Sunday, October 28, 2018

The Great Double Date


It would be a risk, I know. But heck -- what are friends for? What could possibly go wrong? Surely things couldn't get too messed up.

In high school, one of my best friends was a somewhat awkward guy. His family had emigrated from Czechoslovakia due to the political climate at that time. My friend, whom we nicknamed Spud (among other things), was extremely bright and was sort of an evil genius who, I thought, had the possibility to rule the world. However, he wasn't exactly a ladies man and stumbled socially. We lived in west suburban Chicago, where a car was necessary to get around. Spud didn't drive.

During our senior year, Spud developed this longing for a sophomore named Sherry. Unfortunately, with no wheels, how was he to take her out on a date? If only he had a friend who was dating one of Sherry's friends ...

One of Sherry's friends was a cute girl named Beth. I'm not sure how it started, but I was flirting with Beth and made a "date" to wrestle her in her front yard. Yes - you read that right - wrestle her. Now Beth was no skinny little girl. She gave me a run for my money in the match. And I've got to tell you, when is having a wrestling match with a cute girl not going to be fun? As it was, Beth had a boyfriend, a year older than me, who was finishing his freshman year at Michigan State. I was guessing that they had broken up or had some type of arrangement. Good for me.

Since I had access to a vehicle, Spud begged me to ask Beth out on a real date and double with him and Sherry. I had an idea that a shit show was to follow, but he was one of my best friends and needed a steady date other than Rosie Palms, so I agreed. The plan for date night was to cruise around a bit while it was still light outside, then head to the local drive-in movie. Solid plan. What could go wrong?

I picked up Spud and gave him a bunch of admonitions about messing stuff up since this was essentially his first date. Sherry's mom had dropped her off at Beth's house to make everything easier for the night. Good start.

I drove to Sherry's house and went up to the door to get the girls. They came out all giggly and ran to the car. Spud had been riding shotgun on the trip there, naturally, and didn't get out of the front seat fast enough. Both girls dove into the back seat. Fantastic! The shit show had begun!

We started to cruise around the area -- guys in front, girls in back -- and were joking around. I don't remember exactly what happened, but somehow things took a sudden turn the wrong way. They asked us where we were going, and we asked if they had suggestions. I don't remember which things they suggested, but when I told them the plan was to go to the drive-in movie, the response I got was a steely "NO." Ut oh - what now? The conversation turned a little ugly and I ended up inviting them to leave the car if they didn't like it. They asked to be let out and I did so in a local apartment area. I started to drive away and figured that, as messed up as things got, what was the one variable different from this date and my other successful dates? The answer: Spud! I started giving him crap, especially for not moving into the back seat before the girls got in the car. I mean really - what are good friends for?

At that point I decided to do what I thought was best -- calm down, go back and get the girls, take them back home and call it an early night. I drove back where we let the girls off and told them that I would drive them back home. They responded with middle finger salutes and the profanity that goes with those salutes. What to do now?

I was concerned because the girls were a couple of years younger than us and I felt like we were responsible for them. I decided to head to Beth's house and talk to her mom. I apologized, told her that things just went wrong and that I tried to bring the girls back but they refused. I wanted to let her know that I would no longer be responsible for them. She thanked me, and Spud and I left.

Beth's mom apparently was really pissed. I don't know what other stuff might have factored in here, but Beth's mom blamed it all on Sherry's influence on Beth, drove out in her car to pick them up, and get this -- made Beth call me to apologize and basically beg me to take her out again! Now you have to understand -- parents of girls I dated liked me. I was in sports and was the student body president and other #CleanLiving stuff. But of course, I am sure that Beth was humiliated to make that call. Yes -- that night I was certainly on the great double date of my life!

Epilogue 
I took Beth out one more time. I'm sure she only went out with me to appease her mom. A year or two later I ran into Beth's Michigan State boyfriend. He just saw me and laughed at me. Lord knows what story he was told. He later married Beth and, as far as I know, is still alive and married to her.

Sherry disappeared off the face of the earth. Perhaps she moved away. I was off to college three months after the double date and have no idea what happened to her.

Spud's life changed shortly thereafter. He started smoking weed that summer while visiting the University of Illinois and likely got involved with other drugs which radically changed his personality and life. The guy with the brilliant mind flunked out of college shortly thereafter. I stayed friends with him for a few years afterward, but we essentially had little in common anymore. I think he lives somewhere in the Pacific Northwest.

lightning's dating life got much better, and he disappointed women across the world when he married 12 years after the double date. He remains married today and can often be found donking off money in poker rooms in Las Vegas and the Midwest.

** From The lightning Chronicles, a soon-to-be-published compilation of short stories and essays. A motion picture is scheduled for release in 2022.


Monday, October 22, 2018

The TBC Talking Stick/Wild Horse Pass Challenge


Recently, Tony Bigcharles has been posting about some of his exploits in the Phoenix area casinos. This should primarily mean Talking Stick Resort and Wild Horse Pass casino. I have played at both over the past few years and can attest that they are great rooms for a number of reasons. I know that Tony previously played at The Stick, but I was unsure about Wild Horse Pass.

In a recent public post on Twitter, Tony stated "Phoenix is one of the last places remaining in the US where the lowest stakes are weak as hell and still beatable for over $1000 a week if u have the proper bankroll, which i doubt." I responded: "Tony, an experienced gambler like you should understand that you can't use a few days to make that kind of determination. If you play a few more sessions, I predict: you will lose several hundred dollars and: 1) no longer think the game is "beatable;" and 2) run somewhere else."

I thought it was foolish of Tony to make such a statement based on a very small sample. I was predicting that variance would soon bite him in the butt. I do acknowledge, as others such as AlaskaGal1 pointed out, that the games at The Stick have a reputation of being good, loose games. Even when I got my lunch handed to me a few times on my last trip to Phoenix, those beats were a result of a tremendous cooler and instances where I had my money in good and had people suck out on me. But a guy like Tony pulling down $1,000 a week? I asked for input from WECpoker, probably the person I am acquainted with who would be most the most knowledgeable about poker in the Phoenix area. Among other things, WEC tweeted, "I have to agree with Tony Bigcharles! He is echoing many things I have messaged him the past few days concerning some if the best games in US in Phoenix. As far as $1k a week in smallest games? Sure, very achievable+  more I think if playing 40 hrs. Lots of loose calls, over calls, & calling stations to help profit. If yer trying a lot of bluffing I think profit goes down. Lot of people calling you light, even some Ace High heroes. $100,000+ yearly earnings from poker in Phoenix? Yeah, no doubt easily within reach. Prolly not for Mr Bigcharles, but for a dedicated high level player it's a reasonable goal imo."

Okay -- so it looks like poker in the Phoenix area appears to be as several people have stated. If that is truly the case, why would Tony want to move anywhere else at this time? Northern casinos will start getting bad weather, options in Las Vegas are now few, Los Angeles casinos have a buy-in that makes games challenging. Why not just stay in Phoenix and watch the sockroll grow?

Some things to factor into the equation: 1) Tony reports that he is spending about $24/day on Uber. Not bad. He sometimes fails to consider that those of us who drive cars have a large built-in cost (buying the vehicle/monthly payments, insurance, gas, regular maintenance, unforeseen problems (like my $500+ repair from just over a week ago) ... 2) Food. Those of us who work regular jobs either have to buy lunch or make it ourselves. Same thing with dinner and maybe other meals. If we have a spouse/partner, kids or dependents, hike that figure up tremendously! Tony survives on the barest of food expenses. He stated in his blog: " theres a ton of self entitled spoilt rich people who order food at the table here and ive never understood why so many do that." Well, I guess Tony doesn't know the answer to that. At Talking Stick, the food is very good, inexpensive, delivered right to the table, and oftentimes paid for with casino comps. At Wild Horse Pass, unless things have changed, players have a poker menu from which to select meals and only pay 1/2 the listed price. Again, the food here, in my experience, has been good. So Tony can actually eat pretty well in the poker rooms for next to nothing. 3) Housing. This might prove more challenging because of the location of the casinos, but perhaps if Tony were to make a long-term commitment to stay in one place, he might find a decent deal.

So Tony, as I see it, here is your chance to grow that sockroll that once went over $45,000 and looked to be heading up to $50,000 (and a pox on Pete Peters, who declined to take my bet on the direction of the sockroll, saving himself from losing a nice wad of cashola). You stayed in Reno for a pretty long time. Commit to staying in Phoenix for six months. If you really can win the money you speak of, at the end of six months, the sockroll, which has stayed about the same for some time, should grow enough for you to then decide what your next move will be, and you will have a much bigger sockroll to then increase or decrease.

This all seems easy enough to me. Tony - what do you say?


Monday, October 08, 2018

Guess Who's Back?



Wow - a whole month since I last posted. I was planning to make one or more posts about my trip to Australia, but after getting back and trying to get my body back to central time, going back to work, feeling post-trip fatigue, ... 
thundering36 and I with our new friend, Dindy, at the Healesville Sanctuary

One of my issues seems to be having time/energy/motivation to post. Life seemed to be moving pretty fast. Some random thoughts as I reenter the blogosphere ...

* The Democrats have gone crazy! I mean, who really knows what happened, if anything, with Judge Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford. For those readers who are not young pups anymore, imagine someone going back and digging into your life when you were in high school and college. Really -- what kind of things could they say about you? What did you do at a party? Ummm ... which one  -- not sure of the year, location, or other important details.

Personally, I thought the grandstanding by the 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls was childish and poorly done. I will not give them even the acknowledgement of listing their names here. But guess what? You had the national stage and you looked foolish.

I'm not going to rehash everything that went on with then hearing, and I certainly have no solid evidence (nor does anyone else, apparently) of what happened. I have my own theory, but mind you -- it is just a theory. I suspect that the situation Dr. Ford described might have happened with another man. I get the feeling that if we had access to her therapist's notes, we would find that she has been riddled with significant psychological issues for many years of her adult life and her recollections are jumbled and not indicative of objective reality. As I mentioned -- this is just a thought.

The anger, bitterness, childish and destructive (dare I say hypocritical?) behavior of some of the far left has been amazing. If it keeps up, which hopefully won't happen since Judge Kavanaugh has now been sworn in, someone is going to end up hurt or killed. And we will see which party is more galvanized  for the midterm elections.

* Treasure your good health and your life. A major reason I visited my brother, thundering36, in Australia was because he had been having some serious medical issues. He was able to get out and do some things as long as there were rest days in between. We are hoping that his medical diagnosis is now becoming clearer and that there will be some procedures he can take to continue to lead an active life.

Shortly over a week ago, I volunteered to go to park in Indiana to go hiking with my wife and dog. I found out that my wife's plan was for us to go canoeing. Unfortunately, the water running through the park was up three feet and trips would be much more challenging. Ha! Our canoe hit some rapids and took us, at a pretty decent speed, right into a tree. The canoe capsized, and I was momentarily stuck underwater underneath it and some tree branches. Scarier than hell! I have watch Titanic too many times and felt like I was living the movie. Fortunately, some people were on the shore in that area and one guy came into the water to help me work myself out over several trees in swift running water. As a result, I lost my glasses, my hearing aids, and my non-waterproof cell phone got soaked and died. I've spent the past nine days getting things in my life back in order. I stopped wearing my contacts at the end of February because of impending surgery on my eyelids. I was forced to go back to them , which I had been putting off for months anyway. I was actually looking to buy a new phone anyway and was able to get one and be up and running last week. This Friday I am having an audiology exam and will be getting some much needed new hearing aids. So I have to tell you, this little canoeing trip cost my more than a few dollars.

* Poker. Arggg. I got in about five sessions at the Crown Casino in Melbourne and kicked some major butt. The players were bad, and the only losing session I had was when I lost a flip and an absolutely terrible player was in on a hand with crap cards and caught a miracle river. I returned home feeling confident about my game, but my poker has been suffering  while back at my usual rooms. This game sure can humble you sometimes.

* Anybody need a car? We currently have an extra car, which somehow made it through two teenage drivers and eight years of university parking lots and on-street spaces. It runs well, but looks like it has been through a war zone. Our van looks almost as bad and is still being kept around for hauling yard debris, furniture, etc. And my baby -- my faithful companion for the past 16 years (a red Ford Mustang convertible) -- squeaks everywhere. I'm taking in in to the shop soon to find out if there are any quick, inexpensive fixes. If not , it may be time to say goodbye. If so, what to get? I have no idea. If not a newer version of my car, I just don't know. I am not the kind of person that likes to spend a fortune on a car, but I guess I'll have to decide if I want something hot or maybe take a step back and get something a little more refined.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, September 09, 2018

Australia Trip Report - Part I

I have now been in Australia almost an entire week. The escapade has certainly been interesting, even right from the start. thundering36 had told me that the Qantas non-stop flight from San Francisco to Melbourne was the inaugural one. He was right. When I got to San Francisco, I saw some balloons at the airline gate. Then I saw some flamboyant dude in a navy blue raincoat with a red hat. I later learned that the guy is tWitch, and that he was filming for an episode of the "ellen" show. I was subsequently filmed entering the airplane and briefly interviewed by tWitch. I wasn't asked to fill out a waiver sheet, so I doubt that I will make it on the show, but it made life interesting for the flight.

Oh yeah - the flight. 15 hours. Ouch! I was fortunate to have the two seats next to me empty, which was nice. I had already slept most of the flight from Chicago to San Francisco, but was able to sleep more during the first half of the flight. Meals were actually welcomed not for the sake of eating, but for burning time. I listened to a lot of music and watched a couple movies (most of Woodstock and the whole movie of Blockers). The whole period of travel, starting from my leaving home to getting to my brother's place in Melbourne was about 36 hours. Yowsa!

The trip from the airport to my brother's place was interesting. We got lost and I have having a difficult time negotiating driving on the opposite side of the road and all the other opposites that entailed. I had to concentrate unbelievably hard. But ... We eventually made it, although thundering nearly suffered two heart attacks from my driving!

I pretty much begged the first day, and on Sept 4 we headed to the Crown Casino to celebrate thundering's birthday with an exquisite buffet. thundering's birthday was actually the day before, but it was still his birthday in the US. Melbourne is actually 15 hours ahead of my regular time zone.

After the lunch buffet, I headed to the Crown poker room for some $1/$3 turbo NL Hold em. If you start taking, the dealer hits a timer, giving you ten seconds to decide. If you pay an extra $3, you get a little extra time. You have to pay a time charge of $5 When you first sit down. Rake is 10% up to $15! When I inquired, I was told "Welcome to Australia!" And by the way, there is no tipping to the dealer on winning hands!

The players seemed loose and bad. Bluffs were rampant. I played patient poker and made a tidy profit. It felt good to get off to a good start.

The next day (Wed) thundering needed a day of rest, so I took public transportation into the city, roamed around a bit, and then headed back to Crown for my second session. Again, the players seemed really bad. I caught some cards and got paid off on some big hands. Would it always be this easy? Ha - I believe we call this foreshadowing!

I headed back out from the city, and thundering and I had dinner at a great Greek restaurant.

On Thursday, we parked at the administrative offices and members club for his footy (Australian Rules Football) team, ate lunch, looked at their grounds and hall of fame, then headed into the city for the first post-season footy game. thundering's mobility issues got our seats moved from the top row of the stadium to main floor handicapped seats. Score! After a great game, we headed back out of the city pretty exhausted after a long day.

I am posting this on my phone, so I will need to pretty it up with pictures when I get back home in another week or so.

There will be more to come. Thanks for reading!

Saturday, September 01, 2018

A Land Down Under

Today begins quite an adventure for me. In a few hours, I will take the first of three flights that will result in a trip to visit my brother, thundering36, in Melbourne, Australia. It's been several years since I have traveled far from the USA, and this trip will easily be the farthest.

The flight from San Francisco to Melbourne is a straight shot -- over 15 hours, almost completely over water. Mrs. lightning and I were debating whether it would be better to be eaten by sharks or munched on by miscellaneous ocean fish if the plane crashed. I think I would prefer feeding a group of many fish. I guess it's just my nature!

We've planned a few things for the trip. thundering36 and I will celebrate his birthday with a nice brunch buffet at the Crown Casino. Strangely enough, I think I'll find a little time for poker!

We also will be going to a footy game, which I am really looking forward to. I imagine the experience will be quite different than watching Australian Rules Football on television in the USA.

The real challenge of the trip will be driving on the opposite side of the car and the opposite side of the road. I'm gonna have to make sure I concentrate and don't do anything stupid.

I'll be staying for 11 days before heading back via Sydney and Dallas Fort Worth. It should be quite an adventure. I decided not to take a laptop computer, so I'll probably be communicating mostly via phone and social media.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, August 19, 2018

A Tale of Three Fathers

I

This past Friday marked the 14th anniversary of my father's death. Although it happened so many years ago, there are still painful memories of his last days. He collapsed at his home and never regained consciousness which, in a sense, was probably a good thing. If nothing else, it allowed his children a last chance to see him before he took his last breath. Although he was 80 years old at the time, his liver was still able to be used and was transplanted into a needy person. Unfortunately, we have no information on that person and do not know if she is still alive today.

My dad's final moments were shared with his family as we all stood around him right after he was taken off life support systems. It was a moment of brutal reality.

I have told several stories about my dad over the 12+ years of this blog. Unfortunately, most of the really great stories will never appear here due to the political correctness of current times. My dad used colorful terms in describing people of different ethnicities, races and religions -- terms that were common in the middle to late 1900's. They do not translate well to today's sensibilities. However, any readers chatting with me in person -- particularly over a few frosty beverages -- might get to hear some of these really funny things.

Tomorrow marks the 37th first day of school in my long career in higher education. The only first day I missed in all those years was in 2004 when my dad passed away. One of life's harsh realities for many people is that moment when your first parent dies. Even after years pass, it stays with you. You hope that you have a treasure trove of great memories to focus on rather than the end.


II

As many of you probably know, I am a father to three kids -- two girls and a boy. Those of you who are parents or were ever charged with raising children know everything that goes into parenting the little ones. So much time, effort ... and money! goes into providing a life for these little ones. As they grow older, the costs increase as do, in many cases, the challenges that you face. You don't do it to receive any kind of pat on the back, but you do everything out of love. However, you do remember as special those moments that fill your heart with joy.

As I have shared much of my life through this blog -- stories, good times, bad times -- I really wish to share with my friends something that I received out of the blue the other day. Almost a month ago, I helped my oldest daughter purchase an almost new car. My help included looking for cars for her, going with her to a dealership to test drive one, and finally finding the perfect car for her and helping her arrange dirt-cheap financing. It was fun as I love to get good deals, but it was just one of those things that, as a dad, you do. I'm guessing that this, and possibly other things, caused some reflection on my daughter's part. I was surprised to get the following text while at work this past week:
I was sitting at a table in a public area and didn't want to start bawling in front of everyone, but I was certainly touched. Moments like this don't seem to come around often enough in your life, but when they do, they are spectacular. So despite having to deal with a bunch of crap this month including shelling out several thousand dollars to have some extensive outside sewer and plumbing work, I have been a pretty happy camper. So ... I just wanted to share this with you, some of my best and most dear friends.


III

Saturday was a busy day for me. The mother of a former co-worker passed away and I had to drive outside town to go to the visitation in the morning. Before noon, I left with my wife to go to an out-of-town wedding of a good friend of my daughter. There was a 2 1/2 hour lag between the end of the wedding and the beginning of the reception, so I was able to get in a session of poker at the riverboat casino, which was only two miles away from the place where the reception would be held.

After booking a moderate win, my wife and I headed to the reception. Seats were assigned, and we were seated at a table with several couples who were about our age. I noticed that one gentleman at the table was wearing a pin with a photo on his lapel. We found out that the photo was of his daughter, a very good friend of the bride. In a cruel twist of fate, the daughter contracted a rare disease, went into the hospital and quickly passed away about 20 months ago. I had a few minutes to myself and quickly looked up some information on my phone. I slowly began to remember the newspaper article about his daughter. He checked his daughter's Facebook account and saw that my son was one of his daughter's Facebook friends. They had gone to the same high school. On the wedding party's table, a seat was reserved for this girl and a picture of her was there so that she could be present at the wedding.

I could not believe how difficult it must have been for this father to have lost his young, lovely daughter to a rare disease at such an early age. And to lose her so quickly and unexpectedly ... And then to come to this wedding and watch his daughter's good friend get married, and to see guys like me who still had our daughters at the wedding. My heart was breaking as I thought of how crushing it must have been, and how that sometimes due purely to chance some of us have great things happen, and some have terrible things to deal with. It was certainly a reminder that life is not fair, and that we should take every opportunity to live life to its fullest, as we have no guarantees in this life and, as one distraught parent once wrote, your whole life can change in a moment.

I certainly didn't mean for this post to be a downer, but instead I hope it serves as a reminder to appreciate those you love and tell them so while you can, for you never know when that opportunity might be lost, never to be regained. Life can truly change in an instant.

Thank for reading!

Sunday, August 05, 2018

Still Here Grinding Away at Poker and Life

Sometimes days and weeks seem to fly by. It's hard for me to believe that the last time I posted was before I left for Seattle and Phoenix -- a trip that seems way in the past to me.

On the Seattle part of the trip, I did have an opportunity to play poker one night at the Muckleshoot Casino in Auburn, Washington. I wish I had great stories from the visit, but it was actually a short and rather boring session. They had high hand jackpots every 15 or 30 minutes. I didn't win one. I wasn't getting much in the way of cards to stay in any hands beyond the flop until my final hand, when I flopped a flush. Unfortunately, a new guy at the table flopped a higher one. Meh. I decided things weren't going my way and didn't rebuy.

In Phoenix, I got in several sessions at Talking Stick Resort. The Arena Poker Room is actually a great place to play poker. If you are in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area, playing there is a must. One session was especially memorable. I had built my $200 buy-in to almost $1,000 when two hands quickly changed everything. In the first, my table had been selected for a $100 splash pot. After the flop, I was excited to see that I had flopped Broadway! A really weak player ahead of me helped to bloat the pot, but with two hearts on the flop, I didn't want anyone chasing a flush in this $3-300 spread limit game. I raised $300 and saw everyone fold, fold, fold until the action was on a woman who had seemed to play hyper aggressively and , frankly, pretty foolishly. She went in the tank for several minutes and then decided to call with about $200 behind. It turned out that she had the nut flush draw. As luck would have it, she hit her flush on the river. Dang it!

A few hands later, I looked down to see Q-Q (the Dreaded Pocket Queens?). I raised and got two callers. The flop: a beautiful K-Q-K! I don't remember the exact sequence of betting, but I, of course, was going to get it all in versus the one opponent who stayed in the hand with me. Unfortunately, he had about $500 behind. His hand: K-Q! So pretty quickly, almost all the excellent playing that I had done to get up about $800 was wasted.

In another session, I flopped a set of 4's. A wild player next to me pushed, and I of course called. He flipped over pocket 2's for the lower flopped set and was about to double me up when the turn brought his one-outer -- the final deuce to give him quads. We all waited for the river in hopes that I would hit quad 4's and hit the bad beat jackpot, but the dealer didn't put the final one-outer down for us.

In my final session, a wild player opened UTG for $26. I looked down to see The Dreaded Pocket Kings and raised to $70. He called. The flop was Queen high so I pushed and he called with Q-Jos. Yes -- he bet $26 UTG with Q-Jos and then called my pre-flop raise to $70 with that. Of course, you know what is coming. The turn was a Queen ...

I was hoping to get in a session with old online poker opponent PhillyB, but things just didn't work out. Unfortunately, I also didn't get out to Wild Horse Pass to give that poker room another try. I did, however, go to a shooting range with my brother (a former sheriff) and my nephew to, believe it or not, shoot a real gun for the first time. It was a blast!

The time since the trip has been consumed with work and with some other time off. I've played several poker sessions at Par-A-Dice Casino in East Peoria, IL, Harrah's Joliet (IL) and Horseshoe Hammond (IN). I seem to go in streaks where I win several times in a row and lose several times in a row. Last night at Harrah's Joliet, I ran a full house into rivered quads and ran a set into a bigger set. What can you do when the poker gods abuse you like that?

Looking toward the future ... I have now begun my 25th year at the school where I work. My tentative retirement now appears to be less than 21 months away.

In some exciting news, I am less than four weeks away from my first trip to Australia! I am going to visit my brother, thundering36, and should get there on his birthday. Of course, at least one session of poker at the Crown Casino in Melbourne will be on the agenda.

I hope you are enjoying your summer. This has certainly been a hot but relaxing one for me.

Thanks for stopping by!