Russ Ringsak

Icicles, Straight Flush, Snowthrower

March 5, 2013

It has been some time since we last chatted -- some people say stuff like that -- and I have no good reason for the silence other than a fundamental character flaw, apparently incorrigible, and therefore not to be discussed. Hard to make nice about it, like trying to apologize for having a big cockroach tattooed on your forehead.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

It was a good road trip starting back in West Lafayette, Indiana and then to Louis Sullivan's glorious gift to the world, the Auditorium Theater in Chicago; from there to Houston, a personal favorite, where, sitting in front of our hotel, sat this automobile. An early 30's Cadillac roadster, winner of the 1996 Antique Automobile Club of America's First Prize. Eight cylinders and a rumble seat, and the driving lights could be aimed with a lever from the cockpit. One of the coolest cars ever built.

Whatta Caddie
Whatta Caddie

And a couple blocks away there stands one of the coolest unarmed bass players ever built.

A soothing presence when the traffic gets thick.
A soothing presence when the traffic gets thick.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

From Houston drove to a five week December stand in New York's sweet Town Hall. Took the truck back home after loading in and chilled out until January, during which time a great solid mat of dense frozen snow broke free on the steep roof of the barn. It slid down but not all the way down, and curled underneath the eave and created horizontal icicles. Something few ever get to see, and these are not wind blown; these icicles were hanging straight down until the snow came down and curled back on itself.

You need a large barn with a smooth metal roof, a heavy wet snowfall frozen enough to bond itself into one big comforter, and then just the right early thaw to break it loose. But only loose enough to not hit the ground. It has to stall out about a third of the way down. And then you get the Miracle of the Horizontal Icicle:

Rare and short-lived; they only lasted until noon and then collapsed in a heap.
Rare and short-lived; they only lasted until noon and then collapsed in a heap.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

We took a week's break over New Year's and then rolled westward for two weekends working that beautiful opera hall in San Francisco. Between shows I rented a car and drove to Reno and pretty much spent five days playing two-dollar no-limit Texas Hold 'Em.

On the first evening in the poker room of the Atlantis hotel casino there occurred a miracle hand. The game is usually seven at the table, each dealt only two cards. Three common cards are laid face up in the center. These are called the Flop, and a round of betting follows. A fourth flop card is called the Turn and y'all bet again or else git out. Then comes the River card and the last betting round.

On this hand the flop came out Ace-five-six, all spades. Bets were placed and most players folded, including this one. A six of diamonds fell on the Turn. More betting. The River was the four of spades and now there were just two betters and a nice hefty pot. The guy at the end of the table made a medium-size bet. I was pretty sure they each had a spade flush and it was just a matter of who held the higher spade in his hand. My man said, "All in," meaning his entire stack. The other guy called it.

They showed their cards: deuce and three of spades here, seven and eight of spades down there. If you haven't fallen asleep on me by now you are realizing that they each had a straight flush, which is five connected cards of the same suit. A monster; the best hand in poker. My table neighbor's was six-high, from the deuce up through the six, and the winner held an eight-high, from the four through the eight; both were filled by that four of spades that came in on the River. The Ace did not figure in the hand because it was at the low end of the deck, beneath the deuce.

Eight cards to a straight flush; rare as a horizontal icicle.
Eight cards to a straight flush; rare as a horizontal icicle.

I'm telling this tale only because most casinos have a Bad Beat policy: if you hold a glittering hand like a straight flush and get beat with it the house gives you sweet consolation. Action stopped at the other tables as they watched the arrival in cash of $2500 to my man for losing the hand. The winner got the pot and they gave him a nice $1000 bonus, and, to my astonishment, they gave each of the rest of us at the table $180. None of the dealers or players there had ever before seen an eight-card straight flush in a live game.

The week of Hold'Em netted a profit of $30, which was okay considering some of the hardened vets at the tables there. But without that crazy Bad Beat straight flush, to which I was a paid witness, I would have been down $150. Still not a bad five days.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Myself and Hank the Truck cruised down middle California to Palm Desert, where I stayed in the lap of luxury with my old high school buddy from high school in Grafton, North Dakota; his wife went to bed and I kept him up until 2 AM. I had a lot of questions and my memory's not that great. A terrific time; we laughed a lot.

Left the next day about noon and headed to Tempe, Arizona where our troupe did a show at the Arizona State University's most excellent Gammage Auditorium. Done by another Chicago architect, name of Frank Lloyd Wright.

I visited my old biker pal Jack from Minnesota, who is retired in a fine little stucco one-story house in the southern spread of Phoenix. He has a tall cactus in his gravel yard. A quiet and peaceful place it is, too, except when the police helicopters come; that afternoon they did tighter and tighter circles over the house on the other side of the wall along Jack's back yard. So that was fun. Cop cars bombing around the block and stuff. He says that's not common there but he acted as if they might be after him; he's from Brooklyn and once did a stint at Riker's Island. The presence of police apparatus is not soothing to Jack. He wouldn't even step outside to look at the choppers.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

We returned to the northland and did two shows at the Overture Center for the Arts in Madison Wisconsin; a good place with a good hotel nearby, but a lot of late night work for the crew to get the truck loaded. We came home Sunday and later that week slid into the alley behind the Fitzgerald Theater where the hands took the gear inside for a nice relaxing February stand.

Dropped the trailer at the yard and put Hank in the back yard here at the Broken D ranch, plugged in the engine heater and set to clearing the driveway. A new snowtosser makes it easier, but it lacks a headlight. At nightfall I was clearing the last track in front of the truck and had covered the cord with snow on the previous pass and forgot about it. When I made the turn there came that awful sound of the snowthrower choking and gagging and slowing into a death rattle and I leapt forward to shut the engine down but by then it had that yellow 12-gauge wire wrapped tight around it's spiral blades eleven times at each end. Kind of a duel to the death there. Reminded me of those nature shows from the jungle swamp.

Minnesota version of the snake and crocodile.
Minnesota version of the snake and crocodile.

I still haven't cleared that cord out but I'll get at it as soon as I finish this report. It's going to snow here again. Soon. They say.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

© Russ Ringsak 2013

r.ringsak at gmail dot com

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