to Make Your Re-Acquaintance
Arise, therefore: Water nymphs are roused from slumber
in Yaddos gardens.
Familiarity breeds contempt,
so playing the tourist in your own town can rekindle a love
for things too long overlooked
by Alicia Solsman
history, horses and the arts is how we like to present Saratoga
Springs,” Sabrina shouts out to me and the two dozen or
so senior citizens journeying along with me.
As a resident of Saratoga for five years (college and then
some), I’d decided to test out my acquired local authority
by touring the city with the newly unleashed Saratoga Experience
bus tour, which promises an “insider’s look of the city’s
most famous—and infamous—landmarks.”
It’s actually my second sightseeing tour of native ground
this summer: While I did thoroughly enjoy bringing my Thai
cousin around on the Circle Line in June (mostly due to
his wishes to be photographed in front of every approaching
landmark, regardless of its iconic value, e.g., the Willis
Avenue Bridge and Roosevelt Island), I was a bit more hesitant
about busing around Spa City with a bunch of 60-somethings.
Maybe the exhausting yearly blitz of horsey lovers had taken
its toll, or maybe it’s that I could never figure out how
the “little city in the country” became the “August place
to be” while being 200 miles from the ocean. Either way,
a bus tour around Saratoga sounded about as exciting as
taking a tour around, well, Albany.
Saratoga Experience, the concierge-service brainchild of
local entrepreneur Eliott Mazie, is headquartered in a sparse,
urban-modern storefront on Saratoga’s downtown strip, in
what’s easily mistaken as a high-end audio-videophilic retailer
matching the high-tech promises of the tour. If the concierge’s
booking-and-planning operation is Mazie’s brainchild, then
the brainmother of the tour itself is Sabrina Silver. A
native Saratogian who wrote and designed the tour as part
of a college internship, Silver also doubles as Sabrina
the lovely tour guide. When our promised PowerPoint and
surround-sound slideshow (rigged up to a monitor at the
front of the bus) fails before we even take off, it’s Sabrina’s
sparkling, fluent performance (and enviable recall of the
slideshow’s script) that save the day for us sightseers.
To little surprise, the tour includes the usual suspects
of Saratoga landmarking: water springs, North Broadway houses,
the track, SPAC and Yaddo, etc. In other words, health,
history, horses and the arts—just as told. A large portion
of the tour is devoted to Saratoga’s architectural history
and preservation efforts, which, besides being visually
stunning, help me realize just how much American architectural
history can be learned from poking around Saratoga. From
the early Federal style of the Olde Bryan Inn, to pillared
Greek-revivalist homes, high Victorians, Neo-Gothic churches
and mansions (notably the exquisite Batcheller Mansion on
Circular Street, which both has a patented design and
is held together entirely by screws—no nails), to the
gorgeous Romanesque revivals on North Broadway and the early-century
American Renaissance form of the State Park buildings, the
tour provides an easy-access review of just about every
significant period—a very cool point of entry for anyone
even incipiently interested in design.
Interesting tidbits we learn along the way: Gideon Putnam,
Saratoga’s official granddaddy, had Caroline and Phila Streets
named for his daughters; 3,000 horses come through the track
stables each summer; Arnold Rothstein, Saratoga’s most famous
gangster and fixer of the 1919 World Series, served his
first and only jail stint in Ballston Spa; the Canfield
Casino, which sits at the center of Congress Park, once
boasted the most expensive dinner menu in the country.
We also learn that while Fred Astaire was shooting his last
movie, Ghost Story, here in the spring of 1981, Eliot
Mazie himself was out driving on State Street and encountered
what he’d later find out was a fake blizzard on the movie’s
set. As he skidded out in seasonal disbelief, he looked
up in time to just avoid hitting the 82-year-old Astaire
prancing across the street, narrowly escaping lasting notoriety
as the man who ran down Fred Astaire in a May snowstorm.
On another Astaire note, I learned that the National Dance
Museum, located on South Broadway near SPAC, has an exhibit
featuring his steps to “The Piccolino” painted on the floor,
allowing visitors to reenact one of his deliciously silly
I had initial quibbles with only a few of Sabrina’s comments:
As a liberal arts institution, it’s true that Skidmore sees
a lot of double majors; but, no, business/sculpture is not
a typical one (they tend to be less polarized). In Sabrina’s
defense, though, what I initially figured was hyperbole
about making a small fortune by selling track giveaways
on eBay proved to be at least theoretically true: At the
time of this writing, there are already 32 John Velazquez
bobblehead auctions underway.
I wasn’t surprised when the tour’s promises of infamy focused
on the old red-light debauchery of Congress Street, Rothstein’s
Brooks Casino and the romanticized decadence of the town’s
gilded era. Had it been my tour, I would’ve elected to single
out some more recent, idiosyncratic disclosures: like vandals
stealing horse statues off Broadway, or the jaywalking pedestrians
getting nailed by cars over the last few years. Perhaps
I’d caution of the potential dangers of carousing in Saratoga’s
watering holes under the watchful eyes of overzealous bouncer
types. But these, I suppose, are better kept filed under
“local knowledge,” and not exactly the features we fixate
on when selling the city.
City springs eternal: Inside the Lincoln Baths.
out a window designed for tourists when you’re not one is
a nearly surreal exercise, not unlike hearing your own voice
on the answering machine. Considering my own reservations
about what kind of life Saratoga can offer me—a post-collegiate
22-year-old hungry for something but not sure exactly what—my
cynicism at touring what some of us semi-fondly refer to
as “Stinktown” is no surprise. But when Sabrina points out
the impressive Greek revival structure that housed one of
my old apartments, I’m amazed when I find myself tapping
the elderly visitor sitting beside me and telling him, “I
used to live there.” Even though he doesn’t seem to care,
I feel an unusual pride driving past that building with
my fresh-eyed tour buddies. And this moment of unintentional
bragging begins to give way to plain appreciation: I’ve
lived in a lovely, historically rich town while most of
America is sliding off into big-box swamps.
Before they too quickly forget, everyone who lives in Saratoga
should take a tour, and remember why they live here in the
first place. Maybe next week I’ll get out my Polaroid and
Triple-A card and head down to Albany.
Park (Saratoga Springs, 587-3241). Tue: Alex Torres
and the Latin Kings.
Performing Arts Center (Saratoga Springs, tickets: 476-1000).
Tue: Deep Purple, Joe Satriani, Thin Lizzy.
Alley Bar (Long Alley Road, Saratoga, 587-9766). Sun:
karaoke with Wayne from King Entertainment.
Tue: karaoke with Mark the Shark.
(Phila and Putnam streets, Saratoga Springs, 583-6060).
Thu: Bluz House Rockers. Fri: Phil Henry Trio.
Sat: Richie Ortiz. Sun: Sirsy Duo.
Restaurant (390 Broadway, Saratoga Springs, 587-6262).
Fri: Benny Cannavo, the Accents. Sat: the Heaters.
Sun: Fletcher’s Band. Mon: Al Bruno.
Lena (47 Phila St., Saratoga Springs, 583-0022). Thu:
open mic (7 PM). Fri: the Burns Sisters. Sat: Metropolitan
Klezmer. Sun: Tom Mitchell.
Caroline (13 Caroline St., Saratoga Springs, 580-0155).
Thu: Bipolar. Fri: karaoke with DJ Chris. Sat:
E Town Express. Sun: karaoke with DJ Chris.
Tue: karaoke with DJ Chris. Wed: Brian Gibney.
Club House (30 Caroline St., Saratoga Springs, 580-0686).
Fri-Sat: DJ Daniel Van D, hiphop, club mixes.
(16 Caroline St., Saratoga Springs, 587-7359). Sat: the Sean
Inn at Saratoga (231 Broadway, Saratoga Springs, 583-1890).
Sat: the Ria Curley Jazz Group.
Inn (1 Gridley St., Saratoga Springs, 587-4909).Thu: TS
Ensemble (6 PM). Fri: the Burners UK (6 PM). Sat:
Blue Hand Luke (6 PM). Sun: the Schmooze (6
PM). Mon: Jeff Walton (6 PM).
Rock Steakhouse at the Prime Hotel (534 Broadway, Saratoga
Springs, 584-4000). Fri-Sat: Lois and the Kryptonites.
Maple Avenue (9 Maple Ave., Saratoga Springs, 583-CLUB).
Fri: Jazz Works. Sat: Tom Laniewski Quartet.
Caroline Street (1 Caroline St., Saratoga Springs, 587-2026).
Thu: Rob Linquist (6 PM); John Park Duo (9 PM).
Fri: Azzaam Hameed (6 PM); Colleen Pratt Quartet
(9 PM). Sat: Dave Payette (6 PM); Lee Shaw Trio
(9 PM). Sun: Scott Bassinson Duo (7 PM). Mon: Sarah
Pedinotti. Tue: Masters of Nostalgia (7:30 PM).
Wed: Peg Delaney Duo.
Restaurant (Route 9P, Saratoga Lake, 584-6882).Thu: Noreen
Pratt (6:30 PM). Fri: Beth LeRoy (6:30 PM). Sat:
Michael Panza, Bobby Zampino Trio (7:30 PM).
Sun: Noreen Pratt (7 PM).
Parting Glass (40-42 Lake Ave., Saratoga Springs, 583-1916).
Fri: Vehicle. Sat: Alan Payette Band. Mon: the
Off Track Band. Wed: the Burners UK.
Springs Brew Pub (14 Phila St., Saratoga Springs, 583-3209).
Thu: Kevin Mullaney and Electric Life.
. . . A Nunsense Musical, Saratoga Springs
City Center, 522 Broadway, Saratoga Springs. The Little Sisters
of Hoboken present a shipboard musical. 8/12-14. $15. 581-9401.
Divas, Saratoga Arts Council Theatre, 320 Broadway,
Saratoga Springs. Nancy Timpanaro-Hogan and Laura Roth star
in a cabaret spoofing divas old and new. Through 8/28. $25.
Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Spa State Park, Saratoga
Springs. 8/12, 8:15 PM: The Philadelphia Orchestra, featuring
cellist Truls Mork, will perform works by Dvorák and Sibelius.
8/13, Pianist André Watts is featured with the Philadelphia
Orchestra on works by Strauss, Zwilich and Brahms. 8/14, 8:15
PM: Charles Dutoit conducts the Philadelphia Orchestra in
works by Bartok, Liszt, Weber and Ravel. 8/18, 8:15 PM: The
Philadelphia Orchestra will perform works by Ravel, Saint-Saëns
and Berlioz. $57.50-$15. 587-3330.
Little Theater, Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga
Springs. 8/15, 2:15 PM: Saratoga Chamber Music Festival presents
the Austro-Hungarian Connection. Works by Schubert, Zwilich,
Haydn and Dohnányi. 8/16, 8:15 PM: SCMF presents a program
of works by Beethoven, Eisler and Brahms. 8/17, 8:15 PM: SCMF
features pianist Stephen Hough and violist Roberto Diaz on
works by Mozart, Schubert and Frühling. $33.50-$28.50. 587-3330.
Clement’s Church, 231 Lake Ave., Saratoga Springs. 8/15,
7 PM: The annual concert of the Saratoga Choral Festival.
Handel’s Dixit Dominus is the featured work, with other
pieces by Mozart and C.V. Stanford. $15-$10. 438-6548.
Books, 441 Broadway, Saratoga Springs. 8/14, 7-9 PM: Author
R. Austin Healy will sign copies of his Saratoga-based mystery
Museum of Horse Racing, 191 Union Ave., Saratoga. 8/14,
10 AM-noon: Sally Jenkins will sign copies of Funny
Cide by The Funny Cide Team. 8/17, 10 AM-noon: Joe
McGinniss will sign copies of The Big Horse. 584-0400
Museum of Racing, Union Ave., Saratoga Springs. Wed-Sun
through 9/5, 8:30-10 AM: Exclusive Tours of the Oklahoma Training
Track. Reservations recommended. $10. 584-0400 x 120.
Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, Union Ave., Saratoga
Springs. 8/15, 8:15 AM: Photo Finish at Oklahoma Training
Track, guided by racing photographer Barbara D. Livingston.
Ages 10 and up, no strollers or backpacks. $20, $15 members.
8/18, 11 AM-12 PM: Guests in the Gallery: Trainers. Free
with museum admission. 584-0400.
Springs Public Library, 49 Henry St., Saratoga Springs.
Tuesdays in August, 10 AM: Brown Bag presentations in the
Community Room. This week: “The Restoration of Yaddo Gardens.”
Museum of Dance & Hall of Fame, 99 South Broadway,
Saratoga Springs. 8/13: Visitors of the museum can observe
a class free with museum admission. 584-2225
Museum at Saratoga, 69 Caroline St., Saratoga Springs.
Tuesdays, 10 AM-noon: Tuesdays for Tots, for ages 5 and under;
create projects and experience new art materials. 584-5540.
Sparks, 42 Phila St., Saratoga. 8/17, 10 AM-noon. “Creating
with Clay” workshop, Clay Buffet (funky food art). $15, plus
$5 fee to paint finished items. Every Saturday, 7-9 PM: “Kids
Nite Out,” pizza and pottery. $20 per child. All workshops
ages 8 and up without supervision, younger children welcome
accompanied by an adult. Registration required. 583-2030.
Springs Farmers Market. High Rock Park, Saratoga Springs.
Saturdays, 9 AM-1 PM; Wednesdays, 3-6 PM.
daily through Sept. 6, except Tuesdays.
Location 267 Union Ave., Saratoga Springs, 584-6200.
Admission $3 grandstand, $5 clubhouse; children under
12 free; seats are $6 and $7, respectively.
Parking $10 per car at the track side and $5 across
Union Avenue at the Oklahoma Training Track. General
parking is free.
Racing Nine or 10 races a day; pari-mutuel wagering
on every race.
First Race Post Time 1 PM (except Travers Day, Aug.
28, when it’s 12:30 PM).
Major Stakes Races The Sword Dancer Invitational (Aug.
14 ); the Alabama Stakes (Aug. 21); the Hopeful Stakes
(Aug. 21 ); the Saratoga Breeders Cup (Aug. 22 );
the Travers Stakes (Aug. 28).
By Martin Benjamin
Sliwa, Guardian Angel, at the track in the exclusive finish
line clubhouse box seats, on Sunday (Aug. 8). Apparently when
not hiding out in Tokyo because of fear of an impending rubout
by the mob, Sliwa enjoys a day at the races.
The Downtowner Parking Lot
Who: Gabrielle (left)
From: originally from California, now lives in Greenfield
What are you doing here?: Were selling Kettle
Korn. Its a kind of popcorn,
you cook it in a kettle, we add sugar and salt to it.
Whats the best part about Saratoga?: I like
the downtown part and the
If Saratoga were a movie, what would it be called?: Saratoga