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March 12, 2004 - Image 75

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2004-03-12

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Last Call


The perfect gift
for yourself or
someone special!


Bluffing Like Dad

Las Vegas was something they saw on
"research- television, but Tuesday nights were "Rat
ing" this Pack" night, with a Jewish twist.
It was their chance to relax and have a
cover story on poker, good laugh, something they didn't have
I sat at numerous
much time for during the week.
card tables watching
They didn't use chips, but you could
and playing a game
hear the sound of dimes and quarters
that's been in back-
hitting the Formica tabletop, and some
and dining
typical Yiddish expressions.
"How could you deal me such dreck
Call it what you
(a bad hand)?" my father would joke to
will, playing poker is
his business partner.
to some men what
I heard lots of "Oy veys," too.
joining a book club is to some women.
Mom says Dad loved to bluff; "any-
• It's not just camaraderie or a shared
thing to stay in the game," she said.
experience among friends, it's a chance
'And they all knew it."
to suspend your everyday worries for a
When they moved to Florida, my par-
few hours and lose yourself in some-
ents continued spieling kuten with other
-thing else.
Holocaust survivors.
My memories of
cards go way back.
On many Tuesday
nigh ts at my house
in Flint back in the
early 1960s, they sat
at the kitchen table.
Dad and about six
others spieling kuten
as they called it —
playing cards, as we
know it.
We didn't have air
conditioning, so on
sweltering summer
Dad and grandson Eric engage in game of 'Wan" circa 1995.
nights, with the win-
dows open and their sleeves rolled up,
Although Mom likes playing kaluki, a
you could see the numbers tattooed on
card game similar to gin, she can hold
their forearms.
her own in poker.
They were men whose childhoods
On rare occasions when I found
were stolen, whose new families started
myself visiting at the same time as my
from scratch in a new country and
brother and his family, we'd find Our-
speaking a new language.
selves at the dining room table with a
Their piece of the American pie was a deck of cards.
bit more difficult to slice, but none of
I have a photograph on my wall at
them, including their wives, had time to home of Dad playing cards with his
grandson, Eric, but that was years ago.
After years spent working on automo-
Alzheimer's has stolen Dad's abilities
tive factory lines, they gradually saved
to bluff and play and even speak.
enough money to become their own
A disease can silence a person, but it
can't stand in the way of tradition.
Now they were scrap yard owners
The poker story is done now, and I've
who competed against each other along
joined a monthly game.
a stretch of industrial highway on Flint's
I don't hear Yiddish expressions, we
east side.
use poker chips and there's plenty of cli-
The work was brutal — long hours
mate control, but the game and the rea-
exposed to summer heat and winter
son behind the game are as timeless as
cold extremes, their only shelter a cinder poker itself
block building with a metal roof.
When I sit down among my new
The scrap yards were open seven days
friends, I try to stifle the urge to bluff,
a week, and each partner took a day off
that urge to do "anything to stay in the
every other Sunday.
game." ❑

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