Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Face it, Facebook....I Love You

Facebook. Fantastic. Is it only coincidence that these two words start with the same letter, and are alliterately similar? Methinks not so much a coincidence, after all.

What has Facebook done for me, you ask? Ohhhh, my dear, let me count the ways this product of the information super-highway has enriched my soul....

Facebook has given me a link, sometimes literally, to people I know, people I knew once, people I want to know better. People. Lives. The whole entire UNIVERSE, it seems. Maybe this makes me pathetic. But at least I'm in good company. :)

There's a lot of funny things about facebook, and funny ways to learn about people. For instance, you know by the information on your home page who has a business, kids, is married, is hopeful, is having a bad day, is going skiing for the weekend. I know more about some of these people than I ever knew when I knew them before. I know more about some of these people than I ever wanted to, in fact. Then there's the game addicts, the Farmville, Casino Land, Aquarium Master, Mafia Bosses. My current gauge of how interesting people's lives are is by visiting their profile. If more than 3 out of 5 recent posts are from these silly games, I know they must be lacking a little...or a lot of SOMETHING in their lives. Maybe just imagination?

On the other hand, stumbling upon my profile, one might find a random spattering of genuinely crazy rants, links, music, pictures of my cats, mundane status updates, drunken episodes, and perhaps something funny every so often.

Which is better? Being a truly open book and uncovering all of one's laundry, whether it be dirty or smelling irish-springs fresh? Or playing games and keeping your privacy settings wired like you house the Mona Lisa within?

I don't know the right answer, I just know what's right for ME, right now. And that is letting go, and letting people in. Letting myself be judged, read, seen....and not care what people say or think about any of it. Except, of course, when it's a good thing they say. I am addicted to seeing people "Like" my status, or comment. My heart picks up a beat or two when someone initiates a chat, or sends me a real message. Getting a friend request holds so much power sometimes, it's electrifying. Getting denied a friend request is disheartening, yet freeing and allows me to let go, figuratively, and literally.

One of the only Facebook applications I use is Iheart. I love it, which is the essence of the thing, I suppose. I send hearts to people because I want to say "hi" or "i love you" or "whasssup!". I send hearts to as many people as I can, as often as I can. I admit, I send hearts to people who send hearts back because I want to get hearts too. I send hearts to help Haiti, because they look pretty, to make someone's day, to let someone know I'm thinking about them. I send hearts, and I'll likely never stop. A few people have told me not to send them hearts anymore. Callous. Cold. Who doesn't have room in their lives for a heart? Really? But it's actually no big deal. I just send them to other people.

Facebook has brought people back to me that I will cherish forever, has gotten me closer to family, has reminded me how important the human connection really is. Facebook has also taught me that, in some circumstances, I was right to not want some people in my life. That their existence is made up of a lot of bullshit I don't care about, and never will. In snippets, Facebook provides a window into people's closets, journals, and secret hiding places. It is a place to share, and weren't we all taught as kids that sharing is caring?

This crazy forum is a place to cry, laugh, raise an eyebrow, learn, and play. It's a vessel upon which we sail in and out of each other's lives, as often or sparsely as we so wish. But for me, sometimes, it makes me ever so lonely. REAL human connection is what I crave. A touch, a smile, a hug, a story in full, a clink of the glass, a high five, a tissue handed over, a shared bowl of popcorn, a giggle-snort in all it's glory. Facebook makes me long for these things more than ever sometimes. But as it is, I'd rather have it virtually, than not at all.

So, to sum it up, I guess I can really say that Facebook has made my life a richer thing. It has created energy within me that wants to reach out, wants to KNOW people. Facebook has been, for me, a time-warp, a capsule opened up, a journey into unexplored territory, a connection. A blissful field of flowers; wise, beautiful, hopeful, funny flowers. Every day I pick a bunch, and LISTEN to what they write, and feel. Every day I find something on Facebook that makes me smile, frown, laugh out loud, or grimace. And sometimes, I find my own story, right in the middle of someone else's sentence, or photo, or link.

So, I'll be the first to say it - loud and proud - I LOVE YOU, FACEBOOK! Thanks for being the pod for my peas, the sun to my flower, the lighter for my cigarette, the spigot on my box of wine...you complete me.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A Heavy Heart...A Sad Truth

When I decided to move to Vegas, a lot of my friends were quite worried for me. Not because of the crime, not because it was so far from home and I'd be all alone. But because I like to gamble. Somehow I ended up with a network of friends back home who neither have the slightest clue about gambling, nor the slightest interest in it.

I, on the other hand, have been gambling since I was a teenager. As soon as I turned 21, I was working as a blackjack dealer, and fully immersed in the gambling culture. Most of my family have been big-time gamblers for years. I've spent all-nighters with my Mom, aunts and uncles, cousins in one casino or another, cheering over a blackjack, playing the numbers in roulette, punching buttons on a machine, or bluffing at big pots on the poker table. We've all exchanged loans when we're stuck, pulled each other away from games when it was time, rejoiced in big wins, looked on as our stubborn loved ones dumped sometimes thousands of dollars into the great wide world of chance.

So, I suppose my friends (and family) were at least somewhat founded in their concerns for my move to this city of temptation. But what most degenerate gamblers don't know is that gambling can be, and often is, a problem for them. I knew this about myself. I owned it. And I knew that I would try my hardest to not let it get the best of me here, or anywhere. As every true gambler has been totalled by the chances they take, so have I.

There have been very few times since I moved here that I have put more at risk than I should have. Those times were devastating, and an unhappy reminder that, as a gambler, I walk that line every day. The line that defines the housed and the homeless, the sick and the well, the broken and the free. The line, that if crossed one too many times, takes it all away. Fortunately for me, my time in Vegas has been tied to a pretty strict budget, and I've made a priority of my bills, my rent, and my financial well-being. Such is not the case for most Las Vegas residents.

After living here for almost two years, I am still quite shocked when I discover a degenerate gambler who's unfettered addiction is otherwise well-hidden. Last night, a poker player of mine, upstanding guy, sweet, funny, caring, seemingly responsible man, reminded me that even the best of us can wind up being the worst of us. It was a heart-wrenching, sad, and ugly reminder.

In Las Vegas I have seen my supervisors steal from the poker players and dealers, a young girl I worked with try and steal from the casino cage, my favorite poker room manager get hauled out of Planet Hollywood for embezzlement, leaving a 7-month-old baby behind while he goes to jail for the majority of her life. All of this to support an addiction to games of chance. My co-workers sink their paychecks into slot machines, the men I meet and date sometimes drink too much and play until they've emptied their wallets. Everyone is susceptible to devastation, and most cradle it in their arms like a crippled child. They protect their addictions, and smother themselves with a hope that has no foundation, a hope that only gamblers hope - "I'll get it back this time". And still, as much as I've seen this all my life, it still takes me by surprise when it happens to someone I care about.

It's a lonely existence here, and a frightening prospect that there's really no one you can trust. No one. A degenerate gambler is generally a really good person, locked in hell. They steal. They lie. They beg and borrow. They pay you back so that they don't look like a degenerate gambler. And then they borrow again. They win a little and lose a lot. They worry. They hate themselves. Their food tastes like cardboard. Their alcohol tastes like holy water. They are ashamed. They are alone in a city with millions of other people just like them. They are sick. And they will always be here. Some come here because they are already this way. But most come here for opportunity, and end up in this life...working for money to gamble with, paying payday loans off, to borrow from other ones, always consumed with thoughts of money, and how to get enough to gamble with, always waiting, wanting for the big win.

My heart is heavy for my friends who, like many of us, have crossed the line and are no better off for it. The people who's potenetial could be unlimited...anywhere else but here. The people who's hearts are made up of gold...but would cut it out of their own chests to pawn it for cash.

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