Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Message in a bottle

I'm rolling through the Showboat Casino when I run into J. and he has a question for me.
"Hey Pittsburgh" he asks "I heard you write good letters."
And I know right away what he wants and I say "Yeah. I'm alright."
And he cuts straight to the chase, six months ago he got in a fight and is now barred from the Taj Mahal casino. He needs to write a letter to the head of security to get his gaming privileges reinstated, can I do that for him? He's willing to pay $50- $100. And of course I can, because words are like Lego blocks in my hands and if you need me to build you a tank, no problem, a house? No problem. A fire truck? No problem. And truth be told, he's the 5th guy this year to ask me for such a letter. It started when my boy T got barred from the Borgata for a domestic incident with his girl, then Old Man James needed one for the time he cussed out a floorperson and got evicted, and so on. Somehow, the word got out and amongst poker players I became the literary equivalent of the cat with the best weed. Most of them don't know I'm a published poet and none of them know about or have read my blog, but still the word (like a twenty-four hour stomach flu virus), has spread. And it's ironic because although I love certain types of writing, I've never been much of a letter writer. In fact, I can count all the personal letters I've ever written on one hand. And I was already in my thirties when email replaced letters as the primary form of written communication between most people. When I was a kid, my Mom would send us off to Summer Camp for two weeks and always packed a pen and stationary. It would return unused. Then she started sending us off with postcards, pre addressed and stamped. All we had to do once we were at camp was write something and hand it to the counselor. I don't think I ever wrote a single word on any of them. I can't really explain it. I'm pretty articulate and unlike most guys, fairly articulate in expressing my emotions. But I never had any interest in writing letters. So of course, now I have people paying me to write letters for them. Got in a fight? No problem. Cashed a slot ticket that wasn't yours? No problem. Drunk and belligerent? No problem. It's nothing that a little written contrition can't fix. For some of these cats English is a foreign language, others are just intimidated by the task, still others just want a better letter than they feel they can write. So far, everyone has been reinstated. Including me, for my little contretemps in the bathroom at the Borgata.

I'm cruising through Caesars later, checking out the action and a floor person tells me that a cat I know got barred last week for pissing into a bottle under the table while playing poker. That's a new one for me and it's a tad trifling, but everybody needs a little side hustle, right? I know I'm probably going to hear from him soon and already I can feel the words lining up in my head like casino gamblers in a buffet line . . .

UPDATE: I ran into the bottle guy in Caesars, he says the bottle story isn't true. But he does need a letter for the Borgata. Done.
And until next we meet, may all your potatoes be sweet (and dusted with cinnamon).
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