Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Santa letter 2013.

Dear Santa, I'm not asking for much this year. In fact I'm only asking for three little things and they're all for other people.

1) Now that Phil Taylor's out of the darts as we agreed and considering our mutual dislike of Dutch people and with Adrian having already won it twice before surely this is the year that James Wade can finally becomes a World Champion? His finishing on double tops and double tens has been very good this year and he's gone to bed early most nights now that he has that hot new girlfriend so lets give him something nice this year like the Sid Wadell trophy on Jan 1st.

2) Another boy deserving of something nice this year I think is Tom Brady of Foxborough, Massachusetts. He's had a bit of a rough time of it lately trying to make new friends bar Julian Edelman but I'm hoping next year he can get more acquainted with a few of the others around him and he gets his just rewards for being the best little QB you could ever meet with a Vince Lombardi trophy on Feb 2nd.

3) The final thing I would ask from you this year Santa is that Tony Romo, formally of Burlington, Wisconsin can be given the presence of mind to not fuck it up in the final quarter of the crucial "win it and in it" NFC east tie against them hooligan Philadelphia Eagles on Dec 29th. I know this will probably be the most difficult of my gifts to find this year but maybe if you look really hard you'll be able to find it.

Many thanks Santa and I wish you well on the arduous plight of the next few days.

Regards to the rain-dears.

Gary Clarke (aged 27).

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Poker Tournament Review - Fitz EOM 29/8/2013

Just as you approach the dinner break in the Fitz EOM its safe to say your edge at this point is massive.

With a salad counter, hot food counter and a dessert counter I don't think there's much more you can do but get stuck in there. You're essentially getting three for one on your money.

I got to the dinner break with about average hunger but it was at that point that things really got going for me.

The first really key decision of the night I guess was when the waitress asked me was it chicken or beef I wanted. This is always a tough spot but I guess the standard play is beef. It's definitely the right play with 20 green beans or less but anything more than 20 green beans on the plate and I think you have to look for a better spot elsewhere.

The problem is that the chicken has a funny sauce which I don't like but I've seen some people eat it to varying degrees of success. I guess it depends on your attitude towards high variance.

As it happens I went for the more popular line and choose the beef which paid off as I was sitting very comfortably after it. It can throw up some tricky indigestion calculations but more often than not your getting your beef good there.

With still ten minutes left on the clock I decided to open up a bit before the antes kicked in with a small slice of mandarine crumble cheesecake. As you might expect, an opponent of this nature was always going to be a bit trickier than the more conventional strawberry and lemon varieties but I was happy enough to get it in my mouth there.

With time running out I decided it was time to make a stand with one of the first solid holdings I'd seen in a while, apple tart and cream. It was to be my last food of the night as it happens but I've no regrets as having looked at folds and folds and folds of whipped cream in the Fitz all night I don't think there's much more you can do but get it in your mouth there.

Yes I've seen a lot of people go broke in this spot but the Fitzwilliam Card Club is definitely plus EV food-wise.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Great Dane

Two things I shall never be.

1) a full tilt poker brand ambassador.
2) voted one of People magazine's 50 Sexiest Men.

The Great Dane Gus Hansen is not only both of these things, he's so much more than that too. Winner of an unprecedented three world poker tour titles and a world series of poker bracelet, he is one of the most recognisable faces in all of poker. He's also an absolute bollox too.

Two things I shall always have.

1) A conscience
2) Common decency

Not only has Gus Hansen got neither of these things, he seems somewhat proud of the fact that he doesn't too. Renowned for stealing pots, the Great Dane would probably steal your wife, your sister, your mother and your grave too if you gave him half a chance.

Two things that Gus Hansen thinks he's is but isn't.

1) Genuinely famous
2) Sound

Now, as a full tilt qualifier this weekend in Galway I'm not quite sure what it is my full tilt poker ambassador does for me. In fact as a full tilt qualifier this weekend in Galway I have very little interest in what my full tilt ambassador does for me. One thing I hope they wouldn't do however is I hope they wouldn't take a girl from under me in a residents bar at 4am in a hotel opposite the venue.

Obviously this is what Gus Hansen sees his role in Galway this weekend to be. A man of impeccable disregard for the plight of the everyday fella.

But one thing I will always have is a conscious. Because from here till the day I die I will never take a girl from under a lad who has been courting her all night.

For the Great Dane however that's just another day at the office. Stealing women is like stealing pots, all the great players do it.

Sunday, August 04, 2013


It’s with much regret that I must report the deletion of me by one of my friends. I thought we bonded but it appears that my friendship was merely short-term. Like any relationship - we had our differences. But in the end we just didn’t cut it as friends. I felt us drifting apart but to be deleted from somebody’s life was a crushing final blow. It’s like being laid-off by your social circle, sacked from their life, terminated from their existence.

The odd like of their status, a comment if they’re lucky, you know the type. We weren’t childhood buddies but we were perfectly acceptable as facebook friends. I certainly have friends of lesser importance on there. We’d met each other more than once and the time we spent together was enjoyable. I doubt we left any permanent impressions on each other; we were simply friends through a friend.

I can’t remember for definite who added who but I believe it was my friendship that was requested. Maybe I was one of those ‘People you may know’ that I never seem to know. Perhaps I was added on a temporary contract, a 6 month loan deal or an internship with no guarantee of imperishable friendship.

Admittedly, the distance helped drive us apart. She lived in London, I lived in Dublin, and we just didn’t make the effort to commute. It’s with remorse that I contemplate the situation. I know I could have done more. A facebook chat, a post on her wall, simple little efforts could have held our friendship together. But I guess it wasn’t to be.

Now it’s time for a name and shame. Like one of them old ITV programmes about dodgy builders.


Sunday, June 23, 2013

The pub crawl

10.30pm on a murky Monday night in Lisbon I had two options. One, I could go back to my hotel, stare at my ceiling for at least three hours and eventually submit my brain to sleep. Or two, try stay out, on my own, in a city where I know nobody and desperately seek somebody to be my friend.

After a couple of brutally awkward conversations with bar-keeps in themed bars I was taxi-rank bound. Then, as if planted there by a higher power, the answer popped into my head. "A pub crawl" I thought. That's the answer. Meet some people. Make some friends. Make a night of it.

You never know, you might even pull.

A quick google search and ten minutes later I was introducing myself to four English lasses and two Canadian broads at an organised pub crawl. All of a sudden I was the man in demand. I often amaze myself too how well I hold up in these situations where everybody feels so awkward. Funny. Spontaneous. Charismatic. I say things I could never come up with usually.

The first two bars I was on fire. The crew had now reached double figures and was rising sharply. The only difference this made to me was that I was becoming friendly with more and more people.

Alice was the first of the English girls I got properly chatting to. She told me about her Irish grandparents. She told me about her childhood visits to Ireland. She was nice to me and I liked her for it.

Deborah was a loud Canadian who completely latched onto the idea of me being a poker player. She was dramatic, she was excited, she treated me like a rock star. I didn't stop her.

Chris was a girl with a boys name. She was another of the English girls and had hair that vaguely reminded me of a girl I used to fancy. I never spoke to her much and I wasn't too bothered. I had so many options now that it didn't matter.

It's been a while since I've come up with one of those eureka ideas only to be told its a multi-million-dollar industry. You see, pulling on a pub crawl is about as original an idea as using a sightseeing tour to take photographs.

Bar number three and competition had started to thicken. Canadian's Greg, Tom and Mike were all boring as fuck but cool as hell. They got the Canadians girls laughing. They got them talking about Ontario. They got me as the afterthought.

"So what hostel are you in?" I get asked at one point to make sure I'm still alive. My blabbering answer was boring before it began and was responded to in kind.

Once we reach bar four I'm toast. People answer back. The sympathy laughs are spent. You're a fraudster. We don't know who you are so stop acting like we do.

You're not in the hostel.

With the Canadians all tied up I make my way back to the Brits. They're now joined by two guys who I assume to be their boyfriends such is their familiarity but who are in fact just two South Africans who've joined the crawl. They're obviously professionals as I've never seen two guys to be so familiar around two girls so quickly in my whole life. Hugs, hand holding, leaning, back rubbing, shite talking, peck-kissing, the girls loved it.

Onwards to the club and the end of the night. The sounds of Franz Ferdinand and Kings of Leon boomed through the room along with a host of cosmopolitan bodies. It was like a school disco that got to serve alcohol for the first time.

Deborah was still surrounded by her weasel-like country man. His needy dancing and constant eyebrow raising was desperate but distracting. She saw me and her face exploded but the weasel held her firm. I moved on.

Chris, the girl with the boys name was now shamelessly kissing the South African waving her nostalgic hair all over my space.

My last sighting in the club was Alice. Cheerfully talking to the overly-handsome South African, I can't help but feel he's left a beautiful wife and daughter at home tonight to prey on her.

What started off as something to do had turned into a night of blue.

I had to leave.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The late night diner

"Can I borrow this seat?"

The single greatest response a man can receive from a woman to this question was issued to me last night at 5am in a Grafton St McDonalds.

"Only if you sit here."

People don't pull in nightclubs see. We've all been fooled. Posters on their website and rap videos may suggest otherwise but we all know the place for business is the late night diner.

Serving the needs of customers in more ways than one since nightclubs were invented, the late night diner has been the cornerstone of match making for generations.

Daylight breaking on Sunday morning, mating season is in full swing. Drunk, hungry, lonely, horny, it's last chance saloon for many. But fear not because this last chance is also your best chance.

As the coke sticked floor attaches you to your seat, people don't care anymore. They don't care that they look a state. They don't care anymore that this person in front of them is a completely different age. All they care about is having something, *anything* to show for their night's efforts.

Your courage kicks in too. "Give us your number." A statement which seems so far from your lips only an hour earlier is now flung about the room with consummate ease. Hail Mary, we need a touchdown and sometimes we get it. The number. The kiss. The lot? Ok well never the lot. But either way it's a result.

The troubled faces, the head shakes, the back turns and all the other nightclub rejections are now a distant memory.

The late night diner saved the day.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Any holidays planned?

And "what are you doing with yourself these days?" are two fine questions both of which I'm completely incapable of answering. They are my Achille's heel.

There isn't a question in the world you could ask me that derives as much hesitation, awkwardness and general social discombobulation than these two fine questions.

They actually wouldn't be so bad if they were asked in the middle of a conversation. I'd be OK with them then. I'd have "my eye in" as it were and have little problem stringing the few sentences together necessary to answer them both. But if you catch me cold with these two Q's boy do I turn into a babbling mess.

The truth is I don't have a job or take holidays. My life is a vocation. My life is a holiday. There's not one day in my life I don't enjoy anymore and that's the truth. I'm in the car business. I'm a gambler. I'm a ducker and diver. I'm not a plumber. Sometimes my pursuits send me on journeys which are like holidays. In fact I often treat them as such.

Life is for living and not for looking forward.

If you hate your job, leave your job. If you want a holiday do whatever it is you do on your holidays this weekend. If you want sunshine move out of Ireland. Life is so simple and yet we make it so hard.

Live in the present and the future will look after itself.

That's my take on it anyway. Life.

Meditation tapes to follow.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Traffic jam vulgarity.

There's few things in life that people can agree on unanimously but I suspect the dislike of traffic jams may just be one.

Dublin traffic is particularly bad. We get to see scouring faces, dismal, dewy weather and most of all, an abundance of mostly boring, always silver, cars.

You never quite know who's sat in the car next to you. Could be a millionaire. Could be your future spouse. Could be a murderer. Could even be all three? Today I'd be getting to meet one of my fellow commuters face to face.

Tiptoeing my way through three lanes of traffic on the Long Mile Road, the collision happened.
The screech rings through the air like the noise of a coke can scraped along the ground by a foot. It's the sound of two cars scratching against each other. One moving. One stationary. I, driving the moving car, feel every inch of the scrape like a nail against my skin. The motorist of the idle car can only furrow their brows and flood their brain with insults, accusations and general hatred towards me.

A friendly chat this would be not.

Like any deranged woman, neither a hoard of traffic nor the very real chance of death stopped her from diving out of her car, onto the main road, to confront me.

"You bett'r have insurance" screams the banshee as she makes for first the passenger and then the driver's side window, unaware of where I might actually be found in my vehicle.

Following a minute or so of abuse I finally shut the deranged woman up by pointing at the traffic which is starting to move around her.

We relocate to a nearby McDonalds where I once hosted my birthday to continue our discussion on the disrespect of youth today, boy racers and of course the uninsured driver.

"I've worked in the courts for four years." She says whilst shaking her head furiously. Such a righteous woman, hard to believe she didn't just have me arrested there and then for all my misgivings.
We needed a quote for the damage and it wasn't long before my Dad came to assess the repair costs.

"He needs to be thought a lesson" she says after we all agree a figure.
I guess I am lacking a bit in indecency.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

So I got clamped.....

Yesterday at around 5pm. The sign declared "DO NOT ATTEMPT TO DRIVE AWAY" and to be honest I had no intention. Montague Lane can be a lonely spot at the best of times (not least when you've done your conkers in the Jackpot) and yesterday was no exception. But Valentines day 2010 was not about teddy bears and chocolates or even flowers for all I could see was tarmac, puddles and a big yellow hindrance on the front wheel of my car.

With no parking fees on a Sunday you would guess its pretty difficult to get clamped. This was not the case (as the notice on my car was only too happy to tell me). Clamping is an all-day job and I'd bet it would have taken the full 24 hours too had we played "find my car in Dublin's city centre". But find it they did and clamp it they did and then I had to pay €80 to get it removed.

As the rain spitted down I got to see a full range of today's couples, arms linked. They strolled by my car ever so slowly in what was some kind of Valentine's piss take. Much like Romeo I was not so much in love as I was in love with the idea of being in love. Elderly couples even, walking around Montague Lane! I wanted off this set as it just didn't add up.

Then I called the clampers. I must say, the operator was tremendous. He got the tone just perfect, like a funeral director alone in his office. "How may I help you sir". To be fair, I think he knew what was coming next.

With the car reg, credit card, location and fine amount confirmed, everything was in place for me to get home and listen to the Smiths or something. €80 worse off and an ETA of one hour 15 mins all I could do was sit and contemplate the wasted time and money which the evening had resulted in. I could have been at home on facebook or having €80 on Dallas to win the Superbowl but instead I was a prisoner in my own car. On Montague Lane.

But the operator had one more question.

"OK Sir. Everything is now in place. Finally, would you like to receive a text message alerting you when your clamp has been removed for just 20 cents?"

"Nah. Sure I'll be able to see it being removed when I look out the windscreen."

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

The meander

It's never good when you're overtaken at 3mph. I was coming to the end of my walk this evening when the episode happened. Apparently a lot of these incidents take place close to home and this one was no different. She was a walker (you know the type - female, 40s, black gloves, swaying arms etc) who overtook me slipstream-style. That is, she trotted right up behind me, breading down my neck almost and then weaved out violently to the right and past. The initial reaction was one of shock. Disbelief. It was only a short while after the event that I began feeling dejected. I keep telling myself it was a 'leisurely stroll' but it will not over-ride the voices. It will not conceal the fact that I am in fact a snail.

L'escargot may have halted the run of Red Rum's Grand National wins but being thought of as the snail of my local area is a frightening thought to me. It floods back many ill-fated memories of heel clips in corridors by those walking at normal speeds behind me. Like a learner driver, a cargo train or the slow boat to England, nobody likes a plodding walker. To be honest the whole concept of walking or 'going for a walk' is probably somewhat foreign to many in my age bracket. It doesn't quite have the same ring to it as 'going on the lash' does it? I don't have headphones in either for that would distract me. Walks are for thinking and especially muttering. 'That's Limerick City' I muttered at one point tonight for absolutely no reason.

During one of my summer walks I was stopped by the police on Greentrees Rd. The car pulled up alongside me at a walking speed as if I were a hooker. "Name" is all I heard from the passenger’s seat. I'm not sure what way they're thought in Templemore other than the critical tutorials into the development of bad attitudes. Either way, the result is when they graduate they don’t talk in their native accent, ask questions or talk in coherent sentences. Instead they learn a list of words which are randomly juxtaposed and fired at 'individuals'. He was like one of those gangsta rappers that say random one word statements like "Word" and what not. I was flummoxed. Looking around me like a bad liar all I could muster was "What?” The officer repeated his one word statement and eventually I gave him my name following a moment of needless reluctance. He looked me up and down as I continued to play the role of prostitute. Dressed in a hoodie and trackie bottoms it was also well past midnight all of which led him to his concluding statement. "Away home now Gary"

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Orange Juice Heaven

They say ‘You are what you eat’ and if that’s truly the case then I’m a crisp sandwich. You see packed lunches have been as much a part of my near 20 years of schooling as books have. My earliest memories of packed lunches were on field trips. Remember the class trips in school when you had to bring a double-lunch? Gosh you’d be stuffed. I got sick into my jumper coming back from Mosney one year. I figured it’d be more polite to get sick into that than the girl sat next to me. People kept asking me the whole way back to Kimmage Manor why I did it, why did I ruin my jumper. They wanted the girl puked on, evil bastards.

Speaking of girls. In an amazing turn of events last year, my reliable carton of Sqeez doubled as a cross-journalism-classroom-flirtation-mega-prop in which I captured the heart of a (possibly) Belgian girl. As I pierced a hole through film then carton, I knew it was on. Her eyes glazed over and she paused in mesmerisation. Suddenly and without warning she snapped out of her daze and reached into her schoolbag in a love scene taken straight from the script of a Deep Riverrock ad. And there it was a two litre carton of Sqeez, which she drank with both considerable ease and allure. My pen dropped, still wet from my mouth. It was a match made in orange juice heaven.

It’s also a unique gambit to a best man’s speech. Speaking of weddings don’t they always seem to involve cake? Now cake is a dish which is usually served casually. That is, its rarely part of a sit-down meal. “Will ya have a bit of cake?” is a favourite line among many a pastry giver. With two arms full of saucers you feel obliged to help the lady out. So you accept it grudgingly, you might even take a bite to please the host. Mouthful of Heineken and double chocolate fudge: sure isn’t that what were all after?

But it’s not over there. Oh no. You have now become a cake eater and they won’t relent until you burst. “Will ya have another bit of cake, there’s a load left?” and before you can begin to answer there’s another plate in front of you. Their eyes light up when they see you- the cake givers. People who wouldn’t dare speak to you all night suddenly approach you like you’re their long lost brother. If they associate your face with cake, that’s it.

Just a closing thought on food-offerings-politeness. It’s important to leave 1/8th of your food if somebody makes you a meal. An empty plate is a great insult to somebody’s generosity. How are they supposed to know if they gave you enough? Although it’s a thin line you walk, anything less than 2/3rd’s of an empty plate and you hated the meal. “Ah you probably don’t like sausage and chips?” is one such jab you may get.

They also say ‘the quickest way to a girl’s heart is through her tummy’ and filling it with alcohol certainly seems to do the trick. For me it’s been somewhat of a role reversal 20 years on except the girls aren’t getting sick in jumpers. Part of me wishes I took the chance to get sick on that girl while the offer was on the table and it was still deemed acceptable. If nothing else it was a certain crowd pleaser. I can still hear the mixture of laughs and gasps – somewhere in my imagination.

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Disko Bar

Trudging down the tight, windy staircase surrounded by metal walls I should have known this was no ordinary nightclub. The entrance was suspicious too, a tall wooden door like that of a haunted house.

Never a man to shy away from subtle curiosity, I had to pop in for a look.

Located on the main thorough-fair of Latvia's capital city, you would have thought it was a reputable spot. Only a select few bars are open at 1am and fresh from poker and NFL punting success I was in no mood to go home. The Disko bar was the perfect night-cap for me.

Upon entry I was treated to an open-armed welcome and a cry of "Come in!' by the friendly barman. Gosh there was hardly anybody in the place yet he could still muster a smile.
The barman proceeded to wax lyrical about the range of drinks he had to offer before I cut him short and plumed for a bottle of the local beer.

Not long into my second bottle, we were greeted by the arrival of a pair of local stunners who stumbled down the stairs full of giggles. Hesitant by the lack of people inside they almost turned around but alas gentle persuasion remains a man's best friend and it wasn't long before the two were perched alongside the drunken Irishman and his impossibly good humour.

"Drink for the girls?" suggested the bar-keep. It was like he had read my mind.

Sambuca x 4 and vodka cocktails was the order of the day and before too long we were all up on the dance floor raising the roof and running the show.

I was drunk and there was no escaping it.

It had all the makings of the Eastern European party you would never forget. Beautiful women are so plentiful in Latvia that they have to hang out somewhere. Tonight they'd be partying with me. It was a story which no one would believe but I didn't care. I was too high on life and vodka cocktails.

"The bill, Sir?" Says the friendly barman just as the DJ lowers the tempo of what had been a rocking set.

€218.40 is a figure that's difficult to compute no matter how drunk you are. It would also prove hard to forget as I'd be reading it 5 times on my bank statement the following morning.

Let the disko-bar-beverage-buyer beware.

Monday, January 07, 2013

The uninvited guest

It’s not something you do when you’re sober is it – walk around the side of a house and look underneath the half shut blinds. It seems there’s nothing quite as hypnotic as the sound of guitars blasting and drunkards whaling when you’re walking home from a night out. It’s like a magnet which draws you in – regardless of gates and vehicles for obstacles. I have no doubt what I would have done had I been caught too. I would have run for the hills like a burglar who’d got the lot.

But the allure of the late night party is all encompassing. You convince yourself that you knew their cousin or you’re friends with the man that put in their alarm. The common ground is endless once the house owner gives you a fair trial. Lenient owners will often agree with you. ‘Ah you know Kevin who put in the alarm? Marie he knows Kevin who put in the alarm. Get him a can of Carlsburg there.’

I’ve had some incredibly ridiculous conversations at these sorts of parties which never seem to happen under normal conditions. Like 1990s formula 1 racing, Harvey Keitel films or whether or not David Connolly played up front for Wolves with Robbie Keane. There’s always a trivia buff at these gatherings it seems - whose useless knowledge is otherwise redundant normally. Often, when you play back the arguments which take place you realise it was him that had brought up the Jos Verstappen pit-stop fire in 1994 so he probably did know what team he was driving for at the time.

We all have guilty pleasures like eating Liga or making 100s of prank calls but there’s something about the late night party which makes it both the greatest and most illustrious guilty pleasure of them all for me.

There have been quite a few shindigs which I’ve rambled across whilst plastered and I have often wondered what the etiquette is. At the time I’m always convinced ‘it’s what they would have wanted’ when I loiter outside a house for hours. I tell myself if I was hosting a party I’d want nothing more than passing drunken traffic calling in for a chat and a free drink.

But it’s not really what they want is it? In the cold light of day I now know it’s not ‘what they would have wanted’ and if anything I should be reported.