even the losers
We were upstairs at Belmont race track (we were at a party) heading over to watch a race when I spotted this old man sitting on a bench by himself, studying the horses.
It made me sad for a lot of reasons, the least of which is there is just something profoundly depressing about the grandstand of a race track in general. Everywhere you look, there are people - most of them alone - with the lines of hard lives etched in their faces and a vague sadness in their eyes. They spend their entire day chasing good money after bad, hoping that the next race will be the one that nets them enough money to pay the rent or at least get them another drink. If they lose that race, then they have to spend more to recover that money. If they win the race, the adrenaline of the win hits them and they need to go back again and build on that euphoria. People rarely go home from the race track any richer than when they got there.
It’s a depressing thing to watch, and it’s maybe more sad for me because I have known that life - not myself, but someone else in a life I am many years removed from - but I can’t help but look at this man in the photo and know. What it’s like to go home and shut yourself from the world while you study and memorize until you think you have it all figured out and then you go to the track or OTB or call your bookie and when all your addition and theories fall apart on the last 1/4 mile of the race, you go back to your pencil and paper and do it all again.
Eventually the money dries up and you find yourself still sitting at the race track, going through discarded betting slips in the hopes that someone threw away a winner by mistake. If you can’t make your own fortune, maybe you can make one off the misfortune of others.
But it never does work out that way. You’ll just end up a lonely man spending a beautiful Saturday afternoon on a bench in a race track, wondering if your careful calculations will pay off this time.
Another day in the life.