It has become my personal daily double, Friday of Derby week. Go to the Linc, pick up your Broad Street Run race bib, then hit the Turf Club, bet the Derby and head to work.
They open the gates at 10 a.m., so that's when I got there. Me and about 2,000 other people. Get in line, around the block, up the street, as far as the eye could see. It was a beautiful, sunny day (Jen Miller, our Running columnist says load up on sunscreen Sunday) and the brisk wind made it a breeze.
The wind turbines at the top of the stadium were spinning, Eagles are green, remember ... But there was this clunking, clatter. Metal on metal. Those gyroscopic spinning things looked quite in synchrony. Not to worry, just a few flagpoles flapping.
Everyone is quite content waiting, moving microscopically forward.
There were tiny interruptions, the Dunkin Donuts girls giving out coupons, then miniature iced coffees.
The guy with the shopping cart was hawking water, pretzels and Boston t-shirts. Not getting any action. These are people cutting out of work, not some Phillies game, so he might as well have been invisible.
It is 10:17 ... The line moves like a bullet, then stops dead, but we have eye contact with the front gate.
You can hear the band playing ... not sure what song (that's not good, right?) and we meander an inch at a time again.
We see the first group exiting the stadium. Nice royal blue shorts, it looks like. You get free mini water ice on the way out from Dunkin.
Family of four in front of me. Dad definitely USMC, nice wife, lovely kids, daughter might be 1, dressed in pink. Mom had to juggle her and her jumbo coffee. Like the guy at the Phillies game who caught the foul ball and held on to the kid. She's multitasked this one before ...
Wind gusts plus 30. Hmmm. Bags if you want to use the bag drop must be clear, see-through clear, on Sunday, so beware.
It's now 10:24. I can make out the song ... Brubeck, Take Five.
Now it gets interesting. One shaky looking mom with two kids, one in a papoose sling, has an inkling to break into the line. She's snooping around.
Sorry. It's like the bathroom cutters on race day. Fuhgettaboutit.
Next song, theme to Mission Impossible. I bet that pair of songs has never been purchased on iTunes by the same person.
Now it's the theme of The Pink Panther.
I want my room key.
It is now 10:32 a.m., a very special moment because my son was born at that moment on the Friday before the Derby.
Four minutes later, I am in.
Got the bib, 39,707, tells you when I am gonna finish ... Got my XXL shirt, buy another from Students Run Philly Style. A few red sox on sale, including calf sleeves on sale for only $34.95! the sign said.
It's 10:56 and I am out.
Now to complete the daily double, I see my current life fade away (healthy runners, smiling faces, men, women of all ages and races)....
Cue the Turf Club. After you park your car inbetween what seems to be 50 empty parking spots reserved for the PA Lottery, you catch the downwind rush of cigarette smoke. It almost sucks the oxygen right out of you. Escalator up, and Alice is now back in the Looking Glass.
I pause at the door, and almost as if planned, the national anthem starts playing on one of the simulcasting TVs. I start to type on my cell phone, actually this blog post, and I keep trying to type OTB because in New York they are called OTBs, not Turf Clubs.
And it keeps autocorrecting to Orb. I am not kidding. I miss it the first time and type again. Otb becomes Orb. Then I try again and I misstype it as Orb.
I say, OK Handleman, I get it.
In Friday's Inquirer, Bob Ford wrote an eloquent ode about his best friend Bill Handleman, whom God took from us a few years ago. When Bill died, many of us went to Monmouth Park, his playground, to play a few horses. I made my decisions, then said, what would Bill do, and then factored that in.
I picked three straight exactas, including one where I got DQed, which seemed perfect.
So I said to myself, no matter what, Orb is in my bets now.
By the time I figured out the numbers and bets, which I scribbled in ink all over Bill's mug shot in the paper (again, perfectly appropriate), they were playing the national anthem again on another TV.
One guy yelled at a different TV, "Let him loose with that gorilla!" as he urged the horse on the lead to the finish line. It was a reminder of why I like the horses, why I love that part of the game. Raw emotion, pure passion ... and then three hours later, pooooff ... all your money's gone.
I left, happy, with a few dreams written on a Parx Racing slip that says ADVANCE DERBY.
There's five bucks on Verrazano for my mother who lives on Staten Island. There's a few shekels on Normandy Invasion and Revolutionary, plus Orb and Vyjack.
So I'll see you at the starting line on Broad and Olney bright and early Sunday, then cashing at the Turf Club later.
And there's one final wager, a head to head match with Inquirer sports writer Matt Breen.
He's giving me one minute for every year. So he is 24, which means I get 35 extra minutes.
He says he'll finish in 1:25. I estimate 2 hours.
Should be a photo finish.
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