Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Lou, and the Restaurant Scam Story

                                                         Lou, and the Restaurant Scam Story
                                                                     Written 09/210/2016
                                                                          Howard Yasgar

      Back in 1963, I had dealt in Stamford Connecticut with a fellow named Lou. Lou was a really interesting character, his main business, at the time was selling used cars, but he never passed up a deal if he could make a few bucks on it.
      I was absolutely amazed at how Lou operated. When I first met him, he had a pay telephone on the wall in his office in Stamford, and when I went to use the telephone, I noticed a string hanging out of it. Lou said, “Make your call and put in the correct amount of change. When you hear the ding a ling of the coins being accepted, pull the string and all your money will come back. I tried it and it worked. Lou said a friend of his had the telephone key, and had showed him where to attach the string.
      The more I got to know Lou, the more I observed all the crazy things he was involved in. I always wondered how he ever learned to do all these slightly illegal things that he did. I knew he couldn’t have been born with that kind of innate knowledge, but I was embarrassed to come right out and ask him who had taught him all this stuff.
       One day we were driving from Tampa to Miami Florida, and Lou started reminiscing about his youth. He said that when he was 17 years old, he had a friend who was a photographer living in Miami. Lou said he would drive from Connecticut to Miami twice a year to visit his friend, but after a couple of years, he had to stop doing it. I asked Lou why, and he said that every time he visited his friend in Miami, his friend would take him to a different and very expensive restaurant. After they had eaten their fill, his friend would double over on the floor with pain, he loudly exclaimed that there was glass or something in the food. In just a moment the manager or the owners of the restaurant would help him into the inner office and lay him on a sofa. They were all very concerned about not calling an ambulance, after all what would all the customers think with this guy screaming about having glass in the food.
     After about 30 minutes, Lou’s friend would recover, to the relief of the restaurant staff, and Lou would help him walk out to their car, during all the commotion the bill for the meal was forgotten.
     That’s how I learned about one of Lou’s teachers.

The Suede Jacket and the Slot Machine Story

                                                        The Suede Jacket and the Slot Machine Story
                                                                   Written 08/26/2016 Unedited
                                                                                Howard Yasgar

     In 1993 my wife Katherine and I decided it was time to take a vacation.
     Because we lived in Miami, it was just a hop skip and a jump to fly to Nassau in the Bahamas. It was only a ¾ of an hour flight to get there. You took off from Miami International Airport, and the next thing you knew you were in Nassau.  Once we were in Nassau we would take a cab and go over a bridge to Paradise Island. Sometimes we would stop and go under the bridge, where the conch fisherman all set up shop.  They would cut up fresh raw conch, all mixed with chopped vegetables and hot scotch bonnet peppers they would then shake it all up with lime juice in a plastic bag. Sometimes we would just sit there on the sea wall with the cab driver and have a conch salad.
     On Paradise Island we would usually stay at the brand new Grand Hotel which was right next to the Paradise Island hotel and Casino.
     By 1993, we had made this trip many times and it seems that the trip always went the same way, Katherine would call the hotel and make reservations, and she would get a confirmation number. Then we would fly over to Nassau, take a cab to Paradise Island, and approach the hotel registration desk to register. Every time we did this, the Bahamian desk clerk would give us a funny look and say they had no record of our reservation, and that was even with our confirmation number. For some reason, it seems that this happened each time we went. The desk clerk would then say they had no rooms available, and that’s when Katherine went into action and asked for a manager. Most of the time the Bahamian manager was just as bad as the desk clerk, but no matter how bad they were, after Katherine was finished with them we always got a room and sometimes a free meal thrown in.
      Now, this happened every time we went to any of the Paradise Island Hotels, so after it happened to us one or two times, I started to let Katherine go to the check in desk without me. I would pick out a comfortable chair in the lobby and wait until all the yelling and screaming was over, and then I would go to the front desk to sign in.
      This year, when we decided to go to Nassau, I looked over my wardrobe only to find that I had outgrown my
Pants and sport jacket. So my wife Katherine dragged me to the mall to get new pants and a sport jacket.
      As I looked for a sport jacket, I saw that the store had lots of Suede jackets, and as I had never owned a Suede jacket before I had to try a few on. They were really nice and very soft, but the price was much higher than I expected to spend. If I recall correctly the jacket was around $285.00, and as I never spent more than $100.00 for a jacket, I started to take the Suede jacket off. My wife gave me the evil eye, and I knew what that meant, so I bought the Suede jacket.
     Now when Katherine and I go to Paradise Island we enjoy going to the casino and playing 21. We can sit and play for hours. When we tire of playing cards, we usually get up and walk around the casino and play a few different slot machines.
      It was about 10 in the evening and the casino was full of people, Katherine and I were walking around and playing the 25 cent slot machines. As we did this, I always keep my eye on where Katherine is so I know where I can find her. That evening I looked over and I saw she was playing a slot machine and the red and white lights on the top of the machine were blinking. I walked over, and saw that the tray in the slot machine was full of quarters. Katherine said, “This is a good slot machine, I can’t lose”.  Every time she put in 3 quarters, and pulled the handle more quarters poured into the tray, bells were ringing, and lights were flashing. We wondered, could it be luck or was the machine broken. Soon the quarters were just about overflowing the machines tray. I looked for cups to put the quarters in but there weren’t any near me. So I started scooping the quarters out and putting them in my jacket pockets. As fast as I scooped the quarters out, Katherine pulled the lever and more quarter came out. It was now pretty obvious to us that the slot machine was broken. By that time, I had no more room to put any more quarters in my pockets and that’s just as well as that’s when the slot machine floor boss saw the blinking lights and came over. He looked at the tray full of quarters, and he looked at Katherine’s innocent face. Then he politely said, “Madam, I believe this machine is broken”. The fellow put his key in the machine to stop the red and white blinking lights and then he reached into the coin tray. He pushed a small handful of quarters towards Katherine,
He then pushed about 80 percent of the quarters towards the left side of the tray obviously intending to keep them for the casino. I watched as Katherine, who had now found several big paper cups, bent over and scooped his big pile of coins into the cups, leaving him with only the hand full of quarters that he had intended for her. He was kind of shocked, but never said a word, as we walked to the cashier cage to turn in our quarters.
     I emptied out all the quarters from the pockets on my new suede jacket, I must have had close to $300.00. It
was then that we noticed my pockets in the jacket were still bulging and about one inch lower than they should have been. The weight of the quarters had stretched the suede jacket pockets, and completely ruined my jacket.
     Once back in Miami, I went to a tailor, and he tried every trick in the trade to fix the pockets. It cost me another $100.00 and now the jacket was not only stretched but crooked as well, and it went right into the garbage.     

The Doctor Gruber and the Shark Repellant Story

                                                     The Doctor Gruber and the Shark Repellant Story
                                                                     Written 08/24/2016 Unedited
                                                                                    Howard Yasgar

       In the 1990’s I had a company called API Marine, we sold remanufactured marine alternators and starter.
 We had representatives and distributors selling our products throughout the entire United States.  
       I had a very dear friend named Richard, Richard knew the marine industry inside and out, and at one time or another Richard had worked at and done just about everything in the marine industry.
       Richard had a very good friend, named Dr. Sonny Gruber, You can usually see Dr. Gruber on television, as he is the world’s ultimate authority on Lemon Sharks. Dr. Gruber runs a shark institute on the island of Bimini in the Bahamas. He is a professor at the University of Miami, and students and scientists from all over the world come to Dr. Gruber’s shark instate to learn about sharks.  So, whenever there is a Florida television program about sharks, they usually interview Dr. Gruber in Bimini.
      Running the shark institute is quite a task, and requires a lot of work, as everything they need, has to come over by boat from Miami. My friend Richard, always made time to help Dr. Gruber, he did it by finding him inexpensive boats to ferry supplies from Miami. Richard usually went along on many of the supply trips with Dr. Gruber. So that’s how I met Dr. Sonny Gruber, it was when Richard brought him over to meet me.
      One day Richard tells me the following story. He said that Dr. Gruber, early in his career, like most all professors do, he was always seeking government grants. Dr. Gruber said the government had many subjects that they were interested in doing research on, and all the professors have access to the list. If they see something they are interested in they can write up a proposal, and if it is accepted, the government will give them a financial grant to do the research.
      Dr.  Gruber saw that the government was looking to solve a problem, sharks were attacking the sonar array that is towed behind all our military submarines.
      Dr. Gruber knew that there was a fish living in the Red Sea, called the Moses Soul Fish, and sharks just won’t eat them. Dr. Gruber felt that the fish has some kind of natural anti-shark chemical in it, so he suggested that he be given a grant to study what the chemical was. The government must have liked his idea as he received a grant to move to Israel with his family for two years and study the Moses Soul fish in the Red Sea.  After the two years, Dr. Gruber had indeed extracted the shark repelling chemical and synthesized it. All the information was given to the government and Dr. Gruber never heard any more about it.
     One evening many years later, Dr. Gruber and Richard were sitting on the beach in Bimini, and Sonny Gruber told Richard the story.    
     Richard became excited, he said that everyone in the marine industry wanted a shark repellant, so he asked Dr. Gruber to contact the Navy to find out what happened to the anti-shark chemical Gruber had synthesized.
     Dr. Gruber received a reply, that because the chemical had to pass through the sharks gills to be effective, the
Navy couldn’t use it and Dr. Gruber could do whatever he wanted with it.  Richard was ecstatic, he wanted to set up a company right away to market the shark repellant, and that’s when I came into the picture.
      Richard came to me, and he was very excited, he said everyone wanted a shark repellant and he had the exclusive rights to market Dr. Gruber’s shark repelling chemical. Richard said that with the API Marine distribution network we could market the shark repellant to every marine dealer and dive shop in the United States. Richard was sure it was going to be a financial success. He said everyone had been looking for a shark repellant ever since WWII, when pilots that crashed In the Pacific were attacked by sharks before they could be rescued.                  
      I asked Richard how Dr. Gruber’s shark repellant worked, and Richard said the chemical needed to pass through the sharks gills, it irritated the sharks gills, so it would immediately swim away.
      I gave it some thought, it all sounded too impractical to me, how would someone ever squirt the chemical in a shark’s mouth so it would pass over its gills.  Richard said that was no problem as he unfolded a set of detailed drawings of a compressed air gun that could shoot the repellant underwater. I could see Richard had put a lot of time and hard work into designing the shark repellant gun. The drawings were highly technical and all done in color. The repellant was in a cartridge and placed in the gun, and a small compressed gas cylinder was also inserted. The gun could be used several times before the compressed air cartridge needed to be replaced.  I couldn’t believe that Richard actually thought someone would or could shoot this thing into a shark’s mouth.
     Richard was very excited, he said we could sell the repellant and gun to the life raft manufacturers they could put one in with each raft.  I said, how could people sitting in a life raft ever use it, as it needed to be shot into the shark’s mouth. Richard said we could put a set of underwater goggles in with each kit, and he was serious.
     I tried to calm Richard down, I said, Richard, I think Dr. Gruber’s shark repellant is worthless, no one would have the nerve to get in the water with sharks to squirt it in their mouths.
     I think Richard was starting to realize that what I was saying was true, so he said, well, we can sell it to Dive shops. Scuba divers are in the water anyway and they would have no problem squirting the chemical in a shark’s mouth. Well I had to agree with Richard on that point, so I made a phone call to one of our sales representatives that also called on dive shops, and I introduced him to Richard. Richard asked if the salesman could sell the shark repellant to dive shops.
     The salesman said, “NO Way”, He said scuba divers love sharks, that’s why they dive in the first place, they want to attract sharks, not scare them away.
      Several months later I read that someone had invented a shark repellant that you wore like a belt, and it slowly dissolved in the water and chased the sharks away. That invention sounded a little more practical, Richard must have read about it also, as he never mentioned Dr. Gruber’s shark repellant to me again.

Eichel Blumenstock and the Missing Car Story

                                           Eichel Blumenstock and the Missing Car Story
                                                               Written 09/10/2016
                                                                   Howard Yasgar

    In early 1963, I was a junior partner in a used car lot on West Main Street in Stamford Connecticut.
    My partner was a fellow named Abe Zion. Abe was one of the best entrepreneurs I had ever met.
    Every month we would drive into a different major new car company lot in White Plains New York, and Abe would buy their entire back row of trade-in cars, he would pay $50.00 for each car, running or not. My job was getting them running, getting them running and get them all back to our lot in Stamford Connecticut. Once the cars were in Stamford we would run daily specials, selling them from $99.00 to $299.00.
    Abe, had a dear friend that went everywhere that Abe went, his name was Eichel Blumenstock, Eichel, was about 86 years old. Eichel was short, with thinning blond hair and he wore his pants pulled up to his chest. In his youth Eichel’s family were the Michelin tire distributors for all of Germany.  When the Nazi’s arrested him, Eichel bribed a guard and fled to Palestine where he met Abe. Now in 1963, Abe and Eichel were both in America and they were inseparable.
     Eichel, was a very earnest, religious and honest person, so we left him at the used car lot, to sell the cars.  
     After several months, I sat down to do the books, and reconcile the bank account. I immediately noticed that 10 or 12 cars were missing, so I told Abe that we were missing the cars.
     Abe went to Eichel who was sitting pensively in a chair with his hands folded in his lap.  He sternly said, “Eichel, where are the cars, I am told that 12 cars are missing”. “Yes Abe, Eichel said, they are on the highway.”
     Now Eichel Blumenstock was a devout Jew, and he lived in an apartment in the Bronx in New York. So every Friday night Eichel would take a car off the lot in Stamford and drive it home.  However a pious Jew cannot drive on Friday after sundown. So if Eichel got stuck in traffic, he would simply take the license plate off the car and put it in his jacket pocket, and he would then abandon the car. He would walk home to the Bronx even If it took him all night.
     So much for our used car business.      

Doctor Gruber and the Dockta Facockta Story

                                                   Doctor Gruber and the Dockta Facockta Story
                                                                       Written 09/06/2016                                    
                                                                           Howard Yasgar

      Dr. Samuel Gruber is a South Florida shark Biologist, He is a professor at the University of Miami’s Rosentiel School for Marine and atmospheric science, and he holds a MS and PH D in marine science. Doctor Gruber is the founder of the Bimini Biologic Field Station Foundation. At the Bimini Field Station, Doctors, professors and shark biology students from all over the world come to study sharks with him. In 2008 Dr. Gruber appeared on the History Channels documentary series about sharks. When it comes to Lemon Sharks, Dr. Gruber is the world’s foremost authority.
      My Wife and I had the good fortune to meet and become friends with Dr. Sonny Gruber, it happened because we were friends with Richard Schneider.
      Richard Schneider was in the Marine and boating business, and whenever he had free time he would assist Dr. Gruber in provisioning the Bimini Shark Institute. All the provisions had to be transported 50 miles from Miami to Bimini by boat. So Richard, as a good friend, would always help Dr. Gruber whenever he could, by making the trip back and forth to Bimini. On many occasions they arrived late in the afternoon so Richard would stay overnight at the institute.
      Richard told me that he always enjoyed staying at the institute. He said there was only one thing he didn’t like. Every evening when they all sat down for supper, Dr. Gruber would make the introductions so everyone at the institute knew who was sitting at the table. Most all of the visitors were Professors or biologists that held Doctorate degrees.  So Dr. Gruber would introduce each as Doctor. As he went around the table, the visitors who were from all over the world, were each introduced as Doctor So and So, Gruber  did that because they all held doctorate degrees. That was until he got to Richard, who he would introduce only as “My friend Richard Schneider”.  Richard lamented that he felt insignificant in the presence of so many highly educated people with Doctorate degrees, and he had no degree.
      I had remembered watching the Sid Caesar show on television many years ago where Sid Caesar, had made believe he was speaking German and introduced himself in a skit  as “Dockta Facockta”, In Yiddish Facockta means something that is pretty crappy.           
      I suggested to Richard that he tell Dr. Gruber, that the next time he was making introductions at the shark institute, he should introduce Richard as Dockta Facockta, but I don’t think Richard liked my idea too much.
      Several months later, one summer evening Richard was delivering a racing boat from Miami to Fort Lauderdale. My wife Katherine and I and Doctor Gruber were waiting for Richard to arrive at the marina. We were all going to Tarks seafood restaurant once Richard arrived. It was pretty dark and we were afraid Richard had gotten lost, so Doctor Gruber called Richard on his cell phone. I took the phone and I said Dockta Facockta where are you?
      Doctor Gruber’s eyed got big, and he said, who is Dockta Facockta? I said that’s the name I gave to Richard
So you can introduce him at the Shark Institute. Doctor Gruber was silent for a moment, then he said. “No Way, I want to be Dockta Facockta.