So every Christmas Eve I always send personal emails to many friends and colleagues and wish them Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays etc. One of my good friends wrote me back and said “Keep up your momentum, you had a better 2016 than 2015.” My initial instinct was to poo poo the comment. I’m a glass is 1/8th full kind of guy and tend to view most things negatively. And I think I’ve convinced myself that I’ve gone backward in many ways in my life and those are what I’ve focused on. But as I think back, I think my friend was right. The year may have featured some backward steps in some avenues but I think there were more forwards than backwards, so i’m counting it as a “W”.
I started a new job with BetAmerica doing a daily podcast called the BetAmerica Radio Network. In December after interviewing with them for another job, we decided I wasn’t a good match for that position. But a week later they wrote back and said “Pitch us something, we want to work with you.” What a feeling that was to hear someone wants to work with you. After driving Uber for the previous 8 months since leaving Louisiana Downs, and getting turned down from Emerald Downs, Turf Paradise, Charles Town, Oaklawn, and a few others, it was pretty great to hear someone wanted to work with me. What I found was a company that is growing and filled with amazing people. I’ve never felt so inspired about a company I worked for as I have with BetAmerica. I’m beyond excited for 2017. In January I got to go to Las Vegas for the National Handicapping Championship and meet tons of great handicappers and racing folks and can’t wait to go back in a few weeks, only this time with a shorter commute (more on that later).
On my way home back to Seattle from the NHC I got a call from Portland Meadows asking if I could fill in for a day. I jumped at the chance. It was a little weird and I didn’t have my own binoculars, but for me it was about closure. I savored being up in that booth one last time and I also savored getting to call what is now my last race in a better head space. A year earlier in Shreveport I was not in a good place at all and calling races was not any fun. So since I don’t think any tracks are knocking down my door to announce for them, it’s possible that day at PM was my last and I’m so glad I had fun with it. Coming to terms with the fact that announcing might be done for me has been very tough. Not necessarily cause I loved it so much but because I had made it far too much of my identity. I was “Jason the horse announcer” and it was far too much a part of me than it should have been. Now I will say, I don’t think I’ve called my last race. Ideally I’d love to call a short meet somewhere at some point of the year while working for BetAmerica full-time. BA has always encouraged something like that and I’m hopeful it happens. But if it doesn’t, so be it.
I got to spend several days down at Santa Anita this past year. Most spent with my buddy Raider Mike up at the Gallop Out. There’s still no better racetrack experience for me than that place, even though right now they’re kind of being poop heads about some stuff.
So I’m not really a “best friend” or “best day ever” or best anything kind of person, always seems odd to single things out like that. But I had a best day this year. April 6th. I ate at one of my restaurants and got to see probably my favorite band right now, The Killers, play the opening show of the new arena in their hometown. The bone in ribeye i had at Gallaghers Steakhouse was beyond good. It was one of those things you close your eyes while you eat cause you want to turn off as many senses as you can so that the incredible taste feels even stronger and better. It was blindingly good.
Now, anyone who knows me or has read this blog before knows I hate crowds. Hate them. Avoid them. I’m a panicky scared person. So a rock concert isn’t exactly fun for me cause I just focus on how nervous I am in the crowd. But I did the most important thing I could that night and that’s part of why it’s the best night of the year. I said “this is too important to me to let my anxiety win and have me run away.” In fact most of my best moments over the last decade aren’t when something great happened to me. They’re when I stood up to my anxiety, even if it was just to go to a family event. So The Killers come out and launch into Mr. Brightside first with all the arena lights on.
The place went nuts, and I went nuts. I danced. I screamed. I high fived with the people next to me. I let my guard down and I sang every lyric and my god did I have fun. I cried my eyes out at the end of “Bling” cause when the ending comes on it always gives me the chills on the record. And when I heard it in person, it was even better. “We’re gonna make it out of the fire”. And during “Dustland Fairytale” I beat my leg so hard from drumming on it I had a bruise the next day. When they finally got around to “When You Were Young” I was so tired, and drained, and happy. I went home and could feel the adrenaline still pumping and the lyrics still in my head. Best night of the year.
In late April I started going back to Emerald Downs again as a fan. I was crushed when I didn’t get that announcing job the year before. It was the dream job. I probably watched five horse races from April 2015 to October 2015 and I think they all involved American Pharoah. I think the break actually did me good though. I do think it’s time to have breaks from things you’re intertwined with so closely on a daily basis. But this year, I left my ego in 2015 and went back and just tried to enjoy my hometown track again and I found that I did. So that was nice.
I got to do a part in a movie on Labor Day weekend. It’s called “Lean On Pete” and it’ll be out in 2017. I did the race announcer voiceovers and the coolest part was my trailer, YES I HAD A TRAILER, was next to Steve Buscemi’s and I got to talk with him for like ten minutes and he was just the nicest guy. He really had a lot of questions about racing and was gobbling up knowledge. He’s playing a trainer in the movie.
As the summer ended, i packed my bags and moved to Las Vegas. I love Las Vegas. Not all the strip stuff although that’s pretty and fun and stuff. But I got a short term rental. I woke up each morning and walked while the sun rose over the mountains. The desert air smell is so great. At least twice a week I’d drive out to Red Rocks and walk around and enjoy what is maybe my favorite place on earth. I’ve made changes in my directive that I want my ashes spread out there. If I gotta be somewhere forever I want it to be a view of this.
I came back up to Seattle in November for an extended holiday trip and my plan is to kind of just split my time between here and Las Vegas. Go back to Vegas for Jan, Feb, March probably then Seattle for the summer then vegas for a bit in the fall. I can be wherever I want for my job so it’s a neat perk.
The Beemie Awards went off for the third year in a row, and kind of went off without a hitch or anyone getting too offended. It trended nationally for a while and it really is cool to get to be part of a fun night that many in the racing world seem to enjoy (and many probably hate as well).
There were plenty of other little things that happened in 2016 and I probably even forgot a few of the biggies, but just wanted to try and go thru and note what I did this year. I hope anyone reading has a great 2017. Baba Booey to you all.