|random thoughts and thoroughbred selections|
|"All life is 6-5 against" - Damon Runyon|
Thursday, September 07, 2006
The under-explored meme for the week seems to be death and resurrection. Fitting, I guess, as a set of topics to bring me out of hibernation.
I think F-Train's on to something when he opined that "Poker blogs are dying," but why? I think there's some percentage of bloggers out there who got bored with their hobby, another group that realized they aren't exactly David Skalansky with their advice, and F-Train was probably on to something when he rightfully said that, "(t)he vast majority of bloggers are not excellent writers." Maybe at some point their little vanity project actually starts to become an embarrassment when held up to unrealistic standards set by more competent writers.
So why am I dying (purely in the metaphorical sense) here?
Here comes the point of this one-sided discussion where I'm on the tightrope and I know not to look down, but something inside me aboslutely positively compels me to. My head gets cloudy, I start to spin, and I feel like taking one step more is going to pull me into a free-fall.
Fuck it, I'm looking down.
I'm not well lately. I haven't been for a little while, and that's why I'm dying*. Not literally, mind you, but literally. I cannot and will not construct sentences and paragraphs that pull thoughts, feelings and images from my head and heart because, quite simply, I'm afraid as to what's going to come out.
*(Again, I mean this only in a metaphorical sense and entirely about this place you come to visit and read about the bullshit that bounces around in my head. It's an imagery thing, allows me to call back on something familiar - e.g., the memes of death and resurrection via the blog. Actually, I find that whole sentence darkly funny and not at all worrisome.)
I found it odd that at no point in or in-between my hospitalizations, despite the consequences to my health and my very life, did I flinch. I never once broke down and cried, never had the tightening sensation in my brow, constricting my skull and preventing me from any rational thought but the singular focus of my mortality. Odder still, I never once in that same period mentally marshalled my emotions into a state of adrenaline-laced positivity. I wore the same honest shrug day-in and out through what should have been the most difficult experience to handle in my life to this point.
I'm still failing to understand how I made it through those months without blinking. I had the support of my family, my friends (to whom I remain grateful for your financial and other support) and the understanding of my employer. My dog was being watched, my bills were getting paid, I had a job to come back to... I was fine.
Coming off the surgery I was dropped into this position in Pennsylvania, flying back and forth for ten weeks out of sixteen. Then I got the word I was transferring out here permanently, those wheels started turning, and between putting the personal part of my life in boxes and the professional part of my life in hotel rooms and unfamiliar environments, I certainly didn't have a great deal of time to slow down and think about all that was and had been happening.
I'm still blocking that for some reason. I don't want to think. Somewhere along the way during my business travel I've picked up drinking as an extra-curricular again**. I've ditched online poker to a large extent, rarely initiate chatting with my friends, and worst of all I'm not writing for either of our benefits. I'm sure all this has got something to do with avoidance, but what exactly am I avoiding?
**(Although drinking until I get drunk is still exceedingly rare, I would have to guess the nights I've had at least one drink outnumber the nights I haven't by a 10-1 margin at minimum over the last 120 days)
The knee-jerk answer you're all going to give me is that I'm lonely. Unfortunately, that's not good enough. I've been alone for a long time. As a matter of fact, we're going on year five of not having anyone I can randomly call on a Tuesday night and meet at the bar for a drink without being related***. I guarantee you this has something to do with it, but certainly not everything. I mean, my illness wasn't exactly a high-level facing-my-own-mortality sort of thing, but I have to assume somewhere deep inside I don't want to die alone.
***(Within 30 minutes, or the pizza is free.)
Loneliness, however, is probably the key. A lot of this started with the recent Vegas gathering, of which I wasn't a part. I had good reasons for not going - both financial and regarding the timing of my move - and I was told by a number of people that these gatherings "aren't the same" as they used to be either. All that being said, I really could have used a weekend with my friends. My move was complete, pictures were on the walls, my entertainment center was hooked up and I had put the program I was tasked to saving back on the rails.
For the first time since just prior to December's Vegas trip (I came back from that with the early signs of the illness), I had stopped. Everything in my orbits had ceased to move. The distractions receded. I had completed everything my life had thrown my way, both with success and a minimum of inconvenience to myself.
So what the fuck am I supposed to do now?
I was jealous. Real goddamn jealous of everyone who was in Vegas without me. Instead of focusing on what I had been able to do in the year to that point (i.e., the Mansion, Cincy with Iggy/Daddy/Pauly/Maudie), all I could focus on was how upset I was with myself for not hopping a plane and getting out there.
I haven't been altogether mentally since June. I used that jealousy and turned it into self-denial leading to self-flagellation. I started doubting the friendships I had built as they compared me to others in the group (absolutely silly on its face). I doubted the love and respect I have historically gotten from my peers, and started to assume I was going to be moved into pariahdom by those I had trusted. My emotions began to flag, thoughts collide and there seem to be more bad days than I'm used to. I've stared over the edge of some panic attacks that - thankfully - have narrowly missed taking root in my mind. I get legitimately angry at things like TV commercials and drivers on the road. I'm constantly revisiting little moments out of context and replaying them with a horrorshow skew to a worst-case scenario. I'm starting to find these pockets of resentment that I never knew were inside me before, never knew were so deep.
It wasn't just interpersonal. It was the job too. Despite having as much job security at this point of my life as I've probably ever had, despite having a boss and a boss' boss expressing deep indebtedness to the peace and structure I had brought to a fractured situation, despite their honest words that they were looking out for me, I still managed to find the corners at which this part of my life was sewn in and started to fray the fabric. For instance, when I took this transfer the timing happened to coincide with my yearly increase. My boss' boss (the Regional Manager, just to avoid further clumsiness) had told me point blank that he wanted to promote me, but it wasn't in my long-term financial best interest to get the bump right then and there. I could get 5% for the increase and another 3% for the COLA in the status quo, and then another 6% (or so) in six months on top of that with a promotion, or I could take (something like) 10% and a new title right then and there. Naturally, the former makes more sense. But when I get the internal congratulatory emails where people on whom I have both seniority and responsibility advantages on get (in some cases double-) promoted ahead of me, I fall into that same crisis of confidence that's been plaguing me in recent months. Moreso than ever before. I know my time is coming and I'll be fine in the long run, but it nagged me badly enough to take the standard "mental health day" that Friday.
I even started worrying about money - again, despite having as much security in that respect as I've managed to cobble together in recent years. I get angsty that cracker rednecks can somehow afford to buy a house and a big truck, and here I am. I'm browbeating myself into a carefully constructed budget that's rooted in reality, but leading me to believe that I've got to live in this framework of self-denial that has me bringing bland sandwiches to the office for lunch and tracking every penny spent with disappointment I have to fork even a single one over.
Worst yet, I'm continuing to work my way to the inevitable conclusion at the end of this tangled mess that, "none of this matters, and neither do I." I don't think there's hot Hawaiian girls handing out leis at the end of that journey.
There's a certain amount of exaggeration at play in what I'm talking about here, but this is more honest than not. I have far more good and average days than bad, but without distractions in my life, the bad days stand out far more than they ever used to. So, I guess what I'm saying is that if you're reading this and happen to be my mother, don't worry too hard... you know how critical I am about myself to begin with. And remember, you promised me you wouldn't bring up what you read here in conversation...
I'm really less than comfortable sharing this, but if I'm honest with myself I need to at least get this stuff down between these lines and hope that this is another one of those unburdenings that lets me get back to some of the things that bring me joy - writing and my friendships being at the top of that list. I've certainly got some things piling up in my head that I've been intending to write about besides all this, but what's crucial to me has to be posted here first. And it's not as if I've been without support. I've got a few people in whom I've confided, and those people have been absolutely terrific in providing me the release I needed periodically. I've been internalizing most of this, and even though I've blown 1500 words on all this above, I easily could have gone for 15,000 more. Even those friends to whom I haven't talked specifically about this have been a tremendous asset, if for no other reason than just being on the other end of the phone or IM.
I know I need to get back into therapy, and I know I need to change some of my patterns of sedentary behavior that have formed this well-worn groove in which this record continues to skip. I worried a lot about writing any and all of this, as I wasn't sure I could adequately put it into words. Actually, let me rephrase that... with as self-conscious as I've been lately, I worried that I couldn't craft the words again and couldn't be the "BG" I've been before. I miss that guy. Hell, I hope you miss that guy. But that's just patently dumb, as I've certainly used this space before for complaining and whining of a far less legitimate nature than where I've been today.
The best thing I can do with the least effort to try and screw my head on straight is to exhibit that hyper-aware self-analysis that's probably become my trademark. I think there's a value to recognizing what's healthy in my head and what's not, and I think it needs to become easy for me to push these feelings out to the page, just like I've done hundreds of times before. By no means do I think this will fix everything that's wrong - that's what therapy and maybe anti-depressants will do - but it's a start. Honesty is the best emotional support I can provide myself, and it needs to start here.
I'm not going to promise you that I'm getting back to basics here, I need to promise that to myself. It already feels good to have written this stuff down, and hopefully I can piggyback the positivity from this past weekend, this week, and this post into more willing energy to just fucking write again already. I also have the Bash to look forward to, and I'm absolutely geeked to be getting a weekend with my friends that starts in less than two weeks. I miss you guys and I miss my blog. If I have to do the "ten minutes with..." gag to get things going, I will. If it becomes six straight weeks of depressing navel gazing bullshit, let me apologize in advance. But at some point, and soon, I'll remember what it feels like to be pleased with what ends up on the page again. Hopefully, you will too...
Sunday, September 03, 2006
The Real Story Of Today's Pick Six Ticket
So CJ and I came out of yesterday battered and bruised, but feeling awfully good about three things. First, eleven of our seventeen horses made the money with four winners in six races. Second, that we lost the Pick Six by a combined length. And third?
CARRYOVER. A one day carryover in the pool of a cool quarter mil. We couldn't just let that sit, oh no... So we rounded up the usual suspects, took in a thousand dollars to play with, and put together another ticket.
It's a gut-wrenching tale of oh-my-god-no and can-you-believe-we're-doing-this sorts of angst, but we hope to hell to be as live on the board as we were yesterday. Or liver. More live. Whatever. By the way, the Pick Six at Saratoga today with a smaller carryover will pay anywhere between $62K and one million dollars. I'm just sayin'.
Live Updates To Be Inserted Below... (starting at about 715PM EST)
RACE FIVE, 12,500 CLAIMER - We liked four horses, the 2, 5, 6 and 8, but the 2 and 8 scratched. That made it easy. #5 is MICKY'S DOLL, who probably wants the extra half furlong and was very game in this class last out for a place and has worked good since. #6 is TUG O' WAR who took awhile to break the maiden, but has the second off angle and trainer/jock connex are solid. This wasn't a tough one to settle on, but it's a dangerous opener to be sure.
UPDATE: The two horses we picked are 4/1 and 4/5 respectively, and they're loading up... Seven furlongs... And they're off! They both got out good, six is grabbing a share of the lead. Five now snags it. Nine is up there, three's running well, but five and six are putting three in front of the pack dueling. Hoping this doesn't sap their energies. Into the turn, five still up, six right there. Looking good right now. Five holds getting into the stretch, neither asked for their best. Five and six lugging. Seven is passing them, five can hold. Hold five. Hold five! Jesus, close... Could have been seven... That was close as fuck, 19/1 #7 got up late. Five was looking good, but I think he got edged. Yeah, I think he got edged. We're done after one? Really? Yep, seven got up. Fuck. Longest price on the board, let's hope we have a shot at a good consolation payout if we can run the table from here...
RACE SIX, MAIDEN RACE - The class of the race was #2, who scratched. We found that one out early, which we thought would help us go a little skinnier here. We were wrong. We've got #4 MIURA BULL and #9 EL BAMBINO HUEY, who will share the short end of the pricing with a horse we passed, and added longshots #5 SILVER WIND (CJ's pick) and #6 AFLEET SPY (my pick). If we're live here, pull hard for #6. We might have thought about going with just #2 here, giving us more options elsewhere, but we got screwed.
Loving this dead-after-one bullshit, but keep in mind we've still got a shot at a sizeable 5 of 6 payout if we can run the table and catch a couple of prices along the way. The announcers on TVG made a good point that if you caught the #7 in the last race, you were probably playing that race wide at the expense of playing others as fully as possible. So, our best case is to catch the #6 here, and the #1 in the eighth, along with whoever's looming large on the board in the tenth. Yeah, that's likely. Anyway, they're loading up and we don't have the 2/1 favorite. Sigh... And they're off! One needs to die, but got out good. Six and nine and five all out well, which bodes well. Eight, who we don't have, is trailing. Liking six grabbing ghe pace, but #1 is close. Nine makes a 3W move and takes the lead into the turn, head for head with five. One's got no room, needs to be blocked off. Nine and one, nine and one... Nine's got this, so we've got a 5/2 winner here, which helps... but not enough. We need a price baby!
RACE SEVEN, OPTIONAL CLAIMING - For awhile here, we were going to single #7 WINDY, who's going to be real tough to beat here and will be an awfully short price. The TVG announcer is talking right now about getting physically ill the farther he gets into a live Pick Six ticket, and after yesterday I can relate. This is the spot we absolutely have to get past for a good shot here, but we backed up #7 with #5 UDRIGA, in whose notes I wrote "DO NOT IGNORE" in big block letters. She's got a huge shot to move forward at a price in the 10/1 - 15/1 neighborhood, and is bred for the sprint. Two deep in a seven horse race is okay, we really need Windy here though.
Everyone knows it's Winnn-deeee... Actually, we need Udriga here big time for any shot at a consolation payoff. We're wide in races eight and ten, but need a price here and our single in #9 to make any sort of money on this at all. They're loading up... And they're off! Five stumbled a touch, seven's laying off. That's okay, she's a closer. Five is out, that's no surprise. 10/1 would be nice. Two lengths but closing on the turn. Seven's still chilling in sixth. Moving strong and wide on the turn... Windy's coming around, and is FULL of run. This is her race, no way anyone catches her. Six ran well, just not as good as seven, who won by something like six or seven. And yes, the announcer just did the "everyone knows..." line. Ugh. We need a price in the eighth, and BAD.
RACE EIGHT, GRADE TWO DEL MAR DERBY - Because of the initial single of race seven and our strong feelings about races five and nine, we thought this was the place to go wide. And wide we went. Nine horse field, and we've covered six possibilities. #1 RATEAU is our longshot at 20/1, and I refused to put in this ticket without him. #4 GET FUNKY and #5 LIGHTNING HIT are also priced to play, and we added short prices on #8 UNION AVENUE, #9 POINT DETERMINED and #10 PORTO SANTO. Please, for the love of god, keep 2, 3 and 7 the hell off the track...
We really need the one or five here for a price, otherwise I think we're looking at a pat on the back and a smile even if we run the table from here. So at least I know which of our six to root for, I guess. Eight, nine and ten are good quality horses and all, and I hope we can nail the one and everyone else has these guys batched up on their tickets. That's really our best shot. They're loading up... And they're off! 30/1 on #1, and he got out clean towards the front. Good stuff. Nonsensical (who we don't have) isn't urnning away with it, which was a concern. #1 is out there, #4 is there too. Liking #1 right now, this is a good run to form. Let's hope he can hold the others off. #4 gets up close, now passes #1. Seven is right there and making a move on the backstretch. He's passing going into the last turn, and here's hoping he gets passed by one of ours. One saved ground, isn't firing. Four is going gamely, Two is running up but GET FUNKY makes a dent, and we get a 6/1 winner here. Not the price we needed, but it's a positive result again for us. Now root like hell for the nine in the next.
RACE NINE, MAIDEN RACE FOR TWO YEAR OLDS - Here's where the nausea will set in if we're live or three-for-four coming into this one. We singled this race. You heard me. We had our ticket put together and were ready to make the bet, and we found out #4 COLONEL CHICK scratched. Fuck, this was a two horse race with #9 DILEMMA, and we felt good about two deep here. Singling this one makes me sick. Absolutely sick. If we're live here and miss this one... Christ, I don't even want to think about it.
The ten is a Merv Griffin horse. Isn't that nice. Now get out there and lose to the nine motherfucker! The nine is 6/5 on the board, and clearly the class. Of course, that means he's likely to finish eighth as if his pockets were full of lead. They're loading up... And they're off! Christ this makes me nervous. For an atheist I certainly invoke the name of your lord fairly often, eh? Anyway, nine got out good and runs up solidly to take a share. Four across to set the pace, ten is out there and a couple of the others I kinda liked a bit are fading in back. Nine is sitting one off the leader and just now is making a move at the top of the turn. He's getting even with ten and is going to be hard to catch if he keeps this up. He's moving fast and there's a couple around him... but they won't get him. He's got it, but at 6/5. At least we hit our single.
RACE TEN, MAIDEN - If by any freak chance we're live coming into the tenth - even for a consolation payout - we're going to feel real good here. We've got five of eleven locked up in #1 JOLLY SPIRIT, #4 KING OF ROHAN, #7 MAJESTIC AMERICAN, #9 SYLVAN HILL, AND #9 OKA KING. Of course, watch the updates to see if we get this far. This card was harder than yesterday's to be sure...
THE ONLY PROFITABLE SCENARIO HERE IS A WIN BY THE FOUR - CURRENTLY 27/1 - $4500 PAYOUT FOR US - I'LL BE BACK TO LIVE BLOG THIS IN FIVE MINUTES (WILL POST IN ABOUT EIGHT)
Rooting like a motherfucker for the four here, and it's a maiden race so anything can happen. Hell, who am I kidding? We're screwed. He's sitting in the 30/1 neighborhood and we're going to see him come in sometime around dawn as far as I can predict. Watch the eight and the one here, I'm liking both quite a bit. A couple of people with the ten and twelve marked are rooting like hell for their million dollar ticket, and the five and six could gift a couple of lucky holders a half mil. Us? We're just hoping for $4500 and we don't need another horse bad beat story. Did I mention we've only lost three races in eleven so far by a combined length-and-a-head and at least two legitimate flukes? Jesuschrist, come on four.
They're loading up... And they're off! I'm only watching the four, and I hope to see speed. Got off okay, bumped a touch at the start and is about six of eight in the front pack about three off. He's found a spot on the rail, but who gives a shit about saving ground in a sprint? 9/5 Sylvan Hill and #1 Jolly Spirit at 2/1 are rushing fast. Four is looking good but not as good ast he best of these. He's sitting about eighth after the turn and has no fucking shot. It's one, and one alone.
We might be seeing a consolation payoff, but I can tell you we're not making our money back - or even close. I'm guessing $250-$400 or so, if at all. I've never hit five of six before, god knows how this works...
PAYOUT UPDATE: I'm going to wait for CJ to confirm before saying this is official, but it looks like our $1K paid out $378. No, not $1,378. Just $378. Of course, the way it looks on the website, it looks to cover those who had a horse that scratched and were perfect otherwise. I dunno if we cash this ticket or not, but to know that we lost two pick six payouts by less than fifteen feet total is somewhere between wildly encouraging and ridiculously demoralizing. At bare minimum, I think CJ and I are really coming into our own on these bets and in our handicapping...
Bill Simmons @ ESPN
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