Saturday, August 25, 2007

Break in Tradition, Avoided

That's the bar at the Wishing Well above. We made it there for dinner last night, after bypassing it on Wednesday, the usual night of our visit. There was a swell of anti-Wishing Well sentiment this year because of a disappointing experience last August, but the tradition lives on. (And the experience was much better, so next year should be a shoe-in.)

Tradition is a guiding principle on this trip, mainly because it's a guiding principle in my dad's life. This is his 39th straight year visiting Saratoga for the week of the Travers Stakes. (He's been up for at least a day of racing 41 times; once in 1963 when he was in the Army, once in '66, I believe -- and then this unbroken string of weeklong visits starting in 1969.) For this reason, the Wishing Well is a particularly appropriate connection to maintain. As Saratoga continues to boom, Main Street becomes more vibrant (many more restaurants from which to choose), but also more gentrified (home to Eddie Bauer, The Gap, Banana Republic, Cold Stone Creamery, on and on...) and more kitschy (it's lousy with hideously decorated statues of horses). The Wishing Well is off the beaten path, about four miles outside of town. It's an old house, with a piano player near the bar singing both cheesy and inspiring standards (sometimes ceding the mic to drunken patrons). For many years, to hear my father and others tell it, you could barely move in the place, it was so packed with people, including racing luminaries. (It's no longer packed, but trainer D. Wayne Lukas was there last night, so the luminaries haven't entirely given up on it.)

As Saratoga's idea of night life becomes more glittery and more condensed, I like that we take one of our six nights here to drive out and pay our respects to the old haunt. Plus, the corn is terrific.


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