Pretend for a moment America has an avatar that embodies all the best things about this country. A living personification of our most deeply held beliefs on duty, honesty, freedom, liberty, bravery, strength, justice, and kindness. You are probably picturing someone like Superman or Captain America. That’s good.
Now, I want you to imagine that avatar has an evil twin. This twin is certainly all things American, but instead of symbolizing all the good about America, the evil twin displays everything wrong with our nation.
Bad news, everyone. Evil twin actually exists. I sat next to him at a poker table in Las Vegas last week.
He strolled arrogantly up to the table and sat down with a smirk and an air of superiority unrivaled by…actually, you know what? I’m not being fair here. Let me start over.
He rolled up arrogantly to the table, teetering atop his overworked Rascal Scooter with a smirk and an air of superiority.
As he barked at the employee who was helping him move the actual chair out of the way so he could park up close to the table, I took a moment to lean back and get the full picture.
He was shaped like a half-melted soft-serve cone, where everything has sort of cascaded down and settled around the mouth of the cone. His head was perfectly round, and his pink face looked as if another, bigger face was trying to squeeze its way out through the jowls and forehead.
His beady eyes looked out from behind enormous wire-rimmed glasses and caught me staring. He smiled the smile of the third-grader who thinks nobody noticed his fart. He reached out a Stay Puffed Marshmallow Man hand and in a voice that sounded like bacon hitting a frying pan in the Deep South, said “Hah! I’m Ran-deee.”
I did my best to shake hands without touching him, and immediately brushed the sticky crumbs off my palms that he had somehow passed to me.
He had not been dealt two hands before he called a waitress over and ordered (I kid you not) chicken fried steak and a strawberry milkshake. This was sometime around midnight on a Tuesday.
While he waited for his food, Ran-deee lost a fairly big hand. He flopped a set of three’s, and called the guy with Ace-King of diamonds a “suck out” when the third diamond hit the board on the river (Quick translation for my non poker-playing friends: this was Randeee’s way of letting the table know he feels he is the only one who should be allowed to play poker, because everyone else disrespects the game by beating him with what he views as inferior cards).
Randee’s food came, and I began to notice he made a disturbing little “HERP” sound every time he shoveled a new pile of chicken fried steak and mashed potatoes into his mouth. I swear, it was as if his own mouth was screaming “Halt!” in an effort to prevent the onslaught of incoming calories.
The Australian gentleman sitting across from me and Randee was drinking a Red Bull energy drink. Upon discovering this, Randee felt obligated to inform the Australian that studies have confirmed major health risks associated with energy drinks. We all stared blankly at Randee the way Mormon missionaries would look at Lindsey Lohan as she gave them tips to staying sober.
An hour went by. Randee, sweaty and breathless from either an unnoticed heart attack or the task of moving the milkshake from his tray to his lips, pushed his chips all in with a straight. I called, feeling my full house was probably good. It was.
Randee went from pink to red to purple. He had what appeared to be a stroke, then slammed his cards to the table, accused me of being a “flippin donkey!” and stormed off. To his credit, it is not an easy task to storm off when you have to first back your scooter up and perform a five-point turn.
As he whirred away, I couldn’t help but hear the words to that sacred Lee Greenwood anthem, “…Cause there ain’t no doubt that I love this laaaand, God bless the U.S.A!”