Derby Day

As an unemployed slug, I’ve concocted several methods for making myself feel better between the hours of 9 and 5.  One of my favorites is to stare at a blank laptop screen pretending to be a professional writer…with writer’s block.  Unfortunately, after walking the walk instead of just talking about it, for the first time I’ve realized how stressful writer’s block really is.

Normally I sit here and wax poetic on any random concept that enters my stream of consciousness.  But today I have an assignment.  Steven actually REQUESTED a post on a topic of HIS choice.  I thought it would be a piece of cake on Monday so I shampooed the rugs whilst ‘thinking’ about it.  On Tuesday, I was able to sidestep the whole thing by being out of the house most of the day.  On Wednesday I started doing laundry and cleaning the house like a maniac to avoid having to begin the task, and today I finally understand the plight of the professional freelance writer.  It’s not as easy as it seems…DUH!!!

Luckily, I try to jump right in with my eyes shut, before I know the pitfalls of any career change.  I had been doing stand-up comedy for over a year before someone suggested to me that I should have been afraid of speaking in front of an audience.  I had been so busy trying to remember my jokes that it never crossed my mind.  And after a year, it was way too late to go back and manufacture stage fright.

Yet even with my blind eye leading, there are some things that I just innately know.  Like I’ve always suspected that it must suck to be a ghost writer.  I could feel the frustration of trying to make sense out of someone else’s story and words.  I didn’t have to try it, I just KNEW.  

Steven has a crusty old friend who has decided to write his memoir.  He’s just a regular guy with an Air Conditioning business, a love of chili peppers and a romance with alcohol who has done a lot of funky stuff in his life.  He started writing it down and Steven thought it would be a great project for me.  It recently crossed my hands when Steven was presented with the beginning of this book, written in longhand, I think in English, starting with kindergarten.  Suffice it to say that I was right, ghostwriting is a strain on the brain.  And I declared myself “GAME OVER.” 

By the way, none of this is on topic…yet.  It’s all stream of consciousness crap trying to get a running start at…Derby Day.  Saturday is Derby Day.  And to someone who grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, Derby Day is as important as Christmas, Thanksgiving and anyone’s birthday.  Steven spent his formative years in Louisville, so the ‘greatest two minutes in sports’ is always acknowledged in our home.  As a damn yankee, I still don’t quite get it, but then I’ve never had the opportunity to wear a huge flowered hat and tip toe through horse exhaust in high heels trying not to trip in, or on, a pile.  

Steven, on the other hand, has fond memories of it all.  He had the fortune to have lived near the track in his youth.  As a kid, he was one of those slick little entrepreneurs who set up a parking lot in his yard on Derby Day, collecting $10-$20 from each car owner who was too impatient to keep looking for a space.  And the cleanup afterwards always netted him some more change picking up Coke bottles and cashing them in for the 5 cent deposit!  (As usual kids, Google it.)  

I’ve always been a little afraid of horses.  They’re kinda big, crap without warning WHILE walking, and lean against you in a way that just lets you know they could crush you at any second.  Of course that’s the take of a damn yankee!  My first job was as a cashier in an A&P.  Steven picked up cash hot walking, rubbing down and exercising horses.  (I’m guessing hot walking a horse is not the same as a a hot walking hooker!)

And not only has he seen the Derby, he’s been able to watch it from all the best vantage points.  I can’t even imagine the excitement of seeing the race from the infield or the front row of the stands or millionaire’s row or trackside.  And just thinking of 6’6” Steven in the Jockey’s Room before the race sounds like a blast.  

Steven has a friend from his childhood who shoed (shooed?…shod?…)horses for a living.  (How cool is that?  I never even knew that was a job.) David visited several years ago after ‘the bad’ chemo year, and I was so glad to meet him.  He is now retired but still has a million stories after years of making custom footwear for many Derby contenders.  I like to think of him as the Jimmy Choo of the Horse Shoe.  And according to Steven,  he was in big demand.  

Long story longer…David phoned on Monday with his usual pre-Derby Day call, reminding Steven “not to take any wooden nickels.”  (Keep Googling, kids)  But he also reminded Steven about the little trackside chapel.  On the Thursday evening before the Derby, there is always a service in that little chapel.  As I write, the service is probably starting.  And David wanted us to know that he put Steven’s name is on a prayer list there,.  So tonight, with all of the horse people, Steven will get the combined prayers of all the good people who live their lives trying to win the race.

And suddenly, I’m not a damn yankee.  I’m humming “My Old Kentucky Home,” hot glueing flowers on to a sun hat and and getting ready to place my bet…on Steven…to win.



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