Thursday, December 22, 2011

The surgery

I arrived at the surgical center at 530 and signed in. Around 630, I was brought into the back, changed into a hospital gown, and given an IV line. I was asked the same questions repeatedly by several different folks, all for the purpose of verifying that I was the correct person, and that I was getting the proper procedure. What is your name? What is your birthday? Who is your doctor? What procedure will he be performing today? Eventually my surgeon stopped by to say hello, and I was wheeled into the operating room. I hopped up onto the operating table and...
     ...that's it. That is all I remember. It's not unusual for someone that was administered general anesthesia to experience post-operative anterograde amnesia. In other words, I lost some time from even before the anesthesia was administered. I have no idea how long I might have been up on that table and conscious before they knocked me out. I can't remember. 
     Also, I had no dreams that I can recall. It seemed as if no time passed at all before I woke in the surgical intensive care unit. My throat hurt a bit. I was fidgety and unable to get comfortable at first. I was wearing a cervical collar that made it difficult to lie down. Eventually I slept. I stayed the night in the hospital and was discharged the following day.
     I was under the impression that the symptoms in my arm would be relieved instantly upon decompression of the nerve. I am not sure why I thought that. After doing a bit of research I see that it takes awhile for the nerves to heal. I have been told to be patient... and that it will eventually get better.
     I had a huge purplish and yellow gash on my neck that was swollen and ugly. My esophagus was swollen on the inside from being intubated, and on the outside from being held to the side by tools during the surgery. Swallowing was pretty difficult for the first week. They gave me Vicodin for the pain. It worked fine, but the side-effects were displeasing enough that I stopped using it after only a few days. I was up and about very quickly. I took walks around the neighborhood with my Mom. Sleeping was not so easy. I had to wear the collar and it made all the other muscles in my back tense up. It was difficult to get comfortable. I found that hot showers really helped me to loosen up in the morning. 
     For the first week, I spent most of my time wrapped in a blanket and propped up with pillows reading kindle books. I whizzed through The Hunger Games Trilogy in less than 9 days. I ate a lot of yogurt and macaroni and cheese. I helped my parents make some decisions about new electronics for the house. I got them set-up with Wi-fi, a new PC, and a home theatre system.
    I got to attend two different holiday parties. The nice people at the pharmacy were kind enough to put a label on the side of the Vicodin bottle that says "Alcohol intensifies the effect of this drug". I'm glad I read the instructions! My neck brace was a great conversation starter. After a few cocktails the answers to "what happened" would change with each individual. "I'm a rodeo clown, big ass steer gored me in the jugular" or "bungee cord snapped" or "ate a bunch of mushrooms and dove into an empty pool". There was no end to the fun.
    After two weeks I had a follow-up appointment with the surgeon. He told me I could take off the brace, and that I was cleared to drive. I stuck around for a few more days before heading back to Las Vegas in search of work and the associated funds necessary to sustain my life.
    I am feeling better every day. I hope to start physical therapy soon, so I can work on rebuilding the muscles that I lost to atrophy. I look forward to being healthy again. Here's a nice snapshot of my new hardware.



Monday, November 21, 2011

Surgery

I will be returning to San Diego on December 5th. My surgery is on the 7th. I will stay in town to recover for a few weeks. I expect to be back in Vegas just after Christmas.

If all goes well, I should be back in the gym in a few months time, and can work on rebuilding all the muscle that has atrophied as a result of my condition. Something to look forward to. I have become rather frail and weak.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

I want one.


Friday, October 21, 2011

Ok Alone


For me there is a feeling
That I’ve intimately known
When the pain subsides
I will be ok alone.

And though its not the first time
And though I have since grown
And though it may be awhile
I will be ok alone.

For my mistakes and failures
I must and shall atone
I will find peace within myself
And I will be ok alone.

I’ve humbly taken credit
For all that which I own
And now I must let go of it
And I will be ok alone.

So I will learn to speak again
In a genuinely positive tone
I know I will find hope again
And I will be ok alone.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

And now...

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Alright.... now what?

A brief recap:

In the past year, my life has been mostly without structure. It was around this time last year when I learned that FLO TV's days were limited. I was offered a generous severance package to leave the company early. Given my area of responsibility and its relatively high level of importance, I viewed their willingness to let me go as a strong indicator that I ought to take the money and move on. So I did.

Having not taken more than 9 or 10 consecutive days off from work in the decade leading up to that point, I made the decision to not immediately jump back into the workforce. Instead, I used the money to travel and sustain myself while I took some time to unplug. Sure, I could have found another job and used the severance money to pay off the my debts. That would have been a smart, safe decision. But that's not to say  I regret the path I have chosen. I enjoyed my time off. I learned a lot about myself.

After a few months without any income other than poker winnings, the time had come to start formulating a more structured plan for the future. I briefly toyed with the idea of starting a business, and even put a few meetings together to explore into the details. It became clear that in order for my idea to succeed, I would need to be ready to scale up quickly. As such, I would require a large amount of capital to assemble the proper resources. I became aware of complications pertaining to intellectual property and possible patent infringement. Given the variables, I finally had to admit that the risk outweighed the upside. I still think the idea is viable, but having weighed the pros and cons I decided I was not ready for the massive undertaking at the time. 

At a point in life where most of my peers were starting families and bound by such responsibilities, I found myself unrestricted. But even while working in stable conditions with good pay, the high cost of living in San Diego had left me without the means to do much international travel. So with the lump sum paymenty from Qualcomm, I took a piece and went on vacation for awhile. I enjoyed every minute of it. But, I wanted to see more of the world. It knew it would be far easier if I had a steady income. So I looked at the opportunities to work abroad. It turns out they are plentiful. I finally decided to head east to teach English as a second language to students in South Korea. This happened right around the time they changed their immigration laws. The mandates now require that any foreign national be denied a Visa if they have a criminal record of any kind... even a misdemeanor. With a DUI on my record from 2005, my plans to move to Korea quickly fell apart. So, I began looking into other countries. I still focused on Asia because of the higher pay and low cost of living. I got together with a recruiting agency and found placement in Shanghai, China. I gathered all the necessary documents, passed all the interviews, and even set a date to move...October 2011. I would stay for at least one year. I could hardly wait.

With several months until the start date and the last of severance package money spoken for, I needed to find some work. I didn't even really care what it was, so long as it gave me the opportunity to pay down some debt before leaving overseas. On a whim, I got the job at the Mirage and moved to Las Vegas. I then landed the job at the World Series of Poker on top of that. Things were looking great. I would bust my ass for a couple of months, sell everything I owned, pay of the remainder of my debt, and move to China. Everything was falling into place.


So now what? With my condition and the likelihood of surgery looming, I have had to postpone the China trip indefinitely. It also has become apparent that I am not comfortable surviving on the modest pay that I've been able to earn since moving here. It was only meant to be temporary. So... somethings got to give. I need assurances that I have potential for upward mobility in the gaming industry, or I need to stop wasting my time. It would be easy to get stuck in Vegas. This living is cheap, but so is the cost of labor. Living hand to mouth is nothing new for me....  but it not something I have any desire to continue. 

I suppose this is just another of life's little challenges. I am trying physical therapy to help with the injury. I feel like it might be working but its too soon to say. I know my strength on the right side has partially returned... but my the numbness in my fingers and arm persists. Decision time will come soon. I'll continue with the therapy for a few more weeks and then get another MRI and EMG test done. The results will clearly show if I am improving. If not... I will bite the bullet and get the surgery. My lease is up here at the end of October. I will have a decision before then. If I have not improved, I will pack my things into storage and return to San Diego for the surgery and recovery. 






Monday, August 22, 2011

Communication Skillz

"Do you have a seat open?"

"Not at the moment sir. However, I can you put you on the list."

"Really?"

"Yes, I can really put you on the list."

"No, I meant, there really isn't a seat open? It's looks there there are seats open."

"Right. Except that.... there aren't. Really."

"You don't have to be a dick."

"And you don't have to call me names because you can't get what you want instantly."

"You are kind of a jerk."

"I know. Who's next?"

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Bad News

I just got back from seeing my doctor.

This is not good. My doctor is a sports medicine guy. He tells me that he always recommends physical therapy, localized steroids, stretching, over surgery when he believes the severity of the injury justifies it. In other words, he tries to avoid sending people to a surgeon if he can. He told me flat out that he does not think any of those things will help me. My condition is severe enough that he highly recommends surgery... and to get it done as soon as possible. He has given me the name of several reputable spinal surgeons in the area. I am looking in San Diego as well.

The surgical options include ACDF (anterior cervical discectomy/fusion), PCDF (posterior cervical discectomy/fusion). The posterior version (in which the cutting happens from the back of the neck instead of through the throat) can sometimes be done without fusing the vertebrae. In other words, they can remove the bulging portion of the disc and leave you with what you have left. I sure hope for this one, since I am still relatively young and want to maintain a somewhat active lifestyle post-op. There are other options as well, including the insertion of cadaver parts (yes, that means neck parts from a dead guy). I will see a neurological surgeon soon and find out all the options, recovery times, costs to me, insurance info, the whole nine yards.

Recovery from any one of these surgeries is generally a minimum of 12 weeks. Yeah. Um. Yay. Going overseas is definitely not going to happen. I have no idea what I am going to do about work. I have no idea what I am going to do about money. I have no idea if I am going to get better. One thing I do know... I want my arm back. Here is an overview of the most common surgical practices.

There is no point in freaking out though. It's just another challenge. Plenty of people deal with much worse, everyday. So, it is what it is. I will try to stay positive. Nevertheless...stress is building.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Imperfection

I'm "flooring" more these days than I am dealing. In fact, every day this week and next, I am scheduled to work up front. That is, if I can manage to stop screwing up.

My job is mostly as a cashier/brush. A brush is mainly in charge of maintaining waiting lists and seating players into poker games. A cashier exchanges chips for currency and is responsible for keeping the bank balanced. I do both of these jobs simultaneously. Throughout an 8 hour shift, I will conduct hundreds of transactions. It is imperative that I follow a strict procedure when counting out chips and currency, selling tournament tickets, making change, or exchanging money with the other cashier window. Doing so allows surveillance to accurately record all transactions. It can be overwhelming at times. At the end of each shift, the incoming cashier will count all chips and currency in the presence of the outgoing cashier. The total needs to be the same as it was at the beginning of the shift. If its not, then surveillance will have to review tape from the entire shift to find out where the mistake occurred. These shortages and/or overages are referred to as "variance". A cashier is permitted variance within certain amounts and within certain periods of time. If one exceeds the allowable parameters, then Houston, we have a problem.

I have worked a total of 4 shifts. On my first day, my window came up perfect. Dead on. Yay. I love it when a plan comes together. On my second day, I was $100 short. Fuck. Surveillance was alerted and after reviewing every single transaction, found the instance where I made the error. Just before the shift change, I gave a player $100 extra in exchange for his chips. Garrrrgh. On my third day, my window came up perfect. Woohoo! And then today, we found the guy that I gave the extra $100 to. We showed him the surveillance pictures and he gladly gave back the $100! YAY! No write-up. I was feeling pretty good about it.

That feeling quickly went away when my window came up $200 short tonight. FUCK! Where did I screw up this time? I was SO CAREFUL. I counted and recounted everything. I was hyper diligent. How could this happen.... AGAIN? For the second time in a week, surveillance is combing through 8 hours of video looking for where I messed up. Hopefully they will find it. But even if they do, I am starting to wonder if I am capable of doing this job.

I'm embarrassed. I have had many jobs over the years. No matter what they have been, I have always taken pride in doing them well. I feel I am doing a good job in this role, except for the part where I can't fucking count. GAH! This is really bothering me. I'm going through everything in my head trying to figure out where I might have boned the thing up. I'm coming up blank. Logic suggests that I probably gave chips to a customer without collecting the money. This would make sense considering $200 is a very common buy-in and the sort of transaction that would happen very quickly.

Let's hope I get it right tomorrow. I pretty much have to.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A little luck when you need it.

I cannot believe what just happened.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Breaking Down

Atrophy is not a shiny commemorative statue you put on display in your home or office. Its the breaking down of unneeded or damaged tissue. It can happen for a variety of reasons. In my case, it was injury. Before getting hurt, I mostly held to a regular regimen of resistance training and cardiovascular activity. That, coupled with a diet high in protein and vitamins, helped me to maintain a lean, mesomorphic body type. When that routine was suddenly interrupted, my body reacted by shedding needless tissue. Basically, my metabolism shifted from anabolic to catabolic. Rather than building muscle, I broke it down. So, I've gone from fit to frail pretty quickly.

Unfortunately this isn't the first time this sort of thing has happened. 6 years ago it was my lower spine that failed me. It was a genetic condition that contributed to that injury. This time around is not much different. The good news is, as I get older I am less likely to rupture spinal discs. This is because the soft vertebral discs harden with age. This limits flexibility and increases the damaging caused by certain physical activities like running, jumping, dancing... anything in which your body takes a beating due to the effects of gravity and the impact of bone on bone. Walking upright is one such activity. Yay for being human. So, hopefully this is the last time I will have to deal with this sort of thing. After that, its the bones themselves we have to worry about. Yay for aging.

When solicited for fitness advice from my friends, one of the many things I always suggested was: Take pictures of yourself. It's not narcissism. It's just a logical, helpful tool. The mirror doesn't work as well as a photograph because the results we see in our reflection are gradual. Pictures taken at regular intervals, however, show the exact amount of progress being made. Visual evidence of the progress helps to maintain motivation. And its so easy to do. I had stopped taking my monthly pictures for the last couple years since my need for them had mostly gone away. I had mostly achieved the level of fitness I desired and was basically just maintaining it. More recently however, I got kind of soft from all the vacationing and lack of regular exercise. So, once I got back into the workforce and a regular routine, I got back into fitness. So I started taking pictures again. It only became interesting now because of the dramatic regression. Ill gather up those pictures and post them here in the next day or two.

Hopefully the latter of these photos will also be the beginning of a new set showing progress rather than regress. I guess time will tell. I am scheduled for the MRI scan on Thursday. Hopefully the results will show that my injury can be treated... and I can get back to feeling good again. If not... I guess its just another challenge to deal with going forward.

By no means am I wallowing in self-pity. There are many people with far more serious ailments and disabilities than mine. I would be lying if I said I wasn't a bit depressed. But that's natural since I don't get my regular endorphin boost like I used to. I am staying optimistic. Here's to hoping for the best.

EDIT: Ok, I guess that didn't take long. So here are my 3 most recent pictures. Picture 1 was taken on May 18th, just two days before the injury. I weighed 168 lbs. The second was taken on July 1st, 40 days after the injury. The third was taken today. There is noticeable atrophy. Today I weigh 150 lbs.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Comfortably Numb

Things have quieted down significantly since the end of the WSOP. Work is slow this week, so I am concentrating on trying to get my neck/arm fixed. And though the pain is mostly gone, the numbness and tingling in my hand continues. Weakness on the right side makes tennis impossible and most upper body exercise problematic. It has been this way for more than 65 days now. I saw the orthopedist today, and he generally agrees with what I have already surmised. But of course, it is his job to be thorough. So we took x-rays of my neck, which of course came back negative. In order to see disc damage, we need to get me into the MRI machine. We hope to have that happen in the next few days. This will confirm my suspicions and then we get on to the business of what to do to make me better.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Every Day I'm Shufflin'

The month of June seemed like it lasted a year. With the WSOP comes added business at all of the poker rooms, including the Mirage. I was working day shifts there 3-4 times per week, and working nights at the WSOP 6 times a week. This often meant a very long work day for me if I was scheduled at both places. On "double" days, I would wake in the morning around 930, get out the door by 10, and arrive at Mirage around 1030. My shift would last until 7pm, leaving me 1 hour to get out of the box and over to Rio for my 8 pm start time. Luckily the Rio is very close to the Mirage...less than a 5 minute drive. The problem was... my house is not close. So, despite needing a shower and change of clothes, there simply wasn't enough time to drive home and back. Luckily for me, my good friends were in town for a month and staying close-by. Just minutes away from both hotels, their RV park served as my pit-stop point on nearly a dozen occasions. Taking full advantage of this convenience, I turned the trunk of my car into a makeshift closet/medicine cabinet. I kept a small suitcase stocked with all the necessary clothes and toiletry items needed to get ready on-the-go. The RV park has private showers and bathrooms. They were more than adequate for my needs and kept in much better condition than what I expected. The only complaint was that it was about 90 degrees inside. That is because it was 110 degrees outside and the poor little air-conditioner simply could not keep up. My solution was to shave and brush my teeth before I showered. That way, I could immediately step outside into the dry heat rather than sweat in the sauna I had created. I would keep my car running, and finish changing in my passenger seat, with the air conditioner blasting. That is, unless Bree was home. Then I would hang out with her and the dogs for a bit before heading off for another 8+ hours of work.

The work itself at the WSOP was mostly enjoyable. Here is how it works: All the dealers assigned to a particular shift gather for a pre-shift meeting. I worked the 8PM shift along with another 100-200 other dealers depending on the day. At this meeting, the lead Dealer Coordinator starts with a roll-call in alphabetical order by last name. When a dealer's name is called, that person will have a choice to deal cash games, tournament, or single-table satellites, depending on which assignnments are available. There are only a certain number if spots in each area on a given night. Some are desired more than others. Often times, the satellite and tournament spots would fill up first, leaving anyone at the end of the list forced to deal the live cash games. Because of this, the DC will start the roll call with a different letter every day as the ensure that everyone gets a fair shot at their desired assignment throughout the series.

For most of the summer, my first choice was almost always "tournament". My reasoning was this: You get paid the same, no matter how many hands you deal. So there is no pressure to be ultra-fast, which often magnifies errors. There are regularly scheduled breaks for the players, during which time the dealer sits at the table and does mostly nothing. I would often spend this time meditating. and stretching my back. Also, since many of the tournaments are No-Limit Hold-Em, the players tend to take longer with their decisions, lessening the amount of hands dealt and the overall amount of movement required. All-in-all, I felt it was easier work that came with a guaranteed return.

My second choice was satellites. At a single-table satellite, the dealer is paid a flat rate for the duration of the 10-person tournament. Satellites generally last between 2-3 hours. It is customary for the winner to tip the dealer. Satellites can be very lucrative if the right person ends up winning. I have been tipped as much as $120 and as little as $10. A dealer can usually deal 2-3 satellites in a single shift. For those that like the idea of money-in-hand, but don't perform well under the pressures of cash games, satellites are the way to go.

The last choice is the Live Games. There are no guarantee of how well one might do financially dealing the cash games, but is almost certain that a dealer will be the subject of at least one angry player's spite. As far as tips go, it all depends on what string of tables you get assigned to. If its low to mid limit hold-em... you're usually gonna do pretty good. The game moves quickly and the recreational players are more likely to tip well, and less likely to throw cards at you or curse you in Arabic. The low-limit guys are usually just tourists out having some fun. They don't have bankroll rules and subsequently don't worry about the amount of money lost by toking the dealer. But, if you get assigned to the high-limit section, you can usually expect to make less and almost always be verbally abused. That is not to say that one cannot do well in the "snake-pit" as it was not-so-affectionately referred to by the dealers. Now and then you'd get a rich amateur that is perfectly happy giving the dealer a nice big tip for a nice big pot. One of my biggest stiffs of the summer came when I was dealing a $500/$1000 mix game that included PLO. I pushed a $117,000 pot to a player and he either forgot to tip me or chose to give me nothing. I will never know, as it is strictly forbidden to solicit a gratuity. By contrast, I was tipped $25 in a $1-$3 game after a player won $300. You just never know... and that's why I preferred not to roll the dice. When all is said and done I think it all averages out no matter what assignment I got... with tournaments being the least stressful, and for the most part downright enjoyable.

I dealt to just about every "Big Name" pro you can think of. Some behaved exactly as they did on TV, and others were surprises. On two different occasions I dealt to Mike Sexton and he was surprisingly grumbly and agitated. Erick Lindgren was super friendly, and even sprinted to an empty table to fetch me another dealer chair when mine sunk to the ground. I dealt Gavin Smith a cooler to bust him from 3 different tournaments. I felt bad for him. Tony Hachem is a real hothead. He seems to personalize things. Shawn Deeb was mostly friendly, and only slightly condescending. Adam Junglen is intimidating. Tom Dwan plays almost every hand no matter what the game is, somehow finds a way to outsmart almost everyone... oh and he runs like GOD. Mostly. Men Nguyen is mostly a cocksucker. Tony Ma is a gentleman. Phil Hellmuth is really tall. Daniel Negreanu is short. Erik Seidel almost never speaks. I think he is a robot sent here to destroy us. Steve Zolotow looks like Doc Brown from back to the future. Scotty Nguyen has a pretty bad stuttering problem and is almost never without a beer. Mike Matusow whines like a child when he loses. Ted Forrest looked like a skeleton at the start of the series and a whole lot healthier by the end. Lauren Kling is really hot. Tony Dunst is friendly and plays pretty tight. Eugene Katchalov raises often. Jerry Yang does not balance his range well. Doyle Brunson is old. Todd Brunson looks exactly like the "Comic Book Buy" from The Simpsons. Like.... exactly. Patrik Antonius is probably an alien. Sam Farha has lots and lots of high denomination chips and bets shitloads of them at a time. Robert Mizrachi is funny. Nick Schulman is self-effacing and likable. David Benyamine is HUGE. His wife is gorgeous. Elky dresses badly. Ben Lamb is a genius on a total heater. Jason Mercier is calculating and confident. Crazy Mike has calmed down a bit and is mostly fun to have at the table. Lars Bonding cashes often. Antonio Esfandiari is nice. Phil Ivey was noticeably absent, as were Howard Lederer and Chris Ferguson.

Would I do it again? Hmmm... We will see. If it was a different shift without all the double duty and the nagging injury, I'm sure it would have been a lot easier. But one thing is for certain. Working the WSOP is a heck of a lot more profitable for me than playing in it has been. :)

I will dig through some photos and post them up here soon.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Dealing with Pain.

Well I made it. My last day at the World Series of Poker was Friday , July 15th. To say that I survived with life and limb would be true, but one limb in particular is definitely worse for wear. More on that in a second.

Let me start by admitting that I feel a bit foolish thinking I could maintain 3 jobs at once. My original plan was to work at the Golden Nugget on weekdays from 11am-7pm, and then head over to the Rio and work at the World Series of Poker from 8pm-4am, while picking up shifts at the Mirage on the weekends and any days off from the WSOP. I laugh now at the idea that I thought I could do that. At lunch, on the very first day at the Golden Nugget, I talked with a few of the other dealers. I learned that we would be paid somewhere between $5-$7 per down. (a "down" is a 30 minute period at each table.) That is not good pay for a dealer. At that rate it would hardly cover the cost of gasoline and parking. By contrast, the pay at the WSOP was between $16-$20 per down. It didn't take me long to decide that it simply wasn't worth the time and/or energy. I finished the day, but politely informed the poker room manager that I would not be returning. It turns out that I would not have been able to stay on anyhow, the pay notwithstanding. My boss at the Mirage reminded me that as an "on-call" dealer I need to have much more availability. So, I worked exactly one day at the Nugget and called it quits. I never would have been able to maintain that pace anyhow because...

One day before the WSOP started, things got complicated. While at the gym doing bench presses, I pulled some muscles in my right shoulder/back. Over the next day the area tightened up and went into spasm. The following morning, while getting out of bed, the tightness put direct pressure on my spine, and something popped. It felt like I had been shot. The pain was excruciating. I collapsed onto the floor. I wept in pain for several minutes before I managed to gather the strength to stand. I rolled up a towel and bit down on it to muffle my cries. The pain shot down through my shoulder, arm, all the way to my fingertips. After 10 minutes had passed and the pain had not subsided, I called my friend and asked her to bring me to the hospital. At the emergency room they injected me with Dilaudid, a painkiller. But it did little to make me any more comfortable. They took x-rays, which came back negative for any bone damage. I was then swiftly discharged with a sprained shoulder diagnosis, and given a bill. I did have a sprained shoulder... but that was lesser of my injuries. Over the next week it became apparent to me that I had persistent nerve problems. The pain continued, but I noticed that if I tilted my neck to one side, it would lessen to a tolerable level. Obviously I could not walk around all day with my head on my shoulder, so mostly I just dealt with the pain... and took shitloads of Advil. I started researching my symptoms on the internet. It wasn't long before I recognized what had happened. The key was the weakness, numbness and shooting pains through shoulder, arm, and all the way down to my right thumb, index finger, and half of my middle finger. This is indicative of a pinched nerve root. This video explains exactly how it works. An MRI is the only way to reveal the severity of the disc herniation... almost certainly located at the C5/C6 vertebrae, and the subsequent root nerve impingement. My problem was, I had no time to go to the doctor to confirm any of this. So I just had to deal with it. Literally. It was very tough going for the first week. Some days were better than others, as the level of inflammation around my injury would dictate the amount of sensation I had in my fingers. Some days I could barely feel anything in my index finger and thumb. I would sometimes drop or fumble with the chips. The cards would occasionally fly out of my hand erratically. If it became noticeable, I would explain my disability to those at the table. In large part they were sympathetic. But even with a gimp arm, I still managed to function fairly well, and with better efficiency than many of the other dealers. That says A LOT about the skill of the average dealer at the WSOP, but that is the topic for another post.



The first part of treatment for an injury of this type is rest. Unfortunately I could not give it the amount necessary as I had to work nearly every day... sometimes for over 17 hours straight. The injury also interrupted my exercise schedule. This has had a significant effect on my body. See, for the last 4 years, I have trained with weights 3 or more times per week, and played tennis or some other cardio activity just as often, if not more. As such, I maintained a very lean body composition. I suppose my metabolism had become used to this regimen. So, without it... my body began to dispose of the excess muscle. It didn't take me long to start wasting away. Within 3 weeks I had lost 7 lbs. Today I am down about 10 lbs of muscle mass from my torso and arms. I have high hopes that I will recover fully and get back into shape someday. For now,.I will have to continue to assure people that I am not dying. :) Having has a few days now to rest, I feel like the sensation and strength is slowly returning to my right side. I have an appointment with the Orthopedist next week, where we will get the MRI's and find out the exact nature of the injury. I may also see a chiropractor as it has become apparent that my frame is very uneven.

Enough about my arm. Tomorrow I will post about my experiences while dealing at the World Series of Poker.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

This is the end

OMFG, I have an entire day off today. I will not spend a large portion of it writing a blog entry that covers the last 7-8 weeks. That will follow in a few days. Today I will relax and rest. My last day at the WSOP is tomorrow for Day 4 of the Main event.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Pain in the neck (and arm)


About 2 days before the WSOP started, I hurt myself. I was at the gym lifting weights when I felt something "move" in my upper right shoulder. I immediately stopped. The next day the area felt very tight, but nothing serious. Just felt like a pulled muscle. Then the next morning while getting out of bed, it happened. It felt like I was stabbed in the neck with a 3 foot sword. My entire right arm was zinging from my neck all the way down to the fingers. I was wailing in pain. I had to bite on a towel to keep from screaming.

I called a friend... who luckily was nearby. She picked me up and drove me to the hospital. They shot me full of Diloted to quiet me down and keep from moaning in pain. Then they took some x-rays. A short while later, they sent me packing. This is the typical "treat em and street em" response you will get at most hospital emergency rooms. Of course they had given me sheets of paper with their diagnosis, but I was too loopy on painkillers to have any idea what the heck was going on. Since the x rays came back negative, they diagnosed it as a shoulder sprain, and gave me some prescriptions for Valium (a muscle relaxer), Motrin (ibuprofen, an anti-inflammatory), and Lortab (hydrocodone, a codeine-based painkiller). I went home and swallowed my pills.

I felt a bit better then next few days, but then the WSOP started. The repetitive motion of dealing caused a lot of pain. It has definitely gotten better since, but that first week was insanely painful.

Now the biggest problem is the numbness in my thumb and index finger, which is almost certainly caused by nerve impingement. This is commonly diagnosed as "carpal tunnel syndrome", but in my case the nerve impingement is not in the wrist... but way up in my cervical vertebrae. Basically, the pulled muscle in the shoulder caused tightness, and when I got out of bed a few days later, the movement through that area pulled on my neck and I herniated the disc between my C5 and C6, which pressed against my nerve roots, causing shooting pain through my shoulder, arm, and into my hand.

Of course this is my own diagnosis, but it makes sense. I will get an MRI to confirm it, so that I can consult with an orthopedist or neurologist and take whatever is needed to help regain the sensation in my hand.

Monday, June 13, 2011

This is what I signed up for.

"Greg, I need to keep you a bit longer for some overtime today, if that's alright," said the shift manager. Normally it would be... but it was nearing 7 pm and I had to be at my next job at 8 pm. I told him that quietly, and he made arrangements to get my out the door on time. I walked briskly through the back of the house and cashed out my tips at the satellite cage, and then sprinted to my car. Peeling wheels out of the employee parking garage, I took a right on Industrial and sped to the RV park at Circus Circus. Luckily for me, my good friends are camped out there for a month. I asked Bree to borrow a towel and then grabbed the toiletry items from my "crash kit" and walked over to the shower. 10 minutes later, I emerged in just the towel and headed back to my car that I had parked next to their RV. This must have been the 3rd or 4th time this month I have had to do this. I must look like a high-class hobo that is living out of the back of his BMW. "This is what I signed up for," I told myself. Bree allowed me to change in the RV, and I hit the road moments later.

Fast forward.

At about 2:30 am, while dealing the last 3 tables of the $2500 Limit Hold-em (6 player max) event, I hit a wall of fatigue unlike anything I have experienced in some time. At this point I was on the tail end of a 19 hour day that began with me waking after only 3 hours sleep from the previous nights work. Evidently, I had totally spaced out and several players at the table were trying to get my attention to put out the next card. I don't know if it was a few seconds or sixty. When they finally got my attention, I had no idea where I was or how I had gotten there. This lasted just a moment or so. I put together the pieces in my head...

Ok, I am at the WSOP. I am holding a deck of cards. Ok... got it...I am dealing. (this is literally my thought process) There was money in the pot. There were three cards on the board, yet two burn cards. Finally I figured out that I must have burned a card, and then been transported through a black hole into a state of complete numbness.

The players were annoyed and confused. The losing ones acting grumbly and irritated. The winning ones just looked at me curiously like one might examine a piece of modern art. "Right..." I said aloud, in a FUCKING ENGLISH ACCENT of all random things and put out the turn card. The rest of the hand proceeded as normal and play continued. Everything came back to me and I got my bearings. While preparing the deck for the next hand, I took a deep breath and exhaled loudly. The player immediately across from me asked me if I was ok.

"I think I'm gonna make it," I said, with a kind of longing desperation in my voice that expressed the exact level of uncertainty in my mind that I actually would. I looked at the dealer sign-up card in the chip tray and saw that I had signed it 5 times already, indicating that I had been at the same table for 2.5 hours. I really thought I was on the verge of complete mental and physical shutdown...something I hadn't experienced since fraternity hell week over a decade ago.

But I did make it. Around 3:00 am the tournament director told us to deal 3 more hands and then we would bag and tag the chips. It took about another 30 minutes to perform those tasks before I was dispatched back to the Pavilion room and to my dealer coordinator. It would not have been unusual at this point for her to have me deal a few downs in the live action area, but she had been made aware of the situation in the tournament and could probably see the 20 lb. bags under my eyes. "You ready to go?" I smiled and nodded emphatically. "Good night," she said.

I grabbed a small cup of coffee on the way out just to make sure I didn't pass out on the drive home. I made it in one piece. When I get some time after this month is through, I will detail some of the more exciting experiences of this little life experiment. Right now, I have to focus on just making it.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Here we go!


I've been in Vegas since early April. The weather has been fantastic and I feel settled in nicely. My home is a bit further from work than what would be considered practical, as there is so much vacancy in the area, and available property much closer to the strip. As I do with many purchases, I made a quick decision on renting way out here in Summerlin. Nonetheless I feel at home here. Still, the ability to watch my gas gauge fall so steadily on a daily commute that could easily be cut by a factor of 6... does weigh on my financial conscience. I may consider relocating after the end of the summer poker tournament series. There is just too much going on right now to room for much more than sleep and hopefully, these occasional blog entries.

So... here comes about 5 to 6 weeks of straight work. I literally will not have a day off until the second week of July. Now, that doesn't mean I won't have some days that are easier than others. I think I will be able to find time to get in the occasional cardio workout (but not nearly as frequent as I would like), and even perhaps have some social time squeezed in there. But mostly I will just be looking for time to sleep before the next shift starts.

My employers (plural) have specific rules about what I can and cannot write about on the internet. I haven't taken the time to read through it all, so for now I won't say where I am working. If I get a moment to go through all the fine print about what I can and cannot divulge, I will do so to the furthest extent of accountability. ANd hopefully include some pictures.

Here it is in a nutshell. I will be working one tournament series Monday through friday from 11 am until 7 pm, and on most days immediately going to my next job that goes from 8 pm to 4 am. Then, on the days that I am not working both of the other two I will be picking up shifts at my third (and original) job that I have had since moving here.

Sounds exhausting. It's hard to imagine it won't be. I've set up a small suitcase in the trunk of my car with a few extras of everything. Clean T's, socks, drawers, toiletries, sundries, shoes, essentials and even some non-essential stuff. With so much going on every day I know there are going to be times where my little crash kit is going to be a life-saver. In fact, it already saved me today when I was called in during some mandatory training at one property to fill-in at another. Had I not had my extra items in the car I wouldn't have been able. Yay for being prepared. I feel like a boyscout.

In the meantime I fully intend to continue on my mission to win the WSOP title this year. That is the World Series of Planking. As far as I know, I am the only competitor in this prestigious event. I will try get in at least one good plank a day through June. The one on the railing is tougher than it looks.





I will be mostly unavailable to answer my phone unless you have previous knowledge that I am not at work. So for those that need to locate me, I will be checking in on facebook whenever I arrive at work. It's also a great way to circumvent above said legal non-disclosure legalese.

Have a nice summer! I'll see you all in July...

Thx 4 th memrs

So vivid and tactile
Each memory, each thought
Blessed and cursed
by this ability to recall

The emotions and logic
Constantly at odds
But I won't shut it out
I won't build a wall

So far and so long
to get where I am
I won't turn back now
I wont let myself fall

The wrong and the right
perfectly intertwined
The reasons and seasons
Don't matter at all

How and where to go
is where importance lies
And to do it proudly
I've finally learned how

Forward and backward
The same little dance
The past forces progress
I have taken a vow

Between love and spite
The latter must die
So love for each day
Is all I'll allow

But I can still cry.
And I can still miss you.
And I can still recall every moment
That has led me to now.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Altitude adjustment

Tennis has been a struggle since moving to Vegas. I couldn't quite put my finger on it. At first I thought I was having problems with the wind... but I have played in the wind in San Diego and don't remember having the same problems. The ball seems to sail out a lot more, bounce a lot higher off topspin shots, and skid a lot lower on slices or flat shots. Everything just seems sort of exaggerated. I mentioned something to a few of the guys that I have been hitting with and they didn't really have much to offer. I think they thought I was making lame excuses for not hitting well.

Then it struck me. I'm 2400 feet above sea level. I did some looking on the internet and all the symptoms fit. Apparently at really high altitudes they even use a different, heavier kind of ball to compensate. I guess knowing is half the battle. Baseline rallies aren't wise... the ball is gonna sail too often. To the net!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Shocking revelations

I basically have become numb to the electric blue arc that emanates from my fingertip anytime it approaches a positively charged object such as a door handle, light-switch, wall, another person, or metal of any kind. Pop! Ow. Yeah... there's no avoiding it. It's pretty darn dry out here folks.

Here's some new things I have had to add to my routine that I hadn't anticipated.

1) Moisturizer. Yes, I have used hand lotion before...but not because my skin needed supplemental moisture..if you know what I mean. Now I am actually putting this stuff on the top of my hands, my elbows, knees, and the backs of my arms right around the triceps. I do this in the morning and before I sleep. Maybe a good ad campaign would look something like this:



2) Manicures. I'm bound to get some shit for this one, but whatever. I am a dealer and part of the job is keeping my hands looking nice. The dry air causes my cuticles to crack and I get hangnails. The one things there is no shortage of in Las Vegas is nail salons. They are literally on every corner. Not really sure what that is all about...maybe because there are so many "working women" in this city? Somebody shed some light on this for me. Anyhow, I get a mani-pedi every couple of weeks, right after a haircut. It is pretty relaxing to be honest. The chair gives you a massage while a pair of Vietnamese women go to town on your feet and hands with all sorts of sharp tools and sandpaper. I got one for the first time a little over a year ago with my then-girlfriend, just on a whim. I hadn't gotten one since... but now its a necessity. The women talk back and forth in Vietnamese. I have no idea what they are saying, but I cannot help but wonder if they are talking about me. I have decided to learn some common Vietnamese phrases in the hope that maybe they will think I understand them and they won't jabber on and on. Mà cảm thấy tốt means "that feels good." And if they really hit the spot...Tôi yêu em thời gian dài means "Me love you long time."

3) Humidifier. I turn about 4 gallons of tap water into vapor every 24 hours. I turn it on when I get home and leave it running next to my bed while I sleep. Nights when I have forgotten to use it or not filled up the reservoir have left me with a sore dry throat in the morning.

4) Hang drying laundry. In San Diego, a load of laundry would take hours to dry in the machine. Here it takes about 20 minutes. In fact, it drys things so fast it shrinks a lot of clothes. So, in order to combat shrinkage, I have taken to hang drying a lot of my laundry. I use my total gym pull up bar and hang it in the doorway between my bedroom and bathroom. It doesnt get the floor wet. It doesn't drip at all. Items dry in about an hour or less.

5) Staying Hydrated. I find myself consuming about twice the amount of water that I used to. In the first week I was peeing at least every hour. This has gotten better as my body has acclimatized, but its still far more often than before.

So there it is. Moisturizer, mani-pedis, line drying laundry, and peeing often. I feel like I have turned into June Cleaver.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Solitary Man

As an aside, this is the first time in my 34 years that I have lived alone. Do I love it? Whoa, hey, its only been a couple of weeks. Let's not throw around the "L" word just yet. Jeesh. But I will gladly weigh the pros and cons of my new living situation.

PRO: When I wake up, well I know I'm gonna be, I'm gonna be the man who walks to the refrigerator naked.
CON: Nobody to shock with nudity. Unless it's a random stripper. And then nudity isn't really going to shock her now is it?

PRO: When I come home and find half of my ice cream sandwiches gone, I can instantly call the police.
CON: I have been known to sleepwalk and apparently the police don't investigate missing dessert items. "Are you sure you didn't eat them sir?" "Well, not totally sure, but I think that I would remem.... hello? Hello?"

PRO: There is no dog hair to be found anywhere in my condo.
CON: There is no doggie to be found anywhere in my condo. :(

PRO: My living expenses have been cut in a third.
CON: My living space has been cut in a third.

PRO: If there is a mess, it is because I made it.
CON: I am making more messes just for the sake of it.

PRO: I can do laundry whenever I want.
CON: I like doing laundry. A lot. I think I may be a compulsive launderer.

PRO: More quiet alone time.
CON: I drink like a fish.

PRO: I can sit and watch whatever I want on the tv without interruption.
CON: I don't have cable, so I just sit on the couch staring at the plants.

PRO: When I have guests over... I don't have to clear it with anyone first.
CON: I don't have any friends. Don't feel bad for me. It's because I'm an asshole.

PRO: No misunderstandings over whose turn it is to feed the gimp.
CON: The gimp doesn't get fed very often.

PRO: Any disagreements end with me winning. Duh.
CON: I'm basically insane.

PRO: If I come home late and smelling like cheap hobo wine, there is nobody to answer to:
CON: I've been drinking Night Train again.

Monday, April 18, 2011

One week in...

Yet I felt like I've been here for a month. I suppose thats mostly because I have been going nonstop. Here's a breakdown of what I've been doing for the last two weeks or so.

April 2 - Alfred Kelley's 98th Birthday. I was able to see the man himself in all his ancient glory. Aunt and Uncle made it down from LA with delectable fare and epicurean flare. Good times were had by all. After dinner I hit the road and drove over to Greg and Wendy's to get the keys to their condo. 4.5 hours and 300 miles later, I arrived at their place in City Center around 3 am.

April 3 - Woke up around 9, hit the button on the retractable shades and spent at least 30 silent minutes staring out the windows from the 33rd floor of Veer East... contemplating what might be in store. I opened up the laptop and got to the task of finding myself a place to live. I made several appointments and went out to see some places. I found the one I wanted, put down a deposit and made an appointment to return the next day to sign the lease. I went back to the condo, got cleaned up, and then strolled through the mall at Crystals to grab a bite to eat. Afterwards I walked over to Aria and bought into their nightly tournament. At around 1:05 am I chopped it up with the other remaining player for a tidy profit. Yay!

April 4 - I headed over to the Mirage to sign some papers with my new boss at the poker room. After that I had to go over to the MGM to sign even more papers and get my Nevada Gaming license application going. This required me to get my fingerprints taken. I decided to kill two birds at once and found a place near my new condo in Summerlin to get that done. Then I went over and signed the lease and did the walk-through. I returned to MGM with my receipt and spent the next 2 hours on their computer filling out and signing more forms than I thought imaginable. I headed back to the condo, had a good workout and then relaxed in the rooftop jacuzzi.



April 5 - I have been in need of some new clothes, so I took a good portion of my tournament winnings to the Las Vegas outlet center. I bought some new shirts and sunglasses. It was a hot day and I drive a black car with black interior (problematic in my new city) so I headed back to get cleaned up again. I talked to Greg and Wendy and offered to pick them up at the Henderson airport at 630. I was able to drive right up to their hangar to pick them up. They brought along their friend and colleague John. The 4 of us went back to the condo and had a few drinks before grabbing a cab and heading over to The Joint at the Hard Rock to see Bad Religion and Rise Against on the first date of their new tour. We took our time and ate dinner first since we didn't have much interest in seeing the opening band. We strolled in just in time to see Bad Religion finishing their set and walking off stage. "What the???" We theorized that Vegas shows start promptly and end early to get people back into the casino gambling before they are too tired. Seems to be a reasonable assumption. I wasn't terribly upset as it would have been my 33rd time seeing Bad Religion, but still I do always enjoy it. Rise Against hit the stage soon after and put on a great show.

April 6 - I left my car in the valet at Veer and flew back to San Diego with Greg, Wendy and John. Greg was taking his daughter to the baseball game so he offered to drop me off at home on the way down. I got back to to the task of packing that I had started a week earlier, when Sean called me up and asked me if I wanted to go to the baseball game. Funny. "Sure," I said. We headed down and watched the Giants destroy them for 8 innings before finally giving them a good scare in the 9th with a solid rally. But it was too big a deficit to overcome and my last Padres game of the foreseeable future was a loss.

April 7 - Packing. Packing. Packing. That evening some of my wonderful friends took me out for some going away cocktails at Nunu's, one of my favorite dives. It was a great time. Thanks everybody for making it out. It really meant a lot to me.

April 8 - I rented a moving van and filled it with everything I cared to keep. It turned out to be a lot more than I had pictured in my mind. Thanks to Tim and Dad for helping me carry the heavy stuff. All packed up, I drove the truck to my parent's place, and then headed over to meet Greg and Wendy at the Torrey Pines Glider Port. Greg was flying when I arrived. Wendy and the rest of the gang showed up with food not long after. We ate and then took the short drive over to UCSD to Rimac Arena to see, you guessed it, Bad Religion and Rise Against...again! This time we made sure not to be late... and as a result were there very early. It was a solid hour before the opening act, Four Year Strong went on. I didn't care for them. I think they thought the more they said "Fuck" the better they were somehow. Definitely not so. Bad Religion killed it again. The sound was phenomenal. Rise Against put on another great show. I have no idea how Tim McIlrath can scream like that every night and not totally blow his voice out. Thanks Greg and Wendy for a great last night in San Diego. I was really happy to spend it with you guys.

April 9 - I woke up at 6 and hit the road by 630. The truck guzzled gas so I stopped to fill up at Barstow around 9. I arrived at my place in Vegas at about 11:30. I quickly took my key and garage door opener and started moving in. My buddy Chris showed up soon after to help me haul in the heavy stuff. We were done before 2. We dropped off the truck, but not before filling it with another $100 worth of gas (OUCH). Chris dropped me at Veer, and I picked up my car and drove it home. I spent the rest of the evening unpacking.

April 10 - More unpacking. Finished up by late afternoon and took some time to rest my aching back. Then met with my friend Joyce who lives in the same complex to go have some dinner.

April 11 - First day of processing and orientation. It was a long day. Processing started at 9 at MGM. Then I went over to Mirage for orientation from 12 til 7. Lots to process. Every employee has to know where everything in the hotel is, how much it costs, when it opens, etc. Information overload.

April 12 - Orientation Day 2. 8 am to 4 pm. More kool-aid.

April 13 - Poker orientation with my boss at Mirage. Tons more info and documents to sign.

April 14 - DAY OFF! WOOT! Got my computer set up and internet hooked up. I decided against getting cable installed. Yeah you heard me, I'm getting all righteous about television being a drain on creativity... so I removed that distraction. Movies only for this kid.

April 15 - First day of work. I was way more nervous than I imagined. I forgot to take the rake on the very first hand. Doh! I made a few mistakes throughout the day, but nothing serious. I dealt in a player that wasn't at the table. I killed an unprotected hand. I also had trouble counting down my rack a few times because of the the $3 chips. All in all though I think I did alright. I do have a few mechanical tendencies that are bad that I need to fix. I have a really bad habit of squaring the deck with my free hand that covers the cards. This is a big no-no, and its something I do without even thinking about it. I also caught myself rolling the deck once or twice, Also not good. I made decent tips that day, but they let me go early because things were slow... and well... I'm the new part timer so I get cut first. Some friends were in town from San Diego so I planned to meet up with them later. But first I went up North to a roller skating rink in North LV to celebrate my friend Dana's (Chris's wife) birthday. After skating we went back to their place for drinks. I headed off to meet my friends at the Wynn and we partied there with a good group of folks well into the morning.

April 16 - Still out from the night before. I remember being at the Hard Rock playing poker. Somewhere north of 6 am I found myself at the Spearmint Rhino literally falling asleep in a chair. I was woken up regularly by girls trying to hustle me for money. If I had been more conscious they might have succeeded. I also remember sitting next to and talking with a married couple from San Diego. They were there at the wife's suggestion. Keeping it fun I gather. At about 7 am we walked out the back door into the blaring morning sun. The place was still packed when we left. Only in Vegas. I went home and slept til about 4 pm. I then went and picked up some friends that were in town visiting (I think this is going to be a common occurence) and drove back up to Chris's place for a relaxed dinner. During dinner I got a call from the Mirage asking if I could work the graveyard. This was my first call-in and I was not about to refuse. So I went home after dropping my friends off at Bellagio and hit the sack at about 10 pm.

April 17- I successfully slept from about 10 til 2. I worked the grave from 3 til 11 am and made some good tips by the end of the shift. I went home and did laundry and then picked up my friends at Hard Rock and went back over to the Encore Beach Club. I probably would have recognized most of the girls from the rhino if I had been more than half-conscious the night before. Half of the females in attendance looked like they were in the "industry". Honestly, this sort of place is not really my scene most of the time. There is a lot of vanity and inflated sense of self-importance that centers around being physically attractive. One must fight to not be consumed by it. In short... lots of douche-bags. In the past I would have stood in the corner drinking heavily... being miserable. Instead, I really had a good time. The DJ was good and I danced and enjoyed myself. I guess I've learned to loosen up. My friends were terribly intoxicated before the sun even went down. I urged them to get something to eat. I was sober so I offered to drive them somewhere to get some food and take it easy. They wanted to stay and tried to convince me to do the same. I had to remind them that I live here now, and just because they were on vacation...doesn't mean that I am. I am going to have friends in town every other weekend, and I had already gone wild enough. They made me promise to go out with them that night. I vowed to do so... but I knew they would be going nowhere that evening except to the bathroom to vomit. I went home, ate, and fell asleep at about 9 pm. Sure enough... they never called.

April 18 - Monday. Woke up at about 6. I've got a really nice little day planned. I'm going to Costco and then The Home Depot. Maybe Bed Bath and Beyond... I don't know. I don't know if there will be enough time.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Life moves pretty fast.

I want to apologize to my throngs of loyal readers (all 10 or 15 of you) if you have become bored reading what I realize has become an insanely long series of posts about the Costa Rica trip. It's just that... I had an amazing time there and wanted to document every moment. Once I started recanting in such detail, I felt the need to continue on in the same manner. I think I am a little more than half done. I will get around to the last few days of the trip when I get some time... Hopefully in the next two weeks. Once finished, I can get back to the sensitive white man poetry, memorable events from my childhood, or the everyday happenings in my little life that you all so eagerly wait to learn about. :)

Speaking of which... I am really busy right now because I am in the process of packing up everything and moving to Las Vegas. I went up there earlier in the week to secure a place to live and set up my utilities, as well as take care of the details of my employment. Yep. I already have a job, an apartment, and even friends to hang out with.

I guess sometimes life moves pretty fast. On March 8th, I was applying for jobs online. One of them was a gig dealing poker at the Mirage. On March 9th I received an email reply asking me to log into a computer system and select a time to come in for an audition. The available times were the very next day. I shrugged, threw some clothes in a bag, and drove 300 miles. I showed up at the Mirage the next morning, demonstrated that I was competent and amiable, and headed back to San Diego the next day. About a week later I was asked to take a drug test. About a week after that I was offered the job. And then just earlier this week I went up to sign all the papers and fill out all the forms. My first day is this coming Monday.

So, tomorrow will be my last night in town. It will have been exactly 1 month from the night I put in the application. It's all happening so quickly I have barely had time to reflect. This will be my first new city in 15 years. I will be leaving my one true love... San Diego. It's not an easy thing for me. However, this is a fairly soft transition seeing as how I am already familiar with Las Vegas and even have several groups of friends living there. The plan for now is simple. Work hard, save money, and continue enjoying my life. I think this is going to be a fun summer. :)

I will check back in soon. Stay tuned.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Jugando por el oído (Part Four)

We got up early, hopped in the Jimny and rode through town. It took about 5 minutes. The Nicoya Penenisula is known for its many great surf spots. Malpais is one of them. As such, the area attracts people from all over the world. Many of the hotels and businesses in the area are operated by ex-pats that came to ride the waves...and never left. There is a t-shirt shop run by a guy from Newport Beach, a hotel run by a group of Israeli guys, and a bunch of restaurants and hostels owned by French, Australian, and Italians. We found a little french bistro to grab some breakfast and check emails. Finding internet access was never really a problem in Costa Rica. There seemed to be free WiFi everywhere. Once again, the food was delicious and cheap. The weather was awesome, so we went down to the beach for a jog and a swim. The waves were pretty good but we didn't bring surfboards and didn't feel like renting. Neither one of us are big surfers, so instead we asked about other things to do in the area. The guy at our hotel recommended going over to Montezuma and checking out the waterfall there.

It took less than an hour to get from MalPais to Montezuma. We paid a dude $2 to watch our car, and hiked up the short trail to the waterfall. It was pretty spectacular. The water was crisp and refreshing. we swam for a bit, jumped off the rocks, and took some pictures. Afterwards we had lunch in the town of Montezuma. Yep, it was good. We stopped at a little tourist stand to ask about a tour to Isla Tortuga. It seemed like a great deal... speedboat ride out there, whale watching, snorkleing, beer, lunch, kayaking... all for $50 bucks. We put down our money and were told to meet them the next morning on the beach at 9 am.

We headed back to Malpais in time to see the sun go down at Playa Del Carmen. On the way back down the street we saw a sign that caught our attention. "Texas Hold-em, tonight! Dinner included." Seriously? Tim and I both like to play poker. We were understandably hesitant not knowing anything about the town or the legitimacy of the whole thing... but we were definitely gonna check that out. We went back to the Ritmo, lounged at the pool for a bit, got cleaned up and walked back over to "Las Olas" where the game was being played. It was the bar at the Hotel Playa del Carmen. It turns out this was the place owned by the Israeli surf guys. There were two legit looking tables set up, but when we arrived it was mostly empty. Oh right... we forgot about Tico Time. See, part of the laid back paradise lifestyle is sort of showing up within an hour or two of the suggested time...not unlike southern California. At home we call it "rude", here they call it "Tico Time." We made friends with a Costa Rican named Jorge that was chilling at the bar. We traded off speaking Spanish and English and managed to understand one another fairly well. He worked for Taca airlines and lives in San Jose. He was out in Malpais on vacation as well. With not much else to do except talk to Jorge, I ordered a few drinks and was pretty smashed by the time the game started. I was having a great time. The people seemed mostly nice. It was fun to play in Spanish. "Como se dice 'El Perro' en engleis?" I asked at one point. "The Dog," they replied. I shook my head no and slowly said "Gregoooooorio....." while pointing two thumbs at myself. That got a lot of laughs... mostly from me.



So there I was, drunk and gambling in a tiny town in the middle of Central America. The game played pretty tight, but I was doing fine until a spazzy kid from New York sat down directly to my left and started jamming every pot with any two cards. I called him down repeatedly with the best hand only to end up losing. When I was out of money, and inquired as to the location of the nearest ATM, I was disappointed to learn that all the cash machines close after 10 PM. "Yeah its the law... they don't want people getting robbed." Bummer. I was stuck and drunk. It's just as well though. We had to be up early the next morning for the Isla Tortuga trip.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Jugando por el oído (Part Three)

The road out of Monteverde might have been even more sketchy than the way in. It's only 33 km down to the Pan-American Highway, but its a pretty narrow and bumpy dirt road. It's a fairly steep decent also. On this day we would be going from about 5000 ft. all the way down to sea level. Our destination was the town of Mal Pais on the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula. To get there we would have to catch a ferry from Puntarenas to Paquera.

Once on the Pan-American Highway, we made pretty good time and got into Puntarenas a little bit ahead of schedule. We were a bit concerned about our chances of actually making it on board the ferry given the amount of vehicles already queued up, including a number of large tour buses. I waited in the car while Tim walked down to the bakery on the corner to buy the ferry tickets. Yes, the ferry tickets were sold inside a bakery. Why? I have no idea. Our fears of not making it aboard were allayed when we saw the ferry pull up to the dock. It was massive. Once all the cars from Paquera had driven off, the line began moving forward. Tim got out and walked on while I drove the Jimny below deck. If you look closely that's him leaning on the railing just above the "T" on the middle deck. The ferry ride itself was relaxing. We were treated to yet another perfect sunset over the Gulf of Nicoya. There was music and drinks and just that same general sense of peace and serenity that seemed to persist everywhere we went..."Pura Vida" as they say down here. Not that I ever had reason to think it would be any other way... but I did take a moment to reflect on just how much I was enjoying myself here.



I had some reservations about driving the road from Paquera to Mal Pais after sundown. This was based on some things that I had read and advice from a friend. As we approached the Peninsula it was getting very dark and there was no noticeable evidence of civilization. I began to discuss with Tim the possibility of finding a cheap place to stay for the night in Paquera, and making ti over to Mal Pais early the next morning. We decided there was no reason to not just feel it out and "play it by ear" as we had been doing for most of the trip already. After we offloaded and began driving away from the dock, we quickly decided to "be bold" and just drive all the way to Mal Pais. Despite our Garmin telling us otherwise, the road was mostly paved all the way to Montezuma, albeit riddled with potholes that drivers would often swerve into oncoming lanes to avoid. After that, it was bumpy and dusty. Some fellow travelers on an ATV flagged us down at one point. The headlight on their Quad had burnt out and they were scared of getting into a collision. We offered to let them follow directly behind us all they way to Santa Teresa.

On the way we had pulled out our Fodor's guide, and decided to check out a place called the Ritmo Tropical. A young local surfer greeted us at the front desk/bar and showed us an available bungalow, which were all just steps from the pool. We took the room, dropped our bags, and had dinner in the restaurant, where the same guy that checked us in was also our waiter. Woodfired pizza seemed to be the specialty. Once again, the food was fantastic. "Yeah," I said to Tim. "I think I want to stay here."

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Jugando por el oído (Part Two)

The distance from La Fortuna to Monteverde is only about 130km... or about 80 miles. But you can't get straight there unless you fly in a small airplane, which would take about 30 minutes. But we were driving, and because of the mountainous terrain and having to circumvent Lake Arenal, it takes about 3-4 hours. The road from La Fortuna to Tilaran is paved and in good condition, offering awesome views of the Lake and surrounding countryside. We stopped in Nuevo Arenal at a German Bakery for lunch and a rest and then hit the road again. After Tilaran, the road started to get pretty gnarly. We were certainly glad that 1) we had a 4x4 and 2) it wasn't raining. I wouldn't want to try some of the steeper dirt roads in the wet season. We had to navigate around potholes, streams, and at one point an entire herd of cows that had broken through their fence and were wandering down the road. Oh right... and the suicidal dogs that seem to be all over the place in Costa Rica. Be careful, they don't seem to understand that cars are dangerous. They will run directly at you. We had to swerve out of the way of more than a few exuberant canines throughout the trip.



After an hour or two of offroading we made it into the town of Santa Elena, home of the Monteverde Cloud Forest. We checked out a couple of hotels that seemed pretty nice, but for some reason we decided to go backpacker style for this stop and checked into the "La Colina", a very dusty and creaky log cabin style place run by an American ex-pat from Los Angeles. There were beds and running water...and we decided that was all we needed. We still had time before dinner to do a "night tour" of some of the forest area nearby. We saw some Kinkajous, Tarantulas, Raccoons, ground nesting birds, tree nesting birds, and some unique trees. The majority of the animals we saw were right outside the office of the tour, no doubt attracted by the food that had certainly been placed out there for them. After the tour we got cleaned up and had dinner at the Treehouse Cafe in Santa Elena. We ordered a similar meal to the one that we had in La Fortuna, and again...it was excellent. It looked like a local girl was having her Quinceañera there while we were having dinner. Cool. After dinner we headed off to have a few drinks at a local bar. It seemed to be populated mostly by gringos...including the owner/operator. We met and chatted up a few students that were traveling abroad. We also looked on amusedly as the local Samba expert, dressed in what appeared to be a spandex bicyclist uniform, made it a point to rub his crotch on every woman in the bar whilst educating them in the ways of the local dance. His slicked back pony-tail completed the ensemble. It was great. We headed back to our hotel/hostel/log cabin/dustbowl accomodations. The slotted glass windows turned out to not do a great job keeping the insects out of the rooms. I decided to sleep with a towel over my head in hopes that I wouldn't get bitten by some Dengue infected mosquito or any of his buddies. I couldn't really complain at $10 a night.

The towel seemed to work fine. I woke up relatively well rested and bite-free. We packed up our stuff, got permission to leave our gear in the front lobby...and headed of to Selvatura Adventure Park for the much anticipated canopy tour. What an awesome experience. For those not familiar, these "ziplines" are thick braided metal wires strung out over and through the treetops, anchored on either end by a tree and its accompanying metal platform. Each guest is fitted with a harness not unlike one you would wear for mountain climbing. The guides took care of attaching a large pulley on the front of the harness to the wire. After a quick "Listo?" to make sure you're ready...away you go. Your back hand acts as a stabilizer and a brake in the event you get going to fast. The guides use hand signals to let you know if you're going to fast or too slow. They were constantly signaling and yelling for me to not brake.(I wasn't braking) All told, there were 15 cables, the last of which was nearly a kilometer long and required guests to go tandem to ensure there was enough mass to get across the entire wire. After the canopy tour we were treated to their "Tarzan swing". It's basically a foot-first bungee jump from a platform about 60 feet up. Watch out for your junk on this one. The first jolt after the free-fall can pinch you pretty tight.



The whole experience out there lasted about 4 hours. It was well worth the $45 plus the tip we gave to the guides. I definitely recommend it if you go to Monteverde. We finished up around noon and headed back to La Colina to pick up our bags. On the way out of town, we stopped for another delicious meal at a place called Trio. Next destination: the Nicoya Peninsula.