Sunday, July 06, 2008

"Burning on the Fourth of July" or "I am a Great Role Model" or "Garthmeister J's Dealer School for Kids"

The Fourth of July is a great holiday. I say this not only because I get a (usually) unexpected holiday - quite often I forget about the holiday's existence - but because living in Washington DC means you usually get a good show. Sure, the city is usually packed with tourists, and sure, the weather is usually hot and humid, but it's pretty cool to be in the US capital city during the prototypical US holiday. And to be honest, I enjoy giving American tourists directions and assistance more than I probably should.

This year found Saunter and myself at the apartment of one of Saunter's co-workers, along with a few other friends, including someone's 10 or 11 year old daughter. Saunter's friend's apartment overlooked the Potomac River and the Washington Monument, which gave us a perfect position for viewing the Fourth of July fireworks. I must admit being somewhat ruined for fireworks (viewing New Year's Eve and Olympics Closing Ceremony fireworks from Sydney Harbour basically can't be beaten, ever), but who doesn't like watching colourful things blow up while you have a nice buzz going?

The fireworks were enjoyable, though it was a little surreal to see the fireworks shows for other counties going off before and after the Main Event. This lead our gracious host to reminisce about growing up in Queens and being taken to see a better fireworks display than the city provided - which you might expect when the person setting off the fireworks is John Gotti. This prompted the ten year old, Isabelle, to ask "who is John Gotti?" No one really answered the question, perhaps not daring to open that can of worms.

A bit later in the evening I happened to notice an advertisement for the newly opened "Newseum" on the back of a community newspaper on a coffee table. The ad featured an exhibit for the "FBI's Most Wanted", along with a series of mugshots for such luminaries as David Koresh, The Unabomber (that's Ted Kaczynski, not Phil Laak), and yes, John Gotti.

"See Isabelle? This is John Gotti," I said, showing the unimpressed 11 year old the paper. Isabelle frowned as she looked at the mugshot and the short description underneath it.

"What's racketeering?" she asked, looking back at me.

Awesome! And that's how I began a series of explanations about some of the previous century's most notorious criminals - after getting the all-clear from Isabelle's mum, I should add.

Fast-forward an hour or so later, and I am returning from the bathroom, only to be met with a circle of five people sitting on the living room floor, all with playing cards in front of them. Isabelle appeared to be the dealer, as she was sitting with the rest of the cards in her hands.

"Do you want to play 21?" Isabelle's mum asked me.

"Uh - you mean blackjack?" I wasn't quite sure how a simulated gambling situation had broken out without my direct involvement, but I felt I may as well try and work out exactly what was going on.

"I don't know," says Isabelle, as I go to sit down. After thinking for a moment, Isabelle changed her mind about the game we were going to play. "Hey, why don't we play Texas Hold'Em?"

Everyone seemed to think this was a great idea, as I began to try and work out where the hidden camera was. The host even went and grabbed poker chips. Isabelle then proceeded to deal everybody cards. Unfortunately she didn't quite seem to have a handle on things, as she didn't pause before dealing the flop. One thing she did do, however, was to try and "burn" cards, though she did burn a card for each card she placed on the flop.

As no one felt like anything was wrong, I naturally called a halt to proceedings, and then gave a short lesson on Texas Hold'Em 101, which included teaching Isabelle correct dealing technique (though I resorted the urge to teach her how to rake a pot). I was a little miffed at having to use a teaspoon as a makeshift Dealer's Button, but you can only work with what's available.

Saunter and I ended up leaving a short time later, content to navigate the still-crowded DC Metro instead of trying to find a cab. As we closed the door behind us I got one last view of the ten year old Isabelle calmly dealing out the next hand.

"OK Mom, you're first to act."