Reincarnation planning

by Trey Nosrac

He settled into my passenger seat, brushed a dusting of snow off his greying buzz cut, clicked his seat belt, and chirped, “Morning, Trey.”

I answered, “What do you think about reincarnation?”

“I don’t.”

“Well think about it. If you come back for another life, when would you choose to live, and who would you be? One of the rules is that you can’t repeat your current spin as a technology entrepreneur who pays me a hundred dollars per day to be on duty to drive him around.”

He seemed a tad annoyed as he replied, “I don’t know.”

“Brilliant answer; very deep, very cosmic.”

“They’re stupid questions.”

I pulled out of his driveway and went another route, “I got my reincarnation all planned. Everything — where, when, who, and what.”

“More plans? Don’t you ever stop?”

“Dude, all of us stop. All of us run out of time. If they offer me a return ticket, I don’t want to be caught in front of the pearly gates with my pants down.”

“You must attend the Church of the Holy Strange.”

Ignoring him I said, “I want to be reborn in 1884, close to New York, but not in the city slums.”

Shaking his head he asked, “How do you know you go backward, maybe you’ll need to go into the future.”

I handed him my phone, “Don’t mess with my plan. Look at this old photo. This is where I’ll be in 1901 when I’m a strapping lad.”

“A castle? You’re going to be Prince Trey of New York?”

“Look again; this might look like a castle, but it was the entrance to the stables of Tryon Hall.”

He looked again, “This is a stable?”

“Yep, the builder was Cornelius Kingsley Garrison Billings, a mega-rich tycoon who made his money in Chicago. He was eccentric, a very interesting person. He retired from business at age 40 to grow a fabulous stable of horses. He moved his family to New York City where he went bonkers with yachts and fast horses, fast trotting horses.”

My friend said, “Never heard of him, but if he was crazy for trotters, eccentric, and not working at 40, hell, maybe you already WERE him in an earlier life.”

“Interesting twist. A rerun would be fine because according to my research, his life looks great.”

He smiled and said, “Researching reincarnation, you don’t hear much of that.”

“It’s a niche hobby of mine. Anyway, when Billings got to New York, he discovered Harlem River Speedway, a dirt track that ran along the Harlem River between 155th and Dyckman Streets in North Manhattan. From what I read, the place was like a trotting horse drag strip, a racing mecca. Cornelius Billings became a big fan of going to the speedway. He liked it so much he purchased 25 acres and built that magnificent trotting stable near 196th Street.”

He nodded. “You really researched this stuff?”

“Oh yeah, this is an excellent hobby. Billings was just getting started. He built a mansion attached to the stables. I mean a REAL mansion. Scroll down and check out the next photo.”

He did.

I said to him, “Read the description.”

The mansion, on the highest point of the property, was 250 feet above the Hudson River on the site of Fort Tryon. Known as Tryon Hall, the mansion, designed in the Louis XIV style, featured an extravagant S-shape driveway costing $250,000 that was 1,600 feet long and rose 100 feet on a 6-degree grade. The estate included a heated indoor swimming pool, two-story squash court lined in maple, a “fumed oak” bowling alley, pergola and formal gardens. There was also a landing for his 232-foot yacht, Vanadis, on the Hudson River. Built at a cost of about $2 million, the mansion was completed in 1907 and became the full-time residence of Billings and his wife, his two children, and 23 servants.”

He handed me back my phone and said. “Mister Billings raced the best trotters in the world.”

“No. Billings BOUGHT the best horses in the world but never raced his horses for money. He raced for record times, and he got them with horses like Uhlan, William, and Lou Dillion. His horses would compete in amateur events and sometimes he sent them on tours around the world so people could watch them trot.”

He asked, “So what is your plan for entering this kingdom? Are you just going to walk up and say, ‘Mister Billings, Trey here, from a future life?’”

“Of course not, don’t be silly, I’ll need to have some schemes to worm my way into his golden circle. Maybe get a job working in his stable, or be the groom for Lou Dillon, the first trotter to go under 2:00, or be a waiter at the legendary dinner that Billings held to celebrate the completion of his stables.”


“Man, what a scene. It was epic. Billings was president of something called the Equestrian Club. He planned an exclusive dinner for the members in 1903. I began to read off my phone. ‘The word leaked out, and crowds of reporters gathered by his gates, hoping to see the fabulous stable and glamorous visitors. Billings secretly moved the party to Sherry’s restaurant, at Fifth Avenue and 44th Street. He had the grand Rococo ballroom transformed into woodlands, complete with imitation grass on the floor and babbling brooks so that he and his guests could sit on their horses (which had been taken up to the fourth-floor ballroom by elevator) while having dinner. The diners ate from trays attached to their saddles and sipped champagne through rubber tubes from iced bottles in their saddlebags. Waiters dressed as grooms served courses, and each horse had a feedbag of oats to chomp on as well.’”

“CKG Billings (above left, with Lou Dillon in 1903) sounds as loopy as TREY.”

“My master plan is to make a move on his daughter, Blanche Pauline Billings, who, due to my careful planning, will be exactly my age. I haven’t been able to find any photos of Blanche, but my research continues. Son-in-law to CKG Billings is definitely my plan A, especially if Blanche is a fox. Imagine a fox on my arm and great trotters all around me. I’d be living the dream.”