Monday, August 25, 2008

Betting On the Future

Let It Ride Baby

© 2008 Leighann Lord

I don't get gambling. My Husband tried to teach me to play roulette. He put the money on the table. The wheel spun. The ball fell. A man in a shiny black vest took our money.

"We get that back, right?"

"Uh, no."
my Husband said.

"Why not?"

"That's not how it works."

"But I'm just learning. We have to pay for that?"




My dislike for gambling doesn't mean I'm not a risk taker. I'm a roller coaster junkie, a stand-up comedian, and I drive in New York City during rush hour. Gambling seems a tad passé.

Some people gamble for fun. The winning part certainly seems like a blast, but I don't handle the losing part very well. I watched my Dad play video poker last week. He put in $20. When he was up $21.75 I said, "Woo hoo! Cash out!" When he was down to $18 I panicked. I saw my meager inheritance folding like a pair of deuces in the face of a flush.

Ultimately how grown folks spend their time and money is their business. The operative adjective-noun pairing here is Grown Folks. I am perpetually perplexed by the parents who think its okay to bring their children to a casino. As if childhood isn’t short enough. It's not okay. It's a casino!

Do parents think the bright lights and cacophony of sound will amuse their toddlers? Do they want the kids to see that their future is riding on pure luck of the draw? While this is quite the hands on lesson in finance, teaching children about money by taking them to a casino is like teaching them about sex by taking them to a strip club. If that sentence doesn't bother you, get help.

Recently while working at a casino, I was on my way to the showroom and had to navigate my way through a bottle neck of strollers. I was so disgusted I wanted to scream,

"What? Did Chuck E. Cheese go out of business? Did Disney World shut down? Are baby sitters on strike? Wouldn't it be nice if there was some appropriate place to take your kid like a park, a museum or a G-Rated movie? Too bad here's nothing like that, huh."

I'm sorry, but if you can't afford a baby sitter, you can't afford to gamble.

My unveiled contempt was shared by those couples who planned a nice weekend get away without their kids, only to find themselves rubbing elbows with the Teletubbies, Elmo and Hannah Montana crowd.

A casino isn't a total den of iniquity. In a way it's very much like a church, permeated with a raw and real spirituality. Underneath the constant chime of slot machines you can almost hear the ardent prayers to win big, beat the house or to not lose anymore than they already have. With all their heart and soul people are making fervent promises and pacts with their higher power. God is being called out to prove his existence; to put up or shut up.

Whether propelled by fear or fun, people gamble with the best of intentions. Against the odds, they are full of hope. Maybe parents aren't being selfish, inappropriate and delusional when they bring their children into a casino. They're simply trying to share a sense of excitement, hope and possibility.

Yeah, right. Wanna bet?


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Monday, August 18, 2008

It's All Dennis Miller's Fault

© 2008 Leighann Lord

"A good rule of thumb is if you've made it to thirty-five and your job still requires you to wear a name tag, you've made a serious vocational error." — Dennis Miller

When I heard Dennis tell this joke on TV years ago, I howled. I loved it. Although it smacked of elitism I still found it to be a flat out funny line. So imagine my horror when the cruise line I do shows for asked me to wear one.

New security rules require that all staff members – even the funny ones – wear a name tag while on board ship. I understand the need for tighter security but with Dennis' words echoing in my ears I couldn't help feeling that I had somehow made the vocational error of which he joked.

I'm no stranger to wearing a name tag. I had one many moons ago when I worked at B'Dalton Bookseller. But it's been my experience that no good comes from wearing a name tag. Customers only want to know your name when they're angry and want to report you to someone. We can't have that now can we?

Given it's uniqueness, I've become a bit proprietary about my name. The last thing I want is someone leering in the general direction of my left breast and butchering the pronunciation. There are not a lot of Leighann's in the world and even fewer who spell it the same way I do. The 'gh' seems to trip people up. I didn't always like my name. When I was seven years old I announced to my parents at the dinner table that I had changed it to Clarisse. I fancied it because it was the name of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer's girlfriend. Surprisingly it didn't catch on.

Family truths be told, Leighann wasn't even supposed to be my name. My parents had originally planned that if they ever had a daughter they would name her Rhonda. However, by the time I was actually born they had forgotten. It's just as well. I don't look like a Rhonda, but that's the name I give when they ask at Starbucks.

It doesn't happen at every location, but at the very busy ones they take your order, ask your name, and then scribble it on your cup. Wary New Yorker that I am, this makes me uncomfortable. Sell me the coffee and stop invading my privacy. To preserve my anonymity, Rhonda has become my Starbucks identity. Coincidentally, we both happen to love Caramel Macchiatos.

But I digress.

Part of my resistance to wearing a name tag is that the successful trajectory of my career should put my name up in lights, not attached to a plastic pin on my shirt. Stand-ups by nature want to stand out, not be tagged and lumped with the group. The characteristics that make me a good comic don't necessarily help me play well with others.

As with most neuroses much of this stems from childhood. Stereotypically, I was horrible at sports and was always one of the last kids picked for any group athletic activity. There are two ways to cope with this: buy a trench coat or find the funny. I chose the latter. My motto is "Those who can, do; those who can't, mock."

I was an academic loner as well, detesting group projects. I remember damn near weeping in disgust when Brother Philip, my sophomore year Speech teacher, announced that our final grade depended on a group presentation. I didn't get to choose who would be in my group either. Brother Philip did the honors and I was saddled with more than my fair share of academic dead weight: mediocre students and slackers who's sole purpose in life was lowering my GPA. To stave off grade degradation I did all the work myself and thus missed the entire point of the lesson: how to work well with others.

The Big Beefy Men in gleaming white uniforms who work security on the cruise ship seemed unmoved by childhood traumas, and were even less enthused by my artistic sense of self importance. They gestured vaguely to the vicinity of my left breast and demanded to know the whereabouts of my name tag. Preferring not to walk the plank, I dug out the offending name tag and pinned it on.

How am I coping? Not very well -- damn you, Dennis -- but as long as she gets an occasional Caramel Macchiato, Rhonda seems fine with it.

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Monday, August 11, 2008

Teed Off With Tiger

Your Logic Has a Hole
Dear Tiger, Dear Tiger

© 2008 Leighann Lord

I've got to start reading my Wall Street Journal in a timelier manner. Although I have the best of intentions I don't always get to it, especially when I'm traveling. I was paging through an old issue and saw an ad for a contest: "Buick's Tee Off with Tiger." The grand prize is winning a "once in a lifetime opportunity to play golf with Tiger as your caddy." In the words of Stuey Griffin (Family Guy): "What the duce?" Who sanctioned this? It may not "be" wrong, but it sure "feels" wrong.

Undoubtedly the opportunity to win one of the greatest golfers in the world as your caddy sounds like a fun idea on the surface, but when that golfer is Black, not only does it raise eyebrows, but mine are damn near co-mingling with my hair line. I know Tiger is a self described Cablinasian, but in America the "One Drop Rule" puts him in The 12% Club, giving the contest racial overtones that cannot be ignored.

I might be able to get past it if the contest was for charity, but it's for Buick. Yes, American automakers are struggling right now, but they don't exactly rank up there with The Red Cross. Just because they're not making a profit doesn't mean they are not-for-profit.

Although the game now appeals to a more diverse audience then ever, I think it's safe to say that the majority of golfers are still predominantly white. I'm not saying Black people don't play golf (my Dad used to play and he's Black) but, to date, golf courses do not have the same prominence, prevalence or popularity on the urban landscape as do basketball courts. This may be why Buick chose to advertise the contest in The Wall Street Journal and not in The Amsterdam News.

From the demographic of people to whom this event was advertised, who are most likely to play golf and enter the contest, there is a reasonably high probability that the winner will be white. A White man winning a Black man to caddy for him seems flat out wrong.

And then there's Tiger. What was he thinking? Either he has a really good sense of humor or a very bad grasp of American history. How much more money does he need? Are gas prices so high that he too is feeling the pinch at the pump? When is enough, enough? At what point are you financial secure, powerful and famous enough to say, "Hell no, I'm not doing that!"?

Now look, I know I'm wrong. I have absolutely no business looking at Tiger, or anyone else for that matter, and judging his choices. Believe me, I don't want to do it; but somebody has to. So I'm taking the hit to my spiritual well being for the team. You're welcome.

I'm angry at myself for not finding out about this earlier. It's too late to enter now, and I could have. According to the rules the contest was open to anyone over 18 with a valid drivers’ license. Doing the actual contest though would have been difficult for me. Participants have to accurately predict Tiger's score each round in every tournament he plays during the contest period. I have no idea how to do that.

Despite taking a semester of golf in high school, I am clueless. But for this I would have learned. I would have gone to Google University and availed myself to the wonders of Wikipedia. I would have tried my best to win so that I could have the satisfaction of setting Tiger free from Buick bondage.

Happy National Golf Month!

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Sunday, August 3, 2008

Grandma's Best Friend

Oh For the Love of Nub

© 2008 Leighann Lord

I am not my dog's favorite person. I wish I was and the fact that I'm not is a major blow to my ego. Oh, he likes me well enough. I feed him, pet him, brush him, give him his medicine, and take him to the vet. But I can tell from the way he looks at my Mother that he thinks the sun rises and sets on her, not me.