"What are we doing tonight?" Hobby asked. We usually set aside Saturday nights for the ladies in our otherwise self-indulgent lives, but it so happened that both of them had other commitments.
"I'm always up for poker. How about you?"
"Suits me. Looking for some heavy action, Joe?"
Hobby and I drove to the farmer's market in West L.A. to buy fresh veggies. He was on another health kick, concocting all sorts of liquefied vegetable goop to purify his body. I stay silent on the sidelines, knowing that in another week or so he'll be lusting over a medium-rare steak. Hobby was inspecting a bunch of organic kale when I spotted someone I recognized.
"Julie," I shouted to catch her attention. When she turned I saw her eyes were red. She wanted to be recognized like someone wanted to be stopped for speeding, but she managed to muster a smile for me.
Hobby and I had been about to take off with a drug dealer in the back seat of the car -- we wanted to question him about T.V. Producer Bailey Mack's murder -- when his cohorts came to the rescue.
Suddenly I was under attack by a steroid freak shaped like the Michelin tire man.
Pulled from the car, I narrowly escaped having my head stomped by a size 14 boot. Before he could launch another kick, Hobby cold-cocked him with a karate chop. As we jumped back into the car I saw the other bozo laid out on the sidewalk. "What happened to him?" I asked.
After three weeks I still hadn't heard from Bailey Mack, the TV producer who signed me up to do the concept for a poker game show. I got burned once before by Hobby's friend. I should have known better than to give him another shot at me. I visited Hobby to share my grief.
"Why didn't you tell me Bailey wasn't returning your calls?" he asked. "Maybe I didn't want to admit I feel like a schmuck. His office phone is a bust. Can you get in touch with him?"
"I've got his home number. I'll call," Hobby offered.
As he dialed I said, "If you get him, tell him I'm pissed."
"Joe, guess what?"
"C'mon, Hobby. I don't like guessing games. Why don't you just say what you have in mind."
"Okay. It's about my friend Bailey Mack, the TV producer I fixed you up with to sell one of your poker stories (Payback, Poker Player Magazine, Jan. 24, 2005).
"I remember that mess. I told him to take his job and shove it. Is he looking for more advice?"
"You won't believe it, but he is. He's looking for a writer and technical advisor for a game show about Texas Hold 'Em."
I thought I could win the hand with a pair of kings, but when an ace dropped on the river and the tough looking old woman opposite me went all in, I declined to call. A few hands later, she went all in again; this time her kings beat a pair of queens. It was a righteous win, so why did I feel uneasy? There was something about this wigwearing woman that made me wary. She wore a pound of makeup, even had some on the backs of her hands. Her lipstick looked like it was applied with a palette knife.
Hobby makes great margueritas. California is where you can find the world's best. Forget most of Mexico, with but few exceptions the native concoctions are usually disappointing. Hobby and I were enjoying these tasty libations as a balmy sunny afternoon breeze cuddled the fantail of his boat. I asked if he had an invitation from Pete Dillonmdash;which he did. Pete was about our age, a stunt man and movie grip who was as likeable as a puppy dog. He seemed to get by on what he earned and appeared to be just another leaf on the tree, swinging with the breeze without a care.
I hit a wall, a figurative wall, that is. I'm a writer on a deadline, but my story's not coming together. At times like this, it doesn't pay to press. A little diversion might help. I'll call Hobby.
"Hi, Joe. What's up?" "Nothing. What are you doing?"
"I'm going to a hospital. Do you want to come?"
"What's wrong, Hobby?"
"Joe, have you tried internet poker?'
"Not interested, Hobby. I'm a purist. Doing it on a computer is like watching porn. It's a far cry from the real thing."
"I might've agreed at one time, but I've been playing on line and I like it. You can play your favorite game for real or play money, anything from $1 to $100."
"I wouldn't bet $100 against a machine. For god's sake Hobby, you're playing with an inanimate object. It takes the psychology out of the game, how can you read a machine?"