Saturday, December 31, 2016

A Farewell to 2016....

Sept 16th. That's three and a half months. The period of time since I've last posted here. Very un-Monkeylike of me, I know. I actually wrote half a blog post in October...but never got back to it to finish it, and now, its just totally out of date. So this seems like an excellent time to put up one more post for what some, has been a very traumatic year. 

The Chinese calendar called 2016 The Year of The Monkey. And for me, personally...it was an exceptionally positive year. Bought a house. Paid off a car. Played very little poker. Staked some players, some successful, some not. Took lots of vacations with my girls. Went to a lot of Bama games, and even a Seahawks game. Had lots of family come and visit us, with more still on the way. And as I sit here in my hotel at the Marriot Marquis Atlanta...where the Alabama football team happens to be staying...I look out over the city from our 24th floor room, cold and dreary outside...and contemplate what today may hold, and what 2017 may provide us as well. 

As a kid growing up in the Seattle area, my first true love in sports was of the Washington Huskies football team. Thanks to Warren Moon and his heroic effort in leading underdog Washington to a win in the Rose Bowl over mighty Michigan in 1978, I've been hooked for life. I sat with my girlfriend at the time...having flown in from NYC where I was living at the time, and with a room at the famed Chateau Marmont, and in the SAME room that John Belushi overdosed and died in...we went to the Rose Bowl in 1991 versus, again...Michigan. Michigan and their Heisman poser, Desmond Howard. That day, the greatest Husky lineman of all time, Steve Emtman...owned Michigan. The Huskies crushed Michigan...and the Dawgs had their first National Title in program history. Granted, they had to (unfairly!) share it with those hated Miami Hurricanes. I can't tell you how many Husky games I attended as a teenager....a LOT! I saw the Dawgs play and beat the John Elway-led Stanford Cardinal. I saw them upset 3rd ranked USC with Marcus Allen and a cold and rainy day in Husky Stadium. I saw them win the Apple Cup when my step-brother was a backup for the WSU Cougars...and got to go in the locker room before and after the game. Simply put...I had an amazing childhood as a football fan growing up...and everything was Huskies and Seahawks!

The following year, in 1992, I had a new girlfriend. She was a model...from Mobile, who had recently graduated from Tuscaloosa, then moved to NYC to get 'discovered.' She decided we were flying to New Orleans...visiting her family in Mobile, then driving to Tuscaloosa for homecoming, and the game against South Carolina. I fell in love with the whole 'SEC-thing!' Husky football was great...but 'Bama football...and later, as I would learn years later...the SEC in general, football was a religion. A deep-seated passion. And I was hooked! It was another cold, crappy day...and we all left at halftime with Bama winning big. I followed them closely the rest of the year...all the way to the Sugar Bowl...where they upset the heavily-favored Miami Hurricanes to win the National Title. And so...a relationship was born with Alabama football! 

As most of you know...I married a girl from Alabama...and while 'the other side' of her family are 'Auburn folks' most of her family...the 'good side' I call them...are diehard 'Bama fans! Over the last decade I've lost count of the number of games we've attended...and even Carley went to her first two games this season, in Dallas vs USC and Oxford against Ole Miss. I wasn't brave enough to dare take her to Baton Rouge with me for that game! But she is ready and excited for today's huge game in the Georgia Dome. We are being joined by our good friends Robert and Kelly Harwell...and their 10-year old daughter, who hit it off right away last night when they met. Jayden even brought Carley a cute necklace for their first encounter. So sweet! 

And...so...it's happened. In the past, I've had people ask me: "Monkey, what happens if the Huskies ever play Alabama in a bowl game or for the Championship? Who will you root for?" I never thought it would actually happen. It has happened. And yeah, it feels super awkward, and not even right...but I have to be true to my Huskies. Partially I suppose because 'Bama has done SO MUCH winning this past decade that maybe they can let us have one! Honestly though? The knowledgeable football fan in me doesn't see the Washington O-line being able to handle the incredible Alabama defensive line. In the only two games where I saw Jake Browning get pressured hard...against USC and again vs Colorado...he looked dreadful. It could be more of the same today. BUT...big but here...if the UW O-Line really steps up...and gives him just DECENT protection? UW could very well pull the upset. I think the Husky defense is more than good enough to stop Alabama's offense. Guess we'll see...either way, one of my top two favorite teams of my life...is going to Tampa for the title game!!!  What I do NOT want to see? Is Washington getting destroyed and embarrassed. Anything but that. 

After the game...I suppose we will find something to eat, then find a good place to hopefully watch some fireworks and the peach drop. Tomorrow we are doing the aquarium...and if I can talk Squirrel into it...the Falcons-Saints game...where I need a Saints win...coupled with a Seahawks win...so they can clinch the 2-seed and homefield. GO SAINTS!!!!! Then of course...that 6-hour drive home!

So....poker??? Have I played? Meh...a little, not much. At the WSOP event at the IP in September...in their first event...the biggest, player-wise...I made my deepest run...finishing 8th out of 800 players. But at the final table, I made two really really bad plays, that cost me at least three more spots, and probably any chance at winning. Live and learn. Then they had a decent little event at the Scarlet Pearl that drew a pretty good turnout. After Day 1a and 1b I somehow had the chip lead coming back on Day 2. Well...pocket queens pretty much took care of that. It didn't get all in preflop either...I flatted the four-bet...then on a board of rags couldn't find a fold button...insisting in my head that I was up against AK. I wasn't. It was KK. I was crippled, and would lose a little while later, finishing with a much-hated min-cash. That was my last tourney action. I've had a couple of non-memorable cash sessions since then. Starting next week however, now that I am again welcomed to play at the Beau Rivage, I will most likely head over there for the Heater and see if I can splash around and find some luck. It will be nice to see a lot of people I haven't seen or played against in a very long time. I'm very excited about the crew they have running the place now, a bunch of guys I basically spent the last decade either playing WITH, or having deal TO me...or watching them start their careers as floor guys. I'm happy for them, and their progression in the business. They seem to be doing things right over there. Good to see. Hope they get a great turnout this coming event. 

So as this year comes to a screeching end tonight, we will be ushering out, as I mentioned from the top, a year that was pretty traumatic for a lot of people. And by that, I mean death, and Donald Trump. I spent quite a lot of time...too much, my wife would argue, debating politics on Facebook over the past 12-18 months. I'll be honest, I have NEVER in my life gotten SO involved in anything political as much as I did this election. I can honestly say...before this election, I really didn't know the TRUE difference between a conservative and a liberal. I didn't know what to even call myself. I think, now that I have a true understanding of the two...that I am a fair mixture of both, but a lot more of a right-leaning conservativeSLASHrealist. Most liberals that I've 'discovered' during this year have really opened my eyes about a lot of people I never guess I really knew as well as I think, or thought, I did. Sadly, a lot of 'them' would say the same exact thing about me. When I look at the skirmish...the 100's of years old skirmish between the Palestian's and the Jews...and see how no amount of dialogue ever seems to lead to peace, it reminds me of the frustrations of trying to have a logical conversation with a diehard liberal. It starts as being frustrating. Then I get angry. Then I get flustered AND angry...then I finally back away from the computer before destroying it!

The long list of dead celebrities this year is shocking. We literally lost some of musics most celebrated artists this year. In sports we lost one of our greatest legends in Muhammed Ali. In this latest death...Carrie Fisher dies after a heart attack, not really a surprise given the years of abuse she has put on her body with drugs, alcohol and obesity, but nonetheless, she was an amazing actress and writer...and someone's daughter, someone who was also a celebrity, and also still alive at 84. The next day, Debbie Reynolds, her mother...also died. As a father, this hit me and hit me hard. Cheryl (yes, that is Squirrel's 'real' name) and I often talk about how horribly tragic it would be to lose Carley... and how we would likely respond. I know that I would almost certainly want to die. We have no other kids, are too old to have more...and she has literally become our whole world. Losing her? I would lose my desire to live. I've had a great life. I've done all that I could have ever wanted to do. My whole life now is all about making sure Carley has a great life where she never has to struggle...while, along the way...teaching her the value of a dollar, teaching her m. anners, and respect...and teaching her valuable lessons. All while showing her the world, and giving her one great memory after another. I write to her in a book, a journal I guess. Letters from Daddy. Some day, after I'm dead and gone...she will read that book...and learn things about me she never knew. About feelings I had on everything, her especially...and I will hope that will round out her relationship with me and make dealing with my death a lot easier for her. I meet so many people who I hear say, "I just wish I had known more about my father....." I don't want to be that father. 

And so here comes 2017. A new year. A new start for a lot of people. A time to make all those new year's resolutions. A time to usher in a new administration in Washington. Will The Donald do the job he promised? Will he drain the swamp? We he bring back jobs? Strengthen our military? Build that damn wall? Will he EVER be able to do enough to satisfy the Hillarista's even a little bit? I don't know the answers. I wasn't Trump's biggest supporter. I took issue with a lot of things he does and says. Still do. But to me? He wasn't Hillary Clinton, who I regard as one of the worst human beings on the planet. The worst, and most corrupt, careless and reckless politicians of all time. She felt we owed her the presidency. She has no respect for 'average' Americans...and at the end of the day enough Americans saw through her act to keep her from her ultimate goal. It is a night (Nov 8th) that will be forever etched in my memory. A lot of really good pinot noir was consumed on that night. I've never been so fired up about an elections results. Hey...in 2007, I voted for Obama. I bought the dog and pony show. The big hope and change BS. I did. I admit it. And it didn't take long to be disappointed, as the curtain was ripped open and the show exposed. I read a LOT of books...about his administration, about the Clintons...about the Bush years. I informed myself. And I knew that a Clinton in back in the White House was going to be VERY bad for America. And thank god...for once, my fellow Americans DIDN'T let me down.

And so...as we head into a new year...I am hopeful for great things to transpire in the new year. A recovering economy, a stronger infrastructure (roads and bridges), more jobs, better education, better relationships with our foreign adversaries, while also garnering more respect, and a little fear. A real, no BS effort at protecting our borders and toughening up our immigration laws. A diminished emphasis put on political correctness...THAT would be REALLY nice to see!!! Perhaps we can even get a president in office who doesn't seem hell bent on dividing the races and driving a wedge between us at every opportunity. Sorry...but my glass is resoundingly half FULL...and my glasses are in fact rose-tinted! And if I'm wrong? Or if my expectations are NOT met? Well...it will just be another disappointing president. Nothing new. But the worst thing about it, will be having to listen to what has easily become the most annoying and loathed group of people I ever thought could exist...LIBERALS. If liberals were a race? You could truly call me a racist!

With that...I must conclude this. We are set to meet our friends in 20 minutes. So I will wish you ALL a very safe, and happy New Year!!! May all your teams win! May all your champagne be cold! May all your hangovers be cured by Excedrin Migraine! And may all your first dates be deals that get closed!