All of the “visiting” teams at Annapolis slept in the Field House, which had beds, lockers, tables, etc. and were rather well furnished. For team members of various sports on the East Coast, this meant a weekend of poker, interrupted only by the events in which we were supposed to compete.
Saturday morning, I watched a poker game for a time, and saw one man quit. He’d had an amazing run of bad luck, and now it was time for him to compete in his event. I took his place. I prided myself on my skill at poker. I had played in the Army (it is difficult to be in the Army and not learn poker), and I had read up about the fine points of the game. I considered myself expert, and so filled the empty seat with some confidence, a confidence that was well rewarded when I won the first pot, more money than I had ever seen on a poker table. So, I played some more, and then again, and I sat at that table for the rest of the weekend without winning a single hand, most of the times with cards so bad that I couldn’t even lose much money on them! Because the first pot had been so large, I didn’t lose much money that weekend, but I did learn that no matter how good I thought I was at poker, drawing the right cards always mattered.
However, the lesson was not wasted on me.
On weekends, Figaro’s also had a poker game for staff and some of our “insiders”. The problem with it was that we couldn’t play at Figaro’s because that would have constituted gambling. So each weekend we had to look for a place in which to play. For some reason I don’t remember now, I decided to host the game. By this time I
had left M. in Chelsea and had moved to a picturesque storefront on St. Mark’s place which rented for all of $60 a month. My new apartment was not so distant from Bleecker Street that it couldn’t be walked by those wishing to play. As mentioned, I just “hosted” the game, which meant that I didn’t play but provided sandwiches, chips and beer for the players, and took out 25 cents out of each pot to pay for it. This was not a high stakes game. However, I was amazed at how much money I had made at the end of an evening (which was usually at around 9 AM) after deducting my costs for the consumables. And after my lesson at Annapolis, I had learned never to play a game of chance, no matter how skilled I felt.
Coincidentally, I had become one of the earliest settlers of what became known later as the East Village, although at the time no one thought of it that way. It was just a neighborhood with cheap housing in which lived a lot of Ukrainians who still made excellent kielbasa and owned small stores. My time living on St.Mark’s Place was interesting because of some of the new friends I made and because the neighborhood itself was becoming fun for a variety of reasons. I also now lived less than a block from Tompkins Square Park, which was home to a neglected monument, a fountain, commemorating the greatest disaster ever to hit New York City up to 9/11, one that is completely unknown to most New Yorkers today, and no, it wasn’t the Triangle Fire.