Excerpt from a recent phoner with my father:
Al Sr.: Well, that’s good. What else is new with you guys?
Me: Hmm. Oh. We’re going to Vegas in a couple of weeks.
Al Sr.: When’s that?
Me: First weekend in May. For the Derby.
Al Sr.: That sounds cool.
Me: You want me to put anything down for you?
Al Sr.: I don’t have a horse this year. At least not yet.
Me: Well, if you do.
Al Sr.: I’ve only really liked a horse in one of the Triple Crown races once. “Pass Catcher”. Won the Belmont in, oh, jeez, 1970? 1971?
Me: Make some money?
Al Sr.: Yeah. I almost didn’t. I was hanging out with my friend redacted because he is now a respected community leader, you remember him? His wife and your mom went to school together? Anyhow, this was when we lived in New York, your mom and I, and redacted community leader and I were hanging out one Saturday, and he said, “Hey, didn’t you like Pass Catcher in the Belmont today?” And I said, “Oh, Christ, is the Belmont today?” And he said, “Yeah.” So we both put a little money down on win tickets, and Pass Catcher won. Broke up somebody’s shot at the Triple Crown. Paid pretty well.
Me: You just ‘put a little money down on win tickets’? You had a bookie that did paramutuel?
Al Sr.: What? Oh, no. We were already in the OTB anyway.
Three notes to help those not raised to know get the comedy here:
1)”OTB” = “Off-track betting parlor”, a place, not generally filled with savory characters, where you can bet on televised horse racing in places with the ambiance of an unusually low-rent bus station waiting room. I love them.
2) My dad and redacted community leader were about four years out of Harvard at this point, and would, as regulars go, probably have fit in at a New York OTB in the early seventies about as well as Luna would fit in on, say, the Boston Celtics.
3) To be in an OTB on the day of the Belmont and not be there for (or aware of) the Belmont indicates hardcore OTB patronage equivalent to being a roaster of enough turkeys that you are preparing to pull the bird out of the oven when it dawns on you that it is, right then that very day, Thanksgiving.
Now, go read the transcript again.