Page 2 columnist
I was sitting alone in my kitchen Monday night when a swarthy little man appeared suddenly right behind me and blew a cloud of white cigar smoke around my head. "Gotcha!" he barked as I reeled off my stool and grabbed for a nearby screwdriver, but I was demoralized from the shock of being taken from behind by a stranger in my own kitchen.When he laughed at me, I recognized him as Omar, my new neighbor from up the road. He had been missing for most of the summer -- which was fine for most of the neighbors because they feared him and believed strongly that he should be locked up. And now he was back.
"Greetings, Omar," I said. "You're just in time for 'Monday Night Football.' Do you have any fine hashish?"
He stared at me for a moment, saying nothing. Then he smiled darkly. "Why do you ask?" he said with a grin. "Are you having trouble with the neighbors?"
Just then the Sheriff walked in, clapping his hands and yelling, "Are you Ready? What's going on here? Where's the football? Why the f--- are we watching gymnastics on TV?" He surveyed the room expertly, then his gaze fixed on Omar. "Who's this?" he asked me, still staring at Omar, who was rigid with fright. He had never met the Sheriff -- or any cop, for all I knew, and I could see that he was momentarily un-hinged.
"Don't worry," I said, putting my hand on his shoulder. "You're safe here, Omar -- as long as you don't act rude."
The Sheriff, a huge man with a morbid sense of humor, reached out for Omar and pulled him close. "Are you ready to gamble?" He whispered. "Do you have any money?"
I left the room to put on my gambling suit. The game was getting under way: The Bears were favored by one over Green Bay. Nonsense, I thought. Chicago can't throw long, and Brett Favre can.
Indeed. I had already bet heavily on the Packers -- along with Oakland, Denver, and San Francisco -- and I was feeling pretty uppity. The logs were rolling my way. By midnight Sunday, I had won seven out of seven major bets and 13 straight minors, along with the weekly football pool at the Tavern, where greedy degenerates queue up to be fleeced every Sunday.
So I relaxed and did some push-ups, then I slipped into my costume and went back to the kitchen, where an elegant crowd had gathered for the game.
The Sheriff and Omar had been joined by a Buddhist called Ed, two criminal lawyers from Texas and a cluster of beautiful girls who lived in the neighborhood. Nobody spoke as I wandered in and glanced at the TV screen ... What? The Packers were up 14-0 and about to score again.
The mood of the room was grim. Everybody except Omar had bet on the Bears, which was beginning to look like a stupid mistake ...
"I warned you about betting on the Bears," I said to a girl named Sue, who makes single-edition sex hats for a living. "There are two things you don't bet against in this business -- one is Brett Favre, and the other is clockable team speed.
By then the Packers were up 21-7, and Favre was putting on a clinic in big-time quarterbacking. Prior to the game he'd said how he wanted to "jump on them early, just as quick as we can."
WHACKO! I always enjoy a man who does exactly what he plans to do, especially against the Bears. Favre jumped on them so early that the game was over by halftime. Some people paid off early and acted smug about it. Even Anita sneered at me for doubling up and giving 10 points ...
During halftime, I returned a call from James Irsay, who owns the Indianapolis Colts. ... He had called Sunday while his Colts were cruising over the hapless Bengals -- but only by 14 points, the spread was 13½, and they hung on to win by seven. Ho ho. James calls me every once in awhile to talk shop. He knows rock & roll music and broods constantly about it, but I tell him not to worry, because the end of the world is just around the corner. "And by the way," I asked him, "why does this number you gave me ring back to the Beverly Hills Hotel?"
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I could hear the familiar soothing babble of hotel-lobby chatter in the background, then a voice came on the line and said they showed no guest by that name. I knew she was lying, but I didn't feel like haggling, so I let it go. The game was about to start and I wanted to pick up some last minute impulse bets before the Packers scored again and put the game out of reach, so I would have to switch over to the Braves-Giants baseball game.
Dark things happen to spread-bettors who try to focus on baseball and football at the same time, with the action constantly changing and people with separate agendas screaming all around you. It is like trying to play chess and auction off tobacco at the same time. It won't work. The violent rhythms of football are impossible to reconcile with the spastic waltz of baseball. The last time I tried it I lost track of the numbers and got humiliated by my own son. It was horrible.
(To be continued ...)Dr. Hunter S. Thompson's books include "Hell's Angels," "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," "Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72," "The Proud Highway," Better Than Sex" and "The Rum Diary." His new book, "Fear and Loathing in America," has just been released. A regular contributor to various national and international publications, Thompson now lives in a fortified compound near Aspen, Colo. His column, "Hey, Rube," appears regularly on Page 2.