Mastodon Weekend deconstructed

“He probably has a whole generation of writers getting drunk and wondering why they can’t write like that.” –Roger Ebert on Charles Bukowski.

In sitcoms the sound of a screeching phonograph needle has taken on an iconic responsibility. It signifies the point at which a person who simply doesn’t belong walks through the front door of an establishment. It’s that funny moment when everyone in the joint stops, looks, and pulls the switch on an innate xenophobia.

“This person isn’t from here,” the hive mind mumbles. “He doesn’t belong here.”

And, so cue the moment when 20 people stumble into a fancy steakhouse in Greenville, South Carolina. They stink of booze and jalapeños. They are muttering things about people with names like “Otis” and “BadBlood” and “Iggy.” A few of them have hair past their shoulders. One man is wearing a long trench coat. There is no doubt the blue-haired lady at Table 2 is afraid she is about to be flashed.

Worse than any of it for the people in the $500 shirts and $800 shoes? That loathsome lot at the front door has a reservation for the best table in the restaurant, courtesy of some guy named Mark who people keep referring to as The Mark. It’s off-putting and there are a lot of nonplussed people who are forced to watch that group through a little zoo-like window into the wine room.

Four servers, a sommelier, and the executive chef tend to the miscreants. The tab—which is buttressed by a tip to end all tips—is nothing that is discussed in too much detail. In a wash of sorbet, 18 year-old scotch, and bloody red meat, the group disappears out the front door.

It probably wasn’t real, except for the fact that it was.

Photo by Tim Whims

You shouldn’t mistake these people for losers, although at first blush you could be forgiven. Most of these cretins live and work in polite society. They are the people who make your computers pop. They make your banks run, the legal system survive, and your body operate the way it should. They are hedonists, many of whom prefer to spend their cash now than on a gold casket when they die. We don’t talk about each other’s rolls, but if there isn’t a millionaire in the group yet, there probably will be in a few years.

Money doesn’t matter though, because the reason they all came in town has nothing to do with cash. While poker might have been the reason the core group started massaging each other’s egos, the game is now more an afterthought than raison d’être. Moreover, many of us are actually competitors in the same market. We have been competing for the same dollar for the past five or six years. The money that one of us makes can make the other have to work harder.

None of that will explain why two unknown girls started kissing in an Irish bar Saturday night at BG’s mere unspoken and mental suggestion, but it’s a start, and as much as I’m going to tell you for now.

Photo by Tim Whims

“I’m not going to fawn over you this trip,” I said to one friend.

“I don’t want you to,” he said.

The problem is that this is a mutual admiration society. Where in other realms this group of people might be ignored—or, worse—shunned—in this little microcosm, they are celebrated. By the time we get done telling each other how much we love what the other is doing, we’ve killed an hour of time we could be plotting to conquer the world, or, better yet, take over a small island. And it’s no real exaggeration to suggest that there are some people capable of just that.

If there is one flaw this ragtag group shares is that, often, the traits for which they are best known, are often not what they really represent. The collective warmth, talent, foresight, courage, and ability is something that is not just hidden—it’s usually consciously, strategically hidden. Or, put another way, the dwarf really isn’t a dwarf.

“We should be better friends,” the friend said three days later after we lapsed into half an hour of inevitable fawning.

“Yes, we should be,” I said.

Then I admitted to him that there was a period of time I suspected him of murder.

Photo by Tim Whims

Somewhere in St. Louis there are about 20 homeless folks walking around in baseball shirts with the word “mastodon” misspelled on the front. This is not my fault, but I bear some responsibility, because I know Chilly.

Chilly is an instigator by reputation. He likes to start debates and will be known to steal the occasional shot of alcohol from in front of a thirsty person. He is a teddy bear at heart. He had souvenir shirts made for everyone who came to visit last weekend. The first time through, the screen printer spelled “mastodon” with an “a.”

I don’t feel so bad about the homeless man who will be wearing the #4 “Otis” shirt, but the poor dude walking around in the #420 “Dr. Pauly” shirt is going to spend a lot of time getting hassled by the heat.

Photo by Tim Whims

Why do it?

I don’t know, really.

I guess I just like the idea that–even if they have to come in from two countries and a dozen different states–it’s nice to know there a really good people in the world. It’s nice to know that if I needed something or someone, I have folks all over the place who would stop everything and help me take care of it.

That is, you can’t have enough good people in your life. We have scant few years to breathe and I want to spend that time with people who bring me joy.

* * *
I could count recount last weekend’s events moment by moment, but others do it better than me. Just search around the blogs, Twitter, and Facebook for “mastodon weekend” and you’ll see more than I’d ever hoped you would. I would still be remiss if I didn’t thank Mark (yes, The Mark) and all of his associates for their time and efforts to make the weekend so good. Also, many thanks to Bustout Poker Apparel for sponsoring our little event and making sure we were well fed, clothed, and paid. To the owners and staff of Azia, Rick Erwins, and every bar in the downtown area (except that one that has never been any good), thanks for putting up with us and treating us like the kings we pretend we are. A big thanks to my co-hosts BadBlood, The Mark, and G-Rob (who helped in a lot of the planning despite being sick in bed the whole weekend) for all your efforts.