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Nothing’s quite like a mid-March trip to Hot Springs, Arkansas, and Oaklawn Park – other than a trip in April when the dogwoods are in full bloom. On the same day as our wedding anniversary, a date that has awarded us in previous racing trips, Barbara and I, along with a number of gambling-starved friends, headed west for the horse racing, hot baths, and massages. (I usually pass on the later two and find my way to a local bar to soak up some gin and tonic. Something about waiting in line with naked men just makes me cough…….)

As usual, I had prepared and looked the part. My sleek cognac jacket concealed the results of my pre-race analysis. No bulky racing news papers under this dude’s arm. No cheap tip sheets in my back pocket. No one could possibly mistake me for anything other than a middle-aged, sharp dressed, wannabe, professional gambler in search of a gin and tonic.

My pre-race analysis had suggested that I wager my full day’s allowance on the number three horse in the sixth race should the odds be at 4 to 1 or higher. One of my favorite jockeys, Calvin Borel, would be riding and guiding the horse through the pack to the finish line. There was lots of buzz around Hot Springs about Borel riding Rachel Alexandra in an upcoming race at Oaklawn against rival Zenyatta. I felt confident. This would be the best bet of the day. Dinner on me tonight!

I thoroughly enjoyed the first three races, spending much of that time catching up with friends, sharing a corned beef sandwich, and soaking up a gin and tonic or two. Before the beginning of the fourth race, I decided to mosey over to paddock to get a close look at the horses, and to see if I could tune-in to any energies the horses, trainers, or jockeys might be sending.  A very fortunate visit was to await me.

To be continued…….

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My 18 year old daughter wants to have a party next week and invite some boys. Barbara and I said “Sure, instead of a Toga Party, we’ll have a Yoga Party. Invite them over at sunset, and we’ll do sun salutations, chants, and such. I’ll bill myself as ‘Big Daddy Down Dog’. We’ll burn candles and incense in the backyard! The neighbors will call the cops thinking something illegal and perverted is happening in Cordova. The cops will come and join us in final relaxation. We’ll film it all and turn it into a documentary.”

My daughter is stunned. She is used to this sort of thing from us, but at the same time she’s a bit afraid that we’re totally serious. And if we are, what a hoot!

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Who is Picking the Music

Every since I started attending Vinyasa Yoga four years ago and more recently Kundalini Yoga, I’ve been real curious about the music I hear in class. As a musician, I notice that my flows and breathing naturally align with the rhythms of the music. I adjust as necessary – speeding up – slowing down – doubling the pace – whatever makes me feel that I am in sync with the music. I do not know if every student does the same or feels the need to adjust. In fact, when I play music before a live audience, I’m always amazed at the number of dancers who appear to have no awareness of the beat, whether the upbeat, the downbeat, or somewhere in the middle?

Many questions come to mind – How does the instructor select the music? Does the instructor choose music based on a particular set of criteria? Does the music selection affect the way a student relates to the instructor? Do instructors adjust music based on class experience levels? Does the music selection support an overall air or feeling?

Here’s a call-out to Yoga Instructors across the country.  Let’s take a stroll along this path.  What’s the scoop?

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How to Win at the Horse Track

I know placing bets at the horse track may not seem to fit within the scope of this Blog, but if you read along you’ll find out that it is quite relevant. Connections abound. As I plan my annual Spring pilgrimages, I’ll fill you in on what strategies you may want to consider. And even if you don’t win, you’ll feel like a winner! A few items we’ll discuss:

* Preparation * Attire * What to eat at the Track * Mojo * Energy Spots * Confidence * What the Racing Form Won’t Tell You * Tipping * Jockeys * The $50 Window * and more!

Preparation is crucial. The first questions to ask yourself are what is my plan and how will I know if I’ve been successful. If you are going with the idea of betting on several races, then you are going for fun and not to win – which is fine – but recognize that the odds say you will lose money. If you are going because you have prepared, are focused on only one or two races, and you have defined success, you are headed in the right direction.

Preparation means knowing which race you are going to follow and why. Have you seen this horse race before? Is the horse moving up or down in class? Has the horse raced at this track in the past 30 days? Does the horse race better on grass or dirt? Has the rider changed? Is the horse coming off of an injury? Is the horse carrying more or less weight? What do you “sense” that makes the horse attractive for a wager? I cannot tell you what criteria to consider, or which are more important – that’s for you to decide. Just tune in to your feelings.

Regardless of your answers to the questions above, come to the track with a plan and a specific race or two in mind. Are you planning on betting on this race or only observing? If you are likely to wager a bet, decide the amount before you go to the track. Determine the odds that would slide the wager to favorable or unfavorable. If you place a wager, bet the horse to “win” or do not place a bet. If you do not sense that you have selected a horse that will win, why place any wager at all?

Success may be that the odds were not favorable for you to place a wager. However, you had an overwhelming feeling to place the bet. Whether you won the wager or not, you tuned in to your feelings. We will loop this issue back in when we discuss confidence.

Attire is an important decision for me whether I’m playing music, exercising, or going out on a hot date with my wife. It’s not that I dress to impress anyone – other than my wife on James Bond nights – but rather that I need to feel comfortable and efficiently dressed in order to stay focused on the task at hand. For the horse track, this means casual comfort with lots of pockets. I prefer jeans, with a white shirt, and a black or kakhi sports jacket. I feel good whether seated inside, standing outside against the rail, hanging around the Paddock, or drinking a martini in an inside bar. I fill the jacket pockets with two pens and my visual aids – both sun readers and clear reading glasses, and something to wipe the crud off the lenses. I look pretty good for me, and I’m beginning to feel confident about winning.

Deciding what to eat at the track is a delightful challenge. For me, a head first dive into a dozen fresh oysters on the half shell with lots of lemon and horseradish (naturally) just can’t be beat. If there’s a fried oyster poor boy or salad in the house, I’ll make this part of the daily double. If I feel like some red meat and a visit to TUMS City, I’ve got to find a corned beef or reuben sandwich. Regardless of what you eat, it just tastes better at the track. The fresh air and smells, the sounds, and the excitement of the crowd, all contribute to a heightened awareness of the senses.

More to follow…..

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Waiting In Line: Part I

This is the first of a several posts I hope to publish on Waiting In Line. I have had much experience in this area over the years, and I am still looking for better ways to learn and grow while waiting in line.

Part I – The Early Years

I admit it, I hate to wait in line. Even as a young kid, I associated waiting in line with fear of the unknown. I did not like waiting in line to see Santa when I was seven years old. I had successfully avoided personal contacts with him before – why did I need to talk to him now, face to face in Lowenstein’s Department Store, with my mother lurking in the background? I was worried that he knew about the stink bomb I had made in Andy’s back yard. And the dart I threw at my brother that stuck in his rear. And the cats that had parachuted from the roof of our house. I waited and rehearsed my lines. I wondered – was anyone else in on this caper? Was my run of great Christmas Day experiences about to end?

When I was 10 years old, Dr. Campbell, DDS, found a record number of cavities in my mouth. So many that my parents had to take out a second mortgage. I spent many hours in his office that summer watching the lava lamp and listening to cheesy Tijuana Brass numbers on the radio. All of the appointments were scheduled in the afternoons when I would have been playing baseball. I can still smell the Lava Soap in the rest room and hear the high whine of the drill. I always thought the left over pieces of Lava made their way into Dr. Campbell’s tooth cleaning powder.

In 1969, I stood in line with 50 or so teenage males to register for the draft. I thought it odd that we were completely naked and everyone was coughing as the military doctors walked the line. I silently practiced a low, manly, throaty cough. And when the Chief Doctor stood before me, and I was told to turn my head to the right and cough, I let out a violent thunderous roar that could have awakened Mothra and Godzilla from their deep monster sleep. I don’t know who was more surprised – me, or the Chief Doctor. Regardless, I was spared from the “big squeeze”.

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