Days of my Life
I decided to do a “Days of our Lives” installment of the Blog. I am sure most of you could care less about me as a person but too bad. It is a cathargic experience and I feel like doing it. So the question is why is it so hard to pull away from the Poker tables for a weekend? The answer is rooted in my troubled past and not so great present.
I started off life on a pretty decent track. My parents worked all day to keep us in our roach infested projects. Now these projects were not as bad as say Compton. In those days you did not have to worry about gangs killing you or things along those lines. I was generally a happy kid. My dad drove trucks for a living and was hardly ever around. My sister and I took care of ourselves from a very young age. We would come home from school and between that time and when my Mom got home for work we were on our own. I am not sure my parents were ready to have kids. I was born premature and lost hearing in one ear because my parents did not treat an ear infection with antibiotics. My mother had never told me this before my 34th birthday. My wife thought her story was kind of fishy that I was born deaf. I confronted her and she finally came out with the truth.
I tended to not give school a lot of thought. I was fairly bright, but very un-motivated in public school. I preferred to horse around with my friend Mark instead of study. Not a big deal pre-sixth grade. The one exception was writing. I loved to write sci-fi and fiction stories. The whole class LOVED to read them also. I remember one story I wrote. It was the best story of my life. I still remember it. It had to do with a boy who transferred from his world to “Candy Land”. Complete with a mean candy queen and her candy cane soldiers. It was really good. I submitted it to the teacher and somehow it ended up getting lost. I swear I read a published story that sounded like mine years later. Conspiracy abounds!
I never remember being really sad at this point in my life. I was fairly happy. Somewhat bored. I was not very close to my parents but too young to really understand this. I wished my life would change. Little did I know what I was asking!
Just in time for seventh grade we decide to move. The parents get up enough money to move us out of the projects and decide to go to Winchester. In our state this is a very affluent town. We rented a side of a duplex. The rest of my teen years are sort of a dark, blank, mystery. I really never like to think of them. Pretty much years of hell interspersed with a little minor pain. It encompassed several towns and never really got any better. I guess I had a sign that said “Pick on me, I like it!” on my back. On the good side when you only have a few friends you tend to have time to study. I also had motivation. I could get straight A’s for half of the year in school, skip the second half, and end up with C’s! No school was a good thing! I am assuming many people had the same experience as me. It is kind of a sad statement on humanity that whenever a group of people gets together there has to be a lesser group. We see it everywhere in our structures. Rich vs. Poor. Smart vs. Dumb. American vs. Foreign. Someone has to be the bad guy.
The one bright point of all these years was my Computer hobby. I remember working for various places like McDonalds, K-Mart, Caldor’s, Stop & Shop and saving my money. I was always into the saving thing. The first computer I saved up for was a C64. It rocked. It has build in basic. Sixty four megs of memory. I quickly learned how to program this beast. Doing sprite manipulation with peeks and pokes was excellent fun! I graduated to the Atari line of computers eventually. These were the most technically sophisticated machines of their day. Unfortunately the game title stuck, and business never embraced them. Much like Apple for different reasons.
The computer became my lifeline to the world. I loved programming and playing games. I could talk to people on chat lines. Participate in bulletin boards. I made some of the best friends of my life online. These are people who I still hang out with and consider some of my best friends ever. I could immerse myself in the virtual world. I would spend every hour either doing something on the computer, reading books, or, well some other teen boy thing. I think it is during this time that I set up a bad pattern in my life: Escape your Problems via the PC.
Eventually as all things do the High School years ended. It turns out that the one thing I did well, the thing I defined my life by, the computer would become an even better friend. I drifted around for a few years trying to break into the business world without a college education. Not easy. I finally decided to take a 9 month tech course and see if I could make it in the computer industry. Tech School was a lot more fun than High School. I will spare you the gory details of the DEC machines and Cobol classes. Our teacher hated us though. There were two very good reasons for this. First off I was constantly correcting him. He would put some code on the board, and I would be like “Mr. P, I am sorry, but you have the loop incorrect, you need to increment i for that bubble sort to work”. I actually had a brain that functioned back then and would constantly correct his grading of my papers to maintain my 4.0. I know it was not MIT but I was having fun.
The second reason I loved school was my arch enemy. We both were really good students and enjoyed hacking the schools DEC. He was a night school student and I ruled the day. One evening he noticed my tampering and changed my password on the DEC. I could not stand for that! The nice thing about the DEC is the operating system was all interpreted. I.E. You could rewrite it! Bahahaha! So of course I had several back doors at that time and quickly got in and kicked him out. After a few weeks of messing with each other the sysadmin (I.E. My Teacher) kicks both of us out and restores the OS from tape. Thus is formed the Triad of Evil! We joined forces with another friend of mine and spent a whole night hacking the teachers password. What could it be? School name. Girlfriend. Machine name. Nope. It was hot blondes. We caught that one last because we remembered he liked blondes and were getting desperate. We are now hyped on caffeine and pissed as hell that he would lock us out of OUR system. So we patch the OS again and kicked our teacher out of the system. It was our greatest triumph!
I came in the next day and the principle of the school is asking me why nobody can get into the system. It turns out that one of the triad decided it would be fun to lock everyone out instead of just out teacher. I put on my best Poker face, which is not very good, and say “I am not sure what happened but I could probably help you out”. He gets very angry and threatening and accusatory and I repeat my denial. He finally asks me nicely if I could help him out. I give everyone back access to the system and all is well. Now this principal is very smart. Instead of trying to blame us or expel people he decided if you cannot beat them you have to join them. The Triad of Evil goes legit and become the new sysadmins.
Once I finish school life takes a nice upward spiral because of computers. I land a job making 28K a year! Can you believe that! It is mad money! Remember, I had been working at Caldor’s up until now. Like 4 bucks and hour! I get to travel to a lot of different places as a consultant in EIS/DSS systems using a proprietary 4GL language. Huh? You do not understand what that means. Me either. I hate computer terminology. Pretty much means making pretty pictures for CEO’s and CFO’s and other types of O’s. EIEIO and I am on my way. I keep learning more relevant skills from my jobs. I teach myself RPG and land a job with a hospital. I learn Visual Basic and SQL server while there and land a consulting gig. I figure out working for someone fulltime sucks when I can make 40% more consulting and go that route. It really was a great time. I loved what I was doing. I was making good money and things were looking good. It was this period where I think defining myself in the context of computer really settled in. All of my worth. All of the praise and good things I get from life come from the PC. I am good at what I do and all is good.
Eventually as all things do things changed yet again. I fell in love. It was probably the first time in my life I was actually ever happy. I got married. Had a few kids. Got really out of shape. Not that I was ever Arnold but I was in decent shape. Now I am lucky if the stairs do not tire me out. The defining object of my life: my computer is suddenly not as fun. I work to pay the mortgage and support the kids. I worry about being outsourced to India. The tech bubble has burst. The marriage is not going well. My energy level is at an all time low. It took me 8 months to get enough momentum up to do my taxes this year! It is hard to keep up with the Kid’s, which pisses them off. Life basically sucks. So here I go again clinging to that one thing to define myself. Poker! It has all of the characteristics I need. I am good at it. It is at the computer. It has a nice Blogger community. People to talk to. So I have immersed myself into the Poker world. Escaping the crap I have to deal with in real life and only dealing with who is going to hit their runner-runner straight to suck-out on me again.
So that is why it is so hard to put the game away sometimes. I guess it is the perfect storm of depression, self-esteem, and money. I need something to cling to until I get my life under control again. I think it is as simple as getting outside and exercising and getting some momentum going. Once I pull my head up out of my problems a little I think I could become functional again. However nothing is ever simple in life and the last page of this book has yet to be written. It seems to be moving towards heart attack at 40 but we will have to wait and see. As in any good novel there are twists and turns and our hero is not out yet. Will it be Grims Fairy Tails or Happily ever after? Stay tuned and find out.