Saturday, November 5, 2011

Planning My Future Church Basement Monologue

So the Shooter Family has some actual vacation time coming. Amazing, right? Not a lot; just the week between Christmas and New Year's, which is when we normally have off. We also normally do the lame "staycation" thing, since the kids aren't really old/tolerable enough to put on the plane for extended stays of boredom, and I suffer from crippling social anxiety over being That Guy in public -- i.e., the guy with the family that's melting down and/or can't hold their fudge. So our trips have mostly been car ones, not very long due to the constant grind of the job, and besides, money's never been a strength. But anyway, you have your own problems, and came for the funny, or at least, something not so whiny.

As the type A weirdo that I am, it's time to do the research... and that consists of a dollar amount and travel time for all of our various options. I wind up with 10 different places for us to go, ranging from New England ski resorts to Canadian cities, historic locations and two warm-weather plane rides. Each location is scouted out for maximum hotel luxury, and the longest that we're going to drive in any direction is 12 hours from our mid-Jersey base.

I present the findings, and ask each member of the family to give me their three favorites, and their one least favorite. Excluding the near random picks of the youngest, we get down to a few options... and it becomes obvious that the females in my life like their comfort, and also the idea that less money on the travel and hotel means more money in the hands.

So we're going to Atlantic City, and we're going to stay in a 4-star casino hotel with poker room, since the mid-week days are going to come cheap, and people have been deserting AC in droves for decades, but especially now that casinos are popping up like Chinese takeout places in post-employment America.

This does not fill me with the level of joy that you might think it should, since being That Guy In Public also extends to being That Sad Guy In A Casino With His Tragic Family...

"C'mon, Dad," says the eldest. "You don't *have* to play, you know."

Of course I don't *have* to. And in the two recent vacation trips where I found myself within walking distance of a game, I went and played for a time limit and left, and in both cases, felt no overwhelming need to overstay my welcome. But there's just this sense of Luxury Evil, of pampering in vice, of not being entirely right in my integrity to give the kids the sense that casinos are family fun pleasure centers, no matter how much said corporation wants to paint it as such.

"We trust you," says the Shooter Wife. "You know your limits and are disciplined. Besides, you've been playing for years now, and haven't gotten into any trouble. Get over yourself."

Oh, sure, like *that's* going to happen. As if I'm just going to gamble to my small sad little roll, lose it and be over the need to win it back. Or, worse yet, like I'll cash in a tournament, pick up some scratch in a cash game, then just get out while the getting is good and *not* kick myself for being a scared little nit when there was blood in the water that wasn't mine. After all, it's a vacation. Shouldn't the kids' memories of it be not seeing their dad for much of it, either for good or ill?

And like I don't wonder, every time I sit down at a casino or throw intelligence to the winds in the pursuit of football pick parley madness, if I'm going to wind up squeezing one of these coins in one hand, with a weak cup of coffee in the other, waiting for my turn to share. "My family was so wrapped up in my gambling, they voted to spend Christmas vacation in Atlantic City at a casino. We could have gone to Stowe or Lake Placid or Orlando. Instead, they chose AC."

Then, thirty minutes later in the parking lot, "I host a mid-stakes game at my place every third Friday night. You want me to save you a seat?"

And I know, of course, that this is all just my desire to have stand-up material despite the fact that I don't do that anymore, or to paint little scenes in my mind for the fifth book that's been in the back of my mind for the better part of a decade now, or the overwritten screenplay that every novelist has peeking out from his or her subconscious when they dream. Or that it's what the weak mind goes to at the table instead of calculating odds, remembering past hands, looking for tells or all of the other things that actually good poker players are doing.

It's just self-tilt and story, invented drama, ghost stories around the campfire of my own head.

Either that, or a conscience, a cry for help, a way to fill the bloghole when the NBA's gone and MLB's over and the NFL's 36 hours from relevance.

Oh, and I'm going to a casino with friends tomorrow night to play in a big tournament, and will make my usual dumb parley bets while there, since we're going the extra miles to Delaware. Jersey votes on Tuesday to allow sportsbooks, by the way. I can even make this an earth-friendly thing for you, since it will mean less highway miles and oil burned. Go vote, so I can add to the drama in my internal movie on my Christmas trip, will you?

And in the final final final analysis, at least for today... it's 3:30am and I'm still working this vein. A work ethic isn't always a good thing, folks. (Wouldn't it be nice/perfect/great reading if I win this tournament tomorrow? I'm due. For many, many things...)

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