For It's Run For The Roses, As Fast As You Can

This entry is guest-written by Tony Collett, who has his own blog at Mah Two Cents. Take it away, Tony:

Preface: When Highlander asked me to contribute something for his blog in the month of April, I approached it with some trepidation. The way I run my blog most of the time is to post links to things that catch my eye online, with occasional comment. The few times when I do write things, I approach it in an improvisational way, usually writing it while online directly on the blog website, a "publish" button away from going out to you. But while I approach my blog as an improv musician, I took Highlander's invitation as a commission to produce a new piece of music, as it were. Of course, that approach is a sure path to writer's block, when you start taking the blank page or screen as a stone tablet where whatever is written is immortalized for all to read, warts and all, no tap-backs. And there's also the intimidation factor, where I read Highlander's thoughts about the issues of the day, and wonder if my pithy thoughts are going to stick out like a sore thumb. And then there's the thought that you're giving away something good that should be used on your own blog. I even confessed to Super Girl Friend that I was thinking about writing my guest post as a letter as to why I wouldn't be able to write something, that could be used to overcome the writer's block problem I touched on earlier. But I did think of something, but wanted to at least touch upon some things in the making of this post. Just think of it as a DVD-like extra "behind the scenes" feature.

Super Girl Friend mentioned that the Derby celebrations in River City were commencing. It got me to thinking about a couple of things. First, that in my neck of the woods, the big thing was the Indianapolis 500 race. In maps, etc. the state of Indiana is represented with a race car and a checked flag. It was appropriate, as it was the only thing going on in Indiana. The rest of the time, there wasn't anything happening. My family came from southern Kentucky (about an hour and a half south of SGF's spawning ground) and after one particular year where the race was delayed and there were fatal crashes, what little interest there was in the 500 was gone, as it was decreed that we would not be going anywhere near 16th and Georgetown for any reason.

My family, while anxious to get out of their hometown for greener pastures, still kept their ties to area. I remember we made frequent trips back home, and being a kid, was hoping that we would get to stay at a hotel instead of with relatives. In fact, one of those trips is the subject of a companion piece that I wrote in conjunction to this piece. Also, when my mom was a den mother in the scouts for my brother and his peers, one of the tasks suggested was to teach the scouts the words to the official state song. Although she didn't know the words to our state song (or even what it was) she did know the words to "My Old Kentucky Home". Shortly before that, her mother, my grandmother came up to live with us. As a grandma, she fufilled her duties well, providing me with love, as well as a buck or two, and comics.

One year she was able to to go the Derby. Her pick to win was a horse named Sham. Unfortunately, this was the year of Secretariat, who won that race and the Preakness. Then came the Belmont, the third jewel in the Triple Crown. The exact circumstances are lost in the haze of history, but I bet my grandma $5 that Secretariat would win that race as well. As any horse aficianado will tell you, Secretariat went on to win that race as well. As for Sham? As she put it at the time "Damn Sham! He didn't even come in second!" Some of you reading this might wish to indulge in that Internet activity of criticising any behavior that is "un-PC". For reasons that will become clearer as you read this, I assure you that it didn't wake up any gambling bug in me. The occasional lottery purchase is my only current wagering. But in my youth, I was interested in picking out a horse for the Derby and sometimes the other two races in the Triple Crown. Usually, TV Guide had the broadcast of the Derby as a Spotlight listing, with some of the horses slated to run (as of press time) listed, with some of their stats and races won.

Unfortunately, they were unable to list positions in the race, but I did all right, making some good picks from that information. I can remember only one time where I lost and her pick won, which in those days when I didn't have much money provided me with a lesson in costs of gambling. But for the most part, it was in fun. They say the Derby is the fastest two minutes in racing, but those years we played and watch, time seemed to stand still, the excitement and suspense making one glad it wasn't longer than two minutes, as you don't think your heart could take it.

As the years went by, my grandma moved out on her own, and eventually returned when my parents were able to have a house built on our property that she could live in. Like some shared activities, picking horses and watching the Derby was something that fell by the wayside. But in the interim, gambling became more legal in Indiana, even including an off-track betting parlor in Indianapolis run by the same folks where the Derby is run. In 1997, I found myself in the downtown area where it was located a couple of days before the race. I was able to get some information on the horses, slots, odds, etc. and with my cell-phone, I was able to call up my grandma and ask her if she was interested in picking out a horse for the race, like we used to. I placed a wager on her behalf, and picked out a horse as well.

The big day came and we were at her house. I can only recall that my choice was starting to make headway at some point, and it looked like he could win, but it wasn't meant to be. But corny as it sounds, it did provide me with a good memory, one of the last I had with my grandma, as she finally succombed to cancer that fall. Since then, I don't think I ever watched the race again, or took any interest, as the main reason was gone. I'm sure with some prodding I could watch it, maybe pick out a horse, but it isn't the same. I would say that's also the reason I don't eat at Long John Silver's anymore, as it isn't the same without eating it sitting on the floor of her apartment, but IMHO, their food isn't as good as it used to be, with the fish being put in uniform shapes and all.

I must apologize to you, the viewer, for this poor entry that featured my grandma. To say that this posting was a good summary of her and my feelings would be like saying an article about automatic coffee makers is a good summary of Joe DiMaggio. It's been almost 10 years, and I still miss her. I also hate to be maudlin, but when I think of River City, it's one of the things I think of.

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