Sunday, November 22, 2015

They Were Peeing in the Creek

Saturday was an interesting day as I was helping out with a program two people on my staff were hosting for the local community -- International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day. Both organizers had lost a brother to suicide.

As we got through the program on  a snowy central Illinois November morning, I thought about how fortunate I have been to have never had a close relative or close friend kill her/himself. There have been some times when some family members were suicidal and even a few times when attempts were made -- with one attempt being quite close to being successful. But despite those attempts, I still never had the unfortunate experience that was shared among the session participants today.

It was incredibly moving to hear stories from the people who experienced the aftermath of suicide first hand. In the final exercise of the day, we went around the tables while eating lunch and shared stories about our loved ones who had been lost. When it was my time to speak, I said that I just preferred to listen and not speak. I really didn't know how to say that I didn't share the commonality that everyone else there shared. Also, being a gambler, I am at least a little superstitious and hate to have even written the last sentence for fear that I might have jinxed myself!

I did think, however, about the family friend who took her life just over three years ago. Cindy was one of my wife's closest friends. When Cindy and her husband still lived in town, we occasionally socialized with them as part of a larger group activity. One time, however, the four of us decided to head out to Turkey Run State Park in western Indiana for a day of tubing down Sugar Creek. The title of this post came from the part of day when both Cindy and Mrs. lightning had to go to the bathroom while in an area that had no public restrooms. Their solution: jump in the creek and just pee there. The look on their faces in the picture at the beginning of this post is classic. They were such bad girls!

Shortly after Cindy's suicide, I wrote a post about it. At the time we didn't know or understand why she did it. We are still not 100% certain, but it seems likely that some mysterious physical and psychological issues that she was having at the time motivated her to take her own life. Unfortunately, as much as Cindy tried to help heal the pain in others' lives, she kept her own pain hidden from most of those closest to her.

Although I couldn't feel the same extent of pain that the other people at the conference felt, I could identify with the shock of hearing devastatingly bad news and of searching for meaning despite it. The day Mrs. lightning and I found out that our son had cancer is a day that is forever seared in my memory. However, we were gifted the equivalent of a poker "one time" as our son had the cancer removed, did not even have to go through chemotherapy or radiation treatments, and now, over five and a half years later, remains cancer free. The difference, however, is that suicide doesn't offer the opportunity for that "one time."

So yes, I cried a little tonight when I thought about the pain that some of the people at the program suffered -- and how fortunate my life has been. I have been gifted some awesome run-good in life and try to remember that everyone isn't so lucky. I hope I never forget it.

Cindy Wall

Monday, November 09, 2015

A Little Catch Up Time

Sometimes life just seems to get more and more hectic. It is hard to believe that I was in Las Vegas just a month ago. It seems more like a year.

I have made an effort to play poker on the weekends. I have headed to the closest room -- the Par-A-Dice riverboat casino in East Peoria, IL -- the past three weekends. The first two sessions went well and I ended up with nice wins. This past Saturday, however, I ended up on the losing side of the ledger. cokeboy99 was able to meet me at the boat, and together we were hoping to rip through the mostly weak players there. However, an extended run of poor starting cards and missed draws ended up making my session a loser. Fortunately it was not that big of a loss, but it did wipe out some of my winnings from the week before.

My wife just got back home from visiting her best friend in Scottsdale, AZ. Meanwhile, I had puppy duty. Yep -- I spent part of the past week cleaning up dog piss and picking up dog poop. And you thought that YOU led an exciting life!

Work has been extremely busy. My department is now down two full-time workers right before our busiest time of the year. To make things worse, Illinois legislators and the governor are locked in a budget battle. We still do not have a state budget, and the state has suspended paying most of its bills. Even the state lottery winners are currently getting screwed. What a mess of a state.

I am hoping to watch more of the WSOP final table action this week, but man -- watching everyone take so long to make decisions last night has made for terrible, boring viewing. It almost makes me wish that stealthmunk made the final table. At least there would be a bit more entertainment value.

I can't believe that November is already almost 1/3 over. Soon it will be Thanksgiving, then Christmas. Geez- time does fly sometimes.

I hope to make it back to Las Vegas in January or February. One of these days, however, I am going to take an eastern trip -- maybe Atlantic City and Baltimore?

I hope your week goes well. Thanks for dropping by for these random ramblings.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

It Was SUPPOSED to be a Great Night for a Baseball Game ...

I was sitting through my home owners association's annual meeting last week on Monday night when I got bored and decided to check my e mail. I was surprised to see that my name had been drawn to have an opportunity to get up to four tickets for any of games three, four and five of the then-current Cubs-Mets baseball series. Tickets to the National League Championship Series? Sounded like a winner to me. I let thundering36 know that I had a chance to get tickets  and that I was looking to game four on Wednesday night. That night was also good for him.

I had a two-hour window on Tuesday morning to try for the tickets online. I originally was able to purchase two seats in the mezzanine section, but then something messed up and I was shut out. I kept trying, and 15 minutes later two tickets in the upper deck for game four appeared. I grabbed them. Yowsa!

On Wednesday morning I left work early, went home to take the dog out and change my clothes, then ate and headed up to the Chicago suburbs.
I picked up thundering36, and it was off we went! We drove to a free (would you expect anything less from me?) official Cubs parking lot that was about three miles from Wrigley Field. We then took a shuttle to the Friendly Confines.
It was a beautiful afternoon -- perfect weather for an early evening game. But first -- a trip to Goose Island for some sandwiches before the game.
And no, we were just happy to be there. Sorry angerisagift -- no ganja was smoked before the game!

We got into our seats early and just enjoyed the playoff atmosphere. The game began and we were all ready for action. Unfortunately, the Mets supplied more action than we wanted, jumping out to an early lead and, for all intents and purposes, ending the game before the Cubs even came to bat. The park got very quiet as hitter after hitter was mowed down by the one Mets pitcher that we thought would be jumped on. Bah! The game really sucked. It was torture to be there.

Even though thundering36 said that there was no way that he wanted to be there to see the Mets clinch the league title, we, along with most of the other patrons, stayed to the bitter end. And Triple P, a photo just for you:
I just kept thinking "Get the eff off the field. Nobody here gives a crap." Well, there were a few hundred rabid cheering Mets fans who were sitting behind the Mets' dugout. But then the moment came that we had been waiting for: the Cubs players came back on the field to the thunderous applause of the appreciative crowd. The Cubs were not supposed to go that far, but their longest run in several years gives hope for the future.

We left Wrigley Field and caught a shuttle bus back to the parking lot. We then had to contend with heavy traffic until we could get back on the Kennedy Expressway. We got back to my Mom's house after midnight, and I crashed on the couch a short time later. I woke up early in the morning and had a 140 mile drive back home, then changed and went into work.

The World Series begins tonight, but I find myself relatively uninterested. I hate the Kansas City Royals (being a dual White Sox and Cubs fan), so although I think the Royals are the best team in baseball, I hope the Mets pitchers shut them down.

Maybe next year. Where have I heard that before?

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Las Vegas Trip Continues ... and Its Aftermath

Shortly after writing my previous post, Alysia Chang came to The LINQ and invited me down for some conversation. After chatting for a spell, we walked to the one place that sounded good to my ailing body -- McDonald's! Believe it or not, the one thing I felt my stomach could handle was a nice McDouble with some fries. I picked up some Gatorade and thought about watching AC play in the 8:00 LINQ tournament, but I decided that heading back to the room would be the best plan.

I feel quite fortunate that my body seemed mostly okay the next morning (Tuesday) -- about 90%. I was able to put in a full day at my conference -- which was the major reason I was in Las Vegas this trip.
I celebrated feeling better by playing a long poker session at Bally's. It was great to see dealer and friend Ron there. I really had no desire to go anywhere else, and I thought I'd see if I could accumulate enough hours for the Bally's freeroll Wednesday at 6:00 p.m. I played all evening and into the night and got most of the hours in.

On Wednesday, I went to more workshops in the morning and then headed back to Bally's to get in my final hours to qualify for the freeroll. It all went for naught, however, as I went out fairly early, running Queens into Kings. Meh. I then headed down the strip to Planet Hollywood to have a drink with Pete P. Peters. He had to be in court again early the next morning, thus was unable to play any poker. However, mrben09 was able to play, and we had a fun session at MGM. Ben ended up cashing out with a nice profit while I continued to mostly fold and bleed chips. However, a wild mouthy player who had contributed a few chips to Ben stuck around for a few hours and shipped almost his entire big stack to me. Sometimes poker is really fun! Everyone at the table knew to call him light, and fortunately he never sucked out on me until the very last hand we played, where his 10-8 os bettered my pocket Queens when he hit a runner runner straight on the river while all in. But at least I only gave him $100 back on that final hand.

Thursday was a great days in many ways. The day started when AC and I went out to visit Michelle, who was in the intensive care unit in the hospital. The things that poor woman is going through. Maybe next trip she will be up to playing a little poker so I can show her a thing or two ... he he.

AC then took me to a ramen restaurant that she once went to with Nick -- Jinya Ramen Bar. I sent pictures of the meals to my son, a true fanatic of the Asian cultures.
Needless to say, my son was jealous! He would have really loved the next part of the trip -- a stop at a huge Asian grocery store. Living in a town with a significant Asian population, I am used to seeing Asian grocery stores. However I had never seen one that big before.

Afterwards we went to Harrah's, where AC wanted to play some $1/2 NL to get in hours for an upcoming freeroll. Meanwhile, I visited with my newest Las Vegas girlfriend.

After a short session, I went back to see how AC was doing. Soon to visit the room was ManInBlack, who was at one time part of a plot to steal the sockroll of an unnamed poker blogger and bury his body in the desert ... u see.

My next stop was Mirage, where I planned to play poker with PPP, who was done with work for the day. Only one table was going at Mirage, so we instead met up at Caesars Palace, where we were seated almost immediately when a new table was starting. Shortly thereafter while PPP was away from the table, I was surprised to see that I knew the new player at the table who would be sitting near PPP -- none other than Kat Martin! He did not recognize me at first and I kept quiet until PPP returned. The table got even more fun when Mr. Ben joined up. Quite a line up in seats six through ten!

The table had been more or less controlled by an aggressive player -- a rather tall, attractive young Asian woman who was apparently a local and had the baller look -- big ol' headphones, sunglasses, etc. She fidgeted like she had ADHD or was a tweaker. Anyway, she was ruling the table and had asked for a table change -- she apparently had taken enough chips from us chumps and was on to greener pastures. However, she made a huge poker mistake: playing one hand too many. I called a raise with pocket 6's and hit a set on the flop. There were straight possibilities and a flush draw on the flop, so I decided to slow play with the hopes of hitting a monster. I was rewarded when the turn paired the board, giving me a full house. I continued to slow play and then shocked the baller when I re-raised her river raise up to $100. I had no idea what she had and was not sure how much to raise to get a call. Apparently $100 was the right amount. She was not very happy when she saw that I grabbed a huge chunk of her stack right before she moved tables. Sorry baby -- no need for a rack anymore!
Playing at a table with PPP, Ben and Kat was a blast! There is nothing I like more than playing in what is close to a home game at a casino in Las Vegas. But ... I needed to get some dinner and had my sights set on P.F. Chang's, so I left. Once at Chang's, I ordered the best meal on the planet: Chang's Mongolian Beef.
With this being my last night in Las Vegas, I headed back to play more $1/2 NL at Bally's. While at Bally's, I had one of the greatest rushes I have ever had while playing poker. In a span of 20-30 minutes, I got AA, QQ, JJ and flopped set (vs KK), flopped boat with 22 on a flop of 2-9-9... I won about ten hands in a row and felted four or five players at the table! Another guy left and the table finally broke. At my new table, I won with turning a nut flush, KK, ... The rush finally ended when I flopped two pair and lost to a flopped set. What a total blast! It is a night I will remember for a long time.

Before heading back to my room at The LINQ, I decided to press my luck by playing at Flamingo, where I generally do not win and do not enjoy the experience. I was getting tired and even dozed off for a few seconds while in a hand. But ... the fun continued. Flamingo's nut flush promotion began at 2:00 a.m., and shortly after 2:00 I was dealt A2 spades. I called a raise, as did most of the table. Eight or nine of us saw a flop with a pot that already exceeded $100. The flop had two spades and I was the second or third person to act. With the nut flush draw, a nice pot and a possible extra $100 if I hit my flush, I pushed all in for about $150. One guy said he had a good hand and tanked for a few minutes. He finally folded, as did the rest of the table. Cha-ching -- I won at Flamingo! It may not have been a lot, but the moral victory was sweet!

On Friday afternoon AC drove me to the airport, and I expected to be back in my town by 11:00 p.m. However, the flight from Las Vegas to Chicago on American Airlines was a bit late, and AA had rescheduled my flight earlier, leaving me only 40 minutes before my LAS-ORD flight landed and my commuter flight home departed. I ran through O'Hare and got to my gate just after they stopped boarding. And yes, it was the last flight of the night. It was fun watching the plane sit there for 20-25 minutes while I was denied boarding and airline employees kept going in and out of the boarding door. The same thing happened to a guy at the next counter heading to Cleveland, and he went ballistic, dropping-bombs and wanting to fight the lead gate person who was attempting to help me. I was surprised a bunch of security guys didn't tackle him.

I asked for a free hotel room as I could not catch a flight home until the next afternoon. I got my room, which was at a hotel about a half hour drive away! Once at the hotel, I did see the name of a conference room that made me laugh.
I do believe that I saw Tony Bigcharles playing VBJ there.

I made it home the next afternoon and later contacted AA and requested some compensation. The next day I received a polite reply and enough frequent flyer points to almost cover a one-way trip. It seemed reasonable to me. Kudos to AA for at least doing the best it could at the airport and afterwards.

So ... this trip to Las Vegas certainly will not go down as one of the best. However, seeing old friends, playing poker at a table where almost half the players are online buds, and having a short poker rush of rushes made for a trip that I won't soon forget. I hope to return in January or February.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, October 05, 2015

Not Exactly Living the Good Life at the Moment

Welcome to you from a comfy bed in The LINQ in Las Vegas. It is mid afternoon and I have been in bed for about 18 hours. And no -- I did not find some hooker with extended stay rates!

The precursor to the trip was a challenging day Saturday. After going to the local Humane Society with my family to pick up our new puppy, I had lunch and then went into work to take care of several tasks I needed to complete before heading out of town: writing a blog post for my employer's blog, reconciling financials for September, approving time cards, doing operational planning for 2016-2017 ... Sometimes the hardest part of taking a trip is all the crap you have to do at work to allow you to go on the trip!

I got home and, since my wife was out, got to re-experience some of the real fun of having a new puppy: cleaning up pee and poop! I then had some home tasks to take care of, and began to pack, leaving myself virtually no time to sleep before my 7:30 a.m. Sunday flight.

I most often fly Southwest out of Midway airport in Chicago -- about 150 miles away -- but this trip was on American Airlines, which allowed me to take a short commuter flight to Chicago O'Hare. The five mile drive to the airport was certainly appreciated! However, I had to deal with travel on American. American has always treated me well, but because it has a charge for checking bags (which Southwest does not), many of the travelers on board bring outrageously large carry ons onto the plane. And ... American has a First Class section, and I was forced to watch those passengers being treated like royalty while I suffered in Coach with the other schlubs. I was reminded of the excellent Seinfeld episode when Jerry was in First Class and Elaine was in Coach (first four minutes of this video):

Of course, now people in Coach don't even get the crappy meal they once did many years ago.

I got into Las Vegas and checked in at The LINQ. The LINQ's former "VIP Registration" area, where we lowly Platinum members could register, is now called "Diamond Registration." I went in to register and was politely directed to the regular registration area. It looks like Caesars Entertainment continues to crap on members below Diamond status.

I had lunch with Pete P Peters at the Yard House and then went with PPP to play some poker at Harrah's. What a crappy table! One guy was running off his mouth non-stop and speaking very loudly the entire time. V blogger The Trooper sat down to play at the table and got into it with a Patriots sports fan sitting next to him. Nothing went right and I started the trip on a losing note. I also started feeling kind of sick, but I figured it was just the accumulated fatigue from the past few days.

I went to the work conference I had come for that was at Caesars Palace, then left as I was feeling terrible. I am pretty sure I got minor food poisoning from my salad at Yard House. I went to sleep at 9:00 p.m. (YES - 9:00 p.m.!) and had a terrible night consisting of many things that would be graphically gross to put in print.

So ... I have not had anything to eat or drink except water for the past 24 hours. I hope to get some dinner in a few hours, although I have no idea what  I might be able to eat. I missed a full day at my conference and hope to be able to go tomorrow.

But ... I am in Las Vegas and hope to have some fun before heading home on Friday. I just hope the ol' sea legs return quickly.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Ready for Las Vegas

In less than four days I will be back in Las Vegas at The LINQ. This trip is part work related, as I will be attending the NACADA (look it up, biotches!) convention at Caesars Palace.

Speaking of work ... I am losing another member of my staff. This one hurts as it is my assistant director. What I thought would be a somewhat easy transition from her current job to a new one has been anything but that. I can't wait to get out of town for a bit and leave the job (mostly) behind me.

Although I will be spending time in educational workshops at the convention, I will still have plenty of time for some poker and miscellaneous gambooling. I trust that I will run into a friend or two ... or three ... or four. I should get into town on Sunday right at about kickoff time of the early games. If you have my phone number and want to see about meeting up, send me a text when I get in. Otherwise, a tweet should do the trick.

Till we meet again ...

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Married ... with Children: A Different Kind of Existence

As I look at many of my friends and acquaintances on Twitter, Facebook and other social media, I am struck by the many different lifestyles we have. For whatever reason, many of my poker friends tend NOT to be in the same type of situation I am in: married with children. Actually, within the past couple of years, two of my three children moved out of the house but still live in town. All three kids are currently attending college (cha-ching!).

What does this mean? Well, most of my friends have heard me whine about money recently -- that it is only something conceptual to me anymore. It comes in, it goes out. If I am lucky, I catch a glimpse of it before it goes. It almost begins to lose any real meaning. Not that that is such a bad thing, perhaps?

So what happens when you have a family? Yesterday I purchased five cell phones. Five. Doesn't that sound ridiculous?

I guess that sometimes I just think of the responsibility that lies on my shoulders. Most decisions, which tend to almost always be well thought out, are made with several people and several factors in mind. It is certainly a different way to think and to live than the days of being single, which seem so long ago.

I have now been head of my department at work for the past 3 1/2 years. I think some of the people I supervise would be surprised at all that I deal with. I recently got some closure on a situation with a now former employee. Ahhh, if only my staff knew half of what went on. Some things just seem to suck the life right out of you. I sometimes struggle with keeping work stuff at work. I guess that is because when you are the person in charge, there is always some type of difficulty on the horizon.

But ... there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I am leaving for a professional conference in just over a week. Destination: Las Vegas. How convenient! Funny how things work out like that sometimes.

And in the category of life always changing ... the lightning36 family looks to expand by one. Ummm ... no, it is not what you think! Readers might recall that we lost our long-time family dog, Ginger, this past summer. Mrs. lightning has been jonesing for a new dog, and today we think we found it.
Unless something unexpected happens, we will be welcoming Fredo into our home. I thought it was pretty cool that a female dog named Kay had puppies, which were then all named for characters from The Godfather.

One of my all-time favorite movie scenes
Enjoy the rest of your weekend!