When I met the woman who would later become my wife, I was just 19 years old. I had a long, long ponytail. I delivered pizza.
In 1994 I was thin, carefree, and spent more time planning my next road trip than with silly "conventional" distractions like rent, gas, and cable TV.
I saw the Grateful Dead at Soldier Field that year. I saw Phish in Cincinnati and Louisville. I crashed a Phish show on my 20th birthday way up in Bethlehem, PA.
I ended that year with the same wife-to-be and two of my closest friends, by spending New Year's Eve in Amsterdam.
Those were heady days my friends and, now, if it's possible to have a mid-life crisis at 34, welcome to it's heart.More in this Poker Blog! -->
Maybe it starts with Phish. Could be Bonnaroo. It may be that having my brother living so much closer has a mutual bad influence. We've already caught the start of the Dead tour (as posted below) and now here's a rundown of the summer to be :
May 31 Phish@Fenway Boston, MA
My friend "Uncle Ted" scored the tickets up in the rightfield grandstand. My brother and I are flying up that morning. We get in at 11:30. We leave Boston at 5:00AM Monday. It's a whilwind, what Timmy calls a "Rockstar Vacation".
We're just going to RAWK! Should make for a pretty interesting return flight in any event.
June 9 Phish@Asheville Civic Center Asheville, NC
Hard tickets to score but I paid the scalpers. This will bring about some scorn in the -Head community. I absolutely do not care. Otis, Pauly, and my wife will be there too. Should be silly since it's the smallest venue on the Phish tour this year.
This is an old-school venue. I plan to act in a very stupid manner.
As soon as the show ends my wife and I will hop in the fully-loaded car and head to Charlotte for a few hours sleep before hooking up with my brother, his wife, and "Uncle Ted".
We'll be getting an RV.
June 10 Phish@Thompson-Boling Arena Knoxville, TN
We'll take that RV 4 hours down I-40 to Knoxville and hook up with a half-dozen more friends. We've got 12 seats for this one. Hopefully the Joker and TD will be there. Some other friends, both new and old will be using some of the 12 tickets my brother and I scored (all at face value) through various means.
My seats are fantastic. Lower level, Pageside.
After the show we'll load up the RV and hit a hotel just 6 miles away.
This will be the last clean bathroom for days.
June 11-14 Bonnaroo Manchester, TN
This is my fourth Bonnaroo. B and I went in 2002, 2004 and 2007. My brother and his wife will be with us for the third time. Uncle Ted, Matt, and Julie-Steakdoses are back for a second time.
It's awesome for a long list of reasons but my favorite are :
Phish is playing both Friday and Sunday nights.
The Beastie Boys.
Bruce Sprinsteen and the E Street Band
I can't wait.
August 15 Phish@Merriweather Post Pavillion Columbia, MD
I threw this in for good measure. I scored 4 tickets on the Fishman side in the lottery. My wife, my brother, sister-in-accodance-with-law, and I will have fun.
You know, because its the Phishes.
Now here are my concerns,
I'm not 19. I'm older, fatter, and more pampered. I do have actual responsibilities.
I played in a decent frolf tournament Sunday and played well. Today my back and legs have been extremely sore. That makes sense. I competed for a full 11 hours.
You know, competed.
At standing, walking slowly, and throwning a frisbee.
Yikes. If that hurts now, I'm more than a little worried about the stamina required for a summer of '94.
We'll see how it goes.<-- Hide More
I have a scabbed over gash that runs from the top of my left triceps down past the elbow. The left hand has a few nasty scratches that make it look like I lost a catnip fight with a panther. My special "frolf shoes", actually Teva trail shoes, are so badly torn I haven't even tried to wear them in a week.
Plus, I had to buy a new skeeter.
Still the worst part of my past week was the following admonition from my wife :
"I don't think you should play alone anymore. If (Otis) can't play, you should just go to the gym instead. It's too dangerous."
She actually said that!
I'm so ashamed.More in this Poker Blog! -->
I started playing frolf regularly, by which I mean almost every day, about 8 years ago. That first initial infatuation lasted a good two years before taking a 5 year snooze. Then, last summer, Otis and I rediscovered what we loved about it in the first place :
It gets us out of the house.
It gets us outside.
It gets us away from our wonderful and better-than-we actually-deserve wives.
We can pretend we're competitive without, you know, skills or talent.
I've played pretty much every day for the past year.
But even a true love needs a fresh look, a new position to try, a fresh approach. After playing almost exclusively at "Timmons Park" we we thrilled to get a new course out in Greer.
So without further yammering nonsense, here's my take on the new "Century Park" course and details of my latest frolf humilation.
Now that the leaves are coming in, the course is looking good. The city of Greer had to redesign the course last year and brought Innova in for the course architecture. That led to a complete clear-cutting of all the underbrush. Before the spring it had a real zombie apocalypse feel. If you've read Cormac McCarthy's "The Road", this is the landscape you pictured.
Now with some leaves on the trees it looks like the apocalypse...with chlorophyll. That's an improvement in my book.
The layout is actually quite superb, a mixture of tricky elevation changes, long bombs, and at least a few relatively easy birdies.
Notable are :
- The third hole which is over 400 feet and has a tough uphill lie that begins about midway.
- The 7th, which should be the easiest in Greenville but has caused me to develop a frightening mental block. There is only one tree to hit. I always hit it.
- The 10th which lies to the right of the teepad with that path obstructed by heavy trees. It's a pretty easy birdie for a lefty who can get a good long range fade but is tricky for a righty who has trouble with a turnover disc.
- The 11th is the hardest hole in the area IMHO. Otis' too. 397 feet with a steep uphill and some pretty dense tree obstructions about midway. A par here is very impressive.
- The 15th. Notable because, while long, it is not a particularly difficult shot. Somehow, this is an Otis mental block hole.
- The 16th. A case could be made that this is actually the easiest hole on the course. I, however, have now lost two midrange discs here...including my daughter's "Skeeter".
Last week I threw a fade shot that I thought would curve into the basket. I had the range right but actually pulled it a bit and caught the side of a tree. That sent my skeeter a good 50 feet away and at a 90 degree angle from the hole.
When I crossed the creek and found my disc, I found that there is actually a SECOND creek perpendicular to the first. My disc was beyond a good 20 feet of dense bramble on the opposite bank.
After sloooowly stepping through the thorns, I got to the near bank and devised a retreval plan :
Step down about two feet onto the near bank with my right foot.
Quick step with left foot across 2 feet width of creek to far bank.
Push back onto right foot.
In my defense, a strategy much like this has worked thousands of times before.
Instead it went bad fast.
When I stepped down, my right foot sank a good 8 inches in the mud. When I lunged forward it wouldn't come loose.
I tried to re-adjust and threw my weight backwards, my arms flailing in a spiral.
With my left hand I reached backward for something to grab and stop my fall. With my right I tried to break my fall into the creek.
The left hand found something to grab. A thornbush. It ripped my hand open (my throwing hand no less) and I finally let go falling entirely into the mud.
The mud was so soft now that I couldn't stand to get out. I had to find some sturdy sticks nearby to get solid footing for the climb from the creek.
When I did, my right shoe stayed behind. I had to get on my stomach and pull it out.
I left the skeeter behind.
Now I'm not allowed to play alone. And, sadly, this is my SECOND major frolf injury of the year. This one, luckily, was without witnesses.
The last was in a competitive tournament.
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It's the first lesson I taught my wife when she joined me for a round on the frolf course. She'd never seen disc golf before so I figured I'd start easy.
It's the sound of a disc hitting the basket, but not staying in, and the subsequent reaction of the player. It only took about 5 minutes before we heard it happen the first time to a player in a group behind us.
It's been more than a year since I've been on the disc golf course, and it felt good to be back!More in this Poker Blog! -->
The course in E-Vegas is amazing. All 18 holes have nice concrete tee pads and pictures of the hole at each tee. In fact, a number of the longer holes have alternate tee pads for women, amateurs and G-Rob.
There's a lot to like about the set-up of the course, too. There are mandatory openings through which you must throw the discs. There are lots of places where a bad throw could land you out of bounds or in the water. And the holes offer lots of opportunities for a variety of shots. It's a longer course than Timmons Park back in Greenville, but it also doesn't have as many Death Star trench-like shots either.
On this day, I managed just one birdie (despite what the course suggests, regular frolfers consider all holes to be a Par 3). But I was happy with how I threw considering it had been so long since I was on a course. And I can't wait to get back out and do it again!
Plus, this gives the guys from G-Vegas just one more reason to visit. 1) Free place to stay. 2) Casino boat with poker room. 3) Disc golf course. 4) And for Bad Blood... some adult establishments.
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(Posters Warning : CJ told me this blog now has a more diverse focus. I still plan to stick to gambling in some sense. Because I am a problem gambler, this still leaves an immense range of topics about which I can, and will, post. I just felt like writing again.)
I saw a wookie bounce off the hoods of three cars. He streaked past me, with clumped hair flapping and woozy knees wobbling, presumably running FROM something that only he could see. With wookies there's an equal probability that he's running from :
A) The Law.
B) His Past.
C) His Imagination
He'd just run down our aisle when he darted between cars, bouncing off one, into another fender, then off a hood. I thought he got away. I later heard he was slammed down by three cops.
For those of you playing at home, that's "A".More in this Poker Blog! -->
Now, generally I like to get all settled in before wookie watching, but since this is the first Dead tour in years I was prepared for anything. My wife, brother and I got to Greensboro at least 3.5 hours before showtime. Presumably enough time to either drink a dozen beers or wait once in the porta-potty line.
The good news is that most of the salesmen were pretty savvy. That's unusual for a wook. The two most active undercover cops were a big burly guy in a yellow shirt that said "Dead" and another guy, also burly, but at least 6 foot 6 with a crew cut and a blue 'do rag.
I saw douche-rag guy hit up one pipe vendor near our car. Pipe vendor was holding his glass in a black case and strolling down our lane when douche grabs a random pipe and whips out a wad of cash. My car was blasting tunes at the time and I couldn't hear everything said but I saw douche-rag point several times to the "bowl" portion of this young wooks glass. Wook, again, was savvy. The only part of the conversation I actually heard was wook telling cop, "These are for tobacco man. I could hook you up with THAT if you want."
Cop grabbed his money back from the wook, put the glass back, and stormed away without a word.
That's the gamble that is the Dead lot these days. I remember back in the day, we'd see more of everything than you can imagine ( I mean wow, really, everything) and the cops did nothing. It used to kinda freak me out the way cops would just ignore all the obvious, illegal activity at a GRATEFUL DEAD show. Maybe Jerry was responsible for greasing the locals, but the cops ain't cool these days and they haven't been for quite some time.
Granted, like the wookies themselves, some people deserve what they get. One kid, a girl who I'd say was about 17, came by our car holding a ticket in her hand. She showed it to me....busted for drinking in the lot. Now, here's where she got super-extra-mega-dumb. Her girlfriend was in the process of getting busted by yellowshirt guy (who again, could have just worn the uniform for all the subtlety he brought to undercover work) and our kid goes up to give her friend a hug. During the bust. While holding an open beer.
These are tomorrow's leaders.
So once inside we take totally excellent floor seats just to by the soundboard (Philside) and I continue the now standing bet I have with Pauly. We each pick 3 songs for 1st set opener. 3 more for second set. 3 more for encore. I took $20 off him when Phish opened with Fluffhead at Hampton.
We pushed all three for the dead.
Here's the setlist for those who care :
Music Never Stopped
Estimated Prophet >
He's Gone >
Touch of Gray
I Need a Miracle >
All Aong The Watchtower
New Potato Caboose
Help on the Way >
Samson and Delilah
Some notes :
I love Music Never Stopped but am unable to NOT hear Donna scream OHHHH YEAH at crucial parts of the song. I'm not sure what that means. I've never actually SEEN Donna but that's what years of bootleg cassettes will do for a man.
My brother and I really, really, really, really, really, wanted to see Estimated Prophet simply because we like screaming AH NA NA NA NA along with Bobby Weir. We're amused by simple things.
He's Gone was written long before Jerry died but when you're touring without him you do know the audience assumes it's ABOUT him now....right?
Miracle was the highlight of the first set. I got stuck in the beer line during Touch of Grey and missed part. In fact, I missed so much that I missed Truckin'. I was so oblivious to it that I PICKED Truckin' as one of my 3 second set openers with Pauly. It was a dumb bet.
I enjoy the song Shakedown Street very much.
I also Enjoy All Along the Watchtower and Warren Haynes really shredded it up on this one.
Caution was awesome and this is the best thing about having Warren play with the band. He can actually sing the blues. Not the douchey Bobby Red Rooster blues but the good ol' Pigpen brand. If you get to see the Dead this year, hope that they play this song.
During Cosmic Charlie my wife said, "you know the DEAD never played this but all the after-bands (Phil, Ratdog, the Dead) play it all the time. I wonder why."
Then they played New Potato Caboose. Wow. I don't even own a bootleg version of this soon. I couldn't remember the name until it was half-over. I do remember that "touching makes the flesh cry out loud." That counts for something.
The band started the Help>Slip>Frank at 11:30. That's 4 hours in.
My brother and I assumed all day, it being Easter and all, that we'd see either Promised Land (my guess) or Greatest Story Ever Told (his). Samson and Delilah is what we got.
C'est la vie.
This is the kind of crap I blog about now.
It did contain some gambling.
That counts.<-- Hide More
I showed up early for Monday's South Carolina Senate subcommittee hearing. Up for debate and public input were two bills that would effectively make legal home poker games and charitable raffles.
South Carolina is one of two states in the country that bars raffles (thanks to Utah for making us seem less antiquated and ridiculous). The Palmetto State also makes any game with cards or dice illegal (read: poker, Monopoly, bridge) etc.
With that in mind, you might expect the decriminalization hearing on the 200 year old law to be ridiculous. You would be right, you just don't know how right you are. By the end of it, I was so frustrated I couldn't even speak clearly.
So, after the jump, I grade the major players' effectiveness (Note: this is for more than South Carolina poker players, as the national Poker Players Alliance had big role in the hearing).More in this Poker Blog! -->
Poker Players Alliance: The PPA, the most legitimate of all the poker advocacy groups in America, has spent a great deal of time and effort in South Carolina recently. It supported the Mt. Pleasant Five in a February trial (see your April issue of Bluff Magazine for my article on the subject) and has been exceptionally vocal about legislative efforts here.
The PPA surprised me by pulling on board one the state's most respected legal minds. Billy Wilkins, former chief judge of the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, spoke on behalf of the PPA. While Wilkins could've been briefed a little better on the subject matter, he was expectedly well-spoken. It was was a coup for poker players to have Wilkins on their side. I would never have guessed the poker industry could've pulled such a big name from the local pool. The PPA also did a great job of rallying the troops to the meeting. Its online outreach was hard to miss.
All of that said, the PPA still has some issues it need to address if it wants to be a serious force. It could have done a much better job lining up and briefing people who planned to testify. One of the better parts of organizing grass roots efforts like this is making sure your people are all on the same page and are well-educated on the subject matter. The PPA needs people who know how to do more than send out e-mails. It needs to be pushing hard in the media, rallying larger groups of people, and educating the masses. A media campaign couldn't hurt either.
Finally, the PPA's social media strategy was either badly conceived or badly executed. Here are a few examples of the Twitter messages sent out to more than 1,200 Twitter followers during the meeting.
"at the Greenville NC poker hearing which just started."
"Greenville, opposition just said that no one has every been arrested for playn poker n SC! Read the paper much?"
"Greenville, opposition sweating bullets right now."
"opposition doesn't support charities that save lives w/ funds received from raffles."
"opposition does not support the burn center thats supported by charity events."
"Franky's Fun Park is full of games of skill not chance! LOL"
"opposition doesn't support personal responsibility. "
"opp doesn't support Sheriners."
"looks like were rapping up."
There were a ton more like that. From misstating where we were geopgraphically, to rampant spelling mistakes, to out-of-context immaturity, the Twitter feed was embarrassing. I couldn't figure out who was sending the messages. He might be a really good guy, but he needs a better understanding of both social media and reasonable, mature ways to win hearts and minds. If the Twitter feed was the PPA's only voice, I would not associate myself with the group. Said B.J. Nemeth, top poker writer, "These tweets sound absurd. You're making it sound like anti-poker people hate children, charities, and puppies. Clearly untrue."
The PPA has come a long way recently and I still wholeheartedly support the group's mission. It's clearly on the right track. It just needs some good counsel on how to handle some of its outeach efforts. Grade: B-
The legislators: Several legislators from around South Carolina came to Greenville. It started about as badly as you might expect. Committee Chairman Robert Ford is from the Low Country. He likes to party and is a laid back guy. He's obviously from the coast. The problem is that his brand of humor doesn't play here. He knew coming into the Upstate that he was going to be facing a very conservative crowd. Rather than respect it, Ford started the meeting by saying, "I guess since we're in Greenville, we need to start with a short prayer. We didn't do that in Charleston."
There is no greater way to tick off a group of praying people than saying, "I guess we'll do it since we're in your house, but we wouldn't do it we were home." Ford is a fun guy, but he is not one to sway hearts and minds. He seemed more intent on debating that convincing. Bad play, sir.
Senator Jake Knotts, a retired cop from Lexington County (around the state capital), is no better. While obviously being in favor of the bill, he spent more than half his time arguing on tangential subjects such as whether the stock market was gambling and whether a local arcade contains games of chance or skill. He also left before the hearing was over (I know, because I left two and half hours into it and he was ahead of me in the parking lot). Knotts is a fierce advocate for whatever he believes in. Sadly, most of the time he throws a punch, he misses his target and hits the referee.
Senator Brad Hutto is yet another Democrat from the coast. He is seemingly a smart guy. He also listens very well. Unfortunately, he stayed too quiet through most of the meeting. He could've used what seemed to be his openmindedness to convince the opposition. Instead, he sat and looked annoyed. I don't blame him. I looked annoyed, too.
Senator Phillip Shoopman is actually from the Greenville area. Despite apparently being opposed to the law change, he was also level headed. He seemed to imply he could handle a poker home game decriminalization measure as long as it didn't involve opening up the state to new raffles. Of all the opponents in the room, he was the most reasonable. I appreciated his ability to disagree with me without resorting to name calling and being judgmental.
Senator Mick Mulvaney from York County won the day. If there was an eye-on-the-ball legislator Monday night, it was Senator Mulvaney. Erudite, polite, and mature, Mulvaney was exactly what the conversation needed. If the entire legislature was made up of people like the York Co. senator, there might be a little more confidence in the intelligence of the body. Mulvaney is a Republican and we disagree on many subjects. That said, I can respect his style and his ability to allow me to disagree with him without resorting to tired and childish forms of debate.
I'm quite pleased the lawmakers are taking the time to deal with this thorny issue. I'm less impressed with their way of handling their detractors. I covered lawmakers from 1996 to 2005. I'd forgotten how disenchanted I was with the people and the politics. I got a quick reminder Monday night. Grade: C-
The Anti-Gambling lobby: Wow. I mean, wow. I know I live in the conservative part of a state that is one of the most conservative of the nation. I've seen the huge anti-gambling forces fill gymnasiums to fight against video poker. I know there are people who don't like gambling around here. I get that part. That said, the folks who came out of the woodwork to fight the possibility of raffles and legalized poker home games were just...impressive.
Chief among the detractors was Tony Beam, a conservative radio host and bigwig at a Southern Baptist university in the north part of Greenville County. Well-spoken and persuasive, Beam is a debater of the first order and has all the charisma of Rush Limbaugh. He is also the king of the straw man. He and Bob Jones University professor Dr. Bob Taylor (a doctor of math, if you can believe it) both rallied the troops by stating that allowing raffles and home games would open the door to casino gambling in South Carolina. They state this despite the fact the bills clearly state that such gambling would be strictly forbidden. They state it because the only way to really rally the anti-gambling crew is to offend their sense of morality. They would get nowhere if they said, "Fight against people's rights to play cards in their own home! People playing poker in their home could turn your children into sinners. Charitable raffles in churches are the agents of Satan." Even the most fervent of gambling haters would have a hard time getting a rise out of that.
So, the detractors create the king of the straw men: home poker games and church raffles will mean MGM and Harrah's will set up shop in Mauldin next week. It doesn't follow, it's silly, and it's just wrong.
Here's the best part. The most vocal of the opponents at the hearing were from Bob Jones University and North Greenville University. Both are privately funded schools and take no state money. Fair enough. That said, their student body is made up of students who are there on scholarships. Many of those scholarships are funded by...wait for it...the South Carolina lottery.
Later Monday night (yes, at a poker game) a graduate of Bob Jones University (who financed his way through school gambling on backgammon) asked why I thought his alma mater was so fervently against home poker games and raffles. Without understanding the motivation fully, I answered. First, they want to impose their morality on as many people as possible. Second, it's an opportunity to be heard. They are an interest group and an interest group is nothing without an issue to fight for or against. And so, the stickers that say "No new gambling" on their chests. And so the tear-filled speeches about lost families. And so the wavering voice of a radio host who talks about the people he has brought back from the brink of video poker addiction.
This is all because the American Legion wants to run a raffle to support its charities. This is all because I want to check-raise my friends in a cheap game of poker.
In short, the opposition is a lot like the proponents of the bill. They are so morally offended by the other side, they can't bring themselves to make a legitimate argument. They are exceptionally devoted and charismatic, but they need to read a book by Dale Carnegie. Grade: C-
Poker players: Despite a massive turnout in favor of the bill, a good portion of the people in the audience were there in support of charitable raffles. The local poker community is huge. Not enough of the players cared enough to show up. I knew going in that my presence wasn't going to make much difference. I was going anyway, but felt better about it when G-Rob said, "Nothing ever got changed by people doing nothing." I was disappointed by how few of my fellow poker players showed up. Grade: D
It's clear I'm frustrated. I'd hoped to write something a little more positive about the hearing. Sadly, nothing positive came from the hearing. The people on my side were unfocused, tangential, and irrational. The people on the other side were unfocused, tangential, and irrational. It was an act of legislative and advocacy masturbation and I am sad that I wasted nearly three hours of my life in the middle of it.
Because I've converted to Optimism, I look forward to what's to come. Because I still have latent fatalist tendencies, things don't look too good--for other side.
Photo courtesy GreenvilleOnline.com<-- Hide More
Today, former Betonsports.com CEO and Director David Carruthers pleaded guilty to federal racketeering charges. The U.S. Attorney's Office says the Betonsports organization's conspiracy included:
"Creating and disseminating advertising throughout the United States which represented that its Internet and telephone gambling operations were legal and licensed. They failed to disclose known material facts, namely that the U.S. government and most state governments viewed such operations as illegal, and that they did not have a license to operate legally anywhere in the United States."
"Representing to potential customers that money transferred by them to BetonSports on account was safe and readily available to be withdrawn at anytime. BetonSports was actually using the funds to support and expand its operations, including the purchase of Easybets. When BetonSports ceased operations in July 2006, it could not repay its customers over $16 million held on account."
Carruthers now faces up to 20 years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines. He will be sentenced on October 2nd. The man who hired Carruthers also faces charges along with four other individuals. Those charges range from RICO conspiracy to mail fraud to the interstate transportation of gambling paraphernalia. That trial is scheduled for September.