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Posted by on Jun 27, 2017 in Blog, Essays, Personal, Politics | 4 comments

My Monthly Shit List (June 2017)

 

 

I’m rolling out a new feature certain to amuse, shock, and confuse.

Let’s call this — my monthly “Shit List.”

This list will include rankings, from 1 to 10, of the people, places, and things that most piss me off at this moment.  My list is subject to monthly revision based on (in no particular order) — wars, plagues, gambling losses, cocktail consumption, and mainstream media brainwashing.

A drum roll please….

 

MY MONTHLY SHIT LIST — JUNE 2017

 

[1]  President Donald Trump

President Trump is likely to remain atop my monthly “Shit List” for quite a long time — at least until one of two things happens:  (a) He’s impeached, or (b) Adam Sandler releases another embarrassingly unfunny movie and seizes the shameful pinnacle of the #1 spot — whichever comes first.  Trump’s daily carnival of contrived chaos might be comical were it not so consequential.  Based on just five months in office, Trump is likely to go down in history as King Kong in the demise of American democracy.

 

[2]  Songwriters Who Sing About Maritime Disasters

I’m fed up with folksy three-chord songs about sinking ships and drunken sailors reminiscing about some sad old wreck buried at the bottom of the sea.  I don’t want to hear this!  Life is already depressing enough without listening to some a whiny-ass wanna’ be pirate singing about a rusted relic running into an unexpected storm, sinking to the bottom, now polluting the bay.  Never mind torturing suspected terrorists at GTMO with blasting heavy metal music.  Put on a Gordon Lightfoot album and the terrorist will be squirming like a canary.  “Yes, I admit being a member of Al Queda — now please, don’t make me listen to ‘The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” again!  This is a phobia of mine, every bit as queasy as spiders and killer clowns.  I don’t like songs about maritime disasters.

 

[3]  Racist Cops

I’m tired of seeing young men of color gunned down without proper cause by law enforcement, followed by our courts’ failure to punish such gross injustices.  This might be the most important issue of our time, one which threatens to destabilize our society.  Racist legal practices must addressed by the establishment before mass civil unrest erupts (and mark my words — it will).  Consider the multitude of shocking well-documented cases where citizens are treated quite differently based on race (YouTube has many videos, including this ONE).  Comedian-activist Dick Gregory said it best:  “If dogs were being shot down by police in the same numbers as young Black men in this country, angry White people would be storming city hall.”

 

[4] Omaha High-Low Split Players (at the Orleans Casino — Las Vegas)

The charred souls of bitter, broken-down men largely populate Omaha High-Low Split tables infested with a chronic dreariness.  These crusty, crabby, cantankerous shards of once-productive members of society have become devoid of any pulse of humanity.  If these fossilized Omaha players weren’t wasting away the final vestiges of their miserable lives by spending 65 hours a week hunched over poker tables squeezing out a measly $1.62 an hour plus comps, they’d probably be writing depressing songs about shipwrecks instead.  Low-stakes Omaha players = miserable miserly malthropes.

 

[5]   Snooty Waiters

I’m sick of being treated like dirt at fancy restaurants.  The snooty charade usually begins with the forced up-sell on bottled water.  “Tap or sparkling, Sir?”  Then, after listening to the waiter gab on for three full minutes describing the steamed carrots I get looked down at like a piece of gum stuck to the bottom of his shoe when I dare ask for the price of the nightly special.  Listen you too-lazy-to-get-a-real-job pest — you interrupt me while I’m speaking to my dinner guests to ask if everything is okay (if things aren’t okay — wouldn’t I let you know?), and then you disappear like magician’s white rabbit when I want to order an extra serving of those carrots you talked me into.  Hey my bow-tied pal, you’re not Ivy League professor lecturing on constitutional law.  You’re a fucking waiter.  So, zip the attitude.

 

[6]  Fanboy Sycophants 

Celebrities don’t know jack shit about much of anything, except perhaps what they’re really good at — like actors (with movies) and athletes (with sports).  But ask them about anything else, and their opinions are just as worthless as yours and mine.  So then, why does everyone go dick fucking gaga when a celebrity posts something on Twitter, often on a complex topic they’ve never taken a second to study?  Please stop it, people.  Save the blind-faith ass-kissing for rare occasions when your hero actually does something truly remarkable, or says something original.  Poker fanboy sycophants are among the worst.  Any tweet with a Day One/First Break chip count with 1,600 “likes” is grounds for a long eye roll and an immediate block.

[7]  The San Francisco Giants

These miserable pricks have cost me a fortune during the last few weeks.  There’s a guy I know betting with me (no juice, so it’s legal) who’s has been riding the anti-Giants gravy trainwreck since the start of June (they’re currently 27-51, the worst record in baseball — and have lost 6 games in a row).  A few nights ago, thought I might have a shot at a win.  Shitty Giants were up 6-3 late in the game, then the Braves (the Braves!) scored a touchdown — 7 goddamned runs in the bottom of the whatever to win the game 10-6.  7 runs!  I’m bleeding money on the Giants.  More like hemorrhaging rent money.  Bastards!

 

[8]  Democratic Party Leadership / Establishment

Is there a more clueless gaggle of ineptitude than the current leadership of the Democratic Party?  Republicans have all but gift wrapped the entire ballgame to Democrats, but they still somehow can’t win a meaningful election.  Democratic positions on every major issue are more popular with the general electorate (health care, foreign policy, taxation, gun control, etc.).  Democrats also raise plenty of money.  Democrats have the perfect boogeyman to run against in the White House.  Nonetheless, they keep on losing in embarrassing fashion.  Re-electing feeble fossils to leadership posts, running lame, gutless candidates who are often ashamed to stand up for the progressive agenda, overemphasizing divisive issues, and generally behaving like the San Francisco Giants of politics — all reveal it’s way past time to clean House.  And, the Senate.  Move aside, losers.  You blew it.  Time for a new generation of voices and ideas.

 

[9]  Absentee Homeowners

Las Vegas has become a haven of hell for lazy absentee home owners, mostly rich fucks living somewhere in California, who slumlord out their second and third “investment homes” while letting the neighborhood turn to total shit.  They try charging California rental prices and then when the properties sit empty for months, squatters move in, tear the place apart, and turn the street into a ghetto.  I know this firsthand, because I’ve seen it happen.  The city should enforce much stricter codes on upkeep and seize property when laws are violated.  I think absentee homeowners (a nice word for slumlords) are scum.

 

[10]  Shitty Summer Movies

Summer movies are shit.  Wizards, superheroes, cartoons, car chases, skull-fucking mindless comedies, talking machines — I don’t care for summer movies catering to 9-year-olds who infest cinemaplexes like larvae buried in the Everglades.  Since when did adults abdicate our rightful role as guardians of the cinematic arts and allow corn-syrup slurping kids to completely take over Hollywood?  I can’t wait for September — which means the return of decent, thought-provoking French movies with subtitles no one can understand.

___________

 

DISHONORABLE MENTION:


Furniture Manufacturers

Those of you who follow me on Facebook already know this story:

Marieta saw some nice new furniture on the Internet and decided to order a sofa and love seat for the living room. The old stuff was about ten years old, so she said it had to go. It’s direct from the factory in North Carolina and they said it would take three weeks for delivery.

Fine.

So, at 8 am today some bug-ass clown bangs on the front door without any fucking notice at all and announces “YOUR SOFAS ARE HERE!” Gee, couldn’t we get a phone call first? I’m standing there like a dick in nothing but shorts and sweating like a beached whale and have no time to take a shower, and now I’ve got to fucking shove furniture all over the downstairs living room. But hey — the sofas are here, so I go ahead and roll with it.

So, off come the sofas from the panel truck and they even unwrap them for us. Instantly, I see these sofas are monsters and realize there’s a problem. The goddamned things won’t fit through the front door!

HOW THE FUCK DO YOU MANUFACTURE FURNITURE AND NOT STANDARDIZE THE DIMENSIONS, YOU PRICKS!!!! ????

Fact: 95 percent of all front doors in the United States are 40 inches wide. Yet, this cock mashing sofa clocks in at like 44 inches! Who are they making sofas for — the goddamned Pope!!! ???

Disbelief.

How can a reputable furniture company not make stuff that will fit through a front door? It’s not like we live in some cramped-ass gerbil-cage in Manhattan. We live in a 2-story house! We somehow got refrigerators, stoves, king-sized mattresses, 65-inch TVs, and a piano in the house THROUGH THE FRONT DOOR — but we can’t get in a fucking sofa!

I’m flabbergasted that a company would do this to people.

So, anyway…..

The two Hispanic guys just look at the door and shake their heads. Garage entry is even smaller, as the access door through the kitchen is 38 inches. Back yard has access, but the sliding-glass door barely opens to about 39 inches.

We’re fucked!

So, the delivery guys basically say, “you’re on your own.” Fine, screw their tip. I mumble to myself — “That saved me a twenty spot, now get lost. Scram!”

So, right now, I’m four inches on the wrong side of being too big and I’ve got a brand new gorgeous sofa and matching love seat sitting out in the fucking front yard, exposed to the blazing flames of the sun, with no place to go. I have no idea what to do, other than stick them in the garage which will make for some very expensive cat scratching posts.

Screw ordering furniture over the Internet! Buyer beware!

 

ESports Gamers

I think “esports” is total bullshit.  It’s a joke.

Bunch of punk-ass kids with no social skills living in their parents’ basements jittering on computers all day and night like overdosing dope-fiends. All that’s missing are the black spoons and Bic lighters.

Esports is crap.

 

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Posted by on Jun 21, 2017 in Blog, Essays, Personal | 2 comments

Slow and Furious

 

 

While running almost daily over these past five years — I’ve been yelled at, flipped off, and nearly run off the road.  I’ve fallen down flat on my face, busted open a kneecap, and been accosted by mean school children who called me “fatso.”  I’ve been chased by a pack of angry pit bulls.

By my estimate, I’ve run approximately 5,000 miles in six different countries on two continents.  Along my way, I’ve gratuitously dropped perhaps 9,500 F-bombs, some expletives mumbled, others screamed at full volume.  This averages out to nearly two F-bombs per mile of running — double that average when running anywhere in South Florida because of oppressive humidity and playing dodge ball among world’s worst drivers.  Indeed, I’ve learned that fury can be quite the devilish motivation, especially when skirting and sidestepping cars and trucks and forced to constantly be on the lookout for maniacs distracted by smartphones who simply do not see or fail to yield to the doddering 6-foot tall, 225-pound, 55-year-old blob off on the shoulder heaving desperately for air along busy boulevards and tricky avenues mostly lined with speeding traffic.

Fuck running.  But I do love it so.

I can’t explain the contradiction, really.  Aside from the giddy self-satisfaction of enduring the elements of the not-so-great outdoors, often battling the extremes of temperature and topography, the closest sensation I can relate to is that running has become an alternative form of meditation.  One becomes addicted to mental and physical rhythms of the body in motion.  I’ve even perfected the art of dozing off while running, as odd as that seems.  I’m almost never tired nor do I feel worn out after running.  I never ache after running.  I’m more alert and alive than ever.  I only feel tired and listless when — for whatever reason — I miss a run after a day or two.  I ache when I do not run.

I guess in some ways running is a drug.

Today was the hottest day ever in the history of Las Vegas.  Since this city was founded in 1905, that means this was the hottest day ever recorded in 112 years.  Oh, that means the high reached a blistering 117 degrees.

I ran five miles at precisely 4 pm today, right when the temperature peaked at the all-time high.  Yes, this was planned.  This was by design.  If I’m going to run, I’ll run.  If I’m going to sweat, then I won’t candy-ass it by running in the morning when it’s just 98.  I want the full fast and furious version of running to the extreme.

Mind you, this isn’t a sick brag even though I’m a master of sick bragging, but rather a demonstration of what simple dedication and strong willpower can do.  Those who know me best probably know, I’m not particularly motivated nor hard-working most of the time.  But I do make it a personal mission to run about six days a week, no matter what the weather conditions.  This “sacrifice” averages out to about six hours per week, hardly time-consuming given all the time most of us waste doing far less productive (and counterproductive) things in our lives.

The coldest temperature I ever ran in was a bone-chilling 5 degrees once — at South Lake Tahoe.  That run, which lasted only a few miles, nearly killed me.  The trouble was, South Lake Tahoe is at 7,100 feet and running at that high altitude puts tremendous stress on the lungs, especially if you’re not accustomed to the conditions.  I can’t say it did much good to breath in all that cold air either, as I contracted bronchitis and was coughing my head off for the next two weeks.  Yes, I do admit — one can take this running thing to the extreme.

But, for whatever reason, the heat has never bothered me.  I’ve run in 100-degree weather hundreds of times, and never experienced the least bit of discomfort.  Sure, after sweating like a beast I smelled like a farm animal afterward, but that was nothing a good shower couldn’t cure.

Here’s a shot taken yesterday while eggs and runners were frying on the sidewalk.

 

 

Many things that bring us down are beyond our control.  Some of us lose our jobs.  We go broke.  We lose friends, and sometimes even our closest family members are no longer among us.  We may work harder than others and such effort may take us nowhere.  Other times, something effortless results in a huge bonanza.  Life can be wildly random.

Running is the one thing over which I do have total control.  All decisions and movements are mine.  All effort is my own.  Every step forward is, in and of itself, a very small victory.  Satisfaction is the ultimate reward.

Most days, I run between 2 and 5 miles.  It takes me about an hour to run the full 5-mile course in my neighborhood, which is positioned on a gradual slope.  Running on a flat surface is much easier than running on slopes when paths are sometimes up and sometimes down.

What’s toughest for me are the hills.  Hills are murder on the legs.  There’s a quarter-mile stretch of my daily run which is all uphill.  My legs feel like rubber afterward.  They shake and want to collapse.  That part of my run isn’t getting easier.  To the contrary, it’s getting more difficult.  I suspect that losing some muscle mass due to age, even if it’s a little, has something to do with this.

As for vanity, I gave up worrying about extra weight or carrying a stomach a very long time ago.  I’ll never have a perfect body, so why worry about it?  Why obsess over weighing a certain number, when it seems more practical to do your own thing and let physics and biology take its course?  I’ll never be disappointed in not weighing a certain number because frankly, I don’t fucking care.  I’m going to eat my buttery meals and drink my wine, and then run when I can to stay as fit as a can.  Why bother with worrying?

That would be my advice to those who, like me, may carry a little extra weight and want to lose it.  Don’t worry about losing it so much as doing things you enjoy which might burn off some extra calories.  It’s really not that difficult it you make the time.

Some readers may think their busy schedules excuse them from exercise.  I don’t buy that excuse.  I used to work long hours, day and night.  I also used to travel more than half the year.  Consider that since I’ve begun running as a ritual, I’ve run the following number of times in these cities:

London, England — 2

Cannes, France — 20

Eindhoven, Holland — 10

Dublin, Ireland — 6

Cork, Ireland — 1

Ft. Lauderdale, FL — 25

West Palm Beach, FL — 30

Hickory, NC — 6

Laurel, MD — 6

Atlantic City, NJ — 20

Philadelphia, PA — 3

Pittsburgh, PA — 5

New York, NY — 1

Rome, NY — 10

Gary, Indiana — 5

New Orleans, LA — 30

Shreveport, LA — 9

Dallas, TX — 1

St. Louis, MO — 10

Phoenix, AZ — 1

Los Angeles, CA — 35

Escondido, CA — 20

South Lake Tahoe, NV — 12

Reno, NV — 2

Flathead Lake, MT — 2

Fargo, ND — 3

Sacramento, CA — 2

Las Vegas, NV — 1,200

Looking back, my toughest runs were in South Lake Tahoe, Flathead Lake, MT (due to elevation) and Gary, IN (due to it being a shit hole).  The easiest runs were almost always along oceans, which means along flat surfaces while enjoying gentle breezes.  I never had a problem running in South Florida, or Atlantic City, or even New Orleans during the summer.  Flat = good.  Hills/Altitude = bad.

The longest run I’ve ever made was 12 miles, which was 18 months ago in West Palm Beach.  That distance won’t break any world records, but I was very deeply satisfied I could still run that distance without stopping at my age.  That said, I did encounter a terrible chafing problem afterward where the meat of my thighs has rubbed together so much the skin was raw.  It wasn’t pretty.

Injuries are a customary hazard with running and all serious runners will encounter them at some point.  My view is, you have to just run through the pain and discomfort.  I don’t recommend this to everyone, of course.  Each body is different.  So, please do listen to pain signals within the body, especially if you are just starting out.  For me, I know I can work through discomforts.

Twice, I had lower back pains so bad that I could barely stand up without assistance.  This is something that just flares up out of nowhere about once a year.  Each time, I stretched and ran through the pain and then felt much better afterwards.

Another occasion, I was running along Okechobee Blvd. near the Palm Beach Kennel Club dog track.  Racing rough a crosswalk at a busy intersection, I made a giant misstep, missed the curb, and smashed by face onto the pavement.  In the process, I busted a kneecap that turned bloody but looked much worse than it actually was.  That caused me to miss a few days, but after the swelling went down, I made it a mission to return and race through that intersection, this time, bouncing over the curb like Rocky racing up the famous steps and thrusting his fists into the air.

The worst injury I suffered was seemingly benign and invisible, but which is, in fact, very painful, even to the point of causing debilitation.  Plantar Fasciitis is a knife-like pain up through the heel, which suddenly hit me a few years ago.  I can’t explain the sensation other than to say that even taking a small step is excruciating.  That stopped me from running for about six weeks, the only real stretch of time I’ve missed in five years.

I’ve tried to share the ups and downs of daily running from time to time with readers.  Some readers have even contacted me privately to say they will try and get healthy and will try running — to which I reply, bravo!

If it hits 118 degrees, I know where I’m headed — outdoors to the pavement.

 

 

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Posted by on Jun 2, 2017 in Blog, Essays, Personal | 13 comments

My Colonoscopy

 

I know.

Yuck.

A colonoscopy.

Who wants to read about that?

Well, since you’re already into the fourth paragraph of today’s feature, I’ll take this as an indication you’re either innately curious, or sick enough to wallow in the joy of my misery.

Fair enough.

At age 55, I’m told that puts me at higher risk for colon cancer.  Gee, that would really suck to be diagnosed with any form of cancer.  But if I do get such a scary diagnosis, I sure as shit don’t want it in my ass.  Excuse the pun.

Most of us put off unpleasant procedures like this until — sometimes it’s too late.  Especially men, like me who often feel invulnerable.  Since I don’t feel any pain down there, why worry about it?  That’s the all too-familiar tune.  Sure, I get annual medical check ups.  I visit my dentist regularly.  I go through a vision test and get new glasses whenever I can.  So, why would I voluntarily subject myself to such an intimate intrusion by undergoing a colonoscopy?

In other words, if it’s not broken, why fix it?

My ass works just fine.

I won’t gross you out with too many gritty details, but the downside of putting off a colonoscopy is a slow death in the most miserable way.  Unfortunately, I happen to know this firsthand.  Marieta’s father died from colon cancer about 20 years ago.  Losing him was painful enough.  But to see such a strong and kind man like Marieta’s father, who was once worked as a Bucharest policeman, bed-ridden during the final six-months of his life was a terrible ordeal to bear, especially since colon cancer was entirely treatable, if it had been caught in time — in other words, if he’d had a colonoscopy.

Marieta lost her father that way, and she certainly didn’t want to lose me, especially in the same manner.  So, prodded on by her insistence — what most of us husbands would call “nagging” — I finally agreed to undergo my first colonoscopy, earlier this week.  In fact, we agreed to go in together as a couple.  She decided to have one too, on the same day.  No, we didn’t get a 2 for 1 discount.  We didn’t even get frequent flier points.  Cheap ass insurance company.  Like having Spirit Airlines insurance with a $5,000 deductible.

The procedure is relatively quick and simple, which I’ll get to in a moment.  It was also completely painless.  However, the prep was a bit annoying, especially for a foodie, like me.  I was instructed forgo all food and drink for a 24-hour period prior to the procedure.  No, not even a glass of wine.

The horror.

Being a Type-A personality, I took these medical instructions to the extreme.  I didn’t eat or drink anything (except for water) for 40 hours straight.  I’m not sure that qualifies me for any Guinness Book of World Records, but I think I deserve some kind of Evel Kneivel award for my immense sacrifice.  I don’t believe I’ve ever gone so long without eating or drinking anything in my entire life, except once when my car broke down in West Virginia and I deduced starvation was preferable to eating anything in that state.

To my surprise, fasting was much easier than I expected.  Perhaps being a Muslim and doing the Ramadan thing — which means not eating for 30 days — isn’t such a big deal, after all.  Besides, it’s a pretty effective way to lose weight.  Maybe I’ll convert, at least to the fasting part (not!).

On the same morning when the 2017 World Series of Poker officially began, an annual event in Las Vegas which I’d worked steadily for more than two decades, while players from all over the globe — including hundreds of friends of mine — were congregating together in gambling’s biggest and most prestigious event, I was having a rubber tube inserted into my ass.

How far the mighty have fallen.

The prep was critical.  They make you drink this clear liquid, which tastes like artificially flavored citrus soda.  I was told there are some yucky-tasting prep kits.  But I was prescribed one of the really good ones.  I must admit, it sure was tempting to spike the prep drink with a little vodka (my new creation — the colonoscopy screwdriver).  But I was a good boy.

Anyway, I drank two full dosages of the prescribed citrus drink and for the next 24 hours I felt like I was riding a motorcycle through central Mexico.  Fortunately, there were no major disasters.  There were, however, a couple of really close calls.  Football is called “a game of inches.”  Well, the prep game of having a colonoscopy is kinda’ like that, too.  Then and there I realized there are advantages to having house cats.  One just gets used to poop and vomit on the floors.  What’s one more little “accident?”

Our procedure was done at an outpatient facility here in Las Vegas.  From the moment we entered, I was impressed with how professionally things were run.  I was taken to an admission section, asked several questions about my medical history, and then was asked to disrobe.  No lap dance.

They gave me a gown to wear, which was this weird thing that was very poorly designed.  It opened in the rear, which meant my entire backside was exposed to the world.  Worse, the strings in back were inaccessible.  Much as I tried, I couldn’t reach around and tie it.  So, I finally just gave up.  I figured these medical people have seen just about everything by now, so I walked down the hallway like some doddering old mental patient with my ass hanging out until someone ran over from the nurses’ station and tied my bow up like a pretty Christmas present.

Next, they laid me down on a stretcher with wheels and then some people with masks on came over and started wheeling me into an operating room.  I didn’t like the looks of those people with the masks.  They looked scary.  I thought this was just a colonoscopy.  It was supposed to be 20 minutes, in and out.  They looked way too serious.  Maybe they saw something on my chart.

By then, it was too late.  I was placed in a small room with all kinds of electronic equipment.  Next, a woman stuck a needle in my arm and told me I’d be getting something called “saline solution.”  I asked, “why.”  She replied this was to keep me fully hydrated.  I insisted that I wasn’t thirsty, but if some Chateauneuf du Pape could be pumped into the bag I sure would appreciate it.  No one thought that was funny. Medical people have no sense of humor, or maybe they just don’t know French wines.

Anyway — next, an even more serious-looking man who resembled one of those silver-haired doctors you see on TV came into the room.  He introduced himself Dr. Something-Or-Other, “the anesthesiologist.”  I wasn’t there to take notes, nor remember names.  All I knew was, he was expensive.  Marieta had done some advance research on the anesthesia they typically use.  She disovered it’s the same stuff Michael Jackson was addicted to.  I did not find this news comforting.

Next, Dr. Anesthesiologist punched the “play” button on a stereo system, and all of the sudden Supertramp’s “The Logical Song” came on with the volume cranked up to “7,” blasting out of Bose speakers.  I know they were Bose, because I saw them with my own eyes.  I know this firsthand because I was there.

My colonoscopy was about to begin….

[You have to click the music for the full effect……do it, and then read on]

At about the second stanza, a soft rubber mask was placed directly over my mouth.  I was instructed by someone with a calm voice to inhale deeply.  Then, I was told to roll over on my side and tuck myself  into “the fetal position.”  I looked at a clock on the wall.  It read 8:16 am.  As for the doctor, I still hadn’t seen him yet.  My only worry was that he’d clipped his nails sometime this week.

My deep breathing continued.  The music played.  I’m not sure how long I stayed conscious, certainly not until the first chorus when the saxophone solo came in.  I went totally blank within about 30 seconds.

The next thing I remember was opening my eyes.  A nurse was standing at my side.  I was still laying in the fetal position.  I wondered — when are they going to start my colonoscopy?

Oddly enough, I had a short dream.  I also noticed drool coming out the side of my mouth and dripping onto the pillow (hey, you knew this story wouldn’t be pretty).  I recalled the clock time flashed 8:16.  I wondered what time it was now and when they would start the procedure.

I rolled over onto my back trying to find the clock hanging on the wall.  It wasn’t there.  The music was off, too.  In fact, I wasn’t even in the same room.  What the hell happened?

That’s when the nurse spoke up.  She said everything went smoothly.  No complications.  She told me they’d removed something called a polyp, which would later be tested at a lab.  Most polyps turn out to be benign, I was told.  I couldn’t believe the procedure was already done, so quick.  I didn’t feel a thing.  I didn’t even remember a thing.  I slept better than a baby with a hangover.

Within 30 minutes, Marieta had joined me waiting in the recovery unit.  We were wheeled out together and by 9:30 we were out the door on our way home.  The two-hour start-to-finish procedure basically gives us ten years peace of mind, that we don’t have to worry about colon cancer.

While the prep period certainly wasn’t fun with the mandatory “cleansing” stage, and missing meals was annoying, the actual procedure of undergoing a standard colonoscopy (including polyp removal) is relatively simple and worry free.  I’ve had haircuts that were more painful.

So, why share all this?

During the course of my writing, I’m never quite sure which topics will resonate with readers.  I seriously doubt this column will become a reader favorite.  Surely, there will be some wisecracks, most intended in good fun.

Aside from the laughter, please do take a moment to think about this seriously.  In the U.S. 50,000 people die from colon cancer every year.  Chances are, you know someone who has been diagnosed with the cancer.  Most of these deaths would not have happened if the cancer was caught in time.  It’s highly preventable.

Honestly, I would never have agreed to do this procedure unless Marieta absolutely insisted.  Unless she nagged.  I also thought getting a colonoscopy would be both embarrassing and painful.  I was wrong on both counts.  It’s not embarrassing, unless we make it so.  It’s also not painful.  I didn’t feel a thing.

If today’s article motivates just one person to have a colonoscopy, and something gets diagnosed early, this will be well worth it.  So, don’t put it off — especially if you’re someone in a higher-risk category.

Ten years from now, I hope to have another colonoscopy.  And in twenty years, another.  And, thirty years from now, on my 85th birthday, yet another.  Think of it this way.  It sure beats the alternative.

Don’t put it off.  Do it.  It’s easy.

It’s logical.

 

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Posted by on Mar 12, 2017 in Blog, Essays, Personal, Politics | 1 comment

Friendship is Non-Partisan

 

 

A close friend of mine was recently offered a political appointment in the Trump Administration.

This might be difficult to believe, but I do have many Republican friends.

I won’t identify him by name.  He can come forward and identify himself, if he wants to.

I heard this story firsthand from my friend a few weeks ago.  He even told me quite an amzing story of speaking personally with the President a few times — once during an informal interview, and second, a short follow-up telephone call at which time he was offered the job.

From the way things happened, I expect that he’ll take the job, if he hasn’t already done so.  No doubt, he’ll be very good in that position.  This person is a hard-working.  He’s highly experienced.  He’s someone that can be trusted at all times to do the right thing.  Our country needs that right now.  We will be lucky to have him involved in our government.

However, just before he shared this information with me, he prefaced our conversation by acknowledging my unabashed disgust with President Trump.  “I know you can’t stand Trump, but I have to share something with you….” he said.  That was the way our conversation started.

Actually, my personal opinions on political issues are totally irrelevant here.  We all want our friends to succeed.  We all want those closest to us to do well in life, and advance in their careers.  We all want key positions in our government to be staffed with qualified people.  That’s a non-partisan viewpoint most of us probably share.

After hearing about the details of his political appointment, presumably now pending, I was absolutely thrilled for my friend.  What amazing news.  How could I not be thrilled?  After all, the prestige of being personally picked for such a high position in the federal government by the leader of the executive branch really has no comparison.  It doesn’t matter what someone thinks about President Trump or President Obama before that, and so forth and so on — that’s one of the highest honors in public service, to be chosen from millions of people and then personally asked by the President to take a job in a new administration.

Indeed, my reaction would be the same for anyone who’s asked to serve — be it for a position in a Donald Trump Administration or a Bernie Sanders Administration.  Success is success.  Friendship is friendship.

This is something we should all pause and remember, moving on in the weeks and months ahead.  While I shall continue to do everything within my power to stop the Trump Administration from imposing what I consider to be a dangerous and destructive agenda for America, I shall also applaud those I know who are good people for now getting to experience one of the rarest of opportunities in anyone’s professional life — which is to work for the White House.

Before writing this, I’d never thought much about this before, and I certainly don’t have any poll data to back up the following claim.  However, my best guess is that I have roughly an equal number of friends and family members who are either liberal or conservative, or somewhere in the middle.  The people I run around with are all over the map, politically speaking.

If I’ve lost any friends from expressing my political views, or engaging in discussions that might have turned into arguments, then I’m not aware of it.  Perhaps some people who I mistakenly thought were friends no longer reach out anymore, or like to hang around.  But I can’t name a single person who was banished from my inner circle of trusted friends based on their political viewpoints.  To the contrary, I hope the best for all of them.

Hence, when one of those friends told me that he be might be working for President Trump, I write now what I said to him then:  Congratulations.  I believe the President made an excellent choice.

Go for it.  Do your best.  Make a difference.

 

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Posted by on Mar 10, 2017 in Blog, Essays, General Poker, Personal | 2 comments

Chit Chat with Donald Trump, Poker with Shaq O’Neal, and Breakfast with Katt Williams

 

 

Note:  This is the second part of the story, “The Night I Met Donald Trump at Shaq O’Neal’s 33rd Birthday Party.”  PART 1 can be read here.

 

After zonked-out Tara Reid had to nearly be carried across the red carpet in front of the step-and-repeat banner, the parade of A- to D-list celebrities swarmed the media trough and boarded the “look at me” train.

Vivica A. Fox; “The View” co-hosts Star Jones and Al Reynolds; Miami Heat owner Micky Arison and President Pat Riley; Rapper Timbaland; Miami Heat teammates-Eddie Jones, Alonzo Mourning, and Dwayne Wade; Houston Rocket-Tracy McGrady; Chicago Cub-Sammy Sosa; Chicago Bear-Brian Uhrlacher, Oakland Raider-Ray Crockett, New York Met-Mike Piazza — the guest list went on and on.  That’s who I remember seeing.

No surprise — Shaq won top prize for the “wow factor.”  The guest of honor arrived at his party decked out in regal splendor, chauffeured in some futuristic-looking car so exotic it didn’t even have a brand name.  Accompanied by his wife who was shorter than her husband by at least two feet, Shaq waltzed down the red carpet decked out in a bright-as-Tide white Zoot suit, his giant basketball-sized head topped off with a Panamanian-style fedora.

Celebrity events can be wildly unpredictable.  You never know for sure who might show up, and perhaps more important, who will not show, despite accepting the earlier invite.  That’s the danger of coaxing lots of media to attend and throwing a high -profile bash.  If all the cameras and reporters show up, then it becomes essential to deliver on the goods.  That means plenty of A-list celebrities.

Any remaining fears that the evening might turn into a clunker were put to rest when, out of nowhere, Donald Trump showed up with his entourage, along with his new wife, former model Melania.  The Trumps were married just two months earlier in West Palm Beach, some 70 miles north of Miami.  They still looked and behaved like newlyweds together.  Their son Barron was born about a year later.

This was long before Trump had expressed any political aspirations.  However, a new television show “The Apprentice” had debuted a year earlier on NBC which had already spawned a spin-off.  The Trump name was hotter than the Manhattan commercial real estate market, and the cleverest con-man and carnival barker of them all was about to take full advantage of his swelling notoriety.

Newly married, with a hit-TV show in full production, his name plastered on consumer products from beef steaks to fancy hotels and golf courses — hell, he even had his own university! — Donald Trump was about to launch the mega-roll of a lifetime.  Following more than a decade of ugly divorces, business collapses, bankruptcies, and embarrassing personal misfortunes, Trump was about to embark on the most remarkable personal marketing campaign ever witnessed in American politics and culture.

However, no one knew any of this way back on the balmy Miami evening of March 7, 2005 in South Beach.

He was still just Donald Trump, a.k.a. “The Donald,” there to pay his respects to Shaq O’Neal on the occasion of the NBA star’s 33rd birthday.

______

Parties attended by celebs are full of players, and by this I don’t mean the sporting kind.  Everyone’s a player.  Everyone has ulterior motives.

Everyone.

Well, maybe not Shaq and his immediate circle of teammates and “friends.”  However, the people who go to all the trouble of fancying themselves up and attending such events do so for a variety of reasons — some personal and others professional.  Perhaps it’s to make new contacts and/or re-establish relationships currently in the works.  Maybe it’s to gold-dig a rich athlete into a paternity suit or better yet, marriage, which for some conspiring females amounts to cashing a lottery ticket.  It might be a way for a nobody who aspires to be a somebody to get cheap publicity.  Sometimes it’s just to giggle and gawk at the rich and famous.

At least I was paid to be there.

As the party’s official sponsor — make that co-sponsor, along with the surprise co-partnership of Hennessy — PokerStars.com was permitted to set up two live-action poker tables.  Hopefully, the party guests would make their way over to compete for various prizes and charity gift certificates and we could get some good press out of all this.  Like I said — ulterior motives.

Unfortunately, there was a huge problem right from the start.

Without any forethought by those put in charge of logistics, the two poker tables were positioned outdoors on the second-floor terrace next to a swimming pool overlooking the ocean.  That might have been perfect for a poker game in the afternoon.  But for games to be played much closer to midnight and later into the early morning perhaps, the night sky presented a huge problem.

No one could see their hole cards!

Making matters considerably worse, South Beach evenings are known for steady breezes off the ocean.  This made each poker table a potential confetti machine.  The flop would be put out, a gust of wind would suddenly blow off the waves, and the cards would go flying towards to pool.

Wait!  I flopped a full house!

Too bad — misdeal!

Despite the hardships poor lighting, wind gusts, and flying cards, the poker games still proved to be a good draw.  Trouble was, none of the celebrities were showing up.  Sure, it was nice that lots of stargazers and broke nobodies wanted to play poker with us and compete for chip sets and schwag bags.  But what was the whole point of spending $135,000 (plus expenses) as the host, if we couldn’t get the A-listers to come over and join the game for at least a couple of minutes?

That required Rich Korbin and I to get creative.

______

Rich and I made it a mission to work on the big two.  That meant getting Shaq and Trump.

As manipulative as it all soudns, we had to get at least one photo of Shaq towering over the PokerStars.com table, confidently holding a poker hand, putting on a convincing shit sham that he was indeed having a total blast along with the PokerStars.com crew.  Basically, that’s the real background of just about every publicity photo you will ever see.  Fake.  Staged.

Rich, you go get Shaq!

I’ll get Trump!

At this point, an argument broke out.  Some public relations person who had been involved heavily in the pre-party planning approached.  In a testy exchange, we expressed some considerable disappointment that the celebrities weren’t coming over to play poker.

Get us some celebrities!

Get Shaq!

The lady had sure talked a great game for weeks before, but come to find out — she didn’t really know Shaq from shit.  She’d promised to deliver everyone from Kobe Bryant to Robert De Niro at this party, and she came up about four diamonds short of a flush.  But, to her credit, we were drawing to a solid pair — Shaq and Trump.

“Where am I going to find Shaq in that crowd?” the PR lady asked.  “There’s at least 500 people at this party.”

My reply was something to the effect — “Gee, I don’t know.  Try looking for the 7′ 1″ Black guy dressed in white suit topped with a fedora.”

The xenostrobe flashing at Miami International Airport couldn’t have stood out any more than Shaq O’Neal in that room.

So, the PR lady worked her considerable talent on getting us Shaq.  That left Rich and I to do some Trump trophy hunting.

_____

The party downstairs had turned into a mob scene.  Chaos.  Security had apparently departed for the evening, and with the doors of a fully-functional hotel now wide open on a Saturday night, ass jokers were streaming in off the street, drawn like a steel to a magnet to the prospect of a free open bar and hanging out with a bunch of celebrities.  You couldn’t move.  Thick as flies on a rotting corpse.

Rich and I barreled our way through the crowd.  To our quick surprise, we spotted Trump.  He was standing off to the side near a wall, whispering something to Melania.  Incredibly, no one seemed to be bothering Trump much, who appeared somewhat bored with what was happening.  This was our big chance to nab a celebrity for the poker game.

Rich and I darted straight ahead for Trump when all the sudden what few lights were on inside the cavernous room went dim, and out of nowhere a spotlight appeared onto a makeshift stage close to where the Trumps were standing.

Boom boxes started blasting a rap song, bursting all but the most buttressed of eardrums, and then a sexy young woman dressed in a black evening dress stepped into the spotlight.  The entire room was transfixed on the spectacle.  Rich and I stopped dead in our tracks.

Cheering.  Haaaaaaaaappppy 33rd birthday — Shaaaaaaaaaaaaaqqqqqqqqqqq!

Boom!  Boom!  Boom-boom-boom!  Boom!  Boom!  Boom-boom-boom!

The pretty woman hoisted a violin onto her shoulder and launched into one of the most rousing displays of musical creativity I’ve witnessed.  Come to find out later, the rapper was off to the side rapping live, and the woman joined impromptu into the makeshift duet with a staggering virtuoso of electric violin, superimposing a Vivaldi concerto layered brilliantly over the top of a bunch of indecipherable, but catchy lyrics.  The classical violinist.  The rapper.  It was mayhem.  It was also fantastic.

Shaq, the star and beloved birthday boy, was standing in the middle of the room some 15 feet away, bobbing his head up and down to the beat like a steady dribble.  Within another minute or so, the music became infectious.  Pretty soon, everyone’s head was bobbing to the beat like the wave.  Rich’s head was bobbing to the beat.  We looked over and Trump’s head was bobbing.  Melania, too.  Gee, this spectacle was great and all.  But this music was shooting our poker plans all to shit.

After about 20 minutes, the performance was over and our prize catch was still swimming in the party pool.  He had our hooks set.  Trump was within sight.

I don’t remember if it was Rich or me who started with the small talk, which we both admittedly don’t like.  Trump hates small talk too, from recent testimonials of his personality.  Gee, I wish we’d just come right out and said what was really on our minds at the time — Mr. Trump….we need a favor….would you help us out for a couple of minutes?  He’d likely have gone along.  But instead, we wiggled through the usual conversational gymnastics trying desperately to get Trump to join the poker game upstairs.  Trump politely declined.

I will say, and this comes as no surprise — Trump was cordial and even somewhat charming.  One doesn’t get to that level without some degree of personal magnetism, and even though I didn’t like him even back then, he was a perfect gentleman.  One might even say given his penchant for being famous, that he was (and is) naturally gifted at parties and in social engagements.

While Rich and I were congratulating the Trumps on their new marriage, a photographer appeared from nowhere and asked if we’d like a photo.

Yes!  Absolutely!

Rich and I aren’t exactly smitten with celebrities.  However, the image of a couple of PokerStars.com guys hitched alongside Donald and Melania Trump would be a nice PR nick knack.

The grimy photographer didn’t seem very professional about his job and the way he was handling things.  Presumably, he was going around the party, taking shots of famous people.  He could have been a freelancer.  He might have been paparazzi.  He might have been off the street.  Who knew?

I knew one thing.  I had to get that photograph, no matter what it took.  In the conniving world of modern marketing and PR, photos with famous people are currency.

To make certain I got the photo, I gave the photographer my business card, which listed my mailing address and telephone number.  To guarantee the photo was sent, this required something a bit extra.  So, I slipped him $100.

The photographer took a few photos.  We all smiled and shook hands.

We never saw or heard from the photographer again.

_____

To this day, there’s no actual evidence showing me meeting Donald Trump.

Well — at least, there should be evidence out there which shows that we finally got Shaq O’Neal to play poker.  Right?

Uh, read on….

The PR lady had promised us Shaq.  It was long past time to deliver.  Now, it was close to 2 am and guests were starting to leave the party.

Shaq remained a no-show.

Pissed as hell and trying to figure out what we were going to say to higher ups at PokerStars.com, explaining why Shaq didn’t play poker that night despite paying the freight for the party, the NBA All Star was finally coaxed into coming outside by the pool.  By this time, all the boundaries of security were long gone and Shaq was pretty much a moving target of anyone with bold enough to approach him for an autograph, or a photo, or a business idea, or a joke or any other mindless time-wasting augmentation of being a rich and famous celebrity.

Hey Shaq!  Over here!

Look, it’s Shaq!

Shaq, my man!

Got a sec, Shaq?  This will just take a second.  My brother’s on the phone.  He’s a big fan.  Can you just say hello?

The PR lady made good on her promise and Shaq scurried his way over to the poker table with a trail of fan barnacles.  The look on his face revealed this was the very last place he wanted to be at 2 am on his birthday, while his basketball buddies were downstairs partying their asses off.  Even though we were in the midst of a Sit n’ Go, no one at the table cared about the interruption.  Chips were fished out of the rack, and placed in front of Shaq like he was some Egyptian pharaoh.

Look!  Shaq’s playing poker!  Shaq’s playing poker!  Go Shaq!

Within a few seconds, it became painfully obvious something was very wrong.

“What do I do now?” Shaq asked.

The dealer explained the action, that it was his decision to either call the bet, raise, or fold.  Shaq didn’t have a clue what was going on.  However, he’d apparently seen enough poker on television somewhere to move all-in.  Shaq moved all-in.

Shaq’s raise was snap-called in two spots, and Shaq rolled over something like 9-4 off-suit.  The board didn’t help, and Shaq was out of action in one hand.

I forgot if it was me, or Rich, or Brad Willis (who was blogging that night for PokerStars.com), but one of us yelled out, “Give Shaq more chips!  Rebuy!  Don’t let Shaq leave!”

Shaq was promptly given another fresh stack of chips.  On the very next hand, the same thing happened.  Shaq went broke.

Again, Shaq was given more chips and the Sit n’ Go suddenly had all the integrity of a rigged South American soccer match.

Three stacks into the game, and Shaq dying to split and go back to his party with pals Tracy McGrady and Alonzo Mourning, we suddenly realized that no one had a camera.  This was a few years before smart phones came out, which enabled everyone with an instant camera-phone.

Where’s the photographer?!!!  Where’s the photographer?!!!

Someone came to our rescue and quickly produced a camera, and Shaq was photographed shoehorned into the six seat, his giant 350-pound frame crushing a fragile metal folding chair, his mammoth size and stature overwhelming the felt while holding up two hole cards like he’s just drawn out on Johnny Chan heads-up for the world championship, pearly whites flashing brighter than his ivory suit.

High fives all around.

We got it!  We finally got it!  We got the photo with Shaq playing poker!

Now, twelve years later, I still have not seen that photo of Shaq playing poker — that elusive photo that essentially cost us $135,000 to get.  But, that photo is floating out there somewhere.  Somebody has it.

I swear.

______

Cynicism is the final tumbling domino of broken illusions.

I’m betting if you surveyed those 500 or so people who attended Shaq’s 33rd birthday party that night, and queried them on who was the official sponsor, no more than 50 would have answered “PokerStars.com.”  Perhaps 1 in 10.  Hennessy probably would have polled only slightly better.

PokerStars.com might as well have handed out $20 bills on the streets of Downtown Miami.  That would have been money wiser spent.

By 4 am, the party was done and we’d broken down the poker tables and put away the cards and chips.  Time to leave.  We were about to say our goodbye’s, until the next gig.

Then, out of nowhere, Rich Korbin appeared with a marketing idea.

“Have you ever heard of Katt Williams?” he asked.

“Katt who?”

“Katt Williams.”

No.  Never heard of him.  Rich explained to me that Katt was waiting for us downstairs.  He wanted to meet both of us, interested in the prospect of receiving some kind of paid sponsorship with PokerStars.com.  At the very least, Katt was interested in playing for the site, if we agreed to post the $10,000 entry fee to Main Event of the World Series of Poker, just three months away.

“It’s four fucking a.m.”

Rich, I must say, is on the ball.  Always.  24/7.  Somehow, he set up an impromptu meeting which was to take place in exactly 15 minutes, inside the hotel cafe, which was closed and completely dark.

Wait, we’re going to meet some aspiring stand-up comic right now at 4 in the morning, in a dark restaurant?  After a party?  Really?  What the fuck?

So, Rich and I went downstairs and were met by Katt Williams and his sister, who served as his manager.  The meeting lasted about 45 minutes.

Katt’s sister impressed the hell out of both of us.  What a pistol.  She was an astonishingly convincing marketer and pitch person.  You couldn’t say no to her.  Within just a few minutes, Rich and I might as well have been eating of out of her hand.

This meeting was a godsend.  Admittedly, the rest of the evening had produced mixed results.  However, we were ready to sign Katt that instant.  ON.  THE.  SPOT.  He was young.  He was edgy.  And, he was Black, which might sound racially biased, but from marketing standpoint — which should focus on the future rather than the past — was a noteworthy diversion from the usual sponsored poker players and celebrities made up pretty much of white bread.  He was also extremely polite and couldn’t have been more impressive, in person.  Then and there, Rich and I knew instantly that Katt Williams was going somewhere in show biz.  Within just a few years, Katt Williams was appearing in his own HBO specials.

Unfortunately, we couldn’t get PokerStars.com to sign Katt to a sponsorship.  That was a huge disappointment to us.  The decision to pass on Katt was one of the few marketing mistakes our company made during my years I was with them.

No worries.  Katt ended up doing pretty well on his own, without the help of PokerStars.com.

Katt Williams even appeared in a comedy special a few years later, “Friends with Shaq,” the friendship likely bonded that night in South Beach.

 

 

That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

Revealing my own complicit behavior in going along with the sham, here’s how I was quoted in the official party press release which was distributed the next day to all media via PR Newswire:

“We were thrilled to be invited to join Shaq’s friends and family for this intimate gathering,” said Nolan Dalla, Director of Communications for PokerStars.com. “It was a great way for us to come together with many of our celebrity poker fans and wish someone who continues to give us year after year of truly memorable basketball a very happy birthday. We were thrilled with the turnout, which included so many great athletes and celebrities.”

 

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