I used to read a lot. It started in elementary school when we were first allowed to check out books from the library and I would tote a dozen to the librarian for her stamp of approval in the flap telling me it was alright for me to take home these precious goods on the strength of an eight-years-old’s promise. Week after week, I would return and make the same request, “Do you have any more books about dinosaurs or Indians?” When those subjects ran dry, I moved on to biographies, history, Freddy the Pig, and the Hardy Boys. I checked out Guadalcanal Diary six times one year and fell in love with the study of the Pacific Theater in WWII. If I stayed home from school claiming illness, Mom would check on me periodically to make sure I wasn’t reading, as she thought I might be feigning disease to squeeze in a few more precious hours with the written word. It was a bittersweet time, though, as I recall being sad that my Mother would no longer be reading to me as I could now do it for myself. It occurred to me to ask her to read to me again but I remember feeling silly at the thought. I could read now. Why would she want to read to me? Fortunately, for both of us, she reads to her grandsons now, giving them, and me, a feeling of comfort.
My obsession with reading continued throughout school. I spent more time reading for pleasure in a week than I did in a years’ worth of course work. I could knock out a book a day easily: Ludlum, Hawthorne, James, popular, classic, teen, historical fiction. It didn’t matter the subject, I was hooked. The daily paper was fifteen minutes work, reading every headline, scanning the stories of interest, the complete sports pages, the comics, the TV listings. Cereal boxes were the fallback choice at breakfast. Screw any games on the box; give me the history of Golden Grahams or show me a map of Battlecreek and I’ll be content. I subscribed to the Sporting News when it was still in newspaper format. I would read every box score from the week’s games, whether they be baseball, basketball, football, or hockey. My Sports Illustrateds were read and re-read until the staples wore through the cover. No book in my parents’ library was safe, appropriate for a teen or not. I kept it up through college and beyond, spending more time in pleasure reading than in studying, working, or watching TV.
All that stopped with the first day of law school. People don’t believe it, but it’s true; I read less in law school than I did in my prior, every day life. The difference was the denseness of the subject matter. We averaged about 100 pages per night of required reading, most of it mind numbingly detailed. We were expected to be able to discuss intelligently what we had read the night before for the entire class period. The Socratic Method was used to poke holes in our impressions of the material, to make us think on multiple levels, to force us into decisions that sometimes went against common sense but were perfectly logical in a legal sense. The mantra of law professors is, “We do not teach you to be a lawyer. We teach you to think as one.” That’s true. I learned more about being a lawyer my first week on the job as a summer clerk than I did the entire first year of school. At first it was exhilarating to be encouraged to read so much, and then to discuss those readings on such a deep level. Of course, I had been out of school for five years, working a dead end job, and I was happy to be anywhere but on the loading docks. Boredom soon set in though, and the second and third years were often drudgery as I anxiously awaited graduation so I could get a real job and support myself and the family. As my head filled up with the legal knowledge I would need for my career, I noticed my pleasure reading dropped. I would voraciously read over the Christmas break, trying to cram in everything I could before the required readings resumed. It was the only chance I had. Unlike high school and college, I had to keep up with the school work during the semester in a timely manner or fall hopelessly behind. Graduation came and went as did the bar exam. Work required its own detailed reading and extracurricular study languished still. Now, six years later, I don’t think I’ve averaged a book a month. I have an unfinished biography of Teddy Roosevelt and Dr. Zhivago laying by my bed, over a year since I first cracked them open. I have managed to finish books on Jefferson, Franklin, and Da Vinci. I've discovered Larry McMurtry and Stephen Ambrose as well as many others I somehow missed in my youth. I love to discover a "lost classic" such as Tale of Two Cities or Anna Karenina and sink into the richness of the writing. My reading is varied but minor in scale to its past.
Until now that is. I am hooked on these damned poker blogs. I spend half my day checking for updated posts from some of these people. I tell stories from the blogs at our Tuesday and Sunday night games. I long to make some of these road trips, to play at the blogger table, to drink Guinness and Southern. You people are cutting into my productivity.
Recent posts from some talented writers have caused me to think more seriously about the concept of blogging. I bemoan the crap that makes it onto television and into the theaters at the expense of higher quality fare. I would rather watch Lucky than Tilt any day of the week, but the unavailability of the former and the mild entertainment value of the latter (coupled with its subject matter of great interest) draws my thumb to ESPN on the remote. This is what goes on the air after countless hours of market research and ungodly amounts of money are spent.
How can we expect blogs, with no, or very little, research and with very little, if any, cost to be better? I don’t think we can. The trick for me is to appreciate the quality I run into. The beauty of chance bounty. The loveliness of happenstance. I feel extremely fortunate to have stumbled across AlCantHang, and from there to Iggy, Up for Poker, BadBlood, Felicia, Pauly, Maudie, Poker Babe, The Tao, The Commish, Pokerati, and so many others. I read these, and so many more, as often as I can. When I stumble across a blog that doesn’t do it for me, I move on. When I hit a post I don’t enjoy from a favorite blogger, I try again with the next one. I deliberately have not bookmarked all of the blogs I enjoy as I do not want to get so caught up in those I forget to randomly cast for others. I will often blindly click on links from Iggy’s or Up For Poker’s link lists to instill a bit of randomness in my reading. I often end up at an old standby’s site, with its familiar colors and font, where I can catch up with the lives I’ve learned so much about through the writer’s openness and honesty. I consider myself most lucky, though, when I click on a stranger's link. A stranger who has taken the time to lay a portion of themselves on the line, seeking to make a mark in the community through their words. When the writing sparkles it can be sublime. When the writing lags it can be drudging. At worst, it is mildly entertaining (with interesting subject matter) and at best, it is inspiring.
To drudge or to inspire, that is the question. I feel I will drudge more often as that is the nature of the blog. To put out thoughts unique to the interest and motivations of the writer is the conceit that blogs support. “I’m so smart and important. Everyone needs to hear what I say.” Ha! We are all fools to the extent our ego allows in that regard. As for me, I will try to write more often, I will attempt to include items of interest to others, I will endeavor to lay off the sentence fragments. As for you, keep on doing what you do. I hope to stumble across it and get a chuckle, a glimmer of insight, or a blast of inspiration. Do not suffer the little bloggers to come unto you, as some may be discouraged and we will lose the occasional brilliance that can emerge. Bloggers though, take heed. As you have sought to improve your game, you should attempt to improve your writing. You are being read, whether or not your comment sections are filled with pithy comments. I think this is the crux of the recent posts by some of the more lucid bloggers You take the time to write and put it out there for the public. Make the effort to raise your blogging game. Tell me your stories, let me hear of your bad beats, ask people smarter than me for advice. The World is listening.