Cartagena y Bogota

I had always been curious about Cartagena and so, when less than an hour flight away in Panama, I decided to go check it out.

Cartagena is very interesting from a historical perspective. It was founded in 1533 by the Spanish and became the major trading hub for the entire region. This attracted all sorts of people including a multitude of pirates. In order to resist the various attacks, in the 17th century the Spanish Crown hired the services of prominent European military engineers to carry out the construction of fortresses, which are nowadays one of Cartagena’s clearest signs of identity.

If you are into history and seeing it in person, Cartagena should be on your list. Most of the walled city, existent for over 400 years still remain. Inside the walls it is a neat place, to be sure. The Plaza Santa Domingo is the place to go for a nice dinner in the warm Caribbean air in a beautiful old square surrounded by interesting architecture.

I stayed outside of the old walled city in the area called Boca Grande. I would advise anyone visiting against this. Boca Grande is quite old and run down and not very nice. The selling feature of this area is that it is on the beach, but the beach in Cartagena is not very nice at all. Most of the sand gets blown right off the beach in the gusty Cartagena weather, resulting in sand dunes piling up across the road from the beach. The remaining sand isn’t very nice at all… it is brown and basically looks like dirt. The water is not very nice looking either. If you are looking for a beach holiday, do not go to Cartagena.

I was there early in the week and therefore it was very tranquilo. Almost everywhere was basically empty. But some of the clubs and lounges, especially those built onto the walls of the old city themselves are quite neat.

As for the general vibe, it has the vibe of a bit of a tourist trap. It seems fairly shady and not all that nice at all. A lot of the tourist activity comes from many of the cruisers who use Cartagena as their first or last port upon transit, or before transit, on the Canal. So, most of the people in town are kinda older, sailing cruisers. As much as I really admire their spunk (sailing ain’t easy! I wouln’t want to do it at 60!) and their lifestyle (free, nomadic), cruisers in general are usually a goofy bunch… not to mention they are of the poor folk who employ the “I’ll work hard all my life and then relax and drink a beer on a beach when I’m 90 years old” type-a-folks… so, the crowd in Cartagena is not exactly my preferred entendre.

So, in an attempt to find any sort of interesting activity I asked the local taxi driver where is a good nightclub (nightclub in all of Latin America, refers to a gentlemans club… a place for social dancing and drinking is called a discotheque). He ended up taking me to some super shady place… it was actually a house… there were about 25 guys inside, and one barely attractive girl gyrating lazily about. The funny part was, nearly half the crowd were all police officers, complete with their full police vests on. Actually, now that I think of it, there were tons and tons of “police� in Cartagena… I use the term loosely because many of them looked like they were almost school kids… it’s like they give half the people in town a police vest and a gun. Good old centralized law enforcement!

Briefly, on the topic of police, the whole idea and concept of arming a small percentage of the population and giving them the ability to harass and molest others is a ridiculous system. It has generated millions of helpless people who cannot sort things out for themselves, much less defend themselves in any way. If someone is harassing you, it is actually against the law to pull out a gun and tell them to beat it. You must call a government telephone number and somewhere between 10 minutes and never, they may show up and “save� you. Laughably, many people believe police actually help stop crime. This is absolutely not the case. All police ever do is show up after you call them and write down what happened. You could have a million police officers and it would not change the amount of theft or violent acts one iota. Sure, every now and then they do actually catch someone who had committed a crime. But if people could take the law into their own hands and/or were able to hire private, free-market investigators, the amount of justice dealt out for offences would increase exponentially. And don’t even get me started on the concept of putting people in cages (jail) for violating the laws of the land! A useless, expensive waste of time.

That’s my libertarian rant for the day… back to Cartagena…

In general, I was disappointed with Cartagena. I had hoped it would have been better than it was. I hoped it’d be nicer… more beautiful… more fun and lively.

I think I made a mistake in my choice of venue, gauging from conversations with others and information I have gleaned from elsewhere. It appears the place to go that is more nice, fun and lively is Santa Marta, a short bus or plane ride away, near Baranquillo. But I wanted to move on, so I did not go there.

Colombia, in general, does not have as many beautiful women as in most of Central America. Obviously it has some… Shakira being a prime example! But in terms of neck-turning beauties, Colombia is much less-so than places such as Mexico and Nicaragua.

This, combined with the fact that I could not find good poker action (although I heard afterwards there is one good place, on the other side of the airport, but I never found it) had me itching to hit the road.

So I booked a flight on Avianca from Cartagena, connecting through Bogota, to Willemstad, Curacao.

But, upon arrival in Bogota I was advised that the Bogota-Curacao portion of the flight was cancelled and the next flight was for the next day. I asked them if they were going to supply me with a hotel room for the night as per normal convention. No. Can I cancel the ticket and get a refund? No. Ok, thanks!

But, I wasn’t too upset, being as I like Bogota, so I hopped a taxi and headed to the Zona Rosa district. I walked around for 2 hours looking for hotels but they were all full! I finally found a hotel, 20 minutes away, in downtown Bogota.

Later that night I cabbed it back to Zona Rosa and ended up playing at a cool new poker room called Rockefeller, owned by two American guys. The stakes weren’t very big but the action was good. I actually ended up closing down an entire table when I busted every single person at the table!

I then ventured out… but being a Wednesday night it was again very tranquilo. Hardly any discotheques had any people. And so I headed back to the hotel.

Bogota is still a fun, nice place to visit, although most of its nighttime action centers around Thursday-Saturday. I briefly considered getting a place in Bogota near the Zona Rosa and it’s restaurants, discos and casinos but I think I will leave Bogota as a nice place to visit when in the area and leave it at that. If ONLY Mexico and Thailand had legal gaming, I’d never even consider going elsewhere. Argh. What a ridiculous law… no wagering on events! Everything in life is a wager on an outcome! Jezuz. How can people stand this global prison we live in??? Thankfully all of Mexico and Thailand’s other freedoms and treasures make up for this loss.

Anyway, the next day I again attempted to make it to Curacao. Updates from Willemstad, Curacao soon to follow.

*note: I may actually head back to Cartagena, and possibly Santa Marta later this week. Why would I do such a thing? Well, why do I ever do anything? A girl of course. More later.

Panama City – 3 Years Later

It has been 3 years since I last visited Panama City, Panama, and even in such a short period of time the changes are very noticeable.

My perception of Panama in 2005 was that it was a small to mid-sized city that was fairly quiet and a bit shady.

Now it seems much more like a big global city. It feels a lot more like Dubai than San Jose, Costa Rica, on this time around.

There are dozens and dozens of new skyscrapers, real estate projects, huge discotheques and the crowd is very diverse. There are, unfortunately, lots of Camericans… but there are also a wide variety of latinos from across Latin America as well as plenty of Europeans and Asians.

To give a comedic example of just how diverse the place has become, I was playing poker at a table that had 3 men that were very obviously from Mainland China. They spoke loud, constant Mandarin and even had special ordered in Mandarin food full with chopsticks and slurping of the rice. This wasn’t the funny part. The funny part was when they wanted to get my attention on something. I didn’t notice at first… they whistled a bit, and waved… finally they said, “hey… hey gringo.� LOL, you know Panama is becoming quite diverse when mainland Chinese guys here are calling me gringo!

There are a few cities in the world, right now, that I call the new ‘global cities’. These comprise of Bangkok, Dubai and Panama City (past global cities used to include places such as Rome, Shanghai, London and NYC but they have all faded due to their ongoing restrictions of freedom and opportunity). Mainly due to their economic (Thailand less so unfortunately)and social freedom (Dubai less so unfortunately), something lost long ago in the Anglosphere, people from around the world have been piling into these oasis’ in what has otherwise become a global police state.

Interestingly, they all are almost equidistant from each other and each of them represents an entire region. Bangkok, for Asia… Dubai, for the middle east and Europe and Panama City for the Americas.

Panama seems to be leading the pack in terms of both economic and social freedom and thus appears to be attracting people in droves.

Interestingly, Panama was bombed in 1989, exactly because of the freedom here. Any guesses on who bombed and invaded them? It’s easy… the same fascist government that has bombed, invaded or occupies practically every country on the planet, the neo-nazis.. sorry, I always get them confused. The neocon American government!

They attacked Panama because Panama had a free banking system. This irked the US because drug money could be laundered through Panama easily. Plants (marijuana, coco leaf etc), like most things, are illegal in the US and therefore they attacked another country because they hated them for their freedom. Sound familiar.

Anyway… I have bounded off into the usual territory here… let me get back to talking about Panama.

One thing that is very interesting about Central America, and South America too for that matter, is the unique ethnic variations in various regions. For example, in a place such as Nicaragua it is fairly rare to see many dark skinned people. In fact, the great majority of residents there are direct European descendants.

In Panama however the mix is dramatically different. Some believe that Ethiopian pirates began washing up on the shores here in the 16th century. And soon after, African slaves were brought here by the boatload. This, combined with the ubiquitous U.S. military presence here, which is comprised of a lot of lower-income African Americans (the modern day slaves of America), has a decidedly darker-skinned mix here in Panama than in any other country in the entire region.

The growth and influx of foreigners here has created many disparities. They are everywhere. As example, on driving in from the airport, you still pass by numerous shanty towns, but now many of the multi-million-dollar-mega-Donald Trumpesque-skyscrapers are all starting to crowd around these shanty towns making for an unusual site.

As well, many of the truly local people, especially the African Panamians really seem to have that laid-back, Caribbean style and attitude. They are in no rush… this, juxtapositioned against many of the country’s new inhabitants who live a more fast-paced capitalistic lifestyle. As example of just how laid back some of the people here are, I took a taxi from the airport. The taxi driver was really nice and mostly just wanted to lazily chit chat. We were on the highway into town, of which the marked speed limit is 90 km/h. He averaged, at best, 70km/h. To make things worse, he didn’t seem to know the normal convention of the left lane being the fast lane, and he drove the ENTIRE way in the left lane, doing nearly half the speed limit! Cars were honking, high beaming us constantly. He was completely oblivious to it.

At one point I figured there must be a problem with his car or something, to be going so slow. So I asked, “Your car doesn’t go any faster?�. Again, oblivious to the reason for my question, he responded, “Ahh, yes it can. But I always say…. Why rush,� and he continued on unchanged!!

I played poker for two nights at the Veneto Casino which has a poker room comprising of about 10 tables which gets pretty busy after 9pm every night. The skill-level was quite good with many of the players there being rounders who play there every night. The people at the poker table mirrored the new Panama. To my left was a guy from Israel who now lived in Panama. To his left was a guy from Calgary, Canada, who now lived in Panama and was a realtor. An older lady, originally from the middle east was next… beside her was a beautiful Indian girl from Mumbai who had recently moved there with her new husband… and the remaining players were local, light skinned, European-Panamanians.

As for my final thoughts on Panama… again, this city has left me unsure. I enjoyed it much more this time around. It is much more of my kind of place now. Bigger, more diverse, more activity. But would I want to live in Panama? I still leave that question open. I think I much prefer the more latino-centric styles of Mexico and Nicaragua… I love how they are much more in tune with life… but, definitely, if you want to be in one of the places where things are really happening, go to one of the 3 big, new global cities. I’d rate Panama over Dubai, mainly because of Dubai’s bizarre, hypocritical social views (based on Islam)… and while I wish Thailand’s latest governments weren’t so stupid economically and in terms of things such as tourist visas and property ownership, I still rate Bangkok above Panama… but that is no slight on Panama City. I rate Bangkok higher than everywhere!

In the meantime, I have recently taken the short 40 minute flight from Panama City to Cartagena, Colombia. I will have updates from the Caribbean coast of Colombia soon.

Managua, Nicaragua

I spent two days in Managua, the city & country that are fun to say. Where are you? Managua, Nicaragua!

Before arriving I had already booked an outbound flight to Panama with the presumption that I wouldn’t like Managua much. But I was wrong!

As usual, the internet was out-of-date and did not give a very good description of Managua. It was clear that many of the editorials written about Managua were written at least a few years ago because many of the negative comments didn’t seem to fit modern-day Managua. There were comments about how poor the city is… which just didn’t seem to be the case. It may have been much poorer in the past, but the city seems to be in a definite period of growth.

The airport, while small, is nice and new. There are numerous modern shopping malls, including the Metrocentro and the Gallerias Santa Domingo. I stayed at a very luxurious and nice hotel, called the Real Metrocentro (part of the Intercontinental hotel chain) for less than $100/night and it was nicer than most hotels in communist Canada or bankrupt America.

A few internet posters had commented that there isn’t much to see and do in Managua and it should only be a 1-2 day stopover en route to the rest of the country. Well, the thing I realized about these comments is that many people go to places such as Managua to do the tourist circuit and go see old churches and stuff. Things I never, ever do. If I really cared about an old church, I’d just look it up on the internet… I don’t need to go look at in person.

When I travel all I care about is the vibe. Meeting and seeing the people and enjoying the differences in their style and culture. Many times I arrive in a city and by sundown I already have a local girlfriend. My favorite is to actually end up staying the night, or longer, at her abode. This, in my opinion, is by far the most interesting and educational way to learn about the people and the place.

For what I look for, Managua is a great place to visit at this time. It has a great vibe. The people are very nice and friendly and relaxed. The girls are really beautiful (check out a few of the most recent Miss Nicaraguas as example!) and are very easy to talk to.

There are a few fairly high-end discothecas, which I always like. One of the better ones I visited was Hipa Hipa. The crowd was very good. Nicaraguans have a nice mix of colors and flavors. The majority of Nicaraguans are direct descendants of Spain, so most are light skinned, but with enough mixing of local native cultures and styles to have some nice flavor.

Managua had many similarities to San Jose, Costa Rica… although smaller and much, much cheaper and with much less crime. In fact, Nicaragua has the lowest level of crime in all of Central America, not that many of the other places are all that dangerous, but I would say that if you worry about things such as crime, you’d be much better off in Managua than, for example, a city like Vancouver.

If you are business minded, I would highly, highly recommend Nicaragua. It appears to me, in many ways, to be like Costa Rica probably was 20-30 years ago. It is nicely developed yet still has the great majority of its growth likely ahead. An investment into a business in Nicaragua will almost surely do well over the coming decade. I’d put it easily in the top 10 of countries with potential, if not right near the very top.

Latino Americanos always seem to have a warm spot for socialism/communism, unfortunately. Although that appears to be gradually changing in most places. Nicaragua spent much of the latter part of the 20th century battling between it’s stupid communist side (the Sandinistas) and it’s more rational side (well, everything is more rational than communism). But freedom and free markets seems to have really taken root in Nicaragua. 90% of all industries were privatized in the last decade and now that there are no civil conflicts the place really seems to be blossoming.

The casinos could use a bit of work though, imo! I showed up to one at the Crowne Plaza but it was closed, strangely enough. Then I went to Pharoahs Casino on Masaya road which apparently had the only operating poker tables in town. They had 3 tables but mostly ran sit-n-go style tournaments and only had one cash table. I am not sure what the maximum buy-in was but I bought in for 3,000 pesos ($150 dollars) as that appeared to be about what most people had. It was a $1/$2 blind no limit game.

The players at the table seemed to mirror Managua’s population. There were a few Korean guys (Managua seems to have a fairly significant amount of Asian immigrants) who appeared to have lived in the city for a considerable length of time. There was an old retired man, likely from the US (similar to Costa Rica, it appears Nicaragua is becoming a place many Americans look to retire). And the remainder were local Nicaraguan businessmen and a few younger Nica guys.

In general the skill level was quite a bit higher than a place like the Dominican Republic and Manila. One of the Korean guys pulled off a fairly good bluff on me at one point. But the game was still quite loose and not too difficult. But the game was irritating… the casino had a policy of counting up ALL the winning chips in the pot, after EVERY hand, and then the dealer would sit there and calculate in his head, under great mental duress apparently, the casinos rake. This added about an extra minute or two to every hand, resulting in an incredibly slow pace of play. This, combined with the fact that every single person at the table was smoking cigarettes and cigars, in a fairly unventilated back room, resulted in my stay being short.

Besides that, however, I very much enjoyed my time in Managua. It was also helped by having spent a fair amount of time with a girl who looked a lot like Jennifer Lopez. 😉

I’d have no problem spending a significant amount of time in Managua and I am now curious about some of the Nicaraguan beach areas. If I’m in the area again, I will definitely spend more time there and even look to possibly purchase some real estate, with the intention of visiting regularly and for investment.

As for now, I am on the plane to Panama. It’s been a few weeks since I’ve had any decent poker action and Panama appears to be growing like crazy and apparently has numerous decent sized cash games and tournaments now, so I wanted to go check that out.

I’ll spend a few days in Panama and then I am going to tour around a bit in Colombia and Venezuela (Cartagena, Santa Marta, Maricaibo and Caracas, most likely). The amount of beautiful girls in this entire region is seriously ludicrous. Even though my condo purchase fell through in Acapulco I think I am definitely going to have to get a little place somewhere around here… maybe Panama… maybe Nicaragua, maybe Mexico… maybe Colombia. And spend more time in this whole region. Once again, Latin America and Asia are living up to all my expectations, and more.

Hasta Luego.

The Rollercoaster life of Berwick

Well… I just assumed that if a place was on the market, and had been for a year, and I made a decent offer on it, I would get it. If so, I assumed incorrectly!

It turns out the owners have decided to “deed it to their daughter” and therefore it is no longer for sale. That left only one question: what does their daughter look like? 😛

Whew, that was close! I very nearly settled down!

Actually, truth be told, after talking to my crazy Thai gf I was already looking at flights back to Bangkok and was considering putting off this purchase until after the summer anyway, as I began to feel very uncomfortable the last few days with the thought of staying in one place. Even staying here the last few days waiting to hear back on the offer had me feeling uncomfortable and constantly looking at airline schedules.

So… that is the end of my few-days of nearly being unhomeless. I will be off on the first flight out in the morning… to where? I dunno, maybe Managua.

I’ll likely continue on my before-planned journey, before hitting the Dominican in the next week or three to take care of some business and then will likely travel up through Camerica on my way back to Thailand and surroundings for April-May… unless something completely else happens!

Well I did it

After years of living out of a backpack and having no fixed address I have actually bought a place… or, at least, I am putting in an offer on a place on Monday.

It took me years of traveling to figure out that the two places I LOVE to be are in Mexico and in Thailand. And both pretty much for the same reasons: the food, the girls, the weather, the freedom, the lifestyle.

And, I have now narrowed down my favorite cities/locales in Mexico & Thailand down to just a few spots… Bangkok, Acapulco, Phuket, Huatulco.

And since I now have that narrowed down I have been having thoughts of buying a small place in one or both countries and spending half the year living in one spot and half the year in another, with travels in between for enjoyment.

And so, today I called a realty agent about a condo that I actually first noticed on the internet a year ago. It sounded perfect for me and so I thought I’d take a look.

Well, what I saw was so perfect for me that I decided to make an offer on the place right then and there.

It was so much better than how they described it on the internet. Here are a few of the things they completely neglect to mention. It is THE penthouse of the building, all by itself… it is the entire top floor… and is so ultra-private that the elevators don’t even go there, as it basically IS the roof of the building. So you have to take the elevator to the top floor and then up a private staircase to even get to it. In the ad they mention it has a patio… that is a bit of an understatement! It is a massive patio that encompasses the entire top of the building… you could easily have a party for 50+ people on the patio alone… and it even has a built in custom stone hot-tub on the patio!!

The view is pretty much next-to-none ON THE PLANET. It is on the 20th floor, ON the beach, in the very middle of Acapulco Bay… the views, day and night, are literally ridiculous.

The building is very nice… has a definite Miami Beach modern feel to it and it has 2 huge swimming pools that are as nice as any I have ever seen at any hotel… and you can just walk straight out onto beautiful Acapulco beach from there. And the Acapulco golf & tennis club is LITERALLY across the street. I am 40 steps away from teeing off!!!! Also, just steps away are dozens of restaurants, bars and shops.

I intend to throw up two Star Choice satellite dishes (Canada’s Star Choice satellites have a footprint that extends down past Guatemala) which will give me full Canadian and US HDTV… will have 2 large flat screens and, of course, an Xbox and a huge sound system which I will also put out on the deck. I will also do some interior redesign to make it look super cool… and then I will sit at my penthouse, on Acapulco beach, watching NHL hockey in HD and playing Halo 3 on Xbox while sipping Modelo Especials, brought to me by a regular line-up of beautiful Mexicana chicas and eating Al Pastor tacos!!!!!

Can you sense I am excited?!

All my friends are always welcome to come down… and since I probably won’t even be there for half the year, each year, you can even have the place to yourself sometimes… This place is, seriously, the most pimpin apartment in Acapulco… I will very quickly become the king of Acapulco with all the riches that entails!

This is going to be ridiculous!

Acapooooooolllcoooooo

I am definitely not adopted. Here is how I know… my Dad is (or at least was) known for his impatience and testosterone-fueled proclivity to just snap. For example, once, we were on a family roadtrip vacation in the Western US. We were in Seattle at the time and were looking for parking for a restaurant… my Dad circled the block once and couldn’t find a spot. He then circled the block again… still, no spots.

“That’s it!” he growled and sped off home. Home, by the way, was over 700 miles away in Edmonton.

Well… I was in LA, playing some poker and seeing some friends and having a nice enough time. I had only booked my hotel until Tuesday initially as I wasn’t sure how long I was going to stay. I decided I was going to stay a bit longer and called downstairs to reception and they told me the hotel was full after Tuesday, meaning I would have to switch hotels.

“That’s it!” I said to myself and immediately booked a flight to Acapulco.

Ahhhhhh. I love Mexico so much. And it is enhanced by the relief of getting out of LAX, one of the worst prison camps slash airports in the world. But even just arriving at the fairly crappy (at least in the old Terminal 1… the new Terminal 2 is very nice) Mexico City airport I was already in a good mood… and my mood was even better when I discovered a small little Taco Al Pastor shop I hadn’t noticed on prior stopovers.

Upon landing yet again in Acapulco and feeling that hot, ultra-humid tropical air that is unique to this region, I felt soothed and happy.

Within hours I was being chased around by some beautiful Mexicana girls who remembered me from my last trip here and I was back in heaven.

I think I’ll stay the week here, possibly looking at some condos as I love it here… and then probably move on to Puerto Vallarta where I have an invitation to stay at my broker’s friends 30,000 square foot (??!!!) villa… Tacos, latinas and villas… you won’t see me snapping anytime soon and booking a flight outta here.

Viva Mexico!

La La

I’m still in LA but thought I would make a few observations to further litter the internet.

First, I had NO idea what a mecca of poker LA is… I used to live here, in 2003/2004 but I didn’t play poker back then so never noticed. But this area is home to some huge poker rooms. In fact, I heard that there are more poker tables here than anywhere else in the world, including Vegas.

I’ve been playing the last few days at the Commerce Casino. It is massive. It is such a difference from communist Australia, where the only government-mandated poker room in all of Sydney is at the Star City Casino… and there are about 15 tables and a waiting list for each of the tables of at least 2-6 hours!!!

I walked up to the casino in Commerce and overlooked the never ending sprawl of poker tables and naively asked where I sign up for the waiting list. They just gave me a blank stare and asked me what I wanted to play. I told them and they started shouting out, “5-10… 5-10 no limit!”… all of a sudden, guys in suits around the room started waving their arms, telling me to come there for a seat. There is no such thing as waiting here! It is great! It’s the way it should be everywhere, but in most places, things are so over-regulated that they just never operate efficiently. Luckily, it appears, the US at least still appears to be a leader in this area… I’ve never seen anything like this.

I have only played in two tournaments so far and played very well in both but finished both just outside the money due to just pure bad luck. I was getting short-stacked on one tournament and had to go all-in… I went all-in pre-flop with A9… a stupid little idiot guy who had been playing terribly the whole tourney, but had been super lucky, sat for 2 minutes contemplating a call with his equal-sized chip stack. Finally he called… with Q-7?!?! Of course he got a Q… sigh. It’s okay though, I always judge my play on my calls and not how the cards work out in the end… and yet again, I had made the right call, only to hit some bad luck.

Aside from poker my only other comment is on the sheer amount of latinos here. Everyone knows that LA has a lot of Mexicans but in the last few days I would have to say that I feel like a definite minority. Half the radio stations are spanish and even most of the ones that are English have spanish-accented English speaking DJ’s!

Considering California was part of Mexico for a period of time and up to 1846 when the war-prone Americans took it over, it actually makes sense how many latinos are here.

I have numerous predictions and one of them is that most of the lower US will secede from the nation of America and either join Mexico or start up it’s own nation, likely sometime in the next 20 years, based on demographic and cultural shifts here. Which, by the way, is fine. If every country broke into 2-100 different independent areas it would be a lot better than most of these countries, with various highly marginalized groups all constantly battling each other to institute their own values and ideas on the other groups. In fact, when the US was started, it was meant to be that way… it was essentially 13 states (colonies) in 1787 that all joined under one banner (the UNITED STATES of America) in order to facilitate trade and ease of movement, but it was always designed to be highly independent states. That all changed over the years as various groups slowly took away all of the states power and consolidated it under one fascist national government which has become a complete disaster and is actually un-American.

Anyway, that’ll all unwind soon enough.

In the meantime, I’ve been enjoying my stay in California much more than I thought and a lot of it is because of the definite latino-centric style here… not to mention the multitude of Asians who have all migrated here, making for a really nice mix of people and cultures. When I lived here a few years ago I mainly stuck to Santa Monica and Hollywood… both heavily caucasian areas and hated it. In hindsight I would have likely been much happier in more latino-asian areas. Ah well, can’t change that now.

But seeing these vibrant and beautiful latinas around has me eager to get right into the heart of Mexico… I’ll likely take off on Wednesday or Thursday for either Puerto Vallarta or Acapulco… haven’t decided which one yet…

Til then….

L.A. Revisited

I haven’t been in LA since I sailed off on my sailboat in 2004 and have only been here for a day, so far, but it has been quite enjoyable.

L.A., generally, sucks, but compared to Vancouver, it actually seems idyllic. But that is more of a comment on horrible Vancouver than it is on L.A.

I arrived at 5pm and spent an hour sitting in traffic heading out to Hollywood and then slept from 7-11pm before heading out to my buddy, Suk’s, new nightclubs, Opera & Crimson.

Suk, for those of you who don’t know him, is one of the nicest, coolest guys in the world… and he also happens to be the biggest club promoter in Hollywood, which has it’s side benefits! I quickly bypassed the block-long line and was given a tour of the establishment along with complimentary beverages. It still boggles my mind that almost anywhere in the world I am treated as a VIP, except for Vancouver (except equally horrible Australia and England). It’s nice to be treated with a bit of respect sometimes!

One thing I have remembered, since I’ve been here, is how enjoyable the climate is. It probably is one of the best climates in the world, if not the best. Almost every day is 22-30c and sunny… rarely too hot and very rarely too cold. I enjoy Thailand and Mexico’s climates as well, but their sun usually comes with an intense burning feeling which is best utilized poolside and not whilst walking about.

I’m off to the Commerce casino in an hour to play in some World Poker Tour tourneys… we’ll see how that goes. But the accommodations and overall vibe so far have been very nice here, so, even if poker doesn’t go especially well, I may hang around here for a bit (a bit, in Berwick-ese, is about 4-8 days). Plus the devalued American Dollar makes things even nicer.

But, being surrounded by a plethora of latina beauties in Cali has me pining a bit to get back to Mexico… my second favorite paradise on this planet. Tacos and latinas, ay mami! We’ll see how long I last here. But so far, so good. It definitely beats Soviet Canuckistan.

Listen

I know many of you are tired of my rants… I understand. However, I am going to tell you one last time what kind of a weird, bizarro world you live in.

Whenever I come to Camerica… it’s like the record scratches… time stops… I feel suicidal… I turn on the radio and it is either some country singer singing about how she lost her job and her husband cheats on her and her dog is dead or it is some talk-radio station talking about how they need centralized legislation to try to stop people from having fun, drinking, doing drugs, driving fast, having sex or what not.

If you are unhappy and you live in Camerica, let me tell you this: GO to either latin America or Asia, ASAP, before you die a slow death.

Camerica… and W Europe, and Australia are purgatory.

It is only due to the deep powder and the nice hot showers here in Whistler that I am even able to keep civil for a few days.

You have NO idea how bad this place is until you leave it.

I will likely rant again, but this is my last ran for a while, as I soon leave for LA to play in some poker tourneys and then on to the blue skies and good vibes of Mexico and the Caribbean.

If you choose to stay in Camerica, good luck to you. You are the forsaken. I can do no more for you.

Snowboarding, Gay Pride & Poker

I spent a week in Vancouver… time flew by pretty fast as I spent most of that week sleeping… I still am not completely over my jetlag… I wake up at 7am SHARP every morning… but I feel pretty good, so that is good. Plus 7am is not a terrible time to awaken. I prefer noon-ish, but hey, that’s just me.

I went up snowboarding to Cypress and am currently in Whistler. As much as I rag on Canada, it obviously has some good qualities, and skiing and snowboarding resorts is one of them. Whistler is stupidly expensive (more on that below) but it is pretty damn amazing to have a world class ski resort about 100 km’s away from Vancouver.

I’ve only been here a day so far but it’s been really awesome. I wasn’t going to go here, at first, because of how expensive the hotels are. But a friend of mine told me about a deal at whistler.com, called Suite Secrets, which offers 4 & 5 star hotel rooms at about half price. Basically, they tell you all about the hotel, but don’t tell you the name until you book it. But they literally copy & paste the text descriptions from hotels such as the Westin’s websites, word for word, so it is pretty blatantly obvious which hotel you are going to get. I managed to get the Westin in Whistler for $196+tax/night which, for Whistler, is outstanding.

The Whistler Westin is, btw, a fabulous hotel too. I always really enjoy staying here. Their shower pressure, and hot water, are second to none… and after spending a day on the frozen alpine, nothing… NOTHING feels better than a scalding hot, intense shower (Their hot tub is great too but I couldn’t go there today for reasons I describe below).

I always used to come up to Whistler on the weekends but for those who want to enjoy the mountain, I highly recommend getting up mid-week… it is so much better. The conditions today were excellent and there was no line-ups anywhere and it felt like I had half the mountain to myself.

But as I was walking around today I noticed all sorts of rainbow colored flags and gay-innuendo stuff… and then I realized… it is gay-pride week in Whistler!! Argh! This only really pisses me off because I was here 5 years ago and completely by fluke again, was here during gay pride week.

I know what you are thinking…. “suuuuuurrreeee, Jeff”… just a coincidence, again eh! But I assure you, I have no interest to participate in these kind of activities!

But, I tell you, gay guys REALLY like me. Here is proof… I checked in and got to my room and the phone rings… I answer and a guy on the other end says, “Jeff?”… I was confused because I don’t know any guy who knows I am here… I answer, “uh, ya?”… then he says, “You going to the hot tub now?”… NOW I was really confused!!?? So I said, “Who is this??”… he says, “Russ.”… Russ? That has to be the gayest name I’ve ever heard. I told him, “I don’t know you”… and after a long awkward pause he apologized and hung up.

There is no way that it was a fluke coincidence that some dude was trying to call some guy named Jeff and ask him to go to the hot tub and got my # by mistake… I have no idea who or how they got my info but it goes further to my proof that I am definitely attractive to gay men! Sigh. So, for obvious reasons, I am steering clear of the hot tub area today.

Why can’t it be girls who find out my # and call me the second I show up at a hotel and ask me to come down to the hot tub with them… if only a paradise like that existed! Oh wait, it does… Asia. :)

POKER

I know many of you don’t care about poker, so you can stop reading now. But I had yet another stellar performance in Vancouver and am so happy at my continued domination that I had to write about it.

I played at the Edgewater casino, downtown, which has a pretty live poker room.

I won a huge $2,000 pot (big for a $2/$5 game!!) with a pair of AA’s. But the reason I won so much is what makes it interesting. It was what I had done on some prior hands.

I had hit quite a few hands and hadn’t shown my cards on many of them and I could tell my table image was starting to become that of a bluffer, even though I hadn’t bluffed too much.

I was in one pot with 2 guys, one guy sitting to my left who was drinking, but didn’t appear too drunk… but definitely a bit buzzed (a dangerous state to be in, in a poker game). They both played the hand like they had something fairly good, but they were both very scared of what I had, I could tell… plus the board looked a bit dangerous. So, I decided to play the hand like I had the nuts. I bet on each betting round, but not too much… just enough to look like I was trying to slowly get their chips. By my bet on the river they both figured I must have a big hand and they both folded. I was about to muck my cards when I realized, by showing my 2,4 (on a board of 10, J, K, 7, 8) I could really get a lot of value for the bluff on future hands when I did have a good hand. So I flipped my cards over… the guy to my left looked skyward and was making all kinds of sounds, like he was in a lot of pain!

He looked at the other guy in the hand and said, “I thought he had the nuts… he played the hand just like he had the nuts”… I laughed, “really?”.

Then about 10 minutes later I got the AA’s. I was sitting on a huge stack at the time… and so was the guy to my left after he had just won a huge pot. One player raised… I reraised… the guy to my left called and the other guy folded. So I was heads up with the guy to my left.

The flop came 10, J, 5… I bet $500… he called. He called?? The only way someone calls there is if they have JJ and want to try to slow-play. That was definitely on my mind. But I looked at him… he was clenching his jaw and was definitely anxious about something. I know that my bluff on the prior hand really hurt him… plus I knew I really was starting to get an image of being a bluffer…

I figured if he had JJ he probably would reraise me, hoping to get me to bluff, all-in. So I considered for about a minute, then announced, “all in”. He INSTANTLY called! I thought for sure I was dead… how could he instantly call that huge bet?

The dealer dealt the final card and it was an inconsequential deuce. He still sat there, clench jawed… I was very curious as to what he had, but he wouldn’t show. Finally I turned over AA and he let out the longest most painful, soul-extinguishing sound I had ever heard come from a human! LOL. I’ve only heard wailing like that come from whales!

He folded his hand into the muck and went into a fetal position for the next 30 minutes. I never found out what he had, because he never showed. But I am pretty sure he had 99 because of how he talked about the hand afterwards. He told everyone that he thought I was bluffing with only a straight draw… like KQ.

So, anyway, the moral of the story is, that by creating a particular table image, and showing one guy a really big bluff that hurts him, you can end up extracting his entire stack in the immediate future.

I actually went on to bankrupt nearly half the table, yet again… and wound up making 10x the money I originally brought in to continue my amazing winning streak… It has now been months since I’ve sat down for a serious poker session and have done anything except take everyone’s money.

I am playing in LA this weekend at the LA Poker Classic tourneys and am really excited to see how I fare against what I would expect (but not necessarily) is better competition than I’ve had in Australia/Philippines/Canada. We will soon find out!