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Posted by on Jun 22, 2013 in Blog, World Series of Poker | 9 comments

The Things We Never Knew

richard-turnbull

 

Richard Turnbull died a few days ago.

He was the oldest dealer on the World Series of Poker staff.  Richard may have been 86 in calendar years, but he was 21 in spirit.  Richard loved poker and his favorite time of year was traveling to Las Vegas every summer to be with so many of the people he called his friends.

It’s a mystery as to why it happened.  Senseless really.

A few nights ago, Richard stepped off a curb and tried to cross the street.  He didn’t see an oncoming car and was struck.  He died a short time later.

I didn’t know Richard well.  That was my loss.  I read about Richard’s life in today’s Las Vegas Review-Journal.  I learned more about him from various poker websites which reported on the tragedy.  He seemed like a very nice man.

This morning, poker icon Mike Caro contacted me by e-mail.  To my surprise, Mike knew Richard.  They were close friends.  In fact, Richard stayed at Mike’s cabin next to the lake in the Ozarks at what’s known as “Hermitage,” where Caro now lives.

Mike wrote some extraordinary things to me.  Things I didn’t know.  Things that surprised me.

For instance, Richard goes so far back in poker that he knew Doyle Brunson before he was ever famous.  Richard actually witnessed the accident that ended young basketball star Doyle Bunson’s athletic career, causing him to decline an offer to play for the NBA’s (then) Minneapolis Lakers.

I also learned Richard was a true intellectual.  In his earlier years, he toured the nation and conducted training for the “Great Books” discussion program.  Mike Caro wrote to me, “(Richard) had tremendous influence on my early thought process.”

I would have liked to know Richard better, especially after learning these things about him.  I would have liked to hear about the people he met and the things he saw — both at the poker table and away from it.  I would have liked to hear which was Richard’s favorite book, and why.

But that might have been just scratching the surface.  How much else about Richard was there that we don’t know?

Sadly, it’s too late now.  With his passing, most of his fascinating stories and experiences go to the grave.  Lost forever.  All that would have been necessary to give them life would have been to talk to him.  To ask questions.  I think Richard would have loved to answer.

It too late to know many of the things Richard knew.  But it’s not too late to learn about someone else who is interesting.  How many other “Richards” are out there among us?  How many “Richards” would love to be asked about their favorite memory?  How many things are there that we don’t know?

In memory of Richard, let us pledge to erase our ignorance about each other, and to learn.  To learn a lot more.  For it is we who shall forever be the winners for simply asking the right questions.
__________

Read Mike Caro’s wonderful blog entry on Richard Turnbull HERE.

 

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Posted by on May 27, 2013 in Blog, Essays, Politics | 6 comments

Next Time You Hear a Veteran Talk About the War….

 

vietnam-war-medic-1966-granger (472x600)

 

Next Time You Hear a Veteran Talk About the War….

.

Listen.

That’s right.  Just listen.

Take a moment.  Pull up a seat.  And honor that man or woman with your attention.  It’s the least you can do.

They deserve it.

Next time that crazy uncle in your family brings up a conflict from many years ago that left scars, listen.  Next time your co-worker mentions that he served in Iraq or Afghanistan, listen.  Next time some guy at the bar talks about Vietnam or Desert Storm, listen.  And if you’re extraordinarily fortunate to meet one of the very few remaining World War II or Korean War veterans — keep completely silent.

Just listen.

You might not see the scars.  But as sure as you can hear their voices, trembling as they sometimes might to make it through the remembrance without breaking down, those scars are there.  Sometimes, they never heal.  The pain never goes away.

And for some reason, whatever reason, he thinks you are the one worthy of hearing his tale.

Consider yourself lucky.

Consider yourself blessed.

Just listen.

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Posted by on Mar 18, 2013 in Blog, Book Reviews | 0 comments

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers

 

stiff-book

 

Cadavers are our superheroes.  They brave fire without flinching, withstand falls from tall buildings and head-on car crashes into walls.  You can fire a gun at them or run a speedboat over their legs, and it will not faze them.  Their heads can be removed with no deleterious effect.  They can be in six places at once.  I take the Superhuman point of view.  What a shame to waste these powers, to not use them for the betterment of humankind.

— May Roach (Author of Stiff)

 

Stiff is the title of a best-selling book written by Mary Roach.  Released in 2003, the book is all about human cadavers — which is a polite way of saying “dead bodies.”

Sounds like a real treat, doesn’t it?

Indeed, aversion is to be expected.  Why spend leisure time reading a decade-old book about dead bodies?  Well, let’s reverse that question.  Think of it this way — why wouldn’t you want to read a book about precisely what happens to your body — in great detail — once your life ends?

Too unbearable to ponder?  Think again.

For the squeamish expecting a narrative that’s scientific or morbid, Stiff is surprisingly neither.  Rather, it’s intriguing, original, and often very funny.  Yes, I said it — funny.

Due to the persistent sensitivity and clever wit of the author Mary Roach, she takes one of the most disturbing subjects imaginable and not only makes this into a page-turner for all types of reading audiences (high school dropouts and doctors would likely find it equally interesting), but transforms the macabre into a remarkable revelation of the things which essentially make us human.  In short, this isn’t a book about dying, at all.  It’s about living and more precisely understanding the miraculous chamber called the human body which houses our existence for an average life span of about 75 years.

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Posted by on Mar 14, 2013 in Blog, Music and Concert Reviews, Travel | 1 comment

The Saxophone Player

 

atlantic-city-nolan-dalla

 

If the city has a sound, it’s the shrill of the saxophone.

The sax is a wailing cry amidst the cries, a screech of spirit amongst the dispirited.

That day, a familiar tune echoed within the concrete caverns two blocks off Atlantic City’s Boardwalk.  This wasn’t the carnival street of cotton candy and salt-water taffy immortalized in the postcards.  Nor was this a good day to be outside.  A feverish grey fog blanketed the city, shivering in a cold rain.

The moment of melancholy was made even more so by completely deserted streets, save for this lone visitor spending his final day in Atlantic City and the source of that marvelous pitch of the sax.  Someone was giving the gift of a song.  And my insatiable curiosity mixed with genuine conviction that any such a gift and personal sacrifice should be honored, motivated me to deviate from my path and discover who it was playing that saxophone.

Indeed, this would turn into my mission.

As I jogged through the falling raindrops and neared one of many cement alcoves fixed between two parking garages, the lost tune filling the air became more familiar.  Finally, the song found a home in my state of conscious.  It was Somewhere Over the Rainbow.

What an odd tune to hear on this dreariest of days.  This wasn’t a place of rainbows.  Nor was this a city of hope.  It’s a song that implies tomorrow can be better than today.  It’s a song which suggests the step ahead will be better than where we’re now standing.  It’s a song of eternal hope and optimism.

Perhaps the surrounding made this moment all the more surreal.

The cold and bare concrete walls amplified what’s a beautiful song and made it glorious.  The sound of a solitary soul blowing his heart into a musical instrument before no paying nor even listening audience was profoundly more powerful than the most celebrated symphony orchestra.  This was someone who was playing music purely for music’s sake.

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Posted by on Dec 31, 2012 in Blog, Essays, Travel | 1 comment

The Empty Blue Chair

View from La Croisette

 

Preface:  This story was written a few months ago during my stay in Cannes, located on the French Riviera. It appears in print here for the first time.  This story recounts one of my most touching memories of 2012.

 

This is the story of an empty blue chair.

More precisely, it’s the story of a person who once occupied it — someone’s name I do not know.

It’s the story of a loyal companion who sat beside the blue chair, so faithfully  — at the same time and place, each and every day.

This is the story of love and loss, of life and death, and ultimately of rebirth and renewal.

This is a personal story, a search for that special someone who once occupied the blue chair — which is now empty.

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