Be Open To New Experiences

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 12:12 pm

That’s what Margaret and I told each other as we drove south on Highway 167 yesterday, on our way to Emerald Downs to join her co-workers at a company-sponsored outing to watch the horse races, something we had never done before and, frankly, had never contemplated doing in our lives. Margaret’s allergic to horses, I’m allergic to gamblers and neither of us is much on leaving the safety and comfort of our house for the Great Unknown. Nonetheless, it was a very nice gesture on the part of her new employer, and it seemed only meet for us to show up and fly the colors. So off we went.

Emerald Downs is located well south of the Seattle area, near the city of Auburn. It is owned at least in part by the Muckleshoot Indian tribe, and is sort of an expansion of their casino interests. We gave ourselves 45 minutes to get down there and made it in good time, which was a good thing because it was a quarter-mile walk from where we parked in the free lot, past teeming hundreds of 5-dollar spots, to the track itself. I was simply flabbergasted by the number of parking spaces available at this thing. It appeared as though the Muckleshoots might be expecting the entire city of Auburn to show up to drop a fiver on Philly Cream Cheese to place in the third. (That was the actual name of one of the horses racing that day, though I’m not sure if she ran in the third race or not. Cute name, though.)

Emerald Downs looks rather like what I imagine a bus terminal would if it were located in a nicer neigh (heh heh, “neigh”) borhood, say, Victoria, British Columbia. It’s big, sorta sterile and foreboding (all concrete, sheet metal and Department-of-Correctioins-grade Formica’ed particle board), but squeaky-clean and with some brightly-colored signage and other three-quarter-hearted attempts to cheer up the place. There were banks of betting stations everywhere you turned (surprise, surprise), and rows and rows of tables with people sitting at them, carefully poring over booklets with the day’s tracing information. It looked vaguely like last-minute cram time for a trigonometry test at a high school library, only with more (albeit, probably not a lot more) booze.

I was amused, then a little bowled over by the fact that a security guard asked to search my bag. Turns out he was looking for outside alcohol; I could bring in any store-sealed nonalcoholic beverage, food item or just about anything else that I choose, but apparently they have a terrible time with folks smuggling in booze. That there might be a coherent causal link between horse racing and over-consumption of alcohol had not really occurred to me, but in retrospect it seems kind of obvious. Substance and process addictions go together like opiate-laced peanut butter and, uh, jelly that compulsively masturbates or something. Man, I gotta work on my metaphors. 😐

We were seated in a most privileged area, I am told, up in the box seats where the riffraff fear to tread. Margaret’s boss actually laid out some dough to get the “purse” for the 5th race named after the clinic, which was kind of cool. I hope she was able to take that out of the advertising budget and get a tax writeoff for it. This may have something to do with our seating arrangements, I’m not 100% clear on that part. In addition to being able to watch everything that happened on the track—which was not much in fact; six horses running their magnificently muscled asses off for about a minute every half hour or so—the shape of the grandstand made an almost perfect collector for stray electromagnetic radiation, allowing me to capture a clean signal from any of about five unsecured WiFi access points in the surrounding area. So while Hold The Check was edging out Sadie’s Pride to win the Second, I was using my laptop to troubleshoot my VPN endpoint and checking the camera server at work. Oh, and eating garlic fries. Can’t say much for the coffee at Emerald Downs, but they sport some truly ass-kicking garlic fries. I think there was about a clove of garlic per fry.

We stuck around through the 5th race, which was the clinic’s purse. We had been given 20 dollars to spend “as we saw fit”, and we went down with the rest of the staff to check out the horses in our race. I restrained myself from the almost overwhelming temptation to exclaim, “Oh, I just can’t pick one, they all look so delicious!“, figuring I probably would have gotten my ass booted out the door at best (and possibly shot off at worst). We both liked the looks of Number 3—can’t for the life of me remember her name—and placed a ten buck bet for her to win.

I have since leaned that one does not pick one’s horse at the track the way one picks one’s lobster at the restaurant; just because one particular horse looks all feisty and rarin’ to go does not mean (s)he is going to win.

Go Number 3!

Yep, that’s good ol’ Number 3 bringing up the rear. We left shortly thereafter.

All in all, it was a nice time, with good crisp Autumn weather, affable companionship, and garlic fries. Between the 20 bucks we were given, the bet, the food and the gas it took to get there we broke even, and I had a chance to interact with Margaret’s new co-workers in a way I had not yet managed to do. So I’m quite glad we went. But I don’t think either of us will be making a habit of it. Like professional sporting events involving other species, the allure of horse racing just seems to escape us. And if the allure of watching them manages to get away from us, the allure of betting on them blazes off in a cloud of dust like—um—well, like some kind of fast-running animal, anyway. It’ll come to me eventually.

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