GLASCOE ON GAMBLING

GLASCOE ON GAMBLING

[Silverback Jon is no stranger to The Jungle, being a member of the Silverback Film Society. He now shuttles between Gilead Brook Road and Salt Lake City.]

“I can’t say I really remember the first night all that clearly. It’s expected – encouraged, almost – that “clients” at lockdown rehab facilities show up obliterated on their drug of choice so that the subsequent detox has enough bite to discourage one from making a habit of it. When asked his drug of choice, a nameless actor (who was awesome as Charlie Chaplin) reportedly answered “more.” That about summed up my situation. “Hi, tequila. It’s me. Jon!” In any case, I blew a .31 into the digital doohickey upon arrival so I had clearly done my part.

SB Jon introduces us to Bologna Bowls

Now I probably wouldn’t have remembered that first night at all but for the most bizarre little interlude. At 2:00 am or so, a trio of drunken immortals came ripping down our treacherous mountainside road, negotiated every turn but the last, flew through a fence, rolled their Accord a few times and wound up – perfectly parked, perfectly upside-down – on the breezeway at rehab. Ah, irony. You have to say, that God is one funny guy, or gal, or transcendent spirit…thing. When the cops arrived they couldn’t decide whether to cuff our staggering heroes or to just save society some time by showing them to the back bedroom next to me. They went with the former.

Better still, and even he laughs about it now, we had in residence a sweet dentist named Jimmy who, at that particular moment, was in the throes of a grim, delusion-producing perk of alcohol withdrawal known as the DTs. For a general idea, see Ray Milland, and his imaginary wall rat in the movie The Lost Weekend. Anyway, it’s pretty bad.

So old Jimmy makes it through the night somehow, but demands to see the doctors first thing in the morning. It seems he had suffered the most terrifying hallucination, something to do with three bloody, dazed zombies staggering the grounds in the wee hours. He wanted his meds adjusted post-haste. Now, I don’t know what they told him, but in the interest of his recovery, I hope it was nothing at all. I also don’t know if they have repaired that fence. I, personally, would leave it alone as a cautionary tale to those, like me, who find themselves in the house on its other, unbroken side.

Here he is showing off his Poutine Pizza

Anyway, we all made it out of there, better than when we went in, and forged some friendships that will last a lifetime, or at least until somebody screws up. Then you’re out of the club. Happy to report, I’m still in the club, a fact which I celebrate each month with a cupcake. This month, to no one’s surprise, I celebrated with a cupcake – and a trip to Vegas.

Which, because I always get around to it, brings me to the subject at hand – gambling. Or, more specifically, my experiences and perspective on the subject. If you’ve been a fan of these pages through the years, you of course have my deepest sympathy, but more to the point you know by now that gambling and I are the Arsenic and Old Lace of semi-legal activities. We are an until-death-do-you-part kind of couple, except that only one of us will, in fact, die. The other will be giddily cracking pocket aces somewhere before they’ve even closed the lid.

I don’t know what I was thinking. Vegas and recovery go together about as well as Bill Belichick and a personality, but there I was, the only sober man in Sin City. I played some poker and got steamrolled, I played some blackjack and got bored. I threw dice. I put $100 on the Steelers at 20 to 1 and $200 on the Titans at 30 to 1 for the Super Bowl, and even those idiotic bets didn’t get me going. Something was missing, and it wasn’t just the booze.

Then it hit me. I was missing. I was like Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke when he kept having to shovel the dirt out of that ditch: “No, Boss, I won’t backsass. I got my mind right.” I guess I had been drinking so long that I kinda forgot where I ended and the cocktails began. All of a sudden I was struggling for an identity, and what better place to face down an existential crisis than the main floor of the Bellagio. So I took stock, retooled. I decided to replace loud, cocktail-fuelled aggression at the Hold ‘Em tables with steely math, obnoxious intimidation with quiet reads. I virtually disappeared into the felt. And promptly got steamrolled again.

Coach of the world’s most boring team, Bill Belichick

They tell you at rehab that of all the things we do to destroy ourselves, not just garden-variety drinking, but all the other gnarly substances that make reality TV stars of bored housewives from Iowa, by far the lowest recovery success rate is achieved by chronic gamblers. Some studies suggest that the desire to gamble is hard-wired in our DNA, a risk/reward dynamic that goes right back to Darwin. Should my ocelot self try to kill and eat that other critter that might get me first, or play it safe and possibly starve?

So now I’ve got something else to horrify me. Am I one of them? Am I a gambling addict? Am I Art Schlichter, for heaven’s sake? Or worse. There’s an old saying about poker players: Look around the table. If you can’t spot the sucker in five minutes, it’s because it’s you. Was sober Jon now that guy too? I sat down with a stiff Sprite and Grenadine and pondered all that.

Then, in a moment of clarity, the answer came to me. Who cares! It’s not like any of us gets out of here alive. So I returned to the 2-5 table, got noisy, channeled my inner Hellmuth and tripled through. Then I put a grand on the Patriots to win at least 7 games. If I have to be sober and boring, well by God, I’ll go to war with the world’s most sober and boring team. And you know what? I like our chances.”

Love, Jon

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