Thursday, April 21, 2005

horse cents

A friend recently asked, “Have you ever been to the racetrack at Expo New Mexico?” My answer was, “No.”

After giving the question some thought, I decided that spending part of an afternoon at the racetrack might at least provide some good blog material. Taking advantage of a sunny sky, mid-70 degree temperatures, and a gusty spring wind (plus the fact that the Isotopes won’t be back in town until Saturday night), Wednesday afternoon proved to be the ideal time to visit the Downs at Albuquerque. MAN, the tiny worlds and subcultures that exist throughout sprawling urban areas never cease to amaze me! And to think that I thought that Expo New Mexico was only worth going to during the state fair or the odd art show. (I must admit that I’ve never been to the flea market there either, but I suspect that will soon change.)

First, “people watching” at the track is second to none. You will see cowboys, ranchers, gamblers, owners, business peoples, students, families, and probably even movie stars just to name several. Conversations of a wide variety are available for eavesdropping. You can hear good (and BAD) advice for picking ponies, listen to discussions about which jockeys have the biggest eating disorder (although that seems odd, it may prove to be very important in your bet placing strategies), work on your Spanish, find out which Applebee’s has the best happy hour, and smile while old men ridicule each other for their picks… then explain why their own horses failed to win immediately after the race (if not during).

If you should ever get tired of watching the humans, the animals are quite possibly even more interesting. Race fans are able to get within several feet of the horses in the paddock before each race in order to judge which ones are most likely to perform well. Voices cheering on names and numbers of horses are drowned out by the sounds of hoof beats as the magnificent beasts thunder down the dirt track to the finish line just beyond the grandstand. As it turns out, horseracing has been a popular sport in New Mexico since even prior to the first state fair in 1938. It seems like I was the only person at the track who would have been surprised by that information.

Although I suspect that a person might make better informed wagers if they knew a little something about the horses, jockeys, trainers, etc… it is possible for complete a novice to win some ca$h at the racetrack simply by sizing up the horses before a race, or getting lucky by betting on favorite colors and/or numbers. Daily racing forms are available at the racetrack, or you can obtain them online in order to study up before you leave home. I think it would be very difficult to get rich at the racetrack, but that probably isn’t a very healthy goal for a single afternoon anyway.

I bet on six races, and managed to return to the window a winner on two occasions. I hit on the 2nd race with my $2 Quinella wager on “A First Down Runaway” and “You Get Credit.” I also managed to pick the first and second place horses in the 3rd race to collect even more winnings for my $2 Exacta wager on “The Big Rumble” and “Fantasy Gal.” Even though I failed to pick any winners during the other four races, I still managed to leave with more money in my pocket than when I arrived.

If you are intent on spending your money, the Downs offers several ways for you to do so. Besides betting on races there, you can place wagers on horses at various racetracks around the country, then sit back and watch the simulcasts on television screens scattered throughout while enjoying a frosty beverage. You can spend money even without wagering if you wish. The Downs offers a wide variety of food- hotdogs, burgers, pizza, steaks, corndogs, pretzels, popcorn, chips, candy, ice cream, and more. As far as beverages go, if you can name it, they can serve it. Tecate seemed to be the popular beer of choice while I was there. T-shirts, hats, and belt buckles are just a few of the souvenirs you can pick up for your friends and co-workers.

There are definitely more sights, sounds, smells, and tastes available at the Downs than a single person (or possibly even a small group) could realistically expect to take in and process in a single afternoon. I think it is relatively safe to say that dull moments must be few and very far between. Live racing at the Downs in Albuquerque ends in mid-June, then picks up again for 17 days straight during the state fair in September.

So now it’s my turn to ask you, “Have you ever been to the racetrack at the Expo New Mexico?” I’ll see ya there!

Monday, April 18, 2005

there's a new blog in town

In case you haven't heard, there's a new cityblog creating quite a buzz in cyberspace this morning. You'll want to be sure to check out Duke City Fix as soon as you are done here... especially if you simply can't get enough of my photos. I will be contributing original photos to that website on a regular basis (every Friday I believe is the plan) and other times when the mood is right.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

open air gallery

I guess I should state right off the bat that I do not own a laptop computer or any sort of Blackberryish device. The whole of my easily portable electronic devices include a cell phone, digital camera, and a Garmin GPS unit. That said, I’m writing this blog entry using paper and pen while perched atop a large volcanic boulder near the western reaches of Rinconada Canyon on the west mesa overlooking the city of Albuquerque to the east. (I will type this stuff up later at home.)

I ventured out to Petroglyph National Monument this morning to snap a few photographs of rock art, and to see how “things” have changed in general since last fall. My favorite petroglyphs all appear to remain intact and basically unchanged by time or weather since my last visit. To be sure, there does seem to be some “fresh” graffiti scratched into the rock surfaces here and there, and what visit to a national monument would be complete if you didn’t have to watch the trail carefully to avoid stepping in dog crap? The answer to that rhetorical question is, of course, “None.”

The trail through the day use area is a 2.5-mile-long loop that winds around the basalt outcrops that serve as the canvas for prehistoric and historic (okay, AND modern) artwork, then cuts back to the east and returns to the parking lot. I don’t want to spoil your experience by describing everything you may see when you go, but keep your eyes peeled for geometric patterns, anthropomorphic figures, and decidedly abstract designs ranging from “simple” to “elaborate” that have been pecked into the desert varnished surfaces of the basalt boulders. The area is also teeming with wildlife and interesting vegetation, making it virtually impossible to take in everything there is to see in a single trip.

As I reached the approximate halfway point in the loop, I encountered an elderly Hispanic man sitting on a rock staring off toward the southern horizon. We spoke for a while about how nice the weather was and how many rabbits were hopping about in the sage. Then he pointed out a coyote making his way along the ridge that makes up the southern skyline from this vantage point. He informed me of a trail I haven’t explored that leads along the spine of one of the more prominent ridges. We both agreed that it was probably about the time of year when people should take care to avoid stepping on any rattlesnakes. We chatted for about 20 minutes, but interestingly, the subject of petroglyphs never came up. I learned that he makes the hike “every morning.” I don’t think he told me this information to be boasting, but just to let me know that he hadn’t wandered off from some nearby Senior Citizen Center.

Eventually he announced that it was time for him to continue with his hike. As he wandered off, I claimed his spot on the boulder- that I now share with two small lizards. One of the lizards is watching me as I write. Both are doing push-ups. The sunshine feels amazing on my skin as it warms my blood that is still chilled from that last bit of winter that passed through town on I-40.

Only the shape of the Sandia Mountains can be made out through the haze that has settled over the Rio Grande River valley down slope to the east. Although I can hear and feel the low rumble of life in Albuquerque and traffic along Unser Boulevard, the din is for the most part drowned out locally by the songs of various birds and the roar of jet engines that pass overhead every 15 to 20 minutes.

A goodly number of wildflowers are present, yet the display is less than spectacular. I remind myself that this isn’t the Sonoran Desert. I find the color palette soothing… black, brown, green, grey, blue, white, and just a teasing of yellow.

I do not hear the whispers of ancients as I sit on this rock. I wonder about the artists who passed through this area hundreds, even thousands of years before. I give no thought to those who will pass this way in the future (other than to mention them here). Eventually, the sound of more hikers making their way along the trail reminds me that it is time for me to pack up my notes and head back to civilization. After all, their legs may be weary by the time they reach this rock, and it truly is a fantastic place for one to kick up one’s heels and relax.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

kid gloves

No, I haven't been sucked into the great black hole of cyberspace. I've been busy with the beginning of baseball season, and trying to get more seeds planted in the garden. Seriously, I don't understand how you readers find the time to even breeze by my blog to find out if I've posted anything new or not.

Last week I was fortunate enough to have been invited to participate in Media Day at Isotopes Park. Freelance photography does have some amazing perks as I was able to snap over 300 photos of the players and the stadium pretty much at will. In a perfect world, one of my photos would be selected for use in one of the Isotopes baseball cards this season. A few of my photos have been published in the spring souvenir program, so make sure you pick up a copy the next time you visit the ballpark and see if you can guess which ones are mine. Be sure to check out the ads throughout the program too, as they are the key for people winning some wonderful free things (including ca$h dollars) during the ballgames.

Working close to the players is VERY interesting. For the most part, these guys remind me of how spring made me and my buddies act when I was a kid. These dudes didn't want to have to have their photos taken. Instead, they would rather have been tossing baseballs across the infield, or taking some additional batting practice to get ready for Opening Night. It is refreshing to be around people who LOVE their job!

Don't worry... I won't be posting all 300+ of the abovementioned photos here in my blog. It will just SEEM like it!

Saturday, April 02, 2005

the BUCK stops here

Your eyes are not deceiving you. Buck Showalter and the mighty Texas Rangers are currently in town to play two Spring Training games at Isotopes Park. The Rangers applied a big hurtin' to Byung-Hyun Kim and the Colorado Rockies earlier this evening.

Tomorrow the Rangers play host to the potentially formidable Arizona Diamondbacks. Although the DiamondBees are clearly a better team without Kim than the Rockies are with him... I still don't think they have the pitching required to silence the Rangers' bats.