Sunday, May 3, 2009

2009 Kentucky Derby

The guy calling this race really sucks at it in a major way.

Is there any Sunday of the year sweeter than the first Sunday in May when the top errand on your list is to return to the track and cash in your winning Derby tickets? No, not really.

I actually made it the whole way to the morning of Derby Day without hearing any substantial clues about what the word on the street was about the field and now that the day was here I needed to settle on my bets, my cunning plan was to go for trifectas. You pick three horses to win, place and show. There are other things you can do with your bets and I was planning on boxing mine, which means that if your three horses finish in the top three in any order, you win. The only horse info that had managed to filter through was that the favorite had just been scratched. He was number thirteen, which is one of my favorite numbers, but I usually go against the favorite, though with boxed trifecta bets, favorites can turn out all right in the final analysis.

Moment of Truth time, Saturday morning I sat down with a Sharpie and a piece of cardboard and started messing with my numbers. Ones, threes and fives had figured prominently in my car repair bill so I felt strongly I had to use those. So well had I avoided the horse news that it did not even register that this was the 135th running until after I had placed my bets and was looking at the derby t-shirts. I wonder if I would have discounted those numbers if I had realized that before I bet? Kind of like how the first pancake or crepe of the batch always comes out fucked up. That's what makes it all so maddening, sure the signs are all there, it's reading them correctly that's the trick. As my dear, dear friend Garry Cook used to say...It's always too late, and THEN you realize...Truer today than ever. In hindsight, I would say the fact that 135 had so caught my eye was a sign that I should bet this year for sure, not necessarily a sign that those would be the winning numbers.

Honestly, I can't even remember my roundabout logic in picking my other numbers, four were Kennie Mae related, one came from the numbers on a run of records. I ended up with eight 4$ boxed trifecta combinations. You do the math. A crane flew over my path on the way to the track and for some reason the number 8 popped in to my head.

The road that leads to Rockingham Park winds down and to the left when you get off the highway. I pulled all the way over to the left lane and as I drew nearer to the turn into the track I hugged the rail closer and closer, thinking that this is how a horse must feel hugging the rail and riding it into the turn down the homestretch and then I was around the corner and into the parking lot, but not before the number 28 jumped out at me from a sign above the highway. I pulled into a space and some hasty perfecta bets were cobbled together using ones, twos and eights.

At the window, I read off the first eight bets and the teller took my note for the four perfecta bets to enter them. At the last second I asked for 5$ to win on number eight. Unusual for me to place a win bet. Bets to win are like a toy bet, not even really worth it to bother, you never make much off it, it's the exotics that give you the really nice pay-outs. Hedging my bets, as it were. It didn't occur to me then that I was making a thirteenth bet, but if it had, I would have been tickled because, I do like thirteen. If I had thought longer on it and realized that five dollars plus horse number eight equals thirteen I would have been further pleased. The five-eight combo didn't even ring a bell as the birthday of my Tuscan grandmother. A fleeting thought of Eight Belles passed through my head, poor girl, but mostly I was thinking that I had just spent two hundred and thirteen dollars on one horse race. It was madness.

As I left the track, I flash backed to the big red-headed guy I had overheard telling one clerk that it was Dunkirk's day. I kind of hoped he was wrong, because I only had one combo with his name on it. Oh well, a quick stop at the packie and I was home to dig in and enjoy the race.

It took me a little bit of time to sort out my bets and make some charts and familiarize myself with which horses I had bet on. My list broke down to fourteen horses. Fourteen out of nineteen, it would be impossible to keep track of all my combinations during a two minute race so I just decided to have a big ass bottle of beer and watch. I had a fistful of bets and a good part of my strategy depended upon a tiny gelding whose name, Mine That Bird, I didn't even know when I placed my bets. A horse who had been bought for less than ten grand and had been hauled to Kentucky by pick-up truck. It turned out to be a great race and my guy won, but in the end I was very reluctant to believe that my number had come up.

The length of time the jockey rode my winner around afterward make me really nervous thinking something was wrong. I had forgotten that Mine That Bird's trainer had a broken ankle and had insisted on walking his horse to the starting gate, refusing to use a wheelchair or other assistance. Now, he was walking to the winner's circle on his crutches and it was taking some time. I think I love this guy. When an announcer shoved a mic in his face asking a question about his ankle and winning the Derby, without slowing down, he made the snarkiest remark about how now maybe people will stop asking him about his fucking foot!

Fifty to one odds. Nice. The cruelest cut, and isn't there always one, is that the place and show horses finished at nearly the same time. Separated by a nose. If the show horse had placed, one of my perfecta bets would have paid out to the tune of over four grand. Big sigh. Still, coming out fifty bucks ahead is pretty damn good for me. At least it covers the cost of a good bottle of Kentucky bourbon.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Derby Week Already?

At the Twin Spires, even the hats have names. The Queen Has Arrived...Not this queen and certainly NOT in this hat! The only way you'd ever catch me in a hat like this is if you rammed it onto my cold dead head.

Time certainly flies and here's hoping whichever horses I bet on do too. Yes, this year I have had such consistently bad luck with few exceptions that I have decided the odds are good that I may actually pick a winner. Sooner or later something has to give, right? I hope.

My plan this year is to totally avoid any information on the race. It has not been easy to turn away from the stories in the paper and on the internets, but I have. I feel like going with a numbers only strategy but most likely, I will go to the track early on Saturday and pick up a racing form and see if I can divine clues that will mean something only to me. It's all about significance and hidden deeper meanings. Then again, I should go with my first choice and pick by number. Oh crap! I'm already boned by indecision. I could get so addicted to gambling.

Therefore I will now change my focus to fashion and one of the more campy aspects of the first Saturday in May. The hats. It's all about the hats...Gotta keep that nasty old sun off of our peaches and cream complexions.

This one is called Emma and is the bargain of the bunch at three hundred dollars.

Steppin' Out is gonna cost you a grand.

This one is called Spunky and prompts me to ask the age old question "Are we not men?"

Organized? In what way? Perhaps they are referring to crime because this one is over a thousand dollars.

I might actually be seen in this one at my next croquet match, even though I think Mary Jane is a stupid name for a hat.

Queen Liz and her consort at the Derby two years ago. I loved seeing the odds posted on what color hat she would wear. It was the one thing I was right about that year.

Our own inimitable Hat Sisters. A Boston P-towne institution. Wonder what they'll be wearing on Saturday?

Monday, April 20, 2009

Kenmore Square Neon Citgo Sign

Remember when the Citgo sign was a distant second place in the neon contest along the Charles? Oh the Coca-Cola sign in Allston was truly breathtaking. And the White Fuel sign was no slouch either. Now the Citgo sign seems much the worse for wear, yet it still manages to retain much of its majesty. I love the look of it now, a little down on its luck maybe, but so gracefully combining the many mismatched colors of replacement tubes. It's like a quilt made of light. Humble folk art that evokes some of the most precious and sacred memories of us all. In miniature it would make a great headstone. For the love of God, would someone send me guitar part for this bass line?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Happy Birthday Jack, here's some Fisheye Brothers for you. Everybody wins!

I was born in Lowell. Never lived there, but I was born there. At Saint Josephs Hospital which was later absorbed by Saint Johns, a different Catholic hospital in Lowell and that amalgamation is now known collectively as Saints. Saint Josephs was deep in the heart of some of Jack's territory. Pivotal scenes from Dr Sax take place virtually across the street at this insane sort of drive-thru Stations of the Cross. If anyone is interested in touring some Jack places, message me. It's been awhile since I've had a willing victim and it would be fun.

Once I got to college my friends and I visited Jack's grave regularly, often skipping classes to do so. One after hours visit involving a bottle of Wild Irish Rose led me to make some shaky decisions. First of all, do not visit Kerouac's grave on the anniversary of his death. It's way too high profile. And take it from me, do not ever use the hood of your car to boost yourself over a chain link fence when you are wearing round toed hightops. Naturally, this was the night the cops showed up and we had to make a run for it. There was no time to spare and after some spastic high speed windmilling I managed to make the top of the fence. of chain link sharp! I have a scar on my inner thigh that I can say was the result of a leopard attack and be believed by an otherwise reasonable person. Thanks to the Wild Irish Rose it didn't hurt a bit. Until I had to explain what happened when I got the tetanus shot. All things considered it was so worth it. I mean really, what a great scar to have in reserve to show to Willie when I met him in another year or so.

Willie's a big Jack fan and I just fell in love with his song Kerouac when I heard it. To me it was such an intensely local song and that's one thing I really love about Willie's work to this day. His deeply detailed and compassionate homages to people or places that he knows up close are still fascinating to me now and sounding better than ever. This Fisheye Brothers project I've posted here is something that Willie collaborated on with one of the drummers he works with, Jim Doherty. Jim has recently opened a recording studio in downtown Portland Maine. For these songs, Willie sang from his notebooks and played piano and Jim took the tapes home with him and added all the rest. I hope you like them as much as I do.

Here's a photo I took of Willie one summer in front of the Stations of the Cross drive-thru.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Old e-mail to Ra about Kennie.

This was at Martines place on the Vineyard, The last time we were all together. Only Jeri-Ann was AWOL.
This picture was taken on Martha's Vineyard, the last time I saw Kennie. We stopped at the liquor store on the way home from the airport and she bought a gallon of vodka. She drank it mixed with Gatorade, rarely slept and ran the television constantly. We couldn't get her to go for a ride to the beach, but we did go out to dinner one night at the Harbor View Hotel, also pictured above. We sat on the porch afterwards as night fell, looking out on the tiny harbor and light house. For some reason we started talking about The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down and it came out that she felt like Joan Baez had done the definitive version. I made a sound like I'd been shot and started choking and sputtering about the Band. Laughter from the street made me shout out "Baez or Band?" and harumph with satisfaction when "Oh BAND!" came back in retort.

A message dated June 1, 1999

Hi, how is everything? It is so fucking hot here I am sweating like a's embarrassing. I was at the studio doing my chores and I was just dripping, and I was only standing around yammering.

Spoke to Kennie Sat. night. She sounds well considering what she's been through. She's convinced the nurses are taking her meds and I wanted to say well, they're junkies and all they care about is getting high, but I thought the better of it. No sense in reminding her of better times. ha ha.

One thing I have to tell you. She was talking about how she ended up in the hospital. I couldn't quite understand where she said she'd been. (And I wrote this down at the time I was so blown away.) "I only got a little cut on my foot. They had this little fountain and I was walking through it and stepped on a broken champagne glass." I just love that she's having all these fabulous visions. Like I told you before, I wouldn't take it so much to heart that she asked for her 'birthday bourbon' as she isn't totally coherent yet anyway. She seems like she's still in that half awake and yet still dreaming kind of state. I LOVE IT when that happens.

I wonder where Jeri-Ann is?

Love QT

Ra went through so much taking care of Kennie and being there for her. He can never be thanked enough. We later found out that Jeri-Ann was hopping freight trains and riding aimlessly around the country. God, I miss my friends...

Saturday, March 7, 2009


I suppose if you're a Beachcombover the surf is always up, but for you 'normals' out there it looks like this weekend will be a good time to haul out the old Woodie and dust it off and get down to waxing those boards. Spring is still officially two weeks away but I know you're all gonna jump the gun today so here's some inspiration for you.

I know there was talk of adding a singer and/or keyboards so the line-up may have expanded but these are the credits for the video that I lifted off of YouTube:
Beachcombovers at the "Church" nightclub in Boston, MA USA 8/21/08 play Nokie Edwards
"Surf Rider"
Tommy White - Surf Guitar
John Cahill - Surf Drums
Bruce Scott - Surf Bass