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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Friends, Come Hell or High Water

Sometimes, a lot actually, I sit awake at night. Tossing and turning; my mind racing. Lately, my restless leg syndrome has been driving me berserk...and I find myself having to turn to a pain killer combined with a muscle relaxer to finally get to sleep. It's during these long, restless periods of times that I often get the inspiration to write. I can't tell you how many blogs I've written 'in my head' while laying in bed at night. Over the past 8 years, 798 of them have actually found their way into actual print. There are easily another 500 that haven't. Once I fall asleep...my over-active brain turns itself into dream mode. I don't know if the amount that I dream would be considered normal, or excessive. I do think, however...that my true calling might have been as a screenwriter. Because, were I to wake up, move into the living room...and just start writing? I am fairly confident that I would have at least 3 or 4 screenplays to my credit. The trouble with that? My sensibilities tell me (especially at the age of 49) that those efforts would be futile. Back in 1997, as a just-turned 30 year old, I lived in LA for awhile...and one of my temp jobs had me working on an actual movie studio lot. I was basically a 'go-fer' for a big casting agent. I would sit and marvel at stacks upon stacks of screenplays that had been sent to this guy for him to 'check out when he had a chance.' At a time (currently) where movie-making has descended to re-making one film after another...and the industry seems to be screaming for some original work, you would never believe that such a condition exists, right? Well, it does. But I digress.

I have grown weary of the politics. I've lost friends on Facebook (big deal!) over this stupid presidential election. I've experienced tense and irksome conversations with people I consider 'good' friends. All the while, for me? Its simply become a contest between two individuals I wouldn't invite over to my home for dinner, or leave my dogs with for a weekend. Seriously! And worse? I've truly discovered what a hard-leaning leftist (liberal) is during this whole shitstorm of an election. Like I said, I've grown weary of it. Thank god for the Olympics. I really wasn't looking forward to them...at least I didn't think I was. All the negativity surrounding them, the corrupt IOC, the shit hole that is Rio, at least the non-pretty parts that the TV cameras don't let you see. The crime. The poverty. The cheating athletes. All of it. But...much to my surprise, it's been delightful. Aside from a few stories, and I'm sure there have been more...we just haven't heard about them. The IOC is going out of it's way to paint nothing but a rosy picture of Rio during August. Case in point, Swimmer Ryan Lochte and two of his teammates get robbed by a couple of 'fake' cops while riding in a taxi...report it, and immediately the IOC issues a report stating that it wasn't true. Huh? I mean...fine, paint a rosy picture, but flat out denouncing an incident involving the very athletes you should be protecting? Again...the IOC being the typical scummy IOC. At any rate...I will watch the final 9 or 10 days...then prepare for another wonderful football season! And in counting down the days...we are now at 16 before I pack up the girls and drive to Dallas to watch the USC vs Alabama game in whatever they call Jerry's World, our first trip to see that gigantic stadium! 

So...I should get to the theme of this post. I couldn't decide on a headline. Originally, I was going to go with 'Friends in Low Places' but damn...that could mean a LOT of things. Right? This one seemed a little more apropos. Some of you who have been following me and my life (thank you, sincerely) for the 8 years I've been blogging on Bill and Gene's site, have come to realize that I have a bit of a kind, caring, and generous bone in my body. I try to give whenever a friend is in need. When there is a disaster, I try to be the first to find out what I can do to help. There was a day of filling sandbags in North Mississippi during the flooding there, followed by a day volunteering at an animal shelter to help save displaced pets. There was the weekend spent in Tuscaloosa after the tornado there, donating tons of various things I'd collected from friends and from our own home. And along the way, I have spearheaded fundraising campaigns for other causes, of which I'm sure you remember. Maybe even contributed to.

Well? The events of this past weekend in the Baton Rouge area have hit me and my wife, Cheryl (or Squirrel as most of you know her) pretty hard. You can kid around and say...as an Alabama fan, that it's hard to feel sorry for Tiger fans, but unless you have the darkest of souls, you just know that is not even a sane way to think. Never has life reminded us just HOW unimportant something as trivial as sports is when something as tragic as this happens. And while the CNN's and the FOX News' of the world are focused more on this stupid presidential election, or the rioting in Milwaukee...a very real tragedy is taking place in Louisiana. And if you live down here on the Gulf Coast, it has undoubtedly touched someone...perhaps a handful, of people you know and care about. It certain has us. The sad thing about our media; and we here on the Gulf Coast certainly saw this during Hurricane Katrina, unless there is a massive body count? They barely pay it any attention. New Orleans got all the coverage because lots of people died. Meanwhile, just about everyone who lived half a mile to a mile from the water...from one side of Mississippi to the other....lost EVERYTHING. Homes. Cars. Pets. Lifelong possessions. But they lived! So I guess, in the media's eyes...they weren't 'victims.' 

Back in 2010, I won my first WSOP ring. It happened at the IP here in Biloxi. A fond memory. Ironically, we are just a couple weeks away from the WSOP returning for a circuit stop here, and I am anxiously awaiting that event. Sadly, one of the friends I would be typically excited to see, will likely not be attending this year. Why? Well...because this weekend, he lost it all. His house. Two cars. And a lifetime of memories. 

What do you say to someone who has lost everything? Are there even words? As some of you know...and I think maybe I've written about it before, if not here, certainly on Facebook...I am not a big "I'm sending thoughts and prayers your way" kind of guy. I consider that to be such a cop out statement. So empty. So cliche. I see it SO MUCH on Facebook...it's like everyone's convenient 'go to' comment...the one they think will suffice for all those painful messages. I almost never want to post a message that might possibly elicit anything of the "I'm sending thoughts and prayers to you!" I have two dogs that are getting up there in age. Jasper, my almost-12 year old lab...has been diagnosed with kidney failure. The vet is giving him a few months to live. I've put him on an incredibly expensive diet, and have him taking 6 pills daily called AminAvast...pills that cost $42 per 60! At night, I give him and our other dog Mollie (8 years old) each half a Deramax...which is prescribed for pain. Google AminAvast if you want...it really does sound like an incredible thing I have him on...and he seems still to be very happy. He's eating, is still playful, and that tail is still a-waggin! So until I see the joy completely leave his face...we will keep fighting! 

I bring up my dogs...because it's one of the toughest things us animal lovers ever have to deal with...that day we take 'the drive' to the vet, to give them their shot...that sends them on their way across the Rainbow Bridge. We sit there in that room, bawling our eyes out like kids again. Blubbering, talking to our pet...knowing that they've passed. And then, in this day and age with social media, we make some kind of post about it...since so many people were touched by our pets too. Then those messages start coming in. "In our prayers." "Sending thoughts and prayers." Ugh. Just know this: You will never get one of those from me. Ever! You will either get a very well thought out message, or I won't bother saying anything...which I do a lot, why? Because I just think, sometimes? There just aren't any words. It doesn't mean I don't care. Oh! I do! A lot! I just can't find the words, ANY words, that I think will help, or even soothe. 

Damn, did I ever get sidetracked there. So back to my 2010 ring experience. The guy I got heads up was a man I would become very good friends with. As well as his wife. They have truly carved out a place in the life of Squirrel and I. In 2007, on Christmas Eve...our friend Holly, while at work...had her home burn to the ground. Her children managed to get out. Her husband at the time...didn't. He laid in a hospital for 37 days before finally succumbing to his injuries. A couple years later, Holly met my friend Brett...they hit it off, and eventually married. Together, they have built an amazing family together. This weekend, Brett and Holly Alello lost their home to the flooding. While texting with him back and forth...I found myself again in that position of not having the proper words. I felt almost ashamed, not being able to produce something inspiring. Anything. Other than...Oh my gosh...that's terrible...I'm so sorry man. Give him credit...he's a resilient son of a gun! He's obviously really down in the dumps...but man, I can feel his positive attitude right through my phone. And knowing this is the 2nd time that Holly has lost her home? I just know he is being a rock for her. I feel richer for having people like this in my life.

I have another friend in Baton Rouge...a guy we all call 'Smoke.' He was one of the first poker players I became friends with when we met at a tournament up at the old Gold Strike in Tunica. My wife instantly fell in love with Charlie Oliver...and we have all stayed in touch over the years. He's gotten out of poker, and is now selling cars up there, has a baby girl on the way, and is about to be married. We couldn't be happier for him. Well? He was another friend who I felt compelled to check in on...and when I did, the news was horrible. He was stranded at his house...surrounded by water, with no way to get out. But he wasn't worried about himself. Ever since I've known 'Smoke' I've known that his grandmother was his absolute world. He was freaking out, because the retirement home where she is living was taking on water. He was trying desperately to get his hands on a flat-bottom boat to try and go save her. Eventually, the next day...she WAS rescued, and moved to a shelter, thank god. But after that situation was resolved, a new one popped up...as his father lost his home to the flooding. 

Cheryl and I both have sat looking at the pictures all over Facebook, reading the posts of good friends...and it just makes us weep. A lot of people losing homes...and not having flood insurance. Yes...we are ALL grateful that they were spared, and are still with us, of course we are! But can you even begin to imagine that pain and suffering that they are being forced to deal with? To live with on an EVERY SECOND basis? 

Well, yesterday, a former Minion, Class of 2015, Bridget Fredericks...got in touch with me. She is a lifelong resident of Louisiana, but recently moved to North Carolina to pursue her real estate career I think; I may be wrong about that...if so I'm sure she will tell me!!!! She had seen my post on Facebook expressing sympathy for all of those touched by the horrible flooding, and knowing of my past willingness to help out, simply asked me if I had a couch I could spare for her and a friend who are gathering up a van full of supplies to donate to those in need, and driving them down here from North Carolina. I didn't even ask Cheryl, who was at work...because I already knew what her answer would be: OF COURSE! We actually have a guest room! The dogs are in charge of both couches! So while she has been working on getting all the supplies together up there...I am trying to figure out what I can do to help out. I have a Tahoe, and it's pretty big, but it also has a trailer hitch, that I have yet to figure out. But I'm sure it's a pretty simple task. So I was thinking perhaps I could rent one of those tow-behind trailers from U-Haul and fill that sucker up with all kinds of stuff. But what exactly? And take it to where, precisely? She's working on that. I contemplated doing a drop off location for people locally in Biloxi/Gulfport/Ocean Springs who wanted to donate items...but then was like..."Hmmm..do I really want EVERYONE knowing exactly where I live!???" Maybe meet up in the big parking lot at the corner of Cedar Lake and Popp's Ferry? 

So, she'll be down here tomorrow afternoon or evening I think. Then at that time...I guess we can come up with a strategy. I know it's going to be a challenge, because they have almost all the roads and highways into Baton Rouge closed. Or they did, as of last night. If any of my readers out there have ANY helpful ideas, advice, etc...please...email me at ThePokerMonkey1@aol.com. I want to help! I have the time, I have the resources, and I have the resolve. It's times like these when we really need to pull together, to help one another...this isn't sports, or politics, or religion or anything else...this is LIFE! And these are our friends. Do whatever YOU can do to help! Just because the news media is essentially ignoring this disaster doesn't mean we have to. I will post something again tomorrow and let you know if I am going to organize something you can all chip in and help with...or if I am just going to help out individually. 

Well, my pain killer has kicked in, my legs have stopped whiggin out! And I finally crawled out of bed and put my thoughts into print. Guess I will go back to bed now and come up with the next great film that will never be seen! 

STAY STRONG LOUISIANA!!!!!

MONKEY

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