Once a year, Louisville, Kentucky transforms into a raging center of celebrity, lunacy fermenting throughout the in-field of Churchill Downs and oozing into the city to give us locals an excuse for playing dodge-ball in Spaghetti Junction traffic, wearing nothing but UofL colors, the aroma of mint julips. But this year, the amount of rain falling like losing tickets from the Grandstand, has likely made mud-wrestling second only to The Kentucky Derby. Now granted, I wasn't there, but having been a time or two, I've seen, man, have I seen.
A couple of decades ago, when money was an endangered species and I was naive enough to trail it into hazardous regions, I worked as a security guard. One year, my post was at The KY Derby protecting vendors from theft, the tracks' interests against folks smuggling in their own liquid parties instead of buying over-priced beer. Like I said, I was naive.
I got to see the side-show for free- happy drunks flopping under their hats, hats created in the din of 3am, too early for reason to come strolling in at dawn. I watched train-wrecks teetering out of their flip-flops, cleavage smacking us all in the eye before passing out in the bean dip. Yum. But I was young and still saw the humor, at least to a degree.
The cherry on the day, was as I was leaving the track. Mistaken for a cop, a group of 2-3 young people rushed up to me, appearing relieved to have found me walking by. With much concern, they pointed to a port-a-potty set on a sidewalk, said that their friend was stuffed inside, passed out and stripped naked, and that I had to do something. Right. I peeked open the door and sure enough, there was a guy bare to the world except for his aroma. Lovely. Well, what was I going to do about it? Smile. That's all I could do. I had no authority for anything more than seeing the humor of it. The guy still had his brains pickling in his scull, no obvious wounds, friends right there to pack him home. Well, maybe. They didn't seem thrilled about doing so, and likely not without a ding or two. None of them seemed able to comprehend a straight line.
So, I left them to it. Finding a cop to report a robbery in this mess? Ha! Why do you think those kids were so relieved to see me? Yeah boys, sure, I'll call this in.
My last trip to the derby was in 1989, the year it friggin' snowed. Stuck outside along the back-side, cold beer and a wind chaser was the last straw. I didn't care much about betting, poofy hats and crowds sloshing beer onto my day. I'm sure that the perspective from Millionaire's Row is different, cushioned from the fray. But I'm much happier watching spring wake in the woods, rambling for blooms instead of running for roses.
She throws her shoes into the pond-
some fish can make better use of them-
runs across the meadow
soaking in dew filled with morning,
fat ovals of plantain
cooled by moon,
cozy rosetts of mullein
spread like bolts of felt,
nubs of fescue crackle under her strides
charging her to run
till the soles of her feet are stained green
and the earth has sealed itself
back onto its daughter.