Tuesday, May 31, 2011

An homage to People of Walmart: Stuff you can only see in a casino. A photo post.

I was cleaning up the iPhone the other night and noticed I had a collection of gems hidden in the photo album.  Those moments in a casino when you just HAVE to take a picture.  We've all done it.  I put out a call to action and asked my blog readers and friends to submit their casino photo gems.  I received far too many pictures to post at one time, so this will be an ongoing project. Please submit YOUR photos of wondrous catastrophe to jennifergay80@hotmail.com.

Here is the first set of photographic brilliance.  May you find as much delight in them as I have.

Floor personnel are responsible for monitoring ALL activity on the poker tables. Submitted by a dealer.

That guy, in the background.. the lurking pedophile?  We like to call him Pleather.
Kai Landry describes this picture in his own words: "Little Ford Fontleroy meets Captain Kangaroo meets Loreal meets NAMBLA. WHY?!? Got shepherd staff! Got hooves? Got curling iron? If only he were licking a gigantic lollipop, this picture would be solid gold.
Only on the Vegas strip, just before a WSOP event, is an offer so appealing.
This woman and her wheel chair, in full wedding dress complete with veil, heels and train.. wander around a Tunica casino looking, presumably for her groom.  When not cruisin' the scene, she'll routinely be seen resting in her wheelchair.
This goes on for days at a time.

Submitted by an anonymous Floor Person.  Instead of "People of Walmart" we have "People of Poker". This is a good look. WINNING.

I like to call this one "What your floor people are doing when they're not at work".  Submitted by a dealer. This photo, of floor personnel extraordinaire Chris Mills shows just what a party animal he can be. We all want to be a princess when we grow up.
Few get to live the dream.

Kai Landry. Poker Player. Fashion Icon. Expert at Blowing.

Yes, Justin, you just became "That Guy".  Justin Choctawww Kruger at the Rio, WSOP 2011.

Submitted by a poker room GM. Cover Girl, you got the look.

Reason #921 to visit the Beau Rivage.  Dealer Patrick Gormandy.. He's got skillz to pay the bills.

One of my personal favorites. During an event in Durant, the casino had to be evacuated due to a storm.  This is the dealer rotation board in the poker room.  Some floor person was kind enough to notify the dealers of their impending doom.

Booty.  Apparently it's the Pecker Picker Upper.

Jeff Griffith of Bustout Fame enjoying all that Tunica has to offer at '37 Steakhouse.

Circuit dealers, hard at work.

This submitted by poker player Justin Choctawww Kruger. We can only assume, for a wreck of this magnitude to take place in a casino parking lot, that it had to of been one hell of a bad beat.

Submitted by Dan Walsh.  Nothing like the truth, I say.

...And this, ladies and gentlemen, is just the first batch!  Keep 'em coming!


Monday, May 30, 2011

I need your help with a photo project, poker players.

Please help out by forwarding this request as a status update, or call to action through your own social medias. I need you to email, text or Facebook me the pictures and videos I know you all have on your phones.  The ones of the ridiculous shit we see on a day to day basis in casinos.  We've all had those moments, when what we're witnessing is just too good to pass up.. and a photo must be taken.  I've got several saved for an epic update of the ridiculousness that is casino life.  Many of you already forward me your "You gotta see this" moments. 

I want to compile them into a picture update.  I can give you photo credit, and include any interesting story to accompany the photo. Or you can do it anonymously, without even naming the property it was taken on.

My phone number is on my facebook, but you can text 901.921.8860 as well.  And creepers? I never, ever answer the phone unless I actually feel like talking to you. So I'm totally not worried about my number being "out there".  You all know someone who has it anyway.  Email to jennifergay80@hotmail.com or Facebook me with your brilliant photos.

I'm looking for everything from the people sleeping in casino lobbies, to the ridiculously hot drunk chicks and plenty of those embarassing "WTF?" moments.

To follow will hopefully be a fantastic photo compilation of everything that makes casino resort lifestyle worth laughing over.


Sunday, May 29, 2011

Freeroll Update, St. Louis Insanity, Tony Dick Reigns Supreme & Summer Adventure

For those of you living under a rock (Or maybe you're such a faithful blog reader you rely on me for all your relevant news.. come on, lie to me. I'm a woman. You know how to tell me what I want to hear), the freeroll begins it's third and final day today.  How did my picks stack up you ask? Let's just say, I should keep my day job.

Sam, taking down Tunica 2011.

Only one of my original picks has managed to make the final table.  Sam Barnhart, the player with perhaps the least tournament experience, goes in today with a healthy chip stack and still very much in competition for the $300,000 first place money and the coveted first bracelet of the WSOP 2011.

My other "horses" had some admirable runs.  I'm proud of everyone. They played well, and almost no one lost on a hand that made me question their thought process. This is just the beginning boys, the rest of the summer is still yet to come.  I hope everyone comes back from Vegas with padded pockets and some new jewelry.

Tony.. taking over the world, one white chip at a time. BALLER.

If you're on my Facebook, you know that I have a prop bet with the illustrious Tony Dick and the darling Christina Sharkady. Let me start by admitting defeat.  Tony, you finally found something you were better at than me. Bravo, son.

The terms of the bet included a dinner in Vegas at the loser's expense, and a relatively embarrassing fashion statement to be worn on the Vegas strip during the week of the 4th of July.  Tony Dick has beaten us girls and will be treated to a night of cocktails and steak at our expense. If his final table pick Charles "Woody" Moore manages to win this sucker, I will also have to wear a bright glittery shirt that says "I LOVE DICK".  So, Woody, though I don't know you.. I really hope you take a fall this time. No hard feelings.

If this guy wins, I get to be publicly humiliated by Tony.

Just before the flood closures, literally days before, we had some unusual guests in our poker room.  A crew from Harrah's St Louis came calling for a week of partying in the metropolis of Tunica. I vaguely remember promising them some blog love, and possibly a column mention, because.. well, we're colleagues and these guys cracked me up.

One of the finer destination travel points of St. Louis. Not including the Arch. I wanna touch the Arch.

The poker world is unique in that we're all connected.. whether we want to be or not.  Some of the strongest friendships span thousands of miles, and we look forward to the times when we get together at various events.  For the industry employees, there is a certain bond that supersedes even our friendships with the players.  A 3 am text among grave shifters that reads "FLOOR ON ONE!! FLOOR ON ONE!! Can you change the channel?" will always get a laugh, because we get it. A 6 am phone call from Vegas where I comfort a stressed poker room manager because she's having her limits tested, is par for course.  My frantic text to a dealer in Arizona at midnight saying "I need a pep talk. Tell me I'm awesome" before or after a particularly grueling shift is understood and rewarded with slapstick comedy and praise. Through facebook, millions of texts and limitless cocktails, we form these "You've got Mail" relationships that keep us grounded. Because really, people in the real world just don't get it. Even if our current jobs dissolve, we'll be somewhere else, doing the same thing and these ties will remain.

So when the crew from St. Louis waltzed in, in all their intoxicated glory, even though I didn't personally know them, they were poker family.. and welcome guests.  Among the large group was full time player Rich Grossman and dual-rate dealer/supervisor Jason Menendez. They immediately started pushing my buttons, but received my sarcasm well when they bought into the $1-$5 7 card stud game with $200 each. And were promptly busted.  I mean, really.. who loses over $500 collectively at Stud?  Out of towners who are on their 17th round of shots, that's who.

The home poker room from which these alien guests hailed from.

I've never seen so many adults consume so much alcohol and still be able to behave in an orderly fashion. Over the course of three days, I think this crew slept approx. 2 hours. Total.  They were there when I was at work, and still there when I returned hours later.

Imagine this. Times ten. But with far more feminine beverages.

Needless to say, we've kept in touch. Menendez, who proclaims himself to be a rockstar dealer is an exceptionally knowledgeable floor person.  He has a genuine love of the game, and he's extended an invitation for any of us from the Tunica/Biloxi market to come up and see him.  Tell him you're a friend of mine and he'll take good care of you and make sure you have a great time.

I know some of us have had negative experiences in St. Louis. A few have even vowed not to return to their circuit events.  Meeting these guys changed my opinion.  These guys were fun, they kept things entertaining, and if they run a cardroom like they play.. it's bound to be a unique experience.  I for one, will be visiting.  Soon, even. Speaking of which...

I am unbelievably stoked about this summer. I did absolutely nothing for my 30th birthday (not that I can recall anyway?) as I was still mourning my breakup with dipshit. 29th, 28th, 27th and 26th were spent with aforementioned dipshit, and were equally uneventful. I'm sure I just sat at home and appreciated how pretty he was, or something lame like that. This year, I've taken matters into my own hands.  In desperate need of some time with my girl Christina, and wanting to share a few embarrassing moments with Mr. Dick.. I knew Vegas was in order.  Of course, Monkey and Kai.. two people I've learned I don't want to live without, will be out there.. as well as approx. 938234848 of the rest of you.

We're going to party like it's 1999. I'm currently having the above uniforms tailored for our crew. I get to be the mouse. WINNING.

Surprising even myself, I invited Menendez from the above St. Louis saga.. and even more surprisingly it took him less than 45 seconds to declare himself in. Originally, I'd intended to just have everyone fly to Vegas and rendezvous there.  I'd already committed to a St. Louis trip some time in the future, and made a command decision to combine the two. On a lark I texted Menendez and said "Road Trip? Vegas? Yes?" and in typical poker-player fashion he responded with a "YES!". So somehow, I've obligated myself to a 30 hour road trip through the majority of North America, with a final destination of Sin City. Excellent.

Poker Mom Connie at the WSOPCE IP Biloxi 2010.

My poker-mom Connie Rice has expressed some interest in going, and I've recruited the fascinating Mike Shafer to meet us out there as well. Right now the guest list is growing exponentially. I have a great room at the Rio, and some spare beds. If you want to tag along, hit me up. The more the merrier. My normal poker roommate Scott Williams will more than likely NOT be in attendance for this trip.  His comfort zone is limited to a 400 mile radius and I'm pretty sure he can't keep up. ;)  Speaking of which.. now accepting applications for a new poker roommate/roadie for the 2011 season.

Boys and Girls.. what happens in Vegas will not be staying in Vegas this summer.  It will be an epic adventure and I'll have my camera in tow.  For those of you unfortunate enough to get captured on film, you will be able to buy the film back at a nominal surcharge.  I have a fetish for Coach bags, and I figure I should be able to get one or two out of the deal.

See you all soon! <3

Monday, May 23, 2011

Circuit National Championship: $1,000,000. My picks and wildcards. Souther, Kruger, Clark, Talbot, Cartwright and more.

In just a few short days, everyone will be in Vegas. And I do mean, everyone.  Well, that is, except for me. I don't get to Vegas until the first week of July. I can't really justify taking off for a week after a month-long shut down thanks to the Tunica floods, and someone has to hold down the cotton fields.

Back in February, I did a blog post with my picks for the Tunica main event. Out of the 480 entrants, I picked five to cash. Of my five picks, two cashed. The three that didn't? One suffered a bad beat, one was sick and I have no idea what happened to the third he was out so fast. Even still, I was pretty happy with my choices and I stand by them.

So I'm going to try it again. This field is going to be tough.  Sure, there are a few one hit wonders in there, but for the most part.. this is the Superbowl for the circuit. The best of the grinders and tournament trail junkies.  These guys couldn't just plunk down $10,000 or satellite their way in, they had to EARN this.  Which makes a victory in this field more significant than a hearty dose of run-good in the main event.

If this were a horse race, these are the horses I would bet on. And speaking of betting on people, of the below people.. Scott Clark and Will Souther are both selling pieces of their action.  Matt Stout, who is not in the freeroll, is also selling some of his WSOP action. I'm more than likely going to buy pieces of all three of these guys. If you'd like to do the same, and can't figure out how to get in touch with them.. hit me up and I'll point you in the right direction.

Will "Poker Monkey" Souther

The fact that he's my friend hasn't clouded my judgement one bit on this one. Not only has he fought harder than anyone else to be at this event (on and off the tables), this is his field. I talked to Monk a bit today about his strategy and vibe for the freeroll and he's in a good place. He's earned this one, and there are more than a few of us who are rooting for him to take the whole thing down. Last fall was great for Monkey, and though 2011 has been off to a tumultuous start, between the freeroll and the main event.. I think the summer of 2011 will be the best yet for him. You can follow his success this summer through his well-read blog here. I don't want to jinx Monkey with too much positive talk, but you can count on the fact that I'll be glued to the poker news updates while this thing is going down.  

Kyle Cartwright

A local boy.. From Bartlett, TN
Picking Kyle should prove that I'm not just picking buddies for my list. I'm not entirely sure how I feel about Kyle on a personal level. I chatted with him a bit the other night, and he came across as confident. Arrogant, maybe. A typical "Internet kid", phenom might be the word.. his is the sort of poker dream-story that journalist love.. "23 years old and only $2K to his name.. plays four events, wins 2 rings.." blah blah blah. Yeah, he's running hot.  Maybe he is a phenom. There is no doubt he has skills.  He's still so wet behind the ears in live play though, this summer will either make or break him.

He made a couple of comments during our chat that rubbed me the wrong way.. about not having time to talk to the reporters who have called him, and how he's been too busy to properly respond to offers from the press. Though when I reminded him that this industry is one where your name can be forgotten five minutes after you're on the radar, he softened a bit and seemed to genuinely listen. Maybe it was the placating "Yes ma'm" mentality of talking to someone who has been covering the tournament trail before he had a driver's license, or maybe he was actually paying attention. Either way, I tend to judge a man by the eye contact he makes and the way he carries himself. He didn't win my heart with his charm or presence, but his skills are something to pay attention to.  I have him second on my list to cash, and if he's successful I will be happy for him.

Bob Talbot and Captain Tom Franklin

This picture doesn't do the sparkle in his eyes justice.
There is a theory that poker is dominated by the young guns.  For the most part, I agree with this.. it's an exhausting lifestyle, keeping up with the game and the events.  I don't think this theory took into consideration though, the two Mississippi seniors, Talbot and Franklin.  I am proud to call Bob my friend. He's a constant source of humor, and his skill at the poker table is pretty solid.  He has been joking, around Facebook, that he hopes our mutual friends take 2nd. Implying that he plans on taking down the whole damn thing. And you know? He just might.

I wonder if he'll still be pimpin' Doyle's Room with the shutdowns?

Captain and I have been at many of the same events, but aside from a passing comment or two we aren't well acquainted. Though the friend in me would like to put an edge on odds for Bob, I wouldn't be surprised for either of these guys to outlast 90% of the field and make the money.  They have the patience, experience and relaxed outlook that some of the others will lack.

 Scott Clark and Shannon Shorr

Scott looking rather pensive.

Two bloggers I read regularly.  Clark had a rough time in St. Louis, and has recently had to make the tough decision to join the rest of us ... and get a full time job. A solid cash in the freeroll would put him back in place to continue playing poker full time and keep the dream alive. I like the guy, I like reading his blog and it would make me happy to see him cash.  He's selling his action at a fantastic rate.. it's a good investment if you want to risk a little to get a piece of a potentially huge pie.

He looks so young here. Probably because he is. I'm getting old.

Shorr is undeniably hot at the table, and he markets himself well.  You see his name everywhere.  Both of these guys are part of the Gulf Coast Poker family of bloggers, with myself and Monkey.. so a victory for any of the GCPers is a reason for me to celebrate. I didn't realize until this blog post, just how high Shorr's lifetime cash record is. Pretty impressive really. You can read Shorr's blog here.

My Two Wildcards:  Justin Kruger and Sam Barnhart

Sam at the Tunica 2011 Event.

Sam Barnhart doesn't get nearly the respect he deserves, yet. I too was among the crowd that thought his Tunica win was break-through luck to a new live-circuit player.  And then I sat behind him when he took 4th in the Goldstrike Delta Gold main.  The guy is fearless. I'm not sure he has enough tournament experience to really kick appropriate ass at this event.. but he's earned his spot among them and I would be delighted if he cashed. There isn't a nicer guy in poker than Sam.


"Choctawwww" and his alien friend. I suspect collusion.
Justin "Chocktawwwwwww" Kruger is batshit crazy.  I first met him in Tunica where he was trying to convince Teresa Sommerfeld that he didn't actually mean to eat her last Reese's Peanut Butter Cup, that it was a misunderstanding.  Then again when he shared a table with Scott Williams. He would randomly, while petting his alien doll, mumble incoherently and then violently yell "Choctawwwww" intermittently. Being a big fan of crazy people, I introduced myself. I watched him play a bit, and early on noted that he was one to watch. On whatever planet he hails from, they obviously take poker seriously. He's got skills. He's fun to watch. And he's just left-field enough that he might win the whole damn thing. My prediction is.. he's either going to be out super fast, or take the whole thing down. I'd like to see him cash top three.

On a side note, I don't know enough about Allie Prescott's play style to really count him as a pick or a wildcard. I became aware of him through Monk, while we were out drinking in Memphis one night, and the thought of having a Memphian smoke the freeroll is really appealing. Home team pride and all that. So I'll throw in a couple of extra good luck vibes for Mr. Prescott.  Who, by the way, just finished an impressive 4th in the New Orleans Regional Televised Circuit Championship. Way to go!
Good luck to everyone in Vegas. I will be hanging on every update.  Take it down, boys!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Dear Diary: I suck. Florida Reality Check, Perception and Poker Room Failure.

Last night/this morning around 3 am I found myself on the phone with dealer extraordinaire Tony Dick. This isn't altogether surprising, because for us, this is prime time for communication.  During the conversation we both talked about roommates, life, love and the hazards of working in the poker industry. I briefly entertained the idea of returning to normal hours, maybe working for a magazine in the city. Going in every day in a skirt, like I did for The Commercial Appeal, and talking to people about their feel-good news story and ad placement.

Yes, it can be that bad.

Or sitting in a city council meeting like I did for The Gam and penning relevant notes about change and public works. No longer surrounded by smoky haze, glittering lights and the ebb and flow of casino life. Where 3 am is no longer 2 pm, and food exists outside of plastic containers with tiny to-go condiments. Where 90% of my conversations wouldn't involve waxing philosophy over pre-flop odds and how many outs still remained before the river. My relationships would no longer begin with the words "What floor of the hotel are you staying on?" and my friendships wouldn't revolve around when I can make time to get to whatever city the friend in question is currently working in.

We laughed about the number of people we both know who have found stability and happiness, the home in the suburbs with the golden retriever, blissful happiness, monogamy and still managed a successful career working in poker full-time. The number in case you're wondering, is exactly zero.

Comes with free white picket fence!

Tuesday morning, I woke up in Florida. I was there on vacation, and a friend (who is also a poker friend, go figure) had gone with me.  We chatted about my inevitable return to work at this coming weekend, and I started crying. Literally throwing a 30-Year-Old temper tantrum because I can't find my groove in my current poker room. Where I'm still, after 4 months, being tested every single day by the staff and the regular players and I feel like I really don't fit in. This is uncharted territory for me. I do well in almost every job I've ever had (with the exception of Hallmark, but I was 16! Cut me some slack! I had boyfriend problems and a social life to worry about!). I really thought I would waltz into my current poker room, and continue being the rockstar I've always been. I'd wow them with my charm, and the guests would love me.

My next tattoo.  Only, maybe in blue. To match my eyes.

Only, it hasn't been that easy.  I've been the subject of gossip (vicious gossip at that), been reminded regularly of my incompetence and have been challenged on every thing I thought I knew. My boss, who is amazing, is aware of some of this and she's been a rock of support and encouragement.  I even sought other employment, applying for the WSOP in Vegas (I was among the few in my group to get hired, and enthusiastically at that). A girlfriend who runs a cardroom in Vegas offered to hire me after the series was over. A contact at the IP in Biloxi offered me a position down there. To sum up.. my pre-flop odds appeared good, and I still have a ton of outs.

The friend, who was with me in Florida, gave me a few reality checks during this trip.  Well, more than a few. I venture dangerously close to doing damage to our relationship by writing this, but I'm going to bank on the assumption that he doesn't have the attention span to read this far. Keep your fingers crossed for me. If you do read this far, don't take this out of context. I try to keep my writing honest, even when brutal, and I think it's relevant right now.

Why you gotta burst my bubble?!

He said that I worry too much about what other people think about me. He burst my bubble about my previous poker room (in which he is a regular player), and pointed out that there were people who talked bad about me there (I really didn't realize it was an epidemic). He was kind enough to add that poker players in general can act like babies, and that they're always going to be unhappy with the staff some of the time. That you can't please everyone all the time, and that it is the nature of the industry for people to want to be catered to, and bitch when a decision doesn't go in their favor. Ah, sweet sweet hospitality industry.

During the course of the trip, this same friend pointed out that my tone (notably on the phone), comes across unintentionally bitchy. That I appear to be more abrupt or condescending than I really am. He also noted that I like to get my way, I go over the top in being girly when getting ready to go out, and that I'm wrong about a lot of things. My ideas are rarely good ones and aren't always thought out to the level they should be. That the world doesn't revolve around me. Now, this sounds fairly mean, and I should specify that these gems of wisdom were sandwiched in between a lot of great and positive conversation. He wasn't being mean at all, just being honest. I don't hold it against him. Well, I shouldn't. But I felt pretty awful. I came home confused. Not that he feels this way, but because I know he's right about a lot of things. The root of a lot of these flaws is a compelling need to be liked.  Whether it's through humor or trying too hard, and the result is, when it doesn't work it's perceived far more negatively than I ever intended.

You can fill this out and mail this to Zoloft's corporate headquarters, to help better calculate my dosage. Thanks.

This friend is someone that I hold above just about everyone else. As a friend, I love the guy. Genuinely. And there have been times in the last couple of years..even recently, that I've even attempted to propel our relationship beyond friendship, because I feel so incredibly close to him. I mean, the guy makes me happy, what can I say? Women have this terrible habit of reading between the lines and painting a picture unique to our perspective. I've been guilty of it with this man. I've looked at what we have, the dynamic between us, and because I see him in such a flawless light (we've literally never had a real argument), I just naturally assumed he was on the same page. This week, I started listening. And really paying attention, instead of talking, for a change. The reality is, my perception is so unbelievably skewed, I'm in a different time zone. Maybe an alternate reality, even.

I'm way too self absorbed to invest in deciphering this scientific chart.

It made me wonder if my perception isn't also skewed when it comes to work.  The problem isn't with THEM, the problem is with ME. I have this concept in my head that I should fit in, I should be great at my job and I should be respected and/or adored. Because, more often than not, this is how it's gone. More importantly, that if something isn't going the way I believe it should be.. that I should seek other options.

On the way home from Florida, I thought about what I wanted.  And of these things that I want, what is realistic and what is selfish or fantasy based.

When I took my current job, I said I would give it a year.  One year to learn everything I can, and build my resume and open the largest list of options for the next move. I've justified looking at options to leave early because it hasn't been easy. If I went somewhere else, would it be easier? Probably. I can find a place where I fit like a glove. I'm a chameleon like that.

Instead, I'm going to commit whole heartedly to actually learning what I came here to learn. To worry less about pleasing everyone, and being liked by everyone, and instead focusing more on doing a good job and growing from the experience. I'm going to master those infinite floor calls, guest service to the point of pleasing even the most difficult souls. Most importantly, though I doubt I'll be able to win the friendships of most of the staff, I will earn their respect. If only because they can't run me off. I'm also going to exemplify the reasons I was brought on board. To bring my unique and creative approach to marketing, promotions and tournament design that I do so well.

I STILL think the world is prettier through these glasses.

And the friend?  I've taken off the rose-colored glasses (as my Dad referred to them).  Every single critical tid-bit he shared, not only increased my realization that I am far from the victim in any less-than-flawless scenario I might end up in, but that even in our own relationship.. Just because I perceive something to be a reality, doesn't make it so. I don't need to read between the lines, or try to get my way. Sometimes, things require hard work and perseverance.. a real investment of the brain, heart and time. And in some cases, it doesn't work out. You can't always please the difficult guest, be as adored as you think you deserve, be the favorite supervisor or even the perfect friend/girlfriend/daughter.  The key to it is knowing when you've done all you can do, and when to throw in the towel.

Bonus: Throwing in the towel means you don't have to wash it. Another flaw of mine, I fail at doing laundry.

My vacation was a reality check. It made me consider my family, my personal relationships and my career. To really evaluate which scenarios were causes worth abandoning and which ones were not. Funny how the answers aren't always what you want them to be, when you're being really honest with yourself.

I sent a letter to the WSOP staff in Vegas tonight, thanking them for the opportunity but respectfully declining their offer for this year, with hopes they will consider me for next year.  I called my girlfriend in Vegas last night and told her to put any plans for me to relocate on hold.  I'll be there, just not right this minute.  I have some work to do in Tunica.


Monday, May 9, 2011

Flood of the Century, A Followup on Suicide and Depression, Fergalicious and Facebook Hijack.

I've put off writing the blog for much longer than I should have.  I've been in sensory overload. Literally. So I'll start from a week ago, and bring you up to speed. For your navigational pleasure, I will list the following topics in advance.. so you may jump ahead to the part that interests you most.

  • Flood of the Century - Sandbagging with Monkey
  • Fergalicious - Karaoke, American Idol and Windjammer
  • A Mother's Day Gift and Water for Elephants
  • Intoxication - The story of a man taking advantage of an idle iPhone
  • A followup to the Suicide and Depression Blog
Flood of the Century

Thanks to all of you who have helped spread the word about flooding in Tunica and Memphis. I am forever grateful to you.  Until we were in catastrophic conditions.. national media really hadn't shown any coverage.

This flood, needless to say, has been a big deal.  Tens of thousands of evacuations. Homes and businesses are experiencing total losses. All 9 casinos in Tunica are indefinitely closed (though some are expected to open again as early as June 1st).  I'm going to include here some pictures of the Memphis and Tunica flooding.  The cleanup and rehabilitation is going to require just as much awareness.  I invite you all down to play and stay at the Tunica casinos once we reopen. We're dependent on tourism to keep the county afloat, and if you're planning a vacation to a gambling destination.. let us take care of you in Tunica.

A rather appropriate statue in Downtown Memphis.

The door to Harrah's Casino

The parking garage at Goldstrike.. Now with boat parking!

The parking lot of Harrah's Tunica

Last week, Harrah's sent out an email asking for volunteers to come build a temporary sandbag wall around the casino properties not yet surrounded by water.  My mother was among the first to offer up her time, and we spent last Tuesday getting sunburned and sandbagging with other volunteers.

Sandbaggin' in my Bustout Gear

My mom. rockin' the forklift while sandbaggin'

Another friend, Poker Monkey, who saw my post on Facebook, packed up the 4Runner to make the 7 hour trek to Tunica to help out. Click his linked name to read his fantastic blog, which will no doubt include parallel details to this blog. A lot of you know Monkey. He's a pretty notorious character.  You either love him, or hate him. Like many people, I found him to be contemptuous at the poker table when I first met him. Over the last year though, I've come to count him among my closest confidants. He's a good man, with a big heart.. and I'm of the firm belief that anyone who believes otherwise is a victim of propaganda. On Day 2 of volunteering, Monk and I sandbagged.. built walls.. and spent time with the awesome facilities crew of Horseshoe, Tunica.  After that we spent a couple hours at the Humane Society of Tunica, cleaning cages and exercising dogs who were also suffering during the flood.

The Monkey.. Sandbaggin'

Humans aren't the only ones that suffer during disaster.

At one point, Monk and I stood back and looked at the wall we'd helped build at Horseshoe.  He said.. "It feels good, doesn't it?" And it did. Getting involved in your community, and the communities of our neighbors is vital. Not only for the help it provides, but the personal reward of giving back. It's what we're supposed to do.

The wall we helped build. Well, part of it at least.

So Fergalicious. Karaoke and other things.

Needing a little celebration, Monk and I met up with Scotty and Mark Drewes at Buffalo Wild Wings for trivia.  Where we failed miserably. The questions were ridiculous. Things like "What do Icelandic Salmon eat on Tuesdays for breakfast during August?" seemed easy in comparison. We did not win.

Next was Karaoke at Windjammer in Memphis, TN. My favorite hole-in-the-wall bar.  Scott, Monk and I are all very similar in our sense of humor. So it's no surprise that we ended up front row, voting the singers either through to "Hollywood" or with a unanimous "No". Our American Idol tribute was a bit rigged though when I noticed the men had a habit of voting through any woman willing to appropriately shake her anatomy while singing.

One particular singer, a man who appeared to be a mortgage broker or Enterprise Rental Car Rep (You know the look), won our hearts with his rousing rendition of Fergalicious. There were many times I looked over to see Monkey staring in shock and awe at the train wrecks we were witnessing. I will include a video here for you to witness Mr. Fergalicious yourself. I apologize for how dark it is. Windjammer isn't known for it's luminary genius.

Back at the hotel, before I left an exhausted Monk to retire for the evening and prepare for the next stop on his humanitarian tour (Tuscaloosa, AL), he decided he wanted room service. When the lady on the phone was less than compliant, he painted a vivid image of housekeeping cleaning up his rotting, stinking corpse if he were to expire from starvation.  Unmoved, he began pleading.  Then negotiating. She never did give into his wiles, and though I departed with him still certain that death was imminent, I'm happy to report that he made it out of Tunica just fine.

A Mother's Day Present and Water for Elephants

The next day, I went out to the farm to spend the weekend. Enjoyed time with Mom, knocked out my column for the month and went to see "Water for Elephants" with Scotty.  This movie sucked so unbelievably bad that I don't even care to get into the details. It was long. Boring. The dialogue was predictable. It made for a fairly disastrous evening. Enough so that I didn't even talk to Scott the following day, which is fairly abnormal because usually SOMETHING in a 24 hour period comes up that I feel the next to text him about. Much to his dismay. I bet the longer he knows me, the more he's wishing he'd gotten the unlimited texting plan.

Nothing says "I love you, Mom" like a rabid beast. She really wanted a Honey Badger. This was the next best thing.
Mother's Day, a close family friend Teri came over and brought food.. we hung out awhile, before they left to release the swell Mother's Day Gift I'd live trapped for Mom.  This is how we do it in the South. True story.

Guard your iPhone, Ladies and Gents

Last night I received a pretty bizarre text from Scotty inviting me over to consume adult beverages and hang out for awhile.  I say bizarre because his house is something like Fort Knox. Very few people get in, and a good percentage of them (He noted as he indicated the dense woods behind his property), never leave. I couldn't say No, though because .. let's face it. I'm a sucker for a bottle of wine, and I've always been a fan of true crime. So I figured I'd check it out. The drive, which would normally take about 20 minutes, ended up being an adventure as the main routes were flooded out.  I was even pulled over (probably on suspicion of drunk driving.. though this was prior to any beverage consumption), as I tried to turn where there was a road sign.. but no road. This is the sort of neighborhood this man lives in. Fortunately, the police officer was easily charmed and I left with his card and cell phone number instead of a ticket. I win life.

This journey required no less than 11 left turns down dark and twisty roads.  Half way through I felt like I should have brought a pistol. Not because I was fearful of car jacking .. quite the opposite, it's a very lovely area.. but because I'm certain that whatever wildlife existed in those woods could have easily commandeered my Jeep, chopped it up and sold it for parts.

I'm sure this was taken in his neighborhood.

I realize now that this was all a ploy, though. Luring me out there.

I should have seen it coming.

He really just wanted to get me drunk.. and put his grubby paws all over my iPhone.

I apologize to the few of you who witnessed the assault on my Facebook last night. I assure you, though it may have appeared otherwise, that it is not typical of me to write witty phrases like "Scott rocks my world" and "he is the most amazing, wonderfullest man."  I won't delve into the more salacious comments.. as I'm still hoping some of you (namely my mother), didn't see the posts before I deleted them this morning.

On the Mend

Today, I am on the mend from a long week of sandbagging, sunburn, bad cinema and a liver that is threatening to secede from the union. I will know more details this week about when the casinos will be reopening. I'm hoping to go to Florida next week to visit my sister, and if he's willing to come with, throw Scott into shark infested water. Don't worry, I plan on tying squid to him first so they're interested. Then after that, if I've still got an abundance of time on my hands, I may go see my girl Christina in Vegas for a few days. Which reminds me.. I don't think I could have gotten through the last week without Christina. She is absolutely the most wonderful gal I know. Thanks for all your chats, texts and witty commentary. <3

A Followup to the Blog about Suicide and Depression

Last week I made a blog post about suicide and depression.  I'll link it here for those that may have missed it. The blog spread like wildfire, getting thousands of hits in almost no time. I want to thank those of you who posted and reposted it.

I didn't realize how important the subject matter was.  I honestly figured the blog would be ignored in favor of my more poker-related pieces.

A crazy thing happened after the blog went up.  The family of the young man started writing me. Not just one or two of them, but many many family members. The first letter I opened with trepidation.. I had no idea how my blog was going to be perceived.  What I read, astounded me.  This man, Dylan, who killed himself at Goldstrike in Tunica, just a week ago, was loved. He was tremendously loved. His family is the most amazing, compassionate group of people you could imagine.  Absolutely every one of them embraced me and what I'd written with love and appreciation.

I spent many nights reading the emails and crying, in awe of the entire experience. I will quote a few excerpts from the emails I received:

"Dylan was the nephew of a dear friend and many in his family were HS friends of mine. What a tragedy that might have been prevented or at least delayed if signs had been recognized. Your story was telling it like it is; I lost a family member myself from death by suicide. I think you said it well."

"-My name is XXXXXXX -Dylan XXXXX is my cousin-and I wanted to thank you for writting such a beautiful blog. I printed it off to keep-and I'm glad I did so before you deleted his picture. It truly touched me!!"

"I read your blog and was deeply touched by your empathy and concern for the "broken". I think we all have our fractures and many of us ,myself included are broken from this drama we call life. Dylan was my best friends nephew and yes he was very broken having to deal with his own personal fractures and devastations . They were far too much for such a young and gentle man. I am so exhausted with society and the perception of depression and mental illness being a sign of weakness. My definition is, "Depression IS NOT a sign of weakness, IT IS a sign that we have had to be strong for too long". Thank you again for taking your time and writing such a touching and definitive personal eulogy about Dylan. Your words were written with love. Keep praying for all of God's children..thier weaknesses,fractures and fears....God bless you and yours."

One of his family members wrote and told me about Dylan's struggle with depression, addiction and personal loss.  She painted a picture of a young man who was gorgeous and loving, but lost despite being surrounded by people.  I think, in a way, none of this was a surprise to his family.  They recognized his pain and suffering and were powerless to help anymore than they already had.

Then perhaps, in the weirdest twist of fate, his girlfriend.. the young lady who was with him the entire day and night prior to his suicide, contacted me.  She reached out and asked me to call her.  I didn't, right away, because really.. I had nothing to say.  The extent of my involvement was limited to a blog post. No more, no less.  Then after she reached out again, it occurred to me that I was thrust into this scenario for some reason, whatever that reason may be.  Emilie is this amazing, vibrant and beautiful young woman.  She didn't want anything from me, she just wanted to talk. As crazy as it sounds, sometimes talking to a complete stranger about the most personal things can be freeing. So we talked. For a long time. We talked about depression, and surviving.  Loving people who are depressed and helping ourselves when we get overwhelmed. We bonded over similarities and shared personal stories. I got off the phone feeling a little healthier and more whole than I did before. She echoed the sentiments.

I'm not sure what the beauty in Dylan's death is supposed to be.  But I know that the aftermath has been an increase in awareness about depression. Life is hard.  It is almost impossible to make it through without leaning on one another from time to time.  The young man has been laid to rest, but I hope the reality of what happened continues to benefit others by example.  I feel comfortable posting this picture on Emilie's behalf. This is from her facebook photo album entitled "Rest in Peace Dylan" and is publicly available online. More than a half dozen of the people who read the blog have added me. Their facebooks continue to be a testament to one truth.. though you're never, ever the same after a profound loss, life does go on. I will keep you all in my prayers. <3

Such a beautiful couple. Thanks for sharing your story with me. <3