The Beginning of the End

Thursday, December 31st, 2009, 2:15 am

It’s been New Year’s Eve for ten minutes now and if I’m gonna write a year-in-review post I’d better get cracking, as the year (and the decade) are tick-tick-ticking away. I’d like to do one of those tidy recaps where I post links to all the stuff I wrote the last twelve months, but to be honest I haven’t written enough to make that work. Writing more here is a resolution I’m trying to get a head start on right now.

2009 was a pretty good year, I have to say. It started off with me turning 40, a fact I still haven’t quite come to grips with. I’m forty years old? Unpossible. I don’t feel forty…well, my hips and knees feel forty, that’s for damn sure. Losing a lot of weight isn’t exactly a resolution this year–it’s something that’s gotta happen if I’m to keep up this rocknrolla lifestyle. Anyway I turned 40 with my friends Rick and Emily and Cathy buying me shots of blue and green stuff after January 2nd turned to the 3rd. Here’s a pic just before the bus went over the cliff:

My hips might hurt but my heart is apparently in decent shape, a fact borne out by the fact that I didn’t expire during the Steelers’ Super Bowl run. The AFC title game against the Ravens wrung me out like a washrag but the Super Bowl itself was diabolical. I thought we had the game well in hand after Harrison’s incredible pick-six but the Cards stormed back and when we watched Larry Fitzgerald streak into the end-zone I thought, “Wow, we were that close to winning our sixth Super Bowl. That would’ve been something”. I’d actually come to grips with the Steelers losing before Roethlisberger put together that drive and Holmes tip-toed us to victory. Watching the replays and waiting for the ref to confirm that, yes, it was a touchdown was quite an intense experience. But that’s why we watch sports, right, to experience these overwhelming emotional highs and lows without, say, pillaging a neighboring country. This season has been a disappointment and it’s unlikely we’ll make the playoff but I think if you asked the average football fan, “Look, you’re gonna have two really disappointing, underachieving seasons, but the season before each you’ll win the Super Bowl. Deal?” Yeah, deal.

I didn’t have any big trips planned this year, but one day I got a call from Garry Gates from PokerNews asking, hey, you available to cover an LAPT event in Argentina? Uh…yeah, I think I can do that. Especially as Otis and Pauly and Change were going as well. So I saddled up and headed south–way, way south. The trip began with my on hyper-tilt, as Otis got upgraded to first class while I was stuck with the proles in steerage. When I went to Vietnam we flew in a modified business class, which provided plenty of legroom and a seat that reclined all the way back. On this flight I flew coach, plain old coach, and that was a long ten-hours to Buenos Aires. I popped a pill and slept through a chunk of it and waking up is something I remember vividly. Dawn was breaking, and as the sun rose I looked down at the low green hills and a river I never did identify, and I felt very, very far from home. When I went to Vietnam I was part of a big group, but this time I was on my own, in a country where I barely spoke twenty words of the language. Also, Buenos Aires wasn’t my final destination, after my ten-hour flight I had to take a cab to the bus station and ride six hours to Mar del Plata.

Getting to the bus station proved a bit of an adventure, as I nearly got scammed by a guy who led me not to the line of cabs waiting outside the terminal, but to another line about 50 yards down the road. They wanted to charge me eighty bucks for a cab ride to the bus station–while I knew that the bus ride would cost me eighty pesos. I channeled my inner-Pauly and got indignant and took my suitcase back and started walking. Suddenly the price dropped to twenty bucks, and when I still acted huffy my would-be fixed gave me a look like, “Seriously, that’s what it really costs”. And in the end that probably wasn’t a bad deal, as it was about 45 minutes to the bus terminal. My cabbie helped direct me in the right direction for the buses headed my way and I tipped him handsomely. I bought my ticket and five minutes later was sitting by myself on the top floor of a luxe double-decker bus. I had visions of a clapped-out school bus filled with diesel exhaust and miserable women clutching sullen children and squawking chickens. I am, obviously, a horrible racist.

The bus ride was flat-out amazing. And I use the phrase “flat-out” deliberately because the landscape we traveled through was the flattest topography I’ve ever seen. I mean, this pic is of one of the hillier sections:

I looked out the window and was just amazed at the topography, or lack thereof. I was fascinated, maybe because growing up in Pittsburgh all you get is hill after hill. That’s one thing traveling has imprinted on me, how very different other parts of the world are, how diverse the Earth is, yet you can get just about anywhere on the globe in about a day. The world is so big, and yet it’s also very small. And it’s all we’ve got.

OK, this is already about a thousand words long and you’ve got booze to buy. This is one reason why I don’t post as much as I should–everything turns into a book. “So write a book, jackass” is something several of my friends have said. Another resolution. Anyway, I’ll post the rest of my review later today.

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