by John Paul Wright
We’re only 24 hours away from the 142nd Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville. In the spirit of HST’s “The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent & Depraved” piece for Rolling Stone, the GT News Department brings you the gritty side of the debauched and bourbon-soaked ritual by one of Louisville’s own, contributor John Paul Wright. You can check out John’s blog here: www.railroadmusic.org
May 6th, 2016: I wake, dog follows me, yawning to the coffee pot, standing by my side – he knows we are eventually going to go to the front porch. We greet the morning birds. He waits for that friendly grab around the neck, that touch from his host, who he protected the night before. My every move. He knows, soon, the food bowl will ring out the morning bell. He knows every day that will happen. Some don’t. Some starve, in cold camps, beside the tracks, tucked away. Hoping the police won’t sort the garbage. I ride past, on my train, looking for new faces. New homeless. Soon, the Derby trains will roll in, all the presidents of business, trailing their gaudy mates, decked out in finery. All commerce will be stopped for their unloading. They will arrive in the shadow of a stadium. Where Father Pizza erected a monument – a field of dreams. In my town, they are sweeping the streets so these Derby guests won’t have to think about the people who live under the crumbling overpasses. That their chariots from the days of old will take them under. In my town, we celebrate a heritage of excess. We just accept it and know that every year the trumpet will ring out that old lament – about our home place, where the people are gay.
We are not supposed to be critical of out-of-state visitors who think bourbon and horses are some of our favorite things. So, y’all come, to our boss’s party, the big commercial for progress and stay in their hotels, visit their businesses. We will welcome your money, we have to. Our mayor will grin for us when you get off your train. The sun does shine bright in our old Kentucky home . . . in the summer, the darkies are happy, just like my dog waiting to be fed. This compassionate city will dream, like the slave waiting for the word, that the Underground Railroad has arrived to take us to the promised land. To freedom – from your unabashed and expected hospitality.
So drink our celebrated brown water, listen to our folk tales about Pappy. All of it is horse shit, and y’all love it. They love it, that you have been taken for a ride on their machine. The machine that is powered by dead dinosaurs. Someday all this will be gone. So weep no more, my ladies, weep no more. They have hidden your slaves, collected them, swept them away. Have fun while your here. Enjoy. Tell Papa John hello for me, shake the hand of the man who will raise more dough at our expense, if we ever ask for favor.