Thursday, June 19, 2008

Best Cab Ride Ever

I hopped in a cab outside the Golden Nugget the other day and enjoyed the best R-rated show in Vegas.

"Hey, can you take a left up here? This guy took me the shortest way to Caesar's yesterday, and it really worked out well."

The cab driver was a disheveled guy in his late fifties, "You don't wanna take the highway? Fine, but don't blame me if we hit traffic."

It was a straight shot for a mile or so after turning, but the cabbie immediately asked me "where now, where now, what do you want me to do, you're in charge, buddy."

"Hey, you know where you're going," I said.

"I feel like a proctologist, with all the a**holes like you I take care of every day. What are ya, a poker player? You look like a bum... where you from?"


He shoots me a look, "that why ya got one tooth?"


"Oh great, an east coast a**hole, I won't get a dime for a tip out of you, will I?"

"No, and I might short you a dime."

"I'll shoot ya."

"I gues that's fair enough."

I already liked the guy, now I was starting to love him. I couldn;t figure out how he was keeping a straight face, "I really appreciate a sense of humor."

"Sense of humor nothing, I can't wait to get you the f*** outta my cab."

My phone rang, and he says, "ring ring ring, answer that for f***'s sake."

It was my oldest brother, Jon.

"What's the plate number for this cab?"

"None of your business."

"Jonny, call the cops, I'm in a cab with a lunatic in Vegas."

As my brother chuckled, the cabbie yells, "he's a LOSER, Jonny... a LOSER!"

After a minute or so on the phone, "blah blah blah, like I need to hear your life f***ing story, J**** C*****."

"What do you do for a living," he asks.

"I'm a giver, by nature, so I take care of an autistic guy."

"THAT's bullshit... how long you done that?"

"About seven year's, same time you've been out of jail."

He tried to contain the fact that was impressed by this.

At this point, a street has been closed, and we hit a detour.

"Nice going, genius, what's your plan now? THIS is why I hate driving through town, jackass."

The guy in front of us, takes a right on red, "look at this moron, running a red light in broad daylight."

"Isn't that just a right on red?"

"So what?"

"Why don't you take it, too."

"Because I don't care how long this takes. Are you gay?"

"No. I tried to get in, but they said I didn't dress well enough."

"My girlfriend beeped in when I was on the line with my brother. I was afraid to answer it."

"Get her on the phone, I wanna talk to her."

"Are you nuts? You just ran a red light, sat at a green light, you think I'm going to give you a PHONE? You can't handle the road as it is, I'll be lucky if I'm only mamed on the ride."

So I rang her up and handed the phone over to him.

"Hey Smurf, what re you DOIN' with this guy... talk about a loser... is he giving you drugs?... is he blackmailing you? Get out while you can."

Before saying good-bye, I told Tina she was right, I probably should have borrowed her rape whistle before I headed to Las Vegas, this snarky comment solicited an audible laugh from the guy.

You autistic too?"

"No, I'm just an alcoholic." We drove by a row of adult video/peep show joints and I chimed in, "Hey, would you believe that...a strip joint in Vegas!"

"Ever thought about giving it up?"

"Drinking? I did, in 1996."

"You want me to stop for some booze?"

"No. If you think I'm an a**hole now, try pouring a couple drinks down my throat and see what happens."

"So, why don't you marry this girl, if she's so terrific."

"I'd marry her yesterday, but she has too much sense."

Now the guy is laughing out loud.

This guy was the asolute bright spot of my week. I forgot 75% of the conversation we had during the ride, but we never stopped laughing on the inside and keeping a straight face on the outside, like a couple of great actors determined not to be the one to crack a smile so the whole scene had to be re-shot. It is rare that someone goes toe-to-toe with me, line for line, and I got the impression that the cab driver had the same feeling.

When I got out, the parting was sweet sorrow. I knew I'd never see him again, but I was glad I'd met him. We shared an understated good-bye like a couple of samurai who acknowledged the skill of their opponent with the slightest of bows.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

June 12th In Vegas

... so I arrived last night in Las Vegas.

It is a strange feeling, I feel kind of out of place, and wonder what I am doing here. I had a good couple of months of internet poker in April and May, and decided to come out and play an event or two here at the world Series of Poker.

Because of the incompetence of the web site, I never got the checks they were sending in time, but I had booked the trip. Dad fronted me some coin until those damn checks show up... the first of which is already 8 days past the 15-20 day window they give you.

After my strong run, I lost a bit of interest in playing. I also noticed that I was really stagnated spiritually, which isn't new, by any means, but I was acutely aware that I had been coasting (as I have been many, many times in the past.

I flicked by channels Sunday and saw Joel Osteen. I like him, because he usually very positive, yet can still indite you, kind of like Charles Stanley. Joel was talking about "Destination
Syndrome", getting somewhere in your life where you are comfortable, satisfied for the most part, or have met some goal: graduated college, got that job, or got married or retired. Again, it wasn't really news, but boy does that describe me.

I looked around my comfy apartment. It really is adorable, and all MINE. I remember growing up, a belief that I would never really be able to "pay the bills" handle life came very strongly in me. Partly due to my father's ability to do exactly that, and seemingly with great confidence, even when he might have had fear or doubt himself.

I would sit terrified when I was 12, 14, 22 thinking, "how am I ever gonna pull THIS off, knowing in my heart that I never would. Upon graduating college, I settled in with roommates and found I could manage by splitting costs, although I was a degenerate gambler, and quite poor at handling money. At least I had a roof over my head, and a decent place to live. The dream of some day having my own pad seemed a pipe dream.

After getting sober in 1996, I got better at handling life and finances, to a good degree, but certain things seemed out of reach, even with my newfound sobriety and spiritual way of life which seemed to provide whatever it was I needed, and sometimes through interesting and unique paths. One of those out-of-reach things was finding the right person, another was one day having my own apartment, which may seem small or even probable to most, but at 40, and just breaking "even" after a lifetime of debt, it still seemed like shooting for the moon for me.

2007 was a good year all around, especially in poker, and I was able to pay off everything I ever owed, and start saving through an IRA. I decided I would do it, I would find my own pad.

This gorgeous little apartment on a lake was the very first one I looked at, and I said, "I'll take it," and though over 10 years in sobriety and along the spiritual path, I still wondered if I could really do it.

In the morning, when I drink my fresh perked coffee, just out of an old-school, steaming percolator, and gaze around my little spot, I wonder if it'sreal. It is the absolute perfect place for me, right here, right now. I can't wait to get home, and my landlord and his wife are the nicest people and really appreciate me as a tenant.

I even met that girl, and can't wait to throw my arms around her every time I see her, someone I have come to understand as the girl of God's dreams, simply because she surpasses mine. I can only imagine that the girl of my dreams probably wouldn't have been good enough for me, in God's estimation.

...but something is missing. The passion, the drive, the energy of spiritual growth and service. The coursing energy that makes me feel part of the universe, part of world history, and a channel of God's peace and power. I occasionally pick up new books and read them, hoping to find a nugget that will propel me forward spiritually.

This morning, I read a meditation from Emmett Fox. It stated that a great misunderstanding of men is chasing spiritual knowledge, acquiring information as a path to enlightenment (paraphrasing). And, that the simplest way to grow spiritually is to practice what we already know, reread a book we have already read, and apply its principles more diligently. Hilariously, I have read this a few times before, including in that book.

So it is a few good years down the road from a miraculous recovery from impending doom, and inevitable death, that I still need reminders to get off my ass and participate in the world around me... to stop coasting and start pedaling, because there just might be a hill ahead that I will need new strength to climb.

It is great that I actually appreciate my girl and my apartment... but there is mre, much more ahead, if I keep working and growing.

So my current destination is a poker tournament in Las Vegas, Nevada. Probably the $2000 No Limit, which starts in a little less than two hours, if I can enjoy breakfast and still get there in time. But it isn't really a destination, just another stop on the road.

I felt so clueless as to what to do this morning, which tourney to play, and I used to feel more guided, more directed, but I guess when I continued to neglect morning quiet time and meditation, my connection got a little sketchy, so I am going back to what I already know how to do- pause every second of the day I am doubtful, and ask for direction. My purpose isn't really any of my business.

Maybe there is a newly sober guy at some tournament table I will play at, maybe I will get to see my brother (who lives here) today, or my old friend Penny, also a Vegas townie now. Maybe the purpose of my coming here was so I could feel UNcomfortable for a while.

One thing is certain, if I stay awake, I will have an experience.

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