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Friday, April 27, 2007

Research needed

If anyone can find the following two statistics for me, it would free me up to have a fun weekend without spending hours in front of the computer.

--The approximate size (length, width, or approximate total volume) of a giraffe's vagina.

--The approximate size (length, width, or approximate total volume) of a cow's vagina.

Please provide links to primary sources.

Please shoot me an e-mail or leave a comment if you have the answer.

Your reward will be one of the two (your choice):

1) I will publish your name here in recognition of your mad researching skills
2) I will not publish your name here, thus sparing recognition of your knowledge of animal reproductive anatomy

Thank you in advance for saving me countless hours of research and the inevitable government Internet watchdog phone call.


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

This is not a paid advertisement

...it's just something that's pretty damned cool.

I'd been seeing referrals from Netvibes in my logs for a while. Then Gene mentioned it in his most recent post. So, I thought I'd check it out.

I spent a couple hours today setting up what I titled "Mt. Otis Command Central." Much like Bloglines, my DVR, and my Bose QC3s, I'm not sure how I ever got by without Netvibes. Now, my homepage tells me whether my inbox at two different web-based e-mail addresses has any new mail for me. It gives me the four-day forecast for my hometown. It has a to-do list, a widget that tells me how many unread posts I have waiting for me on Bloglines. BoingBoing's feed is featured prominently, as is a custom Google Blog Search phrase. Oh, and I have it set to bring up the most recent image search for Scarlett Johansson and 20 thumbnails of said search.

My son's favorite widget is a box that has five different colored fish swimming around a custom aquarium. I click of the cursor drops food and the fish come in for a mini-frenzy. My kid has named the black fish Joey and the yellow fish Terrence. The other three fish are currently nameless.

And it's all on one page.

In total, there are about 500 different widgets you can put on your Netvibes pages. I've just scratched the surface. I think it's going to save me a lot of time in my day that I would spend jumping from one page to another.

So, if you haven't used Netvibes, give it a try. If you're already a user and have any widget recommendations, leave them in the comments.



For a long time, I struggled with whether advertising was right for this blog. I didn't start it to make money and I'm not going to get rich off of it. However, as you'll see on the right, I've had some requests over the past six months and have chosen to accept money for space. Left untouched to this point has been this section--the content. The blogging community has been up in arms in the past about selling content space and I usually come down on the side of not selling content. On the Up For Poker Blog, we refused any content advertising requests out of hand. While it hasn't helped the bottom line, it has allowed us to be able to say, "We're honest here."

Well, I'm honest here, too, but that's not going to stop me from taking some walking-around money from people for a link or two. When I set my prices for this version of advertising, I set them high enough that I didn't really think anyone would pay for it. They still may not. However, the company that runs the service, Linkworth has decided to give me some money to mention its business of selling various services related to Search Engine Marketing, Text Link Advertising, and how we can all Make Money Online.

Do I feel dirtier for having done this? Yes. Do I do things for money that make me feel dirty on a regular basis. Yes. Do I wish I could win Powerball so I could pay other people to feel dirty for me? Yes. So, this may be the last one of these you see, or you may see the occasional paid post here. Such paid advertisements will always be identified as such. Cuz, you know, baby's gotta eat. And if comment spammers are going to try to steal it for free anyway, I'm going to find a way to get paid for it.

This post was part of a paid advertisement. Regular silliness will resume shortly.


Critical thinker

I'm tired, mired, an uninspired today. So far the only thing I have accomplished is...well, nothing. I have, however, read Boy Genius' most recent rant. In a couple thousand words, he pretty much summed up what I've been struggling to write for a while. It's not for Republicans. It's not even really for Democrats. It's for everybody who cares about the Bill of Rights.

As BG wrote, "The Bill of Rights is at risk, and I'm less willing to lose these guaranteed freedoms than I am to lose my own life to a dirty bomb attack."

Go check out his post: Oh No He Didn't.

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Monday, April 23, 2007


Alright, that last post was written really early this morning and I don't think it makes much sense. Because I wanted to laugh today, I went back and watched Little Lost Robot's "Last Girlfriend." Nothing like a post apocolytpic love tragedy to get my week started off right.


Rest your head for just five minutes

It's easier to coast and avoid aiming the bow in any particular direction when the sky is so blue. At certain times of the day, it's easy to ignore the direction of the sun and whether it is rising or setting. For a moment, or maybe a few moments, you can just let everything stand still.

It doesn't sit in the middle of the street and we don't cotton to cats, but it's our place. And the sky is blue. And the kid has a home.

Some days, like today, it's easier to forget that it was ambition and drive that got us this far. Still, to feel so lucky, one has to accept that luck played a role in it. When the sun goes down, though, and the kid is in bed, one has to wonder how much farther luck can carry us and if we shouldn't find a little more of that ambition in which we used to take so much pride.

I need to see someone about this inertia. I think it may be chronic.


Thursday, April 19, 2007

Life Crisco

I read with some bemusement Esquire's "60 Things Worth Shortening Your Life For." It's clever and, in some places, informative and inspiring. Still, it's the type of thing you get when you read Esquire. I swore if I saw anything about a Cuban cigar or didn't see anything about a Lucky Dog, I'd have to write my own list. I don't pretend to be clever or one all that familiar with the derring-do. Nonetheless, Esquire is targeted at the tragically hip or those who want to be. Me, only hip I know is the one that leads me to bed at night. With that, here's my list, also known as...

Life Crisco

New Orleans

1. Eat a Lucky Dog at 5am -- Wait until the streets are almost empty, the amateurs are passed out in the gutter, and the boobies have gone back in their shirt. Sidle up to the greasy-looking dude on the corner of Bourbon and Toulouse and order a Lucky Dog. Find someone to sell you a beer. Kick aside the empty cups, bras, and broken beads, and sit down on a curb. Ignore the smell of stale booze and eat the Lucky Dog in four bites.

2. Find Checkpoint Charlies...late -- It's the kind of place that is close enough to the French Quarter that you can walk to it, but not so close that it is overrun by the tourists. Go after hours. Bonus points if you go by yourself.

3. Get broke in the French Quarter -- Find a girl in a beret and spend every penny you have buying her Hand Grenades at the original Tropical Isle. Do this without knowing where your buddies are or how you're going to get home. Now, figure out what to do.

4. Hand Grenades? -- Yeah, Hand Grenades. If you haven't pounded back six or seven of these while listening to "Late As Usual" playing bar tunes, you haven't lived...or worked very hard on your inevitable death. I would recommend drinking them at the bar on Toulouse.

5. Eat 20 bignets -- Cafe du Monde sits on the edge of the French Quarter. The serving staff will be cranky, especially if you're there during a high-tourist season. Still, make a lot of noise, drink some great coffee, and eat 20 bignets like you will never taste them again.

6. Order extras debris at Mother's -- If ever in New Orleans, find Mother's. It's become a bit touristy, but still maintains its old school roots. Fight for your seat--threaten an old lady if you have to--and order a poboy with EXTRA DEBRIS. This is best done when exceptionally hungover.

For College Students

7. Steal a stripper's panties -- You should have a reason for it (like making them a gift for a husband-to-be), but even if you don't, the rush from doing it and then being confronted by the 6'5" bouncer is worth it.

8. Don't back down from a fight instigated by a shirtless redneck -- Most fights should be avoided, but once in your life, when a shirtless redneck tells you to take one more step forward, do it. It'll hurt (and likely hurt your friends more), but it's worth it...just once.

9. Put a carbonated drink in a campfire -- It is entertainment for the stupid, but you haven't lived until you have seen a 12-ounce can explode and blow a Yule log ten feet out of a campfire.

10. Eat a double Stretch -- Every college town has a diner with the specialty after-hours dish complete with eggs, onions, chili, and cheese. The Broadway Diner in Columbia, Missouri has the best in the United States. Order a double Stretch and decrease your life expectancy by a couple more months.

11. Tailgate with the Antlers -- Membership in The Antlers is almost impossible to achieve unless you know or are related to the right person. Regardless, get invited to one of their tailgate parties and drink from the Paint Can. Tell them NightTrain sent you.

Las Vegas

12. Rage solo In Las Vegas -- I once defined Raging Solo for my buddy Al. It's actually a phrase I borrowed from an old friend named "G." Essentially, it means hitting a town by yourself with no real plan. There is no better city for it than Las Vegas.

13. Have a Steak at Hugo's Cellar -- Located in the lowest level of the Four Queens in Las Vegas, it's the perfect place to ask for the private back room and order a t-bone. To counteract the Life Crisco, order a salad from the salad cart. It's worth it just to suffer the preparer's barrage of questions about what you want.

14. Let Absinthe pick your dinner spot -- My friend Ryan (aka Absinthe) knows good food and he is not afraid of decadence. Let him decide where you're eating. The food itself is enough to shorten your life expectancy. Worse, after you eat one of these meals, you're bound to refuse other food in the future, thus starving yourself. Michael Mina and Nob Hill are two good bets.

15. Get steak and eggs -- Getting a free breakfast in Las Vegas isn't necessarily hard, but it can be pricey. Huh? Just gamble irresponsibly and make sure the pit boss knows you're doing it. If he refuses to pay attention, celebrate your wins by screaming, "Steak and Eggs!" It is so worth it.

For Adults Only

16. Play poker in an underground card room -- The risks are many, but the people you'll meet make it more than worth it. Even if you don't play poker, it's worth going just once to people watch. Recent examples can be found at The Last Poker Game and The Sweetest Criminal. Bonus points if you can find a game in the back of a gentleman's club.

17. Attend a party hosted by Al Can't Hang -- There are professionals and then there are Professionals. Al made Malvern, PA famous with his infamous Bash at the Boathouse. That party may now be defunct, but Al still rages. Look for his next party invitation. If you don't feel up to that, you might try Bradoween.

18. Go bar hopping with Paul McGuire -- Known worldwide as Dr. Pauly, this native New Yorker can show you NYC like few others. It's a both a tour and a life experience. If you need a preview, Pauly treated me to this New York Bar Tour.

19. Commit an act of civil disobedience -- You gotta stand for something, right? Well, prove it. I'd suggest a B&E of some place owned by The Man. Don't steal anything, but make it known you were there.

20. Converse with a murderer -- Killing is wrong and the people who do it are sick. If you have a chance to talk to a killer, do it.

So, there's a list of 20 Life Crisoes that should get you started. As you have likely guessed, those are all things I've done. Maybe someday soon I'll give you a list of things I haven't done yet, but want to.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007


This is not the jungle, and yet it feels like it sometimes.

In a society, we try to assign some meaning--try to assign some blame, even--for things we can't understand. Faith, for some, helps. It's these things that make the faithless wish they were the praying kind. Because, without faith and the ability to forgive, there is only anger. And in anger there is little but pain.

Anger is blinding. It feeds irrationality. If we cling to some last shred of reason, we might be able to hold on. The problem is, on the back side of reason, when we come out on the other side, we're left hollow. We never had the faith. We've given up on the anger. We've teetered on the edge of insanity and acted without rational thought. We've managed to survive in spite of ourselves. And we're left in the same jungle, surrounded by the same animals, and left wondering how we let so much time pass without finding a way to fix it all.

So, how do we survive? Again, the faithful can chalk it up to a master plan and a deity's will. Those on Faithless Street don't have a mailman. They don't get word that it's all going to be okay. So, they make up their own little stories. Stories like you read here, I guess.

It's days like the one we just watched that get me searching. Not for faith, necessarily, but cause I have my own little brand of it (one that, last I heard, is not in the playbook of Pat Robertson, Pope Benedict, Gary Bauer, or Tom Cruise). I just search for something. I've managed to get by without blaming anyone except the one person responsible. I've managed to control my anger without getting too numb. It sounds cliche, and I sound like a broken record, but I got by through making my kid laugh.

Best medicine? Some say, I guess. It's a salve, I think. I don't like zoos (I actually once broke up with a girl because she wanted me to go to the zoo and Christmas mass within six months of each other), but my kid loves the animals. So, I go. It's easy to see how some of the animals get through it. Some are just too dumb to get it. The goats at the exit petting zoo are pretty good examples.

I get goaty sometimes. It's easier that way. I eat the food people shove at me. I wander around in my pen and take the petting when I can get it.

But, I think the thinking folks among us know that if we're goats, we're little more than sheep. We'll end up getting led to the milking pen or the shearing shed. We'll flock and baa and not offer much in the way of the jungle's version of progress. In short, we're civil in our inaction.

No, we're not goats. We have will. We have reason. Or, at least we like to think we do.

And so we recognize that we're in the jungle and it appears to be the only jungle we have. And that's what makes our eyes sad. When people look at us and say, "Dance, monkey," we can choose not to. However, that doesn't change the fact we're pretty much trapped.

It would be nice if there was a solid wrap to all this. It would be nice if I could tell you there is way to survive the jungle without deluding yourself into believing it's all going to be okay. If I could do that, Tom Cruise might give me a job.

I can't do that. It may seem like I'm beating the obvious drum a little hard, but we're living in a time I don't think any of us expected 15 years ago. I finally admitted to myself today that it's got me a little scared. It's not the madman that turns an idyllic community into his personal shooting range. It's everything. I don't have to list it for you. If you're reading this, you're likely thinking about the same things.

What do we do, folks? Do we get goaty? Do we accept that our eyes are growing as sad as the monkey's? Or do we do something else?

Tell me. Because this jungle is getting deeper and darker every time I look up.

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Saturday, April 14, 2007


If my dad had died in 2003 like he was supposed to, I would've remembered him as a caring, hardworking man. It would not have been a bad memory. Still, I also would've remembered him as a man who never stopped, who didn't know a life existed outside of Type A personalities, and who planned to relax only upon his death.

Dad didn't die in 2003, and for that I'm still pretty damned amazed and thankful. What's more amazing, though, is the effect a near-death experience can have on a guy. Dad is still cantankerous, impatient, and curmudgeony. But, sometimes, when he is alone, he stops. Today, when he thought the rest of us had walked on to look at a potbellied pig, he stepped off into a little grove. I was watching, but he didn't know it. I knocked off a couple quick shots as Dad proved there is time to stop and to...well, do what you're supposed to when you stop.

Stopping to smell the flowers

Sure, it's cliche, but it didn't take away from what it felt like to see my dad, alive and looking every bit of it.

My folks are in town for the weekend. My kid gives me a lot of joy, but there's not very much that makes me smile more than seeing how happy the boy makes his grandparents and vice versa. Here ends the sap. Well, after a couple of pictures.

Rocking chairs

Grandma and grandson

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Don Imus, Duke, and a personal story

I have never written about this.

It was 2003. I was returning from North Carolina. It had been an exhilarating trip. Eric Robert Rudolph had just been captured and I was one of the reporters sitting in the courtroom as he was formally read the charges against him. I enjoyed little more than a good manhunt and that day in Asheville had been the culmination of the pursuit to end all pursuits.

There are few more enjoyable short trips than the one between Asheville, North Carolina and Greenville, South Carolina. It was late Spring and the mountains were as lush as they would be all year long. There is a dead spot for nearly all cell phone signals and, for just a few precious moments, you can escape the constant demands of work and life. By the time you break the city limits of the aptly-named Travelers Rest, you're back in the real world.

That was when my cell phone rang. The tone in my wife's voice indicated something was very wrong.


For those of you who don't know, my wife and I used to work together. She was a TV news producer. I was a field reporter. We were an anomaly in the corporate culture--a married couple working for the no-no-on-nepotism Hearst-Argyle Television. We'd been grandfathered in when the no-nepo rules kicked off. Most people handled it pretty well. Some people did not. We didn't let it bother us. We considered ourselves professionals. We worked to actually be harder on each other than we would be on other people we worked with. It actually hurt our relationship sometimes. Regardless, our work situation meant we worked in close quarters and often meant we were discussing news stories in front of our co-workers.

One morning we got a visit from our local police Public Information Officer. We were friendly with the guy. I was the cop shop reporter and talked to the PIO every day. My wife talked to him almost as often. We were friendly enough that, rather than force me to drive down to the police station to pick up mug shots and arrest warrants, the PIO would occasionally drop them by.

A few days before I got sent on the road to chase Rudolph the Red-Faced Bomber, the PIO had stopped by the newsroom to drop off what he routinely called "Dumb Crook News." In this particular case, it was the mugs of two guys who thought it was a good idea to ship a few pounds of dope via Fed-Ex.

One of the mugshots pictured a guy with bloodshot, sleepy eyes...the kind of eyes I've seen more times than I can count on people who have taken a few more hits from the bong that the Surgeon General recommends. The other guy was capital "W" Wired. He looked like he'd just mainlined an eightball cut with pure adrenaline. His eyes were blown out and his veins were popping out of his head.

The PIO held up the pictures for us and asked, "Do these guys look like drug dealers or what?"

My wife and I responded with two sentences:

"That guy looks stoned."

"That guy looks like he's been sampling some of his own product."

And that was it. No words other than those. Conversation over.

One thing I didn't mention about the pictures--because it had nothing to do with our responses--is that both of the people in the mugshots were black.


Across the room sat a fellow reporter. She heard what we said and applied her reasoning to it. Before long, she had jumped over the head of her immediate supervisor, jumped over the head of the station manager, and written the corporate offices to report that two station employees had engaged in racial stereotyping by declaring two men must be drug dealers because they were black.

Despite being 100% wrong--and despite knowing my wife and I abhor any form of prejudice--this reporter felt a need to escalate the situation to the highest level she could. She would later write a mass email to members of the community with the same allegations. She never addressed the situation with my wife or me. She never asked if we meant what she thought we meant. In short, she didn't care. She was a crusader in need of a crusade.

My wife and I felt fortunate that nearly all of our peers--of all races--rallied behind us. They knew us, they knew how we treated people, and they knew our hearts. That was one of few good things to come of the incident.

While the reporter waged a community-wide campaign against the PIO, my wife, and me, we were told by managers to keep our mouths shut. We were told our jobs were at stake and that we could not be protected. The people we'd trusted with our careers and given--at that point--four years of beyond-dedicated work, told us they couldn't publicly support us. We were stuck listening to someone falsely accuse us of racism, stuck waiting to find out if we were going to be fired over the allegations, and stuck watching our clean reputations tarnished by someone who was on a mission of vitriol.

A local gossip 'zine picked up the story, as did a national journalism trade 'zine. The corporate offices sent down some VP who interviewed us all at length. They hired a diversity mediator--remarkably, one of my favorite college professors--to come down and iron everything out. In the end, every employee of the station was forced to undergo diversity training.

The only things left un-fixed in the situation were three previously spotless reputations. Though we'd never said--nor thought--anything even remotely racist, we'd been labeled racist. It was both painful and infuriating. Still, we kept our mouths shut, lest we cause further problems. I ended up offering what was an honest apology. "I'm sorry if you misunderstood what I said and I'm sorry if it somehow hurt you," I told the reporter. In tears, she said she accepted. She said she felt like she had a responsibility to protect people of her race. She looked honest.

And then she went behind my back and e-mailed members of the community again, and essentially, said we racists had gotten away with it.


That was absolutely the worst moment of my professional career, and one of the worst incidents of my personal life. It ruined a lot of the faith I had in people. I actually sat up at night wondering if I had done or said something wrong. My wife and I talked at length about it and wondered, if even by accident, we had said something racist.

We concluded we had not. The color of the skin in the mugshots did not matter. We said:

"That guy looks stoned."

"That guy looks like he's been sampling some of his own product."

We've known people of all races who were high off their asses. We would've said the same thing if they dudes had been a Scotch/Romanian. They were stoned and that was that. For that, we were publicly labeled racists.

The support my peers showed me during the two-month incident buoyed my spirit and helped me recognize that most people in this world are right-thinking. They choose to fix the world by helping people, not by hurting them. I've thanked all of those people before, but, if they happen to read this, I thank you again. You know who you are.

I've thought a lot about that four-year-old incident in the past year or so. The false allegations against the kids at Duke started a lot of the thinking off. Don Imus' hateful, racist, and sexist blather capped it.

There is absolutely a problem with race in this country. The college parties based on stereotypical racist themes are a clear indication that some of the young and privileged white kids are still being raised with prejudice in their hearts. Michael Richards launching into a rage-filled racist tirade is another example of how racism isn't something in which only poor, stupid people engage. Don Imus and, worse, his producer Bernard McGuirk, got away with a lot of bullshit before the market finally sent them off public airwaves.

We all have a responsibility to be honest. We should honestly discuss race. We should apologize if we hurt someone. We should call people out if they hurt us.

That said, there is a very fine line. There are people, at least one of whom I know all too well, who use the racist label as a weapon. They use it as a way to draw attention to themselves. They use it to hurt rather than to help. It's those people who weaken the heartfelt efforts to bridge the racial divide. Every time they cry racist, people listen even less. So, when it comes time to hunt down real prejudice, people are so tired of hearing the wolf-cries, they don't listen nearly as closely as they should.

I'm glad Imus got fired. I'm glad the Duke lacrosse players were exonerated.

I wonder if my old colleague feels the same way.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Parenting, Poker, and Puke

It was midnight when my phone rang. I had just put in a live straddle and was leaned back in my chair waiting for the action to get to me. For those not familiar with the straddle, it is a blind bet you make in a poker game to induce more action and up the stakes a little bit. When putting this kind of bet in, it's usually a good idea the stick around for a while. Otherwise, you've wasted the bet.

I looked at the caller ID. It read, "Home."

It had only been a couple hours since my wife had told me to play without guilt, to have a good time, to not worry about her and the kid. It was the first guilt-free poker session I'd had in a long time. I was losing, but still had several hours to get even and win some money for the night. Hence, the straddle bet.

"Home," it read.


I answered quickly. Before I could say much, the wife said, "I need you to come home now." Apparently the kid was sick.

I looked down at my straddle bet and bid it goodbye. I was wearing my jacket and standing before the wife was done talking.

I calculated the time it would take me to get home. It would be about ten minutes.

"I'll be home in--" I started.

"Now!" the wife said.

Rather than belabor the subject and let her know I was leaving NOW, I cashed out and headed for the house.


The surest way to test one's immune system is to become a parent. I spent most of Saturday night serving as a human buffer between various comforters and my son's projectile vomiting. Obviously, it wouldn't be long before the germs worked their way in.

Despite what some people may have you believe, I have a pretty solid immune system. However, becoming a father has introduced me to entirely new strains of bugs and viruses to which I apparently have little to no immunity.

I will not describe the last 48 hours. It's best left to your imagination, a place that--no matter how creative--could not possibly grasp how bad it's actually been. How bad was it?

Well, I'll put it this way. After being pulled away from the game prematurely on Saturday, I was looking forward to playing poker on Monday night. That particular game didn't happen, and so it would be Tuesday night. I had grand plans. It would be drinks and appetizers with the boys at 5pm and to the card room by 7pm. The first round of ugliness started at 12:30pm. I told myself I would be fine. One little nap, I said, and I'd be ready to go.

By 4:30pm, my cell phone was ringing and I couldn't get up to answer it. I moaned from my bed, "Just tell them I'm not going to make it." I didn't know if I meant I wasn't going to make it to the game or that I just wasn't...going...to...make it.


No amount of Gatorade, Gingerale, Pepto, or even water can fix this. Even now, almost 24 hours since I last thought I might be dying (or, in the alternative, that my wife had slipped me some hemlock), I am not sure I'm fit for public view. I managed to shower, take a conference call, and finish up some third quarter budgeting. Beyond that, I'm functioning just well enough to watch an interview with Wes Craven. I might watch something else, but I don't have the strength to lift the remote.

Update: At the end of Craven interview, he talked about trying to break into the film business. He said...

"You have to believe in yourself. Usually if you have a passion for something, it will happen. You have to be willing take great risks and put everything else at stake. It's like one big poker game. You have to put it all on the table."

I can't help but wonder whether Craven knew I'd be watching and writing about poker at the same time, or whether poker has become such a popular part of our culture that it was just inevitable that someone would mention poker while I was writing.

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Monday, April 09, 2007

Three hours in Milan: American where-wolf in Italy

I've spent the last couple of days wrappping my head around my few short hours in Italy. As I sat down to write up this part, I decided it was better suited for the sports blog to which I contribute. It's just a short look at what it's like to end up in the middle of a foreign sports rally without knowing the language or the sport.

From Up For Sports Blog's Lost in Translastion:

It was a Tuesday afternoon and not any holiday I ever celebrated. But the square was packed. There was chanting like I'd never heard. Kids carried cases of beer on their shoulders from nearby stores. The crowd seemed to move and speak like a huge, red, Italian animal. They shouted at each other. They beseeched some unseen sky god. They did the wave. The only reason I didn't run and hide in my hotel was that it seemed like it was something big--whatever it was.



Thursday, April 05, 2007

Milan in three hours: Gelato

The hard thing about being a visitor in Milan is that you are one of the people who isn't perfect. Your eyes don't have the perfect shape, your ass isn't the type of thing that makes people fall over crying, and your ability to be the hottest person in the room--no matter where you are--is severely inhibited. Within thirty minutes of walking, I noticed that anyone under the age of 50 in Milan who was not a tourist was among the most gorgeous people I'd ever seen. The men were pretty. The ugly women were better looking than most women who live in America. I vowed not to return to the city before having plastic surgery.

Curious, I thought, that a city so full of gelato shops could be home to so many perfectly shaped people. While a longtime consumer of ice creams (premium and otherwise), I spent 32 years without enjoying gelato--or, at least, anything that actually described itself as gelato. Then, in the Summer of 2006, Wil and Ryan took me to a little stand inside Caesars. I had pistachio and decided that if American lawmakers ever quietly outlawed oral sex, I'd settle for a daily dose of gelato instead. That said, gelato ain't necessarily fat free and I had to figure there was some government mandate in Italy about ass-goodness to gelato consumption ratios.

Regardless, it was a warm Spring day when I stood at the city center and decided--before I did anything with my three hours on the ground in Milan--I was going to have some gelato.

I shouldn't be surprised that the gelato shop wasn't staffed by smooth-skinned fashion models with perfect almonds for eyes and stomachs that you could--in a pinch--bounce grapes off of. Upon my return to America, I went to an airport Swensens for a smoothie. The girls there were decidedly not small--choosing take two orders at once so that they wouldn't have to walk the five feet back to the register. Efficiency in sloth, I'd call it.

No, in Milan, there were no Milanese behind the counter of the gelato stand. Still, the Asian women working on the edge of the Piazza del Duomo were not all that bad looking. And, they took orders one at a time--sloth be damned.

I stood in a line of perfect asses and smooth skin. I peeked around one ass and saw it: pistachio in all its brown-green goodness. For €2, they slapped it on a cone and sent me back out into the sunshine.

I think there are a few things in life that I wouldn't even try to describe with words. Among those things are a night of naked monkey business with my wife, Scarlett Johansson, Virginia Madsen, and Helena Bonham Carter...watching the Kansas City Chiefs win the Superbowl from a hot tub in Maui...and the texture of pistachio gelato as tasted in the center of Milan.

No, the picture doesn't do it justice.

Under the March sun, the gelato threatened to melt fast, so I ate it quickly, enjoying the mix of sweet and salt, dodging pickpockets, ducking under pigeons, and heading for a giant scrum of soccer fans in the middle of the square. I wasn't sure what was happening, but it looked like as good a place as any to eat my gelato.

And, so I went.

Previously: Milan in three hours: Prelude

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Milan in three hours: Prelude

The long and the short of it was, I wasn't supposed to be in France. It's hard to say, really, what the French had against me. I've always been a big supporter of their fries (frites, if you want be more accurate) and I've never been one to say anything bad about their maids. Regardless, my departure from Monaco (basically French, but not close enough to make it a problem) was due to happen at the ugly hour of 9:45am on Tuesday. Having gone to bed at 7am after a long night of pokering with an American, two Brits, a Swede, and a Belgian waffle, getting on a bus was not my idea of fun. So, I slipped on the Bose, fell to sleep, and woke up at a highway rest stop in Italy.

Falling asleep in Monaco and waking up at the Italian equivalent of a Flying J truck stop is an odd thing. I stumbled off the bus and into the bathrooms (where an attendant was actually accepting tips). I stumbled out, bough a Coca Light and a Mars bar, and got back on the bus. I drifted back to sleep, wondering how the Italian countryside remained so painfully pretty. Then I noticed a distinct lack of billboards for the next tourist trap and decided I'd have to debate the merits of capitalism vs. beauty another time.

A couple of hours later, I was in Milan, being hustled by gypsy cab drivers (which I managed to deftly avoid), and in my room at the Grand Hotel. Ostensibly, it was a nice place. The TV flickered and the remote was straight out of the 80s. The bed was hard, the pillows were thin, and the view was of an alley. There was no room service except for breakfast and the street noise was akin to an open window in New York. But, it was clean, expensive, and near the city center.

"Just one night?" the man at the desk asked me.

"Just one," I said, still behind my Bolle sunglasses, stinking of Monaco beer, and ready to be anywhere in America.

"You need much longer," he said.

"Next time," I said, took my room key, and stowed my bags. I didn't bother to tell him I was staying in his fair city for less than 24 hours, that he was essentially harboring a French exile, and that my knowledge of his language was based entirely on the works of Father Guido Sarducci.

I am guilty of not seeing enough of the places I travel for work. I spend too much time in my hotel rooms or in casinos, and not enough time on the streets. I vowed, despite my insane fatigue and desire to be in my own bed, that I would go out into the streets of Milan and stay there until I could no longer stand.

And so I walked.


Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Blind to those in G-Vegas

Boarding from Milan in two minutes.

Please reserve:

1) One very big meal
2) 14-15 hours in my own bed (activities to vary)
3) Several hours of American television and movies (please note: CNN International does not count)
4) Various sunny places with the boy
5) One more very big meal
6) Another 10-12 hours in my own bed (activities to vary even more)
7) A seat Saturday night
8) Repeat 1-7 until the people at home are sick of me and send me back to Europe


Monday, April 02, 2007

Blue in Monte Carlo

It's just after 9pm here in Monte Carlo. This is my last night in this city for at least another year. I've seen a lot of interesting stuff since I've been here, the likes of which I should someday use as writing fodder. I should be done with my work and available for silly writing some time in the next six hours. In the meantime, here's a look at the signature drink of a hotel bar.

As I sat with a Norwegian buddy of mine, drinking these only because they were ordered for us, I commented about how bad it was. Sverre agreed, but we continued to drink and discuss places we'd never want to live. Halfway through, he said, "You know, this drink sort of grows on you."

I couldn't help but agree, but later I thought, "More likely, it grows in you."

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Rapid Eye Reality is the personal blog of writer Brad Willis, aka Otis.
All poker stories, travelogues, food writing, parenting and marriage advice, crime stories, and other writing should be taken with a grain of salt. It is also all protected under a Creative Commons license