A Fish Story


According to Amazon, “La Vigila “THE FEAST of The 7 FISH” is The Southern Italian Ritual Christmas Eve Meal of 7 Fish, Representing the 7 Sacraments of The Roman Catholic Church…” I looked it up, to make sure I had it right, but there were a lot of Italian-Americans in South Ozone Park, when I grew up there. So, I was already familiar with this custom.

I didn’t have any fish for Christmas Eve this year. I’m not Italian. Neither is Debbie, but she does have one big fish back in her life this Christmas. Back when her husband Kevin was alive, they had an aquarium, and one of the fish was a sucker fish, with a life expectancy of a few years. When her husband passed away six years ago, she gave the fish to her mother, and the fish is still alive today.

Not only has the fish survived. It has thrived. Her Mom finally said to her, “I’m gonna have to do something with your sucker fish. He’s grown too big for my aquarium. So, rather than giving the fish a tour of toilet bowl falls, Debbie went out and bought herself a bigger aquarium. Now the fish is back living with her.

We were talking about Christmas presents and she said that she didn’t know what to buy me, since lately when I see something I like, I’ve been buying it for myself. My Dad left me some money, and I’m just trying to give his soul peace by enjoying the money he gave me. Last year I bought a ticket package for The Lancaster Barnstormers that included the right to throw out the first pitch at a game. This year I bought that package again. Plus, I bought a package that allows me to take batting practice with the team.

“You can buy me a bat,” I said. So we went to the Sports Authority and she got me a nice wood bat, and one of those weighted doughnuts to put on the bat to make it look like I’m a serious batter.

“Well, now you’re all set,” I said, “but I still don’t know what to get for you.”

She wiggled her ring finger and said, “I’m a six and a half.”

We both laughed.

So, now today is Christmas and I’ll be going over to her house for Christmas dinner. I bought her a bunch of things and even wrapped them. One of them is very tiny. I’m gonna give that one to her last.

When she gets to that gift, I’m gonna ask her what she thinks it might be. After she guesses, I’ll give it to her. I can’t wait to see the look on her face when she unwraps the tiny aquarium ornament of the fish from Finding Nemo and my little handmade sign that says, “Wrong. Go Fish.”

Merry Christmas, everyone. May Santa fill your net with abundance.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,


Incommunicado in Plain Sight

I had a busy weekend planned last week. Saturday was The Driscoll Christmas party, which is always one of the top 2 parties of the year. The Driscoll St Patrick’s Day Party is the only one that can beat it. Sunday I was visiting with Beelzebro and Mrs X. They just got back from a two-week tour of Central Europe. Monday I belatedly celebrated my friend Margaret’s birthday. Had to get it in before Christmas. You know how people who have birthdays around major holidays wind up getting cheated out of a birthday. Happy birthday to Steve, by the way. His birthday is December 26th. It’s hard getting the crowd enthusiasm back the day after Santa has left the building. Good Luck, Steve.

On Friday I was supposed to go food shopping with my buddy Duane. He’s no longer homeless. He has an apartment in town and a part-time job. Plus he has a car, so we go food shopping together. Anyway, he got busy on Friday and didn’t come over. That was cool by me. I didn’t really want to food shop when I was going away for three days. I’ll food shop when I get back.  I can better use the time by resting up for a busy weekend.

I left the house on Saturday morning and started walking to the Amtrak Station. Two blocks later I realized that I didn’t have my cell phone with me. I looked at my watch and figured that I might miss my train if I went back for the phone. I could make it, but I would have to hustle, and I don’t do the hustle anymore. So I said, “The heck with it.” I’ll be seeing anyone I would normally be calling, anyway. It’s not a smart phone. I can’t use it to read e-mail or anything, so the heck with it.”

So, when my phone rang a few minutes later, I didn’t get the call:

“Earl, this is Duane. Sorry I couldn’t go food shopping yesterday. I’ll take you today. I’ll be there in a couple minutes.”

The weekend turned out great, and I didn’t need my cell phone. When I needed to call my brother to pick me up at the train station, I just went to a liquor store by the train station, bought my brother a bottle of Bourbon, and asked if I could borrow the phone.  Two birds, one stone.  No problem.

Beelzebro and his wife had a bunch of great stories and pictures from their trip. They have a tiny stuffed animal character that they take with them everywhere and try to use in many of their photos. It’s like Where’s Waldo, or the Travelocity Gnome. (Sorry, I can’t tell you who their character is without revealing Beelzebro X’s real name, and he still chooses to remain anonymous.) We also had our first annual Almost-Christmas Meatloaf Dinner.

Then it was off to the party

Marianne and Tres throw the best parties. They’ve got a lot of friends – and family, and they all like to party. Plus, they’ve got Bob on electric piano, Shane on bass, various people on bongos, and anyone who wants to sing, singing. Thanks to my five weeks of physical therapy for my hip, I was even able to jump on the dance floor when a Tush Push broke out.

I already wrote about belatedly celebrating Margaret’s Birthday in Long Beach on Monday, so I’ll jump to when I got home. There was my cell phone, all charged up, and letting me know that I had 11 new voice mails.  That’s a lot for me.  I usually average about none.

First voice message:

“Earl, this is Duane. Sorry I couldn’t go food shopping yesterday. I’ll take you today. I’ll be there in a couple minutes.”

Next voice message:

Earl, this is Duane. I rang your bell. You didn’t answer. Call me.

Next voice message:

Earl, this is Duane. Are you home? I know you’ve got a heart condition. I’m worried about you. Give me a call.

Next voice message:

I just rang your bell again. I knocked on your front window. The lights are out. That’s not like you. Are you okay? Did you go away? Give me a call.

There was a voice mail from John and Margaret asking me if I knew which train I would be on, and a voice mail from Debbie with basically the same question. She wanted to know when I would be back.  Plus there were some more calls from Duane. He was knocking on my door, calling me up, and ready to report me as a missing person/heart attack victim.

The next message was from a Sergeant somebody with the Lancaster Police Department who wanted to know if I was okay and would I call the station to let them know that I’m okay.

The next message was from another Sergeant who was following up, saying that he would be by tomorrow to investigate, unless I called.

I called him immediately, and then I called Duane. He was quite relieved to hear that I was alive. We had a good laugh about it.

So, I managed to get through a weekend without my cellphone, without causing too many problems.

Oh shit. I forgot to call Debbie.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,


The While-You’re-Up Chair

Navy Days

A lot of furniture gets moved around in December when people put up their Christmas trees. When my friends John and Margaret put up their Christmas tree they have to move their dining room table. When they do this, one person winds up sitting in a chair that is wedged in a corner. Once you’re in it, the Christmas Tree has you blocked in and you can’t get out unless the person on your left gets up. As soon as I got to their house last weekend, I was escorted into that chair.

“You’re sitting in the while-you’re-up chair.”

I knew just what they meant. I invented the concept. I’ve been partying at John’s house for decades and rarely have I ever gone to the refrigerator to get a beer. I always manage to spy somebody getting up, when I needed another beer. “Hey, while you’re up, would you grab me a beer.” We are not just talking about a few times, either. We are talking about thousands of beers over the years. My timing is impeccable.

They still talk about the Super Bowl party that I got there early, plopped down on the couch closest to the TV, and never got up once, not even at half time. Of course, I cheated a little that day. I brought a date, and she kept getting me beers, even when everyone else refused to get me anything, because they all wanted that front-row seat I was hogging. Since I didn’t even get up to pee, my bladder was awarded Super Bowl MVP that year. Unfortunately, my date was flagged by the refs and banned from all future Super Bowl Parties for aiding and abetting the enemy, me. I think they called it Unsportsmanlike Conduct. So, I’ve never been able to duplicate that feat at another Super Bowl Party, but that’s alright. I don’t think my 66-year-old bladder could last until half time, anyway.

So, they don’t even fight it anymore. It’s acknowledged that the while-you’re up chair is whichever chair I’m sitting in. That’s a great honor, and I would propose a toast to John and Margaret if somebody would just grab me a beer.


Peace & Love, and all of the above,


Congratulations to Garnet Barnsdale



For Immediate Release

FFI – Contact Allan Schott at allan@hanaweb.org

 Garnet Barnsdale Wins HANA Harness’ 2014 Grand Circuit Shoot-Out

 December 9, 2014 – With the Cleveland Classic not filling, the last leg of HANA Harness’ Grand Circuit Shoot-Out Handicapping Contest sponsored by the Hambletonian Society, DRF Harness, Meadowlands Racing & Gaming, Northfield Park, Tioga Downs, and Vernon Downs has been cancelled resulting in Garnet Barnsdale being named the top handicapper for this year’s contest with a net profit of $4,553.40, over $3,000 ahead of second place Mark McKelvie who had a net profit of $1,276.  In a last minute move, Brian McEvoy managed to nail Bob Zanakis for the show position, thanks to his $250 win wager on McWicked on Sunday’s Progress stake at Dover Downs.

While not finishing in the money, the last leg’s big winner was Earl Paulson who had a $250 play on the winning Trifecta which gave him a weekly net profit of $2,850, allowing him to move up from tenth to fifth place, putting him withiin striking distance of the third spot if he was successful in the Cleveland Classic but alas, it was not to be.

By nature of Barnsdale’s winning of the contest, a donation of $1,500 will be made to his selected standardbred rescue, TROTR (Therapeutic Riding and Off Track Rehabilitation) in addition, donations of $250 will be made by the Central Ontario Standardbred Association (COSA) and Red Shores-Charlottetown to the Canadian rescues of their choice in honor of Garnet’s victory.  For his second place finish, a donation of $1,050 will be made to McKelvie’s selected rescue, Rainhill Sanctuary.  A donation of $450 will be made to Horse Rescue United, Brian McEvoy’s selected rescue.

Final Standings (53 Legs)



Week Gain

Net Profit



Garnet Barnsdale




Mark McKelvie





Brian McEvoy





Bob Zanakis





Earl Paulson





Brandon Valvo





Josi Verlingieri





Derick Giwner





Rusty Nash





Gordon Waterstone





Dennis O’Hara





Sally Hinckley





Anne Stepien





Ray Garnett





Ray Cotolo




HANA Harness would like to once again thank its Gold Sponsors, the Hambletonian Society, DRF Harness, Meadowland Racing and Gaming, Northfield Park, Tioga Downs, and Vernon Downs as well as COSA and Red Shores-Charlottetown for their sponsorship and the handicappers which allowed this contest to help standardbred rescues across North America.

 For further information on HANA, please visit our website http://www.horseplayersassociation.org/.

Allan Schott

All I can say is what the Brooklyn Dodgers used to say at the end of most every season, “Wait ’til next year.”

I found a batting cage just 5 miles from my house, so until the contest starts again next April, I’ll practice my swinging for the fences there.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,


Swinging for the Fences

I’m in a harness race handicapping contest that began back in April and ends this Friday. The contest is sponsored by The Horseplayers Association of North America, the Hambletonian Society and The Grand Circuit. There is one race left, and I’m in 5th place, 4,610.90 fictional dollars behind the leader. The maximum bet is $250. So, I need a real longshot.

Last week I hit a home run.   I played a $250 cold triple that returned $3,100. Otherwise, I would still be in 10th place, over $7,000 behind the leader. I just need one more big hit to make it into the top three, and the top three all win money for charity. I’m playing for Heading For Home, a Saratoga based charity that takes care of horses after their racing career is over.

Because I was so far behind, I’ve been swinging for the fences for about a month now, and I’ve been striking out, usually, but that $3,100 hit gave me hope, even though another hit of that magnitude on the last day of the contest would still leave me about $2,000 shy of actually winning the contest.

It’s hard enough to pick a winner, but trying to pick a cold exacta or triple is way harder, but that’s what I’ve got to do if I want to get a check for my charity. One race left. One bet left. I have to swing for the fences.

I also got an e-mail this week from the Lancaster Barnstormers. Last year I bought a ticket package that included throwing out the first pitch at one of their games, and they wanted to know if I was interested in doing that again. I sure was, and this year I bought 3 packages, so that two of my friends could join me on the mound, instead of just sitting in the stands laughing at me.

The Barnstormers (ahem, I mean the 2014 Atlantic League Champion Barnstormers) also wanted to know if I was interested in a ticket package that included taking batting practice with the team. I signed up for two of those packages, so I could invite a friend to participate in that – our own little home run derby. So, I will be swinging for the fences in 2015. But right now, first things first, before I start swinging for the fences at Clipper Magazine Stadium, I’ve got one fence to swing for this Friday at Northfield Park in the Cleveland Classic Pace.

Wish me luck. I’m gonna need it.


Peace & Love, and all of the above,


Batting Practice




As of December 7, 2014 – Leg 53
Pos Handicapper Week Gain Net Profit Behind Days Missed
1st Garnet Barnsdale ($204.00) $4,553.40 2
2nd Mark McKelvie ($250.00) $1,276.00 $3,277.40 4
3rd Brian McEvoy $175.00 $33.50 $4,519.90 5
4th Bob Zanakis ($250.00) ($53.05) $4,606.45 0
5th Earl Paulson $2,850.00 ($57.50) $4,610.90 0
6th Brandon Valvo $175.00 ($620.00) $5,173.40 3
7th Josi Verlingieri $175.00 ($1,005.40) $5,558.80 1
8th Derick Giwner ($250.00) ($1,073.23) $5,626.63 0
9th Rusty Nash $350.00 ($1,733.36) $6,286.76 0
10th Gordon Waterstone ($250.00) ($2,131.30) $6,684.70 1
11th Dennis O’Hara ($250.00) ($4,086.65) $8,640.05 0
12th Sally Hinckley $370.00 ($4,267.40) $8,820.80 0
13th Anne Stepien ($180.00) ($4,787.93) $9,341.33 5
14th Ray Garnett ($250.00) ($6,352.80) $10,906.20 2
15th Ray Cotolo ($250.00) ($10,048.40) $14,601.80 4