In the little town of Willits, CA, the waitressess have eyes like sea creatures and serve your food with a smile you know really isn’t a smile. It’s the same as Davenport, Iowa, where the entire collection of townfolk are sizing you up to make sure you’ll fit on their grill come sundown. You eat quickly and ignore the tatse of bitter almonds in your food. As long as you make it out alive, you know you’ll be able to forget Willits before sundown.

I was behind the wheel of a brand new, silver, convertible Mustang. Mrs. Otis sat beside me and worked to figure out how the one-slotted sbo six CD changer worked. Eventually Jay Farrar’s voice hit hard in the over-bassed speakers and shocked me back to conciousness. I felt lucky to have survived the town. The young blonde hostess at Perko’s diner was the only one in town who wasn’t fat or other otherwise disabled. Yet her eyes had been glazed over since we walked in the door. A tall, fat man with a ponytail was hitting on her and annoying the old lady who was waiting to be seated. I wanted to grab the young girl and put her in the backseat of the Mustang and drive her the couple hours back to San Francisco.

I doubt she would’ve been missed.

Nonetheless, I was getting out of there as fast as the Mustang’s engine would take me. I’d been driving fast all morning, top down (even though the air was too cool for it), and mulling over the past six days. I’d been to Vegas then San Francisco (they call it The City, like they need the capital letters to make it better than Willits, CA or something). Now I was in Willits and bearing down on Crescent City, CA.

Redwoods and coastal drives were in the future and my mind should’ve been anywhere but back in Vegas where I’d spent my last night drunk, talking to a cabbie about his prodigal Malaysian wife, and arguing with some Vegas local at a 10/20 game about chopping the blinds. By 4am Sunday morning, I’d grown cranky and drunk without realizing it was happening. The solo ride from the Plaza back to the MGM had shifted my brain into some sort of do-or-die mode that would prove to be ineffectual and frustrating.

But there I sat on the corner of Highway 101 and some Willits byway, mulling over the trip reports I’d planned to write and wondering how to capture moments like 2am Pai Gow, dropping the Hammer on my first orbit of poker Thursday night, and watching my brother triple up in one orbit of a limit game.

I looked up from the window and sighed. It would have to wait for a while. I’d promised myself no writing for the duration of my vacation with my wife.. She, as many of you realized this past weekend, is deserving of just about every positive vibe I can offer. She deserves a lot and I give her a little and she rarely complains about it.

Plus, while in San Franciso, there had been another development that would change the way I looked at everything.

I looked up through the window of the Mustang, still waiting to turn onto Highway 101, and there sat a homeless guy. There were a lot of them up and down the California and Oregon coasts. When Mrs. Otis mused on the implications of homelessness and the seemingly over abundance of homeless denizens, I offered what I always do in such situations, “If you were homeless, wouldn’t you want to live here?”

It was true, in a way. While a little chilly, windy, and on the rainy side, Northern California and Oregon are among the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. And I’ve been around. If I were homeless, it’s where I’d hang out.

I looked up at the homeless guy and he offered a wry smile. I looked down at his sign (they all have them) and found inspiration. Scrawled in black on a ripped piece of cardboard, the longhaired dude had written three words, one on top of another:

BLAH

BLAH

BLAH

Indeed, I thought.

There was little question what the dude meant. Everybody has a ripped piece of cardboard and after all these years of clever witticisms or poignant pleadings, it’s all pretty much been written. “Blah, Blah, Blah” pretty much said it. It seemed to say, “That’s what I got left. Deal with it.”

The car’s engine roared as I pulled out onto Highway 101 and gunned the engine down the road. I looked at Mrs. Otis. She wore a West Coast Choppers beanie and a pair of cheap Vegas sunglasses. The wind whipped at her windbreaker and she seemed content. I should do better by her.

Our first night in San Franciso, I’d managed to get my GSM broadband to work and discovered an e-mail that was both intriguing and cause for concern. I won’t go into the details at the moment, but it basicallly means this little vacation (ending here in a few moments when I board an eastbound Delta flight from Portland) will be the last chance I’ll have to spend with my wife for the next month. Long story short, I’m moving to Vegas for the duration of the WSOP.

So, what does all this mean? Well, a few things. First, my trip reports from Vegas will be delayed for a bit. I have some neat stories and some things I’d like to write. Al pointed out that this past WPBT conference was not the same drunken bash as December. I’d tend to agree. While most of us maintained a good steady buzz, I didn’t end up pimping hookers out from the Sherwood Forest bar or claiming to be the Surgeon General.

After reading “Blah, Blah, Blah” I toyed with the idea that maybe I didn’t need to write anything. Maybe I should just leave it to the other great writers out there (by the way, I’ve been sneaking a few minutes each day to check in with your trip reports and have been enjoying them). G-Rob abd CJ have been holding up Up For Poker damned well without me.

Of course, that was silly talk. After reading some Dr. Pauly, some Christopher Moore, and that article in Rolling Stone about The Crew I decided I needed get back on the stick. And, so, here I am, in an airport, headed home for a precious few days with L’il Otis, before packing my bags and moving into a hotel for a month.

If anyone were to ask how I feel about this or what it all means, I’m not sure I could answer with any amount of honesty. While I’m inordinately plagued with feelings of guilt about leaving my family for so long, I’m also intrigued by the creative potential offered by a month in the middle of a poker maelstrom.

I’ll have some more details in a few days. In the meantime, keep the trip reports coming.

I met some damned good people last weekend and was inspired by your personalities. Thanks for making me feel like more than I am and more than I’m worth.

Wheels up, once again.