Retirement - Gangster Style

Art and Mystery

The Scene
Strange Characters

Your Writing Skills
Private Eye

On Balance


Don't skip this chapter because of the "Art" heading. At least give it a quick read — sections on Horse Racing and Poker are coming up next.

Intense and Boring

Road trips introduce a strange dynamic. Unless managed properly, they can be both too intense and very boring.


Ed said, "First of all, intense and boring together doesn't make sense. They're opposites. On top of that, intense and boring don't sound like that much fun. I'm not looking to age more quickly."

It does sound like a contradiction. Let's examine the elements separately.

Intense Play

When you're serious about the game, play can be intense. It's about quick decisions and a sharp eye. In poker, for example, pot odds, bluff issues, drawing odds, and tell observations all require fast analysis. You must stay alert.

After a couple of hours of poker, I need a break. Playing all day is out of the question. I'd be completely burned out.

I'm hoping that the stress decreases with practice. It makes sense that the more familiar I am with the decisions, the less concentration they require. Until that time, I need to break away early.

This same intensity, however, is part of the pleasure; I don't want to lose the excitement entirely. I just need to manage it before it becomes too draining. For now, a time limit is the answer.


My breaks create a problem.

Just playing two hours leaves a lot of free time. Going back to the hotel room and resting for ten hours is way too boring. It's a road trip after all. Mindlessly cruising the craps and blackjack tables isn't that great either.

I need an activity to complement my gambling adventures.

The Scene

Art offers an answer for these out-of-the-action periods. Don't worry, I'm not talking museums.

First of all, road trips introduce fresh scenery, such as, old buildings, strange trees, or gaudy neon displays. For the untrained eye, the background doesn't exist, but to the aware artist, it stirs design questions.

Why does that tree pull my attention? Why does that sign attract me while I hardly notice the others?

Once you realize visual responses have a structure, a rationale, understanding them becomes a game of art analysis.


Sandy said, "At night, I can sit and watch the rides endlessly. There's something about the colors and angles."

Bill said, "The shore birds amaze me. They shift and reflect the lights like a distorted mirror. It adds to the Atlantic City appeal."

The literature on art design explains how contrasts catch our attention and how shapes maneuver our eyes. Armed with this knowledge, an easy stroll down the boardwalk becomes an art design tour.

Strange Characters

Once you start noticing the shapes around you, another observation surfaces — you'll start noticing the characters.


Ed said, "Characters, ha...more like bums."

That's where an artistic perspective comes in. Artistic analysis helps you see beyond the obvious. It surfaces the variations in the human form, the flow of movement, and impact of color.

The most famous artists were able to take the common place and find an essence that speaks to each of us. Van Gough elevated field hands picking potatoes into a powerful painting; Millard Sheets brought the alleys of Los Angeles alive with color and contrasts. To see beyond the ordinary, that was their gift and your challenge.

In addition, art explorations can be shared. Art adventures not only offer a reprieve from the faceless columns in the racing form, they allow you to weave a partner into your adventure.


Bill said, "Hmm... I enjoy road trips, but I felt uncomfortable dragging my wife along. She doesn't have any interest in poker. Sharing an artistic exploration would add a new dimension. As long as I don't have to draw, it might work."


The vast majority of art followers don't draw themselves, so being an artistic observer is okay.

Obviously, you can enjoy baseball without ever playing catch. It can be done, but without ever playing, you will always think that the throw from third isn't so hard. Your appreciation will be different.

When you are ready to push your understanding of design, it's time to put your observations on paper.

First Attempts

Or shall we say, attempt to capture it on paper.

The first couple tries are particularly hard. The image that struck you as so clear now stares back as a mud puddle with a nose. Don't worry about your drawing technique; the difficulty usually lies in the observation.

In the art world, the ability to cut to the essence is huge. It can make you a star, even if you can't draw a lick.

Capturing images on paper involves noticing what you really saw. When you get that, the painting may be crude, but it will be powerful. That's real art.

Wow! You might even enjoy the artistic explorations more than the gambling. The right balance will emerge.

The Medium

As for the medium, pencils are a good starting point. Carrying a pencil is pretty easy.

To capture color and more complex shadings, watercolors are a good choice. Watercolor basics are straight forward, and yet the technique can mature into an elegant painting style. (Check out the online Watercolor Class by Patricia Bason.)


Anne said, "When Ed hits the sports book, I take off for the coffee shop's patio. The setting is perfect for sketching, not too crowded, and the waiters don't mind if you stay a while.

In October, the Casino had a huge pumpkin display. I could have stayed a week."

Your Writing Skills

People are different. Where some have an eye for a scene's design and artistic elements, others see intrigue and mystery.

Some people walk through a Casino and movie scenes unfold in their mind. They see the heavy guy with the slick hair as a mob boss; the cute college kids are tagged as working girls; and the poker players come across as prison escapees.

Don't laugh — creating stories is a legitimate artistic endeavor.

Remember, the goal is to find a stimulating way to complement your gambling time. If you walk down the boardwalk and can create stories with the characters you see, you may have a talent for mystery writing.

That's right, mystery writing.


Ed said, "I always wanted to write, but I'm realistic. My story of twenty years at the bank would put me to sleep. Although there was that convention in Cleveland. Mystery writing...I don't know anything about it."

Put your active imagination to work. Have some fun with your writing skills.

Furthermore, mystery writing is not an easy genre. For a real page-turner, the characters must come alive and touch the readers' hearts. It will take practice, but what fun. What a challenge!

Mystery writing has a wealth of how-to books. Recommended books:

  • You Can Write a Mystery by Gillian Roberts. Writer's Digest Books, 1999. * Well organized.
  • How to Write a Damn Good Mystery by James N. Frey. St. Martin's Press, 2004. * Offers concrete steps.

  • Private Eye

    Writing a mystery means stirring up your imagination. You're on a gambling road trip. That's the perfect creative setting.

    Imagine you're a private eye hired to uncover a Casino blackjack fraud. You're in the Casino. Work up the scam.


    Bill said, "I haven't written anything yet, but I saw a dealer looking at player like he knew her. The idea that it's some kind of intrigue is goofy, but it's strangely enticing."

    On Balance

    With so many options, it's easy to get caught up in one and lose a sense of balance. Life gets distorted.

    The distortion stems from the nature of Gangster Style activities. Racehorse handicapping, for example, can involve research for weeks at a time. It's just you and the books. Poker study is the same way. Burnout and isolation are real concerns.

    Art and writing can prevent burnout. They stimulate in a way that isn't so intense. Both have enough depth to ensure you won't become bored, and they introduce activities that are easily shared.

    The mix of gambling, art, and writing can combine to expand your mind, connect you with unusual people, and deepen your current relationships. That sounds like a very nice balance.

    Furthermore, the art, gambling, and writing combo has a certain flair — putting you on the path for genuine Gangster Style adventures.

    | AWSS Home | Previous Section | Next Section | Feedback: Ed Davis