" /> WIL WHEATON dot NET: 1.5: July 2004 Archives

« June 2004 | Main | August 2004 »

July 28, 2004

last of the 31st


Did you know that tomorrow's my 32nd birthday?

I'm not asking because I'm trolling for gifts or silly songs or anything. I'm asking because -- and this is the 100% honest truth -- I didn't realize it was tomorrow.

I've got a lot happening right now: the EB9 show in Vegas on Friday ( as well as the entire convention weekend) plus writing for the ACME show, plus dealing with a very big and scary family medical issue have all conspired to totally eat my brain, and make my birthday seem totally minor and irrelevant . . . it's so weird that something I've always looked forward to has been so completely pushed off my radar.

Well, I guess it's part of growing older, or something.

This morning, I had to renew my driver's license, (something I didn't realize until yesterday) so I went to the DMV . . . without an appointment *dramatic music*

It actually wasn't bad at all. I was in and out in 1 hour and ten minutes, and every single person I dealt with was helpful, patient, and friendly. After I had my picture taken, the guy who took it told me happy birthday, and then a pretty girl who was in line behind me said, "Hey! My birthday is July 29th too!" So we both said "Happy birthday!" in unison. That was way cool.

I'm going to moblog and audioblog from Vega$, so check them out if you need your WWdN fix while I'm gone.

If you're coming to Vega$ for the show, I'll be performing from Geek and Barefoot at 1PM on Friday, and the EB9 show is at 6:40 (?) the same night. I'll also be signing books and pictures all day Saturday.

. . . and I wasn't going to say much about this . . . but, uhm . . . I would really appreciate it if you guys could keep me and Anne and our family in your thoughts for the next few days.

Thanks.

July 25, 2004

exhale


I'm cleaning the house today, but now it's lunchtime, and I want to brain dump. But first, check out a couple of Geek things that I think are exciting and cool:



  • Just A Geek is available from my favorite retailer of all things geeky, Think Geek dot Com. They're offering geek. stickers as a free bonus with the book, so you can really get your geek on.


  • I've heard from a dozen or so WWdN readers and about half as many non-WWdN readers who have finished Just A Geek, and I want to thank everyone who has sent me their thoughts on the book. I'd like to share a little bit from one of them, because it made me do a geeky dance: "I loved it and realized that many of us Gen-Xers are finding out that our lives are hitting crossroads and too many of us are too busy looking at the door closing behind us to see the brighter view ahead. I'm glad you showed us that we can turn around and run forward into that future many of us have. Thanks for the work."

    Also, at Amazon, a reviewer wrote: "Wheaton's a natural, unforced writer. He's got guts and writers' chops. I don't care if you're a Star Trek fan or not, you should read this book. You should read this book if you've ever had really tough times. You should read this book if you've ever struggled with your own place in the world, your own self-esteem. You should read this book if you've ever tried to separate who you are from what you do."

    I'm still a little terrified that the misconception that it's either a fluffy celebrity bio or (even worse) just a Star Trek book will turn readers off, but these readers got exactly what I hope people will get from my book: I may be the central character, but Just a Geek is really a story about the struggle to find your place in the Universe, and I'm really happy that they grokked that. For today at least, I can lower my internal terror level from Ernie to Bert.



Okay, before I go back to cleaning the house (it's the best way to spend Sunday!), here's the real braindump:

Last night, Anne was going out with her girlfriends, and the kids were both spending the night with friends, so I had big plans to go play poker at Commerce, but Burns left me standing at the altar . . . so I ended up playing iPoker 3, which is a great way to practice low-limit Hold'Em skills, and just all-around fun to play, too. (Todd has programmed in all these crazy "Dealer's Choice" games that are just nuts. I had way too much fun playing this 2-card hi-low game called 'Hurricaine," and I actually made Broadway in Jacks-or-better!)

I was doing REALLY well, playing just the way I would have played in a live game. I bought in for 1000 and played 10-20 limit, and was doing about +300 / hour or something like that, until I got pocket Aces on the button . . . and got rivered by a flush draw, because UTG had 9-6 of spades. I had capped it pre-flop, too! The pot was 1050 or so, too. Stupid computers.

Hey, here's a not-so-subtle note to the guys at all the online poker rooms: SUPPORT MAC AND LINUX USERS! I really want to play Poker Stars, and Party Poker (sign up with code IGGY!)

Anyway, because I was stuck at home, I watched the Dodgers, and I got to see Adrian Beltre hit a grand slam as the Dodgers made it 2-0 vs. the Padres in this series.

Speaking of the Dodgers, my dad took me and my boys to Chavez Ravine on Thursday for the first day game I've been to in YEARS . . . and we got to see Eric Gagne for the first time this season. (I've been to 5 games, and the Dodgers have been killed in 4 of them, so no Gagne for me until Thursday.)

I'm talking to the men now: if you get a chance to take your boys to a ballgame with your dad, DO IT. It's awesome.

Okay, time to finish lunch and get back to cleaning. Exhale on XM 80 is the perfect soundtrack for today.

July 21, 2004

daisy chains and laughs


And now, a brief scene from my so-called domestic life:

We were having dinner straight out of 1958: barbecued burgers, baked beans, and a cut-up pineapple. The only way to make it better would have been TV trays . . . or dining in a fallout shelter, I suppose.

On my way to the patio, I passed Nolan, who was watching the Dodger game.

"Your Dodgers are losing," he said.

"Yeah. They try their best to do that," I said, "but they're something like 11-1 in their last 12 games."

"What? Are we talking about The Los Angeles Dodgers?" he said.

"I'm just as surprised as you are, I said. "Who are they playing?"

"Houston," he said.

Nolan decided early this year that his two favorite teams are The Angels, and whomever is playing The Dodgers, so it didn't surprise me when he shouted, "GO ASTROS!"

I gave him the test that I always give him when he's cheering against the Dodgers: "You love those Astros, huh?"

"Oh yeah!" He said.

"Well, who's your favorite player on the Astros?"

"Oh . . . you know . . . it's . . . uhm . . . " he looked at the TV, "Biggio!"

"Yeah, I'm sure you're in his fanclub." I laughed.

I don't think Nolan really cares one way or another about The Dodgers, (or any other particular team in baseball, for that matter) but I know that we both enjoy our friendly rivalry even more than we enjoy watching the games . . . and I love that.

We looked at each other, and I remembered when the Dodgers went to the World Series in 1988. As part of my teenage rebellion, I totally rejected baseball. You know . . . because it was important to my dad.

Yeah, that made a lot of sense.

As a result, I missed out on several opportunities to share some wonderful moments with him, and all I have to show for it is regret.

"Hey, are you going to come watch this with me?" Nolan said.

As a parent, I never miss an opportunity to be on the other side of something I missed out on as a child, so of course I agreed.

"Yeah. After dinner."

Shortly after I lit the barbecue, one of Anne's friends called long distance, so I became responsible for finishing the meal, and getting it on the table. Due to my lack of planning, (I am infamous for my lack of planning -- I have a lot of 3-inch lengths of string around the house) the burgers were going to be ready before I could even start the baked beans. So I asked Nolan for help.

"Nolan? Would you help me out?"

"Sure!" He said, cheerfully, "what do you need?"

"Would you take a can of baked beans, and put it in a saucepan on the stove? And maybe crush up some pineapple with it?"

"Okay," he said. "Oh! The inning's over."

"What happened?"

"Sean Shawn Green is up with two out."

I tried to come up with a snappy comeback . . . but there are some truths that I can't argue with, so I just said, "D'oh!"

There was a surge of cheering from the TV, and I heard Rick Monday say that Green had, indeed, grounded out to end the inning.

About two minutes later, Nolan called to me from the kitchen. "Wil? I'm having some trouble with the beans. Can you come help me?"

I flipped the burgers, and tossed some seasoning on them.

"Yeah, I'll be right there."

I walked into the kitchen, and found Nolan scratching his head in front of the stove.

"I put the can of beans in the saucepan, just like you asked," he said, with a furrowed brow, "but I can't get them to cook."

I looked at the stove. A saucepan sat on a front burner, and in it was the unopened can of beans. There was some crushed pineapple stuffed around the edges of the can.

Nolan looked at me, and did his best to keep a straight face.

"I just can't figure out why it's not cooking," He said.

I put my hand on my chin.

"Yeah . . . yeah . . . that is weird." I said.

He folded his arms across his chest, and studied the stove.

"You think we should get out a cookbook, or something?" He said.

I snapped my fingers. "Oh! I think you forgot to take the beans out of the can."

"Hmm . . . you think that would do it?" He said.

"Yes. Yes I do."

"Okay. I'll try that," he said. "Thanks!"

He may not have my genes . . . but he's certainly got my sense of humor, and that's just fine with me.

July 19, 2004

Comments from the Wife -- version 4.0


The elevator doors opened and the roar of a lobby full of people came rushing in our face. It reminded me of a Vegas casino but without the "ching ching ching" of the slot machines or the blast of cigarette smoke that's shoved up your nose.

We checked in before heading to the shuttle bus. Three forty-five in the morning in San Diego sure is dark and cold.

I had a nervous stomach the minute my alarm went off. A few days before heading to San Diego, Wil hurt his foot and leg. Some kind of plantar something or other. Even though there were thousands of people doing the marathon (17,420 to be exact) I was so nervous that Wil wouldn't be able to finish it with me and I would have to motivate myself. Knowing that Kris and her husband were going to be at the finish line was very encouraging, but there were 26.2 miles between us.

We sat on the grass and stretched while trying to keep warm with Hefty bags over us like some kind of poncho. Surprisingly, it helped. The sun started to come up and race time was getting near. I must have asked Wil twenty times if he was going to be o.k.

I stood in the huge line for the port-o-potties (scary) before entering our corral (#19. You get placed in a corral according to how fast you think you'll finish the race. Speedsters in the front and so on.) The start gun went off promptly at 6:45 am. Everyone was so excited as we all scooted slowly to the start line. It took ten minutes to reach the actual start line because there were so many people there.

Wil and I cruised along with all the other walkers and got out of the way of the runners making their way through the crowd. It was so exciting to finally be there after all the training and the wonderful response with donations. I kept saying "I can't believe we're doing this!" I also kept saying "Is your foot alright?" to Wil. I still wasn't sure if he'd finish with me.

So along with the nervous stomach came the nervous bladder. Only two miles into the marathon, I was ready to experience the lovely facilities that only Andy Gump could provide. Unfortunately, so did at least fifteen other people. So Wil impatiently waited next to me in line telling me the whole time that we were getting really behind. See, the other nervous stomach thing that was happening to me was that we had to get to mile 12.7 by a certain time or they would re-route us directly to mile 23. There were so many people there that if there wasn't some kind of schedule, people could be out there all day. After all the training and donations, I wanted to finish a FULL marathon, not part of one.

After our 15 minute (yes, we waited 15 minutes. Can you believe that?! Next marathon, it's all about the bushes) stop, we decided we should run a little to make up for lost time. Not only did we have that 15 minute stop, but we lost that ten minutes at the start line so we needed to move!

We ran about a mile which I was stunned we could do. We had only trained to walk and although I thought I was in pretty good shape, my lungs felt otherwise. I had to slow down and just walk fast so I could catch my breath, but still try to make up that lost time.

The marathon set-up was very entertaining. There were bands all along the route singing and cheering everyone on. There was one band of three or four kids that were only in 7th grade. They sounded awesome and I thought it was so great of them to be out there so early on a Sunday morning to support the marathon.

After several surges of running mixed in with walking fast, I heard someone say there was a woman wearing a "Pacer" shirt and she was well, the pacer. We needed to be either with her or ahead of her if we were to make that 12.7 mile cut-off in time. So we ended up running most of mile 8, 9, and 10. Wil said he was feeling great and his foot was hardly bothering him at all. My lungs however, felt like I had spent an entire hot, smoggy, summer day in the over-chlorinated pool. I know you remember how that felt. Like someone standing on your chest and you can't quite get enough air. But somehow, we caught up to her.

When we finally rounded a corner and caught up to the "pacer", we were so relieved that we needed to celebrate with our old friend Andy Gump again. At least there wasn't a line this time.

When we jumped out of Andy's place, the pacer was nowhere in sight. DAMN! More running. It had become somewhat of a joke just trying to catch up and stay ahead of her. It was like a dream where you're running away from someone but they're moving fast and you're hardly moving at all.

We were really wiped out as we neared mile 12. But this mile was a slight upgrade and would require more energy than I could muster. That is, until the lady at the top yelled "three minutes to cut-off!" What?! All this running and lung burning and there isn't any extra time? "How the hell did that happen?" I said. "Fuckin' Andy Gump is what happened" Wil said. Damn, I hate when he's right. But at least he's still with me, so I wasn't about to complain.

We raced up the hill and made the cut-off with less than two minutes to spare. Two minutes! That was way too close. I looked down the hill at the hundreds of people that didn't make it. It was kind of a Titanic moment.

In all our training, we were able walk 13 miles and feel great. So I figured when we did the marathon, it might me a bit tiring, but such a thrill to be there that it wouldn't matter. Boy, was I wrong. By the time we reached that oh-so-exciting 13.1 mile marker (that would be the half way point for those of you keeping score at home) I was completely exhausted. "Half way!" I said as we approached the sign. Of course, the people around us probably thought I was excited but the truth was, I was pissed that I felt so terrible and it was only have way done. Or halfway left. However you want to look at it.

Wil and I both went through waves of feeling great and feeling like we couldn't go on over the next ten miles. Of course, when Wil was feeling great, I had to listen to him make up songs about keeping our head up and our shoulders back. Mmm. That was nice. But when I was feeling really wiped out and in pain, I just kept saying "this is nothing compared to seven days of radiation or a month of chemo." Then I felt like such a chump for even complaining at all.

Kris called me on my cell phone "Hey! Where are you guys?" she said. "Mile 22" I said. Boy, I thought we'd be further by now.

Kris and her husband were making their way through the Marine Corp. Recruitment Center to the stands that were set up at the finish line. Security was really tight there. I told her it would be about an hour before we finished. Hopefully.

Wil was starting to have major foot and leg pain by mile 24. I ended up jogging all of mile 25 just to get the pressure of my hips and onto my thighs. "Come on Wil! It's so much easier if you just jog!" I yelled back. Now I was being the annoying songster. "Hell no!" he said." I can't do that anymore. And where's your friend Andy? I've been looking for him for the past two miles!"

Andy eagerly awaited our arrival at mile 26. Good 'Ol Andy.

I called Kris and told her we were making our way into the Marine Center (where there were Marine guys with machine guns patrolling the fence along the street. That was comforting.)

She said she could see us from the stands and would meet us at the finish line.

We walked through the archway and down the path to the finish line. I kept saying "I can't believe we did it! I can't believe we did it!" to Wil. Even now as I'm typing this, over a month later (overdue is more like it) I have tears in my eyes. We did it and so did Kris. She was there at the finish line, jumping and waving and yelling for us. It was by far, the most incredible moment of our lives.



We checked in at the finish (we came in something like 15, 200 something. All of that worrying and there were still 2,000 people behind us!) got our magic "26.2" pin (it's not really magic. Just go with me on this one) and headed straight for the first aid tent for Wil's leg.

I sat in a chair and talked to Kris and her husband while Wil got an ice pack treatment which he enjoyed while laying on a cot. The lady being treated next to him was having the blister the size of an egg on the ball of her foot examined. After all my whining, I made it with only a little soreness in my legs.( Well, sore legs and a huge ugly bruise on my big toenail from my shoe rubbing on it the last 6 miles. It still looks hideous. Gotta love nail polish!) Our time was 7 hours and 14 minutes. I can't believe we would have finished in under 7 hours if it wasn't for those stops. Not bad for a first marathon!

We headed back to the hotel for a nap and hobbled in to meet Kris and her husband at the "celebration" dinner two hours later. We hobbled everywhere for the next three days.

We ate fast (starving. 26.2 miles and all) and said goodnight before heading to bed early. We slept 10 hours that night. Actually, we napped during the day and slept 10 hours a night for the next three days. On our train ride home we kept getting up to stretch. Again, something we had to do for three days after the marathon.

I was surprised when we got home that we still got several donation checks. So the final count was $28,135. I still can't believe it. Thanks to all of your help and the help of Kris' family and friends, we more than reached our goal. We were all part of something great. Something that will make a difference. Thank you. The whole marathon raised 85 million dollars total.

A week after we got home, Kris went in to have the two surgically implanted catheters removed. They were removed because they aren't needed anymore because her bone marrow test came back completely cancer-free. She's officially in remission. She tells me every time I see her that our support of her and doing the marathon in her honor made all the difference. I know it did and I'm so glad we were able to do it. She also shows me new things that keep happening to her. Like all her eyelashes growing in and little sprouts of hair on her head.

Wil has donated platelets at City of Hope since being back. Unfortunately, my veins still don't want to do that, so I'll just be the driver. He wants to do that as often as he can to help others. Yep, that's my husband. He's pretty great like that.

We have also started jogging at least three times a week. Because next year, we're RUNNING that marathon baby!!

Marathon pictures


Our 2004 Rock-n-Roll Marathon pictures are online.

The album is here.

July 16, 2004

13.1


Anne walked into the house yesterday afternoon, and said, "Will you set up the computer for me, so I can write the marathon story?"

"Yes. Yes I can," I said. "The natives have been growing restless."

"I know," she said. "I finally have some time to do it."

I pulled myself up off the floor, where I've spent much of the last two days with a very painful lower back, and did as she asked.

We're going to link in some pictures and stuff, but I absolutely can't sit here longer than a minute or so before I feel like I'm going to cry from the pain, so the full story won't come out until Monday.

Until then, here's a little bit of her entry:



In all our training, we were able walk 13 miles and feel great. So I figured when we did the marathon, it might be a bit tiring, but such a thrill to be there that it wouldn't matter. Boy, was I wrong. By the time we reached that oh-so-exciting 13.1 mile marker (that would be the half way point for those of you keeping score at home) I was completely exhausted. "Half way!" I said as we approached the sign. Of course, the people around us probably thought I was excited but the truth was, I was pissed that I felt so terrible and it was only have way done. Or halfway left. However you want to look at it.

Wil and I both went through waves of feeling great and feeling like we couldn't go on over the next ten miles. Of course, when Wil was feeling great, I had to listen to him make up songs about keeping our head up and our shoulders back. Mmm. That was nice. But when I was feeling really wiped out and in pain, I just kept saying, "This is nothing compared to seven days of radiation or a month of chemo." Then I felt like such a chump for even complaining at all.

Have a great weekend, everyone, and check back on Monday for the full post.

July 15, 2004

standing in line with mister jimmy


We're done with our sketch writing process at ACME. For the last four weeks, we've met each Tuesday, and presented an original sketch. Most company members work on material together, so they effectively get more than one turn, (for example, if I write with Kevin, Chris, and Jodi, I'd have three chances that night to make the list of funny sketches that will go in front of an audience) but I live so goddamned far away from everyone else, I ended up writing solo all four turns this time, which seriously limited my chances of making the show. I lucked out, though, and hit the comedy artery with my funny probe: I went 3-4, and I'm pretty sure my rewrite will make it, too. Depending on how our previews go, and what happens with everyone's schedules, I could be in ACME shows starting on Saturday, September 18.

We've also started a new ACME improv company, called Zebra Company. Some of the greatest improvisers in Los Angeles are in this group, and auditions were very tough. I was lucky enough to make that cast, too (!) and our improv shows start September 24th.

While I drank my coffee this morning, I looked at the ACME schedule for the rest of the year, and if I'm in both Zebra and ACME Main company, I'll pretty much be living down at the theatre. I'm conflicted about that, because I've really grown accustomed to working from home, and hanging out with my family whenever I want . . . but on the other hand, some of the happiest times and best performances of my acting life have been in that theatre . . . and performing twice a week will certainly give me something interesting to write about on a more regular basis. Once rehearsals are done, though, I'll only be there on the weekends, and I'll have an opportunity, twice a week, to perform as an actor again, which I haven't gotten to do in far too long.

I'll be on The David Lawrence Show again tonight, to talk about Just A Geek. When I was there for Dancing Barefoot, David and I used the entire three hours, so we just planned on that for tonight. It's 7-10 Pacific time, and all the listening details are on the Online Tonight website.

July 14, 2004

fish on -- part two


Part one of this story can be found by following this handy link.

Also, in response to numerous requests . . .

Readers who are unfamiliar with hold-em rules can find them at ultimate bet dot com. Readers who are unfamiliar with poker terminology may want to read This glossary from CNN first. Or don't. I'm not the boss of you.




The city of Commerce is just fifteen minutes down the freeway from Hollywood, but the Commerce Casino is a thousand miles away from Odessa. There's no alley to walk down, no bouncer to deal with, and you're more likely to talk to a valet than a crackhead on your way into the club.

From The Standard, we drove across the 10 and picked up the 5 in the East LA interchange. Even though it was after ten, it was backed up like rush hour. I pointed at a sign that advised 45 MPH on the turn.

"Since I was sixteen, every time I pass that sign, I laugh. I don't think 45 has ever been a reduction in my speed through here." I said.

Burns nodded. "That's why you should ride a bike."

He's got two bikes: a racing bike, and a touring bike. Both monster Yamahas. "I'm not cool enough to ride a bike."

"And I am?"

"Well . . . yeah." I said. "How many times have you talked to Johnny Cash?"

"One."

"That's one more than me. How many times has Dusty Baker called you from the dugout at Wrigley?"

"One."

"Again, that's one more than me." I said, "How many ti--"

"How many super-hot porn stars have hit on you?" He said.

"What?"

"Answer the question!" He said, in his best Tom Leykis voice.

"Uhm. One?"

"Yeah. That's one more than me, and we're calling it even."

"I don't think that--"

"Even!" He said. As if on cue, a racing bike flew past us along the shoulder, and punctuated the moment. I involuntarily jumped in my seat while Burns laughed.

"You're still cooler than I am."

He started to talk, and I honked my horn. "COOLER THAN ME!" I shouted. The guy in front of us looked at me in his mirror. I waved, he frowned. I made the "Live long and prosper" sign, and he quickly lost interest in keeping eye contact with me.

Burns paused a second and said, "Geek."

"Thank you."

We laughed, and continued to creep through the interchange.

I switched the radio from Fred to Ethel, to The System.

"I'm a little intimidated to play in an actual cardoom," I said.

"Yeah, me too." He said, "I've played in plenty of home games, but I've never played in a casino."

"Have you read Lee Jones's book?"

"Not yet. I'm still in Caro's book."

"Just play super-tight and be aggressive when you've got a hand," I said. "Look for a reason to quit a hand if you're raised."

Good advice. Very good advice. Yep. Good, solid, useful, winning advice. Advice that I hadn't heeded for weeks. Advice that I needed to hear even more than Burns did, because I'd been playing like complete and utter shit: too loose, too aggressive, and way too many hands. I had consistently lost, regardless of the game: pot-limit, low-limit, no-limit . . . Hold'Em, Stud, Draw . . . ring, tournament, home game, online game . . . I just couldn't get it done.

When I was in my early twenties, I was a pretty good golfer. I usually shot in the low 90s, and I played every chance I got . . . then one day, I just lost my swing. My scores exploded into the 130s, and they still haven't come back down. I hardly ever pick up my clubs; it's too depressing. I was worried that my poker game was headed in the same direction.

Ten days ago, I was in a single table tournament that some friends put together, 10-20 No Limit Hold'Em. It wasn't that big a deal — a fifty dollar buy got me 1500 in tournament chips, and the top three places paid out. Until recently, I've done really well in the tournaments I've played this year, always finishing in third place or higher and I usually kill these guys, so I was sure I could beat this game.

We were down to 5 players at level III. I had about T4100, and was second to the leader, who had something like T7000. So far, I've played a surprisingly solid game . . .

* * *

I don't remember the specific pre-flop action, but it was called all around. The flop is Ah-3h-10c. I hold 10-9h.

I've got a four flush, and second pair . . . why did that goddamn ace have to come out?"

While I look at my cards, I realize that my left hand has picked up a stack of 100 dollar chips, and pushed them into the pot.

"Bet 1000." The first mistake.



"Why did I do that? Was that the right way to play it? I don't know. Probably not, but maybe I can represent the ace, and I had still have the flush draw. In any case, I'm not happy with that play. I hope nobody else at the table picks up on that."

It's folded to the button, who calls. The turn is the 4s.

I think about all the hands I had recently where I got killed: I can't remember the last time rockets held up for me, and I'd had AK, KK, QQ —pretty much every premium hand I held — cracked so many times in limit games, I was starting to hope for The Hammer. When a draw starts to look good, you know you're in trouble . . .

From a far away place, someone picks up my hands, and shoves all my chips forward. At the same time, he opens my mouth, and says, "All-in." The second mistake.

The button thinks for a second, and calls.

I turn over my 10-9h. He turns over AJ and laughs. At me. My stomach turns.

"You're going to tell yourself that you got outplayed, but you know the truth. You completely misplayed it. You blew it, jackass. He read you like a book. He knew he had you beat on the flop. You knew he had you beat on the turn. That guy who's passed out at the bar knew you were beat. I'm pretty sure there's some kid in Somalia who just looked up at his mother and said, 'What the hell was Wil thinking?'"

The river doesn't help me, and he wins it with two aces. I drop from second to last with something like 280, and tilt like a pinball machine in an earthquake.

The dealer pushes my stacks over to the winner, and spreads the muck around the table. I stare at the swirling action of his hands, occasionally catching glimpses of bright green felt beneath the blue-backed cards.

Tony Holden quotes Amarillo Slim Preston in Big Deal: "If you can't quit the best hand, you can't play." I have it written down, and I read it to myself before every game. I read it so much, I guess it lost its meaning, because I have been falling madly, passionately, wildly in love with two pair, a suited ace, or any king with a medium kicker. Worse than that, I was so in love with these awful hands, I couldn't get out of a pot when someone else clearly had me beat. In a 'kill-some-time-game earlier that night, I knew that the guy behind me had hit his flush, but I couldn't bring myself to muck my set of 8s. (I loved them! We'd been together since the flop!) I counted out a call, and before I capped it, I even said, "I hope you don't have that flush, because if you do, you've got me beat."

Yeah. I was such a fish, I had to wrap myself in newspaper to go to sleep.

". . . to you."

"What?"

"It's to you."

"Oh. Sorry."

I peek at my hole cards, and almost immediately I'm running hand-in-hand through flower-filled fields with J8. A string quartet plays while we make eyes at each other. A cool breeze blows through my hair, as butterflies surround us. I absently shuffle some chips, and go all-in before the flop. It's folded to the leader, who calls.

I flip up my precious J8. He flips up J7.

"I figured you for a tilt," he says.

No shit.

"Well . . . I guess it was a semi-tilt," I say. "I didn't know how far I was going to get with 280."

The flop is J-x-x. The turn is also a rag, and there's an 8 for two pair on the river. I double through, and still feel like a loser. A few hands later, I finish fifth, with exactly the same to show for my efforts as the guy who went out 9th. To tell the truth, I had no business even getting this far.

Too loose, too aggressive, way too many hands . . . but it wasn't until that game that I uncovered one fatal flaw in my game: I just couldn't quit a hand, even when I knew I was beat. I'd been so worried about making the wrong play, I hadn't been able to relax and make the right one.

I hear that poker players have ups and downs in their games, but I'd been down so long, it took busting out in a game that I normally dominate to see just how down I was. When I played, I wasn't having fun, and I should have realized that something was seriously wrong.

* * *

"You sure got quiet," Burns said as we passed the 710. The traffic did that weird thinning-out-for-no-apparent-reason thing that it always does in Los Angeles, and we were back up to 80. The Chemical Brothers thumped out of my radio.

"I was just thinking."

"Not about the porn star, I hope. Because that's a little creepy."

I laughed. "No. I'll save her for later."

"What?!" He said.

"Just kidding," I said. "I was thinking about my game."

"Oh?"

"Yeah."

We neared our exit, and I merged right, onto the offramp. The one-story casino, dwarfed by an adjacent fifteen-story hotel, loomed large in front of us.

July 13, 2004

the color of infinity in an empty glass


Back when I was promoting Dancing Barefoot, (which has gotten a really nice bounce in sales this last week -- I'm sure because of WWdN readers -- so thank you!) I talked about it a LOT on my site. Partly, that was because Barefoot-related things dominated my life at the time . . . but it was also because I've been told (and experienced firsthand) that books only sell as well as their authors promote them. This is the best way I have to promote my books on my own, so I'm going to do that in the coming months. I just want to be honest about that right now. If this sort of thing bugs you, stop reading now, and go check out the best combination since Gretzky and Kurri: They Might Be Giants and Homestar Runner. Seriously, you guys.

Still here? Okay. Here are a few mid-morning Geek things:



  • There's another excerpt from Just A Geek at California Authors dot com. I am a huge fan of California Authors, and it's very exciting to be mentioned by them.


  • I've been thinking a lot about how to describe Just A Geek, because I've already heard a lot of people (especially booksellers) mistakenly assuming it's a typical celebrity bio (it's really not. I worked very hard to avoid that trap, and I hope it's more David Sedaris than David Caruso) or a Star Trek book. I'm working hard to correct this misunderstanding (and hopefully reverse the "pushback" it's created), thusly: Just A Geek is as much a story about Star Trek as Stand By Me is a story about walking down train tracks to find a dead body — sure, it's part of the story, but it's not what the story is about. It's really a story about my journey from trying to be someone (or something) to please everyone else, to discovering that I'm happiest when I'm just myself — Just A Geek.


  • I hear that the major chains are shelving Geek in Television, or in Sci-Fi. I'm not too crazy about that, because I think it belongs in Biography. So if you're looking for it in Biography, and you can't find it, go look in Television. I'm trying to get them to move it, but so far I've been unsuccessful. And if you really want to help me out, you could ask for it, even if you already own it, or don't plan on buying it. That sort of customer inquiry filters back to Bookstore Mountain, and the Bookstore Overlords may decide to give it some better shelving in stores. If that happens, I'll . . . uh . . . well, I can't afford to buy everyone a cookie, so I'll just have to offer even more of my eternal gratitude :)


  • I have three confirmed readings and signings for August: August 6 at Powell's Technical Annex in Portland, August 15 at Borders in Hollywood (on Sunset and Vine! Cool!) and August 21 at Mysterious Galaxy in San Diego. I'm also working on a SUPER COOL event at the ACME. If that goes off well, I could end up with something very cool.


  • I'll be on The David Lawrence Show this Thursday from 7-10 PDT to talk about Just A Geek, and I'm sure I'll get to read some selections from it. I'll post all the specific information about it on Thursday.


That should do it for today. Thanks for listening! Go reward yourself with Corporate MoFo's hilarious explaination of The DaVinci Code. (I'll admit it: I read the DaVinci Code, and I enjoyed it. It's the first "popcorn" book I've read since Hunt for Red October) CMF wins a cauldron of bonus points, too, for working Frank Zappa and Frank Capra into the same column. Good work, Ken!

fish on -- part one


The phonecam art show I was in was called SENT, and it was at the Standard hotel in Downtown Los Angeles. The building used to be the headquarters for an oil company, or an accounting firm, or something like that, and the new owners have held on to just enough of the steel and marble architecture of its former identity to give it a space-age, ultramodern feel. Think Tomorrowland in about 1978.

My wife and kids were out of town, so my friend Burns came with me to the show. We hung out and talked with lots of people, but after a couple of hours, I got antsy.

"Do you have to get up early tomorrow?" I said.

"No. I'm going to the Dodger game at 1," he said.

"Want to get out of here and go play cards?"

"Are you finally taking me to Odessa?"

"No. It's Saturday, so it's a dance club tonight," I said. "I hear it gets pretty crazy."

"Plato's retreat crazy?" He said.

"You stole that from my blog!" I said.

We both laughed.

"Let's go to Commerce," I said.

"Okay."

While I said goodbye to Sean Bonner, one of the curators of the show who is also a very good friend, this über hot girl who I was convinced had been giving me "the look" all night walked up to us.

"Can I ask you something?" She said. I held my breath.

If she says, "Didn't you used to be an actor," I'm jumping out the window.

"Sure," I said.

She looked at me with deep, blue, swimming pool eyes and said, "How did you get into this show?"

I exhaled, and pointed to Sean. "I know the curator."

Sean laughed. "He's also a pretty good photographer."

"Well, I liked your pictures. Especially the one of your speedometer."

My brain furiously looked for double entendres, so I could have a beer drinkin' story to share with the guys.

"Oh, really?"

"Yeah."

"Thanks," I said.

"You're welcome," she said coyly, as she turned, and walked away.

"Goddamn," Burns said. "How come girls don't talk to me like that?"

"Because you're not married." I said.

I faced Sean. "Thanks for letting me be part of the show. We're taking off to play poker."

"Are you going to Odessa?"

I shook my head. "No. It's a dance club on Saturday nights."

"I hear it gets pretty crazy on Saturdays," he said.

"Plato's Retreat crazy?" I said.

"Are you quoting your own blog?" Burns said.

"Yes. Yes I am."

"Geek."

We said goodbye, and walked to the elevator.

"That was pretty good," I said. "From the moment we decided to leave to the actual leaving, only ten minutes elapsed."

"That's got to be some kind of record," Burns said, as we quickly descended forty feet to the first floor.

"This place would be very cool," he said as we crossed the hipster-filled lobby, "if it wasn't for all the hipsters."

He was right. We navigated our way around several Von Dutch shirts, and into a cloud of clove smoke just outside the door.

"I guess ten is prime time for the place on a weekend," I said.

"Looks like it," Burns said.

We hooked around the corner of the building, onto Flower street, and down a steep driveway and into the parking garage. A neon sign flashed "PARK" then "HERE" on a red wall.

"I keep expecting to walk into Quincy, or Rockford, or one of those guys here."

"I don't think this is James Garner's type of place," he said.

"No, but this garage is right out of 1980. I bet you the A*Team would have parked their van in here." I said.

"Geek."

We got into my car, and headed to the freeway. The click clack of stacking chips was already in my ears as we drove away.

July 8, 2004

midnight ravers


I've heard from tons of WWdN readers that Just A Geek is shipping from Amazon, and is also starting to show up in stores!

I also found out from my publisher that at O'Reilly dot com, they've put up an entire chapter of the bookthat you can download and read, and print out, and feed to your pet turkey.

I got my author copies a few weeks ago and, contrary to what you may think, hardcover books are not the best choice for late-night cuddling . . . papercuts and — okay, I've said too much already.

I know that it's not the first time I've said this, and it certainly won't be the last . . . but I want to thank everyone who has read this lame website over the years, and everyone who supported Dancing Barefoot, and Just A Geek. None of this would have happened without you guys.

Rock. \m/

July 7, 2004

heavenSENT


I'm in an art show called SENT that opens this Saturday.

SENT is a phonecam show, featuring work from a very eclectic group of people, and I'm honored and lucky to be part of it. I've always wanted to work with Weird Al and Glen E. Friedman, and this is probably the closest I'll ever get . . . so I'm going to enjoy it. The images I sent (har) are very different from what you usually see in my moblog, and I think they mostly don't suck.

The opening reception is free, and it would RULE if WWdN readers came out to share the love.

Here's the info:

Date: Saturday, July 10.

Time: 7-10 PM

Location: The Standard Hotel 550 South Flower Street in Downtown Los Angeles.

The exhibition runs from the 10th until the 17th.

and the tap drips . . .


I just got back from an ACME meeting, where my sketch (a hyper-reality sketch about poker "tells") totally killed!

Last time I pitched, I died horribly. I mean, I sucked out loud. I was that great big sucking sound Ross Perot talked about in 1992 . . . so it was great to get up there and give up some funny. Actually, just about everyone gave up some fantastic funny tonight, and I remembered why I tough it out even when my sketch writing sucks: I'm fiercely proud of the ACME, and I love being around the creative people who make up the company.

I'm currently crushed under deadlines, and trying to spin a thousand plates in exciting patterns, but I'm keeping notes on the numerous cool things that are happening right now. I'll write them up when I get some of these deadlines behind me.

Until then, here's a little bit of a poker story I'm working on in my "spare" time:



The small blind folds, and it's folded to the button, who calls. The turn is the 4s. I think about all the hands I've had recently where I got killed: I can't remember the last time AA held up for me, and I've had AK, KK, KJ —pretty much every starting hand from Group 1 and 2 — cracked so many times in limit games, I'm starting to hope for The Hammer. When a draw starts to look good, you know you're in trouble . . .

From a far away place, someone picks up my hands, and shoves all my chips forward. At the same time, he opens my mouth, and says, "All-in." The second mistake.

Gotta go. Morpheus is calling . . .

July 2, 2004

fireworks, revisited


Two years ago, I wrote an entry that endures as one of my all-time favorites.

It's timely and topical, and (most importantly) frees me up this weekend to hang out with my wife.

Longtime readers will probably remember this, and I hope that new readers enjoy it as much as I do.

Have a great weekend, everyone.




Fireworks

(Originally published on July 5, 2002)

When I was growing up, my family spent Fourth of July with my father's aunt and uncle, at their fabulous house in Toluca Lake.

It was always a grand affair and I looked forward to spending each Independence Day listening to Sousa marches, swimming in their enormous pool and watching a fireworks show on the back patio.

This fireworks display was always exciting because we were in the middle of LA County, where even the most banal of fireworks – the glow worms – are highly illegal and carried severe fines and the threat of imprisonment, should we be discovered by LA's finest. The excitement of watching the beautiful cascade of sparks and color pouring out of a Happy Flower With Report was enhanced by the knowledge that we were doing something forbidden and subversive.

Yes, even as a child I was already on my way to being a dangerous subversive. Feel free to talk to any of my middle-school teachers if you doubt me.

Each year, the older children, usually teenagers and college-aged, would be chosen to light the fireworks and create the display for the rest of the family.

I was Chosen in 1987, three weeks before my fifteenth birthday.

The younger cousins, with whom I'd sat for so many years, would now watch me the way we'd watched Tommy, Bobby, Richard and Crazy Cousin Bruce, who always brought highly illegal firecrackers up from Mexico.

I was going to be a man in the eyes of my family.

This particular 4th of July was also memorable because it was the first 4th that was celebrated post-Stand By Me and at the time I had become something of a mini-celebrity around the family. Uncles who had never talked to me before were asking me to sign autographs for people at work, older cousins who had bullied me for years were proclaiming me “cool,” and I was the recipient of a lot of unexpected attention.

I was initially excited to get all this newfound attention, because I'd always wanted to impress my dad's family and make my dad proud, but deep down I felt like it was all a sham. I was the same awkward kid I'd always been and they were treating me differently because of celebrity, which I had already realized was fleeting and bullshit.

Looking back on it now, I think the invitation to light fireworks may have had less to do with my age than it had to do with my growing fame . . . but I didn't care. Fame is fleeting . . . but it can get a guy some cool stuff from time to time, you know? I allowed myself to believe that it was just a coincidence.

The day passed as it always did. There were sack races, basket ball games and water balloon tosses, all of which I participated in, but with a certain impatience. These yearly events were always fun, to be sure, but they were standing directly between me and the glorious excitement of pyrotechnic bliss.

Finally, the sun began to set. Lawn chairs were arranged around the patio, wet swimsuits were traded for warm, dry clothes, and I bid my brother and sister farewell as I joined my fellow firework lighters near the corner of the house. I walked casually, like someone who had done this hundreds of times before.

As the sun sank lower and lower, sparklers were passed out to everyone, even the younger children. I politely declined, my mind absolutely focused on the coming display. I wanted to make a big impression on the family. I was going to start out with something amazing, which would really grab their attention. I'd start with some groundflowers, then a Piccolo Pete and a sparkling cone. From then on, I'd just improvise with the older cousins, following their lead as we worked together to weave a spectacular tapestry of burning phosphor and gunpowder for five generations of family.

Dusk arrived, the family was seated, and the great display began. Some of the veteran fireworks lighters went first, setting off some cascading fountains and a pinwheel. The assembled audience cheered and gasped its collective approval, and it was my turn.

I steeled myself and walked to the center of the large patio, casually kicking aside the still-hot remains of just-fired fountains. Casually, like someone who had done this hundreds of times before.

My hands trembled slightly, as I picked up three ground flowers that I'd wound together. My thumb struck flint and released flaming butane. I lit the fuse and became a man. The sparkling fire raced toward the ignition point and rather than following the directions to “LIGHT FUSE, PUT ON GROUND AND GET AWAY,” I did something incredibly stupid: I casually tossed the now-flaming bundle of pyrotechnics on the ground. Casually, like someone who'd done this hundreds of times before.

The bundle of flowers rolled quickly across the patio, toward my captive and appreciative audience.

Two of the flowers ignited and began their magical dance of colorful fire on the cement, while the third continued to roll, coming to rest in the grass beneath the chair of a particularly old and close-to-death great-great-great aunt.

The colored flame which was creating such a beautiful and harmless display on the patio was spraying directly at this particular matriarch, the jet of flame licking obscenely at the bottom of the chair.

The world was instantly reduced to a few sounds: My own heartbeat in my ears, the screams of the children seated near my great-great-great aunt and the unmistakable zip of the now-dying flowers on the patio.

I don't know what happened, but somehow my great-great-great aunt, who'd managed to survive every war of the 20th century, managed to also survive this great mistake of mine. She was helped to her feet and she laughed.

Unfortunately, she was the only one who was laughing. One of my dad's cousins, who was well into his 20s and never attended family gatherings accompanied by the same date, sternly ripped the lighter from my hand and ordered me back to the lawn, to sit with the other children. Maybe I could try again next year, when I was “more responsible and not such a careless idiot."

I was crushed. My moment in the family spotlight was over before it had even begun and not even the glow of pseudocelebrity could save me.

I carefully avoided eye contact, as I walked slowly, humiliated and embarrassed, back to the lawn, where I tried not to cry. I know the rest of the show unfolded before me, but I don't remember it. All I could see was a mental replay of the bundle of ground flowers rolling across the patio. If that one rogue firework hadn't split off from its brothers, I thought, I would still be up there for the finale, which always featured numerous pinwheels and a Chinese lantern.

When the show was over, I was too embarrassed to apologize and I raced away before the patio lights could come on. I spent the rest of the evening in the front yard, waiting to go home.

The following year I was firmly within the grip of sullen teenage angst and spent most of the festivities with my face planted firmly in a book -Foundation or something, most likely- and I watched the fireworks show with the calculated disinterest of a 15-year-old.

That teenage angst held me in its grasp for the next few years and I even skipped a year or two, opting to attend some parties where there were girls who I looked at, but never had the courage to talk to.

By the time I had achieved escape velocity from my petulant teenage years, Aunt Betty and Uncle Dick had sold the house and 4th of July would never happen with them again.

The irony is not lost on me, that I wanted so badly to show them all how grown up I was, only to behave more childishly than ever the following years.

This 4th of July, I sat on the roof of my friend Darin's house with Anne and the boys and watched fireworks from the high school. Nolan held my hand and Ryan leaned against me as we watched the Chamber of Commerce create magic in the sky over La Crescenta.

I thought back to that day, 15 years ago and once again I saw the groundflower roll under that chair and try to ignite great-great-great aunt whatever her name was.

Then I looked down at Nolan's smiling face, illuminated in flashes of color.

"This is so cool, Wil!” he declared, “Thanks for bringing us to watch this."

"Just be glad you're on a roof and not in a lawn chair,” I told him.

"Why?"

"Well . . . ” I began to tell him the story, but we were distracted by a particularly spectacular aerial flower of light and sparks.

In that moment, I realized that no matter how hard I try, I will never get back that day in 1987, nor will I get to relive the sullen years afterward . . . but I do get to sit on the roof with my wife and her boys now and enjoy 4th of July as a step-dad . . . at least until the kids hit the sullen years themselves.

Then I'm going to sit them in lawn chairs and force them to watch me light groundflowers.