Monday, April 16, 2018

Summer of '69: Moon Landing, Chappaquiddick and the Cubs

 The recent opening of the movie Chappaquiddick brought moviegoers back to a glorious time -- the summer of 1969. Although just a young guy at the time, I remember that summer being very memorable -- especially July.

During summers, it was a family tradition of sorts for me or one or more of my siblings to spend a week or a few weeks at our grandmother's house in Kenosha, Wisconsin. It was a great place to burn some summer weeks. Lake Michigan was a short walk away, there was a creek right outside the yard, and all sort of fun critters like snakes and chipmunks were about.

That particular summer, thundering36 and I were staying out at Grandma 36's place. One of the most exciting events that summer was the upcoming moon landing. I remember being at Joey Jackson's house on July 20, 1969 and watching the Apollo 11 astronauts make those first steps on the moon. President Kennedy's dream had been fulfilled: we got to the moon by the end of the 1060's:

 "We choose to go to the Moon! We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win, and the others, too."

However, right before the moon landing, there was another national story that was all over the news: the Ted Kennedy Chappaquiddick accident that happened the night of July 18. It would be difficult to imagine the burden placed upon Ted Kennedy, having his three older brothers all dead and being the last realistic hope for a Kennedy presidency. But even more difficult to fathom would be Kennedy's actions that fateful night -- leaving a young woman in his car to die while he escaped and failed to notify officials immediately, sealing his chances to become president.

Of course, there was rampant news speculation that Kennedy was heading somewhere with this young hottie and things went wrong. Alcohol just had to be involved at the party they left. I don't remember the exact circumstances that prompted this remark -- maybe thundering36 does -- , but there was talk that there was no alcohol in Kennedy's system. Of course, if any check was made, it was made many hours after his drinking stopped. My grandmothers famous quote (including incorrect grammar): "Well, by that time it might evaporated." This quote became one of several "grandmaisms" that still live on among the lightning36 clan today.

As for the Cubs ... well, the Cubbies were clearly the most exciting story of that summer. They had the best team in baseball, including the "Million Dollar Infield" Of Ron Santo, Don Kessinger, Glenn Beckert, Ernie Banks and Randy Hundley. The outfielders included Billy Williams and Jim Hickman. The pitching staff included Ferguson Jenkins, Ken Holtzman and Bill Hands. After Willie Smith began the season with a walk off extra innings home run, the Cubs sialed through the first part of the schedule and built a nice lead going into the end of summer. However, the really memorable game in July was actually one the Cubs lost to the New York Mets. On  July 9 in Shea Stadium, Tom Seaver had a perfect game going into the ninth inning. Cubs extra Jim Qualls got a single with one out in the ninth, ending Seaver's bid for a perfect game. Even when the Cubs lost, they seemed to win. As the summer of '69 was nearing completion, it was pretty evident that the Cubs would be in their first World Series since 1945. The only thing between them and the World Series would likely be the dastardly St. Louis Cardinals.


There were several more moonwalks after Apollo 11. They went on through the end of 1972. We have not been back to the moon since.

Ted Kennedy bid for the presidency in 1980 fell short. He had a long, distinguished run as a senator from Massachusetts until his death in 2009.

The Chicago Cubs quest for the World Series was halted by the Amazin' Mets of 1969, who went on to win the division, the National League pennant and the World Series. The Cubs did not go back to the World Series until their appearance and win in 2016.

Grandma36 passed away in the 1970's. She is fondly remembered by her grandchildren for the many funky things she said.

thundering36 left the United States to teach in Australia in 1975, returned in 2000, and moved back to Australia in 2017. He currently resides there.

lightning36 made it through his teen and adult years, spent his professional years in higher education,  and hopes to retire in May 2020. He resides in central Illinois and occasionally posts to this blog which is now in its 12th year.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

The Return of Juan: Pornos, Beers and the Hospital

People who follow my Twitter account know that I like to use the hashtag #CleanLiving. But, in all fairness, even those of us just this side of being a boy scout sometimes have those "incidents" from when we were younger. I recently reconnected with an old college/young adult friend on a social media site. He will be in town in about several weeks, and hopefully he and his wife will be able to come over to my house for dinner with me and my wife. I have not seen my friend Juan for many years, but one incident we were involved in is so fresh in my mind that it is as if it happened a few weeks ago.

I was in my first professional job after completing graduate school and was living in Springfield, Illinois. Much to my surprise, an old fraternity buddy of mine, Juan, was living in town. We connected and did a few social things together. I was about 24 years old at the time and he was a year or two older.

One afternoon when we had nothing to do, Juan asked me "Hey -- let's go to the theater and watch a porno movie like we used to in the old frat days." Well, 24 years old and single (but with a girlfriend), I thought, what the heck, why not? So Juan and I went to the dirty movie theater on the south side of town.

We got in the theater and were scoping out where to sit -- you know, not wanting to sit anywhere near any other guys who might be in there. We're standing in front of the last row of seats when Juan, who was kind of short and very athletic, decided to grab one of the chairs and swing his legs over the back. The only problem was that in doing so, he kicked me right in the back of the head. Ouch!

I can't say that I remember anything at all about the movie (like there was much of a plot anyway!), and afterward Juan and I headed to a local drinking establishment. We were sitting at the bar and having quite a few drinks, thus a great time. We started telling stories from the college fraternity days, and I was reliving an afternoon when a rather tall guy in the frat saw a some of us lifting weights and said "Hey guys - this looks like fun!" He grabbed a bar weighing about 100 pounds and jerked it to the ceiling in one motion with one hand. I, in my rather inebriated state, replicated his motion. Unfortunately, there was a decorative beer light directly above me. I hit it with such force that it came down directly on me, hitting me in my eyebrow, slicing the skin there and drawing blood. The waitress at the bar attempted to help, handing me a beer-soaked rag to stop the bleeding. It was quite a mess -- beer and blood seemed to be everywhere. I needed to go to the emergency room of the hospital to get stitches, and both Juan and I were really plastered. Juan had to drive me to the hospital, and our drunken logic had us scared. I remember Juan saying "Oh no! They'll ask us where we were. We'll have to tell them we were at a bar ... and were at the porno movie before that!"

We got to the hospital emergency room, and while waiting to be seen, I remembered that I was going to have dinner that evening at my girlfriend's house ... with her parents! I called her and apparently said something like "I am at the hospital. I had an accident." Fearing the worst, my girlfriend (now Mrs. lightning) rushed to the hospital, thinking I had been involved in a serious car accident. She got to the emergency room (I don't remember if I had been stitched up or not yet) and was pissed to find that I had not been in a car accident (not that she wanted that, but she thought I might be a goner!), but had been drunk and as a result, had the stupid light fall on me. And of course, you must know that Mrs. lightning was the original #CleanLiving woman! So yeah - I heard it from her on many different levels.

This all happened many, many moons ago, yet it was one of those things where many of the details were etched in my brain despite my drunken state.

Juan moved out of town sometime afterward and we did not reconnect until recently. I haven't seen him in probably 35 years. I look forward to meeting back up with him in June, and I'm sure that the two of us and our wives will be reliving the porno/drunk/hospital story. Just to be on the safe side, though, I think we will not drink to excess nor watch any porno movies that night.

NOTE: I took a close look at my eyebrow. The hair in a small spot never did grow back!

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The Voting Decision We Had in Illinois Yesterday

Yesterday - March 21, the state of Illinois had its primary elections. The way things work (ha!) in Illinois, if you vote in the primaries, you go to your polling place and then declare whether you want the Democrat or Republican ballot. You can only vote for the candidates of one party in the primaries.

Although there were many candidates running for the top spot -- Governor  -- there were really only five candidates who had a realistic shot at doing well enough to become our next governor in November. In this election in particular, which might be my last primary while living in Illinois, I was focused on which candidate would be in my best interests for the next four years. The candidates and my way of thinking:

Incumbent governor Bruce Rauner
* Total disaster as governor the past four years. Has caused immense damage to higher education in the state. Wants to solve pension problems by forcing costs back on the schools. I was stupid enough to vote for this rich guy (estimated net worth of  $500,000,000 - $1,000,000,000) four years ago. No way I would make that mistake again.
Primary result: Republican candidate for governor in November. Squeaked in with 51.3 % of the vote.

Jeanne Ives
* Ultra-conservative who played well to the far right members of her party. Dogged the governor on actions that appeared more moderate or (gasp!) liberal. Wants to solve the government-created pension problem by screwing over public employees who have paid into the pension system for years. No. No. Hell no.
Primary result: Gave Rauner a run for his money but fell a little short with 48.7% of the vote. We likely haven't heard the last of her.

Chris Kennedy
* Yes - he is a member of THAT Kennedy family. One of the sons of Robert Kennedy. Unfortunately, this is Illinois, not Massachusetts. He was a trustee for the University of Illinois. Viewed as lacking charisma. Would probably be okay, but frankly, he just doesn't get the juice running.
Primary result:  Came in third with 24.4%. The Kennedy name still drew a lot of votes.

Daniel Biss
* Progressive candidate that had my oldest daughter mesmerized. A legislator who appealed as being one of the people and not a governing tycoon. Made a huuuuge political mistake by sponsoring and getting passed pension legislation that would be, as he should have known, struck down by the Illinois State Supreme Court. To his credit, he owned up to his mistake. But he did try to mess with my pension. Grrrrr.
Primary result: Came in second with 26.6% of the vote. Young and on his way up.

JB Pritzker
* Rich rich rich! has a net worth of around $3,500,000,000. He makes Trump look like a pauper. He poured millions into the campaign. Association with former governor (and current federal prisoner) Rod Blagojevich hurts his reputation. Listen to some of the federally wire tapped conversations they had -- go to However, his political views are on target, and he was going to be a tough guy to beat.
Primary result: Democrat candidate for governor in November. Smashed competition with 45.1% of the vote.

So there you have it -- rich guy vs REALLY rich guy in November. How can these guys even relate to the common citizen?

I decided to base my primary voting on getting in a vote on the person who I thought would be best for me over the next four years. I guess in revealing how I voted, I am reaffirming the belief of Tony Bigcharles, who for quite some time has referred to me as a RINO (Republican In Name Only) because I do not agree with the ultra-conservative wing of the Republican party. Being what I consider a moderate Republican, I feel as if the Republican party has deserted my. Therefore, for the first time in 30 years, I crossed over and voted in the Democratic primary. Believe me, I felt slimy! Not only did I vote for a Democrat, I decided to vote for the progressive candidate, Daniel Biss, even though I despised what he tried to do to me and a half million pensioners.

In the upcoming general election, there is no doubt in my mind how I will vote:
Does this make my transformation complete?

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Saturday Session at Harrah's Joliet

My wife had plans to get lunch with my daughter and see a movie afterward, making yesterday an excellent day for a poker road trip. I left in the late morning and got to Harrah's Joliet in the early afternoon. I had called in and was first on a list that stretched to about 13 names. After waiting only a few minutes,  a new table was opened, and it was away we go!

The action at my first table was okay. I lost a few hands early on when one guy flopped a straight on an Ace high board when I had A-Q and when my A-K didn't improve on the flop or turn.A few more hands like small pocket pairs that didn't connect with the flop, and quickly I was down about $100. Pretty quickly, because Harrah's has must-move tables, I was moved to one of the "main" games. I reloaded with another hundred.

I was up $250 at one point, but hit an "unfortunate" streak and ended up down $100. Included in the unfortunate streak:

* Called a $10 raise in middle/late position with A-5spades. There were more calls, and we went five to the flop. The flop: 5-5-8 with two diamonds! The original raiser raised $25 and I, guarding against the flush draw and hoping he had a 5, bumped it up to $75. Much to my surprise, he pushed all in for $185! The turn and river were bricks and I expected to scoop a nice pot. Unfortunately, he had the one hand that I was fearing: 8-8.

* I was dealt pocket Queens in late position. I raised to $8 to try to get at least one caller. The short-stacked big blind called. The flop was Q-rag-rag with two diamonds. The big blind checked, and I made a pot-sized raise. He called. the turn was a diamond and he pushed all in. I called. No help for me on the river as he turned the second nut straight.

* Woman who was fairly new to the table, short stacked and very aggressive, raised in early position to $12. I looked down to see the dreaded pocket Kings. I bumped it up to $30 and she, as expected, shoved all in. I called. The flop, turn and river were all low cards and I expected to win the pot. A yell went up as people saw that she had pushed with pocket 3's and binked a third 3 on the river.

I guess this Saturday session was an example of the frustration of $1/2 NL poker. Granted, over the course of the day I certainly did not play close to perfect poker as I am a recreational player who gets to play once a week at most, but I did play pretty well -- certainly well enough to have made a profit that session. Bah!

After getting a late dinner of comped fish tacos, I decided to end the night playing a few slots. I played my favorite game at Harrahs Joliet, Alfred Hitchcock Theater, and won. I lost a little at Tarzan and a Buffalo machine, and decided to burn the last few bucks I had allocated to one of the machines the has leprechauns and pots o' gold -- Wild Leprechauns. On the first spin I played, I hit four pots o' gold, awarding me the bonus in the picture of this post: 50 free spins! Unfortunately, the bonus was not quite what I hoped it would be -- only about $58, but still not bad on a 40 or 60 cent bet!

Side note: My eye surgery was now nine days ago. Most of the swelling has gone down and reddish/purple skin is now a mostly faded yellow. I might have an allergy to the ointment I am using, which has caused some unusual lines under my eyes, but otherwise, things look pretty good. It will still take some time to see how effective the surgery was for both eyes, but right now things are looking pretty good. Yes!

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Going Under the Knife

In about 12 hours I will be in the hospital for some surgery that has been delayed a couple of years. Although I look forward to the results, I am, of course, concerned since there are always risks from surgery, especially when any anesthesia is administered.

The above pictures illustrate the major problem: a right eye that has been droopy for some time and has certainly gotten worse the past several years. Although not quite as bad, the left eye droops, too. This condition is called ptosis -- drooping upper eyelid. The special procedure that I am having done is ... never mind - it is kind of oogly. But while I am still employed and have already met my health insurance deductible, now is the right time to have this done.

I have no idea how much discomfort I will have afterward nor how much bruising and swelling I will have. I have already invested in a pair of glasses -- the first non-reading glasses I have had since Jimmy Carter was president -- since I likely wont be able to wear my contacts for several weeks.

I guess I will just kind of play things by ear (ha ha!) and see when I can go back to work and how much I can actually do or tolerate.

In the meantime, I will probably be depending on social media to distract me during some of my recovery time. Things certainly are easier when one is young!

I will report sometime after surgery. If I look gruesome enough, I might even post a picture. Until then ...

Post-surgery lightning

Okay - so I don't look anymore gruesome after the surgery than before. Some might say that even with the swelling, he is still a handsome devil. I would.

Thanks for reading! 

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Mom and the 2002 Champions on Ice Olympic Tour

While I was in Las Vegas just over a week ago, the 2018 Winter Olympics began. One night as my wife was watching the prelims of the figure skating competition, she texted me to say that she had thought about my mother while watching the skaters.

My mom, for as long as I can remember, was an figure skating addict. Growing up outside Chicago, we often turned on the television to watch the Bears, Cubs, White Sox, Bulls, Blackhawks and a number of regional college teams in many sports. It was not unusual on a Saturday afternoon to hear my mom say "Can you please turn on the figure skating?" If there was a competition on, she would watch it. The look on her face when I told her that I met Scott Hamilton in a hotel on a trip to watch the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament ...

Shortly after the 2002 Winter Olympics that were held in Salt Lake City, I saw an advertisement for a skating tour that would be coming through central Illinois: The John Hancock 2002 Champions on Ice Olympic Tour. It would be featuring the top figure skaters in the world and would be in town about two weeks before Mothers Day. I got four tickets for myself, my mom, my wife and her mother. We invited both mothers down for the weekend -- one of the few times they had actually ever spent any time together, making for a very special few days.

I'll never forget as we walked down to our seats in Assembly Hall at the University of Illinois -- April 29, 2002. I was fortunate to get fantastic tickets. We kept getting closer ... and closer ... until were in our seats in the first row on the main floor. The look on my mom's face when the skaters came out to warm up was unbelievable. It was like watching a kid open his presents on Christmas morning. All these skaters that my mom had watched in the Olympics and over the past few years were all skating a few feet from her. It was a great show featuring a wonderful line up of skaters:

*  Sarah Hughes
*  Michelle Kwan
*  Irina Slutskaya
*  Alexei Yagudin
*  Timothy Goebel
*  Sasha Cohen
*  Evgeni Plushenko
*  Elvis Stojko
*  Michael Weiss
*  Victor Petrenko
*  Philippe Candeloro
*  Rudy Galindo
*  Surya Bonaly
*  Nicole Bobek
*  Marina Anissina & Gwendal Peizerat
*  Naomi Lang & Peter Tchernyshev
*  Shae-Lynn Bourne & Victor Kraatz
*  Oksana Kazakova & Artur Dmitriev
*  Isabelle Brasseur & Lloyd Eisler
*  Elizabeth Punsalan & Jerod Swallow

With so many skaters, it was a long, wonderful, exciting show. And really, it was pretty cool being so close to the ice and watching all the jumps and turns from a few feet away. For my mom, it was pretty much the show of a lifetime. It was gratifying to hear her say many times that that night was one she will never forget.

My mom passed away in 2016. Even as I watch Olympic figure skaters  this weekend, things just aren't the same. If you ever have that chance to do something really special for your mother (or father), do not even think twice about it. It will serve you with memories that will last long after any show or event.


Friday, February 16, 2018

February 2018 Las Vegas Trip Report - Part IV: Bally's Poker, Cruisin' with VegasDWP, TheTrooper97's Game at Westgate, Red Rock Poker and Pizza with grrouchie

Thursday, Feb 8 had great potential to be a fun day. After eating lunch, I was determined to get in a short poker session at Bally's. Although this used to be my Las Vegas "home" poker room, I had not even played any poker in there yet this trip. I knew I would have somewhere around an hour to 1 1/2 hours to play. I was seated immediately at placed at the table where my buddy Ronnie B was dealing. Despite being my friend, Ron always seemed to be dealing when I have taken losses at Bally's. Some friend, huh? NOTE: Just kidding, Ron! Anyway, Ron started dealing me some truly wicked cards. I won several hands in a short period of time. By the time his down was finished, I was already about $300 up. Not bad for about 20 minutes of $1/2 NL play! As subsequent dealers came in, I pretty much floated. Then right before VegasDWP called me to tell me that he was waiting for me outside, I flopped a set on a board with three diamonds. I was in the hand with two other guys. After I raised, one guy went all in for about $80. From what I could see, he was a decent player, and I immediately put him on a flopped flush. Although I was pretty sure I was behind, I had been running hot and called, knowing that I had a number of outs. Much to my surprise, the player to my left also called. He seemed to be a decent player also, so I was pretty sure that at least one of them had flopped a flush. The other player and I both checked on the turn and river as I saw, for me, brick ... brick. As I guessed, the player who went all in had flopped a flush -- in fact, the nut flush. I never saw what the other player had as he mucked when he saw the flush exposed. So ... I still ended up a couple hundred ahead, but was unfortunately one card away from sucking out and having a really great short session.

VegasDWP had offered months ago to drive me to a few desirable sections of the Las Vegas area to scout out potential housing options in case my wife and I relocate to Las Vegas after I retire in a couple years. After showing me the inside of his place and driving me in different corners of Las Vegas, (a BIG thank you, David!), we headed to Westgate for dinner at Sid's Cafe, then a little fun at TheTrooper97's Trooper Thursday game. We were later joined by TBC and and his friend and semi-landlord, Vinnie. Unfortunately, they were seated at a different table. At my table, Trooper was in seat five, I was in seat six and VegasDWP was in seat seven.

I played tight-aggressive for the first half hour. I actually then got involved in many hands. I had chipped up but then lost most of it when I chased an open-ended straight draw. The Euro-aggro guy in seat four pushed all in after the turn and I was forced to fold. It was quite a ballsy move on his part as he risked most of his stack with nothing but air. Dammit - so close on the turn. The big hand for me came when we were involved in a splash pot. The way that works at the Trooper game is that all players (it is optional, but everyone was in) put in $10 before the cards are dealt, therefore starting off with a $90 pot. The dealer deals everyone two cards and then puts out the flop before before any betting occurs. I looked at my hole cards to see that I had ducks. A quick look at the flop - BINGO! How nice to flop a set in a splash pot! Unfortunately, nothing ever comes easy, it seems, as there were two spades on the flop. After I raised, VegasDWP pushed all in. Putting him on a flush draw, I called the all in and hoped for no spades. There was a spade on the turn or river and I expected to get my lunch handed to me. Fortunately, David had two pair and no spades, so I felted him. He got up to leave and declined my request for a ride back to The Strip if I cashed out (ha!). I stayed around for a bit, but then became concerned that I would need to reschedule my flights home due to upcoming weather in Chicago. I watched a bit of the Golden Knights game in the sports book (who could pass that up?), said goodbye to Tony and Vinnie and took the monorail back to Bally's.

It was still relatively early, so I decided to press my luck at Bally's. Unfortunately, the Bally's juju from earlier in the day was gone, as nothing but crap cards came my way. I took a loss and headed upstairs for the night.

Friday, Feb 9 morning didn't go quite as planned. I woke up but kept falling asleep. Eventually, I woke up at 10:30 and was rushing about to shower and pack. I had hoped to meet and have lunch with poker pro Jimmy Fricke, who is from my neck of the woods, but he was off Twitter for several days and we never finalized details. I decided to grab lunch and then head to Summerlin to drive around a bit, then get in a poker session at Red Rock. The highlight of the session was when two guys were all in and a third guy said "I know I have the best f**king hand right now," and folded. The flop came out rag-King-King and the guy exploded! He threw something across the table and unleashed a litany of f-bombs. Yes - it seems that he folded K-K. He not only would have won a huge pot, but also would have won a high hand bonus of over $500! The mood at the table abruptly changed, and not having fun or success there anyway, I asked for a table change.

The table change seemed to be for the better. The action was not quite so wild, and I actually picked up some cards and won a few hands. Unfortunately, I ran Kings into Aces and lost most of my buy in. I shoved the rest with A-J vs K-Q and lost, deciding at that point to end my poker for the trip and play some slots to relax.

After a little fun, I headed to Giordano's Pizza near Red Rock. I have known grrouchie for some time (after all, he was the presumed Exalted Grand Poobah of the TBC Inner Circle before it was "gifted" to me!), but had yet to meet his wife, so I invited grrouchie and his family out for pizza. His wife, being a good ol' Chicago gal, chose Giordano's. We met out at the crowded restaurant and shared great pizza and stories about ourselves, relationships, football, Chicago, poker, TBC ...

After a ton o' fun, I needed to start inching my way to the airport. We said our goodbyes and I called TBC to see if he needed one last ride before I returned my rental car. I picked him up at the Nugget, drove him to the Stratosphere, said goodbye, and headed toward the airport to return my rental car and actually get there EARLY this time for my 12:15am flight. The only problem I had going home was my final leg of the trip. I had boarded my plane at O'Hare to hear, right before take off "We have a minor maintenance issue." That issue could have caused our plane to not stop before hitting the end of the runway at the end of the flight, so we were delayed three hours while American Airlines got another plane. In the meantime, props to them for setting up a free lunch for us at the gate to ease the pain of the delay.

And speaking of pain, I got home early Saturday afternoon to see my dog, Fredo, who had undergone canine ACL surgery while I was gone. He was looking pretty good, but man -- the old sockroll took a hit with that surgery!

Back home, which felt good, and looking forward to some charity games poker the next weekend, which is now tomorrow. Thanks for reading!