Stay game my friend

He gives yoga instructors peace of mind. The IRS asks him questions about the new tax code. The mob hands him envelopes. He is one of the most interesting and adventurous people in the world.

Who hasn't wanted to put the top down and drive to Saltillo, Mexico; to become a stockbroker; to golf in Ireland; to buy a race horse.

We were arrested the minute we hit Saltillo and were charged with something that had to do with beer. High school Spanish fades quickly as you leave the school property. The four of us were placed in what was surely a drunk tank, a big room with a concrete floor and a large drain in the middle. Fellow inmates sang in a corner. We had enough money to make bail for one. The other three of us spent the night unbelievably awake.

I passed the stock broker's test by one point. One of my first deals was making a huge sale to a judge who got a margin call and almost lost his robe. I lasted about a year, during which the market was up around five days, maybe six.

The fog was so thick the weekend I tried to play golf in Ireland, I hit a rocket drive that ricocheted off a piece of castle ruin and almost severely injured my caddy, who was so old and feeble that he had to drag the bag sometimes. The nearness of the ricochet, passing about a yard from my caddy's head, actually knocked him several yards backward. The round in the fog took all day. When we finished, they were talking in the clubhouse about sending out a rescue party, as part of the course tiptoed up to cliffs.

And now about getting a race horse: A friend of mine was successful in the lower-end claiming business, which was to say his finances hovered around even. He was upfront about the perils of the horse owning and racing business, pointing out numerous times the way an animal could find and step on a needle in the north 40. Veterinarian and training expenses were formidable when things were going perfectly. Mix in a cough, and you might have to win the next race to get back to even. There were no discount medical rates based on a horse's value. The tax write-offs were obvious. Providing you had the money to pay for what turned into a big fat loss.

Two of us agreed to go in with this friend on an inexpensive claiming horse that appeared to be decently bred and fit and healthy, though unkempt around the edges. It had been running fairly well for one of the sloppiest trainers on the grounds, with Billy Bobs and Jimmy Joes in the saddle, virtual kids.

Our goal as prospective owners was to imagine the horse with a caring trainer who was as honest as the track was oblong, a healthy diet and a friendly environment. Imagine a happy horse going off at 10-1 versus leftovers. This would be the definition of smart money: Somebody who knows when a horse is fit enough. Not whether a horse could win, just whether or not it had a chance. Smart money is heavily biased.

As the claiming race approached, worst-case scenarios seemed to outnumber the norm by a tremendous margin. The jockey had a history of riding like he was dodging invisible obstacles. What if he rode the horse up another's back. What if the horse pulled a muscle, tweaked a tendon? What if one of a hundred bad-luck things happened while walking back to the barn? It was like having a good-sized bet whereby the winning payoff was that nothing terrible would transpire.

The process became so nerve-wracking that I couldn't watch any of it and had to be told that the horse ran an alright fifth and was claimed by two prospective owners; and that we lost the shake-off, the manner in which names are drawn at random to determine the new owner.

My guess is it was more fun to follow the horse as bettors than it would have been as partial owners: Thrills without bills. The horse had a decent career, winning a couple more before retiring to a leisure life on a farm.

We fill out tax forms in advance. We put winning tickets in the garbage cans for the downtrodden to find. The tellers tip us for betting with them. Stay adventurous my friends.