In which Metroland writers wax creative with
sudden-fiction riffs on Spa City images
Photos by John Rodat
stops, takes a deep sip of cafe au lait (dark roast, extra
foam) and considers the neon sign in the store window.
it beckons. Three block letters surrounded by a not-quite-perfect
oval pierced diagonally by a paintbrush, all tubular and
Maybe, M. thinks, it’s time to paint again.
M. might have continued to Caroline Street to browse antiques
or rare books, or to Putnam Market to plot a romantic lunch
(for two?) of wine, baguette and artisan cheese. Or to Borders,
cursing the corporate body-snatching of Broadway before
taking up headphones and sampling an entire White Stripes
But W. appears suddenly among the throng of shoppers across
the street, disappearing again into Uncommon Grounds.
The au lait, half-full and still warm, sails into a trash
bin. Traffic signals and bleating cars are ignored, evaded.
M. slips into the line at the counter, trying not to look
breathless as W., at the cream-sugar-cinnamon station, stirs
raw sugar into a double espresso.
M. orders a cafe au lait (dark roast, extra foam), then
wheels around to face W., mock-startled.
look who it is,” mutters W. “Fancy meeting you here.”
me guess—a sudden, irresistible craving for a cafe au lait.”
must be psychic.”
than you know.”
decided to paint you.”
and then you can have me forever.”
don’t you paint horses? I hear this town is fairly crawling
didn’t come to Saratoga to paint horses.”
I didn’t come to Saratoga to poke old sores.”
Uncomfortable silence, nervous sips of coffee. W. looks
can sit for me or not sit for me, but I’m going to paint
M. waits for eye contact that doesn’t come.
going to buy brushes and paint now. Bye.”
M. swings open the door. Voices on the street mingle with
those inside ordering bagels and coffee. Art beckons. As
M. steps out, a voice from behind rises above the others.
It might be saying, “Paint my good side.” M. isn’t sure.
It’s been said that in Saratoga’s distant, savage past,
stone shrines dedicated to Racino, the god of long shots,
dotted the land. Each year, pale travelers donned large,
floppy hats and journeyed to the shrines in the hope of
gaining Racino’s blessing. Upon arrival, they would offer
up bits of colored cloth in exchange for the god’s favor.
It was an honorable time—a time when short men rode mighty
stallions and ruled the land with tiny, iron fists.
In the years that followed, there was a Great Sprawl, and
many of the shrines were destroyed. Some say the destruction
was wrought by the ravages of time, others blame a growing
desire for more convenient parking. All that is certain
is that the dark ages followed in its wake, a period filled
with hordes of corporate barbarians clothed in the skin
of third-world children and high-end athletic apparel. These
savage conquerors roamed the land, crushing all who refused
a life of conformity beneath their fashionable leather soles.
The people grew afraid, and Racino soon faded from their
But Racino was one of the old gods—bereft of mercy and lacking
the touchy-feely attitude that tends to make other gods
more appealing. Racino demanded tribute, and caused the
sky to open up with rain for 40 days and 40 nights. And
only after the land was flooded and all of the races postponed
did Racino call upon the heavens to cease their watery devastation.
It was then that the people remembered their god, and they
dropped to one knee and repented, begging for Racino’s forgiveness.
And some say that this water, having filtered through the
soil long ago, still runs beneath Saratoga—a permanent reminder
of Racino’s wrath and the importance of betting on a long
on the Trail
There were other signs leading up to this point. I followed
them vigilantly, careful to not miss even one.
There was a sweet-smelling flower bed consisting of nothing
but roses, and there was a pair of sneakers casually tossed
over a power line that crossed Caroline Street. There was
a pet shop with a chinchilla in the window, and there was
a street vendor wearing a bowler hat. He acknowledged me
as I strolled by, and I smiled, but put my phone to my ear,
and pretended to initiate a call so as to avoid obligatory
pleasantries, which would only have served to exhaust me.
I passed one of the ubiquitous horse sculptures, and then
the gorgeous blouse clearly marked $500 hanging softly on
a mannequin in a storefront. As I wandered, I passed other
signs, too, ones I didn’t necessarily have to follow to
find my reward: The kissing couple on the stoop, the rainbow
just visible if you looked past the buildings that cascade
down the hills past Broadway. I skirted the cluster of children
eating ice cream and nodded to the parents watching them
admiringly from a nearby street bench. I wasn’t in a rush,
but I was getting sleepy, and I was looking forward to the
end of my treasure hunt.
I glimpsed the bookstore with the sweet window display,
and heard wafting choruses of the same song that I had heard
hours earlier, coming from the guy strumming his guitar
in a doorway. I kept walking, kept following the signs.
. . . I felt I was getting closer. The familiarity of my
surroundings set in as quickly as the dusk. All these precious
little clues, leading up to the arrow under this little
guy, showing me the way back to . . . my car.
It’s a good thing I had written all this down, or else I’d
be stranded in Saratoga, and as much as I like the place,
that would suck.
Up With the Joneses
Joseph poked at the ridged dial of the Walkman’s volume
control, drowning out the high whine of the Weed Whacker
with a swell of synthesizer.
never meant to be so bad to you, one thing I said that I
would never do,” he sang in a cracked and tuneless mutter,
the bobbing Kool beating out a spastic rhythm in the corner
of his mouth.
He worked his way down the long driveway’s edge, clipping
the expansive but tidy yard’s comparatively ragged edge
into compliance. He smoothly switched between his contributions
to the lead vocals and long drag-and-release work on the
menthol, interrupting the performance only to chastise the
stray, unruly green tuft with vicariously lawn-proud zeal:
“Get in line, bitch, or I’m coming back with tweezers.”
At the end of the driveway closest to the multistory garage—a
structure itself grander than any he had ever called home—in
the shade of a gleaming endomorphic Lincoln Navigator, Joseph
snapped the trimmer off and eyeballed the long tight line
of green out toward the road. He pulled a bandana from the
front pocket of his cut-off jean shorts and snapped it briskly
out of its wad, sending flying a single nickel and a tiny
corner of singed rolling paper. He watched himself mop his
forehead and neck in the SUV’s glossy distortion. He hated
the way the truck’s waxed curves stretched his already thin
frame into a freakishly elongated caricature, and quickly
turned away to patrol and proofread his work.
At the roadside edge, Joseph approached his own truck—a
dull blue 1988 Ford F250—on which he stubbed out the cigarette.
He pitched the filter into the bed of the truck, in with
the rakes and the clippers, removed the hard-pack from his
damp T-shirt’s sleeve and sparked up another. He sat on
the bumper, gazing down the mansion-thick stretch of North
Broadway. Blue-and-white For Sale signs sprouted before
a half-dozen of the homes, in seeming alternation with the
day, I’m gonna get me one those,” Joseph said out loud,
decisively, to no one in particular. “Those jockeys are
a Mirrored Horse
kid, no climbing on me.” It always freaks ’em out when I
say something. I only talk to kids—to keep the annoying
little rats off me—and to wealthy drunks in the depths of
delirium tremens. Saratoga is lousy with both in the summer.
For the alkies, I do my Mr. Ed voice: “Heyyyy, Wilbur!”
It brightens my day.
What? Yeah, I know I sound more like Johnny Cash than Mr.
Ed. Bite me. My Francis the Talking Mule imitation is actually
better, but no one remembers him—and, well, he was a jackass.
I am not bitter. But you see, I wasn’t always a horse. In
my original incarnation, I was the largest, most glittery
mirror ball in the history of the Acme Novelty Glass Amusements
Company of Newark, N.J. It was 1979, and I was designed
to be the glamorous focal point of a warehouse-sized disco
Unfortunately, this was the twilight of the disco era, which
meant I never got to stay in one club very long. In those
days, discos closed as fast as they opened. I was shunted
from joint to joint up through the Poconos and into New
York state, wherever there were enough gay men, semi-hot
women and—of course—cocaine to keep the DJ spinnin’ the
Bee Gees for a couple of months.
How did I get to be a horse? Well, I had the misfortune
to roll off the back of a pickup truck onto the Northway
10 years ago, on my way to Quebec. An artist salvaged the
pieces, and . . . in case you haven’t noticed, they got
this thing for horses around here. Damned if I know why.
Is it a good life? Sure. I’d take the trashy babes and cokeheads
over kids any day, however.
little girl: I said, get the hell outta here!”
Aug. 26-Sept. 1
Performing Arts Center (Saratoga Springs, tickets: 476-1000).
Mon: Norah Jones and the Handsome Band.
Aug. 26-Sept. 1
Alley Bar (Long Alley Road, Saratoga, 587-9766). Sun: karaoke
with Wayne from King Entertainment. Tue: karaoke with Mark
Bailey’s (Phila and Putnam streets, Saratoga Springs, 583-6060).
Thu: Bluz House Rockers. Fri: Richie Ortiz. Sat: Acoustic
Circus. Sun: Sirsy Duo.
Brindisi’s Restaurant (390 Broadway, Saratoga Springs, 587-6262).
Fri: the Accents. Sat: the Heaters. Sun-Mon: Al Bruno.
Caffe Lena (47 Phila St., Saratoga Springs, 583-0022). Thu:
open mic (7 PM). Fri: Karen Savoca and Pete Heitzman. Sat:
Guy Davis. Sun: Tribute to Bill Withers.
Club Caroline (13 Caroline St., Saratoga Springs, 580-0155).
Thu: Bipolar. Fri: karaoke with DJ Chris. Sat: Goodfoot. Sun:
karaoke with DJ Chris. Tue: karaoke with DJ Chris. Wed: Fresh
The Club House (30 Caroline St., Saratoga Springs, 580-0686).
Fri-Sat: DJ Daniel Van D, hiphop, club mixes.
E. O’Dwyer’s (15 Spring St., Saratoga Springs, 583-6476).
Fri: Square Pegs.
Gaffney’s (16 Caroline St., Saratoga Springs, 587-7359). Sat:
Captain Squeeze and the Zydeco Moshers.
Gideon Putnam Hotel (Saratoga Spa State Park, Saratoga Springs,
584-3000). Sun: the classics with Wayne and Joey.
High Rock Steakhouse at the Prime Hotel (534 Broadway, Saratoga
Springs, 584-4000). Wed: Geo and the Comrades. Fri-Sat: Groove
Horeshoe Inn (1 Gridley St., Saratoga Springs, 587-4909).
Thu: TS Ensemble. Fri: Burners UK. Sat: Blue Hand Luke. Sun:
the Heaters. Mon: Jeff Walton.
The Luna Lounge (17 Maple Ave., Saratoga Springs, 583-6955).
Fri: the Heaters.
9 Maple Avenue (9 Maple Ave., Saratoga Springs, 583-CLUB).
Fri: Keith Pray Band. Sat: Jon LeRoy Trio.
One Caroline Street (1 Caroline St., Saratoga Springs, 587-2026).
Thu: Joe Gitto (6 PM); Mike Flanagan Group (9 PM). Fri: Azzaam
Hameed (6 PM); Chuck D’Aloia (9 PM). Sat: Mike Dimin (6 PM);
Brian Patenaude Duo (9 PM). Sun: John Park Duo (7 PM). Mon:
Forrest Jenkins (8 PM).
Panza’s Restaurant (Route 9P, Saratoga Lake, 584-6882). Fri:
Peg Delaney. Sat: Beth LeRoy, Rick Eckberg.
The Parting Glass (40-42 Lake Ave., Saratoga Springs, 583-1916).
Fri: Vehicle. Sat: 2096 the Band.
Saratoga Gaming and Raceway (342 Jefferson Street, Saratoga
Springs, 584-2110). Sat: Doc Scanlon’s Rhythm Boys.
Saratoga Springs Brew Pub (14 Phila St., Saratoga Springs,
583-3209). Thu: Kevin Mullaney and Electric Life.
Siro’s (168 Lincoln Ave., Saratoga Springs, 584-4030). All
shows at 6 PM. Fri: Cryin’ Out Loud. Sat: Burners UK.
Sun: Groove Syndicate. Mon: Bourbon Renewal. Wed: Alan Payette
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.
100, 445 Broadway, Saratoga Springs. 580-0818. Works on
Paper, featuring works by Willie Marlow, Deborah Morris,
Peter Stake, and Wendy Ide Williams. 9/1-30.
Chase at Saratoga, 100 Saratoga Blvd., Saratoga Springs. 584-7766.
Just a Spoon Full of Sugar, mixed media by Suzanne
Richmor Aviation, 410 Greenfield Ave., Ballston Spa. 885-5354.
Saratoga Passion, paintings by Barbara Garro. 9/1-30.
Saratoga County Arts Council, Member Exhibition Hall, 320
Broadway, Saratoga Springs. 584-4132. Pastel paintings by
Audrey Grendahl. 9/1-30.
Saratoga Springs Public Library, 49 Henry St., Saratoga Springs.
584-7860. Elusive Treescapes, ceramics by Judith Hugentobler.
Saratoga Visitors Center, 297 Broadway, Saratoga Springs.
587-3241. Collective Memories, water media by Darlene
The Wellness Center of Saratoga, 6 Care Lane, Saratoga Springs.
583-6821. Bella Italia, photography by Peter Barbagelata.
The Wise Building, 10 Railroad Place, Saratoga Springs. 584-5300.
Summer Journey, works by Mary Cleland and Debra Deming.
National Museum of Racing, Union Avenue, Saratoga Springs.
Wed-Sun through 9/5, 8:30-10 AM: Exclusive Tours of the Oklahoma
Training Track. Reservations strongly recommended. $10. 584-0400
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.
Creative Sparks, 42 Phila St., Saratoga. 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 for
all workshops. 583-2030.
Springs Farmers Market. High Rock Park, Saratoga Springs.
Saturdays, 9 AM-1 PM; Wednesdays, 3-6 PM.
for Humanity will hold a golf tournament and fund-raiser on
9/11 at the Saratoga Lake Golf Club, 35 Grace Moore Road,
Saratoga Springs. Entry fee is $105 per golfer, which includes
dinner. Sign up by August 28. Call 458-8040 or e-mail jay.jor
firstname.lastname@example.org for information.
The Mohawk-Hudson Cycling Club hosts its annual Century Weekend
at Saratoga Spa State Park on 9/11-12. Cyclists may ride routes
from 25 to 100 miles. Advance registration is $10, $6 for
MHCC members. For more information and registration form,
for Orphaned Pets Exits (HOPE) is holding a silent auction
on 8/26, beginning at 6 PM, at the Arts Center, 320 Broadway,
Saratoga Springs, to raise money for veterinary care and nutritional
needs of shelter animals. 428-2994.
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 Travers Stakes (Aug. 28).
By Martin Benjamin
a couple of days before the big race, Funny Cide was brought
out of his stall by hotwalker Raunie Hart (pictured) to graze
leisurely for awhile in what should have been a non-event.
Minutes after his groom brought him out, however, a thundering
sound was heard as a loose horse came roaring into his paddock,
ripping back and forth and riling the famed New York-bred
champion. Trainer Barclay Tagg and assistant Robin Smullen
came running to the horses rescue, spreading their arms
and getting between the invader and their gelding. It took
time to get Funny Cide back into the safety of his stall.
All this led trainer Tagg to exclaim, People wonder
why it is so hard to get a horse to a race, and then something
like this happens. Funny Cide recovered enough to finish
second in Sundays big racehis first run before
his huge hometown fan base at the Saratoga Racetrack.