I've been away from home since March 9th covering pokers tournaments for PokerNews. Fifteen days ago, after missing my first flight (a mistake that was idiotic and will never happen again), I boarded a plane to New York City and had the awesome misfortune of a 12-hour layover. My cousin, who I haven't gotten to spend quality time with since we were young, lives there. I clumsily navigated my way through the Air Tran and Subway to get to Penn Station. For locals, apparently this quite an easy task. For me, a person who's slightly terrified by the though of speaking to strangers in non work-related settings, it was a nightmare.
I met up with her, had lunch, did some credit card damage at Macy's and H&M, talk over one-too-many-caffeinated drinks drank, and left each other with a new closeness we haven't had in years. We even bought the same dress. I think of this as the "friendship bracelets" for twenty-something-year olds.
I caught the Subway back to JFK three hours before my flight (just to be safe) and sat at my gate, awaiting my direct flight to Madrid, Spain.
"Kristy Arnett, will you please come to the counter, Kristy Arnett."
"I'm Kristy. What's up?"
The Delta employee, a middle-aged man with small pot belly underneath his navy blue vest and hairy forearms smiles big at me.
"You're gonna like me."
"Oh yeah? I think I like you already." I say with an awkward wink. Lynn Gilmartin told me to always be overly flirtatious to those with the power to upgrade you.
"Here's your new ticket. You're flying business class tonight."
"REALLY! I don't like you, I LOVE you!"
I'd never flown first-class on an international flight but had always drooled at the look of the seats as I passed them on the way to coach. I grabbed my new ticket, turned around, fist pumped, and under my breath said, "That's what I'm talkin about!" I then realized what the fuck I just did and called myself a weirdo. Then, I realized I just had a conversation with myself out loud. I cursed at myself again, this time time in my head. Eh, screw it, whatever, I'M IN FIRST CLASS!
Boarding the plane first, I hate to admit, gave me a feeling of superiority. I hate that it did though. All first-class means is that you paid a stupid amount of money for extra comfort and superior food/beverage... or you're lucky - like me!
When I sat down in my window seat, I was amazed at all the free goodies you get! Socks, lotion, toothbrush, toothpaste, sleeping mask, and even a shoe horn, all packaged in a cute little travel bag. For those of you guys who follow me on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Pinterest / Tumblr, you know that I'm obsessed with taking pictures. So of course, I had to take this:
The woman next to me, who was clearly a first-class reg, rolled her eyes at me. She then complained to the stewardess that her outlet wasn't working and desperately needed to charge her iPad. Sweet lady, you really need to play Angry Birds.
She was kind of a drag to sit next to, but I really enjoyed the flight. It was a good reminder though of how I never want to be a snotty butthole when I'm ballin outta control (yeah, I said it, WHAT?) and take first-class flights all the time.
I spent a week in Madrid covering the EPT and even got to go to see Real Madrid play!!! Haha it's funny, because as I'm typing this, I'm getting goosebumps. First of all, I couldn't believe our luck and that we actually got to go. I LOVE soccer and what soccer girl doesn't LOVE Ronaldo??? The stadium was electrifying and even from our nose-bleed seats, I could clearly see the sick display of athleticism at its highest level. I had so much adrenaline in me that carried over to the post-game party, that it resulted in this:
Yeah... I have no idea. All I know it is that it was SO MUCH FUN! And the guy who's trying to fight me in those pictures is Remko Rinkema who works for PokerNews.NL. He's one of my favorite people in the world. Everyone jokes that he thinks that everyday is, "The Best Day EVAAAR!" How do you not love someone like that? Anyway, if you missed anything from EPT, here's my recap.
After that event ended, I boarded a plane and took a 10-hour flight to Atlanta, followed by a 6-hour layover, another 10-hour flight to Santiago, Chile, and took a 2-hour car ride to Viña del Mar. It might sound like a lot of travel, even too much, but I didn't mind it at all, haha this is a pic Chad Holloway snapped in our shuttle to the hotel.
I'm disgusting looking after 30 hours of travel but happy! Here's why:
That's me, on the beach, doing MY JOB and having waaaay to much fun filming which resulted in this video:
All I'm trying to say is that I'm SO lucky, and I don't ever want to forget it. A lot of us, particularly those of us in poker, lead unexpected amazing lives. If someone where to tell me that I'd have as many stamps as I do on my passport just a couple years ago, I'd have said they were crazy! When life gives you a shitload of lemons, make a shitload of lemonaid, and don't forget to share, AMIRIGHT?All I'm saying is, I always want to be the weirdo who gets overly excited about an upgrade than the disgruntled rich lady who only finds joy in Angry Birds. (Cut the Rope is way better anyway)
Every year, an entire nation postpones their normal, everyday lives to throw themselves whole heartedly into a week-long collective celebration for Carnival. Brazilians call it, "The Greatest Show on Earth." The rest of the world refers to it as, "The Biggest Party in the World." I want to call it, "The Party I'm so Excited for that I Almost Pee My Pants Every Time I think About it." Too much?
Last year, after winning a torturous battle against a Murphy's Law-inflicted situation with getting a Brazilian Visa, I came to Sao Paul to cover the LAPT event. It took place two weeks before Carnival, so unfortunately, staying to see it was out of the question. Lynn and I expressed to our Brazilian friends how gutted we were to miss their most celebrated holiday by just a week (We like to party). Andre Akkari and Felipe Ramos (they also like to party) told us that the next best thing is to watch a Carnival Samba School rehearsal. For those of you who aren't familiar with Carnival, every year, Samba schools from around the city compete for a very prestigious championship trophy. The parade and competition are the main attractions of the entire celebration. When they suggested this, I imagined a confined dance studio, a small group of dancers, and an instructor overseeing the production.
"Are you sure they'll let us in?" I asked.
"Of course. It's like a big party. I'll get us a VIP section," said Akkari.
Party? VIP section? SURE!!! (Did I mention, we like to party?)
Akkari and Ramos took the PokerNews crew to the Imperio da Casa Verde samba school. We arrived early, feeling unsure, out-of-place, and completely unprepared for what was to come. Instead of a small studio, we entered an enormous gymnasium with a stage, high ceilings, and a bar. Patrons were scattered about, but the place was far from full. We made our way upstairs to a sectioned-off balcony area. As the Schin's flowed (the local beer), so did the people into the gym. Before we knew it, we were in the midst of a full-blown, blood pumping, sweaty, passionate samba party. I couldn't have predicted just how electric the atmosphere would be at a mere rehearsal. It turned out to be one of the best nights I've ever had.
As you can see, there was a lot of alcoholic beverages consumed that night. We laughed, gave way too many high-fives to be considered cool, embraced in drunken hugs, and clumsily samba-ed our way through the night. I fell in love with Brazil and its people. Everyone welcomed us with uninhibited open arms, and full-heartedly shared with us their passionate love for dance, music, and Carnival. I savored every moment, with the notion in mind that I'd likely never get to experience anything like it again. One year later, I'm so happy and incredibly lucky to be back. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I have the best job in the world. I can't wait to report what the actual Carnival is like. Stay tuned...