Great Kerry Packer gambling story

Joe originally told me this story a few years ago. Read on the link above as well as Packer (the richest man in Australia) was quite a man.

Packer is famously quoted for an exchange in a poker tournament at the Stratosphere Casino, where a Texan oil investor was attempting to engage him in a game of poker. Upon the Texan saying “I’m worth $60,000,000!” Packer apparently pulled out a coin and asked nonchalantly, “heads or tails?”, according to Bob Stupak’s biography. Some variations of the story put the sum at $100,000,000 and claim the line was “I’ll flip ya for it”, but Bob Stupak claims to have witnessed it.

Life is only interesting on the edges – Francis Bacon

Ever met a rent boy? Well I have now. Struggling into my cabin on the train to Krakow, I was greeted by Clebson, a Brazilian guy, who managed to talk for 10 minutes without breathing. Maybe that’s a necessary skill these boys learn. Actually the word rent boy is wrong here. He was the manager of a GAP store but when he needed extra money would meet old boyfriends and get paid fabulously for a few days ‘work’. Good work if you can get I suppose.

Clebson told me numerous stories about his life in Brazil, which he left when he was 12 after being raped by a policeman, his alcoholic mother, his 9 years in England, his Swiss doctor boyfriend who is boring but big, his Stringfellows stripper sister, his new life in Berlin and why he was going to Poland; which, of course was to have the operations to become a shemale. Fascinating stuff to be honest. He’d keep the penis as shemales make more money he told me.

It was a great journey. Clebson tried it on a bit but he knew I wasn’t biting so to speak!! It’s not often you get to ask questions about other sides of life and Clebson gave me an opportunity to ask about all the facets of a lifestyle many people shun as if they aren’t human. Life incorporates a broad spectrum of choices and should do.

When Clebson talked about the advice that his sister gave him, about doing what you have to do and not worrying what others think, his voice broke slightly and I understand. For those who have talked to people from the poorer sides of Brazil or even just heard stories, can attest to how brutal life can be there. Just follow the news now from Sao Paulo. It’s a country with the fifth largest population in the world, where crime is rampant and poverty unmistakable, bad things happen and when others seek to escape that, they should be applauded, not victimised, especially when they are working.

Clebson was a great guy. I’d far rather have a conversation like that than the usual travel comparison stories with other backpackers. If he comes over to England, I look forward to a beer.


>Have you ever been hit by bird shit? Be honest now. I haven’t but only just. Standing outside some grand building in central Berlin, looking at my little map, trying not to look like a tourist so I hide behind a lamp post (I’ve lost weight), a huge splat hit my map, some bouncing onto my top. Slightly perturbed I moved away but noticed that Berlin looked slightly better on my map now.

After missing one flight out of Valencia to Berlin and then waiting three bloody hours on the tarmac while Easyjet jet fixed the onboard amid staff laughter, yeah I was laughing….Dan arrived in Berlin, home of the old enemy, weird sex, honest people and alcoholism I’ve rarely seen.

I was glad to get there. Not only did the flight computer fail while on the tarmac, leading me to think what happens when it fails over the Pyrenees but we also encountered the worst turbulence I’ve ever had, so had that the trolley doll actually let out a piercing scream. Gazing out the window on the train across town, I was surprised by how bloody ugly the place was. Not only gray, but bad graffiti blighted every available space and beggars cornered every corner. My hostel proved very German, i.e. very functional but pretty dull. But the kebabs next door were just beautiful. The first in many months, I found myself eating them nearly everyday for the next two weeks and for 2 euros, why not?

I went sightseeing immediately. Off to the Olympic Stadium which didn’t look finished, the Reichstag etc etc. The grand boulevards were impressive but I couldn’t get the image of the soldiers marching down it out of my head, heading off to, well, kill people. I tried to have a beer that night but my hostel was seriously lacking in fun.

The next day, it rained and rained and the city seemed very gray to me. That evening was the Champions League Final so with Joe’s advice, I headed across town to an Irish bar which was predictably packed and enjoyed the game. Arsenal were damn unlucky. I found an Irish dude to talk to and we headed across town to another boozer where he passed out after a few left me to work out where the hell I was. The next day, it rained so I waited out my time for the train to Krakow which, predictably, I missed. (but caught the next, thank God, see Clebson blog)

When it rained, Berlin seemed a very depressing place. It’s a place where Mercedes are taxis but I guess the on-going problems of integrating East Germany are hugely troublesome. You could call it bohemian if so inclined; dogs unleashed, tattooed and pierced abound, deep-seated sad drunks on the train, outside the supermarket, in the street; the fashion is black, those Germans that you meet when travelling are far removed from the ordinary Germans. It seemed like the old block to me and none the better for it. I can’t honestly say I had any fun at all in Berlin apart from chatting to that chick. Zack tells me I just lucked out and I’m sure Joe would say the same thing. I’ve heard the other cities of Germany are more fun and sophisticated. I hope they are or stereotyping really is a valid tool.

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>New York – Red Cross Holidays (photos attached)


Cruising the wide American sky at 35,000ft on one of the shit American airlines, our camp air attendant started singing down the intercom, amusing himself, though probably not how he’s like to. I was pleased to be back in the States for I was heading to New York, the Big Apple; as Dave Letterman’s Show states, the greatest city in the world. Well knowing a few of them, I was keen to put it to the test. A litmus test for me is the first day, strolling around, followed by a first night on the beer. Mexico City hadn’t failed me. Bangkok passed as did Buenos Aires. Don’t fail me NYC.

The flight from Chicago proved a classic. Sitting next to a Swedish girl who *cough cough* worked in Vegas and a Russian guy who’s entire communicative ability consisted of ‘Da, me interesting’ when he wanted to say ‘I like’. This proved hilarious after a few vodkas which he kept buying. Mafia I think. Me and the Swedish stripper got on famously to the extent she spent half the flight keeping her hand warm. The Russian raised a glass to me. But we all said goodbye and I went to the toilets.

I landed late and had to find my place in Queens, an area that had Birmingham written all over it. I got there eventually and was met by a curiously unwarm hostel and a Russian owner. But hey, it was cheap. The next day I got up early, caught the train into Manhattan and wandered. I loved it. All these names you’ve heard of before; Time Square, Broadway, Radio City, Madison Square Gardens, the Dakota Building where Lennon died, the Statue of Liberty etc. I saw it all, ate a hot dog, bought a new camera, and returned late and tired to my hostel which had been closed down and the owner disappeared with our money. Hmmm. It had failed all fire regulations. The Red Cross were waiting outside with the rest of the guests and we were placed in a decent hotel for two nights for free. Cool.

Across from my room was Zack, a French dude who’d lived in London for five years. As we checked in, he had the same look as me. It’s late, let’s get a beer. So we headed into Manhattan, found a bar and met Miguel. Miguel was a bit drunk but told us he was a bar owner and to come to his bar tomorrow night and on Sunday we’ll go to Philadelphia together, his hometown. Cool. I don’t think he thought we go for it. Americans don’t travel like us. We didn’t have anywhere to stay anyway. Miguel proved a great guy.

We got home about 7am and slept until the next afternoon, and prepped for Friday night in NYC. On finding Miguel’s bar, he closed up and we headed out trawling the cool bars. He brought the girl he was dating, Cathy, a Tyra Banks look-alike with wandering hands under the table. Again we got home at 7am but Miguel showed us some great bars.

The next day we checked out of our hotel and crawled to the Red Cross. I wasn’t really sure why we were there. They called us into an interview, told us that as we were now homeless, we were eligible for assistance. What kind of assistance? Well food, money, travel and phone cards, that kind of thing. Well, I said, looking at Zack, thanks very much. So flush with money, metro cards and food, we decided to blow some money on a trip to the Empire State Building before heading up to Harlem which has an eerie atmosphere at night and found new hostel. A great little place despite the murder on the next street the next night.

We met Miguel late and explained our hostel problem and he understood. We spent Sunday trying to get our money back, lazing in Central Park and wandering around. I also witnessed a crazy argument between two old tramps in another park.

A: Get out of here

B: I’ll put a bullet in you

A: My people will get your people

B: You want anymore?

A: You bum.

B: I swear I’ll kill you

A: Get outta here you punk

Fair enough.

I flew out to Dublin a day later. New York was a great experience. I don’t know if I would go back. Maybe. The difference for me between London and New York can be explained as follows; New York is an international city, full of international people but they have American minds. London is the same except the minds are still international. However as Joe pointed out ‘But in London, will they talk to you?’ Fair point cos New Yorkers were polite, chatty, considerate and open. It’s cheap compared to Europe and it truly is a 24hour city but the bars close at 4am ahhhh!! It’s also very safe and has energy and Manhattan is awe-inspiring.

When I got to Dublin, I’d got an email from Zack saying he talked to the owner of the hostel who said he’d get our money back, which made New York a free six days. Being me, that just means I’ll have to go back to blow some money at a later date.

Memo to Dan; Bananas are the only fruit.

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>Everyone was pretty excited about Brazil including me. But it was a great let-dpwn but that’s not the Brazilians fault. Like a lot of the good teams, they have faced well-organised opposition. Portugal, Argentina, England come to mind. Germany and Italy have faced more lax defending and punished them.

This ‘are they as good as the previous Brazilian teams’ misses the point. back then they were plenty of shite teams and teams that werent organised. post 1974 when holland were the best team but beaten by a well-organised west germany, teams have gradually become organised, players know their positions and teams work as systems. its impossible to be like the 1970s brazil as the other teams

1) know how they play
2) are great players themselves
3) play with the brazilians day in day out
4) have the benefit of analysis
5) play more defensively

thats what the Croats did and what the rest of the teams will do. Hopefully we’ll get a decent world cup though.