Friday, January 29, 2021

2 Minutes. Go!

The house always wins. You don’t have to believe it. Hell, maybe Vegas is a charity. Maybe all those mobsters just like card games. Maybe you’ll be the one who breaks them, leaves the casino with canvas bags covered in dollar signs, bills and gold coins falling out behind you like Scrooge McDuck. 

You don’t even need a casino.  A dealer. A HOUSE.

There are lots of ways to gamble.

I had a friend once thought he should drive after drinking a few beers. Dumb gamble. He can’t drive anymore. I know folks who put there whole life on the line for fifteen minutes of pleasure or compulsion. Doesn’t matter which. Bad gamble.

You can gamble with your health. I quit smoking cigarettes when I started feeling mortal. Not everyone does. Not everyone can afford “me time” and organic food, either. Drive through a small town in Mississippi and then blame the locals for being 200 pounds overweight with heart conditions and diabetes. A Value Meal costs 5.99. 

Go large, one dollar more.

You can gamble your morality easy. The system is almost set up for it. There are all kind of incentives to take short cuts. All kinds of compromises you can make. Your bank account will prosper if you look the other way. 

That’s what the corporate bosses say.

Me? I’m not a gambler. I don’t play games I know were designed to beat me. I don’t bang my head against the door and expect it to open, either. You get out life what you put in. No free lunches. No jackpots. You may be up for a few hours, months, years, but the house always wins. 

No exceptions. 

Friday, January 22, 2021

2 Minutes. Go!

The wind is a grey sponge sitting on the straight. Mt. Diablo hides underneath the sagging apron, not scared. Never scared. You know what’s in them thar hills. Every time the wind blows, it pulls a few threads with it, and rain drops in the Central Valley, and, if Steinbeck was still alive, he would call it good. The small boats pull stripers and sturgeon, and sometimes there’s a kind of stillness that only lasts a moment. But you end up remembering it for years. And the smell of rich earth and woodsmoke dances in the updrafts. Vultures circle and we smile at them, feeling optimistic. There is nothing wrong, no sound that the fog can’t muffle. You can get lost in it. And you probably should.

Friday, January 15, 2021

2 Minutes. Go!

Both my Grandfathers and one of my Grandmothers served in WWII. My Grandpa was shot out of plane and lost most of his hearing, his sense of taste, and who knows what else - he never talked to me about it. My Paupa and my Nana served. My Paupa worked on airplanes and screwed up his back stepping around in the dark. I don't know whether he felt relieved or angry that he never saw action. He was a pretty practical guy; I doubt he felt left out. My Nana was with the WAVES in San Francisco. I talked to my Paupa a bit about his experiences flying and working on planes. He helped me write a short story. I hoped that it meant something to him to have those memories live again, but I honestly don't know if it was a good thing I did. 

My Paupa was the Mayor of a small town in Pennsylvania for years. He was not a wealthy man by any stretch of the imagination, but he was respected and devoted. He took care of his town, and one of his self-imposed duties was to gather damaged flags, flags that had touched the ground or were worn, and burn them in ceremony. This was something he took very seriously. I don't put much stock in flags or pennants or pledges, but I respected my Paupa, and I loved him very much. I loved my Grandpa, and I adored my Nana. I tried to respect the things they respected because I knew they had their reasons. Reasons that mattered.

Watching someone beat police officers with a American flag hurt me in a way I didn't expect, because I know it would have crushed my Paupa. My Grandpa would have been outraged at his neighbors in the Midwest flying to DC to wreak COSPLAY havoc at the Capitol. My Nana and my Grandma were the sweetest, kindest, and most thoughtful women I have ever known. They believed in manners and not being tacky. They would be heartbroken at what we have become. 

I think about my Dad a lot, too. And my sister. 25 years in the Navy and years with the State Department respectively. I can't bring myself to ask them how they feel about it. We aren't always that kind of family. We keep our cards close and our pain hidden. That said, someday, I will ask, but I already know the answer. I can feel it, an ache, in my chest.