Sunday, July 29, 2007

LONE STAR PARK (or why my kids will never nickname ME Lucky)

If you're unfamiliar with Lone Star Park, it's a horse-racing facility in Grand Prairie, Texas.

Yesterday was Customer Appreciation Day (alternatively Employee Appreciation Day) at Lone Star Park. Em works there seasonally as an usher, and today is the last day of the summer season, with the Fall season starting sometime in October for a few months. The horses seem to move with the weather and the seasons, racing at tracks in different parts of the country at different times of year. It really starts to get too hot here in August, so the summer season shuts down at end of July.

I guess employees are encouraged to bring family on this day each year; I remember SOMETHING about it last year (Em's first year on this gig), but couldn't make it. This year I wanted to see what it was all about; I'd never been to a horse-racing track before. So, we drove in together early yesterday (2.5 hours before the first race) because employees need to be on hand before the gates open. I forgot my camera, but packed a puzzle book, magazine, some beer in a very small cooler with ice, a little money for betting, a smile, and walked confidently next to him through all the checkpoints without paying.

He introduced me to many of his employee cohorts before showing me where I could sit and watch the races under a broad canopy of sorts. I was concerned that I'd be kicked out as the interloper I was, but he assured me that HE was the one who kicked people out (in HIS section, of course). Some early patrons soon told me that the canopy was great for keeping off the sun but that we'd get drenched if it rained. It not only didn't rain, but there was a breeze all afternoon.

I was fascinated by the view of the track area, and arriving early gave me a little insight into how many people Horse Racing employs. Between the people who dust the seats, water the foliage, serve the food, collect the trash, mow the field, smooth the track, etc ... to those who train, breed, ride and care for the horses, ... horse racing employs hundreds of people. The place is beautiful. The bleachers slant down to where the track starts, and it's a (finely combed) fenced track of dirt kept at just the right combination of dirt and water, unless of course rain changes that. Behind the dirt track is a fenced grassy area where some people looked to be exercising some horses early in the day. Behind THAT is a narrow body of water with shooting fountains, and behind THAT is marshy-looking foliage. Then there's grass, fence, track, fence as the oval completes itself. Bleachers are only on one side, because the billboards only face one way:

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Someone really does play a horn to announce the "doodly-do-to-do" before each race (in a tux and a tophat): Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

I met several of Em's "regulars" yesterday. They're the folks who treat horse-racing much like my cousin, Jim, treats ballooning. They're interested in the sport, maybe even married into the sport (one gal was the wife of a jockey), or owners of horses who run. I saw the same comradery with the race track people as I saw with the ballooning people.

Of course, I bet on every race (until we left). $2.00 each on maybe 6 or 7 races, and I lost every single time except one (when Em suggested that I bet on a horse because the owner was one of his regulars). I won $.80 cents over my bet on that one. lol. Lucky (my mom) could intuitively bet based on a name, a color...ANYTHING. She didn't pass that gene on to me; just lettin' y'all know.

I had fun, though. The people-watching was GREAT, Betsy (one of Em's regulars) is a fellow cheapskater, so we exchanged phone numbers and chatted a bit, and then Helen arrived maybe mid-afternoon. Helen came to our Climate Party. Unlike ME, Helen had great luck. She pretty much went with red the whole way and won every race until we all left. That reminds me...color (on the racing program) is a little confusing. was confusing TO ME because I was a little bit stupid about it all. Every horse has a number and color assigned to it. Color references the blanket on the horse. I kept looking for the jockey to be wearing something of the color I chose, but never found it. It took 3 races for me to realize that the number and color were the same on every race. lol. So, Helen bet on horse #1 (red) for several races and won something each time. She didn't pick the horses, necessarily, however, based on the number or color. She did on the first bet, but then she got interested in their names and the names that appealed to her just happened to coincide with #1, red. <-- That's the kindof stuff Lucky could do that I can't do.

So, today's the last day of work for Em until October some time and tomorrow early we leave for Shreveport because Em's ready for a little fun. He's not allowed to bet, smoke, drink, or anything at the racetrack because he's an employee. So, now he's on vacation and he can go wild at a Shreveport casino. He won't go wild, but it sounded good, didn't it?

In other news, the car that No. 1 has been driving is considered irreparable and we're going to replace it using the insurance money (we HOPE). Until this morning we thought the best bet would be a Daewoo Leganza SX 1999, sold by a friend of her friend, Patrick. Then, he called to suggest that he didn't want to be held responsible if the car didn't live up to expectations and we're wondering, "What does he know that he's not telling us?" We're gonna worry about that Wednesday, though and have a few days of fun. Last day on the rental car is Friday, so we can't play too long. I don't know whether to curse Patrick or thank him.

Also in other news, I learned that our water bill isn't just for water. Em saved all the utility bills while I went off to play with my kids and water is just a small part of our bill each month. I think we used 2 TGAL (which I assume is thousand gallon). Each TGAL is something like $4.50, so our water bill was $9.something. However, grey water processing was something like $10.00 (a constant), there were sewer costs (cheap at twice the price because our neighborhood hasn't seen ANY flooding in the monsoons that have hit North Texas lately), and garbage costs. Add to all that taxes and we pay something like $35.00/month for ??water??. Saving a half bucket of water while the shower reaches temperature is a minute saving. I do it, but...STILL.


Helen said...

What a great description of the track and the day, Anita! I have never had that kind of luck before and certainly never will again -- now I just wish I had had the Thatchers to bet some real money instead of $2.00 (and once, $3.00!). Thanks again to you and Em for the invitation and a wonderful afternoon!

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