Friday, April 24, 2015

My Coworker's Mom's Ex Boyfriend: A Bookie for the Mob

I went out to lunch during a work day, and I saw one of my coworkers sitting in a booth.  He eats there just about every Monday through Friday.  Even if I really wanted to sit by myself and read about Chicago sports and text jokes to my friends, the right thing to do was go sit by him.  I just didn't feel like hearing him bitch about work because getting out of the office for lunch is a time to think about anything but the office.  Actually, he may have been thinking, "Oh crap.  Here comes Dr. Ken to come saddle in here and make annoying observations for his stupid blog."  That's entirely possible.  Sometimes I wish people could be honest with each other and just ask, "mind if I join you?" and the other person could respond either way without hurting anyone's feelings.

So this guy was telling me how excited he was to go to the Kentucky Derby with some friends to drink a ton and bet a bunch of money on little men riding on horses running around in a circle.  He really likes gambling.  He spends every few Saturdays at a race track near his house drinking three dollar beers and betting every race until the joint closes.  He really seems to know his stuff, but then again, gamblers never seem to tell you about the times they lost.

I asked him how he got so knowledgeable about betting the ponies, and apparently his mom's ex boyfriend would take him to the track when he was a kid, starting when he was around eleven years old, and schooled him on how to research and pick a winning bet.  The mom's boyfriend used to be a bookie for the mob, but he had left that life behind to drive a taxi cab.  Still, it was still strange that he drove a taxi in the suburbs but somehow always had giant wads of one hundred dollar bills wherever he went.  I guess he was a pretty great guy, and he took my coworker out for a steak dinner and gave him two hundred bucks for his birthday every year.  Even after his mom and the guy broke up, this dude continued to take him out for his birthday dinner until my coworker was around 19-years-old.  That is around the time his health started failing and he soon passed away.  I think he was a little bit older than the mom.

I asked why it didn't work out, and he said, "I don't know because he was a really great guy.  I think my mom was just too much to deal with."

I said, "So the ex (but probably current) bookie for the mob wasn't the problem in the relationship; your mom was."

"Yeah, pretty much," he said, finishing the last few bites of his omelette and getting a look at his check.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

I Guess I'm Mad Max?

I got this late night hamburger joint with awesome burgers, and it's right by my house.  During a long night of drinking, Auto Pilot Dr. Ken directs his taxi cab driver to pull right up to that place.  I then grab my sack of burgers, walk home, and find a good movie to watch on Netflix.

The other night I went in there with Mrs. Noisewater, and the lady at the counter said, "Oh, hey Mad Max!"  Evidently I was in there one night telling her that I was going to watch a "Mad Max" film that night whilst consuming burgers.  I was astonished that she had never heard of the one and only Mad Max, post apocalyptic hero in a world fighting over precious oil.  I didn't ask much more about our conversation that night because Mad Max (that's me) was a little embarrassed.  

I never understood how those marauders in the Mad Max films found oil such a precious and dwindling commodity, yet they built giant V8 monstrosities and just went around cruising, looking for trouble in their S & M outfits.  You would think they would only drive somewhere when they absolutely had to.  I guess the more I think about it, marauding S & M types wouldn't likely be conservationists.

Anyway, I really do have to slow down on the drinking and late night eating.  All those burgers and beer are rough on the waist line, and the alcohol could make my mind slower.  What I'm trying to say is that if the apocalypse goes down I'll need to have my mind sharp and look sexy in my leather bondage outfit.

My outfit will likely be like the one second from the left.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Team Strike Force and One of the Best Summers of Dr. Ken's Life

Many moons ago some friends and I played in a coed softball league and drinking team.  I'm not making a joke here; The sponsor bar actually kept track of how much all the teams drank after each game, certain types of drinks were worth different points, and the highest point getting team would win a free party for all their friends.  Hence, at the end of the season there would be a champion on the diamond and another in the bar.  This is not something that would be allowed now, and it probably wasn't allowed back then seeing as it encourages competitive binge drinking.  Team Strike Force finished near the bottom in terms of our record, but our drinking statistics were the stuff of legend.      

We weren't anything to brag about when it came to playing the actual softball games, but we did have one guy who was maybe the best player I've ever seen.  He could scoop up a ball on the run from anywhere, and throw from deep in the outfield to hit any plate he wanted right on the button.  Plus every time he stepped up to hit it was an automatic extra base hit.  Come to think of it, his girlfriend (now wife) was a really good player.  The rest of us were just biding our time to prove we were worthwhile at the bar immediately following the mere formality of the actual softball game.   

These were the two best moments on the field (because all the other memorable moments were at the bar):

1. One guy's girlfriend (also now wife) had no baseball experience whatsoever, so naturally we put her at catcher.  She was one of those people who could never get past pointing the open side of the mit straight up instead of turning the wrist inward so the open hand faces out.  You know, so you don't worry about plunking her in the face when you throw to her?  Consequently, she was very rarely able to catch much of anything, usually jumping out of the way to avoid getting hurt if you threw to her.  For this reason, the pitcher typically covered home in the event of a play at the plate. 

The RIGHT way
However, one time our stud player with the rifle arm sent one home with a runner on third and first and second base open, and our favorite female catcher was our only chance to tag the runner out.  She stepped up to the front of the plate, actually caught the ball, and jumped up and down saying "yay" as the runner trotted in behind her untagged.  There was no force at home, so she needed to apply a tag.  Nobody on our team cared because it was the funniest thing we had ever seen, and we didn't want to spoil her joyous moment of catching a softball.  Like I said, we sucked.

We would not have challenge the real Strike Force to any athletic event.  Except drinking. 
2. Then another time we were playing our arch rivals.  They had a guy on their team that was friends with a girl I dated not long before that team started.  This guy cheated on his girlfriend with a number of girls, including the one I was dating.  Not at the time I was seeing her though, but maybe.  Who knows.  She was not such a good girl for me, but at the time love was blind and I was young and stupid.  He was a butt hole on the field as well as off because he was like the coach figure, encouraging all his male players to take walks.  When you're a grown man you swing the bat.  That is what you signed up to do, right?

Also, he would yell at the girls when they screwed up.  This made us all really mad, and we found ourselves consoling his girls when they would get on the base paths and yelling at him to take it easy.  It made for a strange dynamic where the score of the game didn't matter; all that really mattered was that this a-hole drop dead.  Then there was another line drive single hit out to center field to our one good player who came up firing the ball towards home plate as Captain A-Hole ran home from third.  Boom!  The ball plunked him square in the back, and he winced in pain as he scored the run.  None of us gave a damn that he scored.  In fact, we were all cheering him getting hit with a ball.  You see, our guy is good enough to have gotten him out.  He chose to peg him in the back from fifty yards; He was that good.  It could very well have been the single most impressive athletic achievement I have ever seen and certainly the most rewarding.

We lost that game and many others that season, but again, in the bar we were champions.  I will never forget the two highest point-getters were a table tapper of Saint Pauli Girl, and a bottle of Tsingtao, a horribly skunky Chinese beer that led to wicked hangovers the following Friday morning.  Win or lose, our table would be littered with table tappers and buckets upon buckets of the green Chinese death juice: Tsingtao.  Then we would all text each other the next day how General Tsingtao had beaten us down with yet another crippling hangover.  But we would do it all again the following Thursday for the good of the team because champions fight through adversity. 

I remember one bye week (a week where our team didn't play) I still went up to the bar to make sure we at least got a few points.  I brought a girl with me who wasn't a heavy drinker.  She could only muscle down one Tsingtao that I insisted she order, and I powered back the other four in the bucket.

In the final week of the season we were eliminated from any chance of winning on the field, but we were very much in the running to win at the drinking.  The only team who had a chance at catching us was the arch rival team.  To make sure we beat those jerks we set up an evite (remember those?) and got all our drinking buddies up there.  We let all our friends know that if they helped us win, they would all be invited to the free party we would earn on a Saturday night for $500 of free boozy fun!  There were five or six tables full of friends for that last night to earn points, and some of those friends were very tangential.  We were marketing wizards and very heavy drinkers. 

And we "must have" bought a hundred that night.
The culminating pivotal moment did not come on the field; It came when Captain A-Hole from the team we hated came over to our table counting up all those buckets and table tappers and he asked, "Shit, you guys aren't team Strike Force are you?"  "You're damn right we are," we all said and a loud cheer roared through out our section of the bar.  Arch rival team only had five or six people to our giant hoards of booze hounds.  It was a lock for Team Strike Force.  We won that "free" party to drink whatever we wanted through paying for tons of types of beer we didn't like every Thursday night.  If you did the math, we likely lost a lot of money, but you can't put a dollar amount on being drinking champs and having that much fun.

I can't run around the bases as fast anymore, I certainly can't drink that much on a Thursday these days, but I can always can look back on that summer as one of the best of my life.  Let's put it this way, If someone asked me right now if I would rather be the first man on Mars or be transported back to the summer of 2005 to watch that guy get pegged with a softball in the back and tip back some celebratory horribly skunky Tsingtao, I would have to give it some serious, serious thought.      

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Super Tan Roy

Some folks I have been playing pick up volleyball with for a quite a while now went to visit a friend in the hospital; a friend who just discovered cancerous tumors in his chest and neck.  Roy, sometimes called Super Tan Roy, has to go into for chemotherapy treatments for four days at a time every three weeks.  We call him Super Tan Roy because he is always very sun tanned, and he probably lays out tanning twice as much as he plays volleyball when he comes down to the beach with us the last few summers.  This means that you actually get to know him better because he is always in the sitting out area talking to everyone, and he is just a great dude.  I have never heard him say anything bad about anyone, and he is always in a good mood.

So it was no surprise when we came to visit that he was walking around his spacious hospital room in his cargo shorts and listening to iPod speakers at high volume.  He was really happy to see us, and at no point did he seem down at all.  Apparently what he has is very treatable, and the doctors are confident that after only the first few treatments the tumors will be all wiped out.  Also, when he left after his first stay, he lived his life like normal, going to the gym and everything.  He really hasn't felt any of the side effects, and he even said that the second they hooked him up to the orange bag of chemotherapy juice, he felt better instantly.

Roy was telling us that it sounds strange, but he has never felt this good.  Seeing how many people have been contacting him has made him feel grateful to have so many great friends and family members.  Roy also stays in touch with some rock bands that he has seen over the years and who have played concerts at his house (I suspect Roy is rich), and one pretty big band that I won't say by name said that they want to do a benefit concert just for him!

I told Roy that his point of view has inspired me.  I know for a fact that there is no way I would maintain this guy's level of confidence and upbeat attitude in the face of what he is going through.  Friends would likely come visit me only to hear me blubbering "why me?"  Do you know this dude has made it a point not to turn the giant television in his hospital room on once?   He said that he spends his time emailing friends and writing blogs on his Facebook page.  I like to think that if I were in a similar predicament that it would light a charge into my writing somehow.  But who knows.  I could very likely have the TV on and guests would catch me crying to "The Dukes of Hazard" because Rosco P. Coltrane died and I was scared I would be joining him in a sad redneck afterlife.  But through my brief visit with Roy, I know that wallowing for too long would only be a waste of precious time and a downer to anyone else.

Even though I didn't know Roy all that well, I am glad I decided to go the hospital that night.  It was the right thing to do because he was happy to see all of us but also for the insight he has given me.