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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

And Then the Vultures Converge!

Before I get started...I would like to congratulate a good poker buddy of mine. Over the past 10 years we have played together, been road-trip roomies, and grinded away in the world of poker circuit tournaments. We live about 2 miles from each other, but are seemingly (at times) worlds apart. I watched him run deep this summer in the Main Event, rooting with all of our other Biloxi friends, for him to make a final table appearance. He would bust short of a HUGE score. Well? That huge score, the one that has evaded him for so long (trust me, I can relate!!!!) came, finally...yesterday in South Florida! At the Hard Rock's $5m guarantee in Hollywood, Tim Burt did an ICM chop that netted him $460,000! They played it out, for the title and whatever their bling was for winning, and Jason Koon emerged the winner. But with the money settled, there really wasn't much left to play for...similar to my situation back in 2010, when me, Kai Landry and Mark Rose did a three-way chop in the Beau Rivage's Main Event...leading to my biggest (to date, still) score of my poker career. ($110,000) Tim has definitely logged the hours, and paid his 'poker dues!' I could not be happier for him! Way to go TIM!!!! Hopefully I will see him 'back home' for the IP and Beau Rivage events in a couple weeks. But who knows...with all that newfound money burning a hole in his pockets..he might skip us and go for greener pastures. I wouldn't fault him for that, certainly. 
Tim and his 'better half' Sandra...who happens to be the sister of poker pro Natasha Barbour...who is now married (I think!!!) to poker great Jason Mercier! Nice inner circle!

So...a follow up to the Louisiana situation. Been getting a lot of pictures texted to me from friends' homes after the flood waters have receded. NOT a pretty picture. The water line that has been stained on the sides of their homes are testament to the harsh reality of what was going on just a few days ago in their world. Now comes the really hard part. The clean up. If you've never been in a home that has been flooded? Count yourself as lucky. It's awful. A muddy, nasty slime covers everything. The walls are soaked through and through. Any furniture that is there is ruined. The smell is god-awful. The feeling you are hit with when walking in the front door is one of complete hopelessness. I remember all too well, walking into homes after Hurricane Ivan when I lived in Pensacola, then a year later in Biloxi after Katrina swept through. For the people who had flood insurance, you could at least find solace in the fact that eventually (insurance companies are notoriously slow to pay, especially after a disaster) they would get a check that would help them to rebuilt their home and their lives. For the huge number of people without flood insurance? You had to hope they could get help from FEMA, or through donations. But either way...they are still left standing there, looking and smelling what has become of their home. There is no other word to describe it other than devastating. 

My wife had both our guest room, and Carley's room all ready for our out-of-town guests to arrive. But yesterday, when I spoke with Bridget she told me they were just getting out of Charlotte...and wouldn't be in our area until late at night...and that they were just going to drive through to Baton Rouge. So that was kind of a disappointment, as I was hoping to get involved with her and do something to help out. I exchanged messages with Wild Bill yesterday, and learned that he had been in contact with a few casinos about holding a poker tourney to benefit the victims of the flooding disaster. My only advice to him: Make it happen QUICK! Because our society has turned into a 'what's hot NOW' kind of world. Today's tragedy is easily replaced by tomorrow's big news story. The attention span for most people now when it comes to one single incident, is paltry. So he is working on that...and hopefully, we can make it happen. And I know Bill enough to know that he will find the absolute BEST charities to donate the proceeds to. So I will keep y'all posted on what I hear on that end. 

So...what would a natural disaster be without the scum of the Earth rearing it's ugly head? It's happening again, predictably. Yesterday, the reports started pouring in of people's homes being looted in the wake of the flooding. One of Cheryl's friends had it happen to them. Anxiously returning to their home, only to find they had been robbed. Unbelievable. I mean...I guess the kind of people who partake in this kind of bullshit have zero concern or beliefs in karma. Nor have they had the sense of right and wrong instilled in them by their parents. I mean...is this what it's come to? Are we turning into a fiefdom? The 'Haves' versus the 'Have Nots?' I spent time on message boards, angrily berating those insensitive people who were suggesting that Baton Rouge and the surrounding areas like Denham Springs, Prairieville, Hammond, etc...being hit with these epic floods was a form of biblical punishment for the events this summer in Baton Rouge...where innocent police were gunned down...and rioting took place. How anyone could draw a parallel to these two events is kind of mind-boggling. But in these times of racial strife, cue the ignorant to do just that. 

So imagine how silly I feel...defending these people...ALL of them, and then BOOM! There they go...proving that maybe I'm wrong about them. We saw those communities pulling together...with what seemed like everyone with a boat putting it in the water, rounding up a buddy or two...and going on a rescue mission or ten. I think we all saw the video on Facebook...where the young Asian guy hopped out of his boat, and saved a woman (and her dog!!) from drowning in a sinking car. That's just one example of what was going on over there. If that doesn't give you faith in your fellow man...shit...what would!!!??? You want to think that people, at the very core of their being, are good people. Right? I read a story yesterday...I think (not sure) that this one happened in Georgia. Two young black men had their car break down, I think maybe it was in the ditch, stuck in the mud. An older white man stopped, got out...and volunteered to help the boys. How did they reward him? By shooting him dead! Then robbing him. Explain THAT one. Try to convince yourself that those two young men at their core, are good people. Is it even possible?

I conducted a bit of a social experiment this summer. I recommend to everyone that they try it. It's really kind of an eye-opener. With all the racial discord going on...it's easy to draw a line in the sand and pick sides. But what does that accomplish? Nothing really, except widening the divide. I think it's fair to say that all of us who are white have a number of black friends, and all of you who are black have a number of white friends. Fair? So my point in that? Is that we aren't predisposed to just SHUN the opposite race. I prefer to think that the kind of people who ARE like that? Is a very, very small number. Hopefully less than 5% of the population. Every once in awhile, I will encounter someone (often times a fellow poker player) who through casual conversation I come to realize is a raging racist. And it makes me feel very awkward and uncomfortable. And then while feeling those things, I'm making a mental note to myself: 'Avoid future social arrangements with this person!' 

I can't think of a time in my lifetime where there has been so much disdain between the races. I'll admit it, I'm not too proud...I drank the Kool-Aid back in 2007. I voted for Obama. I believed in him, in his fancy (yet empty) speeches promising all this hope and change. As a black man, or at least a partial black man...I was totally convinced that he would foster an era of cooperation between the races. It would be great. He would inspire his fellow African-Americans...lead them out of poverty, instill in them a desire to pick themselves up and pursue the American dream. Well, as I'm sure most of us can agree...none of that has happened. Instead, the poor have gotten poorer, there are more people on welfare, there are more people in prison than any time in our nation's history. And where race is concerned? Any chance our president has had to try and heal, to bring both sides together, he has squandered. He has endorsed what in actuality is a terrorist organization, the Black Lives Matter agitators, going so far as inviting them to the White House and "praising the work they have done." Are you kidding me? Rumors are rampant that the dark, evil billionaire George Soros has financially spearheaded the efforts of BLM. Just recently, Barack was observed, photographed even...visiting Soros' son Alex in his NYC penthouse apartment. If you just spend a tiny little time connecting the dots of all the deeds of this administration through the past 8 years, its not hard to see what is going on. 

Do they...and by 'they' I mean the people who wish to control all facets of our nation...the 'power brokers' if you may...have 'they' made it their mission to MAKE the two sides, white and black, go to war with one another? What would the reasoning be behind that? What good would a divided nation offer to those who want to hold all the power? It's pretty frightening. And almost ALL economic-based.

So...back to my social experiment that I conducted this summer. It started while I was in Vegas. And I think it hit me when I was just chilling out at the pool at Venetian one day. I was alone...and just walking around in the pool...observing all the various cultures of people. Literally people from all over the world. White. Black. Yellow. Everyone. Almost all of them appearing to be happy. People who were polite with each other. Friendly conversations. I was guilty of it too. A couple pina colada's in me...I spent the afternoon conversing with couples from all over. And it hit me. Wow! What if I just walk around with a pleasant look on my face all day. And if I should happen to encounter a black person...smile at them! Or say hello! Hold a door. Allow them to pass in front of you when walking through the crowded casino. Then watch their reaction. Maybe they will respond by doing the same, or something similar. Maybe they will raise their eyebrows...because they are surprised. 

I did this, and have been doing it all summer. It really is pretty amazing. We were eating at the buffet at Mandalay Bay when Cheryl and Carley were in Vegas. And this was after the 12 cops got gunned down in Dallas. Very tense times. They went to the bathroom...and seated right behind us was a family, a black family...two young children. I turned when the kids said something cute, and smiled. And then...we just started talking. We talked about Dallas. And all the other 'crap' that has been going on. We talked as parents. Then as just 'people.' We had so much in common. They were so nice. When the girls came back to the table, and saw us talking, Squirrel was quick to engage them in conversation as well. It was nice. It gave me hope. 

We have been getting the road behind us widened for over a year now. Literally, over our fence...we see them and their tractors every day almost. Carley loves tractors. Well, she has a heart of gold. Lately, she has been very concerned about all the kids who don't have mommy's or daddy's, and who might not have pets to love on....or who even lack toys. She wants to help all those little babies and kids. It's so cute, and makes me so proud of her.  I truly think she is going to grow up to be a GREAT human being. Well, she has been very concerned about these construction workers...as it's typically 90+ degrees out there and VERY humid. So one day, she wanted to take them all a Gatorade, something we always have an abundant supply of! I said 'Of course, Carley...what a great idea!!!' In fairness, she was kind of borrowing this idea from an earlier episode this summer...when she and I were in the driveway when the garbage people showed up. The guy on the back of the truck was pouring sweat....and Carley tells him..."Wait! Wait!! I go get you 'BaybaBade" as she calls it. He looked confused...but she ran to the fridge we have in the garage, pulled out two orange Gatorades...and came back with them. The look on his face...wow. You'd have thought she brought him a bucket of gold. Again...I was left feeling so proud of her. Yes, the garbage man was black. And yes, 4 of the 5 construction workers were black too. And when she handed them a Gatorade over the fence, we got almost the same reaction. 

It wasn't the last time we saw those guys either. Carley likes to go out and check on them...and they always acknowledge her. One of them...comes over and asks her "how are you doing today, young lady?" And she just beams. I wonder to myself: Are these guys thankful for the cold drink, or are they more surprised that we, as white people...care about them? Obviously, Carley doesn't see color. She doesn't understand the difference, as it relates to how people treat one another. That's another thing about kids that I simply love. They don't discriminate. At all. They are so simple. They haven't 'learned to hate' yet. And isn't that what it's all about? When people are conditioned to hate...when they are taught how to hate...it never leaves some people. They never overcome it. It's just a stain on their soul. I don't know if we can be saved as a country...from all the hate. It's hard. Maybe the hardest challenge ever. I do know...I do remember...a day, back in September of 2001...when EVERYONE in the USA came together as ONE. While it was a tragic, horrible, gut-wrenching day...it was also a day, a week...that made me so proud to be an American. I miss that feeling. Everyone had a US flag on their car, or their house, even on their clothing.  We were ALL Americans...united against a common enemy. It was kind of beautiful. It's that week that makes me think that all things are truly possible. I think the time I felt that way...before 9/11...was twice. In 1991..on the eve of the first Gulf War...when Whitney Houston sang the Star Spangled Banner before the Super Bowl, and in 1980 in Lake Placid when the USA hockey team upset the heavily favored Russians...at a time when they were the USSR, and the evil empire of the world. HOCKEY! A game played predominantly by whites!!! Didn't matter, did it!?? Are you old enough to remember that moment, and how it made us all feel?

So yeah...I've been doing this little experiment all summer...I might just keep on with it. Why not? It really shouldn't even BE an experiment, it should just be the way you are ALL THE TIME. Because honestly? The response I get, is 90% positive. Yeah..it's sad, the other 10%. Those people who are conditioned to hate me because I am white. Though we have never met, I've never done them wrong, I never owned a slave, and in searching on my family tree on the Ancestry.com thing I did this year...can't find anyone in my past who could have possibly owned one either (my whole family comes mostly from the Dakotas and Canada on my Dad's side...and we have a lot of Sioux Indian blood in us...if you want to compare 'human treatment' stories. On my Mom's side...no one ever lived south of New Jersey, and all came from Europe in the mid-1800's) so that's not a reason to regard me with such disdain. It's like I said...I want to believe, in my heart and head...that the number of people is very low...who simply won't budge off of their position on how they regard people of other races. Because if it IS just 5% or less? We can fix that. I think. 

Do you ever watch these people protesting on TV and ask yourself..."Hmm...I wonder if I could get that person alone, maybe in a nice, peaceful place...and have a constructive conversation with them? Would they be willing to have a meaningful debate, without all the hostility? Would they make me see their point a little? Would I make them see mine? Would we be able to actually solve anything?" Do you ever do that? I know its really easy to watch these people, mostly black, on TV and immediately discount them as 'thugs, assholes, pieces of shit, criminals, animals, etc etc etc.' I get it. It's easy. The way they appear on TV...yeah, it's real simple. And a lot of it is probably due to them being in a crowd. It's a lot easier to act like a fool when you have a bunch of you doing it. If that crowd around them vanished...they would be left standing there..."uh...hello? where did everyone go? Damn...well, okay I'm out of here!" Right? 

My sister lives in Milwaukee. What's going on there, to most, looks absolutely ridiculous and unwarranted. And I agree, it is. Black kid, stole a gun in March, along with 500 rounds of ammunition. Has been involved in numerous crimes. Gets into a car chase with a police officer. A police officer who is black. It turns into a foot chase. Black kid turns, aims gun at cop...cop fires first...kills black kid dead. Before ANY kind of investigation can even BEGIN...that night...rioting begins...with violence, and looting, and fires. (A) yes, this IS inappropriate behavior. (B) But..at the core root of this, is a long, long pattern of frustration with the police in Milwaukee. Add to that that Milwaukee is considered one of the worst places for a black person to live in the US. Its incredibly segregated. Unemployment among blacks is through the roof. So while I think the way they are reacting is counter-productive to their concerns, it IS somewhat understandable due to their degree of frustration. TRUTH: Some of them are probably a lost cause, and should most likely be locked up for a long time. Any attempts to turn them into good, law-abiding citizens might be futile. FALSE: They are all a bunch of crazy animals, a gang of thugs, worthless pieces of shit. It's just not true. I promise you...there are some good people in those crowds. There HAS to be. My heart, my head, and my social experiment tells me its true. 

In conclusion: Baton Rouge...I truly hope everyone touched by this tragedy finds some happiness in these gloomy days. That your lives are able to return to normal, at least close to normal...soon. And to the vultures who lurk amongst you...lets pray for them to find their inner-good person, and stop being such scum bags. Maybe instead of robbing you...they may surprise you, and offer to help you clean up around your house. Ya never know!!!!

STAY STRONG LOUISIANA!!!

MONKEY

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