TEMPLE of HEAVEN, BEIJING, CHINA

This is the Temple of Heaven, on a warm day with the smog backdrop. We were not there on a clear blue-sky day.

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The Temple of Heaven, literally the Altar of Heaven (simplified Chinese: 天坛; traditional Chinese: 天壇; pinyin: Tiāntán; Manchu: Abkai mukdehun) is a complex of religious buildings situated in the southeastern part of central Beijing. The complex was visited by the Emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties for annual ceremonies of prayer to Heaven for good harvest. It has been regarded as aTaoist temple,[1] although Chinese heaven worship, especially by the reigning monarch of the day, pre-dates Taoism.

To me the more interesting view is the walkway to the temple. Filled with retired people and families, enjoying each other – playing cards and different board games. There is a lot going on, and I am sure there is some money changing hands in some of those games.

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Shirts optional. The Chinese men had an interesting cultural norm of pulling their t-shirts up from the bottom and tucking them through the neck, exposing their mid-sections. It was hot, but for me, not hot enough to resort to that (smile).

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I think I would call this shot “friends”.

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THE CUSTOMER IS ALWAYS RIGHT

I don’t gamble, the others in the party where not interested. I have known him a while so I was candid: ‘look, if you want the keys to the Expedition, go ahead and we will all go out for a nice 3 course steak dinner. But if you think that you are going to drag me to some cheese ball casino, your nuts’. Put that way, he said bugger you all, he was going. I gave him the keys and we all retired to our rooms for an hour before the rest of us would reconvene for dinner.

….45 minutes go by, my phone rings. ‘hello, this is the concierge, your customers are down here waiting for you to take them to the casino.’ … A knock at the door…  I tell the guy on the phone to wait, ‘who is it?’ … ‘Bell hop sir. Your customers are waiting downstairs for you to take them to the casino.’ I was beat, down I went and there he stood, with the other execs around him (smiling). He had rallied the troops .. We were off to the casino.

We travel an hour and during that hour he takes me through the theory of blackjack and his cheat card, a color coded card that shows you what to do for the best odds for every possible combination. We arrive and sure enough, it is a dump. After we have a REALLY bad meal we hit the casino with one caveat: when I lose my $100 (big spender), he has 1 hour and the bus leaves. If he is not with us, he can hitch a ride home.Off we go, and he explains to me his philosophy of betting which I later renamed the ‘pansy model’. Start at 5 bucks, each win grows the bet by 5 bucks until you lose, drop back to 5. To me this just means a long night at the table – so I quickly get to a $20 table and begin playing (Fully expecting to lose).Well, not tonight. I was on fire. Every time I put money on the table, I just kept winning (That cheat card was very handy). The louder I laughed at the irony – the more the people around me shook their heads. At one point, I had a string of 5 blackjacks in a row. My dealer of choice that evening – who I called Carolana bobana – (I was also having fun with the name game) was getting tip after tip (Good karma) and I hit a high of $3000. At one point, after losing a $100 hand, I can remember my executive friend saying ‘What? Remember the rule! Don’t go back at $25, start small!” .. to which I looked at him – laughed and added another $75 to the bet (I won). In the end – after tipping the dealer at least $400 through the night – I walked out with $1600 – or as I put it 16 really cool looking black chips.

The moral of this story:

The customer is always right.