At least once a fortnight I learn something new. It's like clockwork, assuming you have a clock that keeps time in fortnights. This fortnight, I learned two things: I learned the last race at Pimlico goes off at 5:30 p.m. on Thursdays and that, on matters of scheduling, the City Paper's cub photographer and former Italian child movie star Noah Scialom is not to be trusted. I learned these seemingly disparate facts simultaneously when we got to Pimlico at 5:50 p.m. Now Noah might place the blame elsewhere-say, with me-but Noah doesn't have a widely read sports column that is the toast of Baltimore like some me's I could mention, so he's kinda shit out of luck in this high-stakes blame game. I was picking my teeth at the track and Noah was giggling and snapping a lot of pictures, so that could come back to haunt me, but I'm guessing my editors will look out for me,
I gotta admit, I was pretty bummed to miss the races, a whole day's worth, I might add. My uncle Mike was a bookie; he and my uncle Spibby lived at the track, and my folks liked to play the ponies now and again. They used to take me to see the trotters at Ocean Downs when I was a kid, but I'd never been to a race at Pimlico. I'd been giddy all week getting ready for the races, partly because I used to work at Medieval Times, so I know horses. Like, for instance, Cervato really enjoyed carrots, and Midnight was gaga for humping all the other horses. With inside horse-sense like that I figured I could make a killing and then use my winnings for a real investment in the lottery.
It was a beautiful day, though, and springtime in Pimlico is just about the ideal Baltimore scene, with trees and rowhouses all around. And though there were no dudes racing on port-a-pots or mass toplessness like you'd find at the Preakness infield, there was an old lady having a kind of comedy/karate fight with an even older man, so we decided to stick around and bet on the tractors that were plowing the track. I gave Noah odds on the second tractor, but they rounded the corner, disappeared behind the tents set up for Preakness, and never returned. Noah tried to save the day by offering to pay five guys $20 each to race around the track with a c-note on top for the winner, but I pointed out that that was more cash than the two of us make, combined, in a week from the paper and our plasma donations.
We could have gone inside and bet on the simulcast races from South America, but as beautiful as it is trackside at Pimlico, inside is startlingly like the Dundalk DMV, with older TVs and none of the thrill of renewing your motorhome plates. Then there's the basic idea of betting on a race on another continent: It's a mite tough to swallow. If I'm going to wager on television, I'd rather put my money on sitcoms-I've got the Perfect Strangers trifecta of Balki Bartokomous to entertain through shenanigans, Cousin Larry to disapprove hilariously, and for it all to work out in the end-at least there I know what I'm watching. Plus, when all the old dudes gather around and yell at the TVs, I wouldn't know what to say. "Go Horse!" or "Ride him tiny man with the incomprehensible name!" won't earn me any track cred.
I thought about not filing and bagging the column this week, just taking the beer's temperature (38.4 F if you check your Sizzlin' Summer "Coldest Beer" table) and bugging the hell out, but then Mr. Wrong appeared to me in a vision, like a heavily bearded Yoda ghost, only taller and slightly less green, and told me, as he often does, "Always file," so here I am. He suggested I make fun of the names of the horses in the Preakness, but have you seen the field this year? It's kind of funny that the owner of the Kentucky Derby winner is apparently a fan of early '90s ambient electronica, but other than Orb, nothing.
Speaking of Orb, he's my Spitballin' Lock of the Week! Orb's owner Stuart Janney III lives in Baltimore County, so he's practically my neighbor (I wonder if there are rats in his alley?) and I'm nothing if not neighborly, so I'm making Orb my Spitballin' Lock of the Week! If he loses, I'll eat my hat (immediately after weaving a hat out of bacon and clams). And I will be back at the track-beers are half the price of the ones at O's games, plus we met a jockey in the parking lot who invited us back to catch a race and even hang out in the morning for training sessions. Can you even imagine that at another pro sport? If you show up late at Ravens Stadium, the odds of running into Terrell Suggs and him offering you tickets and inviting you to hang out at the castle all week are slim at best, but that's what happens at the track. When we go back, maybe I can convince a jockey to drag his feet or run the wrong way to make me some money. Plus, it will be really fun to write a column about Pimlico when it has a horse in it.