The Outside Rail

Joe, you're doing a great job with your blog.

Leave it to a brother for motivation. Yes, it's been more than four months since my last post in this space. Thanks Sean. That's terrible. It wouldn't be so bad if I broke my hand or something, or even if I hadn't written a word - anywhere - since then. Either circumstance might have felt like a vacation. But I've written plenty, just not here. Sorry. I'll try not to make it so long next time.

So what's been going on? Plenty. Over at ST headquarters in Fair Hill, we designed, took possession of, sold, packed and shipped several thousand calendars - all in the span of about a month (they arrived in early December). The 2016 Thoroughbred Racing Calendar might be the best we've ever done thanks to Triple Crown winner American Pharoah and world-class images from Barbara Livingston, Tod Marks, Scott Serio and the rest plus the skilled hands at The Bell Group design company in Kentucky. Thanks team.

Calendar time is busy time. The phone rings, the website pings and the mail arrives, from all over, with regular customers and some new ones. We love them all, but the process plays hell with time management. You have to stop and sell a calendar every few minutes - the record for a phone order is 48 seconds - which pretty much derails everything else. But, hey, it's a living.

The regulars are the best part. They call, every year. There's Kaethy from Switzerland, one of the first every year . . . Malverne from St. Thomas (Virgin Islands). Someday I'm delivering hers in person . . . Tony Cazz from the Rattlesnake Bar in Boston (got to visit him someday too) . . . Two or three Ermas . . . the guy who runs the Blues Cruises . . . Aki Kato from Arizona . . . Walter at The Blind Lemon in Cincinnati (Sean's got more on him) . . . the vet from Mexico who gets us to send them to his hotel room at the AAEP convention (this year it was Vegas) . . . Alice from Virginia who usually wants us to include a print out of the Breeders' Cup results with her order . . . Glenda from northern California, who buys calendars for her friends . . . Mr. Hibbitts who insists on two cardboard pads . . . Japan Gallops Importer . . . Dave in Canada . . . and hundreds of others in Montana, Washington (state and D.C.), California, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Arkansas, Arizona, Alaska, West Virginia. I've never actually checked to see if we hit all 50 states, but there's a good chance.

Like most things in racing this year, American Pharoah made it all a little bit more fun. The calendar conversations included emotions, shared memories, comparisons to the all-time greats and scads of  "Were you there?" questions. I was there for the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes, but the gallop at Saratoga might have been the year's best moment.

Calendar time always takes a village. Distribution involves family members, teenagers, a handful of part-timers (Mary, Maggie and Joe were this year's non-family workers). We also had a guest appearance from Tom Law and the usual contributions from a hard-working mailman, a hard-driving UPS guy, lots of postage tape, a few hundred cardboard boxes, more Tyvek envelopes than the DuPont Company, even more Avery 5160 labels and a postage meter that starts to smoke on the truly busy days.

Long story short, the madness has calmed and the phone rings way less often - though I talked to a man in Michigan about American Pharoah, Barbaro, Keeneland and the history of Detroit Race Course the other day. Somebody else bought one as a gift for Rosie Napravnik's father.

We've still got a few calendars, so feel free to order one, but it's time to get back to reality - and writing.