Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Betting class

From the first day I landed in LA, it seemed I hooked up with one gambler after another. Some were occasional, casual gamblers --
upstanding citizens, and others were guys who only felt alive when betting their last red cent.

But doctor or pauper, they all liked the horses, and with few exceptions, every dollar they bet only circled the drain.

For a time, I had these two friends, G and T, a gay couple that we called Gin and Tonic. Tonic was a nurturing mother-figure, and Gin had been raised by a very different kind mother altogether. Gin's mom lived at the track, in her clubhouse box at Del Mar and Santa Anita, and Gin had reached maturity on a diet of nachos and Pepsi. Thanks to Del Mar, though, he was also an excellent surfer.

When the mom died, Gin invited me and my husband of the moment to her house; his house now. It had a wide-screen TV and one chair in the living room, and that was pretty much it. "What happened to your furniture?" I asked. He looked puzzled. "You don't like the chair?" "Oh, sure, it's a great chair. But the room, I mean, what about a table or sofa." "Oh well," he said, "That was Mom. she didn't like to dust."

If we joined them at the track, Gin would bet every single race. And not just a single bet. He bet all across the board -- exacta, box, baseball, cartwheel, and any other exotic on offer. He effectively left no horse uncovered. After every race, Gin would pass Tonic his beer, then search his pockets and sort through the 18 or 20 tickets. "I can't believe it!" he'd say, jumping up and down. "I won!"

But I'm digressing. Because everything I learned about racing and handicapping I learned from Don. A professional. A college swim coach who quit his job once he found the secret. He considered handicapping his job, and the track was his office, and he bet on class. He had a system, a great head for numbers, and the gift of self-discipline. Don could go an entire season without laying one single bet. I'll share his secret tomorrow. He wouldn't mind. He'll always be in business. Betting against hotheads made him a rich man. At the track, only cooler heads prevail, and you don't need two hands to count them.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A horse beats a ghost any day of the week

Santa Anita hosts the Breeders Cup this weekend; Karen Klein and I caught the morning workout at Clockers Corner.

These are the big guns and gunettes, racing for million-dollar purses. On dirt and turf; sprinters and distance; juveniles and seasoned; mares and stallions; and they come from all around the world, and some winners will be owned by billionaires, others by some chaps who, when the race started, were just one trailer ride away from bankruptcy and disgrace.

Karen and Karin arrived early-early, and saw stars, you betcha.

I exercised my jaws on some ham and eggs. Best breakfast in all of LA.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Extra Ordinary

I took a picture today. Through the window, into a house that's been empty for -- ten, fifteen years, maybe? And you see my visor, reflected, and the grand piano in the living room. The piano is the only piece of furniture that remains. But now there's a woman, to our left. I can't explain this. You see her, too, right? It's not just me?

Update: What is wrong with you people? If you think you're coming to my slumber party, think again.

I was listening to Lou at the time. Halloween Parade. Cross my heart.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

R-E-S-P-E-C-T, that is what you mean to me, Harper Lee

"Author Harper Lee ... seeks to protect the 87-year-old's best-known intellectual property, "To Kill a Mockingbird."
The Alabama writer has sued her hometown Monroe County Heritage Museum for trademark infringement, saying it is illegally using her fame for its own gain... It is a substantial business that generated over $500,000 in revenue for 2011, the last year for which figures are available," said the lawsuit filed last week. " -- CNN

So Harper Lee is suing over the use of the To Kill A Mockingbird trademark and logo. Well, who the hell does she think she is?

I can't imagine anyone so mean spirited. She's rich; why strike out at us, just because we clean up on our "Scout and Jem" fanny packs and "I Heart Atticus" baseball caps and coffee mugs? Jealousy, perhaps, that we came up with the idea first?

We only want to promote the heritage of this town, after all. I haven't actually read the whole book. But I have read the important parts, because every time I take something from the stove while wearing my Miss Maudie Mitts, I see a new and wondrous quote. Plus, every time we stuff a chicken in the "Hey, It's Not a Mockingbird" roasting pan, we remember, right? -- the story or whatever. Same goes for the "You're Toast, Bob Ewell" mini-oven.

I suppose next thing we know, she'll be suing over our Boo Radley Rat Traps. These traps not only work, by the way, but have a different TKAM quotes on every slab, making them both fun and educational for the entire family. My son and daughter literally fight over who gets to empty them each morning.

Artists. Don't get me started. This whole thing has me so upset -- the greed of this woman, the selfishness. Something my family doesn't indulge in; in fact, you're all invited over to share our jar of "Folks Call Me Dill" pickles. Depending on which way the wind blows, these may or may not be available early next year.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Let's Party

Join Altadena Heritage this Saturday, from 2-4 p.m. All the best people will be there.

Plus, I promise you this -- You'll witness horseback riding of exceptional quality -- dressage, racking, western, Charros; and there will be a performance by the Denas' and Doo-Dah's own Dianne Patrizzi. We'll share a little past, a little present, some gossip and nosh.

Come on down to 3064 Ridgeview Drive.

Don't make me come and get you.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Wahoo! Altadena Fete -- Free, October 19th, Everyone Welcome

Fete? You bet. Because I had to look up the word "fete" to make sure, and yes, we have a celebration on tap, a festival. Horse-riding demos, refreshments, and a few short words from big people.

Mostly, you'll oooh and ahhh when some accomplished riders put their horses through their Western, Dressage, 5-gaited, and Charro paces.

And here's the thing: I never threw a party before, ever. You know that, else you would have been invited. And some of you folks live in PA, Canada, Oz, Brazil, and New Yaaawk, so you're excused; but surely I must have a few local readers. And to you I say, please come. Because this was my idea, and if you don't show up, I'll look stupid, and drive home with 50 pounds of guacamole in the trunk of my car.

Mark your calendar -- Saturday, 10/19, from 2pm to 4pm, at Altadena Stables, 3064 Ridgeview Drive. That's near where Altadena Drive dead-ends into JPL, and it's just a walk, one block south.

More info, enticements, tomorrow.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Writing for a living

Among my many jobs, one was writing tech manuals for a new super-duper online program to revolutionize how work gets done, in a place where it had been done in a most specific manner for about a hundred years, and target the manual to those who held both computers and reading in equal contempt.

This project I handled in concert with another writer. Both of us Lit majors.

My text was "dah-dah-dah -- Your're almost there -- dah-dah-dah -- you're doing fine -- dah-dah-dah -- You've got it!" And his was prose that went on for pages -- "If a red light blinks in the upper corner of your screen, this indicates a problem, but a problem that can be tackled if we consider the three probable solutions..." Mine was the more popular, and his the more accurate. So neither of us communicated anything of value.

In any case, we could finish our daily job in about an hour, so had time to kill. Which we spent quizzing one another on the first lines of literature.

"Ok, so who said this..."

Then the competition escalated to: what is the most recognizable first-line in English Literature? Something we didn't admit was that both of us scoured our book shelves; it made the next day interesting, attractive; a reason to get up in the morning.

"It is a truth universally acknowledged," he said.

Oh, that's good. Better than my, "Happy families are all alike..."

When the rubber hit the road, the shit hit the fan; in other words, when they flicked the switch on this new technical wonder -- our actual job, it was chaos. My stuff didn't work, and no one had read his. So the true techie wizard had to travel from San Francisco to San Diego and sort things out, personally.

Oh, well. We tried. And no one seemed to hold us accountable. So back to what mattered.

"The sun shone, having no alternative," he bid.

"Mother died yesterday," I countered.

To our credit, we never stooped to "Call me Ishmael."

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

We Won't Stop: Notes from Albert

Don't get me started on the tongue-thing. I invented the tongue-thing.

My girl friend Lily can do it, too; but I'm a professional, and she's just a talented amateur. And yes, we can both twerk. I invented the twerk, thank you for asking. Again, I'm better at it than Lily, but Lily is better than Miley.

My greatest claim to local fame, however, is a certain move. A solo piece, both sexy and shocking. A move I'm not afraid to perform in the open -- whether at the vet's office, a dinner party, or waiting for money to spit from the ATM; I can even sneak in a performance on a walk while waiting for the light to change. Sure, it looks easy. But as the Italians say, Spezzatura. This drop-twist-head tucked up the ass, requires great flexibility, concentration, and lightning reflexes.

Like other great artists, I publicly value my personal space.

As for my work, though some have cited Miley as my major influence, I give total credit to the republican party. Through this party's brave example, I learned that it's ok to tune out that irritating criticism, the buzz-buzz-buzz from my fellow man, and focus on my privates.

As the saying goes, Ars longa vita brevis. I think I invented that too. Because my ars is really longa.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Walk this way

I have a few missives that are too important to leave for the postal carrier. The mortgage payment, the checks for property tax, and quarterly health insurance -- those I walk myself, to the post office. It's just a mile back and forth.

It's a nice walk to the Altadena Post Office. I cut through this alley

Then head back home, past the pet store

Past Lori's Websters.

There's a photography studio on our left

And a bus stop up ahead. I didn't ask these guys if a photo opp was in their future.

But I asked these two, outside El Patron restaurant, if I could take a shot. And they said, "Of course!"

After the gas station, we head up the hill.

And the landscape reminds me of a ski jump. I tried to capture this feeling, but someone was walking behind, and I thought my snapping might make him nervous.

"I'm not shooting you," I said, as he passed. But then I changed my mind and caught up to him. "I'd like to take your picture."

"What's it for?"

"My blog..." and here I was going to make myself bigger and more important than I am.

"Your blog?" he said. "That's awesome."

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Good-bye, My Girl

You were 900 pounds of trouble, sweet moods, bad temper, and easy action. We grew up together, and rode from Cherry Canyon to Brown Mountain, in summer's heat and winter snow. You have no idea how I'll miss you. I have no idea how I'll miss you, but I have just a taste of that now.

Vandy, you made all my dreams come true.