Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Degenerate Gambler

While it’s depressing just how low this guy can sink, I can’t help but love this all too familiar personality. I’ve sat down on a Saturday afternoon, with an ambient unknown college football game on in the background. I won’t ask why the game is on, because I assume no one is watching. Suddenly, I’m startled with an unexpected outburst from a nearby friend.

“Fuck you Boise State!”

“Really? You bet on Boise State?” I asked.

“No, are you kidding? I bet Hawaii would have the first field goal.”

So, just to clarify, my friend, who has never been to Hawaii or Boise State…In fact, I’d bet a hundred dollars he doesn’t even know where Boise State is. No, Sean I don’t actually want to bet you on that. I’m just making a point. Anyway, he made a bet that Hawaii would make the first field goal of the game. This is what I’d call a minor degenerate. It’s pathetic. It’s absurd. But, I’ve seen worse. You have ways to go Sean. Oh sorry, that’s his name. Let me introduce you to a real degenerate.

This next degenerate gambler is one of my favorites. If you ever want to escape Manhattan, without actually leaving the city, go to Chatham Square in China Town. Then venture into the O.T.B. (Off Track Betting.) Now, you’ll have to know the lingo, the tracks, and knowing the horses may help. Fortunately, I had a friend working behind the glass. He explained how to bet, and I still didn’t understand. Of course I pretended to know what was going on. After all, degenerate gamblers encircled me, and I didn’t want to disappoint. Give me the three horse at Belmont – straight up. Loser. Whatever, I don’t have a clue what’s going on. I’m not the degenerate here. Well, at least not today.

The main reason for my trek was to see what it’d be like to live in Beijing, and to see what this OTB was all about. Plus, I got to bullshit with my buddy. We started to talk, about nothing in particular, when an extra from Goodfellas approached the glass. I’m not even trying to be funny. This was a legitimate extra from Goodfellas. I’ve seen the movie countless times.

He was adorned with black pants, a black T, and topped off with a top hat. He wasn’t very tall, but his presence was unmistakable. First of all, he was the only Italian guy in Chinatown that night. Well actually there were three others, but we didn’t look Italian like he did. This guy was old school Mulberry St. He paced and bantered with everyone who crossed his path. Nobody knew what he was saying, and he obviously didn’t know what the Chinese folk were saying. So it was a mutual misunderstanding. He had bet the three horse, like me, only this three horse was from Yonkers. Wait a second. He meant to bet the three at Lone Star. Woops. My friend may be bright, but he’s not very attentive it seems.

“That fuckin’ jerk off gave me Yonkers!”

He makes it sound like a venereal disease. I would hate to have an upstate New York STD. It sounds pretty boring and overpriced.

The degenerate went on and on, tearing into my friend over the wrong betting ticket. He even contradicted himself on occasion, discussing with Ping and Yang how the kid isn’t so bad – he just made a mistake. It’s not totally his fault.

The race on his ticket came and went. He did not win. He wouldn’t even have won his original bet. He’s an all around loser. In more ways than one.

“Ah fuck him! He’s a fuckin’ moron!” he concluded.

Obviously another bet was overdue. Try the four horse at Santa Clara. Surely this horse is pulling for you. Now the events that proceeded are not made up or exaggerated. His horse went neck and neck with the two horse. Literally, they were nose to nose. It would take a magnifying glass to determine the winner.

“I’m going to have a heart attack!” he yelled. “I don’t know why I keep coming back here!”

He turned to Ping, who had an amiable grin painted on his face. “What are you smiling at?”

“You win?” Ping asked, sincerely.

“I hope you die in your sleep!” the man answered.

Ping didn’t understand a word he said. He nodded his head and continued about his own degenerate ways.

“Please God, let me win this bet. I won’t make another bet in my life.” The man continued.

Hey, God? I know we haven’t exactly started off on the right foot, but here’s a little advice: I wouldn’t make that bet with him. He’s definitely lying. OK, suit yourself. After twenty minutes of deliberation, the man’s horse was declared the winner. Praise the Lord! Maybe prayers can be answered after all (Can you sell this book for me God?) Hey Goodfella, you should go to mass and thank God for this substantial win (like $40.) And remember, you promised not to bet again in your life.

Hey, you didn’t have to push me. It was too late. The man put his $40 on the next race. It may have been the seven horse at Belmont, or the nine at Yonkers. It didn’t matter. This guy was in a never-ending cycle of gambling. His appetite would not be content, until his misery reached its peak. He still had money in his pocket, and that could only mean one thing – place a bet.

There is a moral to this story somewhere and that is to never trust an OTB clerk. Well that and gambling is a horrible, addicting disease. However, I couldn’t imagine a world without characters like these. Sure they’re suffering, but at what cost? Their loved ones? Their own self-respect? Yes. But, man what an entertaining Saturday evening it was for me. And that’s all that really matters, right?

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