Monday, May 25, 2015

THEY GOT LAID BY SLADE

If looks could kill, I would have been a dead man!  In the late 1980's, my wife Sue and I were in Manhattan's Little Italy, for the San Gennaro Feast. Against my better judgement, I bought a dozen clams on the half shell, for a whopping (no pun intended), $12.00 from a street vendor. While allowing my pocket to be picked for my favorite food, I didn't think I was unreasonable to ask for a second cup of cocktail sauce.
IMAGINE A ONE OUNCE CUP (above) FILLED ABOUT 40% OF THE WAY WITH COCKTAIL SAUCE.
The merchant's intimidating stare-down made me uneasy. I was aware of the organized crime stereotype (fairly/unfairly) attached to this event but I wasn't asking for the dude's first born.  Luckily an impulse of common sense ricocheted through my nervous system.  What was he going to do...put a "hit" out on me for destroying his profit margin? So despite the potential for arguing with a part-time extortionist, I stood my ground.  Together with a sneer and begrudging groan, the vendor didn't summon a posse of baseball bat wielding street toughs as he gave me a second eye-droppers worth of cocktail sauce.  Please note, I didn't push the envelope by over-using the chained-down Tabasco sauce, asking for a second, skinny sliver of lemon or taking liberties with the unguarded napkin dispenser.

These clams were important to me because I believe that by having my favorites less frequently, I will enjoy them more....and in this case, they were good.  But the long-shot threat of getting my throat slashed ruined this rare opportunity for my desired, orgasmic epicurean delight.

Clams are available everywhere...but not necessarily the way I truly love them...raw!  Yes, I also like steamers, clams casino, zuppa di clams, Manhattan chowder, red clam spaghetti sauce etc.  But raw clams are my Mt. Everest...but the proper venue, clam bars, aren't easy to find.
CLAM BARS COME IN A MILLION DIFFERENT SHAPES.  THEY CAN BE SELF-STANDING (above), IN RESTAURANTS, COCKTAIL LOUNGES ETC.   HERE IN SOUTH JERSEY, DESPITE LIVING NEAR BEACH COMMUNITIES, THESE EATERIES, (COMPLETE WITH A CLAM SHUCKER SERVING THEM UP FRESH), SEEM TO BE AN ENDANGERED SPECIES. 

There's something grand about sitting at a raw bar, scarfing down clams and guzzling beer. In the mid-1970's, SLW and I loved Lundy's seafood restaurant, (in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn).  In addition to being the best seafood restaurant EVER , they had a separate cocktail lounge and another separate clam bar.
I WROTE A "LUNDY'S" BLOG ON MARCH 8, 2010.  IT HAS THE THIRD MOST VIEWS AND ATTRACTED MORE COMMENTS THAN ANYTHING ELSE I WROTE. LUNDY'S , (FROM THE LATE 1950's ABOVE),  WAS A CAVERNOUS FOOTBALL FIELD-SIZED RESTAURANT WITH AN EQUALLY BIG UPPER LEVEL. DESPITE THE ABUNDANCE OF TABLES, YOU WERE GUARANTEED A LONG WAIT TO BE SEATED ON WEEKENDS AND HOLIDAYS. IT'S NO LONGER A RESTAURANT BUT THE BUILDING ON EMMONS AVENUE OFF OCEAN AVENUE HAS BEEN PRESERVED AS A HISTORICAL SITE.

Way back then, a dozen little necks were $1.35/dozen and an eight ounce draught beer (Piels) was twenty cents. SLW and I would each front two bucks and tell the shucker, "Keep the change." After that we were lavished with extra clams in each additional order and bumped up to a bigger glass of beer, for the same money.
SLW, OTHER FRIENDS AND I NICKNAMED THIS AWFUL TASTING SLUDGE, "THE LAST OF THE 99c SIX-PACKS."  THE ONLY THING THEY HAD GOING WAS CUTE ANIMATED COMMERCIALS FEATURING THE COMEDY TEAM OF "BOB AND RAY," AS BURT AND HARRY PIELS.

It is a homage to SLW that I associate eating clams with him. Since I haven't had partner in crime for forty years, I infrequently indulge in my favorite.  Last week, on my birthday, my wife offered to take me anywhere I wanted to go for lunch.  Instead of one of our usual haunts, I suggested breaking my long spell without clams.  I picked Smitty's Clam Bar, on the bay in Somers Point (NJ).  It took thirty minutes to get there...only to find that they now limit their hours of operation and don't open till 4:00PM during the week.

Our jaunt to nowhere wasn't in vain because it catapulted my craving.  So I suggested dining at the Lobster House, in Cape May (NJ) this past Friday, in order to not only prolong my birthday festivities but to also include my son Andrew.

Andrew is braver than me. He has always been more open to eating new foods than I'll ever be.  Ten years ago he tried what he called, "cold clams" in a Chinese buffet restaurant.  They weren't fresh, they weren't good and he never tried them again.  In fact, he and I use the term, "cold clams" to describe something that tastes disgusting, (i.e. those Brussels Sprouts are as bad as cold clams).

My boy didn't know it but disguised in my birthday bash, I looked forward to encouraging him to give raw clams another try. I was prepared to dangle the added incentive of sloshing them down with icy beer but he willingly agreed.

He didn't even change his mind when I brought the shucker to his attention and said, "When she opens the clam with that knife, it kills the clam."  Ever-humane, Andrew's face contorted in disgust so I cited a "circle-of-life" related quote from the 1995 movie "BABE," and said,  "That's just the way things are. " When he didn't react I added, "This way you'll know the clams are fresh."
THE LOBSTER HOUSE IS A FAMILY FAVORITE.  BEFORE DINNER, WE HAD OUR APPETIZERS ON THE DECK OUTSIDE THE CLAM BAR.  ANDREW COMPROMISED BY ORDERED CLAMS CASINO BUT TRIED ONE OF MY RAW CLAMS (AND LIKED IT).  THE REST OF HIS RAW CLAM DESTINY, IS UP TO HIM.

The clam theme of this year's birthday made me reminisce back to the 1980's when I had the dealer training academy.  One craps student (GM) brought me a small coffee every day. I repeatedly told her to stop but she joked each time, "It's worth it, to get some of your morning edge off."

In May, towards the end of GM's three-month course, another student, Jing, (a hostess in the Tropicana Casino's Chinese restaurant), came back after school with a huge plastic container of soft shell crabs for me.  I told her that her token of appreciation wasn't necessary as she blushed and scurried out.  Moments later, one of her morning classmates (Slade) who was making up lost time, came to my office to ask a question. He saw me going to town on those delicious crabs.

Slade (19) from rural Florida, was not an ordinary good-looking guy, he was the essence of what a chick magnet represents.  Beyond his fit physique, continuous smile, curly brown hair and dimples, he was also warm, bright, and funny.  Slade was so nice to everybody that other guys weren't jealous of him.

He came to Atlantic City to make his way in the world through the casino industry.  During his first week of class, (the end of February), nobody realized it but it had started snowing. By the time his class had their break, two inches had fallen.

While nobody else paid any mind to the white stuff, Slade with boundless energy proclaimed, "It's snowing!  I NEVER SAW SNOW BEFORE!"  His positive, effervescent and magnetic personality was so infectious that the whole class followed him without their coats, outside.  Slade opened his mouth, spin in place and ate the snow.  Others joined him.  It was like a winter love fest.

Slade jumped down on the filthy Atlantic Avenue sidewalk, got on his back and in the meager accumulation, made snow angels. Two girls (around his age), from a blackjack class followed suit. In the days that followed, I saw the glint in these girls eyes and knew Slade had a shot with them.  I made a passing comment to my busybody secretary and she said, "He's absolutely gorgeous and funny and sensitive and cute and..."  I said, "Whoa..."  She said, "Get with the program, he's already had them both."

In a short time, I found out that Slade's female coworkers at Bookbinder's clam bar in the Sands Casino line up to be bedded by him.  Of course, as a cynical old fart and a doubting Thomas, I didn't believe my gossip-monger secretary who claimed she heard that some of his conquests wanted to have, "I GOT LAID BY SLADE," tee-shirts printed up.

Towards the end of his course, (early May), Slade was so likable that I considered him almost a friend...maybe more like a nephew.  So when he poked his head into my office for help, I dropped Jing's soft shell crab that I had stabbed with a plastic fork and gave him my full attention.

Later that month, (at 10:00AM), shortly after Slade graduated, a taxi pulled up in front of the school. He came out toting (with both hands), a heavy, white, five gallon bucket with Bookbinders logo on it..
THE ORIGINAL BOOKBINDER'S SEAFOOD RESTAURANT IN PHILADELPHIA OPENED AS AN OYSTER SALOON IN 1893.  IT BECAME AN UPSCALE RESTAURANT AND A LANDMARK KNOWN FOR LOBSTERS. THE COMPANY BRANCHED-OUT INTO OTHER CITIES AND ADDED A LINE OF CANNED FOODS TO ITS CREDENTIALS. ON SEVERAL OCCASIONS BOOKBINDERS CLOSED AND RE-OPENED.  IT HAS REMAINED CLOSED SINCE 2009.

I said to Slade, "What's all this?"  He whispered, "Let's go in your office."  In private, he pulled a crushed envelope from his back pocket and handed it to me.  It was a birthday card.  I said, "How did you know it was today?"  He smiled, "My people have people.  Now, shut up and open your present."

Reflexively I said, "You shouldn't have," as I struggled to pry the lid off.  To speed-up the process, Slade jumped in to help me unsheathe the mysterious gift.  Duh, I shouldn't have needed to be Sherlock Holmes to figure out the contents, yet I was still truly stunned. At first it looked like a ton of ice.  But buried underneath, he had brought enough sweet ambrosia for the soul to serve an army, (three dozen cherrystone clams, lemons, cocktail sauce, Tabasco, a shucking knife and four bottles of Heineken).

Slade transformed the room into a clam bar in seconds. He was already shucking before I could say; I can't eat clams or drink beer in the morning  But I didn't.  Instead, I said, "We can't eat this ourselves."  So I called in the two instructors and shared my bounty with them.

I don't recall whether Slade ever became a craps dealer or not.  However, he was so sharp and likable that I'm certain he would succeed in anything he did.

When my birthdays roll around, my wife has a tough job.  She likes to say, "What do you get for someone who has nothing...and wants nothing?"  Well, Slade will always remain in my heart for making that birthday special and giving me exactly what I wanted.  I guess you could say: I was slayed by Slade.

Monday, May 18, 2015

NOTHING'S BETTER...THAN A TRIPLE-HEADER

Most of us know the phrase; nothing is sweeter than a repeater.  But I invented an improved version; nothing's better than a triple-header, (it's more authentic if you exaggerate the rhyme as "bedduh" and "headuh)."  This phrase comes up a lot in the casino but I just discovered my first practical, everyday use for mine.

If you think I'm unsophisticated now, imagine how much less worldly I was when I was twelve.  So in my tender adolescence you wouldn't expect me to be clever enough to recognize that the TV show, "THE SECOND HUNDRED YEARS," was stupid and stinky, (in today's slang; unwatchable).  ABC-TV's powers-that-be shared my opinion and canceled this this lame crap in its first season, (twenty-two episodes, September 1967-March 1968).

The premise of this shit-com sit-com was that in 1900, an Alaska gold rush prospector is buried by an avalanche.  Due to the suddenness of the catastrophe, he (at age thirty-three), was perfectly preserved in suspended animation.  The less than hilarious hi-jinx begins when the U.S. government thaws out the body sixty-seven years later. The idiots in Washington swear everyone to secrecy until they can figure out exactly how to harness the potential goodness of the accident. In the mean time, he returns to his same California home where his descendants still live and moves in with his sixty-seven-year old grandson.
NOTHING LASTS FOREVER, ESPECIALLY WHEN ITS VERY FOUNDATION HAS A NARROW WINDOW FOR SUCCESS.  STARRING ARTHUR O'CONNELL (left) AS THE TRADITIONAL-MINDED GRANDSON AND MONTE MARKHAM (right) AS THE PROGRESSIVE GRANDFATHER, THE SHORT-LIVED, "THE SECOND HUNDRED YEARS," DIDN'T HAVE MUCH LATITUDE FOR GROWTH BEYOND THE ORIGINAL CONCEPT. 

These days, my adult taste in TV is limited to, "THE BIG BANG THEORY,"  "AMERICAN PICKERS"  and police dramas. My current cop show favorites are, FOX's "BACKSTROM" and CBS's, "BATTLE CREEK."

Both of these detective shows premiered this year. It's unusual that I get in on the ground floor but in these cases, I looked forward to seeing two actors in new roles.
I LOVED RAINN WILSON (above) FROM THE COMEDY, "THE OFFICE."  IN" BACKSTROM," A COMEDIC-DRAMA, HE'S AN ACUTELY FLAWED HERO.  CYNICAL, OVERWEIGHT, OFFENSIVE AND IRASCIBLE, BACKSTROM MUST CONQUER HIS SELF-DESTRUCTIVE WAYS BEFORE HE IS FIRED (OR DIES) WHILE LEADING AN ELITE PORTLAND OREGON CRIME SOLVING TEAM.    

BACKSTROM is cleverly written and artistically photographed, (outdoor locales in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada). It is so well-layered that the depth of the main character and off-chutes of the universally likable supporting cast can be examined for a long time.

Hidden behind a veneer of humor, the stories are intentionally far-fetched, In justifying the implausible situations, the show's true genius stems from grabbing the far-reaching sympathy of its viewers.  The crime solving is secondary, the real allure comes from how the self-sabotaging, human time-bomb tip-toes through life's little mine field while doing a great job and surviving despite himself.

BATTLE CREEK features Dean Winters as detective Russ Agnew, in a improperly funded small town police department. I recognized Winters as the star of the "mayhem" commercials for All-State insurance, (other such companies have their TV spokespeople; like the Geico gecko and Flo from Progressive).

I liked Winters' stage presence in those ads so much, that I once said, "He should get his own show." Maybe I'm more sophisticated than I thought because he is the co-star of, Battle Creek.
IN "BATTLE CREEK," WINTERS (left) AS RUSS AGNEW, IS FORCED INTO A PARTNERSHIP WITH  THE NEAR-PERFECT JOSH DUHAMEL, (AN UNWANTED FBI AGENT MILTON CHAMBERLAIN, SENT TO ASSIST THE EMBATTLED LOCAL COPS).  THE SPARKS FLY WHILE WORKING ALONG SIDE THE GOLDEN BOY, AGNEW'S EFFECTIVENESS COMES INTO QUESTION, (BOTH AS A COP AND A PERSON ).  INTERESTINGLY, TO BE CONSISTENT WITH HIS MAYHEM CHARACTER, WINTERS SEEMS TO GET SCUFFED-UP IN EACH EPISODE.

The battle of Battle Creek is outwardly Winters, (as Russ Agnew) struggling with his insecurities.  He uses his dedication to the job to hide his fears and perpetuate his loneliness. Those problems are heightened by the unenviable situation of competing against Mr. Perfect FBI Man.

Agent *Chamberlain appreciates the local cop's predicament and along with Agnew's supportive coworkers, try unsuccessfully, to show their friend and colleague, a better path through life.

* I like the homage to Wilt Chamberlain that the Battle Creek writers used, in naming the pristine FBI agent "Milt" Chamberlain.  Even better, upon closer examination, both Milt and Wilt weren't as perfect as they seemed.
WILT CHAMBERLAIN (1936-1999) WAS MY FAVORITE BASKETBALL PLAYER WHEN I WAS A KID. WHETHER IT WAS AT THE UNIVERSITY OF KANSAS, WITH THE HARLEM GLOBETROTTERS OR MUCH MORE SO IN THE NBA, HE WAS A NEARLY PERFECT SCORING MACHINE.  UNFORTUNATELY DESPITE THIS GIANT'S INCREDIBLE OFFENSIVE PROWESS , HE WILL ALWAYS BE CONSIDERED SECOND BEST BECAUSE OF HOW WELL ONE MAN DEFENDED HIM...AND ALL THE CHAMPIONSHIPS EARNED BY THAT RIVAL, BILL RUSSELL.

The psychology behind Russ Agnew's inability to help himself is the cornerstone of the show.  Unlike a schmaltzy soap opera, the viewer is tantalized by how the hero must sift through his issues and find the deserved happiness that everyone else can envision for him.  If that wasn't enough, simultaneously we take a guilty pleasure at how Agnew tries to unmask the real reason why the federal golden boy has been banished to an inferior position, (his town).

My DVR has been instrumental in helping me see each episode of BACKSTROM and BATTLE CREEK.  In the VCR days, I lacked (still do) the tech savvy or patience to learn the complications of setting the damned thing. The DVR is so simple that even I can do it.
A DIGITAL VIDEO RECORDER (DVR) IS A CONSUMER ELECTRONICS GIZMO OR APPLICATION SOFTWARE THAT RECORDS VIDEO IN A DIGITAL FORMAT TO A DISK DRIVE, USB FLASH DRIVE, SD MEMORY CARD OR OTHER LOCAL OR NETWORK MASS STORAGE DEVICE.  ROUGHLY TRANSLATED INTO ENGLISH; THIS GADGET RECORDS TV SHOWS SO YOU CAN WATCH THEM WHEN YOU WANT.

Back in the VCR days, I remember seeing snippets of,  "THE X-FILES" during breaks at work.  I was never a sci-fi guy but in those fifteen-minute windows, I always intrigued. Of course I wasn't intrigued enough to go through the rigmarole of remembering to go home and program my VCR.  So I never saw more than a scene or two at a time.
THE AWARD WINNING  "X-FILES" WAS A MAINSTAY ON TV FOR NINE SEASONS, (202 EPISODES, 1993-2002).  BEYOND SCI-FI, IT APPEALED TO A WIDE AUDIENCE BY CUTTING ACROSS MANY GENRES INCLUDING; HORROR, DRAMA AND MYSTERY.

Times are different now.  So while on a recent break at work, I got heavily into watching a cop drama on TV.  You could have heard a pin drop the whole time as everyone in the room was absorbed.  On my way out I whispered to an electrician, "What show is this?"

The show was, "FOREVER."  It had slipped through my fingers but through the miracle of "ON DEMAND" and my DVR, I can easily go back see everything I missed.
ABC-TV's, "FOREVER," STARRING IOAN GRUFFUDD (above) MADE ITS DEBUT ON SEPTEMBER 22, 2014, (22 EPISODES).  THE SHOW IS A FANTASY CRIME DRAMA ABOUT A NEW YORK CITY MEDICAL EXAMINER WHO HAPPENS TO BE 200-YEARS OLD...AND IMMORTAL.  EVERY TIME HE DIES, HE DISAPPEARS AND RE-APPEARS SOMEWHERE ELSE.

Gruffudd is charming as Dr. Henry Morgan.   Complete with a British accent, in a Sherlock Holmes-like manner, he assists the NYPD in solving murders without letting on about his "condition" or two centuries of medical expertise.  Through deduction and the experience of his colorful past, the audience is treated to history lessons through flashbacks to Morgan's doctoring on; a slave ship, involvement in the Jack the Ripper case, the D-Day invasion etc.

"Forever" has many built-in devices to keep it going..."forever."  The most compelling one is, Dr. Morgan frequently looks at his immortality as a curse. He is often shown as pre-occupied as he investigates how to sidestep his "gift" in order to finally rest in peace.

At the same time, a recurring character "Adam" is apparently "infected" by a 2000-year version of the same evil affliction. However, Adam wants to murder Morgan, but the doctor wants to die on his own terms.

Additionally, a female detective finds Morgan fascinating.  Several times when he puts together obscure clues and comes up with a solution, she says, "How could you possibly know that?" Through this partnership, her admiration blossoms beyond a mere fondness until she suffers from unrequited love.

This show is so good that despite the para-normal gimmicks, I appreciate the acting, its intelligence, depth and high production value.

So between, BACKSTROM, BATTLE CREEK and FOREVER, I'll be entertained with cool triple features for years...or so you would think.  Sadly, yesterday, I came up with a startling revelation or should I say, I got kicked in my balls.

Suddenly, my "nothing's better than a triple-header," line has gone sour.  Upon researching "Backstrom" I found out that its ratings were putrid...and Fox cancelled the show earlier this week!

I cared what happened to Backstrom.  I made an investment of time, thought and emotion but came up empty. It felt like I had the character's metaphoric blood and guts in my hands.  Rather than cry about my loss, I rushed to make sure that "Battle Creek" wasn't slashed...  But CBS had already done its fiendish worst.  I was stunned.  The world will never learn Detective Agnew's fate or what his nemesis did to be dumped in Battle Creek?

When I stopped feeling sorry for myself, an impulse of fear careened through my nervous system.  I concluded, what if "Forever," (my latest and only cop show gem I had left), was also gutted and tossed atop the dung heap of cancelled shows.

I knew it was impossible but to be on the safe side, I was motivated to see it in black and white.  Holy cow!  I never counted on the color red. After all, how could corporate bigwigs cut such an ingenious program especially with an eternal title like,"Forever"...but due to marginal ratings, it was axed! That means, I wasn't kicked in the balls once, I wasn't kick in the balls twice...I was kicked in the balls thrice!  OUCH, OUCH and OUCH!!!

Maybe I should contact a certified wordsmith to help me find a negative counterpart to my; nothing's better ...than a triple-header line.  So far the best I can do is; anything's better...than a triple-header.

Oy, it's time to crank-up the old DVR and get ready to settle in for an inferior triple-header of, "THE THREE STOOGES," "MY THREE SONS" and "THREE ON A MATCH."
"THREE ON A MATCH," (1971-1974) WAS A DULL QUIZ SHOW HOSTED BY BILL CULLEN, (above).

Sometimes you can't account for people's taste, (tripe like "THREE ON A MATCH" lasted three seasons).  So I'm left unhappily baffled.  I can't believe all three of my cop show favorites will be forever linked to and be considered the same lame crap as, "THE SECOND HUNDRED YEARS."

Monday, May 11, 2015

YOU CAN'T BULLSHIT A BULLSHITTER

Ha Ha.  What a bullshit artist MD was.  We went to high school (Canarsie High), together but didn't actually meet until our third year at Brooklyn College. While I treated the collegiate experience like thirteenth grade, MD seemed more studious...but I was wrong.

Our relationship blossomed when we wound up taking the same Spanish course.

For school, I typically dressed in tatters, (shorts, tee-shirt in warm weather or bib overalls with a flannel undershirt in winter), MD was different.  He was a tall, lean, good looking guy.  Then as if it was his uniform, he wore shiny black dress shoes, perfectly pressed black slacks and a black silk dress shirt...EVERYDAY.  MD also carried a guitar case in addition to his school books.

During the first few months of that class other than an indifferent nod, we never connected.  It wasn't until we had a test on the ultra-difficult subjunctive tense that MD came by and acknowledge how much of a genius I was, (I got a 69% on the test...and EVERYONE else failed).
GZIMBO (above) SHOULDN'T BE SO MODEST.  IN MY BOOK, SHE'S A ROCK STAR! SHE MAJORED IN SPANISH AND KNEW THE PARTICULARS OF WHAT WOULD BE ON A SUBJUNCTIVE TEST.  DURING A CHANCE MEETING A HALF HOUR BEFORE THE EXAM, SHE GAVE ME A CRASH TUTORIAL...AND THAT MEDIOCRE GRADE I EARNED, MADE ME A SUPERSTAR.

While MD complimented my grasp of the subjunctive, he told me he was a Spanish classic guitar major, (talk about a field of study with a intense limited window for opportunity).  He was only taking our course (pass-fail), to fulfill the foreign language requisite.  So as long as he finished with a "D" he didn't care. I soon learned that under his serious exterior, he took as many classes pass-fail as he could.  That meant he was even more of a goofball than me because he found gaps in the system that encouraged him to coast, (the big difference was, he masked his lack of ambition by dressing well).

Still, we didn't really connect until the Spanish literature section of the course, (learning the language was difficult enough but understanding the subtleties of double-meanings, sexual innuendo and symbolism at the same time was nearly impossible).

MD was caught staring off into space.  The professor knew he was unmotivated and wanted to make an example of him.  He asked MD in Spanish, to tell the class about Cervantes.  MD was clueless.
CERVANTES (1547-1616) WAS A SPANISH NOVELIST, POET AND PLAYWRIGHT.  HIS MOST FAMOUS WORK, "DON QUIXOTE" IS CONSIDERED TO BE THE FIRST GREAT EUROPEAN NOVEL. HIS INFLUENCE ON HIS NATIVE TONGUE WAS SO PROFOUND THAT SPANISH IS OFTEN CALLED, "THE LANGUAGE OF CERVANTES."  

The professor knew MD was buried.  To further throw him under the bus, he repeated the question in seldom used English. MD stood up and in English stated with conviction, "Cervantes.  Of course, I know everything there is to know about Cervantes. I went to grammar school with Calvin Cervantes, in East New York. He was an ordinary kid but his older, far more interesting brother Myron, was in and out of juvie hall a million times..."

To this day, I don't know how I contained my inner laughter from exploding out loud. MD was my hero and from that hilarity, a friendship developed.  The first time we socialized, he invited me up to his parents' apartment in Howard Beach, (Queens New York).  They had HBO and he wanted me to watch a Steve Martin comedy concert with him.
STEVE MARTIN (1945-PRESENT) STARTED AS A WRITER FOR THE SMOTHERS BROTHERS.  HIS ABSURDIST APPROACH TO STAND-UP COMEDY DURING MY COLLEGE DAYS MADE HIM A GIANT IN HIS FIELD.  CATCHPHRASES LIKE, "I'M A WILD AND CRAZY GUY" AND "LET'S GET SMALL," HELPED EARN HIM THE #6 SPOT IN COMEDY CENTRAL'S TOP 100 STAND-UP COMICS LIST.

MD and I were walking in from the parking lot as we met a guy from his building.  MD who was unemployed and broke whispered to me, "Just play along."  The neighbor said, "I'm delivering for New Park (pizza), I make fifty a night in tips alone." MD pushed past the nimrod and said over his shoulder, "Big shit! I can buy and sell you, I'm selling Hon office furniture over the phone and make fifteen an hour before commission..."

I looked at that episode as an MD problem, not a me problem. But in his house, the lying sack of shit struck again!  His dad was a fat, tired old man.  This curmudgeon ignored me and was such a dullard that he probably wouldn't have cared if MD brought home Gina Lollobrigida.
GINA LOLLOBRIGIDA (1927-PRESENT) WAS A HIGH-PROFILE ACTRESS AND SEX SYMBOL IN THE 1950's AND 1960' s,  (HIS DAD'S GENERATION).

When the Steve Martin special came on, dad mumbled about not wanting to watch that crap.  MD stood tall and dad slunk into the bedroom to watch a ballgame.  That's when MD told me, "Don't be fooled by blubber-boy, my dad made it briefly to the major leagues with the Red Sox."  I perked up, "Really?"  He said, "Yeah but he didn't get much of a chance...they called him Ted Williams caddie.  So don't mention his baseball days, he gets upset."
TED WILLIAMS (1918-2002) WAS NOT ONLY ONE BASEBALL'S BEST HITTERS (1939-1960) BUT HE WAS ALSO A WAR HERO.  HE LOST PRECIOUS PRIME YEARS OF HIS BASEBALL CAREER BY SERVING AS A PILOT IN BOTH WWII AND KOREA. SO BY PLAYING IN THE "SPLENDID SPLINTER'S" SHADOWS, MD's DAD COULDN'T POSSIBLY BEEN MORE THAN AN INSIGNIFICANT BLIP ON BASEBALL'S RADAR SCREEN. 

MD had no idea how impressed I was about his dad being a major leaguer .  He also didn't realize that I was a baseball history freak.Way before the Internet, I took great joy in leafing through the Baseball Encyclopedia.  When I researched MR. D., of course nobody with that last name ever played in the bigs, (please note, I once told SLW that my father was ten-year major leaguer, Jake Gibbs.  But I had the luxury of being eight-years old when I was a lying jerk).

Lies. Everyone in their own way is full of shit.  I know that to be true because I'm the most honest person I know...and I'm full of shit too.  MD had his faults but he was a nice guy. I couldn't help it, I liked him. I never had to depend on him for anything important, so rather than tear him down, it was enough for me to just concentrate on him being good company and funny.

MD seemed to have no friends.  But he apparently had a girlfriend at Brooklyn College who conveniently always seemed to arrive after I left.  I just accepted this unseen lady friend as another one of his fantasies.

The next semester, (our last college hurrah) just for the sake of being together, we took a tennis course. We laughed our asses off everyday while playing and learning the complexities of the game. The two main targets of our humor was our fossilized, dried-up prune of a professor and a fellow student, a gentle man named John.
(STOCK PHOTO)  IF OUR TEACHER WAS THE WOMAN (above), WE WOULDN'T HAVE HAD ANY AMMUNITION FOR OUR SNIDE REMARKS.  

When the Phyllis Diller jokes about the instructor wore thin, we turned our humor on John. Unfortunately John wasn't especially nimble or athletic. He always looked awkward because his extra large head didn't match his body.  So we childishly called him variations of "Johnny Big Head" or "Embryo Head" or because his name was John, he was also dubbed, "Toilet Bowl Head."
COINCIDENTALLY ON BROOKLYN COLLEGE GRADUATION DAY, (JUNE 1977),  I OPTED TO PLAY TENNIS RATHER THAN SIT THROUGH THE CEREMONY.  ON MY WAY TO THE CAR, THE COMMENCEMENT EXERCISE WAS ENDING.  I SAW JOHNNY EMBRYO HEAD AND HE WAS KIND ENOUGH TO TAKE THIS TREASURED POLAROID (above) WITH ME WEARING HIS OVER-SIZED CAP. 

During our last week at Brooklyn College, when our tennis class was dismissed, MD's mysterious girlfriend showed up.  I felt bad that I doubted him. Her instinct was to hug her beau but she recoiled when she saw how sweaty he was.  While MD was gathering his possessions, I introduced myself.

She seemed stuck-up but I rattled off some of MD's better lines...at the professor's and Toilet Bowl Head's expensive.  I said, "Then the teacher bent over and MD said, 'it was disturbing enough to see her lavender drawers but if she wasn't wearing panties, I would have burned my own eyes out.'" His girlfriend looked at me like I was garbage and said, "My MD talks like that?"

In the year and a half after graduation, MD and I saw less and less of each other.  We never had a disagreement, it was just a natural, going in different directions situation.  In January 1979, I moved to Las Vegas.  So I was surprised two years later when I got a phone call from him.

MD said he was living in McAllen Texas selling RV's, (I believed him, until he said he averaged thirteen hundred a week).  MD said he was meeting his parents in Vegas but didn't want to spend all four days with them.  When I offered to let him to stay on my couch...he told me when I should be at the airport to pick him up. His cocky attitude pissed me off long before I met his plane.

In retrospect, I don't think his parents were in town at all. Why he came, I don't know, but all he did was sponge off me.

I knew where to go and paid for all our meals.  The food was cheap and I fell into my own trap of trying to come of like a big shot. In addition to rolling out the red carpet for him, I lent him my car while I was at work, (dealing craps at the Stardust Casino).

My car hemorrhaged oil. I left him with a full gas tank but reminded him that if the idiot light went on, to pull into a filling station and buy a can of oil. On his second night at 8:00PM, I was pulling up to the employee entrance to let my self out when I noticed the idiot light flicker. I didn't re-remind MD because it was obvious that he needed to invest a dollar and five minutes, in the well-being of my car.

Like clock work, MD was at the employee entrance at 4:00AM.  I invited him to go out for a drink with the guys from my crew, (Don, Art and Jerry).  On the way to Boodles, a bar in Don's neighborhood, on the edge of town, way out on West Sahara, I saw the check engine light was a solid red beam.  I said, "Why didn't you put oil in my car?"  He had the audacity to say, "I didn't know you wanted me to?" What a cheap prick.  To avert seizing my engine, I pulled into a Union 76 station, to easily prevent the potential catastrophe.

Boodles had a fair-sized crowd for that time of night.  Their relaxing atmosphere included; country music on the jukebox,  pool tables, dart boards and shuffleboard.
MY CREW AND I PLAYED BAR SHUFFLEBOARD.  ALL FOUR OF US HAD A PILE OF MONEY ON THE BAR AS WE EACH PAID FOR A ROUND OF DRINKS, (MD's TOO).

MD didn't play shuffleboard and didn't socialize with my friends.  It was 4:30AM, so I assumed he was tired. I was engrossed in our game when I looked over and saw MD take a few dollars off Jerry's pile and buy himself a beer.  In that second, I realized that Mr. RV Sales King of McAllen Texas hadn't offered to pay for anything in his two days with me.

On the ride home, I was trying to think of a diplomatic way to rid myself of the freeloader.  That's when he surprised me and said, "I need you to drive me to the airport at 7:30AM."  I said, "What?" He said, "My boss called and there's a cherry of a deal on the table back home but I have to be there to do it." I knew he was full of shit.  Nobody called him while he was at my place. I didn't care why he was leaving so I shrugged, "Okay"  Then I added,. "But I'm not taking you to the airport in an hour and a half.  When I get home, I 'll call you a cab and have them pick you up.  I'm sleeping past noon."

At exactly 7:30AM, some ass-hole was pounding on my front door.  I looked down from the bedroom window and saw the cab driver.  I called out to him, "I'll be right there."  Downstairs, I saw MD in his tightie-whities cowering with his ear against the front door.  I was still rubbing my eyes and trying to get the cobwebs out of my head but I could tell this weasel was hoping the driver would get frustrated and leave. I yawned, "Your taxi is here to take you to the airport."  MD said, "I thought you were taking me?"  I said, "You better hurry."  I opened the door and asked the driver, "How long does he have before you charge extra?"  MD didn't like his answer.  Like a machine, my little sociopath began stuffing his shit into an old valise. I said, "MD, you can't bullshit a bullshitter."

While he hustled to pack, I never asked MD for an explanation...and he never offered me one.  But Ripley's Believe It or Not would have been impressed, MD was out of my condo and permanently out of my life in five minutes.

If I'm any judge of character, I got the last laugh because I can imagine MD telling people; when I go to Vegas, I stay at the mansion of a professional gambler and hang out with Hugh Hefner's throwaways.

Monday, May 4, 2015

THE MAGIC GENIE AND MY CRAPS DEALING DESTINY

Maturity and flexibility allows us to cope with life's little curve balls. But being a well-adjusted adult doesn't disqualify the staunchest, most patient people from making poor decisions. Yes, we've all been pressured, failed to digest the bigger picture and made knee-jerk reactions that spiraled a simple matter out of control.

Today, I will discuss how my entire professional destiny hinged on a bad choice.  But due to laziness and the lack of convenience, I was prevented from making that crucial error.
I CAN RECALL THE EXACT MOMENT WHEN I CAME THIS CLOSE TO HAVING A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT FUTURE.

This pivotal point in my life came to mind earlier this week.  At work, I found out that my friend EEBEE and three other coworkers are being informally taught how to deal craps. I admired him because with little exposure, (without the benefit of classroom training and actual equipment), he seemed unusually well-versed.  I was confident that EEBEE, a twenty-two year veteran dealer of other casino games, was dedicated to learning this specialized craft.  He further impressed me when he referred to himself as "anal" in regard to the challenge of becoming a craps dealer. So because he is in no way an up-tight individual or someone prone to drawn-out explanations, I concluded; he meant that he pays excessive attention to detail which in craps, can be a handy trait to have.
BEFORE DE-REGULATION RUINED ATLANTIC CITY, (IN SO MANY WAYS), CRAPS STUDENTS WERE REQUIRED TO ATTEND A 240-HOUR CLASS.  NOW, ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS LEARN ENOUGH TO PASS A CASINO AUDITION.

I volunteered to help EEBEE.  I said, "You have a good foundation as to the theory of the game but you need to understand the practical, full-speed application of what you know."  He accepted my pledge because I not only have 36 years of dealing experience but because I once owned a dealer training academy, taught tons of students, prepared instructors on how to teach and contributed in writing how-to manuals.  So it really didn't matter that I also got a ringing endorsement from his sister Kim, who was one of my students, in 1987.

Even while I lived in Las Vegas, I got satisfaction from helping my friend Dick Paynlewski teach his craps class.  One of his students, LTJEFF, I later introduced to my boss.  LTJEFF not only got hired on my recommendation but he became my coworker, a lifelong friend and regular MGTP reader.

The twisted irony of my long and successful gaming career can be traced back to my first exposure to being a craps student. Because if not for my laziness and NOT listening to the sober, well-thought out opinion of my inner sabotaging demon, I would have quit within the first hour.

If you've never attended a continuing education class, you're pretty much stuck in the mind set that all schools start in September, (or January).  So in August 1978, it seemed normal that the craps class I selected at the New York School of Gambling (West 32nd Street in Manhattan) was starting right after Labor Day.

Unfortunately for me, my uncle died right before class started, (it was of course a lot worse for my uncle).  Tuesday September 5th was the first day of class.  But in a freaky scheduling clash, it was also the date of my uncle's wake. I didn't want to dig myself a hole by getting behind in my schooling but my parents insisted that I attend this family function.

On Wednesday morning, I was edgy on the subway and more so on the elevator up to the school's seventh floor mock casino and classroom.  I took comfort when my instructor, MITCHM, didn't hassle me for missing the first session. Instead, he welcomed me with open arms.  Oddly, he didn't introduce me to the others.  He brought me to a secluded, unoccupied blackjack table and gave me two stacks of twenty casino chips.  Mitch demonstrated how craps dealers are expected to manipulate them. The other fifteen students (spread out around the room) were doing similar "warm-up" exercises.  So I fit right in.

Mitch was a whiz.  He "cut" the chips, "sized in" and "drop cut" them like a machine.  But at no point did he tell me how difficult it might be.  Before leaving me to practice on my own he said, "It's critical that you learn how to handle the checks first."  Checks?  So while piecing together that "checks" are casino-speak for chips, I set out on my journey, working with the chips (checks).

This critical talent wasn't hard for me to do...it was impossible!  I struggled just to hold all twenty chips in one hand.  Far worse, the inner-most check kept irritating me and blistered my palm.

The instructor had organized drills designed to develop speed and accuracy with the chips.  From afar, the others were getting a high level of satisfaction while sharpening their skills during friendly competitions. While segregated, I became frustrated by my total ineptitude.

I heard Mitch's commands. From his earlier description, I could picture what the class was doing.  I couldn't imagine catching up to them in four hours but I was determined and kept at it.  My comfort zone suddenly disappeared when their ten-minute hand calisthenics exercise ended and they all gathered around a craps table.

From my isolated station, I saw that the class had been given a written homework assignment.  I might have been sharp enough to pick-up that chips were checks, but I was 100% clueless what the hell they were talking about.  I thought my brain was going to burst through my skull when Mitch called out, "Three each high-low?"  A student cried, "Eighty-seven!"  "Jesus H. Christ," I murmured, "how did they learn all this shit yesterday?"

I made zero progress with those stupid chips...checks...whatever you want to call 'em.  Plus it was boring. A conspiracy theorist might have thought working with the chips was a clever way to weed-out the bad apples who didn't have what it takes to join the craps army.

Mitch noticed that I was distracted and stopped cutting the chips. He broke my concentration by calling across the room , "Remember to work your left hand too." Left hand?  I couldn't even do this with my right.

In a combination of feeling sorry for myself and eavesdropping on the perceived upbeat activity, I got lost in another daydream.  That's when the checks squirted out of my hand.  A couple rolled off the table and fell on the floor. I was too embarrassed to bend over and retrieve them until I realized that I was so invisible that nobody gave a rat's ass enough to turn away from their lesson.

The students loved Mitch. Like a powerful preacher, his flock heeded every word, especially when he added a humorous anecdote to a specific point he was reinforcing.  Unfortunately for me, the grand old time they were having served to spur my insecurity. But my self doubt really skyrocketed when the homework review ended.  That's when they started to run a simulated craps game.

I was shocked how much material the group mastered in their first meeting. They must all be geniuses I concluded...or far worse...I was an idiot.  I had no idea what was going on but everyone knew what to do.   While everything was going along so smoothly over there, I was aware that I hadn't cut one chip or properly sized-in. And drop cutting!  That was so fruitless that I rubbed the chips like a magic lamp and wished a genie would appear and bestow the check handling gift I needed.
MY TASK WAS SO DAUNTING THAT IN LESS THAN SIXTY MINUTES, I WAS FANTASIZING ABOUT DIVINE INTERVENTION.

No genie or holy roller of any kind came to my rescue. Instead, in a language as strange as Hungarian, the class under Mitch's tutelage continued to run their own craps game. I was depressed by what I missed in one friggin' day. I was so buried that I was willing to walk away from the hefty down-payment I paid. I thought about an exit strategy.  If I didn't have to run the gauntlet and walk past Mitch and my "classmates," I would have sneaked away with no regrets.

With each spike of laughter from the group, I felt more trapped.  It was clear that I was out of my element.  I seriously looked at the open seventh floor window as an escape hatch as my panic hit a zenith.  While I was gazing around the room, Mitch slipped away from the class.  In that instant, I would have felt worse, if I noticed that the class was smart enough to happily take care of their business without an overseer. I was internally cursing my lack of manual dexterity as Mitch mysteriously appeared at my side.

I was tongue-tied as I failed to express that this class wasn't for me. Mitch ignored my bumbling and smiled, "Now I can get you up to speed."  I groaned, "I'll never be able to handle these chips...I mean checks." Mitch said, "Be patient. Nobody becomes a clerk over night. It takes sacrifice, dedication and practice."  It didn't set right in that "clerking" meant being an outstanding craps dealer but the concept of success not happening overnight excited me.  Still I whined, "The class started yesterday and these guys are pros."

Mitch put my mind at ease and said, "Learning to deal dice is fun." In a short time, in an upbeat manner, he taught me the basic rules of craps while schooling me on what he called,  *"staggered student entry."

Mitch said, "Our class size will never be over twenty.  Right now, including you, we have sixteen. So forget about the course structure you're used to.  New people might join in tomorrow or next week. Plus some of these guys are graduating in October. Remember this school is a business." He pointed towards the office with his thumb and in a lower voice said, "The owners out there don't down turn down anyone's money.  If you want to start now, you start now.  Or next week or only on Thursdays...whatever "  I said, "So I didn't miss anything by not being here yesterday?"  Mitch was so friendly and calming as he avoided my question, "Stick with me. I'll have you in with the others by the end of today."  And...he did. Maybe Mitch was the magic genie I wished for?

* Staggered student entry became a valuable asset when I owned my dealer training facility.  That's also when I realized that Mitch wasn't really a saint.  He was probably motivated into manipulating me to stick it out because earned a commission for each head that paid their full tuition.

Looking back on my first day of dealer school, I showed no sign of being well-adjusted with no patience or flexibility.  I wonder what my life would have been like if I managed to sneak out that day.
JAMES BELUSHI STARRED IN THE UNINSPIRING 1990 MOVIE, "MR. DESTINY."  IN THIS CHEESY RIP-OFF OF, "IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE,"  A SUCCESSFUL MAN CAN'T GET PAST THE HAUNTING MEMORY OF STRIKING OUT TO END THE CHAMPIONSHIP GAME IN HIGH SCHOOL...UNTIL HE'S SHOWN HOW HIS LIFE WOULD HAVE BEEN (WORSE), IF HE WAS THE HERO.

I don't always love casino work.  The serving the public lifestyle, extreme conditions and crazy hours are a major drawback to this overwhelmingly under appreciated, dead-end job.  But as my accountant once said, "You made the system work, when so many others have failed."  Loosely translated he meant; I'm a dinosaur.  While most casino workers get chewed-up and spit out fast, I made a long career from what most burn-outs look at as, mission impossible.

MGTP readers can thank my indecision back in September 1978 too.  Because without it, so many of my best casino adventures would never have happened.

I'm looking forward to telling EEBEE this story.  Now that I have the teaching spark, I'm also anxious to share more ideas with him.  I'm just hoping when the training throws him too many of life's little curve balls, he doesn't get frustrated, drop-out or look for an open window.
REMEMBER THE OPENING SCENE OF 1981's, "RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK."  THAT'S HARRISON FORD (above) TRYING TO OUT-RUN A COLOSSAL,  BOOBY-TRAPPED  ROLLING BOULDER.  DURING MY CRAPS TRAINING AND CONTINUING INTO MY EARLY YEARS OF DEALING, I HAD SIMILAR RECURRING NIGHTMARES THAT I WAS BEING CHASED BY GIANT DICE.

It's a good thing that EEBEE is flexible and mature. But like I said, even the best of us get caught-up. In the near future when the curtain rises on his craps dealing career, I hope he keeps his cool when the shit hits the fan (and it will).

I shouldn't worry about EEBEE but...not everyone has a magic genie...and I know he has access to the building that houses New Jersey's tallest non-profit organization.  With so many levels to choose from, a swan dive from thirty stories up, could get messy.

Monday, April 27, 2015

UNDERDOG

Here's the mother of all coincidences!  Aside from being Hollywood celebrities, what does Marlon Brando's close boyhood (and lifelong) friend have in common with the actor who saved Frank Sinatra from drowning?  These seemingly unconnected mystery men come face-to-face in a jumbled set of odd circumstances, to help reach the point of today's blog.

Oh joy of joys! For the last three weeks, it has been spring cleaning at my house.  Each year, I take on the least desirable jobs, (many of which are also done in October).  Of these, snaking (dredging), the drains are my least favorite.  The look and smell of oodles of hairy clumps, made pasty by the stagnant fermentation of hair products, is revolting. To add drama and time to this easy to do, yet disgusting task, is wrestling the snake when it gets caught-up in one of our four sinks or two shower drains.
CLEANING THE DRAINS IS A "LOW-MAN ON THE TOTEM POLE" KIND OF JOB.  BUT I'M NOT COMPLAINING...JUST REALIZE THAT IN NO WAY, SHAPE, MATTER OR FORM THAT I'M RESPONSIBLE FOR CLOGGING DRAINS, AT LEAST WITH HAIR...

The other household projects I take on are also simple but time consuming.  The king of this category is the three-step procedure of dusting the vertical blinds.  The actual dusting is boring dog work but washing the windows at the end, is a breeze. However sandwiched in between, is the epic orgy of painstakingly removing a year's worth of crud, soot, cobwebs, dead bugs and leaf fragments from the narrow metal runners at the bottom of each sill, (those runners help snap the windows shut).

The proper way to wile away the hours while doing this, is to blast the, "Classic Rock and Roll Channel" on the TV. Then it's essential to be armed with a vacuum cleaner, all-purpose spray cleaner, industrial-strength paper towels, a flat-head screwdriver (for the fine work in the corners) and Q-Tips, (for the finer work in those same corners).

To do a crackerjack job, there is a tremendous amount of redundancy.  That means going back and forth, over and over and retracing your steps until each ladybug carcass, grain of sand, nano pebble and stain has been eradicated.

My big problem happened during the confined quarters execution of erasing a stubborn stain. Beyond the most remote nook and cranny, like a man on a mission against the unholy dirt-devil, I scrubbed like a man possessed. Until YOWIE !  I crushed one of my top ten favorite fingers, (the middle right).

Goddamn it, I was in agony.  A lesser man would have voluntarily had it amputated to stop the pain but I chose to gut it out. I soaked my poor crippled digit in cold water but it kept throbbing.  In a short time, a thin line of dried blood formed under the bent back nail of my reddening finger tip.  I thought about working in the casino that night and realized that I would be operating a card dealing machine that requires pushing a button.
LIKE ACTOR MATTHEW PERRY (above) TWO OF MY FRIENDS,  (JOEMAC AND GRANDFATHERKLOCK)  HAVE LOST THE LAST JOINT OF A FINGER TO AN ACCIDENT.

I knew as terrible as my mishap was, I couldn't show up at work and demand to be put on light-duty. Nor could I piss and moan to my friends, (when JOEMAC came close to severing his finger, he shrugged it off, used duct tape and came to work the same night).  So I decided that I'd be okay if I remembered to use my healthy index finger instead. However, at that moment when I looked back at my partially completed spring cleaning, I knew the window runners would have to wait till another day. I switched off the music and took solace in watching TV.

Everybody hates the rates that their cable provider charges.  So many times, you look at the gazillions of available channels and are perplexed by the fact that "there's nothing on." Overwhelmingly, I (most people) still use only a small handful of stations.  Well, we all know that cable companies will NEVER respond to complaints by reducing the cost...so in loyalty to their customers caught-up in their monopoly, they add new channels, to give the impression that they are hooking everyone up.

In my cable company's latest new channel foray, they have actually bequeathed me several stations that I like, (I still hate the company).  Included are vintage movie networks, (with commercial interruptions) like; "MOVIES," "THIS" and "THE WORKS."  Also they have added, "METV" and "DECADE" that air old TV shows.

While my finger ached, I tuned into the newest movie channel, "THE WORKS."  They were showing a 1953 film noire called, "99 RIVER STREET."  The TV synopsis gave this corny, innocent man tracking down his unfaithful wife's killer yarn, three stars?  It was a miracle I stayed awake. MIKE123 one of my friends at work later said, "I heard Martin Scorsese studied the boxing sequences in this film before making 1980's, 'RAGING BULL.'"
THE AMERICAN FILM INSTITUTE (AFI) RATED RAGING BULL, A BIOGRAPHY OF BOXER JAKE LaMOTTA, AS THE FOURTH GREATEST MOVIE OF ALL-TIME...AS WELL AS, THE BEST SPORTS-RELATED FILM...99 RIVER STREET, NOT SO MUCH. 

I came away from 99 River Street thinking it was a dated tapestry of silly banality. However, I was intrigued by a quasi-familiar face.  I waited to see the closing credits because I couldn't put my finger (healthy index finger) on the third billing villain, who turned out to be Brad Dexter.
BRAD DEXTER (1917-2002) HAD A FORTY-FOUR YEAR CAREER ON THE SILVER SCREEN AND TV.  SOME OF HIS MOVIES THAT I'M FAMILIAR WITH ARE; 1950's, "THE ASPHALT JUNGLE," 1958's "RUN SILENT, RUN DEEP" AND "SHAMPOO," FROM 1975.  BUT HIS MOST MEMORABLE ROLE WAS AS HARRY LUCK, THE MOST MERCENARY OF THE HEROES IN 1960's, "THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN."

Dexter was frequently over shadowed by his contemporaries.  To prove it, in the trivia question; name the magnificent seven actors, he is almost always the last to be remembered.
I CHANNEL SURFED DURING A COMMERCIAL.  SESAME STREET WAS ON.  I RECALLED WHEN MY SON ANDREW WAS YOUNG THEY HAD A FUNNY SKIT FEATURING A MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, (above).  BUT FIRST THEY SHOWED A DULL SEVEN, THEN A MAGNIFICENT FIVE...UNTIL THEY GOT IT RIGHT.

Along with my finger, it was killing me during the movie that I couldn't place Dexter's hauntingly familiar face.  I was concentrating on his light-colored eyes when I paused the TV and ran upstairs to look this flick up in my movie book.  But there was something else about him and my 1500+ page book didn't help.

To ease my mind after failing to find the Brad Dexter connection I was looking for,  I clicked the TV and soon found myself on the DECADE network.  They were showing the 1966 pilot episode of, "MISSION IMPOSSIBLE."  It caught my interest because the Peter Graves character Mr. Phelps, was missing. Instead, Stephen Hill of TV's, "LAW AND ORDER" was the team leader, Mr. Briggs.

The rest of the original cast, with one other exception, were the *regulars I was used to.

* If the actual plot didn't catch your attention, seeing sizzling Barbara Bain clad only in a skimpy towel could rationalize becoming a regular viewer.

The one irregular cast member who stood out was Wally Cox, as safe cracker Terry Targo, (it would be his only appearance in the series).
WALLY COX  (1924-1973) WAS A COMIC ACTOR WHO WAS TYPECAST AS A MILQUETOAST, (1950's LINGO FOR NERD). HIS SHOW-BIZ CAREER SKYROCKETED (1952-1955), AS SHY JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL SCIENCE TEACHER,"MR. PEEPERS."  WHILE THAT SIT-COM WAS BEFORE MY TIME, I REMEMBER HIM BEST AS A CELEBRITY ON "HOLLYWOOD SQUARES."  HE ALSO APPEARED AS A DWEEB, IN OVER 20 FILMS.  HOWEVER, HIS MOST FAMOUS ROLE WAS THE CARTOON VOICE OF "UNDERDOG."

Seeing Cox in Mission Impossible in a wife-beater tee-shirt as sweaty, yet confident safe cracker was amazing. The only time I recalled him being self-assured was in the role of Underdog, an animated superhero canine.  You may recall, to hide Underdog's secret identity, he posed as unassuming "Shoeshine Boy." (also voiced by Cox).  So whenever there was a cry for help, "Help, help!" Shoeshine Boy dropped his meek alter ego and declared, "There's no need to fear, Underdog is here!"
"UNDERDOG" RAN FROM 1964-1967 (124 EPISODES).  I LOVED IT AND IT'S CATCHY THEME MUSIC.  UNDERDOG HAD A LOVE INTEREST, SWEET POLLY PUREBRED AND FOUGHT TWO MAIN ARCHENEMIES; MAD SCIENTIST...SIMON BAR SINISTER AND CRIME BOSS...RIFF RAFF. 
You can find the iconic 1:13 Underdog song by going on Youtube or at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tEVsRLhet2k


While recalling Underdog, the wolf-like Riff Raff character came to mind...and that's when I made my connection to Brad Dexter.
I'M BETTING THAT  RIFF RAFF'S LIGHT EYES AND GANGSTER PERSONA WAS INSPIRED BY BRAD DEXTER'S ROLE IN 99 RIVER STREET.  WHILE THE NAME WAS INFLUENCED BY ACTOR GEORGE RAFT, THE LOOK IS ALL DEXTER. 

This startling Riff Raff is Brad Dexter revelation made me happy.  Not happy enough to continue cleaning dead ladybugs out the window runners with my maimed finger, but pleased to look forward to next week, when my spring cleaning goes OUTSIDE.

Sprucing-up the backyard is its own discipline.  Anyone can pick up downed branches, rake leaves and mow the grass. But before anyone dares to take any chances back there, they must cry for help, "Help, help!"  But the only real-life superhero dog who single-handedly keeps squirrels from taking over South Jersey, doesn't come to my rescue.  The reason why is, my superhero dog is the guilty party who perpetrated a whole winter's worth of "Roxy-Bombs."
MY SUPERHERO ROXY DOG (above, flying over downtown Galloway), IS PERFECT IN SO MANY WAYS.  BUT NOW, I UNFORTUNATELY SAY, IT'S TIME TO PUT CONDITIONS ON MY UNCONDITIONAL LOVE FOR HER.  IF THE LAWN IS STREWN WITH HER MOCHA SURPRISES, LET HER CLEAN THAT SHIT UP!

Until my finger heals or until Roxy takes on her responsibilities, I'll have to hire Brad Dexter and his henchmen to make my backyard safe for foot traffic.

                                                                              #

Hard to believe but true, smashing my finger drove me to investigate where I knew Brad Dexter from. Then Wally Cox came to mind.  Incredibly, Cox led me to Underdog and then to his cartoon enemies...after going full circle, there he was, Brad Dexter as the animated baddie, Riff Raff.

                                                                                   
If that was all there was to it, the coincidence would still be fantastic.  But get this, the least cool guy in the world, Wally Cox was the boyhood friend...and lifelong confidant of the essence of cool, Marlon Brando.  It is said that after Cox's untimely death at age 48, that Brando kept his ashes.  Later when Brando passed, he stipulated that his people would intertwine both men's ashes and spread them in Death Valley and Tahiti.

Brad Dexter proved his meddle and gained major ups when he saved Frank Sinatra from drowning. On May 10, 1964 in Hawaii, during time off in the filming of, "NONE BUT THE BRAVE," Sinatra while swimming at the beach was swept out to sea.  Dexter a burly former boxer saved "Old Blues Eyes" and was awarded the Red Cross' medal for bravery.

Monday, April 20, 2015

CASINO WAR STORIES

My wife and I had dinner with another couple last night.  We got on the topic of terrible casino supervisors and unfortunately for anyone who has ever been a dealer, a floodgate of stories gushed forward.  

One of the jerks I mentioned was the main character from my short story, "BLESSING IN DISGUISE."  I hope after you digest the condensed version below, you'll want to read the full-blown story...which I can E-Mail you.   

In Las Vegas (1981),  while I was dealing craps at the Stardust, I was meeting friends after work at our favorite watering hole, "Mickey's Appetizer." I got there first and was approached by a noticeably tipsy Vera-Lynne Kirby.  This slinky, blond bombshell was a thirty-ish cocktail waitress who worked with me.  She saw my uniform and wanted to vent about a prick she had been seeing.  

The blood and guts of this piece were made possible by that chance meeting.  Therefore, Vera-Lynne alone, is responsible for the intimate details on the life of her former lover...the Stardust's most hated craps supervisor.

Carl "The Mole" Blessing grew up in rural Utah.  His father was physically abusive to his mom and verbally abusive to him. At a young age, he was an emotional cripple whose damaged personality was perpetuated by an exaggerated over-bite, bed-wetting and stuttering. All through grammar school he was picked on by bullies and left by his parents to fend (unsuccessfully) for himself.

A friendless nerd and an average student, Carl's situation worsened in junior high school as his rodent-like facial features became obvious. Even some teachers called him "The Mole."  If life through adolescence wasn't bad enough, this loner was forced deeper into obscurity by developing a severe case of acne.

In his high school years Carl outgrew his bed-wetting, his face cleared-up and he stopped stuttering. Still, he had bad teeth and little self-esteem when he enlisted in the army, at the height of the Vietnam War.

Carl wanted to validate his life.  He envisioned getting a fresh start in the military and becoming a respected hero. On the day he landed in Vietnam, Carl's odd-ball personality made him an immediate outcast.  None of his new platoon mates took an interest in him and the few that made reference to him called him, "Rat-Face."

On his first night, Carl was deployed (alone) on guard duty, in a foxhole at the perimeter of Danang Air Base. In ninety degree weather, he shivered in fear for hours as he stared beyond the treeline, at the blackness of the in-country. Carl fought off the ubiquitous flying insects as surges of fear shuddered his innards every time a branch snapped, an animal howled or he heard distant artillery.  It wasn't long until his nerves were shot.

Carl developed worsening stomach cramps.  When the pain got the better of him, he tried to relieve the pressure with quiet flatulence.  Unfortunately, a wet fart spewed out and he was forced to lay in his own waste all night.

Carl made a buddy on his second day, but it turned out to be the worst day of his miserable life.  His platoon was sent out on patrol and got ambushed.  In the early stages of the firefight, he saw his sergeant get shot through the neck.  He was already in panic mode as a loud ping produced a hole in his helmet and a flesh wound in his scalp.  Carl tossed aside his unfired M-16.  When his friend came to help him snap out of his funk, Carl saw his buddy's arm get blown off.  His friend without thought of his own injury staggered to his feet to help rally Carl but he was cut down by a bullet zapping through his eyebrow.

Before the skirmish was over, Carl was shot again.  When the enemy overran their position, Carl Blessing soiled himself as he hid under the bodies of fallen comrades.

Private Blessing would be one of three survivors.  In the manic hurry of getting air-lifted to safety, his rescuers and later the triage doctors (under fire themselves) didn't notice one missing boot.

Carl became a craps dealer in Las Vegas.  His stormy life, adult shortcomings and cowardice would prove to be an asset in the casino industry.  He got some experience and two years later was hired by the Stardust.  His new bosses recognized him as insecure, spiteful and ignorant so they groomed him as a spy, to infiltrate the front-line employees.  They called him their "Eager Beaver" because he'd step on anyone who got in the way of his upward mobility. Two promotions later, he had graduated to lead floorman on day shift, (a dual-rate pit-boss,in Atlantic City).

When I worked at night, I understood that all the day-shift dealers hated Carl Blessing and not surprisingly called him, "The Mole." Not only because of his face but because he was also a covert stooge of management.

He was so arrogant that he didn't realize that we knew he took joy in being a hatchet-man and "ratting-out" anyone who hustled tips, stirred unrest among the employees or otherwise strayed from the casino's best interest.

My situation got worse when Carl unforgivably insulted an Asian-American player's heritage. Blessing blamed the North Vietnamese army for maiming him but he outwardly hated all Orientals. This situation put management in an awkward position.  They knew they had valuable asset so rather than cultivating another moron to take his place, they demoted Carl and sent him and his bad leg limping to my shift.

Carl did not endear himself to his counterpart on our shift, lead floorman Werner "Ernie" Trohlmann, (a psychotic, Neo-Nazi ass-hole himself...but almost normal compared to Carl Blessing).  Carl confessed to Vera-Lynne that he wanted to undermine Trohlmann and take his position.

Blessing was petty and did everything in his power to make himself look good at the expense of others, particularly dealers. A couple of Ernie Trohlmann's golfing buddies complained about Carl. The hostile work environment every night was awful.  Luckily, I had little exposure to Carl during his short stint on my shift. The only time he seemed human was when he came off like a big-shot and spoke about getting shot-up in Vietnam, (Vera-Lynne would later clarify that his courageous tour of duty...was only a two-day stint).

We received a breath of fresh air when a new dealer was hired who took the wind out of Carl's sails. "Combat" Harry Lorenz was a New Yorker and a Vietnam vet, (he kept laminated photos in his wallet of a couple of Viet Cong he killed).  Despite the ghosts in the former corporal's closet and the uncool "combat" part of his personality, he was immediate smash with the dealers because he was mercenary when it came time to hustling tokes (tips). He and I became close and socialized outside work.  One of the things we had in common was that we were big hockey fans, (specifically of the New York Islanders).

Harry was incredibly brazen.  He approached the head of the Stardust sports book and asked him to put an Islanders playoff game on one of their twenty TV's.  Harry was told, "Nobody bets on hockey." He didn't like being turned down, so Harry tried bribing the man.  This gentleman wasn't going to risk his lofty position for fifty bucks...but to pacify Harry, he offered a free compromise. Two days later, he set-up for Harry, a single TV and a couple of dozen folding chairs, on the dance floor of a long unused lounge.

I explained that we weren't permitted on the property before or after our shift. Harry didn't care and said, "That lounge is completely away from the casino and no one knows us on day shift." I didn't have my heart in it as I agreed to watch the first two periods before work.

On game day, I took the precaution of leaving my uniform shirt in my car.  Harry didn't and wound-up with a bulls-eye on his back.  I didn't even want to sit next to him. But it got worse because when the seats filled-up, the casino provided cocktail service and that idiot Harry bought three beers before the first intermission.

In the second period, Harry sucked down two more.  I was so antsy, I didn't even order a coke. During the second intermission, it was time for us to go on duty.  Harry needed to pee and I had to get my dealer shirt from my car. On the way, we passed the arcade.  There was a huge crowd watching someone play Pac-Man. We heard a voice say, "This guy is great, he's now going for the grapes."

Harry pushed through the throng to get a closer look.  He recognized the player and called back to me, "Look, it's Carl Blessing!"

Secretly, Carl had Harry in his cross-hairs for two reasons.  One was his sloppy way of hustling tips and secondly, Harry's actual knowledge of Vietnam might expose him as a fraud.  So Harry's best interests (especially while reeking of beer) would have been better served had he avoided Carl.

Blessing was there early because he had a poor home life.  To provide an outlet from mundane domestic accountability as well as a buffer between him and his wife, he tinkered with small appliances in his garage.  Soon he was fixing other people's items, doing bull-work and using his pick-up truck to do light hauling.  One of his repeat customers was Vera-Lynne.  She was so satisfied by his work that she acted as an unpaid dispatcher and hooked him up with her wide range of friends. Carl's business skyrocketed as other waitresses and women from all walks of life kept him out of his house.

Some of these women occasionally bartered sex for his services, including Vera-Lynne.  Vera-Lynne could have any man she wanted but she had a soft spot for Carl because he was wounded in Vietnam. Her sensitivity was proven by the MIA bracelet she wore because her twin brother was still listed as Missing In Action, (MIA) ten years later.

Mrs. Blessing had no idea that Carl was spending many afternoons with females.  But she figured something positive had to be going on because he had a wall safe installed into their walk-in closet.

In the early stages of marriage, Carl had a chance to end the cycle of abuse that he had endured. Instead, he allowed his weak personality and thin-skin to overwhelm him. So Carl drank a lot. Sometimes he smacked his wife around and threatened their two grade school daughters.  These episodes became more frequent when he was given the third degree after he partied with his customers. When Mrs. B. finally suffered enough, she took action.

One day Carl came home to an empty house.  On his gimpy foot, he ran upstairs and found a hole where he had squirreled away $20,000.00 in the safe that had now been excavated from the wall.  On the same day, Carl's wife got a restraining order and threw him out of the house.

Carl was living in an efficiency at the Klondike Motel, just south of the Tropicana Casino. Sometimes, he got bored in the tiny apartment, so that's why on the day of our hockey game, he came to work early.  Harry found out that Blessing had him fired when he was not allowed to clock-in.

At that time, the Stardust had one Asian craps supervisor, Byron Fong.  This jolly floorman used the same line over and over, "I'm half Chinese, half Korean and a quarter Philippine...but I was born San Bernadino, so I'm just an American."  Fong was a diabetic with a gambling problem who frequently needed to sit down when his feet swelled.

One night Vera-Lynne approached Carl Blessing and said, "That Chinese floorman is stealing from the casino." How do you know?"  "Everyday, he gives me five bucks to bring him a plain tomato juice in a coffee mug."  Carl said, "Yeah, you can't trust Charley (Asians) but as crazy as a coffee mug for tomato juice sounds..."  She interrupted, "He takes one tiny sip, sets in on the craps rail and then replaces the boxman.  While sitting there, he fixes up the chips and then just before he stands back up...he coughs." Carl said, "I see..."  Vera-Lynne said, "Then he takes a big gulp of juice. When he goes on break, he brings the mug with him." Carl said, "I'll fix that U.F.O. (Ugly Fucking Oriental) but good!"

Carl reported these finding as his own to his boss.  The next night, the surveillance cameras and the eye-in-the-sky were focused on Byron Fong.  Throughout the shift, a cordon of undercover security guards were strategically positioned around the craps pit waiting to pounce.

The sting operation when into motion at 1:00AM when Vera-Lynne gave the signal by putting a paper cocktail umbrella in her hair. Everyone went about their business as the target repeated his usual MO.  They followed him into the men's room and seized the mug. Inside, they found two, hundred dollar chips.

The big bosses fired Fong and planned (after the following week) to give Carl a raise, a package of goodies including dinner for two in their gourmet room and tickets for, "Siegfried and Roy." But more importantly, reinstating Blessing back to his coveted lead floorman position, on day shift.

During the next few days, Carl was especially full of himself.  Even though he had no idea how well he impressed his bosses, he strut around the craps pit like he owned the place.  A big part of his braggadocio was making disparaging remarks to Orientals.

On one of the rare days that Carl was my supervisor, he had no idea that he was about to shoot himself in the foot as "Crazy" Janie Kuhaulua marched towards the craps pit.

Janie was a junket rep from Hawaii.  That meant she was a Stardust VIP because she brought huge groups of wealthy gamblers in from the islands, several times a year.  Apparently, Carl didn't know her because he was new to our shift and she only hung out in the casino at night.

Crazy Janie was an obese six-footer with an entertainingly foul mouth.  All the dealers loved her because she was the essence of positive energy and an incredible tipper.  But on this occasion, she trudged past my table in flip-flops with her Vienna sausage-like toes sticking out of the front without stopping. Her black muumuu with embroidered purple orchids surrounded by golden hibiscus flowers was flowing in the breeze as one of the other dealers on my crew called out to her. Janie's thumping stride never wavered as she announced over her shoulder, "One of my people just hit a big jackpot on a one-armed bandit.  Maybe later..."

Her one-armed bandit statement caused Carl Blessing to have a legitimate Vietnam flashback as he pictured his only buddy's arm get blown off. He leered at the back of Janie's flabby arms, enormous calves and unsculptured ankles as she disappeared behind a row of slot machines.  He squawked, "I'd hate to get between that (her) and the last pork chop."

Months earlier in a drunken stupor, Janie confided in me and other dealers that she was once a fashion model. She showed us lingerie photos when she was a teenager, and she was gorgeous.  Janie sighed, "My fiance got messed-up in Vietnam. He came back in one piece but he saw too much shit and it hurt him deep down inside.  A year later, he was making great progress so we picked a wedding date and made all the plans.  One day, at a lunch counter downtown, he collapsed in my arms and died...a brain aneurysm...I stopped caring about myself...it's been twelve years."

Janie didn't seem so crazy that day.  She had a tear in her eye as she added, "His dad died a month after that.  He had no heirs and willed me his small pineapple plantation.  I can't sit in an office, I hired people to run it.  Now I travel all over the world...I'm afraid to stop."

Luckily, an hour later Janie came by again.  The same dealer from before made a "pocko-lo-lo" reference which is the nickname for high-grade Hawaiian marijuana.  In a nasal voice Janie said, "I can use some.  I feel like shit.  We just came from Frisco and I froze my ass off.  Now I have a fuckin' sore throat."

The dealer who flagged her down was going on break.  He said, "Stay here a sec, I have just the thing that will help you." He scampered off and returned with a thirty-eight cent box of Ludens cough drops.  Janie grabbed a bunch put them in her mouth and said, "I'm feeling better already...maybe I'll play a little." She threw down three hundred dollars and said, "Keep fifty for you guys."  Carl didn't notice her cough drop generosity but his eyes bulged out of his head when she kept tipping us without being prodded.

Janie was doing well.  But when she shot the dice, she got on a serious roll.  Her five-dollar bets across the board were soon increased to a hundred.  Her bet on the hard six was $25.00 and she announced, "When it hits, I'm splittin' it with the dealers."  Carl looked at gratuities as money the casino could not possibly win back.  So he showed his annoyance by pacing and cursing under his breath each time our ton of tips grew.

Carl's fellow supervisors could have have clued him in on Janie's superstar status but they hated him too.  So by ignoring the rising tension, they set him up to take the fall.

Janie noticed Carl's lack of professionalism.  To piss him off, she started making every odd-ball bet on the table for us.  Carl slammed his clipboard down when she raised the amount of each tip.  That's when she started adding to her hard six and said, "I'm gonna keep pressing that hard six till it hits...and then I'm splittin' it with the dealers."

To distract her, began Carl nit-picking us.  Janie addressed Blessing for the first time by saying, "We gotta get you some pocko-lo-lo brudda."  Carl said, "Just shoot the dice."  After a short pause he mumbled, "Fuckin' gook."  She heard him but maybe she wasn't certain or didn't feel well enough to cause a ruckus.  But she was a powerful, liberated woman who wasn't going to take any sass.

Janie turned her ire on superstitious Carl after he started throwing pennies under our table. She was amazing as she concentrated on staring him down as she upped our bets.  Janie was still shooting after fifteen minutes when the hard six (with $90.00 on it), rolled.  She was so hoarse that she held her hand against her throat and shouted, "Boys, you take your half and I'm coming down."  The boxman set aside $450.00 for us when Carl interjected, "The dealers have a $25.00 'max' on hard ways.  They get 270!  $250.00 for the quarter but they had no action on the other twenty."

Janie screamed, "That's fuckin' bullshit!"  Carl said, "Watch your language...there's lady's present."  "Do you know who I am?"  Carl said, "Yeah, a woman who doesn't understand that this is a strict casino policy and there's nothing anyone can do about it."  Janie sneered, "If it lost, you wouldn't have given them shit!"  Carl smugly smiled, "That's not true.  You know why they aren't complaining?  'Cause they know the rules.  Isn't that right boys?"

Enraged Janie barked, "Then fuck the dealers!  Give me the whole damned nine-hundred!"  When she had the chips she added, "And let it be on your head that I never bet for the dealers again.  So fuck the dealers, fuck this place and FUCK YOU too!"

Carl said, "Didn't I tell you to watch your language?" Janie was clutching her painful neck as he murmured the same insult from before. Janie yelled, "What did you say?  Did you call me a fuckin' gook?"  He went into damage control and snarled, "I said...you got your nine hundred.  Now I'm saying...take down all her bets.  This dragon lady has no action here."

Janie smiled, "You don't know who your talking to you weasly fucking piss-ant. Now answer me this. Before you try throwing me out, can I give my fuckin' money away?"  Carl was dumbfounded.  Janie winked at me, counted out $450.00, added an extra hundred and shoved it towards me.  Janie said, "Now you can take all my bets down.  I gotta find the casino manager."

Vera-Lynne said she saw Janie arguing with the biggest boss in the building.  Janie was shaking as she rasped, "Your employee called me a 'dragon lady' in front of everyone.  That's like saying I'm a whore and a mean-spirited, controlling bitch.  Plus, he called me a 'fuckin' gook' twice! I want that ferret-faced imbecile fired!"  He smiled, "Calm down..."  She cut him off, "No!  I'm a full-blooded Hawaiian and as much of an American as anyone...and so was my fiance, who died from getting messed-up fighting the Viet Cong..."

Carl wasn't fired and Janie didn't take her lucrative trade to another casino.  So apparently a deal was struck because instead of Carl getting lavished with bonuses, a raise and being brought back to his former day shift position, he was re-demoted and send to the least desirable shift, graveyard, as a boxman.

Blessing didn't take well to working 4:00AM till noon.  At the suggestion of his accountant, he called out as much as possible to minimize potential alimony while bolsterinjg his private enterprise and undeclared income.  Carl got his own apartment and started exclusively seeing Vera-Lynne.

A week after being served divorce papers, Vera-Lynne was at his place when he got a call from his wife.  She demanded money for ballet lessons for their girls.  He said, "No."  "Well, they are both going to need orthodontic work too..."  Carl spat, "Hell, they don't need braces."  His wife countered, "Yes they do!  Looking like you, is much worse for a girl."  "Shit, if you're that hard-up for cash, why don't you use your stolen money from the safe you ripped out of the goddamned wall."

Months later at an impromptu meeting with the graveyard shift boss Carl was threatened with dismissal because of pattern call-outs. The boss said, "This will be your only warning."  Carl said, "Do whatever you gotta do."  His boss said, "If this is an elaborate scheme to get fired and collect unemployment, you're sadly mistaken."  "Shit!  Is that what you think?  Well, I don't give a rat's ass.  I'll make it easy on you, I quit."

On the following Sunday, Mrs. Blessing marched past the crowded pool at Carl's apartment complex. Carl's door was ajar.  She tried to peer in before knocking but her husband appeared at the door.  Carl was wearing a swimsuit and black socks (he always tried to hide his war wound) as he stirred a pitcher of what looked like lemonade.

Mrs. Blessing came in peace.  But she tried to look past him into the apartment while offering one last stab at reconciliation. Before Carl could react she added, "Of course, we insist on a commitment from you, to seek professional help for your drinking and anger management."

Vera-Lynne got up from her poolside chaise lounge and strolled over.  She exuded confidence in a yellow string bikini that highlighted her deep suntan as she said, "Everything okay pumpkin?" Frumpy and pale, Mrs. Blessing in a black, polyester K-Mart suit was intimidated by her rival. To make matters worse, the door opened enough for her to see a bottle of Gordon's gin on the coffee table and a floor cluttered by clothes including a bra and panties.

Sweaty Mrs. Blessing was demoralized and ready to slither away.  But she gave her outrageous proposal one last try. Carl had his arm around Vera-Lynne's waist, gave her a healthy fanny squeeze and said, "Get the fuck out of here!"  His wife shouted, "You're pretty brave standing behind this bimbo..."

Everyone at the pool was standing, trying to get a better look at the brewing battle. Mrs. Blessing motioned towards Vera-Lynne's MIA bracelet and growled, "He was pretty brave in Vietnam too. You know what the 'million-dollar wound' is?"  Vera-Lynne cautiously shrugged as Mrs. B. continued, "Did you know our little  'yellow' hero shot himself in the foot?"  Had Carl not over-reacted Vera-Lynne probably wouldn't have believed her.

"Who told you that?" Carl seethed. His wife said, "You did!"  She turned towards Vera-Lynne and self-righteously added, "I guess you already know he talks in his sleep..."  Vera-Lynne broke free from his grasp and snapped, "You fuckin' bastard!"  Carl didn't know the scope of what his wife knew and neurotically admitted, "We got ambushed...it was crazy there...everyone getting shot up all around me...it was only my second day..."  The two women simultaneously said, "WHAT?"  In tears, Carl purged his guilt, spilled his guts and unraveled the convoluted resume that he had for years sworn by.  He might have been gaining some sympathy until he shot himself in the foot again by saying, "Blowing off my toe was the only round I fired..."

Sickened, Vera-Lynne went into the apartment and slammed the door.  A minute later, clutching her scant belongings, she came out screaming obscenities. Carl limped behind her as she scurried to her Corvette.  He begged her to come back.  She said, "Don't call, don't look for me and don't expect any more help either."  She burnt rubber as she sped away.

Humiliated, gimpy Carl hid in the shadows as he walked against the farthest wall away from his finger pointing neighbors.  The day had been designed to be an emancipation from casino work. Instead it turned out to be a complete disaster. Inside, he found his wife waiting.  He ignored her and advanced to the bathroom.  He looked with disgust in the mirror and saw his sallow, ratty reflection. He realized he didn't have a conventional job, he was disconnected from the vast majority of his clientele, ineligible for unemployment, spurned by his lover and had his unwanted wife in the other room waiting for a decision.

Carl came out into the unlit living room.  He didn't address his wife as he removed his socks.  With a sense of purpose, without hobbling, he strode out into the sunshine and retrieved some personal items he left at the pool.  Back inside he said to his wife, "I thought about your demands...and I'm not interested.  I'll be fine...so get out."