• • •
Back in high school most of us found our comfort zone in some sort of clique or group. Me? I was a greaser. With long hair slicked back, tight black shirts, jeans and boots (not the cowboy kind) we gave off the vibe of “Not to be messed with.” But I was really a lover, not a fighter. And I was an athlete (a gymnast) and there were very few greasers doing double twisting double backs.
So I often reached out to the other main group, the socialites. With short cropped hair, plaid shirts, khaki pants and penny loafers (with the pennies in them) they always looked a little silly to me. But I liked their vibe.
Little did I know — and I really didn’t — I was pushing my boundaries to be a better person by hanging with a different group. And indirectly, I was pushing those socialites to be better as well.
• • •
As I grew older I appreciated not pigeonholing myself. And that’s pretty easy to do for all of us because, frankly, we get very comfortable hanging out with people with similar likes. In Vancouver — as is the case in most communities — there is a group of caring, giving, dang good people. And I fell into that group. I attended many social events and enjoyed it very much. Heck, I really pushed my boundaries by doing stuff like Dancing With the Local Stars (I lost) and was the only celebrity chef for Share’s Soup’s On fundraiser (I lost again).
After participating in several dozen of these gatherings — most of which were held to support a good cause — you begin to run into the same good people.
This born-again socialite had to find his greaser roots. In other words, I had to push myself into a different group. So I turned to poker.
• • •
Look, poker is a lot like eating mortadella. It’s fine unless you indulge too much, and then it could kill ya. So always gamble and eat cold cuts with caution.
Knowing that, after years of living in Vancouver, I headed north to tiny La Center. Poker rooms were actually pushed out of Vancouver to La Center years ago. And the gambling businesses settled in nicely there, with the city getting a decent chunk of taxes from them.
I’ve always known how to play poker. I picked up the game back in high school when many of us would play nickel-dime-quarter in the basement. Ideally, I’d win enough money to pay for an ice cream. But that wasn’t my intent now. It was — as noted — to hang with a different crowd. Not a better crowd. Or a worse crowd. A different crowd.
There’s Ralph, who retired pretty early from some sort of factory work and usually spends five days a week playing poker. He’s a grinder intent on supplementing his small retirement savings. There’s Ed, who was in the window manufacturing business and came early to the Last Frontier Casino most days to find the same group to play with. He recently retired to Florida. But he returns to the Great Northwest during the holidays to visit kids and grandkids and — yes — finds his way to the La Center game. And Bing — she’s a dealer with a pleasant smile and a quick wit. Been around for a long time and always engages me with the hope of finding any inside scoops.
But I don’t think I ever ran into anyone in La Center who was also in my Vancouver crowd.
I remember asking Don, a retired stockbroker who plays poker, if he had ever run into Ed Lynch. I figured stockbrokers meet lots of different people. And Lynch was a well-known Vancouver philanthropist whose millions of dollars of accumulated wealth have supported good causes, both before and after his death.
The retired stockbroker looked at me for a second: “Does he play poker up here?”
No, I told him.
“Then I don’t know him.”
• • •
Do you see the point? We simply don’t mix enough. So I’ve changed my New Year’s resolution and am vowing simply to expand my horizons. To find yet another group that I haven’t hung out with. I would challenge you all to do the same. Maybe I’ll find a bunch of Trump supporters. I already have a friend I used to work with at The Columbian who regularly sends me texts supporting his … guy. I need to get uncomfortable. Maybe hang out with some Trump supporters? You all do as well.
Extend your hand. Nothing should be off the table. Well, maybe that dancing in the nude before dark thing. But that’s it. Now get to it!