. . . Shaky Steve had told me that SH was back in rehab, this time for 6 months. And even though I know that heroin is a really, really tough drug to kick (second only to Crack Cocaine) I'm hoping that this time he can shake free for good, because he almost did last time. Well, not the last time he was in rehab, but last time he got clean for an extended period. Which was back in 2004 when he was fresh out of prison out West and back in AC for the first time in a long while. A Jewish kid from the Lower East Side of New York City who came of age in the 50s when Jazz was hitting its artistic prime and heroin was the 'cool' drug of choice, he was a teenager sneaking into joints like The Five Spot to see Thelonious Monk or Birdland to see Miles or John Coltrane. And after college he becomes a documentary filmmaker in Cali who marries and has a baby girl. And Cali is (at that time) the only state besides Nevada where poker is legal and so he starts playing (and sometimes cheating) in the clubs there with a bunch of guys (like David Sklansky) who would go on to become legends. But heroin is a heavy monkey to carry on your back and eventually his life collapses and he finds himself in Vegas cheating the slot machines to feed his habit. And he's good, real good at that, so good he hires hookers during the day to act as his lookouts while he 'walks' the reels of the machines into position to deliver jackpots. And he's too good and eventually the casinos make it a priority to nab him and he should have quit, but hubris is a MFer. So he gets busted and does 8 years in the State Pen, which isn't all bad because it forces him to get clean and gives him plenty of time to read, which he had always done plenty of anyway.
Then a week later JS tells me he saw SH in the RaceBook talking to a notorious Mob loan shark and I'm legit scared, only SH tells me the guy is an old friend and he just needs a little cushion so he can play comfortably. But he's still putting QH in every day and she's still losing, because even if she wins in the poker room, she goes out and dumps it on the Blackjack tables. I know things are really bad when a week later SH asks me for $500 I owe him, something he's never done. I have sterling credit and pay everybody as soon as I can whenever I owe, so folk don't generally ask me for their money because they know if I've got it, I'll find them and square them up. But by the look on his face I know he needs it, so even though I'm only holding $800 I pay him off. He apologizes and tells me he's a month behind on his rent and is wondering how far he can get behind before they can evict him. I tell him he needs to get rid of QH, but he aint trying to hear that, he tells me he'll start winning and it'll all be OK. Later on I see JS and he tells me that SH is done, his goose is cooked, it's only a matter of time, because he won't listen to nobody. And yeah, JS is a cold blooded lizard, but when was he ever wrong? And the next thing I know SH is playing 2/5 at the Taj because he has too much pride to play smaller at the Borgata, but he's losing real bad now smells like sharkbait at the table and is hanging out in the Racebook to boot which can't be good. And the kicker comes when one day QH hits a Borgata tournament for 35k and we go get SH and tell him to go over to the Borgata and get his money and he says don't worry, she's a good kid, she'll find me, only two days go by and she doesn't, so we go over there and she's playing 5/10 and I tell her SH needs to talk to her and she gives me the evilest look since Eve told Adam she bit the apple and to make a longstory short she gives SH some BS and 3k and says it's the best she can do. And the next time I see SH he's playing 1/2 and falling asleep at the table and then I realize he's nodding and I hope against hope it isn't what I think it is, but sure enough his right hand slides up his left arm and slowly, slowly starts scratching. And if you've never been around heroin addicts that might not mean anything to you, but it seems like all of my daddies have pushed a hypodermic plunger and I know what color this scene in the movie fades to. I go back to my seat and pull out my Shure E-535 earphones, spark up my iPod til the silky smoke of Sade's voice rises and curls around my head, asking, "Is it a crime, that I still love you . . . ?"
And until next we meet, may all your potatoes be sweet (and dusted with cinnamon).