XII: The 12 days of The Special

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The Dirty Dozen. Twelve Angry Men. Baker’s dozen. Cheaper by the dozen. Twelve pack. Ten and two. Two touchdowns, no extra points. Four field goals. Double sixes. Tom Brady, Joe Namath, Terry Bradshaw.

No matter how you add it up, the 12-day stretch The Special just endured was at once relentless, grueling, mind-addling and thrilling, convincing, humbling. We started back on July 31. With lungs filled and the article file stuffed, we smoothly cranked out Wednesday’s paper after a two-day break. We haven’t had a day off since, publishing straight through the sales and two weeks of racing. Pardon us while we sleep all day Monday.

I went back and looked: we finished at 8:40, 10:51, 10:12, 10:47, 11:12, 10:52, 12:25, 12:01, 10:31, 11:23, 11:07. Most p.m. but a couple of a.m. stamps in there too. It’s 6:40 p.m. Saturday as I type this and the stakes has yet to run so who knows what the 12th and final timecard will say? The longer it lasts, the longer it takes.

Counting today, we cranked out 512 pages. The lungs, the brains, the sleep storage units are empty. So are the story coffers. A few days ago, I looked at the “Ready when u need” folder, saw nothing and bellowed to everyone and no one – “We’ve got nothing.”

Nothing like waking up every morning knowing you’ve got to fill a newspaper with whatever you come up with that day – which probably explains this column and the three-page joke back there somewhere. Hey, it’s the 12th day. Oh, and Photo of the Day is on page 28. And, sorry Monday entries never made it.

The deeper we went on the journey, the longer everything took. Typing, crafting articles, writing cutlines, trying to think up catchy headlines, laying out pages, even putting papers in the racks got tougher. I dropped some papers off at a barn today and someone hollered “Where are you going?” when I turned to leave. If I’d have stayed, I’d have fallen asleep or forgotten why I was there.

Though phrases such as “this will never work” and “we’re in the weeds” were shouted over and over at 433 Broadway, we made it. Oh what 12 days they were. Along the way, we . . .

– learned that Monday night is Bongo Night at the yoga studio next door.

– learned that Monday night is also Street Bagpiper Night outside our window.

– learned that bongos and bagpipes really don’t go together (technically, I guess we knew that).

– watched some future stars go through the ring at Fasig-Tipton. Two years ago, we watched Union Rags. I wonder who we saw this year.

– discovered that everybody else in town has discovered the new parking garage behind our office. We used to park on the first floor.

– were again dazzled by amazing Saratoga on-track performances: Cat Feathers, Wise Dan, Poseidon’s Warrior, Emma’s Encore, Fort Larned, Spy In The Sky and all the rest, thanks for the show and the material.

– learned how to spell Dickson and Grigely, again.

– were awed by the Hall of Fame – again.

– got stressed out – a little.

– slept – a little.

– found out it’s possible (for some of us) to sink a trashcan free throw from the hallway.

– found out Gabby Gaudet, Ryan Jones, Tom Santomarco, Stephen Heath and Todd Simmons can write – in a hurry.

– found out Erin McNamee can design – in a hurry.

– ate way too many meals in the office. Elizabeth’s Table, Saratoga Coffee Traders and Putnam Market make mean salads. And fried egg sandwiches really are brain food.

– kept finding enough things to fill up Here and There.

– did not run.

– discovered the loyalty of our readership. When you get an e-mail from the Olympics telling you the digital edition is not online yet, you know people care. When someone brings a container of homemade blueberry treats to your office and hands you a similar container of cinnamon goodness at the track a few days later, long days get a little shorter.

– were reminded yet again that Tod Marks and Dave Harmon and Connie Bush can take photos with anybody.

– tested our printer over in Gloversville. Thanks everybody, all downhill from here.

– nearly capsized a golf cart with a 56-pager somewhere in the middle there.

– counted to 12.