DAVE, YOU ARE OFFICIALLY HOUSE SITTING HELL HOUSE!
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 The House Always Wins

22-January-2010


A former high-rolling near-family member of mine is a Florida snowbird these days, and this year he asked me to house sit for him. Since the condo I was renting had just sold out from under me, it seemed like a good transition move, so I put him on.

“Deal,” I said when he made the offer during a pot-limit Omaha game one night. And leaving my cards by the rail I rounded the table to shake his hand.

In mid-October I made the move, put my stuff in storage and settled into his home. I already knew what a damn cool pad he had. But I was still plenty pleased to walk through the door. It had a perfect mother-in-law suite upstairs and plenty of privacy, being out on the old Calumet Farm grounds as it was.

I have to admit it was a little more remote than I was used to, and planes from the nearby airport were constantly coming and going. Luckily it was only a regional airport—so tiny, in fact, that I doubt it would have ever shown up on a map if it weren’t for a recent crash caused when one pilot tried taking off from the wrong runway. So, all in all, the place ranked up there with some of the best digs I’ve had in a while, crashes and non-stop buzzing included.

“Uncle Tubby” (the homeowner) and his wife (never referred to as “Aunt Tubby”) were still there when I moved in, but within a couple weeks the first cold snap hit and they fled to the beach. I had it made: I had a beautiful home all to myself for about eight months, rent free. It was a comp job, really, a little piece of paradise.

At least, that’s what I thought….

Sure enough, my first night alone I heard a bunch of noise in the backyard. I had just gotten back from a trip to Caesars, and the long ride had been hell. It was so windy I almost got blown off the road twice. So I figured all the racket was just the weather playing on my imagination after all those hours of white-knuckle driving. When I got up the next morning, though, I saw a bunch of horses galloping around the yard, stomping across the deck and tearing through the “outdoor room.”

The horses had done their business all over the place and had otherwise made one helluva mess. I knew some of them were Alydar progeny, so I couldn’t just whip out ye olde shotgun like I could have with a couple nags. They were practically royalty, and I was just some house-sitting bum in the order of O.J.’s pal Kato. If anybody was expendable it definitely wasn’t them. That’s just the way it works in Kentucky.

Leaving the little darlings to continue wreaking havoc, I trekked out to the paddocks and saw where one section of fence had snapped like a line of toothpicks. Considering the wind the night before, it didn’t take a rocket scientist to see what had happened. I tramped back to the house to call Uncle Tubby and gave him a strong tip that I ain’t no fencepost digger. He, in turn, gave me the number for the guy who put the fence in the first time. And ironic as that sounds, at least for the moment it seemed my problems were solved.

As the first cold snap turned ugly, however, the furnace broke down. That was on Thanksgiving eve, and it took the entire weekend to get someone to look at it. I froze my everlovin’ you-know-whats off in the meantime, all the while owing a long list of editors my sweat and blood.

Then, when the furnace-fixer guys finally came out the following Monday they seemed to get it working, but when I got in that night it was 84 degrees upstairs. The new thermostat or heat sequencing board or whatever had developed a mind of its own, and now there was no stopping it. Long story short, I again had to call the repairmen and spent a couple days sweating to death till they could get back out there.

While this was going on, one of Uncle Tubby’s many vehicles, which I was supposed to drive occasionally to keep their transmissions working, broke down. Picture that beat-up pickup from “Green Acres” and you’ve got the idea: Ancient, cranky, rusty, sounding and looking like a tank that’s seen one too many battles. But still it was Uncle Tubby’s favorite vehicle and my responsibility. I mean, the guy likes it more than his Mercedes S-Class—which, mind you, didn’t need the occasional drive to stay in working order.

Well, so there I was, stuck taking Uncle Tubby’s precious jalopy to the shop. When I did get it towed, they gave it the works, and it came back running like it had just come off the assembly line. But it still didn’t look any better for all that, and I had to drive it all the way across town to get it back to the house. Not that I’m complaining, mind you. I was glad to help Uncle Tubby out with his beloved heap of junk. And after the previous two weeks it seemed like the very last of my trials, so I actually kind of enjoyed the ride.

But then, two days later, I tried to start it, and again, it was dead. I’d asked the guys at the shop to check the battery, the electrical system, the sprockets, springs, what-have-you, so naturally I was pissed. It had a fairly new battery, which they had supposedly charged, so whatever the contraption’s new woes it shouldn’t have been that. Then again, the boys at the shop had said that if the truck didn’t start the battery wasn’t holding a charge and I’d need to replace it. I jumped the clunker off the Benz and again drove it across town to the parts store.

So the truck problem was solved once more, and for a few days I got a tiny respite from Uncle Tubby’s toys. Then, the garage door broke twice, and when I finally got it back to working order, I found the truck as dead as Jerry Garcia.

Jimminy Christmas I went on tilt! Maybe I’ll jump it and drive off a cliff, I thought, that’ll kill two birds…

Thank goodness I’ve always been too much of a coward to do anything that crazy. But I would have gladly hired someone else to take it for a long drive if I’d had the money. On my way to the parts store I even imagined doing that. I figured I’d tell Uncle Tubby some horribly considerate lunatic had stolen his beater to commit suicide in because he didn’t want to put anybody out by taking one of the good cars.

“Poor bastard,” Tubby would say.

“Poor bastard,” I would nod.

But anyways: Jump, parts store, cussing a blue streak—And against all odds I deduced what all the king’s men at Midas hadn’t: The cigarette lighter was stuck, and that was what was causing the drain. So the truck problem was fixed once and for all.

*****

Well, as I’m sure you’ve already guessed, the truck fiasco was just the beginning of my problems. But I won’t bore you with a litany of details; suffice it to say, I hate all furnaces and hope someday to convince the entire world that campfires are the way to go. I also hate all furnace repairmen after mine left for the third time joking, “Not having much luck with the furnace, are you?” It was becoming clear indeed why Uncle Tubby liked the beach so much.

It was in the midst all this that I finally decided I’d had enough and escaped for a quick trip to the Horseshoe. And this, dear readers, is where we finally get around to the poker portion of my tale.

Once through the doors, I beelined it for the nearest $1-2 no-limit Texas Hold’em game and almost immediately picked up pocket aces. I raised and got one caller. I should have figured that spelled trouble because it was too pretty. After all, everybody knows aces don’t hold up when you’re on tilt before you even sit down. But that’s the thing about being on tilt: You aren’t thinking rationally, so you can’t step back and say, “This is a terrible idea.”

Well, so, sure enough my caller flopped a gut-shot draw. Then he proceeded to keep beating me in the pot for the next hundred hands, calling me right to the river where he’d bust me with yet another gut shot.

I guess I don’t have to tell you that put me into the Far Side of Tiltland—the frickin’ Hunter S. Thompson does H.P. Lovecraft does Lewis Carol of Tiltland: I decided to throw a poker party at the ‘ole Horseshoe, attempting to “fight fire with fire.” Suffice it to say, that worked about as well as Uncle Tubby’s jalopy, and I went through three racks before brushing back.

“Happy New Year,” everyone yelled as I left the table.

Give away my bankroll for the next month: Check.

After that I headed straight out the doors for “home sweet home,” where nothing worked and I was still going crazy to boot. I figured this house-sitting gig would have me like Jack Nicholson’s character in “The Shining” by the end of it. I imagined chasing the horses around the paddock with an axe and pictured the headlines the next day:

House sitter goes berserk

Poker scribe pulls a Jack Torrance on outskirts of city!

Equinicide blamed on bad run at Horseshoe

And with that little beauty of a snapshot in my mind’s eye, I settled into my 10 blankets and drifted off to sleep….

 



By: Dave Cinch
dave.cinch@acehoyle.com



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