I turned 27 yesterday and in a wistful moment thought about my youth – its sounds, smells, colors, and places. I thought about my few summers as a reporter for the Daily Racing Form, in 2001 and 2002, a teenager making my bones in a craft with which I immediately fell in love. Youth, for me, is hearing Sinatra’s “Summer Wind” at the end of a Saturday at Monmouth Park. Walking out of the track with my finger on the pulse of my corner of the Sport of Kings. A finely penned article, the proud feeling of covering my beat, and covering it well. Leaving the track, the air sweet with cigar smoke, the setting sun casting shadows on the green and white buildings, the way so many before me had left the track. Youth is the colors green and white. The bad beats and the stories – oh, the stories – most half true, except one could hardly tell which half. I was young and alive and thought this would last forever.
Summer Wind is hard to listen to now. Because those years turned out to be the high water mark, instead of what I thought was just the beginning. To have such sweet memories at a young age and have to relive them for so long – is that good or bad? Is it bittersweet only because youth can’t be held onto, like any piece of happiness?
Youth is the Lady’s Secret, the bar overlooking the beautiful white walking ring and its towering poplars, where our group met after the races every day, nobody wanting to leave for fear of missing a great moment. It is the press box, empty with only my friend Kaplan and maybe a few others left, drinking and betting and boasting, then leaving the track after dark. We were the young Turks of Monmouth; confident, knowledgeable, sometimes reckless, and invulnerable. I loved the game so much – my youth, the writing, the characters, the belonging, the lingo, the culture. Now this, I thought, is what I was meant to cover.