ON THE TABLE AT LAST NIGHT'S POKER GAME

A couple of months ago, a friend invited me to join an occasional low-stakes poker night she was trying to get off the ground. "It's more about the conversation than the cards," she promised. Last night was our second meeting.
  1. Pets
    Dogs and rabbits, mostly, though there was also a story about a dead cat stored in a box in the refrigerator.
  2. Paris
    Our hosts had just returned from a week there, where they ran the marathon. Lots of talk about croissants and how they taste better when you pronounce them with a French accent.
  3. Art auctions
    My friend's wife likes to go to the public showings at Sotheby's before the season's biggest auctions — like a swank, exclusive museum where you see work that's not generally accessible to the public. She swooned over the Rothko that ended up selling for $46.5 million. "Was that the reddish one with a line of blue?" somebody asked. "No, I think it was yellow with blue," she said. I tried to make a joke about The Dress — I thought it was gold and white" — but they all looked blankly at me.
  4. Schadenfreude
    My friend told us she's recently heard a disconcerting number of colleagues and former classmates turning up on NPR. "Now I feel like I need to be interviewed on NPR, too, or I have failed," she said.
  5. Mortality
    Mostly in relation to the pets — there's a 15-year-old dog in the mix, and that refrigerated cat — but discussion also turned to our hostess's centenarian grandmother, who (like the dog) pees anywhere and barks a lot.
  6. Bad behavior
    Middle school variety. "Oh God, I think I was kind of a bitch back then," the hostess said, when she realized she and my wife were in seventh grade together.
  7. Journalism
    Over the years, most of us have worked at newspapers in some capacity. I brought up @tschlossberg's list of crap assignments — specifically, asking people on a cold day if they were cold — and our host told us The Daily News once sent him out with $40 in pennies, loose in plastic bags, to see if fast food restaurants would let him pay that way.
  8. Dessert
    Apple crisp, literally on the table. "My favorite," I said, which led to some dissent and a long discussion about the relative merits of sweetness in desserts. (I prefer less, while my debate opponent said he would happily serve himself a bowl of buttercream frosting if society didn't demand the cake beneath.)
  9. Stevie Wonder
    Somebody said that in addition to being blind, he's had no sense of smell since a car accident in the 1970s. Somebody else said they'd heard rumors he's not actually blind at all, and cited a video from the "We Are the World" session where he catches Paul McCartney's falling mic stand. This led to a discussion of sonar, ESP and the term "differently abled."
  10. Real estate and gentrification
    The apartment was on Riverside Drive, with gorgeous sunset views of the Hudson. "We bought at the end of the crash," our hosts shrugged. "The neighborhood has gotten a lot whiter and more Asian since then."
  11. Guacamole
    Avocados as an acquired taste, and the impossibility of making bad guac. Whole Foods vs homemade, and tequila as a secret ingredient.
  12. Poetry
    Especially, the question of political engagement in poetry versus the more personal/emotional/psychological/decorative. I feel a little bad about this discussion because Franz Wright came in for a beating, and I woke up this morning to learn he had died of cancer overnight.