There's nothing like a visit home to have your memory jogged with old stories. The other night we were at Bob and Deb's when he recalled two of my freelance writing assignments which didn't quite have the expected outcomes.
Back in the early 80s, I was a regular contributor to Gaming Business magazine. This was a trade magazine for people running casinos, racetracks, lotteries and any other legal scheme where the odds are stacked in favor of the house. I got to the point where I could more or less name my own assignment, and so I often convinced the editors that it would be a good idea, say, to cover the harness racing at the Rutland State Fair.
My strongest memory of that assignment was being invited to sit in the starting gate, only to find out that meant sitting in the flatbed of the pick-up truck they used to start the races. I imagine the people in the crowd thought I was a judge, but I felt like Jethro in the Beverly Hillbillies.
That was one trip home the magazine helped subsidize, but there were two others - one to profile dog racing at the Green Mountain Race Course in Pownal, Vermont and the other to write about Blue Bonnets, the Montreal racetrack a couple of hours above Rutland. In both instances, I drove home to Rutland and asked Bob to come along with me when I went to the tracks.
The Pownal visit is best remembered for the young PR guy whose name I no longer recall. He was showing us his office. I had already interviewed the president of this race course and the night's work was over. Bob had joined us, as had the PR guy's girlfriend.
The PR guy was bragging about having organized the first regional championship series where each dog course in New England held races to determine their champion. Then the winners from each course raced for the regional championship at the Pownal course.
Beaming, the PR guy announced, "We are first racetrack to host inter-course racing."
It was one of those moments where the others in the room more or less stop in their tracks, trying not to laugh at their host and pretty much stunned so they can't think of anything to say. Trying to maintain a semblance of professionalism, I looked at Bob with an expression he still recalls as meaning "Don't say a word. Just leave it. Please."
Who was I kidding? It's Bob, my brother. And after he had allowed an appropriate amount of silence to settle in after hearing that Green Mountain was the first to host inter-course racing, he quietly asked, "So, is that when the dog in the front stops suddenly?"
And even then I might have held onto a modicum of professionalism except the PR guy's girlfriend started roaring with laughter, and I couldn't help but join in. The good news - being a young PR guy, he had no idea why we were all laughing.
Tomorrow - The other story as Dad joins Bob and me on a road trip to the Montreal race course and we discover what US immigration checkpoints were like in the 1980s.