Saturday, September 30, 2006

My days of freedom are numbered. I go back the TV gig soon. So last week I figured, while I still can, I should take up the offer from Nick at the old job to stop by to have lunch. When I called, he said he wasn’t at the office. He was taking the day off. Why? ‘Cause it’s opening day at the track.

“Really…?” I was intrigued. “It is, huh?”

As I sped onto the freeway toward Santa Anita to join him, I called my friend Epoch who I know loves playing the horses, too. Of course he wanted to go -- he had a few things to do, but he decided the hell with ‘em, stupid job interviews -- so I swung by to pick him up. Guess no one works in this town.

Epoch happened to have passes for opening day -- free parking, free entrance to the park, free program, free Racing Form. Normally, that stuff adds up and cuts into your gambling money. Now we had saved enough to play a few extra trifectas. Which is what I did in the first race I bet.

And sure enough, that nag came in. Brought my ticket to the window to collect on my win. (Song reference, anyone?)

Here’s some gambling references for you: A trifecta is where you pick the order of the first 3 horses: win, place and show. A trifecta box is any ordered combination of 3 horses. There are six combinations; at a dollar each it costs six bucks. Because of the multiple possibilities of the outcome, the payout is usually pretty good, even if a favorite comes in.

I had bet two trifecta boxes and won one, so I thought I had started the day winning a big bundle. The trifecta payed $12.40. Woo-hoo, a profit of forty cents.

Next race, I bet a few exacta boxes. An exacta is when you bet the order of the first two horses. One of the favorites came in second. So even though I won that bet, too, I expected another measly payout. But the other horse in the combo was the longshot, so I collected about a hundred bucks. And I won even more on another race, so it was turning out to be an awesome afternoon.

Even if I hadn’t been winning, a day at the races is always great. Epoch, Nick, Nick’s friend and I were all having fun -- eating, drinking and watching from the infield or the grandstands as the thoroughbreds tore up the turf.

I used to go to the track with my dad. Sometimes to Aqueduct -- the big A -- but I also loved Belmont Park. Things were different back in those days. You weren’t a neglectful parent if you left your kids to play by the pond for a half-hour while you went off to take care of business. Or even if you had a mild obsession with off- or on-track betting. My father had a complex system and was actually a successful handicapper. There’s a famous sportswriter and gambler named Andrew Beyer whose numbers are now used in the paper -- Beyer Figures. My father had created his own numerical rating at the same time, which were about as accurate, but not as famous. I think he just needed a catchy name -- maybe The Curmudgeon Quotient.

The first time Dad brought me to the track, I was maybe about six years old, and while he was working out intricate mathematical formulas, I was picking horses based solely on their names. I didn’t care if the nag never finished in the money; I liked the sound of “Silver Badge” or “Ronnajonna” or “Quarrelsome Bird”. And when I was consistently right -- I picked the winner three times in a row -- the old man decided maybe the kid might have some kinda mojo going on, and he bet on the next horse whose name struck my fancy. Of course, he lost; once money is involved it ruins everything. I think they stole this idea for that movie On the Right Track starring Gary Coleman.

At Santa Anita last week, Nick and his friend had also made some money, but Epoch was struggling. The next race was for maidens -- non-winners. Lotta lousy horses. And some had never even been in a race. How were we supposed to rate ‘em when their list of past-performances included nothing more than half-mile training runs? Epoch suggested we sit out that race. A wise way to save our money, sure, but who could sit through the excitement without gambling? Nick and I quoted the movie Let it Ride in which Teri Garr says, “Why can’t you just watch the horses run around without betting on them?” Everyone at the track laughs at her and Richard Dreyfuss angrily explains, “Because without betting, there is no racing!”

“Gimme three bucks,” I told Epoch. We were gonna split a trifecta box. My strategy? The ol’ childhood trick: betting the horsies with the best names. “Mon’s the Man” had a nice Caribbean sound to it. “Bisbee Slam” almost rhymed with that. And finally, I liked “Their He Goes” because of the (assumingly) intentional wrong homophone.

At the wire… Mon’s the Man and Their He Goes were in front. 2 outta 3. Epoch was amazed… and ever hopeful, since the results were unofficial. “Maybe they’ll disqualify the horse that came in third,” he said. I reminded him the judges would have to eliminate about 4 more horses before Bisbee Slam wound up in show position and we could collect.

I think that put an end to any luck I had had, ‘cause I didn’t even come close the next race. We decided to call it a day before we lost any more cash. Nick and his friend pretty much broke even. I didn’t worry about Epoch ‘cause he typically rakes in the chips at his weekly poker game. But I was still up a lot. In fact, I went home with more than a day’s wage from the TV gig.

Nick had the right idea. Screw the day job. I’m playing the ponies from now on.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Growing up in New York, I just rooted for the Yankees, unaware of the angry rivalries with other teams in the American League. I had admired the other teams. Kansas City used to have some awesome players -- George Brett, Willie Wilson and the Mad Hungarian, Al Hrabosky. And the Red Sox, of course. As a kid, I was a big fan of Carlton Fisk, Yaz, and still think Jim Rice should be in the Hall of Fame.

But once I got out in the world, I began to see how much everyone hated the Yanks. It was understandable to want to defeat the dynasty, but I was a bit taken aback if it got mean-spirited. Some people wouldn’t just root for their team, they’d pepper their praise with a nasty comparison to New York. And that kind of negativity breeds more negativity. But I try not to give in.

I try to simply enjoy knowing the Yankees are going to the playoffs again. And not relish the fact that even though they haven’t won a championship since 2000, each team that has won the World Series… where are they now? Struggling as an also-ran. Maybe their fans and team owners should stop griping about the Yanks’ inflated payroll, and try to put some money into their roster, too, so they won’t be a flash-in-the-pan each decade instead of being a contender every October…

No, no. Be nice, Mikey.

I’ll be starting my job next week, where I’ll see Gene, the Red Sox fan. Even though he laughed at Johnny Damon’s struggles early in the year, and taunted me when the Yanks fell a bit behind the Sox, I won’t remind him that Boston ended up around ten games out of the wild card race.

And Wilson, the lead editor, was even worse, gloating about his defending champion White Sox. You couldn’t even talk baseball to that guy. Sometimes I’d get him to stop bitching about unfair profit-sharing and how Steinbrenner is Satan. But then, instead of just bragging about the HRs and RBIs of Chicago’s Jim Thome or Jermaine Dye, he’d always point out how much better their stats were compared to the overpaid Jason Giambi or Alex Rodriguez. Still, I won’t mention to him that the Chisox were statistically elimated from postseason contention last night. Why rub it in?

I’m gonna be the bigger man here. Not gonna say a word about sports. Just show up to work with a warm smile on my face, and a new wool cap to keep me even warmer.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

My girlfriend Adelphia’s hot. I wouldn’t kick her outta bed.

Or would I?

Very often she’ll lay in bed with me, still wearing her evening clothes. After a long night of dinner, drinks and what-not, there she’d be, in another sexy cocktail dress, both of us nearly dozing off. But no matter how tired she is, she won’t yet allow herself to stay that way. Adelphia’s gotta get up at some point -- sometimes hours later -- and do her evening rituals first. She can’t go to sleep ‘til she does. Which means I can’t go to sleep either.

We’re in limbo. Dreams deferred.

One night she had changed into her little t-shirt and pajama bottoms, and I was impressed. Not only at how cute she looked, but for once she had settled in right away.

“Not quite,” she said. “I still have to take out my contact lenses.”

So why didn’t she? Why lay down with this final task still to be done? Why was she keeping me in limbo? We were both exhausted, so her tendency to procrastinate before bedtime didn’t make any sense to me. “C’mon, baby. Take out your contacts.”

“My ‘clown-tacts’?”


“You said ‘clown-tacts’. What are ‘clown-tacts’? Are those prescription lenses for a clown? Is Chuckles the Clown nearsighted or farsighted?”

I was so drowsy, I must have mispronounced the word. She, on the other hand, was still wound up, as talkative as ever. And purposely procrastinating, perhaps to provoke me.

“What about Ronald McDonald? I never saw him wear glasses, so I wonder if he got clown-lasix…”

“106, 105, 104…”

“Are clown-tacts covered on the circus health insurance plan? Who do the Ringling Brothers use for an optometrist?”

“92, 91, 90…”

“Can anyone get clown-tacts? If you wear clown-tacts, will everyone look like a bozo to you?”

“81, 80, 79…”

“What are you counting down?”

“You got 108 seconds,” I said.

“You mean like on ‘Lost’?” Adelphia had gotten me hooked on that show, and the second season featured a ticking clock that counted down from 108 minutes. But she would only get 108 seconds.

“And unlike the show,” I said, “you can’t reset this clock. So you got -- now, 53, 52, 51… seconds to go off on your little riff about clown-tacts.”

“What happens when you reach zero?”

“On ‘Lost’, it may have meant the end of the world, maybe not,” I said. “35, 34, 33… But do you really wanna find out?”

Apparently she did.

She said, “Y’know, maybe you meant ‘clown-‘ttacks’, like when Krusty goes berserk or something. Clown-‘ttacks can be very dangerous. You could get hurt by too many pies in the face during a clown-‘ttack, and that could knock a clown-tact out of your eye…”

Adelphia kept going. All the way to 3, 2, 1, zero.

And that’s when I started shoving her out of the bed, shuffling more and more onto her side, until she fell off the edge, laughing.

“Fine, I’ll go take out my lenses.” She got up off the floor and started storming out of the room. “I can’t believe you kicked me outta bed.”

“Small price to pay for joking around,” I said. “Consider it a clown tax.”

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Summer plan: Vary physical exercise.
Cycle more? Bike stolen.
Swim more? Back muscles pulled.
Finally get a massage? Check.
Remind yourself you’ve done the most passive activity.
Lazy bastard.
Okay -- in same day, finally try yoga and rock climbing.
Go with rock climbing friends on free visitors night.
Notice everyone has same idea.
Notice it’s very noisy in rock climbing place.
Notice the sound bounces off rock walls.
Notice yoga class in middle of all this.
Bad place to do yoga.
Worse: Instructor is soft-spoken guy from Rhode Island.
Strain to hear New England accent.
“Pull ahhms fahh faw dowwn daag.”
Down dog? Striking cobra? Crouching platypus?
Yoga is glorified stretching.
But with hot chicks in skimpy clothes. Doing glorified stretching.
Yoga better seen than heard.
Next try rock climbing.
Find beginner’s wall easy.
Reach top in no time.
Look down.
Find friends know what they’re doing.
Allow you to rappel down safely.
Alleviate fear.
Get you to try harder routes.
Negative slopes. Inverted walls.
Learn proper grips, adjusting balance.
Challenging, but fun.
Would be easier if you were lighter.
Should’ve lost more weight.
Lazy bastard.
Still, friends impressed.
Most beginners don’t do half as much.
Feel encouraged, strong.
Watch friends go across ceiling like pair of spiders.
Feel humbled, weak.
Decide climbing Mt. Whitney long way away.
Still, decide rock climbing friggin' rocks.
Blog about it next day.
Consider what aches the most.
Shoulders from yoga?
Groin from awkward rappelling incident?
No -- hands from gripping rock climbing wall.
Typing hurts.
Write in short sentences.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

"Hey Mike, this is Joe at Auto Collision Repair."
"Hey Joe, glad to finally hear from you."
"Yeah, I told you it would take about two weeks."
"Right, which is why I figured it would be at least three."
"So is my car ready?"
"Great, I’ll come by and get it."
"But there’s just one thing…"
"The windshield’s cracked, Mike."
"It wasn’t that way when I brought it in, Joe."
"I know. One of our guys did it while replacing the molding."
"The molding?"
"See, there’s this plastic molding that goes over the bumper, and as he was putting it in, he cracked the windshield."
"The front windshield?"
"But it was the rear end that was damaged."
"Uh, okay. So you’re gonna fix the windshield, too?"
"It’ll take another couple of days."
"Which really means three."
"So the car’s not ready."
"Okay. Good talking with you, Joe."

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Okay, fine. After over a year, I finally updated the blog links in my sidebar. Too many people were switching over to some other site. Yeah, I know blogger can be a bitch sometimes, but so is remembering where everyone moved to, not to mention their stinkin’ password on wordpress or whatever. Can’t you just tell your bosses or brothers-in-law not to read this shit? Guess I don’t worry about privacy ‘cause most people I lampoon are too lazy to look me up.

I sadly dropped a few links, gladly added a few others… if you’re linked to me and would like me to reciprocate, please let me know, while I’m still in the mood to kick around computer code. Maybe one day I’ll change domains, or at least spiff up the generic graphics here, but I kinda like it this way. After over 340 posts, those who actually care still know where to find me and what to look for.

Classic MMM. Typing, griping and hyping since January 1, 2004.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Recently I learned that I’ve contracted some kind of contagious condition. I’m trying not to let it get to me, reminding myself that millions of people live with the same problem, and as long as they get their weekly treatments, they’re okay… somewhat. Still, I had avoided this thing since the outbreak a couple of years ago, but now I caught it, and I got it bad. Kinda wish my girlfriend hadn’t infected me -- on purpose, no less.

She got me addicted to “Lost”.

I figured I wasn’t at risk. I had built up an immunity to entertainment sagas with any kind of fantasy element a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. A dose of those damn Ewoks did it. Even when a new surreal strain of conspiracy-theory TV emerged, I wasn’t susceptible -- nothing of the sort could Twin Peaks my interest.

So, I told her, sure, baby, I’ll watch a little of Season 1 on DVD. Won’t get me hooked. I had already tried “24” and made it 24 minutes in before Kiefer’s voice put me to sleep. Couldn’t imagine this show -- which I imagined to be a “scripted Survivor” -- to be much better.

But I was wrong. I spent every free moment watching each episode, and every other free moment obsessing over it, walking around analyzing the rich developed characters and trying to figure out the mysteries of their island. I won’t spend another moment lauding the show here -- I’m way behind on this, and besides, I’m just starting to watch Season 2 before they premiere this year’s new episodes. So I don’t wanna hear any spoilers. I’ve avoided the hundreds of geeky fan-sites that discuss this show to death. I may have the bug, but don’t lump me in with those sickos. I ain’t no “Lost Boy”.

Though I will say that by nature of a long-running series, the writers may quickly jump the shark by introducing new questions without answering any of the old ones. I’m already infuriated by the devices in which information is kept from being shared: Charlie “saw nothing”, Claire has amnesia, Rousseau is insane and never gives a straight answer. Friggin’ soap operas. By trying to keep the mysteries going, they may lose the interest of viewers. Or maybe it’s just me.

Or maybe it’s that I’m a little jealous. I went to film school with one of the writers. Shortly after we graduated, he had gotten a real lucky break that jumpstarted his career. But he’s a good guy, a good writer and works hard. So I was happy for him, and I know he deserves the success. Besides, he was always involved with projects that weren’t my thang. He loves all that sci-fi stuff, and went from one “X-Files”-influenced show to the next. Even when I heard his new gig at “Lost” created a hit, and he won an Emmy, I simply thought: good for him, with his other-worldly tales of wonder. I prefer more reality-based stories. Although I can’t say that’s why I work for so-called reality television…

And now that I’ve seen “Lost” and am afflicted and addicted, admiring the clever writing, wondering what’s gonna happen with the guys on the raft, what’s down that hatch, why Hurley is still so hefty… I’m feeling a little jealous again. But I heard that my friend from film school left “Lost”, presumably to work on yet another series. I hope he’s moving up, taking a position on a program that gives him more creative control. Although, knowing our different tastes, that won’t necessarily mean I’d be that into his new show.

Unless, of course, my girlfriend gets me hooked on it, too.

Monday, September 11, 2006

I forget exactly when I took this picture of myself, maybe around 15 years ago.

I decided to post it 5 years after a day we'll never forget.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

To the tune of "Stayin' Alive":
Well, you can tell by the way I sport my threads,
John Travolta might as well be dead.
Long Island’s where I did what I do.
Not Fantasy Island -- I ain’t Tattoo.
And it's all right, ‘cause y’know it's the
Coolest kid at the Bat Mitzvah.
My big sister I did salute
By puttin’ on my three-piece suit.
Lookin' like a schmuck
Or a disco duck,
I'm Make Mine Mike, Make Mine Mike
Ah, ha, ha, ha,
Make Mine Miiiiiiiiike…

Monday, September 04, 2006

Film Geeks Dan, Henry and Mike meet to drink tequila and discuss movies:

Mike: I saw Crank this weekend. I think was the best film I’ve seen this year.

Yeah, wasn’t it awesome?

Dan: Seriously? I haven’t seen it yet.

Mike: What else was there in '06? Three good documentaries -- Why We Fight, An Inconvenient Truth, and Who Killed the Electric Car?

Henry: Right. But Eisenhower or Al Gore weren’t running through LA, forcing a doctor at gunpoint to defibrillate him so he could get knocked back into an elevator to escape the cops while sniffing nasal spray and shooting up epinephron for the adrenaline rush.

Mike: How ‘bout that scene when he has sex with his girlfriend in the middle of Chinatown?

Henry: Or when he chops the bad guy’s wrist with a butcher’s knife, then uses the severed hand, still clutching the gun, to finish him off?

Dan: Plus Mike looks a little like Jason Statham.

Mike: How many tequilas have you had?

Dan: Okay, the movie sounds pretty good. But was it better than Beerfest?

Mike: Oh yeah, I almost forgot about that one.

Dan: Gotta love a film featuring the German guy from Das Boot challenging Americans to guzzle from “Das Boot”.

Henry: “We’re not that drunk!”

Mike: Haha! Man, I missed you guys.

Henry: You shoulda been here sooner. We were arguing about the best horror movie this year. I say it’s The Hills Have Eyes, but Dan liked Final Destination 3.

Mike: What about The Descent?

Henry: You liked that better? Why, because it wasn't a remake or sequel?

Mike: No, 'cause it had monsters and girls in a dark cave, spelunking through blood and entrails.

Dan: See? You missed out on a good debate. Where you been?

Mike: I spent the afternoon with my mom and sister. Our weekend outing involved my sister picking up a present for a friend’s baby shower. They were registered -- did you know people can register for baby showers? -- at Babies ‘R’ Us.

What the hell is Babies ‘R’ Us? Is that like Toys ‘R’ Us?

Mike: No. Toys 'R' Us has toys.

Dan: So, what, they sell babies?

Mike: At least that woulda been interesting. Babies ‘R’ Us has one tiny aisle dedicated to baby toys. Y’know, Elmo and Builder Bob and shit. The rest of the places is filled with strollers and diaper genies and preggos oohing over little sailor outfits and Spongebob sippy-cups.

Henry: That’s what you did all day?

Mike: No, we also got something to eat and I tried to tell the ladies about Crank, but they just wanted to talk about "Project Runway".

Henry: Too bad. Crank really was great. You’re almost right about it being the best movie this year.

“Almost” right?

Dan: There’s still a few months left. And of course, Henry gets to see lot of movies in advance.

Mike: Right, because of your job. So, what’s coming up that’s good?

Henry: Three words: Jackass Number Two.

Dan: Seriously? Even better than the first one?

Henry: Fucking hysterical.

Mike: Man, I missed you guys.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

I knew I shoulda kept my personal life personal. My uncle, whom I haven’t seen in a year, called out of the blue to leave me this voicemail message:

“Hey Mike. Congratulations! I heard you're getting married! Your mother told me the news, so… if it's true, great! And if not, well, uh... But I hope it's true...”

So I had to call him back right away to tell him that he was greatly misinformed. No, it’s not true. At least my uncle had recognized the unreliability of his source. But before the rumor spread, I made it clear: Mikey didn’t die from eating Pop Rocks and drinking soda, and he ain’t getting hitched neither.

Then I called my mother. Yes, Mom, I know you liked my girlfriend upon meeting her that one time, and even though you have nothing better to do than grill me -- yes, she hates cats, too, and no, she hasn’t seen The Pope of Greenwich Village yet, but I bet she’ll like it as much as we do -- still, please don’t get ahead of yourself. I couldn't tell if the leap in logic was stereotypical behavior of a Jewish mother, or the brain damage from her stroke (or her medications) caused her to mix up reality and fantasy again.

My sister knows about this all too well. A few months ago, she got a call from our cousin: “How are you doing, Julie?” Fine, my sister said. “No, really, how are you?” Fine. Really. “Julie, c’mon. Tell me the truth.” My cousin started getting angry that my sister wouldn’t open up, like she was in denial, insisting she was doing okay. Julie was annoyed that her answer wasn’t satisfactory for some reason.

The reason was that my mother had called my cousin to say that Julie’s best friend -- who’s become very close with our family -- suddenly died. Not true. Julie’s friend was alive and well. Mom apparently had had a dream about this, and when she woke up, believed it had really happened. I understand her confusion, but wish the ol’ lady would talk to her kids first before freaking out the rest of the family.

My sister and I can’t do much but check on Mom’s meds and otherwise laugh about it. Julie did try to help me, reminding our mother that Mikey and his girlfriend have only been dating a few months. Even though it’s going well, don’t pressure the kid with your wishful thinking. I’m glad at least Julie’s cool with this.

The next day she called to say, “Y’know, I was thinking. If you did get married, your girlfriend would be my sister-in-law. And I’ve always wanted a sister…”

I hung up on her.

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