Screaming Monkeys

The Real Life Ventures and Adventures of Trey and Batman

by Trey Nosrac

Episode 7

The Pitch and Roll Bar appears closed, another relic, from another era. The tired, dusty, redbrick building on the corner of Main Street and Route 57 has kept its secrets for almost a century. We like it that way.

Ten years ago, a crackhead on parole crashed his Ram Charger into the adjoining Ink Spot Tattoo Parlor. The impact shifted the foundation to the point where the front door of the Pitch jammed shut. When Louie Dittmer, the current owner, pulled the doorknob off in a futile attempt to open the oak door, he laminated a file card and stapled it above the missing knob that read, “USE BACK DOOR.” This worked out well because the quiet saloon does not rely on foot traffic, and visitors can enter and exit with less transparency.

The Pitch is a mere 12 miles north of the family farm where my new pal from Silicon Valley recently retired to at age 52. After four Screaming Monkeys on the Rocks, 12 miles was out of my vehicular range.

Louie serves Monkeys on special occasions, the ingredients are a potent mystery but obviously, the tall celery stalks symbolize trees in the jungle. I take mine on the rocks.

We were celebrating the recent harness horse auction. My pal was two Monkeys behind me. He doesn’t have a driver’s license, so the state of his sobriety was not a transportation issue.

I grabbed a handful of popcorn from the plastic basket on the table and said, “We will need to call Uber.”

He nodded, “It’s amazing how you careen from irresponsible to responsible.”

“It’s amazing to hear the word “careen” in this establishment. How do you like my responsible new haircut?”

He shrugged, “I was getting used to the ponytail.”

“I was starting to feel like a cliché, like a Lebowski wannabe. I need to mix things up. Now that I’m in the horse business, I’m going for respectable. Don’t worry, it won’t last.”

We clinked.

I asked a question that bugged me since we started this horse adventure, “Why didn’t you start at the top? Why don’t you buy a bunch of expensive, big-time yearlings and get the best trainers, you know as well as I do that your chances of getting a big-time racehorse would go up big time?”

“You said ‘big time’ three times in one sentence.”

“At least I didn’t say careen. So why are you playing small ball with one yearling?”

He signed, paused, and said, “SWS.” When I didn’t bite, he explained, “Sudden — wealth — syndrome.”

It took me a few seconds to process this, then I belly laughed and dropped my forehead onto the green Formica tabletop, two things I rarely do.

He explained to the back of my head, “Seriously, it’s a real thing. My crowd spends a lot of time talking about what a painful psychological trauma being wealthy can be.”

I lifted my head, “My friends and I suffer from stupid — wagering — syndrome. We bet two hundred on a horse race with one hundred in assets, now that’s psychological trauma.”

“You don’t understand. Wealth can be isolating; it’s not the rosy picture people imagine. Money can mess up relationships. It’s hard to trust people. In the back of your mind you know you do not deserve it and our world becomes small when we hang around with other screwed up rich people.”

“Why don’t you drop a hundred million on a baseball franchise, an opera theater, or a hospital in one of those countries nobody can pronounce?”

“That’s possible. We spend a lot of time looking for fulfillment with our fortunes.”

“Fulfill away Batman. Believe me, harness racing could use the cash.”

He flicked his wrist at me, “Flooding the sport with money just to get the best horses wouldn’t be satisfying.”

“I think a lot of people who like this sport would tell you to give it a whirl. Hell, take over the whole industry and see what you can do.”

“Actually, if more of my crowd knew about your sport, plenty of people with unlimited resources would find your game a challenge, a pleasant diversion. The deeper I go, the more intriguing harness racing gets.”

“So send out a tweet, get a flash mob of billionaires at the next yearling sale.”

“It’s too big of a step for people to dive into something they never heard of. At least I have a little background from my days with my grandfather. I didn’t need to go from zero to a hundred miles per hour on the learning curve.”

I nodded, “That learning curve is a bitch, it doesn’t matter if it’s gambling on horses or buying yearlings. I mean, what are we gonna do, kidnap a thousand people and make them stick around for a year and study the game?”

At this mumbled question, Batman shocked the hell out of me with one word, “Yes.”

I answered by opening my mouth, then closing my mouth.

He took a sip of his Screaming Monkey, the ice cubes rattled when he set it back on the table. He leaned forward with a wild plan.

“Trey, I am considering taking this yearling, changing the name, training it, staking it, racing it, and making sure that at least a thousand people who do not know anything about harness racing follow every step with rapt attention and vested interest.”

I leaned forward and placed my palm over his glass, “No more Monkeys for you, you start to talk crazy.”

“We start tomorrow.”