Saturday, May 01, 2004

Derby blog.

May already. As it happens, the first Saturday in May. And it isn't very warm. Argh.

Notes on the 1987 Kentucky Derby.

At this year's Derby I lost about as much money (about $30) as I did last year on the horses, a motley assortment of glue-factory nags and other worthless creatures when it came to putting me in the money. One of them came in fourth when I bet him to show.

The ride down [from Chicago] was smooth. NS & BF, mutual friends of mine who had never met, seemed to get along fairly well, though I think at first BF was a mite irritated by NS's manly interest in her womanly shape, very quietly manifest but there all the same. At one point, he offered to rub her neck while she was in the front passenger seat and he was in back. She wasn't buying, and NS gave up before long.

More important to me, when NS was back at the wheel and I was in the passenger seat, soft jazz was oozing from the car stereo. The sun had gone down, I'd reclined to a decadent angle, and as we barreled toward Indianapolis, the piano and the strings and all the other colorful notes flowed out and around me and made a cocoon. There I was, in a music cocoon flying down the Interstate at 75 mph or so, my eyes mostly closed and my mind in one of those semi-liquid moods, like in snooze-button time. We hit Indianapolis at midnight and stopped at NS's sister’s house to sleep...

The next morning we left for Louisville under a bright sun, and it got warmer and warmer as we headed south, which did my expatriate Texan heart some good. We got a little lost in Louisville but eventually parked the car in the back yard of a small house only blocks from Churchill Downs. The owner of the house wanted $5, but NS talked him down to $4.

We entered at the front of the track this year, went under the grandstands and box seats and down through a pedestrian tunnel leading to the infield. Lots of people there, lots of people everywhere, walking around, hugging their drinks and digging into their coolers, sprawling on their easy chairs or blankets, trying to decode their racing forms. We sat on the ground not too far from the track, but facing it, near the Kentucky flag pole. BF looked wilted from the heat. NS went off to find a racing form. The fifth race was coming up, and when NS returned he made some recommendations on the horses. Since I didn't want to be bothered with the lines, or racing forms, I gave him $5 to bet the same horses. Then I went for a walk.

The sun was strong, but the air didn't seem as dusty as last year. It was a festive crowd. Plenty of near-naked women around, and the usual knot of men ringing the top of the slope around the women's bathroom on the left side of the infield, sometimes encouraging the women to further nakedness as they emerged. Elsewhere, I was privileged to see a little performance by four men as I wandered by.

"Ready guys?!?" one of them yelled to everyone and no one in particular. "Let's show 'em what we’re made of!" They bent over in a quick, unanimous motion, and four butts burst out into the sunshine.