Preparing to shoot a few segments of Big Jon in 5 for BEER2WHISKEY in our upstairs studio at Barley's Taproom in downtown Greenville. That's owner Josh Beebe preparing for his closeup.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Ghost of Derbys Past

Granted, this topic would have been a bit more appropriate had I posted it on Saturday, but too much to do and too little time. I had to mow the dirt for the love of God.

I was invited to a Derby party yesterday. I am always surprised by people living beyond the borders of Kentucky and with no ties to the place who throw such shindigs. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for it, but just surprised.

The party was held at the home of an acquaintance who is the neighbor and friend of friends of mine. Had it not been for my friends, I would never have been included. I know that's hard to believe: Who wouldn't want me at their party? Yet, there are people who don't find me as amusing as I find myself. Such folks are typically categorized as having taste.

In any event, I went to this party. Attending were 35 people I had never laid eyes on before, the hostess acquaintance, my friends and three other people they had invited, who are friends of mine. If you are doing the math, I knew a total of six people out of 40 or so.

There was the obligatory betting board -- more work had been put in on its creation than that at any Derby party I was ever at in Louisville. Louisville folks tend to just copy the page of entries from the Courier-Journal. The chart at yesterday's party was the result of some serious effort.

The home we were in is large, and quite lovely. The attendees were pretty much split with the 35 or so people I didn't know crowded around a 17-inch TV monitor on the back screened-in porch and the half-dozen or so people I did know lounging around the living room in front of the 42-inch flat screen. We got the better part of the bargain.

The way the guests were divided reminded me of a party I attended 20 years ago or more. It was thrown by two roommates. One was a wild partier whom I worked with at the Boca Raton News, and the other was a rather more subdued young lady who worked at a book store. Each invited their respective work friends.

It was like oil and water. Much to the frustration of the roomies, the two groups just didn't mix. Such was pretty much the case at this Derby party.

People who know me are well aware that I am not a mixer. If I don't know you, I'm probably not going to as a result of meeting you at a party. I hate small talk and really can't muster much charm or humor for people I am probably never going to see again.

When I was younger, I might make exception for a good looking woman, but at this stage of my life, I realize such nonsense is a waste of my time.

So, there we were, two clicks of folks. It worked out fine and I had a good time. But I'm sure the hostess was less than happy.

I must admit, I had no clue about which horses were even running in the race -- a sad commentary for someone who lived in Louisville for 16 years and attended many a Derby.  I don't even think I saw the race last year. I'm over it.

The only aspect of the Derby I really enjoy is the singing of "My Old Kentucky Home." It still gives me goose bumps. It's a Louisville thing.

Most of my Derbys were experienced rather than seen. I was one of those "infield people."

We would trudge in with our coolers and blankets around 10 AM. With 3 hours looming between us and the first race of the day and roughly 7 hours before the Derby, we were already stepping over passed out drunks.

Here's what Derby Day in the infield is like: Drinking and….well, that's about it. Maybe one out of every 10 people in the infield actually catches a glimpse of the race. Perhaps one out of every five people manages to hear hoof beats racing by. Most of the people in the infield have no idea what's going on.

Infielders weren't supposed to bring in alcohol. Coolers and bags were searched. We would fill baggies with vodka or gin, drop them in the bottom of a cooler and cover them with ice and mixers. Surprisingly, you can get quite wound up on several baggies of booze.

Rain is a mortal enemy of infielders. I only had to deal with that once. Being ankle deep in mud puts a damper on the day.

Biological imperatives also presented a problem. By 2 or , the men's rooms floors were awash in umm, wash.

I have no clue what the women did. I suspect a couple of them drowned.

As a Derby veteran, I was happy to be in a nice house yesterday with no bugs in my drink. That there were 35 people I didn't know was much better than being amidst 20,000 drunks I didn't know.

Oh, and I actually saw the race. All in all a pretty good day.

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