Monday, May 4, 2009

Dispatches from the Kentucky Derby

This past weekend, Moishe House St. Louis loaded up two cars and made the trek to Louisville (loo-ah-vill, or luh-vuhl) for the 135th Kentucky Derby. Despite seeing a mere 3 seconds of actual, live horse racing, the Derby lived up to its name.

A good friend from my NFTY-OV days was nice enough to put all eight of us up at her place for the weekend, which happened to be a short walk from Churchill downs.

Now, despite the weather warnings, which dampened our plans for seersucker suits, and the late start caused by the fact that, while we wanted to act like we were still in college, we aren't...and businesses in St. Louis don't see Derby as a holiday... we ended up getting to Louisville in time for a bite at a restaurant whose claim to fame was foods from all over the world. We were impressed that they managed to do most of it justice. More impressive, though, was the magician who came over to our table.

Within 10 seconds, I knew there was something familiar about him. Between the Catskills-like comedy routine, and the mannerisms... he reminded me of the quintessential New York Jewish grandfather. So I told him... sort of..

I think my exact words were, "You remind me a lot of Sid Caesar," to which he replied, "well, we're both Jewish."

At that point, I made a mental 'I knew it' note, and told him that he was, in fact, performing for the largest crowd of Jews on 4th street. I also forgave that his hands had slowed a bit, his cards had shown, and his coin tricks had suffered a bit of inflation, because he was hilarious, and reminded me of the very best of my own grandfather.

The next morning, we started out, with what is now MH STL tradition, mimosas and a touch of the pong.

Luckily, we brought our house grill....unluckily, I wasn't there when we set it up, and so it turned into a smoker, rather than a grill.... but it was all good, and even encouraged a certain other blogger of ours to try a hamburger cookie sandwich. Not sure I'd recommend it, but I guess it sounded like a good idea at the time.

A word about Derby, the cheapest entry is $40, and gets you into the infield, which you literally have to pass through a tunnel to get to.

Apparently, a large piece of Derby culture is to try to sneak in alcohol in the most creative ways possible. We heard stories of people who modified wheel chairs to sneak in kegs, baked bottles of bourbon into loaves of bread, and stuffed bras with plastic bags, all to prevent the security (which included MPs) from finding and confiscating the booze.

Personally, we were all totally disappointed when we walked right in. They didn't even ask to look in our backpacks.

Also, and maybe most importantly, people-watching far outranks horse-watching as the actual point of Derby. From the ridiculous hats that women wear, to the ridiculous tattoos that men and women sport, and the ridiculous antics of everyone in the infield, we hardly remembered we were there for a horse race.

Which, ultimately, was a pretty good thing considering that we could barely see the horses.

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