"Serendipity" didn't quite capture it. Nothing could capture it. It was a rag-tag weekend that simultaneously mercilessly wrecked my psyche and infused my spirit. It was the first-ever WPBT gathering.
I wrote a lot about that weekend after it was over. But this moment was the one that still sticks out in my mind.
HDouble sat with CJ and I for a couple of hours, slinging chips and laughing with us. As I sat there, I knew that he knew the answer to a question I'd been laboring over for months. He knew if Iggy was a little person or some rabid practical joker. It seemed so crude to bring it up, though.
As we sat, the Missouri crew and G-Rob finally found their way into the poker room. They all bought in for some chips, and I found myself inordinately interested with how they were faring. CJ and I had a bit of a view of G-Rob's stack and monitored it closely.
I knew that HDouble was supposed to have a pretty, Nordic wife.
"You come by yourself, Hank, or did you bring someone along?" I asked. Maybe I was just making small talk. I dunno. A part of me thinks I was setting myself up for a joke I didn't even know was coming.
HDouble indicated he'd come alone this time.
I had been pointing out various bloggers to CJ as they walked by. Eventually, CJ pointed over to Pauly's table, where a long-haired guy was squatting next to the one-seat.
"Who is that?" he asked.
I'd seen the guy walk in a little earlier in the night. Maybe it was Grubby, I thought. However, I figured since Grubby had been MIA all night long that there would've been some grand celebration when he arrived. So, I made the next logical choice.
"Pauly said his buddy Ferrari was coming. Maybe that's who it is." I said. I didn't look at Hank when I said this.
I consider myself a pretty good multitasker. My wife gets vaguely annoyed when I try to play poker, watch TV, keep an eye on the dog and kid, read a newspaper, and carry on a conversation with her. But I can do it.
Part of my professional training has included being able to listen passively for a spot in a conversation where active listening is required. At any given time, I can write, listen to a police scanner, carry on a conversation with someone in the office, and listen to Yahoo! Launchcast. If somebody gets killed within a 20-mile radius, I'll hear it on the police scanner. If somebody at work needs me for something, I'll hear it. If Steve Earle slips into a cover of "Willin'," I'll hear it.
Keep that in mind for a couple of paragraphs.
I was in the middle of a hand, which drew my concentration ever so slightly away from talking with Hank and CJ, from watching G-Rob and Marty's stack, from ordering another in a long series of beers, from trying to figure out why my cell phone had started shooting every call to voicemail, and, yes, from the guy who was now kneeling beside me. It was the same guy CJ had asked about earlier.
"Otis," he said. It wasn't a question. It was a definitive statement. He knew who I was.
"Hey, man." I was being friendly, despite the fact that my brain was trying to work its way around how to play the hand sitting in front of me.
The guy said his name was something or other, then went on to mumble something about really liking my blog.
"I'm a friend of Hank's," he said. "We drove in together, and I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoy your writing."
Now, something should've clicked right there. Just thirty minutes earlier Hank had said he'd made the drive alone. I'd actively listened to that conversation.
And, so, the long-haired guy kneeling on my left kept talking. G-Rob's stack kept flucuating, the cocktail waitress kept bringing beer, and, for the love of all that's holy, I was still involved in a hand.
Do I raise? Do I cold call?
Passively, through increasingly drunk ears, I listened to the guy who was still talking. And just like when I hear 10-89 (local police ten-code for death) pop out of the police scanner, I heard something from my left that made me slip back into active listening.
The word was "dwarf."
I turned to my left and saw the smile creeping in the corners of the guy's mouth. Indeed, he had said "dwarf."
Somehow, I just knew.
I bounded from my chair and wrapped the guy in a hug like I would a brother I hadn't seen in years.
"You son of a bitch," I said.
Iggy had arrived.
Damn, I loved that moment.
After the first WPBT event, everyone said it could never be re-created. When last June rolled around, I was determined to do it. I planned everything down to the minute. In doing so, I worked against my goal.
The beauty of the first WPBT event was that, with the exception of tournament day, nothing was planned. Like the WPBT itself, everything happened organically. Planning for events like these is like like planning how to play Ace-King to the river before you've ever seen a flop. The beauty of it all is the mid-game, mid-hand, mid-party gear shifts we're forced to confront.
While this past June was a great time, I felt like I'd over-scheduled my time. Every moment of every day was planned down to the minute. I found myself sticking to a schedule and organic happenings didn't happen. Don't get me wrong. I had a great time. How could I not? Still, what I did was more fertilized than organically grown.
And so it happens that there have been calls for me to organize another Storming of the Castle.
When I made the decision to attend this December's WPBT Winter Classic, I made one rule for myself. No schedule. The only thing on my schedule is the WPBT event on Saturday. Other than that, I'm going to go where the games, friends, and drinks take me. If I end up downtown playing craps alone at 5am, well, so be it.
And, yet, I love the Castle. I love to storm it. So, what do I do?
Well, this is what I've come up with. I'm making no plans. I'm not blocking off any time for it. That said, I wanna do it.
So, here's the deal, if you're at all interested: If it should happen that a group of bloggers in my presence decides Storming the Castle is a good idea, I'm going to text message five people. If they see it as a good idea, they can text message five people. And so on. Yeah, I know, flash mobs are so 2002 (note: any cultural phenomenon that appears on a TV crime drama is now passe).
So, here's my five. Pick yours and program your phone accordingly. And those of you without a cell phone (ahem, Iggy), go buy one, you Luddite.
And if it doesn't happen...well that means I'm spending more time in the organic garden.
...and because I was bored...