When the grass is just fine

A couple of weeks ago, I stood in the lobby of the Palms Hotel and Casino and pretended I was a big shot for a little while.  Somebody hung an All-Access pass around my neck and led me through a mini-labyrinth to what would eventually be a very, very expensive party. 

“This is where everybody will get to go,” my guide explained me.  “Up there is where we’ll put the celebrities—Paris Hilton is supposed to come, did you know that?  Over there is the VIP room where only black wrist bands could go.”

Paris Hilton never showed up, but Corey Feldman did.  I didn’t look for either of them.  I watched a small Italian man molest a thin Canadian woman until the impromptu paparazzi flashbulbs started giving me a headache.  I once went out to assist on of my client’s VIPs in getting into the party.  I learned a valuable lesson about when you can touch a 6’7” bouncer’s rope.  The answer, oddly enough, and despite an All-Access pass, is “never.”

This is not about the party, though.  It’s about when I stood in the lobby in the half hour before the red carpet kicked up.  I saw an old friend and colleague who I have seen on many a work trip.  He is a Vegas local who occasionally ventures out to the tourney circuit as a freelancer.   This buddy had once been involved in my most dangerous moment of poker tournament reporting, one which could’ve resulted in me never having a gig again or, reasonably, could’ve killed me.  That’s a story for another day.  I survived with his help and we’ve been buddies ever since.

I hadn’t seen him since last January, so I took a little time to catch up with him and let him know what had been going on in my life.  I noticed that each of his responses were measured and careful.  I had seen the expression before, but couldn’t quite place where.  Finally, I asked, “So, what’s been going on with you?”

My friend paused for a moment, and then said—as casually as he could, “Well, I had a stroke.”

That’s when it hit me.  After my Dad’s near-death experience and three brain surgeries in 2003, it took him a long time to believe he was okay again.  His measured every word, afraid that he would say the wrong thing by accident.  All of us around him knew he had reached full recovery, but it took my Dad a long time to recognize he was okay and could go back to being his old self (the same guy who, by the way, hit a hole in one on #8 at Millwood this weekend). 

And so, here I stood looking at my buddy who is barely older than me.  We travel in the same circles.  We live a similar lifestyle.

“And I lost my job,” he said.

I only had a half a warm beer at that point.  If I’d had a 12-pack, the conversation would’ve sobered me up in a second.  Over the course of our conversation, my friend explained how close he’d come to not being around anymore, how much recovery he’d already been through, and what his prospects were for the future.  I could only nod and wish him the best of luck.

I bitch and moan a lot.  I labor over hours-long introspective conversations that have become more the norm than anything for me.  I’m often confused, disillusioned, and lost.  That said, I recognize how lucky I have it.  I recognize that—at least for now—the choices I make will guide my life.  I am, for the moment, in control.  What’s more, I couldn’t be happier with what I have. 

My doctor told me a month ago that my blood pressure is perfect.  My cholesterol is perfect.  A couple of MRIs have told me my noggin and my insides are perfect.  I don’t have to look around my house for very long to know that my life is perfect. 

Sometimes it’s just not true what they say about the grass.

On this side of the fence, it’s just fine.

Brad Willis

Brad Willis is a writer based in Greenville, South Carolina. Willis spent a decade as an award-winning broadcast journalist. He has worked as a freelance writer, columnist, and professional blogger since 2005. He has also served as a commentator and guest on a wide variety of television, radio, and internet shows.

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1 Response

  1. Da Goddess says:

    I think Vegas is bad for the health of our friends. My Vegas buddy just called to tell me he has MS. WTF? It doesn’t seem possible.

    As for strokes, having watched my friend (who is younger than I am) come back from one (and two comas), I am thankful for the fact he’s still with us, that he’s had second and third chances, and that we still have time together. How much? We never know. But we’re happy with what we have. I bet your friend is, too, in his own way. Don’t let time slip by without emailing or calling just to check in on him. He’ll appreciate that you care.

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