It was never my intention to become a regular at the bar of a chain Chinese restaurant. It was never my intention to spend one night out of every week bellied up to said bar, drinking from a stemmed glass, and talking poker with my friends. Still, that's where I find myself once a week and that's where I found myself last night.
Blood and I were involved in one of a few discussions we'd have over the next eight hours and he was insisting I had done or said something many months ago that I was pretty sure I had not. Finally, he convinced me and I could only respond, "I don't remember the last year of my life."
That was not entirely true. In fact, most of what's happened in the past eleven months--good and bad--is technicolor, dolby surround in my head and I can't get it out.
What I meant was this: The past two years of my life have been so odd, so beautiful, so inspiring, and so completely different from the rest of my life that it seems like it maybe even never happened. Like it was a drunk man's dream of barley fields and boobies. Like I made it all up in a workday daydream while waiting for a jury to come back.
The poker blogs, this one and the other ones that blazed a trail of debauchery and silliness, have been around for several years now. A lot of writing and online conversation took place before the writers and their running buddies finally made it all official. It happened nearly two years ago somewhere within a dog's scent of the Excalibur poker room and the Sherwood Forest Bar. For me, it sincerely began when BadBlood and I walked into the poker room and had the accented floor man page "Dr. Pauly." It continued a couple hours later when I first shared a Southern Comfort shot with Al. It fixed itself in concrete a couple of hours later when Iggy introduced himself to me (after, true to form, running a ruse on my cloudy brain).
That was all in December of 2004, about the time my life peeked at the real change that was about to happen. Since then--that heady time when what we were all doing was just a chance to be silly for a weekend--so much has changed that it would take more effort than I am willing to exert to list it all.
There's no doubt that change is snuggling up and trying to spoon our expanded group of misfits. Iggy has, again true to form, been mischievous and frustrating in the extended remix version of whatever change he's experiencing over at G&P. Pauly has become hacker-worthy. I've been...well, I've been loving and living an odd life. Plus, there's a lot more that never has and never will make the pages of this blog or any other. There's stuff that has happened and that is still happening that is of such a personal nature to the players that it doesn't belong on the blog pages.
But, that's sort of my point. In fact, that is my point exactly.
Two short years ago, those people I met in the once great and now worthless Excal poker room were just people. They were people I figured I might someday see again. I had no idea at the time that over the next two years, I would become so close to many of the people. I had no idea that I would invite them into my home, that I would be there for them when they needed it, and they would be there for me when I needed it. That is, I didn't know I would find virtual brothers and sisters that to this moment I consider such an important part of my life. I had no idea I would hold secrets so personal that I wouldn't have ever imagined I would be trusted to hear.
Eulogies, both funny and serious, now dot the blogscape. I've read them with both a sense of sadness and bemusement. I've had many a discussion among what some folks have called the Bloggerati about how nothing we've done in the past few years is real. That is, we've talked about how we've created a virtual world for ourselves that is the poker equivalent to the fake universes populated by people who like to pretend to be elves and, verily, dwarves. I remember a couple of discussions, both deep into the bottle, in which my comtemporaries said ruefully, "None of this is real."
At the time, I nodded because I knew it was true. But I didn't say anything because I wasn't really ready to voice what I already knew. I knew that the blogs themselves weren't clear pictures of the people behind them. I knew that some were money-making ventures and wouldn't exist but for the profit that could be made (and I don't write that without full recognition of the profit I've made from this experiment and the ads that span the right side of this blog). I knew that some blogs existed because people liked to tell stories, both true and semi-true, about their lives. I knew that most blogs existed because people really wanted to be a part of something. As it happens, I am the definition of all of the above and more.
But what I didn't say at the time, and what I think should be said now is this: There is something real about all of this. It's not what you read on the ethereal pages of your web browser. It's not the few bucks we make when we pound out a post. It's not even the fact that many of us have risen and fallen and risen again in the game that brought us all together.
What's real is the people behind the blogs. What's real is the friendship I share with those people. It's the admiration for talent. It's pulling someone out of a hole. It's talking someone down from life-tilt. It's sharing secrets that you know will never show up in a blog post.
Yeah, this universe isn't real. The past two years of this life have been, on one hand, a drunkard's dream in which we created and buried gods of blogging. The past two years have been a process of trading real and virtual dollars over real and virtual felt. On its face, it's an experiment that twenty years from now will be like a childhood summer when the sky was always blue, the thermometer always read 82 degrees, and your bike chain never fell off.
But on a level that actually means something, the past two years have just been a beginning. Iggy may be pulling the plug. Pauly may hint at his ever-growing disgust with poker writing. Al may never throw another Bash. I may never host another Bradoween. And who knows, the people who have put countless and thankless hours into hosting blogger conventions may finally get tired of all the bullshit that goes along with herding cats. The zenith of this time may be already a thing of the past.
However things turn out, though, there will be more than just memories. Friendship may have its genesis in a long collection of intertubes, but it's not bound together by the Internet. There is something greater here and I'm thankful for knowing it will continue.
That is all a very long way of saying thanks to everyone who has earned it.
Yeah, thanks for this drunkard's dream and whatever happens when we all wake up.