Wednesday, October 28, 2009

short update

Well, I am off to what may be the last Foxwoods tourney of the series. I have also been thinking about starting a poker blog for this type of nonsense so people who are more interested in hearing tales of watching paint dry than my blow-by-blow description of hand histories and poker details won't have to come in here and see this nonsense.

For the poker nerd, this is all highly interesting stuff, for everyone else it is like going to see what you expect is going to be a pretty good movie only find an empty theater and a dentist waiting for you.

And oh- he forgot to bring the Novocaine, this is going to hurt- a lot.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Bad Beat at F***woods

Yeah, nothing new, that's why I call it F***woods.

Poker can be fun, interesting, exhilarating, and above all, frustrating. Today was a perfect example of the latter.

Beau and I entered the $500 NL. They like to do this goofy thing with starting chips counts at Foxwoods, where they give you progressively more chips as the buy ins get larger. The idea is not a bad one, but they overdo it, get too fancy. For the $300 shootout, they gave you 5,000 chips (we didn't play it) For the $400 NL, they gave you 5,000, the $500 6,000 chips, and and the $600 Nl they start you out with 7,000 chips.

What I don't like about this is the lack of uniformity. there is less of an advantage to playing more tourneys, because they pace differently do they varying chip stacks. It is also a pain in the ass to calculate the avg stack size in your head when it is 6,000 or 7,000 at the outset, which is why I really dislike the goofy amounts.

Just make it 5,000 or 10,000 for Pete's sake.

Today, I was determined to play much tighter after the flop for the first two rounds (50 minutes each). I bled too many chips early last time on drawing hands, which you have to be careful of when you start with 5,000 or 6,000 chips. 10,000 gives more freedom to speculate early.

Right out of the gate, I flopped top set, which turned into a full house, and got paid off through the turn (6th street). Shortly after, I had pocket aces and was able to get the same guy I victimized with my full house to pay me a small amount, grudgingly. He folded with irritation, so I showed the aces to show the table I was playing big hands.

I didn't want to mix it up early. I showed big hands and made some excellent reads. A guy to my right was raising light (weaker hands like KQ or AJ AT) which really aren't raising hands in early to middle position, especially early in a tournament.

He raised the 50-100 BB to 300. I called in late position with 55. The flop was something ugly like 2 7 9. He bets 300 into a pot of 850- weak. he missed. The turn brought an 8 or something, and he stabs out 500 into a pot of almost 1500- very weak indeed. At this point, I put him on AQ, little did I know he was playing even weaker hands and had, I believe, A-10. The river card is another 9. I know this misses him because he would have bet top pair stronger. He must be putting me on a small pair, over cards, or perhaps he isn't a player who thinks a lot and isn't "putting me" on any hand in particular, but just tossing out small bets hoping I'd go away.

He fingers his chips, doesn't even look at me, and throws 1,200 into the 2500 chip pot. I am not excited about calling, as dropping another 1200 chips would cut my stack to around 5,000 chips, but I have to trust my original read- two high cards. I did think about it, then called and as he threw hand away said, "AQ"?

He said later, "if that your six came on the river, I would have had you, and you would have had to call with a straight, right?" So I know he had a 10, if he was telling the truth, and I am pretty sure it didn't make sense for him to lie about that, as it made him look goofier. So he was probably betting A-10 there.

He said, "Wow, good call. How can make that call." So I told him what I thought he had. I like players to think I know what they are holding. It makes them nervous and cautious and easier to steal pots from later. Another player later told me I was "making some sick reads", but that is really a fairly obvious read on a pretty bad player.

First of all, the biggest mistake people make when they bluff is making a bluff that doesn't make sense. The second biggest mistake is bluffing a player who isn't good enough to understand why he should fold, or trying to bluff a "calling station." Don't waste time or chips bluffing someone who has shown they will call down with weak or mediocre hands.

The guys bluff didn't make sense. There wasn't a hand I could put him on, other than maybe A-8, and that would have been a seriously weak hand to raise with in his position, that made sense.

I made my one blunder of the day shortly afterward when I raised a guy all-in on the river after he had already committed most of his chips. I mistakenly thought he had a lot more chips and could afford to fold, but he called me down with second pair and hurt my stack.

It was a rookie mistake I thought I had put behind me, similar to a blunder I made by overplaying AK after a missed flop last Friday. I was steaming, very pissed at myself for such a boneheaded play, so I took a short walk. Upon returning, I saw that I had croaked my stack from a little over 10K to about 6,200.

It could be worse, I had more than I started with, but I had handed over chips to a very loose player- the exact kind of player you don't want to have an abundance of chips to play around with.

Keeping my head, I stabbed here and there, picked my spots and chipped back up over 11K. I continued to bob and weave, avoid big pots and chip up. Finally, my chance came to attack the guy who had called me down and hurt my stack. I wasn't looking for revenge- that is moronic and gets you busted out of tournaments trying to be a hero or "teach someone a lesson". What lesson would I be teaching? "Hey, don't accept chips from me when I make a stupid play? Fold anyway?"

He raised in early position. I put him on AQ. I had 99. he had about 8 or 9K, I had about 17K. I figured I could get him to fold that hand with an all in. I had two shorter stacks behind me, and the guy to my immediate left was very tight. He wouldn't play unless he had a monster. The initial raiser hopefully would fold to my push with his tournament life on the line. AQ is one of the most over-rated hands in poker, especially to call with. I would much rather be the raiser than the call with AQ, because most people who re-raised you have either a big pair or AK, which has a 70-30 edge over AQ.

I shoved my stack. As He thought about it longer, I felt better about my hand. He was trying to talk himself into calling me, but his heart wasn't really in it. I thought more and more AQ, he has AQ. he said, "This hand has been good to me all day," and AQ was the hand he made his biggest hand with- against me earlier.

He finally calls and the news is even better than I had hoped, he has pocket 88, a 4:1 underdog to my 99. My 99 holds up, and I picked up a nice pot. I was surprised he called me with that hand, as I had been showing a lot of big hands, but sometimes, the chips seduce you into making a call, dreaming, you will win that big pot, forgetting that your opponent likely has your ass crushed.

I had also started throwing chips around a little bit, so maybe he thought I was starting to bet light.

As the tourney wore on, I picked up a few hands and played them very strong. A guy raised my BB when I had AQ. He had about 9K, I had 20K, so I shoved my stack. I had 10 10 in the BB, one limper, plus the Small blind- I shove my stack. I don't like to flip coins, but if I feel I have the best hand in a situation like that, I am going to put the other guy to the test.

Both hands resulted in folds, which is fine. I don't really want to see flops with those hands anyway, I am happy to take down the pot. As the tourney went on, I chipped up to about 43,000 or so, then hit a dry spell. I didn't win, or really play a pot for over an hour. I wasn't wasting chips, so I still had 35,000 or so when they broke my table up. It is an advantage to stay at the same table, as you know the players, but I was almost happy to be going, with the rags I had been seeing.

This would be my demise, however. We were down to 99 players or so when I was moved. 55 made the money. I wanted to make the money, but the day had been going so well that I was aiming much higher. I had played very well, with one exception, and had redeemed myself. I had also avoided bad beats- hands where I had far the best hand, but got some asinine beat.

My first couple hands at the new table told me this was going to be a challenge. I wasn't going to float into the money or run this table. The guy to my left was a chip mover, and so was the guy to his left. They had huge stacks and liked to throw chips around left and right. I called his raise from my BB with 22. the flop of 3 7 9 was ugly, but I check folded, after missing my shot at trips. It would not have been smart to start splashing around with a guy who likes to make moves with 22 in my hands.

The next hand, I am in the small blind with QJ off suit, not my favorite hand by any means, but not bad from the small blind. A guy with about 20K raises it to 3,000 from middle-late position. I call the extra 2,400 chips knowing the guy next to me would call with any two cards. I thought the raiser had an ace or a middle pair like 77 or 88 by the way he bet.

The flop comes A K 10, with 2 spades. I have just flopped the nuts. I have the best hand possible at this point in time. Some players might check here, to induce betting, but I bet out 4,500. I don't want this clown next to me getting a free shot at a spade, knowing he is the kind of guy who could have called the pre-flop raise with 5-8 of spades or something. He folds, and the initial raiser goes all-in.

This I expected, as if he had an Ace, he would have to play it here. the fact that I bet out also makes me look weaker, because it looks like I am trying to discourage action, which is exactly what I had hoped.

I call instantly- I mean, I have the nuts, right? I doubt he has spades, which I fear more than anything as another spade would crush my straight with a flush. I am guessing he has an ace, maybe AQ or AJ.

He flips over A 10 for two pair. I am way ahead with my straight, but I would rather have seen AQ or AJ, as he would need running cards to beat me, or a gut shot straight for a split pot. As it stands, I am about a 6:1 favorite. He has four "outs". He needs an ace or 10. the turn comes and 10 hits the turn, crushing my hopes. I take like a man, and dole out another 17,000 chips as everyone shakes their head is disbelief. I am not in disbelief, I am at Foxwoods, where these things tend to happen to me with regularity.

It is disheartening to play so well, make all the right reads and plays, and catch a bad beat. people whine about bad beats all the time, but a 6+:1 favorite after the flop falling is a bad beat. I still had 10,000 chips, I wasn't dead yet, although the uphill climb just got steeper- as Lenny sits down to my right. Lenny is possibly the most respected regular player at Foxwoods, and made the final table of the $10,000 main even last year at the Foxwoods WPT.

I catch KQ, not my favorite hand, but not bad for a short stack. A shorter stack pushes in front of me, I shove my 10K. Lady Luck has turned out to be a psycho-chick with herpes who is stalking me at work and telling the police I tried to force myself on her. the guy to my left calls with AK and my day is over.

All things considered, I feel great about my play, except the one mistake. My reads were very good, and I seemed to make all the right moves, but that's poker. I am going to have to downplay reporting the tournaments to my father, as he said, "this is costing you money, right?" and he does worry about that. he knows I won a small tourney last week, and I told him that covered me for a while.

I do feel like I am playing well, and geez, I don't even want breaks, just a lack of screw-jobs, and I feel something good will happen. We play at Foxwoods Wednesday in our next tourney, and I am targeting Mohegan Friday.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


I broke out a new book this morning to blend into the pile I use for morning meditation. I let up this week, skipped a few days, and only sat and read for a fragment of the time I was spending on the days I did sit down.

By "new" book, I mean new to the pile. The book is "Callings: Finding and Following an Authentic Life", by Gregg Levoy. It was first published in 1997, so it isn't new new, and I have had the thing for probably ten years. As I may have mentioned previously, nice folks are frequently giving me "spiritual" books. This one was a gift from a professor I had in an introductory writing course I took at BCAE about ten years ago. We became friends. She was a poet, and greatly enjoyed and benefited from this book.

I am sure I glanced at it a number of times over the years, as I moved from apartment to house to apartment, packing it up and thinking, "hmmm... I should read this sometime."

So today, in an effort to jump start my waning meditations, I grabbed "Callings" and a couple other books, adding them to the small stack. I have a very simple morning practice, part of which is reading a paragraph or two, or pages, from a book, and pondering. It is often referred to as contemplative meditation. I don't do well sitting in complete silence for extended periods of time. My mind is still very undisciplined and thoughts are rampant.

Much like Brennan Manning "got me" as early as the introduction in "The Ragamuffin Gospel", Levoy called my number in his introduction. I always read with a highlighter, these types of books, and I found myself reaching for it half way down the first page of the intro.

Levoy described a calling as a "centrifugal force". Rather than something coming from the cosmos, it is something inside trying to get out.

"We often tune out the longings we feel...rather than confront and act on them... we do not forget our calls, but what we fear what they might demand of us in pursuing them... Anticipating the conniption of change blocks us from acknowledging that we do know, and always have known, what our calls are... we also fear the hope that such a call evokes in us, and the Power that we know is dammed up behind the resistance."

Awareness of a call puts me in an ambivalent position. Ambivalence is sometimes seen as meaning wishy-washy, not caring which direction we float in, but in reality, it means torn between two options, almost the same as dilemma. A dilemma isn't just a problem, it's a problem with two unsatisfactory options.

When I think of people "called", many things come to mind. Most often, a calling is associated with the religious, so it tends to take on an ominous tone. If I answer a call, I have to do something BIG. Anything less than changing the world is failure. At one point, after having a spiritual awakening that saved me from an ugly death, I thought I ought to become a minister. I wasn't that far off... but all things considered, that is probably not my path. I had many ideas swirling around.

The thing is, I don't think you have to work that hard to know your calling. In your heart of hearts, there has always been something you were drawn to. Motherhood? Painting? Bowling? You felt at peace and in joy when the little stick turned blue, or you set foot in an art store, or when you picked up a tough split and filled a spare with a strike.

One has to wonder why we put so much effort into busying ourselves, distracting ourselves, launching ourselves into consumerism, obsession with things unimportant and rise and fall with the success or failure of the Red Sox, Bruins, Yankees, Patriots etc.

Many people come to mind when I think of answering a call.

The first who popped into my head is my sister Barbara. Barbara knew at a young age that she wanted to live in Europe and that she loved singing. She sang in high school and college. A few years down the road, she learned to speak French and moved to France. Not too crazy about the friendliness factor, she moved around, settling in Germany. She worked a job at a bank that was less than thrilling, but always worked toward her dream. She sang and sang and sang. Glee clubs, choruses, voice lessons. Eventually, Barb got a "job" singing in the chorus of an opera company.

Now my sister is not a religious person in the sense most of us consider religiosity, but if you kick around the classic sense of the word "religious" is a re-learning of what we've always known to be true.

Barb was born a singer, and through a series of small steps, arrived where she was always intended to be.

My niece Nat is another example of someone who responded to an inner call to sing. A mother with small children, Natalie decided to teach herself guitar, write some songs and sing them in public. When she mentioned this to me, I had had no idea she ever even thought of singing, or writing or playing guitar. In spite of intense fear of performing in public, not only did she pull it of, but she brought the house down and tears to the eyes of those who knew her. Anyone who knew her, (and even some of those who don't) could see that the songs were written on the lining of her stomach. No one else could have written them and sang them the way she had, beautiful, painful, liberating, true.

If she hadn't picked up the phone and answered in spite of her misgivings, the still small voice never would have been heard.

That's what it ussualy is, a still, small voice. Rod Serling concurred, "Thunder doesn't rent the sky and a bony finger... point at you and a great voice boom, 'YOU! You're anointed!"

Levoy continues, "most of the calls we receive and ignore are... daily calls to pay attention, to be authentic, to live by our own codes of honor. Great breakthroughs are often the ...accumulation of innumerable small steps."

So, as Levoy stated earlier, I do know, and have always known what I long to do. "We approach our deepest callings with both exhilaration and terror."

When I acknowledge that I have always lived to make people laugh, and loved to write. I like to perform in front of crowds and make them laugh. Combining these things with a deep self awareness acquired by recovering from alcoholism, and the subsequent spiritual awakening which kept me alive and opened my eyes, it would seem there was a reasonably clear direction, of not path, suggested.

It never ceases to amaze me, no matter how many times I hear differently, how persistent that voice of fear seems to be. Without fail, I will hear things like "who do you think you are to write? Do you really think anyone cares what you have to say? Rent a video. Play a game on the internet. Have a snack. This is too big a task. You probably won't finish. This has to be the best (fill in the blank) book, screenplay, article ever written, or you shouldn't bother writing anything at all.

It is sometimes very difficult to hear the still small voice among those voices, thought is always there. the voices of fear seem to dissipate as I take action- like I am now.

Even writing a blog helps me. It is not the flow of kind words and compliments from friends after I have written something. Oddly, I feel... "right" while writing and afterward. It is the before part that always kicks my ass. I find myself doing anything possible to "kill time", so that I don't have to write, or think about it, when time is the primary nonrenewable resource in the human experience.

So what can I do today? Well, it is unlikely I can write an entire book. But what I can do is bring my laptop to my dad's and write part of a chapter while we watch the Patriot's game.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


Well yesterday's poker exploits didn't go quite as well as I'd hoped. First off, I was exhausted and if I hadn't already signed up in advance, would have skipped playing. Secondly, I didn't play my best. I was a little too loose and aggressive way too early.

This particular tournament started you off with 5,000 chips, not a big stack. While the antes and blinds go up rather slowly (every 50 minutes) which gives you plenty of time to wait, I tend to try to mix it up too much early, and when you miss, you deplete the chip stack further.

I got low on chips pretty early and rallied a bit, but got bounced fairly soon. At the start of the day I thought, "the worst thing today would be if I got bounced early, and my partner busted out on the bubble just before the pay spots, which is of course, exactly what happened.

Finally got a little sleep today and had dad over for a movie.

We watched "Taken" and dad loved it. For an action thriller type flick is was actually not bad.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Slippers Deliver

As if bringing Ren (the dad) with me, I wore slippers to the poker tourney today. I would have left my pants at home and gone with long johns to complete the Rennish wardrobe if I thought they'd let me in the door.

As for the day's success- I give half credit to the slippers and half to this clay turtle given to me by my cousin Bill for my birthday which I use at a card cap. It reminds me to slow down and take my time.

Turn out was a bit of a disappointment, as only 19 people showed up for this thing. Mohegan Sun is annoying in that they must have the worst P.R. strategy going. "Hey guys, tell people about this, we're doing it every Tuesday and Thursday now!"

You can build a high rise, yet you can't let people know you're having a poker series? It's really up to me? Gosh, you're in trouble then guys.

Beau and I opted to stay and play anyway, since we were there, though we are definitely skipping Thursday. Today felt longer than it was, and we have a long one tomorrow (hopefully) at Foxwoods in the $400. It should be a pretty size field, maybe 900 or so if history dictates, though it is a tough economy. They lowered some of the buy ins, the lowest used to be $600, now they have tomorrow's $400 and next Monday's $500.

I wonder if Foxwoods will ask me to tell my friends about the tourney so someone shows up- probably not.

Today's tourney was looking pretty bleak. I was short stacked pretty late and didn't much in the way of cards all day, but I did lucky on a couple of all-ins. Anywho, long story short, when we got down to 4 players, we decided to split the prize money, then we renegotiated again at 3 players, then at two. It wound up being me and this other dude. The prize money was already chopped up, so we were playing for seat they added to another tourney because of the meager turnout.

We wound up splitting that, too.

So in effect, I won the thing, but it really was a small victory moneywise, but at least covers my tourneys this week and some of next week. And hey, it beats the hell out of losing.

Tomorrow we kicvk off at 11am at Foxwoods.


Monday, October 19, 2009

Back to the Poker Tables

Well, my friend and former poker partner Beau is back in town for six weeks. There are two poker series at Mohegan Sun (Blowhegan Dung) and one series at Foxwoods (F**kwoods) over the next month.

We are joining forces yet again in hopes of duplicating our 2007 success. It really helps to have a number of tournaments, and also a partner (providing the guy can play) as it doubles your chances, obviously.

The goal is not simply to make the money in a tournament, but to finish right near the top 5 if possible. Obviously, you'd like to win the thing, but the way they structure tournament payouts, if you finish IN the money toward the bottom 1 out of every 2 tournaments, you would actually LOSE money. One key is to be aggressive as you approach the money "bubble" (the line between players who cash and those who do not cash) and try accumulate chips.

I need to remember to bring that most important tool, the ipod. I like to pay attention to the players, not immerse myself in music, but in the event there is a goon at my table, I prefer to just shut the noise out. Six or eight or ten hours with a goofball is a bit much.

We play our first tourney tomorrow at Blowhegan at 11am.


Saturday, October 17, 2009

I Don't shut the Door on the Past

There's a spiritual promise in a book I studied that was a great part of saving my life.

"We will neither regret, nor wish to shut the door on the past."

This is referred to as a "promise".

There are a number of promises, all of which have come to fruition in my life over the past 12 or 13 years. All, that is,. except this one. Is it possible for me, sure, I believe so, it just hasn't happened yet.

I can stand on the "nor wish to shut the door on" portion of the promise. That much is true. I can honestly say there is not one single thing I have ever done, had done to me, or thought that I have not already shared with another human being, and of course, God, Who (I had a sneaking suspicion,) may have already known.

The purpose is not simply to share horror stories, or lowlights, but to share insight on a tragedy from the perspective of someone in whom the difficulty has now been solved.

Sometimes, the entriety of the problem has not been relieved, but I am compelled to share whatever perspective it si that I have.

The freedom to share my worst moments, humiliating defeats and darkest nights of the soul comes not from pride at having survived them, because let's face it, most people don't need to go where I've gone and experience what I've experienced to smarten up and do things differently. I never changed out of virtue, but rather out of necessity. And honestly, I never really changed me, I merely became unwilling to continue living the old way, and willing to let God do whatever the heck it is that He does with characters like me.

So it occasionally comes to me- my greatest regret of many regrets, the lone regret I can't seem to completely forgive myself for. I can share with depth the hows and whys, the ways God has changed me, and the things I need to continue to work on, but to say I no longer regret my greatest failing... well I just can't do that, not yet.

Humility is sometimes granted to the lucky in sublime moments when you know God is there, patting your head, whispering that it's all going to be okay. I often fluctuate from "I'm better than you" to "I'm worse than everyone", when in reality the truth is "as good as any, better than none", and God has a gentle way of showing this to me, taking my darkest moments, and using them to shine light into someone else's personal hell cave.

Today I met with a young man I am helping with his sobriety. We were talking about life, and we like to go to a certain place to get hot dogs when we have our chats. This week, they started deducting child support from his already meager check, leaving him with very little money left over. he said with not a little shame that he couldn't afford to go for hot dogs today, as he was broke. I good-naturedly and happily I might add ('cuz that's just the kind of guy I am!) offered to treat. he accepted, probably wishing he didn't have to.

As we sat and scarfed our dogs, he hung his head a bit, feeling bad about being broke while living in a half-way huse, which was bad enough. Without any effort, I thought myself somewhat magnanimous inmy generosity at helping out a down-on-his luck chap.

Before I completed the first pat on my own back, an awareness came to, sharply.

This kid was paying child support, that's why he was broke. I had money, perhaps because I had no child support to pay. Why is it that I don't have to pay child support?

Because my child was never born.

The opportunity was presented to me once to take on the responsibility of caring for another human being, but I was too scared, too sick to even dream of such an undertaking. It was many years ago when was in my mid 20's, a chronic alcoholic, daily drinker, bookie and degenerate gambler. What kind of father could I possibly be?

My own parents were marvels of parnethood. Dad had a truckload of kids. Mom (2nd marriage for both as her husband had died very young) waited until the wedding night, althought she was 39 when they married. I wasn't raised to be this selfish, this irresponsible, yet here I was. What happened to me? Where did everything go so far astray? How did I become this person I now loathed?

I couldn't face the responsibility, and was overwhelmed by the fear of how terrible a father I would be. I gave the poor woman zero emotional support, and pretty much, through lack of help, left her only one choice.

In the aftermath, I became more self-hating and ventually, suicidal, though no one close to me would know that. I pasted on the persona of a comedic chronic inebriate and tried to dull the pain as best I could. It would still be years before I would finally crumble and get sober.

As the kid sat there, feeling bad about how he had failed as a young father, as well as me having to pay for his hot dog, I realized I had to share this with him, though my ego would rather let me sit there and play the hero with a ten dollar bill to burn.

So I told him the reason I had money to pay for his dog might be because I lacked the courage he had displayed when he got his girlfriend pregnant to help her see it through. I instead thought only of self-preservation, and how poor a father I would make. I hadn't even dared to try, and because of that, there was one less person walking the earth.

"You might not be able to pay for your hot dog, but your son is alive."

I felt tears coming to my eyes, and fought them back. This kid, who had probably seen me as some sort of half-assed guru could now see the truth- I am just like him, he is just like me.

Either one of us trying to forge through life without God guiding us is going to leave a wake of wreckage.

I told him I was proud of him.

He countered with the admission that the money was deducted by the state, he had no choice, a truth he may not have been willing to pony up, but now was. God was showing him through me that it was okay to tell the truth, to fail and admit it, get up and keep plugging.

The only thing I have of value is the truth of my experience,nothing more. The truth is that when I am on the right Path, I am a pretty amazing guy, because that's how I was put together, and when I am off track, I am a wrecking ball, destroying everything in my path, because that's how I am put together. I was designed be with One with the Master, and when I stray, I pay as do those around me.

We talked for a long time about the inevitability of crashing and burning as the result of the alcoholic mind as marshalled by the will. I could see for this kid, it simply was not going to be any other way.

There was no great job,no winning streak, no new car, girlfriend or combination of them all that was going to change the fact the he was and is, a chronic alcoholic. As we talked about the mind of the alcoholic, his and mine, a small still voice whispered to me... if this is true for him, isn't it true for you?

"Yes," I thought, "Yes, it must be true for me as well."

This is how God shows me my own humanity, fallibility and ultimately, forgiveness, by teaching me through compassion for others andblessing me with forgiveness for others.

So today I was willing to open the door to the past so that someone in need may get relief from shame, guilt and remorse. That's a good step for me. Some day, I may look deep within myself, and notice that something is missing- regret and remorse with regard to this painful memory. As for now, it is still there in some degree, but lessening, and the pain has never stopped me from sharing the truth when I honestly believed it could help someone, so there's that. Right now, I'm pretty sure it's the very best I can do.

I still feel a little sad today, but I think that's a normal reaction. It's okay to be sad, sometimes "sad" is the exact right way to feel. The difference today is that I can be a little sad without trying to alter the way I feel with something outside of myself, but can go within, share the sadness with God, and move out into life, where I am supposed to be, as opposed to in my head full or regret for something I simply can not change.

Some things can't be undone.

You know, I generally like to write or talk from the perspective of a man who knows the solution, has the answers, is on top of things, but sometimes it is refreshing to simply write "I don't know", or "I have faith...but I don't have the answer yet."

I don't know.

I have faith, but I don't have the annswer yet.

There, I did it.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Slipper Boys Volume XXVII

Actually, this is the first installment of The Slipper Boys, but I thought making it seem like one adventure in a long series, which it is, really, would make me seem a more prolific author.

I met pop for a flick today, "Law Abiding Citizen". A vigilante-revenge flick, dad's favorite genre. he loves to see some killing gettin' done, provided all the people (except the hapless victims who generally get murdered at the outset of things, barring the buddy/cop partner who often go down 3/4 of the way through the formulaic yarns) who get killed are "bad".

Dad used to adore the Charles Bronson "Death Wish" films, and got giddy before watching Clint Eastwood's "Dirty Harry" wipe out the punks who somehow managed to evade "justice", dealing out his own brand of Magnum 45 scale-balancing.

When I meet the old man for a movie, or anything, really, I try to remember to wear my slippers. It is dad's great pleasure to wear his slippers anywhere he goes now, not because he is senile, but because (I think but can only guess, really) he says, F*&% it... I can do what I want now."

It may be only as the reality of losing certain pleasures and freedoms approach, that we are able to grasp the true privilege and joy of doing as we please.

Many people feel bad for people in their 70s and 80s, and think, "Gee, it must be tough to get old."

Which is, of course, true, but "beats the hell out of the alternative" as my cousin Fran used to say when she was still alive and kicking, and she sure did kick.

While there are the obvious physical limitations to aging, I happen to covet the freedom that seems to come with age and the right attitude. There comes a time when you seem to stop giving a shit about things that matter only to those of us trapped by the illusion of immortality. A friend told me once that none of really at our core believe we are going to die until we do. If I am immortal, I am going to need people to see me in a certain way, like me, approve of me. But when I genuinely realize that none of us is getting out of this alive" (thanks Don P.) it frees me up to be silly, to not care about anything but being free. Free from boredom (When is my last day on this earth? 2043, as it claimed on a questionnaire I filled out recently? Or sooner? 2025? Tomorrow?) Not out of morbidity, but out of a respect for those who can't go to a movie, I go. I hit Red Sox games, even though they are expensive and often break your heart and it is a pain in the ass to park, ride the train, or arrive by way of air drop.

I say a prayer of thanks (when I remember) when I pee sans aid from Avodart, or without passing a kidney stone. When I drink a delicious cup of coffee,because I can, or poop because all the parts of my body still function absolutely perfectly (well...for the most part.) Coffee, chocolate, popcorn, steak- all things dad forfeited his right to when he let them put a tube in his side to keep him alive when he could no longer take nourishment by mouth.

I'm 43, not 90, but someday my body and my faculties will not serve me as they do now. I know a few folks who would argue that my faculties don't serve me all that well in the present, by the way. Why wait until I'm forced by way of an enema to appreciate the freedom and glory I once had of taking a simple dump on my own time? I assure you, if you lose the ability to do such a thing (as I did for a brief period that felt like a lifetime), you would feel covered in glory after the simple execution a dookie.

Perhaps the greatest freedom afforded the aged is a return a gift God gives us as children, only to see us toss it aside; the freedom from fear of people's opinions. Until it is instilled in him/her by the world, children don't know you're not suppose to put jelly on a hot dog, or wear your jammies to the park, pick your nose or tell the truth about how momy and daddy really act when they're alone, or arguing. Nonexistent one day. the ruler of all thought and action the next, we abandon the freedom to be ourselves voluntarily, and pick up the company guideline. The beauty is that there's a company line for non-conformists, as long as they refuse to conform in an orderly fashion, like the goth kids who often dress exactly alike and listen to the same music. They conform by rejecting everything in sight.

But sometimes something happens when you get close to the finish line. You stop worrying about death, which is of course, inevitable, and start focusing on living, if you're one of the lucky ones, like my dad. A cantankerous old goat, I think he mostly uses ranting and complaining as a means of camaraderie, I doubt he really all that concerned about anything.

He lives like he's on death row, but they're not gonna juice him until Sunday, and they're serving prime rib on Saturday night. He is in the now 24/7. He wears those fucking slippers whether or not they forecast rain, snow or a hurricane. If it is raining now, he'll grudgingly put on shoes, but otherwise, "%^&$ it... I may be dead by then."

The thing is, he says it with a smile. Something about dad's near death and brutal run last winter was transforming. He is basically the same guy, but more so, if that makes any sense. I soak up every moment I can, knowing that while we've sure had a helluva run, it isn't going to last forever.

But mostly, we laugh a lot. While to say I tend toward the reflective would be a gross understatement, my role in the family it to make dad laugh, and it's a role I cherish, and might be the most important job I've had in my life.

So I wear slippers to the movies now, barring the intervention of inclement weather, anywhere I meet pop.

I showed off my slippers to him as he entered the theater, noting that I "was on time for a change." As I paid for the tickets (with his $20) I asked the clerk why it was full price, I thought it was "free if you were wearing your slippers", The clerk looked confused, so I reported to dad, "no deal, dad. Wednesday is the slipper discount day."

When he starts laughing, dad often has this look that says he simply no explanation as what a knucklehead I am or how I came to be that way.

I guess dad's laughter is fertilizer for my creative gene, I guess, as it always gets me on a roll. On the other hand, some of my family members feel my creative gene produces fertilizer.

Seeing dad was having a good time, I said aloud, "I can't wait until I'm a hundred and five, like you. You just don't give a damn about anything do you? Man that must be liberating. When you have both feet in the grave, and are keeping the casket ajar as your fingers get crushed, what can you possibly be afraid of?"

I know it sounds nuts- but he loves this stuff.

"Dad, I'd kill for your level of freedom. F*&^ it, I'm wearing slippers from now on."

He is laughing so hard he is beginning to tear up.

Doing my best dad impression, I said, "What's that sonny- oh you're writing me a ticket? Good luck collecting that, I'll be dead in 6 months, jackass."

I stop before the clerks have time to realize it might be a good idea to deny us entry to the movie ans throw my arm around dad.

"Let's go to the right theater this time, Helen Keller, I don't want to see Rainy with a Chance of Meatballs again because you get lost."

Law Abiding Citizen was everything dad loves in an action flick. As we walked out to our respective cars, dad thanked me.

"Shit dad, I palmed your five bucks change."

"You always do that," he deadpanned.

Laughing, I handed over the wadded up singles, and dad squeezed my hand, looked me in the eye and thanked me. It made me a little uneasy, to tell you the truth, like maybe he knew something I didn't.

I told myself it was just his way of showing appreciation, his equivalent of a grateful audience at the end of a good comedy show, a nodding his approval for the entertainment. But a part of me I tried to ignore used it as a reminder to cease every opportunity I have, as all things fade in time.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Football and movies.with dad

I went to my nephew Mike's football game Saturday afternoon. It was a matchup of 4-0 teams, though Northbridge was a decided underdog, even playing at home. They fought 'em close, but lost in the end 16-7. The Auburn players were giants. Mike is about 5'6", 165 lbs- and plays ceneter, yes center.

He came just below the shoulder of the opposing nose tackle when standing up, but I have to say, the kid dug in and held his own. The best part of the game was that my dad agreed to come to it. He hasn't been getting out nearly as much as he used to. I asked dad if felt like going, and he said "sure," which surprised me. The game started at 2pm, and did hits the sack for his afternoon nap at 3pm- no exceptions. he also gets some medication at 3pm.

We hopped in my car, and began to head to the game when I noticed dad was wearing his slippers (which he likes to do in public.) I insisted on getting his shoes and bringing them along, suggesting the ground may be wet.

I drove to the gate and dropped dad off, at which point he quickly skipped out of the car and said, "I'm not taking my shoes," before bolting like a kid who had just gotten away with some sort of mischief.

We cheered, stood, sat and yelled for the Rams. It was an amazing experience for me. Seven months ago, this man was in the hospital and was so weak he couldn't walk. Walk? He couldn't sit up. My father couldn't put on a t-shirt. I had to hold him up with on arm, and wriggle the t-shirt over his head with the other.

Yet, here he was, up and out and rooting for the home team.

The previous Wednesday, dad and I hit a flick, "The Invention of Lying", the week before we saw "Surrogates" against his better judgment. While I got popcorn, dad went into the theater. When I showed up, he wasn't there, so I went to check the bathroom and see if he was in there, and just to make sure he was fine. As I went down the hall, I see dad coming out of another theater (which was also showing the same film). Dad yells at me from 60 feet away, "Where the hell are ya?"

We wound up in the right theater, and the flick was better than we expected, but any movie I see, any game I see, any time I get to spend with this little 85 year old kook, is the best spent time in my life.

Twenty years, or ten years, or five years from now, it's unlikely I'll wish I had spent more time playing poker tournaments, or playing video games, or driving around in circles. I have long appreciated time spent with my father, maybe moreso because my mother died when I was so young, but after seeing dad in the condition he was in last winter, after the 4th and 5th trip to the hopsital, we weren't sure he'd ever make it out of the hospital, the out of rehab, then up a staircase again, let alone be out rooting and viewing and getting haircuts and hitting CVS to buy shit he doesn't need again.

He is getting around quite well, very well, actually, and is planning on coming up to my place tomorrow for "Benjamin Button" (or an action flick if I can find one I think he'll like.)

I feel very blessed to know that these truly are the best days of my life. I am grateful that I can enjoy pop and let him be himself and just get a kick out of the nut. I would say, though it be a cliche, don't let days turn into weeks turn into months turn into years before you realize who is really important in your life, and what the most valuable commodity in the human experience is... time.

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