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You Got To Know When To Hold’em

Captain Liz puts her lady luck to work for her in an impromtu game of High Low with a cigar smoking ex-pat.


Thursday, March 1, 2007

I wandered up to the boat bar at Samoa after a grueling day of waxing Swell’s hull under a cloudless sky. The place was deserted except for two gringos with their backs to me as I walked up to order a club soda. Cigars and local artisan crafts were spread across the bar in front of them. “Club soda por favor,” I told Claudio. The closer man turned to look at me, and a Cheshire grin quickly spread under his bulbous nose. A half-inch gold chain draped out of his light yellow polo shirt with “B. Levell” dangling at the bottom in an absurd display of diamonds set into gold.

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I almost choked on my first sip of soda when I saw it. Apparently I was more interesting than the crafts and smokes, because his attention instantly shifted my way. The scene was just too interesting to pass up, so I pulled up a stool and listened to him banter on in a thick mid-Western twang. He was 73, owned property in Golfito, night clubs in Nebraska, and loved gambling.

Can’t I buy you a drink? You hungry? You want a cigar?” He repeated with cartoon-like animation. I didn’t want anything but he wouldn’t give up.

I’ll have ice cream I guess.”

Bring her some ice cream!” He shouted to Claudio, who shared my delight in the comedy of the situation. A chocolate milkshake and a banana split were both set in front of me a minute later.

Ice cream?” He said with a look of disgust, “Can’t I buy you a drink? You want to go to the casino? Come on let’s go to the casino.” He said flashing a wad of hundreds. Annoyed that I appeared unimpressed by his offers and his cash heap, he persisted.

How about high-card-low-card? You know how to play? Hey bartender, you got a deck of cards back there.”

I think so,” I replied non-chalantly as he shuffled the red-backed deck and flipped over a six of diamonds. “High.”

The next card was a ten of clubs. He slapped a hundred dollar bill on the bar in front of me. His lips sort of twitched as he flipped over the next card. The pile in front of me grew and shrank. When he realized that I wasn’t going to accompany him to the casino (which I wasn’t sure even existed in Golfito) he ended the game. I sucked the last sip of milkshake from the bottom of the glass, shook Butch’s hand, stuffed three crisp hundreds in my pocket, and wandered off to check my emails.

Billy Collins & Aimee Mann

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