Saturday, April 25, 2009

Thoughts That Popped into My Head

  • When Ginny and I were in Denver on business for a month (the same trip during which I took her to see a stripper and to see the movie Carrie) we drove down to Las Vegas for a weekend. (No, no, separate rooms, you swine). Ginny had never been there and had never gambled. I promised to teach her to gamble at craps.

    You need to know that Ginny was thrifty. She could pinch a penny until Old Abe begged for mercy.

    I took her to a table somewhere where she could make two dollar bets, and taught her the basics. As chance would have it, the dice were very cold and soon she was down six or eight dollars. Now even though that was perhaps one meal on her expense report, she became very crabby over it.

    "I don't like this. I don't feel good. My stomach hurts. I've got cramps."


    "OK, let's go somewhere else."

    We walked to another casino, and as I guided us to another craps table she asked grumpily "Craps again?"

    I told her "I'll teach you a little system. Unless we get very unlucky, you'll win a few dollars."

    Please understand that there are no betting systems which will win at casino craps over the long run. There are, however betting systems with different approaches and goals, which make profits at varying paces until disaster strikes. Knowing that Ginny was never gonna let enough money slip through her fingers to qualify as a disaster, I taught her a little system that might bring in a few dollars.

    Fifteen minutes later she had recouped her losses, was perhaps ten dollars ahead, and was all smiles. "Oh, I like this, Donnie. Where are we going next?"

  • BTW, that was a *long* drive, and we left late one Friday afternoon. Ginny asked if she might drive the first leg (we had a rental car, courtesy of our employer) and she drove until perhaps 9:00 PM.

    She made me crazy.

    The details are hazy now, as this happened more than thirty years ago, but in my mind I see three or four lanes on our side of the Interstate, and virtually no traffic.

    And Ginny driving at fifty miles an hour.

    Unless we came up on another vehicle going even slower, in which case she would pull in behind it and go slower still, until I reached over and turned the steering wheel about five degrees to start getting her into the next lane on the left.

    It was probably 8:30 or so, and pitch black in the Rockies. We were the only vehicle on either side of the Interstate. Doing fifty. This would be about a 750 mile drive and I was wondering whether we would get to Las Vegas in time for my funeral when Ginny saw headlights in her rear view mirror. Immediately she slowed down. Can you imagine?

    The headlights closed rapidly, as they would have if they were being carried by a pedestrian. Soon enough Ginny said in a panic "It's a police car!"

    He stayed behind us for a minute or two, then lit her up and she pulled over. A Colorado State Trooper walked up to the window and said "Good evening. Would you tell me why you're driving so slowly?"

    My body jerked slightly as I fought to contain the laughter, and the trooper looked at me suspiciously.

    Ginny, indignantly: "Well you made me NERVOUS, following me like that!"

    Now there were two of us struggling to contain ourselves.

    For the sake of the drill he asked a question or two - "Where are you going?" type questions, then smiled and said "You have a good time," and walked back to his vehicle.

    He probably thinks we're still on the way to Las Vegas.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

When You're Hot You're Hot

It was going on quitting time on a Friday night somewhere around 1982 and I was still a vice-president at Blue Cross in Chicago. The staff was making getting-ready-to-leave noises and my secretary was away from her desk when the phone rang. I answered and it was Betty, a former girlfriend, calling for one of the women in our department.

I went looking, but she had already left. I asked Betty "What's going on?"

Betty: "Well, it's my birthday today."

Donnie: "Happy birthday. What are you doing to celebrate?"

Betty, in a deliberately long, drawn out, despondent voice: "Nuhthhhhhinnnn'."

Donnie, taking the hint: "Well, why don't you head this way? I'll round up a few people, we'll have drinks, then I'll take you to dinner."

Betty, instantly: "OK, I'll be there in about a half hour."

I notified everyone and headed for the ground level at Illinois Center to make my way to a jeweler's shop at the Hyatt. I bought a Calibri lighter for Betty, one of those butane jobs. This was before I knew they were worthless.

We had a couple of drinks with the group, then hit the sidewalk. I asked where she'd like to have dinner and she said "Anywhere, Donnie."

We walked to a fine dining restaurant called Artists & Writers. It's gone now, but my memory says it wasn't far from Water Tower Place. I think that several restaurants followed one another at that location, and one might have been Here's Johnny.

Drinks, dinner, champagne, some catching up, lotsa fun.

On the sidewalk again I spotted one of the horse-drawn carriages plying its trade and asked Betty if she was up for a carriage ride. Yes indeed.

We engaged one, and it was being managed by a trainer and a new driver, both young women. We hit Michigan Avenue for a couple of blocks, turned toward the lake, headed south, and circled around to our starting point. It was quite chilly by the lake, and we made use of a blanket that was stowed on the floor. This was much fun, and when we stopped I asked Betty if she wanted to go again.

She did, and added "Well Donnie, I think it would be nice if we had some more champagne."

I headed for a liquor store a block away, but it was after nine o'clock and the store was closed. I walked back to the carriage, told the driver to hang on, and headed for the elevator to the Ritz-Carlton. I believe their first floor at Water Tower Place is the eighteenth, but in any case I knew there was a small restaurant and an even smaller lounge there. I went to the bar, put a hundred dollar bill on it, and told the bartender "I need a bottle of champagne and four glasses."

He looked around quickly and in just a few seconds produced them. Now a bottle and four glasses with stems make an awkward combination to carry, particularly if you're trying to conceal them. I stuffed the glasses in pockets in my suit jacket and pants, put the bottle under my arm inside the jacket, and headed for the elevator. Halfway there - CRASH!

Back to the bar, another twenty, another glass. But this time I was intercepted on the way to the elevator by the tuxedoed maitre d' of the restaurant and lounge, who was quite insistent that I could not do this. He lectured me all the way to the elevator, telling me that the beverage must be consumed there or delivered to my room. I assured him I was taking it to my room, got on the elevator, and pressed the button for the lobby. The trickiest part was carrying the bottle under my arm inside the jacket, as I had taken the precaution of having the bartender open it.

All three women were happy to see me with a bottle and four glasses. I climbed back into the carriage, poured champagne for four, and off we went again.

I do believe I was at my best that night, and that might have been my peak.