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Posted by on Oct 11, 2013 in Blog, Personal | 9 comments

45 Minutes

 

Ion Petre

 

Monday mornings epitomize new beginnings.  And so it was on October 7th, 2013.  A new beginning.

But this particular Monday morning — so wonderfully warm and beautifully bright as the early hours are so often this time of year — was even more splendid.  We were blessed with a special guest staying in our home.  This was a rare intersection in all of our lives — to be together.

Ion Petre, my beloved brother-in-law, had come to visit us in Las Vegas from his home in Eindhoven, Holland.  He was to stay with us for a months time.  Oh, they joy of that.  We tend to be a happy family, but the house was a more cheerful place with Ion around.  He always had that amazing effect on the people around him.

We had so many exciting plans.  So many shows to see.  So many restaurants to visit.  So many new places to go.  So many new people to meet.  Indeed, one of the great things about living in Las Vegas is experiencing things both old and new through those you love the most.  It’s a far greater joy than seeing them alone by yourself.

The day was all planned out.  This Monday morning was to include a short run in the 72-degree weather, followed by a lunch together at a favorite local Italian restaurant.  We also considered making a hike up Lone Mountain that afternoon, which has a magnificent view of the entire Las Vegas Valley.  That same evening, I was so excited to take Ion to meet many of my friends as a Monday Night Football watching party.  It would have been Ion’s first time to watch American football.  What a joy that would have been.

Such a full day.  We had so many plans.

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Posted by on Sep 21, 2013 in Blog, Essays | 3 comments

The Beauty of Imperfection

 

pablo-picasso

 

What is it about a new car, a new outfit, or acquiring some other material possession that makes us so instinctively protective of its condition when we first buy it, yet so utterly dismissive of those same concerns once it begins serving its full utility?

For instance, let’s say you purchase a new car.  For the first few months, the vehicle receives the royal treatment.  You’re careful where you park.  You avoid dropping food or drink on the upholstery.  But once that first beer gets sloshed all over the front seat, or some idiot dings the side panel with his swinging car door in a grocery store parking lot, the car is blemished forever.  From that point forward, it’s treated as part of your life’s key chain.

So, why aren’t we as protective of older things?  After all, shouldn’t possessions that have served us well deserve more tender-loving care?

There’s a new movie out now.  It’s called “Still Mine.”  Wonderfully written and directed by Michael McGowan, there’s a beautifully shot scene late in the film which bears reflection here.  Without divulging much, I’d like to tell you about the scene because it’s magnificent.

The lead character, played by actor James Cromwell sits down at the family’s big dining table made of oak.  He ponders his fate.  After all the years, that table remains quite an imposition.  Cromwell looks down at the grains in the wood.  He begins to think back and remembers all the family gatherings around the table — holiday dinners, card games, life altering decisions that were made in the dining room.  He reminisces about a time very long ago when the table was new.  He recalled how careful everyone was around the table not to damage it.  But gradually over the years, the inevitable scratches and dents added up and now nearly a lifetime later, the table rests where it’s been all that time, now full of blemishes.

Oddly enough, those blemishes are what makes the table special.  It’s no longer flawless.  But within each of those many imperfections are moments in the lives of those he cares about most.  His fingers pass slowly across the table and into a crevasse, something that probably upset him 35 years earlier when the wood became dented.  Now, that same indentation is a cherished memory.

I think people are a lot like that dining room table.  We all become weathered over time.  Some of more so than others.  Some of us more so than we would like.  Lines in our faces beguile the joys and sorrows of the past.  Scars and bruises remind us of dangers we overcame and odds that were beaten.

Within us all isn’t perfection, but rather innumerable imperfections.  Some qualities — things like foreign accents, battle scars, crows feet, a few extra pounds, whatever — shouldn’t really concern us much.  They are what gives us our identity.  They are what gives our lives our fondest experiences.  They are what makes each of us unique.

 

 

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Posted by on Aug 26, 2013 in Blog | 2 comments

The Assassination of Narendra Dabholkar

 narendra-dabholkar

 

A 67-year-old man from India died last week.  Actually, he was murdered.  His name was Narendra Dabholkar.

Chances are you’ve never heard of him.

Dabholkar was a writer and social activist.  He spent most of his life traveling throughout his native India, a nation currently making wondrous strides towards modernism and enlightenment.  Yet for all its progress, much of India’s population of 1.27 billion remains shackled to centuries-old superstitions.  Self-professed gurus are still found in almost every village.  Even more of these slimy sages ply their deceit in India’s cities.  Through magic tricks and acts of illusion, they intimate a belief in possessing special powers, which leads to conning people out of what little money they’ve saved.  Some even profess to communicate directly with the (so-called) gods, claiming they can cure serious ailments.  One would be hard pressed to find a lower form of humanity than these slugs who target the most vulnerable people in some of the poorest regions of the world.

From the moment he witnessed “holy men” accepting money in exchange for worthless advice and false cures, Dabholkar knew that he had found his life’s calling.  The forces against him were hardly either harmless nor inconsequential.  India’s vast superstition market has been a national plague for centuries, not only robbing poor people of their meager subsistence, but obstructing public awareness.  His mission to dissolve the nefarious caste system, which subjugates the poor into unspeakable bonds of poverty met with fierce resistance.  What these soothsayers and their many enablers did to others were not just petty crimes victimizing primarily the destitute and the illiterate.  They were (and remain) a cult enterprise with a stranglehold on communities bearing a comparison to the Black Hand.

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Posted by on Aug 23, 2013 in Blog, Essays | 5 comments

“We All Have a Lot of Catching Up to Do”

 

Queens-University-Belfast-001

 

Sometimes a casual conversation sparks a defining moment of profound wisdom.

On this occasion, the fuel of my philosophical fire was alcohol.  Well, actually it was wine.  Does that count?

Marieta and I attended yet another wine tasting last night, this one held at the Rhythem Kitchen restaurant.  We invited a dear friend, Patrick Milligan to join us, who moved to Las Vegas within the past year from the Bay Area.

During the eight-course wine tasting, Patrick uttered an innocent, yet utterly thought-provoking comment which deserves amplification.  Consider this blog an “11” on the volume dial.

I forgot the exact topic we were discussing, but Patrick was describing his daily routine, which includes software development, reading, listening to music, and so forth.  Having lived a long and relatively prosperous life, Patrick knows a lot about these subjects.  Although humble, he knows a lot about many things.  Yet, in the midst of our discussion he said, “I still have a lot of catching up to do.”

Isn’t that profound?

It is.  And here’s why.

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Posted by on Jul 4, 2013 in Blog, General Poker, Las Vegas, Uncategorized | 1 comment

The Fall and Rise of Our Brother Tom Sexton

 

tom-sexton

 

One extraordinary moment in someone’s life can tell you a lot.

Consider what happened once to Tom Sexton.

Years ago, Tom was a professional ballroom dancer.  He even competed in national dance contests.  From an early age, Tom always loved the art of dance, probably because it’s such a wonderful expression of symmetry and self.  Don’t be fooled by Tom, who now resembles a teddy bear.  Back then, he was in extraordinary physical shape, a carry over from his college days as a gymnast.

Tom was competing in the finals of a prestigious ballroom dance competition.  The live performance was filmed.  That footage was later shown at a party I attended here in Las Vegas.  I had the rare treat of viewing the video about ten years ago along with a room full of people.  And, I’ve never forgotten it since.

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