Saturday, March 15, 2008

Don't you know who I am?!

One of the regulars at the Muckleshoot Casino, where I like to play cards, is a 60-ish character named Barry, a nice guy and a decent player who through some physical and personality peculiarities stands out even in this large room of outsize degenerates.

Because of some kind of stroke or disease, I've never been sure which, Barry walks with a severe limp and can't fully open his hands (he needs help stacking his chips, which he gathers from the pot just a little too often to suit me), and he talks in a loud, nasally and slurred voice. He's a tireless flirt, often exacting a bonus kiss on the cheek from the cute young chip runners who help him stack his winnings, and his drinking habits are so regular and well known that precisely at 5 p.m. every day, Darla or Cheryl or Anna will wander over to his table and say, "It's 5 o'clock, Barry, are you ready for your martini?"

My kinda guy, in other words.

When Barry's in a pot it can be hard to put him on a hand. He plays a solid game and when he bets or raises it usually means he's got the goods. In fact he milks this image, with an expression that has become a standard Muck joke. If Barry bets or raises and then gets reraised by another player he'll stare down the competitor and then exclaim in his loud, funny-talking voice:

"Don't you know who I am?!"

The thing is, Barry doesn't always have what he's representing. He bluffs just often enough -- probably intimidating some players with his famous speech -- that he gets paid off with his big hands. That's what makes him a winning small-stakes player.

By this point most of us have heard Barry's signature line so often that sometimes we'll use it too. Sometimes you'll hear, from across the room, Barry's booming "Don't you know who I am?" and everyone in the place will laugh. Sometimes when I call Barry's bet I beat him to the punch: "I'm only calling, Barry, because I know who you are."

One day I was sitting next to him and Barry asked me what I was listening to on my iPod. He told me he owns a record store -- Sound Sounds, I thought he said -- and we chatted about music. I took the store's name to be a clever play off the Puget Sound, and Barry's little custom-made card protector, a half-dollar-size piece of coral encased in acrylic, seemed to fit the store's name. (It reminds me of the above photo, although the pic actually is a sea urchin and comes from Picasa user John, a local photographer.)

So, Barry and I became friendly over the months. He told me about growing up in Los Angeles and starting his first record store there; I told him we used to live in Belmont Shore. I told him about working at newspapers up and down the West Coast. When Michelle and I watched "The Godfather" and the Moe Green character gave Pacino the ol' "Do you know who I am?" speech, I mentioned that to Barry and he got a big kick out of it.

Barry and Moe Green, don't mess with either of them.

A couple of weeks ago Barry asked me if I knew anybody in the P-I's business news department; he wanted to gauge interest in a story about his shop for the paper's weekly small-retail column. Yeah, I said, I used to be their stupid boss. Without promising him anything I gave him a couple of numbers and wished him luck.

So this morning I pick up the paper to find Barry staring up at me from the Biz front. It turns out his full name is Barry Reisman, that he has cerebral palsy and that his store is Soundsations, not Sound Sounds (which would be a better name, I think). It's a nice little puff piece. I'm sure it'll help his struggling business.

Meanwhile, in an only marginally related story, I was playing at the Muck one day last week and as I got up to leave a guy I've seen there for years, Rich, asked me if I knew someone named Michelle. Well, yeah, I said, I live with her.

"Oh, you live with her?" he said, kinda nervous-like.

Yeah, why? A lot of people there know Michelle and ask about her since she doesn't play as much as she used to.

Rich muttered something and tried to change the subject but I eventually got him to spill: Um, he said, it must be a different Michelle. The one I was thinking of lives with one guy but is dating another.

"It's not her," I said, trying to sound sure.

He must not know who I am.


kateco said...

Man, thanks for the nice break from tedious tax prep.

David said...

Great post on Barry, Mark!

Rita said...

Great couple of posts, Mark.

Love those drop-dead, whammy, endings!

freda said...

great post, actually I think you have a book right here, a modern twist on the book made up of letters.

Rita said...

Freda, that's exactly what I've told him!