Monday, July 31, 2017

The Beat Goes On

If a horseplayer is guaranteed a long life, it is also one with terminal amnesia. Class is in session.

"You're not going to tell us we missed a way to bet show in Saturday's Jim Dandy, are you? This is getting close to red-boarding."
Okay, I'll admit this one didn't quite occur to me as I was getting ready to watch the race, but it is another object lesson in looking at all the opportunities that are in front of you when you bet. And there's nothing wrong with learning something from a result. The tough thing is to apply the knowledge the next time you see a similar situation. Unfortunately, horseplayers do seem doomed to repeat their oversights. This is not selective memory, It is CRS. Can't remember shit.
"Lay it on us."
Saturday's Jim Dandy, another five horse race that looks like the result is preordained, right?
"Keep going."
Battle of the heavyweights. The Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming against the winner of the Preakness, Cloud Computing, meet in the Jim Dandy to settle a score. Sound familiar? Hype, hype hype. The place is electric. You can feel the excitement.
"Yeah, yeah, yeah, okay. What I usually feel at the track is sweaty. And hungry."
They kept banging away at the "rematch" angle, right?  Todd Pletcher's horse who wins the Derby, then doesn't show up in the Preakness vs. young Chad Brown's horse who guts it out and beats Classic Empire in the Preakness.
"Okay, yes, that rematch."
Well, as any horseplayer knows by the time they put food in their mouths for dinner on Saturday, the rematch looked more like the George Foreman-Ron Lyle fight where the only person who spent any time standing in the ring was the referee. At least American Pharoah showed tremendous resolve and finished second in last year's Travers after being a spent bullet after going a mile and a quarter.
"What's your point?"
My point is, hyped, "rematch" races with small fields will generally turn out to have surprise results. In fact, small fields in general will surprise. When Cigar was trying to break Citation's record for consecutive wins he went into the Pacific Coast Classic against five rivals and was defeated by Dare and Go, an exacta I had, by the way. Paid $120 something as I remember. And that was with Cigar second.
Do you remember Proud Clarion? He won the 1967 Derby. At 30-1 he beat the great Damascus, who was later named the Horse of the Year.
"Jesus, how old are you? You couldn't have seen Man O' War run, did you."
No, but I once met a guy a long time ago who did.
Well, Proud Clarion starts his four-year-old season off at Aqueduct, in the Westchester Handicap, I think. Our mentor and patron saint of pace, Les, tells us Proud Clarion is a sucker bet today. So what if he won the Derby? That only means they played music during the post parade.
"Your point?"
The point is, how does he fit today? In those days a handicap race required the horse to carry something more than 118 pounds. Proud Clarion doesn't win. I think he's off the board. Not sure.
"So you don't remember everything."
No. But Proud Clarion runs 9 times that year and only finishes second twice. He's just out there burning money. He's a bum.
"Okay, okay, what's the great advice you have?"
First, don't listen to Andy Serling.
"Why not."
 Didn't he tell everyone the rail was "golden" on Saturday?
"Yeah, after the earlier races, Andy points out that inside speed is winning, nothing from the outer paths is coming in first, and Always Dreaming is going for the front since he's post position No.1."
Tell me, would you buy a suit from Andy Serling?
"The point then is..."
Listen to Paul Lo Duca, the former All-Star catcher for the Mets, who tells you the sport is a puzzle and it is up to you to figure it out. Think outside the box. Making picks is one thing. Money management is another.
Look at all the ways there are to bet the Jim Dandy, despite there only being five horses. When I started the only exotic bet was the Daily Double. One Daily Double. Guys would come to the track on their lunch hour, bet the Double and hope to win. The parking lot started to empty out from those tapped out after the second race.
I hate multi-leg races, so don't expect me to tell you to "single" anyone at any time. To win any decent money on the favorites you've got to back the favorites with decent money. Exactas with the favorites will pay squat, and triples with them on top will be meager. Even a triple with either one keyed will return lass than a meal at the Shake Shack.
"Okay, I'll ask. What's the play then, O great one."
Read my lips. Dime Supers. I've hit some of these, sometimes keying on top, or just playing four horses boxed for $2.40. The Assembled have seen Jose hit these things like ducks in a shooting gallery and leaving with significant jack. These guys love to tell you the "value" of the race. But do they tell you the "value" play?
And a stake race with five horses and a Dime Super in play, means you've only got to leave one horse out, right?
"Yeah, five minus one is four, but which one?"
Leave one of the favorites out. Twice.
Play a boxed Super leaving Always Dreaming out, and play a another boxed Super with Cloud Computing Out. You only lose if both come in fourth or better. Play for more than a dime boxed, if you like. A 10 cent Super returns 5% of the $2 payout. A 20 cent Super returns 10% of the $2 payout. And so on. If both favorites come in fourth or better, your micro-bet goes down the drain. But at a 10 cent Super box, twice, the most you bet is $4.80. How much is a hamburger with fries and a soda?
"Five percent of a $2 payout is going to pay what? You can't see the probables."
Do you have to know everything? Racing is a surprise. Did you see what the $2 Super paid on the Jim Dandy?
"I have a feeling you're going to tell us."
$1,070. Can you figure five percent of that?
"Not quickly."
Well, figure 10 percent, can you?
Move the decimal over one to the left, then divide by two for the 5% payout. That means you divide $107 by 2 and come up with $53.50.
"Can't I just look at the board?"
Sure. But does $53.50 seem like a nice return for a $4.80 investment to you? I'm not telling you not to bet someone to win if you love them that much. I bet $4 to win on Zito's horse Giuseppe the Great. He goes off at 14-1 and finishes second. I get back ugatz. Maybe you loved Mott's horse on his birthday at nearly 9-1, who we know won, from the five path, closing, just like Andy said, right?
"You're being sarcastic."
Think of what the Super pays if Giuseppe wins, Good Samaritan is second, Pavel is third, and one of the other bums is fourth. The super will be a lot more than $1,070, and your 5% will be a lot more, all for the same $4.80 invested. Surprise.
"All I've got to say is, you've got some memory."
Some of it is all that's left.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

The End of the Affair

Well, not really the end, end. Just the end of Season 2. And there will be a Season 3, and, hold your remote, a Season 4! Season 3 will ostensibly feature more of Noah's daughter Whitney, and possibly Furkat, the sexist Frenchman who slaps Whitney in the last episode? Jeez, another piece of effluvia.

The only episode I've enjoyed of this series has been the last one, in Paris, with Juliette facing the death of her Alzheimer-afflicted husband, Etienne.

Of course Juliette has guilt. She's banging around with Noah while the old guy suffers and passes away. But Juliette, it is not your fault. EVERYBODY in this series has guilt. In fact, there is more guilt in this series than a penitentiary covering a 100 acres.

In the episodes leading up to the Season 2 finale, Helen is a mess, Allison is a mess, Noah is the biggest mess, and Helen's recently reunited parents are the absolute BIGGEST mess, claiming the blame for all of Helen's troubles. In fact, that pair is so guilt-ridden they ought to be investigated. Surely they robbed a bank or maybe even killed someone. They even have a panic room in the house! They need to be locked up in a therapy room. But they've already been there.

The last two parts of the season finale take place in Paris. Beautifully shot, and as much of an advertisement for tourism as the French could ask for.

The details are terrific. The solid, pre-war apartment with high ceilings, solid doors, and a warren of rooms that Juliette comes home to are a delight to view.

Juliette is the only character I have any liking for. The doe-eye, dimple-cheeked Swiss Actress, Irene Jacob, was born in 1966, making her near 50 when she was making 'The Affair.' Near 50 never looked so good. The hope is she keeps showing up. Noah can't be without a woman.

How does Season 2 end? Basically it ends with Noah in a cab in Brooklyn Heights, having just brought Whitney back from France, with no visible luggage and no place to stay. He doesn't know where to tell the cab driver to take him.

Where will Season 3 start off? Probably in a clothing store where Noah picks up the basics. His book must have sold really well. He never seems to be without funds. Just clothing.

And we never seem to be without being witnesses to guilt.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Of A Certain Age

I was once on the phone with someone from work who I had never met, and never saw. We were discussing the layout for a sales presentation, and it occurred to me that woman I was talking to had to be significantly younger than me. I forget her name but I finally just interjected into the conversation that I think she and I grew up watching different movies. She didn't drop the phone because it was probably attached to her head, another sure sign of a generational divide, but she did get a good laugh out of it. I've since used the comment several times since when I thought it was appropriate.

Of course the opposite can be true. I can be dealing with someone who did see the same movies, watch the same TV shows, and probably saw their family TV carried out the front door because it had to "go to the shop." Worse than hearing your dog died.

I'm not quite as old as Robert McFadden, the NYT reporter who I'm told still shows up at a desk at 80, and who won a Pulitzer in 1996 for being the best rewrite man in the business, but we certainly are a Venn diagram with a good deal of intersecting years.

I'm sure today's obituary on June Foray, a actress who could be credited being the voice behind numerous cartoon characters, notable Rocky the squirrel, was an advance obituary transplanted from the morgue. June Foray was 99, and in general, when someone gets promoted from the morgue to one more life in front of us, the byline is usually Robert McFadden's. The nonagenarians are usually his.

I will boast a bit that I do a credible Bullwinkle the Moose voice imitation, so it would have been a joy to "talk" to Ms. Foray pretending to be characters from the cartoon 'Rocky and his Friends' and later 'The Bullwinkle Show.' I never knew Rocky was done by a woman, but when I hear his voice in my head it makes sense. He does have a bit of a high pitch, as if his nuts are being squished.

Mr. McFadden's obituary is a six column valentine to June Foray and her part in bringing cartoon voices to prime time television. The six columns take up two-thirds of the page and are complemented by four photos, which look great in color when viewed online. I'm sure Jeff Roth, the custodian down in the Times morgue, had fun digging out those photos. Now he has to refile them, something he admits in the documentary film 'Obit' that he is way behind on.

As an online bonus, and something that enhances journalism, is a link to some episodes. There are people at work today who are goofing off on the computer, or at home, who are not yet in the yard gardening as planned.

Watching and listening to some of the YouTube videos that you just can't stop playing following the online links,  you listen to June and Bill Scott talk of where the voices came from. Rocky was meant to be an all-American boy. And he certainly sounds like one of the Hardy brothers, perhaps not yet having crashed through puberty.

Bill Scott or June explains that Red Skelton thought the Bullwinkle lispy sound came from something he did. And Red Skelton was probably right, because Bullwinkle does sound a bit like Red Skelton doing his Gertrude and Heathcliff seagull bit. I never thought of that until now.

Read the caption under the photo of June Foray and three others, Walter Schuman, Dave Butler and Stan Freberg recording a version of , 'St. George and the Dragonet.' It is not Dragon. It is Dragonet. And if you listen to it on iTunes and download as I just did, you will quickly realize the bit is a spoof of the show 'Dragnet,' something else that you have to be of a certain age to remember.

It is noted that 'Rocky' ran on ABC, then NBC from 1959 to 1964. There are years in there I was in high school and some of the first questions we asked each other on Monday morning was did you see 'Rocky and Bullwinkle last night? I remember the show running at 7 P.M. on Sundays.

Mr. McFadden was likely out of college then, but the guess he was just as tuned in as the rest of us adolescents. Rocky and Bullwinkle was a cartoon for all ages.

There was a segment of 'Rocky and Friends' that featured two characters, Sherman and Peabody. They operate the 'Way Back Machine.'

They are assisted in the 21st century by Mr. McFadden and that guy stuck in the cellar pulling stories and photos.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Fountain of Aging

It is good to see that there are those who might have advice for living a long life, who actually do live a long life. It is not always that way.

Remember Euell Gibbons? The nuts and berries guy who was a proponent of what we would now call a trail mix bar?  A natural diet it was called. He wrote a book called 'Stalking the Wild Asparagus.' I remember seeing him on the Carson show.

Well, Euell didn't make it to the natural retirement age of 65, passing away at 64 in 1975, having been transported to the hospital, but arriving DOA. No cause mentioned in his obit. Maybe it was embarrassment.

And Dr. Robert Atkins, whose diets are still being marketed under his name, unfortunately didn't necessarily die of poor health, but rather a traumatic accident (blunt impact of head with epidural hematoma) when he slipped on an icy pavement in New York City and passed away in 2003 at the age of 72.

The bluntness of Mayor Bloomberg at the time had Hizzoner telling a group of firemen that Dr. Atkins may have hit his head, but he was "fat" at the time. Some diet, the food at a fund raiser at his Hampton place was "inedible." The mayor later issued a public apology to his widow when she took to the airwaves to draw attention to the mayor's insensitivity.

Anyone who remembers the best-selling book on running by James Fixx will also remember the great book cover of 'The Complete Book of Running' that showed off the guy's enviable muscle-toned legs. The cover alone probably helped turn the book into a bestseller. Running will improve your life. It will help make you live longer.

Mr. Fixx passed away at 52 in 1984, not really from from running, but from an undiagnosed heart ailment that caught up to him as he was completing a workout in bucolic Vermont. Running might be good for you, but only if the rest of you is already in good shape.

And you really have to be of a certain age (read: old) to remember Vic Tanny, the founder and owner of a chain of health gymnasiums nationwide, before Jack LaLanne dominated that scene and showed us all what 20 pounds of fat looked like if you brought it home from the butcher shop. Vic lived to a perhaps respectable 73, passing away in 1985, but hardly as long as Jack did, who passed away at 96 in 2011.

Of course this is a biased list, limited by my memory, but it can prove that even though you might think and act healthy, nothing is guaranteed. Big surprise there, right?

But with the passing of Dr. Shigeaki Hinohara we can add at least one more name to a health advocate who did live a long life.

The passing of Dr. Hinohara was noted in yesterday's NYT obituary section. Dr. Hinohara achieved the age of 105. The obit's headline read: 'Dr. Hinohara, Who Taught Japan How to Live Long, Dies at 105.'

The good doctor gets six columns. This is like a 21-gun salute, and why not? According to his life's story, Dr. Hinohara is partly responsible for the longevity of the Japanese people, where women born today can now be expected to live to 87; men to 80.

With a 7-year spread over men, men's obituaries in Japan will no doubt be filled with the statement that they are "survived by" their spouse. How do you say Alan King in Japanese?

An outquote in the obit tells us he was 'an advocate of late retirement, regular checkups and fun.'

The last part is obviously where Japanese life and American life differs by about the width of the Pacific Ocean. It is "fun" that probably does Americans in sooner than the Japanese. We probably have waaaay too much of it involving dangerous activities. Make your own list of what they might be, but I wonder how many people in Japan carry firearms, go on amusement park rides, drive like batshit on highways, or eat at McDonald's.

There were many health habits that the good doctor developed, one of which was to take more than 2,000 steps a day. Now you tell me, where is someone in this country going to be able to put that one into practice? People here step in and out of their vehicles, and loudly complain if the walk from the parking lot to the front door is too many steps.

Dr. Hinohara wrote a best-seller at 101, which was only four years ago. He wrote a health advice book in 2001, 'Living Long, Living Good.'

If Social Security is already an endangered entitlement program in this country because baby boomers are living longer, then it would not be wise to translate any of the good doctor's book into English.  Our economy simply can't afford it.

Mr. Sam Roberts in his obituary provides several lines from a Robert Browning poem that Dr. Hinohara considered to be influential in the development of his outlook on life. Lines from the poem 'Abt Vogler' evoke the world encircled by a circle so big that when we look up only an arch is visible.

Hey, maybe McDonald's is good for you.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

What's the Code?

Anyone who reads these postings and has a decent memory, should remember the story about the woman who was accused of pulling the plug out of her fiance's kayak, leading to his drowning. The story's been in the news for a while now, and the case was finally headed to trial in upstate New York.

There were two postings, Kayak Plug Popping and ICD-10. Since in my prior life I spent decades in the health insurance industry I asked what ICD-10 would be assigned to someone pulling out a kayak plug and causing someone's death? ICD-10 International Classification of Diseases comprehensively lists every imaginable ailment, as well as has a code for every imaginable cause of death, My theory was the committee might need to meet.

Well, I was right about someone needing to meet, but it won't be the ICD-10 committee. It will be the New York State Penal Code folks.

Today's NYT carries the story that the defendant's legal team and the Orange county prosecutors reached an agreement to have the defendant plead guilty to a reduced charge of criminally negligent manslaughter, down from the charge of second-degree murder.

Apparently, as the August trial approached, the prosecutors were starting to doubt that the weight of their evidence was going to be enough to convict. Sure they had a confession, but it was reached after 11 hours of questioning. Their research showed that the victim kayak's buoyancy would not he totally compromised enough if the plug were pulled. Further, both the victim and the defendant were not wearing life preservers, and both had been drinking.

The prosecution was also doubtful that the penal code was defined enough to include death caused by kayak plug pulling. Thus, the likely need for the committee to meet and try and get this cause of death more clearly defined. They were afraid the jury might acquit.

The Orange County district attorney, David M. Hoover explained, "there's little direct precedent, if any, in New York for a homicidal conviction for removing a plug from a kayak."

Given the plea deal and the defendant pleading guilt to the criminally negligent manslaughter charge, Ms. Graswald is expected to be eligible for release later this year, after already serving 27 months of incarceration. Both the defense and the prosecution feel justice has been served.

Obviously there is nothing that can ever bring the victim, Vincent Viafore, back, no matter what legal proceedings befall the defendant, Angelika Graswald. Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman are still murdered, no matter what O.J.'s trial accomplished.

This has an almost Alfred Hitchcock ending. A murder has been committed, but the defendant skates away with a light punishment.

As in any "accident," particularly on the water, there are things to do when you go kayaking. Always wear your life preserver, and don't drink and paddle. And be wary of your fiance who has just insured your life for 6 digits.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

A Watery Hoax

My friend was over Sunday afternoon and mentioned that later in the day Michael Phelps was going to be swimming against a shark to see who was the fastest. I told him I had heard about it, but asked, "how are they going to get the shark to swim in a straight line? And not eat Phelps in the process?" My friend said he didn't know.

My imagination took over, and I asked my friend if they were going to somehow rig a "bunny" like what they use at greyhound tracks to get the hounds to chase the mechanical rabbit that shoots up the rail and acts as an inducement for the dogs to try and catch it. My uncle was a habitue of any track where you could win or lose money who once told me that when he was in Florida he saw one of the greyhounds actually catch the bunny. It wasn't pretty.

So, what were they going to do, rig a likeness of a human to something they were going to fly overheard to convince the shark that dinner could be had if only he would follow it in a straight line and catch the Homo sapien? And of course hopefully not veer off to the side and make a meal of Michael? The announcer was going to get the race started by telling the crowd, "heeeeere comes the dinner?"

We're both old enough to have immunity from publicity stunts. Neither of us reminded the other that maybe I should set the DVR so that we could see it, since dinner, or dessert was going to get in the way. Thus, neither of us tuned in.

So on Monday when it was revealed that Phelps actually did not swim against a real shark, but rather a computer simulated shark, my friend and I just smiled that the selling of snake oil will never stop.

The reaction to the stunt was fiercer that the jaws of a shark, with people complaining that they expected s real shark to be competing. The producer of the History Channel show replied that, "did anyone really think we were going to endanger the life of the world's greatest swimmer?"

Hell yeah. Isn't that's what TV is about? Watching cars pile up against racetrack walls, bursting into flames? Doesn't that Nik Wallenda guy really risk his life, despite the presence of a net that we don't see, when he high-wire walks across chasms? Didn't TV chase a white Ford Bronco as O.J. was evading the police years and years ago? Didn't that crackpot daredevil Evel Knievel at least really put himself in a homemade rocket and attempt to fly over the Snake River? We expect TV to deliver a snuff film.

So, in the aftermath of the event the NYT and the WSJ  treated their readers to their reports. The Times pretty much handled it as exposing it as a publicity stunt that duped the public into believing Phelps was going to be in the water and swimming against a Great White. Jaws himself. The headline alone gives you the news: "Michael Phelps 'Raced' a Shark. Kind Of. Not Really." It was a possible maybe.

Video of the "contest" shows the shark leaping out of the water just at the finish line, a sort of aquatic fist pump, I guess. The online version of the story is interspersed with Tweets from people who are expressing their dismay, as well as from those who ask did anyone really think Phelps was going to be placed in harm's way? There is even a Tweet from Michael himself saying he wants a rematch, but next time in warmer water. Let's not hold our breath.

The WSJ handled the story in the most unique tongue-in-cheek fashion imaginable. They created an A-Hed piece in today's paper that is a purported recounting of the story from Fred the Shark who witnessed the while thing and button-holed Jason Gay, the Journal's sports columnist, and complained with passion about the event, and how it was abusing the reputation of sharks.

Jason Gay is a unique sports reporter. He's not a beat reporter for the Mets, Yankees, or other of the numerous New York teams. He would rather be on a bike covering the Tour de France than anything else, but found that he needs to stay home and help rise a family

I remember seeing Mr. Gay when I was in the audience at a "The Crowd Goes Wild" TV show a few years ago. The show was meant to be a somewhat off-beat Fox sports show that was hosted by Regis Philbin. It ran for nearly a season, but really was just too inane to continue. On the last telecast, Regis sighed that he wished he would still get to do a sports show.

Jason was one of the regular panelists and greeted the audience when he was introduced with a big circular wave. I saw him in the studio lobby before the show started (it was broadcast live) and he is a somewhat tall, slender fellow who has a bit of goofiness about him that signals he wants you to know that sport things shouldn't really be taken too seriously.

Mr. Gay constructs Fred the Shark's monologue along the lines of a shark whose next step might be to start a Shark Defamation League and perhaps an Actors' Guild scale  for even compensation with humans.

Actually, the whole episode reminds me of the start of 'Guys and Dolls' where Nathan Detroit is trying to get Sky Masterson into a sucker bet that Nathan already knows the outcome of regarding the sale of Mindy's (read Lindy's, long closed) strudel over cheesecake.

Sky is not named Sky Masterson for nothing. He's been known to bet "sky's the limit" on a roll of the dice. Thus, his nickname.

Sky patiently listens to Nathan's proposition bet and tells Nathan a story about the advice his father gave him as he set out in the world. His father warned him to never take a bet against someone who claims they can make the Jack of Spades jump out of a sealed deck of cards and squirt cider in your ear. "Do not bet against this man, for he will surely make it happen and you will have an earful of cider."

Or, in the case of The History Channel's shark race, an earful of salt water.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

A Special Circle is Reserved

A horseplayer is guaranteed a long life. That's why you see so many "older" people at the racetrack. Sure, there are some younger ones wearing snappy looking hats and drinking from flutes of champagne at the rail, but they're just the replacements for the overall older crowd that will one day shuffle off to the window in the sky, removed from the premises by the unseen giant who will have tallied the score and figured that they have suffered enough making the same mistake and missing the same opportunities they have for decades. A horseplayer has an extremely long learning curve. It lasts a lifetime.

Okay class, when should you make show wagers?
"When they print the name of the horse on the ticket and you want a souvenir?"
Please leave the room.
"You like the horse's name and you give the ticket to your girlfriend in the hopes she'll love you tonight for your thoughtfulness?"
Please join the other guy in the hall.
God, you are a pathetic bunch. You bet show when you are presented with a small field and there is a horse taking so much money in the show pool that if that horse were to run out of the money, the payoffs would be so skewed that you'd be viewed as a mathematical genius and on the short list for an international award when your relatively tiny investment and minimal downside has the chance to be rewarded with astronomical payouts way in excess of the risk you're taken.
"Could you repeat that?"
Read my book, will you.

As anyone who follows the Sport of Kings knows, Arrogate was running in yesterday at Del Mar's TVG San Diego Handicap. a Grade II affair that the Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert was perhaps shamefully using as a tuneup for the far more lucrative Pacific Coast Classic later in the meet. Class, first beware of tuneup races. Especially those that might be the "Dubai bounce."

The track management was distributing posters: Arrogate The World's Greatest Horse. Show wagering was being allowed, in what was surely going to create a minus show pool because there wasn't going to be enough money bet on the other four horses to show to cover the legal minimum payout of $2.10. Arrogate was going off at 1/20, which meant a win payout of $2.10, with $2.10 being "guaranteed" for place and show payouts.

"So, the bet is to play Arrogate to show and collect a guaranteed 5% return."
Do you know how to swim?

Whenever these "sure" things present themselves, it is wise to watch the board and see how many schnooks there are out there who think a show wager on a horse race is going to help refund the pension plan and make it whole at a rate of return of 5%.

In fact, after yesterday's race, the Harbor Police should be dragging the waters around San Diego looking for floaters who might have thought no one will notice the missing pension funds for a few minutes. "I'll have it back in no time."

No, class, the way to handle situations like those that presented themselves before the start of the San Diego Handicap yesterday was to notice that $1.3 million was bet on Arrogate to show, with the other horses not even having as much as my credit card limits bet on them.

I've seen the out-of-money thing a few times. Once, when I was with someone at Belmont who had an across-the-board bet on Waya in the Beldame against It' s In The Air"  I chided them on being foolish to do that, since a solo win bet on Waya was the play.

Waya did win, and I did collect, but nowhere near as much as what their $6 bet turned into, approximating $100, when It's In The Air ran out of the money. Waya paid $8 and change to win. You can be too smart in this game.

There was finally an occasion I did score with a show wager that paid gangbusters when Allan Jerkens's Emma's Encore beat a Rudy Rodriquez-trained horse that the bridge jumpers were out on the ledge. I forget the horse's name, but Emma's Encore won, and returned the nicely lopsided place and show payouts. My oldest granddaughter Emma was over that afternoon, and the bet was as much a hunch bet as one that I truly believed Alan Jerkens was going to beat a Rudy Rodriquez-trained former claimer.

So class, with yesterday's San Diego Handicap identifying itself as the show bet of the century, what should the play be?
"Bet $2 to show on the other four horses in the race. If Arrogate comes in the money, big deal, you collect $2.10 twice and lose a maximum of $3.80 on the $8 wager. The downside is a loss of $3.80, with a significant upside that might approach a $100 payout on skewed show payouts."
That's right.
After the gasps settled and Arrogate came home fourth with what looked like cement shoes on, the payouts lit up the board.

Accelerate                                    17.60  32.60  22.00
Donworth                                              119.80  67.40
Cat Burglar                                                        38.20

"Wow, I see. For an $8 investment with a maximum of $3.80 downside, you would collect $127.60! Now that's a rate of return!'"

You will go far, young man.
"So tell me, how much did you score on your show wagers yesterday."
Next question.


There are strange things done in the Del Mar sun
  By the men who moil for cash;
The horsey trails have their secret tales
  That would turn your face to ash;
The tote board lights have seen queer sights,
  But the queerest for some wasn't funny,
When the evening race had a front-running pace
  And Arrogate ran out of the money.

Friday, July 21, 2017

As the Clock Ticks

The headline in today's NYT in the International portion of the first section is a bit gloomy for Britain. The full headline goes: "As Clock Ticks on Exit From E.U., Britain Seems Adrift."

But as you scroll down you should be enlightened to see Prime Minister Theresa May look absolutely smashing in what looks to be a pink suit that nearly matches the carpet she's about to touch, as she leaves her residence at 10 Downing Street. She skirt is age appropriate length, just straddling the knee, and her one button jacket complements her suit color.  How can Britain be adrift if its leader is so well dressed?

There's a great deal of difference between Britain and the United States, particularly in the primary residence for the head of state. We never see President Trump going out the front door of the White Door, with the door slightly ajar because some Marine has held it open for him, and get a glimpse of the foyer of the White House.

I've never been to No. 10 Downing Street, but when you check it out on Goggle maps you know you can see that the prime minister, if she so chooses, could walk outside the police barricades and head for a curry shop and get take-away and bring it back to the office and home. And they say the Brits are stuffy.

In the States we get helicopter landings on the South lawn that show the president and sometimes his wife Melania briskly head for a White House door we do not see. There are no hot dog stands nearby.

But the real reason for the posting is to show how the prime minister is turning the race for 'World's Most Photographed Woman with Clothes On' into a rout as she pulls away from Germany's Chancellor Merkel.

Angela, you've got to keep up.

Elapsed Time

There are creative, poetic  ways to anchor someone to a period of time. There are also creative ways to describe elapsed time. One of my favorites for describing elapsed time was reading the handicapping blurb on the horses entered in the 1990 Breeders' Cup races.

One horse, Anees, in the 1990 Juvenile race their last race described in the Daily Racing Form as being "timed by a calendar." Man that's a slow horse. Until the gates popped open on the running of that year's Juvenile race and Anees won and was declared the 2 Year-Old Champion of the year. Time is relative.

Another favorite of mine for anchoring someone in an era was the Wall Street Journal's front page story in 1980 that asked the question if Ronald Reagan was too old to be running for president. After all, when he was born (1911) the flag flying over the courthouse in Tampico, Illinois had only 46 stars in it. And of course now, 1980, we have 50 stars in the flag. Man, he must be old. Good question.

It was such a well-poised question that I remember NBC's John Chancellor on the evening news echoing the story and asking the same question: is the candidate too old to be running for president?

And since Reagan was born in Tampico, Illinois, and my mother and her two brothers were born there, and my mother's oldest brother Howard (Cook) went to school with young Ronald and appears in the famous picture of the class from the one-room schoolhouse, that meant my uncle was born when that same flying flag had only 46 stars in it. (My mother came along in 1918, so she came under the nearly modern version of 48 stars.)

Ever since that WSJ story I've used something in time to associate with someone's life. Sometimes the flag. As for myself, I came around when the flag still had 48 stars. As a kid I remember writing to Ike suggesting how the flag's stars should be arranged now that we were at 49, and soon to be 50, (1959), Hawaii 5-0. I did get a response. I wish I still had it.

We had a history teacher in high school who was a legend. She was the first female to teach at Stuyvesant High School, and was the author of some history/civics books you can still order. She was born in 1907 and passed away in 2000. I know that because you can find her via Google and there is a plaque in the current school building on the floor where the history classrooms are. If Marjorie were born before November 16, 1907, then when she was born Oklahoma hadn't yet been admitted to the Union, and there were only 45 stars in the flag.

When the calendar flipped to 2001 and we were then accurately in the 21st century, the NYT noted that there was someone who passed away who was born in the 19th century. Thus, they straddled three centuries. a matter of timing and certainly a long life.

This lead me to start to think of those who I might have grown up who might have been born in 19th century. Easily my grandparents and their brothers and sisters, my great-Aunts and Uncles.

Barney Greene , the retired NYC police detective who would stop by the flower shop every day, take a seat, and just watch  people go by was a 19th century person. Barney was always dressed in a three-piece suit, topped with a fedora. He still carried his .32-caliber service revolver hidden in the folds of his clothing. It was only visible when he can out of the bathroom without his jacket on.

His younger brother Eugene, and my father, apparently grew up together and played handball somewhere in an East Side school yard. Barney went so far back with the police department that he described the era when the cops had to sleep in the station house. I never knew the year Barney was born, but the flag could have had only 44 stars in it.

I don't think any of my high school teachers were born in the 19th century, but there was one chemistry teacher, Mt. Lieberman who was still at the school and who was one of my father's chemistry teachers. Surely he was born in the 19th century, retiring probably just as I was getting there.

Another measurement of longevity is how many presidents have you been alive for. Right now, I'm on my 13th president. I was too young to have a direct opinion of Harry Truman from sources other than history, but I can speak to what daily life was and is like under all the others. It's what I call the depth of memories. It comes in handy when there's an election.

I'm not the only one who thinks of the passage of time a bit abstractly. Bob Wolff, a legendary New York sportscaster, who broadcast games so long ago he did the play-by-play for Don Larsen's 1956 (and games before that) perfect World Series game (my father was there).

Bob Wolff was 96 when he passed away, and had worked as recently as 2017 for a Long Island cable news station.

There, in the third paragraph of Mr. Wolff's NYT obituary by Richard Goldstein is Bob's own perspective of  how long he's been around and how long he's been associated with sports.

If you added all the time up, I’ve spent about seven days of my life standing for the national anthem,”  He probably did the math.

As any Ranger fan of a certain age should remember, Bob Wolff used to do their games from the Garden. Bob Wolff once called me up after I wrote him a letter that expanded on comments he made during a telecast about left and right-handed shots in hockey. Being left-handed myself I wrote that the hand closest to the blade determines the "handedness" of the shooter. Left handed people tend to hold the stick, even a broom or a shovel, with their dominant hand at the top.

When Wolff called my mother answered the phone and I remember Bob asking me if he first got my wife, and was he interrupting dinner. This was early 70s and I years way from being married and living anywhere else but home.

And the Rangers, as usual, were years and years away from winning the Stanley Cup, as they are again, 1940 and 1994. Anchors in time. Who were the presidents? Who will it be whenever they win the Cup again?

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Frances Gabe

The leader in NYT front page bylined obituaries, Margalit Fox, may not have found The Goat Man, but she has firmly enriched our knowledge of one of life's true characters, Frances Gabe, who designed a self-cleaning house, herself, and the house, truly one of a kind.

Frances lived to be 101, and passed away last year in a Newberg, Oregon nursing home. It is only now that her passing has received the Gold Standard treatment that will enshrine her forever in the hearts of those who read obituaries. Frances is survived by grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren. That's about as far down the ancestral tree I've ever read anyone going who has passed away.

I'm not going to steal any of Ms. Fox's text and pretend it is my own, only to recommend that you follow the link and immerse yourself in the peculiarities of Frances.

I will say this, the picture of Frances standing in her kitchen under an umbrella while the house washes itself is priceless. If anyone has a memory of the mob boss Vincent 'The Chin' Gigante, they will remember that for years he portrayed himself as crazy, and therefore unprosecutable, as he walked outside and in his home in Greenwich Village, in his bathrobe, always under an umbrella. He even took the umbrella into the shower with him. A man who takes a shower under an umbrella has got to be nuts, right? The tabloids nicknamed him 'The Oddfellow.' That we know, he never met Frances. Surprise, Gigante's behavior proved to be an act, and 'Vinny the Chin' was eventually tried, convicted and died in prison.

Frances of course was no mobster. She held patents, was married, had kids. She was a bit peculiar, but quite handy, as she and her husband had a business of fixing things. She apparently started thinking about a self-cleaning house when her kids would get fig jam on her walls. She hated housecleaning.

I have no idea if any of her patents, which apparently lapsed, ever went into the technology that was described that kept a freestanding pay toilet outside a corner of NYC's Madison Square Park, clean after every patron's use.

The toilet was described as spraying its walls down and disinfecting all the surfaces. I have no idea if the toilet is still there, or if it works. I do know I almost had a need to use it once, but was able to get myself to work nearby without anything embarrassing happening.

And while we're on the tangent of self-cleaning bathrooms, have you every been in one that shoots paper out of dispenser and covers the toilet seat after each use? I have, the Second Avenue Deli on 33rd Street. It almost frightens you.

One of Frances's apparent habits that kept the neighbors from ever ringing her bell to shoot the breeze, was to do her yard work in the nude. Nothing like trying to talk to a nude woman who is holding a rake.

Ever hear of hell hath no fury like a woman scorned? Ms. Fox reminds us that Frances, "born of figs and fury," created a house that cleaned itself.

The Affair

This might seem like a ridiculous effort to now start posting an entry about the series 'The Affair,' as much as the second season has long been over, and anyone who was following the show has probably forgotten how anything ended. I see there will be a third season! Yikes, more tales of badly-adjusted people.

But I'm doing it somewhat as a favor to a former colleague, the picky Polish sausage eater whose ex-husband memorably left her what she described as 'Picassos' (use your imagination) in the toilet after failing to adhere to a basic bathroom custom of flushing after using the toilet. Especially when you're leaving 'Picassos' behind. Never mind the seat etiquette that was also probably not adhered to as well.

I'm sure the guy had other faults, but when you flunk basic bathroom etiquette, you surely do not endear yourself to your spouse. Thus, the eventual goodbye.

For the longest time I remained current with watching the show, Season 1 and its lead-up to "who killed Scotty Lockhart." Season Two tells us, but I lost interest in the show when I just plain got tired of viewing the most screwed-up people the world. They had no redeeming qualities. Only enough "issues" to keep a graduating class of therapists busy for the rest of their lives. They were all about one of my least favorite topics, relaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaationships.

The acting was the hook. It was good, The theme song by Fiona Apple almost made me a fan. I stayed with the series as long as I could take it. But eventually, I just let the DVR do its thing and watch the episodes pile up recorded, but unwatched.

That's starting to change since I plan to move to Verizon Quantum, or enhanced DVR service. I did this once before but returned the boxes when I realized I couldn't transfer the recorded shows from my old DVR to the new DVR. So, right now, I'm in the process of cleaning up the unwatched inventory. Deleting, or watching shows is sort of a virtual digital closet cleanup.

So, as a service to my former colleague, I'm summarizing where I am in Season Two. I've just completed Episode 7. This is where Helen, Noah's ex-wife, drives to Pennsylvania and pulls the sonofabitch out of the lake

Anyone who is familiar with this soggy mess of a series will know the hour is split into two part of thirty minutes each. The story is told Rashomon-style, from the viewpoints, memories, of the main character the episode is about. Thus, Season 2 Episode 7 halves are both titled Noah, with some variations in the telling of the episode. Rashomon is a Japanese style of story-telling that puts forward contradictory interpretations of the same events by the different people involved. I only knew that this was named after a famous Japanese film director Akira Kurosawas's seminal 1950 film 'Rashomon' when I read the TV reviews of 'The Affair' when it first came out.

Previously, I only knew about Akira from the story that the movie 'The Magnificent Seven' was based on his film 'The Seven Samurai.' Anyone who knows anything about the movie 'The Magnificent Seven' knows that it boasts an absolute all-star cast, especially enhanced by having Eli Wallach play a Mexican.

Noah is a mess. He's been stabbed, involved in an automobile wreck that ruins his relationship with his teaching colleague, Juliette Le Gail, an attractive professor who is married to an older man who is back in France suffering from Alzheimer's, and whose fire is hardly out.

Noah is hooked on Vicodin. His shoulder's a mess because a sicko prison guard at Fishkill, John Gunther, had been brutalizing the poor fellow. Noah's done three years for vehicular manslaughter, but steady viewers know the real tale.

Helen, the ex-wife, is in so need of a man that she seems to constantly have one on top of her, or in front of her standing up. Her nickname should be Miss Moana. It's no wonder the oldest of the four Solloway offspring, daughter Whitney, 22, has taken up with a 50-ish painter who has a 24 year-old daughter who plays in a band. The artist's name is Furkat, and he basically puts Noah's lights out on a Brooklyn sidewalk in front of the brownstone.

Dr. Vic Ullah is Helen's new companion, having worked his way up from humping Helen in the lower level of the brownstone (furnished) while the kids are home, to actually becoming part of the family and sitting down to dinner with them. He's a surgeon. He's seen as a good guy.

Noah is hallucinating. He thinks John Gunther is trying to kill him. And maybe he is. We don't know at this point who stabbed Noah in the neck and left him for dead, only to be saved by Juliette who was worried and came to his college apartment and rescued him from bleeding out on the bathroom floor.

It seems post-prison, Noah has worked his way into an adjunct teaching position at some college in New Jersey, I think. Juliette is a faculty colleague, and almost lover, but Noah is too twisted to even take advantage of that, which of course shows you how sick Noah really is, because generally he's on top on anyone he can.

As an aside, it seems Noah has a thing for women with slight overbites. Alison, the Montauk waitress that Noah initially throws his life overboard for, as played by Ruth Wilson, has a bit of an endearing overbite. As does Helen, played by Maura Tierney. If Gene Tierney were alive and in the cast, Noah would never been seen out of bed.

If you think Noah's a mess, you've got to consider Helen. Bringing Noah back to their former brownstone and caring for Noah in the lower level has infuriated Dr. Vic. He's walked out, and I suspect we won't see him again.

No Vic of course clears the path for Helen to embrace Noah once again, because Helen, it seems, can't seem to get that man out of her life, or out of her bed. She's probably a nymphomaniac.

George Steinbrenner was a graduate of Williams College, a tony New England school that 'The Affair's' writers tell us is where Noah and Helen met as freshman. Noah even still wears a Williams sweatshirt that lately is covered in blood because Furkat has just beat the crap out of him.

If George S. were still alive, he probably would have leaned on the writer's and put Noah in a different collegiate sweatshirt, say Michigan. He wouldn't believe Helen and Noah could be alumni of his Alma Mater.

There are three episodes for me to finish watching. At the rate I'm going, two watched in the last two evenings, I should be ordering my Verizon Quantum upgrade soon. The local baseball teams are not worth watching, and the selection of shows to keep up with is thin. 'Broadchurch' and 'The Tunnel' are getting the programmed DVR treatment now, but I'm keeping up with the episodes as they air.

Thus, Season 1 of  'The Affair' was about who killed Scotty Lockhart, and Season 2 is basically about who stabbed Noah. I know my former colleague said they were disappointed with the last episode. Eventually I'll get there and share with all.

If it weren't for Quantum and time invested, I wouldn't really care.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Bona Fides

Anyone who hears the news even a little bit each day will have heard about President Trump's immigration policy and trying to identify who is a "bona fide" relation to the someone who is already in this country.

'Bona fide' became such a oft-repeated word that it qualified for the weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal's 'Word on the Street' column. This column takes the new, oft-repeated word in news stories and gives its origin and various meanings. It's a William Safire service to the English language.

Any time the government attempts to define something they use a word or phrase that itself needs a definition. In my prior life in the health insurance world the word 'reasonable and customary' was, and still is, a catch phrase that attempts to define what something should cost, and therefore what the reimbursement for it should be. It is a hornet's next.

It is easy to spot these terms because you start to hear lawyers on TV tell you what they mean. They remind of when I was a prospective juror in Federal Court 30 years ago in Brooklyn and Judge Glasser asked me what my wife did for a living. I told the court, "she's a housewife."

Well, the judge, trying to show his politically correct, liberal side, started to lecture me that wasn't she more than that? I held my ground, and said, "she's a housewife. She has no job outside the house. No reimbursement from a job. There's no other paycheck coming into the house. She doesn't mind being called a housewife. She likes it."

The judge was still prickly about my choice of words, so much so that he had another another retort to my insistence on using the word "housewife."

I ended the exchange by cracking everyone up and asking, "am I going to need a lawyer?" I was eventually excused.

So bona fide has found itself in a legal battle of definitions attempting to establish who is a "bona fide" relative. The beat goes on.

Anyone who follows obituary writing knows that same sex relationships are now acknowledged,with the deceased either having a partner, or a husband or a wife whose gender turns out to be the same. It can be a bit jarring to read that a male is survived by their husband, but with repetition, the edge wears off.

And now I notice that a deceased's mother will be described as a "homemaker" if there is no work endeavor that is outside the home to speak of. I wonder if the judge is still around and writing to the New York Times about their word choice.

If anyone saw the documentary 'Obit' they will realize that the obituary writers try and corroborate as much personal information as they can about spouses, siblings and offspring. I love to read about nonagenarians who might have x number of grandchildren, and then x number of great-grandchildren. I've even read of a very new who were survived by great-great grandchildren. Talk about!

But when I read of the passing of Kelan Philip Cohran, 90, a Chicago jazz musician, I don't think I ever read of a deceased whose survivors were described this way:

Mr. Cohran is survived by 23 children from multiple relationships, as well as 37 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.

That is a guy who was a bona fide producer who bought birthday cards in bulk.

Sunday, July 16, 2017


How many times do you hear any references to the state of Delaware? Think hard now.

For myself, I hear Delaware referred to when some company that is incorporated in Delaware finds itself on the financial page because they're doing badly. It seems tons of corporations are incorporated in Delaware's Chancery Court because it is favorable to their structure. A New York based health insurer that I once worked for was incorporated in the state of Delaware.

There are no major league teams for any sport located in Delaware. There don't even seem to be any top-rated college teams located in Delaware. The Dutch, in the New World, named the river that separates what we now call Pennsylvania and New Jersey, the Delaware River. When the Dutch discovered the river that separates what is now New York and New Jersey they named it the North River, because it was north of what they had already discovered and named, the Delaware River.

Of course, the body of water between New York and New Jersey was eventually named the Hudson River. In the 60s, there were still old-timers at the flower shop who referred to the Hudson River as the North River. Old maps show that name as well.

Delaware is somewhat famous for being one of the mid-Atlantic states that contain the Perdue chicken processing plants in the Delmarva region, a peninsula formed by the states of Delaware, Maryland and Virginia.

For me, that's it for Delaware. So when a chunk of Antarctic ice broke off from Antarctica's Larsen C Ice Shelf and started to float on its own, it was described as being as large as the state of Delaware. Finally, Delaware gets some fresh recognition.
I suspect for some their sense of geography is so bad they couldn't find Delaware on a map. The size of the new iceberg is 2,240 square miles. And if it is hard to imagine this being something as big as the second smallest state in the Union, then think of it as being equal to 56 Orlando Disney Worlds. Try and visit 56 Disney Worlds on vacation, and you start to get a sense of proportion. (And you would certainly run out of money, no matter how much you started with.)

An iceberg of course is an island of ice. So being an island of ice, it is also an offshore island. I believe Antarctica is off limits to development, with only scientific presence allowed. But imagine if this iceberg could be seized by larcenous financiers and mobsters and established as the greatest offshore island to hide money.

They could freeze their assets before the authorities could catch up to them. A future Meyer Lansky could then say to a future Bugsy Siegel, "Benny, we're as big as the state of Delaware."

Keep Looking

Anyone who follows the hunt for missing people knows about Judge Joseph Force Crater, the NYC judge who hailed a cab in the theater districts after lunch in 1930 and was never heard from again. Absolutely nothing.

Theories abounded, usually with death as his outcome because he knew too much about a municipal scandal that was brewing.

The search for the missing jurist has even extended to NASA, which recently reported the results of their planet Pluto flyover. The findings are probably not a surprise, but they do show you that even 87 years after the judge's disappearance, there is no statue of limitations in a murder inquiry.

S.Alan Stern, the principal investigator of NASA's New Horizons mission said on Friday that the second close-up views of Pluto show mountains made of ice and a crater-free surface.

Given the "crater-free" finding, the search will continue.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Yellowstone National Park

My consumption of televised baseball is not great. A little, Mets, Yankees, ESPN and Fox games are tuned into. I watch for a bit, but lately with all the graphics that are being displayed I'm not sure if I've stumbled onto an interactive SAT math test on the best angle to hit a baseball to achieve the best height, to get it to go the furthest, and eventually plop down so far from home plate that it is declared a home run. I really never thought anything I remembered from trigonometry would help me watch a baseball game.

Given my peripatetic interest in the televised game, I of course tuned in--just a bit--to yesterday's All-Star game telecast. I'm enough of a current viewer that I know most players have tattoos--likely all over their bodies--facial hair and long hair groomed in many styles. But I was not prepared for what I saw at home plate last night.

There was a bear with a baseball bat trying to hit the ball. The bear was batting lefty, but I still couldn't see his face underneath the batting helmet. There must have been eyes in there somewhere, but they weren't visible.

The bear had a Rockies uniform on, so I identified that as a sign that he was from Colorado, a state that sits right below Wyoming, a state that holds a good chunk of Yellowstone National Park. Yellowstone is noted for many things: bears are one of them. Were any missing? How did one make the team?

I'll tell you the truth, I was frightened for a spit second. Even though I'm in my living room and I know I'm watching television my thoughts are, "holy s**t, there's a bear loose at home plate. Alert someone."

I lingered long enough to hear Joe Buck tell us that it was Charlie Blackmon at the plate. I knew it wasn't really a bear, but that didn't happen until something quickly connected in the brain. A receptor signal of some kind traveling along a neural pathway, I guess. You can't be too sure these days what dangers you will incur, and where they'll show up. Better to be prepared than unprepared.

I know nothing about Charlie Blackmon. My encyclopedic baseball friend spent a good portion of our phone call today laughing at me after I told him I saw a f**king bear holding a bat at home plate in last night's All-Star game. He said Charlie was coming in next week to play the Mets next week at Citi Field if I'm interested. (I'm not.)

Okay, if Charlie is not a bear he is surely a member of the Donner Party who was found breathing.

Monday, July 10, 2017

New Blood at the Track

Harry Cohn was once a Hollywood producer and head of the powerful Columbia movie studios. He was generally despised by nearly everyone who ever had anything to do with him. He was considered a Class A son of a bitch.

When Harry died and the Hollywood multitudes turned out for the funeral to "pay their respects," Red Skelton is said to have tuned to someone and remarked, "See, give the people something they want, and they will turn out for it."

And that's how it was Saturday at NYRA's Belmont track. Whatever it was that NYRA was doing right, be it the insulated steel tumbler giveaway, the 11 races with multiple graded stakes races on dirt and turf, the nearly sunny, but hot summer weather, the free parking, or the $3 preferred parking, and the seemingly endless supply of free admission passes that found their way into people's hands--saving them the $5 admission price--the place was fairly jumping. The people were getting something they wanted. The attendance was announced at 12,557, up from the 7,753 a year ago for the same Stars and Stripes Festival.

My friend and I, and those that met us, separately were handed free passes by different people as we came through the parking lot. These were not NYRA people, but otherwise regular patrons who from some source had a supply of Stars and Stripes Festival free admission passes. The free pass line was the longest at the admission booths. We were already ahead, and we hadn't even made a bet. Just the way you like to start the day at the races.

The Assembled was expected to be at quorum level, three out of five members. The two Johns, and Jose, who usually through some twist of handicapping logic aided by bright neon markers, has been known to turn 10 cent Superfecta boxes into tickets that are redeemed for Grants and Benjamins. This doesn't happen all the time, but when it does, it is a pleasure to behold. (It didn't happen Saturday.)

As is the custom, Jose can arrive after the first race. This time he was there for the first, but had not yet joined the two Johns. So when his voice was heard behind the seated Johns, it was a bit of  a surprise, because no one had seen him coming.

Accompanying Jose was his oldest son Peter, a good-looking kid who graduated St. Joseph's in Philadelphia about five years ago. Conversational we had all been following Peter's progress, as well as the slightly younger brother Michael, through the early stages of their lives. We had never met either, but knew they both came through St. Joseph's with diplomas, and were working in finance jobs.

It turns out Peter works for a ratings firm on Water Street and seems to have caught the same disease that has been afflicting John and I for nearly half a century, and his father for decades: playing the horses.

Peter of course does it the way you'd expect a Millennial to do it: on his smartphone, through a TVG account, an account we pointed out was going to drain him with fees. We put him onto Xpressbets.

The early going was unsuccessful for all. The numbers that one of the John's works hard to assign to all the horses as he handicaps the day before, had given an outstanding 166 to Master Merion in the first race. The closest anyone else rated was a 150. Master Merion was a play to be used, almost no matter what the odds became.

On paper, Master Merion looked good, but not well suited to win the seven furlong distance he was being asked to go. The race was a Maiden Special Weight race, and Master Merion in his five previous starts had finished second four times at three different distances, even ranging as far as a mile and a sixteenth.  He had a third at even a different distance than his four seconds. He had all the looks of "secodnitis." Use in your exactas, etc.

On top of all that, Master Merion looked like a front runner who was going to get cooked on the lead, and probably finish second or worse again, remaining a maiden or a horse who has yet to win a race.

John the numbers guy, usually makes win and exacta wagers, Because there was waning confidence in Master Merion's chances to win, despite the overwhelming "number," John concocted a boxed triple and an exacta set of wagers using Master. Triples are rarely resorted to, but the time seemed right.

Jose L. Ortiz is not a premier jockey for nothing. (He did after all win 5 of the 11 races on the card.) As the race unfolded, Jose sat behind two front runners who were ruining their chances of being around at the end. When they tired, as surely they would going the first quarter in 22 and 1, Jose just moved out from behind them in the stretch and won easily.

The 3-1 morning line for Master Merion had moved down to 9/5 on the board. This makes at least a $5.60 return for a $2 win bet, (he paid $5.80) and is hardly a bad win bet considering the super number and its lead over the second place number in John's ranking.

Alas and alack, a win bet was not made on what after careful analysis looked to be the superior horse in the race, who was going to return a decent payoff for what really was little risk. The 'kick me' sign went up on the assembled.

And so it went for the first third of the card. Peter with his smartphone was leading all of us with a $1 show bet on a 43-1 shot. The kid knew how to make some money.

The track was buzzing. Aside from actual behinds in the seats, there were photographers everywhere setting up their cameras for stretch photos. There were some significant stake races coming up, and photos were going to be important.

The sixth race was the first of five quality stake races, the 100th running of the Dwyer, named for two Brooklyn brothers who were butchers back in the latter part of the 19th century who got involved in owning horses and racing them at any of Brooklyn's three racetracks at the time.

At this point, it became obvious how many photographers there were at the track, down at the finish line and following the winners and their handlers back to the winner's circle. It was a fair size scrum that outnumbered the patrons that used to be seated in any given section on regular Saturdays. You would have thought the way they tracked the horses back to the winner's circle that a Victoria's Secret fashion show had suddenly appeared on the track. Come to think of it, the horses had about as much on as some of those models.

After paying the dues of backing losers at the start of the card, the earth shifted, the numbers clicked, and ultimately a small profit was earned by the time the voucher was cashed out. The two featured turf races were hit, along with one of the exactas.

The profit was small, and probably not as much as might have been earned if the shirt were untucked, the hair messed up, the shaving had been skipped, and a hat were held out for panhandling.

But that wouldn't have been any fun.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Nuts to Macadamia

I love it when I come across some poetic prose. It doesn't happen often, but in today's WSJ there is a doozy of an example in their 'A-Hed' piece, 'Oh Nuts! The Macadamias Are Stuck.' Or, as the online headline goes: Here's a Real Nut Job: Getting Stubborn Macadamias Out of Trees.

The story is out of Donnellyville, Australia. Just an aside, I thought we got macadamias from Hawaii, not Australia. But the thrust of the piece is how difficult it can be to get the delicacy off the tree when they don't fall on their own. And when the tree is especially tall, that means there are even more nuts left on the tree.

Consider the following description of what a team of four workers has resorted to for about a week: use of homemade nut-knocking sticks to hit the macadamias out of 1,500 trees.

A description and a sketch of the improvised nut-knocking stick is in the story. The stick has produced a fair amount of success.

Years and years ago when I lived in Flushing, there was the sight of an Asian man throwing what looked like an 18" length of 2x4 up at a tree, trying to knock fruit down. It turns out quite mistakenly years ago, female Ginkgo trees were planted along with male Ginko trees along the 149th Place stretch that adjoined the LIRR's Murray Hill Station property.

As a kid growing up in the 50s and 60s no one cared one iota about eating the fruit that fell to the ground that contained the Ginkgo nut. The shells got crushed, the nuts were splattered on the sidewalk and street, and stunk to high heaven. They made a mess. The lousy smell is what people cared about

Well, when the neighborhood started going Asian, there were those new arrivals who thought they landed in heaven. Fresh Ginkgo nuts, if only they could get them off the trees before they were squashed. Thus, one enterprising, and not very successful guy who was flinging a piece of 2x4 up into the trees trying to get some unspoiled fruit.

I have to say I didn't stick around too long to see how the guy made out. I didn't see the 2x4 land on him, and I didn't want it to land on me, so I gave the guy a wide berth. I also didn't notice if he had attained a supply of what for him was going to be a delicacy, had for the right price, free.

This whole memory sequence was touched off by the A-Hed piece and one well-put set of words: a nut-knocker.

One wonders if there is a market for a self-defense weapon that might be sold to women who want to thwart the advances of offensive males. A nut-knocker carried in a purse that can quickly be extended and aimed appropriately.

It would certainly come in handy for women to ward off purse snatchers and snatch snatchers, like the snatch snatcher that  Garp's mother has to deal with in a movie theater. Not all women are nurses and have a scalpel handy, like she did.

Eats, Shoots and Leaves

We haven't seen much of Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel or England's Prime Minister Theresa May lately. Probably boning up for the G-20 conference and dealing with everything else that goes on in their countries. We do however have this recent photo of Ms. Merkel with China's President Xi Jinping at the Berlin Zoo on Wednesday.

Ms. Merkel's choice of a teal-colored top with black pants is not doing anything for her effort to gain lengths on Ms. May as they come down the stretch in the 'World's Most Photographed Woman with Clothes On' race, but that's not why she's here.

She and President Xi are at the Berlin Zoo ostensibly for a welcoming ceremony for two new pandas at the zoo.

The real reason for the photo is to promote the Chinese edition of Lynne Truss's seminal best seller on punctuation, 'Eats Shoots and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation."
The panda in the background on the bench is doing exactly what the title tells us, without a comma after the word 'eats.' They are eating shoots and leaves, bamboo I suppose.

Anyone familiar with Ms. Truss's book probably applauds the fact that the book is being translated into Chinese. Ms. Truss covers many of the punctuation symbols in her chapters. It will of course be interesting to learn what the Chinese symbol for an apostrophe is in their language. Especially how they handle it after an "s."

Any guess?

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

To Catch A Thief

In one of these blog postings I know I've written about the cartoon I once saw in 'Playboy' magazine that showed a trio of beatniks who have stopped a FINK bread truck. There are robbing the truck, but are extremely disappointed when one of them emerges through the back doors and tells the others, "Hey man, it really is bread." I don't know why, but I still laugh whenever I think of that cartoon.

And think of that cartoon I did when I read the NYT story about some thuggish customer who stole one of the rabbits from an animal shelter in East Harlem. Her name is Sunny, and there is a $1,000 reward for the return of Sunny to any one of the city's five shelters.

But within that story is also a tale of an earlier theft at the same shelter that involved a cat. It seems a woman wasn't content to learn that a cat she wanted was already slated to be adopted by someone else. So, the Persian cat named Snow was whisked off by the rejected owner. Both are still at large.

There might be those who are familiar with the Cary Grant movie, 'To Catch a Thief.' Grant plays a so-called "cat burglar," a specialist who dresses in black and sneaks across rooftops and drops into hotel rooms from the windows and filches any expensive jewelry the old dowagers have left laying about. There are certain to be old dowagers and expensive jewelry because Mr. Grant does his best work in Monte Carlo. There's way more to the story than that, but that's enough.

Andy Newman, the reporter who brings us the NYT story about Sunny the stolen rabbit, refers to the prior incident of the Persian cat theft at the shelter as "a high-end cat burglary."

Detectives from the 23rd Precinct are busy, but did catch the case.  Hey man, there really is a cat thief.