story in the NYT by Sarah Maislin Nir brought back memories. Apparently, direct train service from New York to Chicago is being suspended for track work. It is the first time in over a century there will be no direct train service between City #1 and City #2.
Take a train to Chicago from New York? Who does that anyway?
Apparently there are still a number of people who do. According to the story, figures compiled by Amtrak put 390,000 riders using some portion of the Lake Shore Limited, from New York, in 2017.
It is also reported 110,000 riders rode some portion on the southern link between Washington, D.C. and Chicago. Certainly nowhere near the number who fly back and forth, but certainly more than zero.
Going to Chicago with my mother started sometime in the 50s, when I was fairly small. We went there so my mother could see her family, having come from Tampico, Illinois and Aurora. Our first trip was by United Airlines, but the plane encountered a severe thunderstorm over Ohio and had to put down on Toledo. We were put up in a hotel, picked up in the morning, and resumed our flight the next day.
I remember Chicago was nearly underwater it had rained so hard. The cab driver was telling us it was one of the worst storms he remembered. It was also enough to convince my mother to never fly again. Subsequent trips were always by train.
I distinctly remember asking my mother why did it seem people in Chicago's Union Station were not moving as fast as those in Penn Station. It was morning, "rush hour," when we would pull in by train, but the contrast in the cities was apparent even to what I'm going to guess was a five-year old.
I think we took the Broadway Limited from Penn Station. It would leave at around 4:00 P.M. and was scheduled to pull into Chicago 17 hours later, around 9:00. I think the 20th Century Limited left from Grand Central Terminal. They had the red carpet.
I always got a kick out of taking the LIRR from our home at the Murray Hill stop on the Port Washington line, getting on the Chicago train and finally coming out of a train the next day. It seemed so seamless.
I also got a kick of some regularly seen homeless guys who were passing through the upper level/Amtrak level years ago when I would get off my LIRR train and go out through the upper level. A lot of people, homeless and otherwise, have memories of The Golden Age of Rail.
The guys were passing through the station because the nearby church, St. Francis of Assisi, was giving out sandwiches in the morning for the homeless. The guys were quite coherent and I used to hear then talk of the Broadway Limited leaving Penn Station around 4:00 P.M. I always slowed down to hear their conversation.
The NYT carries someone's memories of the dinning car. The dinning car was special. You got there by either going forward or back from your seat through hydraulic doors that whooshed as you opened and closed then. It was always fun walking between the cars without ever being exposed to the outside. It was a safe walk.
I have no idea what we ate, but there was a tablecloth and silverware. It was like being ushered into a restaurant, which of course is what it was. One time, coming from New York to Chicago with my mother's brother, my Uncle Vernon, I was shown how to keep the coffee from spilling in the cup: my uncle said to leave the spoon in the cup. I guess the spoon absorbed the vibrations.
I never traveled on the train in something other than coach. We didn't have a sleeping berth, so I never got the experience of life in an upper or a lower.
And there will always be the memory of the time when my mother was in the Club car having a smoke and I rented a pillow from the porter for 25¢ cents, giving him a 50¢ piece, a common coin in in circulation in the 50s.
Well, the porter never did return with my 25¢ change. I guess he assumed a tip, but I was a kid and I had no intention of tipping him.
Year and years later, I was on the upper level of Penn Station and looked down at one of the tracks and saw the same porter leaning out of an Amtrak train that was in the station. I laughed to myself, and wondered what would be the guy's reaction if I told him he owed me 25¢ from at least two decades ago.
Kids don't like to be cheated.
Tuesday, June 12, 2018
The season finale is a complete setup for next season. Chuck's plot to entrap the USAG Waylon "Jock" Jeffcoat into committing obstruction of justice is completely waylaid when the NYAG, Alvin Epstein, and Bryan Connerty and Oliver Dake team up and inform the drawling Texan about the plot to get him convicted.
Chuck is completely fooled when Epstein suggests they listen to the "evidence" at Chuck's office because Epstein explains his office might be bugged. Alvin Epstein has changed sides: Informing Jock of the plot and betraying Chuck got him nominated to be Jeffcoat's Deputy Attorney General in Washington. You just can't trust these lawyers.
Epstein and Chuck cobbled together a weak case against Jock involving his televangelist brother, Texas millions, cable and land rights through what would be shaky testimony from a disgruntled ex-employee.
Chuck believes he's got the FBI in his pocket as his secret police and he is all set to get "Jock" to beg the witness to back off. That would be obstruction of justice, but Jock is better informed than Chuck knows.
The denouement comes in Chuck's office as Jock thoroughly enjoys himself in firing Chuck. Connerty and now professor Oliver Dake are pleased as well. As is Kate Sacker, who told Connerty of the plot. Bryan Connerty is named interim U.S. Attorney, and Chuck is sent home with his briefcase, being asked by Connerty to leave his credentials at the door and to "get the fuck" out of there. He doesn't say it anywhere near as loud as Chuck said it to him when he bounced Connerty after the Ice Juice debacle. Chuck doesn't pull one over this time.
Meanwhile, Axe and all the financial sharks and piranhas are headed off to the luxury boxes at Citi Field for pow wows and presentations. Is Citi Field a product placement by Fred Wilpon telling the world that you too can hold your conference here on off playing days?
There is no game, but the luxury vehicles keep piling up at the entrance. It starts to look like the 1957 Mafia summit meeting at Apalachin, New York in 1957, when all the families gathered upstate at Joe the Barber Barbara's house to discuss family business.
That particular meeting was famously interrupted when a keen-eyed state police officer saw one fancy Cadillac after another kicking up dust headed for Joe's place. A bar-be-que? He started checking license plates and found a disproportionate number of cars were registered to Brooklyn owners. The meeting ended abruptly as the boys fled the place as the police started to show up.
No one at Citi Field jumped out of a window and landed on third base. They all loved Taylor's presentation and committed vast sums to Axe's new fund. Or did they?
The prior episode gave us the clue that Taylor was leaving Axe Capital and going out on his own. Turns out Taylor scooped up a ton of the money that was headed for Axe, as well as Mcfee. He tried to get Wendy to come over to what he describes as an atmosphere of something resembling a commune of peace, love and harmony. Is Taylor a financial David Koresh?
Wendy will have nothing to do with it. She's not too happy about being ambushed by Taylor in a parking garage with a job offer. She lets loose with a string of expletives at Taylor. No, Wendy is not budging.
At the same time, Axe is feeling in a thoroughly vengeful mood with Taylor blindsiding him and Mcfee's defection. Grigor all of says he will whack Taylor for him. Axe demurs, and talks it over with his fixer Hall. Hall explains the pros and cons of Grigor's offer. He tells Axe the Russians are very good at elimination that looks like an accident. Clean, no trace. nothing would get back to Axe. But, he would owe Grigor big time.
Hall doesn't mention plutonium, or nerve gas on door knobs, but he reveals something may fall on Taylor from above, or there will be an automobile accident. Something that will just be staged as a in- the-wrong-place-at-the-wrong-time kind of thing. Bad luck.
Axe gets back to Grigor and opts out of a permanent outplacement approach to problem solving. Grigor doesn't directly call him a pussy, but he does tell him he can't keep his money with someone who won't kill for it.
The final scene ends at Chuck's brownstone, as Chuck and Wendy finish dinner—with Wendy in a sleek black dress looking nothing like someone who just prepared supper in their kitchen. Axe comes to the door. He's obviously heard Chuck got the chop. There they are. Three adversaries now sitting at a dining room table spinning new thoughts of revenge with the obligatory glass of what I'm sure is a very good red wine in the right glass.
Wendy has clearly become one of the boys. She has taken the #MeToo movement literally. She's in. She's about to become more Lady Macbeth than she ever was.
What will the new season bring with Chuck no longer showing up at the office at St. Andrew's Place?
What scenario will Axe create to get Taylor? Taylor will surely NOT be whacked, by anyone. That would turn the show into just another guns and violence show, No, the punishment here is far more subtle. Humiliation is worse than death kind of thing.
Whatever it is, you can be sure Wendy will be the force behind the throne of whomever is king. She will be Cardinal Richelieu whispering in ears. #MeToo.
Monday, June 11, 2018
Due to make the trophy presentation that afternoon at Belmont was New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo, fully sensing the exposure he'd receive if he were to be seen making a Triple Crown presentation.
The guv's plans were waylaid when two hardened felons escaped from the maximum security Clinton Correctional Facility upstate in the town of Dannemora that morning. Inasmuch as the escapees were not quickly caught, Andrew Cuomo thought it best to satay close to manhunt news by remaining in Albany. Hobnobbing at a downstate racetrack while two dangerous people were crashing through the woods upstate, and possibly taking hostages, was not what Cuomo felt should be the concern he should be showing to citizens faced with potential peril. Thus, he sat tight.
Eventually, after many days of searching, the felons were reeled in—one killed by a trooper while running, the other returned to the facility.
In 2018, with another Triple Crown in the possible making, Justify escaped from the starting gate in front of the stands, circled the track with the rest of his 9 competitors in lukewarm, or not-at-all pursuit, led at every call—wire-to-wire—as the track lingo goes, and accomplished the three race sweep, a scant three years after American Pharoah. Justify wins in what is only his sixth race, while not even ever racing as a two-year old.
This was the 50th anniversary of my first going out to the races, starting with the Belmont Stakes in 1968. I've seen all the Belmonts since, and I can't even guess at how many other races I've watched or bet on. Triple Crowns come in clusters. There is no predictable cycle they adhere to, like Olympics every four years.
NBC's Randy Moss filled the viewers in on the clusters: Three in the 1930s: 1930, 1935, 1937. Four in the 1940s: 1941, 1943, 1946, 1948. Three in the 70s: 1973, 1977, 1978. And now two in the teens: 2015, 2018.
I was there for all the Triple Crowns in the 70s and distinctly remember not appreciating Seattle Slew's effort as he won with an undefeated record. I still had the memory of Secretariat "moving like a tremendous machine..." as Chick Anderson told the crowd. My feeling was Seattle Slew was not that good. He wasn't Secretariat. But Seattle Slew was good, and had a further championship year racing as four-year old.
And Justify is good. He ran like Joe Drape said at his 'American Pharoah' book signing at the Northshire book store in Saratoga in 2016, championship horses take the lead and control the race. Certainly not all races are won from the front, but enough of the great ones are.
My own take of the race was that I was disappointed it was not more exciting—at least for me. My money was not on Justify, even though he earned a staggering number on my rating system, with everyone else nearly at least 30 points behind him.
(There is always a backward look, and with that kind of spread the logical bet would have been to look at the exacta payouts with Justify on top, and see if a top wheel with everyone else would have been worth it. As it turned out, the $2 exacta with long shot Gronkowski produced an $89 payout. Certainly a great ROI for a base bet of $18.)
As the race unfolded, Justify kept to the rail as any horse starting from the one hole would. Oddly, Bob Baffert's other horse, Restoring Hope, ran for the lead, but drifted wide on the clubhouse turn, almost looking like he wanted to go back to the barn. Settling into the turn Justify emerges with what looks like a three length lead. The start almost unfolded like a staggered start track race, with outer lane competitors seemingly given a head start, only to be equalized as the distance evens out as the race develops. The tactics seemed odd to me, but that's racing.
First fraction of :23 1/5 was more than decent. It looked like a fast race was going to develop. Until it didn't. The subsequent fractions were rather pedestrian, and the final time of 2:28 was mediocre. But it was Justify all the way. The others offered no real competition. But when Justify is by far and away the best of all the other three-year olds, what can you expect?
Aside from the Triple Crown, Gronkowski was the story of the day. Before the race I gave someone my quick point-by-point analysis of each entrant and said that Grankowski had a great trainer in Chad Brown, a great jockey in Jose Ortiz, but had never raced in this country before, has never competed beyond one mile, has only run on the turf or an artificial surface, not a dirt track like today's Belmont, but did have first time Lasix, as many foreign horses do when they come to the country.
What is Lasix? It is an accepted drug that nearly all race horses compete under that helps a horse in their breathing by preventing blood from entering the lungs during the exertion of running, Untreated EIPH, exercise induced pulmonary hemorrhage, reduces performance. North American racing allows the drug. Foreign racing jurisdictions forbid it.
A good past performance readout will indicate the first time use of Lasix with a white L inside a black oval next to the weight. It is considered an angle by many. On paper, Gronkowski's only angles were the trainer, the jockey and the indication of first time Lasix.
Chad Brown called Jose's ride a million dollar effort, as he guided Gronkowski from last place, through traffic, holding onto the rail and angling out in deep stretch, finishing a rousing second to Justify. As impressive as that looked on replay, it showed Gronkowski not really gaining on Justify, perhaps only a quarter of a length. Certainly not enough.
The chart caller described Justify as "...hustled along springing from the starting gate..." to Gronkowski's "lumbered his way out of the starting gate..." That is quite a difference.
Everyone looks at a race through subjective eyes, usually guided by their rooting interests and money. My own modest bets did not use Justify, but I was disappointed that the race did not have a more competitive look.
Wire-to-wire efforts like Justify's can bring out the cynical description of a "boat race." Everyone is vainly chasing the leader, almost in single file. I called it a boat race. My friend of many years who was with me the first time we went to the track, 50 years ago agreed. "Get the oars out" he proclaimed.
Mike Repole, owner of Vino Russo, and part owner of Noble Indy, has started calling for an investigation. His take is that Bob Baffert's horse Restoring Hope acted as a "blocker" and Noble Indy's jockey, Jose Costellano ignored instructions to go to the lead and instead mailed in his efforts. Repole is so mad at Costellano that he says he will never use him again on any of his horses. Mike Repole's horses are good enough that they won't go riderless, and they won't go with unsuccessful jockeys. Jose is just on the shit list with Mike right now, a status jockeys often find themselves with owners and trainers who are mad at their ride. It sometimes goes away.
Mike Repole complained loudly. Melissa Hoppert of the NYT was gracious enough to answer a query as to how the NYRA stewards were reacting to Mr. Repole. She provided a quote from their statement:
"The stewards did not evidence any issue with the Belmont Stakes and were not contacted with objections by participating jockeys or horsemen. As such, Mr. Lewandowski indicated neither he nor his fellow stewards plan to discuss race strategy with Florent Geroux [rider of Restoring Hope]."
Again, the start. Noble Indy is described as "...out with his initial step, brushed the right side of the stating gate, accelerated upon recovery..."
Years and years ago the rules of racing would have had Bob Baffert's two horses, Justify and Restoring Hope racing as an "entry," a coupled wager that would put the two horses under one mutuel number. Eventually the arrangement was changed to allow commonly trained horses under different ownership to race as separate betting interests. Handle gets goosed with more entrants.
Common ownership with different trainers is another story. WinStar is listed as having piece of Noble Indy along with Repole Stable. Justify is 60% owned by WinStar. Should they have been a common betting interest?
Running a rabbit in a race is something you don't hear much of these days. Fifty years ago Frank Whiteley Jr. had a horse named Hedevar, who was so fast he held the world record for the mile. He would be coupled in the wagering with Whiteley's Damascus to sprint to the front, soften up the headstrong Dr. Fager or Buckpasser, and leave his remains for Damascus to pick up and pass. It did work.
If Bob Baffert's Restoring Hope was a rabbit he was certainly a bad one. A rabbit that is not in the lead is not a rabbit. It is the tortoise.
When I started out the old timer Les would tell us of "pulling horses," a tactic by jockeys to put a stranglehold on the reins and keep a horse from running to his full ability. This was done to create a loss, and therefore goose the odds the next time out.
It was also done to create an order of finish that was to someone's advantage. The talk of the races when I started was that Angel Cordero pulled horses to let the jockey Eddie Belmonte win. If it was true or not is all part of the urban legend that follows racing. Angel Cordero is in the Hall of Fame, and Eddie Belmonte was banned from the tracks as a jockey and an agent for personal use of drugs.
Did Costellano purposely take Noble Indy out of his front-running game because of the common WinStar ownership with Justify, paving the way for Justify to have the place to himself. To run a "boat race?" Mike Repole is not going to get anyone's attention on this other than talk radio hosts and disgruntled callers. A Robert Mueller will not be looking into the Saturday's Belmont.
And the crowd of 90,000? Did they see what others saw? Or what they think they saw? Not likely. A Tweet from someone described the crowd as 90% arriving without racing forms or programs—and I'm sure without binoculars— perhaps somewhat harshly calling them a fashion show for alcoholics. Certainly TV spotlights the ensembles.
So what? Anyone in attendance paid dearly to get there, get out of there, and paid dearly for the right to stand and cheer, or the right to have a seat. Will there be those who come out next week with a marked up Racing Form in the hope of hitting the Daily Double as I did? Will they be there 50 years from now talking and watching horses? I'm sure not many.
So, did Governor Andrew Cuomo make it to the winner's circle this time to present the trophies? No one escaped other than Justify. No, the guv wasn't there.
In a sense he was there, because Micheal J. Del Giudice was in the father's inner circle when Mario Cuomo was governor. Mr. Del Giudice is chairmen of the board of directors that oversees NYRA racing. Mr. Del Giudice was front and center at the trophy presentation ceremony.
But that Triple Crown trophy? As pictured above, it is the new creation to be presented to the owner of the winner of the Triple Crown. But with the ownership of Justify reading like a court document listing either defendants or plaintiffs, who gets to hold onto it? Who can move it? It is too heavy to lift over your head, and doesn't have a bowl attached that allows beer or champagne to be gulped from, like the Stanley Cup. NBC's Bob Costas offered the principals a chance to "cradle it." Its resemblance to a ship's anchor is strong.
Given that Justify is now reported to be worth at least $85 million in breeding rights—stallion equity—and may not ever race again because of that value, it is clear money will still be following racing, even if no one goes to the track in the days after the Belmont.
Tuesday, June 5, 2018
The latest episode was somewhat thin. Chuck, as a United States attorney, seems to take a very hands-on approach to solving his friend Ira Schirmer's marital problems. It seems Ira's trophy wife is two-timing him with a younger Lothario. The two of them are siphoning Ira's money off with a series of phony fitness/yoga centers.
Ira suspects the infidelity, but is so smitten with Taiga (what a name!) that he didn't even create a prenup at the outset of the marriage, in New York state yet, a community property state. Ira stopped being a lawyer and was a romantic instead. Chuck stops just short of calling his friend a schmuck and enters into the fray as the fixer.
Chuck scares the Lothario off with in a stern meeting in his offices when he threatens a Federal Case against the scheming lover. He doesn't even mention the charges he might bring against lover boy, he just sounds scary. It's good enough.
And then, Chuck seals the deal by meeting with Taiga and explaining the lay of the land, presenting her with a postnup (never heard of those) to sign, promising $50,000 for each year she stays in the marriage.
Chuck borrows dad's apartment for this meeting, with dad expected to disappear from the house. Well, that doesn't happen. Dad bursts in after the deal is signed and offers some unsolicited advice to Taiga about love, marriage, and a test for the clap involving lime juice. Never heard of that one, either, but I'm sure the writers researched it well.
Chuck and Sacker weave their plot against the U.S. Attorney General Waylon 'Jock" Jeffcoat by getting the New York State Attorney General to take an interest in the case they are trying to build against The General. The hope is the AG will take the bait and try and obstruct justice. That will be the case against the smooth-taking Texan.
Meanwhile, Bryan Connerty as FBI General Counsel has unearthed some funny FBI business set in motion by Sacker and Chuck as they were trying to get cooperation from principals against The General and his multi-million dollar cable televangelism empire with his brother. The upcoming final episode promises to be a great setup for what I'm sure will be another season.
And by no means is Bobby and his ex-wife Lara left out of this. The main theme and the name of the episode revolves around Axe and the annual compensation meeting with the folks who work for him. Axe dispenses millions, and venom.
Wendy intervenes on behalf of a hurt Taylor, and cleverly appeals to Lara as a large shareholder in Axe Capital to talk to Bobby and set things right with the staff.
Lara gets to play a role of adviser to Bobby rather than a scolding ex in a late-night meeting at the penthouse. When the smart talk is over it seems as if she might be the brief nudity after all, as Bobby makes a play for divorced sex. Not to be. They are not going to get in Lara's words, "sloppy."
Coming attractions show the direction Taylor is going with his off-the-books algorithm building. Watch out Axe. Brutus is holding a knife.
The last person to get their comp review is of course Wags, who is awarded money, but best of all for Wags, a treasure trove of old Oui magazines that Bobby excavated from his mom's cellar. It seems Mom saved everything. Whose magazines they were initially, Bobby's dad, or Bobby's is not clear, but they exist, and are just the catnip that Wags loves.
Thus, the "brief nudity" is supplied by a photo of a naked babe with a staple in her belly button as Wags opens the centerfold of one of his gifts.
At least it wasn't the read end of some old guy.
Saturday, June 2, 2018
If the contents don't declare the president a winner, then he is proudly holding a coloring book from North Korea's Kim Jong-Un, as delivered by his emissary Kim Yong Choi.
Hopefully Kim has stayed within the lines, and used all the colors imaginatively.
Friday, June 1, 2018
Frotty is an unmade bed of a man who is so sloppy when he devours food he keeps a spare necktie in this jacket that he can whip out when he inevitably spills food on his clothing. Without missing a swallow, he ties the replacement tie on and continues making a mess, as well noise.
The trading staff all know Frotty by sight as he enters the offices of Axe Capital. Bobby's found himself with a gaping crater in his new fund as Grigor has yanked $1.5 billion out of it to pursue an oil deal described as a "mortal lock." Grigor has the correct gambler's vocabulary for a bet that is considered a sure thing.
Axe needs replacement money, and this desperation puts him in an unenviable position to have to do business with Frotty who controls vast sums of Middle Eastern money (Jordanian) from bad guy types like dictators and arms dealers.
The female addition to the trading staff, Bonnie, provides a primer on the meaning of Frotty's name to the guys. She explains that "frotty" is a nickname for "frottage," the definition of which is someone who derives sexual gratification by rubbing up against another clothed person. Frotty is clearly someone you don't not want to share a subway pole with. His breath alone has to smell like a barrel of Kosher dill pickles.
There was a case not all that long ago where NYC undercover transit cops arrested a doctor, no less, who was using a periscope device to look up women's skirts. The Attorney General's wife who has accompanied her husband to Chuck's house for dinner, has a John Rocker view of NYC and its subways when she announces they are filled with people who expose themselves. One wonders if she knows about the mariachi bands that march through the cars looking for donations. Clearly not a woman who is going to take the Woodlawn to Yankee Stadium.
Chuck is angling to get the goods on The General and the source of his family's money, born from Texas televangelism and cable deals.
It is unfortunate for the actress Malin Akerman who plays Bobby's now ex-wife Lara, that she's now reduced to moments of scolding Bobby for whatever, money, punctuality, anything. She can't stand the sight of him. Subtracting Lara from the bedroom has removed most chances of "brief (female) nudity." No one likes a woman scorned. They're just no fun.
And just when you think that with the withdrawal of Grigor's money we won't be seeing John Malkovich anymore, we get toward the end when Grigor tells Bobby the money is coming back in, the oil deal went kaput.
Along the way to coming back into the fold Grigor arranges for Bobby to practice/play with Maria Sharapova. Russians obviously all know each other. Jason Gay, the sports reporter for the Wall Street Journal Tweeted that he wondered if Bobby's fairly good onehanded backhand return to Maria was computer generated. No respect.
By now, we all know that the songs, the soundtrack embedded in these shows propels the story line. At a dinner with Grigor and his family Axe connects the dots and figures out who the people are in the enigmatic story Grigor has told Bobby back at the office in the prior episode about soldiers, a woman who is gang raped and a young boy. It's Grigor and his mother. Family is everything. As is loyalty.
In the background, Mott the Hoople sings "I Wish I Was Your Mother" as Bobby drives to a nice looking house that is either in Westchester, Connecticut or on the North Shore of Long Island and rings the bell. Bobby's surprised mom answers. "Robert."
Who knew Axe had a mom?