Lyle's Blog

Holdem for the wall

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Monday used to be my day off. Back in the truck stop days, it was kind of a special day for both Judy and I as I would have the day off and the kids would be in school. It was also the quietest day at that location.

But, things changed when we moved out to the new location. First off, the day became busier as to our location to local medical facilities. People would go to their doctor fasting and afterwards come to the diner to fill back up. Judy and I knew the crew was strong enough to handle this and initially kept up same as before making it our one day off together.

This did not change much when I started playing poker for Habitat for Humanity in the evenings as the day was pretty much over when I headed in for the games.

Then came the Band of Brothers. One of them contacted me asking if they could come in and use our back room for their lunch. I came in that first day and greeted this man who had brought these guys in. They seemed like a nice bunch of guys and I was pleasantly surprised when they asked to come back in the next week. I knew that they had moved from place to place and just figured that was what they wanted to do having read their article in the paper.

Then they asked to come in for the month and I began to think that it could be a bit more permanent. My friend, Dave Pica, then asked if we would mind if they made it more permanent. He also invited me to join them as I was a veteran myself. He was a Marine and asked me where my Navy hat was. I smiled and said I didn't have one. The next week, he had one in his hand and gave it to me. As I placed it on my head, I saw something on the bill above my eyes. I took it off and looked at a Marine sticker that he had placed under the bill. A laughing Dave said, "Now every time you look up, you will see the Marines.".

Dave had cancer and soon was to weak to come to the meetings and all to fast left us. By then, he was near and dear to my heart and that hat still sits on my desk, the sticker still attached to the bottom of the bill. Dave's picture and Marine certificate still grace the walls of that initial room that the brothers began to meet.

Now, Mondays are the busiest and longest days of my week.

I started off around 8 AM and had a bite to eat as I talked with Jim of the weekend and events that we had coming up. Trin had come with me and we left for a quick trip to Walmart as she needed some things there. Upon return, I quickly began moving things around to facilitate the move the main floor diners to the back room. Right at 10, the back room quickly filled up and Judy and I moved fast to assist the two waitresses who were now serving on both floors. We soon had to set up a sheet for people waiting to find a seat. One of our regulars noticed some friends sitting at the big table and joined them helping us keep the flow going.

As this happened the brothers began to spill into the main floor and find themselves seats and I set up the microphone for Zin's announcements. Before we knew it, it was 11 and as we worked to get orders out of the window and to the back tables as quickly as possible, I could hear the pledge of allegiance going on marking the start of the brothers lunch.

Soon things there were going strong and the line for the buffet was going around the room. Jim manned the serving while Judy and I assisted Cindy in covering the room and the same with the other two girls, Mary and Penny who were serving in the back room now. The time seemed to fly by quickly as we poured coffee, sorted and set up dishes to be served, and served dishes to tables when the waitresses were busy with others.

It was soon time for announcements and I was called back out on the floor to assist Zin with his many announcements of coming events. I put on the POW/MIA coat that was to be the first prize in evenings poker tourney for the traveling Vietnam wall and showed it off hoping to talk more guys into showing up and playing. I remember telling them that I hoped to have 30 players and thus make $300.

The back room settled and Judy and I both rested against the wall as the announcements were finished and the drawing for the weekly 50/50 was announced marking the end of the weekly event. We then talked with various brothers while we broke back down the room and made ready for the return of the customers to it. By 1PM, we were pretty much ready and invited customers coming in the door to come on in to our main floor while remnants of the brothers still sat around with their last cups of coffee.

Shortly, we had everything done and Judy and I left to go back to the house. On Sunday, we had bought some trees from Bimart and wanted to get them in the ground before the rain hit. By the time we got the holes dug and the trees planted, it was time for me to run down to get Jay after school.

We stopped by his house for his Lacrosse gear and then onto the diner to get the back room ready for the nights big poker event. While I was driving, KTVZ called and asked if they could join us for the evenings event. She asked me if she could interview me and I told her that I hoped to have an official member of the group that was bringing the wall to the area there. I gave her Susan Free's name and laughed as I volunteered Susan for the interview knowing that she had never been on TV before. "I got her on radio for the first time last week and she did great there.", I told the woman. I told her that I was sure that Susan could do it but if it didn't work out, I would gladly give her her interview sound bites.

I then called Susan to warn her so that she would not be overwhelmed by the situation. and shortly after Jay and I arrived at the diner so did Susan and our VVA rep, Robert who was there to make sure that the event was legal. For it to be legal, we must have a non profit organization to head the event up.

Before I knew it, it was time to take Jay to his practice and I realized I was not going to have time to eat a proper supper and I laughed at myself as I fixed yet another cold cheese sandwich as I ran out the door. I laughed because I had done the same thing earlier at lunch time. It is kind of a standing joke for me and meals lately. Either I am to busy and they sit in the window for a while before they are eaten or I am grabbing a couple of slices of cheese and putting it between a folded over slice of sour dough and running out the door. Christy, our head line cook is always teasing me there. "You own a restaurant and you hire us to cook and then you eat a cold cheese sandwich!", she laughs.

Upon arriving back from dropping off Jay it was, last minute things were set up and I instructed Susan on how to do the chips while Robert began to sign up people and take their money. KTVZ arrived and I introduced her to Susan and helped her find a place in front of the sign to interview as we finished off all the last minute details. I worried as not that many people were there and we were only 30 minutes away from the start.

I jumped out on the main floor and helped Terry and Chris serve our dinner customers and some of the early arrivals then I paid my $10, grabbed my chips and found a spot where I felt that I could play and assist with the chips if needed. Just before the start and as the TV interviewed Robert, I announced that a couple of us would be leaving for a funeral of a friend in the middle of the tourney. "If we are lucky enough to still be in it, you can just push our blinds in while we are gone and we will play with what we have left upon return.".

As we began to play, the lady from KTVZ moved around the room taping our playing and fun. I was between a couple of our regular players, with Ray, one of our better players to my right. I had some lucky early hands and had plenty of chips by the time the first time the blinds were ready to go up. Ray went all in and lost allowing him to rebuy another stack of chips. We allow that in the first fifteen minutes of the game to sort of spice up the game and make it more fun.

Zin and I had planned to leave for Ray's funeral at around 7:45 hoping to be at the event for the military honors part right after the mass. By 7:30, I had a healthy stack of chips and looked pretty strong. I didn't know how long it was going to take us away from the event so I figured that I would play loose and one of two things would happen. Either I would go out or I would have a stack large enough to last till I returned. After the first hand, I took two other players out and dramatically increased my stack. The second saw me loose half of the stack and I watched as the time grew closer. With a strong Ace 10 suited in my pocket, I pushed all in. Mike, who was to my left called me and flipped over two queens. Without picking up another Ace, I was soon out, grabbed a candy bar and shot out the door with Zin.

We arrived at the funeral just as the casket was being rolled outside for the military honors. We quickly parked the car and joined our other brothers as we solemnly watched our brother be wheeled out in front of us. As the leader of the honor guard, fellow veteran Bob Cusack, called the guard to attention, we snapped to a salute as the guns were fired and taps was called. Tears welled in my eyes as we said our official good bye to our brother and my friend, Ray Harmon.

Before leaving, we stopped and talked to Ray's oldest daughter asking her to come to one of the Band of Brother meetings so that we could present the family with some things. I gave her my card so that she could inform us of which meeting one of the family members could make.

As we drove back to the diner, Frank began texting me pictures of the winners on the final table as they held up their prizes. By the time we arrived, their were only three players left. Soon, it was heads up and Mike (the same one who had taken all of my chips), walked away with the win and the jacket.

Some of the guys stayed behind to help me reset up the tables for the next day and shortly after 9PM, I was locking up my office and heading home. Another long and busy Monday behind me, My eyes closed quickly as my head hit the pillow and for a change, I slept the entire night...surely a sign of exhaustion or a complete and profitable Monday with us raising just over the targeted $300.

I guess you might say just another Monday.

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