My early college years were turbulent. I had a rough time moving from late adolescence into adulthood, and nearly every aspect of my life - school, work, family - was rocky. My world was expanding and changing at an unbearably rapid rate, but I clung to anything that offered the stability of my youth. When my grandfather suggested I become an usher at church, I jumped at the chance. I got my "Assumption Usher" pin and was assigned to the side aisle at the 12:30 mass. Mr. Scarsi, one of my grandather's best friends, had the place of honor in the center aisle. Mr. Pignatti had the side opposite me. Mr. Scarsi was a control frea... er... take-charge kind of guy, which suited me fine as I'd received no training and welcomed any direction. Not that any training was needed. The 12:30 mass was a low-key, poorly attended affair, so being called on to find seats for late arrivals was about as likely as, well, as the least likely thing in history. My job consisted of shutting the side door as mass began, standing around, passing the collection basket, and opening the side door again once the closing song started up. The most difficult part of the whole thing was getting up on time if I'd been out the night before. The ushers met monthly to discuss secret usher business, and I showed up at the parish center in a tie and sport jacket carrying the paper and pens I'd need to take copious notes. I was prepared, and I was early. The meeting was called to order, and I sat with pen hovering over blank sheet of paper. "Any old business?" asked the head usher, and the members were silent. "Any new business?" he asked, again to silence. "Meeting adjourned" he bellowed, and Don Knight started shuffling the cards. And that's how I learned to play poker.

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