For the first time since i’ve lived here, i’ve spent alot of time in downtown Saratoga this year. Becoming a fixture at a local coffee shop, walking the main drag, eating in the local restaurants. There’s alot of enjoyment to be had on a Saturday night, just wandering downtown, the shops, closed but still brightly lit, peddling their wares into your subconscious, hoping you’ll return during the day for that dress that seems to be tailor made for you, that Smiths album sitting in the window of the used record shop. There is something sparkling for every imagination.
During the summer you will always find a street performer late at night, many of which are surprisingly good. The other people wandering the strip are equally fun to watch, at night it is the perfect mix of young and old, rich and poor, hippies, yuppies and everything in between. The wine bars and gellato joints are packed long into the night, dogs panting on the sidewalk, old friends hugging, bachlorette parties and couples on first dates, intoxicated by their proximity to each other, embracing and holding each other close, even in the oppressive heat. In short, if you are open to a little romantiscism and a love of people watching, there are few better places you could go on a warm night.
In truth though, most of this is paper machette, smoke and mirrors. The arts center is almost always empty, it sits across the street from a Talbots that’s always busier. The small theater underneath the center shows documentaries and indie films,but ask your typical Saratoga resident about it and they will have no idea the place exists. The wine bar sparkles at night, casting it’s logo onto the sidewalk in soft white light, but the truth is, the dress code is strict and the prices are often more expensive per glass than buying the whole bottle at a liquer store. “galleries” litter the strip, but they are facades, really just shops selling Racing paintings, $500 postcards of” the sport of kings” disguised as art. This is a place where the used book shop is rarely open but the Borders is always packed, where you can always find a bar band, but rarely, if ever, find an open mic night where local talent can read poetry, sing, or just gather with other like minded artists. For a town with a college, one of the oldest horse racing tracks in the country and beautiful scenery almost anywhere you go, this is a remarkably shallow place.
But late at night, with the streetlights casting a glow over everything, the horse drawn carriage moving slowly down the strip and the old blues man playing his guitar on the park bench, the truth fades to the background and the promise of excitement and adventure looms everywhere you look. I’m sure there are a thousand places in America just like this, and in the end, despite it’s faults, i find myself happy to be wandering these streets, sweat rolling down my back as i mix with the punks and aristocrats, my headphones creating a soundtrack for a perfect summer night, the laughter of strangers punctuating my revelry.