LAS VEGAS — Man, it’s hot. What cockamamie fool decided to build a gambling resort in this barren, soulless wilderness? I’m standing in a casino parking lot, being roasted alive by an unrelenting sun — I’m told it’s 104 degrees in the shade today, but I wouldn’t know since I’m NOWHERE NEAR ANY SHADE — and trying to remember how much I love the World Series of Poker.
I sure hope this global warming business is a false alarm because, trust me, while Sin City can absorb endless sin, it can’t absorb any more heat.
It’s so steamy I’m hallucinating at traffic lights. Just a couple of days ago, I had a “Casablanca” moment after a police officer pulled me over for perspiring too much at a four-way stop.
Cop: “What in heaven’s name brought you to Las Vegas?”
Me: “My health. I came to Las Vegas for the waters.”
Cop: “The waters? What waters? We’re in the desert.”
Me: “I was misinformed.”
Anyway, when it cooled down at night, I had an epiphany:
Yes, I adore the World Series of Poker — it has put day-old bread on my table for the last decade, courtesy of ESPN — but there’s a better way, and I discovered it recently when I attended the Norwegian poker championship in Dublin.
Yes, you heard me right — the Norwegian poker championship is played in Ireland. Why? Because poker is still illegal in Norway, just as online poker is disallowed in most of the United States.
(What an odd world we live in — Norwegians have to leave Norway to play their national poker championship, and Americans have to leave America to play online poker. On the other hand, I can walk into Wal-Mart and buy a gun and, if I live in Florida, stand my ground and shoot a poker-playing Norwegian if he check-raises me.)
Remarkably, one of every 4,000 persons who live in Norway gathered in Dublin for the poker festival. Now, when Americans gather for, say, the World Series of Poker, there is some tension and the occasional dispute. But the Norwegians — following the lead of the godfather of Norwegian poker, 66-year-old two-time WSOP bracelet winner Thor Hansen — were friendly, collegial and festive at all times.
No arguments, no ill will, no crumpling of the cards followed by rants against players, dealers and the utter horror of the bad beat.
All the while, they were drinking at a rapid clip.
Here are the figures (and I wouldn’t advise anyone anywhere to emulate them): At the 2013 Norwegian championship in Dublin, at the poker venue alone, 1,500 Norwegians consumed 21,000 liters of beer over a week. That’s 14 liters per person, or an average of five or six beers a day per person all week long.
These are consumption numbers not seen since just before the fall of the Roman Empire.
And yet everyone — most of them sober, some not quite so — remained well behaved, thrilled by the blessing of playing cards for a living or for recreation.
I also found out Norway had several other advantages over U.S. life.
(On the downside, they have a king — no way a king survives talk radio and Twitter in the United States.)
• They share a long, peaceable, mostly southern border with Sweden; if we had a border that long with Sweden, we would build a border fence to keep them out.
• They have universal health care; we have a lot of really good doctor shows on TV.
• They’ve had two female prime ministers; I don’t think we’ve even had one on TV yet.
• They have abundant oil and natural gas; we’re looking far and wide for abundant oil and natural gas.
Which gives me an idea:
The United States should invade Norway and make it our 51st state, then the NFL could expand to Oslo — it’s the perfect spot for the Minnesota Vikings to relocate into another tax-subsidized stadium.
If all that happens, maybe I would move to Oslo. In June, it’s, like, 55 degrees in the shade there.
Q. In journalism schools today, students are taught to use Twitter, Facebook and other social media for their jobs. Do you feel vindicated in that all of these can be done from the comfort of one’s own couch? (Don Pollins; Hyattsville)
A. I was so far ahead of the curve in these matters, it’s as if I were George Jetson living in Bedrock.
Q. You left us hanging on your Stepson of Destiny, Isaiah Eisendorf — is he college-bound or Chipotle-bound? (Ryan Frank; Pullman, Wash.)
A. He earned a basketball scholarship to Division II Gannon University in Erie, Pa. There will be a fundraiser next month to help him purchase winter coats.
Q. Is it true the U.S. is playing a World Cup match in the Amazon rainforest? (Robyn Weiss; Indianapolis)
A. Technically, yes, but American developers are going in there just before game time to cut down all the trees and put up a strip mall.
Q. Did you ever consider asking the judge to require your ex-wives to be coached by Gregg Popovich for at least one season? (J. Beverly; Houston)
A. Pay the man, Shirley.
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