It was this time last year when, on a rare vacation, I made a friend.

We recognized each other from Cleveland, but this was Vegas. Still, familiar faces colliding miles away HAVE to say hello and so we did.
Mike was a poker dealer with one ear and a nice enough guy. I remembered him well. (How many one-eared dealers do YOU know?)

“Where are your friends?” he asked from his seat (two to my right). He was referring to other Clevelanders, the usual suspects I ran with.
“They’re here, “ I said, with a confirming motion across the card room. “To me it’s all the same but they love Mandalay Bay”.

Players came and went, but we stayed. Dealers rotated, but we remained— and as the automatic shufflers pumped, kinship developed.

I told him how my Dad would play gin tourneys at the Union Plaza downtown…about how I’d entered one year and got my butt kicked.

He opened up a bit more; he got real. Turned out his name wasn’t Mike, but Earl. Turned out he was due back in Ohio for a court date…”a support issue.”

“How long you here?” (I’m so naïve).
“Nah…not going…. Don’t have a lawyer.” (I smelled denial—his sense that if he didn’t think about it it would go away. I’d seen this movie before).
“We need to talk,” I urged him, and at a break we did.

Mike, I surmised, didn’t have a pot to piss in; he needed a break. Maybe I could help.

“You got to call the Court. They’ll issue a warrant.”
“I’m afraid.”

Well, you know where this is going. Courts were already closed back home, so I faxed in a letter. A call in the morning secured postponement, and over time and two court appearances, we worked out the issues with his “ex.”

“Send me a bill.” he urged, but we both knew he didn’t have it. The guy was on empty and I could relate. Been there; done that.

I told him about my bottom, in the 90’s…when I was afraid…when I didn’t have that proverbial pot…

I told him about another kid from the streets of South Euclid, another lawyer named Bruce…how he and his partner rallied me and represented me, knowing full well the money wasn’t there.

They knew then, and showed me by example, that you can’t be too busy making a living to help another make a life.

“Mike” and I are friends today because of Mandel’s largess to me. It goes to show you just never know. My guess is that when my friend picked me up by the bootstraps back then he never dreamed he’d touch a one-eared poker deal out west.

Kindness is like a shooting star…you never know where it lands.

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