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Monday, October 31, 2011

Casino Field Day for Lobbyists

The NY Post reports today that various "gambling interests" have spent some $2.5 million over the last year on lobbying with respect to the push for a constitutional amendment legalizing casino gambling in New York State - with the lion’s share coming from firms representing the state’s nine track racinos.

Genting, the deep-pocketed Malaysian gambling and resort firm operating Resorts World, has already emerged as the lobbyist’s best friend in Albany.

It has hired four of Albany’s most powerful lobbying firms to push its interests in the state capital. They are firms headed by Patricia Lynch, who is a former top aide to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, ex-Republican state Sen. Nick Spano, ex-state Senate staffer John Cordo and racing maven Brian Meara.

Genting is paying the four firms a combined $1 million. [NY Post]
This of course is to encourage Albany to pass legislation in the session which starts in January 2012. Then, they'll have to do it all over again in 2013, at which time it's possible that the Senate will have flipped to the Democrats and the dynamics will be different. And then, imagine all the cash that will be spent on campaigning in favor of the required referendum in November of 2013!

At the same time, Genting is no doubt opening its wallet to fight for casino gambling in Florida, where it spent $236 million to buy the Miami Herald building, and where it plans to invest more than $3 billion in the project.

Nice. And you mean to tell me that, whether it's obligated to or not, Genting couldn't spring for a relative pittance to help spruce up the horseplayers' facilities at Aqueduct with which it shares a building, just a little bit? Just to be a nice neighbor, and to take a little pride in its grand creation?

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Huge Crowds Make For a Depressing Start

Got a press release, from Genting's PR agency and forwarded by NYRA, in my email just after the opening of Resorts World on Friday stating that "tens of thousands of enthusiastic visitors" had descended upon the racino for the 1PM opening. I found that rather hard to believe....and, in fact, laughable, as I noted on my Twitter feed. Subsequent news reports however, indeed depict masses of humanity lined up for a mile just to get in.

The operators said 15,000 were inside by late afternoon and with 5,000 on line outside, they were suggesting that people postpone their first visit to the new Queens hot spot. [NY Daily News]
So, while that initial assertion still seems a gross exaggeration at the time it was made, it's obvious that a lot of people either made it inside at some point during the day and night, or were turned away. Genting officials, supportive (and money-hungry) politicians, and the New York Racing Association will no doubt hail the throngs as a harbinger of great things to come. Indeed, we only have to wait until Jan 1 before the initial benefits to the local sport become apparent, in the form of the 36% purse increase that will no doubt lift the quality of the winter sport far above the pitiful doldrums of recent years. One can only imagine what the purses will be like at Saratoga next summer.

However, right now, I'm finding all this commotion over the slots parlor to be downright depressing. Here, we have this great game of horseracing that can barely attract a few thousand a day amongst the millions in the metropolitan area; but thousands vie for the opportunity to tether themselves to a video bandit and sit for hours amongst the droning cacophony of the machines (the modern day iteration of "Franklin...Franklin"), lost in their own virtual, mindless solitude. I feel as if all the complex challenges and intricate data puzzles that we so love about our game are the very things that work against its public acceptance in the 21st century.

And even more depressing is watching this video report on the site. One woman on line says "When people retire, they need entertainment. And this is it, honey!" Really? This is it? I do try to not be judgmental or condescending (elitist, some might say). But after seeing and hearing from the Resorts World patrons in this video, I have to say one thing: Never again will I feel like a lowlife walking into the racetrack there.

Though, apparently, the condition of the racing side at the Big A will, at least for now, work against our feeling too superior. According to David Grening of the Form:
Racing fans who visit Aqueduct when that meet opens next Friday won’t be so impressed with their side of the building. Aside from opening once-enclosed mutuel bays on the second floor, the building is still very much run-down. [DRF]
Now, I certainly didn't anticipate any major renovations at this time; NYRA had made it clear that it had other priorities, and it wouldn't even be reasonable for us to expect a major overhaul at this early stage. Charlie Hayward told the Form that "in a relatively short period of time – a year or two – the horseplayer will have a much better environment.” They'll be a new simulcast facility, a joint Genting-NYRA project, on the third floor which promises to be really cool.

However, it wouldn't have taken much in the way of money ("tens of thousands," maybe?) or effort to make the kind of minor and merely cosmetic improvements - some new indoor seating, a rug shampoo (or five), a fresh coat or two of paint - to make a huge difference. I mean, they've had six months to apply just a little tender loving care for those of us who support the sport during the bleak winter months. So, if I walk in there next weekend (if I can even get close to the place...will NYRA encourage us to wait a week?) and find that things are exactly as they were, I'm gonna be majorly pissed. And I just might vent about it here!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

They're Off! In Race for Casinos

With just, as of this very moment, 1 day, 14 hours, 31 minutes, and 08 seconds until its Resort World finally bring VLT's to the Big A, Genting is already working towards the ultimate prize of a full-fledged casino on the site (or maybe somewhere else?). The company is part of the recently-formed New York Gaming Association (NYGA NYGA), a consortium made up of the owners of the state's nine existing racinos. The group held a press conference on Wednesday, during which it extolled the results of a poll which showed that a "strong majority" of New Yorkers support Allowing Enhanced Casino Gaming At Existing Racetrack Casinos.

"New Yorkers support enhanced casino gaming because they understand that residents are currently spending billions of gaming dollars in Connecticut, Atlantic City and elsewhere, and that we can and should take action to keep that money in our state where it can boost our own economy," said NYGA President James D. Featherstonhaugh. [Press Release]
A familiar argument to be sure! Of course, the survey was commissioned by the NYGA, so take it for what it's worth. (Besides the fact that if it was up to the strong support of the public, the highest-earners in the state wouldn't be getting a tax cut at the new year.) These polls can depend on how the questions are worded....and if you look at the slide presentation here, you'll see, for example, this question that was posed to the 702 voters, after they were asked if they approved of casino gambling at the nine tracks.
Would you support or oppose this proposal to allow a broader expansion of casino gambling beyond the nine existing racetrack sites?
A survey commissioned by the Indian tribes might have first asked if you support or oppose casinos run by Indian tribes, and then about a proposal to allow a broader expansion beyond those sites and gotten a similar response favoring them. To be fair, the final question seems balanced, asking if enhanced casinos should be at the nine tracks or at "Indian-run facilities," resulting in a 62-24 plurality for NYGA. However, if that was indeed the last question asked, Indian casinos had already been framed as the "broader expansion" of the games.

In any event and whatever the result and how it was obtained, the poll and the press conference is merely the first PR shot to be fired in what figures to be a protracted battle between and amongst the tracks, the tribes, and private investors like Lou Cappelli for a piece of the casino action. And it's sure to involve some familiar and influential folks in Albany; and in fact, it already has. Featherstonhaugh is a long-time Albany lobbyist himself, and NYGA has enlisted the services of Patricia Lynch & Associates.

The silence you hear in all of this is from the racing side of the racinos and the horsemen themselves. This is a different ballgame then the VLT's, which came into existence in large part to help the racing industry, and with guaranteed shares of the revenue to the sport written into the law. There are presently no such guarantees that a casino amendment will contain any such thing. You may have read Joe Faraldo's testimony on the subject, in which he expressed concern about the racinos trying to maneuver to lower tax rates as some of their electronic games morph into the real thing.....and his fear that the competition from full-fledged casinos will destroy the tracks without any revenue sharing.

Indeed, there's not a word about horse racing in the 15 page slide show linked to above. So, those who were skeptical to start with are surely even more so today.

- Links to free pdf's of Equibase past performances for the Breeders' Cup pre-entries are here. Or you can get the Form's pp's for nine bucks here.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Countdown to a New Era


(I know it's not really an appropriate graphic, but it was the best I could find.) Resorts World opens Friday at 1 PM.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Wonky Take on Dutrow, Common Sense on Uncle Mo

Here's a wonky legal take, by wonky lawyer Chris Wittstruck, on Dutrow's legal challenge to the revocation of his license and 10 year suspension. As you may know, the trainer got a 30 day stay of the ban on Monday.

Interesting reading; an unbiased and unemotional look at some issues not quite as cut and dried as what we've been reading in the press. For example, Dutrow's legal team is accusing NYS Racing and Wagering Board Chairman John Sabini as having a "remarkable" conflict of interest...

...inasmuch as Sabini is also a board member of the Association of Racing Commissioners International; the same group whose President, Ed Martin, a former New York racing official, called for the revocation of Dutrow's license in a highly publicized letter to the Board. Mr. Koenig's call for Chairman Sabini's recusal was denied by the Hearing Officer as beyond the scope of his authority and was, in any event, rejected by Chairman Sabini himself. Whether Mr. Koenig's theory of conflict goes beyond a mere appearance of impropriety remains to be seen.
Seems a valid point there, as it has always seemed to me that the Board was being pressured by toothless national bodies such as this one and The Jockey Club to do what they are unable to do, and thus do their bidding for them.
The rejection by the Hearing Officer of the testimony of Mr. Dutrow's character witnesses, ranging from retired Hall of Fame jockey Angel Cordero, Jr. to renowned Kentucky veterinary surgeon Dr. Lawrence Bramlage, coupled with the nature of Mr. Dutrow's medication violations over the last 10 years as being mostly minor overages of legitimate therapeutic drugs, sets the stage for a claim that the 10-year administrative ban is "shocking to the conscious" (See Matter of Pell v. Board of Education, 34 NY2d 222 (1974)). The Board's 10-year reapplication ban, however, was in fact a melioration of the hearing officer's recommendation that Dutrow never be permitted to reapply for a racing license.
The lawyer for the Board argues that, should Dutrow be permitted to obtain stays throughout his appeals process, he could drag this thing out and continue training for up to 3 years. So we may still be deciding what to do with his dropdowns and 3-day runbacks for quite some time still.

- I've been reading some suggestions that Uncle Mo run in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile rather than the Classic....and my reaction is....HUH?? Because, as some people say, that race would be better suited for him? Why would we, as horseplayers, care about that? After all, I think we have a vested interest, in the never-ending quest for the kind of value we should all be seeking all of the time, to see that high profile horses who are sure to take a lot of money be entered in races that they can NOT win! (See Winter Memories, and what some "respected handicappers" had to say before the race!) Not saying (yet) that that's the case with Uncle Mo's chances in the Classic. But the mile and a quarter distance surely raises the kind of questions that will have me looking elsewhere should his odds not reflect that uncertainty.

And, strictly as fans, why would we possibly want to see him run in a non-Championship race on a program billed as World Championships? After all, the Dirt Mile shouldn't even be run on Saturday anyway. It should be part of a Friday program of nice, but strictly supporting races such as the F&M Sprint (sorry girls) and the juvenile turf races. As they were when the Friday program was instituted at Monmouth, before the stupid Filly Friday idea that I guess we'll need an overhaul of BC management in order to finally get rid of. Mike Repole should be applauded for showing the kind of sportsmanship and risk-taking that we always lament that we don't see enough of in the sport. (And for, perhaps, giving us a chance to make a little money on the race.)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Derby Wars, and the War on Dutrow

Been writing here for some time about the need for online handicapping contests. And, as you may know, the Jockey Club finally caught on and recently announced their free to play game which is long overdue.

However, contests don't only have to be for beginners nor for, on the other end of the scale, the hardercore guys and gals who compete on the NHC circuit. Derby Wars is a new contest site, from the folks behind the Horse Racing Nation site (which claims 3 million visitors a year) which I had the chance to check out as part of a beta group a couple of weeks ago, and it was a hoot and a half. User-friendly with a smooth interface, action packed going back and forth amongst tracks, and a great way to interact with your fellow horseplayers. One of the big paradoxes of this nutty game to me is the way that most of us are not only willing, but eager to expound on a brilliant insight you've learned through some hard work, clever instinct, keen insight, and the wiseness acquired over many a Racing Form, with the people against whom you are directly competing for your share of the 80% or so of the parimutuel pool. So, on Derby Wars, you can chat about the races in a box located right on the main page where you make your selection; track each others' picks, and watch yourself climb up (or crash down) the standings, updated instantly as the results come in. I wasn't SPIKE, as you probably guessed. But I held my own in the top 25, and it felt good to do so against a bunch of sharp folks.

There are contests available for every level, with points to be earned towards free games, games from $6 to $200, and games for ten horseplayers up in increments up to as many as 200. They have contests coming up this weekend, so check it out, maybe I'll run into you there.

Ten years for Dutrow, and I read a tweet asking if Brendan Shanahan was doling out suspensions for the NYS Racing and Wagering Board, in addition to the National Hockey League. There, he's quickly established a reputation as a stern disciplinarian. But, in relative terms, if Shanahan's decisions were really comparable to the Dutrow penalty, I figure he'd have to suspend a guy for around 5 1/2 seasons. In a sport in which the six month suspension of Steve Asmussen and the one year ban of Patrick Biancone qualify as outliers, ten years is so out of proportion that I don't really know what to say in terms of whether it's appropriate, or not.

Without excusing his inexcusable behavior (and his seemingly frivolous attitude about it), Dutrow is surely a victim of circumstance and timing, with the matter of medication in horse racing being the subject of a congressional committee, and front page news in the New York Times, which has accommodated the journalistic crusade by Joe Drape with regular prominent placement. Surely, given his record, it's hard to portray him as a scapegoat. But do you think he's really 20 times worse than virtually all the other offenders?

Well, maybe he is, maybe he's not. One thing is damn sure though. He asked for it. And this time, he got it.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Keeneland Wednesday

In the 4th at Keeneland, Harborplace (5-1) has improved in his last two races, from some already decent form, since the addition of blinkers, and a jockey change to Greta Kuntzweiler, for trainer Albert Stall, off to a 6-2-1-1 start at the meet. He takes a drop in claiming price from 30K to 20K, and I'm not concerned about the fact that he's moving into open claimers from NW3 lifetime, since this entire field would also be eligible for that condition restriction. Nicely handled a jump in class in that last effort, suffering a narrow loss on the Poly at Turfway to Z Appeal, who I think could very well contend for favoritism in this race. Son of Dixieland Band has performed well on various surfaces and with various running styles; and the fact that his two wins have come on turf bodes well for his Keeneland Poly debut. Extra distance main concern, but seems good value at his morning line. Golden Causeway (3-1) had a good effort in allowance company on this course in the spring, has faced better and seems the one to beat for Graham Motion, off to a great start at the meet at 10-3-1-2. Good luck and have a great day!

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Head Chef has the Real Scoop on the Arc

-written by Deborah
Last week, as you know, my sweetie and I attended the ARC in Paris. There has been plenty of talk about racing and horses, and blah, blah, blah, but I know what you really want to hear about is what everybody wore and what we ate, so here it is!

Taking the metro to The Arc
All dressed up and on our way. Doesn't he look cute? The nervous expression is him practicing to say in French :"Ten Euros on the 4 to win in the 5th ." s'il vous plaît.

It's all about the hats
As soon as we arrived I knew we were in for a treat. No they are not brides.
Oh, how impossibly chic!! I live for this stuff.
This hat is entirely covered in black feathers. There were oh so many fantastical feathered chapeaux to be seen.
It wasn't just about the woman, the men were looking very dapper too.

Très beau!

Even the marching band looked impossibly spiffy. Those hats they have on are so Charles de Gaulle.

Black hats seemed to rule the day.
But not everyone played by the rules. These two cuties sat right near us. Notice the tiny red top hat on the left, set at a jaunty angle. The hat on the right was handmade from leaves and flowers. It began to fall apart by the end of the afternoon, but had managed to make a great impression for most of the day.
OK on to the food:
A four course meal that tasted pretty good and looked très élégant.
This is where we sat to eat. Notice the unobstructed view of the paddock. Nice! That didn't last long once the crowds filled in every available space, but still!

The event felt like we were at a fancy wedding, dressed in our slightly uncomfortable fancy clothes sitting at a table with a lot of people we did not know, drinking a lot of wine and eating a meal that we had no choice about, which was presented in a fancy manor by lots of waiters. I had fun!
The first course was a scallop dish with morel mushrooms in a creamy sauce garnished with a dash of orange zest.
Pas mauvais!

The second course was veal with endive and some très délicieux lima beans and more mushrooms.
The third course: Oops, forgot to take a picture of the cheese course before I ate it. The cheese itself was a lackluster chèvre, but the fresh herbs surrounding it were heaven!

Forget about a picture of dessert. We were long gone on paying attention by that point. It was a lovely little morsel of a fig tart with some ice cream on the side. Devoured in an instant.

What an unbelievable day! Our host Gina was so gracious and kind and made us feel incredibly welcome. I had joked with my daughter while packing for this trip about bringing my glue gun to Paris to make a hat for the Arc. Well, no joke, I know what to do next year. Got to find some black feathers.
au revoir!

Occupying the World

I was being quite literal by the way at the conclusion of the last post when I said that the Occupy Wall Street protests had reverberated even to the primarily desolate stretch of Iceland where we were….either in or outside the village of Grindavik, Iceland somewhere, I'm not really sure. I was reading an English language alternative-type newspaper from Reykjavik over breakfast (regarding the big Iceland Airwaves music festival taking place there this week, featuring artists such as Björk [naturally], Sinead O'Connor, and Connecticut native and personal favorite tUnE-yArDs), that was available in the motel; and indeed, there was one article entirely devoted to the protests, and another which referenced them with respect to dissent which broke out in Iceland over the bank crisis there a few years ago.

We had dinner at the motel, called Northern Lights, on Saturday night, and, quite abruptly, all of the other diners got up and went stampeding outside the front door! “What’s going on,” this startled visitor from Queens asked the staff, which stood unmoved by the commotion. “It’s the northern lights!” So out we went, and indeed, there was an eerie illumination overhead. I was skeptical though; seemed to me it was merely an illusion created by the bright lights from the nearby geothermal power plant (from which the Blue Lagoon was spawned) against the clouds. So, there I went again, talking about something about which I know absolutely nothing! However, the second time that everyone went racing out (apparently, the night desk clerk keeps a vigilant watch for such an event), there was no doubt about the rays of light stretching across the sky. It was quite a sight to behold, even though it seemed like an average event compared to pictures of the phenomenon that we see.

Iceland is crazy, man….imagine a country with a total population of just over 300,000! That represents a mere corner of a corner of a corner of a city like New York!

That's not ice, by the way, but rather the silica deposits from the water that powers the power plant. In fact, it doesn't actually snow all that much during the winter, and the average temperature during that time is actually warmer than in Toronto or even New York,

Back to Stockholm. We stayed near an area referred to as “Sofo.” Not sure how exactly it’s derived, but I’m sure that the reference to our own Soho is intended in terms of the hipness factor. Reminded us more though of least the Williamsburg of a few years ago before the hideous high rises on the waterfront started to transform the neighborhood. Besides the ample references to American culture, there were political ones too....saw a flyer regarding Occupy Wall Street, and one that read "We are all Troy Davis today."

A few more from around town.

And I thought you might appreciate this one….a store specializing in riding paraphernalia. It means ‘horse bit.’ I think.

And ah….Paree, Paree, where it all started, seemingly ages ago! And where, we watched a French language report on the Occupy Wall Street protests on TV in our room at the wonderful Hotel St. Jacques.

And now, hélas, we are back. In Queens. Oh man...

Next up...we return to our regularly scheduled programming. Thanks for the indulgence. Until next time, au revior.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Last Stop - The Blue Lagoon

I had written that our last stop before returning home would be Reykjavik, Iceland, but we are actually in Grendavik, home of the geothermal spa known as the Blue Lagoon.

I'm not going to explain here how it works, mostly because I don't really know myself. You can read about it on their website if you wish. All I know is that the water is blue and anywhere from warm to hot, depending on where you're standing. It's rich with unique minerals, and silica, with which you can give youself a mud treatment.

It is no surprise that the readers of “Conde Nast Traveller” voted Blue Lagoon as the best medical spa worldwide. For five consecutive years Blue Lagoon has been awarded the Blue Flag environmental recognition granted to natural beaches and marinas.
We spent a few hours there last evening amidst a spectacular show of sun and clouds as day turned to night. Afterwards, we felt serene and relaxed.....and we will need every bit of that today in preparation for our return to our real world. There, we will be faced with the usual challenges of everyday life, but infused with a new spirit and clamor for change which started downtown just around the corner where I work, and which has reverberated to all the places that we've been, even in this desolate stretch of land where we are now. Speak to you next time from home.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Game On (Spelet kan börja!)...In Stockholm

The most impressive thing about the Ericsson Global Arena in Stockholm, where, on Friday night, we saw the Rangers open the season against the LA Kings, is its ceiling, and the sheer vertical size of the place. I know this photo doesn’t at all properly capture its enormous scale. It almost recalled, if only in its dimension, the majestic structures we’d seen last year in Paris such as Notre Dame or the Pantheon. In fact, the huge round dome was visible from afar in parts of Stockholm. At first I thought it was something like the old Elmhurst gas tanks in Queens! Then, the Head Chef noted that it most be the arena. As in ‘global….arena....'oh, yeah. I’m not sure what the purpose of its enormity is, other than perhaps just as an impressive architectural feat. I’m sure it doesn’t do any favors to bands like the Red Hot Chili Peppers who play there next week.

Also extremely impressive were the sightlines for the game. We were sitting up in the first balcony, pretty high up on that level, but felt right on top of the ice. I imagine it was probably a better viewpoint than any you might find at the Garden, which is absolutely just the worst, and will remain so after the renovation, I'm sure.

Otherwise, it was really just your run-of-the-mill arena, without much character and featuring pedestrian services and refreshment stands (and not nearly enough of them). There were a couple of bar areas on our level. Seemed they tried to create some kind of American décor in those, to sometimes-humorous effect. Hard to imagine a more hysterically incongruous combination than the Pep Boys with Frank Zappa!

There were the usual luxury boxes, thought they didn’t look all that luxurious from an outsider’s point of view; and a restaurant up atop one of the end zones. But the Prudential Center in Newark, this was not.

It was a strange atmosphere to be sure. The majority of the fans were ostensibly rooting for the Rangers thanks to the presence of native hero Henrik Lundqvist; Norwegian-born Mats Zuccarello also had a following, having played in the Swedish professional league for two years, and winning the MVP in 2010. But it was pretty quiet for the most part, sometimes eerily so. Some drunken Swedish fans started some ‘Let’s Go Rangers’ chants; a handful of what I guess were “real” fans from New York did a couple of Potvin Sucks chants; and the Kings dopey looking mascot banged on his little drum. Even though it was technically a Kings home game, the Garden’s PA announcer was there, and they played the familiar rah-rah videos that we see in the Garden (with Sean Avery carefully edited out). We were even subjected, after the two Ranger scores, to the insufferable “Goal Song”, which really needs to be sent to the scrapheap (along with the stupid 18 minute bell at Saratoga).

The Rangers’ goals were greeted with cheers from the majority of the fans, but hardly the really heartfelt ones we hear at home. There were less Kings fans, but I had the feeling that they were genuine fans who had traveled from the States to the game, and what they lacked in numbers, they made up for in enthusiasm. The loudest cheers of the night were reserved for the introductions of the former Swedish NHL stars in attendance, including Mats Sundin, Anders Hedberg, Markus Naslund, Mattias Nordstrum (more of a B list guy, but still an enthusiastic response for him), Borje Salming, and Ulf Nillson (here, I explained to an indifferent Head Chef that it was Denis Potvin’s notorious, though totally clean, hit on he which inspired the chant that won’t go away, and which now spans the continents). A local singer named September also got a nice reception.

And the most enthusiastic crowd response of all during for the singing of the Swedish national anthem, which followed the Star Spangled Banner; it attracted a heartfelt and lusty chorus of accompaniment from the local crowd. That was really cool to hear.

There was a fight in the second period; one of those so-called ‘”staged” fights which occurred right off a faceoff. I’ve always been, if not an “advocate” of fighting, one who readily accepts them, and sees it as a relatively harmless and cheekily humorous aspect of the North American game. I admit to being a frequent visitor to However, with the tragic events of the offseason past, I’m starting to reconsider. And here, I found myself hoping that the players would show some respect for their local environs, where fighting is not permitted in the professional league (nor in international play), and forgo that little bit of frivolity for this particular occasion.

Nonetheless, the fans seemed to really enjoy it, though they didn’t know quite how to react. At one point while Brandon Prust and the Kings’ Kyle Clifford slugged it out (I gave the advantage to Prust), they broke into a round of rhythmic applause! (As they did during the lone Rangers power play. We might consider doing that at the Garden if the home team doesn’t improve in that aspect of the game, lest we fall asleep.) (And I see that they went 0-7 in Saturday's shootout loss to the Ducks.)

And, in the end, I ended up feeling completely at home, since the Rangers wasted a late lead and lost (albeit in overtime, thus earning a loser’s point). The Broadway Blueshirts (unfortunately wearing their home whites for this occasion) have been one of the worst home teams in the league the last couple of seasons, so walking out shaking my head is quite a familiar feeling. Being that they will still play their complete allotment of 41 home games at the Garden, we’ll still have plenty more opportunities to experience that feeling. Unfortunately, those games at the Garden will hardly measure up to the unique and exhilarating experience of seeing them play in this setting. Here’s a few more photos from the evening.

Ryan Callahan was one of the bright spots, playing his usual energetic game in his first game as the Rangers' captain. Easy to see why he was so badly missed when out with an injury during the playoffs last year.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Taken for a Swedish Ride

Before some Stockholm photos, thought you'd like this one of a Paris 'PMU,' the equivalent of OTB...actually just a regular old tabac that takes bets on, and carries live feeds of French horse racing. Gotta love those images of the bettors having such a great time! Reminds you of NYC OTB, eh?

And one more from Paris (for now)....the gravesite of Serge Gainsbourgh in the Montparnesse Cemetary. No, that's not the one where Jim Morrison is, where we visited last year, and which is just spectacular, and would be even if Morrison wasn't there. This one doesn't really compare in the artistry of the tombstones nor the picturesque setting. But it does have some celebrities, Jean Seberg and Jean-Paul Satre amongst them. But Gainsbourgh's is by far the most decorated.

Now, on to Stockholm, which is as uniquely enchanting as advertised....and as expensive too. Pays to stay in the Euro zone of debt crises these days. And have to admit that this "sophisticated" traveler got totally ripped off by a Stockholm cab driver upon arrival. Not that we didn't know what was happening; in fact, the Head Chef went into the hotel for help. The very nice man who was manning the front desk at the Columbus Hotel where we're staying came out to help. They had an animated conversation in Swedish, of which I couldn't possibly comprehend a single syllable, after which he dejectedly shrugged and told us the guy wasn't budging....and that the police are generally no help whatsoever in these situations. They just agree with whatever the meter says. So just beware next time you happen to drop by here.

Visited Olde Town on Thursday, and ran across a place called the Wooden Horse Museum. No photos allowed there (this one is from their site), but thought you guys might appreciate taking a look at the website.

Some photos:

Olde Town:

Also visited the National Museum; and besides a solid permanent collection, there was an absolutely fantastic exhibit of late 19th century Russian Art; just wonderful. Reminded me that we don't really see much Russian art in NYC, but the few times I have, they have surely been memorable. Maybe this exhibit will make it to New York...would definitely check it out again if it does.

And ended the day at Restaurant Pelikan, where, after being treated to a solid mix of American indie rock while waiting for a table in the bar area (and where we ran into a fellow Ranger fan, from Washington DC), we, or at least, I, dined on, what else, Swedish meatballs!

One more full day here, and the Rangers game tomorrow night - and we're already regretting we're not here longer (though we probably couldn't afford much more). Then we're heading towards home on Saturday....though not before a 24 hour stopover in Reykjavik, Iceland. In the wacky and always wonderful world of airfares, it actually cost us slightly less to book this multi-leg journey than it would have to simply fly from Paris and back. Go figure. Though the difference was barely enough to pay for a taxi ride in Stockholm....even a legit one! Vi ses senare!