Saturday, January 30, 2016

Horse race....or not

I come from a long of racing horse racing folk.  My great, great grandfather had Callaghan’s in Dame Street in Dublin, a kind of Brooks Brothers for horsey folk.  Saddles, bridles, boots, blankets, coats….For fox hunters, steeplechasers, jockeys, etc. To this day, the scents loose in Callaghan’s compete with the same in the cellars of Romanee-Conti in my memory world for best ever.

My grandfather Jack was born into a family of 16 kids, with four sets of twins.  He was way down on the list when it came to the money….Ireland is still a primogenitor society.  The oldest son gets everything….and Grandpa Jack was far from primo.

Typically in Irish families the downstream kids go into the Church, become lawyers and accountants…or work their way into the business…..hoping for deaths from their older siblings.

My Gramps Jack…….I can’t think of him as Gramps because he died when he was thirty….Jack was shipped off to Boston to work and Sussex Downs to learn the business from the bottom up.

Jack was cool with the bottom.  He spent his wages on horses, whiskey and women….. and definitely did not learn much about the retail end of the horse business..

Jack pissed away his inheritance, wound up as a journalist in the US Army in WWI in Paris (close to Longchamps), and met my grandma on the race train to the real Derby….in England.

My mom inherited the love of horses at the track.  She grew up in Redondo and she flat out loved Santa Anita and Hollywood Park. She loved the pageant, the colors, all that bullshit….but she knew her horses.  Who ran well in the wet, who ran well on a dry track.  Who was better with a heavy jockey with no weights than a light guy with plates in his gear.  My mom loved Latin jockeys.  Till the end she would bet the farm at the Fairgrounds on any California horse with a Latin jockey….well, a good Latin jockey and a good California horse anyway. 

Eddie Arcaro…..Be still, my heart.

And a good trainer, of course.

It is genetic.  I am a terrible gambler, like Jack.  Both my mom and I share weird genetic things: we both sneeze when walking into sunshine from shade (WTF?)….and we both reflexively tear up watching any horse race….even on TV.

When you go to the track with folks who hang out with the trainers, jockeys, muck-rakers, etc you are hanging with serious people who make their money from the horses and the races.

Parimutuel betting runs differently.  This system runs by taking the aggregate of all the bets on a given race, dividing up the cash, subtracting the costs….and allocating odds to each horse based on the number of folks betting on him or her. If everyone bets on Goldilocks, the odds are very short.

Idiots who come to the track and bet on horses because of the colors of their stable, or the sheen of their coats, or based on their name (Goldilocks to win, place or show in the fifth race!)….fund the profits for the pros who are there every day.

“Honey, put $100 on Shambles….his colors remind me of the ocean in Tahiti last year.  And his jockey is so cute.and a Virgo. And the trainer was on Ellen.  

Regardless that Shambles is limping up to the post.

This is what is going on with the Republicans right now.  Not just the candidates….but the voters that are apparently choosing them. No one is betting on policies or character or hard work or information.  God forbid any possible future ability to govern…..

Cute colors……sexy jockey!  Hello, Mr. President!

Great work with the whip down the stretch, Mr. President!

2.01 to win
2.35 to show
2.60 to place.

No money in those odds….

None of these idiots are going to be in my Trifecta….and definitely not in my Pick Six.

Saturday, October 31, 2015


Back in the day I worked all around in Europe.   
Hotels in those days worked seasonally.  December to March. May to September.  In between, we were on our own.  Picking grapes, doing maintenance in the chateau, hanging out.
In my case, in the year Patty Hearst was kidnapped….I am very old....I ran out of funds a few weeks before my new contract in Kitzbuhel.  
 I lived in my tent in fields in Austria in the snow. I would weep in the morning rolling up my tent and sleeping bag with my frozen Irish fingers.…And then found a crazy cheap room in an attic in Kirchberg on the other side of the mountain from Kitzbuhel with a rich .
No dollars for weeks works on you.  You know you will be good for it….and you know your rich buddy doesn’t really care….and the rent is actually only a dollar a day…but, still.  There was rent and warmth….and some booze…but not much food. And no peace or comfort.
And the pressure of being Sidewalk Monkey 24-7 to sing for your supper. No peace or comfort.
Finally we were hired in at Hotel Wiesses Rossl two days before Christmas.  First paycheck was on 30 Dec, just before New Year’s.  I got 1600 schillings in cash.  About $200.
I was so excited.  I grabbed my skiis and jumped on the cable car up to the top of the mountain and started skiing down to Kirchberg to pay my bills.
The slopes on Austrian mountains are mostly wide open….pastures in summertime….the farmers are paid by the town coop to take down their fences.  Skiing is smooth and almost balletic….nothing like Colorado mogul skiing. 
Still, some fat German idiot managed to ski out of control in the early season….get accidental air, land badly, and actually explode on landing  Blood and guts were spread all along the last slope I had to ski down to get the lift, to ski down the other slope to Kirchberg….to pay my bills and regain my honor.
There is no Ski Patrol in Austria.  The area workers are mostly local actual cow boys who dress in green jumpsuits and man the lifts and do grooming with tractors.  The Green Heroes.
The Green Heroes had not cleaned up the mess of the exploded German….why?  It will snow soon! 
I skied faster than normal down the slope, anxious to settle my bills……hit the mess, ate shit…flew through the air and landed in a heap.  Fuck.
I picked myself up, skied down, got in line for the lift, rode the lift up to the place I could ski down to Kirchberg to pay my bills……Got my shit together after the horrific crash.
And realized… money was gone!
Fuck!  I must have lost it in the crash!
I skied back down to the lift that would bring me back, rode to the top….and skied like a maniac down to the crash site.  I stomped around in my torn up snow….and the other bloody torn up snow…..Nothing.
God hates me. My shit was gone.
I skied down again to the lift.  In Austria the lift line is called a schwnanz…..a snake….which is also Yiddish for a prick.  Right on.
I was cursing and kicking and sobbing my way through the schwanz until I got to the Green Hero at the bottom of the lift.
Was machts-du, schtuck schiesse?  What’s up, yankee fuckhead?
Fuck….I wiped out by the dead German and lost all my first pay from the Wiesses Rossl in cash.  I can’t pay my back rent in Kirchberg.  I am fucked!
Lose anything else?
Well… comb……like it matters! Schtuck shiesse, yourself!
Green Hero reached into his pocket and handed me my cash, and my comb.
Picture this.  I wipe out, lose my cash in the horrific crash site.  Another local comes by, finds the cash….it is not his….so he turns it in to the Green Hero.
Who gives it back to me with no questions asked.
This is the kind of world I want to live in.
Which is why we have been trying to find the person who dropped cash on the floor of The Store on Monday Night.
I think we have figured it out……

Monday, April 13, 2015

Dear Christians With The Rainbow Shirt That Says "Jesus Hates The Sin But Loves The Sinner"

Re: Sunday and Walking The Christians.

Dear Christians:

We are probably the most open minded restaurant this side of Dharma’s on 41st in Santa Cruz.  You can wear a Southern Battle Flag T-shirt here (Tim’s great grandfather died fighting for the South in the same battle my great grandfather was wounded in.  They might have shot each other!).  You can wear IRA shirts, and British rugby shirts.  You can wear ManU jerseys, even though we are Liverpool and Barce folk (Real Madrid….not so much!) can’t wear a t-shirt with a rainbow and some bullshit words like: “Jesus hates the sin, but loves the sinner”.  Hashtag: GTFOH!

I grew up as the bishop’s altar boy in Reno.  My tree is stacked with Jesuits and Sacred Heart nuns as far as the eye can see.  I am cool with Jesus and God and their Whole Crew.  I can still say the Our Father in Latin…so back off.

My memory of the Jesus I met in the scriptures was a revolutionary guy who lived at home with his mom until he was 33, hung around with a dozen dudes, and whose best female friend was a hooker.  Where do you get “homosexuality is a sin” from that?  The only time he actually got his ire up was when he laid the lash to the bankers and moneylenders in the Temple.  

 What was it you do for a living again?

My Amanda just spent a month overseeing the passage of my mom from this side to the next side.  The last ten days she spent 24-7 by her bedside, praying her soul out, trying to connect Pat (and herself, and us) to the Whatever Comes Next.  In Amanda’s world you don’t pray to one guy or one thing… just fucking pray.  Somebody will hear, and that Something is probably beyond our feeble tries at definition. The experience itself is transformative.

Amanda had in the Jews.  She had in the Buddhists.  She had in the Unitarians.  She had in the kindest, sweetest spiritual lady with crystals.  She had in Father Emil for Last Rites…..not to mention the daily visits from the Shamanae nurses from the Hospice.  The vibe was intensely spiritual, peaceful and supportive.  One day I arrived for a visit from trying to keep all our balls in good juggling mode, and Amanda made me sit in the yard for an hour with a glass of bubbly until my energy matched the house’s.

At no time were any of these devotedly spiritual people anything but positive and generous.  Zero judgment  or condescension…..even from the Catholics.  Against the enormity of transformation and death….petty Earthly squabbles vanish.

You think Jesus gives a shit who has sex with who?  Jesus is fucking Jesus, you morons!

Just because you are a hypocritical, judgmental asshole…don’t flatter yourself that God made you in his image.  Production-line errors are common.  Consider yourself a spiritual Pinto, and believe me, The Factory is anxious to recall your model before you do further damage to The Brand.

I worked in Swiss and French kitchens long enough to become toxically allergic to arrogance and condescension.  It puts me off my feed.

 So…..please move your pure, virginal buttholes on to the next restaurant. 

 Perhaps they will be silly enough to believe that the customer is always right.

Yours in Christ,