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…State Farm is There

Posted by evankessler on April 14, 2011

This photo essay is the follow up to a previous post entitled, “Like A Good Neighbor…” It has been made possible by Mile End Delicatessen in Boerum Hill;  Mile End Delicatessen, they’ve got the whole mishpucha.

AND

Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there…with some poutine.

and

READERS LIKE YOU.

Welcome to Mile End Delicatessen in the Heart of Boerum Hill, Brooklyn

The Poutine sounds good, I'll have that!

Where is this Poutine I've heard so much about? Not having it makes me sad.

What has two thumbs and a dish of Poutine? This guy!

Seriously, how delicious does that Poutine look?

Let Me At It!

So...full...of...poutine...good neighbor...

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The Evan Kessler None-On-One Interview: Part Deux

Posted by evankessler on February 2, 2011

Two and a half years ago I stumbled upon a most interesting interview with the American blogger and humorist Evan J. Kessler. The subject managed to be charming and caustic all at once, whilst maintaining an air of sophistication and good humor throughout our time together. It was one of the best, if not the best interview I’ve ever had the pleasure of conducting. Not only did it teach me to be on my toes in terms of unexpected aggression, but it also showed me that the span of one conversation could be so wrought with peaks and valleys that it enlightened my own study of the human character– proving that it is indeed possible to display delightful rapier wit and be a conceited, insufferable bore in simultaneous fashion. Having suffered the slings and arrows of less bipolar interviews as of late, I felt as though my interviewing talents had slipped. I decided to return to the scene of the crime, so to speak, to hone my craft as the world’s master inquisitor.

Evan Kessler was not an easy man to find this time around. He had forsaken the comfort of a cozy Brooklyn coffee shop for the distant shores of the Island of Cuervo Nation, a brutal dictatorship ruled with an iron fist by the promise of endless amounts of tequila and the mantra “what happens on the Island of Cuervo Nation…”

I had to grease the gears with that nation’s ambassador with the promise of body shots and a bag of limes just to locate Mr. Kessler; Nevermind what I had to do to get a visa.Finally, after a convoluted customs process where an official’s plant of a bottle of Patrón nearly got me deported, I was able to step foot on the white, sandy beaches and approach the front of the villa where I spied my interview subject.  The fond memories of our previous exchange came flooding back to me like the kick from an irate mule. While his bulging manliness and virility were not as apparent throughout the course of this interview, the subject did manage to make frequent references to his impressive sportscar collection.

EVANKESSLER.COM: You’d never believe what I had to go through to find where you were.

Evan Kessler: I’m sure it was well worth it. I have a Porsche.

EK.com: I can’t imagine it comes in handy all that often. This entire island is lacking in basic infrastructure. I don’t see any roads.

EK: Well, where we’re going we don’t need roads.

EK.com: Where are we going?

EK: If I had my druthers we wouldn’t be going anywhere and you’d be drowning in the ocean.

EK.com: I’m actually a very good swimmer.

EK: So are sharks.

I just don’t think we should rule out wolf semen as a viable option for the next biofuel frontier…”

EK.com: So what has Evan Kessler been up to for the past two and a half years?

EK: Well, Evan Kessler has been doing his part to make the world a better place, mostly with his global campaign to stop unnecessary ceiling fan mutilations. Far too often a tall person will be carrying someone on their shoulders and enter a room with a ceiling fan, resulting in severe lacerations and sometimes decapitation. We need to do our part to ensure that central air conditioning is present in every home throughout the world, or at least everyone has access to one of those plastic hand-held, battery-powered fans.

EK.com: But don’t children often cut up their tongues on those as well?

EK: We can’t afford to nitpick here. There’s a huge difference between children with cut up tongues and children and adults without heads. I’d like to think the importance of this issue is on par with the removal of landmines in Southeast Asia, but all of my attempted correspondence with Angelina Jolie seems to suggest otherwise. The  People Against Continued Fan In Ceiling Mutilations or PACFICM (pronounced Pacifism) will press on in our attempts to make this an issue at the next U.N. Security Council Meeting.

Ultimately, it was a question of face tattoo or no face tattoo?

EK.com: Moving on…

EK: I’ll move on when you find something more important than ceiling fan mutilations, which will most certainly be never.

EK.com: Your hair has been described by some as splendorous jewfro, curl heaven, and a stylist’s wet dream.

EK: First off, I implore you to keep your genitalia as far away as possible from my hair. I’m assuming that last “stylist’s wet dream” bit came from you; you can always tell where the perversion is coming from.  But I also gladly accept your praise upon my locks, couple all of those hair compliments with the fact that I own a Ferrari Testarossa and I become downright irresistible. I’ve been blessed by the hair god Peleos with the appropriate amount of curvature on each individual protein-laden strand and I couldn’t be more pleased. Still while the compliments you listed are wonderful in their own right they fail to encompass the greatness of that which rests atop my head and peaks out from under my skin in its attempt to take over other body parts.

“She was the most beautiful girl in the world. The fact that she was also a three-time National Laser Tag Champion was just gravy…

EK.com: Have you ever been in love?

EK: I’m not wearing any underwear right now, if that’s what you mean. Why don’t we go somewhere more comfortable, the pool sound alright?

At this point we took a brief stroll through the sand dunes into a lightly wooded area where a house with a pool appeared seemingly out of nowhere. We were seated and reassumed our interview position shortly thereafter.

EK.com: So have you ever been in love?

EK: Love is a four-letter word.

EK.com: Are you implying that the suggestion of finding love at this point in your life is a profane one?

EK: No, I’m merely pointing out that I have basic skills in both reading an mathematics that I sometimes use in concert to state the obvious. You have two legs, and most likely an asshole, but the two legs don’t characterize you as well as the asshole does. See, I’m doing it again.

 

I keep watching the trailer and for the life of me I still can’t figure out why or how the Smurfs would end up in New York City.

EK.com: Were you hugged enough as a child?

EK: Hugged, no. Lovingly caressed, most definitely.

EK.com: When you die, how would you like to be remembered?

EK: When I die in 2031 from a fatal re-entry into the planet Earth, the result of shuttle sabotage carried out by a rogue confederate space agent, I will most definitely be remembered by the vast library of priceless reality show moments from my hit QVC dating series “7 Minutes with Evan.” However, I’d like to be remembered as the inspiration for the aptly-named town King of Prussia, Pennsylvania.

“…I believe in evolution, but I also believe that God created sheep to distract farmers...

EK.com: Do you have royal lineage that you’ve yet to make us aware of?

EK: Well, I’m pretty sure I’m a few days away from being crowned the King of the Island of Cuervo Nation which I will then rename Prussia. So, I just want to let the kids out there know, there’s always a roundabout way to achieve your goals.

EK.com: That’s not exactly an inspiring thought.

EK: Fine, you want an inspirational soundbite. How’s this: “If at first you don’t achieve, make up your own rules and tell everyone you planned it that way all along.”

EK.com: I suppose that will convince someone to stay off drugs and succeed.

EK: Look, you want a role model go talk to one of the QBs in the Super Bowl. Me, I’m just a guy who watches the Super Bowl and roots for the team with the least amount of rapists.

EK.com: Well at least we know you’re on the right side of the law.

EK: Well, I wouldn’t say that. If you take a look at the mattresses in my house you’ll notice more than a few tags missing. That’s why I found my way to the Island of Cuervo Nation– always on the lam.  But life is good here, there’s free health care.

EK.com: Really, the Island of Cuervo Nation engages in socialized medicine.

EK: Well, there’s a first-aid kit behind every bar and plenty of tequila to sterilize wounds.

“You may say ‘liverwurst’, but I say ‘liverbest’...

 

EK.com: So do you see yourself going back to the United States anytime soon?

EK: Well that all depends on how things shake out. Me, I’m hoping to stay here for a while, meet a nice Cuervonese girl, get hitched during a traditional Island ceremony involving body shots and vomiting into the Caribbean (or whatever damned body of water this is) and have a few kick ass hot tub parties before moving back to the land of repression and honey.

EK.com: Sounds like you’ve got it all figured out.

EK:  I’ve got it figured out like a fat kid who loves cake hasn’t figured out he/she’s going to die of a coronary at a fairly young age. So, I guess I’ve got it figured out to a fairly high degree unless that kid’s parents are nutritionists and the he/she is just gorging on desserts to get back at them for some other form of mistreatment. In that case, I haven’t got a fucking clue.

EK.com: Right, well it’s been wonderful. I have to say it was fully worth tracking you down.

EK: I know.

EK.com: So, that’s it then?

EK: You’re the interviewer, it’s over when you’re out of questions.

EK.com: What do you think about Sa…

EK: No. I changed my mind. This interview’s over. I’m going to spend the rest of my day listening to satellite radio in my Lamborghini. I hope you find your way home either by plane or pine box, I’m outta here.

THE END

Posted in blogging, Celebrity, guerrilla interview, humor | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Christmas Eve in Atlantic City

Posted by evankessler on January 10, 2011

Bally's Casino

Image by Paul Lowry via Flickr

Christmas time brings about a dilemma for many a Jew Yorker. Though there are heaps of our ilk spread across the five boroughs, the Christian holiday is still often regarded as an opportune time for many people, chosen or not, to spend a few days visiting the lands from whence they or their significant others came in order to be closer to family or just warmer/different environs.

So with the holiday frost nipping at my heels and the prospect of being a lonely Jew on Christmas cooped up in my Brooklyn apartment with no one to play with–as many of my faithful and faithless friends took the low road out of town– I pondered my own brief escape from the frigid prison of cinema and Chinese food. I came up with a plan that amused me so.

ATLANTIC CITY!

I wasn’t so sure that the East Coast’s Las Vegas of depression (the west coast’s being Reno) was even open on Christmas Eve, but the more I pondered this plan, the crazier and more enticing it became. The last time I’d been to that particular stretch of the Jersey Shore, I’d emerged a winner to the tune of $800 (thanks Donald Trump!).  Being recently unemployed, I figured that kind of luck might do me some good in the wallet department. Plus, as someone who enjoys new and odd experiences, I figured you couldn’t beat a Casino on Christmas Eve in terms of depravity.

With two days ‘til Christmas, I spent a large portion of my evenings brushing up on Blackjack situations with digital outings on Yahoo! Games. And just when losing fake money began to cast serious doubt, my faith in the probability of reward was restored when both a TV show I was watching and a song I was listening to mentioned casino situations. These were sure signs that fate was calling me to that boardwalk without ill intentions.

When Christmas Eve morning came, I had a few things to sort out before I could make my AC run. Feed roommate’s cats, check; file unemployment claim, check; Stop at the bank and take out $200, check; turn off irresponsibility sensors, check! Atlantic City here we come!

Now one can’t magically teleport to Atlantic City just yet, but I’d be willing to invest any future winnings on the furthering of such technology as it would help to avoid the encounter with the cavalry of the downtrodden that line up for the buses that leave every half-hour from the Academy bus gates at the Port Authority of New York. It’s an assemblage of various financially-strapped but morbidly obese, blue-haired elderly, and faux-high rollers that spend $35 round trip hoping to meet the tattered-dress-wearing, cigarette-dangling, bleached-blonde version of lady luck who spends most of her time– be it summer or winter– on the Atlantic City boardwalk courting the lonely and desperate for one night stands. She may not be the sexiest girl in town, but you wouldn’t kick her out of bed–at least until the nicotine stench started to attach itself to your clothes and everything else in the room.

With teleportation yet to become an option, I endured the two-and-a-half hour slog down the 130-mile stretch of highway towards destiny. Contrary to popular myth, this bus ride wasn’t all sweet dreams and rose petals. The requisite discomfort that accompanies even the briefest stints on public transportation became apparent even before leaving the station as several passengers took the opportunity to relieve themselves in the bathroom. Not that this is the improper place to do so; it’s just that doing so that early into a road trip tends to give the recycled bus air that not so pleasant aroma with an undesirable immediacy, to be coped with throughout the entirety of the journey.

Not to be outdone in the malodorous bouquet department, the woman sitting next to me unveiled a fully dressed Subway sandwich reeking of pungent processed meat and vinegar; several strands of dried out, confetti-like lettuce hanging out from a compressed region of submarine sandwich siphoned the scent towards my nostrils, like an excited toddler shooting down a waterslide.

I knew what I was getting into before choosing to make this trip, but the accompanying misery of transportation had somehow presented itself as appeal. That misrepresentation was now abundantly clear. To combat my foul-scented surroundings I turned my focus to literary matters, having a copy of Mark Twain’s “The Innocents Abroad” at my fingertips and an iPod full of 9,000 plus options blasting distraction into my ears. My pilgrimage to personal gain had been gifted with a certain amount of tunnel vision, lest an unforeseen distraction should arise. The only thing resembling such a distraction were the two reasonably attractive ladies seated behind me, whose presence seemed quite the heavenly apparition in a bus full of degenerate gamblers hellbound for the holidays. I would’ve attempted to engage them, but they were enrapt in conversation from the get-go and they presented nary an entry point, so rather than butt-in, I minded my own.

From my previous experiences on the road to Atlantic City, I had always remembered the trip as being a straight shot without any stops, but this route suggested otherwise. The bus took refuge at a few New Jersey rest stops, the most amusingly named being the “Cheesequake” rest stop. The naming powers that be must have run out of inspiration while conjuring names to honor with fast food commerce for in the midst of such notable historical contributors as Vince Lombardi, James Fenimore Cooper, and Clara Barton they took a moment to acknowledge and appease the gods who might rain such a dairy natural disaster upon unfortunate turnpike travelers. Though, personally I may have gone with the more likely to occur Dark Chocolate Hurricane.

After more than 2 hours of cramped travel, the signs were encouraging. We could be getting closer to our destination, and just like came an actual physical road sign that alerted us that Atlantic City was nigh. The shame of it was that I had to put my book away mid-chapter, but the excitement and fortune that lay on the horizon were certainly worth it. The gambling haven was in plain sight. Our bus was scheduled to make the Showboat Casino its ultimate destination. I had never been to this particular establishment and was looking forward to it, if only because I spent the entire trip trying to figure out which song that I like contains a mention of “the Showboat Casino Hotel” (that would be Cracker’s “Happy Birthday to Me”).

When the bus pulled into the Casino’s individual station, the crowd sprung excitedly from their temporary perch ready to take the slots and tables (but mostly slots) by storm. Unfortunately, before anyone leaves the bus in this situation a Casino representative must be fetched so that they may present individual visitors with their $25 gambling coupon to be used only on slot machines. One young man–who had only taken the bus as transport to family for the holiday– was reprimanded by a few silver foxes when he tried to leave the bus for fear that he might get first dibs on the coupon. The prospect of one person gaining a gaming advantage had turned this cooped up bunch into a pack of petty, ravenous animals.

After 5 minutes more of waiting on the bus, the Showboat Casino representative arrived and people began to disembark, but with one new wrinkle– the bus was now stopping at Bally’s. Half of the passengers had had enough and made their cash grab where the bus stood, while the other half stayed on at the prospect of being let off at Bally’s. I was to be counted among the latter. It’s not that I necessarily had a preference towards one over the other, rather in my previous experience at Bally’s I remembered the coupon being recoupable for cash, which I preferred over having to spend $25 on slots. And if you’re playing 5ç slots with $25 to spare, that amounts to something like 500 slot plays, so you’d much rather have the cash.

Once the bloodlust for Showboat Casino coupons came to a close, our bus was cleared to make its final descent into Bally’s, where the coupon anticipation act repeated itself in a more civilized fashion, the only disappointment being that my remembrance of a $25 cash prize was, in fact, a mirage.  I entered the building with a Casino card and a ticket for $25 that I was told was to be slipped into the slot machine with an accompanying card. Despite several tries to convert my ticket to slot credits in the vast archipelago that is the Jackpot Islands, I was more or less lost in a sea of casino card technology. I took my leave for the cozy confines of a card table.

Scouring the Blackjack Table minimums I came upon several $15 tables that bookended those with $25 minimums. I found an end table with an open seat to my liking and peeled $120 out of my wallet. Mumundkumar, the friendly dealer, accepted my cash challenge, exchanging it for a fresh batch of $5 and $10 chips.

I can’t say things went bad or good for the first stretch. My tablemates and I were in a perpetual state of equilibrium; you win some, you lose some. Though there was a tender moment between myself and my immediate neighbor–a Plaxico Burress look-alike with a blinding diamond ring on his right hand– when we both hit on hands on 14 and 16 respectively only to be rewarded with a 7 and 5. The result was a celebratory high-five that was not at all awkward.

Excitement and camaraderie aside, the hands that Mumundkumar–or Mac as he preferred to be called– weren’t that kind to us. I was probably down $40 when his replacement, Xiao, took control of the card shoe. I didn’t fare quite as bad with this new dealer and I was somewhere around $30 in the black when Mac came back. The charade of false hope went on for another several minutes before I was down to my final $5 and had to dig out another Andrew Jackson in the hopes he’d veto the Impending Poverty Act of 12/24/10. But Mac’s next two hands pushed the bill through anyway.

Dejected and unsure of my immediate gambling future, I took to the boardwalk to suss out a food option and ponder the value in making further get rich quick attempts versus deciding to pack it up and cut my losses . Remembering that it was 6pm on Christmas Eve, I knew I’d have to scramble back towards a casino-sanctioned eatery to fill my poor belly. Luckily, I happened upon a Nathan’s and indulged in some of their famous fare before pulling myself up by my bootstraps and back onto the road of Atlantic City triumph.

I contemplated a move to the Taj Mahal, the site of my previous successful outing and took a stroll through Caesar’s Palace, but in my obsessive compulsive heart of hearts, I didn’t want to leave with the feeling that I had let Bally’s beat me. It didn’t hurt that I knew somewhere Bally’s had $10 minimum tables and those might stop or at least slow the hemorrhaging of money from my wallet. I decided to seek them out.

My search took me from the plain, classy wing of Bally’s to the gimmick-laden Wild West Casino extension, where there was a bar charging for $2 drafts just feet from any table where your alcohol was guaranteed free. I managed to locate the precious $10 tables in this region, but such tables were popular with other hard up folks. Instead, I plunked myself down at another $15 minimum table complete with a sexy-wild west lass emblazoned on the façade as Tim McGraw’s “Indian Outllaw” blared through the speakers.  I couldn’t see my dealer’s name, as her hair covered her nametag, but I figured I had plenty of time to be sociable and learn.

Mystery dealer was relatively friendly when it came to leaving my small fortune in tact; she may have even tacked on a 20-spot or two. All I know is that I had more than what I started with when I first cashed into the table and that made me less count conscious. Instead I was able to enjoy the ebb and flow of the game. You win some, you lose some; you don’t get too far down. After 40 minutes or so of ups outweighing downs, my new, somewhat profitable acquaintance took her leave never to return. In her place, arrived a somewhat more attractive dealer of Southeast Asian descent, with an overly friendly disposition.

Seated at a nearly perpendicular angle to her, I could not spy her nameplate and strike up conversation. I was waiting for her to spin towards me so I could grab a glance at her tag, only when she finally did she resembled her predecessor in that there was a stream of hair flowing over where I would normally spy her name. I did however catch a B and two L’s interrupted by her black strands. I assumed her name was “Belle” but couldn’t get over the thought that she didn’t look like a Belle or Bella or anything involving a B and two L’s.

As “Belle” continued to deal, my pile of chips began to look about as healthy and wealthy as a pile could look when using the wisdom of playing by the blackjack book. I had easily gained back my losses for the evening, if not broke into the black yet again.

The vibe of the table was an extremely positive one. Seated along with me were three African-American men of varying ages. One heavyset 20-something year-old that had the demeanor reminiscent of the local aged wise man whom had seen it all before. The next man was the actual elderly man, who while maybe not wise was certainly sleepy, and the third just a calm, cool and collected middle-aged guy who kept quiet but wasn’t above the occasional excitement. During our time together at the table it felt as though we were all amassing small fortunes. The table sage kept a running commentary of encouragement in a gentle, assuring tone throughout our tenure together even during tough hands.

“That’s okay. You played the hand right. It’s all gonna come back to you.”

“There it is. As long as you do what you’re supposed to do you’re going to come out a winner.”

“Alright, nice play. You got it, I told you.”

“You can’t help what happens with the dealer. Just play your game.”

With his positive demeanor, consistent flow Confucius-like wisdom and tee-ball coach encouragement, you’d think he was doing much better than he actually was. I didn’t notice it through the haze of good vibes he was sending everyone’s way, but he was actually losing. I soon realized he was betting more than the $15 minimum despite having at one point warned against going too high above it.  He ducked out for a few hands and exchanged another $20 for chips before saying his final goodbye to the table.

Somewhere in that final stretch of the near 2 hours spent being peppered with affirmations an older white gentleman joined the table, best described as a cross between Larry David and Alan Arkin, only severely lacking in affable nature and good humor. Upon the previous table cheerleader’s exit, he tried to assume the throne of table morale raiser. When 10s, face cards, or Aces were handed out to any player, he’d shout “that’s the name of the game” before the dealer displayed that players second card in the hope they’d been dealt a blackjack. It was an admirable attempt, but not exactly inspiring. And after hearing it two to three times during every hand it began to be somewhat grating–you might say slightly more grating than the Casino’s soundtrack of outdated pop songs, none of which post-dated early 2003.

Also joining the table, in the vacant middle slot, were a duo of older white southern gentlemen. I use the term “gentleman” loosely not to represent mannered men, rather to denote their being most likely in possession of male genitalia and on the verge of incoherent drunkenness. One of the pair was actually engaged in the game of cards, the other undertook the brotherly duties of propping him up and explaining to him that he couldn’t take action on other people’s hands. Their demeanors were also quite different. The soused and skinny senior Private Pyle was angry and unfriendly, while his bald and bearded buddy was a regular good time Charlie, laughing whole-heartedly at his friend’s expense in guttural bursts and exclamations in my general direction each time he chose to stay on 8 or hit on 19.

Their act grew tiresome and somewhat uncomfortable. The drunker and more ornery of the two frequently threatened violence against his friend if he didn’t let him play the way he wanted to play, while the more jolly one just got obnoxiously louder and more prone to pointing out his friend’s inadequacies. At one point a space opened up next to the drunker southerner and a young woman volunteered her chips to play there, but the Pyle shooed her away because he didn’t want the distraction of having to see her cards in his line of vision.

The uncomfortable vibe continued on through the alternating of two dealers. The lovely “Belle” with the pleasant demeanor was temporarily replaced by Anthony, a tall, crooked-toothed, salt-and-pepper jheri curl wearing dealer who wore his daddy issues on his sleeve– as evidenced by the fact he introduced himself by saying, “You can call me Anthony, or just call me a bum like my father used to.”

Anthony was a little clumsy with the cards, but he still did a somewhat admirable job. He may not have been the ideal casino dealer, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t effectively and consistently gather chips from the losing hands he doled out. My recently amassed fortune was slowly depreciating under his watchful eye, but had been cushioned enough and was periodically replenished so as not to induce panic. Anthony’s dealing inconsistencies caught up with him on one hand as “David/Arkin” decided he was going to split a pair of 9’s against the dealer’s 7. But before he could get to show his intentions, Anthony passed over him assuming he would stay as he was showing a winning hand. It wasn’t unjustified as most of us at that table wouldn’t have split that hand. It’s not what the book says to do and aside from drunk and disorderly to my right, we were all pretty much using that standard.

His presumptive split skipped over, un-fun David/Arkin let his displeasure be known in the most passive of manners, despite the fact that he had won the hand. Throughout the next hour-and-a-half or so he was a master of passive aggression, continually dropping hints that he would be a whole twenty-dollars richer if not for Anthony’s blatant disregard for his unlikely maneuvers. I believe there was even another dealing stint with “Belle” before Anthony returned and the entire situation came to a head, As the pit boss came to welcome another player to the table, Arkin mumbled something about Anthony owing him twenty bucks. The mumble grew to a grumble and ultimately to a roar.

The game was stopped and a debate raged with Anthony and the pit boss for ten minutes. The table all but cleared out and the grumpy gambler had won the day as he received a voucher for twenty-whole-dollars! The commotion managed to clear out most of the table including the pair of belligerent Dixie drunkards and the game resumed with Anthony still dealing. The instigator of the commotion was so utterly proud of his self, but realized that everyone else still present was mighty perturbed at the interruption. He tried to lighten the mood, justifying his actions as a means to an end for clearing out our unruly neighbors and wearing that like a badge. But at least they had created some laughable, if frightening entertainment.

“Belle” returned soon thereafter and proved to be a boon to my profits. I had managed to go from just above even to close to about $105 in the red for the evening under Anthony’s reign. But “Belle” bought back an air of calm to the table along with good fortune. When it threatened to be just me and the complaint department at the other end of the table, a boatload of Korean tourists quickly filled up the seats keeping us company for quite some time, followed by a Darius Rucker look alike that somehow managed to look younger while having a sprinkling of salt in his hair.

The latter sat with his girlfriend who when one of the Koreans dropped out found a spot at the table. It was during this relatively prosperous time I noticed “Belle’s” nametag again. I realized a “P” peaking out from behind her hair, ultimately coming to the realization that the dealer I’d come to know and love as “Belle” was not in-fact named Belle. I had only been reading the blanks surrounding B and L-L that went on to spell B-A-L-L-Y-‘S. It was a good thing I hadn’t felt comfortable enough to ask “Belle” any pertinent questions while mentioning her name. Then again, maybe I would have learned her actual name.

Despite my newfound lack of knowledge as to my friendly dealer’s first name, I pressed on in my quest to become more acquainted with an increasing amount of hundred dollar bills. My ultimate goal for the evening was to earn four-hundred-dollars or enough money to buy a new camera– preferably a Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5 or Canon Powershot S95, prior to my upcoming trip to New Zealand.

The David/Arkin hybrid soon left the table as did the Koreans and I found myself seated with Darius without his girlfriend to my right. The only wrinkle here was that Darius was not playing. He was watching me play, constantly applauding my decisions. It was a very awkward game of me vs. “Belle” with an enthusiastic audience of one.

Supremely confident in my blackjack skills, Darius started betting on my hands. If I bet $15, he’d put $15 more in my little circle. If I had to double down, he’d contribute to my double down pile. We were doing pretty well together. He continually used his winnings to tip the dealer and tip me. We regularly engaged in high fives and fist bumps when the thrill of victory arose and optimistic chatter when it didn’t. It was simultaneously thrilling and degrading. We were a team, but I was his lucky horse.  After a lengthy winning streak, I urged him to return to his own place at the table, as it was really awkward to play the dealer one-on-one like that. He did for a few hands and then said goodnight.

No one to play with, but the dealer and still with a goal in mind, I continued to battle “Belle” for my ultimate monetary reward. But the light sting of the occasional glass of bourbon and the heavy intake of above average oxygen levels began to have its effect on me. My eyelids, despite being told otherwise by the piping in of refreshing elements, had a heaviness about them– and a slight tinge of pain began pulsating within my temples.

I saw the money on the table, counting it at $380. That was $120 more than I had changed for chips. It wasn’t $400 plus, but it was a good haul. I pushed the entirety of my chips towards “Belle” signaling to her that I was done for the night and the morning– seeing as the clock at somehow managed to crawl to 2:53am.

“Changing $330!” screamed the friendly dealer to notify her pit boss.

Confused, I looked down at my chips certain I’d divided them into even piles and calculated the amount correctly. Then it hit me. At some point in the course of the evening the pile of 10 $25 chips suddenly morphed from $250 to $300 in my brain. She was right. It was only a $70 takeaway. While it was better than nothing, it was a definite disappointment.

I bid my new friend adieu and cashed in my non-fortune and headed towards the Bally’s bus port, reflecting on the past 12 hours. Had my AC outing been a success?

Well, let’s see; I had come in search of bizarre characters-check; holiday desperation-okay maybe a little bit; and a positive flow of cash into my wallet­–$70, could be worse. It would seem all my goals had been met, but a strange thing happened as I strolled through the last stretch of slot machines– I caught my a glimpse of myself reflecting on a flat stretch of metal illuminated by a dim, blinking display. I saw a tired, disheveled wreck of a 32-year-old whom traveled two-and-a-half hours to a casino on Christmas Eve to revel in the sadness of others and win enough money in order to buy a camera only to come up well short of his goal.  I was the exact person I had come to see.

Posted in Gambling, games, holidays, human interest, humor, Travel | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Who’s Got What?

Posted by evankessler on December 25, 2010

I’ve been on a Beat Street kick the last few weeks. One of my favorite movies in my younger days, a recent view has spawned alternately much awe and laughter. However, I was looking for that “Strangers in a Strange World” song on the youtubes today when I stumbled upon a clip of another of the film’s cheesy 80’s ballads, entitled “You Got It.” After watching all 1:50 of the clip, I came to the conclusion that the ambiguity of the latter’s lyrics would be absolutely perfect for a STD prevention campaign. See for yourself:

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Just So You Know, Everywhere Else Kinda Sucks

Posted by evankessler on December 10, 2010

Two months ago I booked a vacation to a distant swath of land well outside the borders of the United States. Soon after making my travel arrangements I noticed that my journey, scheduled for February 20 til March 10 of 2011, was in conflict with the expiration date on my passport. Luckily, this gave me more than a reasonable amount of time to renew the legal document that allows me,  a U.S. Citizen, to traverse the globe to nations accepting of such persons within their humble borders and giving them the temporary go ahead to intermingle with their native populace. My application for renewal was mailed out in the middle of November and, like clockwork, my renewed passport arrived today in the mail.

 

Shiny Happy Passport

The last few days have existed in anticipation of the moment I’d be cleared to for landing at a foreign airport. So knowing full well what the US Postal Service envelope sticking out of my mailbox was, I proceeded to tear it open with near-wreckless abandon in an utter frenzy of excitement. There it was, a sturdy blue booklet emblazoned with the words “Passport” and “United States of America.”  I proudly opened my authorization key to the rest of the world to examine its contents, but before I could even thumb through it I was savagely beaten over the head with an American flag.

The inside cover of my passport was adorned with “a lithograph of Moran Percy’s 1913 depiction of Francis Scott Key gesturing to the garrison flag flying above Fort McHenry on the morning of September 13, 1814″ (via No Caption Needed)  and accompanied by a lyrical excerpt from our own national anthem:

O say does that star spangled banner yet wave, O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave

The patriotism didn’t relent from there. The opposite page contained quotes by Abraham Lincoln from the Gettysburg Address:

“…And That Government of the People, By the People, For the People Shall Not Perish From the Earth.”

Having seemingly affirmed the greatness of the United States in no more than two fell swoops, the citizenship-establishing document finally got down to the nitty-gritty displaying the pertinent information of the passport holder (in this case, me) only to be add a reminder  on the opposing page that the United States is not only great because of what happened on the first two pages, but also because it has bald eagles and the constitution, and if you should decide to leave and never come back, you’ll never again get to see another bald eagle reading the constitution near an amber wave of grain.

But hold on, we’re not out of the Great American woods just yet. Whereas my old passport just seemed to have some innocuous, shaded pattern business going on in the background, each additional page on my new passport was replete with patriotic quotes and scenic wonders in between both shining seas. Cacti, Mount Rushmore, a New England Lighthouse, a Mississippi River Steamboat, the Rocky Mountains, the Liberty Bell, and yes the Statue of Liberty were all there as if to say, “we know you’re going somewhere else right now, but just so you know everywhere else kinda sucks.”

I’ll be sure to think about that when I’m scaling a hill along the far off coast of New Zealand, wishing I was leading a cattle drive North from Amarillo. I’ll hear the whistling wind blowing against the rocks and it’ll sound just like the voice of Dwight David Eisenhower saying, “Whatever America hopes to bring to pass in the world must  first come to pass in the heart of America…and oh yeah, this place? Fuck this place.”


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I Held A Baby

Posted by evankessler on December 8, 2010

There's a First Time for Everything

A particularly wondrous thing about life is that no matter how old you are, you’re provided with an infinite amount of opportunities to contribute to the vast catalogue of first-time experiences. First kiss, first through-the-legs windmill jam, first trip to solitary confinement–these are all things in the canon of possible never-been-done-befores that people may happen upon during their time on this Earth.

Some things are more likely to occur than others, and even some of those more-likely-to-occur things manage to elude  those who are not immune to adventure.

Take me for instance, I’m thirty-two years old and I’ve been to Bangkok, Thailand and Paris, France (amongst other places); I’ve been to summer camp and driven a Smart Car– but up until today I’d never held a baby.

Now, I know what you’re thinking, how does someone who has graced the planet for more than three decades get off scot-free in the holding infants department?

Simple. I made a conscious decision to not hold any children no matter how related-to-me they might be or how adorable they are.

You see, I’m absolutely petrified of both old people and small children. I have  a fear that my proximity to either one of them will ultimately lead to their demise. Not that I harbor some sort of homicidal thirst, rather that my lack of reactive reflexes will prove a detriment for a reasonably helpless being should an emergency situation arise. I generally avoid taking other people’s pets out of doors for the same reason.

So how did this reversal of baby-holding fortune come about, when my stance on such matters up until now had been so strict? Well, I guess you could say I was taken by surprise and had absolutely no choice in the matter.  You see, my old roommate Sean recently had a son with his wonderful wife, and the two of them had come to town on business with baby in tow. Sean and I decided to meet up for a bite to eat and some conversation this afternoon. Upon his arrival on the Lower East Side with newborn son Sims hanging from a pouch around his neck, the three of us traversed the frigid city streets until happening upon a suitable cafe for our outing.

We sat down and ordered a warm alcoholic beverage to soothe our icy insides and a snack or two and got to talking about the state of things, but as our time dwindled down, my former roommate uttered something along the lines of “I gotta get a picture of you with Sims.” Only, the words I heard were, “you gotta take a picture of me with Sims,” meaning I was on camera duty.

Before I knew it, a not-yet three-month-old was being thrust toward me by Sean’s proud parental hands for me to take on the temporary role of “Uncle Evan.” Panic filled me for an instant before calm won out. I gingerly wrapped my hands to encompass the near entirety of the tot’s torso. This was an honor, but still three distinct fears bounced around my brain in the brief minute I held my friend’s son. First, I worried about the implications should I drop him; second, I thought my tight grip specifically designed to prevent me from dropping him could end up crushing his fragile ribs; and third, I was worried that the contents of the diaper soiled early in our first meeting might drip onto my person in a messy heap. Luckily, none of those fears came to pass. Actually, I was surprised how sturdy this two-month old body was despite its diminutive size. There’s something to be said for the intricate architecture of the human body. My momentary marvel over the makeup of this miniature morsel of being aside, there was great feeling of relief when he was received from my  non-child rearing iron grasp.

Even with all of the mental drama, I’m proud to say that I spat in the face of one of my long-abided restrictions. I posed for a photo with an adorable and remarkable piece of life breathing in between my hands, embracing  a new experience. One more down, plenty to go.

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The Twain Shall Meet

Posted by evankessler on December 7, 2010

Mark Twain photo portrait.

Image via Wikipedia

I’ve been suffering from a severe arterial blockage of writerly aspirations lately; self-diagnosed–of course (not very reliable as far as diagnoses go).  Rather than self-medicate with holistic medicine or go under the knife, I went to see a man about a cure. His name was Mark Twain. He’d taken up residence at the Pierpont Morgan Library & Museum in Manhattan, a peculiar place of residence for an epidemiologist or whatever he was, but I’d heard whispers upon screams that this guy was the best in his field– so much so that they’d named a few prizes after him. Now I’m not one for trophies and accolades; me, I fancy results.

When I arrived for my walk-in analysis, I was charged $15 up front. This was a tad bit strange considering I hadn’t even been examined yet, but I offered up my health insurance card. Unfortunately, my subpar coverage failed to lessen the copay.

There was absolutely no wait –an impressive occurrence if you consider the current state of health care– or if you’ve happened upon an emergency room lately. Given that this particular purveyor of treatment came so highly-acclaimed, you’d expect the line to be out the door and the wait to be at least thirty-minutes.

The examination room was like none I’d ever seen. The bland colored walls were a sterile shade of gray, but in the place of doctorly credentials and tongue depressors, the room was adorned with samples of historic manuscripts trumpeting the greatness of accomplishments in this genius’s chosen field. to go with photographs and drawings attesting to this verbal healer’s worldly travels.

Clad in a white suite and sporting a comical-yet-somehow-debonair mustache, this Twain fellow displayed an astounding wit and appreciation for the situation at hand. I wasn’t sure he was who he purported to be at first, as many of the room’s scholarly decorations to which he laid claim were peppered with the moniker of some “Samuel Clemens” fellow, but he assured me he was on the level. His character certainly matched everything I had heard,  a man of considerable humor with an obvious social conscience– and gift for blending the two. I drank in what I determined to be a healing sort of wisdom as he told me about his past adventures.

When the question of eradication of my motor skill issue (affecting the transfer of the words in my brain to the physical and digital page) was raised, Mr. Twain mulled it over. He mumbled something about “learning to be good” and began to ponder it once more, seemingly backtracking from that first thought as though there were so many different ways to tackle the problem. This progression of deep evaluation and subsequent recommendation swayed back and forth like a pendulum of indecision, bringing forth a range of suggestions not the least of which was (but not limited to) putting your entire heart into the matter,  then swinging once again towards the consideration of certain discouraging obstacles one faces when trying hardest to do so. These obstacles included, but were not limited to, birthday parties, baseball games, and the sabbath.

Finally he shot me look as though he had finished the process of sizing up my creative bottleneck with a slight brainstorm of none-too-taxing mental gymnastics. His facile delivery denoted an obvious solution akin to a mathematical wizard  given an elementary school addition problem. “You’re good as you are,” he said. “You can write whatever you want to write. Don’t think so hard.”

I felt two encouraging pats on the back and a breeze as he disappeared from sight, only to leave behind a few samples of some of his more light-hearted fare (“Humorous Stories & Sketches,” “The Diary of Adam and Eve“). Mind you, he didn’t take occasion to sign them.

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Favorite Things Friday: The Constitution

Posted by evankessler on October 22, 2010

I’m an American. And as an American I think I should have a few favorite things that are distinctly American. My favorite thing I want to discuss briefly this Friday is the United States Constitution.

So what do I like about the Constitution? I like that it gives us certain inalienable rights. I like that it doesn’t tell us what to do about anything. I like that it tells the government not to do any governing, because that would totally violate those inalienable rights.  Most importantly, I like the passage where Thomas Jefferson wrote, “The founding fathers (myself included) wish it to be  taught in all public schools that Jesus thought it was a good idea that we all be allowed to carry guns. ”

Another favorite part of the Constitution that I love so dearly, is the section where it  gives me “the right to bear arms.” I don’t know what the founding fathers were into in their personal lives, but if I’ve got that worded correctly, it means the  the government can’t impinge on my right to kill a bear, cut off his arms, and sew them to my own so that I could walk around like some sorta bear zombie. Pretty cool.

Those to me are the best parts of the United States Constitution, the document that makes America the place I love. I hope whatever amendment that stuff is in doesn’t get repealed, because it would be a damn shame. That’s why if I lived in Delaware, I’d vote for Christine O’Donnell. Because if god didn’t want a virginal, ex-witch Senator to interpret the Constitution, then why the hell is there one running in the first place?

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We’ve Got A Channel For That!

Posted by evankessler on September 28, 2010

A few months ago, my friend Lorenzo and I decided to enter a PSA contest for this year’s New York Television Festival.  After several hours of deliberation and filming we conjured up four pieces in response to the Festival organizer’s call for pieces that glorify the option of watching TV over doing other, probably more enriching activities.

Our clips trumpeted the thrill of TV over enjoyable pastimes of Travel, learning history, sex, and entertaining your children. Two of our four entries were accepted and this past Thursday, we made our way to the Tribeca Cinemas on Varick St. to see the fruit of our labor play out on the silver-ish screen.

I’d give you the play-by-play on all the excitement, but really, don’t you just want to see the PSA’s that made it? That’s what I thought. But first, a little photo to set the mood:

Now You Know What it Feels Like to Be There

Now, without any further ado: The PSA’s

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Sriracha!

Posted by evankessler on September 20, 2010


Roland Sriracha Chili Sauce: For those times when you’re like, “Hey, I wonder where my Sriracha sauce is? Oh, that’s right, I probably left it in the bathroom.”


Posted in Advertising, blogging, humor | 1 Comment »