Goodbye Chazz

Received the news today that my favorite Portland radio host is hitting the road.  Heading for greener and more liberal pastures down in San Francisco.  Chad Doing has been a host here in Portland since I came to town in 2008 and he’s been a big part of my life in some ways.  I first met Chad when he ran the board for Gavin Dawson on The Morning Sports Page show that I would go on to promote events at Portland Meadows.  Chad was famous as “Chad in Portland” for calling into Jim Rome’s show and he was also nicknamed “The Body” because of his former bodybuilding career, which i’m convinced was more of a joke cause he probably weighs 150 soaking wet.  When Gavin left for Dallas, Texas, Chad stepped up into the big seat and hosted the morning show for years.  I remember sitting in the studio with him and watching him pound coffee after coffee, the lack of sleep quite apparent in his eyes.  Staying up til 10:30 to watch the end of the Blazers game and then having to be on air again at 6am to talk about it seemed a crazy schedule.  He had several co-hosts, all of whom eventually went onto different ventures.  Chad moved to the afternoons a year or more ago and basically did the same show, just in the afternoon and with a normal sleep pattern.

But that is just his resume.

Let me tell you why Chad is special to me and many listeners here in Portland.  He was an open book on the air.  I think Chad used radio as his form of therapy.  Chad shared personal stories of his life all the time on the show and wore his heart on his sleeve, and THAT’S why we listened.  I’m sure his analysis of Blazer defense or his thoughts on the NFL Free Agency market were good.  But to be honest, I never really cared about that stuff.  But I’ll never forget the times he shared about his own gambling addiction.  About wanting to attempt suicide.  About his relationship with his Dad, or his Nana in Oklahoma.  Or about his son Isaac.  Or about his daughter.  Or about anything in his life.  That’s what I”ll remember and I’m sure what most people in Portland will remember about Chad.  He was one of us.  He was a fan.  He was a person.  He just happened to have a microphone in front of him.

I was fortunate to go on with Chad this past spring and have a very good conversation about our gambling addictions and my book Southbound.  I think we both just put it all out there.  And both he and I got a number of responses telling us “I needed to hear that today”.  Here’s a link to that interview. http://750thegame.com/2014/04/01/jason-beem-blends-fiction-with-reality/

One of my favorite parts of getting to be on Chad’s show was getting to talk to listeners out in the real world about it.  EVERY time I was on his show someone or multiple people would say they heard it.  And almost all of them would ask “Chad sure seems like a good dude.  Is he cool off the air?”  The best part was I could answer seriously by saying “He’s exactly the same.  Only difference between Chad on air and Chad in person is a little red light is on.”

I’m really happy for him because I’m glad to see hard work paying off.  He gets to go broadcast in the #4 market in the country for radio.  I’ve seen Chad up at 6am on Saturdays to host special shows out at the track, the convention center or a myriad of different places.  Doing listener events at dive bars and events with a handful of people showing up.  Doing events where hundreds showed up.  San Francisco is getting a really good dude and a good talk show host.  I’ll be listening.  God Bless the Internet.

Thanks Chazz for “Being a Blessing”

Mile Memories

Longacres, the most beautiful track ever

Longacres, the most beautiful track ever

The Longacres Mile is my favorite race. Always has been and likely always will be.  It’s “our” race here in the Northwest.  It’s the one everyone up here wants to win.  It’s history here, it’s been run 78 times and Sunday is the 79th renewal.  I wanted to share some of my memories of my favorite race over the years.  From the last few years at old Longacres and it’s beautiful poplar trees and meticulously manicured infield grass, to the more recent ones at Emerald Downs, standing right at the foot of Mt. Rainier.

1990–I was ten years old and was just getting a little too big to sit on my dad’s shoulders anymore.  But Longacres had this green retaining wall that acted as the rail for fans to go stand up against and the closer you got to the winner’s circle, the higher that wall got.  So as they were going into the gate I begged my dad to let me sit on his shoulders.  He flung me up just in time to see Snipledo come flying out of the gate and lead the field on a merry chase around the oval.  Snipledo dominated that day.  He had been claimed for $60,000 just two starts prior and one of the owners he was claimed away from was my pal Jerry Kohls, the now longtime racing secretary at Portland Meadows.  Jerry was at Yakima Meadows back then and said his $15,000 share of the claim was used for a down payment on his house.  I told him “just imagine what the $35,000 share you’d have got for winning the Mile would have bought!”

1991–My dad told me as we were walking into the track this day “It’s gonna be all G. Stevens today Jas”.  Gary Stevens was coming in to ride Louis Cyphre, the big California shipper.  There almost  always is a “Big California shipper”.  Well I was sticking with my favorite horse, Captain Condo!  Sure enough, Louis got the jump on the Condo and the Condo had to settle for second.

1992–2002–So from 1992 to 2003 I was more concerned with school, baseball, playing in a band, and getting chicks, so I didn’t go to any Mile’s.

2003–The might Sky Jack gives one more big run and dominates a field to win going away.  I had just started law school at Gonzaga the week before, but I spent the entire day in the OTB at the defunct Post Falls Greyhound Park watching and wagering.  I liked Poker Brad as a long shot and he ran second but nobody was getting to Sky Jack that day.  I think it may be the most impressive Longacres Mile win at Emerald Downs.

2004–I had secured a job at Emerald Downs as a turf writer, doing all the stories for the website and helping out in the media office.  I also was really beginning my degeneracy as a serious compulsive gambler.  I brought 300 with me to the track that day and was punting at Calder by 9:50am, still 8 hours from Mile post time.  Well by about 11:30am, still two and a half hours to first post at Emerald, I had blown the $300.  I spent the entire night before handicapping the emerald downs races and going through them with a fine tooth comb, and now i’d pissed away my money betting races I hadn’t even capped.  Well I reach into my wallet to take out the ATM card and…..fuck.  I left my card at home.  So I spent the entire day watching and not betting, pissed off, annoyed and angry.  Adreamisborn won in the slop and I watched from the winner’s circle bitter as hell.

2005–One of my best memories as a gambler.  All day long I’d watched the speed tire and tire and tire and quit.  Now Longacres Mile Day every year has always favored speed when it’s a fast track.  I think the first 8 runnings of the MIle at Emerald Downs nobody came from like more than a length and a half behind at the half mile to win it.  The conspiracy theorists say since track owner Ron Crockett had a deep closer in the form of Harvard Avenue and he demanded the track be groomed to help closers.  So ten minutes before the Mile, I toss out all my handicapping from the night before and do a 5 horse trifecta box for $60, betting horses I think will come from off the pace and chucking favored Flamethrowintexan.  Well Tex and Sabertooth cut out a half mile in 44 and 4/5 seconds and the closers came a running, in the form of 60/1 No Giveaway over 25/1 Quiet Cash over 3/1 Quiet Cash and I took home the trifecta for $4,900!  I was jumping and dancing and screaming down on the apron while everyone else sat in silence at the 60/1 shocker!!

2006-2008–I was at River Downs announcing and had to watch via TV.

2009–I hosted the Rail Bird Rally which is a great tail gate event.  I got to interview Laffit PIncay Jr., Ron Crockett, some guy from West Point Thoroughbreds and many others!  It was about 80 degrees by noon and then I had to change into a tuxedo and do paddock handicapping with Victor “The Predictor” Cozzetti in the now 90 degree weather in a tuxedo.  I was out in the heat all day in the tux and eventually got heat stroke, went to the hospital and got fluids injected into me for three hours while Assessment won the Mile from the outside draw.  I also got paid in voucher form that day for my services.  I remember the marketing director saying “ok here’s your check and it was a voucher!”  the voucher started with many hundred dollars on it and by the time I got back from the hospital, I cashed it out for $86.

I love The Mile

Calling Races Again

Well today, I got to do something I hadn’t done in 8+ months.  I called a day of horse races.  Now I’ve probably called somewhere around 9 or 10 thousand races, but the 8 today were kinda special for a few reasons.  The last day I called races was the very end of December last year.  I had been struggling with my anxiety terribly last year and had been off my medication (boy that was not a smart move) and being anywhere public, let alone announcing horse races, was pretty impossible.  I didn’t go home for Christmas.  I stayed isolated in my apartment.  Well all that anxiety finally caught up to me and started to interfere at work. I’d say for a few weeks, I was white knuckling calling races.  I certainly wasn’t doing it well.  Some would argue I never did, but I think I have a knack for it. Well the last day that Hollywood Park ran was the last day I called races for a while.  Until today actually.  I left after the 7th race that day because I was having a terrible panic attack.  I’ll never forget I got home and watched our races on HRTV as our racing secretary called the races.  Brad Free on HRTV said something to the effect of “Jason Beem not calling the races now.  He’s a really good young announcer and great on twitter.”  I got like 12 followers immediately and as they all signed up, I bawled my eyes out, knowing I wasn’t capable of doing something I used to love.  Calling races.  I took the last couple weeks of the season off and on more than one occasion thought “well my days of racecalling our done.”  I spent the winter looking for new jobs, careers, and trying to figure out what I wanted to do.  I got hired at a job that I really enjoy, but it’s not announcing.  When I feel good, I love announcing.  When I don’t, I don’t really love anything.  But new medications, therapy and some other healthier avenues had me feeling good.  But I wasn’t sure if it was enough to get me to go back to announcing.

I turned down two job offers from other tracks back east this early spring.  I just didn’t think I was ready to not only move cross country but to be full time announcing again.  So I said no.  I was honest as to why I wasn’t going and both places were really nice and said to stay in touch.  But when my boss called me two weeks ago and said ‘hey were’ having a last minute racing day on August 17th do you want to come announce?  I said yes right away.  I wanted to make sure I could do it and see if my feeling better day to day would transfer back to announcing, where I’d had so much trouble before.  Well, I got through the day.  And I did pretty well calling for being off an 8 month layoff.  It came back like riding a bike.  Ironically the only place I struggled was doing PR announcements.  The racecalls came back easily.

The itch of racecalling is back and will always be there.  I’m hoping to be able to announce this winter at Portland Meadows if my schedule will allow it, I think it will.  And who knows, maybe someday I’ll go back on the road again.  Either way, today was fun.  Today was a confidence builder.  Today was a good day.

Connecting through art

I’m really bummed out that Robin Williams died.  Like seriously bummed.  I used to be one of those people who would always be jaded when someone famous died and think “oh it’s just an actor” or “oh it’s just a musician, you didn’t even know the person.” Then Layne Staley died.   I was in the basement of my friends house practicing with my band when our “bass player” Ryan Reed came down and said Layne Staley died.  I drove around in my car all night that night listening to his music.  I listened to his songs the day my dad died.  I listened to his songs after my dad died and they pulled emotions and tears out of me that needed to come out.  I listened to his songs the night I lost my virginity (I’m a romantic what can I say).  I listened to his songs during almost every part of my adult life, both good and bad.  That’s why I cry when a stranger leaves the earth.  He wasn’t a stranger.  We were bonded.  Through voice and lyrics and pain and happiness.

I can’t tell you how many times my sister and I have quoted Mrs. Doubtfire lines to each other.  I think of my sister and I often will think of that movie, or a hundred different early 90’s shows or movies.  My sister is one of the most important people in my life, and so much of our bond is through the various art that we enjoyed.  And yes, Just the Ten Of Us counts as art.  It is really hard to make somebody laugh, let alone millions of people.  And to do it over and over again.  I rely on laughter to connect with people.  I’m not a comedian or anything like that, but fewer things make me feel more connected with someone than when I can make them laugh or when they make me laugh.

This scene.  It fucking kills me.  How many of us have carried around weight for something that wasn’t our fault, thinking the whole time it was.  We connect with art.  It breaks us.  At our core.  But it helps put us back together.

I had the great pleasure to meet a writer last year whose books absolutely touched my heart.  She said hello, we hugged and I didn’t want to let go.  I’ve seen people meet this person and go to tears within 2 seconds of meeting her.  She’s not a celebrity or some religious figure.  She’s someone who opened up her wounds to us so we could all heal together.

Sports can be art. Why do you think so many people love horse racing?  Cause of Pick 5’s with low takeout duh!  Well that, and what fucking poetry those animals put out in front of us each day.  Is there anything more pure than a horse running?

Anyways, I love so many people.  You all break my heart in the best possible way.

 

How to have a horse twitter account

I absolutely hate “horse twitter” accounts.  I follow one of them I think, and that’s Glorious Alliance and that’s because she is nice and wrote a book.  Seriously, the horse wrote a book.  If you get a book published you can write a tweet.  Now if you’re a horse out there and you rattle off a few wins, maybe even a graded stakes or two and you want to jump into the world of social media, here’s some advice I have for you about jumping into twitter.

1.  Don’t talk in the first person.  Nobody believes you’re really a horse and imagine what kind of freak show people are going to think you are if you’re a talking horse.  Hollywood will take your right off the track and put you into the movies.  And you know what being in movies mean for animals don’t you?  That’s right….carnies!  You’ll be on the road with little carnies.  Small hands.  Smell like cabbage.

2.  Don’t tweet right after the race.  People are going to know it’s not really you, the horse, tweeting if eight seconds after you cross the wire in front you drop a tweet saying “Suck on my gelded balls, I’m the best!”  Wait until you’re at least cooled out and back in the test barn waiting to pee, that’s a good time to fire out that tweet.

3.  Respect your competition.  While there’s few things worse than a horse twitter account, one thing that is worse is a horse twitter account that is disrespectful to other horses.  C’mon, act like you’ve been in the winner’s circle before.

4.  Don’t argue with horseplayers.  Let me tell you something about horseplayers, they will often come across as grouchy, jaded, bitter and always playing devil’s advocate.  That’s because they are all those things.  When they say “I don’t think you’re going to the get the distance,” it’s not that they think you’re a bad horse or hate you, just means they think your father didn’t have that much stamina.  If they think you are on the “juice”, arguing and yelling at them when they question you doesn’t help your cause.  Roid rage anyone??

5.  Be careful of your connections.  Now even though you’re a horse with a twitter account and a voice, your human connections are still likely going to have a big effect on your twitter experience.  If you’re a horse that lives in a barn like Shugs, or Motion, or Jonathan Sheppard or someone like that, you’re in the clear.  Because your trainers are all class and your owners are likely millionaire business folks who know how to behave.  Now if you’re a Pletcher horse, things might get touch and go.  Seems lots of folks aren’t a fan of your fearless white haired leader, and if you happen to be a freak at Gulfstream and no where else, expect people on twitter to call you out on it.  If you’re from the Baffert barn, just assume most people on the east coast won’t like you (except Kentucky writers, they’ll think you’re the second coming of Man O’War) and a little over half of the west coast will love you.  If you’re chill and cool, you’ll be ok.  But if you start challenging people and getting pesky, it’s over!   And if your owners are rural cowboys from northern California…well as long as you never lose a race….you’re golden!  But if you do, better get the mute button ready!

Happy tweeting horses!

Author Interview–Alisse Lee Goldenberg

Alisse Lee Goldenberg

Alisse Lee Goldenberg

Questions: 1. Your novel Sitnalta has been out in the world for a number of months now, what has the process of having a book out been like for you?

Honestly, I've found it a bit nerve wracking. This book has been a private part of me for so long, that to have complete strangers reading it is a bit scary! But, at the same time, I love the idea that this little story of mine is finding an audience, and that people are enjoying these characters' journeys. So far, the reception has been really good!

2. One of the central themes of the book is the daughter (sitnalta) trying to find and do what she wants with her life. Did you base her feelings on any of your own experiences growing up?

I think every young person out there has to find their own way. Our parents want certain things for us, and they have a certain way that they envisioned our lives. Often what we want is vastly different. So, yeah, I did put a lot of my own thoughts and feelings into Sitnalta's journey, if only from the point of view of "I want something that my parents don't." In fact, I don't think that ever changes, no matter how old you are, and how old your parents may be!

3. what were some of your favorite fairy tales growing up and how did they inspire you as a writer?

My favourite fairy tales have been Hans Christian Anderson's "The Snow Queen", "The History of Jack the Giant Killer", "The Twelve Brothers" about a princess whose brothers get turned into swans, and "The Little Mermaid" - the original version. Not the Disneyfied one.

I always loved how creative the original versions of the fairy tales were. They didn't all have happy endings, but they all taught valuable lessons about life. I actually liked the really sad ones. They seemed more honest in a way. That inspired me a lot. I try to be honest in my writing, even if I'm writing my own fairy tale. It doesn't matter if you're telling a story about trolls and princesses. Everything should still seem real and true to the reader.

4. There are some cool names in the book (Najort is my fave) where do you come up with names for a book that resides in a fantasy world?

I pull names from anywhere and everywhere. If I like the way things sound, I will find a spot for it. I'm going to be hearing the names a lot in my own head, and as I read and write them, so I better find something that resonates with me. In the next Sitnalta book, I was stuck for a name, so I asked my kids what I should call the character. They came up with some interesting possibilities! Not all were useable, but together we found something that stuck.

5. You have young triplets! Does having young kids around help you as a writer, especially one writing fantasy/fairy tales?

It does! They have some great ideas, and watching them imagine and play together is some great inspiration. At the same time, it also gets hectic and crazy trying to find the time to actually sit down and write. It's all about finding a good balance in life. They love stories, and ask me to make them up for them. I love it. I started doing it for my younger brother, which was how Sitnalta was originally born, and now I'm doing it for my kids. It's wonderful.

6. What are you working on now?

Now I'm working on the sequel to Sitnalta. I was struggling to find a name for it, but I am pleased to say that it will be called "The Kingdom Thief". I am also working on first draft edits for the third book in another series I write. The first book is out now, and it's called "The Strings of the Violin". The second book is out September 9, and is called "The Dybbuk's Mirror". The third (the one I'm working on now) will be called "The Dybbuk's Revenge". I also have a short story coming out in an anthology called "Night Life". I wrote the story with a good friend, An Tran. It's called "Ouroboros". Other than that, I have the outline done for the third Sitnalta book. That one came to me title first. It's called "The City of Arches". It's more of a prequel, and will focus on the character of Kralc. So, I'm definitely keeping busy!

Bio:

Alisse Lee Goldenberg is an author of Horror and Young Adult fantasy fiction. She has her Bachelors of Education and a Fine Arts degree, and has studied fantasy and folk lore since she was a child. Alisse lives in Toronto with her husband Brian, their triplets Joseph, Phillip, and Hailey, and their rambunctious Goldendoodle Sebastian. For more on Alisse and her books, check out her website www.alisseleegoldenberg.com

Behind the Mic interview with Michelle Yu

 

Michelle Yu

Michelle Yu

My guest today for this edition of “Behind the Mic” is Michelle Yu.  Whether it’s at Santa Anita, HRTV or now Los Alamitos, you can almost always find Michelle talking about Southern California horse racing year round, and doing it with a big smile on her face!

1.  How did you get into Horse Racing?

 

MY:  I was always into horses and found a picture of a racehorse in the LA Times.  That led me to start reading the sports section every day to find out more and more about horses.  My dad took me to my first race on Big Cap day.

What was your first job in horse racing?

 

MY: My first job in racing was as a PA for TVG.  Around that time I also walked hots for Ron Moquett.  

What are some of the key factors you look for when handicapping a race?

 

MY: I always look for excuses.  I generally try and beat the favorite or at least find a price horse to play with the favorite.  So I key in on horses with back form that I can make excuses for like a bad trip, an off track, a surface swap or too much competition.  I also like 2x lasix, 3rd off a layoff and drop from a maiden claiming tag to half the price for 1x vs winners . 

You often do interviews in the winner’s circle after the big races, what are some of the more memorable interviews/races you’ve been in the winner’s circle for?

 

MY: Gosh, I have done so many and at the time its easy to remember but as the years go by they kind of blend……I interviewed Jess Jackson one time in the pouring rain but I can’t remember if it was for Rachel or Curlin and he didn’t talk to anyone else that day so I got my interview played all over and I was a newbie so that was memorable.  A funny one was when I was interviewing Bill Currin (trainer of Stormello) on a colt that had won first time on the grass and we had been noticing that Stormellos were striking at an unbelievable rate on the lawn.  So I had asked Bill if he ever thought that Stormello would be a good turf sire and he says (live, mind you) “Well…..you know I think that the only time Stormy ever set foot on the grass was to go and take a piss.”.  There have been a lot of emotional moments especially here at Santa Anita with owners that are older or sick winning with a homebred or taking their first stake that everyone is in tears.  And even after the 2 year old races…you can see the hope people have.

What’s the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to you on camera?

 

MY:  I don’t really get embarrassed.  I mean it’s live TV.  Sometimes you say something wrong but you just push past.  I am always the one to eat weird food or learn a dance or make a spectacle so that’s not a good question for me!!!

As a public handicapper, you get criticized and praised.  What’s the nicest thing a fan has ever said to you?  What about the harshest?

 

MY: Anything that is nice is always great.  Thanks to Twitter especially, fans can connect right with you all the time.  They might have played a winning longshot and are thanking you or just appreciate you explaining something they didn’t know or understand.  You always get a smile on your face when you read or hear that you made a difference in someones day.  The harshest is always the same.  “you don’t know anything because you’re a girl”, ” all you know you learned from sleeping with xxx” ” Why show this giggly child when there are real handicappers” and anything to do with a mumbled word.  I am first to admit that I am by no means perfect and that I don’t annunciate flawlessly all the time but again, it’s live TV and no one is perfect.  I think that I worked very hard to get where I am and I am the first to ask if I don’t know something.  And as far as me laughing and having fun, well have you seen my job?? How do you NOT have fun?!!  I LOVE it, I can’t help but smile and laugh and cheer.  Its amazing.  

You have an off the track Quarter Horse.  Tell us how you and he met and what you love about off the track horses?

 

MY: My current OTQH is named It’s Our Secret.  I remember I was at the State Championships for gymkhana and I was speaking to my boyfriend at the time asking him what he had claimed that day and he said “we got a horse you’re going to want for a barrel horse.  Bay with a blaze and socks”.  Im a sucker for a blaze and sure enough, when I got back to the barn I was head over heels.  I started working on flexing and stuff with him right away while he was still racing and a year and a half later he was my Christmas present.  I have had several off track Thoroughbreds, IOS is my first QH but they are just so smart.  They seem to take all this new stuff you’re asking them to do in stride, they are appreciative to have a human around.  I have a 30 year old Navajo mustang too and he could care less if I came out to groom him or ride him but the off track horses have always loved it.  

What’s your best hit as a gambler?

 

MY: I don’t really gamble!!  I hit the Oaks Derby double with Lemons Forever and got $864 or something for my $2 bet.  

In 2015 you get to handicap any race in the world on TV….which race would you choose?

MY: Does this mean I get to GO to the race???? I have always wanted to go to Dubai and I would love to go to the Arc.  If its just on TV, then I have to say that I am SO fortunate to be a part of HRTV because we really get to cover the best races.  We talk about Dubai, Ascot, The Arc, Derby, Breeders Cup…. You always get to be a part of amazing races.  

 It’s the last race at Santa Anita and I’m getting hungry.  Where are you gonna send me after the races for a great meal?

 

MY: If I was sending you for food I would probably quiz the heck out of you about what you wanted because I aim to please.  If you want to rub elbows with racing, head to the Derby.  If you want an upscale meals for a mid scale price Sesame Grill (french based cuisine!).  Chicken?  Head to Roscos Chicken and Waffles.  Just need to drink your woes away?  100 to 1 or Gem City (Can’t promise any food there…)

Thanks Michelle!