Wednesday, February 19, 2020

An Illinois Resident's View of Trump's Rod Blagojevich Pardon + A Fun Past Blago Post

Donald Trump made some big news in Illinois on Tuesday as he commuted the sentence of former governor Rod Blagojevich. Blago had served almost eight years of a 14-year sentence. His most egregious crime was trying to sell the US Senate seat that Barack Obama vacated when he became president. Blago was likely going to get out in 12 years on good behavior had Trump not intervened.

The more I thought about it today, I came to some initial thoughts:

  • I still think that Blago is a sociopath and narcissist. There was no admission of wrongdoing despite there being a smoking gun with comments he made on the telephone that were recorded by the authorities. Despite all the evidence against him, he continued to plead that he was innocent. I believe that he actually believes that he was innocent.
  • Blago was so full of himself and so stupid that he made those comments even though he knew that it was likely that has calls were being monitored.
  • I do not see him being a threat to anyone and he did not commit a violent crime. He has already spent eight of the best years of his life in prison after being impeached as governor of Illinois.
  • Commuting his sentence? I do not think that Blago has "earned" the commutation, but I can live with his getting out early. We have dirty politicians in Illinois who have been in office for many years but have yet to be caught. I would much rather see them in prison.
Blago looks a bit different today.
Frankly, I always thought he looked a little like this:
I'm sure that Blago will be dominating Illinois news the next several days. And, even after serving eight years in prison, he still doesn't get it.

Thanks for reading! And, for your special enjoyment, particularly if you know little or nothing about Blago, here is a fun post I wrote about Blago in June 2011:

Welcome to Our World: The People of the Great State of Illinois Share ex-Governor Rod Blagojevich with the World

Yes ... F*** us all!

The "F" bomb echoed through the courtroom Wednesday in Rod Blagojevich's corruption retrial, as recorded phone calls were played between the former Illinois governor and his then Deputy Governor Bob Greenlee.

Greenlee testified that Blagojevich told him he wanted to use the appointment of the Senate seat to help him remain relevant on the national stage. Blagojevich was hoping to be made Secretary of Health and Human Services in exchange for appointing Obama Senior Advisor Valerie Jarret to the senate seat, according to Greenlee. An ambassadorship was also of interest to Blagojevich, so Greenlee made a list of of which appointments could be most influential.

When Blagojevich learned the opportunities he was hoping for likely were not going to occur, a very frustrated Blagojevich was heard on a recorded phone call with Greenlee saying he thought his hopes for a national office position were dashed. "My upward trajectory is f***ing stalled if not f***ing ruined by Obama!" Blago is heard saying. "His election blocks me now from any upward movement...Now is the time to put my f***ing wife and children first...I f***ing busted my a**...I fought every f***ing special interest out there to prevent them from raising taxes and all I got is 13%! (approval rating in Illinois) F*** them!"

Courtesy of  May 11, 2011

And if that wasn't enough ...

He has compared himself to Gandhi and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. He has drawn parallels between himself and Winston Churchill as well as Abraham Lincoln.

But during his fifth day on the witness stand, even Rod Blagojevich managed to startle observers with a new one:

If he had appointed himself to the U.S. Senate seat in 2008, he would have traveled to Afghanistan to try to hunt down one Osama bin Laden.

His lawyer, Aaron Goldstein, asked if Blagojevich talked about appointing himself to the Senate “in exchange for going to Afghanistan and hunting down Osama bin Laden.”

“Yes,” A straight-faced Blagojevich replied, bringing yet another prosecution objection, hushed snickers and head-scratching in the courtroom.

Courtesy of Natasha Korecki  June 3, 2011

I hope you enjoyed our special brand of Illinois entertainment.

Have a great weekend!

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Mini Review of the New Sahara Las Vegas Poker Room

In what seems like (and actually was!) many years ago, I transitioned from online poker to brick and mortar poker. An excellent place to help make that transition was the old Sahara Las Vegas poker room. The inexpensive tournaments were great. Food used to be provided during the first break in tournaments - mini sub sandwiches as I recall. There were usually good numbers in the tournaments and the atmosphere was non-threatening. I believe that my second in-person cash was at a Sahara tournament. The downsides of the poker room were that the place was kind of dingy, the chips were filthy, and it was all the way on the north end of the Strip.

Unfortunately, some changes in Las Vegas bring good things to an end. The Sahara closed in 2011 and reopened as SLS Las Vegas in 2014. I don't believe I ever even entered SLS as it had no poker room. Just last year, the hotel/casino was rebranded back to the Sahara. Rumors flew that the old poker room would return. It was great to hear that a brand new poker room would be coming to the Sahara! Las Vegas gambling expert John Mehaffey reported that this would be the first new poker room to open on the Strip since 2015. I was excited to hear that the room was to open a week before my scheduled trip to Las Vegas. A slight delay changed the new opening date to Valentine's Day - Friday, February 14. This new date was at the end of my Las Vegas trip, but gave me time to head down to Sahara, scope out the room, and actually get to play a little $1/$3 NL before heading to the airport.

I checked out of my hotel room at Bally's and headed to the Bally's/Paris monorail station. The trip to Sahara was swift. I was pleased to find that I didn't have to search much as the new poker room is not far from the monorail station at Sahara. It is just past the Northside Cafe & Chinese Kitchen. Another bonus to the location of the poker room is a casino cashier station that is just around the corner. Sweet!

So ...what does it look like?
As you can see, everything is new ... and beautiful! The room has seven tables, which includes one sectioned off in the back -- presumably for high rollers like me! 😃 The chairs are comfortable and the new tables look crisp and inviting. There are charging ports at all the tables. And yes, I can confirm that the cup holders appear to be oversized.

Steven Pique, Poker Operations Manager, wants to highlight the following advantages to the room:
  • $2 comps, $3 Mon, Tue 10a-4p
  • $4 rake + $1 promo (coming next week)
  • Poker Room Food Menu from Northside Café
  • Poker Atlas download = $10 comps
  • 16 x 9 foot video wall
  • 6 screens
  • Exclusive High Limit/Final Table area
I was not able to be there for the opening as I planned due to a successful late-night poker session at Harrah's Las Vegas. I needed a little sleep! I got there around noon and was put on the wait list for $1/$3 NL. It was apparently the first table running. I was seated after a short wait. Cocktail service was friendly and fast. The dealers seemed to be experienced and confident. The chips were fairly new -- clean and crisp.

I wish I could say that I crushed it on day one, but that certainly was not the case. In the approximately one hour I played:

  • I lost a hand Aces up and great kicker to a flopped set which upgraded to a boat on the turn.
  • I lost a hand with an overpair to a flopped set.
  • I lost a hand with trip Aces to a rivered flush. I could have played this hand better, but it was almost time for me to head to the airport and I did not want to win a small pot with trip Aces, so I didn't shove when I could have. Unfortunately, I let an opponent catch a flush on the river. My bad.

My Las Vegas trip was now over and it was time for me to head to the airport. Would I advise poker players to try out the new room? Definitely! With the new Sahara poker room joining nearby rooms at Wynn/Encore and the Venetian, the north end of the Strip now has become even more of a destination area for poker.

I have been concerned that some people in the poker world have speculated that over the next several years, poker rooms will again begin disappearing, leaving only a few of the monster rooms open on the Strip. I hope that does not happen. Consider supporting this new poker room. If it is successful, perhaps more casinos might take a chance on bringing more poker rooms back to Las Vegas and especially, the Strip.

Thanks for reading! And thanks to AlaskaGal for giving me permission to end this post with her tweet that features a short video panorama shot of the Sahara poker room.

Friday, February 07, 2020

Bopping Around with Tony Bigcharles

"well she looks like her, just like the guy in chicago who paid me money for sex when i was 21 looked exactly like obama"
                                     TBC on Twitter Feb 6, 2020

I imagine that some people saw this Tony Bigcharles tweet and said "What in the world is this guy talking about?" It seemed to come out of nowhere, but it is just, in a sense, part of just another day in the wacky world of TBC. I am not sure how many other people he might have stated this to, but I actually heard it several years ago as we were driving around Las Vegas. I swear, he was dead serious in thinking that a pimp in, I believe, Philadelphia, was really President Obama in Obama's earlier years. I assured him that there was no way this could be correct, and further advised him that he might want to consider not blasting this all over the internet, especially as Obama was president at the time!

But oh, this was just one of the funny times I have had when meeting up with TBC. Most were in and around Las Vegas, but there were some fun times when Tony's sockroll was dangerously low and he was forced to spend significant time in 2013 a bit south of Las Vegas in Jean, Nevada, at the old Gold Strike Casino.

In a scene straight out of The Big Bang Theory, ...
Not only was the elevator not working on his floor, but the air conditioner in his room was not working properly. His room was hotter than hell! On the way back to Las Vegas (with Tony in the car), my brother - thundering36, ManInBlack and I discussed good places to dump his body in the in the desert-like area along the interstate. Good times! I imagine that thundering36 will post a comment about Roman Noodles!

After my first trip to Jean, I wrote the following in my blog:

Monday was the unofficial TBC day. I drove down to Jean to finally see the Gold Strike Casino, an interesting mixture of the past and the present. Tony was playing his usual Dealer’s Angel video blackjack machine (four spots) and was upset at a guy watching him play. It didn’t help that Tony was mad that he was down some and then hit the wrong button when he meant to cash out, losing four more bets. Watching how long the cashouts took reminded me of old Las Vegas. Tony had arranged for buffet lunch comps for us but first wanted to talk outside in private. He had a bone to pick with me and was frustrated with some other things and didn’t hold back. I was surprised to see how many different ways he could use the word “mother fucker” when he was angry! It was the first time I had seen one of the famous Tony explosions. Frankly, it was a little scary even though I know that Tony is a fearful guy. Little wonder that many casinos have 86ed him after seeing him explode.

Yes, the time in Jean sure was interesting!

Back in 2014, we played poker a few times at the Suncoast Casino. Tony liked to play there because they used to spread Seven Card Stud and Omaha Hi Low. Now I have always told people that I thought that Tony was a very good O8 player. Unfortunately for Tony, when playing a low-level spread game, some of us recreational players have a little fun with starting hands. I wrote this after one trip:

Monday was a day to start off leisurely. I grabbed lunch at the Palms buffet and waited for Tony Bigcharles to get his butt out of bed. It was time for our triumphant (?) return to the Suncoast Casino to play in the O8 spread game. I played in the game with Tony a few trips back (leading to TBC's famous "even lightning won" quote) and did quite well. In fact, I have come out ahead each time I have played 08 spread in Las Vegas.

I was fortunate to begin the game by getting several excellent beginning O8 hands. TBC, on the other hand, was in el foldo mode. I was able to build a decent stack but really wanted to dig into the stack of a guy at the end of the table who was showing a very good profit. So, when the time seemed right and he was in a hand, I jumped in with a hand that would normally be folded in O8: a middle-level trapping hand with both straight and flush possibilities. It's called thinking outside the box, Mr. Bigcharles. As the pot kept building, I was in good position for a big win -- or so I thought. Unfortunately, Tony was also in the hand chasing a flush -- one that was bigger than mine. The river game me a straight, allowing me to scoop a big pot. It also, however, drew the ire of Mr. Bigcharles, who texted that I was a "mf donkey who ... thinks he's good." My official response to this statement: "Muhahahahaha. Suck it!"

Yes, I guess I can be a pain in the butt sometimes, but my Uber services was free!

Back in 2015, Tony was in Reno for quite some time. I was taking a vacation in Scottsdale, AZ in June and decided to head to Reno for a few days to visit Tony before heading home. As always, there were some fun times playing poker. One hand which I liked:

I was getting hungry as the evening wore on, but Tony wasn't and the game was good, so we played on. Early in the evening, I woke up to find that I was dealt pocket Aces. I raised and Tony stayed in the hand. I remember the hand a little differently than Tony. In my mind, the flop was A-8-9 -- I had flopped top set. Tony remembers the flop as A-9-2. Tony started going through his usual jabbering about the hand, and all the guys at the table, who I am sure were tired of his talk, watched the hand closely. It was pretty obvious who they were rooting for in the hand. I raised and Tony talked and talked. I just kept quiet. Tony remembers an 8 on the turn, which gave him two pair. I remember him already having two pair on the flop. Whatever.

The jabbering continued, and I had no idea that Tony was that strong. He told me that he considered shoving on the turn, which would have been sweet to the tune of over $300 from the sockroll. However, he held back. The river was an Ace, giving me quads. Fortunately for Tony, the card scared him off and he folded instead of shoving to my raise. He still jabbered on while I was silent, and all the guys at the table had a chuckle when he tabled his two pair and then saw that I had quads. The quads were good for an immediate $75 high hand bonus, and it held up several hours later to give me an extra $100 for the top hand, 6:00 p.m. - 10:00 p.m.

But as we know, poker is a game that can humble us.

Wednesday was pretty much more of the same -- poker, poker and more poker. However, Wednesday was just one of those days when things did not go right. For example, I raised with A-Q and got a few callers. The flop was Queen high with two rags. One guy stayed with me and my raises  preflop, after the flop, and after the turn. What could he have? I was concerned I was just playing right into his hands. The river seemed to be an innocent looking deuce. Only this time, when I raised on the river, he re-popped me. I called. He showed Q-2! What? He called all my bets with top pair worst kicker and then sucked out on the river? That was pretty much how the entire day went.

Mr. Bigcharles himself donked me in a hand. Sorry, but with a week having gone by and my life being filled with many challenges at work and in my personal life, many of the details are lost. But as I recall, I raised with A-K, Tony called and stayed along, then hit a flush on the river. What I mostly remember is that I had had a really rough poker day and was really pissed at the beat. I was looking for the nearest stapler to throw, but not seeing one, laid into Tony pretty good. I think he was a bit surprised that I got so angry in losing a hand. Hmmm ... perhaps his play-by-play chatter had something to do with it?

We took some time to drive to Lake Tahoe, which, if you have never been there, is a pretty awesome place.

But, u see, no trip with TBC can be complete without at least one stop at a casino.

The trip back to Reno (via Carson City, where we stopped at a couple more casinos!) actually allowed for a conversation of several hours with Tony. I asked a lot of questions about his upbringing and his past. In short, he feels like he lived a pretty horrible life when he was younger. I found out that one of the things that frustrated him was that so many people criticize his life style, yet, in his mind, based on how crappy his early life was, he was a success. It is all a matter of perspective.

I felt compelled to write this post today after seeing that Tony tweeted something that sounded, well, like Tony. If you come along for the ride, I promise you, his exploits will get you thinking, one way or another.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, February 03, 2020

Sunday! Sunday! Sunday! Heading to Las Las Las Vegas Vegas Vegas ...

Growing up in the suburban Chicago area, I used to hear these advertisements for "Smokin'" US 30 Dragstrip when I was growing up:

Well, I am excited to be returning to Las Vegas on Sunday, February 9. For years, I have traditionally taken a trip there late in January or early in February. It has always been my way to recover from an extremely long and busy period at work.

My poker year has started out quite uneven: some wins, some losses. I guess this really tells me that I suck? I was feeling pretty good about ending January with a decent profit, but I had a horrid session at Harrah's Joliet Saturday night, starting off February in a nasty way. However, I am still up for 2020 and will be heading to Las Vegas in the black for poker for the new year.

I will be staying at one of my favorite places on the Strip: Bally's. I hope to play at some of my usual places -- Bally's, Mirage, Planet Hollywood, MGM and Encore. If Mr. Subliminal is up for it, maybe a session at Aria. I'll hopefully play some at Wynn/Encore with my buddy, Arch. I might play at Venetian due to its high hand promotions. I trust that I will see new friend Larry while in Las Vegas, and hope to see others in my five day visit.

So ... Las Vegas friends, here is your invitation. Hit me up with a blog comment, tweet, pm or text message if you want to get together. And if someone has transportation, maybe a trip to Green Valley Ranch or Red Rock would be fun. And I am itching to try a steak at happy hour at Herbs and Rye.

Despite having a bad session at Harrah's Joliet on Saturday, I came as close as I ever had to getting a great payday on a bad beat jackpot. It was at $265,000. In one hand, I raised with A-K hearts. The flop came 10h, Jh and a rag - four to a Royal Flush! The turn was ... another 10. I was hoping for that Qh on the river to get my Royal, but it was a non-heart rag. I flipped over my cards at the end of the hand to show that my hand was only Ace high and that I missed two chances at the Royal. My opponent flipped over pocket 10s for turned  quads! If only the Qh had come on the river, I would have won the hand Royal Flush over quads and pocketed an estimated $65,000 for having the winning hand on the bad beat. Dang dang dang!

Thanks for reading. Next stop: Las Vegas!

Monday, January 06, 2020

First Poker Sessions of 2020 and When Shit Starts Getting Real: Preparing My House For Sale

Welcome to 2020! Like many people, I have high hopes for the new year in life -- and in poker. However, along with the hopes will come some days of reckoning, one way or another.

What better way to start the new year than to log in a session of $1/2 NL poker, right? The three most recent casinos where I have played poker (Par-A-Dice, Harrah's Joliet and Grand Victoria) all have decent bad beat jackpots. Grand Victoria's is currently $266K (Aces full of Kings beaten), Harrah's Joliet is $220K (quad 8's beaten, current room share is $200), and Par-A-Dice is somewhere around $136K (quads beaten). From a driving standpoint, the closest, in order, are Par-A-Dice, Harrah's, then Grand Victoria. I decided to start 2020 at the closest casino, Par-A-Dice.

I cannot say that I started out 2020 okay. I can, however, say that the start was very good! There were some really poor players at the table. I got fortunate right away and flopped a straight, winning a nice pot. Several hands later, I was in the small blind with The Grump: 2-4(os). I think that I had been spewing too much in 2019, so I have tried to cut down on my fishing expeditions. However, how could I possibly not complete for a measly dollar with The Grump in a hand full of limpers? I completed. The flop was 8-2-4 with two Spades. Bingo! There were several checks, and then one player made a substantial bet. He had a little over $100 left and, from what I had observed in the few orbits I played, he seemed really frustrated. It was unlikely that he flopped a set of 2's or 4's, and it didn't make sense to me that he would make a big bet with a set of 8's. I was guessing that he was on a flush draw and almost sure that I was ahead, so I jammed all in. He decided to call. the turn and river were bricks and I announced that I had two pair. He mucked. Bingo again!

For once (it seemed), I was actually catching cards and was not getting my hands counterfeited on the river. I did play one hand exceptionally poorly and lost over $100 on it when I was likely bluffed, but outside of that, I was cruising all afternoon and was up more than two buy-ins when I decided to quit as I had to work the next day. The fact that the poor players all left and were replaced by more competent players helped make the decision to leave easy. I was basically about two cards away from having a monster session, but seeing as how the poker gods were nicer than usual to me, I was not about to whine. Great poker start to 2020!

After working January 2 and 3, I headed back to Par-A-Dice for another daytime session. As much as thing went right two days before, things went wrong that day. Par-A-Dice is full of no fold em players, and I was run down more than once. I was down about $100 most of the session, then had a big decision to make at the end. A tricky and good player whom I've written about before, Ho, was in a hand with me. I was on the button with A-8os and called a $10 raise. Ho also called, so there were three of us in the hand. The flop was 8-J-rag. I flopped second pair. The initial raiser and Ho both checked, so I raised $15. The initial raiser folded and Ho called. Ho said "be careful."

Now a word about Ho. He will play ATC and is aggressive. He is tricky, and you never know if he has you beat or not. I know how to play against him and have had much success. He rarely gets in hands with me - he avoids me like the plague as his perception of me is that I am mostly an OMC. I have used this to my advantage more than once.

The turn was an Ace, giving me two pair. Ho checked and I put out a $40 bet. Ho tanked and then announced "all in." I was guessing that Ho had either A-J and I was crushed, or he that he figured that he could bluff me off of a one pair hand. My gut was telling me that he had A-J, but I decided to call. He showed A-J and felted me. Meh. I had lost a buy in and just was not feeling it that day, so I left to get dinner and watch the NFL playoffs.

Preparing My House For Sale
Having lived in my current house for over ten years and having accumulated not only my family's junk but junk from my late mother's house and my late mother-in-law's house, I am not looking forward to getting the house ready to be put on the market, hopefully by this spring. I rented a dumpster earlier last year to get rid of some nasty furniture, but my wife patiently waited until the new year started to begin selling off furniture and starting on prettying up the house. She sold a bookcase yesterday and had our painter over Friday morning to give us an estimate. He is actually supposed to begin painting part of our basement this week!

I have only lived in two houses since 1994 and am not quite as invested in the house as my wife. I negotiated buying the house and later refinancing, but I let my wife do whatever she wanted with it. Regardless of what happens, I will retire in the middle to the end of July. I am frankly not concerned if the house will not be ready or be sold by that time as I will be struggling with other transitions. Since our plan is to move to the Phoenix area and I have never lived outside of Illinois, I find that this move across the country has great potential for raising my anxiety level the rest of 2020. I also realize, however, that it is necessary for my wife to push me on getting the house ready or there will be no way anything much would happen until later in the year.

Almost three years ago as the executor for my mom's estate, I was left with the nasty task of cleaning out her house and the 50 years of accumulated junk within. I took some time off work and spent several nights sleeping in the house while being surrounded by garbage. I had to keep focused on making progress with each trip up to her house, and when the day came when it looked like we got nearer to putting it up on the market, I felt like a tremendous burden had been lifted from me. I know that I just need to get myself in the proper mindset, but doing this while transitioning out of 38 years of professional work with 26 at my current job has been a struggle so far. Now with my retirement being just over six months away, I need to step things up a bit.

I have been having fun thinking about some job possibilities - maybe some type of spring training job with the White Sox, Cubs, or other cactus league team, or maybe one of the Phoenix professional sports teams. Working in a casino would be interesting, as would volunteer work in the southwest. Once I have a chance to take a break, I will need to find something to be my anchor. I am looking forward to this. In the meantime, I am just counting the days until it is time to say goodbye to my current job. The days have been going by slowly. I'm sure things will start feeling different as the time gets closer.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, December 30, 2019

Family Thoughts As We End the Decade

I: A Family Tradition

My brother, thundering36, texted me early Sunday morning to remind me that Sunday was the Feast of the Holy Family in the Catholic faith. This day will always be special to me and a few of my siblings.

A post I originally wrote in 2010 and reposted in 2013

Memories ofttimes have a way of pervading our daily lives, bringing special meaning to certain sights, sounds, days, or occurrences. Today was one of those days for me.

In the Catholic church, the Sunday after Christmas is the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. One of the readings at church today was from the Book of Sirach, which may be unfamiliar to those brought up in other faiths or Protestant religions, since Sirach was not included in the Hebrew Bible.

The Book of Sirach (also called Ecclesiasticus) is largely a collection of ethical teachings. Today's reading for the Feast of the Holy Family:

God sets a father in honor over his children;
a mother’s authority he confirms over her sons.
Whoever honors his father atones for sins,
and preserves himself from them.
When he prays, he is heard;
he stores up riches who reveres his mother.
Whoever honors his father is gladdened by children,
and, when he prays, is heard.
Whoever reveres his father will live a long life;
he who obeys his father brings comfort to his mother.

My son, take care of your father when he is old;
grieve him not as long as he lives.
Even if his mind fail, be considerate of him;
revile him not all the days of his life;
kindness to a father will not be forgotten,
firmly planted against the debt of your sins
—a house raised in justice to you.

With my father in the church pew next to us, my siblings and I loved to elbow each other and smirk when this passage was read. The line that elicited the action, of course, was "Even if his mind fail, be considerate of him." Little did we realize that when my father grew older, dementia would begin to take over his life. We have always considered it a blessing that my dad's body gave out before his mind.

I felt like I was okay with my dad when he passed away. Although his birthday and the anniversary of his death pass by each year without much trouble, the Sunday after Christmas is always the day that gets to me. I remember a sanguine young guy sitting next to a father who worked his ass off for his family...

lightning36 in high school

My Dad

II: A Timely Decision For Which I Was Rewarded

A little earlier this evening, I suddenly remembered that exactly four years ago, my brother, thundering36, was on his last full day in Las Vegas while I watched over our mother. She had turned 90 years old earlier in the year and seemed to be starting the slow descent toward the end. Her poor health and many medical demands had thundering at pretty much the end of his sanity. I saw a great opportunity to give thundering a much needed break and at the same time have maybe a last chance to have some quality time with my mother. I told thundering that I would pay for his plane fare and watch my mother while he took a short trip to Las Vegas to relax. He at first said no. I told him that he was crazy and that this offer wouldn't be on the table for long. He got his mind right and decided to go. This is what I wrote in my blog four years ago:

After spending Christmas with my wife and kids, I headed to the Chicago suburbs on December 26 to drive my brother, thundering36, to the airport for his vacation to Las Vegas. While he was gone, I took care of my 90-year-old mother, which is quite a chore. The first day went fine. However, thundering36 booby trapped me by making sure our mom was taking a stool softener. Well, dammit, on Sunday it worked ... in spades. I will spare you the gory details, but believe me, I earned my merit badge that day! The rest of the time wasn't so bad. And ... I had not had a chance to spend some real time with my mom for quite a while, so the time was important to both of us.

That brief paragraph did not go into the details about how much fun that day was when the stool softener took effect. I wanted to get some Chinese carry out and asked my mom several times if she would be okay for the short time I was gone. She assured me that she was fine, so I made the trip. When I returned, I ran into the horror show of all time! She felt really bad about it, so I reminded her that she had changed my dirty diapers more than  a few times when I was a baby. So yes - it is kind of funny to talk about that wretched day NOW. However, the assessment of her health was accurate. She passed away less than six months after that visit. While that, of course, was devastating, the thing that will always remain precious and personal to me was having several days of just the two of us, watching television, talking about the past, joking around. I will always treasure those days and will never forget the feelings I had.

III: A Good 2019 Christmas Visit and What the Future Will Bring

My youngest daughter still lives with my wife and myself and my oldest daughter lives only 20 miles away. However, my son lives in Seattle -- 2,000 miles away. He was able to come home this holiday season and stay almost a week. Having adult children together can sometimes be challenging. There were no big fights or arguments with any of the family, and Christmas Eve and the day of taking family pictures with lunch afterward went very well. I am thankful for that as it is upsetting, especially to my wife, to see any of the kids not getting along with one another now that they have grown up.

Realistically, my wife and I also know that we are at a point of change in our lives. I will be retiring next July and my wife will also. If we do not have our house sold and/or are just quite not yet ready for our planned move to Arizona, we might stay in Illinois for a bit longer. My wife would likely continue in her part time job while we wait, and I would finally get a chance to relax. But moving out west will also mean that we will now also have our daughters 1,600 miles away. For the first time in 28 years, it will be just the two of us again. That will certainly be different. I look forward to it, but am also somewhat scared of it after having kids in the house for so long. My wife's best friend lives in Scottsdale and I have a brother, a sister-in-law, a niece and a nephew (and their families) in Phoenix, so we won't feel totally alone out there. I know at least one former poker blogger in the area and know that another who lives 100 miles away from me now will also be living in the Phoenix area come next summer or fall. Going on the assumption that we like living there, we will be near a major airport and will expect that some family and friends will visit. Las Vegas will be only a five hour drive or short plane trip away.

A former high school friend, in response to an old picture I posted on Facebook, said "Some things never get old. Too bad I'm not one of them." I guess he is feeling it too. As one year heads out the window and another begins, I am reminded that I am not a young guy anymore. But like with anything, it is up to us to chart our own future. It is a scary, yet hopeful time.

Thanks for reading. I treasure the many friends that I have made over the years through poker, poker blogging, and trips to Las Vegas. May we all have an excellent 2020!


Saturday, December 21, 2019

Some Family Memories During the Holiday Season

This morning was one of those times when I channeled my mother for a little fun with my wife. We were both up earlier than we'd like on a Saturday morning and I decided to fix my wife breakfast. She had to head out for a bit, but when she came home, she was greeted with an omelette, bacon, a roll and tea. It gave me a chance to say (one time too many as I always seem to!) one of my mother's favorite lines: "It's not like I wanted anyone to thank me, but …" Ha! My mother was one of the most thoughtful and generous people I have ever known. But every once in awhile, it would stick in her craw if she did a bunch of stuff for some organization, or charitable endeavor, yet was amazed that sometimes the words "thank you" seemed to go missing.

Another thing my mom said as she aged was "You know, I'm getting older/over the hill." The smart-alecky son response was, of course, "Getting? What do you mean 'getting'?" Once one of her friends heard that I would say that and was astonished that one of my mom's kids would say that to her. I guess that woman's family didn't use humor the way that mine did.

For the early part of my life, the family Christmas tradition was to open Christmas presents on Christmas Eve starting at about 7:00 p.m. We would usually be joined by an aunt, uncle and cousin. Although they lived in the next town, we didn't see them very often. However, without ever even checking with my mom, they would show up every Christmas Eve. One year, my parents must have been in a snarky mood. Instead of staying at home and opening presents, we went out for the evening. I am guessing it was to my oldest brother's place. Since my aunt never called to confirm about coming over on Christmas Eve, my mom didn't bother telling my aunt that we wouldn't be there. When we got home later that evening, we saw tire tracks in the newly fallen snow in our driveway. To this day I still chuckle about that night.

When I was about ten years old, I was scared to hear that my father had a mild heart attack. I remember him cutting back on caffeine by drinking Sanka freeze dried coffee, trying to cut down on the booze, and trying to stop smoking cigarettes. The coffee part seemed to be no problem for him. He did get to a point years later when his alcohol consumption went down. He struggled with giving up smoking and tried to hide his smoking from the family by doing it outside the house. Like we didn't know when he came inside reeking of cigarette smoke, could see him hiding behind a bush next to our garage, or had a ton of cigarette butts next to the garage. My younger brother and I used to refer to my dad as "Smokey" (never to his face, of course!), and if someone was mad, we always said that the person was "smoking."

Years later and shortly before my dad passed away, I asked him about the mild heart attack. He acted puzzled, and I told him that it was when he started drinking Sanka. It was then that I found out that the mild heart attack was the cover story for the kids and that he actually had been having anxiety/panic attacks from work. I had no idea!

As for my present family, we will all actually be together for a short time this Christmas season. My wife has arranged for a photographer to take some family pictures next weekend. I am actually sort of looking forward to it.

Lastly, I wish a wonderful holiday season to the readers of this blog post. My father has been gone for 15 years and my mother passed away 3 years ago. Holidays are never quite the same when your parents are gone. Be thankful if you still have yours and do something extra nice for them. It will be something to look back on years later that will put a smile on your face.