Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Take Me to the River (or Mike May: “neurotic and slightly balding”)

If you could take both the wisdom of Solomon and the strength of Hercules and somehow turn them into a bubble gum, that bubble gum would probably have the powerfully satisfying taste of Take Me to the River, the single greatest piece of literaturousity ever put to page.

All right, I might be exaggerating. In fact I'm not sure how objective I could really be in reviewing this book. The problem is that the subject of the book is something that I find myself eternally fascinated with day in and day out: myself.

I always knew I was vain but it never occurred to me how much more I would enjoy the reading experience when one of the little people running around inside a book was actually me. In fact, I so enjoyed this book, I may never again read books that are not specifically about me. I understand this will radically limit my reading choices but I'm a pretty slow reader anyway.

Of course technically the book is about my friend Peter Alson, but if you can read between the lines it's pretty easy to see what it's really about.

The focus of the memoir is on a writer of questionable maturity taking tentative steps towards responsibility. With a marriage coming up, as well as a child, he realizes that changes have to be made. The willy nilly finances of a freelance writer just aren't going to cut it anymore. He understands that he needs money, reliable money. So, accepting that he is now an adult, he does the adult thing. He goes to Vegas.

Ostensibly, it's about Peter going to the 2005 World Series of Poker to make money for his upcoming wedding/new life, the wacky characters, the ups, the downs, etc, etc. Ostensibly.

But if you can read between the lines it is pretty clear what Peter is trying to get at. There's a character that pops up occasionally, a friend of his by the name of Mike May. Now this friend of his is barely a minor character, and he doesn’t really do or say anything all that interesting, but personally I thought he was a powerful presence within the book. I felt a crackling jolt of electricity whenever I read about him.

Again, this may be a fairly personal reaction but I think that a sophisticated reading of Take Me to the River will show that, in essence, it's a book about the powerful sexual prowess of Mike May. You have to read between the lines, pretty, uh, pretty far between the lines but that was my initial reading.

As I mentioned, your reading may be different than mine but I like mine better. The problem is that my life is not so fascinating that I get to see it in print so often. So when it does happens, and I don’t come out looking like an ass-monkey, it’s exciting for me. Of course, I suppose not everyone is such a whore for attention.

A friend of mine read Peter’s book and gave him a wonderful if backhanded compliment. He told me how incredibly happy he was that he’s never ended up in one of Peter’s books. Knowing most of the people in Peter’s book rather well, my friend felt that Peter did an eerily accurate job of describing who they really were. He wasn’t sure how he would feel about having a similar portrait of himself flapping about in the domain of the public.

I thought about this for a little while and once the initial excitement subsided, of seeing that there are no slanderous untruths (or more humiliating actual truths) in Take Me To The River, I did have a secondary reaction, a weird anxiety that I may have just dodged a bullet.

Personally, my narcism usually trumps my fears of public embarrassment. But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t a little scared about this book coming out. I gave Peter the key to my room last year, so that he could store a couple things while he jetted back to NY for a week, meaning that he had unsupervised access to my life at the Gold Coast. He could easily have written about the rancid smell of legionnaires disease wafting about my old laundry, the NakkidNerds.com bookmarks on my computer, or any of the many more inditing things that he might have found, and that I won’t incriminate myself by mentioning here.

Luckily though, if you take out the stuff about S and M clubs (which Christi was none too thrilled with), the portrait Peter painted of me was thoroughly benign. Nonetheless, it did remind me how dangerous it can be for someone with control issues to have friends who are writers. In fact my obsessive need for control was one of the vast many reasons I started this whole blog thing in the first place. So even though it predates Peter’s book, the very existence of this blog can, in a way, be blamed on Take Me to the River.

A while ago I was interviewed for a book on Jon Finkel, a different friend of mine. When this book came out I rushed out to pick it up and tore through it. It was reminiscent of the moment in The Jerk when the Steve Martin character sees his name in the phone book. He starts to jump around flailing his arms frantically, yelling "Look! I've made it, my name's in print!!! I'm somebody!"

Of course, later, I looked back at what was actually written about me in the Finkel book and I saw that I was introduced as Mike May "neurotic" and "slightly balding". I realized that while "neurotic and slightly balding" will probably turn out to be the most concisely comprehensive description, ever put to print, of who I actually am, it nonetheless may not be what I would have written myself.

This turned out to be one of the fulcrum point moments that allowed me to understand how much my industry was changing. By most poker metrics I'm really something of a nobody. While I am quite content with the career I've had, my TV resume is less than inspiring. And yet here I was being interviewed and finding myself in print. When nobodies like myself were subjected to a spotlight (no matter how faint it might be) it became apparent a new facet of poker had entered the industry.

Reading about myself in the Finkel book was a strange experience. While it was exciting to have someone care about my story enough to write it down, it was disorienting to realize that someone besides myself would have final edit on it. I thought about how many more people would get to know Mike May through this book than would actually meet me in person. How very strange.

So to stave off any possible lawsuits it seemed as though it wouldn't be a bad idea for me to premptively put my side of the story, whatever that story might be, into print. Hence, Mike May: The Blog. And that’s why I blame Peter, and the various other writers who have tried to bring the poker subculture to the masses, for this blog’s creation (in a rather roundabout way).

So if you at all enjoy this blog you may want to thank Peter for it's creation by picking up a couple copies of Take Me to the River. Even if you hate this blog with a passion that will not die you might want to give Peter a try. And especially if you can't make it to the World Series of Poker yourself, you should definitely read it and make a vicarious trip via Peter. Of course, come to think of it, the 7 or so friends of mine who make up the readership of this blog were all at the Series last year, so I guess that might not be the best sales pitch.

Instead, lets just work with simple economics. It’s actually very expensive to play in the final event of the World Series, and I’m not just talking about the $10,000 buy in. Consider for a moment all the expenses:
-10,000 dollar buy in,
-travel to Vegas,
-back waxing to look good at the pool,
-hookers and blow,
-lawyers fees once you realize that "what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" doesn't actually apply to federal statutes,
-hastily purchased ticket to undisclosed south and/or central America country,
-rental of beach front bungalow,
-monthly retainer for Paco to keep "them" off your trail,
-hush money to cover that local incident that was simply a misunderstanding, and it wasn't your fault what happened to Paco since he totally should have expected you to run, considering how it came down,
-the Viking funeral for Paco (really it was all he ever asked for, and clearly something he deserved),
-dry cleaning,
-and of course tooth paste, you always forget to pack tooth paste for some reason.

You add up all these expenses, and I have no idea what it comes out to, but it's probably a heck of a lot more than the $16.32 it costs to buy Peter's book from Amazon with this link. So next year bag the trip yourself and just lounge by the pool with a relaxing copy of Take Me to the River. Let Peter do all the work for you.

And if that isn't reason enough for you to buy the book I should mention that if you use this link and buy Peter's book, I think (if I set the link up correctly) I'll make something like 60 cents in Amazon kickback payola which will be the first penny I’ve ever made off of this blog.

Yay Peter!

Peter Alson hard at work experiencing things
and then writing about them, so you don’t
have to go through the trouble of experiencing
them yourself.


Richard said...

must...stop...drinking...liquids...while reading mike's blog...

Mike May said...

I hear you. You're saying my posts are too long and boring. When you drink something it acually has enough time to pass through your entire digestive tract, because reading one of my posts takes so long, and you end up peeing yourself. Point taken, Dick.

Jodi said...

Mike May, you are one of the funniest people I know or pretend to know. Keep doing your funny, bloggy thang.

Anonymous said...

You seriously need to get yourself a literary agent. All of your self-deprecation aside, I think you probably know just how talented a writer you are.

Mike May said...

Jodi, as one of the first and only linkers to this blog (after Jane of course who was not only the first linker but was also kind enough to use these comments section to slander complete strangers, who are actually nice people but I appreciate the sentiment nonetheless, God bless you Jane) you are allowed to pretend to know me for as long as you like.

And Anonymous I hear you too. "You seriously need to get yourself a literary agent" i.e. "you write so bad you would be better off getting a secret agent that just likes to read a lot to ghost write this blog which would make it better than it is now even though secret agents aren't really known for their writing so really good and that's why we give them poison tipped walking sticks instead of fountain pens"
And "All your self deprecation aside" i.e. "you suck..."
Point taken, Anon.

writerman said...

Thanks for posting that photo of me and the babe on the couch. Alice happened to take a look at it while she was simultaneously watching an episode of Oprah in which they identified Ten Signs That Your Husband Is Having An Affair. Fortunately, there was nothing about "seeing a photo of your husband in Vegas on a couch next to an unconscious hooker." So I'm cool. But that was a close one.

highlandfox said...

It's spelled Jon, not John.

mark said...

Mike, you write just like you talk - this means you need an agent who can get you a talk show as well as a book contract. I hear tv make-up can do wonders for the slightly balding look

Shane Schleger said...

Is Jonny Magic and the Card Shark Kids the other book you were referring to?

Clay said...

You could save some money going to the WSOP if you brought blow with you. I can always get it cheaper at home. In Vegas it's real expensive because they know you're a tourist. I also launder all of my own garments, thus no need for extra cash for dry cleaning. Just a tip.

jane said...

I haven't slandered anyone, have I? I can only recall posting a bit of literary criticism. And they pay me good money to rip apart the work of other writers, you know.

Speaking of: Neurotic, really? Maybe it's a poker thing. I've always found you abnormally calm -- "almost too relaxed" says Dollo. Agreed.

Mike May said...

In response:

Peter- If you told Alice that the woman in that picture was just "unconscious" I can totally back you. Bros before hoes.

Highland- Of course his real name is Jon not "John" but I originally wanted to give him a degree of anonymity (which you completely blew).

Shane- Yes.

Clay- If you can explain how to get stains out of fine chiffon using a hotel sink I'm happy to listen.

Jane- I would imagine the use of "neurotic" that the author employed was more akin to the British definition of the word, where I think it means "large and powerful" and "not at all disturbingly fetishistic about nerdy women with glasses". That's the only explanation I can think of.

Anonymous said...

Once again I am left out of a book about NYC poker. That nitwit Adam gets space, Robert "I go to Thailand fir watches", is mentioned, and even Richie the Dwarf gets a plug. What about me? Can you imagine the NYC poker scene without me? Of course not. So listen up buddie, when your book comes out I want some serious ink, or I will kick your scrawny ass up and down Broadway.

Thank you
Cosat Rica Dave

jane said...

Let me explain this blogging thing to you, sir: You're supposed to add entries, not subtract them.

limitkingnyc said...

I used to live with u and u were never this cool to know.I think i had one hooker over and your face dropped when i told u. As for anyone harming you all they gotta do is get through me first MY MAN I will kick that 6-4 playing fat ass back to San Jose!!

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Jekke said...


It's pretty surreal experience to read a book about such a specific, little subculture and realize just how little idea I had of what was going on beyond Neutral Ground and the Diamond Club.

I just wanted to pop in and say hi and congrats. I haven't seen you since you wandered by my table at the Trop a few years back. So, I wouldn't be shocked if you had no idea who I am.

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Diana said...

Al Green Explores Your Mind is the eighth album by soul singer Al Green.
Track listing
"Sha-La-La (Make Me Happy)" - 3:01
"Take Me To The River" - 3:45
"God Blessed Our Love" - 3:57
"The City" - 3:25
"One Nite Stand" - 2:26
"I'm Hooked On You" - 3:22
"Stay With Me Forever" - 3:15
"Hangin' On" - 4:21
"School Days" - 3:14
"Take Me To The River" has been covered by several other performing groups including Annie Lennox, sportsbook, Talking Heads, Max on the Rox, Dave Matthews Band, Grateful Dead, Bryan Ferry, and Maná.

Retrieved from "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al_Green_Explores_Your_Mind"