Thursday, 18 August 2016

Craft Beer Day at the Track and the Day Peggy Sue Christian-Ann Got Married

"Stick around for the fourth race," said my pal Jason. "The number one horse is a sure thing."

It was going to take a hot tip like that for us to stick around because I had dragged the J Man down to Ajax Downs to watch some Quarter-Horse racing under false pretences and he was getting pissed.

See, Jake was looking forward to a lazy Sunday at home watching the Rocket League Championship on his phone (after a busy previous day in which his mother got married) until I dragged him out of bed at the ungodly hour of 11:30 am and told him we were going to a casino so get dressed.

"I'm too young for a casino," he pleaded. "I'm not going there to play the slots,"  I answered. "We're going to watch some horse racing and you're allowed out there. In fact, they encourage families."

"But this is the championships," he said. "I can't miss this Dad."

"Not to worry," I countered. It's a casino. They'll have Wi-Fi."

Quarter-Horses: the sprinters of the horse racing world
So I got him up and dressed and out the door and headed west to Ajax and the racetrack, which holds Quarter-Horse Racing every Sunday and slot play 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Not exactly a 'Casino,' in my mind, but whatever. We were going for the racing.

And for the beer. It was Craft Beer Day at the track and there was a full-fledged beer festival going on, with seven breweries and a cidery in attendance.

I may or may not have mentioned this bit of intel to Jake.

Jake won't mind, as long as he can watch his Rocket League, and what self-respecting casino wouldn't have Wi-Fi, right? Right?

(I hear you asking, "what the hell is Rocket League?" I didn't know either, so I asked Jake. "It's like soccer, but with cars," he explained. It's a Gamer thing.)

So the first question I asked of the first security guard we encountered when we arrived was about the Wi-Fi, and of course he said no. "As God is my witness," I said to Jacob, summoning my best Arthur Carlson, "I thought casinos would have Wi-Fi."

To his credit, the J Man sucked it up and tried to enjoy himself - his tournament was an all-day affair and I said we wouldn't stay long - and we headed out trackside to watch the first race.
Ajax Downs mascot AJ

Quarter-horses are like Thoroughbreds but a little bigger and more heavily muscled. Thoroughbreds run a mile or longer; Quarter-horse races are much shorter - the longest race on this day was just 400 yards - and are run straight down the track with no turns.

In the equine world they are the equivalent of Usain Bolt and Andre De Grasse and the races are fast and exhilarating.

The concourse had its charms as well, and the $1 price tag for the 5-oz beer samples was certainly agreeable. Too agreeable, as I bought ten before realizing I couldn't actually drink ten, with my adult responsibilities and all.

No problem. I'll just give half of them away.

I enjoyed an ESB from Henderson Brewing of Toronto (tasty) and a 12 Minutes to Destiny from Flying Monkeys (raspberry!) and our first wager ($5 on I Am Perfect - who wasn't - to win in the third) before bumping into Jay, a former work colleague I haven't seen in a while.

Jay is an avid track guy and is at Ajax Downs every Sunday. He gave me some tips on betting, we chatted a bit and I gave him a couple of beer tickets and then Jake and I did a tour of the place. That's when I ran into Tom, my horseshoe opponent from the previous weekend's fun and games at Brian & Sue's place on Lake Couchiching.

Small world, huh?

I talked with Tom and his wife for a bit and gave them three beer tickets (three left!) before we headed back to the track and the beer tent area.

I hit up the Lake Wilcox booth for their Black Hop IPA (my only IPA on the day) and I tried Cameron's Amber Red Ale before Jake reminded me that I had promised him we would head home after that third race.

It was then we saw Jay again.

"Stay for one more Glenn," he said. "It's a sure thing."

Jake looked excited about the prospect of a 'sure thing,' so I went over to the betting window and plunked down nine whole dollars on Jj Maxwell, a seven year-old with nine career wins who went off as the second favourite at 3-1.

I had my final beer - a Pale Ale from Bobcaygeon Brewing (apt, considering I would be going to the Tragically Hip concert three days after this event) and we found spots on the rail to watch the race.

The speed of these animals is impressive and they were past us so fast it was hard to tell who won. I know who didn't, though. Jj Maxwell - the 'sure thing' - finished fifth.

But on the bright side, we made it home in time for Jake to watch the Rocket League Championship final and see iBuyPower - his favourite team - win the title.

And Dad is back in his good books. For now.

Wedding Days are Great Days

The day before Jake and I went to the track we were in Richmond Hill, along with the rest of our family, watching his mother get married.

And I was the Official Photographer.

I probably told a dozen people that fact in the weeks leading up to the marriage of my ex-wife Christian-Ann to Frank, mostly to see the reaction I would get. Just the fact I get along with my ex surprises some people, while the fact that I'm cool taking pics of her on her special day is another thing entirely.

Christian and Frank cutting the cake
Fact is, I'm proud of our relationship. We share custody of Jake, our last school-age kid, and we get along very well. Better than when we were married for the most part, which I'm sure goes a long way in explaining why she was getting re-married.

Christian is a great person and so is Frank and I was very happy to be there for both of them on their day. And I like taking pictures and this photographer gig gave me a chance to be charmingly intrusive and with a nice digital camera instead of crappy cell phone cameras to boot.

But enough about me.

The wedding was a low key affair held in the party room of Frank's sister Marisa's fancy-pants condo and the crowd seemed almost evenly split between the families of the bride and the groom. Which is shocking, considering Frank is Italian.

The ceremony was simple and beautiful and featured, in addition to the vows, my granddaughter Allison showcasing her gorgeous singing voice.

The reception, however, was an opportunity for people to let their hair down a bit. I took a ton of pictures, but the camera got passed around some as well. My brother-in-law Anthony, who works in the movie business and is a waaay better shutterbug than me, took a turn for a while. So did my oldest son Matt, though he was into the Budweisers by then so I can't vouch for the quality of the shots.

Matt was also in his heyday meeting Frank's boys - his new step-brothers - and the trash talking was amusing and quite epic.

The day also marked the world premiere of Knife, a YouTube horror short conceived and shot by Allison's sister Lauren, who is all of nine.

The kids. Stick 'em in the blender and you get family
It was awesome, and even movie man Anthony said the pacing was brilliant.

Such a wonderful day. I wouldn't have missed it for the world.

I was driving so I just sampled a couple of little plastic cups of white wine and at about 10:30 I found the J Man and we made our way home.

And the pictures turned out great.

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