Friday, September 16, 2011

ROW80: A huge win for Neptune...and Saturn!

Dear Saturn,

I'm pleased to report that John has completed the goal he set on July 4th. The rough draft of all 78 cards of his tarot book are done. And I don't care if you find it undignified, but I shrieked with pure glee and joy when John finally gave me the news.

While originally I thought that this would be a victory that I could enjoy myself, I realized that turning this document from the rough draft that it is will require your assistance and editing expertise. And John assured me that you did not once interrupt his writing; he didn't even edit one single word in this'll see that when you look at it. Don't say I didn't warn you!

You agreed to stay out of John's hair until this was over, and this is your official recognition that you are as good as your word, Old Man. While I had no expectation of you living up to your half of the bargain, John certainly did.

Once you manage to get some semblance of a government in Libya and begin the US Government's fiscal year--I know you get giddy about government budgetary cycles and all that shit--John would like you to return to take your place in his life.

I can't thank you enough for your assistance, and wish you the best in turning this lump of coal into a diamond.



PS: Enclosed please find the $100 I owe you with a little interest: A bottle of Dom Perignon. Don't you dare let this sit on the shelf to get as old as you are!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Oklahoma City

I'm here in a place that I never expected to visit: Oklahoma City. I told one person today that it was like saying, "I'm going to Mars." You know it's out there and yet you never expected to be there in person.

Anyway, I was lucky enough to get an early flight out here and spend some time seeing the city. And even though I know a lot about the world there's only one thing that I know about this city: The bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in 1995.

I must admit to feeling uneasy going to visit the memorial. 168 men, women and children were just going about their daily lives when 4000 pounds of explosives in a truck blew away a third of the building. I wasn't prepared for what I saw.

The plaza that surrounded the federal building was still there. Some modifications had been made, of course, but when you get to where the front doors to the building would have been you just stare out over this peaceful area enclosed on two sides by metal walls with 9:01 and 9:03 carved into them. The bomb detonated at 9:02am.

In between these metal barriers you see the Survivor's Tree, planted where the ruins of the building once stood. And while the tree is in the background, below you near a reflecting pool sit 168 chairs, each one with the name of a victim carved in it. What was really heartbreaking is that some of the chairs were smaller to represent children in the daycare center who perished.

I took pictures and respectfully silently asked for blessings on the souls of the victims, and on the survivors and family members of the victims as well. I was ready to call it a day...but I wasn't done.

The Museum of the Memorial is in the building that was adjacent to the federal building. The side facing the building was never repainted to honor the victims. I went in and visited the exhibits. I felt like I couldn't say I was really here unless I saw it all.

Now I'm pretty good at keeping my emotions in check--both a good and a bad thing--but I didn't expect what was coming next. The first part of the exhibit is the before, talking about the weather the day of the attack, what the city looked like, which buildings were around and so forth. As I walked into the next area, a museum guide stopped me and wanted to tell me what I was in for.

Next to the Murrah Federal Building was the Oklahoma Water Building, where decisions about water use in the state were made. On the morning of the blast, a family who wanted to drill a well to get spring water was in a routine hearing which started exactly at 9:00am. The guide told me that the room I was about to enter is where I would listen to that recording, which had the bomb blast on it at 9:02.

I thought I was ready. Then the doors closed and I was alone in this room set up like a hearing room with microphone and tape recorder. The tape begins and at 9:02 there was the explosion. What he DIDN'T tell me was that when the blast happens, the entire wall of the room lights up with 168 portraits of those who were killed. I was pretty upset, but I managed to hold it together and get out of that room. If their point was to shock and awe, they achieved it.

The rest of the museum was survivor testimony, pictures of the footage from that day as well as a lot of forensic data and details on the investigation, arrest and subsequent prosecution of Timothy McVeigh and his partner, Terry Nichols. I also saw the room honoring the victims, including one minister, and was glad to see that they included the roles of clergy who helped on-site and provided counseling to relief workers.

9/11 certainly had many more victims but this attack changed Oklahoma City forever. The blast was so huge that many buildings were structurally uninhabitable afterward, so they had to be razed. Security at all federal facilities was taken a lot more seriously in the aftermath. And of course, the survivors still question why they are alive and their friends perished.

I'm still a little screwed up from visiting the site and the museum, but I'm trying to shake it off. I'm glad I went to see it, and if you're ever in this part of the country you NEED to go see it. But like the Holocaust Museum in DC, be prepared to be uncomfortable.

With that visit out of the way, I can focus on the other things that have made Oklahoma famous: Wind whistling down the plains, Sooners, and surreys with a fringe on top. And get some writing done as well in the evenings.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Ode to a Gemini

Greetings from Atlantic City, where my wife and I are spending a well-deserved mini vacation for her upcoming birthday.

I had a very interesting time tonight and met a young lady who definitely caught my attention. No, not that way! I was sitting in the Trump Plaza hotel at the $1 blackjack table, which is something new that has come about in these hard economic times. I was profoundly grateful for it, and for even geting a seat at the table at all since there was a line. I finally got a seat and felt like a whale my huge stack of white chips. (NOTE: For those of you who don't know, the white chips are $1.)

Anyway, the seat to my right opens up and this young lady sits down. She was so excited and nervous that it was obvious that it was her first time gambling. She assured us that she was indeed 21, but the pit boss came right over and checked her ID. I have never seen anyone more enthusiastic to be carded. She didn't realize much of what was going on but these tables are defined as "friendly" and great for beginners. She was bright enough to accept her ignorance and try at this table first.

 In true Gemini style this lady was a non-stop flood of information. After she had been sitting to my right for less than five minutes I already knew her last name and her birthdate including year. She was so insistent about ordering a drink that she tried to order it from the blackjack dealer and the pit boss before she was told that the cocktail waitress would be coming around eventually. By her own admission she had never played blackjack for money, but she was more excited to be laying her money down than any of us-once she realized that the dealer would not take money from her hands. I explained to her that the cameras were watching everything and that the dealer had to show she was giving the right change for the right amount of money, and the idea that there were thousands of cameras watching us in the casino made her uneasy. I told her to watch "Casino" with Robert DeNiro and I got the impression that she would. I probably should have told her that they're not supposed to break your hands or threaten you with circular saws, even if you do get caught cheating. But hey...some things she can figure out on her own. :)

 At this point I'm down a little money and I can't catch a good hand to save my life. Gemini girl wins her first two hands and is over the moon. She starts talking about beginners's luck and then loses a few. But she was trying to learn more about the game the whole time, and having a good time doing so. She must have asked about 5 times when her drink was going to show up...she was quite insistent about that as I recall. When she did finally get her drink , it turns out the waitress got her what I had been drinking instead of her order, which was a screwdriver. I graciously offer to take the drink off the waitress' hands--that's just the kind of guy I am--and Gemini girl ended up with a Cape Codder, which she readily accepted. She still wanted the screwdriver anyway and eventually she did indeed get one. Someone did try to explain to her that while the drinks were technically free, the idea that the casino would want to have her drink more and keep her happy and gambling didn't register.

 She was with us for maybe 30 minutes total, dropped about $20 and had two free drinks. But she had a great time. When she got up she was quickly replaced by a guy whose energy was really funky; something was definitely up with him, and almost like the Universe was trying to tell me something, Jen showed up to check on me. I cut my losses and left the bad energy guy to head back up to the room and grab some sleep, which I will do as soon as I'm done this blog.

 Anyway, this blog is a shout out to Gemini girl, wherever you are. OK, likely she is trying to chat up a bartender for free drinks as we speak, but she picked up a lot about blackjack in a short amount of time and clearly enjoyed herself. That is truly what having fun is all about. You made my evening much more interesting, and for that I'm grateful.