Story of the Month: Walking in Memphis

StoryoftheMonth

What follows is the story of five guys who witnessed the intrusion of supernatural forces into the late-night, alcohol-infused descent into madness that so often accompanies underground poker games. Every detail is completely accurate, and no embellishments have been added. I may have been intoxicated at the time and, to be honest, I might be lying outright about any or all of it, so you probably should not assume any of this actually happened . . . although it did.

 Walking in Memphis

by a guest RevPub writer

Among the group were Brody, Jesse, Moe, Paxton, and Ray. Brody was the ring leader of the night’s circus, and he was a true player in more ways than one. His job prepping venues for conventions and trade shows introduced him people at every echelon of society, and he found it easy to connect to all of them. His passion for fast cars and easy women belied his playing style, which was calculated, methodical, and dangerous.

Brody’s cousin, Jesse, was the host for the evening. His well-paying position at an international manufacturer afforded him the ability to purchase his home outright before turning 30. Jesse’s mountain of a truck couldn’t fit in the garage, so he did the only logical thing and turned the garage into a poker palace. Jesse’s play style was laid back. He didn’t waste time bluffing; instead he enjoyed lively conversation and alcohol.

Brody’s other cousin, Moe, had also inherited Brody’s genetic ability to attract the opposite sex. Bored with his ability to pick up a different girl every night, he now thrived on the challenge of picking up big pots off those foolish enough to call his bluffs at the wrong time. His play style was unmistakably aggressive, and he never met a player he couldn’t outplay.

Paxton was Brody’s friend who was enjoying his summer break from college. His appreciation for fast cars mirrored that of Brody’s, so their friendship was inevitable. Paxton’s play style was cautious and precise. He waited for the right set of cards to set check/raise traps that could steal half your chips before you realized you never had a chance. Then there was Brody’s other friend, Ray. Ray and Brody were friends from a previous sales job. Ray was the prototypical salesman, and some of his swagger rubbed off on Brody. Ray was the kind of salesman a company would use to sell sales techniques to sales teams. He didn’t sell things professionally for the money; he enjoyed it for the thrill of bending people to his will to close a deal. It was this thrill that brought him to games where he could bend people into abandoning their cards by convincing them he had better ones. At best, his play style could be described as unorthodox and, at worst, it was pure lunacy. He didn’t let a little thing like a lousy hand stand in his way, and he would often play hands blind. Naturally, this approach frequently caused Ray to go home broke.

It was a warm summer’s night, and the players arrived around 8:00 pm. After an initial round of drinks, playing commenced. Up to this point, the night was unremarkable. The conversation and entertainment proceeded as it had dozens of times before. With the first deal of the cards, however, Ray changed. Outwardly, he was the same confident, charismatic guy who could befriend you before speaking a word.

Looking into his eyes, however, revealed something else present. The game initially progressed with everyone making small talk and playing in his typical manner, except Ray. He wasn’t playing at all. He anted up when it was his turn, but he folded every hand after briefly glancing at his cards. Then, after 30 minutes, it happened. With two others committed preflop, Ray started mumbling. His mumbling slowly grew louder until his words became clear. Ray was singing part of Cher’s version of Walking in Memphis. His words were not as harmonic as Cher’s, but rather rhythmic and soft like a monk’s chant. Ray repeated the same verse, “When I was walking in Memphis . . . walking with my feet 10 feet off the Beale . . . walking in Memphis . . . but do I really feel the way I feel.”

With each of us looking at each other laughing at the musical improvisation, Ray bet one third of his chips. One of the remaining two players folded, and one called with a pocket pair of queens. The following two rounds of betting were minimal. Then, when Ray and Brody showed their hands, it became clear Ray had bet almost 40% of his chips on a terrible hand consisting of 9 and 2 that were not even in the same suit. This was a horrible hand to bet, and especially one with which to bet so heavily. Somehow, he won. The fourth and fifth community cards were a two and a nine, so Ray picked up two pair while Brody’s initially superior pair of pocket queens became useless. It was an interesting way to win a good amount of chips, but this is certainly not the first time a weak hand won despite the odds. After all, the wild swings of Texas Hold’em are what make the game so much fun to play and watch. I’ve had similar wins myself, and it was most likely just a lucky bluff that he beat when called . . . or so I thought.

Two hands later, almost the exact same thing happened. Ray chanted the song’s lyrics with a 7 and 4 off suit and a smaller pot and won with community cards that were not revealed when he initially bet. Then it happened again four hands later. And again. And again. And again. For roughly 45 minutes, Ray won hand after hand with lousy cards after chanting the song. He became the overwhelming chip leader and eliminated two players. Eventually, the remaining two players refused to play against him when he led off singing the song. They folded those hands instead.

Ordinarily, this kind of control over your opponents would be an advantage for Ray. He could have won the tournament by simply singing the song every hand to collect the other players’ antes, which would make him the victor when they ran out of chips. However, Ray played the game for the thrill of the bet. Grinding out a boring win wasn’t really a victory to him, and for some reason, he could not win without singing the song, regardless how strong his cards. It seemed that whatever demonic force Ray channeled to win the unwinnable also damned him to lose that which should have easily been his.

I am not a statistician, but based on my years of experience playing Texas Hold’em, I can say I have never seen a player defy such insurmountable odds so consistently. Ultimately, with his powers lost, Ray was eliminated. Moe then beat Brody to win the tournament and the glory. I’ve only seen Ray a couple times since that night, neither of which playing poker. He apparently stopped playing after that night. He doesn’t talk about his reason for quitting, but we all know it’s because he didn’t like being “touched by an ‘angel.’”

As for me, I still don’t have much better things to do than play poker on Saturday nights. I am smarter about it now. No more suburban houses. I only play where it’s safe, in the back rooms and alleys filled with hustlers and card sharks . . . where people get stabbed for beating someone with a 9, 2 off suit preflop bet and unimaginably terrifying things would happen for singing a Cher song . . . where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came.

Story of the Month: My Date with Sue the T-Rex

StoryoftheMonthIn September of 2013, I had the good fortune of getting to go to Schaumburg, Illinois, on business.  I’d never been to Illinois before and being so close to Chicago was a great opportunity.

A lot of people had advice on what I should do when I get there.  I should go to the Navy Pier, go to a ball game, or definitely try the food.  The only thing I wanted to do in Chicago, since I had only a short window of time, was see Sue the Tyrannosaurus at the Field Museum — one of the most complete T-Rex skeletons ever found.  Being a lifelong fan of dinosaurs and a fan of the Dresden Files, it was the one thing I had to see.

The work-related training course I attended in Schaumburg ended early on the last day, and I set off to the city.  My hotel had no courtesy van, so I called a taxi and paid the 20 bucks (yeah) to get to the nearest train station.  When I got there, I found the station itself was closed but a woman I met there said, “Don’t worry you can buy tickets on the train.”  When the train showed up I got on, got my card ready, and told the ticket guy I needed one to Chicago.  He took one look and said, “We don’t take cards.”  I explained I didn’t know and the station was closed, he didn’t seem perturbed, but said, “Well, you’ll know for next time.”  It didn’t help too much and I felt like I’d stolen a ride, but the fact that it was a cash-only enterprise and used hole-punchers like the Wetzel’s Pretzels discount card I got at the Woodfield Mall was a little unusual and very different from my last experience with mass transit in Washington DC!  I was lucky the ticket guy was nice; it must happen a lot.

I rode into town with my head down (since I was a ride-moocher) knowing essentially where I had to go.  Walk east from the station and I’m not too far from the Field.  It would be a good walk, but I had all day, and how often am I in Chicago?

Once I got to the station in the city, I got out the GPS on my cellphone and started walking.  Trusting my GPS, I immediately turned a couple times and traveled along a road for which I couldn’t find a street sign to name it.  I passed some interesting city blocks and traveled a bit before I saw something that was awry.  I passed small coffee shops and a place that packed eggs…it didn’t look like I thought it would.  I saw a few buildings in the distance that I thought might be the outskirts of the town and thought, “I was further out than I thought.”  I kept walking, then took a right, and out of the corner of my right eye, I saw the city…

Now I should mention I live in Nashville, which I always describe as a medium-sized city with a small-town mentality and big-city problems.  Chicago as it turns out is a MASSIVE urban center.  The kind that you really can’t miss…unless you start walking WEST on Randolph Street from Ogilvie Station and take a right on Aberdeen.  In my narcissistic mind I had been walking a certain direction…so I just assumed it HAD to be correct!  Finally spotting one of America’s hardest-to-miss cities, I headed east on until I hit a dead end then snaked around until I got to Fulton and headed North on Desplaines.  Once I got to Grand Avenue, I stuck to it like glue and headed east all the way to Lake Michigan.

Once I saw the Navy Pier I knew I was golden…however I also knew the Navy Pier was north of the Field.  I turned south and started walking, keeping the lake to my left.  I added the sounds of sea gull caws and rigging clattering to my audio repertoire and spotted the Field in the far distance.  I admit I was getting tired, but the idea of seeing Sue kept me going.

I finally got to the large, well-kept park outside the museum and headed up the cleanly cut hills to the Field steps.  Once I got to the museum, I saw a sign that said “The Field will close at 4pm, last admittance will be at 330” for an apparent event.  It was 3:27…I had JUST made it.

When I got in the woman at the desk said to someone, “There are more coming in. I’m taking this one and the next one and that’s it.”  She told me the museum was only going to be open til 4, I said that was fine, and she let me in and the person who came in behind me.

But there was Sue, standing tall in the center of the museum.  There were tables and serving areas being set up everywhere, but I didn’t mind.  I took pic after pic to make sure I had all the angles.  I visited the gift shop, got an “I saw Sue” pin and a T-shirt…and left, all in under the 30 minutes I had until the museum closed.

I then walked back (went to the wrong station, I ended up at AmTrak instead of Ogilvie…it was at that point I decided I’d get a MAP instead of a GPS next time…) and got back to Schaumburg around 6.

I’m looking forward to going back to Chicago to see all the things I walked by at a good clip to get to the museum or to the train station home.  I know how to get train tickets and what it costs to get from point A to point B (and generally how to get there) so it’ll be MUCH better next time.

I learned a lot from this trip, which turned a less-than 3-mile walk into an 8-10 mile adventure of narcissism, faulty technology, and idiocy.

In the end, Sue was very worth it…but I had to leave her in Chicago, probably for the best.  It wouldn’t have worked out anyway, long distance isn’t good for any relationship.  Plus, I think she may be a little too big bone-ded for me anyway 😉

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Story of the Month: Holiday Auto-Co-Wrecked…

StoryoftheMonthIt’s Christmas time!  That is supposed to mean harmony, togetherness, and good cheer; instead it’s usually stress, road rage, and social embarrassment.

This particular story relates to the latter category, and if I had an ounce of pride I would indeed find it rather embarrassing instead of merely hilarious.

I have recently purchased a new phone.  My old Blackberry Bold (shut up, haters, I loved that tough lil bastard) fell face first on the tile and cracked the screen into oblivion, so I got a new Samsung Galaxy SIII.  It was my first touch screen, my first smartphone, and my first real introduction to auto-correct.  I’ve actually adjusted well to the use of it and enjoyed the applications, but there have been some hiccups in the adjustment.  One such incident occurred while discussing a Christmas present I was getting for a good friend.

I enjoy picking out good presents and never expect anything in return, in what should be the true spirit of the season.  This friend loves owls, and in addition to a few other things, I got her a little stuffed owl ornament.  I should also mention that she is a NEWLYWED whose wedding I attended last year (and even danced Gangnam Style with her husband).  When I found out she was getting me something too, this was the conversation that followed, the blue bubbles are me:

AutoCoWrecked

Now…clearly I’m getting used to the swipe texting feature, and they have the words listed in alphabetical order…so “owl” became “oral” with hilarious results.

You don’t even want to know what happens when I mis-swipe-text “and”…

From the RevPub family to yours, may your holidays be filled with as few socially embarrassing situations as possible!

Story of the Month: Brain Breaks

StoryoftheMonth

In the spirit of the Thanksgiving season, we at RevPub decided to do a special post about something we are very thankful for: the brain.

The brain doesn’t get nearly enough love. We tend to just expect it to work well all the time, and when it doesn’t, we think what the hell? Sometimes, the brain needs a reboot — just like our phones and computers. It’s these moments that make us appreciate the power of our brain. It’s these moments that make for some really awesome (and funny) stories.

10 Epically Stupid Things We’ve Done When Our Brain Breaks:

(10-6 are by Raven and 5-1 are by James)

10.) I have put my hoodie on backwards several times. And I mean hood full-over-my-face, and I ask myself every time, “Why is it so dark?!” and am really confused. I’ve even tried walking a couple times — probably looking like a mummy.

9.) One night when I got home from work, I got out of the car and walked up to my backdoor. It was locked, so I grabbed my car keypad and pushed the unlock button. And again and again, but the door wouldn’t unlock! Turns out, you need a KEY to unlock a deadbolt, not the car keypad…

8.) And one morning at work, I walked up to the elevator and swiped my key card in front of the buttons. After a few swipes and mentally stomping my foot, I realized what I was doing and pushed the button. (I’ll only admit to doing that once, the others I deny).

7.) For the girls out there: The last time I dyed my hair, I mixed the conditioner in the solution instead of the color. I even put it all over my hair until I realized I’d mixed the wrong thing. I couldn’t believe how thick the color solution was and it smelled great! I basically deep conditioned with chemicals for 15 minutes.

6.) Just last week at about 6 p.m., I was talking with a friend and getting ready to leave work. So, naturally I grabbed my keys and sunglasses. I put my sunglasses on top of my head, talked with her for 20 minutes, and headed outside. The moment I stepped outside I pulled my sunglasses down, and it got really dark fast! Because it was night.

5.) Not just once, but SEVERAL times I have washed my face with my glasses on. It’s something I will do again in the future too, I know it.

4.) Not only have I washed my face with my glasses on, but I have also gotten in the shower with my glasses on. Ever had rain get on your lenses? Try shampoo…

3.) I don’t know why this has suddenly been a trend, but three times in two weeks I found myself driving around with my emergency brake on. Including once on the interstate. As Mitch Hedburg said, “It doesn’t say much for me, but it really doesn’t say much for the emergency brake. More like the emergency make-the-car-smell-funny lever.”

2.) Recently while cleaning a bottle of super glue, I glued my eyelid shut. It was a brief moment of horror when I thought “I’ve gone blind!” which turned into “Oh good…I’ve glued my eye shut…” It took serious scrubbing with hot water to get it out. And I looked like Rocky at the end of his first fight with Apollo for a couple days. My only saving grace: I didn’t glue my eye shut with super glue IN my eye as well…  So not as stupid as it could be, although still pretty stupid.

1.) Once I had the brilliant idea of using Thai Chili oil in my olive oil do-it-yourself aerosol sprayer. I put the oil in it, pumped it up, and sprayed it on a pan thinking, “Why don’t they make chili oil spray like they do canola and olive oil spray? I’m a super-genius-man!” As my nose hairs burned out and my eyes watered, I realized why — because it’s pepper spray, you idiot. That’s why…

Story of the Month: Close Encounters with the Microsoft Helpline

StoryoftheMonth

We’ve been talking a lot about things that make geeks mad.  Bad movies.  Bad fans.  Bad practices.  So I thought I’d tell a story that happened to me, something that usually makes nerds mad, but has a pretty happy ending.

When XBOX 360 and PS3 came out I opted for the PS3.  I’d had both PS2 and Xbox and wasn’t as into the Xbox so I stuck with PS.

My brother in law received an Xbox basic model from his brother as a gift and had the system suffer catastrophic hardware failure, aka the “Red Ring of Death.” (I think he has had 3-4 console vines snap for similar reasons while swinging from the Xbox tree).  He upgraded to an “elite” or “pro” or something and generously offered the DOA machine to me if I wanted to call and deal with Microsoft to get it repaired.  I gratefully accepted, it’s not every day someone gives you a current gen console for basically free after all and it was awfully nice of him.

The dreaded red ring…

Honestly it took me a couple weeks to get it sorted out.  I was playing Oblivion at the time and couldn’t be bothered.  But after a while I decided to give it a go.  So I set it up, plugged it in, and sure enough…Red Ring!  I went through the motions a couple times, checking connections, etc. but still…Red Ring!

So, saying a small prayer to the helpline gods, I called the number provided and connected…to Microsoft helpline.

Now I’ll say I usually don’t mind the helpline, or even automated responses…but I loathe the automated responses that make you talk to them.  Let me hit numbers, but talking to Hal 9000 always has done nothing but infuriate me.  I’d rather have called Skynet than deal with what Microsoft provided…

It rang only once and what answered was a thing of putrid, rage-inducing evil.  It was a voice halfway between cartoon character and sleazy Bill and/or Ted.  It was clearly a corporate-created personality designed to “relate” to the adolescent video game audience:

Voice of corporate-designed evil: Hi! I’m Maaaax. Let me know how I can help you todaaaay.

In response I made this expression:

Annoyed

Appalled Me: You have got to be f*ckin kidding me…

So Max began to walk me through auto repair:

Max: Try unplugging it…and plugging it back in.  Did that help?  Say ‘yes’ or ‘no’…

Me: No…

Max: Nooooow try unhooking the connection from the baaaack of your Xbox and reeee-connecting it.  Did that help?  Say ‘yes’ or ‘no”… (as though the idiot needed to repeat these advanced commands at this point)

To my horror, I found that the power was connected in the back of the Xbox with these wire attachments that are a pain to get off with two hands, let alone one hand and the world’s most annoying computer assistant growling his dude-voice in your ear.

While fiddling with the stupid thing I happened to, as anyone might, utter a profanity…

Annoyed Me:  Sh*t…

Max: I’m soooorry.  I didn’t get thaaat.  Can you say it agaaaain?

Exceedingly Annoyed Me: I said SH*T!

After going through the motions with Max a few more times, the smarmy bastard finally relented…

Max: Sorry I couldn’t heeeelp you.  I’ll connect you with a customer service rep now.

I still hate Max.

While on hold, I heard voices in a Central Asian language speaking as though it was a radio news report.  I don’t speak any Central Asian languages, but I kept hearing the name “Bhutto,” which I was familiar with from the news and ascertained I must have been connected to Pakistan, where Benazir Bhutto had sadly just been assassinated.  When the customer service rep picked up I was relieved to hear a human voice. He had a heavy Pakistani accented but easy enough to understand:

Rep: Hello, sir, how can I help you?

Me: Yes, hello, I have an Xbox 360 that has had the hardware failure and I wanted to get it repaired.

Rep: Yes, sir, very good sir.  Have you tried testing connections, checking power supply, sir?

Me: Oh yes, I went through all of that with the automated service.

After briefly running through some of the troubleshooting the rep got me to the repairs section.

Rep: OK, sir, I will send request to have your machine repaired.  You will receive box.  Inside box will be label.  Simply put machine in box with label and it will be sent in for repair.

Me: Thanks.  About how long will it take to get the box, and how long do repairs usually take?

Rep: Yes, sir, box will arrive in couple days.  Repairs usually take a week or two.

Me (after receiving reference numbers, etc): Well thank you, I’ll look for the box and have it sent off.

What he said next really made me think…

Rep:  Yes sir, thank you sir.  Oh and sir?  I would like to thank you for being courteous with me on the phone.  And not curse at me.”

Me: No problem.  It’s not your fault the thing’s broken.

Rep: Yes, sir, thank you again sir.

After I hung up I started to think… I wonder how many calls he gets from angry teenagers whose game machines cost more than he makes in a week trying to earn a living?  Even though I’m not a supporter of outsourcing, it’s not his fault for finding a job.  It’s Microsoft (or their contractor) who chose to send the calls abroad.  Despite all the abuse the poor guy must usually endure, he was still helpful on the phone.  And just by being decent someone who I never met it might have helped him have a bit of a better day.

It once again shows the value of one of the greatest modern axioms:

Wheaton’s Law

Coda: The fate of the repaired Xbox.

I ended up trading in the Xbox after a couple months.  I tried Mass Effect and Dead Rising and couldn’t get into them (didn’t like them on PS3 either btw…)  So if nothing else, the helpful customer service rep who finally helped me get the Xbox repaired, helped get me some good trade-in credit too.  Whoever ended up with it should be grateful they didn’t have to call Max…plus they might have been a bit more aggressive with the customer service rep!

Story of the Month: The Slip

StoryoftheMonth

What is a friend? Webster’s says 1) one attached to another by affection or esteem and 2) one that is not hostile.

What about a good friend? Some may think a good friend comforts you when you’ve had a bad day, or they are always there when you need someone. I think a good friend doesn’t hold anything against you – especially when you say something a little too honest. This month’s story celebrates those friends who forgive us, no matter what we say in the moment.

The Slip

One of James’ life rules is funny trumps mean. It’s a good thing, too, or I’d be screwed. I try to practice “think before you speak,” but there’s a reason the Freudian slip exists.

A couple of years ago, James and I were browsing the Halloween toys and decorations in the Madison Kroger. We didn’t have plans that night, so we were killing time trying on hats and wigs, and playing with skeleton hands and ghostly figures.

We were looking at socks and tights, and my mind was somewhere else. I’m pretty sure I was trying to decide between yellow and black or pink and black stripes.

James picked up an object and said something – neither of us can remember what it was – but he says it was dumb. Maybe he was right, because I recall not laughing at the joke, and there was an awkward pause.

“Well, I sounded stupid,” James said.

To which I responded, without even looking at him, “Don’t be stupid!”

And I was dead serious. In the middle of Kroger, I demanded my best friend not act stupid, and at that moment, I meant it! Then it hit me. What did I just say?! I accidentally said what I was thinking, and it wasn’t good. James is the smartest person I know, but somewhere in the depths of my mind, I felt differently.

Eyes wide and embarrassed, I looked at James. After a couple of seconds, we both started laughing. I kept apologizing for calling him stupid, and he just laughed and laughed. Funny trumps mean. Thank goodness.

With that said, the best of friends understand when you call them stupid in a public area. They laugh with and at you, and don’t take offense. The best friends know when you slip and don’t get mad, or take you too seriously.

James and Raven hanging out

Feel free to share your Freudian slips below!