Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Maybe now sleep will come

I'm back, bitches! (There ya go VinNay, that was for you!)

Where to begin.

Yes, I'm aware I haven't written on here in over a year. I suppose when people come up to me and can literally quote my last post word for word, it is high time to put something new up. I'll say more about my extended absence a bit later (or maybe in a few days), but for now I have far more entertaining tales to tell.

Two words: Eh Vegas

I'm writing the first part of this while sitting in the Toronto airport on the departure level, missing everyone so much already. I've been thinking about the past four days and can't help but sit here with a smile on my face. Such is usually the case when you have had one of the best times of your life. Again.

I rolled into town on Thursday afternoon after my flight was delayed by an hour. Kat was still at work and no one else was expected in until Friday, so I took my time catching a ($65) cab and making my way to her place. I hadn't seen Kat since New Years 2007, when her and Hunny Bunny traveled to Calgary to visit me her brother and his family. There is nothing quite like that moment when you see someone again for the first time in over a year. Time instantly slips away and it really does feel like it was just yesterday that you saw them last.

Since her and I were both exhausted, we decided to grab dinner, pick up a box of cookies, and simply stay in and watch a movie. It was exactly what I needed, especially since I was still trying to shake off a lingering cold from the week before.

Friday morning I woke up surprisingly refreshed at the ungodly hour of 6am Toronto time (which for me is actually 4am - so early it's almost criminal) but I had the exquisite pleasure of stepping into Kat's morning routine for a moment. Freshly ground free-trade coffee, some of the finest quality beans you can find, brewed to perfection and served to me on the couch before I could even find my way out of the blankets. Prepared and delivered by the incomparable Hunny Bunny, of course. (For those of you not in the know, HB actually gets out of bed each and every morning that he is home, and makes Kat this amazing coffee for her to enjoy before getting up and starting her day. This is even on days when he doesn't have to be up for hours. Now THAT is dedication! You are one lucky girl, my friend.)

Anyways, Kat had to go to work, and when she was finished we packed up and went to check into our hotel. Fortunately there wasn't much of a wait before the Tuckfards called us, and we decided to meet in their room, which was in a different hotel just a quick three blocks away.

I hadn't met any of the Tuckfards before, either live or online, but as you all know that doesn't mean a damn thing when it comes to this group. Within minutes we were hugging, laughing, drinking, and telling stories as though we had been friends for years. Very, very cool.

We were actually all just hanging out and killing time before the rest of the crew showed up - expected still were Al, Riggs, CK, Irongirl, VinNay, and Iak, but we got too hungry to put off dinner any longer so we headed to a nearby Italian Restaurant. The food was quite good, but the dinner conversation was priceless. After I watched Astin polish off a sinful-looking slice of chocolate mousse cake, we all headed back to the hotel room for more drinking while we waited for the rest to show up.

There is a moment when every blogger gathering seems to really begin, and for this one it was the moment Al and Co. strolled into the suite. The vibe instantly changed, the voices got louder. We had the appetizer, now it was time for the main course.

Now, if you really don't know how out of the loop I've been for the past year, I can sum it up by saying that even though I knew who CK was, I had no idea she was Asian. Or Jewish, for that matter. Little, Yellow, Different indeed. I adored her on sight. (Herro? Herrroooooo!) Same as Riggs. It is impossible not to like this man - he is the guy that you see in the bar that has crowds of people around him laughing at all times because he is just that damn hilarious. I could go on and on about every person who was there, but let me just say that there wasn't a single one in the bunch that I wouldn't want to hang out with on a regular basis.

Drinking and talking continued until security showed up at the door strongly suggesting we take the party elsewhere, though they seemed to be having a hard time keeping a straight face while kicking us out. Can't say I blame them, as I can only imagine what it is like to watch this group from the outside looking in. Since staying there was no longer an option, we decided it was high time to make the hike to the Brass Rail (strip club) so we took our leave.

As I'm sure you've already read elsewhere, the highlight of the Brass Rail was watching Riggstad's face as he emerged from an extended trip into the private lap dance room, stating that he couldn't believe how expensive lap dances were in Canada. No Riggs, $180 is not for one dance. That would be because you stayed in there chatting her up for nine consecutive songs! Besides that and the other hilarity that ensued among the bloggers, the strip club was pretty much a wash. The dancers were unbelievably unenthusiastic, the music wasn't really all that good, and to be honest, they weren't even that great to look at. I'm not exactly a connoisseur when it comes to dancers, but really - a little effort would have been nice.

At this point most of us called it a night. I've heard rumors that some of the boys stumbled around Yonge Street for a while, but Kat and I headed back to the hotel for some much needed rest.

Saturday Irongirl, Kat, CK, and myself decided to have a girls afternoon down in the distillery district where we feasted on brunch, cocktails (Caesars - my personal favorite that I have now got CK hooked on) and the best damn chocolate around, which was followed by some window shopping and general female bonding. Therapy, as I called it. I hang out with men far more often than with the ladies, but these three I could spend countless hours with. We are all very different, but I think that is why we got along so well.

Afterwards Kat and I had to do some mad dashing around town to pick up last minute supplies for the dinner at Astins, which included my first ride on a Toronto subway, a whole lot of walking, picking up cupcakes, and a trip to her school to grab a dozen or so chairs. Not such an easy feat to balance all this when you are riding the transit, so we finally broke down and called a cab to get us to our destination.

Arriving at Astin's place, you can't help but be impressed. Without getting into details, let me just say that he obviously takes a lot of pride in his home and it shows. In fact, I can sum it up by saying that even with the dual distractions of Guitar Hero on TV (my favorite game) and the enticing smell of roasted elk drifting out of the kitchen, I had to take time to give myself a little tour of his place. Very, very nice.

We tried to lend a hand with the final preparations, but he really did have it all under control and soon we were feasting on the most amazing soup I've tasted since...well, I can't remember ever having soup that delicious before. It is true when someone said that you could almost hear a pin drop when we all tucked in, followed by a collective sigh of appreciation before the expletives starting rolling. "Holy fuck this is amazing" was uttered many, many times as I recall. I'm sure you've already seen the pictures so I don't need to go through every course, but the entire meal was absolutely phenomenal. The elk was cooked to perfection - certainly the highlight for me, as I am a meat lover more than dessert or anything. Thanks again Astin - that meal will be very well remembered for a long, long time.

After dinner we were off to the poker club. It is amazing how much fun a three-block walk can be. (Actually, for the record, they told us it was only three blocks, but it felt more like seventeen or so. Am I alone on this?)

Along the way several things happened:

1. We decided that this was part of Astin's master plan to win the tournament - stuff us all so full that all we wanted to do was nap and couldn't focus on our cards
2.) We learned to stay far, far away from guys on the street who have way too much money and are packing heat
3.) Even after eating half of a side of elk, Riggstad can still be enticed by the thought of Chinese Food

4.) Residents of Chinatown don't even blink when a whole procession of crazy people are walking up the street yelling BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!

The tournament. What can be said that hasn't been said already? I was bubble girl. I finished in 4th place, killing my hopes that Kat, CK and I would fill the top three places. Huge congrats to Matty who brought a stellar game to the table, as well as knocked me out when my AQ failed to improve against his pocket 7's. Also huge congrats to mah girls who very much deserved their finishes in the money. I'd also like to extend my apologies to Pebbles for knocking her out - she played a brilliant game, but thank you so much for the bounty. It is sitting in a place of honor in my house, I assure you!

Afterwards we played a little cash game, and at 1:45am it was just Astin, Kat and myself left. Preparing to leave, we finally received a call from Iakaris, who had just made it into town and was only 5 minutes away. Yes, this is how the Doc rolls. We only got to spend a little while chatting with him, but it was certainly one of the highlights of the weekend for me. I've wanted to meet him for a long time but it seems like we always end up at opposite blogger events. Great to finally meet you Iak - next time it has to be for longer!

Sunday was a mix of emotions for me. On one hand it was very sad as half of our crew had already left - the Tuckfards had to head home for a live game they had scheduled, and we were already missing them. On the other hand I was elated. It was my birthday, I was spending it with some of my favorite people in the world, and I was heading to Niagara Falls for the first time in my life. I got to spend some quality time in the Man Truck with Riggs and Al on the way up which was awesome, and once we arrived at the casino drinks and toasts flowed freely.
VinNay finally made it in as well, and it was great seeing him again. Certainly one of my favorite people from the last gathering I attended, so the day just kept getting better and better.

It was a good two hour wait before I finally got my seat at the poker table, directly to Al's right, no less. As I'm sure you can imagine there were many, many highlights considering we sat there for a good five hours and he single-handedly ensured the entire table was kept well lubricated, but my favorite moment was when Al and I went head to head in a hand, only to find out that we were both playing the hammer. He even managed to get me to fold mine after a flurry of bets and raises. Well played, sir. The other moment that really stands out in my mind was when I played (and won with) the Asian Jew and proceeded to yell it across the room to CK, to the horror/amazement/shock of the rest of the room.

There are so many more moments that I wish I could have captured on film or on paper as they happened, and even as I write this I keep remembering other small details that made the weekend even more amazing, but there just isn't enough time to recap them all.

I'd like to extend my utmost gratitude to Kat for putting this all together, changing the date to accommodate my birthday (yes, it really is my fault you were all here in winter rather than early spring) and for letting me stay with you. You are certainly the hostess with the mostess, and I love ya.

To everyone else who was there, it was a spectacular weekend and I can't thank you enough for everything you all did - which really was just being yourselves. That alone is more than enough and I am truly privileged to be able to call you all friends.

I will be back, sooner rather than later, as there is much to tell from the last year. Real life kind of smacked me in the face and by necessity has taken a front seat for a long time now, but I am working hard to get back on here more often again. I hope to catch up with you all soon.