Losing At Poker

A few weeks ago, I hit it big at Pokerstars. I turned $3 into $966, winning a 1296 person tournament. I felt as if I were on top of the poker world. Since then, I’m not sure if I’ve won a hand!

OK – that’s an overstatement. Still, the poker fortunes have decidedly turned. It’s not that I’m playing badly (I’ve really worked hard to avoid going into tilt). It’s just a really long run of bad cards – and it’s driving me a little nuts.

If there’s a way to lose, I have found it. This past weekend, playing in the same tournament, I finished 128th. Only the top 81 were getting paid. I played my Kings against another player who had 2s. Of course the third two turned on the last card.

That in and of itself isn’t unusual. Bad beats are a part of poker. It’s just I’m getting ‘bad beat’ all the time.

Last night, with a King, Queen in my hand, I watched 2 more Kings come up. I bet them hard, all the way to the end, only to see my competition turn over King, Ace.

Helaine has hit the same rut too! She just told me about her loss this evening, playing Kings against a lower pair and losing when her opponent made trips on the river.

It can’t last forever. Well, actually, it can. It shouldn’t – but it can.

Rather than squander my money away, I have moved down in stakes, hoping to gain some advantage by playing less savvy opponents. Still, we’ve given back a few hundred dollars of our winnings.

Right now it’s frustrating.

Oh – one more poker note before I go. Last night, one of our reporters interviewed the winner of the 2004 World Series of Poker. Greg Raymer. Though he’s physically built like a poker player (don’t ask, but think about all that sitting), he seems a sharp contrast to last year’s big winner Chris Moneymaker. Raymer is an attorney from nearby Stonington. He’s well spoken and seems well liked. And, he plays at Pokerstars and Foxwoods Casino – the two main places I play… just for a whole lot more money.

Two Friends in the Times – And They Didn’t Shoot Anyone!

The New York Times did a wonderful profile of a friend of mine, Jon Wolfert. Jon is to radio jingles as Janet Jackson is to wardrobe malfunction. What makes it even cooler is the gratuitous mention of our mutual friend, Peter Mokover.

Jon is responsible for some of my favorite jingles – including a few he did for me. I am responsible for sneaking him into the Kennedy Space Center to watch John Glenn’s launch.

I’ve attached the article to the link below.

Continue reading “Two Friends in the Times – And They Didn’t Shoot Anyone!”

Alan King

I just heard that Alan King died. It’s a shame. It’s always a shame when someone dies.

Alan King is one of the many entertainers I have stolen from over the years. I don’t steal their jokes as much as I steal their style. Alan King always bit the hand that fed him.

As I remember, and this is a long time ago, King had a routine where he skewered Eastern Airlines (which, of course, he outlived). In the beginning of the routine he would say that he wasn’t going to mention the name of the airline, except it rhymes with “Eastern Airlines.”

My dad remembered the routine:

He asked the agent if she could ship one bag to Hawaii another to San Francisco and a third to Omaha? She said it wasn’t possible and he replied, “You did it last week.”

If the actual words to this routine are hidden somewhere on the Internet and you find them, please let me know.

Recently, he had become more know for a routine where he would read obituaries. They all ended the same way, “survived by his wife.” It was very funny.

When he’d appear on the Sullivan Show, you’d notice how well dressed he was – always in a vested three piece suit. He exuded the aura of success. That was part of his act. Lots of comedian’s were schlemiels. Not Alan King.

I seem to remember him in a Billy Crystal movie, playing Crystal’s father. I can’t think of any others, though they’ll come to me later. His movie career was inconsequential. He will be remembered for his stand-up comedy and his fearlessness in making fun of the powerful.

I Like Chicago

My experience in Chicago is very limited. Years ago I had been here briefly for my niece’s bat mitzvah. There was no traveling into town – I stuck to the ‘burbs. This trip will be very different.

Our bumpy flight let up for a while, and then we headed groundward. I had my headphones on, listening to air traffic control. As Chicago’s tower gave out landing instructions, the wind gusts hit 37 knots or 43 mph.

When the wind blows that fast, it is never steady and it’s hardly ever directly down the runway. I watched as our wings bobbed up and down. Flying slower, preparing to land, a plane becomes less aerodynamic. This was a difficult landing and the crew up front was earning their pay.

We had met up with our two counterparts from Springfield. No one had checked bags so it was directly to a cab. The three of them climbed in the back while I took the front passenger seat. The seat itself resembled my apartment as a bachelor (minus the mushrooms growing through the bathroom floor).

Our driver was a round faced man with lots of facial hair and a ready smile. After deciding which Hyatt we were at, we were on the road.

I snapped a few shots through the window. He could see I was a little obsessed, so when I saw a car alongside with a particularly apropos license plate, he rolled my window down so I could get a better shot.

As the expressway let out into a city street he pointed to a McDonald’s, taking up what looked like an entire city block. The world’s busiest McDonald’s he said. Who I am I to dispute that?

Check in at the hotel was easy. I am up, just above the 20th floor. My room with single king size bed is nicely sized. There is free high speed Internet access.

My window looks directly across a courtyard to a boxy glass clad office building. I spent a few minutes looking at the people working across the way, wondering what it was they were doing. I’m sure they spend a significant amount of time looking back at what the people are doing here in the hotel. Use your imagination.

We were hungry and set out for lunch. Walking is the best way to see a city. Hopefully someone will explain it to me, but Chicago’s downtown has a very distinct architectural style. There is very detailed masonry seen on many buildings. Often buildings top out with interesting touches, as opposed to a flat roof on a tall building. I’m going to add a photo gallery as there are too many shots to have here on the blog.

We crossed the Chicago River over the Michigan Avenue Bridge. The Chicago River is about as wide as a good sized city street. The natural banks no longer exist. The river is now an glorified canal. If there is traffic on the river, I didn’t see it, though the bridges are draw bridges.

Across the river I discovered a Chicago of double decker streets. Again, this is something I am discovering, but it is probably quite well known. By double decker, it is as if someone decided the city was too busy so they built another one on top of the first. There are streets under streets. Intersections exist under intersections with traffic lights and sidewalks and shops. I’ve never seen anything like it.

While walking in the subterranean world we went past a true cultural icon, The Billy Goat Caf

Billy Crystal – King of Comedy

Though I worked tonight, I made sure to stay home long enough between shows to see Billy Crystal open the Oscars. Now, after work, I’m watching it again.

Billy Crystal is the King of Comedy. He has an amazing presence and comic sense. The fact that he doesn’t do the Academy Awards in consecutive years seems to only make him better, as in “absence makes the heart grow fonder.”

I noticed tonight that Billy was getting rim shots during jokes on his opening performance.

Meanwhile, I really did look forward (for weeks) to his opening movie and song. They were worth waiting for… and re-watching.

I’m Watching You Watching

On this blog, some entries are better written than others. Some entries are meaningless to anyone but my immediate family and friends. Sometimes what I write is insightful and full of a worldly understanding (Hey, no one else is going to say this about me. I might as well).

Like a good geek, I go through my logs from time-to-time (All right, I’m obsessed – so shoot me). It’s interesting to see whose coming here and what they’re reading. You couldn’t do this with a Google sized site, but most of the time I can track a reader as he decides where to go next. And, I’ll admit to doing a few “whois” searches to see who owns the IP address doing the browsing.

Looking at my log, I know that at one time my largest source of hits from search engines came about because I had misspelled he name of the comedian “Carrot Top!”

I’ve just started seeing a significant flow of traffic over the last few weeks to two IP addresses at Microsoft (65.54.188.40 and 65.54.188.42). Though AWStats doesn’t see them as a search engine spider, I believe that’s what they are. This month I’ve had over 20 MB in bandwidth and 1,600 hits go to those two addresses (and mine is a little, personal site with only around 220 MB of content – much of that in photos). This is probably the beginning of Microsoft’s push to unseat Google as the search king.

Just as interesting to me, and noted by some other users of Movabletype, my blogging software, are hits in the referral log from sites that aren’t referring readers to me! Though&#185 http://paris-hilt0n-video.blogspot.com, http://www.hummer.c0m, http://blog.j0hnkerry.com, http://outd0orsbest.zeroforum.com/zerouser are listed as having sent browsers this way, searching those sites shows no reference to me at all.

This ploy, and ‘comment spam,’ are new and insidious methods for trying to game the system by having your link land on lots of blogs, using their ‘good name’ with the search engines to elevate yours. I can’t believe I’m the only one looking. What else do people see?

&#185 – To prevent these folks from profiting again, I’ve replaced one letter in each URL with the number “0”.

Greetings from Boynton Beach

I have arrived – and it’s warm! What more could you ask for? Considering what I saw when I walked out the door today, Florida is especially nice.

Getting to Florida today was much easier than I ever imagined. First, the snow was over early and there really wasn’t all that much of it. Second, the roads were in good shape. Third, the airport was in good shape. Fourth, Southwest – excellent.

My flight was scheduled to leave at 12:15 PM. On the way to the airport my pocket started vibrating. It was a text message on my cellphone from Southwest. The flight was on time and would be leaving from Gate 2.

Helaine pulled up at the brand new terminal at Bradley International. Compared to the old “bus terminal” it is phenomenal. But, it’s still pretty sterile with too much wasted vertical space to suit me. However, remember what it was before!

Gate 2 is pretty close. I got there early enough to watch a flight to Orlando board and leave.

Let me add here that the Bradley Airport experience would be greatly improved with the addition of Cinnabon. If there’s one in the new terminal, I didn’t find it. Cinnabon is required eating for air travel in the new century.

I struck up a conversation with the gate agent. It looked like the flight would be 2/3 full. So, even though I had a “B” boarding pass (no assigned seats on Southwest) I was in no hurry. As it turned out, I had a full three seat cluster and slept for about an hour. Unlike some other airlines, the Southwest seatbelts stowed nicely out of the way for comfortable sleeping in the airborn fetal postion.

The plane was nice. Southwest flies 737’s and nothing else. There are different model and configurations, but they’re all 737’s. The seats were leather and firm. The plane looked clean, though it was 8 years old. It’s tough to judge legroom and seat width when you’re all alone, but both seemed adequate.

The flight to Tampa was fine. There was a little light turbulence, but it only helped put me to sleep.

After waking up, I struck up a conversation with a flight attendant. The first thing I told her was the first thing I noticed – the Southwest attitude. Everyone was friendly. Everyone was happy. I know this is an overstatement. Even in the best of jobs there are people who are upset, or hate the boss, or feel overlooked and overworked. Still, the aura was there. As someone who’s flown mostly United and USAirways over the last few years (two airlines in financial troubles with labor unrest) it was easy to pick up the vibe.

I had planned on watching a lecture for my Synoptic Meteorology class, but after 7:30 minutes I pulled out the GPS receiver and watched our progress instead.

It was a ‘nerdy cool’, seeing the map and our position, then looking out the window and seeing everything where it was supposed to be. Where I-75 bent on the map, it bent in real life. Lakes and streams were positioned correctly.

We landed in Tampa about 20 minutes early. One of the flight attendants joked on the P.A., “You tell your friends when we’re late. Let them know we were early.” And now I have.

The early arrival added to the ground time in Tampa. I sat on an arm rest and talked with a Connecticut couple and their 21 year old twin daughters. They were on their way to Key West. The dad was a dead ringer for John Goodman, though I didn’t want to say anything, in case he had seen King Ralph or hated Goodman for other more cryptic and sinister reasons.

The door to the cockpit was open, and I asked the flight attendant if I might go up and take some photos. When I got their, the co-pilot had left the cockpit, so I schmoozed with the pilot who asked me if I wanted to sit down. Then he took my picture, at the controls. OK – we were at the gate, but still… It’s a guy thing. I can’t explain it.

The plane was around 1/4 full when we took off for the short run to West Palm Beach. As we headed skyward I studied what looked like cirrus clouds. Closer inspection leads me to believe it was a massive cluster of jet contrails which, in the nearly calm Florida atmosphere, slowly atrophied as it expanded.

My folks were waiting at PBI. They look great. Florida living is life extension. They have a great time and live the best lifestyle they’ve ever had. As I get older, this type of retirement life seems more enticing.

I knew a friend from high school, Ralph Press, was now living in South Florida, so I gave him a call and asked him over for dinner. Though his car was seriously smoking from the engine compartment when he got here, the rest of the journey seemed uneventful.

Ralph looks exactly the same as I remember him. Of course, he’s a lot older – that’s a given. But many people radically change as they age. Ralph has not.

We had dinner and worked on my parents wireless computer network. The network seems to be working except with my laptop. And, the laptop is giving me an error message I’ve never seen before. I have some CAT5 cable, so it’s not a major deal. I can plug-in. But, I will obsess until I fix it and go wireless again.

The King of the Fat Lip

About a year and a half ago, one night for no apparent reason, my upper lip swelled to the size of my thumb. I think I was riding in the car when I felt the first tingling. By the time I got home for dinner, I looked downright scary.

I wasn’t in pain, but I certainly couldn’t go on the air. People would be calling the TV station wondering what had happened to me. Children would lose sleep or get nightmares. It was that bad – this is no exaggeration.

I spoke to my doctor, Steve.

Let’s stop here for a second. It drives Helaine a little nuts when I refer to a doctor by his/her first name. Doctors should be doctors – not Steve’s. I understand the logic. But, I’ve known him for nearly 20 years. He’s a great guy and recognized as a great doctor. He’s Steve.

The lip subsided. Still, Steve ran me through every test known to man. Nothing.

Meanwhile, since the major swell-up, I found myself getting itchy on my palms and the soles of my feet. My fingers would swell. Sometimes my toes would itch. Of more concern, there was, what I surmised, was constriction in my wind pipe. Would this condition block my flow of oxygen?

I tried going to Google to see if there was medical knowledge that would help me. Without going into too much detail, you’re not going to get a lot of medical help by searching for “swollen lips and fingers.”

Helaine and I went on vacation to Las Vegas. While taking golf lessons I started inflating and deflating – fingers and lips swelling and subsiding. It was scaring the living daylights out of me.

There was no apparent reason for this internal body change after 50+ years. I was eating different foods in a different climate, drinking and bathing in different water. My total environment had changed but not my symptoms.

Steve spoke with a colleague, the head of the Allergy Department (it has a much more complex name, but you get the idea) at our local, major teaching hospital. If this was an allergic reaction, there would be no one more qualified to find it. I went to visit him.

I remember our first meeting. It might have been in his first paragraph to me when he said he probably wouldn’t be able to tell me what was causing my troubles… but he’d be able to control it. And, he did.

Religiously, I have been taking antihistamines every day. Amazingly (except one day, months ago, when I missed my pill), I have been symptom free.

I know I will be on this, or a similar medication, for the rest of my life. And, I will also be going to visit this doctor… forever. Truth is, I need the prescription and he’s entitled to get paid for keeping me swell free. So, we go through this medical charade where I go to his clinic at the hospital, tell him I’m symptom free, and get a prescription. He’s a smart guy… fun to chat with, though I assume there are others, sicker than me, waiting for his expertise.

Today was my day to visit. I’ll be back in June.

Something New On This Site

I remember the battle cry of the Internet entrepreneurs of the late 90’s: “Content is King!” I’m not sure whether that’s true, but I do enjoy adding fresh content to the website, especially if it is ‘live’ data.

That’s what I did today in adding weather advisories from Connecticut, where I live, and the rest of the United States. Of course, it’s not quite that simple. It was important to me that the data fit in with the look and feel of this site and that it be as fresh as possible.

The Weather Service has just started producing RSS feeds of this data. All I needed to do was find a way to convert it to a web readable format and I’d be on my way. I found a Perl program called JSMFeed.pl and installed it on the server. It produces a javascript file which can then be converted and inserted into my pages.

All I had to do was write the few short lines of code to do it. Considering I can’t explain any of what I wrote in the previous paragraph, this was going to be tough.

Javascript is a language I don’t know and have never written in. Luckily, once you know one programming language, you have an idea how to write in all of them, and the web is loaded with resources to help show you the proper usage.

Unlike high school, spelling and proper syntax do count. Misspell anything, or misplace anything in the program, and it won’t work… or worse, it will work but will subject your computer to an endless stream of gibberish.

My friend Kevin, who speaks a little javascript, was my mentor this afternoon. He’ll tell you he didn’t show me what to do. But having him on the phone allowed me to bounce ideas and move the process forward. Without Kevin, this wouldn’t have worked.

I also have to thank the folks (or person – who knows) at Creativyst, who donated this program for others to use for free.

If you’d like to try this new addition out, it’s on the right hand side of the screen. Just click a link and have fun.

Sunday at Foxwoods

Stefanie has been away for this entire week. So, Helaine and I have been taking it somewhat easy at home as temporary empty nester’s.

Earlier, Helaine had asked if I wanted to go to Foxwoods for their brunch. Foxwoods is a casino – the biggest in the world – and it’s about an hour’s drive away in Eastern Connecticut.

There are certain givens when going to a casino.

1) You will gamble

2) The food experience will be over the top

I had worked Saturday night (unusual), but didn’t stay up as late as usual and was out of bed by 10:30 to shower and make the drive. Our reservations at Fox Harbor were for 1:00 PM, so we’d have plenty of time.

Today was a spectacular winter’s day. The sky was blue with some high, wispy cirrus clouds. Even as we left home, before noon, the temperature was approaching 50&#176 (and got to 53&#176 at Willimantic, CT, not far from Foxwoods), well above the late December average.

I was apprehensive as we drove because normally light trafficked areas on I-95, The Connecticut Turnpike, were moderately loaded with cars. It was the last day of the Christmas holiday, and for many ‘going home’ day. As we passed the first entrance for valet parking, I realized this traffic hadn’t gone to the casino but was just passing through.

Originally there was poker at both of Connecticut’s casinos, Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun. A few months ago, Mohegan Sun’s room closed (about a day before the huge new interest in poker began). Foxwoods is now busy day and night. Today was no exception.

I headed into the poker room before heading to brunch. I knew it would be smart to get on a list early, and did just that. There must have been 50 names for the half dozen tables at my limit.

While walking through the room I ran into Jimmy Christina, one of the floor bosses. Jimmy has been at Foxwoods since they opened their doors. He has the kind of gravely voice that shrieks of whiskey and cigarettes… and a ponytail that is seldom seen by people who wear suits. When I grow up, I want to be Jimmy Christina. I have no idea what his official title is, but he wields power and settles disputes and is a poker room fixture.

Brunch at Fox Harbor was no disappointment. When we eat at a buffet brunch, Helaine and I know it will be our one meal of the day. This was perfect. I started with clams and shrimp then added lamb chops (incredible). After a few trips through the line I had sampled crepes, pasta, more lamb, and baby lobster tails like I had never seen before. And then there was desert!

We waddled out of the buffet and headed toward the poker room. Poker and Fox Harbor are at the opposite ends of the casinos… but we could have been walking to Las Vegas and not walked off this brunch.

I quickly sat down at a $4-$8 fixed limit Hold’em table. I hadn’t played poker at a casino since we began playing online in earnest. The casino was going to be slower and any ‘tells’ I had (hidden while I play online in my pajamas) would be obvious to all who watched. I pulled out 5 – $20 bills and bought chips from a neighbor at the table who had obviously done well over time.

It’s true. You do play more hands per hour online. On the other, the conversation was reasonably good and I had a nice time. Before long, I slow played a well hidden straight, check bumped one of the other players, and won somewhere around $75 on one hand. This was my high water mark. Unfortunately, it didn’t last.

Before long Ashley Adams came up to the table and said hello. Ashley had been our union rep from AFTRA (The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) at the station. Though now repping teachers, I had sat alongside him during contract negotiations and knew him well. And, of course, I knew he enjoyed playing poker as much as anything else.

For years, Ashley has been an active participant in the Usenet group dedicated to poker and is recognized as an expert. Now, he pulled out a paperback book, and I realized he had also become the author of “Winning 7-Card Stud.”

Currently 62,418th on Amazon’s sales list, Ashley won’t be able to quit his day job just yet, but the online reviews are excellent. Five reviewers, and each gave it the 5-star maximum!

I’ve been skimming through it, and though 7-card stud is not my game of choice, it reads very well. If you miss losing one hand because of what he says, the book has paid for itself, even at very low limit tables.

Meanwhile, at my table the cards were not coming. In fact, during 4-5 hours of play I can’t remember being dealt a pair of face cards or Ace/King once!

My Waterloo came when I was ‘blinded in’ and flopped 2 pair, Aces and Jacks. I felt pretty good and started betting, only to have another player return and re-raise my bets. By the time all was said and done, I had invested well over $60 in my two pair, only to face 3 – Aces.

You want the odds? If I have Ace and Jack, and the flop turns up another Ace (and Jack), then there are 47 cards I don’t know about, with 2 Aces remaining. It’s 2 chances in 47 for him to have gotten an Ace on the first card and then 1 in 46 to get the second. All in all, his two Aces against my hand comes up less than 1 in 1,000 (.000925069)!

By the time the day was over, I was down $132.

I didn’t play poorly. Once, I peeked at my hole cards on a flush draw – tipping off my hand. Still, that was the exception, not the rule. I lost, mostly, because of bad cards. And, because my cards were so bad, and I looked so tight as a player, when I finally did go in, everyone knew I had a made hand and folded, reducing my win.

Helaine spent the afternoon playing blackjack, and left with some cash in her pocket.

On the way out we played some slot machines. Foxwoods seems to have less machines featuring licensed concepts, like TV shows or characters, than you see in Las Vegas. We played a Dick Clark Bandstand slot and quickly walked away. Monte Hall treated us very nicely at Let’s Make a Deal. We left the slots about even.

One more comment before I go.

Both Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun cater to a large contingent of Asian client

New York City Trip Report – Day 1

Click here, or on any photo to see my album of photos from this trip.

It’s inside my wedding ring – 11/26/83. Helaine and I were married, just outside Philadelphia. In the beginning, I used the ring for reference to remember the exact date. Now, I know. It has been 20 years!

The past few months have been sort of rough, especially with Ivy passing away. Helaine thought it would be better if we were away on Thanksgiving and our anniversary. I agreed.

I had asked for November 26th off way back in December of last year. It was the last day of the very important November ratings book. To their credit, my bosses allowed me to take the day off. Twenty years is a milestone.

Helaine thought it would be fun to go to New York City, get a hotel, see some shows, do a little shopping, maybe catch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade and come home.

We had never used Priceline, but some folks at work had had success with it. I looked for a 4-star hotel in the Times Square area and bid. My first bid was rejected, but there was a suggestion that ‘maybe’ I’d get it if I upped the amount. I did, but in retrospect, I don’t think my Priceline deal was that hot.

I called the hotel to make sure the room would have two king size beds (we were taking Stefanie). No problem, but it would be a rollaway bed at $50 per night! And, of course, at this time my Priceline bid was locked in and non-refundable.

Helaine set out to get show tickets. Stefanie and I have gone into Manhattan on numerous occasions, standing in line at TKTS in Duffy Square and buying half price theater tickets. This would be different.

Helaine found pretty good seats for Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks, starring Polly Bergen and Mark Hamil and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof with Ashley Judd, Jason Patric and Ned Beatty.

Six Weeks was in previews but had been well received pre-Broadway. Cat had gotten very good reviews, especially for Ned Beatty. We ended up seeing neither play!

Six Weeks was lambasted by every reviewer I could find. This was the kind of awful play that critics take particular pride in crushing. It wasn’t long before we got a call from Telecharge saying the Thanksgiving performance had been canceled. Actually, the show closed.

Helaine set back to Telecharge and found Wonderful Town, a revival of a 1950’s show about 1930’s New York. I had been hearing radio commercials for this show and it hadn’t appealed to me. Still, there wasn’t much choice on Thanksgiving night, and I love the theater.

We set out for Manhattan on the morning of November 26. I had been up the night before writing a story for work and taking two tests for my courses at Mississippi State. Steffie got behind the wheel of the Explorer. Helaine got into the back and prayed for a safe journey.

Stefanie got a little highway time behind the wheel and taking us to Norwalk. We swapped seats and I took us the rest of the way into the city.

Traffic was unusually light, especially considering it was the day before Thanksgiving. I got in the wrong lane at a construction site in the Bronx and ended up having to double back though some side streets. Still, we made it to the Cross Bronx Expressway and West Side Highway without incident and breezed crosstown on 44th Street directly to the hotel.

The Millennium Broadway is an OK hotel in a great location. It is less than a block east of Times Square.

We knew parking wasn’t included and now we found out it was $45 per day! We were reminded again that a rollaway bed was $50. We headed upstairs to our room, 1716.

In most hotels a 17th floor room would provide you with a commanding view. Not here. The 17th floor is only barely above the roof lines of the smaller buildings in the area and provides no view of the street or anything farther than a few blocks away.

Our room was as small as any hotel room I’ve ever been in. The king size bed took up most of the space. There was a small desk, color TV, microscopic closet with a moderate sized safe, and a few smaller chairs. One entire wall was windows.

The bathroom was normal sized with incredible water pressure. I have never seen a bathroom sink that could puncture your hand with its water pressure before this one. Towels were moderate in size. The tub/shower had glass doors and was a decent size.

Helaine discovered the drain in the tub was stuck closed. I’m not sure how the housekeeper didn’t catch this. I tried to unstick it and it snapped off in my hand. I would later tell the front desk of this problem and it was repaired properly.

This being New York, we headed down to Canal Street. I’ve written about Canal Street before, so let it suffice to say, this is the place to go to get knock offs of all types.

There are a few very interesting points about Canal Street. First, how can the trademark/copyright holders not enforce their rights? Sales of Rolex, Movado, Luis Vuitton and a zillion other brands go on right in the open.

There is some ineffectual enforcement I believe, because from time-to-time, without warning, Nextel direct connect chirps will sound and black cloths will be quickly drawn over the display tables. In the small booths, metal rolldown doors will close. Essentially any visible evidence of knock off commerce will disappear.

The second interesting point has to do with the ethnic makeup of the business owners. Most shops seem to be run by ethnic Chinese. Canal Street skirts New York’s Chinatown. There are book sellers on tables set up curbside. These folks are Southwest Asian – either Indian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan or Bangladeshis. I’m not good enough to make finer distinctions. From time-to-time lone black men will move through the crowd pulling out watches in small display boxes. These men are all African, based on their accents.

If sales tax is collected on Canal Street or if any paperwork is kept, I’ve yet to see it!

Steffie bought a few watches and a head band. Helaine and I watched.

For our 20th anniversary dinner, Helaine made reservations at Rocco’s in the Flatiron District. Rocco’s is the scene of the reality show, “Restaurant.” We caught a cab after a few minutes of jockeying for the proper location and quickly moved uptown.

Our reservations were for 5:30, but we were early, so Steffie and Helaine popped into a local furniture store while I took some photos. From the Flatiron District the Empire State Building dominates the northern skyline.

In order to eat at Rocco’s you have to sign a bunch of waivers acknowledging that a TV show is being taped here and that you give up all rights to the production company. I signed, but am unsure how AFTRA (the performers union I belong to) would react to this.

It’s a moot point. I doubt I’ll be on the show.

Rocco’s is a nice Italian restaurant, undistinguished in most ways except for the camera crews running around, the cameras on the ceiling and the casting call fresh contingent of waiters and waitresses.

Helaine and Steffie had spaghetti and meatballs (the house specialty) while I had linguine with white clam sauce. Dinner was good, not great.

As we ended dinner, Helaine spotted Rocco’s mom. She is actually responsible for the spaghetti and meatballs. With the TV show she had become a minor celebrity. Pictures were taken, of course.

We headed uptown by cab toward the Music Box Theater and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. We got to the theater and heard the news: Ashley Judd was sick. She would not be performing tonight. Since she was the big star, refunds would be offered. Helaine and Steffie decided to pass on the understudy, and I went along. We weren’t alone. I believe most ticket holders walked.

There might be a back story here. Just the day before, in the New York Times, Ned Beatty had been less than kind toward Judd and Jason Patric. To paraphrase, they were working hard but didn’t have the chops that many unemployed Broadway actors had. It was not a glowing endorsement.

Since the show would be dark on Thanksgiving, taking Wednesday off would give Ashley two in a row and some time to get over what Beatty said. Was she sick? Was she pissed? I just don’t know. Ashley and I never did get together.

This left us without anything to do, but there was a possibility. We had heard the Thanksgiving Eve balloon inflation on the Upper West Side was very visual, so it was into a cab again.

Columbus Circle was already closed in anticipation of the parade, so we went far west and scooted up to the 70’s before cutting back to Central Park West. We followed a crowd to what we thought was the one block line to the balloons. Nope. Once we got to where the entrance should be, we found out there was another 2, maybe 3, block wait.

Too much. We headed back to the hotel.

In retrospect that was a great idea because Thanksgiving Day was going to be quite full and begin very early!

Click here, or on any photo to see my album of photos from this trip.

Am I John Mayer’s stalker?

Click here for more photos from the concert

As of Wednesday morning, I still hadn’t heard from John Mayer’s road manager, Scotty Crowe, as promised. Just a little worried (it is my nature), I sent another email to the management folks and got a reassuring email in return.

By early afternoon there was an upbeat voicemail at work. We were good to go (literally and figuratively). The only surprise was the time. “Meet and greet” is normally a post show event. Not with this show. John would be entertaining at 7:00 PM.

Anticipating Hartford traffic (which we never saw), Steffie and I arrived at The Meadows a bit before 6:00 PM. A line had already begun to form the entrance. People with tickets for the vast expanse of lawn wanted to stake their claim and find a good seat.

Good lawn seating is miles away from the stage. Bad seating is in another time zone.

We hit the “will call” window, looking for our “Meet and Greet” passes. Nada. But, that’s not at all unusual. As it turned out, the clerk was looking in the wrong place, and a turn to the left produced two round adhesive passes and a small Xeroxed set of instructions to the marshaling point.

The gates to The Meadows actually open at 6:30 PM. But the real excitement starts a few minutes earlier as a PA announcement lists what you can and cannot do… can and cannot bring.

Digital cameras were on the forbidden list. I decided to take it anyway and hope for the best. After all, meeting John and having the passes might be enough of a mitigating factor. As it turned out, the ‘frisker’ took a look at he camera, pondered for two seconds, and pronounced it within reason. My guess is, with the lens retracted, he thought it was a non-professional film camera.

My first rock concert was probably 1966 or 1967. I went with my Cousin Michael and Larry Lubetsky to the Village Theater, aka The Fillmore East. We did that often on Friday and Saturday nights. It was pure fun and music (with the Joshua Light Show and the smell of marijuana pungent enough to knock you on your butt).

Things have changed

If there is something that isn’t for sale, or marked with signage, I didn’t see it. I’m surprised a wheelchair company doesn’t sponsor the handicapped ramp.

In the parking lot were four perky post-teens (male and female) wearing red t-shirts. They would be passing out Trojan condoms throughout the evening.

Dodge sponsored this, Comcast that, and Channel 30 something else. Dunkin’ Donuts was passing out Fruit Coolatas, but most everything else was for sale and over priced beyond belief (again, please excuse my naivet´┐Ż. I’m 53 and I’m not in the concert demo anymore).

Considering there is a law in Connecticut preventing a reseller from marking up a concert ticket by too much, you’d think the venue itself would follow that same policy when it came to bottled water or beer or pretzels. They could let you in for free and still make a profit.

A few minutes before 7:00 we met Scotty Crowe. It’s interesting how the Internet can catapult unlikely people into the limelight, and Scotty is one of them. Once I knew I’d be meeting him, I “Googled” him. Not only does he write John Mayer’s Road Journal, he also has some dedicated fans, including a Scotty Crowe bulletin board. Damn!

We went into the hallway that would serve as “Meet and Greet” central, and waited. I tried to make small talk with Scotty, but as is always the case when I do something like that, I came off as a total dork. At least I gave him a good PhotoShop tip (Ctl-L is perfect for enhancing video levels on digital photos).

John came out a few minutes later. I don’t notice these things, but Steffie said he was wearing the same outfit we saw him wear at Oakdale. He’s tall and thin and young and I’m jealous..

After saying hello and posing with the people in front of us, John came over. He was very nice (though after meeting him at KC-101, Oakdale and now here, I can’t help but wonder if he thinks I’m a stalker… or if I actually am a stalker).

As soon as he started to speak to Stefanie, he said, “You’re Stef, right?” I believe that was the magic moment as far as she was concerned. To be remembered by someone in his position, who meets so many people, was very gratifying.

I told John I thought he was smart, and a nice guy. But, I had seen others who had that… and lost it. I told him it was very important he remember to continue to be the kind of person he is now. I seriously think he will. But, as with Scotty a few minutes earlier, I felt like a dork after I said it. I hope he’ll think I was somewhat appropriate.

We had come very early and we found out we would be staying very late. Not only was John Mayer performing, so were the Counting Crows and an opening act before them. There was only so much we could take, so Steffie and I sat outside, people watching, while Stew (or possibly Stu… I wasn’t inside) performed.

We headed inside and found our seats before the Crows hit the stage.

If you have never been to The Meadows (and now that I’ve talked about all the commercialism, you should know, it’s the “ctnow.com Meadows Music Centre). It is a huge, high roofed pavilion with theater seating and a removable rear wall. There is no air conditioning. There are no ceiling fans. It was hot and sticky and uncomfortable.

I had never seen the Counting Crows and I was favorably impressed. Lead singer Adam Duritz, his hair fashioned with somewhat wild dreadlocks, is very talented and (and I always like this in a performance) a commanding presence on stage.

Toward the end of the set, he told a story of going to school in Watertown, CT and flunking a music course. Judging by the description, it is probably The Taft School. A website FAQ confirms it.

The Crows got off after 10:00 PM. The venue had not cooled down. Every once in a while, a brief whisper of air would move by, and you’d think, maybe it’s going to cool down. But the ‘waft’ was short lived; a tease at best.

Not quite 11:00, John Mayer took the stage. As appreciative as the audience was for the Counting Crows, they stepped it up a notch and a half for John. There’s no doubt that a packed house is good for the home team, and he is the home town here.

He is an artist who sounds just like his Cd’s (I wanted to write records, but that would make me very old, wouldn’t it?). That means his artistry is real and not produced into being. Most of the house stood for most of the performance.

He did the hits, and some cuts from the new CD (out in a few weeks) and then a phenomenal guitar solo. As good as he is as a troubadour, John Mayer is a masterful guitarist; as good as I’ve heard

There’s obviously some BB King in his riffs, and probably others I don’t recognize, but mostly it is his ability to make the guitar become its own voice that makes his playing so good. It is my contention that if he weren’t singing, he’d have an amazing career as a guitarist.

At 11:45 PM he said goodnight, only to come back on stage alone to do the first of two encore numbers.

We were out by midnight. As soon as I turned on the car radio, I realized I wasn’t hearing quite as well as I did when I went in! Within ten minutes we had navigated Hartford and gotten onto I-91 southbound.

Though Steffie tried (and she has pre-season field hockey practice tomorrow morning) she had only a few minutes of sleep before we were home.

Great night. I’d do it again.

Click here for more photos from the concert

Saturday… time’s running out.

First things first. This was another really good day at the poker tables. Somewhere north of $250 won playing $6-12 Hold’em. I am definitely getting better… and the cards are running my way.

OK – now to the real events of the day.

Earlier, we had played in the ‘No risk slot tournament’ at Aladdin. It’s actually pretty cool. You play in the tournament… and lose and then you get $10 in free slot play and a $20 comp for food. So, for $30 you get the chance to win and you get your money back.

And, Aladdin’s not stupid, because the food brought us back.

I have always been a huge fan of the buffets at Mirage and Bellagio (Bellagio with cracked King Crab legs). However, I could easily be won over by Aladdin. This is also an excellent buffet with pretty much everything you’d want. The quality seems excellent. There are a half dozen (or more) separate stations with individual specialties.

One thing I don’t like about Aladdin (and Bellagio and a few others) is where you retrieve your car from valet parking. It is under cover and stiflingly hot!

Helaine wanted to try and get some beads and maybe a Chippendale’s shirt for Steffie, so we headed to the Rio. Here’s another hotel I can take or leave. We tried their buffet years ago and I found it very un-special. There’s no poker for me, and the casino is ho-hum. But, they do have the Masquerade in the Sky.

The show this year was different from what we had seen in the past… but they’re all pretty similar. I was somewhat surprised at the number of beads thrown, which I remember as being more in years past.

All week I had been asking Helaine to go downtown. Downtown is where Vegas used to be, before the Strip cam into being. It has been a difficult journey for the hotels there. They’re older, more cramped, without good parking. Many of the older ones like Binions have very low ceilings and, when last I entered, were quite smoky.

We pulled into the valet stand at the Golden Nugget. Valet was full, but I said I was staying at Mirage (same owner) and after looking at my key, they let me in. It is very convenient to park at the GN valet. You’re less than a block from Fremont Street.

Before the hourly Fremont Street Experience started, Helaine took me to the Golden Gate Hotel. This is a Las Vegas tradition… actually more like a legend. You can go to the Golden Gate and get 99 cent shrimp cocktails!

They were very good. The sauce is strong and tangy. The tiny shrimp are more texture than taste. But, it’s amazing that it’s still 99 cents.

The Fremont Street experience, with thousands (maybe millions) of lights projected above your head and set to music, was very good. Fremont Street itself is a little bit like New Years Eve in Times Square or Mardis Gras in the French Quarter. And, there are every type of person you would and wouldn’t want to meet.

It’s a shame we’ll have to leave tomorrow. Helaine is starting to get melancholy. It will be nice to get back to Steffie and my folks, but this has been a really great vacation, and as always, we’ve done a lot.