Playing With House Money

Playing With House Money

By TBF Ambassador: Andrew Davie

I got my first tattoo in December 2015, at the age of 37. Until then, I had gone back and forth about whether I should get one. Previously, there were days when I would be gung-ho about getting one. I didn’t have any concrete ideas; just vague abstractions about some sort of duality. I remember one conversation I’d had with my brother. I don’t recall how old I was exactly, but I was around 29 or 30 which would have made him 22 or 23. He’s just spent some time working at a winery on the North Fork of Long Island. At that point, he had designs on becoming a vintner and was thinking of getting a tattoo of the Greek Titan Atlas holding a wine barrel over his head instead of the world. I still think it’s one of the cooler ideas I’d ever heard. 

Other days I’d contemplate what Dave Mustaine of the band Megadeth had once said when asked why he doesn’t have any tattoos “You don’t put a bumper sticker on a Cadillac.” However, I decided to finally get one and choose a muse holding a crystal ball that’s conjuring a yin-yang. Underneath reads the phrase “Endurance is more important than truth.” This is a quotation from the film Barfly in which the lead character mentions how it takes talent to be a drunk. It takes endurane. He then says “Endurance is more important than truth.” 

I used to apply his logic to writing. For any pursuit, in my case becoming an author, it will take a longer time than anticipated to be successful, and often you’ll be confronted with the “truth” you won’t succeed. In the end, it takes a lot of factors, but chiefly endurance to see it through. I got an MFA in creative writing and my graduating class had almost 20 people. Only a handful of us would publish anything. I don’t know how many continued to write after graduating, but I’m guessing many were discouraged or had more pressing obligations prevent them from following through. It took endurance. Bukowski also has a poem I enjoy called “Roll the Dice,” about endurance. This is a section: 

go all the way.

it could mean not eating for 3 or

4 days.

it could mean freezing on a

park bench.

it could mean jail,

it could mean derision,



isolation is the gift,

all the others are a test of your

endurance, of

how much you really want to

do it.

and you’ll do it

despite rejection and the

worst odds

and it will be better than

anything else

you can imagine.

Of course, after the aneurym, the tattoo took on a different meaning. 

I got the tattoo on my left quadricep, so I can keep it hidden when I want. Eventually, I got a rabbit smoking a pipe on the right quadricep. The smoke emanating from the pipe is in the shape of a dragon. I had been influenced by the film The Edge, in which one of the characters discusses a motif of the Cree Indian tribe: on one side of a canoe paddle is a panther, and on the other side is a rabbit smoking a pipe. Although the panther is more powerful, the rabbit sits and smokes his pipe rather than flee because he knows he’s smarter than the panther.

Playing With House Money I figured I would have the smoke from a dragon since I had been a fan of the artwork of Arik Roper who had designed the album cover for the band Weedeater which had smoke in the shape of a dragon. Originally, I had wanted symmetry, so I got the second to compliment the first, but I’ve grown to love it for a multitude of reasons.

After my aneurysm, I had the phrase “Someday, perhaps, remembering even this will be a pleasure,” tattooed above the rabbit. The line is from the book The Aeneid, in which the character Aeneas is trying to inspire his soldiers after they’ve been through the trauma of war. Recently, I’d thought of getting the phrase, “Playing with House Money” with the grim reaper’s hand rolling dice with 2 and 4 displayed. This would be located above the muse. A few years ago, I crunched the numbers and 2 and 4 were symbolic of me surviving a ruptured brain aneurysm. I honestly don’t remember what the numbers represent, but playing with house money is a phrase associated with gambling at a casino when you continue to bet solely with winnings, so basically,  you can’t lose.  Playing With House Money

These are some statistics from The Bee Foundation: Ruptured brain aneurysms are fatal in about 40% of cases. Of those who survive, about 66% will suffer some permanent deficit. I’ve also read the number of fatalities can be closer to 50%. It would be impossible to calculate all of the components that allowed for me to survive, even based on the statistics, so I’ve accepted a compatibalist view of my survival. Every event, relationship, experience necessarily had to happen throughout my lifetime. Even things I didn’t enjoy would have had to take place to put me at the airport at that particular time not to mention all of the causal events that had to take place of which I am unaware. Every choice and every event through history would have had to occur. 

Regardless, I have been given a second chance, and I’m making the most of it. After three years of struggling, I can say I’ve acclimated well, and I’ve begun the next act of my life. It doesn’t resemble anything close to what I had anticipated, but I’ve become comfortable with the possiblities of what life might entail. I’m not sure what will happen from here on out, but I know I am playing with house money.  

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