Saturday, January 12, 2013

What I want to shout

Sometimes I'm seated at a poker table where attention to proper procedure by both the dealer and the other players is so lax that after a while I feel like going all Walter Sobchak on the place:

So long, and thanks for all the fish*

From time to time, somebody asks me whether I plan to stay in Las Vegas for the rest of my life. My answer has always been, no, I don't plan to stay, but I also don't plan to leave. There is no plan. I would tell anybody who asked me that question that I will leave if and when something happens to makes me think that I should live somewhere else. Otherwise, I'll stay.

Well, something finally happened to convince me that it was time to live somewhere else: I fell in love.

This won't exactly come as news to my readers, unless you're brain-dead. (In which case, congratulations on just being able to read. Quite an accomplishment.) I met Cardgrrl in February of 2009. By July of that year I knew it was something serious. During a visit I made to her in Washington, D.C., in August of 2010, I finally became convinced (1) that she was never going to move to Las Vegas (as I had not-so-secretly hoped), and (2) that I wanted to be a lot nearer to her than 2400 miles, and (3) that meant that I would have to move east.

That plan, however, entailed some serious logistical difficulties. The cost of living in Washington is much higher than it is in Vegas, and I would have to meet those increased costs without 50 poker rooms in my back yard.

By happy coincidence, around the same time some consulting work related to my formal education and my pre-poker career sort of fell into my lap, and I nurtured the source so that I would start getting more and more such projects. (I mentioned this work twice in the blog, here and here, just to drop a couple of hints that change was in the air, and to see if anybody was paying attention. As far as I could tell, nobody noticed that those hints signified that a major change was underway.)

Even if you missed those clues, surely long-time readers must have noticed that my frequency of posting dropped fairly dramatically year by year from the high-water marks in 2008 and 2009 to the present. Some of that was due to the simple fact that after a few thousand posts on one subject, it gets progressively harder to find new things to say, new topics to write about. But the drop-off was due at least as much to the fact that as time went on, I was spending more time on the growing side business and less on poker. Poker has gone from being my sole source of income when I first arrived in Vegas in the summer of 2006 to being only a small part of it in 2012.

Cardgrrl also met me halfway. Early last year she decided that she wanted to try living somewhere besides D.C., established some criteria for herself by which to judge potential target cities, and started exploring the possibilities. (Vegas was never a contender.) By about June, she had settled on Asheville, North Carolina. After several exploratory trips there over the next few months, she finally made the move into an Asheville apartment at the beginning of November, and is now having a house built in the city.

No, Asheville isn't halfway between here and D.C., but it does have a much lower cost of living--comparable to that of Las Vegas. It's also a place that I would rather live than D.C. I consider our nation's capital a nice place to visit, but not to live, for a variety of reasons that I won't bore you with. Her move made it easier for me to pull the trigger on my own.

A few hours ago I returned from a week in Asheville--my first time there. It's a beautiful city, set in the midst of some of the prettiest land in the country, even in the dead of winter. Take a look at a map, and you'll see that it's surrounded by the Great Smokey Mountains National Park, the Cohutta National Forest, the Sumter National Forest, the Cherokee National Forest, plus a comparable number of state parks and forests. Heck, the famous Blue Ridge Parkway/National Heritage Area runs right through the city; turn onto it, and 30 seconds later you feel like you're in the middle of a vast, wooded wilderness.

Biking should be, um, interesting in Asheville. As far as I can tell both from maps and from driving around in it for several days, there is not a single straight or flat street anywhere. Every street is winding and sloped.

Most of this visit was spent apartment-hunting. On Tuesday I found the best prospect--an upstairs unit in a well-maintained old mansion converted into a four-plex of two-bedroom apartments (one bedroom to sleep in, one to be used as an office) in the rich part of town, so I can pretend to be wealthy. It's about four miles due north of where Cardgrrl's house will be. On Wednesday I signed a lease; the place is mine starting February 1.

This is sooner than I had anticipated. As of a week ago, I was thinking it would be more like March or April when I would make the move. But things change, and I decided I needed to just do it. I'm not yet sure exactly when I'll go. I can't get everything planned and arranged to leave here by the first of the month. It will probably end up being more like February 10th to 15th time frame. Heck, I don't even know how I'll move--hire a moving company, drive a U-Haul myself, or maybe try to UPS anything that won't fit in my car. We'll see. (The new car, by the way, was an integral part of this evolving big plan, though I didn't tell you that at the time. The old car could not possibly have been trusted on a cross-country trip, nor could it carry much stuff.)

Anyway, the Las Vegas chapter of my life (actually the second Las Vegas chapter of my life, as I was here for a couple of years back in 1980-1982) is now coming rapidly to a close. With it, this blog will also mostly fade away. I won't shut it down completely. I'm sure that once in a while I'll have a story to tell, an opinion to share, a news item to comment on, a rant to get off my chest.

But poker is hard to come by in North Carolina. The only poker room that is less than a full day's drive is Harrah's Cherokee. Cardgrrl and I went there last night to scope out the place. It's about a 70-minute drive each way when there is clear weather and no traffic. The poker room for now has no live dealers, just a bunch of Poker Pro electronic tables, though they are in the process of training dealers, and have a WSOP circuit event scheduled to be there in April.

How about online? Well, we'll see. I've never been as successful at the online game as the live game, nor enjoyed it as much, though my Josie-inspired brief orgy of online tournaments in August raises the possibility that I could do better at it if I really tried.

The upshot is that I think it's inevitable that poker will be reduced to being a small, occasional part of my life and attention, and that as a result blog posts here will be few and far between. I will probably also greatly cut back on the amount of poker-related blog and Twitter reading that I do. I can't continue to saturate my reading with poker when I can't go out and play it. That would drive me crazy, I think.

I am sad to be leaving a city I've come to like very much, and to consider my home. I'm sad to be leaving behind the friends I've made in my 6 1/2 years here, and to no longer be in a place where friends and readers from across the country and around the world come to visit on a regular basis. I'm nervous about trekking across the country to a place that I really know very little about, and to be making my home in a state where I never had any reason to think I'd live, where I've only set foot once before last week--and that was just in the Charlotte airport during a layover--and where I only know two people besides Cardgrrl (Shamus and his wife live a couple hours away). I'm bummed that I won't have a ridiculous richness of choice of poker rooms running 24/7, regularly stocked with fish in a way that is the envy of the trout and salmon industries, with which I can scratch the poker itch whenever it hits me. I'm slightly nauseated at the prospect of having to face cold winters and humid, mosquito-filled summers again, after thinking that I had left them behind forever. I'm distressed that I won't be able to pop up to see my parents and my sister in Salt Lake City for weekend visits every few months, as has become my practice.

But rising above all of that is that I am excited to be able to be near the one I love, and to find out what our relationship can be when we can see each other on a regular basis. That is more important to me than what state my address is in, more important than the weather, more important than being near the Vegas friends I've made, more important than poker--more important than anything else. (As Jesus taught, "Greater love hath no man than this, that he move to North Carolina to be near his girlfriend." Or something like that.) That realization makes me confident that this move is the right thing to do. It's time for one chapter of my life to end, and for another to begin.

What story will that chapter tell? Hell if I know. But it's time to turn the page and find out.

*It seems hard to believe that anyone intelligent enough to be a reader of this blog would not know the pop-culture origin of this title. But just in case there's a lame-o out there, see here.

Addendum, January 12, 2013 

For Cardgrrl's perspective on this, see here.