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Oh, SmAlbany!

Daily posts and occasional longer essays about politics, culture, and life in the Capital Region...updated M-F, midmorning

"I write this not as a booster of Albany, which I am, nor an apologist for the city, which I sometimes am, but rather as a person whose imagination has become fused with a single place, and in that place finds all the elements that a man ever needs..." -W. Kennedy, from O Albany!

How the other half lives

How the other half (and me for a day!) lives: So yesterday morning was rolling along like any other average Monday when I got a call from a high school friend of mine. Turned out that his wife's company was having a "corporate day" up at the track, and he had an extra ticket. So like any good graduate student, I jumped on the opportunity to dtich my work and cruise on up to Saratoga.

It turns out that a "corporate day" involves quite a different track experience than I'm used to having (see my three part article on the track - part I, part II, and part III.) I'm not saying it's better - i actually came away from it preferring my usual routine in the picnic area - but there definitely were some eye-opening aspects to living high on the hog for an afternoon at the track. Some key things:

1) I wore pants to the track: Never done this before. I'm virtually a lock for the "collared shirt and shorts" look up there. But it was a requirement because...

2) I hung out in the Paddock tent: This was astounding. We walked into the track through the Clubhouse Entrance over by Nelson street, took a hard left toward the paddock, flashed some passes, and voila - we were in an enormous tent that had luxuries i didn't think existed at the track. I'm not easily starstruck by amenities at Saratoga Race Course - i've spent time in the clubhouse - but did you know there existed a place with the following:

- a 30 foot long buffet table including a guy carving roast beef
- free all you can drink beer, wine, and liquor
- an air-conditioned men's room
- private betting windows that can only be accessed from the tent
- 42 televisions
- enough ceiling fans to make you think it's 76 and breezy outside

Yeah, wow. I had heard of the "on the rail" tent in the clubhouse (which costs like $65 to get in) but I had never heard of the paddock tent. It was quite fun, but it almost didn't feel like you were at the track. I had to take a few walks around the picnic area just to get that "track" atmosphere. It's also less noisy in the paddock tent, and there aren't as many degenerate gamblers to liven up the races. Plus there are some seriously annoying people.

3) I got a better-than-usual view of the "Saratoga Sugardaddy" phenomenon: I didn't write about this two weeks ago because it's not the most tasteful subject, but after yesterday I feel compelled. If you don't know, the "Saratoga Sugardaddy" phenomenon is the practice of old rich men spending their time at the track and downtown with very young girls. I can't say i know the exact nature of the relationship (I highly doubt it's sexual), but it seems like some sort of quid pro quo - the old man gets to show off his "trophy" girl to his friends and everyone else, and the young girl gets to wine and dine, meet rich people, and party in saratoga for free for a month. You may be skeptical, but i'm telling you it's true. I observed at least three relationsihps yesterday that could not be explained by any other theory, and i've known girls who have been subtly "offered" such opportunities in the past. I have no idea how these things come about - i'm sure it's very informal, but it is hillarious to observe. Two sightings in the paddock tent yesterday, and one at...

4) I actually went to Siro's for a drink after we left the track: Believe it or not, I had never been there. Walked by it a hundred times, but never stopped in. Siro's, for those who don't know, is one of the few bars that is not downtown, but actually right next to the track. It has a large outdoor pavillion, a raw bar, and it generally feels like you are still at the track, with its striped awnings and wooden building look. I thought it was fun, but i didn't think it was anything to write home about.

All in all, a fun day in saratoga, and a great day off from work. As I said above, I don't think a "corporate day" at the track gives you the real feel for what Saratoga Race Course is about, but it certainly was a good experience to have under my belt. If you can score it, try it. Then you can say you've done it and head back to the picnic area for the rest of the summer.
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At 8:12 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said:

I've been to that paddock tent a few times and really dislike it. It gets incredibly hot under there, you're crammed into the tight tables and the food is abundant but mediocre. Much prefer the 1st floor porch and turf terrace.    

At 9:20 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said:

How funny that you mention the Saratoga sugardaddy! A couple of summers ago I was at a party talking to a high school aquaintance of mine, who is of the rich, old money Loudonville variety. When I mentioned that I didn't know what I wanted to do for a career, he said (half joking, but mostly serious)"Why don't you just find a sugardaddy?" I laughed and asked, "Where would I do that?" Without a second to think he said,"At the track of course!" Oh silly me! I think he probably could have also hooked me up with one had I taken his advice.    

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