This story was passed through the oral tradition, collected from a number of sources and finally published here. Although there are different versions spoken, the authors of this collection have taken pains to ensure the heart of the story is intact and variations are noted.
Sometime, just before the war.
No Limit Texas Hold-em was a pro’s game for years before it was painted with corporate branded hues and became the phenomenon it is in the present. No research has been done on this, but the two key triggers to the rise in popularity for Texas Hold-em were the Harvey Weinstein produced 1998 drama Rounders and the 2003 world series of poker win by internet novice Chris Moneymaker (yeah, no shit, he freely acknowledges his name is worthy of a fuckin Twitter troll bot).
A friendly Texas Hold-em tournament held in the Ozarks a few years after the turn of the century / millennia is the backdrop to this story. However, this is not a poker story.
The tournament was arranged at a dude’s house, let’s call him Bob. At least 40 other dudes showed up and paid the buy in of 20 bucks.
All versions of this story begin with three protagonists showing up to try their luck. Now, some versions have them showing up in a white honda civic hatchback called ‘space ghost’. Others begin with the dudes floating in on the wheels of a late 80s pontiac grand am known as ‘old grey and white’. This steed had earned its name after a number of front-end accidents forced the owner to replace the factory hood with a used primered replacement.
Regardless, we’ll call these dudes Jay, Jack and Cary (named after Cary Elwes from the princess bride).
Cocaine was also involved, but its standing and impact are lost to time.
Jay and Cary are not important to this story, by the way, except they may have witnessed some things and been the original oral stewards of the tale.
Jack. Jack had played his way through the tournament with skill and intuition. Jack’s risks were reasoned and his ability to read people better than most (perhaps also enhanced by cocaine, but who the fuck can say).
The final table led to the final two; Jack and some other dude, we’ll call Kristof.
Jack had caught Kristof in a number of bluffs throughout the night but was not able to finish him off. Eventually Jack ran into a hand where Kristof was not bluffing and the tournament was done.
But the evening was not.
Jack was also a lover of music. And, although, he never picked up an instrument or had anything more than a fan’s appreciation for composition and songcraft, he could certainly lend a respectable opinion regarding pop music.
Not much can be said for Kristof. What is known is that he brought a lady friend to the tournament to observe his triumph and he claimed to also be skilled with a guitar. He may have worked at the local car wash after having dropped out of college in the wake of impregnating a girl from his church youth group. Again, so much is lost to time.
In the early hours of the morning, the remaining tournament goers sat sipping the last of the evenings brew. Some gossiped about hands won and cards dealt, while others nodded to the ambience of sound. The scene was soundtracked by FM classic rock, probably 104.7 the Cave or maybe US 97.
Janis Joplin piped in at some point.
Now, is there anything easier and more mind numbing than a gaggle of meatheads mutually acknowledging some truth in unison like ‘freedom isn’t free’ or ‘Ronald Reagan was a great president!’ As the story goes, Kristof spoke up.
<Janis Joplin’s Me and Bobby McGee playing in the background>
Kristof, “Man, nothing is better than Janis. So much soul. So much truth”
Jack, after first side glancing and clearing his throat, “what? She’s fuckin horrible”
Kristof, confused and taken aback, glances at his woman, feels a shutter of embarrassment and replies,” what do you know about music.. do you even play an instrument?”
Jack, “what the fuck does that have to do with anything? No, but I understand music as well as the next candy-ass and it doesn’t make a fuck if I play a harmonica or a guitar or jack shit”
Kristof, smirking at his woman, “ yeah, well, you don’t play so you don’t know. Who do you even like?”
Jack, starting to lose patience. <some of his response is unknown, except for this clear rebuttal for the ages> “ Ween”
Kristof, summoning his most pretentious cackle, “Ween?”
What may have seemed like a legitimate question on paper, in execution was more than enough to warrant what followed. Aside from the derision filled delivery, questioning Ween as a band was truly what lit the fuse.
It wasn’t out of happenstance that Jack said Ween. Jack truly believed Ween could easily stand in as his champion against Janis Joplin’s throaty retching of Kris Kristofferson’s words.
Jack and Ween had a history. One that involved hours of listening and discussion, highlighted by him traveling 15 hours to Columbus, Ohio to get kicked out of their concert by a couple of fascist security guards when he threw a home-made poster on stage. The poster thanked Ween for helping his grandma get off of heroin.
Ween is often described as ‘music chameleons,’ and although there is some truth to this idea, albeit a simplified truth, in reality their style is way more complex than hiding behind musical genres the same way a parody group would.
A chameleon’s change is only superficial, though. Ween tracks and hunts the beast, guts it, and wears its skin. They become the beast and in doing so are able to create rather than mimic.
This distinction is key.
However, this ability to hop so completely between genres has also been a barrier for Ween to truly break through in a mainstream sense. Meatheads nodding their heads vacantly like to be able to say they know who they’re listening to. Ween can bend between funk to psychedelic to country-western to pure fuckin rock and roll over the course of one side of an album.
The only people who know this are people who have a history with Ween.
Back to the story
Kristof, summoning his most pretentious cackle, “Ween?”
A fire sparked behind Jack’s pupils. His jaw hardened and he took a large snort through his nostrils to dredge up any last flecks of powder. The juke box in his internal monologue spun to the title track on Ween’s 1994 masterpiece, Chocolate and Cheese, called Take Me Away.
The room had been laughing along with the banter, but when Jack stood and thrust off his pullover jacket, the noise quickly died out and a confused silence sat in its place.
Kristof had been bluffing his way through a number of hands that night, but if there is truly a lesson to be learned from this tale, it’s when your bluff is called, you gotta show your cards.
As Jack intentionally walked toward Kristof, Kristof’s derisive laugh faltered and he glanced with a bit of terror toward his woman.
Jack’s internal jukebox flipped to Spinal Meningitis Got Me Down and he proceeded to beat the shit out of Kristof until the party was able to peel him away.
Jack left the party at that point, carted away in Space Ghost or Old Grey and White. And although his opponent had the money, Jack had his pride.
Kristof slowly evaporated into the ether of existence – he spent his poker winnings on some Affliction gear and to pay off his girl’s Abercrombie credit card.