NEW YORK CITY – September 11, 2001 – My phone rang at 9:30 AM. I had been out playing poker until 6 in the morning, so I didn’t catch the first few words coming from the other end.
“Dude, they flew a plane into the World Trade Center! One into each building,” my friend informed me. “I don’t know what’s going on, but you might want to get out of midtown.”
“What, are we under attack?”
“They don’t know, maybe terrorists.”
“I had a dream about this like a month ago.” I felt calm, like I was back in that dream.
“What? Dude, you should come uptown.”
I went downstairs and stood on the corner of 43rd and 9th. As I waited for the light to change, I turned to the south, towards downtown. I started walking. I had to go towards it. What was happening to my city?
It was a beautiful sunny day, the last gasp of summer. That’s not why the streets were so crowded after rush hour on this Tuesday, though. A man had his car radio blasting with the doors open. He was blasting the news, and a crowd had gathered. The South Tower was collapsing. I kept walking south.
My thoughts drifted to all the dead people. The rather symbolic fall of capitalism. They fucked up my skyline. I was pissed. But what could I do about it?
As I hit 14th Street, I turned from 9th Avenue on to Hudson Street. I saw the one smoking tower and the other tower of smoke. I ducked into a deli to grab a disposable camera. As I waited on line, contemplating my ghoulish voyeurism, I thought better of it and returned home. Someone else could take pictures. Many would.
At home, there were a couple of messages. My mom had called from her hotel in Times Square, where she was staying after having moved back to the city just nine days ago. My teacher had also called asking me to open up the Dojang and check things out. I had taught my first class the day before. There would be no class today. Still, I opened up the school to provide a place for the students to go. Some lived in New Jersey or Long Island, so they couldn’t get home until the bridges and tunnels reopened. The city was on lock down.
I hung up the heavy bag and pounded the hell out of it. I sat around and talked about the crazy day with my fellow students. Despite the smell of burning flesh wafting up the Hudson, we all felt a little better having a place to go and people to commiserate with.
Circumstance is rarely so dramatic, but this is what being a good black belt is all about: helping to build a community. In sparring, it’s all business. But when we take the gloves off, we can all rely on one another in times of need.
In poker, I don’t expect you to give anyone a break when you’re at the table. In fact, I expect you not to. But that doesn’t mean you can’t and shouldn’t be civil.
What you can do is help to build a community. Do what you can to ensure the health of the game you play. Ensure its fairness. Do what you can to help the other players have a good time, especially when they’re losing. Even when you’re losing. Respect the other players and respect yourself.
This is the way to get the most out of the game. The way to earn the most money and enjoyment.
This is the Way of the Poker Warrior.