Friday, July 07, 2006

Almost Cool

I’m at a wedding a while back (Jean-louis and Katie) and during dinner I’m talking to a stranger about blogs. He asks me what mine is about and my knee jerk reaction is to say "poker". However, it occurs to me that this guy is a stranger that I just met, and as a stranger I have nothing emotionally invested in him. For that reason I don’t see any reason to lie to him. So when he asks me what my blog is about I tell him the truth. "It’s about trying to make me look more interesting than I am."

As it so happens there are a lot of reasons that I started this blog. Above most though is the desire to tell self aggrandizing stories in the hope of creating someone interesting. Truth be told, the bulk of my life is spent lying in bed, eating cookie dough and staring at the ceiling, both figuratively and literally. However, occasionally something nonboring might happen and it is my hope that if I put enough of those nonboring moments here I might be able to skew perception of who I am, perhaps help people get the wrong idea about me. At least that’s my hope.

Of course for some people I imagine that interesting things happen quite often. Unfortunately I’ve never really been one of those people. So to supplement this blog sometimes I have to settle for interesting things almost happening to me. As it so happens I recently had a week filled with interesting things that almost happened. So now I’m forced to write not about being cool but being almost cool. I take what I can get.

I’m having dinner with a friend who will remain nameless. This friend happens to be closely related to dork director extraordinaire Sam Raimi. Sam Raimi, whose brilliant Evil Dead 2 ranks among the top five greatest slapstick movies of all time and who also directed a little indie franchise by the name of Spiderman.

As it happens, Sam is in New York to shoot Spiderman 3. With the Raimi’s being a fairly tight family, my friend, Sam’s cousin, is expected to stop by the set to say hi, maybe grab a bite. As I’m having dinner with my friend he gets a number of calls from this assistant or that to coordinate a set visit.
"You’ll be filming where tomorrow?... I suppose that would work... What time is Sam’s meeting?... No, the afternoon would be better for me...Yes, I’d prefer to stay in Manhattan." Etc, etc.

Welllll... my friend has a good sense of what a big comic book dork I am, as well as my reverence for Mr. Raimi’s work. And besides, Toby Mcguire and I go way back (insomuch as I played at his table once a couple years ago when he was just learning to play poker). So it seems like my joining him on the set visit is a no-brainer. Still considering what a coup a visit would be for my blog I figure I can’t afford to be subtle.

"So... you’re going to stop by the set tomorrow?" I inquire.
"I think so."
"That should be fun."
"It’ll be nice. I haven’t seen Sam for some time."
"Yeah, I just mean it would be fun to be on set like that. I mean, especially if you were a big comic nerd. "
"I suppose."
"I mean for someone a little familiar with the source material it’d be even cooler. You know like someone who was really curious how they’re going to present Venom, the villain of this sequel. I mean like someone who wondered how Sam might present the alien symbiote which Peter Parker initially dons as a costume but that later melds with fellow photographer Eddie Brock and transforms him into a psychopathic black mirror image of Spiderman that calls itself Venom, I mean, considering that in the comics the symbiote was originally found by Spiderman out in another galaxy when he was whisked away by the Beyonder in order to fight in the Secret Wars miniseries (not the recent Brian Bendis series but rather the original Jim Shooter one from the 80's). I mean for a comic nerd like that a visit to the set would probably be something that would really raise his street creds in the dork world. A real once in a lifetime kind of thing."
"I would imagine" was his reply, followed by "so, when are you leaving for the World Series?" And that was pretty much that.

Considering that subtlety has never been my strong point I always figured that I would be better at being unsubtle. So much for that theory. And so much for being cool.

But as it turns out that was nothing compared to the almost coolness that came a couple days later.

If you’ve ever heard the phrase "It’s good work if you can get it" and wondered exactly who it was that was getting said work, his name is Peter Alson. Peter will probably come up here quite a bit in the coming weeks due to the publication of Take Me to the River, his latest masterpiece about my time at the WSOP (technically, it's actually about Peter's time at last year's WSOP, but as much as I loved it I tended to ignore everything but the paragraph or two where he mentioned me). For now all I’ll say is that Peter is running pretty well.

It turns out that Chinese uber-auteur Wong Kar-Wai happens to be making a movie by the name of "My Blueberry Nights". In it, Natalie Portman happens to play a poker player, and it happens to be that someone needs to help Ms. Portman understand what it’s like to play poker. As it happens this person turns out to be Peter.

I ask him just what such a job entails.

"You know, we just covered general stuff and watched some video of Jennifer Harmon."
"You were paid to be alone with Natalie Portman in a dark screening room."
"It wasn’t anything so formal. We just went back to the hotel."
"Her hotel?"
"Yeah, there was a VCR in Natalie’s bedroom."
"In her bedroom?"
"You’re sitting in a chair with Ms. Portman in her hotel bedroom."
"Well, there weren’t really any chairs. I mean, it’s a hotel bedroom"
"So you’re on the bed with her."
"Well, yeah, I guess."
"And you’re being paid. Movie production money... to sit on a bed with Natalie Portman."
"More or less."

I’m not sure, but at a time like this, when a peer tells you that he’s getting paid movie production money to watch TV sitting on a bed with Natalie Portman, I think the only response that really makes any sense is "Oh..."

I try to think of all the reasons, given his lack of juice in the film world, that Peter might get such a job. And try as I can, I can think of no better reason than it’s the kind of thing that, by association, will make me feel worse about my own life. I know this doesn’t make too much sense, but that’s the way my mind works.

My new found loathing of Peter thaws quite rapidly though when he calls me up a few days later to ask for a favor. He explains that he needs to leave for his summer vacation a little early. He doesn’t think that Natalie will need him for anything but he wants to have a backup for the slim possibility that she needs something poker related while he’s gone. He wants to know if I’d be able to look after her in the off chance she needs something.

Uh-huh. Working in the poker industry I get a fair number of calls from people asking for help. Really not so many like this though. Oh, and I’d also get movie production money for my time spent hanging out with Natalie Portman, talking about myself.

Now I did try to consider the downside here. I did want to consider the possibility that I might be a little intimidated and I might in some manner grotesquely embarrass myself in front of one of the more attractive woman I’d be likely to meet this year. But the more I thought about it the more I realized that she’s far enough out of my league that it’d be hard for me to be intimidated. To feel nervous that you would blow a chance with a young starlet you would first have to be able to believe you had a chance with said starlet. I didn’t think that would be a problem in this case.

Of course I did make the mistake of watching the movie Closer the other day which might have complicated things. Every so often a movie produces an image visceral enough that it stays with you for quite some time. Hannibal Lecter behind glass talking about Fava Beans, Tony Montana and his little friend being gunned down, etc. Closer had a moment that stuck with me as well.

As it so happens, I’d like to believe that I could see Ms Portman as I should, as a three dimensional individual not completely unlike myself, and interact with her accordingly. However, face to face with her, I’m not quite sure I could muster up enough focus to not continually think of absolutely nothing other than the scene in Closer in which Natalie Portman is in a strip club bent over on all fours showing her hoo-ha to Clive Owen. And I imagine that might possibly prove a little distracting. If I was working with her I would definitely make a concerted effort to try not to think about such a thing, but I couldn’t make any promises.

Of course as Peter is telling me all this I know that the true possibility of anything ever happening is probably well under 1.3 percent, tops. Still, if there’s anything poker players understand it’s the value of a free-roll. And for a little while it makes me happy to think about that 1.3 percent. It’s not unlike buying a lottery ticket. You know you’re not going to win but for 1 dollar you get to sit around for a little while and think "yeah, but what if...?"

Not surprisingly, I never get my call from Ms. Portman, which is too bad because it might have made a decent blog entry. As it is I’ll just have to settle for writing about my underthings or jiggly woman parts. But of course if I can’t be cool myself it is a blessing to have friends who are occasionally cool themselves (and from whom I can leech second hand cool off of). I take what I can get.


Anonymous said...

Mr May,

Excellent as always. Consider me part of your non-complaining-but-always-wanting-more fan base. Hope you do/did well at the WSOP. I'm back in NYC and will be slaving away at cyber-satellites for the main event. I will let you put me in if you would like.

Cya, Jeff Calkins

Matt Matros said...

Does this post imply you finally bought a cell phone?

Mike May said...

Actually that is Mr. Alson's phone. Surprisingly, I don't have so many hot young starlet numbers in mine.