Sunday, June 8, 2008

Being There

Cliches either contain a grain of truth, or their accuracy is such that they couldn't become cliches if they were not recurring themes that are useful from time to time. So it is that... "90% of life is just showing up."
Big Brown didn't show up yesterday. The minute he was jostled on the first turn, as Desormeaux angled him out for position, I knew his trip was doomed. Maybe that's why I was more relieved than shocked to see him eased. For the uninitiated, eased means the jockey eased off the pedal, it means he slowed him down for the purpose of the horse's safety, health, and well being. It's not easy to slow down a 1200 pound animal, especially in front of 120,000 screaming fans who expect you to win. Props to Kent D. for making the tough decision.
We all wanted to see a Triple Crown winner. Even the jaded cynics who can't help themselves wanted to be eyewitness to history. But you can't always get what you want. We needed this super horse right now, but this time, we couldn't get what we needed. Like Dylan, from time to time, he wasn't there.
About an hour before the race, I uncharacteristically fell into a blue funk. Of course, I thought about the what ifs and all the hype. I was surrounded by hundreds wearing Big Brown buttons and brown clothing. It looked like an UPS class reunion. They even gave out $2.00 win tickets on the horse at Portland Meadows. But I was thinking of past Belmonts I've shared with friends now gone or in other cities. I was wondering what that conversation would be like, how we would play the race, whether or not we'd have an alternative pick (Dennis of Cork) and how the day would have gone. We'd have all arrived at the track early to get a spot and shared food and wisdom. Yes, I was feeling a bit lonely in the sea of brown. Too bad Big Brown didn't show up. Horses, like people have a way of doing that too. I've known people who never showed up to their own weddings. Much will be written about this Belmont, most will be forgotten. The Tao of horse racing is alive and well.
On Friday, Katie and I were returning to our truck after stopping downtown to run a few errands. Last stop was the Rialto, the OTB downtown on 4th St. I wanted to get a Racing Form for Saturday and I knew it'd be there by early afternoon. So here we are just about to get into the truck and Mitt Romney comes jogging by. Yeah, that Mitt Romney. Our eyes met. He smiles, slightly embarrassed but obviously delighted that he's recognized. He's wearing running shorts and shoes, but also a blue striped dress shirt and black street socks. Looking like a dork, but definitely the former Governor of Massachusetts.
"That's Mitt Romney, I said. "Sure looks like him," Katie replied. Then we both laughed and thought, what's Mitt Romney doing in downtown Portland, jogging by himself on a Friday afternoon?
Next day in the paper it was confirmed. He'd come to town to fund raise for McCain, just checked into a downtown hotel, went for a run on the river front and, of course forgotten the proper shirt or socks. Sometimes people just show up.

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