Archive for March, 2006

Gambling and Rambling

When I walked into the coffee shop, my old friend Rick O’Shea had his face so close to the table, all I could see was his tattered Yankee hat.  As I grew closer, I saw that he was using a pen to scribble numbers onto a napkin.  He was so focused that he didn’t even look up when I sat down opposite him at the table.  I sat there for a minute watching him until I couldn’t take the curiosity anymore and asked him what he was doing.  He looked startled to hear my voice. 

“Oh, hi.  I didn’t see you there.  I’m just figuring out what I’m going to do with all of the money from this week’s lottery.  Did you hear it’s up over $200 million?  Anyway, I figure that the smartest thing to do is to take about 20% of the total winnings and distribute it to my family, with each member getting the same amount.  I’ll set up trusts, I think, but I need to find a lawyer who won’t rob me blind.” 

Rick, shouldn’t you wait until you actually win the lottery before you start spending the money? 

“Yeah, but I play the lottery every week, so I figure that it’s just a matter of time before I win.  This week might be it.  First I’ll buy a new house with a big backyard…then a new car, no, a couple of cars; a sports car for the summer and an SUV for the winter.  That way I won’t have to keep putting snow tires on my old IROC.” 

Do you have any idea what the odds are against you winning even once in your lifetime?  I’ve heard it said that the lottery is a tax on people who don’t know math. 

“People who say stuff like that sure are a lot of fun.  Anyway, I bet even the math snobs pick up a few tickets when the jackpot gets to $200 million.” 

Sure, they might.  But my guess is that they don’t spend so much time scratching tickets at the local convenience store that their fingers begin to turn silver.  Didn’t your father play the lottery his entire life and not win at all?  In fact, if he had saved the money he gambled, he probably could have retired early and moved someplace warm. 

“Well, he had that one football card that he hit for about a thousand bucks.” 

But then didn’t he blow it all at the track?  If you hit the lottery, there is no doubt you would spend it all on scratch tickets. 

“I don’t hang out at the convenience store just for the scratch tickets.  It’s a social thing.  I really like the people there.” 

You must have a thing for people at convenience stores, because you spent a lot of time socializing with that scratch ticket brigade in your the last town, too.  In fact, wasn’t the counter guy from that place in your wedding party? 

“Yeah, I need to call that guy.  I haven’t talked to him since I moved.  I should probably figure on giving him a cut of this…let’s see…the lump sum would be somewhere around 160 million…after taxes probably 80 million, divide that by…sometimes I wish I didn’t have such a big family.  Let’s see, then there are the tickets that we pooled our money for at work…160 million divided by the eight of us is 20 million each…anyway, if you want a piece of my winnings, you should stop giving me such a hard time.” 

With odds of 1 in 175 million against you, I think it’s safe for me to say whatever I want. 

“Hey, somebody’s going to win, and you can’t win if you don’t play.  Besides, the money goes to good stuff like schools and kids and all of that.” 

Wouldn’t you prefer that your money go towards your kids instead?  You could open an account and take all of the money you would otherwise gamble and invest it. 

“Right.  First you tell me to stop gambling, and then you tell me to play the stock market.  As if there is any difference.  I read someplace that Bill Gates lost something like $30 billion in one day while playing the stocks back in 2000.  Compared to that, my dollar bets here and there are nothing.” 

I wonder if losing $30 billion even affected big Bill’s lifestyle. 

“Anyway, Mr. “Save your money”, Mr. Guilty Conscience, tell me.  Do you have any tickets to the big drawing?” 

I refuse to answer that question on the grounds that I may incriminate myself to the tune of about 10 quick picks.

The Day to Day Grind Tim 31 Mar 2006 No Comments

2006 Southie St. Pat’s

Every year, on or around March 19th, St. Joseph’s Day, the swallows return to San Juan Capistrano to make their little mud nests.  Every year, right around the time that the swallows are scoping out the choicest mud, I return to South Boston for the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade. 

I have been attending this parade, which is traditionally held on the Sunday after St. Patrick’s Day, every year since way back in 2000.  I know it is hard to imagine the hoary days before iPods and The Apprentice, when the only entertainment available was watching parades, but we were a simpler people then and we enjoyed the spectacle.  Now we just go for the nostalgia of it all. 

What follows is a description of the events that occurred during this year’s visit to what has become a renowned cultural event (all times estimated): 

9:45am:  My wife, The Megger, and I arrive in South Boston.  The parade route travels down most of the main drag, called Broadway, and then wraps around onto East Fourth Street and heads back in the other direction.  Those two streets have been totally cleared of cars, either moved by the owners or towed away at the owner’s expense last night, while every other street in Southie is jammed with double-parked vehicles. 

Happiness is a good parking spot, and I find one on a side street at the end of Broadway.  It is probably not an actual spot in the strictly legal sense, but I’m not blocking anyone and there are no meter maids in Southie today. 

10:15am:  I am standing in my friend’s kitchen with a cup of coffee in my hand.  The coffee has been freshened up with some Irish cream that I took the time to whip up last night, using my secret family recipe.  Eat your heart out, Martha Stewart. 

10:45am:  Our friends have taped some pictures from past parade parties around their apartment (say that ten times fast).  The Megger is looking at the pictures and notices that she is wearing the exact same green sweater that she had on two years ago.  She is horrified.  I look at the same pictures and am relieved to see that I am wearing pants. 

12:03pm:  A group of us have our traditional argument about whether the parade actually begins at noon or 1pm.  None of us is sure enough to bet money on it, however.  I mean, we’ve only been doing this for 7 years. 

1:25pm:   It looks like the parade started at 1pm.  The first item I see is a vintage cannon, which has been placed for our viewing pleasure in the bed of a regular pickup truck. 

My guess is that this “float” represents the journey taken by Henry Knox when he led an expedition to slog a load of cannon all the way from Fort Ticonderoga to Dorchester Heights.  The cannon were then used to force the British from Boston. 

I wonder what color old Henry’s pickup truck was. 

1:47pm:  It is about 35 degrees and blowing out here.  It’s a good thing I remembered my gloves, or my hand might be frozen to my red plastic cup full of perfectly legal non-alcoholic beverage. 

It is not a good day to be marching in a kilt, but I have to give the marchers credit as most of them are smiling. 

2:03pm:  My friend and I have this conversation: 

Friend:  Remember the first year we came to this parade? 

Me:  Yes. 

Friend:  Remember that the next day was your first day of work at your current job? 

Me (cringing):  Yes. 

Friend:  Didn’t you have to call in sick on your very first day of work? 

I have to get myself some new friends.  Either that or my current friends need to start forgetting stuff. 

2:34pm:  In what has apparently become an annual tradition, a group of people dressed in full Star Wars regalia come walking up the street.  The costumes are perfect, and I don’t even want to think about how much money these people have spent on them.  There are a bunch of storm troopers, a Boba Fett, a Darth Vader, and some other assorted characters. 

The costumes are completely out of place in a parade full of high school bands, kilted pipers, and politicians.  It occurs to me that this would be a perfect way for Whitey Bulger to return to Southie every year.  I wonder if the FBI even thought to look under Darth Vader’s mask. 

I am not proud to admit that it occurs to me that Billy Bulger could dress up as Yoda. 

2:37pm:  The contingent of New York City firefighters walks past. 

2:42pm:  It’s some local politicians…and three New York City firefighters. 

A number of community groups begged people not to drink at the parade and also not to give alcohol to the marchers.  They really wanted to make this a family event.  I am reminded of this as a firefighter, missing his hat, straggles down the sidewalk and a spectator, in full defiance, gives him a shot of whiskey out of a silver flask. 

It reminds me of a conversation that my friend Mike had with his neighbor recently: 

Mike:  My wife and I are staying over at a hotel after the Southie parade. 

Mike’s Neighbor:  Are you getting a separate room for your kids? 

Mike:  What?  No, the kids are staying with my mother.  It’s not that kind of parade. 

I have to imagine that Tom Menino would be thrilled to hear that. 

3:15pm:  I am safely inside my friends’ apartment, but I can hear through an open window that the parade has ended. I know this because the last float in the parade is actually a street sweeper, which proceeds to pelt the assembled crowd with sand.  Their shrieks signal the official end of the Southie parade. 

I hope they remembered to put their hands over their cups.

The Day to Day Grind Tim 24 Mar 2006 No Comments

Hot Flashes

Random thoughts generated between stanzas of McNamara’s Band and pints of green beer: 

  • This weekend I’ll be returning to South Boston, where I lived for a number of years, to attend the annual parade.  The parade is held annually on the Sunday following St. Patrick’s Day, and every year I have the same conversation with my wife about it:

Megger:  I wish that the parade was on Saturday.  I hate that I have to work the next day. 

Tim:  If the parade was on Saturday and people could party without having to consider working the next day, the city would burn down. 

The Southie parade itself is always a good time.  Last year there was a group of New York City firefighters marching but they would, one by one, get lured to the side of the street to partake in some local cheer.  After partaking, the firefighters would jump back into the parade with whichever group was walking past.  The recurring theme of the parade was that, after the main group of NYC firefighters had passed, there would be stragglers with almost every group that followed.  For example, the high school marching band…and a disheveled NYC firefighter…The friends of Mayor Menino…and a wobbly firefighter. 

I ended up at a party with a number of the firefighters after the parade (ok, so I happened across a group of them and invited them to crash the party), and they were all really nice guys…for Yankee fans. 

  • I recently went to a clothing store, let’s call it Old Gravy, in an effort to buy some khaki pants and found that my business is not welcome there.  There was not one pair of pants in the store that would fit me.  There were plenty of pants with my waist size, and plenty that were long enough, but none that were long enough with my waist size.  According to the pants in stock at Old Gravy, people with larger waists are expected to also have very short legs.  Those with longer legs should take their business to Thornton Melon’s Tall and Fat stores (from the movie Back to School).

Needless to say, going to a store and finding that they have no pants in your size is a motivating factor on the diet and workout fronts. 

  • I left Old Gravy and stopped into a shoe store, Loot Shocker, to see if I could find any decent sneakers.  I’m starting to wonder if Old Gravy and Loot Shocker are owned by the same company because none of the shoes that looked good were available in my size.  They had plenty of the “Women don’t talk to me” shoes available, but nothing that actually looked good.  Now, I admit that I have big feet (size 13), but come on.

I’m starting to wonder if there is some kind of corporate conspiracy to keep bigger people in clown shoes and sweat pants. 

  • There is a book coming out soon about Barry Bonds and his history of steroid use, among other things.  There were incredibly detailed excerpts from the book available on the Sports Illustrated website that portrayed Bonds as someone who blatantly cheated his way into the record books.

After reading the excerpts, noted ESPN journalist and serial steroids-apologist Tim Kurkjian stated that he would still vote for Bonds as a Hall of Famer, but that Bonds was “very close” to losing Kurkjian’s Hall of Fame vote. 

I think that this feeling is common among sportswriters who ignored the possibilities of steroids during the power explosion in baseball during the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. 

These sportswriters need to realize that it is not important whether or not Barry Bonds or other players were Hall of Fame worthy before they started doing steroids.  Pete Rose was worthy of the Hall before he gambled on baseball, but once he got caught gambling, his pre-gambling worthiness was a moot point.  It should also be a moot point for a player like Barry Bonds.  Once he cheated, he threw his candidacy out the window.

The Day to Day Grind Tim 17 Mar 2006 No Comments

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