I just got back from a couple very interesting days in Las Vegas. By interesting, I mean “strange.” I divided my time between redrafting chapters of the Full Tilt book with Chris Ferguson and working on a project with Mike Matusow that is slowly metamorphing into his autobiography. During an odd moment, I posed the Parker Query.
Chris Ferguson was brilliant and deliberate as usual. In 4 pretty intense hours, we covered 16 pages in our revision of his post-flop chapter. I don’t know if that’s a good ratio. The chapter is nearly 60 pages long and it’s hard to get Chris focused and motivated on this work. He is doing commercials for Full Tilt in LA next week and then, on January 8, he’s off to Australia for the Aussie Millions. He’ll be half-way around the world when the real actual final non-negotiable irrevocable true-line serious point-of-no-return REAL deadline hits on January 11, 2007.
We have 20 pages to go, plus the PLO chapter, which is about 35 pages. He also has this idea – let’s call it a “pipe dream” – of writing another short chapter on money management of tournament buy-ins. I don’t have a Ph.D. in this stuff, but I count about 15 hours of work, excluding the Money Management chapter, which would be both cool and useful. I’m also not counting “another pass” which Chris undoubtedly would want. Maybe I want it, too. My editing marks on the pages we’ve done so far look like someone has dropped a huge quantity of black thread on them, so much that the original words are barely visible.
It being Christmas time, I thought it was appropriate to ask Chris about his nickname, with which he has a friendly though occasionally uneasy relationship. When did you get it?
“I’ve had it a long time. It wasn’t given to me by any one person, or at any one time. There were people who knew me as Jesus at UCLA, people who knew me as Jesus in dancing. ”
In exchange for this information, I gave Chris a holiday gift, a small box of mints called “Jesus Rocks.” He told me one of his favorite gifts on this theme was a flask engraved with an R. Crumb-type drawing of Jesus and the words, “What Wouldn’t Jesus Do?”
I spent time with Mike Matusow on December 25, 26, and 27, recording stories from his life all three days. Naturally, this was not approached as work in a conventional sense. We had to wait until the football game was over. We had to wait until he was too disgusted with online poker. We had to wait until after we went out to eat.
Three days with Mike is more than I can make sense of. Highlights/lowlights:
1. I took 112 pages of notes from interviews for his life story.
2. He went through 2 cell phones during this period.
3. He ate 3 different types of sushi that he swore were the best he ever ate, his favorite of all time.
4. I got to know his girlfriend, Jessica, who is a very nice person. She has an instinct for just the right amount of his crap to put up with.
5. Notwithstanding the former, Mike and Jessica got into a fight and broke up. In my car.
6. I brokered a peace treaty over lunch at a place called I Love Sushi, despite Mike professing his desire for a dish called “Tastes Like My Ex-Girlfriend.”
7. Matusow is a gazillion dollars in debt but his voicemail – which I had to listen to because the problem with one of his broken cell phones is that it only works in “speakerphone” mode – had 19 messages and it seemed each one was from some guy who OWED Mike money and his story of how he couldn’t make a payment.
8. Mike is a much more intelligent person than I gave him credit for. Put aside gambling addition and TV theatrics and his inability in Full Tilt chat to spell accurately any word longer than 4 letters. I had assumed, because I knew he was not highly educated in a formal sense or informal sense, that he wasn’t, outside poker, “smart.” After spending these 3 days with Mike and going over aspects of his life story, I think it’s a lot easier to question his choices and what he’s done with his intelligence than it is to question its existence. I think someone who did IQ-type testing on Mike would conclude that he reads at a high-school or better level and understands and can apply new concepts.
Maybe someone doing such testing would contradict me. Certainly, if he rarely opens a book or a newspaper and lives like Howard Hughes (if Hughes had online poker instead of mason jars of urine and the film ICE STATION ZEBRA and the TWA antitrust case to keep him busy), he can be criticized for overly narrowing the focus of his world and the quantity of information he can receive. But he’s a smart guy in ways I didn’t appreciate before.
I spent some time, as I often do in Las Vegas, at Paradise Pen, the pen store at Fashion Show Mall. This is one of the best places to buy pens I have ever visited. Julie, the manager, is great. I was looking for a refill for an unusual pen I had picked up recently someplace else. She opened it up and said, “It takes a Parker.”
It takes a Parker? For some reason, I started listing Parkers. A partial list, to which I welcome additions:
Bonnie Parker (Clyde Barrow’s partner).
Dorothy Parker – a good one to think of in a store that sells writing instruments.
Wes Parker – first baseman, Los Angeles Dodgers, early Seventies. I have his autograph, so there’s a “pen nexus” there as well.
Charlie “Bird” Parker – jazz legend.
“Colonel” Tom Parker – Elvis Presley’s manager.
Peter Parker – Though a fictional character, notice how you never see him and THE FLASH in the same room?
Sarah Jessica Parker – She was great in the film LA STORY, and I guess she was in some thing for HBO that was big.