Not a Man of All Seasons

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008, 7:01 pm

This might seem rather obvious, but how cold you physically feel is a matter of degree. I’m not talking about Fahrenheit or Celsius here, I’m talking about context. If you asked me the occasion when I was literally the coldest in my entire life, I’d bring up a day in January of 1992 (maybe 93) when it was around 60 below zero here in Pittsburgh. I waited about 20 minutes for my bus and, yeah, it was pretty frickin’ cold. But I was dressed for the occasion–long underwear, heavy coat, gloves, hat, the works. It was cold but I was up to the challenge.

A few years earlier my buddies and I went fishing on the opening day of trout season and after a 15-minute hike found a perfect spot along the creek. The guys went back to get our gear and I staked out our spot. By the time they returned maybe 100 other fishermen had beaten them there and jammed every inch along the banks. While I waited for my friends to return I sat on a log and the chill worked it’s way into my bones. It was mid-April, the temperature was probably in the low 40s, the air heavy with morning dew. This time I wasn’t dressed for the elements–I think I was wearing a long-sleeve T-shirt, old jeans and some beat-up hiking shoes. By the time 8AM rolled around and we were allowed to cast our lines I was so cold I couldn’t think straight. My frozen fingers lacked the dexterity to put a worm on the hook. It’s perhaps the one time in my life where I was so cold that I got scared. I’m sure I was suffering from the early stages of hypothermia and I finally staggered to my feet and told my friends that I had to get back to the car. They decided to leave with me because the fishing had been ruined by all the idiots jostling for position, and I was so messed up I don’t know that I would’ve found the car if they hadn’t gone back with me. Not fun.

During the 2007 World Series of Poker I stopped by the Rio to see if Scotty Nguyen would make the final table. It’s well-known that the Amazon Room gets cold late at night, especially when the room empties out and there isn’t all that body heat to moderate the temperature. I sat next to Change100 and watched the TV camera’s monitors to follow the action on the stage, and as time went on I got colder, and colder, and colder. I was wearing a long-sleeve shirt, jeans, and dress shoes. I had my PokerNews hooded sweatshirt on and I was in full Phil Laak-mode–hood up, drawstring pulled tight, hands thrust in the pockets.

And I was fricking freezing. I was so cold I thought about buying another sweatshirt to wear under the hoodie. And in case you haven’t noticed, I’m a pretty well-insulated guy. We sat there well into the wee hours, shivering and stamping our feet and pacing back and forth trying to get the blood circulating. And this was in Vegas. In July.

Shuttling the body between such extremes of heat and cold can be a dangerous proposition. I guess folks who live in extreme Northern climes (your Russians, your Scandis) enjoy broiling in a sweat lodge before jumping into an icy lake. If “enjoy” is the right word. But just as you shouldn’t toss a fresh-from-the-oven baking dish into a sink of ice-cold water, exposing yourself to different ends of the temperature spectrum on short notice can have some nasty side effects.

Aruba is hot. Like, 95 degrees every day hot. Poker rooms are usually cold, and the Radisson was no exception. On Sunday morning there was a poker instruction seminar and I got myself a cup of coffee just for the heat. Like an idiot I didn’t bring a sweatshirt or light jacket, but after quite a few players complained I think they tempered the A/C and it was quite bearable. We only played for 8 hours on the three days leading up to the final table, so I didn’t even have time to get cold.

The final table in Aruba is always held outside, and this year would be no exception. Except that it was–it rained about an hour into play, and with the wind blowing hard as well there was no way they could continue outside. Can’t really tell from this picture, but it was a strong little squall:

On the one hand this was a bit of a break for me–there’s no WiFi out by the pool, so we had to set up our computers inside the ballroom. Meaning we’d have to race back and forth between the final table and our computers to post. I did this the past two years and I wasn’t concerned about it now, as I wasn’t planning on covering it hand-for-hand. Moving the final table indoors meant that I wouldn’t have to go from hot to cold, cold to hot a dozen times during the day. It also meant I wouldn’t be able to get lots of nice outdoor shots of the final table. And the women in bikinis sitting around the final table. Not an even trade.

The ballroom had already been partitioned into three sections, with the final table held in the middle and our computers set up behind the wall to the right:

The final-table area was quite comfortable. There were people moving about, the doors leading to the hallway were open, and that massive chandelier kicked out some heat as well. But the room we were working in was dark, shut off from the rest of the ballroom…and it was cold. Really cold. We squeezed through a narrow gap in the partition to move back and forth between the final table and our computers, and the temperature difference was striking. As the final table droned on I decided to hit the beach and take some pictures of the sunset (something I hadn’t found time to do until then). It also gave me a chance to warm up a bit after spending a bit too long in the meat locker we were working in.

I checked in on the final table, saw that we still had five players left, then kept on going to the doors leading to our little corner of the ballroom. I pulled the door open, stepped over the threshold…

I’m not kidding when I say it was below 50 degrees in there. It made the Amazon Room feel like, well, the Amazon. I took two steps and stopped in sheer amazement. I couldn’t believe it could get that cold in there. Whoever built the Aruba Radisson knew something about insulation. I wanted to applaud, shake somebody’s hand, say “Well done!”. Though maybe that was just the bronchitis I’ve been wrestling the last three days sinking it’s claws into me for the first time. I set my computer on my lap hoping that my CPU would kick out enough BTUs to keep me from freezing to death.

It didn’t work, as I’ve been sick as a dog the last three days. Yesterday was a lost day–I got up at noon, took a nap at 5pm, went to bed at ten. Feeling like crap every minute. Today I finally felt better instead of worse, maybe because the medicine that Linda gave me two years ago in Aruba (I got sick then too) finally kicked in. If I’d been this sick last week, I woulda had a really lousy time down there. The day I left I woke up shivering and sweating, and I’m sure there’ll be quite a few people from US Airways Flight 847 who get the sniffles this week. Sorry about that.

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