Saturday, September 11, 2010


In poker, you look for what is called a "tell," from the other players. Some sign -- a twitch, widening of the eyelids, some physical gesture like shuffling the cards or stacking chips that offer a clue to a player's hand. If you can spot this, it gives you an edge. If, every time a particular player gets a great draw he scratches his chin or adjusts his glasses and he doesn't realize it, you can use it.

Of course, if he's savvy, he might do this a couple times to gull you and then offer the I-got-that-inside-straight-flush! when he didn't, and bluff you right out of the hand.

Small things can likewise give you a clue to somebody's character. And how celebrities treat the little people is a good one.

Politicians are by nature devious -- they have to split hairs, the best of them, and the worst of them are heinous liars; you expect this. Sometimes, however, a little bit of business offers a tell.

There's a image I recall of President Obama. He's out walking somewhere and he stops and bends down to pick up a piece of trash, to toss into a garbage can. Was this something he would ordinarily do? Or was it a canny gesture from a man who knew cameras were watching? You know he is ambitious and a politician to the bone.

I don't know, but in the moment, it looked real to me. I couldn't imagine George W. Bush doing that, even as a calculated gesture, because I don't think he is that smart.

When I was in college, I had a delivery job for a toy store. Part of the gig was putting up swing sets and assembling drop-side baby cribs. One day, I delivered a swing set to the home of a man named Bob Petit. Petit was a pro-basketball player who grew up in Baton Rouge, and then retired there. This would have been in the mid-sixties. I knew who he was.

He was polite, well-manner, seemed like a really nice guy, and one of the first celebrities I had a chance to meet, outside Jock Mahoney, who played Tarzan a couple times in the movies.

I never forgot that. If asked, I would have had a good opinion of the man.

Locally -- in Oregon -- the governor's race is shaping up. The D's have fielded a guy who had the job a couple times years back, an ER doctor, John Kitzhaber, the Guv from 1995-2003.

The R's have put up Chris Dudley, a former pro-basketball player who spent much of his career playing center for the Trailblazers.

As an Independent, I don't have a candidate in the race, and didn't get to vote in the primaries.

Kitzhaber maybe has too much experience. Dudley doesn't have any. Both are still in the generality stage of their campaigns -- we need jobs! Lower taxes for the middle-class! A chicken in every pot!

Well, duh. How about telling us how you are going to pull that off, hey? Waving the flag and invoking Mom and Apple Pie ain't gonna do it.

But the point of this story. My wife met a clerk at the market where she shops. Before he had that job, he did deliveries, and one of his was to Chris Dudley, back before he thought about going into politics. According the the clerk, who had no clue as to Dudley's politics, when he delivered whatever it was he was delivering, Dudley was a first-class dick. Gave him crap and was, according to the story, most unpleasant. Rich guy, used to getting his way, no time for the piddly stuff.

I dunno if that's true. But the clerk remembered it that way. And it could have been that was the day Dudley's dog died, or he lost a bundle in the market, or his wife smacked the car into a mailbox. But I think you can learn a whole lot about a person by how he or she treats the waiter, or the clerk, or the delivery boy.

I dunno who I'm going to vote for, come November. But I am pretty sure the clerk at the market who told my wife this story isn't voting for Dudley ...

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