Billy Joel’s “Allentown,” of course, is the first song on his 1982 LP The Nylon Curtain, a record I actually wrote about once over on 33 and 1/3 Revolutions Per Minute blog. Kind of a standout track on a record full of great, Beatlesque hooks, one making it difficult even to hear the name of the town without thinking of that chorus and how it’s “getting very hard to stay-ay-ay-ay-ay-ay-ay-ay-ay-ay-ay-ay-ayeyeayea.”
Meanwhile, with the holiday season upon us, I think I’ve already heard “O Little Town of Bethlehem” at least once or twice during the last couple of weeks, and so there’s another little carol bobbing up and down amid the brain waves as I contemplate my final destination this afternoon.
Since first starting to cover poker tourneys several years back, I’ve found myself making a few trips per year. Not nearly the nonstop jetsetting some of my colleagues undertake, but enough to have gotten extra familiar with the whole airport subculture and its various idiosyncrasies. Kind of an enclosed little world is the airport, once you’ve made it through security and are sitting or milling about among the shops and restaurants and endless announcements passing back and forth overhead.
It can be a stressful place, especially if you’re running late or looking after children or unable to reunite with a lost piece of luggage. But if you get to your flight a few hours ahead of time (as I have today), there’s something kind of serene about being enclosed within the airport bubble, kind of floating in limbo between one place and another.
I’m reminded of sitting down at a poker table late last week and having played a short session at the Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City. And how a similar sense of detachment from (or disruption of) the quotidian takes place during the time one sits at a poker table.
Once you’ve bought your chips and start taking hands, you necessarily disconnect from the regular routines, having earned a momentary respite from all of life’s usual obligations while sitting at the table. You’re not entirely detached. Or rather, you don’t have to be. You have your phone and can check messages and so on. You can even get up and walk away anytime you like to rejoin the outside world for a moment before returning to your seat.
But you do have that option to shut it all out and involve yourself utterly within the confines of the separate world into which you’ve voluntarily entered, one of cards and chips and bets and folds, circling around orbit after orbit, where there will be stressors and anxiety, but also contentment and even pleasure. Talk becomes “table talk,” a special subset of communication relative to the location. And every action has a specific meaning, given such by the business at hand. Or of hands.
I have a little while longer to wait amid the hum and chatter and announcements. And the occasional roar of another plane passing overhead. Talk to you again soon, once I’ve emerged from another airport cocoon to rejoin you all.