She Bets Her Life

A writer and former compulsive gambler reflects on women and addiction.

A Spy in the House of Duh: train time, 60 Minutes and what really matters

When a smart interviewer and three smart addicts talk truth.

What mattered was walking through Central Park with my daughter, watching her blithe spirit connect with everyone and everything; listening to my companion gambling addicts responding to Lesley Stahl's questions, with intelligence, passion and without lapsing into bathos; waking just before dawn in North Dakota, looking out the train window and seeing Orion glittering above the southern horizon, a tiny burst of phosphorescent green just below his feet, then the meteor streaking not quite to the earth.

There was irony:  60 Minutes taped us in a parlor in the Women's National Republican Club*; Manhattan was fully as much a wilderness as Glacier National Park; our desperately chic hotel (not to be mentioned by name) had no fan in the bathroom; and the old guy who had enough bucks to take the fancy sleeper car across country tipped our swamped and impeccable dining car waitress a screamin' dollar after his and "the wife's" fifty dollar meal.

* (If you've read my posts, you might imagine the trepidation with which I walked through the door of the Women's National Republican Club.  I was afraid either my head or the club would explode from the incongruity.  We both survived the incursion of a spy in the House of Duh.)

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There was perfect beauty:  clouds along the eastern horizon reflecting sunset - an undulation of apricot and indigo pleated silk; my daughter's face as she offered up her morning prayers at our hotel window; the cellist and violinist playing Pachelbel's Canon in an alcove in Central Park, the acoustics those of a fine concert hall; the outcroppings of the Park's Manhattan micaceous rock shimmering in soft October light, welcome respite from too much that is human, so that I pressed my palms against the stone and murmured, "Thank you.  Always thank you."

There was cheating:  I snuck into my email on the computer at the Amtrak lounge in Chicago.  And there was how it felt to be in my body and with my mind away from the internet.  It's too soon to write about what I was blessed to learn.  I am being with it, grateful to for the luxury of having time to just be with it.

**************

My thanks to Katy, Joel, Eva, Donna and Lesley - with, to paraphrase the words of that quintessential New Yorker, Don Marquis, "you know what and you know why." And, nudge nudge, wink wink, my thanks to the Women's National Republican Club for the hospitality...    

Mary Sojourner, M.A., is the author of She Bets Her Life: A True Story of Gambling Addiction (Seal Press/ April 2010) and Going Through Ghosts (U.Nevada Press, 2010).

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