One of the things I love about horse racing is no matter how many races you have seen in your lifetime, there is always the possibility of seeing something you've never seen before. Watching a baseball game is like that too. Just when you think that something so simple as hitting a small sphere and running around the bases, or a small pack of horses running in a circle, is a dull, repetitive, uninspiring endeavor, it isn't. Things happen. Unpredictable things happen. Maybe not all the time, but they do happen.
A perfect life metaphor, no? Of course it is. This last month has been filled with such unpredictabilities. Which is to say it has been predictable. I'm forced to move, and then I'm not. I'm moving downstairs, and then I'm not. I'm going to vacation in Central Oregon, and then I end up in the East Bay dealing with a family emergency. And in the end, some sort of balance restores itself and I'm reminded why it is crucial to live life a day at a time.
But all is not impermanent. Some things we treasure are with us at all times. Will be with us at all times. Even in the depths of every form of abandonment, Lightnin' Hopkins sings the blues, Billie Holiday sounds just as mysterious, and Paul Klee's colors burn as bright. Carrying that pit in your stomach might ache, but a brook trout is just as beautiful, a child's smile just as rewarding, and big slice of watermelon as remarkable as ever.
Back to the track...
I love to read the Daily Racing Form. It's an intellectual challenge, it keeps the brain active, and on occasion, it can be fun and profitable. But getting one has it's drawbacks. In Portland, my choices are limited. A few outlying liquor stores, the racetrack itself, a downtown news stand (which carries only a small quantity) or one of the OTB parlors. The latter are as seedy as they sound. Sure there are a few regulars there, racing is full of tropes. Old Asian men, retirees trying to fill free time, addicted gamblers, losers of all stripes, temporary winners, and very angry wanderers who come and go and display 50 shades of paranoia. Not a nice place to hang out.
I suppose I could print out a racing form from their web site, but it's just not the same. I've decided to stay with newsprint for as long as it's around. It'll soon be gone. Maybe that will eliminate the problem of picking up a form, but it won't make going through one any more enjoyable. Part of the fun is unlocking the puzzle of each race. The clues, the keys, the information is all there somewhere. If you locate it beforehand, it can be beyond satisfying.
So for now, I waltz in and out of the downtown OTB now and then to pick up a form. Sometimes I stay to watch a race or two and marvel at the local color. It's the same everywhere. I've been in OTBs from Philly to Vancouver, B.C. and the characters are interchangeable. The disgruntled say the same thing. Lots of "woulda, shoulda couldas." If nothing else, it's a great place to find your emotional vulnerability. That can't be bad.