Flew into Hartford Thursday morning. Same crappy airport, same great fall foilage. That feeling of returning to Robert Frost territory returned when I saw my first rock wall, but it's too bad my memory of how to get to Foxwoods did not return. I thought the signs leading onto Highway 2 from Hartford had Norwich on them, but they don't and I passed the turnoff not once but twice.
After an hour's drive east, the behemoth appeared before me. Good old Foxwoods, a casino that is bigger than it has any right to be. A Pequot stronghold in the middle of the woods, becking 25 million people within a three hours' drive to gamble, gamble, gamble. But I wanted to start off slow, so I sat in a 5-10 game with a kill as I waited for Tony to get off work at ESPN and drive over. I won a few chips in three hours before Tony arrived and we went down to the tournament area after grabbing dinner. He had already registered for the $200+$40 shootout that was taking place at 7 p.m. -- one of five intervals during the day -- but they were sold out when I tried to buy in.
I went upstairs to play some 1-2 NL (weird game with a $100 MAX buy in here) while Tony played the shootout. The way this one worked was 200 players per round, with 10 at each table. The winner of the table comes back the next day to play a regular tournament with the other 99 survivors. The table winner gets $500 immediately, with a shot at some $60,000 the next day. Not bad odds once you make it through.
My luck was not good in the NL game. I ended up all in in a race with AK vs. QQ. The flop brought a set for him and a heart flush draw for me. The river was a heart that paired the board. Later, I flopped top two with KQ and check raised a guy all in who had AJ. The river T gave him Broadway. So I dropped nearly $200 and decided to walk down to see how Tony was doing. Since I hadn't seen him yet, I assumed he was still in. Not only was he in, he was heads up with a mountain of chips in front of him. He finished the guy off in short order, his AT holding up against A2.
I followed Tony home where his living situation is much different now. Last year, he had an apartment (a crappy one, let's face it) with limited furniture. (Tony said I made fun of my bed last year. Sorry about that, but I couldn't sleep on the thing.) Now he's got a great house and his family has moved up here. The last time I saw his kids, Julia and Mickey, they were beating me over the head at Tony's house in the Tuscaloosa area during halftime of Super Bowl XXXVIII, causing me to miss Janet Jackson's ta-tas. Great kids though, I plan to spend some time with them while I'm up here. I promised Mickey I'd toss a football around with him Sunday.
I'm happy to report Tony's got a larger air mattress now that is muy, muy comfortable. I slept like a baby Thursday night.
On Friday I headed south, to the Big Apple. I discovered that it was much easier to take the train, rather than driving down and trying to park my car (and that would have cost much more, my roundtrip ticket was only $25.) The trip sparked thoughts of men in bowlers riding cross country to see their nieces in Kansas. I always had a romantic view of train travel as a kid and I can't really explain my fascination. My paternal grandfather worked for L & N railroad in Birmingham, but he worked at the office, not as a conductor. Even though the trip through the Connecticut countryside was not as romantic as I had hoped, I still enjoyed my first trip on a train.
We passed through Harlem, which looks like a war zone, it's old, decaying housing projects standing out in the landscape. The train passed through a tunnell and we arrived at our destination, Grand Central Terminal. I walked up the steps and into the main concourse to see the magnificent open expanse. I could hardly keep a smile off my face. I was in THE New York. Sure, I've been to big cities before, but there is no city in this country remotely like this one. It's almost too much for a poor old country boy from Alabama!
I took the subway to Times Square, and was awestruck once again as I stepped out onto the corner of 42nd Street and Broadway. So many people, so much action. I walked ten blocks down to the Entertainment Weekly offices, where my friend Gilbert is a book reviewer, and he oriented me on some of the sites I could walk to until he got off work three hours later. So I headed to Central Park, Rockefeller Plaza, the NY Public Library and the Empire State Building. The last has a wait of more than an hour to get to the 86th floor observatory, which was good because it had turned dark by the time to provide more spectacular views of the landscape.
Gilbert seemed a bit amused at my excitement when I met him for dinner. Being a native New Yorker, I think he takes it all for granted. I dropped my bag off at the apartment we were staying in Village East where he is catsitting for a few weeks. The rent in this apartment with maybe 700 square feet? Probably $1,500 to $2,000 a month. In Tuscaloosa, I have a $1,000 a month mortgage payment on a 2,200 square foot home on a one-acre lot. Chew on that one.
Gilbert took me out to a number of bars in the neighborhood, including Doc Holliday's, a "Southern" themed bar where the vision of Dixie is women in skimpy tops and guys sitting around drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon. I had to call it a night around midnight, because my hip was hurting from all the walking I'd done that day. I crashed on the couch by the window and listened to the traffic in the streets below. Gilbert asked if I wanted the window closed. No way. I wanted to soak it all in.