Sunday, June 22, 2014



UPDATE JUNE 29, 2014

The Finale (Series! Finale) was a very fine show.  It ended consistent with the rest of the series' story and its theme: A modern love story in which the behavior is almost never good, and the love, true love, is never never in doubt.

CALIFORNICATION - an aptly named series from SHOWTIME - is coming to the end of its run, next week, 6/29/2014, after 7 seasons. 

David Duchovny
Photo by Eric Roffman

It has been a captivating, enjoyable drama and comedy.  According to David Duchovny, it is a story about family.  Hank Moody loves Becca, his daughter, and Karen, her mother.  They have never married, and for most of the time, Hank and Karen's relationship has been strained because of his promiscuity and overuse of alcohol and drugs.  But they have never stopped loving each other.

There is a lot of nudity and sex.  But the show has always been about relationships.  David Duchovny has a unique ability, whether in the X Files, or Red Shoe Diaries, or in this, to make the outrageous completely natural and absolutely grounded in real human behavior.  (There is a kindred acting style between Duchovny's low key, so-be-it reactions to sex, drugs and the paranormal, and Liev Schreiber's I'll-take-care-of-it behavior as Ray Donovan.)

It has been a great series.

Going into the final two episodes, there are lots of threads hanging:

>> Will Hank and Karen reconcile?

>> Will Becca marry someone totally unsuitable? Will she marry? Is he unsuitable?

>> Will Hank, Karen and Becca strengthen their family ties, or will they break further? 
>> Is Levon really Hank's son?

>> Will Marcy sleep with her ex-husband for a million dollars?

That's a lot of plot points for half an hour to resolve. (Is there a movie sequel in the offing to resolve any unfinished stories?)


Hank Moody - David Duchovny
Karen - Natasha McElhone
Becca - Madeleine Martin
Charlie Runkle - Evan Handler
Marcy - Pamela Adlon


Here is an interesting interview with David Duchovny (may contain spoilers)









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Saturday, June 07, 2014



Belmont Park is quite beautiful.

Racetrack at Belmont Park
Photo by Eric Roffman

On Saturday. June 7, Belmont will be holding the Belmont Stakes, the third leg of the Triple Crown. As most everyone knows, California Chrome has a shot at being the first horse in dozens of years to win the Big Three: The Kentucky Derby, The Preakness, and The Belmont Stakes.

JUNE 8 2014

Perhaps the most striking thing about watching the actual races live, rather than on TV, was how hard the horses work while running the race.  On TV they look graceful.  Live, they are straining, immensely powerful, muscular, determined (beautiful , graceful) animals.

Photo by Eric Roffman

 TONALIST defeated California Chrome to prevent, once again, a horse from winning the Triple Crown.

Photo by Eric Roffman

Here are the results for the Belmont Stakes.  For those horses that were also in the Kentucky Derby, their results there and in the Preakness are in parenthesis:

  1          11     Tonalist          -
  2            8     Commissioner    
  3            1     Medal Count (8, -)   
  4            2     California Chrome (1, 1)
  4            9     Wicked Strong (4, -)
  6            7     Samraat (5, -)
  7          10     General a Rod (11, 4)
  8            3     Matterhorn
  9            4     Commanding Curve (2,4)
10            6     Matuszak
11            5     Ride On Curlin (7, 2)

 TONALIST defeated California Chrome to prevent, once again, a horse from winning the Triple Crown.  Tonalist ran only in the Belmont.

It would be just plain silly to prevent horses from running in the Belmont Stakes unless they had run in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness.  But perhaps there should be an award for the horse who comes in first each time among just those horses that do enter each of the three.  It would not be a CROWN -- that's too much, but a CROWN is a HAT and HATS are all the rage at the three races (as well as at Ascot which has nothing to do with this).  And the hats are very special. Not TOP HATS which are for men: pretty much all the men at Belmont were very casually dressed; no top hats at all. But fancy women's hats; chapeaux perhaps.  The HAT TRICK in hockey (and other sports) is scoring three times. But pure HAT is too common.  So I propose, for a horse that finishes -- in each race -- ahead of all the other horses that compete in all three races (Kentucky Derby, Preakness, Belm0nt Stakes) the term THE FANCY-HAT TRICK.  Or perhaps the TRIPLE CHAPEAU. Or, more elegantly, celebrating the party spirit, THE CHAPEAU THREESOME.

Despite the importance and pleasures of the THE BELMONT STAKES, it was dangerous, and seriously overcrowded. 

I think that in the interest of public safety, the governments of QUEENS and NEW YORK CITY should PREVENT the NYRA and Belmont Park from holding the BELMONT STAKES in the future until there is a traffic plan in place to avoid the debacle last night.  Traffic was stalled for miles.  Before the race, delays getting past the area of the park were about an hour. After. getting out of the parking area took THREE HOURS and more, with total gridlock trapping cars in place.  

Much as I feared (see below), Belmont Park is not equipped to handle the large crowds of the Belmont Stakes (in many ways). Watch this space for some constructive  suggestions in the next few days for how to improve the experience of the Belmont Stakes from unacceptable to appropriately enjoyable.

JUNE 11 2014

For the safety of the public, and for the comfort of the Stakes Day visitors, Belmont Park and the NYRA badly need to make some critical improvements.

There were more people at the Belmont Stakes than the park could handle.  Ideally, Belmont should takes steps to safely and comfortably handle everyone who wants to come. If not, Queens or New York City should restrict attendance at Belmont to the size of a crowd Belmont can responsibly and safely accommodate.

Simple and basic: To prevent long lines for bad food, and very long lines for women's (not very well maintained) restrooms: More food, better food, more food stands, more women's restrooms and better, more frequent maintenance of both men's and women's bathrooms. (Lines to the women's rooms at some points were over an hour. Some women actually used the men's rooms -- where the lines were about a tenth as long, but, unfortunately, the floor was sometimes flooded.)

But the main safety issue was the traffic pattern and the dangerous situation in the Belmont Park parking lots. It took an hour to get from the highway exit to the parking lot.  It took three hours to get from the Grandstand to the parking lot to the street. Pedestrians, cars and buses shared the same paths. Driving through the Park from the parking lot to the street was dark, unmarked, and dangerous.



1- The traffic pattern to every parking lot should be direct, and clearly marked with street signage. Cars not going to a particular lot should be shunted away long before they clog traffic.

2- Every lot should be directly accessible all day by anyone with a permit for that lot.

3 - The whole traffic pattern should be designed so that traffic remains smoothly running far away from the Park and then enters the vicinity of the Park with a clear, straight, short-line path to the intended lot. Directions and directional signage should be very clear.

4 - On the way out there should be a direct path from each parking lot to an external street free of blocked traffic with a clear path and clear signage to any final destination whether north, east, south or west.

5 - Police should facilitate efficient traffic flow, and should be very helpful with directions.

(By contrast, on Stakes Day, the police had many entrances blocked; there was no directional signage, and traffic was delayed both for people going to the Park and those just passing the area.  Even the police did not not know how to give directions to the lots for people with permits. On the way out there was gridlock, then driving on unmarked, dark roads.)


(Parking lots are inside the Park.  They do not exit directly to the street. So getting to or from a parking lot requires driving from the lot through a little part of the Park. The roads are not well lit, not well marked with lane markers, and not well marked with directions. There was gridlock between cars and buses, and then with non-moving traffic outside the Park.)

1 - Pedestrians, cars, and buses should each have their own dedicated, separate roads and paths.

2 - Buses and cars should have separate parking lots.

3 - All the roads should be well lit until everyone has left.

4 - There should be a direct path from each lot to an exit street clear of gridlock.

5 - Roads should be clearly marked with lane dividers, one-way signs when appropriate, and directional signs (to exits and other destinations).

5 - Police should facilitate efficient traffic flow. 

*  **  ** *** ** ** *

Belmont is easy to reach -- it's right on the Cross Island, just south of the Grand Central (in Queens County, New York City, New York State -- just East of Manhattan).  Except for the day of the Belmont Stakes, and other special events, it's a nice place to visit, very pretty, lots of parking, not too crowded. There are many races on many days throughout the racing season: it's not just the Belmont Stakes.

Racing to the finish
A few days before the Belmont Stakes
Photo by Eric Roffman

Belmont Stakes day, unfortunately, may be stressing the capacity of the Park to respond gracefully.  Leading up to the race, the Box Office has been disgracefully and irresponsibly understaffed, making mistakes, letting the phone remain unanswered for 10, 20, 30 minutes or more, sometimes just disconnecting without taking a call.  And, unbelievably, they seem to be quitting work at around 4:30 (??!!??) when the customer service lines should be staffed 24/7. (Ticketmaster collected the money, but disavowed responsibility for fulfilling the orders.)

Every reserved seat and reserved food reservation was apparently sold out well before Stakes day.

JUNE 21 2014 

TICKETMASTER did not take responsibility for fulfilling orders.  Belmont Park sent me the wrong Parking Permit -- for where I was coming from, for my seat location, and for where I was returning after, it was a terrible Parking location.  Ticketmaster made an effort to get my Permit changed to the correct location.  When that failed, they did refund the cost of my Parking Permit.

*  **  ** *** ** ** *

I'm guessing that the odds for California Chrome will over-estimate his chance of winning because people will bet on him just to be able to say that (if he wins) they have the winning ticket for the Triple Crown Winner. (If I can get through the crowds to the betting window, I may be one of those.)

Favorites do not always win.  Many horses have won the first two races of the Triple Crown only to fail in the Belmont.  My guess (and I know little about horse racing, so this is just a guess based on the first two races) is that California Chrome will be a contender going into the final stretch, and his test will be to see if he can hold on with enough energy to keep up his speed all the way to the end of the longest of the three Triple Crown Races.

Here's a list of the Triple Crown Winners. The last was Affirmed in 1978.

TRIPLE CROWN WINNERS (Year - Horse - Jockey):

1919 - Sir Barton - Johnny Loftus
1930 - Gallant Fox - Earl Sande
1935 - Omaha - Willie Saunders
1937 - War Admiral - Charley Kurtsinger
1941 - Whirlaway - Eddie Arcaro
1943 - Count Fleet - Johnny Longden
1946 - Assault - Warren Mehrtens
1948 - Citation - Eddie Arcaro
1973 - Secretariat - Ron Turcotte
1977 - Seattle Slew - Jean Cruguet
1978 - Affirmed - Steve Cauthen


#. HORSE (Estimated odds)  --: JOCKEY --: TRAINER

1. Medal Count (Odds 20-1) -- : Robby Albarado -- : Dale Romans

2. California Chrome (3-5) -- : Victor Espinoza -- : Art Sherman

3. Matterhorn (30-1) -- : Joe Bravo -- : Todd Pletcher

4. Commanding Curve (15-1) -- : Shaun Bridgmohan -- : Dallas Stewart

5. Ride On Curlin (12-1) -- : John Velazquez -- : William Gowan

6. Matuszak (30-1) -- : Mike Smith -- : Bill Mott

7. Samraat (20-1) -- : Jose Ortiz -- : Richard Violette Jr.

8. Commissioner (20-1) -- : Javier Castellano -- : Todd Pletcher

9. Wicked Strong (6-1) -- : Rajiv Maragh -- : James A. Jerkens

10. General a Rod (20-1) -- : Rosie Napravnik -- : Michael J. Maker

11. Tonalist (8-1) -- : Joel Rosario -- : Christophe Clement




The Kentucky Derby has the Mint Julep.  I think the Belmont Stakes should have a drink.  I propose the "New York Mix"

1 part Slivovitz
1 part Dark Rum
1 part Grand Marnier
2 parts Cranberry/Pomegranite juice.

In the spirit of the mix, 

Irish Whiskey can substitute for either the Slivovitz or the Rum
Cointreau can be substituted for the Grand Marnier
Other sweet fruit juices can be substituted or added to the Cranberry/Pomegranite juice
Why not add a little fresh lime juice too.

The size of a "part" is up to the drinker, but remember not to drive either a car, truck or horse with alcohol. If you drink, substitute the driver.

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