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September 1st, 2004 Richard Shirk | Night Avenger
 

GAMBLING, Like Crime, PAYS

     
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"Night Avenger"? Some of us prowl around looking for the hidden good times of Portland 24-hours a day. And while "Evening Avenger" doesn't quite have the bad-ass ring to it, this is something to contemplate during the 50-minute bus ride to Multnomah Greyhound Park on a dreary Saturday. The bus drops the gambling-bound by the highway more or less, but the racing complex is within sight.

The track is perfectly manicured and loomed over by a massive, three-tiered building. Stocked with more Coors than an NRA convention, the cavernous complex is decked out with all the folding chair and orange Formica panache usually reserved for South American bus terminals.

The hall is populated by grizzled veterans, thirtysomething couples and a few polo-shirted well-to-do types. While nobody is smoking cigars or wearing a white linen suit, the crowd still is betting more than the Night Avenger's two bucks on the dogs that soon will chase a motorized stuffed toy around the track.

Now gambling, even casually, is serious business. It's important to keep a set of rules in minds. Our rules? 1) Don't spend your bus fare on booze. 2) Only gamble after three drinks.

Plastic cup of Coors in hand (the tap offered that and Coors Light), the two dollar bets are on Move My Groove (No. 8) and Imashootnota-work (No. 5) to show in the sixth post--that is to finish first, second or third place in the sixth race.

Impossibly fast, Imashootnotawork leads only briefly before being overtaken at the first bend. My Groove breaks out of the pack in the last straightaway to finish third. After 30 seconds, it's over. The payout? $4.40.

By the ninth race, even the dogs are wearing clear rain ponchos when paraded pre-race. The overcast cloud cover has turned into an escalating drizzle that forces us inside.

It's at this point that the novelty begins to wear thin. A muscle-bound guy kicks the side of his spectator cubicle, yelps, "Goddammit!" and storms off to put money down on the next post. Toward the back, one gambler grumbles at a horse race in Florida as he sits in front of a pile of crumpled tickets and a Tupperware container of smokes. Maybe, we think, it's time to leave.

The No. 12 bus takes nearly an hour to get back to Portland. But with 40 cents won honest-to-god on gambling, this was a bus ride well worth it. Well, at least once.


Multnomah Greyhound Park, 944 NE 223rd Ave., Wood Village, 667-7700, multnomahgreyhoundpark.com . Races 7 pm Wednesday, 7 pm Friday, 5 pm Saturday, 1 pm Sunday. Season closes Oct. 9.
 
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