December 30, 2004

What I Learned: 2004 in Review.

Now that I think about it, I didn't learn a frigging thing.

See you all in 2005, peoples.
Only 40 hours left in this wretched year. Wheeee.

December 29, 2004

2004 in Review Continues: A Top Ten List of Sorts.
  1. Modest Mouse: "Good News for People Who Love Bad News" and live at the Hammerstein Ballroom. My favorite band took a giant leap forward, creating the most stunning music I've heard in years, since "OK Computer," probably. I've heard it a few times a week for months and months and still am surprised each time.
  2. "Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind." My life story, with better performances. I was completely freaked out by this movie, and don't know if I could see it again.
  3. My wildcard improv performance at the UCB 3x3 Cagematch contest. So much fun I couldn't wait to do it again. Then I did do it again and it wasn't that great, but still.
  4. "Deadwood." Best goddamned ensemble cast ever, but dear cocksucking lord, was anybody better than Ian McShane's Al Swearengen?
  5. [tie] Homestar Runner and Achewood. Countless hours of heelarious entertainment.
  6. My birthday at the Jersey Shore. Fried Oreos, tequila shots, and Skee-Ball. A bright spot in the middle of many months of blah.
  7. Ryan Lizza's campaign coverage for The New Republic.
  8. The first-ever Valentine's Day Black Hearts Party. The first time I think I really got it, and the high point before my mere-days-away laying off.
  9. "The Incredibles."
  10. Rutgers actually making it to the Finals of a tournament, taking down archrivals Iowa State in an overtime classic at the Garden.

December 28, 2004

What I Learned: 2004 in Review.

#3: Do a Wardrobe Inventory Once in a While.

Seriously, I got a job after eight months of unemployment and it's like I forgot I owned any work clothes at all. I was getting something from the back of my closet last night and I found two perfectly good pairs of khakis, and this after I bought another pair last week. I did the same thing with shirts last month, buying three more, forgetting the four or five new shirts I never got around to using during my last spate of employment.

So in 2005 and beyond, periodic shirt/pant/sock counts.

December 27, 2004

What I Learned: 2004 in Review.

#2: Gambling for a Living is Harder than It Looks or (as Hunter S. Thompson once wrote) Old Whores Don't Giggle.

That period of unemployment lasted a bit longer than I had planned, so to avoid any sort of honest employment I found myself playing poker four or five times a week for a couple of months. On one level it worked, as I focused on my play (my line was that being laid off really tightened up my game) and had a financially successful time of it, winning enough to take care of my basic expenses for the period.

On the other hand, obviously my actions had removed playing poker from the entertainment category and put it into the work category, with the result being that at times it was as unpleasant as any job. Playing tight can actually be pretty boring, and I found myself doing strange things to mix it up a little, like checking the bottom right corner of the card first (checking for the telltale border of a face card, or the blankness that meant either an ace or a 2/3) or checking flops without my glasses.

Also, I was spending way too much time sitting around a small table with a group of people who under normal circumstances I wouldn't want to share the same subway car with, listening to (and saying) the same dumb things and watching nothing but sports on TV. The hours can be pretty unconducive to being a part of normal society, and I was getting home at five in the morning, not waking up until past noon, cutting down on daytime job-seeking as well. I was offered and considered a job dealing at the club, which seems to pay pretty well, but I figured having to be there until 7 in the morning would completely cut me off from the rest of the world.

And I can't overlook the fact that my success was probably as much luck as anything else, and that I was only a couple of bad sessions away from wiping out everything I had made. Meaning that I would have spent all of those hours at the table for nothing, or quite possibly several hundred dollars less than nothing. So I think I'll stick with this work--a-day 9-to-5 life for the time being.

December 26, 2004

What I Learned: 2004 in Review.

Even, or perhaps especially, in a year as brutally awful as 2004, we leave December a little smarter than we began January. In these remaining few days before this year mercifully ends, I'm going to try to figure out the lessons I learned.

#1: The De-Mythologizing of Manhattan.

I was born in Brooklyn, though my parents moved out to central New Jersey when I was about a year old. Still, my grandparents lived in Brooklyn, while most of the rest of my family lived in Queens. My Dad worked in Manhattan until he started his own company in Jersey City (coincidentally, across the street from where I type this). And, of course, throughout my life I would go into Manhattan for the museums, shows, or just hanging out.

So to me Manhattan has always been this incredibly huge force of energy that my world has revolved around, and while it was possible to visit or work there, actually living there was reserved for those with Wall Street salaries or some sweet fifth-generation $35-a-month rent-controlled apartment.

So one of the things I learned this year was that while Manhattan might still be the major part of the greatest city in the world, it is still just a city, without velvet ropes on the borders keeping the riff-raff out. This year I met a lot of new people living lives pretty much like mine, except that they live in various parts of Manhattan. In addition, now that I'm working and wandering around Midtown, I'm noticing dozens of crappy little hardware stores and the like, not that much different from Jersey City, or my hometown of Old Bridge, for that matter. I suppose that like a lot of things, now that I'm part of it, it no longer seems as special.

December 25, 2004

Oh, and speaking of blackjack, should the Borgata dealer who had those three blackjacks in about a minute-and-a-half happen to be reading this, please follow this advice: if you are checking your hole card to see if you have a blackjack, and it turns out that you do, in fact, have a blackjack, flip the goddamned card up immediately! Do not freaking wait three seconds to create a moment of drama in your bitter, player-hating head, making us think that Whew, we're okay, and then show us the blackjack. I swear to God that if the tiny, hot cocktail waitress didn't happen to be walking by the third time you pulled that I would have leaped across that table and gone for your throat.
I have to admit I'm a bit disappointed that I was able to sit down last night in the Borgata Casino's Living Room Lounge and read this book without a swarm of beefy security guards dragging me out to the marshland and beating me with a sack of oranges and automatic card shufflers. I guess they could just sense that I lack both the manual dexterity and the sack to pull off an effective $1005 past-post move (with odds) at the craps table.

Even without trying one of the seemingly-so-easy cheating techniques described in the book, I did manage to leave AC a winner, unlike my four fellow family members, thanks to a few blackjack streaks (after managing to survive one brutal four-hand stretch when the dealer had three blackjacks and a 20) and a beautiful flush with dealer's qualifier on the only hand of Caribbean Stud Poker I played (odds: 1 in 510). Boy, that was sweet.

Decidedly unsweet was when some jerk at the $5/$10 table hit his three-outer on the river, his KJ crushing my AK, while at the exact same moment an acquaintance of mine from the central-NJ clubs was tapping me on the shoulder in order to borrow $100.
Turning on my radio and hearing that WPLJ has (a bit prematurely, I thought) discontinued its all-Christmas-songs-all-the-damn-time format has made me pretty darn grateful that we really only have "Auld Lang Syne" for the rest of the year. Well, I guess U2's "New Year's Day," but that would make for a pretty weird two-song repeat rotation for the next six days.

Update: Okay, there's a few more songs than those two, but I've decided they don't really count.
Lest We Forget. During the hectic holiday season, as we rush from mall to holiday party to post office to relative's house, it can unfortunately be too easy to overlook the simple and elegant fact that long ago today was born a great man, who has brought joy to the lives of countless millions with his words and deeds.

So happy birthday, Rickey Henderson, born 46 years ago today in Chicago.

(Well, whaddya expect from a baseball fan named Goldstein?)

December 24, 2004

One Year Ago in The Donk, Basically. On an airplane, heading west, looking for love, adventure, and a 10X-odds $3 craps game. In case you missed it the first time around and have six hours to call, might I recommend The Huge Honking Trip Report: Ken and Keith...Westward Ho!, also known as my last paid vacation before being laid off. Life was so much simpler then.

December 19, 2004

This Donkey's Gone to Heaven.

That was the Pixies concert I always dreamed of seeing.

December 16, 2004

Best Comment Heard on the Street in Months. Up around 38th/6th, out for some lunch, waiting to cross the street. As I'm waiting for the light a construction worker starts crossing the street, calling "Take it easy!" to the two other construction workers left behind. "Take it easy?" one says sneeringly to the other, after the first guy is half a block away. "That guy's been taking it easy since June!"
Please Send Your Donation to Help Poor Maria!
Maria the Model: Maria Sharapova's sponsorship obligations sometimes force her to spend days posing when she'd rather be playing.
Photo caption from today's Metro newspaper.
The Framley Examiner. Two things and two things only do I know about this: 1) It's British. 2) It's funny.
Only 15 days, four hours, and 20 minutes until this lousy year is over.

December 13, 2004

There was a Santa/Elf combination at the office party tonight, but instead of mingling about and spreading holiday cheer, for at least the first hour they did nothing but sit down on one of the couches, staring out into the crowd. And you know, few things are more depressing than Santa and an elf sitting forlornly in a club during open bar. Just took the whole spirit out of me, that and the fact that the open bar was beer and well drinks only.
You know, thanking God because it's them instead of you is totally a dick move.
2004 could not end one minute to soon for me.

December 12, 2004

Speaking of poker at The Borgata...a rule of thumb: if you're tipping the cocktail waitresses more often than the dealers, you're probably not having a profitable night.
I just realized that I forgot to mention one of the most exciting moments of the last month! On the day after Thanksgiving I was in a store buying a cup of coffee in a shop right next to Santa and his elves, and obviously on this day there was a huge line of kids and parents for me to fight through. I bought my coffee, but then as I was heading back to work my attention was grabbed by a kid who was standing there and absolutely freaking out!

Picture a clean-cut seven-year-old boy just standing frozen, staring straight ahead, wide-eyed, and screaming, "HOW CAN SANTA BE HERE IF HE IS OUTSIDE AND YOU SAID THAT HE WAS AT THE NORTH POLE MAKING TOYS UNTIL CHRISTMAS AND THEN HE CAN'T BE HERE BUT HE IS HERE AND YOU SAID" over and over and over. I mean, I'm Jewish and even I know the whole "Santa is very busy and has many helpers to find out what kids want" story, but all the parents were doing was looking around, justifiably embarrassed. I could just imagine that kid back at school on Monday, spreading the word to all his friends about how they've been bamboozled all these years.
One Month Later.

Okay, I think I'm back now.

I know this site has been dormant for some time, but I've been spending almost all of my time either in Manhattan working six-day weeks or shuttling back and forth to/from Jersey City (and I'm gonna have to do something about that little geographic inconvenience at some point, methinks). And since I have no online access at work any time I do get in front of my computer is spent checking e-mail or catching up on Achewood and seeing if anybody else has flagged my Craigslist "Casual Encounters" personal. But after working a full day yesterday and with a closet-full of laundry and another jam-packed week approaching, I figured I better stay inside today, where this here computer just happens to be.

Anyway. As befits this double-boxcars date I feel like two sacks of crap (and I never bet the Don't Pass line). I mean, I probably don't feel as bad as any NY quarterback or the guy who handles (handled?) layout for Esquire, who this month decided the best spot for a four-page, heavy-stock insert ad for The Life and Death of Peter Sellers was directly across from an article about biopics calling the HBO movie a "noxious example of preening mimicry" -- synergy in action! -- but pretty blah nonetheless. I think my body was confused by my efforts to sleep late this morning (okay, afternoon), and I moved right past rested and into groggy, a problem that for some reason never happened during my long period of unemployment. I mean, during those months I could knock off 12, 14 hours at a clip with no ill effects, and I'm a bit embarrassed at how far I've fallen.

So as long as I'm stuck inside, lemme give you some highlights from the last month!Well, I guess that's enough for now.

December 06, 2004

The Illuminated Donkey will be returning to action...any minute now. Keep hitting Refresh until this occurs. Thank you.

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