Monday, March 2, 2015

CONNECT THE DOTS AT WAL-MART

Shopping at Wal-Mart is like making a pact with the devil.
IN 1962, SAM WALTON ESTABLISHED WAL-MART IN BENTONVILLE ARKANSAS.  TODAY, IT IS THE KING OF DISCOUNT DEPARTMENT STORES WITH 11,088 WORLDWIDE LOCATIONS, (AS OF APRIL 2014). THE CONTEMPORARY PHOTO (above) IS THE ORIGINAL FIVE AND DIME ...THAT GREW TO BE AN EMPIRE. 

I've heard it said that if Wal-Mart has what you want, you won't find a better price, anywhere!
A GREAT MANY PEOPLE FAULT WAL-MART FOR PUTTING MOM AND POP STORES OUT OF BUSINESS.  SO THERE'S ALWAYS A TWINGE OF GUILT WHEN A FOOLHARDY VENTURER, TRADES THEIR SOUL FOR SUCH DIABOLICAL FAVORS LIKE YOUTH, KNOWLEDGE, WEALTH OR POWER.   IN MY CASE, I'M SUCH A SMALL-TIME THINKER THAT I'M ONLY IN IT TO SAVE 19c ON A TUBE OF PREPARATION H.

One area in Wal-Mart that I've learned (the hard way) to steer clear of...is their automotive department.  The one exception is, you can't go wrong with a simple lube job.
REAL MEN LUBE THEIR OWN CARS.  I GUESS THAT MEANS I'M NOT A MAN.  INSTEAD I TRUST MY CAR TO A STAFF OF UNMOTIVATED, OVER-WORKED, UNDER PAID "PROFESSIONALS."

Last week, the "Service Soon" icon lit-up on my dashboard.  This is the friendly signal to lubricate my engine. I've had a long and successful history of Wal-Mart grease and oil jobs while shopping. When my son Andrew was young, we'd kill time (an hour or two), by going to McDonald's, or IHOP or Dunkin' Donuts.
DUNKIN' DONUTS WAS FOUNDED IN QUINCY MASSACHUSETTS (1950).  TODAY THIS GLOBAL DONUT SHOP AND COFFEEHOUSE HAS OVER 11,000 LOCATIONS...SUDDENLY I'M IN THE MOOD FOR A CHOCOLATE HONEY GLAZE...BETTER MAKE IT SIX.

Yesterday, to beat the crowds, I got to Wal-Mart at 9:20AM.  The cleverness of my plan was upended by going on a Saturday.  My first hint of a catastrophe was the indifferent counterman.  Usually these representatives are hospitable and give straight answers to common questions.  But not this dude.  Instead of a wait time estimate he scoffed, "There's five cars ahead of you and two others being worked on now."  I said, "So, an hour?"  He shrugged, "We only got two guys doing lubes...might be a lot longer."  I did the math in my head and liberally came up with a ninety-minute ceiling.  I would be acutely wrong.

I did a frosty ninety-minute power walk through the neighborhood. I returned, washed-up, had a conversation with a fellow shopper who works at the same place as me.  I was back at the auto department service desk at 11:15AM.  My car was not done, nor was it getting worked on.  I didn't interpret the counterman being sarcastic but the "consultation" of being NEXT, (as he phrased it), didn't do me much good.

Over the next forty minutes, I did eighty-three laps around the store.  I had my blood pressure tested and was so bored I did it again a half hour later, (SHOCKER, it was higher the second time).

Luckily I found an abandoned NEW YORK DAILY NEWS.  I read it cover-to-cover did the sudoku puzzle, the jumble and the crytoquote.
EVEN WITHOUT WARP FACTOR FOUR, I COULD HAVE FLOWN TO THE PLANET RIGEL-NINE AND BACK WHILE WAITING FOR MY CAR TO BE DONE.

At noon, I couldn't believe my eyes, my car was getting driven to the work bay. I took the opportunity to do another few laps around the store.  I thought I had covered every inch of the place but this time I discovered that avocados were on sale, two for a dollar-five.
I ALWAYS THOUGHT "AVOCADO" WAS A REFRIGERATOR COLOR.  I WAS WELL INTO MY TWENTIES WHEN I REALIZED IT WAS FOOD...CLASSIFIED AS; BEING IN THE FLOWERING PLANT FAMILY, NATIVE TO MEXICO AND CENTRAL AMERICA.

The auto center waiting room has a window that looks out into the garage.  At 12:30, I couldn't help but notice that my car's hood was up...but nobody was working on it. Unfortunately there was no one to complain to.  Several minutes went by so I went out and asked a guy installing tires (ten feet from my car), "Who's lubing my car?" He said, "I dunno where he is.  I'm busy doin' this."

Inside, I asked a worker.  He said, "I'm working on your car."  I controlled myself from saying, "Duh!" He continued, "It'll take ten minutes to finish draining the old oil."

My next lap around the store, I found something else that I must have missed on all my other orbits.  A smeared trail of disgusting smelling excrement.  Some yuckle-puck must have stepped in dog crap, (or if they were a real loser, stepped in their own shit) and daubed a bit with every step they took through the housewares section.

This might sound crazy but this wasn't the first time I encountered a set of dung tracks.  In fourth grade, a kid in my class, MARKT  raised his hand, (bear in mind, he was nine-years old). His actual quote to our witch of a teacher was, "I smell doody."  That statement is a golden (brown) moment in my life and has been indelibly etched in my memory for fifty years.

Our horror story of a educator  lived up to her heinous reputation.  First she told everyone to look at the bottom of their shoes.  Well, we all know the old adage, "He who smelt it, dealt it."  Poor MARKT discovered that a blob of shit was wedged into the space between the heel and sole of his Oxford.

Next that spiteful bitch could have called for a custodian who would have done a quick and thorough job complete with disinfectant.  But NOOOOOO!  Miss Wicked told MARKT to get paper towels. Oh the humiliation! The poor bastard with everyone staring and snickering, got on his hands and knees and wiped each fecal dab in the classroom. When he thought the degradation was done, he was ordered into the hall to continue the job down the corridor. Too bad for him, the Pooper Scooper wouldn't be invented for decades.
THE LAST TIME MARKT CAME TO MIND WAS WHEN I SIGNED-UP FOR FACEBOOK.  I LEARNED THAT HE WAS SELLING LIFE INSURANCE ON LONG ISLAND.  BUT I WAS CHICKEN AND NEVER REACHED OUT.  WE NEVER HAD A SINGLE DEFINING MOMENT AND HE MOVED FROM THE NEIGHBORHOOD IN JUNIOR HIGH, AROUND 1967.  I WOULDN'T BLAME HIM IF HE HAD NO IDEA WHO I WAS.  STILL, DEEP DOWN, I WONDER IF HE HAD TROUBLE RELATING TO WOMEN OR WAS OTHERWISE ADVERSELY AFFECTED FROM "DISCONNECTING" THE DOTS.

The rest of my ridiculous wait at Wal-Mart was made better by my memories of MARKT.  At 1:00PM, I looked out the window and the mechanic waved me to him.  I thought; Jeez, here we go again, as I expected some obscure glitch like...due to circumstances beyond my control, he couldn't finish the job.  Luckily, that wasn't the case but the stupid, moronic idiot did call me out there to tell me, "Your car is ready, you can pay now." Which I would have done without hearing it directly from him.

Inside, there's seven customers ahead of me on line...with NO cashier.  I wish I was making this stuff up but the usual 15% embellishment factor does not figure into this equation.  Ten minutes went by until I finally advanced to the cash register.  Naturally, the rep couldn't find my paperwork.  He also couldn't access a duplicate of my work order because another associate was using the one computer to sell another customer tires.  But he had deserted his post and disappeared to be certain that four tires in that size were in stock.

I was shell-shocked when I limped out to my car at 1:15.  Despite being frustrated, hungry and tired, it felt good to accomplish my goal.  That is until I turned on the engine and the "Service Soon" light was still on.  There was no way I was going back in.  I'll read the car manual and turn the friggin' thing off myself.  Oopsies, we're getting STILL another winter storm tonight.  I wonder if I have time to renege on my deal with the devil because the way he's messing with me, I might have to wait till May to complete my mission.

Monday, February 23, 2015

THE YEAR OF THE GOAT

It kills me to announce that...I suffer from Pseudobulbar Affect (PBA). Just when you thought I was invincible, flawless and perfectly well-adjusted, I bow my head in shame and throw a monkey wrench into the tight ship...that I'm known to run..

The Pseudobulbar Affect or Involuntary Emotional Expression Disorder (IEED) is an emotional liability or an emotional incontinence. This neurologic disorder is characterized by involuntary crying or uncontrollable laughter. In laymen's terms, it's an internal defense mechanism that allows certain individuals (like me) deal with the stress of a tragedy...or even less dire situations involving anger, frustration etc.  A prime example would be someone (other than me) laughing at a funeral.  While this behavior would seem inappropriate to other mourners and embarrassing to the PBA sufferer, psychologists agree that this venting of  tension is a normal response to acute pressure.

In my case, I don't laugh at funerals.  But the long reach of PBA does extend to my reaction to vomit, (honestly, I had to stop typing just now because I was laughing at the thought of the word).

I really can't explain it but as my son Andrew would attest, my laughing disorder is not limited to the one word, vomit.  It also includes many "getting sick" synonyms such as; barf, puke (yes I am laughing  heartily at this moment as tears stream from my eyes), as well as, hurl, spew forth, retch, heave, throw up, toss one's cookies or upchuck.
WHAT A CRAZY CYCLE...ALTHOUGH THIS PHOTO SEEMS "POSED,"  CRYING AT INAPPROPRIATE TIMES, LIKE A WEDDING COMES UNDER THE SAME PBA HEADING AS LAUGHING AT FUNERALS.  SO, I'M LAUGHING SO HARD AT THE MERE MENTION OF RALPHING THAT TO RELIEVE SOME OF THAT TENSION... I'M CRYING...WHILE LAUGHING...REALLY!    I TOLD YOU IT WAS CRAZY.

I am so intensely nauseated by the word "vomit" that I laugh.  Even worse, when I see someone do "it," I usually do too, (this is not a good position to be in, in casino work...but THAT'S another story).  My point will be proven by a conversation I had at work, with a clean-up guy.

In Las Vegas, the casino clean-up squad are called, "porters."  Here in Atlantic City they are the Environmental Service Department, (EVS).  For over ten years, I've been friendly with Ruben, an EVS man originally from Albania. Ruben speaks great English and is proud to now be an American citizen.  However, he is occasionally difficult to understand.  I remember years ago asking him why he was so sad.  Ruben said, "I just cleaned womit."  This was not a good time for me to forget that he pronounces "V" like "W."  I shrugged, "What's womit?"  The poor guy said, "You know, throw up, barf..."  Before he got to a third example, the picture of a puke puddle on the imported Italian marble floor came to mind. I couldn't help myself...I laughed in his face. I was ashamed as I held a hand over my mouth and scurried away.

I remember telling Ruben's womit story to Andrew.  I think he might have been too young to understand that I wasn't disrespectful of Ruben's difficult job...but it was a weakness in me that prohibits my brain from processing the concept of getting sick in the normal manner.  When I thought I wasn't making myself clear, I reminded Andrew that when he was a little kid and something (relatively bad) went wrong...like bumping his head on a coffee table, I would distract him from his pain,with a key word that always made him laugh.

Maybe I'm a better father than I give myself credit for because I discovered that five-year old Andrew laughed every time he heard the word, "goat."  It shouldn't sound far-fetched...that concept might be linked to him inheriting my PBA gene?   Please note, the word "guppy" worked too but without the consistent effect of, "goat."
MAY 18, 2000, EGG HARBOR CITY NJ  -  WHILE PLAYING TEE-BALL FOR THE SOUTH JERSEY SCREAMING NEWTS, ANDREW WAS POSITIONED ON THE PITCHER'S MOUND.  A FOUR MPH "LINE-DRIVE" HIT OUR HERO IN THE CHEST.  FOR A SPLIT SECOND I THOUGHT HE WAS OKAY.  BUT HE SAW THE ANXIOUS LOOK ON EVERYONE'S FACE...AND CRIED.  I WAS THE FIRST RESPONDER AND WHISPERED ONE WORD, "GUPPY."  THERE WAS NO RESPONSE.  IN A PANIC, I TRIED AGAIN AND SAID, "GOAT." IT WAS A MIRACLE! THE CHUCKLING PATIENT MADE A FULL AND IMMEDIATE RECOVERY...AND FINISHED THE GAME...IN  "DEEP"  RIGHT FIELD.

The word goat, even as Andrew matured, (a lot faster than I did), has remained a happy term between us.  Coincidentally, earlier this week, many oriental cultures celebrated their New Year. That's why I think this year is going to bring monumental positive energy because throughout East Asia, the Chinese, astrological zodiac chart, represented by a twelve-year cycle of animals, has named 2015 as, "The Year of the Goat."
FOR ASIANS, THE GOAT IS ONE OF THE MOST POPULAR YEARS.  THE ANIMAL REPRESENTS GENTLENESS, CALM AND BEAUTY.  TO THEM, 2015 IS EXPECTED TO BE TRANQUIL AND LUCKY.  SO, CONSIDERING THE CURRENT STRIFE BETWEEN NATIONS AND IDEOLOGIES, THE DEEPER NEED FOR WORLD HARMONY HAS NEVER BEEN MORE IMPORTANT. 

I hope that my Andrew, after he laughs at the mention of the word goat, finds serenity and good fortune in 2015.  Because, next week, he will be crossing into true adulthood with his hallmark twenty-first birthday.
LIKE CONFUCIUS HIMSELF, ANDREW WAS BORN IN THE YEAR OF THE DOG.  DOGS ARE KNOWN AS MAN'S BEST FRIEND  BECAUSE THEY UNDERSTAND THE HUMAN SPIRIT.  ASIANS REGARD THEM AS FAVORABLE AND SYMBOLS OF SUCCESS .  THEIR OTHER TRAITS THAT FIT MY BOY'S MOLD INCLUDE BEING: LOYAL, FRIENDLY, FORGIVING, AFFECTIONATE, HONEST, GENEROUS AND SPORTING. 

According to their zodiac chart, this year, dog people will experience a general stability in their lives. Whatever trouble they encounter can be easily handled with tolerance.  Progress in their careers will be temporarily sidetracked.  But through diplomacy, patience and hard work, their future upward mobility won't be jeopardized.

Of course, I don't put any stock in horoscopes.  However, it is amazing how they are general enough to fit most people.  I can't wait to share these thoughts with Andrew when we all celebrate his big milestone birthday next week with his friends, Tom and Matt.
HILLSBORO NEW JERSEY - JANUARY 2014.  THE "ATM" STARRING, ANDREW, (left), TOM (right) AND  MATT (center) .

For Andrew's first legal taste of alcohol, he has selected Houlihan's, a restaurant/bar at the Mercer Mall in Lawrenceville NJ.   Apparently, it's trendy to go there because this watering-hole does something special for newly crowned "adult" birthday celebrants, (apparently it's also necessary to keep dear old dad in the dark as to what exactly that something special is).
ESTABLISHED IN KANSAS (1972), HOULIHAN'S HAS EIGHTY-FOUR USA LOCATIONS, IN EIGHTEEN STATES.  THEY ARE KNOWN FOR FINE DINING AS WELL AS PUB FARE.

I love my son, I'm also especially fond of both Tom and Matt.  So I'm not setting any food boundaries. However, my mama didn't raise no fool.  So, having nothing to do with economics, I'll be limiting the ATM to two alcoholic beverages each with one additional caveat...ominous sounding cocktails will be strictly verboten like; Corpse Reviver, Zombie, Paralyzer and Irish Car Bomb.
NOBODY'S GETTING PICKLED BY ANYTHING CALLED A "GRAVE DIGGER" OR AN "OPEN  GRAVE" ON MY WATCH.

Obviously, even though they are "of age," I don't want to be responsible for getting them too liquored up.  First, I wouldn't want you to lose that saintly, perfectly well-adjusted image you have of me. Secondly, I don't want to lose that ideal, halo-encrusted conception I have of the "ATM.".  More importantly, you know what they say about an ounce of prevention. ***NOBODY ***is losing their friggin' lunch from drinking too much, in my car...because I'll probably die from laughing so hard.

You wanna know the deeper reason why I'm not letting the "fire-water" flow?  Because I've been there.  I know how "intoxicated"inexperienced drinkers can get with unlimited, free, (or extremely inexpensive) booze.

In my early years of drinking, a bar, (Grandma's) on Nostrand Avenue, (near my old Alma Mater, Brooklyn College), offered a five-dollar entrance fee for "nickel beer night." They even had a live band, (I wonder who would appear in such a rat trap?)  I went with DRJ7 and GRAMPS, (no relation to the establishment's proprietor).
(stock photo)  THE GRANDMA'S WE WENT TO WAS AN ,"OLD MAN BAR."  WHICH MEANT THAT MY CONTEMPORARIES WOULD GATHER WITH OLD BARFLYS AND GET "TANKED-UP" ON CHEAP HOOCH BEFORE THEY WENT CLUBBING. THIS GIN MILL WAS SUCH A DIVE THAT YOU WERE REQUIRED TO WIPE YOUR FEET BEFORE YOU LEFT...SO YOU WOULDN'T GET THE STREET DIRTY. 

I have few clear recollections of that night.  One was that the place was jammed...but even with a band, zero females were attracted to this nickel beer gimmick.  Another was, at some point, I was so wasted that I sat in a phone booth (facing out) and vomited between my legs, (pretty funny, eh).
MAYBE THIS IS HOW MY NICKNAME, "THE INCREDIBLE EDELSTEEN," STARTED.  JUST LIKE SPRINGSTEEN (above),  I WAS FACING THE BAR AS I GAVE THE OLD HEAVE-HO BETWEEN MY LEGS.  WOULDN'T IT BE COOL IF THIS WAS THE SAME PHONE BOOTH?  MAYBE BRUCE WAS THE LIVE ENTERTAINMENT THAT NIGHT...FOR HIS SAKE, I HOPE HE MADE HIS CALL BEFORE I GOT THERE BECAUSE IT DOES LOOK LIKE HE'S PRAYING FOR THE STENCH TO DIE DOWN.

Yes, my PBA has me laughing as I type this.  So it's important to mention that Grandma's was such a classy joint that management did NOT rush over to tend to my mess or eject me.

More importantly, while retching, through the din of the music and ten simultaneous conversations, I overheard bits and pieces of a chat between two strangers.  One guy said, "Hey Ernie, where's your brother Eric?" Even without being fully lucid, my storehouse of useless information started running through old files. Despite being impaired, my mind went into overdrive. When something clicked, my vaunted memory pulled out the document I was searching for. I struggled to my feet and staggered to my target.  I'm not sure what put them off more, me interrupting or the pronounced gob of putrid spittle on my chin. But for the sake of a good laugh, they heard me out.

I said to the taller fellow, "Are you Ernie?"  He smiled, "Yeah."  After a mammoth, caustic belch into their faces I said, "You have a twin brother Eric?"  Ernie took a half step backwards and said, "Yeah."  My voice went up an octave in anticipation as I said, "Did you go to Wingate Day Camp in 1963?"  Like looking at a lunatic Ernie squinted at me and stammered, "Y-y-yeah."  Then in triumph I said, "We were best buddies!."  My long lost friend fought off my bear hug because he had no recollection of me.

In my incapacitated state, I told him what I remembered about our past. I cinched the deal when I recited the cross street of his grandparents bakery in Manhattan Beach, (they don't call me, "INSTANT RECALL EDELBLUM" for nothing).  Even though his brother Eric didn't remember me from camp either, we wound-up with many mutual Brooklyn College friends...including DRJ7 and GRAMPS.

DRJ7 and GRAMPS were smart enough to let Ernie and Eric drive me home.  Their wisdom was proven when I stuck my head out the window as we crossed Ralph Avenue and painted the outside of their late-model, white Plymouth Coronet.
I CAN TELL, ERNIE AND ERIC DON'T HAVE PSEUDOBULBAR AFFECT.  THEY NEVER LAUGH WHEN THEY BUST ON ME FOR PUKING OUT THEIR CAR WINDOW.  NEVERTHELESS, WE ARE STILL CLOSE TO THIS DAY.  SO THEY NEVER LET ME FORGET THE PEA-SOUP-LIKE STAIN ON THE OUTSIDE OF THEIR FRONT PASSENGER-SIDE DOOR .  I'M FRIENDS WITH DRJ7 AND GRAMPS TOO, BUT ONLY THROUGH SOCIAL MEDIA.  I  HAVEN'T SEEN THEM  SINCE 1977.

My main objective next week will be to usher in, "The Year of the Goat," while hosting Andrew's birthday...without enabling any drunken causalities. So in honor of the month-long celebration of Andrew's twenty-first birthday, let's all lift our goblets of skim milk high and salute my officially adult son. May he continue to spiral upward and maintain the wonderful traits of straightforwardness, faithfulness and fairness while remaining smart, warmhearted and fun (his virtues far surpass the Chinese zodiac or any other astronomical chart).

To a loving MAN who inspires confidence in others, HAPPY BIRTHDAY ANDREW!  And while you're at my little Farnsworth, remain stubborn to your principles when you know you are right!

                                   #

EPILOGUE - To my knowledge, Grandma's never offered another, "nickel beer" night.  Do you suppose, it was because of me?  Hee-hee-hee...

Monday, February 16, 2015

FIFTY SHADES OF GRAY...HAIR

Unlike anchorman (former anchorman?) Brian Williams, I am permitted to inject exaggerations into my blogs for the sake of entertainment. 
THE WAY THINGS ARE GOING, BRIAN WILLIAMS MIGHT REPORT THAT HE WAS SITTING BETWEEN THE KENNEDYS IN DEALEY PLAZA (above), OR ON THE MOON WITH NEIL ARMSTRONG OR RIDING SHOTGUN FOR O.J. IN THE SLOW SPEED CHASE OR THAT HE'S NOW NEW JERSEY'S FIRST POPE.

I base many of my articles on the truth, but the reality is, I am NOT reporting the news.  So I take full advantage of that flexibility to use an estimated 15% embellishment factor, to further insure that my material is interesting. However, this statement is NOT a disclaimer.  It is a reminder that the story below is barely sensationalized and  99% true.

                                                                       *

Today is Friday the thirteenth.  This morning in South Jersey, the temperature is twelve degrees and the wind chill factor is negative one.  So with that double-whammy of bad luck and Arctic weather in mind, I hereby take on the responsibility to warm the cockles of your heart...and hopefully steam up your glasses...with some good old fashion smut.

For this week's MGTP entry, I was playing around with the idea of a movie theme because the Oscars are around the corner...plus tomorrow is Valentine's Day.  I was still struggling for the definitive way to combine the two when a radio talk show got on the topic of, "FIFTY SHADES OF GREY."
THE "FIFTY SHADES OF GREY," MOVIE IS BASED ON THE BEST SELLING EROTIC ROMANCE TRILOGY BY NOVELIST, E. L. JAMES.  COMPLETE WITH SCENES OF BONDAGE/DISCIPLINE AND SADOMASOCHISM, THE HYPE FOR THIS FILM'S OPENING TONIGHT, ( THE EVE OF VALENTINE'S DAY),  IS ENORMOUS.

The radio show host caught my attention by quoting an item in the newspaper.  The piece suggested that in preparation for the strong possibility of the audience engaging in their own sex acts while watching, "FIFTY SHADES OF GREY," that many theater owners were covering their seats with protective plastic. I can't imagine that being true but as a clever marketing gimmick, it's genius.

Whether or not you see, "FIFTY SHADES OF GREY," or not, is secondary.  What is important is, I have a Valentine's Day story about someone whose sexual exploits are really worthy of a movie...and it's NOT a fantasy.

I was twenty-four when I got hired  to deal craps in Las Vegas' Stardust Casino.
(stock photo from 1959)  DEALERS AT THE STARDUST (1958-2006), HAD THE STATUS AND PRESTIGE OF BEING N THE MAJOR LEAGUES...ON A LOW-ECHELON TEAM.  I NEVER LOST SIGHT OF MY UTTER GOOD FORTUNE TO HAVE WORKED THERE. AND...THE COMPANY HAD THE PLEASURE OF MY SERVICE FROM 1980-1982.

Considering my youth and lack of connections, it was a minor miracle that I got such a great job..  At first, I was overwhelmed by the veteran presence there, (that's a nice way of saying, I dealt with a bunch of old men...almost everyone was at least in their forties).

Casino personnel, primarily craps dealers, are weary of newcomers.  The Stardust was no exception. So I had to prove my meddle before I gained acceptance.  I was still in this feeling-out period when one man stepped forward and made me feel at home. His name was Robert E. Lee, (he wasn't related to the Confederate general but was named after him).

Lee was (and still is) the most universally loved craps dealer I ever met.  He was so nice to the players (and everyone else) that he was nicknamed Courtesy Bob.
IF THERE WAS AN AWARD FOR "WORLD'S MOST BELOVED CRAPS DEALER," COURTESY BOB WOULD WIN.  HE WAS SO INTERESTING THAT HE APPEARS IN MORE OF MY BLOGS AND VEGAS SHORT STORIES THAN ANYONE ELSE.  IF I WAS SMART, I'D WRITE A SERIES OF SCREENPLAYS ABOUT HIM...AND I'D WIN A TROPHY CASE FULL OF OSCARS.  

A couple of weeks after I started at the Stardust, management changed the four-man crap dealer teams. Bob would become one of my new crew mates. Prior to our first shift, Bob's magnetic personality poured out as he introduced himself.  In his heavy southern drawl, (with key points punctuated with his ancestral Scottish accent), he was charming, cordial, funny and enthusiastic as he welcomed me.

Bob Lee (to me) was an old man. So I was surprised he was only forty-eight. His sagging, leathery face was dominated by deep, thick wrinkles.  He dyed his short-cropped Afro chestnut brown, but the kinky hair around his temples were left, fifty shades of gray.

Oddly, our first conversation had nothing to do with shop-talk.  To Bob, I was just a kid.  So he thought I could relate better to his son Louis. Later, it turned out that he didn't know much about his son.  So it was natural that he wanted my prospective in suggesting gifts for Louis' all-important, sixteenth birthday.  Little did I know that this seemingly innocent chat would be a prelude to a man obsessed with sex.

Once I got to know Bob, I found out that he was an incredible babe-hound.  In addition to his age, Bob did not possess the physical traits associated with a a ladies man.  He was five-seven, scrawny and not especially good-looking.  It sounds like a fairy tale but Bob's genuine niceness must have given off a scent that women couldn't resist.  I witnessed this and was amazed. Then when you add on a confident demeanor that was more friendly than a predatory swagger, he picked-up customers at work regularly.

Bob did not discriminate due to age, looks or ethnic groups.  When there was more than one girl, he had a pecking order of horny supervisors that gladly volunteered to act as his wing man.  Sometimes these men were afraid of getting stuck with an inferior choice and Bob as if insulted would say, "Hey, the ugly one's mine."

To prove he had a Svengali-like hold on women Bob would seal the deal by saying, "Be back at four o'clock.  And between then and now, make sure you take a shower and brush your teeth."  If I didn't see these ladies coming back after our shift and saying something about showering and brushing their teeth, I'd never believe it.  That catchphrase earned him another nickname, "Be-Back-Bob."  He even bought "B-BACK," vanity license plates   In an industry with countless skirt-chasers, NOBODY in my thirty-six years of casino experience compared to him.

Bob had a lot of practice.  Hardly a night would go by that something sexual didn't happen to him.  If it didn't, he talked about it.  Our first conversation about his son's birthday gift was in reality, him feeling me out about...hiring a prostitute to de-flower his son.

That same night an average-looking woman with an exposed cleavage stopped at our game and said to Bob, "Will the south rise again?"  He was sincere as he said, "Not tonight honey, definitely next time."  I still had no idea how vast his erotica empire was when I said, "What was that all about?" He said, "It's our code. You know that movie, 'MARATHON MAN,' it's about me. She 's a librarian in Phoenix and comes around when she's looking for some action.  She uses the code because it means, I won't take long before the 'south' rises again and again and again."

Bob went on to explain his code system of getting paged over the public address system by various girlfriends. That way, while he's at work, to reduce the chance of a scheduling conflict, he could identify the caller and be prepared to accept or reject the offer.

A short time later, the PBX operator announced, "Telephone call for Mr. Million, Mr. Duane Million telephone."  Bob smiled, "Duane Million, that's my West Covina girl calling."  I said, "Really?"  He said, "I'll call her on my next break.  If she leaves around eleven, she'll be here at four."  He saw I was confused and added, "If you hear a page for Matt Lapper, that's my San Bernadino lady...but I'd have to drive out to Victorville for some of that...but it's always worth it."  I was nodding as Bob continued, "When you hear Dick Marathon, that's my nurse here in town...and I don't have to tell you the true value of a good enema..."

We were interrupted by the busyness of our craps game but Bob managed to add, "If you hear Phil Dole get paged that don't count...it's my wife."

Bob and I took on a mentor/protege relationship.  In addition to teaching me the fine art of buttering up craps players to solicit tips from them, he also taught me about the stock market, real estate, gardening, health foods, travel and so much more.

On one of my breaks, I bragged how great Bob was. A bible thumping dealer disagreed and said some derogatory things about Bob. I defended my friend.  The man politely said, "Go ask your buddy how he lost his virginity.  Trust me, he'll tell you.  Then we'll see how much you admire him."

Later I got Bob on the subject of this son 'losing his cherry" with a prostitute.  Bob bragged, "Do you know Dennis the bell captain?"  I shrugged.  He said, "'Good ol' Den can get you anything, any time...for a price.  He hooked me up with a whore that's perfect for what I need. Her name is Candee Cotton.  Geez, the names they come with.  Let's face it, where's the fantasy if her went by Margaret Waslewsky.  Candee is twenty-two and fits the bill because looks fifteen.  For two-fifty, I arranged it that my kid is gonna think she's a daughter of one of our high-rollers. He'll take her out on the town in taxis, have a bite, go to the movies and whatever the hell kids do these days.  After, she'll take him up to her room at the Dunes.  Nature will take it's course.  She'll be gentle and he'll think he just got lucky."

In addition to all his quirkiness, Bob was also extremely cheap.  So after going on and on how cute, sweet and innocent Ms. Cotton could be he added, "But if the little bastard gets scared off or can't get it up, there's no refunds and I'm stuck two-hundred and fifty bucks."

Bob's candor made it easy for me to transition into asking, "How did you lose your virginity?"  Bob's smiling face lit up like a Christmas tree as he said, "Anna, my sister."  My jaw dropped as without hesitation he detailed how his sixteen year-old sister (Bob was thirteen), extorted him into having sex with her, (my short story "A TALE OF THREE CITIES," deeply describes those circumstances).

It was difficult to comprehend whether Bob was boasting or just reporting the news as he went on, "We did it every other Saturday night, for three years."  With a sly grin he added, "I pretended hating it...but I loved it."  Apparently, Anna was mentally skewed.  Perhaps a psychologist could trace assaulting her brother back to loneliness and perceiving herself to be big, awkward, unattractive and socially inept.

I believed Bob.  I believed everything perverted thing he ever said.  In the 1970's, way before "Fifty Shades of Grey," Bob realized that women are conditioned to protect their virtue and reputation. But in a foreign environment...like Vegas even the most conservative women can let their hair down.   When you consider the current tagline used by the Las Vegas, Better Business Bureau (BBB), "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas," I'm confident my Robert E. Lee was a genius and way ahead of his time. Of course, the "Fifty Shades," movie depicts the extreme of letting yourself go.
THE PHRASE IMPLIES, "IT HAPPENED.  IT ONLY HAPPENED THERE. AND IT HAPPENED FAR ENOUGH AWAY TO NEVER HAVE A NEGATIVE EFFECT ON THE HERE AND NOW."

On the night of the 1981 Super Bowl, my crew did well in tips.  We were walking out when Bob asked us for fifteen dollars each.  One of the other dealers asked, "Why? You at least a buck and a half in your pocket. "  Bob avoided the question and said, "It's for a good cause." The dealer said, "You gotta do better than that, I ain't givin' up squat without a reason." Bob blithered all kinds of nonsense and repeatedly said, "Trust me." Bob was notorious for being cheap.  If he asked you to loan him money, he paid the next day.  But if you asked him for money, he wouldn't give you a dime.  Unless you really begged...then he'd do it but ask for collateral...like your watch.

We knew Bob wasn't a sports fan so he didn't need the cash to cover a losing a Super Bowl debt.  So we stood at an impasse outside the time office until Bob gave in, "Look you cheap bastards.  When you work with me, you get fringe benefits.  I'm connected with Dennis the bell captain, so I get inside information. In two weeks, Mr. C., one of my best players is coming in for Valentine's Day.  For sixty measly bucks, Dennis will go into their suite and have a box of his stinky-ass stogies and a dozen roses for his wife on the bed when they walk in.  PLUS, a note from me, inviting them to our craps table.  So the fifteen bucks that your so afraid of investing with me, is just about guaranteed to return a hundred...EVEN ON A BAD NIGHT!"

We paid up.  Then as we went our separate ways Bob called,back to us, "My West Covina girl is waiting for me...and she loves anal."

Two hours into our Valentine's Day shift, the much ballyhooed Mr. C. was yet to make his grand entrance. It was unlike Bob to be nervous but he "casino-gazed" every chance he got in the hope of spotting his target. That's when I saw a well-dressed couple both around fifty rush towards Bob. The stocky gangster-like man was Mr. C.  He crowed, "Big Bob-A-Lou, how are you?"  Mr. C. paused for a second, blew a huge plume of nauseating cigar smoke across the table and whispered to Bob, "Thanks for the heaters, how'd you remember I only smoke Berings."

Ever so cocksure Bob broadcast, "The best deserves the best...and you got me.  Now, who's this vision of loveliness?" I was expecting it to be Mr. C's wife but he said, "Oh, this Therese, my mother-in-law."  Therese said, "My daughter, wherever the hell she is, liked the flowers."
I DON'T KNOW ONE CIGAR FROM ANOTHER.  TO ME, THEY ALL STINK!  MR. C. WOUND-UP CHAIN-SMOKING THAT CAUSTIC CRAP ALL NIGHT.  MANY TIMES, I THOUGHT I WAS GOING TO LOSE MY LUNCH. BUT HE WAS AN INCREDIBLE TIPPER, SO I HAD TO LITERATELY AND FIGURATIVELY...SUCK IT UP.

Mr. C. and Therese swilled scotch and stayed on our game for four hours. He regularly gave us ten-dollar tips (sometimes more) and she gave us fives. At 2:00AM, a drunken Mrs. C., decadently dragging a narrow gray fur behind her, finally arrived.  Around thirty years-old, this plainly pretty, petite brunette was carrying a pair of black stiletto heels.  She was wearing a bright red silk blouse, a tight black skirt hemmed above her knees and black hose.  To accent her outfit, a gold fleur-de-lis stickpin adorned the lapel of her matching black jacket.

In loud whispers, Therese and Mrs. C. started bickering.  Suddenly Therese announced, "It's late, I'm taking Francine upstairs."  Mr. C. remained generous until we were ready to go home. He tipped us his last twenty-two dollars in small chips and tossed in a fifty-dollar bill."  We made $345.00 a man that night (mostly from Mr. C. and Therese).

Outside the employee entrance Bob crowed, "It's a good thing I'm not an I told you so kind of guy...but the next time I tell you to bet fifteen dollars on a sure thing, you shouldn't think twice."

Bob called out sick the next night.  An Asian kid on his first night took his place. We didn't do well until Mr. C. showed up at 1:00AM.  He asked, "Is Bobby on break?"  Our supervisor said, "No, he called out."  Mr. C. lit the nub of his cigar and said, "We're flying back to Chicago tomorrow, be sure to tell him Tom Cabroni came by to thank him again for everything."

Mr. C. then shrugged, "What the hell," and bought in for there-hundred dollars. We didn't do as well this time but Mr. C. still made our night.  While playing and chugging double Johnny Walker Black he told me, "We ate at Caesar's Bacchanal Room and saw Rodney Dangerfield.  After, the girls started playing slots, I got bored, left them there and came here."
IN JANUARY 1981, MY WIFE SUE AND I TOOK MY PARENTS TO THE BACCHANAL ROOM.  IT WAS AN 8-COURSE, WINE-FILLED GOURMET MEAL REMINISCENT OF A ROMAN ORGY.  THE  ORIGINAL 1966 "GODDESSES" (above) WERE THE SERVERS .  OUR GORGEOUS WAITRESSES WERE CLAD IN SKIMPY TOGAS.  I PRIVATELY TIPPED ONE OF THEM AND SHE MASSAGED MY DAD'S SHOULDERS...MIGHT HAVE BEEN THE BEST IDEA I EVER HAD.  SADLY, DUE TO SOARING COSTS, THAT OPULENT DINING EXPERIENCE IS NOW GONE.  FAR WORSE, IT WAS REPLACED BY THE "BACCHANAL BUFFET"...CHECK YOUR ADVERTISEMENT FLIERS FOR FRIGGIN' COUPONS.

Two weeks after Valentine's Day, Bob came by my condo.  It was the first time I saw his mint condition 1963, split window coupe Corvette...with the "B-BACK," vanity tags.  He said, "Don't look at this baby as a car...it's an investment."  I said, "Looks more like mental masturbation to me."  He laughed, "Hey, I'm gonna use that line."

Inside I said, "How did you explain the B-BACK plates to your wife?"  "Easy, I told her that's what I say to my favorite players."  He nudged his elbow into my ribs and grinned, "She doesn't have to know all my favorites are female."

In my backyard, I showed him the vegetables I grew under his tutelage. He grabbed one of my long zucchinis, toyed with it and made a crude  dido joke.   I interrupted, "How did it go with Candee Cotton?"  He said, "Forget about that.  Check this out!"  He took a wallet-sized photo from his billfold.  I got a quick glimpse and thought it was a woman in a bikini.  Bob carefully placed his thumb over the face, showed me the picture and gushed, "What do you think?"  I said, "She's okay..."  "OKAY! " he squawked. "What are you, fucking blind?"

I took a second look at the spread-eagled woman posed with her hands clasped above her head. I focused on the frilly, black satin, crotch-less panties and matching brassiere with cut-outs at the nipples. I sighed, "It's just a picture.  You could've clipped it from a magazine. Without the face, it's meaningless."  Bob warned me, "Swear you won't tell anyone." I was nodding as he exposed the familiar face.  It was Francine Cabroni, Mr. C's wife.

Bob said, "I call out once a year for her and she bankrolls everything.  This time after we got wasted, she wanted to see pornos.  The first flick was called, "DOUBLE PENETRATION NATION."  I had to stop him because he was telling me highlights of the movie.

He got back on topic and said, "When her Quaalude hit home, she was all over me.  I had to fight her off till we got to the Crest Motel."  He strayed again from his story to brag how Dennis the bell captain gets him a cut-rate at that dump. Bob said, "Frannie is a minx.  She's one of the few who can keep up with me.  Man, she does it all!"
THE CREST STILL OPERATES UNDER A DIFFERENT NAME IN DOWNTOWN VEGAS.  THIRTY YEARS AGO, THE MOTEL CATERED TO BUDGET-MINDED DAY-TRIPPERS FROM CALIFORNIA AND GUYS LIKE BOB WHO PAID A HOURLY RATE.

I said, "Wow."  Bob said, "You think that's great? After, I phoned a taxi for her. When it came, I lifted up her skirt, slapped her bare ass and called her, "A dirty two-bit tramp."  She loved it and the cabbie got a rise out of it too. My pay-off is, I keep what's left of the three-hundred she fronted."  While I struggled to add up all the information he added,  "It beats going to work...plus, I still have her pantyhose."

I didn't want him to think I was impressed so I said, "You were going to tell me about Louis' birthday with Candee Cotton."  He said, "Ah, it was nothing."  I said, "C'mon, its been killing me.  What happened?"  Bob sighed, "An hour before he was going to leave, I was jumpy, breaking his balls on what to wear, how to act and other shit.  I guess he figured out whats what.  Louis said, 'You know I have girlfriend?  We do 'it' all the time."

I said, "You must've been shocked. So what happened?"  Bob said, "So I ask him, in that case Louis, what do you want for your birthday?"  My kid said, "A bike."  The ever-thrifty Bob said, "A bike! Sure, you can have any bike you want."  Louis smiled. Bob realized how devious a person he was and feared his son might be just like him.  Bob continued, "You can have any bike that is...without a motor."

I said, "Well at least you got out of that one cheaply after losing your $250.00 with Candee Cotton." Bob said, "Hell I didn't lose shit. I made Candee Cotton my early birthday present...I went in his place...and I got my three hours worth...and then some!"

I shook my head, "You are amazing, you always come out on top."

Bob furrowed his brow and blasted, "WRONG!  I should have known that little prick was flimflamming me.  How was I supposed to know Louis is a competitive cyclist?  He picked out a seventeen-hundred and eighty-nine dollar bike!"  And could you believe it...for that kind of money...it had no motor."

                                                 
                                                                  *


For a long time, after I left the Stardust, I kicked myself for not keeping in contact with Bob.  He was flipped housing before that term was invented and had his hand on the pulse of every money earning trick in the book.

About five years ago, my wife Sue name-dropped Courtesy Bob, to a former Stardust coworker of his. This man said, "Bob and I closed the place back in 2006.  He was seventy-five years old and still dealing dice."  That probably means Robert E. Lee never struck it rich. Too bad, I pictured Bob retired, on his own private Pacific island and getting pampered and sexually pleasured by native girls. Now with that picture in my mind ruined, I'll have to photo-shop Bob out...and replace it Brian Williams.

Monday, February 9, 2015

THE MONTH-LONG CELEBRATION OF ANDREW'S 21st BIRTHDAY

Oops!  How unlike me.  Last week, I forgot to share an important twenty fifth anniversary with you.

On January 30, 1990, in Atlanta Georgia, I emancipated myself from a poor business choice.  While it's true that my alternative profession has forced me endure some severe bumps in the road, I can look back and say with complete clarity that  I don't miss anything about my previous life. So despite all my current physical, mental and emotional baggage...I declare to everyone that on that fateful day, I MADE THE BEST DECISION OF MY LIFE!

I am not an ethereal person. I believe in what I see.  But within the bounds of common sense, I can be pretty cosmic in my own way.  A wise man once said, "Whatever you're doing and whatever you see...means you're not doing and seeing something else."  Roughly translated...you can't have it all. While it's true we can do or see more than one thing at a time, it's impossible to find perfect balance in our lives...something, somewhere has to suffer.

While I wore the suit and tie shackles of being a businessman, too much of my mindset was dedicated to making the entity a success.  Which to a certain extent is good.  But when you don't share the same visions with your partner or think they are wrong, then the whole achievement process and the degree that success is judged, causes an incredible, irreconcilable wedge.

To my discredit, I wasn't smart enough to keep anxiety out of my home, I turned my back on friends and allowed my personality (values) to be mangled. I had tried to quit two other times but I was weak and got manipulated into giving it another try.  But when promised compromise never comes, it's just a matter of time.

When I finally had enough, I quit.  The idiot then lectured me on the difference between quitting and resigning. So I shrugged, "Okay, I resign."  But if I had a chance to relive that golden moment, I should have said, "I'm resigning from the business...but I'm quitting YOU."

Like I said, I'm not an ethereal person.  So I didn't have a grand scheme in mind when I emancipated myself...so far from home, (Atlanta Georgia).  It was a knee-jerk reaction done without a safety net of a new job. That means that it was a coincidence (a convenient coincidence), that a new casino was opening a month later, here in Atlantic City.  And even though they were done hiring, I used a couple of favors to get a last second job.

The positive karma of casino work was immediate. It felt great to end the chase (suffering) of reaching the non-existent, "pride of ownership." I had the added bonus of never regretting my actions and soon looked at myself as both a genius and my own hero. My home life improved, I made new long-lasting friends and added significant leisure time...all while making more money...DUH!

Still, the most important piece of my life's puzzle was missing.  It's crazy to look back but while in business, I stupidly squelched starting a family.

Once I was free, my wife Sue and I were on the same page.  But just because you stop trying to prevent having babies, it doesn't mean you snap your fingers and say, "Voila!"

While Sue's biological clock ticked, our frustrating journey till my son Andrer was born would last four years.
IN THE HEIGHT OF OUR QUEST TO GET PREGNANT, THE 1992 MOVIE, "MY COUSIN VINNY,"CAME OUT.  IN IT, MARISA TOMEI (above),  IN REGARD TO HER HOPE OF GETTING MARRIED AND STARTING A FAMILY, REPEATEDLY STAMPED HER FOOT AND PUT THE CATCHPHRASE, "MY BIOLOGICAL CLOCK IS TICKING," ON EVERYONE'S LIPS.

Right now, (early February) we are halfway through the doldrums of winter 2015. But we can't relax because we are still in the cross-hairs of catastrophic weather.  To make the most of our cabin fever, Sue borrowed a contraption that will convert our miles of VHS videos, (Andrew's early childhood) onto DVD's.

This process has allowed us to view tapes (from birth to twelve years old), that we haven't seen (for at least nine year), since the VCR became obsolete.

During our nostalgic retrospective, I melt every time an old (wonderful) memory is stoked.  This warm and fuzzy feeling is also due to the concept of...how fragile life is.  Plus, in terms of the universe's size, how unlikely it is that any of us are here. So I can't help but think...any subtle change, no matter how slight...would have altered the uniqueness of the wonderful bundle the stork delivered to us.
A STORK BRINGING BABIES IS NOT ANCIENT FOLKLORE.  THIS SERVICE WAS STILL PROVIDED UNTIL RECENT COST ANALYSIS STUDIES INDICATED THAT SOARING LITIGATION FROM ANIMAL WELFARE ADVOCATES AND ESCALATING INSURANCE PRICES MADE IT UNPROFITABLE.

The bond between baby Andrew and his parents was immediate and would prove to be eternal.
A COUPLE OF DAYS OLD, MY LITTLE GUY'S  FIRST CLOSE-UP.

All parents kvell over their own child.  When that pride is reinforced, those memories last a lifetime.
(MARCH 7, 1994). OUR FIRST WELL-VISIT TO PEDIATRICIAN.  DR. AMIR (above) SAID THE GOLDEN WORDS THAT FOREVER REMAIN WARM IN OUR HEART AND SOUL, "YOU GOT GOOD BABY."

Nothing is more important to a parent than seeing your child happy.
MORE THAN JUST LUCK, SUE AND I HAD A LOT TO DO WITH ANDREW'S HAPPY DISPOSITION BUT EVEN AT A YOUNG AGE, HE ALWAYS KNEW HOW TO HAVE HIS OWN GOOD TIME.

When Andrew first socialized with other children, we got an inkling that he was truly special.  It was only natural that my little Uberman (see below) related to the Man of Steel...even if eventually...through the process known as osmosis, he developed a kindred spirit to the Dark Knight...Batman...and let's not forget Sponge Bob.
OCTOBER 31, 1998, KOUNTRY KIDS PRE-SCOOL IN SMITHVILLE...ANDREW DIDN'T NEED TO RIP PHONE BOOKS IN HALF TO STAND OUT IN THE CROWD.

My little Farnsworth's lust for life isn't limited to mere good fortunate.  He is also intelligent, a skilled, hard worker and a winner.
OCEAN CITY MARYLAND JUNE 25, 1999.  ANDREW RACKS-UP FOUR TENS ON THE POKERENO MACHINE.  AFTER THE ARCADE'S MANAGEMENT REVIEWED THE TAPES, THEY RULED MY BOY'S DOUBLE REVERSE BACKSPIN MANEUVER ILLEGAL... AND BANNED HIM FOR A YEAR.

Nobody knows how to party better than Andrew...in his own way...of course.
AUGUST 1998.  ANTHONY L.'S FOURTH BIRTHDAY CARDIFF NJ.  ANDREW IS FAMOUS FOR COCKING PARTY HATS OFF TO A SIDE...EVEN THOUGH MANY MOMS INSISTED ON  RE-ADJUSTING IT FOR HIM.

I taught Andrew many life lessons including being open, to new ideas, all different people and strange foods he never heard of.
DECEMBER 30, 1999. AT OUR MILLENNIUM PARTY FOR MY MOTHER, AT FLORENTINO'S IN BENSONHURST BROOKLYN.  ANDREW WAS INTRODUCED TO SCUNGILLI AND CALAMARI.  AT FIRST HE WAS RELUCTANT TO EAT SQUID AND CONCH...BUT HE STILL LOVES THEM TO THIS DAY.


Like Marisa Tomei's biological clock, time keeps ticking.  To celebrate this fact, Andrew rings in the new millennium.
JANUARY 1, 2000 MANAHAWKIN NJ.  BUOYED BY FISTFULS OF M and M's AND SKITTLES, NOTHING, NOT EVEN THE Y2K THREAT, COULD STOP ANDREW  FROM STAYING AWAKE LONG ENOUGH TO USHER IN THIS SPECIAL OCCASION.

Andrew's appreciation for the finer things in life include a great sensitivity towards animals.  The list of pets he loved included Pierre, Frenchy and Lucky the frogs.  Cutie (aka Zhitnik) and Picasso his guinea pigs.  And his "sister" Roxy (aka Muttzilla).
WANNA SEE PRIDE IN OWNERSHIP?  THAT'S ANDREW TAKING CUTIE FOR A WALK.  PLEASE NOTE THE SKIES OF OUR NEIGHBORHOOD ARE FILLED WITH HAWKS AND ANDREW NEVER LET HIS PETS GET EATEN...NOT EVEN ONCE!

From a parent's perspective, it was always a joy to travel with Andrew.  It didn't matter if it was an exotic foreign country, a fancy, far away hotel, a museum, the beach or the zoo, my guy found the goodness in everything he did.
SEPTEMBER 2000.  A QUICK DETOUR TO "LUCY THE ELEPHANT" ON OUR WAY TO THE MARGATE STREET FESTIVAL.

A great part of Andrew's essence, is his respect for others.  I've never heard him raise his voice or use vulgar language against anyone.  Even in his adolescence, he had the ability to be diplomatic, calming and friendly.
 CUB SCOUT FATHER-SON OVER NIGHT OUTING. JULY 13, 2002,  BROOKVILLE NJ. ANDREW WOULD NEVER TELL SOMEONE TO, "GO JUMP IN THE LAKE," UNLESS HE DID IT FIRST. 

My boy's value system is beyond reproach.  Back in pre-school, Sue and I weren't sure what an aide meant when she said, "Your son is incredibly righteous for a three-year old."  It didn't take long for us to figure out that she said was right.
JANUARY 6, 2002.  IF YOU CAN GET BEYOND THAT THIS IS A NUDIE PIC, PLEASE REALIZE THAT FEW KIDS EMBODIED THE CONCEPT OF WHOLESOMENESS AND FAIR PLAY MORE THAN ANDREW.
Throughout grammar school, Andrew's teachers recognized his ability to relate to others.  When they noticed how mature he was, they groomed to help solve social problems.  Two of the programs he was recruited into were, "Big Buddy" and "Peer Group Mediator."
IN 2003, WE REALIZED THAT ANDREW COULDN'T FIX MANY THINGS WITH STANDARD TOOLS.  BUT HE HAD THE INCLINATION TO HELP YOUNGER SCHOOLMATES WITH TROUBLED HOME LIVES, (BIG BUDDY) OR TO INTERVENE IN STUDENT DISPUTES (PEER GROUP MEDIATOR), WHEN TEACHERS OR SCHOOL ADMINISTRATORS COULDN'T FIND A MUTUALLY BENEFICIAL SOLUTION.

When I think back to Andrew's infancy and my awkwardness as a parent, I remember wanting to skip the crying, eating, sleeping and pooping stage.  At around four-months old, I remember the joy of being able to play with my son and get a positive reaction.  A friend commented on my epiphany, "Savor every minute because he's constantly changing.  And the best part is, now every new stage, gets better and better...and it never stops."  That friend's wisdom was absolutely correct.
CHERISH EVERY MOMENT OF YOUR CHILD'S DEVELOPMENT...BECAUSE TIME MARCHES ON.

While converting our family VHS tapes onto DVD's, I don't expect you to sit through it, (see how much I love my readers), So, I made the pictorial display of his youth (above), to sum-up the greatness of my Andrew's character.  At the same time, I ask you to help us celebrate the month-long extravaganza of his twenty-first birthday, (adding your comments at the end of this blog is a great way to do it).

So while I claim to only be slightly cosmic, I remind you that Andrew's middle name is Bennett...when translated into Hebrew is, Baruch...which is their word word blessing!  Talk about your self-fulfilling prophesies.

More importantly, no doctor, no scientist and no tarot card reading Gypsy could ever convince me that any change leading up to conception would have netted us the same Andrew that we all know and love.
HERE I GO GETTING COSMIC AGAIN.  IT'S MY STARRY ANDREW ...YOU KNOW HIM, YOU LOVE HIM, YOU CAN LIVE WITHOUT HIM...(Photo Credit to Heiner).

Now, I think I want to take back my "OOPS," from the top of this page.  I'm glad I forgot (temporarily) about that silly anniversary.  We shouldn't dwell on decades old negativity.  Especially, if like me, you have better things to think about. 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY ANDREW!  I say just keep doing what you've been doing and you'll get the most out of life.

Monday, February 2, 2015

NOT ANOTHER SQUEAK OUT OF YOU!

Hold on to your hats, we have a new edition of Edelblum Mystery Theater...and it won't be easy on your ears.

Edelblum Mystery Theater is reserved for the un-understandable moments of my every day life. The fun begins when I lay out the evidence and see if you can unravel the absurdness of my puzzle.

We all have strange entertainment weaknesses.  One of mine, I'm afraid to admit, is chimpanzees. More specifically, chimps dressed in clothes and even better if they act on TV or movies with dubbed in voices.  I was fifteen when a new TV show knocked me off my feet.  It was called, "LANCELOT LINK, SECRET CHIMP."
A SPY GENRE PARODY, "LANCELOT LINK," LASTED TWO SEASONS AND HAD THIRTY EPISODES.

In 1970, my big problem with Lancelot Link was in my social circles it was uncool, to watch kiddie shows.  So my friends never knew of my guilty pleasure, (hell, maybe they watched it too)?  Either way, to cover my tracks, I went outside when the adventure segment was over.  That's when the show ended with a two-minute segment featuring an all-chimp rock-n-roll band, (the Evolution Revolution). I still think talking chimps in business suits is funny but my oddball taste has evolved.

Starting in my late-twenties, I became a big fan of the smash sit-com, "CHEERS."  In one episode, even without talking monkeys, my sophisticated, new and improved guilty pleasure brought a big smile to my face.
"CHEERS" WAS A FIXTURE ON NBC FROM 1982-1993. DURING ITS ELEVEN SEASON RUN, (275 EPISODES) , IT WAS FAMOUS FOR IT'S WITTINESS AND SEX APPEAL. IN ADDITION TO MANY OTHER ACCOLADES, CHEERS WAS NAMED TV GUIDE'S 18th GREATEST TV SHOW OF ALL-TIME.  

CHEERS took place at a neighborhood bar in Boston,. Their theme song, "WHERE EVERYONE KNOWS YOUR NAME," embodied the idea that everyone was welcome and everybody was a somebody there. The ensemble cast of barflies included John Ratzenberger (far left in photo above), as a customer...mailman, Cliff Clavin.

Cliff Clavin was an annoying know-it-all, (who really knew nothing).  Unfortunately, guys like that are everywhere...and most are avoided.  To prove how out of touch they are, they aren't bright enough to realize that their unsolicited and unsubstantiated factoids, repel the people that they are trying to impress.

Outside the barroom, one would expect Cliff to be a lonely loser but inside the sanctuary of the tavern...despite being a wind-bag, he is tolerated which perpetuates his nonsense.

My favorite Cliff Clavin moment was in the, "AND GOD CREATED WOODMAN," episode (originally aired January 14, 1988).  In it, to supplement his income, Clavin sells mail order shoes to everyone in the bar.  The shoes look great and are reasonably priced.  On the day they arrive, everyone is pleased by how comfortable they are...until they start walking around and discover...all the shoes squeak.  Call me crazy but anything squeaky is funny and squeaky shoes are hilarious.
OOPS, NOT ALL SQUEAKY THINGS ARE FUNNY.  LYNETTE "SQUEAKY" FROMME (1948-PRESENT) WAS PART OF CHARLES MANSON'S INFAMOUS "FAMILY." SHE WAS SO BRAINWASHED THAT IN 1975, SHE ATTEMPTED TO ASSASSINATE PRESIDENT GERALD FORD.  SHE SERVED THIRTY-FOUR YEARS OF HER LIFE SENTENCE AND WAS PAROLED IN 2009.

A few years ago, my son Andrew turned me onto the 2002  movie, "KUNG POW; ENTER THE FIST."  Theatrically it was awful but  it was a great excuse to bond with my kid.  Plus, I still found enough funniness to get me through.
THIS FLICK WAS DIRECTED, PRODUCED AND WRITTEN BY STEVE OEDEKERK WHO IS ALSO THE STAR,  (see above...HE'S HOLDING NUNCHUCKS MADE OF SQUIRRELS).  HIS MOVIE SATIRIZES ASIAN MARITAL ARTS FILMS.  TO DO IT, OEDEKERK GUTTED AN EXISTING 1976 MOVIE FROM HONG KONG CALLED, "TIGER AND CRANE FIST."  NOT ONLY DID HE REMOVE THE SOUND TRACK AND DUB IN HIS OWN DIALOG BUT HE ADDED ORIGINAL SCENES, TO MAKE THE PLOT UNIQUELY HIS. 

My favorite KUNG POW character is the nerd, Wimp Lo.  Although he has a small role, the squeaky shoe sound effects when he walked cracked me up, (it's especially clever because Wimp Lo wears slippers that are probably so soft that they couldn't ever squeak).

Now that you know how I feel about squeaky shoes, you can imagine how embarrassing it was for me when I recently discovered that my new (eight-month old) expensive New Balance work shoes...squeak, (only the right one).

You might recall in my previous August 18, 2014 blog, "EDELBLUM MYSTERY THEATER; THERE'S NO BUSINESS LIKE SHOE BUSINESS," all I did was brag how those New Balance babies were my savior.  Now, that same footwear is a matter of utter distress whenever I walk on a hard surface.  Before I could act on preventing that vexing sound, my face was really red when I went through a back-of-the-house corridor, at work.  The head of security (ahead of me) turned around and said, "You'll never sneak up behind anyone with that racket going on."

If you were expecting a challenge from me to unravel that mystery, you are wrong.  I googled the problem but for the true comic effect, I chose to delay the repair.  Instead, I texted Andrew and shared the laugh.  But seeing (hearing) is believing so I waited between his colleges terms to have him witness this squeaky phenomena.

While still on Andrew's winter break, the plot of this mystery thickened.  Last week I took my wife Sue with Andrew into Manhattan to see the Broadway show, "JERSEY BOYS."
SPEAKING OF UNFUNNY SQUEAKS, THERE'S NO MYSTERY HERE.  NEXT DOOR FROM THE AUGUST WILSON THEATER WHERE WE SAW "JERSEY BOYS," IS THE DERELICT BUILDING THAT ONCE HOUSED THE ROSELAND BALLROOM.  UNFORTUNATELY, JUDGING FROM THE NOTIFICATION, THE PLACE I SPEND A LOT OF TIME IN BACK HOME...MIGHT CONSIDER THE SAME FUMIGATION SERVICE.
We had five hours to play tourist before the curtain went up.  We did a lot of walking down Broadway, browsing through stores in Times Square, up Seventh Avenue and along the diamond district on West 47th Street.  At dinner, Sue regretted not wearing her Fitbit bracelet because she thought she would have had a new high for steps taken in a day.
FITBITS ARE FLEXIBLE, CORDLESS ACTIVITY MONITORS, (SUE'S IS BLACK WITH HOT PINK POLKA DOTS).  IT HELPS TRACK SLEEP, STEPS TAKEN AND CALORIES BURNED.

The next day, I was wearing the same sneakers I wore to Manhattan.  Suddenly, inside a convenience store, I couldn't help but notice that the right shoe squeaked.  I altered my stride.  The noise stayed the same. Then I checked to see if I stepped on something weird like a pistachio nut shell...no foreign object was jammed into the sole. When I drove home, I spotted  Andrew walking our dog Roxy.
ROXY LOVES SQUEAKY DOGGY TOYS SO MUCH THAT IF YOU PLAY WITH HER'S WITHOUT PERMISSION, SHE HAS THE SUPER-POWER TO INCAPACITATE PEOPLE WITH HER DEATH-RAY VISION.

I shared my latest squeaky discovery with Andrew.  He thought I was kidding and was purposely making the squeakiness.  I demonstrated in the house.  He saw that I serious. 

Again, that is NOT the mystery.

The mystery I pose to you happened later that same night.  I was in the house, in bare feet and my right foot squeaked.  Sue said it was the floorboards under the carpet.  But I said, "Then why is it only the right foot?" Again, Andrew thought I figured out a way to do it on purpose but I assured him that I wasn't...and I really WASN'T.

The true mystery is, why did my sneaker and my foot NOT squeak the next day...or ever again?
It's not something you can ask Siri, google or the Dalai Lama.

Trust me, I know better than to waste the high priest of Lamaism's time on nonspiritual questions about vanishing squeaks...but he did say, "You will find eternal peace by creating my own story about monkeys wearing squeaky shoes."

P.S. - I used google's suggestion on my New Balance shoes to get rid of the squeak.  First I identified where the squeak was coming from, by moving my foot forward and back and side to side.  I used talcum powder without success and then used to WD-40 to kill the beast.  If that doesn't help for you, you're a simple click away from solving a more stubborn problem by googling it for your self.

Monday, January 26, 2015

ROBBING THE SUPER BOWL BOX POOL...THE PERFECT CRIME

In the early 1990's, fifty-year old Bill Derry was an Atlantic City casino floor supervisor and coworker of mine.  From the outside looking in, most people would think he had the world by the balls. But Derry had four major vices; three of which he handled well but the fourth, (unseen to nearly everybody) was his downfall.

Bill's first vice was being a wheeler-dealer with an incredible energy to legally earn money.  Derry owed much of his success to his semi-retired father's connections with Chester Pennsylvania bus rentals.

Derry capitalized on dad's influence to inexpensively charter buses, (later, he bought his own).  He started by organizing sightseeing trips for casino workers, (plus friends and family), to New York City, Washington DC, Baltimore and Philadelphia.

He soon parlayed his service to include Broadway shows, concerts and sporting events.  Derry's all-inclusive service earned a loyal following because he provided a sandwich, chips and soft drinks to all the passengers...plus a customer satisfaction guarantee.  So when one of his buses to Baltimore broke down on I-95 after an Orioles game at Memorial Stadium, he refunded 100% to everyone who suffered while waiting three hours for another bus to take them home.
THE 1990 GOODWILL REFUND FROM THE BALTIMORE TRIP REWARDED BILL DERRY WITH A RESPECTED REPUTATION WHICH RESULTED IN A TREMENDOUS AMOUNT OF POSITIVE, WORD-OF-MOUTH ADVERTISING.
Derry's broadening empire soon included buying two buses. He used them to bring gamblers from New York's Chinatown, to, two different Atlantic City casinos.  Those buses eventually grew to make three trips a day, every day of the year and were full.  He and his partner in Manhattan got a cut from each bus ticket sold and a healthy kick-back from the casinos.

Derry's next vice was being an excessive over-eater.  Due to his weight, he earned the hated nickname, Bill "William the Refrigerator" Derry.
WILLIAM "THE REFRIGERATOR" PERRY (1962-PRESENT) PLAYED IN THE NFL FROM 1985-1993.  HIS NICKNAME WAS IN REFERENCE TO HIS ENORMOUS SIZE, 6 FOOT 2 AND 335 POUNDS.  BILL DERRY WAS NO ATHLETE AND WASN'T NEARLY THAT BIG...STILL THE NAME FIT.

Like William Perry (above) Bill Derry had an engaging, upbeat personality.  So, he never let petty barbs get in the way of his cash flow.

It's hard to believe that Bill's life-of-the-party spirit could ever get more robust but it did when his third vice kicked in...drinking. Derry was famous for leading hordes of people, after to work, to his favorite watering holes, (maybe he was getting a cut from bar owners too)?  Bill was usually the first to order a round for everyone...even for the leeches who never bought anyone else a drink.
BILL WAS PARTIAL TO CHASING JAMESON SHOTS WITH HEINEKEN.
Bill held his liquor well and was never out of control.  But when he was well-lubricated, he was usually an easy touch for any sponge that had a family or health crisis.  Even at work, he was generous and likely to volunteer a donation to a bad situation or to help celebrate wedding and baby showers, special birthdays, retirees etc.

In support of Derry, he had a live-in girlfriend Reiko "Rico" Dunlap.  A blackjack dealer in our high action baccarat pit, Rico was a forty-year old divorcee, originally from Indonesia.  She combined a delicate femininity with an exotic look and raw sexuality.  Rico's flirtatious, outgoing nature and years of experience dealing in Las Vegas made her a toke (tip) earning magnet; as she made many high-rollers think they had a romantic shot with her.  Even our jet-setter coworkers who tried to woo her with their self-professed machismo and offers of cocaine were gently turned down.  On the job, there were always gossip-mongers and jealous haters but not a single, decent person I knew doubted her fidelity.

On a rare occasion, Rico spent her break at work alone.  She had a way of sitting in a booth with her legs tucked under her body and putting on a pouty, I need male companionship face.  This stance always caught my attention and made me think she was posing for a nudie magazine.
(Stock Photo) AT FORTY, RICO WAS A FANTASY MACHINE.  IT WOULDN'T SURPRISE ME IF SHE LOOKED LIKE THIS WHEN SHE WAS TWENTY.

Together Bill and Rico were the ultimate power couple.  Even though he was obese and she was nearly perfect, these soul mates were always on the same page.  Their public shows of affection didn't occur often however the sexual chemistry between them was obvious. More importantly, this odd couple was most amazing when their sizzling gift of gab was channeled to satisfy their thirst for money, (he often bragged how they double-teamed a New York businessman, to solidify the Chinatown to Atlantic City casino bus junkets).

I bet everyone who knew them were at least a little envious.  But there were red flags that should have been a clue to underlying problems. Bill and Rico lived in a crumby apartment in Pleasantville and shared an unimpressive, eight-year old sedan.  The reason why they lived like that and never went on vacation...was Bill's fourth vice.
EVEN ON THE DAY IT WAS INTRODUCED, THE CHRYSLER LeBARON WAS NEVER A COOL CAR!

It was so out of character that Bill drove such a beaten-down, boring car. Far worse was the comical contradiction that when that hunk-of-junk was in the shop, he drove around in a little, yellow nursery school-sized bus with Pennsylvania license plates, (which was probably supplied through his dad's influence).
I REMEMBER HOW SHOCKED I WAS THE FIRST TIME I SAW BILL PULL INTO THE EMPLOYEE LOT IN THAT LITTLE, YELLOW SCHOOL BUS.  BUT I WASN'T SHARP ENOUGH TO IMAGINE THE SYMBOLIC RELEVANCE OF SUCH A COOL GUY, DRIVING A GOD-AWFUL LeBARON AND HAVING A NURSERY SCHOOL  BUS... IMPORTED FROM PENNSYLVANIA...AS A BACK-UP. 

At that time, New Jersey casino workers weren't permitted to gamble in Atlantic City. So Bill feverishly entered into negotiations with the elders at the Foxwoods Casino, to bus his gambling deprived New Jerseyians to the Nutmeg State.
BEFORE FOXWOODS OPENED IN 1986,  NEW JERSEY CASINO LICENSE HOLDERS HAD TO GO TO LAS VEGAS TO GAMBLE...OR THEY STAYED IN ATLANTIC CITY AND WORE OUTLANDISH DISGUISES TO DIMINISH THE POSSIBILITY OF GETTING CAUGHT.  NATURALLY, THE REALLY RIDICULOUS GET-UPS DREW MORE ATTENTION TO THE KNUCKLEHEAD TRYING TO KEEP A LOW PROFILE.

One of our pit bosses heard that Derry was trying to make a deal with the Indians and said, "In the mean time, you and Rico should come up to Connecticut with us and take a shot."  Bill said, "No way!  It's okay for my customers to work forty hours a week in a casino and then drive three hours each way on their days off...just to spend more time in one..."  The boss said, "Yeah but..."  Bill interrupted, "Me gambling in a casino would be like a Greyhound driver going on vacation by bus."

The hidden truth was Bill was already addicted to gambling but not on table games.  He was a glutton for punishment through bookies.  His first love were the ponies but during football and basketball season and to a lesser extent baseball, this sports betting vice trumped all three of his other shortcomings.

Bill did a great job keeping this weakness secret. So despite his outward generosity when he had money, he was overwhelmingly broke.  He was caught in a trap, riding a roller coaster lifestyle with more down cycles than up.  Far worse, later it became known that his father's wish to permanently retire was hampered by having to bail his son out from strong-armed collectors.

While waiting for the contracts with Foxwoods to be finalized, Bill and Rico got the idea of brokering a cruise.  They found out that while plenty of people would go to Connecticut by bus, others with more discerning taste were willing to cough-up big bucks to do something colossal and unique with a group of friends...that included legally gambling, out at sea. Bill figured they'd get a volume discount from the cruise ship, give his customers a perceived deal while getting a commission for each cabin filled.  In the end, they would get paid, to take a free vacation.

At that time, (December 1991), Bill's friend, (a shift manager from his former job), told him that corporate lawyers had forced his old casino to officially ban Super Bowl box pools on the property. Bill's mind went into hyper-drive while his buddy blithered on about the usual yaddy-yada phrases like, "disciplinary action up to and including termination."  Bill realized, in the past, upper management in Atlantic City turned a blind eye to these illegal, but highly publicized pools, (for different, yet modest amounts).

Bill mulled this information and recalled that some Wall Street, executives have a Super Bowl box pool with a million-dollars at stake.   That's when he hatched the idea for his own exclusive Super Bowl pool that would net him a free chance to make; $30,000.00, $15,000.00, $7,500.00 or a combination of those amounts.

Derry's Atlantic City Super Bowl box pool would be the biggest in town, EVER!  At a cost of $600.00 per box, he would create $60,000.00 in prize money, (there were a hundred boxes), Bill got the word out to every casino in Atlantic City. Like wildfire, the news spread quickly even beyond the casinos.

At first, the payments came in slowly.  But Bill took no chances on friends or strangers and extended no credit.  All through January, while the NFL playoff tournament played-out, gamblers, (some weren't even football fans) came out of the woodwork to meet privately with Bill, pay up and pick a box.
A BOX POOL IS UNLIKE BETTING ON A SPECIFIC TEAM.  EVERYONE HAS AN EQUAL CHANCE BECAUSE THE WINNERS ARE ARBITRARILY DETERMINED BY THE LAST NUMBER OF EACH TEAM'S SCORE.  THE POOL STARTS WITH A TEN-BY-TEN GRID OF EMPTY BOXES.  THE TEAM DESIGNATED AS THE HOME TEAM IS WRITTEN ACROSS THE TOP. THE VISITOR IS WRITTEN ON THE SIDE.  BEFORE THE NUMBERED SEQUENCES ARE ESTABLISHED, THE BUYER SELECTS A RANDOM BOX. .
To avoid getting in trouble, fictitious names are used in the boxes to protect the participants from incriminating them self. Some of the encrypted identities are simple initials but more creative ones include; nicknames (Ice-Pick), cute phrases (Dead and Buried), favorite teams, (Vikings #1), home towns, (The Nutley Nuisance) or toilet humor (Sir Farts A Lot) and of course perverted ones, (Opti-Lingis).

Bill created his own conversion chart that included his customers encoded names, real names and phone number. When the next to last box was filled, Bill took the last one for himself, (he fronted the money but it was a freebie because the winners always tipped the organizer).

In the past, for other people's box pools, Bill used, "Bonnie and Clyde."  But for his own, he merely wrote,"72," (a sarcastic reference to William "The Refrigerator" Perry's uniform number).

Most everyone at work knew where Bill's dumpy apartment was.  So as a precaution against theft, he told people, in confidence, that his father was holding the $60,000.00, in Pennsylvania.  The reality was, the money was in a Neimann Marcus boot box, in his bedroom closet.  To insure a quick and efficient delivery, he had separated the jackpots into two packets of $7,500.00 and one each of $15,000.00 and $30,000.00.

A few days before the big game, a ceremonial meeting took place to establish the positioning of the all-important numbers.  To do this, twenty playing cards are used from a normal deck, (specifically the ace through ten of a black suit {spades} and the ace through ten of a red suit, {diamonds}).  To avoid any hint of cheating or collusion, these cards are "washed," "riffled," "shuffled" and cut, (note the box pool sample above, it identifies the sequence of the cards and placement of the numbers for that pool).

The winners are determined by the last number of score after the first quarter, halftime, the end of the third quarter and the final score.  Like the old board game, "BATTLESHIP," if you search where the two numbers meet, you'll find the winner's name.
HASBRO'S "BATTLESHIP" USES LETTERS AND  NUMBERS TO FIND IT'S TARGET, (THEREFORE, "B-6"  WOULD BE AN EXCELLENT SELECTION TO SINK YOUR RIVAL'S BATTLESHIP).  THE SUPER BOWL POOL USES RED AND BLACK  NUMBERS TO DETERMINE ITS WINNERS.

So instead of sinking enemy war ships, by using the box pool grid (scroll up), you can see that "RS" was the first quarter winner because the Patriots (red) had 7 and the Giants (blue) had 3.  If the score at halftime was Patriots 10 and the Giants 3, that would explain why "BB" won.  If the score was Patriots 24 and Giants 17 after three quarters you can see why "BA" won.  If the final score was Giants 27, Patriots 24...then "BA" would have won the third quarter prize as well as the grand prize final score, (because the Patriot stayed on 4 and the Giants added ten points and remained on 7).

If that grid represented Bill's pool, "RS" would have won $7,500.00 for the first quarter.  "BB" would have won $15,000.00 for halftime.  And "BA" would have won $7,500.00 plus the $30,000.00 bonanza.

On Sunday January 26, 1992, the actual Super Bowl for Bill's pool featured the Washington Redskins and Buffalo Bills.  I had to work that night but Bill and Rico were off.  In a party-like atmosphere, Bill arranged a free buffet at a bar in Egg Harbor Township which drew a crowd of participants, their friends and curiosity seekers from work.

On one of my breaks during the early second quarter, the game was tied at zero. I was sitting next to roulette floorman Jimmy Hu.  He pointed at the Xerox sheet that Bill Derry provided with all the boxes and numbers and said, "I got the shittiest numbers."  Hu showed me the 8-8 box that had his coded name, "WHO'S ON FIRST." He added, "I got no shot."  When I shrugged he pointed at 0-0 and said, "Do you know 'GIRL POWER,' he won the $7,500.00 first quarter."

The halftime score was Washington Redskins 17 and Buffalo Bills 0.  So whoever "JELLO-n-MILK" was, they had black, zero and red, seven and won $15,000.00.

The score after three quarters was Washington 31 and Buffalo 10 that made a $7,500.00 winner out of "GOOFY AND PLUTO."

I wasn't involved with betting on the game so to me it was a dull blow-out. Towards the end, I was sitting on break next to a pit boss.  He was silent as we watched the game's last few minutes dwindle. When the Bills scored what seemed like a meaningless touchdown, the score became 37-23. A crazy bolt of electricity shot through him.  I asked, "Are you okay?"  He whispered, "If Norwood kicks this extra point..."  He took out his Xerox pool sheet and showed me the box where the red 7 box, met the black 4 box...it read: "COL. STINK-FINGER."  He said, "Then, if there is isn't any more scoring...I win thirty grand!"  I said, "What if he misses?"  He gave me a dirty look, found the red 7, black 3 coordinate and murmured, "Then this, 'BRAIN DONOR NEEDED,' guy wins."

I wasn't on his shit list long because the kick was good and the scoring was over.

Meanwhile, twenty miles away at Bill's Super Bowl party, everyone in the bar was begging Bill for Col. Stink-Finger's identity.  Bill never noticed during the game but Rico kept handing him phantom Jameson shots that she bought.  He was still in control but he was noticeably drunk as he announced who the big winner was.

Lost in the excitement, Rico got in Bill's LeBaron and went home.  An hour later, Bill didn't need to be a detective to figure out why Rico and his car were missing.  He got in a taxi and sped home.  He was relieved to see his car out front.  But the apartment was empty and so was the boot box with $60,000.00.

It was the perfect crime.  Bill couldn't involve the police.  He correctly assumed that she would be abandoning her job so complaining to his employer would only jeopardize his position.

In desperation, Bill called every casual friend Rico had. He questioned coworkers and came up empty. He realized the only people out-of-town that she was in contact with was a cousin and her family, a girlfriend (Nadine) and Reggie Dunlap, her ex-husband...all of whom lived in Las Vegas.

On Wednesday afternoon Bill Derry landed in Vegas. He knew the address and the casinos where Rico's cousin and her friend Nadine lived and worked in.  Bill staked-out Rico's cousin's house and accosted her in the street.  He was so angry the innocent girl cried.  He believed that she hadn't seen or heard from Rico.

Nadine dealt blackjack at the Frontier Casino.  When he got there, a pit boss said, "She called out yesterday and today."  Bill went to Nadine's apartment.  He sat on a park bench across the street for hours until Rico and her friend came home.  They were each carrying several bags each from high-end department stores.  He timed his approach that he came upon them as the front door opened.  He forced his way inside.  A violent argument started.  Bill searched the guest room as the girlfriend screamed for help.  Bill said, "Go ahead, call the fuckin' cops too."  The girl stopped yelling as Bill found a treasure trove of cash. He knew that he had carefully packaged the money so he could see at a glance that a big chunk was missing.

"Where's the rest of it?"  Rico snarled, "I spent it...it's gone."  He readied a backhand slap but Rico defiantly, stood still, eyes open and awaited the blow.  Bill stopped himself. He grabbed up as many shopping bags as he could.  At the door he threw them down in futility.  He was about to tell Rico that he loved her as Nadine lashed out in a profanity laced tirade.  Rico cut her friend off and softly said, "'Fridge,' be happy with what you have and go."  Bill stood frozen in disbelieve for several seconds.  He reflected on the biggest fights in their gambling, codependent relationship and that she never called him by any form of his hated nickname.  Defeated, without speaking, he slunk away.

On the flight home, Bill regretted not going through Rico's purse. He came back to New Jersey $22,000.00 short. He made five phone calls. The last four was to inform the pool winners that he would pay them in full...in installments.  The first call was to tell his father why he needed so much more money. Now, twenty-three years later, I wonder if the senior Mr. Derry ever got to fully enjoy retirement.