Both of us were sports nuts, but we seldom rooted for the same teams. What's the fun in that? You can't trash-talk your best friend if you were always on the same side. Our biggest rivalry was our favorite ABA basketball teams.
Note: For you youngsters, the American Basketball Association was a rival to the NBA in the early 1970's. It featured a red, white, and blue basketball, and stars such as Julius "Dr.J" Irving, George "Iceman" Gervin and Artis Gilmore.
Charles' team was the Indiana Pacers and mine the Kentucky Colonels. The Pacers were picked up by the NBA when the ABA folded, but the Colonels were not so lucky and went the way of the dinosaur.
As kids, we talked and lived sports. ABA, NBA, NFL, MLB, NCAA, we followed them all and could pretty much name the starting line ups of most professional teams. When playing football, we were very resourceful. When a ball wasn't available, we used a pinecone, rolling it under our feet to soften the cone and knock off the painful sharp edges. No pinecones? No problem. We would use an empty soda can. Charles and I are two of the very few people who can throw a soda can with a perfect spiral! Think it's easy? Give it a try.
We were close friends through high school, but lost track of each other as we moved on with our lives. We would see each other on occasion, but I moved out of the area in 1980 and after that we pretty much lost touch with each other, although I had run into him in 1988 at a local mall.
Charles found me through Facebook a couple months ago and we rekindled our friendship through that venue. I was going to be in southeast Texas for Thanksgiving and was able to arrange lunch with my old friend yesterday. Charles was living in Kinder, Louisana, where he was the Director of Table Games for the Coushatta casino there, so we agreed to meet in Lake Charles, about half way for us both.
I was excited and just a little apprehensive driving to our lunch meeting. I mean, what do you say to someone who was, at one time, your best friend, but you haven't seen in 22 years? Would I even be able to recognize him?
As I walked in the restaurant, actually a sports bar (what else would you expect?), I saw the back of his head, watching a football game. I guess he heard me talking to the hostess, because he turned to face me, wearing an Indiana Basketball sweatshirt! What the hell!
When meeting an old friend after a 22 year abscence, you'd like to think of something profound to say, something that might convey how much our friendship has meant over the years and how often I re-lived the memories of our school days. My first face to face words to Charles after 22 years?
"You didn't pay full price for that piece- of- CRAP sweatshirt did you!"
"I feel the love!" he said.
And it was just like old times as all those years melted away. Charles said his kids are in their thirties, one married with a kid, one single. He's engaged and will marry for the third time this spring. Between him and his fiancee, they have five grandkids. Damn he's old!
He said he had been in the casino industry for 16 years, beginning with the Isle of Capri and moving on to Harrah's and now the Coushatta casino. I also learned that we both love poker and had both recently played in the WSOP. He cashed, I didn't. I guess I'll have to get back there again, I don't want to be one-upped by some Indiana hoser!
And you can bet we'll be meeting regularly on the virtual felt, talkin' smack and laughing loud!
It'll be like old times.
Till next time, win the flips.