Blogg Fanatic: Fool me Twice

Jim Ferraiolo, no matter how he is photographed, looks like an ugly transvestite in pictures. He doesn’t look anything like this in real life, but the lens makes him looks like an ugly man in a wig with bright red lipstick. I don’t know why this happens. Jim may have kicked a puppy as a child, and now karma is getting him back.

The only Fogo de Chao I haven’t been to yet is the one located in Dallas (to catch up with my meat-eating exploits, click here for part one and here for part two. All of my Fogo related Magic trips have been with Gaming Jim. The trip to the one in Atlanta was, without doubt, the most memorable.

I haven’t really talked much about Gaming Jim, though he is the common thread that runs through all three of my Fogo stories. For those who have met Jim, he is instantly memorable. I first met Jim years ago (and I mean years ago) when he was a vendor at many Gray Matter events in the Northeast. I was an employee of Neutral Ground/Grey Matter at the time, and Jim was the first dealer banned from our shows for being too… Jim. You see, Jim’s philosophy at the time was to buy high and sell low. That’s right – he would buy $150 cards and sell them at $151 (literally) because to him, a dollar profit was a dollar profit. Because his buy prices were so high and his sell prices were so low, virtually none of the other dealers were making money at the events – and eventually Jim was boycotted out of the show.

For those who have not met Gaming Jim, his given name is James Bruso. Everyone calls him Gaming Jim, including Gaming Jim himself, who always speaks in third person.”Gaming Jim will buy your cards,” he will proclaim to nobody in particular. Gaming Jim also looks like an absolute hillbilly – he often wears stained shirts, until recently had a mullet, and is missing half of his teeth. It’s an act though – he’s a lot smarter than he appears, and he wants people to underestimate him at the dealers table.

Jim’s favorite restaurant in the world is Morton’s Steak House. He’s a VIP at Morton’s, and can often be seen there after any given night at an event. VIPs at that steak house have a private phone line they can call for special service. We walked into a crowded Morton’s at 8pm on a Friday Night and were told there is no further seating for the night. Jim simply stepped outside, called the private line from his cell phone, and five minutes later we were seated.

I have a lot of Gaming Jim stories, and one day I’ll get to some more of them. Today’s story is not only about Gaming Jim, but about Jim Ferraiolo. It’s a veritable tale of two Jims! Everyone here knows about Princess Jim – he’s one of the best writers we have on our site. He’s a connoisseur of music, purveyor of innovative decks, and a princess for two reasons:

Jim F, no matter how he is photographed, looks like an ugly transvestite in pictures. He doesn’t look anything like this in real life, but the lens makes him looks like an ugly man in a wig with bright red lipstick. I don’t know why this happens. Jim may have kicked a puppy as a child, and now karma is getting him back.

Have you ever heard the fairy tale about the princess and the pea? In short, there’s this princess who comes to a castle after a huge downpour, and the queen of the castle is not sure she is really a princess. So the queen orders that a pea be put down on the bed frame, and twenty of the castle’s finest mattresses laid on top of the pea – if this stranger were truly a princess, then surely she would be so in tune with being picky about her sleeping arrangements that she would feel the pea. Sure enough, the princess complains the next morning about how her back is hurt from sleeping on such”rough accomodations”. Jim F is the same way – he needs absolute silence and darkness in order to sleep. Anything less, and he’s wide awake. The man sleeps with blinders on and earplugs in.

GP: Atlanta coincided with DragonCon this past year in Atlanta. Jim F was playing in the Grand Prix, while The Ferrett, Ted and myself were the coverage team for StarCityGames.com, and Mary Van Tyne and John Stephens were part of the coverage team for the Sideboard. Somehow, John ended up rooming with Jim, and this caused quite a problem. John snores like the devil. It isn’t his volume, which is loud. It isn’t his persistence, which is non-stop. It’s that he sounds like a broken engine stuttering over and over again – his snores come irregularly and unpredictably. Ted walked in one night to find Jim F hovering over John. Jim was using his watch’s light to figure out where John was in the room, and was attempting to pinch John’s nose shut to stop the snoring.

Needless to say, Jim F couldn’t sleep well during DragonCon.

Jim F had also got me kicked out of my favorite restaurant in Roanoke at the time, Grill of the South (which has since been closed due to numerous health violations). The Grill is a proper southern diner, with many gentry of the South coming to eat. Jim, by contrast, loves nothing more than to have a rowdy and lively conversation, which usually involves language that would make a pirate hang his head in shame. After an hour of continuously dropping not only the F bomb, but the A-E and G-Z bombs, Jim had effectively gotten me barred from the restaurant.

When we arranged to go to Fogo in Atlanta, I made Jim F promise, absolutely promise that he wouldn’t curse in the restaurant. This time around the crew was myself, Ted, Mary Van Tyne, The Ferrett, Jim Bruso, Jim F, Griff, Number 2 (Jim’s second in command at the time), my college friend (and one-time SCG.com contributor) Adam Sabrin, and John Stephens. I’d driven to Atlanta from Roanoke in my Chevy Venture minivan, so we had ample room to cram nine people into a seven-seater van. And by ample, I mean that I was very comfortable in the roomy front as the eight people in back jammed their elbows and knees in other people’s orifices that certainly were not designed to house elbows and knees.

The meal at Fogo went well, as usual – the food was exquisite, the service was impeccable, and the company was great. In short, I’ll be expecting a royalty check in the mail from the front offices for the three days of straight pimping I’ve done for their restaurant.

Towards the end of the meal, we were all looking at the dessert menu. I was on one side of a ten-person table, and Gaming Jim/Jim F were on the other side. Out of nowhere, our waiter comes up to me.

“Excuse me sir,” he said, tapping my shoulder,”but the other patrons have been complaining about the language of the member of your party on the end (gestures to Jim F), and you are going to have to pay your bill and leave immediately.”

Our entire side of the table was horrified. Mary Van Tyne’s face turned white as a sheet, and I was shocked.”Excuse me everyone,” I announced to the table,”but Jim’s foul mouth is getting us kicked out of the restaurant… again.” I slumped my head down into my arms, mortified at the events as they unfolded.

Did I mention that Gaming Jim is a betting man? If you offer Gaming Jim a bet, he’ll never turn you down – which is just what Jim F did. Jim and Jim discussed how Jim got me kicked out of the Grill a few weeks earlier, so they concocted a plan – Jim F bet Gaming Jim that he couldn’t get a waiter to come over and tell me that Jim F’s language had gotten us kicked out of Fogo.

The entire thing was a put on.

Only our end of the table didn’t know it!

So I’m sitting there with my head in my hands, completely dejected. Jim F and Jim B and Ted are laughing hilariously, and I’m ready to just about die of embarrassment. Ted realizes something is up, because nobody on our end of the table is laughing, and nobody on their end is getting their wallets out.”Ben,” he yelled across the table. I looked up.”Ben, it’s okay.””No it’s not! Jim got us kicked out again!””No he didn’t. We paid the waiter to tell you that – look over there (Ted pointed to the waiter).” Sure enough, the waiter was grinning ear to ear, and gave me a big thumbs up. I shouted,”you sons of bitches!” across the table as laughter erupted all around.

I have a lot more stories about DragonCon, about Gaming Jim, about Jim F and Mary and Ted and The Ferrett and everyone at that dinner, but those will wait for another day. I have great memories of eating out at Fogo with all the people I’ve ever gone with, and those memories are what make being in Magic worthwhile – connecting with other people and sharing their good times and their bad times.