Monday, May 9, 2011

Aminal Kingdom

It is tradition that each of our children pick a horse in the Derby and then Brad and I bet $10 on it to win once we get inside.  Mills picked "Aminal Kingdom".  That is NOT one of my many typos, it is the way she pronounces the word, "animal".  I have not corrected it, because it is the last remaining mispronounced word from her "Speech Therapy" days and I guess in some way, I just want to keep her little.  Luckily, Eva, my four-year-old, has picked up on this, so I have a few more years (and probably will get to invest in more speech therapy) to enjoy it.

Anyway, I like that "Aminal Kingdom" won the Derby, because it is a clear metaphor for what the Derby is actually like.  People are hopped up on cheap bourbon and the prospect of winning money, which triggers testosterone, apparently, and the women preen around on their sky high stilleto heels and wedges in all of the colors of the Rainbow.  I imagine it is a little like Africa, only the "aminals" do not wear gigantic hats and seersucker and aren't quite as drunk.

It is no secret that the reason Churchill Downs has people walking around with trays of alcoholic drinks every five seconds is because it affects the decision-making ability of its patrons, and therefore their inhibitions, when it comes to who they bet on, and how much they bet.  Unfortunately, the alcohol also affects the other decisions they make throughout the day, as well.  This is something they do not advertise during Derby Week, and that no one talks about, until now, of course.

Okay.  So my Dad drops Brad and I off in front of a van at the Ford Truck Plant where he works.  The deal was that Johnson Controls, a supplier for Ford, was going to host us for the day.  This included seats, drinks and food, and (my favorite) the promise of a random adventure - and it did not disappoint.   

I may have to do a three part series, because I want to do the day justice and it turned out to be a long one.  We'll see how it goes.  So my Dad, assuming that the woman standing next to the van was Tho's (his supplier contact) wife and begins regurgitating the story he had rehearsed about why Brad is going in his place to Derby.  My Dad went on and on about how he wasn't feeling well and that he may come back later, and that he would just buy his own ticket, Blah, Blah, Double Blah.  The woman turns to him after the monologue, and says I have no idea what you are talking about.  I am also a "client," and well, I hope you feel better," as she is backs away.  Tho has not even shown up yet.

So for an hour, we stand around the van, and engage in awkward, sober, conversation as we get to know the people we are about to embark on our adventure with.  Everyone was LOVELY.  The person in charge of hosting us, Jimmy, brought his adorable son, Robbie, who was also a stand up comedian.  Jenny, the woman my Dad made an ass of himself to, was so sweet and fun and we were instant friends.  Tho brought his wife and four-year-old daughter, who were equally adorable. 

Then, there was Kenny.  He is the one in the crowd that was out until the wee hours the night before and you can just tell that that first drink is going to put him right back where he was six hours before.  I can only speak for myself, but I was looking more forward to his first drink, more than my own, and that is saying a lot.

Kenny is hilarious, right from the start.  Brad instantly gravitates toward him, as Ken is apparently channeling the personality of one of Brad's best friends.  Now if you do not know Brad, he has a very dry sense of humor, and he just LOVES being around outgoing people who's main goal is to have a good time.  Hummmmmm, who does that sound like?

Everywhere I turned, Jimmy was offering to buy me a drink or a meal or asking if I needed anything.  I felt self-conscious, but his son explained to me that this was Jimmy's job - " a glorified bitch".  Anyway, Kenny sucks down his first Mint Julip in record time.  He is badgering Jimmy to buy him another before we have even bet our first race.  He does disappearing acts throughout the day where there is much talk of "Where's Kenny?" and "I hope Kenny's okay.".

He then would show back up, more hammered than ever, put his arm around you and tell you about his trip to the Infield by himself where he met some very nice people he will not remember in the morning.  He then tells you he loves you and that he is glad that you are married to your spouse.  If you are divorced, he asks the date of the final paper signing and congratulates you on that.  He is just HAPPY FOR YOU, no matter what your stage in life is - and that is a beautiful thing.

So I tell Jenny that I want to show her the Derby race up close.  I do this every year and I love to show people who have never been to the Derby before, what it sounds like when the team of Thoroughbreds rounds the third turn and thunder past you.  The dirt is being kicked up and the jockeys are poised on top of their horses, and it is just an amazing sight to behold.  Again, I do this EVERY year.  A lot of people do this every year.  That is why it is twenty deep at the railing at post time.

So we get up front and the couple on the rail who own the seats tell us that they don't mind if we stand on them to see the race.  We are all excited and I am telling Jenny what to expect and all of the sudden a drunk guy right behind us starts badgering us.  He is pissed that we are standing on the seats in front of him and I explain that we were invited to stand there.  He doesn't care.  We take our enormous hats off.  He keeps at us.  He tries to get security who laugh in his face.  He will not let up.  His wife starts apologizing for him.  Jenny offers for him to stand where we are.  We separate to allow him room and he shoves me as he steps up on the seat.  I tell him to keep his hands off of me and I am shaking now and I step down behind the railing as tears start to stream down my face.  I just wanted to show her what it was like to watch the Derby up close.  I felt disappointed and humiliated and mostly drunk. That would explain crying at a major sporting event.  I mean, let's be real, I would not have done that if I had been drinking ice tea all day.

So the race is over and Jenny explains to me that she had a great time and that she works in Truck plants for a living and that dealing with raging assholes are part of her job everyday.  I feel better.  The Johnson Control guys (including Jimmy) discover me crying and rally to my defense.  I know in my heart that if I point out the douchebag that put his hands on me, he will we pulverized in about 5 minutes.

Brad finds me and tells me not to worry about it that "Aminal Kingdom" just won the Derby and we are RICH, RICH, RICH!  The Johnson Control guys invite us to eat at Morton's with them, all expenses paid, natch, and we decline so we can stay for the last two races, which is another custom.  We exchange "thank you's" and pleasantries and business cards, and the last thing I glimpse is Jimmy with his enormous hand around Kenny's neck to stabilize him as they file out into the crowd and head to the Steak House.

Well, hindsight is twenty/twenty as they say, and even though I had a great time the rest of the night, we should have gone home right then.  But we didn' be continued.

Pic above was when Kenny grabbed my hat and put it on.  Couldn't have described him better than this picture does, if I tried.

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