This Column is Rated “X”

 

I have to warn you that this column is about sex – and, no, not the loving kind that exists between a husband and wife; or the fiercely romantic kind that exists in great poetry through the ages, but the sordid kind.

Now you may wonder how a column about slot machines can actually be about sex – what do these two things have in common? Stick with me and you will find out.

But first a detour of sorts. I have a love of history and I have been reading about “counter-cultural” movements in our civilization – from the roaring twenties to the beatniks of the 1950s, to the artist colonies that have been in America since before the Civil War, and I discovered that they all had one thing in common. Brush off the black beatnik eyeliner and close your ears to their awful poetry; look past the great music and fabulous dancing of the Roaring 20s; turn the canvasses to their backs and what do you find? From way back when through Andy Warhol through Madonna and right up to today’s leftist meanderings on the university campuses across America – here is what you find: Sex.

It’s all about sex. The poetry, the paintings, the music, the dance, the avant garde, the rap and hip-hop, and all of the this and all of the that, all of it was a cover up for mating. Nothing more and nothing less. Mating. Period.

The young discover sex in every generation and think it is some big deal – as if no generation before them discovered it too.

And that brings me to slot machines. The slot and video poker machines of the $5 denomination and up variety; or those multi-line machines that can take oodles of money for all their plays, or those 10-game-play or 50-game-play or 100-game-play video poker machines – and also the bar-top machines – are the point of contact between the women of the night (early mornings and days) and the male slot player. My thesis, based on first hand knowledge from many men and from my own experiences, is that prostitutes work the machines more than they work the table games because at the table games most men don’t want to be approached – they are into the game – whereas at a slot machine the man controls the game and if a “lovely” approaches him to talk, he’ll stop playing or talk to her while he is playing.

It usually goes like this:

“Are you having any luck?” she asks.

“So so,” says he.

“Is your wife here playing the machines,” she says as she looks at the man’s wedding ring.

“My wife is not with me on this trip,” says the man.

Pause. Sometimes she sprays perfume on herself. Then…

“Why don’t we go back to your room and have some fun?” she says.

Most men politely inform the young woman that they are not interested. She usually smiles and heads to the next perceived payday. Obviously middle-aged men playing high denomination machines are good prospects for those women who prowl the night (and the mornings and the days) in Las Vegas. We aren’t the only ones, of course, since the young men, giddy on drink and gambling, and thinking that deadly sexually transmitted viruses also obey the commercial rule that “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” (or Atlantic City or Reno or Lake Tahoe or the Midwest) are fair game as well.

The machines allow a working-woman natural cover – two people talking at a machine for a little while does not look like anything sordid or special. Being approached at a table game, which happens infrequently, is noticeable and disruptive.

Probably the best area for the proactive femme fatales continues to be the bars of the various casinos. Here men can play those bar top machines and the women can sidle right up to them, ask for a drink, talk to them and then make their pitch.

It’s all about sex.

Now here I must admit that I am a fuddy-duddy. I think paying for sex is a stupid thing to do. Think logically now; you are going to enjoy an intimate relationship with someone who has slept with God knows how many men. What are the odds of her having something she caught from one of them? I’d say it’s the best bet in the house. After all, have you seen the men out there?

There’s a good chance she is also taking non-prescribed drugs – a practice that is a great way to contact and transmit diseases by the truckload. Putting aside the fact that she might also want to drug you and rob you, the fact is that if you are married, you are cheating on your wife and if you are not married you are probably cheating on your girlfriend or fiancé.

It isn’t worth the bother. Have sex with your beloved and enjoy the gambling when you are in a casino. End of sermon.

Frank’s books are available on Amazon.com, Kindle, Barnes and Noble, eBooks and at bookstores.

Are Birders Liars?

 

I mentioned this topic in a past article. My birding friend, Bob, is convinced that many birders are much like golfers, they lie to make themselves look good, especially those birders who keep lists. He believes it is inherent because birders are on the honor system and that leaves it totally open to liars and cheaters.

Has any honor system ever really worked? There have been scandals at West Point for crying (or lying) out loud. I remember that when I was a teacher the “leaders” in education (such sad, sad people) were always trying to figure out a way to have students “share” knowledge as opposed to cheating to get good, or at least passing, grades. None of these impractical ideas worked. Obviously. Did anyone of any intelligence think they would?

Antony in Shakespeare’s, The Tragedy of Julius Caesar, sarcastically said of the murderer of Julius Caesar: “For Brutus is an honourable man; / So are they all, all honourable men—“

Are all birders honourable men and women? Or are some outright or closeted liars?

When you are on a birding walk most birders don’t necessarily see every bird that someone else points out or points to. I certainly don’t see all of them. I probably— to be blunt here—don’t see half the birds everyone is saying they are seeing. “Look, there’s a tufted tit mouse over there!” I put my binoculars to my eyes but the bird zips away like lightning, as do most little song birds. Song birds are the biggest annoyances in birding—beautiful but fast-flying birds that are hard to see at times. (Give me high-soaring raptors any day.)

Okay, I don’t see half of them.

Yet, I wonder how many of my fellow birders are actually just lying about it all? “Oh, yeah, yeah, I see that tit mouse!” Did you really? I mean really?

Many birders keep lists of the birds they see; on a given day, week, month, trip or year and also in areas, countries and continents. Some birders go on “Big Years” where they try to see as many species of birds as they can in a single year. Some birders do a big year restricted to provinces, states, or countries, and some traverse the entire earth.

The American Birding Association states there are 993 species of birds north of Mexico. John Weigel, an extreme birder, saw 783 of these species in 2016. There are a host of “see-ers” throughout the North-of-Mexico birding community. Are any of them total frauds?

Additionally, you don’t have to see the bird to record it on your list—just hearing it counts. Don’t laugh at this; there are plenty of birders who know the songs of almost all the birds they encounter, perhaps some birders know the songs of all the birds in the world. Hey, I recognize a few bird songs, two of which are my parrots sitting to my right in my office as I write this.

As for the big guns in birding, I think these folks are probably honest as they are driven to be the best at what they do and they probably have folks joining them on many of their expeditions.

But what about the rest of us? Are all the birders in my group the South Shore Audubon Society totally honest observers of birds?

So I decided to do a survey to see if honesty would prevail. I would just point up to the tree and say, “I see a Baltimore Oriole up there.” There was no Oriole. I did this several times, naming different birds. Did anyone lie to me and say they saw these missing birds at which I was pointing? No. People just admitted to not seeing the bird.

And what of when others saw birds and pointed? Did anyone flat out say, “I don’t see it.” Yes, quite a few, myself included.

Of course this was not a scientific poll such as the ones that predicted Trump would lose the Presidential race in 2016.

So, my opinion is that while birding does allow for subterfuge, I haven’t actually witnessed any as of yet. If I do I’ll let you know.

[There is an excellent movie titled The Big Year starring Steve Martin, Jack Black and Owen Wilson as birders going on a big year. Enjoyable all the way.]

Frank’s books are available on Amazon.com, Kindle, Barnes and Noble, and at bookstores.

My Damn Wife

 

My wife, the Beautiful AP, is my editor. A few days ago I handed her my latest article “The Righteous Outliers.” I thought it was a brilliant piece.

“So what did you think of my article?” I asked her, awaiting praise.

“I didn’t like it,” she said.

“You’re kidding.”

“No,” she said. “You wrote about two people in the club and about Thomas [not his real name] and I think you are going to hurt their feelings and our friends are going to be upset by this.”

“I didn’t make fun of anyone,” I said.

“You’re good with dialogue. I heard those two in the club actually speaking in your article. You don’t think everyone is not going to know who those club members are?”

“I gave them fake names,” I said. “I can’t believe you didn’t like it.”

“I hated it,” she said.

“I mean people who have certain beliefs sometimes go to the furthest ends of those beliefs and become intolerable. They lose their sense of humor and they are so critical of anyone who isn’t as fanatical as they are. You see it in religion, politics, societies…”

“Yes, yes, the idea is good. These outliers are everywhere in society,” she said.

“Righteous, righteous outliers. So that’s what I was writing about. I thought I caught it,”

“And Thomas? Do you think he wants you to share with the world the fact that he is being followed by his former religious friends because he’s converting to Catholicism?”

“I didn’t use his real name,” I said. “I mean his former religious friends have shunned him or are waiting outside his house speaking in tongues and trying to save him from the Satanic Catholic Church. Those people are all righteous outliers.”

“I hated the article,” she said.

Today I gave my wife my written analysis of the Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford’s Senate hearing from Thursday. I don’t know the truth of what happened and I am glad the FBI is looking into the allegations. My article was merely my attempt to show that a certain stereotypical pattern existed in the situation with Ford being the quivering damsel in distress while Kavanaugh was the beastly, sexually assaulting angry man. I claimed this stereotyping could be portrayed in a movie and the critics would say that this stereotyping was trite. My article was not taking either of them lightly.

She read the article, turned from the computer and glared at me.

I was smiling. “I hit on something that no one thought about or wrote about,” I said.

“I hated it,” she said.

“What?”

“I hated it.”

“Seriously,” I said. “Come on, seriously?”

“This is a serious case and women are not going to be calm in the face of what you wrote,” she said. “This is a serious and emotional issue. They will not think of what you wrote as an ‘interesting analysis.’”

“What did I write? What did I write? I was just showing how you can see a stereotypical pattern in the event, that’s all. It was with both of them.”

“People are going to misunderstand what you meant,” she said. “You know and I know that people post absolute emotional garbage on the Internet. The reaction to your piece is going to be fierce and you will be mischaracterized.”

“Jesus Christ,” I said. “You mean I can’t write about hard-hitting issues?”

“Of course you can. But, you called Ford a damsel in distress and Kavanaugh the beer-bloated male bully but you’ll find that no one will understand you seeing a stereotypical pattern in this case. People will be outraged, thinking that you are trivializing the whole incident and what it represents—especially to those of us who can say, “Me too.”

“I don’t even know what you mean,” I said. Actually, I knew exactly what she meant but didn’t want to admit it.

“I mean: don’t publish it,” she said.

So I am writing this reaction at 2:30 in the morning. My problem is this: I know my damn wife is right about both articles. If it were ever Frank Scoblete versus the Beautiful AP testifying before the United States Senate—I would not be nominated as writer of the year.

Now comes the hardest part. I have to give my wife this article for editing. If you are reading this, it passed muster. If not…well, this will be the third article dumped on the trash pile this week.

Frank Scoblete’s latest book is Confessions of a Wayward Catholic! Available on Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Kindle, e-books and at bookstores.

The Best, the Worst and the Between

 

In casino gambling there are good players and bad players and every type of player in between. Sadly, most players have no idea of the house edges on the games that they play and most don’t care to know these edges – such knowledge might diminish their fun. How fast is a game? Is it important to know how many decisions a game has per hour in order to understand the impact of the house edge on your bankroll? Not to them.

Knowledge to the unknowledgeable is a waste of their time.

Strange as it may seem, many casino players have actually bought a bill of goods that proclaims casino gambling to be an activity that is best engaged in with no knowledge whatsoever. Others have bought into the flawed concept that they are going to lose anyway so why play perfectly – it ultimately doesn’t help you win anything, does it? That’s a true but very limiting way to look at the casino gambling experience since the better you play the less you lose over time. The less you lose the more you can go to the casinos. The “you’re only going to lose anyway” philosophy results in greater losses and fewer possible trips to the casino.

Three criteria would have to be applied to casino gamblers to ascertain where they fit in the continuum of good to awful players – the games they play, the strategies they use at these games, and their emotional control while playing. Even the very best players can do foolish things if they lose control – just ask any card counter who over bets his bankroll and goes bust, despite his small edge.

So who are the best casino gamblers? And who are the worst casino gamblers?

The best casino gamblers are the “advantage players,” those players who have developed skills such as card counting at blackjack, dice control at craps, perfect strategies at video poker, and expert poker play. These players know how to beat the games they play by getting small edges, betting appropriately so losing streaks don’t cream them – yes, advantage players can have losing streaks, some of them quite long – and by always betting into their edge and not into their emotions. Of the 54 million American casino gamblers, maybe 4,000 are advantage players.

Just under the advantage player are those casino gamblers who play strong strategies at the games. They use basic strategy in blackjack, keeping the house edge around one-half percent; they only make the best bets at craps, generally the Pass, Don’t Pass, Come, Don’t Come, utilizing the odds bet to get their money on the table, and placing the 6 and 8. If our good players like roulette, they strictly bet outside “even-money” propositions at the roulette games where the 0 or 00 loses them only half their bet. In video poker they only play the strongest strategies at high return games such as 9/6 Jacks or Better. They never play slot machines. Based strictly on my observations of casino gamblers for the past 30 years I’d say the good players in this second category make up maybe two million casino players.

Thus, the two types of “best players” are in a distinct minority because they are overwhelmed by the legions of “worst” players. The worst players use their “instincts” at blackjack, giving the house edges of one to four percent. The worst players make all the ridiculously poor bets at craps, subscribing to idiot notions such as “see a horn, bet a horn,” which can lead to disastrous results. The worst players bet the inside numbers at roulette and play all the carnival games such as Let it Ride, Three Card Poker, Caribbean Stud, Four Card Poker – without even knowing the correct strategies for these games. They love the slot machines, especially the mega-jackpot machines that have house edges around 15 percent. Losing $15 for every $100 they wager doesn’t seem to have any impact on their gambling choices.

The poor players play with real money – that is to say, they don’t have a special gambling account but rather they use household money to fuel their usually ill-fated adventures. They play for too much, for too long, and too poorly to ever have a chance of coming out ahead – except on rare occasions where Lady Luck pities them and gives them a winning session. But this or that winning session can’t make up for the horrid fact that they are way behind in their casino gambling careers – so far behind that short of a mega-jackpot they have no chance to ever catch up.

I think the majority of casino players probably fit into this last category – and they account for the overwhelming amount of money made by the casino industry. Advantage players will sometimes say that all the poor players make it possible for them to keep winning because without the poor players the casinos wouldn’t exist. That is probably true.

However, why should that be true for you? Let the other players play foolishly. There’s plenty of room for you in the first two categories of players. The Captain of Craps once told me, “There’s always room at the top.” He was right. You should join that top tier.

Frank’s books are available on Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, kindle, e-books and at book stores. His latest? Confessions of a Wayward Catholic!

The Big Lie in the Kavanaugh Case

 

Christine Blasey Ford is the woman who accused Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her some 36 years ago at a party with other high school kids. She claims that Kavanaugh and Mark Judge were in the room with her, locked the door, while Kavanaugh attempted to strip her by forcing off her bathing suit. She relates that they had all been drinking and Kavanaugh was quite drunk when he attacked her. Luckily she escaped the room.

She does not seem to remember the year when this happened or where this party was held. Certainly 36 years is a long time and we know that memories fade as the years go on and that many memories are inaccurate or false.

Still….

Did this happen? I have no idea. Did something happen to her but with someone else? I have no idea. Is this a false memory? I have no idea. Was she so high that she really has little memory of this? I have no idea. Is she a liar? I have no idea.

But I do have an idea about one thing regarding this situation. Many news programs and journalists are saying that Ford passed a “lie detector” exam. These statements take for granted that “lie detector” tests (polygraph tests) are accurate measures of truthfulness when that is not totally true. Here is a quick synopsis from the web site http://www.apa.org/research/action/polygraph.aspx

Significance & Practical Application

Polygraph testing has generated considerable scientific and public controversy. Most psychologists and other scientists agree that there is little basis for the validity of polygraph tests. Courts, including the United States Supreme Court (cf. U.S. v. Scheffer, 1998 in which Dr.’s Saxe’s research on polygraph fallibility was cited), have repeatedly rejected the use of polygraph evidence because of its inherent unreliability. Nevertheless, polygraph testing continues to be used in non-judicial settings, often to screen personnel, but sometimes to try to assess the veracity of suspects and witnesses, and to monitor criminal offenders on probation. Polygraph tests are also sometimes used by individuals seeking to convince others of their innocence and, in a narrow range of circumstances, by private agencies and corporations.

The development of currently used “lie detection” technologies has been based on ideas about physiological functioning but has, for the most part, been independent of systematic psychological research. Early theorists believed that deception required effort and, thus, could be assessed by monitoring physiological changes. But such propositions have not been proven and basic research remains limited on the nature of deceptiveness. Efforts to develop actual tests have always outpaced theory-based basic research. Without a better theoretical understanding of the mechanisms by which deception functions, however, development of a lie detection technology seems highly problematic.

For now, although the idea of a lie detector may be comforting, the most practical advice is to remain skeptical about any conclusion wrung from a polygraph.

[See below for cited resources and additional sources.]

So passing a “lie detector test” is a meaningless “accomplishment.” The test doesn’t detect lies. It seems it detects close to nothing.

Now the above web site is just one valid online source. You can go into the actual studies if you want or read Skeptic Magazine and Skeptical Inquirer to understand how rationalists and scientists prove polygraphs are unreliable tests.

So what is wrong here? Politicians are pushing this false narrative about the efficacy of “lie detector” tests. They are – in short – flat-out lying to the public.

And these are the liars we elect to lead our nation and judge the truth of the Kavanaugh/Ford situation.

 

Cited Research & Additional Sources

Kozel, F.A., Padgett, T.M. & George, M.S. (2004). A Replication Study of the Neural Correlates of Deception. Behavioral Neuroscience, 118(4): 852-56.

Lykken, D. (1998). A Tremor in the Blood: Uses and Abuses of the Lie Detector, 2d ed. New York: Perseus.

National Academy of Sciences (2002). The Polygraph and Lie Detection. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

Saxe, L. (1991). Lying: Thoughts of an applied social psychologist. American Psychologist, 46(4): 409-15.

Saxe, L. & Ben-Shakhar, G. (1999). Admissibility of polygraph tests: The application of scientific standards post-Daubert. Psychology, Public Policy and the Law, 5(1): 203-23.

The Genius of Birds

 

Anthropomorphism. Over the centuries that little word (okay, that long word) will cause most of our Western scientists and philosophers to emphatically state that giving human traits to animals is an incorrect assessment of other species’ intelligence and their place in the world of thought and behavior. Animals are just instinctual automatons.

After all if we look at our ancient literature such as the Hebrew Torah, the Christian Old Testament (essentially the Torah) along with other scriptures, and the New Testament (the story of Jesus), and the Muslim Koran, we see clearly that God is anthropomorphic; he is male, prone to quick and massive bouts of temper and not adverse to killing our first parents (Adam and Eve) for eating a fruit, while sentencing all of their children to die (that means y-o-u) and even at one point drowning the entire world with the exception of the wine-loving Noah, his family and mated pairs of animals.

Even the ancient Greeks portrayed their gods as human-like in every way, albeit with more power than mankind—power they used with abandon.

But think of this: what if Anthropomorphism may not be such a dirty word or idea after all. Perhaps we should take another look at it, as Jennifer Ackerman clearly and brilliantly relates in her compelling book The Genius of Birds.

Using the latest studies we see birds being creative through immediate and delayed learning, some using complex problem solving to work out puzzles. This includes the Let’s Make a Deal or Monty Hall mathematical puzzle that has baffled most humans, although “lowly” pigeons answer this higher math problem without much of a problem. Some birds have an intense interest and recognition of art works, and some seem to have a relatively sophisticated language.

Some songbirds will give a “wee, wee, wee, wee, wee, wee, wee” call to alert others that a large raptor is flying nearby. However, if it is a small raptor, the cry is “wee, wee.” At first this might seem the correct weeing as the bigger raptor needs more wees than a small raptor, right? Not so. The large raptors can’t really chase these songbirds through the thick leaves and branches of the trees and thus the long signal is merely a general warning.

But what about the small raptors? They can nail these songbirds because such raptors can maneuver in the trees. So a fast “wee, wee” is what’s needed as an immediate warning that a small and deadly raptor might be scouting for his or her next meal. Such songbirds do not want to wait for a long wee because such a wee could be a quick end to them.

Some male birds produce opioid type drugs when they sing and so they sing like all get-out at certain times of the year even when there aren’t many local females to impress. Evidently, being stoned is just as much fun as mating!

Based on our latest knowledge, anthropomorphism is alive and well.

 

Read Frank’s web site at www.frankscoblete.com. Frank’s books are available on Amazon.com, kindle, Barnes and Noble, e-books and at bookstores.

 

 

 

 

 

Act It For Crying Out Loud!

 

There is something in the human heart that needs to be appreciated and liked and maybe even loved. Many men and women would love to be worshipped as well. Short of all that, most of us will take a pleasant friendliness in the people we must deal with, especially in our leisure time pursuits.

I remember one particularly horrid meal I had in New York City’s theatre district. My wife, the beautiful AP and I, along with gambling’s maverick author Walter Thomason and his wife, best-selling romance novelist Cynthia Thomason, were going to see the delightful hit The Music Man and we selected a restaurant near the theatre and we made an early reservation – 5:30PM – so we could make the 8PM curtain. This restaurant had come highly recommended by someone I will never talk to again!

The waiters were the nastiest people I have ever met. Poor Walter ordered a drink before dinner, then during dinner, then after dinner – the same drink, because they never brought it to the table. Yet the drink appeared three times on the check. The service was slow. The food was cold when it was brought to the table and when we left we told the maitre d’ that the service and the food left a lot to be desired.

He looked at us and said disdainfully, “This is New York if you haven’t noticed.” I have no idea what he meant since I have been living in New York for more than 60 years. Was he saying that nastiness is something we New Yorkers should be proud of? Most New York restaurants have very friendly waiters by the way. So did he think we were tourists who had to be mistreated to get his version of the New York flavor? Beats me.

Almost topping this dining disaster was one I had in Memphis, Tennessee at a restaurant everyone told me had the best barbequed ribs on the planet. I was staying at the delightful Peabody Hotel and I went nearby to enjoy this world famous barbeque. Aside from the fact that the ribs went down like bricks, the waiters at this restaurant were frothing cousins to their New York City counterparts. Even worse, I found the restaurant greasy, the plates smudgy, the drinking glasses smeared. I had a hard enough time starting my meal, much less finishing. I don’t care how famous a restaurant is – filth is filth. The surly waiters almost threw the plates on the table and when I ordered a glass of wine – the glass looked like those jelly glasses that Welch’s used to sell so when you finished your jelly you had a cheap glass. The wine at this dump did not taste as good as the Welch’s jelly either.

These two events brought home the fact that not everyone belongs in the “service industry.” When I was a young man I worked in a fancy restaurant where I wore a tuxedo and spoke with a slight French accent (this restaurant only hired people with foreign accents so all of us Americans pretended to be from somewhere else) and I know that many nights I had to act friendly even though I didn’t feel friendly. That’s the nature of the job – you must be professional and friendly if you want to be a good waiter or waitress. In a real sense you are the servant of those whom you are serving and no one wants a surly servant.

Now is it easy to be a servant? No, many times it is difficult because the people you are serving, over the course of a day, a night, a week, a career can sometimes be tough to deal with. That one nasty person can make an otherwise great day turn somewhat sour. But a professional is a professional. Actors in a bad mood must still show delight if the scene in the play calls for it. A waiter must show the same friendly face even if inside he is steaming because of this or that event or patron. If a servant can’t do that he or she should seriously consider another job.

The casino industry is no different than any other service industry. From the moment you drive onto a property you are meeting service people – valet parkers, bellhops, reservation clerks, dealers, pit personnel, waiters, waitresses, spa attendants and more – all of them working jobs where your satisfaction is the key to their performance. The casino-hotel has made a commitment to making your stay enjoyable.

Players who play at tables with surly dealers certainly have diminished pleasure. The dealers can’t make you win or lose, of course, but they can present you with a winning attitude, a friendly disposition, and a professional demeanor. So how come some dealers seem like fire-breathing dragons, ready to incinerate you for daring to talk to them? Because they haven’t learned the most important aspect of the service industry – acting.

I learned from being a waiter that it didn’t matter what I was actually feeling. The patrons at the restaurant weren’t interested in my internal state. They were there for a gourmet meal served by a professional waiter. So that is the role I played. I showed the same disposition whether my internal state was happy or glum.

Dealers, pit personnel and others you encounter in the casino environment must perform their roles regardless of their inner states. What’s inside is irrelevant to the job.

Let me close with a great moment from the lives of two of the world’s greatest actors, Laurence Olivier and Dustin Hoffman. They were filming Marathon Man and the scene to be shot was supposed to be about Hoffman’s character having stayed awake for 24 hours. Hoffman, being a method actor, wanted to do the scene for real – so he stayed up for 24 hours before the filming. Of course, he could not remember his lines and he was screwing up left and right. Olivier, to be helpful, said to him, “My dear boy, if you had learned how to act you wouldn’t have had to stay up all night!”

Great advice.

Enjoy Frank’s web site at www.frankscoblete.com. Frank’s latest books are Confessions of a Wayward Catholic!, I Am a Dice Controller! And I Am a Card Counter! Available at Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, ebooks and at bookstores.

The Principle and the Principal

 

My second and last almost-year of teaching in junior high (1970-71) was no more pleasant than my first. Oh, I got along well with my students but I had a really strained relationship with the principal and some of my colleagues, one of whom thought I was an “arrogant, athletic scumbag.” In fact that quote comes from my former English department chairman, Mr. Jonathan Moody – who was just like his name, moody.

I never said anything to him that would lead him to believe I thought I was great. He was kind of like Sullivan [my epic high school fight to be told sometime later] – he took an instant dislike to me. After school we used to play basketball and he was not very good at that. Somehow [I’m guessing at this] he must have felt that as my chairman he should be a better athlete than I. He wasn’t.

But he also thought he should be a better teacher than I as well. I have no idea if he was a good teacher or one of the legion of bad teachers, but I do know he sent a lot of disciplinary referrals which tells me many of his students were tough for him to control.

The fact that I never had to send in a referral drove him nuts.

“You think you are a better teacher than I am?” he said to me one day at the copy machine.

“What?” I said.

“You heard me. As your chairman I want to know why you don’t send in any disciplinary referrals. Why don’t you?”

“I don’t because I haven’t had to,” I said.

“You really expect me to believe that?”

“You’ve been in my class a dozen times, you walk by my class, I mean, you see what I’m doing. It’s not like the kids are being bad or anything.”

“Something is wrong here,” he said. “I teach the same type of kids you do and all the English teachers do and you are the only one who has never sent in a referral in two years.”

“There was Gerry,” I said. “I had to drag him to the nurse.”

“He was a psychopath, he doesn’t count,” said Mr. Moody.

“What’s the point of this conversation?” I asked. “Shouldn’t you be happy that I can control my students?”

“I know you think you are a better teacher than I am,” he repeated. “But you are not. Just because you majored in three subjects just remember that teaching is not college, smart boy.”

“Listen, I hate to tell you this Mr. Moody, but I don’t think about you and I know teaching is not college,” I said. Now, I know I said this with my voice dripping with sarcasm because I tended to get sarcastic with authority figures when I was young. I did think Moody was an idiot. As an adult, long gone from the teaching profession, I have to admit I have no idea if Moody really was the idiot I thought he was. But he certainly was uptight as I recollect his conversations quite well.

“The principal is fully aware of what a fuckhead you are,” he concluded, walking away from the copy machine.

That afternoon, my team beat his team in basketball 62 to 24. These were pickup games in the gym and there was one other player, besides me, who could dominate the game – Howard Dodd, a big guy, maybe 6’3” strong and powerful. I happened to get him on my team that day and when the two of us were on the same team, well, we were unbeatable. Midway through that second year, the other teachers decided that Dodd and I could not be on the same team and we always had to face each other. He got the better of it, overall, as a good big man can beat a good little man. But the games were exciting nevertheless.

Except that Moody got really angry every time he lost. When Moody was on my team (Dodd and I were the “captains”) he’d complain that I didn’t pass him the ball much. He was right; I didn’t, because he stunk.

The principal was also a pain in my ass. He didn’t like the things I taught. I did a section of poetry and lead it off with some lyrics from the Beatles “Sergeant Peppers” album. The students and I discussed drugs and my message was very clear – don’t do drugs. Please recall that 1970-71, the year I am writing about here, was the beginning of the big drug surge in America among junior high and high school students – following the college students’ example.

In the middle of discussing one of the lyrics, our principal Doctor Denton walked right into the room, shut off the record player, and told me to “get out into the hall so I can talk to you.” My students were as stunned as I was, but that might have also contributed to them liking me – I was in more trouble with the principal than any of them.

“What do you think you are doing?” he asked.

“I’m doing the poetry unit,” I said, faking innocence. I knew why he had dragged me out into the hall.

“You are doing stupid lyrics from the Beatles, who are communists,” he said.

“I don’t know if they’re communists but what I want to do is get the kids to see that what they listen to every day is a type of poetry. Then I will do real poetry with them.”

“I don’t like this drug stuff,” he said.

“Well, the lyrics I am doing are anti-drug stuff,” I countered.

“We are not going to discuss drugs in the classrooms,” he said. “It will only encourage them to take drugs.”

“You know I think you are wrong here. You have to realize that today’s kids are really getting exposed to drugs now. They need an anti-drug message.”

“We are not discussing drugs in the classrooms of this school,” he said.

“Look, you’re the principal…”

“I’m glad you realize that,” he said.

“But you are wrong on this. You’re going to catch kids sooner or later using drugs and you’re going to wonder how it all happened. You know ‘an ounce of prevention’ and all that.”

“No,” he said. “Not in this school. No lyrics. Go straight to the poetry section. I don’t want any of this modern education crap that you are doing.”

Just then Moody wandered by. As department chairman he only had to teach two classes so he had plenty of time to do whatever the hell chairmen in that school did – which was get paid to do almost nothing.

“What’s up?” he asked.

“I am explaining to Mr. Scoblete,” said Doctor Denton, “that he is not to do Beatle lyrics about drugs or any lyrics for that matter as a part of his poetry lessons.”

“You call that education? Lyrics? What were you thinking?” asked Moody.

I didn’t answer. What was the use? Both of them stared at me.

“You’re the bosses,” I finally said, “but if I were a betting man I would wager that sometime this year or next year you are going to wake up and find you have some kids right in this school who are using drugs. I’d put a bet on it.”

“Not this school,” said Doctor Denton.

“You think you know everything?” asked Mr. Moody. “You have to realize that out here in the suburbs we don’t have that problem. We’re seventy miles from New York City. These kids are not like the kids you know in the slums of Brooklyn where you grew up, they are innocent. We don’t want you polluting their minds.”

You idiot, I thought, I didn’t grow up in the slums.

In April of 1971, the principal caught nine kids in the bathroom drinking booze and smoking marijuana. A couple of kids had some pills too – I never found out what those were. Doctor Denton took firm action. He suspended the kids for a couple of weeks. Then he got on the loudspeaker.

“This is Doctor Denton, your principal. As some of you know, we caught nine students using drugs in the bathroom today and they have all been suspended.”

I watched the faces of my students. Most of them looked truly shocked. There had been some truth to the assertions by Denton and Moody that these kids were largely innocent.

“Because drugs are dangerous to all of us, I am now telling each and every student in this school that there is to be no talking between classes or in the lunchroom during lunch. It must be total silence. You are all being punished. If any of you are thinking of using drugs in this school look around you and realize that what you do will affect everyone else. If you use drugs the whole school will suffer because of you! This punishment starts immediately. Anyone talking between classes or in the lunchroom will be paddled [yes, in those days in that school you could paddle students – and Mr. Moody was the school’s official paddler, something he seemed to enjoy immensely] and if it occurs a second time you will be suspended. This punishment will last five days. I hope all of you learn your lessons from this.”

I looked over the classroom. Darby Colton raised his hand. I nodded to him.

“Can we talk in class?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said. “Yes, of course.”

There was silence and then Chuck Smith raised his hand. I nodded to him.

“Mr. Scobe do you think this is fair? We’re all being punished for what some other kids did. There are a thousand kids in this school [actually 900] being punished for what a few did. Do you think it’s right to punish everyone?”

“Okay,” I said. “Do I think it’s fair? No I don’t. Do I think it’s right? No. I think it is stupid. But I also know in life a lot of people get caught up in situations where they are innocent of anything but take it – a punishment, a beating, whatever bad thing it is – because of what others have done. That’s a lesson you are learning right this minute but do I think this is fair? No.”

Being young, being idealistic, being perhaps stupid, I went on to teach a lesson about how innocent people get caught up in all sorts of horrible things – like the Holocaust, war in general, disease. I thought it was a pretty good lesson.

After class, as the students went silently into the hall – these kids were terrified of having Mr. Moody paddle them – I roared into the crowded teachers’ lounge, jumped on the table (I was always dramatic) and launched into a speech attacking Doctor Denton’s idiot punishment of all the students for what nine students had done. I compared him to Hitler and his running of the school to a gulag. Most of the teachers just looked at me silently. Maybe a small group agreed with me but they were all afraid of Doctor Denton, who did run this school with an iron fist. I told the teachers that even my students thought this was an unfair and stupid punishment and that I told my students I had agreed with them.

At this point, one teacher walked out of the teachers’ lounge and went straight to Doctor Denton’s office where he ratted on me. This teacher was taking courses so he could become an administrator and I guess he figured getting my scalp on his spear would help him achieve his goal.

After I finished my dramatic harangue in the lounge, to a crowd that looked at me as if I were a total idiot, I then went straight to Doctor Denton’s office to give him a piece of my mind, not knowing that Doctor Denton was already well aware of my opinion. I passed the future-administrator in the hall as I headed for Denton’s office.

“That was fast,” said Doctor Denton’s secretary.

“What?”

“Doctor Denton wants to see you,” she said. She rang Denton, told him I was there, and then said to me, “You can go in.”

I walked into his office.

“Sit down,” Doctor Denton said pointing to the chair in front of his desk.

“Doctor Denton,” I started but he cut me off.

“I don’t want to hear anything from you. I know what you did in the teachers’ lounge, trying to incite the teachers against me, and I know you did something that no teacher should ever do – you criticized me in front of your class. How dare you? Who do you think you are? I am now putting you on notice that if you do one more thing I don’t like, I am firing you. Do you understand that?”

I couldn’t deny I had disagreed with his policy in my class – how did he know that? How did he know what I had just said in the teachers’ lounge? Was this guy psychic – or bugging the school?

“I understand what firing means,” I said. “Do you understand what free speech is?”

“You can have all the free speech you want, Scoblete, but you don’t have tenure and I can fire you and not have to give a reason. So free speech away all you like young man but one more thing and you and your free speech are gone.”

That “one more thing” happened the very next day.

I had a lovely student named Jennifer Van Hatton, an honor student with a 98 average in my class. Today she might be about 60 years old but then she was as cute as a button 7th grader just on the verge of growing into a beautiful young woman. She was everything a parent could want in a child – smart, athletic, well behaved, and well mannered.

Jennifer’s locker was right across the hall from my classroom. At the end of the day, Jennifer realized that she had left her notebook in a friend’s locker and she whispered to her friend, “I need my notebook.”

Unfortunately Jennifer did not realize that Doctor Denton loomed right behind her.

“YOU TALKED!” he screamed so loud that every kid in the hall and all the teachers could hear him clearly.

Jennifer turned around, saw him, and froze like an ice sculpture. I was about five feet away from them, standing outside my classroom.

In one quick movement Doctor Denton grabbed Jennifer by the collars of her blouse and shook her. “YOU TALKED!” he screamed and then balled his hands into fists with her blouse inside them and lifted her right off the ground. Jennifer looked as if she were in a state of shock.

I wasn’t really thinking clearly – or maybe my subconscious was thinking clearly – I really don’t know. I just know in two big leaps I grabbed Jennifer away from Doctor Denton, ripping her blouse in the process, then turned and hit Denton a left hook on his jaw that sent him staggering. I followed that by stepping in with a straight right and then pushed Denton as hard as I could. He fell to the floor – knocking over a student who was standing close to him. I then yelled at him, “Don’t you ever manhandle one of my students!”

I could see that Jennifer was crying now.

“You stupid fuck!” I yelled at him again.

Some other teachers came running and got between Denton and me. Denton was standing now, still a little groggy, and he allowed himself to be lead down the hallway to the nurse’s office. I could see the kids eyeing me as they walked past me to go to the buses. One kid whispered to me, “He deserved it.”

Jennifer was helped to the buses by one of the hall aides and that is the last I ever saw of her.

When I got home I didn’t bother to tell my wife that I had just punched out the principal over this talking principle. She never liked my rebelliousness. I figured I would be fired – maybe even arrested for assault.

The next morning I never made it down the hall to my class.

“Oh Mister Scoblete,” said Mr. Moody in a great mood this morning and drawing out the word mister as if I were anything but a mister. “Doctor Denton wants to see you in his office.”

I walked down the hall to Doctor Denton’s office.

“Mr. Scoblete is here,” said his secretary into the phone. “Go ahead in,” she said to me.

“Doctor Denton,” I said as I entered. I had given this some thought and I wanted to apologize for hitting him when Mr. Moody walked into the office and brought a chair over to sit next to Doctor Denton. I could see Doctor Denton had a little bruise where my right had hit his cheekbone.

“Doctor Denton,” I started again.

“Please be quiet, meeeessssteeerrr Scoblete” said Mr. Moody. “Haven’t you done enough to disrupt this school?”

“Mr. Scoblete,” said Doctor Denton taking out a large folder from his desk. “As of today you are no longer working here. You are terminated.” Well there was no point in apologizing now. I was a goner. He pointed to the folder. “In this folder is a record of your behavior as a teacher in this school. Mr. Moody I would like you to read some of the highlights of Mr. Scoblete’s performance while he has been a teacher here for the past year and three-quarters.”

Mr. Moody happily took the folder, opened it, and began gleefully reading, Oh happy days – for him. Page after page of all the things I said which went against school policy, all the things I taught which I shouldn’t have taught, and page after page of statements written by Mr. Moody about my “lack of respect” for all the educational philosophies he and Doctor Denton believed in.

He delighted in reading the never-ending list of my educational character flaws but I had heard enough.

“Stop,” I said. “I get the picture. I’m leaving. You want me to leave right now? At least can I say goodbye to my classes?”

“No,” said Doctor Denton.

“You’ve had enough influence over them – too much,” said Mr. Moody.

“You know not one of those nine kids caught taking drugs came from my classes,” I said. Yes, that was a stupid thing to say because I was not responsible for the behavior of my students outside of my classroom, but I was looking for something to say to defend myself against this inexhaustible list of my not respecting this, that and the other thing.

“Take whatever materials are yours and leave,” said Mr. Moody.

“Mr. Scoblete, one last thing,” said Doctor Denton.

“Yes,” I said.

“If you go for another teaching job, if it is in the right district, I will give you a truthful recommendation. I think you should teach high school. You see, you are a good teacher, maybe even a great teacher; you just don’t fit in here. And I am not going to press charges because you hit me because I was a little out of line myself. So you see you can still have a career in teaching – if you pick the right district to go to.”

“Thanks,” I said. “Actually I appreciate that. And I am sorry that I hit you. I should never have done that.”

Doctor Denton nodded.

“I think you should find some other occupation because you don’t have the temperament of a teacher,” said Mr. Moody contradicting the principal.

I got up and left without a glance at Moody.

I took home all my belongings. I didn’t tell my wife about hitting the principal but I had to tell her that I had been fired. It was the end of April and I was out of a job. My wife didn’t work.

“What are we going to do?” she said to me. “You’ll never get another teaching job.”

“I don’t know,” I said. “Maybe you’ll have to work.”

She eyed me.

As a postscript to the above: I did get another teaching job. I went to 10 interviews at various high schools across Long Island and all of them said that because of my behavior on my last job they just didn’t want to take a chance hiring me – “and good luck.” I gave myself one more interview and figured if I lost out on number 11 I would have to look for another career. The 11th job interview, which was at the school where I experienced the Weird World adventures [to be addressed in the future], consisted of four parts – an interview with the department chairman, in this case Gregory Monahan, then an interview with the principal, in this case Edwin Krawitz, and if both of them liked what I had to say at the interviews then I would be asked back to teach a lesson in front of a class. Then the students and teachers who were watching me teach would have their say.

I made it through the interviews. I never lied. I told the truth about everything that happened at my last district – except I never said anything about punching out the principal. When they called Doctor Denton he affirmed everything I said and, thankfully, he also did not mention my landing two solid ones on his jaw. He also told them he thought I was a great teacher. In retrospect – I am looking a long ways back in the past now – I might have – in my youthful enthusiasm and stupidity – underrated Doctor Denton. He could have blackballed me from teaching after all and he didn’t. Mr. Moody on the other hand, even in retrospect, was an idiot.

I taught the class. I am good with an audience in front of me and I was the favorite for the job after my lesson. The teachers who saw me liked me and the students – the most important group – liked me too. Gregory Monahan, a new department chairman, now had to make a tough decision – hire a young firebrand that could give him enormous headaches if I turned out to be a maniac. Gregory Monahan spoke to two of his colleagues and dear friends, two of the best teachers I ever met and ever saw in a classroom, Gabe Uhlar and Lenore Israel. They both told Monahan to go for it. Hire me. “He’s the kind of teacher we want,” they said.

As a new chairman, as someone who could be inviting disaster by hiring me, Gregory Monahan decided to go for it. Now, I can’t say I was perfect for Mr. Monahan but any disputes we had I have to say – he was right. I went from being a kid to being an adult under the tutelage of Gregory Monahan, Gabe Uhlar and Lenore Israel.

I named my first child Gregory in honor of Gregory Monahan. I have no idea how my life would have turned out had he not taken a big chance with me. And for that I am forever grateful. I actually hope he reads this book and knows that I still have the utmost respect for him.

[Gregory Monahan died a couple of years ago. I did tell him how much I respected him when he retired. He was a great teacher and a great department chairman – a great man in my opinion.]

(The above is an excerpt from my book The Virgin Kiss.)

Did I Die?

 

On January 9, 2007 I received the Last Rites at the Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, New Jersey. The priest who gave me the last rites was Father Donovan. Strangely enough a priest in my parish on Long Island is also a Father Donovan, although maybe there are many Father Donovans across the country.

I have no memory of the Last Rites. I have no memory of this particular Father Donovan. I have little memory of most of a 48-hour period when I was almost dead to the world.

On the morning of January 9, I had a Grand Mal seizure while visiting my son Greg and my daughter-in-law Dawn in New Jersey. Actually my son Greg was on a business trip to Las Vegas (lucky man!) and we were helping Dawn with our beautiful grandson, John Charles. My seizure happened around 1:45AM. I went to sleep on January 8, feeling just fine – actually feeling happy as could be having played with my grandson for two days – and woke up at noon, actually semi-woke-up, on January 9 in the ICU of the hospital.

Thankfully my wife, the beautiful A.P., woke up while I was having this seizure, saw me thrashing in bed uttering animal sounds and she immediately called the ambulance service when she couldn’t rouse me.

One of the members of the ambulance service lives across the street from my son and daughter-in-law. I’ve been told that I thanked him in a very personal way by throwing up on him in the ambulance. “It was projectile vomit,” A.P. later told me. Great, I can be the new secret weapon against the terrorists.

I have no memory of that, thankfully, but we did send a donation to the ambulance corps and a thank you letter to the guy I threw up on.

I have no memory of the ambulance ride or of my time in the emergency room or the nurses shoving a catheter into my penis or an air tube down my lungs. I have no memory of the CAT Scan, the MRI or the MRA or the MRV that were done either.

I came swimming up from the elsewhere to hear a doctor, Sotolongo, ask me to blink my eyes, which I did, and wiggle my toes, which I did, and squeeze her hands, which I did. Dr. Sotolongo seemed to be a million miles away in some distant world that my eyes were just barely seeing. I wasn’t even quite sure of whom I was – my self-consciousness came back slowly in a world of haze.

The beautiful A.P.’s face floated behind the doctor and I then knew something before I even knew what was going on with me – something I guess I knew all my life – this beautiful person was the little girl in the projects, this was the girl in the school yard, this was the girl of my life, through my schooling, through a disastrous first marriage, through wild journeys into other dimensions, through witnessing murders, through a teaching career, right through to today where I gain great joy beating the casinos at their own games. My God, A.P. had been with me all the time – I knew this without really knowing it and she has no recollection of this at all – until she reads this book.

Floating in the haze behind her was my younger son Michael. A.P. explained to me what was happening, “You’ve had a seizure. You are going to be all right.” I couldn’t talk because of the ventilator in my lung. (“It’s you; you were the one through it all. I see now, I see everything now. I want to tell you! I’ve got to talk to you! You’ve been in other worlds with me! I knew you before I knew you and you knew me!”) This book is going to talk to her because I haven’t said anything since I once more became my conscious self. As I swam in semi-conscious waters, I could also feel something in my penis. But my head was swimming far away in the deep waters and I was mostly under those waters. Still it was good to see my wife and son.

And I was under again.

When next I awoke, the air hose and whatever else they had down my throat were out and the catheter was out of my penis. I have a dim recollection of them pulling those things out of me but strong drugs prevented me from feeling any pain – or much of anything. (Let’s hear it for strong life saving drugs!) I was now in the ICU section of the hospital when I woke up. My nurse was Deborah, a friendly, highly professional nurse. I rewarded her by peeing in the bed three times. I couldn’t control it because the catheter made it hard to keep everything back. I also found it impossible to actually keep myself awake for very long periods of time, like more than a minute – or remember much of what was said to me or what I said to others when I was awake. The beautiful A.P. tells me I talked quite a bit in the ICU but I don’t remember anything except apologizing for peeing in the bed.

In the past, maybe three times, I had fainted because of dehydration but I had never had a seizure. The initial thought was that I had suffered a stroke. Poor A.P. had to grapple with the idea that I might be seriously impaired because of this stroke/seizure. Thankfully, the CAT scan, the MRI, MRV and MRA showed no new damage to my brain, although I did have evidence of an old injury (this I knew already) – in fact, my brain was in pretty good shape, all things considered.

My neurologist thinks it is possible that my “career” as a boxer in the mid-1960s might be the cause of the brain injury that the CAT scan shows. I put “career” in quotes because while I had 19 fights, largely against really poor amateur boxers, I did not have the will or the skill to become a polished amateur, much less a professional boxer.

I was just a stupid college student looking for the thrill of individual, competitive sport. I’ve written about some of my athletic experiences in baseball and basketball in other books, but my boxing “career” hasn’t touched a page – until now that is.

My last fight, number 19, saw me take on an opponent who was far superior to me. In those days, I used to weigh about 135 pounds and I was in stupendous shape. I would run five days a week – 6 miles, 6 miles, 10 miles, 10 miles, and 12 miles. I could swim two miles at a clip. I could do one thousand sit-ups. I could do 100 pushups, 100 chin ups, 100 pull ups, 100 dips and I could do a pushup almost no one could do – slapping both of my hands behind my back. Those of you young enough to attempt it – give it a try. I could do 25 of them. Those of you who are too old – well, you can pretend that in your prime you might have been able to do one or two of these.

I thought of myself as superman. Yes, hubris reigned supreme in my little brain.

And hubris allowed me to step into the ring with opponent number 19, a Golden Gloves champion, and while I showed him that I did have a good punch and I did have fast hands and fast combinations, I didn’t have the skill to really compete with an A-level fighter.

He came out for the first round and immediately ducked into one of my uppercuts. A big mistake some boxers make is ducking into punches before any punches are thrown. He did this. I’m guessing he figured I would not have much of an uppercut since very few amateur fighters have good uppercuts. I fooled him. I did have a good uppercut – with both hands too. He bent down into me and I unleashed a beauty, catching him full in the face. Down he went. I wish the fight had ended there.

It didn’t.

He was up quickly, before the ref could even count. That was the big moment of the fight for me because when he got up the rest of round one was he whacking me around the ring.

After round one my nose bled profusely. In my previous fights I rarely got hit. I was usually too strong and too fast for my opponents, who – please remember this – were not very good. This guy was very good. While I was able to land some shots, he countered with better shots of his own. Indeed, in truth, in point of fact, in all honesty – he was beating the crap out of me.

Midway through the second round, I tried another uppercut – and he was ready. I was skidding somewhat along the ropes and I saw him duck low – actually he faked ducking low, figuring I’d figure I’d nail him with my uppercut again, and I dropped my right for the big uppercut. Instead of continuing down, he came up fast and hit me with a left hook before I could bring my right hand back up to protect that side of my face.

I could see all this in slow motion, too, which was really weird because even my memory of this shot to my unprotected face plays itself out in slow motion. I knew as the hook headed for my jaw that I was going to be hit hard. I kept thinking, I won’t be able to get my right hand up to protect my face. I won’t be able to get my right hand up to protect my face.

I was not able to get my right hand up to protect my face.

Then I was at the water cooler, blood pouring out of my nose. I was drinking water. Another boxer was next to me. “What happened?” I asked. “Was I knocked out?”

“No, no,” he said. “You did really well in the third round. You battled him like a maniac. You lost a decision.”

Third round? Lost a decision? Battled him like a maniac? I have no memory of the rest of that fight from the time the left hook headed for my jaw midway through the second round until I woke up at the water cooler – probably seven minutes of “no time.” When I headed back to my fraternity house on campus, I knew I was in bad shape, light headed, nauseous, still bleeding from my nose and aware that I had stupidly been in the ring with someone who made me look like what I was – a total pretender when it came to being a boxer.

I checked myself into the infirmary. I was there for six days – with fever, chills, and the need to sleep. The very first hour they had to cauterize my nose – which entails burning away veins that won’t behave themselves because they keep bleeding.

That fight taught me two valuable lessons – keep your right up until the opponent’s head actually goes down – and screw fighting again. Having taken such a beating, having lost consciousness for at least seven minutes while my body must have been on automatic pilot, was enough to hammer home that a career in boxing was not for me – I would not become the white Muhammad Ali.

That fight might also be the reason for the signs of an old brain injury that the CAT scans pick up. I can’t think of any other serious blows to the head I ever received, except for that wicked left hook, which did leave me unconscious even though my body seems to have worked on its own for those seven minutes of no time. Talk about the will to survival!

I don’t relish the thought as I hit the age of 60 [I am now 71] that I am going to have to worry about seizures now. I wonder what would have happened had I been in a hotel room, alone, on one of my many trips to the casinos when such a seizure hit. My neurologist thinks that I would probably just wake up about eight hours later, very sore, and somewhat confused but none the worse for wear.

Ironically, I think the reason I took to casino gambling in terms of advantage-play is the same reason I enjoyed being an athlete and a boxer – I like the competition. The fact that the casinos are greedy gargantuan Goliaths makes it that much more fun to slay them in blackjack, craps, video poker, [in banking] slots, and Pai Gow poker. I teach seminars in all ways to beat the house. Yes, even the lowly slot machines – the very worst bets in the casino – have some machines that on occasion can be positive expectations for savvy players.

Thankfully all my brain tests have come back showing that I am okay. The EEG, which I took a week after my seizure, does not show anything wrong in my gray matter either. Still at 60, the time has come to reveal it all to my readers in order to make some sense of it – talk about my first love, talk about the games I beat, the casinos I play in, my in-laws, the great Captain, my trips into the Weird World of Astral Traveling, the murders I know about, my career as a teacher and some other things as well.

I want you to read this book [The Virgin Kiss] and tell me, if you can, what it is all about because I just don’t know what the theme is. When I was 20 years old, I knew it all. At 60, I haven’t a clue. I am basically going backwards from now to when, as that is how our memory works. Travel with me and maybe you can explain my life to me.

[This is an excerpt from my book The Virgin Kiss.]

Of Mice and Men and Me

I was sitting in my particularly special recliner one afternoon, having finished my writing on a particularly strong intellectual subject, and I was now reading a particularly fascinating book titled UFOs, Chemtrails, and Aliens: What Science Says by Donald R. Prothero and Timothy D. Callahan, when a mouse sauntered across the living room floor.

A mouse! In summer! A mouse! I watched it leisurely stroll under the couch.

Call my wife! the Beautiful AP! call my wife! of course, of course, at the library where she works. So I called. I must have misdialed the number. “I am sorry, this is not a working number!” said the operator-voice. Crap! I dialed again.

“Rockville Centre Public Library, please hold (click, then music).”

A mouse! In summer! And I have to wait to talk to a librarian?

“Hello, Rockville Centre Public Library,” said a voice that I thought was my wife’s.

“We’ve got a mouse,” I said.

“What?”

“A mouse! A mouse! He just ambled across the living room floor! What should I do?”

“Who is this?” asked the voice that I now realized was not my wife.

“Sorry, sorry, can I speak to the Beauti – I mean Alene,” I said.

“Maybe I can help you,” said the voice.

“No, no, we’ve got a mouse and I have to talk to my wife.”

“Who is your wife?” asked the voice. “Why don’t you call her?”

“Alene, Alene,” I said. “Alene! Alene! She works there.”

“And you are?”

“Her husband!” I said, “Her husband!” I realized now that I didn’t recognize this voice so it must be someone new. Most of the librarians know me, especially Amy.

“Hold on a moment and I’ll look for her (click, music).”

Four years later, the phone picks up, “Alene speaking.”

“Mice! We’ve got mice!” I said.

“How do you know? You heard them in the attic?”

“No, no, one walked right across the living floor! He saw me and didn’t care; he just kept going.”

“Where?”

“Under the couch!” I said.

“Call the exterminator,” she said calmly.

“Oh, yeah, yeah, right, right,” I said.

“How big was it?” she asked.

(The size of an African elephant. Huge. A true killer!)

“Small, baby size.”

“Well, call the exterminator,” she said.

“Yes, yes…oh, crap!”

“What? What?”

“There’s one over there at the sliding doors, a different one,” I said.

“You sure this is a different one?”

“Yeah, yeah, this one looks sickly,” I said. “We’re being invaded—in summer no less!”

“Don’t panic,” she said.

“I’m not panicking! I’m not panicking!”

“Okay, how big is this one?” she asked.

(Godzilla! Godzilla-size!)

“Small. Another baby,” I said.

“Can you catch it and throw it outside?”

“You kidding? With what? With what? I’m not touching it.”

“The net you use for your fish tanks,” she said. “Trap it in there and throw it out so we don’t kill it.”

“It’s a damn mouse!”

“I don’t want to kill it if we don’t have to.”

“Didn’t the Japanese kill Godzilla!?”

“What? What are you talking about?” she said.

“Never mind, never mind. I’ll figure it out, somehow,” I said.

“Use the net you use for your fish,” she repeated. “You won’t have trouble if it is sickly.”

“Then my net gets all sickly-shit on it,” I said. “What then?”

“You clean the net afterwards.”

“Oh, yeah, right, I’ll clean it.”

“And call the exterminator,” she said. “I’ve got to go. I have a patron at the desk.”

“But the mice….”

She hung up.

I got my fish net and cautiously approached Godzilla. I caught him and he struggled a bit but I opened the sliding doors to our deck and catapulted him out of the net. He hit the wood and slowly walked towards the back of the deck. I closed the doors quickly. He fell off the deck onto grass.

But that first one, that casual elephantine one was probably still under the couch.

I called the exterminator. He couldn’t come right away. What was I paying this company about four-trillion-dollars a year if they couldn’t come when I called…when I was in great danger from a massive, monstrous mouse invasion?

That night I kept every light on in the house because mice seem to prefer the dark and I hoped this monster would stay out of sight if my house were super-illuminated. But I wasn’t taking any chances.

No, no. I sat in my recliner, holding my fishing net, keeping watch in the harsh glow of all the lights, prepared to stay up all night just in case a monstrous mouse again sauntered across my living room floor. But then, my wife pried the fish net out of my hands and escorted me to bed, reassuring me the whole way. I drifted off to sleep thinking it’s great to have a good spouse when you have a horrifying mouse.

Frank’s latest books are Confessions of a Wayward Catholic!; I Am a Dice Controller and I Am a Card Counter. All of Frank’s books are available from Amazon.com, Kindle, Barnes and Noble, e-books and at bookstores.