On Commuting. And Ivy.

My last blog entry was well received.  It was forwarded along in the poker community and shared and re-shared in social media outlets.  It ended up being the most widely read piece I’ve ever written.  A couple of days ago I was contacted by Lance Gordon, who co-hosts an internet poker radio show called Three Streets of Value.  I was interviewed on the show to discuss my retirement.  A link to the podcast can be found here:


I started “working” this week.  I’m using quotes there because what I’m really doing is training, reacquainting myself with the daily hustle and with courtroom procedure.  Six years is a pretty long layoff.

Monday was Day One.  The biggest surprises actually had nothing to do with my workplace.  One was the commute. After half a decade of lazy mornings, I’d forgotten about the universality of the morning commute.  At 8:00 a.m. on a weekday, New York City is popping off.  Everyone is going wherever they need to go to do whatever they need to do.  People everywhere.  I had honestly forgotten what that looks and feels like.  I know, welcome to reality.

It didn’t feel so bad, really.  Today I got on the F Train at Carroll Street along with a couple of hundred other humans, and I kind of enjoyed it.  Towards the end of my prior stint working a normal job I was one wretched, miserable bastard in the morning.  At the time, my NYC workdays were only a sideshow; a barely-tolerable prelude to the things I was getting into at night—usually the city’s best poker clubs and its dirtiest, loudest nightclubs.  After six hours of bluffing investment bankers at the Ace Point Club, four hours of blowing my brains out at Filter 14 and perhaps a little sleep in whatever time remained, crowded morning subway rides were not my cup of tea.  I usually couldn’t think straight in the morning.  Not that I wanted to.  I had my new nightcrawling friends and I was getting better and better at poker, and those were the things that mattered to me.  Standing there on the subway I’d sometimes have the urge to rip off my suit jacket and tie, swing them around my head like a cowboy out on the range and scream at all the other suits at the top of my lungs: I AM NOT ONE OF YOU! I never did rope any dogies on the subway, but I did escape the rat race and make a new career for myself in poker.  Now I’m back.

Another thing I’d forgotten:  being part of the working world is a social exercise.  When they’re part of our routine, it’s easy to call the insignificant exchanges we repeatedly have over the course of a normal day tedious, but it’s actually nice to connect with people.  I’m talking about saying “thank you” to guy who sells you the morning paper, “hey, what’s up?” to the guy from the 5th floor when you share an elevator ride, “excuse me” to the lady standing in your way as you push through a subway door.  These little cordial exchanges have a cumulative effect as we share close quarters with others during our workdays.  There’s a reason our species does this.  We are social animals.  It feels good.

I’m mentioning this because socially speaking, professional poker is solitary confinement.  In poker, one can go weeks without exchanging pleasantries with someone.  Poker deprives us socially both because of its odd hours and because basic strategy requires the withholding of information.  Even conversations with friends in poker are often colored in a subtle way by the fact that the person you’re talking to is also one of your competitors.  There’s a weird, guarded undercurrent in a lot of conversations between poker players.  It kind of sucks.

Maybe the most unexpected consequence of getting out into the working world this week is that it made me want to look good.  For whatever reason, being back out there on Monday made me want to present a polished image to the complete strangers around me.  For the first time in forever, I found that I cared about my appearance.  On Tuesday I wore a scarf.  Then on Wednesday I went and got a $50 haircut.  Crazy stuff.

It goes without saying that very few poker players dress to impress.  Quite the opposite.  One of the oft-cited benefits to playing poker is that there is no dress code.  In fact, within the poker community this concept is stretched to its logical extreme, to the point that poker has basically become a giant fashion shitshow.  If an observer didn’t know any better, he’d look around a poker room and presume that there was an ongoing contest to see who could present themselves in the most disgraceful way possible.

This is a weird time for Janeen and I.  Janeen is now due in about three weeks, so we’re just kind of waiting for the arrival of our second child.  The beginning of his life is gonna be like Vietnam.  It’s going to be a fucking madhouse in here with a newborn, a 13 month old baby and a 60-pound nutjob dog.  Bombs exploding everywhere.

The apartment has undergone a complete overhaul.  My “office” (read:  online poker man cave) has been transformed into a nursery.  Sometimes I gaze wistfully at the changing table that occupies the space where my prized Ms. Pac Man machine once stood and emit a loud exaggerated sigh.  Mostly I’m fine with everything.

As detailed above, the early returns on my new life are pretty good, but I’m having my moments.  I’m maybe a little susceptible to emotional interludes right now.  It’s probably because there’s such drastic change afoot. Yesterday I was walking through some old familiar territory in Midtown Manhattan, wearing standard NYC work garb.  Suddenly I was hit with a wave of nostalgia that brought me back to the late 1990’s and early 2000’s when I was working my first job out of law school.  I guess it wasn’t really notalgia per se because the world nostalgia connotes positive things.  I vividly recalled a time when I was bored, unfulfilled and unsure of myself in my professional life and relentlessly courting danger in my personal life.  Solid combination.  I was profoundly sad for myself and for my past for a little while.  I’m over it now.

I’m still playing a little poker in a cash game in the city.  It’s funny… having a regular job has completely removed my old feelings of poker entitlement.  Other poker players can probably imagine how liberating this feels, ’cause like Snoop said to Michael, “deserve got nothin’ to do with it.”  Words for poker players to live by, because deserve really doesn’t have shit to do poker.  In my last session, my friend Sahu did me dirty:  I had pockets aces and he cracked them with 7-2 off in a $1400 pot.  The money went in on a J-x-2 board, postflop.  He turned two pair.  And you know what?  I laughed.

I don’t expect I’ll be updating this blog too much in the days leading up to and following Vietnam, so I’m going to fire off a bunch of little observations about Ivy for posterity.  Yeah, I’m turning into one of those guys.

I am in love with Ivy, and she adores me too, probably more than she adores any other person.  It takes a great deal of self restraint to keep from becoming one of those people who posts a different photo of their child on Facebook every day, each barely distinguishable from the last.

Ivy loves life.  She greets each day like the Super Bowl is about to kick off.  She wakes up, pulls herself to her feet and starts shaking the slats on her crib with this shit eating grin on her face.  Same thing every day.

Ivy can walk but chooses not to.  She chooses not to walk because she’s such an expert, high velocity crawler, so why walk?  When she notices that the laundry room door is open, she looks just like a little baby halfback running a sprint draw.  She sees the door’s open, pauses for a beat, then off she goes, scampering to daylight.  She can crease even the most disciplined defense with this play.  Picks up yards after contact, too.

Ivy’s first—and so far, only—English word is “hi.”  She will sit there saying “hi” with various intonations all day long if you let her.  “Hi, hi, hiiii.  Hi.  Hi!”  She also speaks two other languages fluently, but I am not sure which ones yet.

Ivy knows all the parts of her face.  You ask her where each part is and she points to it or grabs it.  Her coordination needs a little work on  “nose.”  She ends up poking a randomly selected place on the front of her head.

Last week Ivy and I spent over 24 straight hours together by ourselves while the apartment was being overhauled.  When we returned, the Texans/Bengals Wild Card game was about to kick off, but the work was not yet done.  So Ivy and I adjourned to a local bar to watch the game together.  Once there, she ate an entire order of fries with great gusto and also proceeded to charm the socks off of a group of barflies, who dubbed her “Little Turbo.”  I think that name is gonna stick.  It’s a good name.

Ivy likes doing things herself.  She’s a year old now, after all.  She’s no charity case.  She don’t need things done for her.  She’s one determined, willful little sucker.  Give her a sippy cup full of milk and she’ll disdainfully backhand that shit across the room.  Then when she’s good and ready—usually a few seconds later—she’ll go grab it, pretend like she just happened to find it lying there and chug it all.

Ivy would change her own diaper if she could.  She finds being changed by adults wholly objectionable.  It’s like a pro wrestling match and she is virtually unpinnable.  I keep expecting her to shake her head no-no-no and wag her finger at me like a little shit-diapered Hulk Hogan.

Ivy can dance!  When she hears a killer tune like “Pop Goes the Weasel” she does these deranged deep knee bends and screams her head off.  She got that from me.

Ivy loves being upside down.  If you turn her upside down she claps and laughs.  Every time.  She may have a future in the circus, my little Ivy Walenda.

That’s all for now!

4 thoughts on “On Commuting. And Ivy.

  1. Well done on da radio last night Mr Zeeetlin!

    Speaking from a recreational players’s perspective, your thoughts and insights are appreciated. When I am at a casino for more then 2 days I lose my mind so I can only imagine what you go through.

    I think the change will do you good. When you sit down at a table now I feel you will be sharper then ever.

    Finally, all I can say is that I am glad that I do not live on the floor below you!


  2. great post, your descriptions of ivy brought tears to my eyes. i hope i can describe abe that eloquently in another 10 months. pics pls!

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