I had a random memory from an August past today. This was in my early 20s. I may have even still been a college student. You see, there was a time when summer for me didn’t automatically mean Saratoga. I always liked racing. My grandfather’s birthday was May 1, and that often meant that watching the Derby, which he attended many times, was a part of his annual Saturday birthday barbecue on the red charcoal grill out in the back of 25 Lowell. But I wasn’t a devoted fan until my mid-20s, when a hunch bet on Editor’s Note (I worked for Simon and Schuster at the time), brought me a crisp $100 bill that may as well have been $100,000, given how much it changed my life ever after.
But I digress. Before all that, the Saturdays at Belmont, the basements in Saratoga, the wild rides out through Kentucky in the middle of the night, there was something else. A few other things really: the Newport Folk Festival; lots of trips to the beach; and, many trips to the theater. I used to make it a point to go to the Delacorte once a summer, to capitalize on the enduring New York City tradition, Shakespeare in the Park.
The details are hazy, and not for the usual reason. You see, I didn’t even really drink back then. But as I peel back the gauzy layers, I can remember being at a party, somewhere in Port Washington, with my friend John, and a girl he fancied, Mary (names have been changed to preserve my inner saint. Or something). I must have mentioned something about going to the Delacorte, when Mary, a smart, cute blonde who had a summer internship in midtown, showed interest. “Oh great,” I said, trying to be a good wingman, even though I didn’t know that term then, “why don’t we all go?” But John was booked that night. Mary’s enthusiasm for the plan was such that there was no going back.
So the next night, I took the LIRR into the city, picked up a couple of turkey sandwiches from the deli, and met Mary outside her office (she had picked up tickets earlier in the day). We sat on a park bench with our ghetto picnic and chatted. I realized for the first time how much I had in common with this girl. I was still green enough that without having a single clue, I found myself in the midst of a pretty cool date.
We walked over to the theater on a perfect summer night and . . .what did we see? It was one of the comedies for sure. I am thinking Midsummer Night’s Dream, but I can’t be sure. All I recall is that it wasn’t one of the heavy ones and it wasn’t star-driven the way some of the SITP shows are. It was pretty amazing just sitting out there, gazing at one of the coolest stages in the world with the backdrop of one of the coolest cities in the world.
Afterwards, Mary and I took the train back to Port and walked around a bit. I was no connoisseur of romantic tension at the time, but I have to say that there was at least a little. I was in the midst of a poor run of romantic luck that only concluded a couple of years hence from the sole reason of being a straight man in publishing. Mary looked amazing, her blue eyes illuminated by the street lights as we walked along Main Street. There was the matter of John. He really liked this girl and now I knew why. I looked her in the eye, reached out my hand to the small of her back and . . . did absolutely nothing. A goodnight peck on the cheek later and I was on my way back home.
Nothing ever happened with Mary and John. We all went back to school and I can’t remember ever seeing her again. Regret feels like too strong a word to use when thinking back about that night. It’s not like “Oh, man, do I regret that!” But looking back objectively, it was just pretty silly. I mean, what was the worst thing that was going to happen?
Why am I remembering this now? God, I have no idea, but some synaptic misfire has conjured up that long forgotten night. Thinking back, facile though it might be, my message to my younger self is this: when you get a chance to kiss a pretty girl, you should take it. As for you, dear reader, make of that what you will as we are now officially ensconced in the second half of Saratoga ’12.
Race 5: $100 win om #7 PERFECT OFFICER
Consistency is often an underrated factor in picking winners. People like to look for the back class, or the horse on the way up. This guy isn’t either of those exactly. He just runs his race every time and I think he figures to get a better set up today (he is a significsant Flow Move Up out of his last) and presumably his more famous rivals will ciphon off a lot of cash.
MEET TO DATE RESULTS: -$1171.25