My 70th Birthday Cruise

Yes, I just turned 70. Seventy years old!

My wife, the Beautiful AP, told me to choose any trip I wanted as a 70th birthday present and I decided on a cruise that would start in Copenhagen and go to Norway, Shetland Islands, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, and finish in Southampton, England.

I love cruising. My wife doesn’t. Despite my love for it, I found this particular cruise somewhat irritating and, at times, anger-provoking.

First off, you might think that at 70, I would be one of the oldest on this ship. Not so. Passengers went from somewhat young to middle to my age to the truly elderly; meaning those who had trouble walking, or breathing, or thinking, or figuring out where they were at any given time. These folks dominated the cruise and some suffered all of the aforementioned maladies.

And fat! There were more fat people (myself included) on the ship than slim ones. Some even made me look slim.

Many of the passengers were grumpy too. Okay, my nickname is Grumpy Grandpa, but I am aware of my surroundings and can find my way from point A to point B.

When AP and I signed up for a three-hour walking tour of Reykjavik, the day was a downpour of rain. Still, we wanted to go on the walking tour. What’s a little water? We paid $$$$ for the tour.

We had done a couple of hours seeing the city the day before on our own and we wanted the full experience of this small capital. Walking in the rain, the shine or the in-between was fine with us. We could dry off on the ship.

We were the first on the minibus. We joked with the tour guide about the fact that it might just be the two of us on the tour.

Then the other 14 people arrived, seven of them so decrepit that they had a hard time walking on the pier from the ship to the minibus. They had to be helped onto the bus! I’m 70, okay; and I have nothing against old people. But for God’s sake, if you can’t walk, why the hell would you sign up for a three-hour walking tour?

Three women of the seven decrepits immediately proclaimed that they assumed we would stay on the bus and make this a bus tour. Their proclamation sounded more like a demand. The tour guide said she would mostly do that.

I looked at AP and she looked at me. We paid $$$$ to sit in a minibus on a walking tour?

On the tour we did get out of the bus a few times. At one point we toured a sculpture garden, which was a beautiful place even in the pouring rain. One of the three complainers seemed to get lost, right in the middle of the garden, and went round and round in a circle—not a big circle, a little one, maybe a dozen feet in diameter. She was lost; in the garden and in her mind; in her eyes I could see the eyes my mother and father and father-in-law had when they were struck with Alzheimer’s.

I helped her by taking her arm and guiding her out of the garden to the minibus.

On the ship was an old guy, ever clad in a bathrobe, wandering around, not knowing what deck he was on or where his room was. Members of the crew kindly escorted him back to his room. He was lucky he didn’t fall off the ship. What was the purpose of putting this poor soul on a ship sailing the often rough seas of the North Atlantic?

The Back Story

Let me back up. We left Kennedy Airport on July 4th. We were travelling first class as I like to.  This irritates the Beautiful AP since she thinks it is not worth the money. She has no problem telling everyone in first class that she prefers coach. So much for me being a big shot.

When we went to the boarding area we met a couple, Mr. Foister and Ms. Mute, who immediately struck up a conversation; well, Mr. Foister did. He couldn’t stop talking. His wife, Ms. Mute, looked the other way.

“Why don’t we have dinner the next two nights in Copenhagen since we are all going to be there? It’s great that we’re staying at the same hotel. We can share a taxi too. This is going to be some trip.”

Then Mr. Foister started making plans for us on the cruise. “You know there is a big art contingent on the cruise. We collect art. You should come see us analyze the art works….” He was verbally off and running. His wife frowned and ignored him. AP and I made no commitments, which was easy because there was no opportunity for us to say anything.

Throughout the plane ride Mr. Foister hung out with the crew and knocked back one drink after another. When AP tried slipping by him to go to the lavatory, he started up again about all the things we could do together in Copenhagen and on the ship. She told him we were meeting friends and that she likes to keep her options open.

AP returned from the lavatory and whispered, “We have our trip planned. He’s foisting himself on us.”

“How do you want to handle this?”

“I guess we’ll just try to avoid them,” she said.

“No, do you really want to skulk around the ship trying to avoid them? It’s a small ship. What about Jerry and Tres? Do you think they want to spend time with Foister and Mute?”

“So what can we do?” she asked.

“I’m going to tell him right out that we have our own plans,” I said. “Then we don’t have to skulk around. That will end it.”

The Beautiful AP argued with me about this and I pretended she won the argument. (This is my new tactic and one I recommend to husbands everywhere.)

As we left the plane, AP went to the bathroom and Mr. Foister came up to me. “Hey, so let’s get that cab to the Marriott together.”

“We’re not hanging out with you,” I said. “We are getting our own cab. We have our own plans for this trip.”

Since he was still somewhat drunk, he staggered back and his face had that drunken questioning look. “Uh, ah, uh.”

“You understand, right?”

He understood. And that was what I had up my sleeve when I let AP think she won the argument. We did see Mr. Foister and Ms. Mute a couple of times on the ship but it was no big deal. Mr. Foister always seemed to be latched on to someone—a different someone every time I saw him.

“You were right,” AP finally said to me.

I love hearing that!

Copen-HAY-gen or Copen-HOG-en?

Recall that old commercial “Certs is a breath mint. No, Certs is a candy mint.” Then an announcer’s voice would say, “Stop, stop, you’re both right!” Well, how you pronounce Copenhagen can be either one of the above.

Copenhagen is a city of canals and we took a wonderful canal tour. You had to be careful because some of the bridges are so low that even people my height (5’6”) have to duck or lose their heads and what a mess that would be.

The Beautiful AP climbed all 400 steps of the Church of Our Saviour’s staircase that spirals round and round the outside of the building. While she did that climb, I sat in the churchyard fast asleep. Neither of us had slept on the plane ride over here and I was flat out exhausted. Oh, and we couldn’t get into our hotel room until four o’clock that afternoon.

The highlight of the trip occurred the next day; our personal three-hour tour hosted by Stuart. We hired him through the tour group Viator and he was well worth the price.

When he met us, the Beautiful AP asked, “How’s your English?”

He laughed, “Pretty good. I’m American.”

The man was in fact funny, delightful, and knowledgeable; he’s lived in 24 countries. The three hours flew by as we learned about the kings (Christian, Frederick, Christian, Frederick…) and some queens, and armies and wars. I never knew that as the Nazis ordered the Danes to hand their Jews over, the Danes clandestinely ushered their Jewish citizenry safely out of the country. There is a building built by Israel acknowledging this amazing achievement.

With Stuart, we discussed many current-day issues including immigration and how Denmark is handling the settlement of Muslim refugees. The Danish government integrates them into society throughout the country, thereby avoiding enclaves like we see in countries such as England, France and Germany.

If you do visit Copenhagen, you might want to tour with Stuart. You also might want to eat at two fabulous restaurants, Amass and Restaurant Kanalen. And ride a bicycle. The young, the old, the moms, the pops, and the kids zoom hither and thither through the streets on bikes.

AP and I would definitely visit this city again.

The Ship

Azamara Journey is a small ship that carries some 600 passengers and about four hundred crew. This small ship was set to tackle the sometimes rough waves of the North Atlantic Ocean and at times it was damn rough.

This was the 32nd cruise for our travelling companions, Jerry “Stickman” and his lovely wife, the Sainted Tres. It was our fourth.

We had great rooms, right at the bow of the ship, with wide vistas and we figured we’d spend many a late afternoon relaxing on our connected balconies, indulging in wine and conversation. Not to happen. With the exception of a couple of days (make that hours!), the weather was too cold, too cloudy, too rainy, too windy and the seas too choppy to sit outside, so we scurried to a lovely inside destination called the Living Room.

The very first day we were “at sea” and we would be “at sea” five of the 12 days we were on the ship. This became monotonous—and also put me in a frame of mind that almost caused me to punch out another passenger, maybe two; something I hadn’t done in over 50 years since my boxing days.

The ship had two gourmet restaurants, one Italian and one a steak house, one general restaurant, a buffet and smaller food service places scattered throughout. You do not go hungry on a cruise. Most passengers gain weight. Not AP, of course. She always took the stairs and hit the gym all but one day.

The “Foxhole”

Our first tour was Mount Dalsnibba in Norway. We would take a bus up the two winding roads leading to the two peaks of the mountain range. I hadn’t really read the blurb about this tour as I simply got us on every tour Tres and Jerry had signed up for. Big mistake on my part.

The first ride up the first mountain was harrowing, with hairpin turns and a very narrow road on which our LARGE bus had to travel. What kind of maniac would want to take such a tour? Oh, right, Jerry “Stickman” who has jumped out of planes 450 times! This was his nutty idea and I just signed us up for it because he was on it – next time I’ll read the blurb.

We made it up to Eagle’s Bend Viewpoint and actually saw a brown eagle, and, yes, the view was amazing but it could not calm down the terror that had welled in me as with each turn. Then what goes up must (damnit!) go down.

I asked our tour guide, “Is the next mountain road just as bad?”

She smiled serenely, “No, you did the hard part already. The next one is easy.”

Arrrggghhh! She lied! It was far, far worse; far, far longer; far, far narrower and far, far more harrowing. In fact, from my seat on the bus I saw no road, just drops that were hundreds (millions) of feet deep.

Oh, sure, the scenery was spectacular. But screw the damn scenery! I could die on this road or, rather, off this road if the bus had a flat tire or the driver sneezed or a slight wind blew against the side of the bus. We would plummet down and down and down. No survivors, I’m sure.

Around and around on the mountain road we snaked at speeds that seemed a hundred miles an hour. I was sweating by the time we got to the top of a snow-covered mountain!

“That lake over there, the big one, has no life in it. Not fish or plants. It cannot harbor any life at all,” said the guide. Great we were looking at a dead lake, as in d-e-a-d.

I don’t care how beautiful the scenery was; I knew one thing – I had to get back on the bus and make an even more treacherous journey down the mountain side. Then I saw them; bicyclists pumping their bike’s pedals going up the damn mountain. What the hell was wrong with these people?

I did try to look at the scenery and feel its beauty because it was so beautiful, but the horror of the past and the upcoming return trip just didn’t allow me to enjoy it. My mind just kept repeating to me, “We’re gonna die! We’re gonna die!”

One woman came up to me. “I can see you are afraid of heights.” She was trying to be comforting.

“I’m afraid of death,” I said flatly.

The guide announced we were to now get on the bus for the return trip, the death trip, down that mountain road. How could they even call that sliver of concrete a “road”?

I took my seat, put on my seatbelt, kissed AP. “Uhm, that was a nice kiss,” she said.

“Goodbye my love,” I said. “We’ve had a great run, you and I.”

“Scobe, just close your eyes and don’t look down. This will end shortly.”

“Yes,” I said dramatically. “In the blink of an eye.”

She smiled and gave me a kiss on the forehead.

I closed my eyes and prayed, which is hard to do when you’re an atheist.

Dear God please don’t let me die. I’ve got too much to live for. Please don’t let a leaf hit the bus and knock it over the edge and down into the valley. God, take pity on me and on all the other people on this bus. Jesus, if God is too busy to bother, or he’s pissed off at the things I’ve said about religion and religious people, maybe you could just make sure the bus makes it down the mountain safely. Or if you are busy maybe Mary can come on over and keep the bus on the road, after all I am a son and Mary is a mother. My prayers are sincere. If there are any Norse gods hanging around please save us. Thor, you could save us. Please keep me alive. Really, I’ve been a good man. I haven’t hurt anyone, even those who have hurt me. Please, God, I want to live!

“Open your eyes,” said AP.

“Are we falling off the mountain?”

“No, we are down now,” she said.

I opened my eyes. The bus had stopped. I hadn’t even noticed that.

“We’re alive! We’re alive!”

Now I could be an atheist again.


There is a great mystery show you can get on Netflix titled Shetland. That will give you an amazing view of these islands and the surrounding sea. Again, this was a bus trip with the slowest people seated up front and struggling to get out of the bus, holding everyone back.

“We have 15 minutes at this stop. Please everyone return at 12:15,” said the guide.

At 12:10 we managed to finally get off the bus. We got to see an argument between a mother and son as the mother wanted to walk and the son wanted to push her in the wheelchair. Walk? Walk uphill on a gravel road? Mom could barely stand.

Once released from the bus, the Beautiful AP and I zipped up the gravel road, zipped back down, and waited to get on the bus as mother and son slowly made their way back up the three steps. They never went to the top of the hill. Indeed, they never left the door of the bus.

We visited the Scalloway Museum and learned about the Shetland Bus. During World War II, the Shetlanders, Norwegian fisherman and Allied forces courageously ferried a vast array of armaments to the Resistance in Norway and smuggled out 350 people who would have been murdered in Hitler’s Holocaust.

There was a small castle next to the museum and AP characteristically went to climb up it.

I was sitting outside the museum. Near to me was a table filled with middle-aged and older men, a couple of guides and bus drivers. It was then when we saw She. Yes, She was there.

She appeared in her tight, low-cut, black and white striped dress, holding her cell phone up, taking selfies. The men watched her as She lifted her dress high over her knees (click! click!) or bent low in front of them so they could see her rather ample breasts dangling inside her dress (click! click!) or then bend over so they could see her wiggle her perfect butt in her perfect dress just a few yards from their faces.

Men are hard wired and a delicious dame wiggling, bending, posing and hiking up her dress in front of them just riveted their attention.. Finally, She jumped up onto a low stone wall, lifted her skirt almost all the way, and clicked! clicked! more selfies. I was riveted too – by her narcissism. I brought AP over to watch this.

Back at the ship we saw She sunning herself. One of her boobs fell out of her skimpy swimsuit as She turned over in her lounge chair. She slowly put her breast back into her bathing suit after fondling it a little bit. Many eyes bugged out at that. We didn’t see She after that as the waters got rough and the days were cold, wet and unsettled.

Akureyri Iceland and Planet Fart

This was an interesting trip for one reason—I got to see and smell the largest fart in the world! Okay, not exactly. First we were taken to the extremely disappointing waterfall of the gods where Iceland’s religion supposedly germinated. (Note: AP enjoyed the waterfalls.) We drove through the hillside to see amazing lava fields from volcanic eruptions past and present. The monstrous lava boulders and landscapes were indeed interesting.

Then we arrived at Planet Fart. We could smell this new planet from a mile or so away. “What the hell is that?” people asked. People scrunched their faces and looked around the bus to see who had cut a monstrous fart. The consensus was the old guy with the hearing aid in the front seat.

We parked and nothing looked Earthlike. The hills were shades of brown from almost off-white to doo-doo dark, in confusing streaks. There was no life on those hills either; there was no life anywhere near us. All around were bubbling lava or mud pits causing that awful stench. Steam rose from many of these pits. This was fart-land pure and simple.

Even AP, who finds fart humor completely unfunny, laughed at my fart jokes in this locale.

Days at Sea and I Lose It

We had to endure five days when we were “at sea.” The ship offers all sorts of activities on sea days. Jerry “Stickman,” the Sainted Tres, the Beautiful AP and I enjoy trivia, although we are not very good at it. But it was fun and something to do as the waves swelled and the ship lurched.

There were all sorts of trivia contests: modern music, modern love songs, iconic places on earth; fast food symbols; movie themes; sports stars; airplane symbols and the like. You could have a maximum of six members on your team.

I had taken a nap on the first day at sea. AP came back to the room. “I can’t believe it,” she said. “I can’t believe it.”

“Believe what?” I said.

“I was playing trivia with my group and this other group challenged every answer we gave. And we were right. It was two older guys and a woman.”

“There are shitheads everywhere,” I said in a comforting voice.

“That woman tried to tell us that MoMA and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City are one and the same. Can you believe that? She tried to get the host to disqualify my answer. I told her I have been to both and they are different museums.”

Fortunately, the host ruled AP’s answer as correct.

That afternoon we all decided to play the battle of the sexes. The women made up one group, maybe a dozen of them, and a dozen of the men made up the other group.

As we entered the room AP nudged me and whispered, “There are the men.” I looked over at the two men. One looked scornful and the other resembled a mouse. Both men were ignoring everyone else.

Jerry and I sat down.

AP and Tres went over to the women. AP nodded to me to tell me the MoMA woman was on her team. The woman looked like a wicked witch ready to devour a small child.

So the game began. I had to do a charade cataloging four things. I did five because I mistakenly acted out the label for our group: Men. I finished a single second behind my wife the Beautiful AP who did the required four. Scornmale looked at me with scorn and Mouseman shook his head as if to say, “That guy [meaning me] is an idiot.”

The game kept going back and forth, each side answering trivia questions. Mouseman, Scornmale or MoMA challenged whatever answer they could.

Finally, the women were given this question “How many movies has Rocky appeared in?” The women conferred. “Five,” said MoMA.

“Sorry, that is wrong,” said the host. MoMA then argued but the host said, “I stand by my decision.” He was right that MoMA was wrong.

Then we got to answer that question. I yelled out “seven!” and quickly listed all the movies where Rocky appeared.

“Sorry, no. Rocky is in the title of only six,” said the host.

“You didn’t ask what movies had Rocky in the title,” I said.

“My decision is final,” said the host.

“You didn’t ask the titles of the movies,” I pleaded. I looked at my fellow teammates. “He didn’t ask the titles of the movies.”

“You were not supposed to shout out!” yelled Scornmale at me.

“You lost that round for us and we only tied the game,” said Mouseman.

“But I am right,” I said.

“You caused us not to win this game,” said Scornmale.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I am sorry but the host is wrong. At least we tied.”

“We would have won this game if you hadn’t shouted out,” said Mouseman.

“Look, I am sorry,” I said. “I just knew the answer.”

“And we only tied,” said Scornmale. Mouseman rolled his beady eyes.

My last words at this battle of the sexes were “I’m sorry. Really, I am.” The two men ignored me and left the room.

I found out sometime later that in trivia these three folks were undefeated.

We played trivia some more. Yes, their team consistently won. Scornmale, Mouseman and MoMA sat haughtily through every game.

Finally, the moment came. This particular trivia contest had only two teams: us versus them. Us this time did not have Jerry and Tres; they were elsewhere. AP and I were with Barbara and her husband Ray (two great passengers) versus the three of them with another snooty person added to their team.

“Using the letter ‘O’ name something with a tail.”

Our team agreed, “Ostrich!” I said it again. “Ostrich!”

“Team left wins!” said the host.

“Wait a minute! Wait just a minute!” said Scornmale. “Ostriches don’t have tails.”

“Yes, they do,” I said. “They have tail feathers, thus a tail.”

“They do not have tail feathers. They do not have tails,” shouted Mouseman.

“Team left wins unless you can show that ostriches do not have tails,” said the host.

MoMA said, “This is ridiculous! Birds don’t have tails!”

“Yes, they do, and we win,” I said.

There was more mumbling from them. Scornmale stood up and pointed his finger. “I challenge this decision!”

Mouseman shouted, “Okay, wise guy, do chickens have tails? Huh? Do chickens have tails?”

“I am not talking about chickens,” I said. “The ostrich is the bird we are talking about.”

“Oh, yeah,” yelled Mouseman. “Answer my question. Do chickens have tails? Come on, do chickens have tails?” These guys were really heated. I was getting heated too.

“He’s afraid to answer my question!” yelled Mouseman. “You see, he’s afraid to answer my question about chickens!”

“We aren’t talking about chickens,” I repeated.

“I think that question should be thrown out because he won’t answer my question about chickens,” said Mouseman. Scornmale and MoMA were vigorously nodding their heads.

“Team left wins,” said the host.

“I object! Do chickens have tails? He can’t answer the question!” yelled Mouseman. “He can’t answer a simple question!”

That was it; that was it. I was 20 years old again. “Why don’t you shut your fucking mouth?”


I was ready. If Mouseman stood up I would walk over to him and knock him out. I was happy to also clobber Scornmale and even MoMA. What the hell? Seriously, what the hell?

MoMA turned to me and gave me her “look” which probably worked on young children she was about to devour, but I just gave her my look back and she turned her head.

I immediately realized I should never have said what I said to them, but it was too late. I wasn’t going to apologize but I also wasn’t going to hit anyone as I hadn’t hit anyone since my last fight 50 years ago. Well, maybe I had, but that is another story for another time.

Team Chicken, as I now thought of them, went back to their rooms and looked up if ostriches and chickens had tails. Wonder of wonders, they do have tails and, thus, so much for their objections to my answer.

My teams beat them two more times at trivia; still they were the best on the ship. But they were not undefeated, an accomplishment of which I was proud.

Do you see what days at sea reduced us to? Do you see why AP doesn’t like cruises?

Our last stop was the Faroe Islands where AP and I went in search of the puffins. That is a separate article (coming soon) in Bird Scobe.

The last day on the ship AP and I were heading towards the elevators to depart. And there were Foister and Mute standing next to Mouseman and MoMa and Scornmale in front of the elevators. Looking at them I realized this trip could have been worse than it actually was.

Windsor Castle

After the cruise, AP and I spent time in England, specifically to see Windsor Castle. It was a great tour, especially St. George’s Chapel.

Upon arriving home we started discussing future trips. It’s no surprise that AP hasn’t proposed any cruises.

[Read Frank Scoblete’s books I Am a Card Counter: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Blackjack, I Am a Dice Controller: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Craps and Confessions of a Wayward Catholic! All available from, on Kindle and electronic media, at Barnes and Noble, and at bookstores.]




























He Has a Girlfriend!

This past weekend I went to a Yankees versus Texas Rangers game. Yanks lost 8 to 1 but Aaron Judge hit a home run so the day wasn’t a total loss. He’s the most exciting player to hit baseball since Mike Trout.

This was my first time at the new Yankee Stadium. As a kid (long ago at an age far, far away) I used to inhabit the old Yankee Stadium; you know the one, where the center field distance was 490 feet and to hit a homer to left center (or even right center) took the power of a DiMaggio, Gehrig, Mantle or Ruth. Centerfield was known as “death valley.” When Maris had his 61-homerun streak, I attended 23 games. To my way of thinking, Maris set a “real” record, as he was steroid-free, unlike Barry Bonds and some others.

I was with my wife the Beautiful AP and Jerry “Stickman” and his wife the Sainted Tres. It was the last – number 30 – of the baseball stadiums Stickman and I visited in our Baseball Odyssey. Our wives joined us at a number of the ballparks and were certain to be at this capstone game.

We had $300 seats – yes 600 bucks to watch a Yankee game in seats that would cost about $60 to $90 in other stadiums. And $$$$$ to pay for our limo – way, way, too, too much.

Our seats were in row 15 over first base dugout, in the shade of the overhang. These comfortable seats were padded, two together, separated from the next two seats by a table, and you could order food that was delivered to you – food that cost the equivalent of what right-handed hitters faced in the old stadium, a helluva lot! And that is New York: a beautiful baseball stadium plopped in a ghetto and prices that are ridiculous.

The high ticket prices, however, could not keep away the worst fans ever. You know them; they’re the ones whose antics pull your attention away from the field and onto themselves.

In this case it was the beer-guzzling, 20-something man/boy who was compelled to yell out the name of a player followed by “you suck.”

“Natoli, you suck!”

“Beltre, you suck!”

Once per player was not enough, nor twice, nor three times. It was over and over and over again, throughout the entire game.

His target was not only Texas Rangers. He even threw a few Yanks in there as well, especially pitcher Tyler Clippard who seemed to suck more than all the players combined as poor Clippard gave up hit after hit and run after run in the game, “Clippard! You suck! You suck! You suck!” He was proud of that last load of “you suck” because, “He heard me that time.”

I asked Stickman, Tres and AP, “Can you believe he belongs to the same species that achieved space flight?” Still later I asked incredulously, “Can you believe he came from the same species that discovered penicillin?”

After a particularly loud and pointed, “You suck,” hurled at a Texas Ranger, this guy’s girlfriend squealed at his amazing wit. Yes, he has a girlfriend. They will reproduce one day and his mini-me will be weaned on baseball, beer and boorishness.

It sucks, doesn’t it?

Miami Is Another Country

In New York City you have different neighborhoods some dominated by Italians, some by Jews, some by Germans, some by Afro-Americans, some by Puerto Ricans, some by Irish, some by Indians and some by a whole combination of these and more ethnic groups. While you might hear foreign languages in many places, there are so many of them in New York that the City has true diversity – although diversity has no inherently good moral quality.

Not so with Miami.

When people call the city “little Cuba” they mean it. The U.S. Census has Miami’s Latin / Hispanic population at 70 percent (some define themselves as Hispanic white or Hispanic black), while almost 20 percent of the population is Afro-American.

About 22 percent of the population is Catholic, although a full 60 percent of the population considers itself non-religious. While the state of Florida is sometimes called “little Israel,” only a shade over one percent in Miami are Jewish. (In New York City we have a rapidly shrinking “little Italy,” a little “Chinatown,” a “little Korea,” a “little India,” a little Beirut – for the lower streets of Bay Ridge – and on it goes. Hey, in New York, you get a “little” of something or other all the time!)

Spanish seems to be the dominant language, which pleased my wife the Beautiful A.P. as she speaks Spanish. As for me, I just stand there smiling as she enjoys conversation after conversation. She could be talking to someone about his family being murdered and I stand there with a goofy grin on my face. I am sure some Miamians thought I was a total idiot.

In Miami I was in a different country, a vacation-touristy-type country, meaning a pretty Latin American or island country given the weather, the Palm trees, the ocean, the sands, the Spanish speakers and the architecture; plus all the beautiful people, those tanned men and tanned women posing in skimpy bathing suits at the beaches (particularly South Beach), or at the pools, often holding drinks in their hands as if they were in commercials.

Being there in late September was – to put it frankly – awful, absolutely awful. The temperatures hovered in the high 80’s and low 90’s, while the humidity was at steam bath levels. I sweated like crazy. Maybe that’s why so many of the beautiful people walked around almost naked. Even some of the non-beautiful people were almost naked too – not a pleasant sight.

We stayed at the Sonesta Bayfront Hotel in Coconut Grove.

I had already stayed at a Sonesta in Baltimore and loved its old world, classy style. The Coconut Grove Sonesta at first seemed less appealing but by the third day I loved the place. It was clean, had a great restaurant, pool and terrific views from one’s room. Our traveling companions Jerry “Stickman” and his wife the Lovely Tres, along with the Beautiful A.P. and I would sit on our adjoining balconies, watch the sunsets, the ocean, while drinking fine wines.

Our meals went from good to great; from gourmet to not-so gourmet. The first night we ate at Bombay Darbar (, an exceptional Indian restaurant. The following day we ate lunch at a good Cuban restaurant in South Beach, Puerto Sagua.

Thankfully I did not go into the men’s room at Sagua until after lunch. It was covered in graffiti – with graffiti on top of graffiti (all of it un-artistic). The stall toilet was covered in shit and someone had taken a small dump in the urinal. The place stunk. Had I gone to the bathroom before lunch I would have left the restaurant.

Prior to eating at Puerto Sagua, we toured South Beach with Art Deco Tours with Christine and Company. ( Christine is a vivacious young woman with a true love for Miami and her tour was excellent. I recommend it highly.

That night we ate at a French restaurant La Plame d’Or at the Biltmore Hotel. Terrific gourmet with excellent ambience.

One of the reasons we went to Miami was for Stickman and me to attend a Tampa Bay Rays’ baseball game and a Miami Marlins’ baseball game. So on Sunday morning Stickman and I headed to Tampa Bay (St. Petersburg) – a four-hour trip from Miami – to watch Tampa Bay take on the Baltimore Orioles.

We had breakfast at Sonesta’s excellent Panorama restaurant and at 8am off we went. The wives would have their day in Miami; while we’d be continuing our baseball odyssey.

Going to Tampa Bay became an ordeal. Suddenly, out of nowhere (so to speak) I had to go to the bathroom; go urgently, as in the saying, “If I don’t go now I will explode in the car.”

“Jerry,” I said, holding myself in. “Pull over. I can’t hold this.” Jerry Stickman pulled over and I squatted beside the car. EXPLOSION! The road we were on went through the Everglades so there were no houses anywhere; just swamps and grasses and small trees as far as the eye could see, with a stream running beside the road. There was a big, electrified fence between the side of the road (where I squatted) and the stream. It didn’t dawn on me just then why such an electrified fence was there. EXPLOSION!

The cars coming towards us on our side of the highway could catch a glimpse of me squatting the way the Japanese squat over their floor-level toilets. EXPLOSION!

“Aaaaarrrrrggghhhhh,” I said inside myself. What could I do? Cars flashed by. (“Mommy, that man is showing his rear end.” “Timmy don’t look.” “Oh God, Sarah, he just blew a big one onto the ground!”)

As I was finishing up, I noticed it – an alligator, a BIG nasty-looking alligator, staring at me from the stream parallel to the road. Oh, my God, I was already embarrassed by the fact that I had dumped my brains out; now I would be eaten by an alligator. I could see the headlines: “Famous Writer Eaten by Alligator after Having Loose Bowel Movement on the Side of the Road!”

As I pulled my pants up, I realized now why the electrified fence had been erected – to protect humans from alligators!

Getting in the car, Stickman said, “Well, that’s a first for me!”

“I’m mortified.”

“On we go!” he said.

Ten minutes later, I said: “I gotta go again.”

“There’s a rest area coming up,” said Stickman.

We made it and I made it too. EXPLOSION!

We had to stop a third time at a gas station and I literally battled several elderly men to get into a stall. “You son of a bitch,” said one old guy I pushed aside. EXPLOSION! “Oh, man; oh, Christ,” said another man. “You smell that?” EXPLOSION!

Thankfully, the gas station had a sundry store with a mountain of Imodium piled high on the counter. Evidently I was not the only one to experience what I had been experiencing. I took two.

“I think I will be all right,” I said.

“This has been a first for me,” said Jerry again.

“I’ll never live this down.”

“Can’t wait to read what you write about this,” said Jerry Stickman.

“You crazy? I’m not writing about this.”

The Tampa Bay game was fun. Stickman bought us Diamond Club seats. You had your own private club with all sorts of food and drinks, all covered by your ticket fee. Jerry had a great time; eating and drinking and eating and drinking and eating a little fruit and a huge stack of cookies for dessert – he got his money’s worth. I ate a couple of cookies fearing anything more might start me going again. Those were the most expensive cookies I ever ate.

We got back to Miami around 8:30pm; sat on our balcony with our wives and as he poured the wine Jerry said, “Frank has a great story ladies. It was an amazing trip to Tampa Bay.”

“Oh, yeah, I really wish you could have come along,” I said. They were anxious to hear about our wonderful trip – and I told them. Their faces went from anxious to horrified. Evidently I can tell a great story.

The Beautiful A.P. and the Lovely Tres left Miami early Monday morning. Jerry Stickman and I stayed in order to go to the Miami Marlin’s game that night.

Now I must admit this. I have a small quirk in my personality. I love to go to aquariums when I visit a city. Lately, I’ve dragged Jerry to aquariums in Chicago, Memphis, Baltimore and Hawaii, among others. So today we would go to Miami’s Seaquarium. (

We took our wives to the airport at 5am, went back to Sonesta, finished our evening’s interrupted sleep, had breakfast and headed out to Seaquarium.

Of course, the day was brutally hot and drippingly humid. We figured the aquarium would be indoors and therefore air conditioned. That had saved us in a hot, humid Honolulu, Hawaii. We’d relax, watch the fish swim; in short, have a comfortable indoor day.

The Miami Seaquarium was outdoors.

It was not the typical aquarium with indoor rooms filled with tanks of various sizes; instead it was a world of shows. Jerry and I saw the Sea Lion Show (great fun), the Killer Whale and Dolphin Show (spectacular – and by the way, Killer Whales – also known as Orcas – are not whales but dolphins) and the Dolphin Show (disappointing). We also visited the weird looking Manatees (often thought to be mermaids – ugly as hell mermaids) and watched them eat bushels of lettuce. We saw giant sea turtles and a whole area of alligators – an animal now associated with the worst crap of my life.

It was a fun time.

Now let me tell you about Jerry “Stickman’s” quirk. He is an eater of food that I would normally avoid. He loves fast food chains (the man even eats White Castle!) and he watches shows like “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” and “Burger Land with George Motz.” Jerry is also a world traveler. He and the Lovely Tres probably spend as much time on the road as they do at home. I think he has been to about two-thirds of the countries in the world. He’s been to every state too. One of Jerry’s favorite activities when he travels in America and Canada is to visit the recommended restaurants on those shows. Sooooo…

We went into Little Havana to eat lunch at El Rey De Las Fritas, a highly recommended restaurant where we would eat a supposedly unique Frita.

Little Havana is a sad area of Miami. Just about every house and store had safety bars on the doors and windows. Still, Jerry and I had the greatest Frita! I have never tasted a hamburger like that. So if you are in Miami check this place out. The restaurant was clean and it is in a little shopping center.

Got back to the hotel, took a nap and then headed for the Marlins’ ballgame. We were two of about 3,000 fans. Miami is not a baseball town.

That was our trip. It was a fun four-day visit (except for when I was you-know-whating).

[Read Frank Scoblete’s books I Am a Card Counter: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Blackjack, I Am a Dice Controller: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Craps and Confessions of a Wayward Catholic! All available from, on Kindle and electronic media, at Barnes and Noble, and at bookstores.]

Naked in the Bathroom

He was naked. In the handicap stall. In the men’s room. Sitting on the toilet. At Bally’s in Atlantic City. You could see in the stall because the door was not flush. He was Asian. Naked.

The great dice controller Jerry “Stickman” and I were on our Odyssey in Atlantic City. The Odyssey is a single day where we pool our money, and go to all the casinos on the Boardwalk (now just five of them as opposed to the 12 in AC’s glory days), where we play one hand of Pai Gow Poker, two hands of blackjack, two hands of mini-baccarat, $40 in a $5 slot machine (one credit per decision) and we each take the dice two times at the casinos whose tables fit our criteria — we have to get our spots and we want 12-foot, standard-bounce tables. If we can’t get that we skip playing craps.

Naturally, except for craps, we are not playing with an edge at any of these games. We don’t wait for high counts in blackjack or find tables where we can get the edge banking at Pai Gow Poker and there is no way to beat mini-baccarat. We don’t bet much at these games, just $25 on each decision. Obviously, there is no edge to be had at $5 slot machines. So in games where no edge is to be had, our tactic is to play very, very few decisions and pray.

At craps we go with our normal bets, obviously far bigger than the bets we make at the other games. This trip we ended at Tropicana where we had a great meal at Carmines. This Odyssey also allows me to scout out the various casinos to see what’s what.

Did we win? Yes. Just barely at the games where we had no edge thanks to a hit on the last slot machine we played. That’s short-term luck. And the power of prayer.

In craps we both had consistently good rolls so skill won out on our Odyssey.

In fact our almost-week in Atlantic City saw me shooting damn well, consistently hitting repeating numbers (which is a wonderful thing). We basically played at 6 am and 9 am with a break in between for breakfast. We did not play evenings or afternoons (except once each when a table was open).

And what of the awesome Stickman, the great, amazingly great, the dice controller with the perfect throw? He wasn’t as consistent as I. Poor lad. All he did was explode several times for monster rolls tickling the 50 mark! It was a dream trip, that’s for sure. Up from the first session and building each session from there. (Let me caution you: It doesn’t always go that way.) Great games; great conversations; great meals. A player’s dream trip.

And then there was this naked guy in the bathroom at Bally’s.

The moment we entered Bally’s from the Boardwalk, there on the stairs leading to the casino were three drug (heroin) addicts, two guys and a girl. I knew them (generically) from my life in New York City. Droopy eyes; sneers from the guy who was most awake; with the girl — totally zonked leaning on his belly — with the second guy blinking to stay awake.

Jerry “Stickman” recognized them too — Memphis had been good schooling for him in this world peopled with the zoned-out dregs of society.

In the casino, which was somewhat crowded, there they were, leaning against the walls, maybe every hundred to two hundred feet apart, the “salesmen.” The druggie would go to a salesman, tell him (they were all men) what he wanted, and then pay the salesman who would use his phone to call the “distributor” who was somewhere else in the building or outside the building.

The salesmen were throughout the casino. In the lobby too and in the portico where you crossed over into Caesars – brazenly standing right there – yet we saw none of these guys in Caesars.

It was then we headed for the restroom; going through the lobby which was empty except for a salesman waiting for orders. In the bathroom was a maintenance man trying to fix a stall door.

Inside the bathroom, we talked:

“Trump Plaza has moved here,” said Stickman.

“Yeah,” I said. “The outer world is closing in on the Boardwalk casinos.”

“Will the casinos last?”

“I really don’t know,” I said. “Resorts looked pretty crowded.”

“Bally’s is becoming the dumping ground from the Trump Dump.”

“Except Bally’s casino is bright and inviting; although some of the wrong people have accepted the invitation,” I said.

Trump Plaza had become known as the Trump Dump and it was always inhabited by the druggies. Its closing was cheered by many casino players who would no longer play in a casino where so many hazy creatures slithered along.

Then I saw the naked guy in the bathroom. He was in the handicap stall; just sitting there. He was Asian and he stared down and then lifted his head and stared straight ahead, then down, then straight ahead — over and over.

I didn’t know if Stickman had seen him. He was at the urinal and I tapped him on the shoulder.

I whispered, “There’s a naked guy in there.”

He whispered back, “Yes. Let me finish peeing.”

“Sorry,” I said and headed out of the bathroom. I passed by the maintenance man who was feverishly trying to fix the stall door.

“That was weird,” said Stickman as he left the bathroom.

“What do you think that was? He loses not only his shirt but also the rest of his clothes?”

“I don’t know. This place is really bringing in the wrong crowd,” said Stickman.

“If this were Vegas they might be able to throw out the drug crowd. I don’t know if they can do that in Atlantic City.”

Stickman nodded. I shook my head.

My God, a naked guy in the bathroom of a casino that had so many of the wrong types seemingly thriving.

That might be more of a herald of Atlantic City’s demise as anything else.

[Read Frank Scoblete’s books I Am a Card Counter: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Blackjack, I Am a Dice Controller: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Craps and Confessions of a Wayward Catholic! All available from, on Kindle and electronic media, at Barnes and Noble, and at bookstores.]


Mr. Negativity

He was tall; he was overweight; he had a ponytail as many men who are losing their hair do. I guess the philosophy is to grow the most hair where you have hair and take away the fact that you have the least hair where you have the least hair. You can control the most hair but the least is problematic.

Maybe he was 50-years old; maybe more, maybe less.

The great dice controller Jerry “Stickman” and I were in Atlantic City for a week. We like to play early in the mornings when a few, a couple or one or no players are at the tables. Mondays and Tuesdays are the best days to get the type of table we like.

This day that man was at the end of the table. There were two other players at the table.

“Mr. Negativity,” said Stickman to me.

“He doesn’t seem happy,” I said. He did indeed have a sour look on his face.

He cashed in for one thousand dollars, not an overwhelmingly large sum yet he proceeded to make green ($25) and black ($100) bets — most of them on Crazy Crapper propositions with exceedingly high house edges.

He went through his money fast enough. In fact, he took out another thousand dollars having run out of money rather quickly.

I was up next to get the dice. I was standing at my normal spot, SL1 (next to the left arm of the stick man) and I put up my Pass Line bet.

“Who’s rolling?” he asked the dealer.

“Frank,” said the dealer. The dealer nodded at me.

I established my point, a 6

“Hard eight for one hundred dollars,” he said.

He glared at me. That was weird. Why would the guy glare at me when he was betting on me?

I took the dice; set them in my 3-V, aimed, swung my right arm slowly and released. The dice hit the wall then settled a few inches away.

“Eight! Eight the hard way!” said the dealer.

“Let it ride,” growled Mr. Negativity. He now had $1,000 on the hard 8. A win would mean a whopping $10,000 in his pocket.

“I took the dice; set them, aimed, swung my arm, released the dice. They flew slowly through the air, bounced on the layout, hit the back wall and died.

“Eight! Another hard way eight!” said the dealer.

“Down on my hard eight,” snickered Mr. Negativity. His upper lip curled somewhat.

The dealer pushed $10,000 in orange chips to him; he scowled at me and walked away.

“Pleasant guy,” said Stickman. “Glad he left. Man is he Mr. Negativity.”

Later that morning, after a delicious and relaxed breakfast, Stickman and I checked out the craps tables. Mr. Negativity was at the end of the table with two “reserved” signs on either side of him. He was betting big money now – probably based on his 10 thousand jackpot of the early morning.

When he saw me he snarled; I swear, he snarled. He threw a few times; hit some of the Crazy Crapper bets he was on, sevened out, took his chips and stormed off the table.

“At what point does Mr. Negativity lose his money?” asked Stickman.

“Late this afternoon,” I laughed.

“I say tomorrow morning he’ll be cashing in for a thousand,” said Stickman. “What a rotten attitude he brings to the table.”

We didn’t see Mr. Negativity the rest of the week. I am guessing this guy is an addicted gambler and one who enjoys the awe other players show him when he bets huge amounts.

Mr. Negativity was a sad and angry man. There was no joy whatsoever in his play.

Frank Scoblete’s new books are “I Am a Dice Controller: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Craps”; “Confessions of a Wayward Catholic” and “I Am a Card Counter: Inside the World of Advantage-Play Blackjack.” All available from, Kindle, Barnes and Noble, and at bookstores. Visit Frank’s web site at