In his weekly column, Thomas Dimopoulos takes us down the back streets of Saratoga to bring us the city's best stories
The voice came across the morning radio like an early warning. “The sun will set at 7:24 p.m.,” said the meteorologist, Paul Caiano. “That’s three minutes less daylight than yesterday.” The calendar on the wall said change is on the way.
Less than 20 hours after the final race of the meet, the TV screens were been tuned to permanent static at the racecourse and a convoy of 18-wheelers roamed the grounds, filling their trailers with summer cargo to be carted away.
“I worked at the racecourse when I was a kid,” recalled Michael Lenz, who served as city mayor a decade ago and is the supervising pharmacist at his apothecary across the street from City Hall. The 47-year-old grew up in Saratoga Springs in the 1960s and 70s, when the shops in the city were boarded up and Broadway was vacant. The breaking dawn over the Oklahoma Training Track at the racecourse was something else, though.
“In the mornings, it was a little chilly and as the sun would be rising you could see the breath coming from the horses. It was serene.” Now there are new traditions to be made for Lenz and his family. Once a year, at the end of the summer meet, they gather at the racecourse for the morning breakfast and watch the horses. But now that time has come and gone, and the dismantling of the summer has begun.
John DeMarco, as he has done for the past 40 years, will swap out the gallery of thoroughbreds gamboling across the window of his Phila Street bookshop and replace them with other titles.
At the Broadway café nearby, where Matthew Loiacono muscled massive sacks of Columbian beans into gourmet coffee, an older crowd of about two dozen people peck away at their laptops and smartphones beneath the pumpkin-color arches of the café. The young teenage summer crowd is absent on this day, beckoned by area malls where they busily stock up on pens and pencils, loose leaf binders and spiral notebooks. In a few days they will descend, en masse, on their new classrooms where they will simultaneously grow one year older.
Soon the pedestrian benches on Broadway will be uprooted and the bistros and eateries will move dining crowds indoors. The art galleries will move to their fall exhibitions. Outdoor concert venues will be buttoned up and the songs of summer will be socked away to maintain their seasonal magic: “Surf City” and “Saturday in the Park,” “Heatwave,” “Summer Breeze,” and “Dancing in The Street” among them.
The daily news will deliver stories of babies being born, and of people who will die. There will be tragedies to remind us of the preciousness of life and we will hug our children a little longer and promise to never take anything for granted, ever again. But we will.
As November nears we will be reminded that every vote counts. A month later we will be bombarded with information of the looming Mayan apocalypse. We will make a resolution in the New Year to stop smoking, to lose weight, to make more money and to work at being a better human being. Most of us will fail. But we will try.
Thomas Dimopoulos is a local author who has a knack for storytelling, and a gift for finding some of the best-kept secrets in Saratoga Springs.
You can follow Thomas on Twitter at @thomdimopoulos
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