Thursday, March 26, 2009

We spent Sunday at the horses. Syrupy, golden sunshine penetrated everything. There was a wind, and within it was the ghost of a chill.

"It's almost never like this in LA," Jesse said. "Sunny and windy like this."

Jesse pointed out the art deco magnificence of the grandstand and I tried to imagine how many men had wasted their lives in there, evading wives and children, looking for that one big win. Southern Californian men of the 20th century: migrant farm workers, lowlife barflies, stuntmen and junkie cabaret musicians. But good things happen too.

I drank gin and tonics and bet like a fool.

Suddenly you hear the horses when they turn into the stretch. You're momentarily ashamed that you've been gaping at the mute and sterile screen. You hear the pounding of their hooves and you can almost feel it. The vain and pleading hollers of the crowd.

We were in the infield, where there was a playground. We bet and watched and read the form and bet and watched. Odds shifting on the board. Always a scratch or two. The starting gate reappearing somewhere on the track. The kids held races of their own.

It was over and we walked back out the tunnel. Below the grandstand, men sat in disordered groups and watched the last remaining off-track races. Exhausting all their chances, putting off their journey home.