Thursday, February 03, 2005

So, I think I've been pretty good about holding my tongue while I've been in Tacoma. When the sight of two black kids walking home from school prompts a screed about what happens when niggers gather, I keep quiet. When he starts in about that son-of-a-bitch Michael Moore, I smile and change the subject.

Today, though, I slipped.

One of Dad's friends came by, as they've been doing. The subject of conversation wasn't initially politics, but ketchup, and his legendary hatred thereof (though, strangely, there was no mention of his inexplicable contempt for Teresa Heinz "Yes, Like The Ketchup" Kerry, which has apparently been de rigeur for the right wing since, like, last summer. He brought out his usual line that "if I was president I would ban ketchup." My sister gently reminded him that, y'know, the president does have to get approval from congress for things like that.

Politics, we have you on visual, please stand by...

Chuck responded, apropos of very little, that what we need is a conservative Republican in the White House (politics, you are cleared for landing on runway 3). At this point, we were all still smiling and joking around, and it was in that spirit that I responded, "a conservative Republican? Then what the hell do we have in there now?"

Man, what's wrong with me, anyway?

After some back and forth between Dad, sis, and his friend, Dad launched into a story about a fellow volunteer at the air museum, who had posted something on the bulletin board that apparently committed the cardinal sin of pointing out some of Our Glorious Leaders factual errors. Naturally the story climaxed with him ripping down the offending document and Telling-That-Son-Of-A-Bitch. Then came the following exchange:

DAD: I may not agree with everything he says, but you shouldn't criticize the President.

ME (too incredulous to use good judgement): You shouldn't what?

D: He's the President and you should support him.

M: Where the hell was that idea when Clinton was in office?

D: Ah, that guy was a jackass.

M: At least he was actually elected.

So, yeah, that's why I accepted my sister's invitation to go gambling.

Tonight was about the fourth or fifth time my sister's gone gambling since she's been here. She usually goes to the Emerald Queen in Puyallup, and she won over two grand on Three-Card Poker a couple of nights before I got here, and while Dad usually disapproves of gambling, he's all for taking money from the goddamn Indians.

Despite the burnout from my time dealing, I still enjoy gambling, but only in the way I enjoy, say, romantic comedies. That is, very sparingly, and only under certain conditions.

Since sis is still playing on the money she won, she gave me a hundred to play with (being able to afford to lose is one of the conditions). I sat down with her to play Three-Card Poker, and was winning pretty steadily for a while (the other of the conditions). The dealer was a neat old fella named James, who was unusually literate for a dealer; we actually ended up talking about quantum physics (to the best of my limited knowledge) and actually knew what I was talking about when I compared the card he was about to turn over to Schrodinger's Cat. And that never happened in four years of dealing.

Eventually, though, the hunney was gone (which kinda sucked; although I only play when I can afford to lose money, I was kinda hoping to have a little extra sugar to bring home to Shelswick), and even after I dropped another five bucks on nickel video poker, I came back to the Three-Card table and found sis, having dropped another two bills on top of her original two-hundred buy in (plus the one she fronted me), almost out of chips.

Being family, I would have liked to believe that my sister is not one of those people who lives at the casino and blows through all her winnings chasing. Sadly, that already-fragile hope has been shattered. Oh, she still has close to two large left, but a lot can happen between now and when she goes home on the 11th.

When we got home, I told Dad I figured he would have wanted me out of the house for a few hours, which is the passive-aggressive Bowen way of saying "sorry for the argument." There didn't seem to be any more than the usual lingering resentment--until he asked how we did at the casino. When I responded that I had lost the hundred, I got a harangue about wasting money, and how I should save my money, and you better not have blown the money I gave you last night, and so on. Sis, who had dropped four times as much as I had (not counting what she gave me), got an "oh, Sally," and a resigned head-shake.

That's an excellent microcosm for the differing standards to which me and my sister, and indeed me and all my siblings, are held. She drives the brand-new Blazer, while I drive the gigantic old pickup that's so clumsy and unresponsive I could drive around with a two-year-old wedged in the wheel well for a week and not notice. She can stand just outside the front door and smoke, while I have to wait until I go out to dig into the pack I've been nursing all week.

Hey, fuck you, those cigarettes are medicinal. Have you not been reading?

It is nice, though, that when it comes down to it, she gets my back. Okay, we can't talk politics, since she's only a few degrees less right-wing than Dad. And I think she knows that if we tried to talk music she'd have to listen to my carefully prepared dissertation on exactly why country music is bad for the world. But she fronts me gambling money, she shares her beer with me, and she covers for my smoking. Best of all, she gets me out of the house when me and Dad are about to blow up, and if that's not what families are for, what is?

NEXT TIME: More about my mode of transportation.

Copyright 2004 Rich Bowen

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