Tom Law pulled out three bottles of Alexander Keith's India Pale Ale, smuggled over the border by our friends at Woodbine. Tom popped off the caps, each one spinning and resting on an empty desk. It was nearing, night had slipped into morning, another Special was at the printer.
Joe, Tom and I sat back with our first beer of the day.
"We need to figure out our 500th issue," Joe said. "It's got to be coming up."
Like always, Tom, acted on the thought.
"Well, we've got five years right here," Tom said.
Tom dug into the bound editions from 2001-05, stacked in order in a cardboard box. He opened the first book, flipped pages featuring Hap, Point Given and Came Home and settled on the last issue, Year 1, Number 35.
I punched it into the calculator on my phone.
Four more years, we had reached 163.
As Tom was finishing, Joe was wading deep into the archives. He shouted numbers, 32, 32, 35, 34 (we lost an issue because of the hurricane), 35, 35...and last year's 34.
I hit the equals sign.
"Um, I got bad news," I said staring at 499, before this year.
Crestfallen and amused all at the same time, we turned off the computers and the vision of a celebratory 500th edition. It was a good thought.
Joe and Tom packed up and headed out the door as I sat thinking about 500, er, 512 issues of The Special. I reached for the first edition and flipped to page 15 and began to read the first Cup of Coffee.
Poorly written but from the heart, it went like this...
Day after day. Set after set. Horse after horse. Story after story. Race after race. Summer after summer. This right here in your hand has been in my head. The Saratoga Special, a daily newspaper covering it all for the six weeks of Saratoga.
It's been in there, rocking and banging and needing to get out. And now it's out.
Will it work? I'll tell you.
It will work if passion counts for something. If good journalism still matters. If horse racing recognizes a good thing. And it doesn't rain...the phones get hooked up...we get to sleep an hour or two a night...the ads keep rolling in...the readers flock...it will work. It will work. It will work. I'm taping it on the top of my shoes, the mirror of my car, the backs of my hands. It will work.
Today is Day 1 of the greatest race meet in the world and Day 1of a roiling six-week adventure of writing, selling and convincing from this corner of the office. I didn't say corner office.
We're the kids who started a lemonade stand because they were thirsty. Now we'll see if the lemonade sells.
I'll be here every day - writing what I see, what I feel, what I hear in Saratoga. This paper is brand new, this column is working on its third year. I wrote my first journal in 1999 and turned it into the book Saratoga Days (still available in stores and out of my car trunk). Last year, I managed a half journal after breaking my ankle falling in a steeplechase race. This year, it's strictly journalism as I retired in November and dove straight into this project.
I'm sure I'll always be classified as a steeplechase guy but don't let that lull you into thinking this column, or this newspaper for that matter, is about steeplechasing. I'll get a plug for the jumping sport form time to time but this is everything and everybody from Albert the Great to Zen and the art of picking winners.
Today, I introduce myself., I let you live Saratoga from morning to night. From saddle to bar stool. From binoculars in the stands to hooves in the dirt. This is life in Saratoga - through my eyes and hopefully into your hands.
In this first issue, we try to give you an idea of our vision. What we're here for and why. After today we proceed with the vision. Every day we'll try to captivate you, entertain you, inform you. We believe we can do it. We're better writers than sellers. This isn't some corporate conglomerate with divisions and departments, protocols and agendas, board meetings and shareholders.
"Let's start a rock and roll band (ever see Spinal Tap?)," is something you'd hear around our office. Dreamers, probably. I was told the other day, it's OK to be a dreamer, just be careful living in a dream world.
This column, a daily journal from Saratoga, will be as close to a dream world as you'll get. Saratoga isn't a bad place to be in a dream world, that I know. Come here every day, sit back with a cup of coffee, a grandchild, a hammock, an open mind and enjoy a day at the Spa. I know I will.
And, now here we are 513 columns later, I still feel the same way. As for the next anniversary, we'll publish our 1,000th edition some time in 2031.
If you're keeping track, it wouldn't hurt to remind us.