The Outside Rail

Here we are again. Fifteen years ago, we packed up much of what we owned and drove north to Saratoga to start a daily newspaper. 

It was chaos. 

The office was in a former aerobics studio with a mirror along one wall. The staff was overwhelmed. The printer - a small business in Clifton Park run by Jim Staffield, Jan whose last name I don't remember and a bunch of loyal, oh-what-the-hell staffers - was overwhelmed. The computers - a Macintosh G3 (turquois and light gray) and I don't even remember what else - were overwhelmed. We bought a G4 (dark gray and kind of clear) a few weeks into the meet, but it couldn't really keep up either. Sean, his friend Paul Wasserman and I were overwhelmed. The handful of staffers we convinced to give it a go were overwhelmed. The photographers used film. The computer files we produced went to Clifton Park on a disc in a car. Readers were indifferent or non-existent, at least at the start. We didn't sleep, ever. Paul's slogan was, "We'll sleep in September." I think there was internet. I remember someone saying something about Roadrunner, but Saratoga didn't have it yet. 

And, now, everything's different.

The computers scream. We've got a server, two iMacs, several laptops, lots of RAM, a million cords and cables, gigabytes to spare. The software is fast. God bless Adobe. The advertisements arrive via email or Google Drive (not FedEx). The photos get uploaded and downloaded. We use FileZilla ftp software to transmit the pages and the printer delivers the papers to Saratoga. And everything is color. 

It's amazing, actually. A handful of dedicated people could produce a daily newspaper in 2001 so it makes sense that another handful could do it bigger, better and faster in 2016.

Then why do I feel so overwhelmed? 

It's 6:47 the night of the first deadline and it's chaos, just as it was 15 years ago.  Advertisements are lost, the wrong size, not ready, getting sold, getting unsold. Stories are coming together (some), falling through (a few), waiting for later (a bunch). Sixteen pages don't have checkmarks next to them. But, hey, 12 do. 

I just ate some pizza from D'Andrea's at my desk. The meal went on top of three oatmeal raisin scones from The Bread Basket (breakfast, lunch, afternoon snack). Somehow, I managed not to eat something from the Spring Street Deli (our usual go-to joint not just because it's across the street). 

Now it's 8:56. Seven pages just went to the printer. There are checkmarks next to those plus 17 others. Nearly there. Tom's on the phone with a radio station, Sean and Linzay are making changes to something. I just got an email with a link to tomorrow's Thoroughbred Daily News. They win this one. 

We'll be here until midnight probably. Maybe later. We might make the 10 p.m. deadline for the final page. Maybe. The papers will be back in Saratoga in the morning and, hopefully, in all the right places when people want to read it. 

The process amazes. We've had months and months to get ready. And we're not. Again. I guess that's life. We were worrying about stuff we needed to do then over all those months. Now we're worrying about stuff we need to do now. Something like that anyway.

Some life coach somewhere says that if you find a career you love you'll never work a day in your life. I don't know about that, but you have to love The Special to work at it - especially for 15 years. 

Mornings are the best part of it. There's still promise, hope, a lightness to the project that - by necessity - really isn't there 12 hours later when you're staring at blank pages and a ticking clock. 

In the morning, we get to walk around, meet horses, talk to horse people, renew acquaintances from New York, Kentucky, Florida, wherever horses take them. Thursday I got bowled over by a lead pony from Joe Sharp's barn. Hopefully we get to his story. Trainer Brian Lynch and owner John Amerman talked to me about Baciami Piccola (they didn't say it right at first either and I have to look it up to spell it every time). They talked while grazing a rangy 2-year-old who looks like he could be fun to watch. What was his name again? Agent Steve Rushing spoke about what it was like to win the riding title with Irad Ortiz Jr. last year. Brook Ledge and Sallee vans rolled in and out. Owner Dick Knapp leaned on a rail - on the backside of the main track instead of his more traditional spot at Oklahoma. I hope Doc and the rest of the gang will be here soon. Graham Motion contemplated a mesh screen for his shedrow, which will help the horses and probably hurt the journalistic drive-by. Bill Mott (on foot) talked to his son Riley Mott (on the pony) along the outside rail of the main track. It made me think about a changing of the guard. Where was Riley 15 years ago when we were starting this project?

And that's that - 9:46. See you in the morning.

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