Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Haunted Derby

Despite the prevalent sunshine and general overall floweriness of this year’s Derby weekend in my hometown of Louisville, I couldn’t help but notice an ominous cast to the proceedings. I was feeling a little morose when I drove into town, thanks to an incident in my personal life that I can’t recount here because it would be tacky to use too many cuss words in this blog. Suffice it to say, my state of mind was already leaning toward the dark side. The following only served to further disturb:

1. When I met my granddad at the Middletown Wal-Mart at 8AM on Friday morning (he was treating me to an oil change for Black Beauty), the place was deserted. We roamed the aisles killing time, he with a cup of coffee, me sipping from a Minute Maid juice box. Florescent lights hummed, Muzak echoed in the rafters, and all around, gigantic, gleaming, black plastic horses gazed blankly and unmovingly upon our progress.

2. Later, Liv and I were hustling up a hill while taking our exercise around the scenic loop at Cherokee Park. Suddenly, we heard strains of ice-cream truck music blaring from behind. I turned to see what kind of vehicle might be approaching, and it was not the usual white truck decorated with pictures of popsicles and sno-cones. Instead, it was a trundling, faded black Chevy van, likely an early 80’s model, its windows tinted and covered by curtains. Perhaps it was a genuine retailer of frozen treats, but it might as well have had the words “Kidnap-Mobile” stenciled on the side.

3. Still later, I found I needed a drink. We headed to a liquor store downtown, where we stood in line behind a man with a minimal number of teeth, his stringy hair pulled into a haphazard ponytail and his skin tanned to a dull, burnt orange that spoke not so much of years spent in the sun but of a force that darkens from within. He was buying the biggest beer I’ve ever seen, brand undetermined. Suddenly I wasn’t so sure I wanted to drink ever again.

4. Walking toward Gate 1 at Churchill Downs, we passed people selling ponchos, hot dogs, flip-flops, and race paraphernalia. Then we came across a man who hoped to sell us on God. His pitch involved singing and strumming along with the popular Sunday school jingle “This Little Light of Mine.” Remember the line that goes “Won’t let Satan blow it out, I’m gonna let it shine?” I don’t. I think we sang a lighter version at my church growing up. In any case, this guy was really growling out the word Satan, making sure to give it a special, menacing emphasis every time.

And then, of course, there was poor Eight Belles. I would like to dedicate this blog entry to her, the filly who ran her heart out against the boys only to meet an untimely death on the other side of the finish line. RIP, Eight Belles. I could cry just thinking about you.

1 comment:

Kate Brennan said...

My life-long fear of "conversion vans" is once again confirmed. I’m convinced, only kidnappers, child molesters and “homeless” people drive them.