Seven Things About Me Blog Chain

by Lou on May 13, 2007

Damn you, Amy Calistri. You tagged me for the 7 Things About Me blog chain. My first inclination was to ignore it, because I am an extremely private person and I hate these sorts of things. You know the kind. Send this to seven friends within 24 hours and you’ll have good karma forever; don’t do it and you’ll die in pain.

But Amy is my radio partner, one of my closest friends in poker, fellow blogger, and I like the community of bloggers way too much to ignore this, so despite my instincts to the contrary, here goes.

1. Motivation: My two greatest motivators have always been fear of failing and avoiding shame. While I’d rather fail high than succeed low, I’m still going to do anything and everything I can to avoid failing. Shame, to me, is worse. The idea of embarrassing myself is something I hate, and I can’t ever see myself cavorting around like some of today’s movie stars, and poker players too, who are seemingly unconcerned with shame, embarrassment, and looking like complete shmucks in public.

2. Reluctance: I’ve always been reluctant to talk about myself. Maybe it was my upbringing. When I was a kid in Brooklyn I never heard adults ask anyone what they did for a living. I was always admonished by my parents to never ask what someone did for a living, and to never to ask how much someone earned. At a minimum, it was a real social faux pas to ask these kinds of questions. It was worse if what that something your neighbor did was outside the law.

3. Defining Myself: For the longest time, I couldn’t decide whether I was a poker player who wrote or a writer who played poker. When I began writing for poker magazines back in 1992 and published my first book in 1995, I was working as a management consultant and playing poker in Los Angeles about 20 to 30 hours a week or more. I was unsure which hat I wore more often.

But once 2003 rolled around and the poker boom took hold, the poker book boom took hold too. I had so many opportunities to write books that I decided I had better seize this opportunity while it was available. In 2006 I had four books published. I didn’t play much poker at all last year, except for short sessions online while taking breaks from writing. I had morphed into a writer who played poker rather than a poker player who wrote. I got to like it. It’s probably reflected in my role models too.

My hero since I was old enough to understand what he was writing about was William Butler Yeats. My role model for poker writing, although he has written about so eloquently about so much more than poker is Al Alvarez. Yeats and Alvarez occupy front-row center seats on the plinth reserved for my role models. No pure poker player is up there with them. The answer, for me, is now crystal clear: I’m a writer first and a poker player when my writing is done.

4. Fear: I have always had a fear of heights, except when the height was something I could scale by climbing. When we were kids, there were two apartment houses on my block with a very narrow passageway between them that led from the street to the next street. You could put your ass on one wall and your feet on the others and inch your way up between the two buildings to the roof, which was five floors above ground.

If I went up to the roof by the staircase in the building, I would be afraid to get too close to the ledge and peek over. But when I inched my way up, I had no fear at all. In case you want to try this at home, the best gear is a new, stiff pair of jeans; they have the most friction and are great for assing your way up between the two walls.

5. Violence: I had an incredible amount of violence locked inside me as a kid, and it wasn’t repressed either. My father was sick with cancer for three years before he died, and I was very angry over losing him to an illness I was unable to fight against on his behalf.

During the time my father was sick, I fought regularly. I threw one kid through a plate glass window and busted another kid’s jaw with a baseball bat in a fight. I once stuffed someone down an open sewer and left him there. Another time I got into a fight with a guy who pulled a knife. In a slashing blow he opened up an 8-inch cut on my rib cage. In college I dangled a guy out the window on the ninth floor after he made some disparaging remark about my being poor.

My last fight was in the army. It was the last night of basic training and everyone was in the barracks drinking and getting drunk. We were all shipping out in the morning, and no one held anything back. The vibe was ugly and getting worse, so I figured I’d get out of there and take a walk. I was in the latrine when this guy who didn’t like me walked in there with a broken bottle, saying he was going to kill me.

I was peeing at the time and said, “OK, let me zip up and you can take your chances.” I had my field jacket slung over my shoulder. The other guy, his name was Frankie, was anything but subtle and I knew he was going to bull rush me. He charged, and I did what you’re supposed to do under the circumstances. I flipped my field jacket off of my shoulder and onto the broken bottle in his hand. Then I sidestepped his rush, put my hand behind his neck, and ran him head first into the urinal, breaking his nose in the process.

There was blood all over the place, so we called the duty sergeant and told him Frankie had an accident and broke his nose. The next day I was on a plane for Ft. Sam Houston, Texas. I never saw Frankie, nor had a fight again. I never hope to.

6. Enjoyment: The most enjoyable thing I’ve done in years is to get involved with HoldemRadio and host Keep Flopping Aces with Amy Calistri. Just being on the radio, with a chance to talk about poker and other things is more fun than anything I’ve ever done. We’ve been doing this show for more than a year. We’re not making a dime from it. But I always look forward to a broadcast. It’s hard to explain why it’s so much fun. It just is.

7. Crowds Frighten Me: I don’t like crowds. One of the disturbing things about the growth of the World Series of Poker is walking into a room with 200+ tables and seeing it filled to the brim, with hallways and walkways filled to capacity too. Yes, I understand the benefits to the industry that all these crowds bring to the WSOP, but something’s lost in the process too, something about the informality, the lack of rules, the ability to just work your way right up to the rail and watch from close up. All of that is lost in translation. I understand all of this, but I hate crowds.

I hate shopping centers, busy airports, and the claustrophobic feeling I get when I’m hemmed in and the space is full, noisy, bustling, busy, and all I want to do, to quote Warren Zevon, is “Roll down the windows, and let me scream!”

I’m not tagging anyone else. I’m late to the dance. The blogger’s pyramid is awfully small, and I’m thinking anyone I would tag has already been chosen.

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