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America, Apple Pie & Poker

I’m lucky to play poker twice a month with resident friends who are incredible gentlemen.

Poker player holding playing cards

They don’t know it but they have replaced a seemingly irreplaceable group of men with whom I played poker in Carmel Valley for about 25 years. During those poker parties, we “banked” 25 cents from every pot in a year. Whatever we collected was spent for traditional Christmas season dinner with our families at a favorite local restaurant.

The pot money didn’t cover the cost for the entire evening, but it covered the alcohol portion (not a small sum). We poker buddies were very much alike. We were within five years in age, so our hair turned gray and thinned at about the same rate. We were all close friends and neighbors in a very small town. Four of us were still married to our first bride; one was a widower and two were in happy relationships. We all had kids who were parents themselves, gainfully employed and drug-free.

Six were born in widely dispersed areas of America. One was from Sicily, and we never let him forget it; he made the best pasta dishes, cannoli, and ice cream. Six were employed through 2000, including a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel and a Navy captain.

We all served proudly in the military, four in the enlisted ranks and three commissioned as officers. Politically, we were all conservatives. And we enjoyed a joke or two. I have found similar camaraderie here at PVE.

My friends were so much like Americans everywhere.

One was in the hospitality business. I met him when he arrived in Monterey to work for the owner of three Holiday Inns. He purchased a 27-room motel in Carmel Village and worked hard for 25 years. Another spent much of his life tinkering in the auto business but always made a living. A third spent his entire career in civil engineering; when his son received a degree in civil engineering, passed his professional engineer test and owned his own firm in Petaluma, he sent plans to his dad (my friend) for dependable plan checks. I could relate more but you get the idea.

My Carmel Valley poker buddies are still close friends, but we see each other only occasionally. They know I struck gold because I managed to find such a group here and have another group of friends who support the same values: patriotism, good food and the game of poker.