Brooklyn Boro

The four cornerstones of life’s success

September 10, 2021 William A. Gralnick
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I like country music. Not a knock you over statement; a lot of people do. I’m not sure how many of them are 77-year-old Jews from Brooklyn, NY. My favorites are found on Sirius XM’s Willie’s Roadhouse. They play the stuff that was sung without multi-million-dollar entertainment packages, the pure, emotional, tell-a-story kind. The dearly departed Tom T. Hall, known as the storyteller of country music, is one of my favorites. He often talked his stories instead of singing them. These thoughts are from one of them.

A man sits down at a bar. A common part of country music. He sits next to an old-timer. Also a fixture in the genre. He tells the gent that he is a poet. The old-timer tells him life isn’t about poetry and that Tom T. needs to get his head in the game. And what is the success potion of life? “Faster horses, younger women, older whiskey, and money” At the end our protagonist gives up poetry and we are left as he leaves mulling over, “Faster horses, younger woman, older whiskey and money. I decided to see how I was doin’ measured by the older timer’s standard. I got one out of four, which in baseball is pretty mediocre for a career. Let see how it works for life.

Faster horses

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I love horse racing. There is little to match the sound of horses’ hooves pounding on a dirt track and little better than a racing heart as they head for the finish line. When I was a kid the best known caller of horse races was Clem McCarthy. In our Flatbush house his voice could be heard through out. His signature call came as the steeds rounded the last turn. His volume went up. He’d holler, “And down the stretch they come!” There was a subtle emphasis on the word “down.” My father-in-law was a huge race fan. As a cab driver in Baltimore he was teased that if he turned on his cab, it would get to Pimlico Racetrack by itself. His racing advice? “If I bet on a horse, your gonna do better by betting on a different one.”

Over time I’ve been to a few races. My first bet was on a horse that had in its name my first born’s name Justin. I won four bucks. Haven’t won since. So scratch (no pun intended) the faster horses.

Younger women? Well, my wife is five years my junior and we’ve had each other’s company for neigh-on 33 years. Before that? What a mess. Pick up a copy of the first book in my 3-part memoir, “The War of the Itchy Balls and Other Tales From Brooklyn” and it’s sequel, “George Washington Didn’t Sleep Here.” (Amazon.com, paperback or ebook) and you’ll read how one kid can screw up so many relationships. A hint. At one point in my teens I was dating three girls all of whom had names that started with an R. Robin, Robbie (Roberta), and Ronni. ‘recipe for disaster. ‘called for focus every time I picked up the phone and dialed one of their numbers. Casanova I was not. More like Cyrano. I had a girl I was drop dead head over heels crazy about ask me to fix her up with a friend of mine. And I did it. Oh the pain. However, they’re married at least forty years. So draw a line through younger woman.

Younger women

Let’s skip to money. We don’t live in a shanty, new clothes and reasonably priced cars are not a problem. We own our own home free and clear. I spent a 45 year work history in the governmental and non-profit fields. I was paid well, if not handsomely. Most importantly, I had a pension. My wife too. We have a long term, conservative broker who made us some money in the market. An inheritance from my dad, may he rest in peace, boosted that a bit. Add social security and we’re doin’ just fine thank you. In our 1800 sq. ft condo, we will never be mistaken for the Gates’ or Bezo’s. Yet we know the expression, “a little money goes a long way” to be a lie. However, let us acknowledge that “more money” is not to be, short of winning the lottery. So my balance sheet there is definitely in the red.

More money

I reversed money and older whiskey for a reason. I’m a scotch drinker. ‘get that from my parents. As a young adult I’d drink Clan McGregor which was in the 20 dollars range–for a half gallon. One day, on vacation in Maine, the bar tender said, “You like scotch? Try this. First one’s on me.” It was my first single malt. It was heaven in a glass. As I explored this new adventure, I learned that CM was the low end of the single malt range which could run up as high as several thousand dollars a bottle. In high end restaurants, high end scotch can go for a hundred or more dollars a shot. When I am at a good restaurant I always try a scotch that I was hesitant to spend the money on before I’d tasted it. I’ve taste-tested my way to a home bar with a dozen or more bottles. Many of them serve to deal with a particular mood or in one case, is saved for rainy, nasty, chilly weather or worse. I’ve enough money to have settled into a range of 15–20-year-old scotch when on sale that goes for $60-$100 a bottle. So chalk one up for older whiskey.

Older whiskey

According to the older-timer I’m not doin’ so hot. According to me, while I like his formula, I’m just fine, even batting 250. But like Tom T. Hall,’s character, I’ve given up poetry.


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