Quinn and Dixie go to Mardi Gras.

Notes on fatherhood.
March 12 2007 2:27 PM

Moral Education

Quinn and Dixie go to Mardi Gras.

This article is part of an ongoing series by Michael Lewis about the birth of his third child. Click here to read the other entries in the series. Michael Lewis first began his "Dad Again" column after the birth of his second daughter, Dixie, in 2002. Click hereto read about that delivery.

Sad Dixie. Click image to expand.
Dixie's sad face

The last time I'd visited the Fairgrounds in New Orleans was the spring of 1977, when I was 16 years old. A classmate of mine had a gambling debt of $8,000 that he couldn't pay off—$8,000 being the equivalent today of roughly 27 grand, real money for a high-school junior back then. In what seemed at the time like a sensible strategy, he hocked the coin collection given to him at birth by his grandparents and came up with $2,000 cash. This he handed to me, along with instructions to go to the Fairgrounds and lay it all on Albo Berry to show in the sixth. His nerves couldn't take it, he said, and besides, he had math class. Albo Berry was racing on a school day, during seventh and eighth period, when all I had was film history—which could be skipped safely. And so I grabbed another friend and drove to the Fairgrounds to lay two grand on Albo Berry to show.

Probably there was some law forbidding minors from betting on horses, but it wasn't taken any more seriously than the other laws in New Orleans that separated children from the grown-up world. So long as you didn't make the enablers feel as if you were going to attract the wrong sort of attention, they let you do pretty much what you wanted. Two grand was attention-getting, however, and we decided the only safe way to get it down on Albo Berry was in small, childish chunks. The moment Albo Berry's race was announced we each took $1,000 and dashed around madly, placing $5 bets. We wound up with 400 tickets, but we got it all down, then took a seat in the grandstand to watch the race.

Advertisement

They were already off; a bunch of horses had broken from the pack, Albo Berry not among them. Indeed, for the longest time Albo Berry went unmentioned. It was as if he existed only in a dream. But then, as if he knew what was at stake, he made his move. Coming hard on the outside, he passed all but two other horses. By a nose, Albo Berry showed. We spent half an hour running around collecting what came to just shy of $8,000 in small bills. Armloads of cash made us conspicuous, and so we made quickly for the car. Only then did a grown-up—the guard in the parking lot—take notice. We were a step too fast for him. He peered into the car window as we whizzed past, and my friend heaved all the money up into the air, so that, for that moment, the inside of the car looked like a ticker-tape parade. We made it back to school just in time for baseball practice.

Now, for the first time in 30 years, I'm back at the Fairgrounds, with a 7-year-old daughter holding one hand and a 4-year-old holding the other. I hadn't planned to teach my children how to bet on the ponies on this trip. But my brother lives down the block from the racetrack, and the three of us went to visit him for lunch, and one thing led to another. Before you could say "trifecta," we had them on our shoulders and were walking over to the races. Just one race, I told them, and then we'd leave. For old time's sake. They might learn something.

"You promise we can we bet real money?" asks Quinn.

"Yeah, Daddy," says Dixie, "Can we bet real money?"

"You can each make one small bet," I say, judiciously.

"You'll have to make it for us," says Quinn, knowingly, " 'cause we're too little."

Through the turnstiles we plunge and make for the viewing area to decide which horse to back. But before we do, we bump into Al Stall, a year behind me in school, who has, it turns out, spent most of his time since then training race horses. I haven't seen him since high school, but it feels like yesterday, and he ushers the kids into the space reserved for horses. He wants them to see Winsky, a sleek, tan, 4-year-old mare *, his horse in the race. As they inspect the animal, the jockey appears, followed by Winsky's owners, and so they inspect them, too. They listen as Al talks a little bit about his horse, the favorite. Al doesn't sound worried. Al doesn't look worried. Al, truth to tell, looks as if his horse has already won.

"I want to bet on Winsky," says Quinn, firmly.

TODAY IN SLATE

Sports Nut

Grandmaster Clash

One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.

The Extraordinary Amicus Brief That Attempts to Explain the Wu-Tang Clan to the Supreme Court Justices

Amazon Is Officially a Gadget Company. Here Are Its Six New Devices.

Do the Celebrities Whose Nude Photos Were Stolen Have a Case Against Apple?

The NFL Explains How It Sees “the Role of the Female”

Future Tense

Amazon Is Now a Gadget Company

Food

How to Order Chinese Food

First, stop thinking of it as “Chinese food.”

Scotland Is Inspiring Secessionists Across America

The Country Where Women Aren’t Allowed to Work Once They’re 36 Weeks’ Pregnant

The XX Factor
Sept. 18 2014 11:40 AM The Country Where Women Aren’t Allowed to Work Once They’re 36 Weeks’ Pregnant
Moneybox
Sept. 17 2014 5:10 PM The Most Awkward Scenario in Which a Man Can Hold a Door for a Woman
  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 18 2014 3:19 PM In Defense of Congress Leaving Town Without a New War Vote
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 18 2014 3:31 PM What Europe Would Look Like If All the Separatist Movements Got Their Way
  Life
Outward
Sept. 18 2014 4:15 PM Reactions to a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Reveal Transmisogyny
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 18 2014 3:30 PM How Crisis Pregnancy Centers Trick Women
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 18 2014 1:23 PM “It’s Not Every Day That You Can Beat the World Champion” An exclusive interview with chess grandmaster Fabiano Caruana.
  Arts
Culturebox
Sept. 18 2014 4:00 PM When The Cosby Show Got “Very Special” Why were The Cosby Show’s Very Special Episodes so much better than every other ’80s sitcom’s?
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 18 2014 2:39 PM Here's How to Keep Apple From Sharing Your iPhone Data With the Police
  Health & Science
Science
Sept. 18 2014 3:35 PM Do People Still Die of Rabies? And how do you know if an animal is rabid?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.