“if you had any sense, you’d take your ass home.”
i swear, that’s what he says to me. i don’t respond. i love it when an opponent talks smack. besides, i’m holding a beautiful pair of jacks. and one of them is smirking back at me, as if he just screwed my girlfriend, and wiped his cock across the duvet on his way out the door.
it’s after 2 am in fulltilt’s $5 no-limit poker room, and the action’s heating up. my virtual opponent’s from Texas. he wants me to think he’s got AA. which means he probably doesn’t. i call his big pre-flop raise and we see a flop.
7 clubs, 2 of hearts, 9 of clubs.
my jacks look even happier. but it could be the abuelo. i make a pot-sized bet. i know texas will re-raise if he’s got AA. he just calls. he’s slow playing a big hand, or he’s on a draw.
a jack hits fourth street, giving me a set. i toast my computer screen, and bet the pot. tex re-raises. some players do that with a flush draw. or maybe he’s got trips. at this point i don’t care. i move all in.
“i warned you” he says.
yeah, you did tex. fifth street’s random. i show down a set of jacks. tex has three sevens. i haul in a $100 pot and wait for the inevitable whine.
“nice catch wetback.”
life can be so unfair for an angry white man. i remember when i felt a similar rage. only i wasn’t blaming immigrants. i was angry with myself. it was back in 2002. i was divorced, broke, and dealing with chronic knee pain. i knew i needed to change my life.
i made the rounds, telling anyone who’d listen, i was moving to panama. my big news went down like a dry chorizo. was i crazy? was this some kind of tropical mid-life crisis? probably.
had he been my shrink, Thoreau could have summed up my mental state up in five words, “a life of quiet desperation.” i was one of those guys. i’d drive to work, thumb in air, index finger to temple, as if i was blowing my brains out with an imaginary pistol.
30+ years of working hard, and playing by the rules just stopped making sense. it felt like i’d spent my entire life mindlessly filling out papers, standing in lines, waiting in traffic, and following orders. one day it hit me, wouldn’t it be better to work for myself, and follow my dreams?
(dear god, this is starting to sound like a self-help piece. i need a drink.)
4 yeas later, i’d tell anyone to do the same. quit the job, quit the wife, quit the life. hell, quit the dog too. but for the love of god don’t quit drinking. everyone in central america knows rum makes an excellent mosquito repellent. i haven’t been bitten in the 4 years i’ve lived here. and i owe it all to abuelo.
look, i know there are happy cogs. but consider this, i have a friend, lets call him dave. dave’s a teacher. like many teachers, he hates kids, despises his bosses. dave’s all about the benefits. i swear, he’d mop the jizz from porn a theater if they gave him a pension and summers off.
“just another 15 years and i’ll be fully vested”, he tells me.
to him this is a reasonable plan for living; life starts at 60. maybe i’ll be dead by then. if dave has any dreams they’re buried deeper than the crusty stack of playboys next to his bed.
i get dave. it feels safer to stay in a miserable job. the summer i told friends i was moving to panama, we all jumped out of a plane. as i dropped through the clouds over rhode island, i figured my chute would open; but i wasn’t sure it would. the road to panama (or into the unknown) is like that; a free fall of terror, doubt, and if one’s lucky, bliss.
but the leap’s surely not as horrifying as waking up one day, stricken and numb, knowing your youth is gone, and your dreams are dead. if my chute doesn’t open so be it. after all these years, i’m writing again. i can’t imagine how i’d accomplish that if i was coming home every night whipped.
back when i’d tell people i wanted to write, they’d always say, “don’t quit your day job.” i now believe that’s exactly what i had to do.
dreams aside, i need money to survive. and without a sweet pension, or a real estate swindle, survival can be a challenge in panama. the guru’s say everyone’s got something valuable to offer. i don’t think they mean i should ebay my porn collection; that’s more of a last resort. but anyone reading this is probably a native english speaker. any gringo can teach english in panama.
i don’t teach. i write. andopportuni for the longest time there was a need for an english paper that updated faster than the panama news. the panama news is a very fine paper. but not the place for a daily fix of news.
so, along came the infamous panama guide. its owner has a system for updating daily. he swipes stories from the daily papers, and posts them on his site, every day. because he’s offering value (someone else’s) he’s making money 24/7. he can’t get laid off. he doesn’t have to wait for a pension. his only fear is if (or when) he’ll be led away in cuffs.
there’s probably no end to the possibilities. one need not become a criminal. just figure out what people want and give it to them. sounds simple. its not. but it sure beats working for someone else.
maybe one day writing for panama after hours will pay the bills. until then, i play poker. the best time to make money on fulltilt is late at night. i average about $500-$900 a month playing low limit poker part time. that’s a decent salary in panama. but, i need to make at least $1200. a month to live and write in panama full time.
it’s hard. i’m not saying i have it all figured out. there are times when i think tex might be right. if i had any sense, i’d take my ass home. but then i think, how many of us really get to live out our dreams? more than anything, that’s what my life in panama’s all about.