The Trickster Diaries/Chapter 30
I need to tell you about The Spirit. My first encounter with it was profoundly life altering and came, as these things do, during the course of a relatively ordinary day in the life of a relatively typical juvenile delinquent.
Relatively typical? I was experimenting. With everything. But one thing I didn’t share with anyone I knew was an almost obsessive attraction to thoroughbred horseracing. And I lived within walking distance of Hollywood Park Racetrack, in Inglewood, CA.
So, in the pre dawn hours one morning, when you could get rail-side views of these spectacular creatures going through their morning workouts free of admission costs, I wandered over to HP with sketchpad.
Essentially, the only humans around were exercise riders, trainers, trainer’s assistants, a couple reporters from the L.A. Herald & Times and a few fans of the game, like me. I wanted quick looks, quick impressions as the horses entered the stretch. It amazed me that for the most part, these animals were flying more than running—their hoofs actually off the ground 80-90% of the time following a single stride.
Typical morning, until Native Diver walked on to the track, and all heads turned, all notes and equations forgotten, all thoughts suspended.
Jet black, sleek, muscular and tall and full of attitude. An elongated white mushroom mark on his gorgeous forehead. This guy, just a year ago, had equalled the world’s record for 7 furlongs, wire to wire, tested and pushed and bothered the entire distance by another champ considered the best sprinter of that era.
1:20 flat, baby. And here this mighty beast was, walking in our direction, he on one side of the rail, us mere humans on the other, 20 yards away. Then 10. Then he caught sight of me—he looked directly in my eye—and reared, suddenly, nearly throwing the exercise rider, Ernie Suprian. Suprian finally got control and spoke to me: “Sorry!” he yelled. “He’s tough to handle sometimes!”
The horse had that reputation, but Suprian’s account failed to cover my interpretation of the moment. It was a clear warning that to copy anyone was a fool’s path, that I needed to live by instinct, not formula. And that there were other worlds, other realms…
Another realm, in fact, nearly materialized, nearly superimposed itself upon the reality I knew as the great racehorse beat the air with his front hoofs.
Then it vanished.
Still here, though, hiding. But I am its infrequent conjuror.