We were in Johnson City when we stopped for gas. Gulfman bought a half-tank and I fueled my tumor. Our TV Explorer was 2 hours north of the TV station and we still had 4 hours left. That's when I took the wheel for the rest of the drive, through the remnants of a hurricane and into my childhood home.
Ashland is Eastern Kentucky. It's one of a half-million cities that's described in chamber of commerce shorthand as either "Tri-Cities" or "Tri-State". Ashland has the honor of both fake names. In our overnight stay, Gulfman and I would find ourselves lost in Huntington, West Virginia and Gallipolis, Ohio.
SPEAKING OF LOST
At the bi-weekly donkey's choice game I had boats crushed by quads..TWICE. On the first hand we played Omaha 8b and 4 players saw the flop.
G-Rob has 9-9-9
BadBlood has 10-10-10
Rankster has A-A
Rich has Q-Q-Q
Turn is :
G-Rob has 9-9-9
BadBlood has 10-10-10
Rankster has A-A-A
Rich has Q-Q-Q
River is :
G-Rob has 9-9-9-Q-Q
BadBlood has 10-10-10-Q-Q
Rankster has A-A-A-Q-Q
Rich has Q-Q-Q-Q!!!
My boat came in 4th!
I Stink for a reason
The last leg of out drive is a 2 hour tour along the hilly Kentucky border, from Pikeville on up. The homestretch is marked by the coal burning power plant just off to the right and the oil refinery just beyond. It had been raining all day and the dust from the countless coal trucks has become an thick grey airborn mud. When the wipers weren't pushing rain they were smearing fossil fuel.
Gulfman's from Long Island. He was stunned by my part of the world. I'm the son of an immigrant hippie and resident of the deepest hollow. I'm not entirely sure the G-man had ever seen coal before. In Ashland its piled up so high you need a half mile of distance just to see the clouds above. The police cruisers are emblazoned with the motto, "Where coal meets steel". Lame but true.
LATER IN THE GAME
Rank was down $400 and out of the game. The big winners had cashed out too, so by 2AM only me, BadBlood and Teddy Ballgame remained. I was up about $150 when the Donk-fest began.
Soon, the three of us were playing Razz, $10 max bet with a $3 bring in. Average pot :$80. After each hand TBG would scream loud enough to wake the NEIGHBOR'S kids, "I hate this stupid FUCKING game!" Then he'd deal it again. Teddy fears change.
Some Things Never Change
Ashland was a boomtown when the coal and steel industry was full of smoke and fire. Now it puts the Ash in Ash-land. Gulfman and I were there because the folks along Winchester Ave. had decided to try and make their own hometown look just like G-Vegas. They flew down here and met with our mayor. They toured the restaurants and boutique shops. They decided the only thing that kept their town from blossoming like ours was MORE TREES!
There's something sad about the attempted ressurection, like a Little League parent who dresses up in the child's uniform. Its an image makeover that's made of imagination alone. Ashland can never be G-Vegas. Trees are always nice though.
Friday at "The Mark"
Ten players for another $40 tourney at "The Mark". This is the place where people are most convinced I suck. I busted 4 of the players, including BadBlood, when he pushed shortstacked with A-x. I caught two jacks on the board to match my QJo.
That game was, as always, followed by an insane cash game. Mark has this wierd love of NL Omaha. The pots are insane. They have a joke there that there's no reason to make a pre-flop raise, everyone will just call. It's true, of course, which means smart pre-flop raises can make a man rich.
Unfortunately, its hard to play enough hands to make that kind of money. Remember, during the $2 million tournament of champions, when Doyle told Phil to hurry the F*** up! This kid, on every hand he played, which was most of them, took 10 minutes in the tank. When an opponent raised, he'd ask for a chip count...then FOLD. The first orbit of the tourney was 20 minutes long. We played 7 hands.
I won the tourney. I've won 3 of the last 4 I've played there.
We started covering our story at the bank downtown. One of the suits there was leading the redevlopment charge. When we pulled into town, I called him to ask for directions. He laughed and told us he was in the only big building in town. It's 11 stories tall.
After an earful of PR-speak from the banker we looked for one of the main street mainstays to help tell the story. We found Bernard, owner of the Hallmark store. He'd worked at that store before he bought it, and he'd been there for 32 years. Nobody was more qualified to talk about what it's like to be in Ashland's downtown.
Like all the other merchants we'd met, Bernard lamented Ashland's decline. He said the new card customers were shopping at the mall and the old ones were dying off. He knew my parents and knew their old neighbors even better, especially the ones who'd died. Gulfman shot video of him helping the one customer in the store while I browsed around. I saw plasic playing cards for bridge, which my mother used to play, and all I could imagine was the look of suprise on the G-Crews face when I whipped out KEM-like cards with cuddly kittens on the front. Good TIMES!
Eight is Better
I remember telling BadBlood (notice he's in ALL of my poker stories) about my new online game, by girlie IM.
G-Rob : Wanna play some Stud 08
BadBlood : What's the "0"
G-Rob: sorry. "o"
BadBlood : You're playing Stud-Omaha 8b?
G-Rob: Go to hell
So what if I'm stupid. I'm very tall. I'm also able to win regularly at the Stud hi-lo game on Party (Bonus code: Otis-Falls). In hand after hand people will call me down with cards that can't beat what I'm showing. They have no low. They can't beat my pair of Jacks. Why call the last bet? Sheesh.
Kudos to Tom Wolfe
Later that night, my mother's birthday by the way, Gulfman and I joined the family for dinner. Mom kept pushing a video shoot at the old steel plant. She says its the best way to show the decline of Ashland from industrial boom to information bust. Gulfman was unmoved. He pointed out the length of the story (90 sec.) versus the amount of video we'd already shot (1 hour). I told her we weren't there to talk about Ashland. The people in G-Vegas don't care and neither did we. The only thing we had any interest in were the things that directly related to our chosen hometown.
It wasn't until the drive home that I realized how true that was. As we passed that coal plant, on the left this time, I yearned for the hills of Greenville instead. I thought about getting home to my family, in my home, in my city of choice. I thought about dealer's choice.
Tom Wolfe is from Ashville, 90 miles to our north. He says you can never go home again. He's half right.
NOW PART 3 OF OUR STORY
Hope you like it. I actually worked hard on this one.