Sunday, July 10, 2016

The horse is on the track, or George Stubbs goes to Suffolk Downs

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, or so they say.

Yesterday, for the first and I'm fairly certain the last time, I went to the track to see the ponies run. It was not an unenjoyable experience.

The venue, Suffolk Downs. We'll get to the horses in a moment, but the characters -- my God, the characters. The haggard old betting men unquestionably are the saddest. They come out on a Saturday to piss away their lives and their fortunes, such as they may be, in exchange for the quick jolt at post time. If it's comedy, it's the Honeymooners. If it's slightly more menacing, and I'm not sure it isn't, it's Wise Guys.

But the reason to be there isn't the people fun as they are, it's the horses. To watch them run. The fast ones. The slow ones. The in-between ones. If you want to wager, $2 will buy you a 1 minute dream. And a $2 hole in your pocket. These are the races after all.

From the track, I could hear the commuter train chugga-chugging in the distance. Men and horses have been working together for eons. Then in the 19th century, the iron horse replaced the horse. Massachusetts is old enough to have lived through that transformation. Today, for the first time in a century, I came out to celebrate the horse once again.

Back to imitation. I didn't want to hang out with the scruffy dudes in the Grandstand, or with the drunk guy with the polyester American flag and eagle shirt moaning loudly about his losses, the same one who then proselytized about the need for Donald Trump in this next election. No, I didn't want to hang out with any of them. So I went trackside, took out my camera and snap snap snap, some photos did I take.

One of these was nothing more than a portrait of a horse being walked pre-race. As always, it made me think of something else. Well, someone else. I snapped a horse portrait like the horse portraits painted by George Stubbs. Or so I assert. Therein lies some flattery, if haphazard and entirely unintentional.