Mourning Coat

I’m a New Yorker.

We don’t take kindly to strangers coming up to us and  handing us things, let alone putting things in our pockets. Get out of here with that. And thus, when the woman made a bee line for me on High Street in Ascot last night attempting to put some type of desiccated vegetation in my pocket, I juked and jived like Barry Sanders in his prime to ditch her. My new pal Declan Rex admired my athleticism, noting that he didn’t think people as old as me could move that fast (Tx for that, Rixy).

Shortly thereafter I was informed that the woman I dodged was Romani, and that by so disrespecting her, it was likely that she would put a curse on me. The speaker was dead serious, and while this may have merely been a politically incorrect comment, the events of the following two hours have me believing that he was right. More on that in a minute.

I decided to buy the morning suit — top hat and tails — in advance of this year’s Royal Ascot meeting. I have been having a lot of fun working with Sky Sports Racing this year, and I’m optimistic that this relationship will continue, plus I have lots of visions for the future regarding me and Ascot. For these reasons I thought the investment to be worth it.

Years ago, when planning a trip to the Royal Meeting, I had a long phone conversation with my friend Susie Sourwine about various Ascot Dos and Don’ts. One of things at the top of the Do list was the picnics in the car park (we’d call them fancy tailgates in the parking lot), specifically in car park 2. “It’s like nothing you’ve ever seen and you’ll love it,” she told me.

When I was here two years ago, however, it was 1000 degrees out and I was staying in London (Vauxhall, represent). So alas, the car park picnics did not happen for PTF. This time around I’m staying local-ish and I was going to make sure I made it happen. After the races on Tuesday, I made my debut, dragging Declan with me, and just as Susie had described, the scene was amazing. Racing fans and luminaries, happily mingling, dressed to the nines as the champagne, rose, and Pimm’s Cups flowed. The “picnic” spreads were incredible, many professionally catered, one more impressive than the next. And all of this was enjoyed while standing in a muddy parking lot.

The first night was so much fun, we decided to go back on Wednesday. And that brings us back to last night and my hurdling the Romani lady.

Hour one was more of the same: old friends, new friends, lots of chatter. Topics included Frankie’s big day, Stradivarius’ split in the lane, and, of course, professional wrestling. The weather was weird yesterday. Lovely at times, especially in the sun, but also a little intermittent rain, and a cool breeze nearly throughout the day.

That breeze came into play as we hit the gloaming. It got cold, low 50s. It was Ladies’ Day, and there were a lot of fashionable, sleeveless dresses in the car park. We formed a little ad hoc group in front of the Hannon tailgate. One woman — Holly —  was literally shivering with cold as the sun hid below the horizon. As a pretty cold tolerant person — again, the New Yorker thing — I was happy to offer her my coat. Chivalry is not dead.

We continued chatting awhile and then — as one does — we were chatting with other people . . .and then it was just me. She was gone, and so was my new morning coat. One of my first thoughts was that I should have let that lady put the stems in my pocket.

Whether or not I was in fact cursed, I can very much guarantee that I did curse. My first reaction was not a demonstration of my best self. Between obscenities, I angrily declared to no one in particular, “I am never being nice to anyone again!”

That also may have been me who heaped abuse on a poor taxi driver whose car stunk of cigars and wanted 40 GBP for the 15-minute ride to Staines. Sorry, guy. I was never getting in that car, but I should have been a lot nicer about it.

Stage two of grief in mourning my morning coat was stress. I worried about what the heck I was going to do. My call time was 7a.m. I was going to look like the world’s most unprofessional person. I’d be booted out of the plant. I’d never work in this town again. And on and on the worries went.

Fortunately, a quick phone call with Susan set me straight, “This is an entirely solvable problem that we’ll look back and laugh at, maybe by tomorrow,” she explained to me. I knew she was right but I couldn’t fully shake the uneasy feeling. I sent out a few — hopefully not too vituperative — tweets and turned in. I didn’t sleep much.

This morning I put on my other suit — the one I bought in Paris for Hurricane Run’s Arc win — and took the rest of the morning suit with me in a bag, and headed to the course.

Among the first people I saw was the ever-sarcastic Jason Weaver. “That suit’s not right,” he told me right away, having been apprised of the situation. “You’ve got to go down the bouncy castle bit in that.”

My current plan — after a quick consult with various friends — is to pitch the idea of making a gag out of the story on the broadcast. I will hope that Holly — if that is her real name — does the right thing and turns the suit into lost and found today. Molly, if you’re reading this, it really would be nice to have it back. Yes, I can always go to Moss Bros and buy another coat, but that’s really not the best use of yesterday’s A’Ali winnings, is it? I don’t remember all that much else about Holly other than I believe her partner works at Southwell Races. If you happen to know her, please pass this along. I’m not mad at all and I’d love for the end of this story to involve you and me laughing about this over (another) glass of champagne. There is just one more message I’d like to pass on to Holly.

Next time, bring your own damn coat.


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