Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Long Blue Line

Journal Entry 104

April 11, 2008

The Long Blue Line

By Kentucky’s most infamous author, No Sweat

As the American Anthem blared over the speakers and as I placed my hand over my heart, just beyond the reach of my six empty cups of Budweiser and my bitten cheeseburger with a piece of lettuce hanging out of it in all directions, beyond the large plate glass windows in front of me and out over and across the neatly arranged race track, the digital show of the American flag played magnificently on the screen that normally displayed Keeneland's hallowed Tote Board; A nefarious billboard having destroyed many wayward dreams of glory.
Finally, the honored and worn-out song ended and I along with so many other forgotten faces, drunks of the dawn, got to ease back down and be content that the near sacred ordeal was thank-god at end. Somehow, I was relatively certain that Francis Scott Key had not envisioned his inspired poem being spread among so much scattered horse manure; HONKY TONK WOMEN would have played so much better.
But, alas, I was alone, as any decent writer eternally remains, drunk and of one mind, to win the first race and play on the track's money for the rest of the day; To be that rare and envied individual: "THE GUEST OF KEENELAND ON THEIR DIME," however charitable and profitless the verdant institution mightily proclaimed.
In earlier harmony with the pre-dawn Kentucky state bird cardinals that were madly chirping out in the darkness and awakening myself and my family of oddly roosting buzzards so strange behind my home I had found myself gone, lost in the cannabis dawn, headed north on I-75 beyond all cares, barreling Trojan ferocious, occasionally seeing a glimpse of an actual highway; Ahab-steady-as-she-goes and whatever else it required to somehow amass myself at the horserace track where I had spent so many tainted formative years and where real men dwell and where the poor forgotten working commoners that drudge through another desultory counted eight hours, vanquished spirits physically absent, are left back lowly in the mire of their mundane and dreaded jobs.
Only, it had been raining. Nothing like a hard morning rain with those 18 wheelers challenging your every hint of a move on I-75; each medicated trucker headed to Dayton, Ohio loaded with god-only-knows and every mile a race for another dollar, and you in your old sports car a mighty two inches off the ground trying to adjust the volume and make sure the smoke doesn't accumulate and that your sunglasses are on just so and that you have two pens, one for backup…
Ah, but the gods were with me, why, I wasn't sure; perhaps they were enjoying observing the self-ruination a simple Kentucky mortal. But then, I was beyond such rank thoughts and once I again I had the divine pleasure to witness myself entering through the pearly gates of Bluegrass's Valhalla, finding my secret parking spot cloaked among so many trees. There, yes, I departed from my green chariot in somewhat perfect Estill county symmetry on this good Friday before The 2008 Bluegrass Stakes, to whence all equiness must be judged.
Soon I was out of my chariot, smoke entranced that it was, and trotting steadfastly in the rain towards the inner chambers of the clubhouse. Surely no mortal would be seen. Just the perfect darkness before day. A time to have breakfast with the jockeys and maybe learn something not on some poor program or form, that valuable bit of information, a wink or a nod from one of those small creatures, that gesture of long shot-sure-thing. Who knew beyond the gods which horse was sick?
But HARK! What was before me?  What madness? Yeah, oh verily yeah! 
And though my eyes were red, there was no denying this line, this line of blue. My God, where had this line of blue derived?  How could they already be here?  Thousands upon thousands!  A line-up dwarfing any Cecil B. De Mill cast. Oh how terribly wrong I had been about being alone. Oh, so verily mistaken. The cardinals had nothing on these pre-dawn creatures; this Long serpent line of blue.
I had passed them carefully as I continued my walk. A double blue line they were, as fine as Napoleon's troops headed into Russia, beginning in the parking lot and going all throughout the interior of Keeneland and passing by all para mutuel windows and rounding corners and each person mustered in it proudly holding their two blue bottles of Maker's Mark, ready to be used as weapons if need called; all of them giving me a glance as I graced sunglassesd by equally observing them as they observed back. Such a sight to see, those blue bottles with blue wax and nearly every person standing strong with anticipation. Oh but certain, dressed in blue. Enough blue to fill the ocean, enough blue to make a sky, enough blue to break your heart, blue upon blue, the line pressed on, heads aimed in one direction, a silent blue siren held them; Onward blue onward!
Minute upon minute I glided by the line with nothing availing me, thankful for being sick this Friday and unable to come in to lowly work.  It would be a few hours later when my call would be made:


     "What's wrong with you?"

     "I ache all over."

     "Oh, that's right, You lifted a pencil, yesterday. It must have been a terrible strain on you."

     "Yes, it was a big pencil."
Oh, but what a long blue line, a wagon train of blue people holding their blue bottles, each person a Conestoga wagon of blue, as though the confederates were invading and everything blue was in retreat.  
Finally, I came to that familiar glass door that I needed to enter; the same glass door where the blue hordes were funneling; a man stood guarding the door on the inside, keeping it locked. I stood there beside my new-found blue stranger looking at this Keeneland man pecking on the door.  "Sir, I just want a table. I'm not with these people."
The man was dumbfounded. In his mis-directions and confusion, as he surely had no instructions for something like me, he allowed me entrance. Thanking him, I took but a few more steps to find my white painted rod iron table and chair where-whence I immediately began to place pen in hand and write the beginnings of my new novel, PIGEON.  But disturbingly, I knew that something was awry and that something mysterious was close to me. I could feel a certain sprinkle of blue in the air; A cold smell of blue ice and a warm blue smell of summer beguilingly mixed in. Then, looking up, some twelve feet away, I looked directly at him as he was strangely looking at me; HE was the rags-to-riches reason the blue masses had lined up, the blue reason of all the maddening blue, yes, The Ward Bond of The Long Blue Line, The Legend his mighty Blue Zeus self, Joe B. Hall. 


Every eager man, woman and child was there wide-eyed to have Joe B. Hall sign their coveted whiskey bottle.

People fell out of rank on a constant basis coming up to me asking to borrow my poor pen as they had to fill out some official form that officified that their bottle had genuinely been signed by the Blue Zeus himself. And each time I explained, "A writer never loans his pen. Without it he is defenseless. Beyond his memory it’s all his got."

Each bottle metamorphosing from fifty dollars to over two hundred dollars at the stroke of Joe B's commanding signature. No mortal allowed more than two bottles. Each bottle carrying a serial number. The lower the number the more valuable the bottle. Everything in perfect logic.

I started to put up a sign on my table that I would sign the bottles for $1.00 each. And that they would own the signature of a future famous author. But I held still. There were two small boys being pulled on a blue wagon, both weary and crying on the passage. But no cry could deter this movement. It was Kentucky blue, bleeding blue, blue and blue yet. Let no man or child mistake that. Onward the blue line pushed. Each person reaching Joe B. and stopping to talk to THE LEGEND as he chuckled as though he were Santa in blue, telling tales of all blue manner over a loudspeaker that filled our room, barely understandable, but it didn't matter, it was Blue Zeus!

Little Mexicans, God only knows from which villages, ran all about like so many mice in a barn. Each with some cleaning weapon; them dressed in the Keeneland beige outfits denoting their lowly rank with those sorrowful green Keeneland hats and their little green lapel Keeneland insignia. Workers. No REAL green cards, likely. But then that was the way it was supposed to be; Kentucky proud relished hierarchy. Each Mexican sweeping and mopping and cleaning, putting in new trash can liners, wiping the plate glass, two of them singing making me wonder if they hadn't broke into my car. Such a delightful configuration of mankind in harmony; everything just it should Kentucky be.

Then the overhead TV screens all came on. On one, Martha Lane Collins, more square shouldered than Dick Tracy, began lauding Joe B. Hall. "ZEUS thwarted POSEIDON!" she clamored, relentlessly going on and on.

On another screen, Goose Givens, retold some begotten story between Joe B. and Bobby Knight.  He spoke of it as one might speak of the Holy Grail. "Long into the night we battled...."  or something like that. 

The LONG BLUE LINE held reverent throughout. Some all but weeping. One tall sophisticated looking lady, probably in her early 70's, hair tied back in a bun, long blue velvet coat with a blue fur collar, accidentally dropping her blue leather pocketbook twice the size of a checkerboard, bottles hitting inside, extra bottles she had snuck by the Maker's Mark guards. Ahhh Kentucky! 

Little did they know that the large bottle of orange juice I was drinking was three fourths vodka. I wished it was four fifths. The ordeal was maddening. In a state last in everything we had horses and basketball. I was soon to see jockeys dribbling basketballs as they raced their horses through the Kentucky Derby, I supposed. A lady stepped up to my table and started to give me a metal badge.  "Are you a Maker's Mark  Ambassador?" she mistakenly inquired.

"No ma'am.  But I am an Earl."

Note from Gina…
Recently I had the good fortune to connect with ‘No Sweat’ – an author from Kentucky, USA. The story as to why he is called ‘No Sweat’ will be revealed in his upcoming interview, to be posted here sometime in November; an interview you won’t want to miss! No Sweat (aka Earl) has shared one of his entertaining adventures/journal entries from Keeneland Race Track (Lexington, Kentucky, USA) one of America’s most frequented horserace tracks.  No Sweat was at Keeneland the day Joe. B. Hall, a former notable basketball coach, signed commemorative Maker’s Mark Distillery (blue) bottles on Friday, April 11, 2008, at Keeneland, along with Maker’s Mark president Bill Samuels Jr, and Keeneland Race Track president Nick Nicholcson; 1,300 fans lined up at 6:30 am for the signing of the special 18,000 numbered limited edition bottles made of blue glass and dipped in ‘Kentucky Blue’ wax, honoring Coach Hall and his late wife Katharine who died of cancer in 2007. The event raised funds for Kentucky’s cancer research program.


Margot Finke said...

I am braving your blog again.
I loved The Long Blue Line, so I pinned it to my Books Worth Reading on Pinterest:

I don't usually pin short stories, but this one was well worth the read.I think the author's name lured me in.

Books for Kids

Gina said...

Thanks, Margot! No Sweat thanks you, too!