Summering in Saratoga Springs
It’s Monday morning and I am back at work, staring at the florescent rainbow of market quotes flickering on my computer screen, a helpful aid in coming down off the tote screens at the Spa. An email pops up from Susan, an Executive Administrator on the trading floor. Susan is a small woman from Long Island, ebullient and nice, talkative, but with me, the conversation had never strayed far from work. “So I here you were at Saratoga?” the email read. It lacked any of the formal salutations of her typical communication. It was curt and illicit. A secret correspondence between two heathens in a room of devout believers. Two people who over the years had strayed far from New York vacationing doctrine, abandoning the more typical environs of the Hamptons, to leave room for Saratoga Racing Season. One regular hoping to find another.
As I went to craft my response, waves of nostalgia for the Spa crashed over me. The cool air of the Adirondacks brushed across my neck. I could hear a band kicking up their first chords through the elm trees across the way at Siro’s. I could see track restaurant captains clad in their tuxedos, and thunderous, bay thoroughbreds trotting in the paddock between barn fences gleaming in a white coat of paint. I could hear a bugle sound, and the break of the starting gate echoing over those bright, vintage candy-cane awnings cladding the back of the grandstand, where they stand as Saratoga’s finest welcome to each new summer’s pilgrims. I could catch the cathartic whir of the ceiling fans lining the wooden rafters of the Clubhouse and the faint whisper of sliding feet on its sandy wooden floors, the whamming of bathroom screen doors. Who would have known? Susan? A regular at Saratoga? Saratoga, Susan, a fine place. Yes, I was there indeed. And I plan on going back. I’ll see you then.
But my reply email remains blank and unsent. Even to Susan, a regular, how could I tell her of dusty wooden beams, the trumpet music of summer, the excitement of a two-dollar dream, of horses who awaken primordial lust for some pre-historic time?
Sometimes in my mind, I get this image of ghosts, thousands of them, an apparitional horde clothed in garments of a bygone era: a sea of old, worn tuxedos, and glittering debutante gowns, yellow and pink summer bonnets, Union blues, black and white wing-tip shoes, lit cigars, gray fedora hats with burgundy bird feathers. And these ghosts, in their infinite splendor, are standing atop the famed, pitched roof of the Saratoga Racecourse Grandstand amidst its three, iconic, hipped gables. And they are humming collectively, in all directions, the words of Tennyson:
For men may come and men may go
But I go on forever
I don’t know how to tell Susan, or anyone really, about how for me time moves differently in Saratoga. But what I do know is that if you want to hear the echo of screen doors slamming into the shimmering summer air, to see and hear the ghosts singing at Saratoga, to feel time fall off its axes, if only for the briefest of moments: you must go The Spa; and you must, must be a regular.