Friday, August 10, 2007

Poker Night

Why do all of these guys love so much to play poker? You put me in a room of guys who like each other, like to talk to each other, like to drink beer and eat salty snacks, why do you also need a distraction that will eventually cost me money?

Oh Yes, it costs me money. And that's supposed to bother me, I know, as I am sure each dollar lost costs me additional silent treatment time from S. Bullock. Since I don't actually enjoy playing poker, and have lost all of my money each time I've played, I've taught myself to think of the $40 buy-in as the cost of hanging out, drinking beer and eating popcorn.

Why now? Why do I finally play poker after 42 years of non-interest? Even when Ken Dunque asked me to play, I showed up but did not play. Instead, I hung around the table and heckled a bunch of guys I didn't know, endearing me to them forever. I was not invited back.

But now. A bunch of Brandeis dads I don't know very well -- I know their wives, of course, because I am a Nancy Boy with no job who hangs out with the other housewives ... oh, sorry ... "stay-at-home-moms" every day at our kids' school -- guys I wanted to hang around with, some Sun Devils, Mr. Confidence and a few other guys, asked me if I wanted to play.

And so, finally, I acquiesed. I showed up with my six-pack a month ago, sat down and lost all my money. But it took four hours, so it was okay. I figured I paid $10 an hour, which works out okay for me. I haven't yet done the calculations necessary to figure in the ancillary costs, i.e. the emotional cost of coming home and telling S. Bullock that not only do I have no income but I just dropped the cost of one saxophone lesson so I could make new friends.

But am I capable of making new friends? I've got to wonder.

Last night I returned to the Sun Devils' house for some more poker. Problem is, the one time in my life that I played poker was when I was on the baseball team at Saddleback College in 1983, and all the baseball players would play poker at lunch in the cafeteria. We played poker, but really it was just an excuse to heckle each other. That's how ballplayers do it.

Not to mention that I'm a dork who can't keep his mouth shut. So as the evening goes along I realize that I'm hearing my voice more and more, and though I'd say that at least 45% of what I say is pretty funny, that leaves a solid 55% open for interpretation. And I don't really know these guys all that well. Remember that.

Oh, and did I mention that I'm kind of strange, too?

Thank heavens for Mr. Fun, who I'd sort of figured as a guy who'd find everything hilarious, even a deconstruction of the eerie yet empowering effect that powerful bathroom lighting can have on the simple act of urinating. Even when my pop culture references became too marginal for anyone to grab onto ("What popular rapper's real name is the same as a character on a much-beloved TV show from our Junior High School years?"), Mr. Fun pretended like he not only got it, but found it hilarious.

Mr. Fun's courtesy laugh cannot be beat.

The truly interesting thing about a bunch of guys playing poker is that the game, the setting, the entire scene (or "gestalt," as a particularly bad boss I had once said) is a litmus test for how each of us interprets guy-ness, manliness, being male and grown-up. In this case, we're Jewish guys, hyper-educated guys (three JDs around the table, only one still a lawyer), guys proudly waving our San Francisco sensitivity around like a white flag of masculine surrender.

So when we lampoon our absent wives, it comes with hidden air quotes. Parady is the unspoken parameter within which we play. We do NOT discuss the cans on that bimbo, the time we got in that guy's face because he insulted our friend, and I have no idea which, if any, of these guys can burp the alphabet.

Good or bad? I have no idea. Completely out of place thirty years ago? Probably. It may be just because I don't know any of these guys well enough to know if any of them can burp the alphabet, or what their old bar stories involve.

What do I know? I'm the interloper who can't shut up, erratically careening between carefully keeping his mouth shut during a discussion of some other (absent) guy's politics, and then occasionally blurting out some weirdly inappropriate observation about the song on the radio. I mean, I've hung out with these guys' wives much more than I've hung out with them.

Maybe the glacier is moving, however slowly, and I'm heading toward a place where I can hang out with guys in something more than meta fashion. If only I can learn to keep my mouth shut.

I really wanted to chime in about that guy's politics. And the rapper 50 Cent's real name is Curtis Jackson, same as the guy in "The White Shadow" who got shot at the liquor store right before the team went to the city finals.


Blogger Bud and/or Marsi said...

i was totally gonna say 50!!

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