostly worked. First we caught Casey Driessen and friends at the Americana Stage, including Luke Bulla, Matt Mandano, Scott Senior and a pile of other guests. Great set by this young fiddle players and all his buddies. This set was great in that there was a lot of cross-pollination among the younger acts at Merlefest, which made it exciting for a lot of the younger fans.
The festival has many faces, and that’s one of the things that I really enjoy about it. There’s plenty of old-time and traditional music for the folks that are into that, plenty of rocking jam music for folks that are into that, and a splash of world music/Celtic boogie with a little bit of dance music thrown in. So there really is something for everyone, including some traditional country and straight-up Americana singer-songwriter stuff. So no matter what kind of jam you’re into, you can find something at Merlefest to appeal to you.
So after that, we grabbed more overpriced pizza, then over to check out the Duhks in the Dance Tent. Holy crap, what a high-energy set. The Dance Tent was rockin’ to the Duhks, with some of the most smoking Celtic/Canuck/Traditional boogie I’ve seen in forever. Top-notch musicianship and great entertainment is the norm at the festival, but these guys have added even greater energy than normal. Hope they come back for many years to come!
Hung out at the dance tent a little bit longer, then it was time for Laura Love and John Cowan. Dueling bass players with plenty of funk, this was sure to be one of my favorite sets. If you aren’t familiar with John Cowan, get there. He played bass for New Grass Revival for years and is a killer bass player and vocalist. Laura is a great bass player and singer herself, so this should be killer with lots of Laura’s songs, maybe a little bluegrass and some old R&B. And they did not disappoint! From Mustang Sally to Higher Ground, they went all over the song map, from John’s stuff to Laura’s stuff to straight up covers. And a killer backup band, with Barbara Lamb on fiddle and Scott Vestal on banjo. Phenomenal musicianship all around, kinda the theme of the weekend.
So while I’m jamming with the Duhks and Johhny C., Suzy and Debbie were checking out the shopping at the merchandise tents and the craft tents. And of course the cool food tent. So it didn’t take long for her to come find me for more cash. A couple of purses, hats and small pieces of pottery later, we found ourselves with a second mortgage and me having to cash out my 401(k) to afford our presents.
After getting my groove well and truly on in the dance tent, time for my last set of the day – The Mammals in the Traditional tent. The traditional tent is a small 200-300 person tent (small by Merlefest standards) and pretty unaccustomed to the kind of slammin’ jammin’ that was about to be unleashed. One of the coolest parts of this Mammals set was Ruth Ungar bringing up her dad an stepmom, Jay Ungar and Molly Mason to jam on a couple of tunes. That kind of family vibe and atmosphere is one of the things I love the most about Merlefest.
The clogging/dancing was fun to watch, too. There were clogging boards set up off the side of the stage. Ok, they were more like sheets of plywood, but they served to give folks a place to dance without thrashing the grass in the tent. And they did, and it was cool.
So then I moseyed back to the Watson Stage where Suzy and Debbie had watched Nickel Creek and eaten ice cream. They loved their set, Debbie has a Nickel Creek album, so she was already familiar with them, and Suzy has heard them often enough in the car, so they really enjoyed that. Then we waited for Bonnie and Steph to meander down from the Hillside Stage, where they had gone to catch another set by the Waybacks.
And we waited. And we waited a little more.
Finally they make it down the hill, and Steph is grinning from ear to frickin’ ear. Bonnie looks over at me and says “we won.” Apparently she was under the impression that they had seen the ultimate set of the festival. And I think she may be right – The Waybacks with Bob Weir in a reprise of last night’s set, then adding Sam Bush to the mix just as the icing on the cake. Zeppelin covers, Dead covers, Dylan covers, and all red hot according to the sis. That was all the boogie we could stand for one day, so we packed up and headed to Sagebrush right by campus for foodage.
And that’s where I had dinner with Bob Weir. At least, that’s what I told Steph to tell all her friends. What actually happened was we ate at Sagebrush, and afterwards Bonnie got to chatting with the manager. She waits tables at a Ruby Tuesday’s on weekends, so they talked restaurant bs, I suppose. She told him we had just left the festival (like it wasn’t obvious from the plethora of Birkenstocks) and he mentioned that one of the artists was in the banquet room eating. She asked who it was, and he said “I don’t know, Bob something, used to play with the Grateful Dead.” So Step charges off towards the banquet room to meet the legend, only to find that we had missed him by about two minutes. So that was my dinner with Bob Weir. Good grilled chicken, though.
Sunday was a much more relaxing day, with an amazing Hillside set from Bryan Sutton and Friends (hint to festivalgoers: if you see a billing for xxxx & friends, it’s going to kick ass). His friends included legends like Jerry Douglas and Tony Rice. Nice friends to have. I got a great picture of Peter Rowan and Jim Lauderdale in the crowd for Tony’s portion of the set, because everybody in their right mind loves to watch Tony play.
Then down to the main stage to see Emmylou Harris play. This woman is an absolute living legend of country music, and I’ve been a fan of hers since before I can remember. Bonnie introduced me to Emmylou’s music when I was just a little kid hanging around her house instead of going home, so it was super-cool to see her with my sis. Supercool for Bonnie, too, she cried through most of the set. It brought back a lot of great memories of her late husband for her, I the way that only brilliant songs can evoke memory. Interestingly enough, that was only the second time she’s cried at a live music event, and I was with her both times. The other time was when I got a comped box at the Newport Folk Festival tour and she got to go down to the front row to see Joan Baez.
Emmylou’s set was amazing, a voice like an angel and such fantastic musicianship. A great end to a great festival. Next year will mark the 20th anniversary festival, so I can’t wait to see the lineup they put forth for that puppy!
Friday, May 05, 2006
I just guaranteed myself an evening of soul-crushing defeats. I know.
But anyway, when we left our hero he was trying not to tumble down the side of a mountain after the Platypus/Pete Seeger Jam at the Walker Center. Let me tell you, 937 steps is hard to navigate when your feet are barely touching the ground.
So I get to our base camp, where Bonnie and Steph (remember them, the sister and neice I abandoned 4 hours ago?) were waiting, basking in the glow of The Waybacks and Bob Weir. Yeah, that Bob Weir, the one that used to hang with Jerry. According the sis, their set Friday night was absolutely smokin', featuring jams and covers of everyone from Dylan to the Dead (duh). They would feature prominently into Steph's Saturday (see, foreshadowing! I really am a writer!)
But for us at least, it was time for the Main Event - Sam Bush. My sister is an admitted and avowed Sam Bush Stalker, and as her wheelman, I'm an honorary stalker. We very seldom miss a Sammy show if it's within 3 hours of home, but we had never seen the new lineup. See, Sammy picked up Scott Vestal from John Cowan's band, adding the banjo to his lineup for the first time in about 5 years. We were excited. I was excited because more banjo means more Hartford covers, and I loves me some Hartford. As a matter of fact, hold on.
Ok, that's better. Got a little Aero-Plane on the iPod, let's gear up for an uber-report (apologies to the midget Pocahontas).
So Sammy is now touring with his fellow Kentuckian Byron House, one of the absolute finest bass players in bluegrass, Scott Vestal (simply smokin' banjo boy), Chris Brown (and his drums of renown) and a new guitar player whose name I didn't catch (sorry, dude, you were good, tho).
Update - dug around a little on sambush.com and found that Stephen Mougin is the new guitar player. Nobody will ever replace Jon Randall for my sister, but she still has a crush on JRS, so what can I say. Stephen has some serious chops and is a great addition to the Sam Bush Band.
They played mostly stuff off their upcoming album, Laps in Seven (in stores June 13th, I'll be buying that bitch on iTunes as soon as humanly possible), with a few old songs and one particularly poignant moment. Sam has long covered at least one number of John Hartford's Steam Powered Aereo-Plane album in his live shows, and last year at Merlefest he dedicated Vamp in the Middle to Vassar Clements, who played fiddle on that album and was ailing at the time. Well, Vassar passed last year, so this year, Sam dedicated Back in the Goodle Days to Vassar's memory. It was a nice moment to think about all of friends that "have done gone on."
All the stuff on the new album was cool, one tune in particular was very reminiscent of the Jeff Black smoker from King of My World (Sam's last album, geez, keep up!) called They're Gonna Miss Me When I'm Gone. Yeah, that album will kick much ass.
Every Merlefest is a little different, and one of the changes I most approve of from this year is the addition (return) of the dance trail down by the side of the stage. They cordoned off a standing room only area off to the side of the stage, meaning if you wanted to get your groove on, you didn't have to be a football field away from the stage, you could get right down close and jam. So we did. We ran down front and got our groove well and truly on.
In true Merlefest style, guests were a-plenty, including dobro master Jerry Douglas (photo below) and the voice of the angels herself, Emmylou Harris. Once upon a time after New Grass Revival folded, Sam's main gig was playing mando for Emmylou in the Nash Ramblers, and they frequently show up on each other's albums and live sets. At 59 years old, she exudes class and beauty like very few women 30 years her junior. and that voice! If heaven doesn't sound like Emmylou, it ain't worth hearing.
So it kinda goes without saying that I liked Sam's set. By this time we were absolutely STARVING, but the good news was that the dance trail was right beside the food tents, so during the set changes we grooved over to nosh a little. I snagged a couple of overpriced hot dogs for charity, and sat down to munch. Looked over, and there was jamgrass festival campsite legend Dancing Dave, chatting with Ali, a guy I'd met a couple of times in Charlotte. I said hi, then it was time for Robert Earl Keen.
We buzzed back to the chairs to put on some socks, then headed back to boogie with Bob. Bonnie and I had seen Robert Earl a couple weeks ago in a full set at the Neighborhood Theatre (one of the two best places to see music in Charlotte - The Evening Muse is the other, and they sit catty-corner across the street from each other), and we've seen him 4-5 other times, but this was a first for Steph.
It was a first for me too, since I was sober, and that just don't happen to me at a Robert Earl Keen show. Killer set from Bob, but an hour is simply not enough. He put on a great version of Dreadful Selfish Crime, which might be my favorite song of his, then into Gringo Honeymoon, another fantastic story-song.
He's done a couple of really hallucinogenic songs in the past couple of years that I really can't get into - something about wolf and bear and I haven't done nearly enough drugs to undrstand it, but still a fun song.
He's worked Corpus Christi Bay into the set for the last year or so, and I love that song, since I have a brother, and have been to Texas, and I've been drunk. I've never been drunk in Texas with my brother, but I've got 2 outta 3 in most cases.
He seems to have taken Amarillo Highway out of the set list right now, which is a shame, since that song leads so well in to The Road Goes on Forever, his perennial closer. Great set by Robert Earl, but feel free to send Porter Wagoner his shirts back any day, the sequins really don't work with the songs, babe.
Steph totally enjoyed her first Robert Earl Keen experience, then it was back to pack up the camp, check the chairs into overnight storage (isn't that a brilliant idea?) and tote our backpacks and cooler to the buses. Then it's onto the Boy Scout buses back to the parking lots for our 45-minute drive back to the hotel.
We stay in Lenoir, about 45 minutes away, because everything in Wilkesboro books up fast and jacks the rates, so we sacrifice convenience for fiscal responsibility. It's not bad, really, but just once I'd like to stay close. Maybe next year.
Next up - Saturday - the wife joins the festivities, more of Laura Love's Booty, more Mammals, a hint of Guy Clark and dinner with Bob Weir. No really.
Thursday, May 04, 2006
I'm a huge Darrell Scott fan, I think he's one of the finest songwriters in America today, so I wasn't going to let a Merlefest pass without seeing him at least once, and I just bought his dad's album off iTunes, so I was interested to see what they would cook up together.
Wayne Scott is better than 70 years old and has just released his first album, a true old-school style country music record with a unique voice that I really enjoy. He starts off with "The whiskey eases the pain," and closes with a rendition of "Folsom Prison Blues" that is honestly channelling Cash at his finest.
So the set started off with Darrell doing a version of "River Take Me" solo, then bringing his dad out to join him. They also had Matt Mandano on bass, Casey Driessen and Luke Bulla on fiddle, and a guy on drums that I didn't know (sorry). A solid set overall, not terribly exciting, but good solid musicianship and some excellent songwriting. Honestly, at 71, I didn't expect stage dives, so I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I was able to get a seat in the front row, which is always nice.
When they were done, most of the front row emptied out and I was able to move over to dead center in the front row for the Platypus Jam, featuring The Duhks and The Mammals. I fell in love with The Duhks last year, and had really high hopes for this jam.
Needless to say, I wasn't disappointed. It took a while to sound check everything and get the monitors right, but that's what happens when you get around a dozen musicians onstage all at the same time. They kicked into a smokin' bluegrass tune for their first number, and then said "that was pretty good for a sound check." Which is also the fact of festival sound - the first song or two are the sound check, and it's never until the second song that the sound is really dialed in, and sometimes the third. SE Systems out of Greensboro does all the audio for Merlefest, and they have done a great job for years. This year was no exception, so big shout out to Cliff and the boys for their excellent work.
To start the second song, Tao, one of the leads in The Mammals, steps up to the mic and says "let's go ahead and get this outta the way. Grandpa, you wanna come out and sing one with us?"
So out totters this old guy carrying what looks like the world's first banjo, and the room absolutely erupts. See, Tao's full name is Rodriguez-Seeger, and this was Grandpa Pete Seeger coming out to play a song with the Platypus Jam. These things happen all the time at Merlefest, but they're always magical.
So I'm sitting front row center and one of the living legends of folk music is picking banjo 15 feet away. It's gonna be a good day. Pete does a song or two, then The Duhks do a couple of songs on their own. Then The Mammals do a couple of songs on their own, then the two bands reconvene to figure out the rest of the set list.
This was a jam session in the truest sense, with no predefined set list, folks picking up a break whenever someone throws it to them, and generally blowing the roof off the Walker Center. Special kudos to Luke Bulla, who The Duhks brought out for a couple of songs and he just stuck around, jamming on everything he could find and smoking the solos for the rest of the set.
It didn't get much better than Tao (or maybe Leonard) looking out at the crowd and asking "you guys aren't in a hurry, are ya?" They played until the stage manager wouldn't let them play anymore, then they did a couple more songs! You cannot finish a set with any more energy than they had, from Mike from the Mammals doing a rock-star monitor jump with his banjo to Tao picking banjo on his knees to Leonard down in front of the monitors jamming on the forestage. I would not have been surprised to see Jesse stage dive before the set was over.
Then to close it out, they brought Pete back out. He came down and said "at 87, I don't have much voice anymore, but I can give you the words and you can sing this one." Then he led us in an 1100-person chorus of "Turn, Turn, Turn." I teared up a little, I'll admit it.
I've been going to Merlefest off and on for 10 years, and that set may be the best single set I've ever seen there. Simply amazing, a magical moment that I'm glad I could witness. I didn't think my night could get any better, then I found out that Sam Bush has a new album coming out and most of his set would be off that album. It was gonna be a gooooood night.
Wednesday, May 03, 2006
Check out the link for more photos of Flux, Bryan, Tony Rice, Peter Rowan and the inimitable Emmylou Harris.
My day one trip report starts on day 2, because that’s just how I roll. And because I have that whole job thing and couldn’t get out on Thursday to see John Prine. Yes, I’m still a little pissy about that. But anyway.
So the plan is to blow out of the house by 10, be in North Wilkesboro around 11:30, see the Duhks (remember, huge crush on both girls in the Duhks) at noon, and go from there. Not so much. More like, get out of the house by 11:30, get to North Wilkesboro by 1, and head straight up to the Hillside stage to see Laura Love followed by the Avett Brothers (my niece Stephanie has a huge crush on the Avett Brothers, esp. the one with the banjo). I catch up with Bonnie (sister) and Steph in the parking lot, they landed about 5 minutes before I did, and we groove on up the road. Bonnie has had surgeries on both hips since December, so this weekend was going to be a mother of a test of her walking ability. We get there, go set up our base camp down by the Watson stage.
If you’ve never been to Merlefest, here’s a rundown. There are something like 11 stages scattered around the Wilkes Community College campus. The Watson Stage is the main stage, and is at the end of a big-ass field. At peak times, there are over 40,000 people in that field. Really. The Hillside stage is one of the B stages, where big acts play during the day, and can easily accommodate 10,000 people on the side of, yup, a hill. The Creekside stage is another B stage, with similar accommodations. Most of the other stages have enough real estate for a few hundred to maybe a 1500 at the Austin stage. On top of a friggin’ mountain is the John A. Walker Center, the main auditorium for the college. It seats about 1200 and is a great place to see a concert. It’s also home to the annual Midnight Jam on Saturday nights. That’s a tough ticket to come by, as a rule.
So our M.O. is to set up our chairs and cooler (no booze, it’s a dry festival) at the Watson stage at the best place we can find, and wander the campus seeing acts at other stages during the day, then we reconvene at the Watson for the evening shows, since they shut down all the other stages at dusk or so. This year looks like a monster year for attendance, because at 1PM-ish, our best seating was at least a football field away from the stage. No worries, since UNC Public Television has provided a monster video screen.
So we get to the Hillside, and Laura Love starts up. Laura is a singer-songwriter-activist from Seattle who stirred up some folks two years ago with her love song to G.W. Bush called “I want you Gone.” She serenaded the pres again this year, but there weren’t any boos from the crowd this time. She put on a hoppin’ set, full of fun dialogue and thumping bass. I went up afterwards and asked her for a picture for my blog. I didn’t explain the Snailtrax T-shirt to her, figured that was a little more info than she was ready for on just her first day at the festival.
Midway through her set, I looked over to my left, and saw my friends Jim and Mel walking up the hill! Jim had been a great supporter of our theatre for years, and he and Mel are just great folks. I had no idea they came to Merlefest, and we realized that we’ve managed to miss each other for about 8 years at the festival. Easy enough to do in a crowd of 50K.
After Laura, the Avett Bros. took the stage. These guys are from around Charlotte, and they’ve been a huge hit locally for a while. I had never seen the appeal. I bought one of their earlier albums and was less than impressed, but they are great live! They have a ton of energy and can solid jam when they get going. Steph of course took about a dozen pictures, and she couldn’t remember which Avett got married last year, but it made her a little sad. She’s turned into a great kid, and I love going to concerts and festivals with her and her mom. The Avett boys were smoking and I definitely have a new appreciation for their music, which is why I love festivals in the first place.
After the Hillside sets, it was down to meander and grab a little grub. Merlefest food tents are all provided by local charitable and educational institutions, so I paid waaaayyyy too much money for a couple of slices of Pizza Hut pizza to benefit a local elementary school. It’s for the childrens, yo. Missed the Mammals on the Americana stage because I was stuffing my face, so now I’ve missed two bands I wanted to see. That made my next decision easy – it’s time to climb the hill and see Darrell & Wayne Scott in the Walker Center followed by the Duhks & the Mammals in a jam together.
More to come…
But that ability feels really threatened right now, by a movement to take away something called Net Neutrality. There’s more info here, but basically Net Neutrality is the covenant that the internet is based on, that the ‘net moves information, and doesn’t make decisions on what information moves based on content. Some big businesses and Congresspersons are looking to change that, and it would really cramp my style, and have a negative impact on my personal income. I have been fortunate enough to have three nice folks come up and sign on as sponsors for this blog, and they pay me a little money each month to do so. If this legislation to preserve Net Neutrality doesn’t go through, my blog would quite possible load more slowly, or not at all, depending on the whims of the local internet provider. So my sponsors would probably pull out. And the website that I write for would probably either go away, or not be able to pay me to write for them anymore, because their traffic would be killed as well.
It’s not so much about the money, but that’s a motivation that folks can more easily understand. It’s about the potential to lose my voice. Without this little corner of the blogosphere, and the few of you that come here and read my scribblings, I’m just another guy screaming into the void, and I think that would drive me even battier. So many of us would lose our voice, and so many of the cool things on the internet, like etree.org, wikipedia, flickr, would all go away. So click on the little banner to the right and write your congressperson.