March 22, 2004

March 2004 (Vol. 3, Issue 3)

The Ides of March have passed us and now we are in the middle of the mayhem called March Madness. The current issue has to be one of my favorite to work on in the past year! I wrote two amazing stories: Neon Kisses... is another Miami story and Sad Amy is about my most recent trip to Foxwoods Casino. Richard Bulkeley submitted an auspicious tale about speed and freedom. Old staffers Jessica and Tom Love returned this issue with colorful stories. And I'd like to introduce a brand new writer... BG, a fellow poker blogger, who shared a hilarious list that all of you divorced readers will get a nice laugh out of. So sit back, relax, and enjoy. Thanks for coming back, McG

1. Neon Kisses by Tenzin McGrupp
My fatigued face was numb. My rugged nose was running. My sleepy eyes throbbed with a sharp pain because they have not rested in over three days... More

2. Each Unforgiving Minute by Richard Bulkeley
I was grinning as I gently leant to the left. Even though it was a still day, the air was beating against my face, the sun was shining, and the gentle vibration of the bike forced me into a good mood... More

3. Ten Warning Signs That You Might Be Married To My Ex-Wife by BG
She doesn’t find anything the least bit wrong with surreptitiously dating other guys... More

4. Summer of Love, Winter of Haight by Tom Love
I remember San Francisco the Winter after the Summer of Love, January 1969... More

5. rancor. by Jessica E. Lapidus
The guy who shot up the Burger King on Washington Street, they called him Hochner. Ilka never saw him walk in the place. How could she have?... More

6. Sad Amy by Tenzin McGrupp
You see, Sad Amy might not be that sad. I really have no idea. She always looks like one of her four cats just died. At any moment she could burst into tears. I wondered if she had a copy of Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar in her locker, because she walks around with a blank, suicidal stare and a gaze that illicits a sympathetic response from McGrupp... More

Neon Kisses

Neon Kisses

By Tenzin McGrupp © 2004

Miami, FL... 28 Dec 03

I sped over the almost empty causeway and attempted to follow a weaving Lexus driven by one extremely drunk and audacious driver. The soothing sounds of Jerry Garcia’s halcyon voice bounced around my rental car, fading in and out between the near deafening pockets of aggravating wind that rushed through the open windows. My fatigued face was numb. My rugged nose was running. My sleepy eyes throbbed with a sharp pain because they have not rested in over three days. I yawned out of habit. The intense grip on the steering wheel made my trembling hands sweat. I slapped my face to stay awake. I shouted out Jerry’s lyrics to keep my tainted blood pumping. I glanced out over to the left and marveled at the incandescent lights of downtown Miami, with glimmers of their luminous reflections floating in the calm, bay waters. A lighthearted flashback seized my mind and body, as a jolt of my rowdy past rushed forth and pleasant thoughts of giggling Japanese girls, their faces coated in glitter and their adorable, infectious smiles consumed all of me.

“Ah, the city of lights.”

I left stylish Miami Beach and arrived on the caliginous streets of downtown Miami. I made a wrong turn onto Biscayne Boulevard and drove past the dreggy no-tell motels. I reluctantly stopped at a traffic light and glanced at the unchaste, strung out, street walkers on the adjacent corner. The he/shes chain smoked Kools and anxiously awaited their next customer, while avoiding the keen eyes of Miami Dade County squad cars. The pink shadows cast by the neon Vacancy lights above their heads, showed no hypocrisy. You got what you paid for with those vampires of emotionless sex... a quick fix for the lonely and desperate is what they sold. And alas, let the buyer beware. One of them fished around in her oversized cow-skin purse and found a stick of gum. She walked up to a white pick-up truck and popped her head inside. The light changed and I sped off trying to get one last glimpse of the sullen transaction.

I don’t eat much when I’m on huge gambling streaks and drugged out binges so that’s why I have to remind myself to consume food at random intervals. When I saw the Wendy’s All-Nite Drive-Thru sign, I eagerly pulled in line behind a black SUV with aqua neon lights beaming underneath the car, with tinted windows, big shiny rims on the wheels, and a sound system which rivaled most clubs in South Beach. The windshield on my rental car shook with each bong rattling thump of bass. I was pleased when the wanna-be gansta rappers (confused, trend conscious, MTV-addicted white suburban kids from the Grove) in front of me turned down the music to give their late night order. I was more pleased when they didn’t resume the tidal wave of sonic boom bass.

I bought a large Frosty and a large order of fries. I loved dipping fries into the Frosty. I started my long drive back to Miami Shores and happily ate my Wendy’s. After I almost got sideswiped by a taxi cab, I spilled some of the Frosty and had to pull over to clean myself up. Without paying much attention, I drove into an empty and dimly lit KFC parking lot. I put my rental car in park, left the engine running and cleaned up my messy shirt... while still humming some of Jerry Garcia's lyrics. I looked up and realized that I was not alone in the lot. Two cars were parked one hundred feet away to my right. Something shady was going down and I got a funny feeling in my gut. Both cars were running but had their head lights off. As soon as I looked up, one guy sped off, with all the high pitched sound effects you expect to hear in that instance. The other guy turned on his brights and floored his car… in my direction. With a cold and drippy Frosty in one hand, I quickly switched gears, reversed with my head down (just in case the guy on a random coke deal had a gun and was ready to shoot), and blindly backed out into Biscayne Boulevard. I almost hit an old Chevy with Tennessee plates and ran a red light. I took a deep breath and looked back into the half shadowy, half pink neon colored street to find that no one was following me, with the exception of a tall and skinny he/she hooker, standing at a bus stop, waving and blowing kisses at me.

Tenzin McGrupp is a writer from New York City.

Each Unforgiving Minute

By Richard Bulkeley © 2004

The relationship between speed and freedom is never more obvious than when going downhill on a mountain bike. Even the ride to work was enjoyable for a few moments. Trouble can’t travel much faster than the speed-limit, so I was pedalling hard on the flat before the hill. As the road began to drop away, I stood up and shifted my weight backwards. Squatting over the back wheel with my arms extended, I was keeping my weight back and my posture loose like a cat.

This hill was my favourite part of the ride to work. The road got progressively steeper as it swept to the left then switched into a short right hand curve and flattened out. Then it whipped back into a sharp left-hander. Everything after that was gravy – a gentle downhill straight, and then a nice medium right before the next uphill.

I was grinning as I gently leant to the left. Even though it was a still day, the air was beating against my face, the sun was shining, and the gentle vibration of the bike forced me into a good mood.

I might be suffering through summer in a minimum wage dishwashing job with an asshole boss and idiot co-workers while my friends were off climbing. I might have just had a big screaming match with a girlfriend I didn’t love any more. I might have decided that another year at university really wasn’t anything to look forward to. But I was going at 50 kilometres an hour so for the next minute so I didn’t have to think about it.

I’m not much good at normal meditation, but I’ve found that by cheating I can attain fleeting moments of calm. Riding a bike, or climbing, requires total concentration. Unfortunately, it’s only with the assistance of adrenaline that I am able to focus myself away from my problems. I’m definitely no Zen master. The problem with using risk to relax is that with every visit, the edge of the envelope gets further away.

The bike was like an extension of myself as I leant gently to the left. I was near the middle of the lane and already thinking through the line I needed to take for the hard left. It would be the same line I’d taken dozens of times before. But just like on a climb, I needed to be in the right place to make the crux move.

A familiar feeling built in me as I straightened up. The brief right hand curve could almost be ignored. My world was the few meters of asphalt in front of me. I moved forward, getting back on the seat by feel and memory. It’s amazing how little thinking you can do when you’re busy not thinking.

I claim I’m not a risk junkie, but at moments like these, if I could think, I’d probably disagree. Whenever my fingers stretched out towards the brake handles, I knew I didn’t need them to keep control, but it was habit. Some idiot in a car (and when you’re on a bike, all car drivers are idiots until proven otherwise) might decide to pull out of the side street.

I fixed my eyes on the point in the road I’d decided was the start of my line. As it rushed towards me, I leaned over, holding the bike as upright as I could. Then it was time, and I let bike follow me into the turn. I felt the G force pulling me as I swung round into the turn. If riding a bike was like sex, although I’m really not sure how it could be except for getting all sweaty, then the apex was the moment of orgasm. Some of my blood drained from my head, my muscles tensed, and I had a stupid smile on my face. Sure, the reasons were different, but my metaphor wasn’t as bad as it sounded.

I was just beginning to come out of the turn when I hit the cats-eye. The small reflective road-marking gave me a noticeable bump. The bike wobbled violently, and I had to straighten up. Momentum carried me outwards, into the other lane. I looked up, and confirmed my worst fear. A car was coming towards me. A rational thought flashed through my mind, absurd because of its relevance.

“Our combined velocity is approximately 100 kilometres an hour.”

Out of reflex, I squeezed the brakes and my wheels locked up. I fought the wild instability of the skid for as long as I could. I looked up and saw the oncoming car. I hoped it was braking, but even so, I was running out of road. I let go of the brakes for a moment, enough to regain a semblance of control.

Everyone has heard stories about how in moments of crisis the brain starts operating at warp speed. Supposedly, in moments of danger, your life flashes before your eyes. Well, I’m quite thankful that my life didn’t flash before my eyes, I had better things to do than relive past stupidity. My present stupidity was quite enough to absorb my attention.

I squeezed the brakes again and committed to the pavement. On some level, I knew I was going to lose it. There just wasn’t anywhere for me to go. I skidded over a driveway and aimed at a patch of grass.

This was going to hurt.

I turned as much as I could, hoping to skirt the grass for a moment or two and burn off some more speed. Nope. My front wheel ran straight onto the grass and suffered a sudden loss of front wheel speed resulting in a catastrophic alteration in vertical alignment. In other words, I went over the handlebars.

This was really going to hurt.

I landed hard on my shoulders and bounced once before coming to a stop. A sudden burst of white light blinded me. Whenever you take a heavy blow to the head, pain interferes with the optic nerves. Or something. A moment later, the ache hit me, right in the middle of my forehead.

I opened my eyes and the sky was blue and a long way away. Wispy white clouds danced in the sunshine. I was lying on grass that prickled gently against the back of my neck. I got up, checked the bike, shook my head and rode off.

It wasn’t a life-changing moment. It wasn’t even a minor epiphany. I didn’t think of any new clich├ęs to describe why I did it. It wasn’t even a particularly serious accident (I would have a bike accident a few months later that would result in memory loss and hospitalisation). It was just the price of peace.

An hour later, I had a nagging headache, a dent in my helmet, and a secret glow in my eyes. I had looked in to the eyes of eternity (admittedly from a long way back) and for a precious moment I managed not to blink.

Richard Bulkeley is gentleman scholar from Auckland, New Zealand.

Ten Warning Signs That You Might Be Married To My Ex-Wife

By BG © 2004

A Public Service Announcement...

1 – You find yourself in at least week three of your stand-off on who's going to clean her cats' litter boxes.

2 – You've been sleeping with the woman for at least six months, and you're still unsure of what she looks like naked in a reasonably lit room.

3 – You/re home from your ten hours at the office, she's unshowered, in her pajamas, presumably having occupied the same space on the couch since "waking up" at noon, the house is a disaster, and she asks you what you’re making her for dinner.

4 – The second the topic of capping her unbridled spending is broached, your manhood and ability to provide for your family is assailed with soul-crushing speed and intensity.

5 – The only thing you begin to have in common is a mutual contempt, but unwillingness to be the first to walk away.

6 – The parts of yourself that you dislike the most are open season for constant dissection, even in conversation with family, friends, and in front of strangers.

7 – Your lack of energy after an hour drive to work, ten hours in the office, and an hour drive home becomes her excuse for getting fatter (not just fat, fatter).

8 – Her fuzzy math and lack of logic makes discussing household budget concerns with her pointless. However, when told she can't afford to do something, her excuse becomes supporting you for the two months you were unemployed eight months ago with the job she used to have, even though she’s technically unemployed (er, "self-employed") currently.

9 – She doesn’t find anything the least bit wrong with surreptitiously dating other guys, and even asks you to wait for her to visit one overseas for a month, just to let her come back to you to figure things out in the "marriage" (uh, no thanks).

10 – When a nice old lady in a restaurant tells her she looks like Tiffani-Amber Thiessen, you have to bite your tongue before blurting out, "No, she just looks like she ate Tiffani-Amber Thiessen."

If warning signs persist, please consult your attorney. That is all.

BG is a writer from Michigan who still dreams of one day seeing his ex-wife naked.

Summer of Love, Winter of Haight

By Tom Love © 2004

I remember San Francisco the Winter after the Summer of Love, January 1969. I was in the Army, head shaved, up from Fort Ord for a couple of weeks, visiting Dale who had tuned in, turned on and dropped out to work at the Post Office and had an apartment in the Tenderloin district. Dale bought a pound of pot, had hidden it in the top of the living room closet. He worked nights and I would stay up late with headphones on, listening to KSAN, smoking his dope. The Mothers, the Airplane, Big Brother, the Fillmore, the Haight, Zap Comix. Too bad the dope was not really that good! Maybe it was male hooch, no buzz. It didn't matter.

Dale and I would go for walks in the Tenderloin and eat noodles in Chinatown. We'd marvel our good fortune to be stoned out hippies in San Francisco during the Age of Aquarius. I would comment on the beauty of the women we'd pass by, Dale would explain that they weren't actually women. Dealers would peddle their dope in a monotone multisyllable, "speedhashacidmesclinegrass." Down in the Haight, longhairs would openly stare at my military shaved head.

Barbara lived there with Dale too. That was before I knew what a nervous breakdown was. She had one. She would stay in bed for days. One day, a better day, we all went to Mill Valley across the Golden Gate, past Sausalito, up in Marin County. Barb knew someone who had a house there. It was cold, foggy. The house was vacant, heat turned off. We all piled into a big bed and covered up with down comforters to keep warm. In an open bedroom window suddenly appeared a wild Bobcat. We freaked! The Bobcat (20 ferocious lbs.) freaked and ran! We laughed.

It was Richard Brautigan's San Francisco, R. Crumb's San Francisco, City Lights Bookstore, where Dale sold his self published poetry chapbooks. Where Ginsburg recited from Howl and Ferlingetti wrote She.

I was scheduled for Nam but by hook of fate didn't go. After San Francisco, I was stationed in Germany where I spent a year smoking hash which was definitely not the impotent male version of the plant. And then it was just a year after that I learned all about nervous breakdowns.

Barbara became owner and CEO of a boutique, The Joyful Alternative which recently closed after 34 successful years. Dale went on to have a great many misadventures and is currently a screen writer in Burbank. Me, I just sit and play this here guitar.

Tom Love is a writer from Atlanta, GA.


By Jessica E. Lapidus © 2004

The guy who shot up the Burger King on Washington Street, they called him Hochner.

Ilka never saw him walk in the place. How could she have? Nothing separated Hochner from the rest of the old white homeless men who hung out there. He walked over to the counter to place an order, leaning close to the girl behind the register. Ilka had just finished a phone call to her boyfriend and was snapping her phone shut when she heard the scream. By the time Ilka turned around, the wispy black girl behind the counter had the back of her head all over the fry station. Hochner was waving his gun at the crowd in the restaurant.

"Any more of you motherfuckers scream and I'll put your brains on the walls!!" he bellowed.

A fat Hispanic woman had her hands over each of her two children's mouths and had tucked her chin into her chest. Two young black guys, thugged out in red, had stopped their chatter about "bitches and benjamins" and were staring at Hochner, jaws slack. An older white man had moved to the other side of the booth to sit with his wife, who had vomited onto her tray. The place was silent. A man walked in through the front door and when he saw the crazed homeless guy pointing a sawed-off shotgun in his direction, he changed his mind and headed for the McDonalds down the block.

The bathroom door opened out into the silence but Hochner didn't seem to notice.

"Hochner, man, what the fuck are you doing?"

Hochner swung his arm at the other homeless man standing in the half-opened bathroom door. A moment froze between them and Ilka watched it in slow motion as Hochner pulled the trigger of the shotgun pointed at the shoulder of the man before him. The range was so close that his arm was shot off and went flying into a table of trembling Japanese girls. They screamed in unison and Hochner shot one of them in the back.

Sirens were blaring up the street and Hochner's head snapped to the door. He just started shooting at the door and as the screams rippled from the front of the restaurant to the back door, he shot at them, too. Ilka dove under the table and a bullet nicked the head of one of the little Hispanic boys with his fat mother and nailed Ilka in the back of the knee.

As Ilka lay curled in a ball under the table, blood gushing from her leg and tears streaming down her cheeks, three police officers barged through the doors of the Burger King and shot Hochner five times in the legs, and as his finger tightened around the trigger of the shotgun, a stray bullet ricocheted off the hot, white tile and took out the leg of an empty baby stroller.

Ten patrons of the Washington Street Burger King lay dead and eight severely wounded as five more cops came running in and stopped cold in their tracks, surveying the carnage. Whimpers and sobs of the wounded rang through the restaurant, but the police officers just stood there. Some of them looked at the front windows, wondering when the EMS would arrive, and some glanced at their bloody boot prints as they approached the barely breathing homeless man, a sawed-off shotgun still in his left hand, finger limp and curled around the trigger.

"He dead?" a young, stunned rookie cop asked the air.

"Don't think so," an older, black cop mumbled.

Hochner was alive, blood bubbling out of his nose at every weak exhale, both legs shattered in a million places. His brown coat was stained by years of living in the streets, but remained otherwise unmarred by the bloodshed of the last five minutes. Squeaky breaths came sore out of his throat as the cops stared at him in muted shock.

"I've seen this guy around the neighborhood."

"Yeah, me too. He's been on the street for years."

"Where the fuck did he get a Beretta?"

Two ambulances screeched to a halt in front of the Burger King and as four medics came running in with stretchers, one of them was already on his radio, calling for three more vans. The EMS guys went to work, running over to each person on the floor. They felt the pulses of each one. If they were dead, the medic would move on to another. When they found one who was alive, they'd holler for a stretcher and another guy would come over and they'd get the person into the ambulance. Ilka watched from under the table as the medics ran around the room like Doozers, methodical and smooth, as though this kind of thing happened every day. It occurred to her that none of them knew she was there. Every time she blinked, Ilka saw Hochner standing at the counter, screaming "any more of you motherfuckers scream and I'll put your brains on the walls!!" His warning flew through her brain, his face full of strained anger and fear. Don't scream! Don't fucking make a sound! Ilka put her hand on her left knee and felt bone and blood, hot and cruel between her fingers.

She screamed into the blackness.

The media went insane with witness' accounts of what they had seen that day at the Washington Street Burger King. There was the man of the old couple - his wife had puked on her tray that day and had had a heart attack and died when the cops burst through the door - talking to the press about the tragedy. The Mayor, the reporters, the idiots who saw everything and nothing through the blood-soaked windows. Ilka watched their images and heard their words go by with mild disgust. The reporters had tried to talk to the fat Hispanic lady whose little boy had been hospitalized after getting his head skimmed by one of Hochner's bullets, but she was too hysterical. The reporters came out of nowhere almost immediately, and had interviewed the friends of the Japanese girl who had been shot in the back. They cried a lot. The reporters from Channels 6 and 7 had tried to interview Ilka, but her father had intercepted them in the doorway of her private room, threatening them with bodily harm.

Ilka's father spent most of his time in his daughter's hospital room, and when he wasn't there, he was drinking Jameson's out of a silver flask that had belonged to his own father. It had been years since he'd gotten drunk on a regular basis, but seeing his only child in such a state of wounded shock had gotten him started again. His wife, Ilka's mother, disdained his behavior in public, but even Ilka knew that she had been sucking at the same flask behind her husband's back for 20 years.

Ilka had been in the hospital for only one day before she lost her left leg just above the knee. Ten days after she arrived at the hospital, Ilka was drifting in and out of sleep while her mother read in the chair next to her cot, and the Channel 6 news ran their afternoon report.

"…he was severely wounded by police and as soon as he is released from the hospital, Louis Hochner will go on trial for the murder of ten and the shooting of eight others in the Burger King downtown."

Ilka stirred to the sound of her mother's choking gasp.

"What is it?" she murmured.

"Nothing, dear. Nothing. Go back to sleep."

Ilka's eyes fluttered open and she glanced at the television over her bed. To the right of the anchorwoman's head was a photograph of an angry white man, thickly wrinkled brow and receding hairline. Her mouth opened at the sight of Hochner's face and she watched in silence as the anchors shook their heads and frowned, as they commented briefly on what had happened to "those poor, poor victims."

Her mother saw the way Ilka was looking at the television. It was the first time she had seen or heard anything about the shooting. The one thing she had been sure of was that the man who shot her in the leg had been killed by the cops that day. The reality of his life and the fact that he was actually going to get a fair trial for what he had done absolutely devastated her. Ilka started crying. Her mother rushed to her side and rubbed her shoulders, but Ilka could not be assuaged. Sobs wracked her body as she choked on her tears.

"He's alive… he's alive…" she whimpered.

Ilka was still feeling the twitch of her missing leg, and as she slept after crying herself into heavy sleep, she dreamed of running through the summer streets, hot concrete beneath her bare feet, both legs churning as she pounded the pavement with her steps, knees bending beautifully in pure liquid grace. She had had this dream nearly every night in since the doctors had amputated her left leg, and every night it ended the same way: running smack into the doors of the Washington Street Burger King and falling on the ground in pain before waking up. But after seeing the face and hearing the name of her assailant on the mid-day news, the end of her recurring dream took a dynamic turn. This time, instead of running into the doors of the Burger King, she ran right into the arms of Louis Hochner, who grabbed her and screamed into her face, I'll put your brains on the walls!! In the dream she opened her mouth to scream, but no sound came out. In the real world, as she twitched and cried in her sleep, the nurse came in and gave her a swift 10cc shot of Valium.

By the time Hochner's trial began, Ilka had been home from the hospital for a month. Severely depressed, she had been unable to return to her job as a travel agent. She had been forced to break the lease on her studio apartment and went back to living with her parents. They hated the circumstance, but they were more than happy to take care of their convalescing daughter. Not that Ilka would have noticed. She was in a wheelchair while waiting for her wounds to fully heal before she could get a prosthetic leg. Her father worked and drank and her mother stayed home with her all day. Ilka watched soap operas and talk shows and CNN. She barely spoke. A young woman who had been the president of her sorority, who had graduated at the top of her class just a year and a half earlier, who had a loving boyfriend, who was extremely popular among her peers - was now reduced to a frightened, silenced, frail little girl.

Her friends came by all the time with CDs and books and catty gossip. Her boyfriend would stop by on occasion with pink roses and Toblerone chocolate, her favorites. They would all talk and tell stories and laugh at the things on TV. But Ilka wasn't interested. She stared into space or at the flashing images and thought about Hochner. His murder trial was being televised on Court TV. She had made the mistake of lingering too long while flipping through the channels one day, and had seen his face, framed by an orange polyester collar against the backdrop of the pale wood paneling of a courtroom. The mere sight of his face and his name etched on the bottom of the screen over the word "Defendant" sent Ilka into a crying, shaking, terror fit that lasted two hours. Ever since then, she avoided that end of the dial and mostly watched The Weather Channel.

It was a quick trial, lasting only about three weeks. The jurors barely deliberated. Hochner was found guilty on nine counts of first degree murder, eight counts of attempted murder, and one count of manslaughter, for the old lady who puked and had a heart attack. His lawyers had hoped for an insanity plea, but there were six character witnesses, all of them fellow homeless (tested for mental capacity before appearing on the stand, of course), who all testified that Louis Hochner was a perfectly normal guy whose only real fault was that he liked Macallan scotch, and probably would have done anything to get some. But Burger King doesn't serve whisky, does it? So why would he go in there…?

And that's where the questioning would often end.

To Be Continued...

Jessica E. Lapidus is a writer from Jersey City, NJ.

Sad Amy

By Tenzin McGrupp © 2004

Every time I go to Foxwoods I see one of my favorite dealers, Sad Amy. She's in her mid 20s and she has a perpetual frown on her face. She looks like the actress Sarah Polley (from Go!) and I instantly developed a crush on her. She's an average looking gal, with shoulder length brown hair, but I just happen to have this unhealthy attraction to women who seem emotionally distressed. When I arrived, I saw that she was dealing the $5-10 Hold'em game (with a kill pot). And later on that night, she dealt at my table. I was happy.

You see, Sad Amy might not be that sad. I really have no idea. She always looks like one of her four cats just died. At any moment she could burst into tears. I wondered if she had a copy of Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar in her locker, because she walks around with a blank, suicidal stare and a gaze that illicits a sympathetic response from McGrupp. When I first met her, I found solace in her sad eyes in between hands. Despite her somberness, she's an excellent dealer. No mistakes. She's like a machine and has very little time for chit-chat with the table. She never makes eye contact with the players. She deals the cards and points to you when it's your time to act.

When she first dealt at my $2-4 table last summer, I got the impression that she was having a bad day and that it might be her time of the month. My goal was to make her laugh. I tried my best material. No luck. Tumbleweeds rolled right by and you could hear a cricket sing in between the clatter of all the chips. I was way out of my league. She's one tough audience.

The next time I saw her one month later, she looked the same and I realized that this might be how she is all the time. I lowered my goals. I now tried to make her make eye contact with me. Then to tried to make her smirk. Then if I was on a roll, to get her to smile. Laughing seemed almost impossible for Sad Amy, kinda like trying to hit a home run off of Pedro Martinez when he's having his best day.

When she got pushed to my $4-8 table, I was in Seat 7. I said, "Hello Amy," and without looking she said, "Hi, McGrupp." For ten minutes that was all I got.

I always like to make smart-ass remarks at the table after someone else speaks. I must admit, I was playing so-so poker, but my comedic skills were all fired up. I loosened up the table a little bit with some McGrupp-esque comments on John Kerry and Howard Dean (something to the liking of Kerry marrying a ketchup heiress and how Howard Dean should have married into the Gulden's fortune) and Sad Amy didn't flinch.

Then out of nowhere, after I got rags, I tossed my cards back to Sad Amy and I let rip a bad Arnold Schwarzenegger impression something like, "The gov-ah-ner of Cal-lee-fawna does not approve of deez caaaah-ds."

Well, the table was in stitches with laughter and Sad Amy cracked a smirk! I was fired up. That was better than getting pocket aces and flopping another ace. Two hands later I went in for the kill. My Bill Clinton impression is always a hit with the ladies. One guy said something like he had to get home before Midnight or his wife would divorce him and I let out in a cool, dry, Bubba Clinton Arkansas drawl, "Well there's a lot of things I don't tell Mrs. Clinton."

Again the table was roaring and this time Sad Amy looked at me and smiled. For someone whose mouth is perpetually turned down, it was an epic moment for me. I made Sad Amy smile. Next time I go to Foxwoods, I'm going to make her laugh.

Tenzin McGrupp is a writer from New York City.

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

From the Editor's Laptop: March Madness is upon us and I am pleased to publish another great issue as we approach the two year birthday of Truckin'. Some solid stories this month from some old staffers. Thanks to everyone who submitted their bloodwork. Next month, I hope to write a little more about my Phishy New Years in Miami and who know what our staff writers or what new writers will submit. Stay tuned.

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! We need all the publicity we can get.

Be Sweet,

"Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." - John Lennon