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Friday, December 9, 2011

Numbers Never Lie

It's not like I wasn't making payments to my friendly neighborhood bookie, Java the Hutt, who just happened to be an employee in the same jail as me. (Yeah, you'd be surprised at who works in a jail. Let's just say it's hard to tell who's who sometimes.) Anyway, I was. The problem was, what I was paying out was drastically less than what I was taking in on a weekly basis. And growing disproportionately by the month. (The rational behind such actions could probably fill psychiatric volumes, but that's another tale for another time.) Bookies like to be paid of course, but they like it even more to be paid and owed. That way they can have a residual income. If Joe Blow owes eighty-grand and Tom Thumb owes ninety and they're each making weekly payments of five-hundred, well, multiply the Joe Blows and Tom Thumbs by twenty or thirty, and you've got yourself a nice little steady income. Tax free. Of course when Joe and Tom get in way over their heads and realize they'll never be able to pay their debt off short of hitting the lottery, well, that's when things can, and do, get ugly. And for me, of course, they'd reached that point. Why else commit a felony and risk your own incarceration-damnation? Ugly? Things were fucking hideous. Somehow I managed to owe Java two-hundred and fifty grand. Yeah, a fucking quarter, of a fucking million, of a fucking dollars! I can't believe it either myself sometimes, but you'd be surprise how fast a few grand here and few grand there add up.

Actually Java was not "the man behind the man" that I had to worry about paying, but just one of his slimy minions who sold his soul to the god of chance for his own alleged well-being. Okay, maybe he only rented it. I actually liked the guy.  He was the rec supervisor and a pretty amiable one at that. All three-hundred and fifty pounds of him. He did have a heart. We'd often talk about life and philosophy and even religion sometimes. I could see he actually felt bad for me week in and week out when I came moping up to his dingy little rec office hidden back of the prison gymnasium to make my monthly donation. He told me many times to get out, stop the betting, that it was a fool's game and a hundred other logical reasons not to think I could out-think the unthinkable. He was just doing his job collecting the money and taking the bets. Granted, he worked for Satan, but that had nothing to do with him being a likeable guy. And sometimes I'd listen to him and quit for a while, weeks, even months... but always a new football season would trip me up. Fall would roll around and there'd be that crispness in the air and excitement of another college pigskin season about to kick-off, soon followed by the pros and I just wanted to be as much a part of it as I could, or imagined I could. I loved betting on football. At least at first I did, after a while it just became something to do, and after that... well, let's just say I didn't love betting on it anymore. Or any other sport for that matter. (And if it ain't love, well... what else is there?) I guess I finally just got it all out of my system. I mean, there really were no more "games of chance" left on the planet for me to get "interested" in.

I started young, in high school, where I'd skip class with a buddy and sneak in under a broken chain-link fence to Liberty Bell race track in northeast Philly and bet the stupid buggies. Man, I'm sure those things were fixed, but no matter, I was not picking many (any!) winners there, fixed or not. Or at Keystone in nearby Bensalem, where the thoroughbreds ran. They were at least beautifully athletic animals and if anything, I got to watch them do their thing for my dollar. (Numerous dollars.) From the ponies to the casinos I did no better, and when Atlantic City opened it's doors for suckers back in the late-70's, I soon learned I could in fact, do worse. Many a long ninety-minute drive home on the AC Expressway in the middle of the night, tired and broke, convinced me there had to be a better way. Yeah, it took about thirty years to find, by I finally found it. Who'd have thought, like Dorothy, it was right there underneath me all the time? (And over, behind, in front of, in back, below, above, inside and out, up and down, and in-between.) Sports gambling was the last and greatest hurdle though I guess. Not just in terms of money pissed away, but more-so in terms of finally understanding the nature of all such doomed activities. I mean, it really doesn't matter... dice, cards, wheels, balls, numbers, digits, horses, dogs, men... What's the difference? The form doesn't matter. They're all just a means to manipulate events in such a way as to get people to give other people money in hopes that they'll give them back more in return. Of course it doesn't work that way. The House never loses. That's why it's the House. Yeah, individuals get "lucky", from time to time, but from the House's point of view, there is no time and there are no individuals. Just numbers. Mathematics, if you will. And in the big picture, over the long haul, numbers never lie. At least they never did for me.

gambler  n. 1. One who believes he can predict the future.