Partying At Bar

When you’re in a situation like this you often just grab a slice that looks good without knowing exactly what it is. That’s how I tried my first mashed potato pizza.

PIC-0023_1.jpgHelaine and I went to a birthday party for our friends Sue and Dennis. They are both ‘sort of’ fifty, so it was a twofer. Actually, it was a ‘threefer’ because another friend, Rick, turned sixty today.

We’ll allow fifty, but Helaine and I have decided we’re much too young to have a friend who’s sixty. Rick–you need to fix this right now.

PIC-0022_1.jpgThe party was at Bar a New Haven restaurant/bar best known for its pizza… and very long lines to get in. In fact I have gone a few times, but never gotten to eat! The wait has always been too long.

The party was held in the back room. I’m pretty sure it was once a stable. It’s been converted perfectly into a party space with small bandstand, nice sized bar, a few private alcoves and lofted deejay booth.

PIC-0021_1.jpgWe had appetizers, drinks and pizza. When you’re in a situation like this you often just grab a slice that looks good without knowing exactly what it is. That’s how I tried my first mashed potato pizza. Pretty good, but I’ll reserve final judgment until I try again.

The music, food and company were all good. Helaine and I weren’t the people getting older and we didn’t have to wait in line! What’s not to like?

Blogger’s note: “Clicky” was left home. This is from the cellphone camera–proof positive that shouldn’t be your first choice for photos.

Birthday Time

We’re going to a birthday party this evening. I can’t remember the last birthday party I attended. Dennis and Sue are 50 and it’s pizza for everyone!

Poker Night In Hamden

I had ‘the guys’ over for poker last night. When I was a bachelor, having the guys over was no big deal. Now, Helaine goes into entertainment mode. For her, it becomes a lot closer to work.

The game was set to begin at 7:00 PM, but Rick, Dennis and Kevin came by at 6:00. Kevin was going to bake pizzas!

I don’t know if you’ve ever had someone come to your house to bake, but it was very cool. The oven was heated to 500&#176 and a flat pizza stone was thrown in. For the next 45 minutes we waited while the stone soaked in the warmth.

The pizzas themselves were amazing. The crusts were thin and very light. This wasn’t like pizzeria pizza at all.

Whatever Kevin was doing, Helaine had been doing for days. We had a large table’s full of buffet type food, including Helaine’s layered Mexican dip (Stef claims this dip was her main reason for being home this weekend), shrimp and stuffed bread.

Later on came the desserts, featuring amazing butter cookies, chocolate chip squares, little chocolate covered cheesecake cups and almond poppy seed cake – all homemade.

My diet was out the window!

Did I mention we played cards?

The players had varying skill levels. Rick has played in the World Series of Poker. Others had only played one or two times. Because of that, we structured the night as two very low buy-in tournaments. No matter what the outcome, no one could get financially hurt.

I was concerned, because we had 12 scheduled to come. That’s more than a full table, but less that two. Rick said not to worry because someone always cancels at the last minute – and so they did!

It was a great night, though I did terribly.

In the first tournament I was out in the middle of the pack. Card starved is the term.

In the second, I went out on one of the first hands. I flopped “Broadway,” – a straight the the Ace. That’s is a nearly unbeatable flop. Matt, unfortunately, hit a full house on the turn, Queens over Jacks. Nearly is a big word when placed next to unbeatable.

He’s never getting invited back.

A Dose Of Humility

Tonight was the night for “Off the Wall,” the photographic charity event for the Arts Council. I’d seen the setup Thursday when there was a photographers preview.

Immediately, I felt outclassed by photographers with greater skills than mine. Maybe it’s just a case of familiarity breeding contempt, but my pictures looked like snapshots versus the real artwork hung at the 70 Audubon Street Gallery.

OK, not everything the others did was Ansel Adams worthy either. There were strange photos and inappropriate photos. There were photos that would keep you from falling asleep at night.

One artist submitted three photos of naked people, lying on their backs. The shots were taken with a wide angle lens, giving the bodies an otherwordly shape. Visualize – naked people on their backs. It wasn’t pretty&#175.

A few of the photographers shot dolls, but in a very surrealistic way. Really creepy!

Considering most of the photos were taken on color digital cameras, there was a large number of black and white or sepia photos. It seemed overdone. I’m saying that even though one of mine was B&W!

The “Off the Wall” concept has 165 tickets distributed and 165 photos from 55 shooters on the wall. The tickets are drawn at random. When yours is called, you take a photo off the wall.

Please Lord, not 165th. Actually, with three photos on exhibit, I was praying not to be 163, 164 and 165!

Over 120 sweaty bodies squeezed into the gallery. On this warm August evening, whatever air conditioning power the room possessed had long since given up its fight. It was stuffy and still.

Up front, the emcee began to call numbers. As the ticket holders called out whichever photo they wanted, I started ticking off the corresponding boxes on a gridded piece of paper.

Through the first dozen or so, no one called any of my choices to take off the wall… and I’d selected a dozen. More importantly, no one took any of the photos I’d shot!

Number 45, my ticket number, was called in the second dozen. The rules give you 20 seconds to choose. I was ready.

Stef had asked about a beautiful zebra photo, taken (as we later found out) in Kenya. It was still available and so we snatched photo 48B taken by Charles Kingsley.

Nice shot Charles. Congratulations. It will be on the wall of a dorm room with a full semester’s worth of clothes on the floor (or so I assume).

More and more tickets were called, but my photos continued to sit on the wall. Each photographer started with three photos hanging. Some already had all three picked.

On a short wall, where it once sat with the works of four other photographers, my contribution was starting to get lonely. The wall was getting bare the way a man goes bald – gradually.

Eighty four photos were gone before any of mine got chosen. It went to someone named Bitsie who said it was her first choice. My second shot went to the very next ticket holder as pick 86.

My moody, black and white, Atlantic City Boardwalk photo – the one my friends Dennis and Rick thought would go right away, was still on the wall as Helaine and I walked out. We told each other we wanted to watch the Phillies game on ESPN, but we really didn’t want to see that photo sit, uncalled.

As we walked to the car, I began to tell Helaine what I’d do differently to go sooner next year, but she’d have none of it. “Don’t change you style,” was what she said. Whether I follow her advice or not, she’s obviously right.

Am I disappointed I went so late in the process? You bet. but, this is my first time in any kind of exhibition. I was glad to just be there.

OK – I would have been happier going in the first dozen. Who am I kidding?

&#175 – My friend Josh sent an email to say: BTW: the distorted photos of naked people were created with a large pinhole camera and printed with platinum process — very unusual. I agree way too much easy digital, and predictable imagery, which might be why I appreciated the pinhole nudes more than you.

Poker Night With The Boys

With Helaine gone, and me alone, it was the perfect night to have some friends over to play poker. They were scheduled to arrive at 7:00pm. I had six here by 6:45pm.

First, it’s nice to entertain. When I lived in Philadelphia as a bachelor, I did everything humanly possible to keep friends from my place. I’m a little more prepared now. Helaine may be away, but her influence is here.

This was an eclectic group of ten. There were Jeff, Matt and Erik from work, Tim and Steve who went to high school with Erik, Woody, Rick, Dennis and Ashley who drove in from Boston.

Ashley actually writes about poker for a few magazines. In a good and just world, he won’t write about my bad play… or bad hosting. If there are points to be made from what he experienced, he’ll make them gently.

There was beer and soda and snacks and lots of good conversation. At its essence, poker at home is really about conversation. Card playing is secondary.

Atlantic City Observations

I was going to continue my trip report on Atlantic City, but too much time has passed and I don’t have notes. There are some observations I still want to make.

Atlantic City is not Las Vegas. With the exception of Borgata&#185, where we stayed, all the hotels looked shabby and worn. Most were decorated in a style that implied glitz thirty years ago, but no longer does.

Donald Trump’s name is held high over a number of the hotels. I doubt he’d want us to judge him by these facilities.

Most of the hotels in AC, if they stood in Las Vegas, would be scheduled for demolition!

We had a few really excellent meals. I’ve already written about Wolfgang Puck’s place (excellent pizza, half filled bowl of chowder), but we also grazed at the Borgata buffet for breakfast, Old Homstead (excellent steakhouse) and The Metropolitan, Borgata’s equivalent of a Vegas coffee shop.

At the Old Homestead, I ordered the house special – the first time I’ve ever ordered a steak I couldn’t finish!

Beautiful restaurants were very pricey. There’s no way around that.

If you’ve read the blog any length of time, you probably know I don’t drink anything alcoholic (except Bailey’s, which is spiked chocolate milk. I’ll have a Bailey’s once or twice a year). My traveling companions, Rick and Dennis, were ordering “Gray Goose Martini, dirty” at every opportunity.

Finally, I asked to take a sip – the curiosity was killing me. It was very tasty, pleasantly briny and surprisingly without the alcohol burn I expected.

I’m already up to my eyeballs in vices. We’ll keep your resume on file.

Rick and Dennis had the hotel reservation before I came on board and the room only had two beds… so Rick brought a blow-up mattress. Perfect. In fact, on the second day, the maid actually made that bed along with the two others.

You see all sorts of characters when you’re playing poker. Character is the correct characterization. Many try and take on a distinct persona by their dress and manner. Poker is, after all, a game of psyching out one’s opponent.

I sat next to a guy at one table who wore very shiny gold jewelery. It was overly shiny, if that’s possible. Imagine the kind of ‘star filters’ they put on the cameras at QVC and HSN to make everything glitter, but in real life.

On his left wrist he wore a gold Rolex, diamond encrusted. The second hand swept around the face smoothly. Fake! Real Rolex’s tick each second individually. I understood more of him than he could ever know.

In poker, it’s called a tell.

There are lots of young people in their twenties playing cards. I’m not sure that’s a good thing. When you’re in your twenties, how much discretionary income do you have? They’re not all winning.

There’s no doubt poker’s popularity is still on the rise. Borgata has a huge room. Other casinos have enlarged their poker areas too.

We came with a list (compiled by Dennis) of potential poker tournaments to play. There’s no shortage of those either.

As always seems the case, the weather was awful. It was either raining, or threatening to rain. I can’t remember the last time I saw Atlantic City framed against a blue sky. Maybe next time.

&#185 – I had referred to this hotel as The Borgata, but their own signage says, “Welcome to Borgata.” They should know.

A Call From Vegas

My friend Rick just called from Las Vegas. He, along with long time friend, mentor and poker coach Dennis, are there for the World Series of Poker.

Amazingly, Rick won his way in online. That’s a $10,000 entry to a tournament which will pay someone $8,000,000 or more.

Because of the size of the field the tournament starts in segments. Rick doesn’t play until Sunday.

I let you know how he does… hopefully, really well.