Issue May 5, 2010

Derby crash

Put your ill-fitting seersuckers and giant hats in the closet, take an aspirin and get back to work, ye merry revelers. It’s over.

Let’s review:

•As it turns out, we were not under attack by a cabal of insidious communists bent on causing mass insanity with disrupted traffic patterns throughout the entire city. Nor were any of the crazed exercise fanatics even being chased. They were running, on purpose, in a foot race called “The Mini.”

•The golden antlers are loosely secured to the Belle of Cincinnati’s bow with a coat hanger but will be moved back to the Belle of Louisville next year per a binding contractual agreement.

•The environmental fallout of Thunder Over Louisville has still failed to surpass that of Chernobyl, but not for a lack of trying. The good news is that the air show (which is still a Military Display of Force even if it is funded by Doritos) was a total success, and Kentuckiana is safe for at least another year. Freedom is rad, especially when you can get a corn dog and listen to Troy Aiken.

•Unbeknownst to Louisville Metro Police, cruising did in fact occur over Derby weekend. Bardstown Road in the Highlands was effectively gridlocked with Derby cruisers and bawdy revelers from Thursday night to Sunday morning. Meanwhile, in a somewhat embarrassing episode for the police department, 300 uniformed officers and a small detail of Blackwater mercenaries were posted at every intersection between Fifth and 34th streets in Louisville’s West End where nothing much was happening.

•In other interesting national security news, not one person was arrested for sneaking booze into the Infield at this year’s Derby. The National Security Agency instructed Metro Police to look the other way in order to monitor and learn from Infield partiers whose smuggling techniques are the most sophisticated in the world. The days of pouring a bottle of vodka into a honeydew melon are officially behind us. Speed School wunderkind Ted Rifle successfully engineered a weather control device, which delivered bourbon and simple syrup onto Churchill Downs in the form of rain without affecting track conditions.

•Authorities were called when a local miscreant intentionally spilled a drink on Lady GaGa’s $30,000 Derby dress. Before the SWAT team could arrive by helicopter, a private brigade of European men in thongs surrounded the pop star, who re-emerged instantaneously wearing a whalebone corset and Teflon brazier.

•Kid Rock is still a goon.

•And finally, after his third Kentucky Derby victory in four years, jockey Calvin Borel announced his candidacy for mayor of Louisville. He will run as an independent on a platform of being a stone-cold badass and having the ability to win everything everywhere he goes.

Now that it’s all over and as we slowly decompress, neatly folding our Derby spirit for another year, it seems only natural to reflect on our motivations. What is it that compels us to annually engage in these ornate and bizarre rituals?

Tradition? Sure. There’s no good reason to give up on something that’s already this damn old, and in spite of the attendant malarkey that has to be endured, some level of appreciation for the pageantry and aesthetic of the Derby is hard to escape

Money? Affirmative. The Kentucky Derby generates an unimaginable revenue stream for this city. Millions were spent last week in Louisville on dry-cleaning and Miller Lite alone.

Notoriety? Damn right. How the hell else are you supposed to get Jackie, Marlon and Tito Jackson to show up in your hometown?

But damn it, in the end, we do this thing every year for the children. We could not call ourselves Louisvillians if we denied the kids what is their birthright: a trip to the fairgrounds to see the Balloon Glow, or an annual Derby Day cookout where perfectly reasonable adults scream at the top of their lungs at a tiny TV propped up in a window.

Some close friends of mine are the proud parents of a precocious, redheaded 3-year-old who was nearly overwhelmed with joy and wonder at this year’s Chow Wagon. Unable to contain her glee, she finally screamed, and I quote, “Mommy! This is so fucking cool! We should move our house down here!” She then turned to her mother, with arms crossed, and asked, with no small degree of disdain, “How long have you known about this?”

There’s your Unbridled Spirit, friends. After 136 years, the first Saturday in May remains forever young. Huzzah.