Sorry this has taken a bit longer to post than I had mentioned. I’m sure the anticipation has been killing you 😉
Mmm, Heine Brothers coffee. Still the best around, with their fresh locally roasted beans, deliciously strong coffee, and the great muffins and scones. It’s a great way to start any day, and even better if it’s Oaks day. Also, we spent plenty of time browsing Louisville’s coolest bookstore, Carmichaels’, that’s right next door. Then we head down the street to Stevens and Stevens deli to pick up our lunch. Back to the hotel to see if the boy will nap (he won’t), we finally head for the track at about 1:30. Of course he fall asleep on the way there. We find parking on the street about 4 blocks from Bob’s in front of a house were a bunch 9-12 year old girls are playing on the front porch. They ask for $3 for the spot, and considering, the guys just down the street are charging $20 each, we agree. As we walk from the car, they’re rapping jump rope song type lyrics along to a blaring radio.
Auggie remains asleep in his stroller even as we carry it up to the front porch at Bob’s house. With him snoozing away, we say hello to all of the usual suspects. Marc and Frank again down from Boston joined by Tim S. We had a couple of extra Oaks tickets and Beth quickly played ticket broker offering them for the $25 that was already being charged for general admission. I watched the 6th go off and the horse I loved won for fun, ahh, the moral victories”Â¦ Finally, we had to wake Auggie up as we were scheduled to meet people in the paddock at 2:30 for a Derby ticket exchange.
As we entered the downs, Auggie was in a complete daze, with no idea of what was going on. As we walk toward the paddock, Beth spots a National Guardsman. Gotta be somebody important, right? Well, it turns out it’s former Miss America, Heather French, and her husband, current Kentucky Lieutenant Governor, Steve Henry. It was a bit of a scandal back in 2000 when they got married because it was a shotgun wedding, and now she’s preggers again. Mrs. Henry sees us spotting them, and comments on what a cute little boy we have. Beth then asked her how their little girl is doing and when the next baby is due. It was a bit of a surreal moment, talking the way we would with any mom you just might meet in a crowd. They just happen to be the likely next Governor and first lady of Kentucky. God I love this state.
Once we made it to the seats, Auggie made it pretty clear that he wasn’t really all that interested in sitting around. He wanted to go go go. So Beth and I traded off as he went tromping through the betting areas, playing on the stairs, and wanting to do loops up and down the escalator between the main and second floors. During one of these wanderings, I went down to the Julep stand and found that for the first year in the past 11 that not one of the “julep ladies” was working. The booth was staffed by kids from some vending service. They were nice and all, but I couldn’t help but feel as if one of my favorite traditions had been torn apart, replaced by some generic face, much like the new concrete faÃÂ§ade on the back of the Grandstand.
I should point out here that we did not see Jack even once this year because of just this thing. He is apparently so bothered by this defacing of the Downs that he has severed most of his ties with horse racing. Bob said he was just being unreasonable, but when I found out I wouldn’t be laughing with the Julep ladies this year, it sunk in just how corporate this place has become.
I had a few moments capping with Dave before the Crown Royal and I pointed out to him that I thought Bird Town looked interesting in the Oaks. I put down my Oaks bets before the Crown Royal only playing Bird Town in second in the exotics. Since Auggie was done with the grandstand, we needed to get him out to run a little more. So we headed for the infield just after the Crown Royal. Unfortunately, I didn’t ever see any odds on Bird Town or I probably would have put some money on her nose alone. Oh well.
The infield was great, but really wide open. When we set up shop on the hill overlooking the first turn in 2000, the place was packed, but this year, there were open spots all over. The same held true in the grandstand, where, even on Derby day, if you went at the right times, betting lines were rarely over 5 or 6 deep. They say it was the 5th largest attendance, but it sure didn’t look or feel like it.
While out in the infield, I spotted a guy with a baseball hat that he’d had embroidered with phrase “Pat Day Sucks”. I said, “Nice Hat” and laughed. Well Auggie kept running around the area, and the guy got up and gave Beth a button with this phrase printed on it if I agreed to wear it. Of course I did, I mean hell, it’s the Churchill Downs infield right? Well, after getting some attention from it for a while, I decided there would be a great deal more comedy if Auggie were to be the one wearing it. We actually discussed the fact that some might view us as unfit parents because of this, but again, it’s the Churchill Downs infield right? Aren’t we already unfit parents just for having the boy out here?
We caught the Oaks from the open grass on the first turn, and you know what, it was pretty cool. Hearing the roar move down the stretch along with the horses is a pretty stirring experience. It’s so visceral, so raw, and so freakin’ loud.
After the race, we made our way back to Bob’s but not before being stopped by a Churchill Downs security guard who told us we couldn’t take our $2.75 bottles of Aquafina out of the Downs. We stared with incredulity. Are you sure that’s right? This isn’t liquor, it’s a half full bottle of overpriced water. Yep, nothing can be taken from the Downs. So we turned around, made a lazy U around to the other side, and I stuck my bottle in my pocket and walked out anyway. Oooh, rule breaker.
Back at Bob’s we met up with Dave and Shannon who were catching a ride back to the hotel with us. Auggie’s button was a huge hit, as he sat down behind metal barriers on the street and watched buses go in and out of Churchill. He loves buses right now, and he was so happy to just be waving “buh-bye” to all of them. Beth gathered me in despite my desire to linger, and we were on the road back to the hotel. We met up with everybody on the deck of Rocky’s Pizza and Calzones which was a block from our hotel and overlooked the Louisville skyline. We had OK food with a clearly overwhelmed waitress. I had to duck out a little early to return to the hotel with an obviously done Auggie. Beth returned shortly afterward, and we put the boy to sleep.
This night, Kristin and Marc hosted the party, and since it was the next room down from ours, we felt comfortable with both of us going. Well, almost. I realized I had left the diaper bag, our camera, our programs and DRF, and the stroller over at Bob’s. Pretty much everything I had taken there, so I really needed to get back over there before tomorrow. So I headed back to Central Ave.
When I got there, of course there were various random people hanging around, but I tracked down our old buddy Kevin who lives upstairs at Bob’s. We found our stuff and were hanging out talking about what was going on with everybody when Charlie comes walking in through the back. If you’ve ever been over at Bob’s on a Derby or Breeder’s Cup weekend, you’ve surely met Charlie. He’s an incredibly nice guy who does stand up comedy, and more than likely was very drunk and friendly when you were there. I’d always thought of him as just one of the various folks who shows up at Derby.
Well, in he comes, looking much trimmer, more groomed, and certainly far more sober than I’ve ever seen him on a Derby weekend. He comes up a gives me a hug and shakes my hand. Then he says, “I’d like you to meet my friend Jessica.” “Hi, nice to meet you,” says I, and shake her hand. Well the weird thing is, this whole time, they’re being followed by a guy with a TV camera who films this whole exchange. They head on by, and I turn to Kevin and ask, “What was that?” We duck into the kitchen and he explains that Jessica is Rosanne Barr’s daughter, and they’re filming for a new reality show staring Rosanne and her family, a la, the Osbornes. Charlie is one of the stars of the show. He’s been in California for 4 months and met Jessica while working on one show and was brought on as an on-screen guy for this one.
Later, everybody’s on the porch and Charlie and I start talking, both of us commenting on how much weight we’ve lost. He asks me how I did it, and I say Weight Watchers. Me too says he and gives me a high 5. Of course this is all caught on tape, so who knows, maybe a Jared-esqe advertisement for Weight Watchers is in my future.
Kevin tells me he’s been working at a bar that has been recently bought by a friend of his called Seidenfadens. Well, this place is a half a block up the street from our old house in Louisville. Turns out everybody was headed over there that night and Bobby and half of the crew are already there. I should come out if I get a chance. I tell him I’ll try, and jump back in the car to the hotel.
Back at the hotel, everybody is hanging in Marc’s room swapping stories and just kicking back. They decide to call it a night shortly after I returned at about 11. Once back to the room Beth talks about what a great time she had with everybody hearing stories that she’s never heard before. It’s pretty clear though that she’s amped, and when I tell her about Seidenfadens she wants to go out. She then proceeds to call everybody in our group at the hotel, and nobody will go. It’s almost midnight on Derby Eve and it looks like she’s run out of options because she refused to go out alone. But I keep pushing her, and finally, she gets a hold of Gary and his fiancÃÂ© Elena who have just finished dinner and are on their way to meet Rich and his crew. Apparently Rich is so drunk, he’s had a hard time telling them where they were, and it turns out they’re at the Left Field Lounge. For our own reasons, we hate this place, but at least, Beth has some co-conspirators.
So out she goes at Midnight, and she sets a Derby record of about 20 minutes in getting a group of drunks to leave a bar. Arriving at Seidenfadens, Bob and David are acting as the DJ’s for a group of completely hammered 30 somethings and the local regulars. I believe she mentioned something about them playing Def Leppard. Beth orders “2 pitchers of your finest lager” and pays $11. She tried to talk with a few of the Central Ave. regulars, but most were so drunk, it was if they were moving in slow motion. A conversation she related to me.
“So where’s Tim?”
“He’s back at the hotel watching Auggie”
“Oh yeah, Auggie, he’s so beautiful… What a great little boy.”
“Thanks, thanks a lot.”
“So where’s Tim?”