Sunday, January 24, 2010

Still Neophytes

For thirty years, we lived near the Golden Gate Fields racetrack in Albany, CA but never went to a horse race there. We are horse-racing neophytes. But since we're still exploring Arkansas, Mick and I went to see the horse racing at Oaklawn, in Hot Springs on the Martin Luther King holiday. With a Google map and some cash, we launched ourselves into the adventure. Nothing turned out as we expected, but we had a great time of it, anyway.

As we arrived, we noticed people scurrying out of the racetrack carrying white boxes about the size of a lunchbox, and putting the boxes into their cars. Some people had three or four of them, some had only one. I thought maybe it was a free box lunch? But then, why were they putting lunches in the car? When I asked a guy, he said, "Its a Rachel Alexandra bobblehead!"

I didn't want to admit that I don't know who Rachel Alexandra is, so we said thanks and hurried to collect our own white boxes, both of us noting how eager we were to have a box, even without really knowing what would be inside.

It turns out that Rachel Alexandra had been named racehorse of the year that very day, and people were hoping to sell the free bobblehead to collectors in other parts of the country. And sure enough, before the day was over, people had listed it on eBay. The thing looks really silly to me, but I'm an outsider in this arena. Maybe its WORTH $50, who am I to say?

Despite feeling lost and ill-informed, we had a really fun time at the track. The weather was fine. The crowd was friendly. You could stand surprisingly close to the horses and the track. We bet on twelve horses and lost on ten of them, but one winner paid twenty to one - enough to get back everything we'd lost on the others.

I had picked him because his name, "Grey Knight", reminded me of Leo's video games. Mind you, we had lost all our bets on the other horses picked with the same system, including "Mesa Vista" for Leo's dorm buildings, "Pulpits Secret" for my father's preaching career, "Cinnamon Cowgirl" for Katie, or "Mr. BLT" because Mick likes those sandwiches.

There is something to be said for being newcomers and in such a totally different environment than the one that we left behind. I find myself much more open to things in Arkansas that were not so interesting to me in California. And the openness is a good thing. Cheers me up and keeps me on my toes.

For a fresh and open attitude, Honey is my role model. She loves everything, especially things she's never seen before. As far as Honey knows, every box has magic inside of it - the way Mick's accordion has music inside it. She wants to open every lid and push every button because really, you never know what will happen when you do. I can make Honey super happy just by standing her on my kitchen counter and letting her touch the boxes of tea, bags of beans, salt shakers, wine glasses and teacups in my cupboards. She says, "Alright!" as she lifts each item, shakes it, puts it back and reaches for the next one.

Honey and Katie were here last night when a thunderstorm blew in. We opened our front door to watch the sheets of rain blowing across the street, sometimes lit up by bursts of lightening. Honey kept saying, "Light! Sky! Light! Rain!" and I enjoyed sharing her toddler's viewpoint and enthusiasm, as I always do.

So, my friends, I hope all your horses are winners, and all your boxes have a little magic in them, even when its raining. And I hope the kind, well-intentioned people in Washington can cultivate some freshness and magic now, too. I think we need it.

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