Friday, April 15, 2011
Private Box and the Gypsy Kid
Back in the early '90s my wife and I attended a Charity Event for Thorncroft Therapeutic Riding Academy. Thorncroft is a local outfit that does great work assisting mentally and physically challenged kids thru horseback riding therapy.
Part of the event featured a Silent Auction. I am a sucker for silent auctions when there is quality swag presented,I have on-loaded several cocktails, and the cause is sympathetic.
One of the items up for Auction was a Private Box for the Season at Atlantic City Race Course. If you have seen Connery and Kelly in "Marnie" you have seen A.C. Race Course;it is featured in a scene in this Hitchcock masterpiece. It was a showplace when it opened in 1946. Like most tracks, and racing in general, it was now on the decline. At the time, there was still racing all Summer and the idea of having a private box was appealing to both my wife and I and the bidding was failry quiet on this item. It also helped that we had a Share in a Beach House in Bay Head NJ for the Summer and no kids at the time. The notion of spending several nights at the track in a Box with friends seemed wonderful.
We won the Auction and could hardly wait for the Summer Race Meet to open.
One night in June we headed down from Bay Head to A.C. with friends intent on enjoying the "Sport of Kings", wagering a few bucks and consuming some drinks.
When we arrived, we were thrilled to see our names engraved on a brass plaque designating our private 6 person box of seats. We arranged ourselves in the box, started studying the Racing Form and procured some Gin & Tonics.
If you have been to the track in the past several years, or even over the last 2 decades, you will concur that the general demeanor, dress and socio-economic level of most patrons is on par with a Cock-fight or the Unemployment office in a bad neighborhood in the Florida Panhandle. Of course, Derby Day at Churchill, Saratoga and perhaps some days at Monmouth are exceptions. But like Paulie said in "The Pope of Greenwich Village","you go to the grandstand you're wit every garbage can walkin' the street...you wind up with crabs over there..." Racetracks used to attract millions every year and had dress codes. Now it's all dirty jeans, tatoos and spandex.
As we readied our wagers for the first race and sipped our drinks, the fact that we looked a bit out of place became apparent. Wearing sport coats and loafers, and the ladies in dresses, we stood out.We stood out like a turd in a punch-bowl as my Grandfather used to say. In fact there was a large group of Gypsies in the seats just behind the box section immediately behind us... and they were loud, loutish and just plain looked dirty. (Literally Gypsies-For many years the inland areas near A.C. attracted a fairly large "Romani" community-and they love horse racing.)
Shortly after the 3rd race, a race which found me winning a nicely priced Exacta, one of the Gypsy kids began a loud protest and sleeve pulling campaign to get his Dad to take him to the restroom. Father Gypsy was too engrossed in his race program and his pick for the next race to consider the long walk to the Head. None of the Sisters or Wives would lend a hand and the kid kept wailing about his urgent need to take a leak. Finally the Dad yelled: "Ya gotta pee...so pee." He proceeded to grab the 5 or 6 year old boy, face him away from the other Gypsies, yank the kids pants to his ankles and told him to let loose.
If you have ever been to the A.C. Racetrack, you will recall that the whole Box and Grandstand area was purposely sloped down toward the Track. This was an design innovation at the time which afforded all the spectators a good view of the Finish.
A few seconds later a reeking rivulet of urine came trickling down the concrete and coursed right thru the middle of our Private Box. This young Gypsy must have had a Linebacker's bladder and must have consumed 11 Cokes and a bushel of Asparagus. The stream of piss became a torrent running down toward the track, right under our seats. Gypsy Dad yelled at the boy: "There now shut up and sit down." I yelled something about Gypsy scumbag riff-raff and then summoned a Security guy who was at least 70 years old and completely disinterested. We moved down to the Rail for the next race, then left. We never went back to our Private Box for the rest of the Summer.