Saturday, January 5, 2008

Bone Fever

I think I’ve mentioned this before, but my dad had a much more interesting life than I did in his youth. Among other things, before he got drafted into the Army, he got a degree in forestry and worked for the U.S. Forest Service. For many years, he and my uncle were seasonal forest fire fighters. Members of a fire crew, they would get called up to go fight forest fires wherever the need arose. My uncle was on a Helitack crew, which I still think sounds impressive to this day. I was too young to remember any of that, but they did it until I was about three or four.

I can’t say that my dad’s ever been particularly good with small children – I really haven’t seen him interact with many. Even in my childhood, I think he treated me more like a little man than like a boy. He was, however, my hero, and I soaked up what he told me or taught me as if it were the word of God. I remembered my dad when I was at the casinos in Tahoe last week. When I was in fourth grade, he taught me how to play craps. One thing that the fire crews used to do to pass the time at camp, he told me, was gamble. Pickup craps was one of the most popular games. For some reason that I can’t recall, he decided to teach it to me. Using my toy-box as a back-stop, my dad taught me the basics of a craps game – on a come out roll: 7 or 11 you win; 2, 3 or 12 you lose, but you remain the shooter, etc. In my house, we had a plastic Slush Puppie cup commemorating the 1984 Olympics that we would throw our loose change into and we would divide the money in it into equal piles before we’d start to play. I never won or lost much more than a couple of dollars, but our games would last for a half hour or so. We played craps off and on until I was in about middle school, and then my folks taught me poker, my mom got in on the fun, and we passed the time playing poker, along with any uncle, cousin, or friend who happened to come by the house.

Perhaps most memorable were the craps rhymes that I picked up from my dad, which he had picked up from God knows whom. To this day, I can’t play craps in a casino without reverting to those rhymes. They get a strange turn of the head at the craps tables –usually from my friends – and I’ve never heard anyone else use any of them in a casino. And when I tell folks that I learned the rhymes as a 10 year old kid from my dad in our dining room, they just can’t believe it. Of course “eight, skate, and donate” and “nine, skline, the money’s mine,” are pretty benign and catchy cants. But when your point’s a five and you say: “fever in the whorehouse, run girls, run!” or on a ten point: “looking for a big dick daddy from Cincinnati,” it definitely raises some eyebrows.


Anonymous said...

Happy New Year Jack! What a great way to start out, too, hooking up with an ex and you didn't even have to take her to Paris to do so. Sounds like you're much better off.

Jack Gordon said...

Thanks for the "glass is half full" sentiment, TBee, and Happy New Year to you!

Anonymous said...

Happy New Year! I think I just became a fan. You are one of a kind, Jack.

A fan,


Jamm-o-rama said...

I have never even played craps. I think I will next time I get a chance just so I can try out a couple of these chants. I kind of get a kick out of people giving me strange looks and/ or whispering about things I say or do. Maybe I can even shout them randomly walking down the street or in the grocery store. Jack, you really are awesome and sounds like your dad is too. :)

Jack Gordon said...

Jamm-o, you crack me up. Thanks for the compliment - if my dad had a blog you'd totally like it.