Friday, May 29, 2009

And the winner is...

This is it.
Tuesday morning we find out what the new grandkid will be sporting in the gender department. This is all new to Linda and me and frankly I find it more than okay. Ultrasound rules!

Katie and Doug have invited us to be there when the big reveal happens. I suspect they're nuts, but since I'm new to this grandpa gig I'm not going to turn down any science that will help me narrow down my toy shopping. Will I head straight for the trampolines at the toy store, or will it be an afternoon of checking the "comps" on several Barbie doll houses? Whatever the case, there's a world o' shopping to do.'s gonna be FUN!

I remember when "we" were pregnant with daughters Kelly and Katie waaaay back in the early seventies. Nobody had any forewarning of who or what might "pop out" in nine months. Relatives and friends were flying blind when it came to gifts for the new arrival. "Oh, don't worry. You can take those blue jammies with the trucks on them back to the store for something pink and frilly." (Actually, most of my friends gave inappropriate gifts from the liquor store that came in handy for ANY occasion.)

Oh, by the way... I found a terrific new book for my son-in-law. It is perfect for any new father or father-to-be. "Home Game" by Michael Lewis is screamingly funny and quite useful as a guide to fatherhood. It's published by W.W. Norton and is available in most bookstores or on Come to think of it...this is a dandy book for any guy who is already a father.

Father's Day is coming!

This book would garner a big laugh from your old man. Buy it!
(Must I do everything?)

I found this picture on the web. Cool cap!
Maybe I'll be shopping for this lid next Tuesday afternoon. Or...maybe I'll be scoping out Barbimobiles. I'm sure GM will have them on sale by then,

Friday, May 22, 2009

It'll be as good as new...

"No need to call a repairman."
"I've got just the thing to fix that."
Either one of those statements should be on my dad's tombstone. He was one of those guys who was determined never to "waste" money hiring a pro when household problems came to call. This is on my mind today as I try to determine a reasonable course of action regarding a much needed fix for the thingymobob framdamnitz valve on our outdoor sprinkler system. The damn thing shoots water straight up into the air and not on the junk that grows and seems to need water.

Son of a bitch!! I hate dealing with crap like this. The main reason is that I am no good at it and seem incapable of even remotely describing the problem well enough to the guys at Home Depot to enable them to sell me the correct hardware to fix it myself.
I'm screwed.

Why is it that some guys have all the fancy tools needed to repair just about anything that breaks and others, like my dad and me, have a couple of dippy screw drivers , a busted hammer and not a glimmer of a clue on how to use them?

When I was a kid our family had any number of appliances that needed to be treated with special care because of some exotic fix dad had created for them. There was the waffle iron which featured one leg that was formerly an orange colored bottle stopper. Or, how about the coffee table that would fall down every six months or so until dad "repaired" it with his special combination of Elmer's glue and rubber bands. His master work, the one that had the whole neighborhood talking, was the ancient Bendix clothes washer that lived in our basement. Mom complained for months that the stupid washing machine would dance around the cellar whenever it went into its spin cycle. (My brother and I loved this and took turns riding the errant machine as it went berserk.) Finally, tiring of the constant nagging, dad secured a monster sized cement block from some friend of his and proceeded to mount and tie the washer to the top of it with an elaborate array of ropes and knots. This cure worked...sort of...for awhile. The machine continued to buck and lurch but now was confined to a range of only four to five feet. Victory!
The federal government could have used dad. That's the kind of Mr. Fixit the country needs!

So, here I sit trying desperately to think of how dad would handle the major project I have before me.
Hand me that bottle stopper...
Better yet, a beverage.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Equine investing...Where the windows clean the PEOPLE

Tomorrow millions of casual fans will have their TVs tuned to the Preakness to see if Mine That Bird can notch another victory in his quest for the Triple Crown. There is also much interest in the filly, Rachel Alexandra, since a win by her would be the first by that gender since 1924. Kentucky Derby winning jockey Calvin Borel appears to have voted in favor of Rachel Alexandra. Borel chose to ride the filly in the Preakness after making an electrifying last-to-first move with Mine That Bird to win the Derby by more than 6 lengths. So much for loyalty.

Mine That Bird ,alone in his stall, wonders what happened to Calvin.

The hussy, Rachel Alexandra, looking swanky after a workout.

I have never been a major railbird, but have been known to make an occasional wager on a bobtail in the interest of sport and solid business judgement. In thirty years I have made money...twice. The first successful adventure in para mutual investing came in 1984 in Las Vegas. My friend and business partner, Bob Hanna, and I were in the habit of meeting at the Sahara Hotel race and sports book every Saturday morning in the Fall to place our considered and well thought out NFL wagers in the hands of the accommodating bookies provided by the establishment. After handing in our weekly wagers we would enjoy a leisurely lunch at the bar and speculate on how to spend our anticipated winnings. (The fact that Joe Conforte was looking for investors in the Mustang Ranch got considerable attention.)

On that particular Saturday, as we enjoyed our repast of hotdogs and whiskey, one of us glanced at a TV screen in the sports book where the first race was about to go off at Pimlico. It came to our attention that a 30-1 shot named Barroom Hussy was in the race. Simultaneously we looked at each other and said, "We cannot let a magnificent piece of horseflesh like that run without us having a rooting interest!"
The horse won. Many horses AFTER that race won for us as well. We were horse picking geniuses! By 4 PM we were also very much in trouble with our wives. Both of us had said that we would be home around noon and, well...we would have called, but cell phones hadn't been invented yet. Yeah, that's it. We were also VERY drunk.
Linda and Judy were plenty steamed when they found us at the Sahara, but abruptly cooled off once they spied the pile of bills stacked in front of us on the bar. As I recall, a fine dinner to smooth the marital waters still left us "bucks up" on the afternoon.
Naturally Bob and I had big plans for this run to continue on all Saturdays going forward. Alas, it did not.

A couple of years ago I had another winning day at the track. I was with my pal, Fireman Bill, at the Del Mar racetrack here in San Diego and it was a wonderful afternoon of moneymaking fun. My approach to the sport was quite different from the Barroom Hussy days. I hadn't had a drink in several years; so alcohol was no longer a partner in my horse picking decisions. Also, I had read a book on "picking winners". My system was now studious, reasoned, and analytical. In short, it was now a snooze. ZZZZZZZZZZZZZ.
By the end of the day I was up $7.42. Bored, but UP $7.42.

So, I'm still searching for a sure fire horse picking method. (Yes, I've given some thought to always going with the horse that takes a massive horsey dump just before the race. It doesn't work.)

I know the odds are long for Take the Points tomorrow, but I like him at 30-1. Papa Clem at 12-1 is also intriguing.

Maybe I should employ the wisdom of my old railbird pal, Champagne Joe, who once told me "Always go with the mob horse." Joe insists that it's money in the bank to check the Racing Form for horses whose owners have Italian surnames.

"The mob horses never lose."---Champagne Joe (June 17, 1990)

I wonder which horse is Tony Soprano's?

Friday, May 8, 2009

What's in a NAME?

The little kids across the street are named Ollie and Milo.
They're approximately three and one years old and are killer cute. My guess is that those names are popular again. It goes like that. Names that were a ticket to an ass kicking when I was a boy are now back in style. Ollie and Milo, like Floyd and Henry, were names of my grandfathers' generation. NOBODY who was born in the late forties or the fifties carried those monikers. We all had names like Bill, Bob, Chuck, David and Steve. The girls were Linda, Susan, Cathy and Kathy. My handle, Ken, was like many names "sort of" popular but never able to break into the top ten no matter what generation. I consider that a bonus. Under the radar inoffensive names are a kid blessing.

Names are on my mind lately because we have a grandchild due in the Fall and if life has taught me anything it is that Johnny Cash was definitely onto something with his song, "A Boy Named Sue". Names are often destiny. Every kid with a "get tough or die" name knows this. My father was christened Hubert Eugene Copper. Naturally his first words were, "Call me 'Cop".
Geezus! What were his parents thinking??!!
Well, having known them as Grandpa and Grandma, I know that they were taking care of all the Copper namesakes with just one kid. His brother was "Bob", but my dad took one for the family team as "Hubert Eugene". I don't know about you, but that move, like a ripe diaper, smells of child abuse to me. He became "Cop" to everyone who valued their life and wanted to keep their teeth. His sons were Ken, not Kenneth, and Steven Ted, not Steven Theodore. We owe him for that.

My son-in-law, Doug, is insisting that the new baby, if it's a boy, tote the middle name of Danger. He reasons that it makes for a dynamite pick-up line for a young man to be able to drop, "Danger is my middle name" on an impressionable young female.
I agree wholeheartedly and endorse the choice. My wife and daughter remain skeptical, but in time will come around. It's SO cool I can hardly stand it!

First names?? Well, that is up to Katie and Doug. I know they will settle on a good one. I'm just hoping that it isn't one of those non gender specific goofball names like: Scout, Wingspan, Rumor or North Dakota. However, Lugnut or Spam could grow on me.

Interesting names like Tuesday have a way of working out.

Maynard, seems like a ticket to Loserville.

All Barneys are fat morons.

Chatsworth Osborn would doom the kid to a career in Polo and a childhood
of running for his life.

The kid isn't due until October, but we'll know the gender by June 2. The four months lead time should render a sock-o name for the youngster. I'll be in there battling for the little nipper.
Grandpa knows best!
How do the names "Stubby" and "Gooby" grab you? Or, if it's a girl..."Shuggah Free"?

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Looking Up Old Friends...

We spent the past week in Washington, D.C.
The first few days were devoted to meetings and the latter part of the week we reserved for spending time browsing the memorials and monuments. I had hosted a radio tour five years previous with listeners who wanted to experience the dedication of the World War II Memorial and it left me wanting more. That was my first time in Washington and I felt foolish for never having been before. Everyone should spend some time in our nation's capital if only to put your high school history lessons in perspective.

The Second World War memorial hit me like it did the first time. There is so much about it that captures the enormity of the conflict and the essence of the teamwork it took to conquer the patent evil represented by Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan. It's almost impossible to imagine how close they came to triumph and how very different the world would be had they prevailed.
I looked up my dad's name in the registry of those who served and felt proud of his Naval aviation service in the South Pacific.
It was touching to see a group of WW II vets from Northern Michigan in attendance the first day we were at the memorial. Many were in wheelchairs. We are losing them by the thousands each day and we will be a poorer country when they are gone.

The Korean War Memorial doesn't get the attention that it deserves; somehow that mirrors the war itself. The futility of the "conflict" is well captured in the statues depicting soldiers slogging through a field in full combat dress. The first time I saw it was in the rain and it was perfect. On a warm Spring day the troops looked miserably hot. Fitting.

The WALL always moves me. This was my war...the one I was lucky enough to miss. I've blogged before about how close I came to spending time in Southeast Asia and visiting this memorial makes me appreciate my extreme good fortune.
Some of my friends are here...on this wall. I got orders plunking me down in the middle of Kansas; others got a ticket to Vietnam. Each year that passes brings a greater realization of just how unbelievably fortunate I was. I slept on the ground in the Midwest and trained for the defense of NATO while dodging nothing more dangerous than cow pies. Timing is everything.

My high school friend, Lenny Borchard, didn't have a college deferment. He hit the Vietnam jackpot. We graduated from Spencer High School in Spencer, Iowa in 1966. I, like many others, got a student deferment to attend the University of South Dakota and wasn't snatched by the draft until 1970. Lenny was a farm kid who worked at the Big D grocery store all through high school and became a full time employee as soon as he graduated. He liked the work, (it sure beat farming), and he was on track to be a manager one day. The local draft board, however, had other plans for him. He was in the Army and fighting in Vietnam by 1967. He was dead in March of 1968.

I found his name on panel #46. I touched it.
What a waste of a good guy.

We were friends... not close friends, but certainly friends. We played baseball together with Hall, Erickson, Boyd, Swanson, White and other high school goof-offs. Lenny could hit the ball a TON. We had classes together. Made fun of the same teachers...
You get the idea.
So I stood there at the Vietnam memorial, twice in the past week, and thought about luck and chances taken. I thought about how easily things can go awry; how it could have been Lenny standing by the wall looking at and touching my name. It' all one big crap shoot.

My takeaway... I promise to always appreciate the, now 41, extra years of laughs, triumphs, and even mistakes that Ive experienced that Lenny didn't. And, I'll take more pleasure in my wonderful wife and terrific kids and, this Fall, new grandchild. All blessings that "Borch" never had. He was a good kid and would have been an even better man.

If you want to put life in perspective, get to D.C. Skip the political b.s. and get yourself to the memorials... and look up an old friend.