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Life’s a crapshoot

Man of the House

With the economy now on the mend, I call my broker to make sure we’re poised to take advantage of all the opportunities available this week.

“I’ll take the Giants and the points,” I tell Vinny the Stick.

Mr. Stick grunts something about that Green Bay fiasco and hangs up.

Until very recently, these were tough times for savvy investors like me. Santa Anita, the Wall Street of the West, has had problems with its new racing surface. The way I understand it, dirt wasn’t good enough, so they replaced it with this synthetic substance that’s supposed to be superior to soil. I ask you: What’s better than dirt? Nothing, that’s what. Next thing you know, they’ll come up with synthetic horses.

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As a result, I’ve just been hanging around the house a little more, studying the morning lines. Did I mention that, right after the holidays, I turned the living room into a Vegas-style gambling parlor? They call them “sports books,” with betting windows and TVs showing all the games. Probably cost me my marriage, but it was a little rocky anyway. Those things don’t go on forever, you know.

As you may have sensed, my young bride was becoming a malcontent. It bummed her tremendously the way I’d suck down a jelly doughnut in just three bites. And she was always complaining about our modest lifestyle. She said we’d become the kind of people who serve spaghetti and meatballs at dinner parties.

“Only that once,” I said.

“Twice!” she screamed. “To movie people!”

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I tell her that those were, in fact, “free-range” meatballs, and she should’ve been proud to serve them, even to movie people. They looked like they could use a little meat anyway. Salads. Salads. Salads.

“I feel like we’re living our parents’ lives,” my wife says.

If only. I don’t think I’ve ever matched my father’s income. He worked in television, which at the time was a lucrative and powerful industry. Back then, you could make oodles of money in TV, even in backwaters like Chicago or New York.

So I tried to be wise with our money. I poured all we could into those ridiculous and risky 401(k) plans. We even bought a house. What a mistake that turned out to be.

“It’s OK to be bold,” my former broker said then.

“I’ve never been bold before,” I warned her.

“Now’s the time to start,” she said.

“Well, OK then, I’m bold!” I said boldly.

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When I told my wife about this, she confirmed that the world belonged to risk-takers. Of course, that was back in the days when I tried to please her at every turn. I quit my job just so I could have more time to please her. That’s how bold I was back then. I ate only salads.

But the lack of a steady income put a strain on our relationship, as did the passion flowers it produced. Kids. Four of a kind. That beats almost everything, right?

Wrong.

So, like everyone these days, I’ve been looking around for some extra income. That’s where this beautiful new sports book comes in. There are velvet drapes, big comfy chairs. The other day, I hired a little Smurf to bring me drinks.

“Got any nachos over there?” I ask the Smurf.

“OK, Daddy,” and off to the kitchen he goes to slam some cupboard doors.

Seriously, the first ultrasound picture we saw of him, the little guy looked just like a baby Smurf. We nodded at the pediatrician proudly, but my wife and I were both thinking: “BY GAWD, WE’RE HAVING A SMURF! WHAT WILL OUR CHRISTMAS CARDS LOOK LIKE?”

I comforted her during the sniffy ride home by saying little Smurfs have to come from somewhere, and perhaps there were special scholarships available. Under ethnicity, we’d list “HALF IRISH/HALF SMURF.” We might be able to afford Harvard. Or even USC.

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Of course, he turned out to be a beautiful little boy, handsome as a Dublin sunrise. Yet every once in a while, when he turns profile, I still see a tiny trace of that Smurf. It’s a reminder of our proud leprechaun ancestry.

By the way, I highly recommend child labor. Kids are capable of so much more around the house than we demand from them. The other day I saw one pick up socks from his bedroom floor. I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was like spotting a sober celebrity.

And a while back, I think it was March 2004, one of our daughters actually put a dish in the dishwasher. My wife was so proud, she bronzed the dish and later left Godiva chocolates on the little girl’s pillow.

Point is, kids can be domesticated. It’s not easy, nor does it happen overnight. So bring me those nachos, little pal. The Patriots are about to take the field.

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chris.erskine@latimes.com. For more columns, see latimes.com/erskine.


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