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12.23.04  Happy Holidays

So, its the holiday season! Tis the season to be jolly and such. I have to admit that I don't feel very jolly this season. Money is very tight for me due to us having a new house built, and the tournament organizer business is always one where cash flow is very important. You always have that next site to book, or the travel to book, or the product to purchase, and my credit cards fluctuate wildly in between events as I charge up more and pay them off when the money comes. I always joked if I was audited I would look like a drug dealer when it came time to review my bank statements.

Add in to the money shortage the fact that my entire family seems to be fighting right now, and it seems like a pretty un-merry Christmas coming my way. I expect some great fighting on Christmas eve between my Dad and my Sister, and on Christmas Day somewhere in there we'll have my mom vs everybody if things go as expected. It makes ya want to stay home and drink until the holidays are gone.

So, while broke as heck, and annoyed at the prospect of how this holiday seems to be playing out, I thought I'd take a step back and look at the bright side of life - my friends.

This article is dedicated to some of the people I have met through Magic, and my thanks to them. You may find it a little self serving, but this is the holidays, you can handle a little mushiness.

Dan Gray - I never know whether to thank Dan or curse him for getting me into the tournament organizing side of things, but regardless of that, Dan has been a continual great friend to me and my family. We still work together on a regular basis, but in general we socialize more than anything else. Even though Dan is a full state away, and I don't get to see him very often, he's always a source of entertainment and comfort, and it always feels natural to chat with him and, when we can, hang out together.

Matt Stenger - Matt was my long time companion into competitive, organized Magic. He used to drive to me to Costa Mesa from Arizona to play in PTQ's, and for a long time we were the Dynamic Duo of event running in Arizona when Dan Gray did not want to make the drive. He started a competitive Magic team, and we used to meet at his house. Later on it kind of became Casino De Stenger, as more Poker was player there than anything else, but still, fun times.

Drew Durbin - I met Drew Durbin while playing at a place called Magic Tower, run by one Mike Bahr. We used to draft there weekly, we being Mike Clark and I, and we ended up hanging out with Drew. When I opened my own store, Drew came to work for me, and played on the store team. After a while Drew moved on to other things in life, but he was a good friend to have and I recently ran into him again, only to find out he shares a love for pub poker leagues like I do. Perhaps this is a rekindling of a friendship.

Mike Clark - Saying I met Mike Clark through Magic is not really fair. He was in a group of friends where we all started playing Magic together, but he's remained a friend for years now, and I would be remiss in not including him here.

Jay Webb - I would have to say that for the past year, Jay has probably been my best friend. He's been there when I needed him for any event or trip I went on, and if you read any of my articles on my trips, you'll always notice him in there helping out or driving me. I saw Jay play at events occasionally, and hang out at the same stores I did, but for a long time he was one of the Decipher Star Wars TCG crowd, and the Magic crowd did not intermix much. It was only when I opened my store and he started hanging out at it that we got to know each other, and even later than that become friends. Loud, outspoken, charismatic, and sometimes strikingly weird, Jay is the kind of friend you can always count on to be there for you.

Steve Ward - Its so weird to say that I don't really know how I met Steve, but I'm pretty sure it was over a game of Magic. Steve at times hung with the Stenger crowd, and at times with the Magic Tower crowd, and at times with the Decipher crowd. But he was at the peripheral a long time, and we both knew so many of the same people that it was destined that we became friends. Steve is often the cynic sourpuss of the group, and is sarcasm can be biting, but he's a loyal friend, a smart guy, and has a razor sharp wit.

Ben Blier - I never met Ben through Magic per se, but more of because of Magic. It was Magic that caused me to open my game store, and with my then partner Bill Nash's prompting, make the store half oriented on LAN Gaming, which was really what brought Ben in. Ben was the kind of customer you wish everyone would be, courteous to others, always paying on time, and just a nice guy. While much younger than the rest of our group, (Ben is not even old enough to drink.) Ben has a maturity far beyond his years, and a sense of humor and manner that makes him the best person to be around in any mood, good or bad.

Matt Tabak - While some of these introductions may seem kind of iffy in trying to relate them to Magic, this one is directly because of Magic. I forged a friendship with Matt through meetings at Pro Tours, events locally and events at Las Vegas. Matt, and his girlfriend Juleah, have saved my bacon by covering for events or helping out more often than I can count.
They both seem to have a genuine love for life that baffles a cynic like me, but I can't help but watch in awe and hope that I can learn to achieve the kind of happiness they seem to have simply through living.

There's more people to be sure. Through running the Magic channels on IRC I have met some great people like Rune Horvik, Chris Wong, Miki Urban, Tim Stoltzfus, and Greg Buccini. Through Wizards of the Coast I have met people like Laura Kilgore, Scott Larabee, Chris Galvin, Alan Comer, Mike Feuell, and Andy Heckt. If there's anything I owe to this game, and if there is any reason my loyalty to Wizards is higher than it is to any other company, its because their game has made me the most friends and provided me with the most entertaining experiences, and the longest friendships, and if there is anything I have to be thankful for on the holidays, its good friends.

See you next week.

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