August 28, 2003

August 2003 (Vol 2., Issue 8)

Welcome to my monthly blog-zine and the August edition of Truckin'! This month's issue includes five stories from your favorite author... me! I wrote some of these stories during the "Blackout"... can you tell which two? The infamous Baby and Winky returns for a record fifth time! Halibut is back with another story. The Subway Story series returns as well. Sit back, enjoy, and please spread the good word about this site. Be sweet, McG.

1. What Yo-yo?
Across from me, three overweight kids all around nine or ten years old held onto Burger King bags... More

2. Baby, Winky, and the $1 Blowjob
Baby and I didn’t have regular jobs but we scratched together enough cash for our hefty cocaine habit. We ripped off drunk college kids in bars... More

3. Halibut, Cici's Pall Mall, and Blazing Saddles
A filterless Pall Mall hung off Cici’s bruised lip for a few moments before it tumbled off her chest and wedged itself in between the plush orange cushions.... More

4. How I Bet $8,000 and Lost a $16,000 Pot
There's a famous line from poker professional Doyle Brunson, "If you can't spot the sucker in the first half hour... then you're the sucker." ...More

5. Summer Getaway with the Dead
I couldn’t stop myself from thinking… if Jerry didn’t die, these guys would still be playing! And I would have seen well over two hundred Dead shows by now... More

All stories written by Tenzin McGrupp © 2003

What Yo-yo?

By Tenzin McGrupp © 2003

August Subway Story

I sat in the middle of an almost empty subway car. Across from me, three overweight kids all around nine or ten years old held onto Burger King bags. They laughed and teased each other while they gobbled up their nutritious lunches. One girl dropped fries on the seat next to her. Before she finished chewing, she quickly scooped each one up and tossed them into her mouth.

After they devoured their lunch the kids rolled up their Burger King bags and blatantly littered. They nonchalantly discarded their fast food trash underneath their subway seats. The youngest boy, who was wearing a cardboard Burger King crown, took a purple ball out of his pocket. It was one of those rubber ball-like yo-yos… balls attached to a string/rubber rope. He jumped up and sat down a couple of seats away from where I sat quietly. He tossed his yo-yo ball at his sisters and he took turns trying to hit each one. I tried to read and edit a couple of pages that I had written the night before but found his antics distracting especially because the girls yelled and screamed like they were being tortured by Kashmir freedom fighters. They begged their extremely overweight and scantly clad mother for help calming down their hyperactive sibling. She couldn’t be bothered and pretended they were invisible, while she yapped like a poodle inflicted with Tourrettes syndrome to another woman in broken Spanglish. She easily ignored their pleas and the kid with the crown resumed his aerial bombardment of his sisters with his yo-yo ball.

A couple of subway stops later, he jumped over to the seat across from me. One of his sisters darted from her seat and plopped down next to me on my left side. As I continued to read, the kid tried to hit his sister several times with his yo-yo ball. One instance he missed badly and hit the page I was editing. The next time he almost hit me in the head. When that happened I immediately looked up and flashed my meanest, pissed off, agitated New Yorker face. I even cleared my throat to emphasize my “don’t even fuckin’ try that again” look. To my surprise he cocked his arm back and tossed his yo-yo ball my way. I grabbed his purple toy in mid-air. He tugged his string to get his ball back and I held my ground. He continued to yank but I wouldn’t budge. I jerked the ball my way and he let go of his end of the string. I had possession of the yo-yo ball. The power was mine.

His sisters kidded him real hard. He asked his mother for help, but again, she was too busy. I inspected his purple yo-yo ball and found teeth marks in the middle and ketchup smeared all over it.

“Can I have it back?” he sheepishly asked.

I gave him a serious look. I leaned forward and with my best aim I hurled the ball towards his head. The purple yo-yo hit him smack in the middle of his forehead. He was caught completely by surprise. Before his sisters teased him some more, I caught the ball as it instantly snapped back to me. I took aim again and I hurled it at his Burger King crown. With a direct hit his crown fell to the subway floor and in a matter of seconds, the nine year old kid was crying hysterically. That caught his mother’s attention. She waved her chubby finger at me and yelled at me in Spanglish. I coldly laughed and stood up. The train pulled into 59th Street, my stop. I glared back at the screaming mother, her laughing daughters, and her teary eyed son before I stuck out my tongue. The mother was too fat to chase me so I had nothing to worry about. As the doors slammed shut, the kid yelled out one more time to me, “Can I have my toy back?”

The subway pulled away and he pushed his face up against the window longing for one final glimpse of his yo-yo ball. I took one last look at it and chuckled before I handed his toy to a homeless man sitting down on a bench at the end of the subway platform.

“Knock yourself out, chief,” I snickered and wandered out of the station whistling a Grateful Dead song.

Tenzin McGrupp is a writer from New York City.

Baby, Winky, and the $1 Blowjob

By Tenzin McGrupp © 2003

For a couple of weeks while we lived in Eugene, Baby and I didn’t have regular jobs but we scratched together enough cash for our hefty cocaine habit. We ripped off drunk college kids in bars. Our scam was simple because it was one of the oldest in the book. Baxter Street, near the heart of the University of Oregon, was renowned for it’s eclectic enclave of nearly two dozen bars within three or four blocks. I scouted out a couple of locations. Before one bar got crowded, I plopped myself down at the bar and slowly milked a draft beer. I'd patiently wait for a rich frat boy wearing cut off pants for shorts and a baseball cap, who had ordered a drink at the bar with a crisp twenty dollar bill in his hand. I'd signal Baby who stood close by, ready to pounce into action like a hungry alley cat stalking a dim-witted baby mouse. While the bartender got him his drink and as soon as he dropped the twenty on the bar, Baby would bump into the guy and seductively ask him for either a light or a cigarette. By that point, I would have snatched up the twenty and would be halfway out the door and on my way to the next bar. By the time the guy would turn around to get his change from the bartender, Baby would be on her way out the door while the bartender demanded payment. Another frat boy duped by the old “Bump and Run”.

I'd settle into a seat at the bar nextdoor and wait for a new victim. We’d repeat this six or seven times over the course of a night and walk away with an easy $100. By our second week in Eugene, we'd pulled the scam at least twice at each bar in town. Although we profited very well, we needed a new grift. A savvy frat boy almost busted us one night. Luckily Baby pretended that the guy had dropped his cash on the floor and she pulled a crisp bill out of her bra and gave it back to him to escape our closest call at that time.

I didn’t know if Baby was focused enough for the old “Dollar Blowjob” trick. I had no qualms about it. We needed the cash for drugs and if we had any desire to get the fuck out of Eugene, get our pick-up’s transmission fixed, and go back to Portland, we needed to hunker down and work smoothly as a team.

Here’s how the “Dollar Blowjob” worked. We found a dumpy dive bar and waited until an hour before last call. That’s when Baby carefully scouted out her victim. He was almost always sex starved, something she could see right away from the look in his eyes when she mischievously flirted with him. At first she playfully asked for a drink, then with her eyes flooded with fake tears, she told the guy a sad story about how she just got into a fight with her boyfriend who cheated on her with her best friend. She wanted to get back at him but didn’t know what to do. That’s when she convinced her victim to pay her $1 for a blow job.

“I’ll suck your dick and then I’ll mail the dollar to my asshole boyfriend,” as she instantly hooked whatever guy fell for her ruse.

Shocked at the proposition of a blowjob, and for one so cheaply, the soon to be victim’s defenses were already thrown askew. He never saw it coming. Baby led the poor guy outside to an unlit alley nearby. I stealthily followed right behind them. When Baby got down on her knees and unzipped the guy’s pants, I ran up from behind and put a gun to his head. Baby grabbed the guy’s wallet before I smashed the butt of my gun into the back of his head. We scampered off like young hooligans that stole a couple of sticks of gum from a five and dime. When we reached safety, Baby and I counted our score after we triumphantly snorted a couple of biker rails of coke and fucked for thirty minutes straight. I held all the cash (Baby couldn’t be trusted to hold more than $40) and we pawned every credit card for $60 each to August Minor, the grumpy ex-Vietnam vet who sold us our cocaine.

We pulled the “Dollar Blowjob” scam seven times in one weekend and netted over $1,000 plus a free eight ball of blow. After we celebrated our eventual departure of Eugene with a late night run to Denny’s, I walked outside near the dumpster to throw away the last wallet we'd stolen. I took one quick look inside and found nothing but a couple of useless business cards, a Blockbuster Rental Card which I pocketed, and I discovered a strip of passport photos from one of those picture booths you see at malls and at Wal-Mart. I snickered as I held two pocket sized pictures of some dorky guy and his lovely blonde haired, blue eyed girlfriend as they smooched in an affectionate pose. I turned over the photo and scribbled in green ink was “Me and Brandy”. I wanted to find Brandy to give her back the picture and dispense some friendly advice.

“Listen honey, dump the loser boyfriend. Someone as hot as you should not let an idiot like that guy put his dick in you. If he was stupid enough to let a strung out, pink-dyed dreadlocked redneck, part-time hooker, part-time exotic dancer suck his cock for $1, only to get his wallet stolen from strung out coke fiends, what other stupid high risk behavior do you think he’s done?”

What was that genius thinking? Stupid yard apes like that guy kept me and Baby high for almost a month.

Tenzin McGrupp is a writer from New York City.

Halibut, Cici's Pall Mall, and Blazing Saddles

By Tenzin McGrupp © 2003

Halibut woke up suddenly to his screaming mother. Her high pitched squeal was an instant alarm clock for Halibut as he fumbled around his dark room and searched for his glasses. After a long day at work, she weathered nine vicious tequila shots that cracked her like an unexpected hurricane and got into a fight with the bathroom door at the Pub. It was ugly. Cici never saw it coming. She was knocked out for a couple of minutes before she jumped up, headed for an empty stool at the bar, then pounded three pitchers of Moosehead which cooled her rambunctious sloppiness before she stumbled home, popped a couple of Valiums and slurped the soup that Halibut had warmed up for her. While watching the “Tonight Show with Johnny Carson”, an embarrassingly sloshed Cici passed out on the couch with a lit cigarette in her mouth.

A filterless Pall Mall hung off Cici’s bruised lip for a few moments before it tumbled off her chest and wedged itself in between the plush orange cushions. Eighteen minutes later, bulky plumes of smoke filled the living room before the couch caught on fire. A cloudy eyed Cici coughed incessantly. She grabbed the first thing she saw; a nearby glass and tossed the remainder of its liquid contents onto the couch. She didn’t know that the glass was filled with vodka. Instead of extinguishing the smoldering couch, she set it ablaze. Still rip roaring drunk, she cursed twice before she grabbed her purse. She realized that she needed to wake up Halibut.

Before Cici turned around and raced to his bedroom, tiny Halibut stood motionless in front of his mother. Almost naked, he wore only a pair of ancient tighty whities, their distinguishing feature, a couple of holes and a beige skid mark that resembled the state of California. Unable to see through the smoke, he squinted at the glowing orange mass that used to be his couch. Before he uttered a word, Cici grabbed his arm and dragged him outside. They lived in a small apartment above a garage, situated behind the house owned by old man Ryan and his senile wife, Henrietta. When they reached they Ryan’s backyard, Cici hugged Halibut and squeezed him extra hard.

“That was a close one. I fucked up big time,” Cici whispered as thick funnels of grey and black smoke shot out of the windows. A mesmerized Halibut vigilantly watched the streaks of sparkling tears that trickled down his mother’s beat up face, illuminated by the eerie hypnotic radiance of their apartment in flames.

Tenzin McGrupp is a writer from New York City.

How I Lost a $16,000 Pot

By Tenzin McGrupp © 2003

20 Aug 03 Foxwoods, CT
World Poker Finals Act Two Tournament

There's a famous line from poker professional Doyle Brunson, "If you can't spot the sucker in the first half hour... then you're the sucker."

Act Two is single table (10 man) No Limit Texas Hold'em tournament. The buy in (entry fee) is $115 and the winner gets a coupon for the next scheduled Act Three tournament (worth $1,060). When I sat down to the table to play, I was nervous because I felt I was outmatched. The majority of the ten players were regulars at Foxwoods. They knew each other and knew the dealers by their first names. I was in trouble and I knew I needed to do two things.

1. Play only solid hands (A-A, K-K, Q-Q, A-K, J-J, and A-Q)
2. When I do play, to play aggressive and put the other players in the pot on the defensive.

Everyone got $2,000 in chips. I didn't play anything the first few hands until the tenth hand when I caught pocket Aces (A-A). I raised $300 before the flop and a couple of people called. The flop came out all rags (shitty "small" cards) and I bet heavily. Everyone folded and I won a rare pot with A-A. Pocket Aces are a monster hand, but sometimes you lose big pots with them. A couple of hands later I got A-10 of Clubs. I called the a raise of $300 before the flop from another player. I flopped the nut flush (best possible flush) when three Clubs fell. I decided to slow play the guy. I bet $500 and he called. I did the same on the turn. On the river a fourth Club fell (I still had the nut flush) and I went all-in and bet all my chips. He folded. And I took the majority of his stack of chips. I now held the chip lead with over $3,600.

The next few levels the blinds increased and I got decent cards. I fell into a rush of pocket pairs: 3-3, 4-4, 7-7, 9-9... and I didn't win any pots and I lost some of my stack playing those hands. I threw away A-4 one time when there was a medium sized bet in front of me. I didn't feel too good about that hand. Unluckily for me, I would have flopped the Wheel with 5-2-3. And the pot was huge, too!

The guy next to me reminded me of a cop or a state trooper who bluffed a lot. I watched him carefully. He went all-in a couple of times and would often try to steal small pots where everyone checked. He beat one guy with a four of a kind. The other guy had a full house and when he got busted he threw his cards over the dealer's head.

With only six players remaining, I had the second shortest stack. I got A-9 off suit. I called a $400 bet. An Ace fell on the flop. I had a pair with a medium kicker. The cop moved all in. I made him for either Aces or a high pair like Kings or Queens. I was just hoping I had a better kicker if he had an Ace. Since he was right next to me, I picked up on how he played his hands. I knew he had a good hand, but I knew he didn't have the best hand. He was trying to intimidate me. I could do two things:

1. Fold if I think he's got me beat.
2. Call his "all-in" if I think he's trying to steal the pot with a semi-bluff.

I had more chips than he did so I called his bet of $2,000. We turned over our cards and he held A-3. I had a better kicker (A-9). He was asking the dealer for a 3 on the turn and river. Nothing fell that could help him and I won the pot (about $5,800) after he went all-in. I knocked out my first player in this tourney.

I know what you are thinking... "How did you lose $8,000?"

I made it to the end, surviving until I was one of the last two players. I held $8,000 in chips. "Steve" the chip leader had $12,000. The blinds (forced betting) were $600-$1200. I held A-9 of Spades. Normally it's a slightly better than average hand, but playing heads-up (one on one) in a short-handed game, it's a great hand!! The flop came out... 9-9-8! I just flopped a set (trips ot three of a kind) of 9s! I bet $1,200. Steve raised me $1,200 and then I made the toughest decision of my young poker career. I went "all in". Steve called me and the pot was over $16,000! Steve turned over his cards... K-9. He was shocked to see that I held A-9 suited. Statistically speaking, I was the favorite to win the hand. I made a textbook play and I was winning the pot after the flop. However, the turn card came and it was a King! I was stunned. Steve made a full house with Nines and Kings. I was fucked! I was now a huge underdog, with only an Ace that could save me. Alas, the river card came, and it was a Seven. I lost all my chips and finished in second place. Steve was shocked at the results. He thought he was fucked. He should have been. If I won, I would have been in perfect position to win the entire tournament. I would have had $16,000 in chips, four times as much as Steve's $4,000. With the blinds at $1,200 and increasing every fifteen minutes, I would have bullied him with raises and re-raises until I got all his chips. I got fucked on the turn!!

After the flop only three outs that could have helped Steve. I had 82% of winning the hand with trips and an Ace kicker. Steve was an underdog at 7 to 1. Again, this was an ideal situation for me. Everyone I know would have done the move I made. I went all-in against the chip leader when I had the odds overwhelmingly in my favor. Alas, the King fell on the turn and my tournament was seconds away from being over.

Steve and the other players shook my hand and complimented me on my play. Steve said I only showed two or three hands all night (a sign that you are a strong player... that other players fold to you, because they think/know you have a better hand). I wasn't looking for any validtation from my fellow cards players. I know I'm a good player (just inexperienced) and I lost on a bad beat. Every poker pro would have salivated over the position I was in, to double up on chips against the chip leader. They would have pushed it all in with an A-9, so I know that I made the right play. The frustrating thing was that I didn't lose because I made a bad play. I lost to the percentages. But sometimes in life and in Texas Hold'em... the right play is not always the winning play. Shit happens.

Editor's Note: Visit the Tao of Poker for a glossary of poker terms.

Tenzin McGrupp is a writer from New York City.

Summer Getaway with the Dead

By Tenzin McGrupp © 2003

I saw my last Grateful Dead show on June 17, 1995. Seven and half years later in November of last year I caught the Other Ones at Madison Square Garden. The Other Ones were the Grateful Dead minus Jerry Garcia and with new additions to the band. A few months later the guys got together and decided to tour with a new, but old name… the artists formally known as the Grateful Dead will now be known as the Dead. Sometimes it’s confusing. I used to refer to the Grateful Dead as the Dead for a nickname, a quicker abbreviation of their band name. Whether it was a marketing scheme to scratch together some quick cash, or perhaps it was a collection of guys that have known each other for almost forty years who finally smoothed over some differences... it didn’t matter. The Dead were touring finally and I was going to see as many shows as I could, Jerry or no Jerry.

At the epic Jones Beach show, the highlight of the summer Dead tour, I sat next to a guy named Jimmy from Maui. He lives there now, but got to see over four hundred Grateful Dead shows sine 1973.

“Sure I miss Jerry,” he shrugged, “but music is music. And I’m here for the music. If Jerry were here, it would be almost perfect, but he’s not, and it’s still amazing music. It’s still a great mellow vibe, which is good for me, I’m old now. I dunno if I could handle too many intense moments like the Grateful Dead used to throw at you every night back in the 1970s.”

The biggest difference between the time I followed the Grateful Dead (1992-95) and when I followed Phish extensively (1998-2000) was me. When I followed the Dead I was easily one of the youngest on tour (aside from tour babies… hippies take their kids everywhere). The average age for a Deadhead in 1994 was a good fifteen to twenty-five years older than I was at 21. I often refer to phishkids in my many stories and ramblings. Most of them can’t buy alcohol, some of them can vote (barely), and the Phish tour is saturated with thousands of these wandering, rolling, newbie heads. All of the sudden the roles are reversed. I’m the elder statesmen at the majority of the Phish shows I attend, and geez whiz, I’m only 30.

Another subtle difference I recently observed were the sizable amount of small children (under the age of ten) on tour. During the summer tour with a bevy of outdoor venues and amphitheaters with lawn seating, it’s very common to see Deadheads bring all their kids into the shows. I think it’s a cool idea, as long as they behave and I don’t have to party next to them.

On Phish tour every VW bus had a dog or puppy. Obviously the median age of a Phishead is something like 24 or 25, not old enough to have children of sufficient touring age. Instead of kids, they have dogs. Not quite the same, but a major responsibility nonetheless. At the entrance to the IT Festival in Maine, the security guards thoroughly searched every vehicle that entered the campgrounds. They looked for weapons, fireworks, nitrous tanks, large caches of alcohol for personal sales, and most importantly… for dogs. Dogs were not permitted at the IT Festival. In the past at former festivals, dogs have gotten ill and some died from heat exhaustion, lack of water, and from being locked up in their owner’s vehicles for hours on end.

More kids, less dogs on the Dead tour. No Jerry, but a guy named Jimmy played guitar instead. The band and the crowd was happy to be back, if even for a short while. And I couldn’t stop myself from thinking… if Jerry didn’t die, these guys would still be playing! And I would have seen well over two hundred Dead shows by now.

Tenzin McGrupp is a writer from New York City.

What a Long Strange Trip It's Been...


From the Editor's Laptop:

The summer is over, but here's a bit of fiction I worked on during the blackout and during some of the hottest days this year.

Please feel free to e-mail this link to your friends, families, co-workers, cellmates, lifemates, etc. Help spread the good word about this site and the writers!

Again thanks for your support! Loyal readers like you make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Does anybody actually read this part of Truckin' anymore? If you tell me the secret word, which is "Halibut", I will give you $1.

Be Sweet,
McG

"I love Baby and Winky!" - Jerry Engel