Monday, June 18, 2007


I take pride in remembering faces. So it was embarrassing that I didn't recognize Bob F. when he came to my roulette table.

My embarrassment ran deep because Bob was not only a charter member of our monthly poker games, but a great friend and co-worker.  More importantly, he took took center stage in two stories that I have repeated a gazillion times.

The Turning Stone Casino, near Syracuse New York, was a part of the new wave of gambling houses that became a threat to Atlantic City's east coast monopoly. Bob was in search of upward mobility and found it. Now, thirteen years later, he has ascended the casino management ladder while others remain in dead-end positions.

While still living in Jersey, way before there was a personal computer in every home, Bob and his wife had two small daughters. It was also so long ago that this area didn't have a decent mall, (the Hamilton Mall in Mays Landing was a vacant lot.  So we of Atlantic County had to drive sixty miles to get to a fashionable mall.

Bob was a terrific dad and wanted only the best for his children. When early December rolled around, he learned that his older girl (3) wanted Santa to bring her the super-hyped Christmas gift for pre-school age girls called, "SHAM-POODLE."  This over-sensationalized poodle-shaped bathtub toy dispensed shampoo when you rubbed it on your head.

The Nickelodeon network inundated the airwaves with commercials for it. I barely watched that station and still couldn't get the jingle's redundant lyric out of my head, "Sham-Poodle, when your taking a bath..."

Naturally, Bob's three-year old began pestered her folks for it. Bob understood what she wanted and had two weeks to get it.  At first he didn't realize what he was up against.  The local stores likened the Sham-Poodle buying frenzy to when Tickle Me Elmo was the red hot item.  Bob found out the hard way that they were already sold out for weeks and their suppliers had run dry too.

Bob went on a mission.  Without the convenience of a computer, he obsessively called every toy store in south and central Jersey. were none to be had. He expanded his quest to Philadelphia, its suburbs and even the Christiana Mall in Delaware.

When the situation seemed dire, Bob started looking for an alternative gift but he knew, nothing else would satisfy the love of his life. Finally two days before the December 25th deadline, Bob got a call back from the Deptford (NJ) Toys 'R Us..  They had a return.  It was pristine, in its unopened package. Bob had to work that night but he dropped everything he was doing and did eighty MPH to get there.  The Sham-Poodle was indeed in perfect condition.  The manager turned down his twenty-dollar token of appreciation and he happily sped home.

On Christmas morning Bob and his wife never hinted that the Sham-Poodle was a part of the treasure trove beneath the tree. So, in anticipation of their little girl's joy, they readied their video camera for the magic moment. The little girl as if guided by an internal diving rod excitedly tossed aside other packages until she picked her target out of the crowd.  She had a million dollar smile as she  proclaiming into the, "I hope THIS is my sham-poodle!"

She tore it open, saw it and was repulsed. On the verge of hyper-ventilating, she screamed and cried. Bob and his wife were in shock. He kept the camera rolling as mom tried everything in her power to console her baby. Bob stopped recording and helped calm their daughter down. When she caught her breath Bob asked, "I thought you wanted Santa to bring you that?" Viciously she snapped, "I didn't want the purple Sham-Poodle, I wanted the PINK ONE!"

An ironic postscript to this story is that...I had to remind Bob of it.

Bob also played a major role in one of the my greatest moments.

In June 1993, we invited Bob's family, (and another) to bring their crap to our house, to sell at our yard sale. It was particularly hot and Bob's daughters got bored, (by then were two and four). He took them each by the hand and went for a walk.

I watched as they vanished around the bend, a few doors down. I envied Bob and wished that I had a child. Ten minutes later, he returned with the baby asleep in his arms while the other walked along and clung to his hip. At that point I adjusted my previous thought and wished specifically for a daughter.

The next moment in time is indelibly marked in my mind. Bob's wife (Jackie) took the girls inside to freshen up. While in our house, Jackie heard the fateful phone message left by Dr Talidouris (an infertility specialist), "You don't need my help, you are already pregnant." Needless to say when Jackie relayed the news...with bigger fish to fry...the yard sale was suddenly over!

Andrew was born the following February.

By the way Bob, if you really expect people to recognize you, next time remember to where a wig that resembles how you wore your hair in 1993.




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