Sunday, November 2, 2014

I hope I found the words. A letter to Tony Dick. Address, unknown.

Dear Tony,

I'm sure the last few days have been a blur. To sum the early hours of Halloween morning, you had an accident. I like to think you were speeding through the desert after a night of debauchery, with a beautiful woman on the back of your motorcycle. I'm probably not far off the mark. It didn't end well this time, buddy. On All Saints Day, it was decided that we'd lost you for good. In typical Tony style, you hung around just long enough for the Vikings to lock up a win and Dallas to get smashed by Arizona. I hope whatever is waiting for you on the other side is ready for the force that is Tony Dick. If you get a spare minute, find a way to let me know you made it. If they have Facebook in the afterlife, your wall is a glowing tribute to how many people loved you. Its also the least offensive and most polite your page has been since its inception.

You were a force to be reckoned with. On so many levels.

I hate that you bought that motorcycle, even though it made you happy. I knew you'd get yourself killed on it. I didn't know it would take you less than 90 days. If I had, so many of us would have protested more. Not that you would have listened. Not that you ever listened.

You were always going to die this way, you know. It was never going to be natural causes or old age. You lived fast, loved hard and played even harder. Everything with you was an extreme. You gave 110% of yourself and always did exactly what you wanted to do. Don't get me wrong, I'm not faulting you for it. You were more than willing to take anyone along who wanted to go. Any two people plus you and its an instant party. I just wasn't ready yet. To give you up, that is.

What I have to tell my rational brain is that every single day after your aneurysm was a gift. That all of us who were lucky enough to know you already had our greatest prayers answered. But it wasn't enough, was it? I guess not, since I'm sitting here feeling sorry for myself and I can't stop thinking about what I've lost.

Thanks for wrapping your words and arms around me so many years ago when I was a fledgling in the poker industry and needed a friend. Thanks for teaching me about mixed games and tipping,  brushing off losses and celebrating the wins, hard. We commiserated over our common ground as "Broken" people. People who have battled addiction and came out on the other side, albeit a little bruised. It always brought me comfort to know you were there even though our lives have shifted in different directions now that I have a family. I'm grateful we got to talk recently.

This is the night you taught me how to deal mixed games. We were at the Grand Sierra Resort in Reno, NV. I tried, hard, to dodge this table and you made the floor (Josh Treat) send me in anyway. You sat in the ten seat and coached me through every hand. Every mistake I made, you'd throw me a red bird. And every pot I pushed, you'd scold the winner into showering me with red birds. I think I made at least $700 that night. You made a miserable moment, awesome. It wasn't the first time, or the last time. You told me you were going to win a big pot with this hand. You did. <3

I'm sorry I never paid our prop bet. I really wanted to wear a shirt that says "I Love Dick" while walking down Las Vegas Blvd on a short leash with collar. I did. Even more I wanted to buy you that steak dinner. Thanks for not pushing the issue while I was 8 months pregnant with Carter. That would have been awkward.

Speaking of awkward prop bets.
(It has been brought to my attention that this picture could be misconstrued. This pic was a joke. It was a counter argument to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge that was so popular a few months ago. Kai Landry issued a "Warm Cozy Bathtub Challenge of the Rich and Famous" or something of that nature and Tony was nominated. This was his ridiculous photo response in a series of ridiculous photo response. He wasn't even close to being serious here..)

When I'd heard you were declared brain dead, 99.9% of me was shattered to the depths of my soul. The .01% (that will slowly grow over time), imagined us sitting at a bar having a Jack and Coke and joking that your brain had finally won; leaving you in second place. Your celebratory tattoo turned into both commemoration and foreshadowing. You would drink to that.

Your sense of humor was untouchable.

I will most of all miss your sense of humor. The way it echoes my own. Its inappropriate, completely without regard to the politically correct and what bonded us the most. I fucking loved you. Even if I didn't say it in so many words.

This photo captures your essence better than any other.

While I write this, they are preparing you for organ donation. This also would have made you laugh. The jokes on them when they get inside there. Can you imagine waiting for years on a transplant list only to get Tony Dick's liver? Talk about a bad beat.

I can't help but get a lump in my throat reading all the memorials growing on your Facebook wall. Who would have thought, when all the smoke cleared in the wake of your life, that the greatest thing you would be remembered for was the size of your...wait for it... heart? The words I keep reading are love, generosity, laughter, friendship, loyalty. It would have made you proud.

Instant. Party. Even though we're blurry and I'm mostly hidden behind your shoulder, this one I will treasure.

You were the super glue that held so many people together. If you were in town, acquaintances became friends for the opportunity to celebrate your visit. I had this idea that something should be done - anything - to mark your passing so that we might not let you become a memory so easily. College scholarships and park benches are reserved for these occasions, you know. Neither of which are suitable for a man like you. So my hope, instead, is that whenever a mixed game comes together on the road or during the series.. we will all remember to throw "A red bird for the dealer". A bit of "Dicking" around, if you will, in your name. You would like that

I'm pissed at you. And sorry for every single person who will miss out on the light that you brought into every room. This is the first time I've been mad at you that you won't be able to crack a joke and make it better. It isn't the last time that I crack a joke at your expense. I promise. I think this will be a hard one for a lot of us to accept. When a force as vibrant and unstoppable as you comes to a grinding halt it makes everyone a little more afraid for their own mortality. You lived more in one day than most of us do in a lifetime.

In the words of the great D-Rod, "Today, the world loses it's Dick!".

You did it your way, friend. I'm going to miss you.


Jennifer Gay

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Todd Desnoyers - I'm gonna miss your face. Rest easy, friend.

Early this morning, Amanda Desnoyers called me. I missed the call while I heated a bottle up for Carter. Her voicemail told me everything without saying more than "call me back".

She said, between sobs, when I called her back: "You know the poker people. Would you help get the word out so I can stop making phone calls?"  She sounded exactly like you'd expect a woman who'd just lost her husband to sound. Grief stricken. Frazzled. Tired. Full of the realization that this nightmare is only beginning. She spoke briefly about her family being local and an autopsy, not knowing when arrangements would be. Her words were soft and broken, tearful, before she exclaimed another call was coming in and to please keep in touch.

For the vast majority of people, those who didn't know Todd at all or only knew him through loose poker associations, you're here to find out what happened. This is a pretty normal compulsion, I imagine. He was young. Just 41. With two little girls and a wife. We can all identify with that so its natural to want to know what happened - curiosity and fear of our own impending mortality. So I'll share. But for the rest of us, those of us who loved Todd, I've got a little more I'd like to say.

Amanda says that Todd has been ill recently. He'd been battling high blood pressure and being under the weather. Back in September after a trip to the hospital, he wrote on Facebook "Today was a wake-up call that I need to take my health more seriously and start taking care of myself. My blood pressure was so high at the er the nurse was worried I was going to have a stroke. Time for life changes.".  I knew he'd battled giving up cigarettes for some time as well.

Yesterday when Amanda left for work, Todd was awake and appeared fine. When she returned, he'd passed away, presumably in his sleep. There is no more to the story and an autopsy is scheduled. I think the preliminary guess is his heart gave out.

Amanda has family support. His daughters know what happened and are with their grandparents. At this time, Amanda says she doesn't need anything. This is bound to change as needs present themselves over the next few days and weeks. I don't know if Todd had life insurance or if a fund will be established, I will update when I find out.

Todd was a special person to me. I met him years ago in Tunica. Our careers sort of paralleled one another and as we both moved through card rooms over the years a phone call saying "Hey, I need a job/reference" wasn't uncommon. He always looked after me. He told me once that I was a true friend and one of the only people he'd never question hiring, that he understood what an asset I was to a poker room. His words validated me at a time when I really needed encouragement. 

When he worked at Goldstrike and I at Horseshoe (both of us grave shift supervisors), quite often we would meet at the bar at the strike and have a beer before both heading to our respective homes. Sometimes just us, sometimes with a dealer or two. Most often with a handful of co-workers, players and other locals. Here we would all vent about relationship woes and career hurdles. Todd would confide in me when facing tough times with his home life, how much he loved his wife and daughters. That even though he sometimes envied people like me (the perpetually single and "care free"), that he wouldn't trade his family for a minute of it. Over probably 150 of these meetings spanning several years, I remember one thing more clearly than any other: He would always say "yeah, but I can only have one (sometimes one more!), I have to get home to the wife". And he was happy to do so.

I remember how Todd scrambled to find employment when the card room at the Isle didn't work out. Never content to sit back and let his family suffer. I remember how happy he was to find a home at the Hard Rock here on the Gulf Coast.

I went in to see Todd a few weeks ago. It had been a couple years since we'd been face to face. The life of a traveling dealer had taken me away and time had slipped through our fingers. Texts and facebook kept us, as it does so many friendships, connected.
Steven and I had a two month old and we were out and about on our first baby-free night. I texted Todd to see if he was at work because I really wanted to introduce him to Steven. Todd said we could link up after the weekend, but I insisted on coming by right then. Always jovial, he was happy to see us.  He gave me a huge hug in the middle of the Hard Rock poker room. He looked at me for a long moment, then at Steven, and with genuine affection he said "If you'd told me, all those years ago, that you'd be here with a man you love and a new baby, I wouldn't have believed it. I'm so incredibly happy for you." I laughed it off and said something to he effect of "Gee Thanks!". I guess he'd imagined me turning out an old spinster with nine cats.

We chatted and discussed the fact that we were once again neighbors. Now that I was more in the "family" mode than the "drink, gamble, stay up all night" mode, he said we'd have to get our families together for a BBQ. He said his daughters would "love to get their hands on Carter". Because, you know, little girls love babies.

I tell myself that we were waiting for warmer weather, but I'm sitting here consumed with grief and tears knowing that we would have all been too busy. Knowing now that this was the last time I will ever talk to my warm and gracious friend, I'm ashamed of myself for not making more of a effort to BE a friend. I'm sad that I haven't been taking my own high blood pressure seriously enough, and that I didn't make an effort to commiserate with him over ways to be healthier.

Obviously, all of this, is selfish. I'm sad because I've lost someone who may have never really known how much I appreciated him. How many of those night during one beer and thirty minutes of conversation, I needed his friendship. How much I enjoyed him and his goofy personality. His terrible taste in 80's music. His bad jokes. His 5:00 AM grave shift text messages. I don't think either of us realized just how much I would miss him, now that he's gone.

Todd loved the beauty down here on the Gulf Coast. Always posting these photos with captions that read "Wow!" and "So lucky to see this every day!" It brings me peace to know he was happy down here.

I'm so sorry, Amanda. I'm sorry for your sweet daughters. They were literally the light of their daddy's eye. But you know that. I'm sorry for how alone you must feel right now. How angry and afraid. The world, at least my world and those around me, is significantly darker today as we mourn with you and your family. Thank you, so much, for sharing your husband with all of us. I hope time passes swiftly for you.


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A New Year - A New Blog? Well, Kinda...My absence, explained. A disclaimer.

Today is the first day of 2014.  
Countdown to 1: #100

Like everyone else, I have a few resolutions.

First though, I owe a bit of an explanation about my absence over the last year. I am in a wonderful relationship with a great man. We have a beautiful kid together. I'm happy with my home and job. Things are good. When Steven and I first started dating, I slowly began to collect and add his friends and family members to my social media outlets. You know how in the beginning of a relationship you want to start everything on the right foot?

You're looking at my whole world right there.

It was more than that. He has a family dynamic that goes beyond what most people consider "typical". His family is large and boisterous, loving and entangled. They get together often and when they can't they facebook and call, text or email. To say they're close is an understatement. A great number of them are also very Christian and very southern in values and ideals. I realized, especially as the "new girl", that I was being scrutinized. By at least a few of them. Why wouldn't I? I live with their child/nephew/sibling/cousin and we're starting a family together! We're not married and we have a kid. I'm covered in tattoos. I'm blunt and kinda..weird. I get it.

I tried.. but when I did offend, I had a good excuse!
This year, no excuses.

I sat down to write at least a dozen blogs last year and always stopped. Do you have any idea how hard it is to write ANYTHING without offending SOMEONE?!  Imagine opening your thoughts up to your entire extended family of sort-of-in-laws. Its a scary prospect. More so because I want them to like me and respect me. This isn't a scenario of "they should accept me the way I am!" but more one of me deliberately showing respect. For example: My mother and I are pretty frank with one another. She doesn't love movies full of gratuitous F words and graphic sexuality. If I'm watching one, and she's over, I give her a warning. She may or may not stick around to check it out. We watched the whole series of Nip/Tuck and Breaking Bad together. I would say my Mom falls between a stiff PG-13 and R most of the time. Never NC-17. Steven's Dad, on the other hand, will change the channel off network TV like Grey's Anatomy and The Simpsons. He has very strong opinions about contemporary media and secular society. He's a G rating kind of guy, with occasional light PG stuff thrown in from time to time. Just his preference. He watched part of a Family Guy recently and was genuinely disturbed about the state of our world (It was the episode where Stewey kills Lois.. in all fairness, a pretty graphic episode to start with!). Steven and I run a stiff R rated household. Pushing NC-17. We speak frankly, are not easily offended and watch a broad spectrum of entertainment. I've grown accustomed to changing television channels from Comedy Central and curtailing my otherwise colorful mouth when visiting with family. And don't mind doing so, one bit.

The problem though, is that at times being under the familial microscope is challenging to balance. I have always been a writer, I have always enjoyed blogging. I do not write an always-family-friendly blog. And while I can talk about home remedies, baby constipation and coupons with the best of 'em these days.. I need to be able to write freely here or not do it at all.

Going forward in 2014 it needs to be understood that this blog, and anything written here, is never meant to offend. If you are easily offended or especially sensitive, you probably shouldn't read. If you're looking for a reason to dislike me or find flaw in my personality; you'll get it on these pages. The biggest mistake people make with me is trying to "read between the lines". Don't. I'm not making innuendo or hinting at anything. I say what I mean, sometimes without thinking it through entirely first. If you can't let that roll off your back and still have affection for me, you should really not read anything I write here. Ever. This is my disclaimer for 2014. I'll come up with a condensed version for potentially offensive topics to come.

Onward to resolutions!

I like to think my resolutions actually hold a bit of water in the credibility department. Over the last four years I have met or exceeded every resolution I made, including quitting smoking and remaining a non-smoker (second only in difficulty to the standard weight loss resolutions).

I'd be happy with somewhere right in the middle.

This year I have a few. I've spent the last month preparing to begin living my resolutions.

1. I want to lose 80 pounds. This sound huge, I know. It really isn't. I still have 45 pounds of pregnancy weight to lose, and beyond that I'd like to be a bit under weight or rather, about 20 pounds under my "ideal". Steven and I would like to try to have another baby in 2015 and I want the weight gain to be more tolerable on both my heart and brain. (The only exception to this resolution would be in the event of another birth-control mishap. But we're hoping to avoid that!).

In order to prepare for this goal I have purchased the supplements I like to use (Not weight loss supplements per se.. more like vitamin B12 and bulk fiber additives, etc). I have new walking shoes. I bought a scale (something I haven't owed in years). I prepare 60% of my meals at home anyway but would like to bring this to about 90%.

I'm not going to be a fruit loop about food.. I'm just going to focus on adding activity and cutting back, not making myself crazy with limitations. I'm using the LOSEIT! App, (It's free). If you'd like to use the same app to reach your goals, message me and I'll add you as a friend.. we can work out together. Sort of. :)

Aside from feeling better and prettier, I am trying to reduce my high blood pressure naturally and reduce my risk of diabetes later in life (I had gestational diabetes which makes me very likely to develop it otherwise).

2. I will write 100 blog posts in 2014. This is right around 2 a week. This will be about 97 more than I wrote in 2013. ;) This one counts. Only 99 to go! :)

3. I will continue to not smoke, remaining smoke free in 2014. (Sometimes, its a struggle still!).

Feel free to share your new years resolutions so I may cheer you on as well. :)

On another note:

Steven and I are all set to deal at the Beau Rivage at the Million Dollar Heater starting Jan. 3rd. There are two $500,000 guarantees and I think the turn out will be excellent. I'm looking forward to seeing  some familiar faces. Get information on the event at

Next Blog will talk about an upcoming poker cruise to Belize (Oct. 2014) we're looking at doing, and an update on the little girl so many of you helped me sponsor for Christmas.