Stakes (daily practice)

Most of the day is spent waiting: In lines, on benches, smoking, eating overly expensive crusted slop, baking in the sun or drenched in the stable stenches outside if you’re unlucky. (Doubly, I mean, in weather and pocket.) Even the sober feel tempted to drink passing the time between races. I see them vicariously eyeing the straw-hatted Long Island youth in the bar queue, they haven’t much else to do.

Pink shirts sweated through on all the fatty parts, neon cocktails with too much ice, cigar smoke mixed with thick popcorn stink, a pair of hairy legs in dirty sneakers sharing a stall with a high-heeled companion. Belmont: Bastion of Progress on Bathroom Norms?  (Answer: no, they’re only a little transgressive when expedient; I have firsthand knowledge that these folks call line-cutters “queers.”)

Only the true handicappers seem at peace amid the mass restlessness. The rest of us arrived too early, carrying the profoundly deluded hope that this year would be different. We wouldn’t fade or wither in dehydration before the main event. We wouldn’t waste bets on exotic Hail Mary Superfectas or forget the math on a 4-factoral when boxing it. Four times three times two. No. This year it’s the easy stuff. Place, Show, Win: Can’t Lose! I’ll read the fucking book on the train. Jimmy Tipkins at Horse Knower Weekly picked the Preakness spot-on. Fuck Justify, I’m listening to Jimmy….

But of course, this year isn’t different. At best, you didn’t lose, but you also couldn’t win big, like the trustfund loafer bros and Gronks upstairs betting on their namesakes. The stakes are truly only for those with the pockets deep enough to make ironic throwaway bets ($69… nice), but the Stakes is ours. It’s church, a cure for the masses. Only with a little more people slipping around in their own shit and vomit.

…I got the cover image from a nice gal who said her friends never take good pictures of her, so “Would you mind taking one of me?” Sure, I said. Then I showed it to her and she exclaimed, in glee: “Oh, the lip gloss!”