Play Fair

The Kentucky Derby is right around the corner and on its home stretch, but I lived another  stretch several times in Spokane, Washington.  The stretch started with confession, followed by lying, and ended at a horse track known as (quite ironically) Playfair.

Probably seven years old at the time, I maintained morals and specific values.  However, (forgive me father) I did sin at that pivotal age.  I was willing to tell a lie, but two of my brothers and my father were not satisfied with my less than adequate fib.  Nor was the Catholic Priest.

You see, at this age, I swear, my only sins were lying in the confessional.  The priest asks you to reveal your sins.

Confess your sins, my son.

Is playing wiffle ball in the backyard a sin?

No, but did you intentionally hit anyone in the face with the bat?

Not intentionally.

Who did you “not intentionally” hit with a bat?

A neighbor.

Was he a good Catholic boy like you?

No.  He was a friendly neighborhood Mormon.

Oh, that’s definitely not a sin!

Father, can you just give me another week.  I’ll try my best to do some sinning?

Yes, my son.  Do you have any plans for the weekend?

My dad’s taking us to the race track right after I get out of here.

Ok.  That’s a great start.  I see great and powerful sinning in your future.  You will have much to talk about in our next meeting.

Perfect.  (off to begin my life of sinning) I promise you… next week this conversation won’t be so BORING!

Good.  Go in peace to love and sin for the Lord.

I did indeed go in peace, but, from my standpoint, committed a sin just hours after my dismissal.

Providing our mother a much needed break from some of her children, dad would take us to the race track for the last two races for two reasons:  free admission and he loved gambling on the horses.  (this was to be my first time to attend)  Yet, there was only one reason my two older siblings, ages eleven and thirteen did not want me tagging along.  I was only seven and to be allowed into one of the dirtiest racetracks in the nation, you must be ten.  What terrific standards they set at the track when a boy must be at least the age of ten before witnessing jockeys, trainers, owners and many of the gamblers cheating.  Seven?  “No, wait until you are ten boy before you witness such heathen like behavior.”  Since only seven at the time, I knew this presented a problem collectively for all of us going to the track.  If I can’t get in, no one gets in.  Not my dad, not my brothers and certainly not me.  Bless my wonderful father, because, much to the dismay of my brothers, he wasn’t going to leave me at home, and he was going to teach me a lesson and provide material for my next confessional visit.

Dad said to me, “Ben, I want to take you with us to the track, but by the looks on your brothers’ faces, they don’t want you to be a part of this, because if you don’t learn how to tell a lie, we can’t get in, and I can’t leave you in the car waiting, even though your brothers wouldn’t mind me doing so, understand?”

“I guess, but what do you mean by lying?  Is this like one of those phony fairy tales you weave before bedtime, or is this going to be a mortal sin?”

Patiently, and almost excitedly, dad said, “no, don’t worry about that mortal sin stuff, this is just a white lie, and it will keep you from getting beaten up by your older brothers who are begging me to leave you at home.”

My first chance at sinning, oh boy!  “What do I have to do?”

“Well, you’re seven, right?” (I don’t think he knew any of his children’s ages, but he guessed right)

“Right, dad.”

“All you have to do, when we are walking by the booth, and some swarthy man is asking for your age, just tell him you are ten.  Then, legally, he can allow your entrance.  And, believe me, he doesn’t care.  He just wants our money once we get in.”

Painfully, I had to think about this for just a few short moments, but this was my first negotiated lie.  “Dad, I’ll tell him I’m nine!” According to me, it was my first lie.

My two older brothers looked at dad and me with disgust, hands in the air and eyes rolling, but my loving father quickly extinguished the flames by saying, “hey guys, how about going to Chico’s Pizza for some pinball and at least two pies?”


Food was much more enticing to our family than gambling.  My brothers never laid a finger on me, and I could admit at my next visit to the priest that I was at least willing to tell a lie.

Today, I don’t have to lie about my age, but when asked for age identification, all I have to do is take off my baseball cap.  I don’t like telling people I’m forty.

Have fun watching the Derby.





Mortal Sins

Sometimes, or let me rephrase this, I always stew about my writing….  just like a Sunday Slow Cooker recipe.  Sometimes, it turns out wonderful, and sometimes it tastes like shit……just like my writing.

I’ve been stewing about writing some important stories about my life and others’ and quite  genuinely, those are the most difficult to express.  When you send something out to the world, also known as A Corner Club (my brother’s tavern), it puts you at risk.  So, now I’m going to try to write something fun.  Please, don’t find it boorish.

My father was not a Jew. (Bless their hearts, brains and money).  My father was the provider of thirteen Catholic boys and girls.  He always made certain food was on the table, a tent was over our heads, and we always had patched pants mom would provide.

Growing up in the Catholic church became a bit confusing for the youngest of 13.  I did my best to discern the difference between mortal and venial sins.  Other than loving my family unconditionally as a young boy, and basically just playing in the yard, I didn’t know how to confess my sins; I really didn’t have any (yet).  This is when I began my lying career.

I am no saint, and I ain’t no angel, but I lied my ass off in those confessionals.  I couldn’t think of anything I did wrong.  I didn’t use profanity in those days, but I lied to the priest saying I did.  This was extremely taxing…….making up bad stuff just to be absolved of my sins.  I was honest when I said I was thinking bad thoughts about some of my siblings……meaning, since I couldn’t beat them up, I’d just hide their wallet, containing nothing other than a condom they would never use.  After the concussions, it seemed the only way to get back at them.

We learned from our father what the really egregious sins were.  He began making pretty good money to support us, and, one day, other than giving to charity, he wanted to know what was on our wish list.  I wanted a bat.  My siblings wanted a pool.  Determination?Venial sin. Out of the question.  Dad knew that was a recipe for Gannon Disaster.  Then, he asked what was second on our wish list.  Knowing this was a Mortal Sin, we sheepishly replied……”call waiting?”

That’s when the shit hit the rotary phone, and I was not allowed to talk to the girl in the eighth grade I’m currently married to.

Lead us not into temptation, and deliver us from call waiting.  We decided to stick to rock fights and good food.