Some friendships become more than priceless | The Latte Guy | April 30

A race track is a place where windows clean people.”

– Danny Thomas

My friend Ty from San Luis Obispo, Calif., was in town this past week. He and his wife Debbie were visiting their daughters, two of whom now live in Seattle.

Ty and I were fellow English majors at USC back in the 1970s. We went to law school together and became friends when we discovered we had exactly the same sense of humor and shared a mutual appreciation for John Wayne westerns, gratuitous celebrity nudity, and an abiding commitment not to lay obstacles in the path of temptation. We played intramural basketball and football together, along with a brand new video game called Asteroids.

In our early years as lawyers, Ty and I worked a couple blocks apart in downtown Los Angeles. We spent many lunch hours playing Nintendo baseball in the electronics section of the old Broadway Department store.

Ty’s office building had a Hamburger Hamlet on the ground floor and we often met there after work for a couple of beers. We’d have to stay at the Hamlet long enough for one of Ty’s partners to join us and, more importantly, pick up the tab.

Ty is the father of three lovely and accomplished daughters. When his oldest daughter, Emily, was a toddler, we discovered that our wives would let us do almost anything if we took Emily with us.

So for several years, Ty, Emily and I took in weekly Anaheim Angels baseball games and spent Saturday afternoons at the Santa Anita racetrack. As a bonus, Emily turned out to be a hilarious and thoroughly entertaining companion.

Ty and I go back a long ways. He was at my house the night my crazy dog Filmore ate an entire bowl of homemade salsa. In recent years, Ty has gotten into horse racing, and now co-owns a small stable of horses.

All of which is background to explain how I came to find myself on a recent Saturday seated on a metal bench trackside at the Emerald Downs Race Track with Ty, Emily and her husband, Gus.

Ty was poring over a jumble of obscure numbers in the Daily Racing Form like they were ancient runes holding powerful equine secrets.

Gus and Emily were making their betting selections based on the color of the tape on the horses’ ankles, and I was picking my winners based on the relative cleverness of the horses’ names.

Every time I went up to the betting window to place a bet, I could hear W.C. Fields’ voice reminding me that “Lady Godiva put everything she had on a horse and lost her shirt.” Fields also said, “Horse sense is the thing a horse has which keeps it from betting on people.”

Somebody much wiser than me said the best way to double your money at the track is to fold it in half and put it in your pocket, advice I honored largely in the breach.

As a handicapper, I found that I have a knack for determining which horse in a given field will finish second from last, which is undeniably impressive but not particularly financially rewarding.

None of us bet a lot of money nor really cared deeply about the outcome of any race. We were there to have some fun, unlike many of our more serious fellow gamblers, who, after each race, looked as lost and as miserable as Sarah Palin’s grammar checker.

My day at the track ended on a positive note when I won big betting on a horse sharing a name with my dog Sophie. I haven’t told Sophie about my good fortune yet; she’ll probably want half my winnings, which in dog money could be pretty expensive.

Everyone ought to have a friend like Ty. Even though we don’t see each other as often as we used to, when we get together it’s like we’ve never been apart. Or matured. We’ve probably shared as many laughs over the years as any two people on the planet.

If it’s true that we’ll all be judged up yonder based on the quality of our friendships here on Earth, then I have to say I think I’ll be in pretty good shape when the time comes, and Ty is a big part of the reason for that.

Even so, I’m not sharing my winnings with him either.

Tom Tyner is an attorney for the Trust for Public Land. He is author of “Skeletons From Our Closet,” a collection of writings on the island’s latte scene.

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