Circle of Life

It was bedtime, and I was trying to get Hawk into his jammies.

“Hawkie, would you hand me that night time diaper right next to you?” It was literally an inch from his right hand.

“Daddy, it’s my birthday so I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to.”

I told him that if he wanted to have another birthday, he’d hand me the diaper.

And so ended an emotional 24 hours for yours truly.

Friday the 13th was both my son’s fourth birthday and also the day of the memorial service for my Aunt Shirley.

Technically, she was my mom’s aunt, but we’ve always called her Aunt Shirley. The Christmas card they sent our family was always inscribed, “Love, A. Shirley and U. Forrest,” as if Aunt and Uncle were their actual first names.

She was my grandma’s sister. My grandma died when I was six years old. Nothing could replace her, but Shirley certainly reminded me of my Nanny in many ways. They definitely looked alike, with those distinctive Kurz features that were also passed down to my mother. They cooked many of the same recipes, things that are still Thanksgiving staples in our house. The meatloaf was my favorite entree and the pea salad my favorite Thanksgiving side.

They both had a fondness for Wheel of Fortune. Back when I was little, Channel 9 in Oklahoma City used to have a phone number you could call when you knew the answer to every puzzle. When that show aired every evening (5:30 p.m.? Can’t remember for sure) Nanny was in her chair in front of that TV religiously, and she was picking up the phone and calling as soon as she knew the answer to every puzzle. I don’t think she ever got through and won the prize, it was probably rigged anyway. I don’t know whether Shirley used to call the hotline or not but I know she was a big fan of the show.

My favorite shared attribute of theirs is their sense of humor. They both had a very dry sense of humor which was passed down to my mother and to me.

Just a few months ago, my mom had hip replacement surgery at McBride up in north Oklahoma City, close to Shirley’s house. I stopped by and visited. She seemed to be doing great. I know she has had some physical problems but mentally she was very sharp, especially for someone just half a year away from turning 90. But only a month or two after that, she found out she had an advanced cancer and decided against treatment.

I have to stop here and praise my mom. She visited Shirley every single day, sometimes making two trips per day. She was up there for several hours at a time and it wasn’t good her hip to be sitting in uncomfortable chairs for that long. But she never complained about it. Between mom and Shirley’s daughter, they provided constant companionship during those hard final weeks.

Her service was on Friday, and there were several moving moments. Two of my cousins (technically second cousins) shared their thoughts, which made the connection between Shirley, my grandmother and my family seem even more real. Also, my brother used his immense musical talents to sing “How Great Thou Art,” which was very touching.

We held off on Hawk’s fourth birthday party until the next day, and it was a lot of fun. He wanted to go to Chuck E. Cheese, so we let the kids play all the games they wanted for an hour before coming back home and eating pizza and Missy’s delicious birthday cake.

Maddux (in the mismatched blue pants and orange shirt) and Myra (purple dress) enjoyed dancing with Chuck E. more than Hawk (standing to the left of Myra), who quickly exited the stage.
Hawk was much more into this game.
Missy’s half chocolate, half vanilla cake was great as usual.

I looked back at some old pictures from when Hawk was a baby, and it seems kind of crazy that we don’t have any babies anymore. We’ve always had a baby! At least one! Hawk is smart and mature enough to be in pre-K already but Missy and I are glad to have him around the house all day for another year.

I loved watching him and the other kids play games and have so much fun at the party. At night, trapped in my own thoughts, it was depressing to think about how fast life happens and how quickly it vanishes. But there’s nothing I can do about any of that, except try to make the most of each day and enjoy the time I do have with the amazing people I get to call my family and friends.

Boycott Football?

It’s a hard time in history to try to enjoy anything.

You’re not allowed to make fun of anyone, and you’re not allowed to watch anything written, acted, produced or directed by anyone who has sinned. A recent study found that two in three Americans have been Me-too’ed.

I can’t even make the above statement without adding a disclaimer that sexually harassing people is totally not OK.

I recently watched the latest Dave Chappelle special on Netflix. I loved it, mainly because he goes out of his way to make every single viewer feel uncomfortable at least a few times. In doing so, he exposes the hypocrisy of the entire present-day culture, where you’re allowed to be as mean as you want to people you philosophically disagree with but can’t say anything to anyone else. Chappelle just scorches everyone.

While I wholeheartedly approve of everyone taking themselves a lot less seriously, I am having a bit of a personal crisis over the great game of football.

The other day there was a great story in The Oklahoman about Rickey Dixon. Dixon was a national champion and All-American at OU before playing several seasons in the NFL. But because of football, he now has ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). He’s only 52 years old but his quality of life has steadily been declining for the six years since he was diagnosed and it seems he doesn’t have much time left.

It’s not an isolated case. In the past 15 years or so the long-term toll of football has become more and more evident. We’ve learned a lot about CTE and the brain damage caused by football, which leads to ALS, dementia, migraines, severe personality changes, and other side effects that can best be described as no bueno.

If every single football player had these symptoms, nobody with a conscious would watch football. But of course that’s not how it is. Many ex-players are fine. And football is undoubtedly safer than it’s ever been before, although it will take several more decades before the current generation of football players is old enough to examine what kind of difference better helmets, less hitting in practice, and stricter penalties are having.

Where do we draw the line? If we can all agree that we shouldn’t watch football if 100% of players are facing ALS or early-onset dementia, where is the tipping point? 50%? 25%? 10%? 5%? 1%? Does it make a difference if the players with these bad outcomes made life-changing money because of football? Should I boycott college football but not the NFL?

Prominent author Malcolm Gladwell is among those leading the charge to boycott playing or watching football. I have a couple of friends who have decided to join him.

Personally, I find it much harder to watch football games that don’t involve OU or the Philadelphia Eagles. No matter who is playing, I hate seeing guys laying on the ground writhing in pain. Nowadays it’s enough for me to turn the channel if it’s not one of my teams.

Nevertheless, I enjoy watching my teams play now as much as I ever did. I’m sure that’s partly because both of my teams have been really good lately and entertaining to watch. OU is winning Heismans and breaking offensive records like nobody’s business. The Eagles have won a Super Bowl and the “double doink” game in the past two seasons. But there’s also a nostalgia involved. I can’t imagine a day when football is completely canceled and Missy and I are walking on the OU campus on a Saturday and looking at six-foot weeds growing on Owen Field, nary a soul in sight. Football is such an integral part of the experience of attending that school.

Football is also an integral part of the American Sunday experience. My dad didn’t even have a favorite NFL team, but every Sunday after church he parked on the couch and we watched whatever game was on TV (unfortunately this always involved the evil Dallas Cowboys). Now that I’m the dad, I love killing a Sunday afternoon by parking in my big recliner and watching the Eagles or the Red Zone channel.

I’ve never been a fan of boxing or the UFC, simply because those sports seem barbaric to me. The whole goal is to hurt a fellow human being. It’s not that far removed from a time when people crammed into the Colosseum to watch lions rip apart slaves or prisoners. At least in football, the goal is move the football into the end zone. People getting hurt is merely a byproduct of that, not the actual goal. Still, I’ve seen a handful of boxing/UFC pay-per-views with my friends, purely for the social aspect of it. Is that wrong?

My dad was ahead of the curve when it came to football parenting. He wouldn’t let me play, specifically because of the long-term health risks. Even before I had two boys, I’ve said they won’t play football. There are lots of other sports out there that won’t scramble their brains, and of course the overwhelming majority of football players will never even get a college scholarship from the game, much less a lucrative NFL career. Is it OK for me to watch a game I won’t let my sons participate in because it’s unsafe?

Yes, I understand the whole “there’s risk in everything” argument. I accept the risk of my son tearing his ACL playing basketball because that can be fixed with little-to-zero long-term effects. I accept the risk of dying in car accident or being gunned down by a madman in public because you can’t live life being scared of everything that could possibly go wrong.

Football has always been in third place on my list of favorite sports. I would say the CTE revelations have widened the gap between football and my top two sports, but I still can’t get there as far as boycotting it completely.

To me, football carries too great a risk to allow my sons to play. And yet I still feel OK about watching other people play for my entertainment.

Is that hypocritical? I really don’t know. For better or worse, that’s just where I am with it right now.

Books

Congratulations.

If you clicked on this link and have not moved on by this point, it’s safe to say you’ll read anything I write. I mean, “Books”??? How boring is that?

The inspiration for this post actually came from the biggest sports news of the week. Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck abruptly retired from the NFL. I was reading a story about Luck, and it quoted an NFL executive who said that during the pre-draft process before Luck was chosen as the #1 overall pick, teams interviewing him asked for his favorite hobby. His answer was reading books, and the executive in the story said that was the first and last time in his three decades in the business that a player had given that as his answer.

Books certainly wouldn’t be at the very top of my list of hobbies, but it would be pretty darn close. I’d probably list pickup basketball number one, followed by bridge. The bronze medal would go to watching baseball but books would be a top-five finisher for sure.

Mom says I was constantly wanting books read to me as a child. I seem to have passed that trait onto my own kids, particularly Maddux. As far as reading them myself, the first type I latched onto was the kids’ mystery novels. Like Nancy Drew and such.

By the time I got into junior high, my sports fandom was starting to seep into my book choices. I would go to Southern Oaks library off Walker in South Oklahoma City and head straight for the nonfiction sports section. Once there, I almost exclusively read baseball autobiographies. I still remember factoids from Rickey Henderson’s, Kirby Puckett’s (hasn’t aged as well), Dave Dravecky’s, Orel Hershiser’s and of course Ryne Sandberg’s. In 2019 I now find these to be the lowest form of sports nonfiction, since the athletes themselves do none of the writing and the stories are all whitewashed to make them look infallible. But 13-year-old me didn’t know that and found these books very informative and entertaining. I also have to say that, based on Spike Seals’ recommendation, I read Andre Agassi’s autobiography a few years back and was very impressed. It’s probably the best sports autobiography I’ve ever read despite the fact that he pretends he only did meth three times. Nobody does meth three times. The only three options are never, once, or too many to count. But despite that flaw it’s a great book and one I would definitely recommend.

In college, most of my reading was forced upon me by professors. I still got my Sports Illustrated and went through that every week but that was the extent of my leisure reading. Perhaps because of being flooded with non-fiction books during the school year, I went through a phase during summers in college where I read almost exclusively fiction. This was back when John Grisham was on top of the world, and I gobbled up several of his books until figuring out that they’re all essentially the same. I also read many James Patterson thrillers until figuring out that they’re all essentially the same. In hindsight, that’s probably the reason I’ve mostly stayed away from fiction in the 16 years since then.

Once I moved to Lawton, I got back into the nonfiction universe, but still stuck mostly to sports. My favorite book of that era by far was Moneyball, by Michael Lewis. In Lawton, these were the types of books I gravitated toward. Still in the realm of sports but not autobiographies. I reviewed a few books for the Constitution and enjoyed doing that. I also picked up my poker habit down there and read several poker strategy books, most of which I would now laugh at. I definitely learned a lot from Doyle Brunson’s Super System 2, which somebody bought me. I believe it was my lovely bride-to-be Missy.

In general, I’m opposed to owning books. I can’t explain it any better than Jerry Seinfeld, so I’ll let his bit stand for me on this topic. In the case of Super System it actually helped to have the copy around so I could review the sections each time I tried a new form of poker (like Omaha hi/low). Every form of poker not named Texas hold em was new to me at that time it so actually made sense to keep that one handy.

But other than that, I prefer to just check them out at the library and return them when I’m finished. It’s free and I don’t have a worthless object on my hands that I’ll never read again once I’m finished. I’ve tried reading a few books on Kindle or on my phone but it doesn’t take long before my eyes start hurting. I also just like the feel of a book in my hands better than an electronic device.

Now that we are back in Oklahoma City, I usually go to the very same library I grew up in, Southern Oaks. Sometimes I’ll go to the Pioneer Library, which is equidistant to that from our house but has a smaller selection. My tastes have evolved somewhat over the last several years. Sports books only make up about one-third of my catalog now. The two best ones I’ve recently read in that category are Jane Leavy’s biography of Sandy Koufax and Jay Jaffe’s breakdown of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Usually, however, I gravitate toward history books. Missy makes fun of just about every book I bring home. I’ve recently read about the War of the Roses (in England several centuries ago), the Osage murders in the Tulsa area about 100 years ago, and the United States’ miscommunication with and mishandling of both Native Americans and Mexicans when we were expanding westward.

Occasionally I’ll grab something theological. I really love Francis Chan, and Rob Bell’s book on the Bible was great.

A new (to me) genre that I’ve been more and more into lately is the memoir. I try to find memoirs not of famous people but of seemingly normal folks. In a sense that’s what I’ve tried to write with this blog, a memoir written in one chapter per week, bouncing all over the place. I’m too intimidated by the thought of putting it all together into one huge thing that actually makes sense, so this is my compromise.

Currently I’m reading a book that combines three things I enjoy: memoirs, history and journalism.

The book I’m currently reading. Shout out to Ryan Chittum for being on my bookmark from the 100th anniversary celebration of the OU newspaper.

My next book will also be a memoir, and from my all-time favorite author.

Back when I first subscribed to Sports Illustrated as a teenager, Rick Reilly was the king of the sportswriting universe. He got the back page of the magazine every week to write whatever he wanted, and he was brilliant. I loved him (and have read a couple of his fiction books) but I was especially impressed by the wordplay of Steve Rushin. He’s a genius when it comes to puns, plays on words, alliteration, palindromes, and all that jazz.

He’s written several books since leaving the magazine and they are all amazing. After a great fiction book and a couple of nonfiction books he dove into the memoir game with Sting Ray Afternoons. I loved it despite the fact that it covers the 1970s, of which I lived a through a mere 50 days. His follow up to that covers the 80s, which I most definitely lived through. Nights in White Castle just came out and I’m very much looking forward to it.

If you made it to the end of this post, I love you. I’d also love to hear any book recommendations you might have, either through the comments section here or on Facebook. Thanks in advance!

Chicago 2019

Four years is too long to stay away from your favorite place on earth, and 30 hours isn’t nearly enough time to spend there. But I had a great time and packed about as much as possible into my quick trip to Chicago this week.

I had been talking to my friend Randy, an equally avid Cubs fan, about going for years, but with seven kids between us it’s hard to find the time. About a month ago, we were playing poker and Randy says, “We just need to make this happen. Talk to Missy, figure out what dates work and we’ll go.”

If I were to go, it needed to be before September when Missy’s teaching gig at OU starts back up, and the Cubs were on the road for 10 straight games in mid-August, so we didn’t have a lot of options. I suggested going Wednesday, attending the game that night and the game the next afternoon, then coming home Friday. But Randy needed to be back Thursday night so we settled on the super quick trip.

Wednesday was a long day. It started at 5 a.m. when we headed to the airport for our 6 a.m. flight. I usually don’t wake up quite that early. But it allowed us to be in Chicago before noon, so we had time for a quick nap before the game. Randy’s daughter lives in Chicago and found a perfect hotel for us in an area of the city I hadn’t stayed in before. One of my favorite things about Chicago is walking through the neighborhoods, so after resting for a couple of hours that’s what we did. We were near the Lincoln Zoo which was a cool neighborhood only about 10 minutes from Wrigleyville.

We ate a late lunch at a sports pub in the neighborhood. Can’t say it was one of the better meals I’ve ever had but the White Sox were playing a day game and we got to see the end of that, so it was a good way to get integrated into the city and the baseball vibe. Then we headed to Wrigleyville, arriving about two-and-a-half hours before the 7 p.m. start.

Randy and I in front of the famous Wrigley Field marquee.

The last time I had been to Chicago was in 2015, which was a year before the greatest World Series ever played. The Cubs were in the middle of their Wrigley Field renovations then, so I got to see the new giant scoreboards but not the completely redone area around the ballfield. It was bizarre, seeing a stadium I’ve been to about 10 times surrounded by strangely new buildings and attractions, with several of the old merchandise shops and bars like Murphy’s Bleachers sprinkled in and still looking exactly the same as they always have.

We hit a home run on the weather, if you’ll pardon the pun. It was about 80 degrees with a cool breeze coming in off the lake. It actually rained for about 15 minutes before the start of Wednesday’s game while we were sampling a couple of Chicago’s finest beers at the Big Star next to the stadium. The perfect weather continued a streak for me on my short baseball trips the last few years. Chad and I had magnificent weather in Minneapolis, Denver and Phoenix the last three years, and this was just as good. It felt amazing to get out of the sweltering Oklahoma heat.

We were planning on buying tickets from the scalpers in front of the stadium but there weren’t many of those to be found. The scalpers were all yelling at people trying to buy tickets, so we figured we’d have better luck online. At Rizzo’s Bar and Inn, while drinking a Next Coast IPA from Chicago’s own Goose Island brewery, we found the seats we wanted to buy. Randy ordered them on his phone, then received a text from his bank to check whether this was a fraudulent purchase. The text said to reply “YES” if this was a legitimate purchase or “NO” if it was not. Despite being one of the smartest people I know, Randy managed to fail this 50/50 test. (And we had only had a couple beers, I promise!) So he had to deal with that headache before getting it sorted out and getting our tickets.

Our seats were great, on the lower level down the first base line. And it was quite a game we got to see. The only other MLB game I’ve been to this season was the first weekend of the year, when James and I went to Arlington to watch the Cubs against the Texas Rangers. Texas won that game 11-10, and for awhile it looked like the Giants were going to beat the Cubs 11-10 on Wednesday night too. That was the score in the bottom of the eighth inning when Kris Bryant played the hero to give the Cubs the lead. Craig Kimbrel closed it out in the ninth and the Cubs won 12-11.

Our view for Wednesday night’s 12-11 victory over the Giants.

After the game, which lasted about three and a half hours, I was pretty well exhausted. But getting to bed wasn’t quite the emergency our taxi driver seemed to think it was. This guy put New York City cabbies to shame. Randy thinks he might have hit 100 mph on Clark Street at one point. By the time he slammed on the brakes directly in front of our hotel, I was about ready to throw up.

On Thursday, the Cubs had a 1:20 p.m. game and our flight was scheduled to leave Midway at 5:30 p.m. We decided to go back to Wrigleyville and watch from one of the bars there until we needed to leave for the airport. We asked multiple people how long it would take to get from there to Midway and everyone said an hour. So we figured we could hang out until 3:30 p.m. and still make it an hour before our flight.

Despite the perfect weather and the fact that the Cubs had just moved back into first place the night before, the old-school scalpers were out in force on Thursday hawking tickets. We weren’t planning on attending the game, especially since we’d have to leave early, but figured it couldn’t hurt to see if the scalpers would give us a good deal. Although the negotiating process was predictably annoying, we did manage to score tickets for less than face value.

Our view for Thursday’s game. The Cubs won 1-0 behind a gem from my favorite Cubs pitcher, Kyle Hendricks (below).

We sat in right field, under the second deck, which was perfect because we would have gotten sunburned in the bleachers. Again, the weather was perfect. I have to confess that Chicago style pizza isn’t my favorite thing, but I felt like I had to get a mini Giordano’s and a beer while I watched this one. It was blissful.

Giordano’s + pale ale + baseball = magic.

If the game progressed at normal pace, we would get to watch about six innings before needing to leave for the airport. But this game went very quickly as both pitchers threw gems. The Cubs scored a run in the fourth thanks to a routine fly ball that was lost in the sun. With both teams putting zeroes onto the scoreboard, our 3:30 p.m. deadline didn’t arrive until the bottom of the eighth inning, with the Cubs clinging to that 1-0 lead.

The Cubs closed out the 1-0 victory as Randy and I were on our way to the airport. That routine fly ball which fell for a hit and the subsequent Anthony Rizzo RBI single were the Cubs’ only hits the entire game, making it just the fifth game since 1990 that the Cubs have won with two hits or less. And it was quite the departure from Wednesday night’s game, when the Cubs needed every one of 14 hits to eek out a victory. Things like that are what make baseball so fun.

Our Uber driver on Thursday was the polar opposite of the insane guy we had Wednesday night. He was very safe and in no hurry, which turned out to be a bit unfortunate since we mistimed our trip to the airport. With traffic, it took a full 90 minutes, which meant we arrived at Midway at 5 p.m. for a 5:30 p.m. flight. We were getting a little stressed but got lucky that there was virtually no line at security. We walked up to the gate as our boarding group was getting on the plane.

It was great to see my family again when we got back. The whole trip kind of felt like a dream since it was so quick. And I did a lot of dreaming last night, when I passed out and slept like a baby to make up for a little of the deprivation I had accrued over the previous two days.

See you soon, Chicago. Hopefully in less than four years.

Anniversary Surprise :/

August 12, 2006 is a day I’ll never forget for the best of reasons. Eventually I’ll write a whole post on that singular day but for now I’ll just mention that it was my wedding day.

August 12, 2019 is a day I’ll probably never forget, for less impressive reasons. I was getting my car window replaced after someone smashed into it and stole our stuff on our anniversary date.

When it comes to our anniversary, Missy and I have a strict routine. We get a hotel here in Oklahoma City, eat at the same restaurant and go to the same bar every year. (A big thank you to Missy’s family for coming down to watch the kids to make this happen).

We start our date the same way every year. We check into the hotel and Missy takes a nap while I go to the hotel pool and alternate between actual swimming (5%) and sitting by the pool reading a book and drinking beer (95%). We have stayed at a few different hotels over the years but the only requirements are a pool and a bar, for the aforementioned reasons. This year we stayed at the Holiday Inn right off I-35 near downtown. Part 1 of our date was a success.

Before our fancy dinner, we decided to run to Wal Mart so Missy could buy a few back-to-school clothes and a couple of presents for the kids. I dropped Missy off at the door, then went across the street and treated myself to a cherry vanilla coke from Sonic. She was only in there for about 15 minutes and then I picked her up at the front door and we headed back to the hotel to get ready for our dinner.

When we were engaged, Missy went to a bridal fair and entered some drawings. She won a $100 gift card to Boulevard Steakhouse in Edmond. That restaurant has made quite an impressive return on that investment despite the fact that we only eat there once a year. We used the gift card on our first anniversary and have gone back every year since for that specific date. If you’ve eaten at Boulevard before (or just glance at the menu in the picture below) you know this means they’ve gotten a couple thousand dollars from us over the years.

Boulevard Steakhouse gave us a coupon and some fresh rose petals
Missy is just as beautiful as she was the day I married her!

Our dinner was great, like it always is. Missy always gets the same thing, filet tips with wild mushrooms. I get a different steak every year but this time settled on some tenderloin medallions with mashed potatoes and asparagus. Part 2 of our date was a success.

After dinner we always go to Junior’s on Northwest Expressway. It’s a throwback to another era. The average customer is about 75 years old, almost everybody in there is smoking, and there’s a live band playing the classics. It has a “Cheers” feel to it; everybody seems to know everybody. Missy discovered it before we were married and like Boulevard we only make it there once a year. The same two main bartenders are still there and they remember us despite our infrequent appearances. We have a couple drinks and do a lot of people watching while I smoke an anniversary cigar. Part 3 of our date was a success.

Part 4 of our date was a success.

Part 5 of our date simply involved driving home the next day, and that was less of a success. We woke up to find our car had been broken into at the hotel parking lot. They smashed in the rear door window on the driver’s side and took our Wal Mart sacks, as well as everything in the center console. Like I said, the Wal Mart sacks contained kids’ clothes and presents (a Nerf gun being the highlight, nothing technological). Missy remembers the total cost being $143 but probably roughly $0 in value to the looters. In the center console they took two pairs of Missy’s prescription sunglasses. Cost us about $350 total but again, roughly $0 in value to the looters. They did get a few pens and a tire pressure gauge. Treat them well, bastards.

It appears that the robber or robbers got a couple other cars in the same lot. We filed a police report and they had some surveillance footage from the parking lot so hopefully justice is served but of course that’s unlikely.

How our car looked in the parking lot of the Holiday Inn off I-35 near downtown OKC.
Glass all over the car seat. Got a few knicks cleaning it up that afternoon.

Ultimately, the whole thing was just an inconvenience. Jim Gray Auto Glass came out the next day and replaced the window at our house for a great price (less than half of what Safelite was going to charge us). I would highly recommend him. We had to replace the Wal Mart purchases and will have to replace Missy’s sunglasses but at least nothing of real value (sentimental or monetary) was taken. And while it might not have been the best anniversary date we’ve ever had, it was probably the most memorable.

Favorite Westbrook story

After last weekend’s tragedies, I was planning to write about guns and my opinions on gun rights this week.

But I tell ya what, it’s a hard time to try to share an opinion in America. I understand that none of you care what I think on that topic, but it’s really sad that you can’t even have a discussion on anything semi-political without the immediate butwhatabouts or youdrankthekoolaids. Why can’t we have a conversation (or even a disagreement) without it immediately turning into name calling or ridiculous statements that end the dialogue? Yes, there is more to the issue than just the guns. Obviously, but does that mean we can’t also talk about the guns? Yes, Trump does some stupid stuff. Obviously, but does that mean every single issue is 100% his fault? It’s incredibly frustrating, especially for someone who doesn’t identify with either major party.

Eventually I might decide to weigh in on this topic anyway, since it’s my blog and you are under a court order to read it every week. But for now I thought it a good time to revisit my favorite Russell Westbrook poker story, since it’s highly possible I will never play with him again. Even though this happened more than four years ago, it still gets referenced every once in awhile. In fact, just last week Chad mentioned being worried about making the same mistake I did that night.

I’m also going to include the cracked windshield story that appeared in my original blog post about it, because I had completely forgotten about that part of the story and it still made me laugh today.

——

Once upon a time I had a cracked windshield.

To fix that problem, I called Safelite, which has a catchy commercial jingle that is obviously way more important than actual competence. They were nice on the phone and I scheduled the windshield replacement for Thursday, July 9, at 1 p.m.
However, on July 3 Missy’s sister Terri went into labor a tish early, and Missy already had planned to fly up to New Jersey to spend some time with her. So Missy moved her flight up to spend the week with Terri, leaving me home alone with the kid and needing to reschedule the windshield appointment. No problem, I call Safelite and they give me several other times, including 1 p.m. on July 16, exactly a week after the original appointment. That seemed pretty convenient so I booked it.
Everything went great with Missy gone. The kids had McDonald’s and Mountain Dew every day and went to bed at midnight. On Wednesday I’m waking up to get the kids around when my phone rings. It’s Safelite calling to confirm my appointment for the next day, July 9. I tell the guy that I have already rescheduled that appointment for July 16. He doesn’t say a word, just lets out the most exasperated deep and audible sigh that I have ever heard in my life. I hear some computer keys clicking and another one of these sighs, which are similar to the ones I have when I look across the room and see Maddux dumping a cup of milk all over the couch but know it’s too late to do anything to stop it.
I’m just sitting there listening to these click-sighs for about 30 seconds before he says, “We don’t have an opening on July 16.” I tell him I already talked to someone several days ago and it should be booked. He starts in on another round of clicking and sighing, sounding just like I sound when I look across the room and see Myra coloring directly on the kitchen table but know it’s too late to do anything about it. Finally he says, “Nope, we’re all booked up on the 16th, and your name’s not on here.”
Then he mumbles something about, “Let me check here…” and starts the clicking and typing. After about a minute of that I finally say, “It’s fine, we can do it another day. It doesn’t have to be the 16th. But I can’t do it tomorrow so just tell me what you do have open and we will reschedule this.”
Now he takes it up a notch, with the loudest sigh in the history of the universe, even louder than the time I walked into Addie’s play room and saw that she had taken the real maple syrup from our pantry and dumped the whole thing all over her play kitchen. He keeps clicking and sighing and doesn’t say anything at all, so finally I say, “Look dude I’m sorry but I have to get my kids up and around. Just call me back later and we can reschedule the thing, I’m pretty flexible.”
After a few more clicks and sighs, he says, “We can do July 20 at 4 p.m.” I have no idea what day of the week July 20 is or what we might have going on but I say, “That’s perfect,” and get off the phone.
The next day I wake up to see I have a missed call from Safelite. (Who calls people at 7 a.m.?) and a voicemail that says they have a question for me. So I call back and talk to a young lady who says, “We were just calling to let you know we have an opening next week if you want to bring you car in.” I ask when it is and she says…(drumroll please)….July 16th, at 1 p.m. I inform her that I briefly held that exact appointment time but was booted out of it by a guy who was sighing like I do every time my kids fight over a free Happy Meal toy when they have hundreds of dollars worth of better toys in their rooms. She didn’t seem too interested in my story and got off the phone with me as fast as I did with the Sigh Guy.

P.S. my windshield did in fact get fixed that day, and since then I now have one additional child. Hawk makes me sigh like the Safelite guy when he sneaks into the pantry and I find 12 empty candy wrappers and a huge smile on his face.

——

What does that story have to do with Russell Westbrook? Well, the reason I need a new windshield is because I was texting and driving in a parking lot and ran right over him. Smacked his head right on my windshield and broke it. He’ll probably never play basketball again. Gotcha! That didn’t really happen.

But I really did get the Russell Westbrook stink face and live to tell about it. While Missy was gone, my mom agreed to come watch the kids one day so I could play poker. It just so happened that Russell Westbrook was in the mood to play poker that day and it just so happened that I ended up playing at his table. I’ve gotten to play with RWB maybe 10 or 12 times over the years, and he’s a cool enough guy to be around. He’ll answer questions about where his favorite places to travel are or what his opinion is of infamous referee Joey Crawford. About the only thing he won’t do is take a picture with you, and I can respect that. He makes it pretty clear that he doesn’t want his picture taken in the casino. Westbrook is my mom’s favorite player, so since she was watching my kids I texted her and told her that I was playing poker with her favorite basketball player. The first thing she says is, “take a picture and send it to me.” I said no, he doesn’t like his picture taken. She says, “Just tell him it’s for your dear old mother and he is her favorite player in the world.”

I didn’t want to get into a back-and-forth with her about it so I figured I’d just sneak a quick picture when he wasn’t looking and send it to her. He was only two seats away from me so I had to be in stealth mode but at the same time it wouldn’t look totally awkward like it would if I was on the other end of the table and trying to lean around to point my phone at him. I made sure my phone was on silent so it wouldn’t make a loud clicking sound and then I snapped the thing. What I didn’t realize was that for the first time in 5 years of owning this phone I somehow had the flash on and it was pretty daggone bright and directly in his eyes.

As soon as I saw the flash I jerked the phone down and pretended to type on the phone as if I was texting someone and the flash just accidentally went off and/or had nothing to do with me taking a picture of Russell Westbrook. I saw his head snap over in my direction and he was giving me pretty much the exact same look he is giving in this gif.

I felt like the biggest idiot in the world and just kept my head down pretending to type. I may have soiled myself.┬áLuckily, I’ve played with RWB enough that he knows me and likes me. Regardless, he didn’t say anything (and I’ve heard him call out other people for picture snapping at the table) and we interacted normally the rest of the night. I never mentioned my mom or admitted to anything. I just wanted it to go away. I went ahead and sent the picture to my mom. Ironically, the picture is quite blurry because I jerked the phone down as soon as the flash started going off. She texted back and said the pic was too blurry and I needed to take another one. I said there’s no way I’m pointing my phone in his direction the rest of the night. And I didn’t.

P.S. I played with Russ several times after this and he obviously didn’t care about it. In fact, he liked when I had the mohawk haircut, especially when I told him I did it in honor of naming my youngest son Hawk. We got to talking about our kids and he would always ask me how they were doing as soon as he sat down at the poker table. I’ll be rooting for him in Houston.

Pee and Poop

In the last blog, I discussed my personal policy on panhandlers.

What I didn’t include in that post was my dealings with poker players who ask to borrow money. They are the casino cousins of the street version, with the difference being that the street people who have never played in their lives are probably better at poker.

Because you generally play with the same people all the time, you develop a familiarity and in many cases a friendship with these players. Thus it’s not uncommon to see people passing money back and forth like it’s the guac at a football party.

When I first started playing recreationally, I’d hear stories from the 70s about poker loans that reached five or six figures, and they were told with a level of nonchalance that was shocking to a guy whose net worth was less than the smallest of these loans. Personally I witnessed loans of a couple thousand dollars going to and from people whose net worth was probably not much greater than mine.

Pretty much anyone who has ever played poker has been burned on a poker loan at least once. I never loaned out more than a few hundred dollars, and can only remember being stiffed twice. But those two happened more or less simultaneously, and they more or less ended my participation in the money-swapping business. Missy was probably more mad about it than I was, and she told me to use her as the bad guy anytime anyone asked me for a loan. So I just told people my wife wouldn’t let me do it.

It was pretty stupid for me to ever do it anyway, since I was never on the receiving end of one of these loans. A couple of times I have gone to the casino and forgotten my poker money, which seems like something nobody would be stupid enough to do. Only once or twice have I ever borrowed money to play, and those were from some of my closest friends. Usually I would realize it when I was halfway to the casino and make a slight detour to my bank to withdraw my own money. Once I’m at the casino and playing, if I ever run out of money, that’s the end of my day at the poker table. I always felt awkward about losing someone else’s money, and I can’t even imagine losing money I had no means of repaying. To me, the choice between paying a $5 ATM fee to access my own money or borrowing from someone else is a no-brainer.

But obviously gambling can take a serious hold on some people and cause them to do things they wouldn’t do in their normal lives. And some people are just shitheads. (Poop reference #1! I bet you were wondering what any of this has to do with the title of this blog.)

In 1975 it made a lot more sense to need to borrow money from a friend. Many poker games were held in underground spots that were frequently robbed or busted by the cops, so there was reason to not carry around a lot of cash even if the game you were playing in was pretty big. And it’s not like there was an ATM on every corner like there is now. In 2019, I figure if you don’t have a way to get your own money into a poker game, it’s probably best to just not play that day. There are only a handful of people I’d loan money to and they are my closest friends.

Of course, those people never ask me for a loan because they don’t need one. When I do get asked, there’s a 95% chance the phrase, “You know I’m good for it” will be invoked. Generally when I decline it’s not a big deal, the guy just says he understands and moves on. Maybe he’s pissed at me but I don’t really know or care.

One guy who asked me and my friends for loans several times was named Jack. He was a quirky dude but he was nice enough. Made some crazy plays at the poker table which occasionally led to him really cleaning up but more frequently led to him needing a loan.

One night a few years back he asked me for a loan. I declined. He then went and played at a smaller-stakes game than the one I was in. A few hours later, probably around 1 a.m., I cashed out and was about to head home. Jack cornered me, said he’d just lost in his game and asked me again for a loan. I again declined. He said he didn’t want more money for poker, he needed $50 to get a cab or an Uber ride home from the casino because the guy he rode with had left earlier.

Much like my policy on the panhandlers, I didn’t want to give Jack cash that probably wouldn’t be used to get him a ride home and probably wouldn’t ever be repaid to me. I also wanted him to get home safely. I was heading home and I had a perfectly good car and nowhere else I had to be at 1 a.m. so I offered to give him a ride.

(Several people who know this story think I was stupid to offer him a ride because of the risk of getting robbed by Jack. Obviously I suppose it was in play but he was probably 20 years older than I and not in good health. I didn’t see that as a risk or I wouldn’t have done it.)

We were at Riverwind, which is about 15 miles south of Oklahoma City. I live in South OKC. Jack lived way up in Northwest OKC near Edmond. Basically it added an hour onto what would have been a 30-minute trip home.

On the drive I asked him about his kids. He gushed about his daughter, who was about 9 years old at the time. After talking about her for 10 minutes, he said, “I also have a son who is grown up. He’s a piece of shit.” (Poop reference #2!) Kind of an awkward silence after that because I didn’t know what to say. Jack filled in the void by telling me exactly why he was a POS for the next 30 minutes.

Finally we get within a couple of miles of Jack’s house. We’re off the highway but not into the neighborhood yet. Out of nowhere Jack yells, “Pull over right now. I’ve got to take a piss.”

I ask if he knows if there’s a convenience store nearby. He says, “I ain’t got time for that. I’m about to piss all over myself and your car. You need to pull over now.”

I’m not really sure what to do because we are on a 40-mph street with no open businesses in sight. Jack points to a house on the corner of the street and yells, “Right here! Now!!”

I slam on the brakes and pull off the main road onto the side street. Jack is mumbling under his breath and fumbling with the car door. I unlock it and he sprints out of the car but only takes about three steps. He whips it out and lets it fly. I mean, he’s square in the middle of someone’s front lawn at 2 a.m. taking a whiz. My first thought was hoping that the owners didn’t happen to be gun owners who also happened to look out their window and see this. I thought about moving the car so I wasn’t in the line of fire but Jack’s door was still open. I was also sweating a police officer driving by. I wondered if I could be charged with accessory to public urination. I damn sure didn’t want to have to go down to the police station or bail him out of jail.

When he got done, Jack calmly got back in the car and told me how to get to his house. I still have no idea why he went from 0 to 60 on the need-to-piss scale so quickly. He hadn’t been drinking (in fact his liver was failing, and it would claim his life a year or so later). He never said anything about it, just thanked me for the ride when I dropped him off. It definitely ranks near the top of the list of bizarre incidents in my life.

Slightly less bizarre, but also involving bodily waste, is an incident that happened to me just a few days ago. For some reason I couldn’t get to sleep that night. I wasn’t overly depressed or anything but while I was laying there I was thinking about how I needed to do a better job of keeping my patience with the kids.

We were watching our friend’s puppy while she was out of town working, and she is a typically rambunctious puppy. She knocked over Hawk a few times which concerned me. Then she jumped up and snagged a piece of chicken off my plate while I was eating. Then Addison spilled milk at the table and made no effort to clean it up. All of this happened in a short span and I could have done a better job handling it with patience and grace. So that night while I couldn’t sleep I prayed for an extra measure of patience at home and with the kids.

I got about four hours of sleep when Hawk came into my room and woke me up to tell me he had a poopy diaper. So I’m still half asleep when I take him back to his room to change it. I woke all the way up pretty quickly when I stepped into a warm, squishy substance in Hawk’s room that got right in between all my toes. Yessir, I started my day by stepping in dog poop. After praying for patience the night before. It must have been the timing of that prayer because I somehow managed to hold my shit together, making me the only member of the dog-Hawk-me triumvirate to do so. I had to hop into the bathroom on my other foot so I could clean up the dirty one, then clean up the poop on the floor of Hawk’s room, then clean up Hawk and his dirty diaper.

I took the kids to the gym where I worked out for an hour or so. On the way home, Myra said, “You know Sadie pooped in our room too, right?” I did not know this, or else I would have cleaned that up immediately instead of letting that smell marinate in the girls’ room for a couple of additional and unnecessary hours.

Addison with Sadie, who is a good dog and hasn’t pooped any more since that first day.

Growing up in the church, I’d always heard the phrase, “Be careful when you ask God for patience, He might give you something to be patient about.”

Now I’ve lived it.