January 29, 2007

“A geek girl who came to Chiang Mai…”

She wasn’t an uberbabe. Oh, she was hot all right. But she was a bad girl. She liked to break the rules.

My brother Mike wasn’t feeling well so he went home to get some rest while I hit the cigar store and walked around the Night Bazaar smoking a Romeo y Julieta. I was on a small street with beer bars when a very cute American girl came up to me and asked if I knew where she could get a cigar. She had long strawberry blonde hair and wore a white peasant skirt and a black tank top with a few beads of sweat on her bare shoulders. “I’ll take you,” I said.

She told me her name was Kitty and she was from California. She had come to Thailand, she said, to try to cure her addictions to smoking, drinking, and sex.

"How old are you?" I asked. "Twenty-three," she said. “Well,” I said, “you’ve definitely come to the right place.” The cigar store didn’t have her brand so she asked if I knew anyplace else. I said my hotel had a cigar bar. She didn’t say anything so I said, “Follow me.”

At the hotel the lobby was full of uniformed guards and a long red carpet was laid out to the porte-cochere. I told Kitty the guards were probably there in preparation for the princess checking in. She was very excited about the princess and wanted to see her so even though the cigar bar didn’t have her brand, she ordered a pack of cigarettes and a glass of Champagne and tipped the bartender 100 baht to tell her when the princess arrived. I wanted a clear head to remember this story. I just drank water.

Kitty, she told me, was working as a computer technician in Silicon Valley until they caught her and a coworker naked in the network operation center. After that, she said, she decided she liked having sex with strangers so much she might as well get paid for it so she hung out a shingle on the Internet and had been whoring for about a year. And here I thought if you wanted to find skanky geek girls you had to go to Reno. “I was porting a Unix app to a milspec-secure system,” Kitty said. I told her I used to be a computer programmer. “What language did you program in?” I told her C. “Good,” she said. “If you had said Java I would have no respect for you. Although I barely qualified for Mensa myself.”

At this point I was frantically making mental notes. I didn’t want to forget anything. I was making up limericks in my head and grinning uncontrollably, which she probably misconstrued:

A geek girl who came to Chiang Mai
Must be nuts to compete with the Thai.
“Well, I like to get laid,”
She said, “and to get paid--
“And you never do know till you try.”

Just then the bartender bowed in: “Scuse me! Princess coming!” Kitty leapt up and I followed her to the railing where we saw several people enter the hotel and turn toward the elevators. She wanted a better look so we ran down the stairs but by the time we got there they were rolling up the red carpet. There were several other farangs loitering about the lobby princess-watching so Kitty chatted them up and verified she was part of that initial group. She asked one of the hotel staff, who said the princess had arrived but had gone to the fitness center. “She’s in her 50s, right?” Kitty said. “I bet she’s had a lot of work done.” Then she realized you can get locked in a dungeon for speaking ill of the royal family, and quickly added, “I mean she works out a lot, right? In the fitness center.” I sidled away from her until I was sure the soldiers showed no interest.

We went back to the bar and she chain-smoked L&Ms while downing three glasses of Champagne I figured I was going to get stuck for, but it was worth the story. “Are you hungry?” she asked, and ordered several tapas. Then she noticed I wasn’t drinking alcohol and said I was being ungentlemanly so I ordered a glass of Bordeaux. Finally the bar closed. I signed the bill and watched as they put the bottles away, one by one. She showed no signs of leaving. “Well,” I said, “it looks like they’re closing the bar down.” She didn’t move.

“I was drinking and smoking with a guy three days ago,” she said. “But I was still being celibate.”

“How’s that working for you?” I said.

“I haven’t decided,” she said. “But it was what I wanted three days ago. I’m not sure what I want today.”

“Why did you come to Thailand?” I asked.

“I was too into the orgy scene in LA and it was getting hairy,” she said. “And California is tough when you don’t drive. I can’t get a driver’s license. I have blackouts.” I stared. “But I’d love to take flying lessons.” She looked at me with big brown eyes. “Maybe you could help me out with flying lessons.”

“How can you fly if you have blackouts?” I asked.

“Oh, I’d always have an instructor with me,” she said. One of the bartenders had left. The other, a Thai girl about Kitty’s age, stood waiting. “I lost my virginity when I was 13,” Kitty said. “A friend of my brother’s gave me a back rub while we were watching TV. He asked me if I wanted to try having sex. I said OK.”

“How old was he?” I asked.

“Twenty. I liked it so much he couldn’t believe it was my first time.”

“Did the guy go to prison?” I asked.

“Oh no,” she said. “I didn’t turn him in. I could have, but I didn’t want to.” She finished her Champagne and then held the empty glass out in the direction of my remaining Bordeaux. I poured half of what I had left into her glass. I signed the bill for 4400 baht ($125). We drained the last of the wine. “I really get off on guys who have moral issues with me,” she said. “It was a lot easier to find them when I was underage.” She looked down at her empty glass. “Is there somewhere else we can keep drinking?”

Oh, dear reader. I want you to know that it is only for your sake – the sake of the story -- that I swallowed hard and suggested we go back to my room to partake of my complimentary minibar, sadly underutilized except for a few glasses of Ballantine 12 year Scotch by my brother. Without a word, she rose and followed me.

Kitty headed right for the outdoor daybed and lit up an L&M. “Do you have a laptop?” she asked? “I’ll show you some pictures.” Now this was 21st-Century geek girl ho marketing. She showed me some legit modeling she had done and then a tasteful nude spread. The idea of this pretty Jewish California girl plying her trade in Chiang Mai was jaw-droppingly fascinating to me. She came from a place where men gladly pay $500 for an hour of her time to a land where guys pay $30 to mate with a girl who wouldn’t give them a dirty look in the USA.

“My feet are cold,” she said. “Do you have an extra pair of socks?” I went inside, taking my laptop with me so the Mensa nymphomaniac couldn’t surreptitiously install a Trojan on it while I wasn’t looking, and returned with a pair of black Jhane Barnes dress socks. I expected never to see them again. Maybe she collected men’s socks like some guys collect women’s panties. Maybe she nailed them up on her wall.

Kitty put on the socks. “Thank you,” she said. “That’s very gentlemanly of you.” She sipped Semillon Blanc. I lit her second-to-last L&M for her and gazed out over the pool, the reflecting lights, and the Ping river. I refilled her glass. She opened her purse and took out a roll-on of citronella mosquito repellent, applying it to herself and then offering it to me. “No thanks,” I said, “I’m taken care of.” She nodded and was quiet awhile. I lit her last L&M for her.

“I really like anal sex,” she said. “Do you?”

Somehow I managed to get her down to the porte-cochere. I planned to call a taxi for her but she said she wanted a tuk-tuk instead, essentially a motorized tricycle with a back seat and canopy. The doorman was aghast but she insisted. “That way I can smoke in the back,” she said. She climbed into the tuk-tuk, still wearing my Jhane Barnes black socks, and looked back hopefully at me as the driver pulled out. I waved at her to stop but the driver pulled away. She kept looking and I waved again. She told the driver to come back. I sprinted down the driveway.

“How much is the fare?” I asked. 300 baht. I pulled it out and gave it to her. It was worth $8.

“That’s very gentlemanly of you,” said Kitty as the tuk-tuk pulled away, “very gentlemanly.” Her wide eyes looked back at me till she was out of sight.

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January 16, 2007

A new fish in town

There’s a new fish in town.

If you’ve ever been with me when I ordered salmon for dinner, you probably heard me say I could eat salmon every meal. It’s a great food to love. Salmon is a health food, containing just the right omega-three fatty acids, and besides that it tastes like victory. I imagine when the Vikings returned home from war they jumped into streams, grabbed king salmon with their studded gauntlets, and feasted like there was no tomorrow.

I had dinner with Kathy “Pokerkat” Liebert who, like me, spells her name with an “IE” like Internet Explorer. IE7 sucks so bad even Richard Brodie, who bleeds Microsoft blue when he’s not talking about himself in the third person, switched to Firefox. Kathy is a true professional who constantly likes to discuss new ways of looking at hands. It’s nice to have years where you win two or three big events but the reality of the game is that kind of luck comes only rarely no matter how good you are. A pro carries on through the lean years. I had another order of barramundi, after enjoying it at JJ’s, and once again found it delicious. It may be my new favorite fish.

Jay Greenspan, up there with Michael Craig at the top of the poker-journalism ladder, joined me for a cigar in the soon-to-close Fidel’s cigar store at the Crown. The no-smoking law made no exception for cigar stores and so they will close. Meanwhile, we smoked a couple mild Partagas and sipped Lagavulin. Jay snapped a photo of me enjoying life, something I’m good at.

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December 1, 2006

Bunnies galore

Everybody’s been after me to write a review of the new Playboy Club at the Palms so I’ll do that a bit later in this uber-ish post. First I have to report that the ebonizzle angel who sat with me at the N9ne bar yesterday actually gave me a real Myspace page and a real email addy. She promised to accept me as a friend next time she logged in so those of you who see my life as some kind of irresistible train wreck can browse though my 200+ Myspace friends and try to figure out who she is.

I had been in Vegas two days longer than my original plans called for. The forecast in Seattle was rainy and warmer so I planned to return tomorrow per my revised itinerary. Meanwhile I took advantage of the extra days in Vegas to hang out with one of my favorite people in the poker world, Chad Layne. I wanted to treat him to one of the great restaurants at the Palms but he insisted on taking me to Hank’s at the Green Valley Ranch. Hank’s is a virtual clone of T Bone’s at Red Rock so I was hoping they still had my favorite side dish, pureed cauliflower and horseradish. They did, and Chad and I shared a chateaubriand plus the creamed corn and grilled tomatoes. Chad and I usually do Grey Goose rather than wine but I snuck a glass of the 2002 B.R. Cohn Cabernet with the steak.

Apparently my having written about eating for the last 10 or so years qualifies me as some kind of expert. Real writers are calling me for quotes on fine dining in Vegas. When I started coming here 25 years ago it was all about $1.99 prime rib and all-you-can-eat buffets. Every hotel had the steakhouse, the Italian restaurant, and the Chinese restaurant. The emphasis was on cheap, not gourmet. Today you can hardly find a celebrity chef who doesn't have a place in a Strip resort. In the middle of the desert, the freshest exotic seafood in the world is trucked and flown in daily. The tip for two at Guy Savoy is more than most families of four spend on dinner. It's a paradise for the gourmet and the expense-account owner, but the day of the bargain is gone.

After dinner I played a little online with some of the many uber-hot pokerbabes who comprise my fan club on Full Tilt. They all use the two hottest avatars, the one that looks like Shana Hiatt and the one that looks like David Grey’s wife Taylor. Railbirds, who used to ask who I was, have now seen me on TV more than they care to, so now they ask who are these people I’m playing with. “Uber-hot pokerbabes,” I answered. “What’s that mean?” one of the babes asked. “Uber,” I said. It’s blogger for “very.” A fellow player corrected me: “It’s actually German for ‘super.’” Yeah, if you want to get all technical and shiznit. Babe und Überbabe! While all this idle badinage was going on, uberbabe karenr was beating me out of every pot in a heads-up HORSE, sending me on uber-tilt. I might have blown my whole bankroll $20 at a time but thankfully I couldn’t do a rematch because Jim had arrived to take me up to the Playboy Club high atop the Palms’ new Fantasy Tower.

The Playboy Club, at first glance, is a casino. It is, in fact, the first casino with a cover charge in the history of Nevada. The floor is filled with blackjack tables with booths and bars around the outside, all framed by picture windows framing the spectacular view of Las Vegas. Jim was a member, meaning we could sit at a table without getting uber-expensive bottle service, so we did and ordered drinks as he whipped out a pair of cigars with labels I didn’t recognize. “Pre-Castro Cubans,” he said. Wow. I thought it was pretty cool of him to share these ubercigars with someone he had just met. “How much money are you planning to ask me to lend you?” I asked. Fortunately he got my sense of humor and we had a great time talking about all things Vegas, poker, and online. Service at the table was superb: our server came by frequently to check on our drinks and a hautboy policed the ashtrays and empties, even stopping to replace the box of matches I had taken from across the table.

The one thing you think of when you hear Playboy Club, of course, is the bunny, and oh, there were bunnies galore. Our server sported black ears and a little white cottontail (they are now sewn on rather than velcroed – apparently people were grabbing them and selling them on eBay) and in fact even the blackjack dealers were bunnies. They were all nice looking but frankly the Palms had already done a spectacular job of hiring beautiful girls to serve drinks and none of these bunnies had anything on the earless bartenders downstairs at the Mint, who all had an attractive air of professional competence in addition to their pulchritude. Still, bunnies are bunnies and the experience was more than pleasant even though I neither asked for nor received Myspace addresses.

I insisted on paying for the drinks, given the magnitude of his tobacco magnanimity, and left Jim there to hold court with his next wave of friends. On the way down the elevator there was a guy wearing some kind of caveman outfit with an enormous bejeweled watch and a silver pendant with a script “A.” A girl asked him if the watch was a Breitling. “Yes, it is,” He said casually. “You’re somebody, aren’t you?” she asked. “Who are you?” “Bob,” he said. “Bob? What’s the ‘A’ stand for then?” “Uh…Andy. Bob Andy.” Now Bob Andy could be the world’s biggest TV star and I wouldn’t know it but maybe one of you can recognize the star sighting from my description. And speaking of seeing stars, if there’s anyone left on the Internet who hasn’t seen the photos of Britney Spears getting out of a sports car with no panties: do yourself a favor and don’t look.

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