Part III: The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved


Part three of one man’s account of the most Scared he’s ever been, and how he found himself there. Loosely based on Hunter S. Thompson’s classic The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved, but really not based on it at all.

Part I / Part II

Derby Day.

Part III requires names. It just does. So lets just list these out and get it out of the way:

  • Jane: Louisvillian Host.
  • Saul: Brother 1, Michigander, Awesome Dude.
  • Rod: Brother 2, Michigander, Awesome Dude.
  • Megan: Louisvillian Host 2.
  • Dave: Awesomest Dude Ever, Fratstar.
  • Me: Second Awesomest Dude Ever. Great hair.

While others went to the store to buy a million bottles of champagne for a million bromosas, I had few things on my mind other than: Power Suit. Power Belt. Power Steering. Apart from the blazer/monogrammed-needlepoint-American-Flag combination, I just couldn’t have enough buttons undone on my shirt. I wanted to look like Marc Anthony in the "Rain Over Me" video, so then by the end of the day I would be approaching Seal “Kiss From A Rose” territory.

With a little drizzle in the forecast, we headed over to someone’s house for a little morning cocktail party. Full disclosure - zero idea who owned the house or who was there. Just no idea. Rod and I spent a total of 30 seconds inside the house before we saw a regulation-size basketball hoop in the backyard. With some dude from Ole Miss and a fifth of Early Times (The OFFICIAL Bourbon of the Kentucky Derby), we headed out back to ball the fuck out.

Now, due to the 3-man Early Times relay we were having, the details of the basketball are fuzzy. But here is what I do remember: First, the dude from Ole Miss probably hit like 30 jumpers in a row during a game of 21. He was en fuego. Secondly, and I’m certain this isn’t exaggeration, Rod was throwing me behind-the-back alley-oops that I was putting down on a regulation rim. I’m six-foot and have never dunked before the day, but that happened and no one can tell me it didn’t. I conferenced with Rod on this a few days ago and he confirmed that I was indeed a white Vince Carter who was dunking without his Vineyard Vines shirt getting untucked. Roy McAvoy once said, “When a defining moment comes along you define the moment or the moment defines you.” On Derby Day, I defined that moment.

Anyway, enough about my raw athleticism. From the person-that-I-don’t-know’s house, we obviously got in our baller-ass Mercury Mariner and listened toMidnight Train to Memphis” until we arrived at a church parking lot where we would be spending time before Derby. When you just read “church parking lot”, a vision came in your head. Erase that. This was not your typical church parking lot. It was a bunch of fraternity guys from Nebraska / Miami / Wherever that were chopping lines from here to Texas (Kid Rock reference) on the sunroofs of their cars while listening to Jock Jams and mixing roadies for the walk from the church to the track. Yes, that was the coolest sentence ever written.

While walking to the track, we encountered a dude who, at the time, I believed was the black midget from Bad Santa. Not only did I believe it at that time, but I refused to believe anything else until I had photographic evidence that it was, in fact, not him. Honestly, I still think it was him and he just somehow looked different that day. We had an impromptu photoshoot with him and the photos came out looking like I was going to kick his ass which truly wasn’t the case. I think it was just the first time I had been around midget so I didn’t know how to stand or what to do with my hands/cocktail. While I still had one bar of service left on my finally-found-iPhone, I sent the photo off to a friend who uploaded it to her personal Facebook. Needless to say, this photo “made waves” across Facebook unbeknownst to any of us until Sunday when we finally got back on the grid.

Post-paparazzi shots with Tony Cox, we finally made it to the promise land - Churchill Downs. We picked up our tickets and walked in through an entrance that would lead us to where we could take out some money and place some bets. The dude in front of me at the ATM intentionally-unintentionally left his ATM receipt in the machine so that I would see a $126,000 balance on it. Such a dick move but Rod and I LOVED it. Meanwhile, Saul posed the question, “Where the hell did Dave go?”

"He probably met up with some of his brothers or something," we replied. We couldn’t call due to lack of cell service in the middle of 100,000 people And at that point, it was every man for themselves. It was all decks on hand (I know it’s "all hands on deck" but my way sounds cooler) and if you weren’t with us, you were against us.

We made our way into the infield where debauchery and smiles reign supreme. It went Juleps Juleps Juleps, when someone asked, “Where the hell is Jane?” None of us had a fucking clue. And again, 100,000 people were all trying to use their phones so they could tell non-Derbiers how much fun they were having.

"Fuck it, let’s get some food," was my mentality at that point. I grabbed a basket of chicken fingers which would turn out to be the very last basket of chicken fingers left on that part of the infield. While eating them, I did my typical 2Pac walk down the line of 100 people behind me just nomming those motherfuckers while grinning and saying, “Last basket! Sorry! Last basket!”

At this point, our goals for the day were just Juleps, ponies, and cigars. Anything else at this point in our lives was unnecessary and a hassle. Megan, who we had just met that day, got a full-dose of Michiangers Doin’ Derby, while relentlessly asking the question that no one had any answers to - “Where is Jane?”

"Yeah, and where the fuck is Dave?" seemed to follow. But whatever. With us or against us. Already said that. Lets move on.

When we got a little infield elbow room, someone got an ESPN alert to their phone - “Justin Verlander has not allowed a hit through 6 IP.” STOP THE PRESSES. No-hitters are sacred. We didn’t want to know more, we needed to know more. Information on our favorite pitcher’s no-hitter was essential. More essential than finding our friends. More essential than placing bets. More essential than getting another Julep. Alright, that last part isn’t true but still. It was important.

But shit, it was getting close to post time and it was only going to get increasingly difficult to find a TV that was showing the game. We went to a central bar in the infield that had a surplus of TVs. At this point it was about 5:30 and the Derby was so close that the I-just-did-Tony-Montana-amounts-of-coke feeling kicked in that you can only get before The Greatest Two Minutes in Sports occurs. A buzz unlike any other. Meanwhile, we are adding to this buzz with JV throwing darts off-site.

"Hey man, can we put the Tigers game on?" Saul asked the bartender.

"Are you fucking kidding me? The Derby starts in 10 minutes," he responded. And in hindsight, that question was pretty fuckin’ stupid but we needed it asked.

And after that 10 minutes had passed and Mine That Bird completed the greatest upset in Kentucky Derby history, we really had only one thing on our mind - “Did JV throw a no-hitter?” We sat down and tried to figure out on our phones, but it was no use. We asked everyone that looked like they may be from Michigan what was going on, and the only answer that we could get was that the no-no was intact through 8 innings. One. More. Fucking. Inning.

At this point, I reached in my pocket to grab some cash so I could get another $8 Woodford Reserve Mint Julep, but realized that my wallet was fucking gone. Thoughts just racing through my head. “Did someone steal it? Did it fall out of my pocket? How can I pay for another drink? How will I know if I had Mine That Bird winning? How will I get on the plane  tomorrow without my driver’s license?” SCARIES. SCARIES. SCARIES. Only a few things in life bring on immediate Scaries more than loud noises and broken iPhones, and one of those things is a lost wallet. And I assume a positive pregnancy test but (fingers crossed) ya boy is good on that one.

Megan, being the nice southern girl that she was, became the voice of reason in my dome-piece that was running faster than the Mine That Bird down the final stretch. “Lets backtrack,” she said. “It has to be somewhere.”

We just walked. And walked. And walked. Checked all the ATMs I’d hit that day. Checked where I’d placed my bets. Checked where I 2Pac walked. Checked everywhere. But then we saw something on the ground - a little brown rectangle with a few credit cards and betting slips in it.

"AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH" I screamed as I sprinted at it. And there it was. The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. The ‘67 Shelby that Raymond Calitri coveted in Gone in 60 Seconds. The light at the end of the motherfucking tunnel. There, in the middle of 100K+ people, was my lonely little wallet just screaming, “Daddy, where are you?!” And then I was just certified beasting. I had not only lost and found my iPhone that weekend, but I had now lost and found my wallet that weekend. God was just throwing bones to us left and right to make sure that we were taken care of.

But questions still loomed - most importantly, DID JV THROW A NO-HITTER? And then in a distant second, where are Dave and Jane?

Finally, we heard that all-important sound, “DUH NUH NUH, DUH NUH NUH.” The SportsCenter intro. The ESPN alert we had been waiting for.

"Justin Verlander has thrown his second career no-hitter." AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! Why God was shining down on us that day, we will never know, but we weren’t about to ask him. This was perfect.

We spent the next hour and a half running around Churchill Downs finding any and all Detroit sports fans that we could find to celebrate with them. We found kids rockin’ the D. We found grandparents rockin’ the D. We found a Detroit Lions fan who did the most Detroit Lions fan thing a Detroit Lions fan has ever done - he ordered his Julep, grabbed the mint sprig, whipped it on the ground, and pounded it. These were our people. This was our time.

When the Churchill Downs grounds crew finally shuffled us out of there, we headed back to that lonely church parking lot and waited for things to settle down. We met up with these dudes from Nebraska who were on the same level we were, and we did what any upstanding Michiganders would do - we welcomed them to the BigTen conference. Had ta do it.

Meanwhile, I had to go to the bathroom. And we aren’t talking a one-style that I can do behind a bush. We are talking a two-style that couldn’t wait. Church? Locked. Bushes? Too risky. I ended up having to pay the Mexican restaurant across from the church $30 to open their door so I could use their Tijuana-esque murder room that doubled as a bathroom. But at the end of the day, spending $30 to go to the bathroom in privacy is better than pooping your pants in public. So whatever.

When I got back to the church, I was informed that Jane was at someone’s house, safe and sound, and we were to go pick her up. Meanwhile, Dave was MIA and we were beginning to get nervous. I mean, you couldn’t miss the guy. He was wearing a Manchester United blazer with an American Flag button-down shirt under it with a standard-issue Kentucky Derby straw hat. “Maybe he’s back at the KDHQ,” we hoped.

We ended up exchanging numbers with our Nebraskan brethren before heading across Louisville to pick Jane up. Needless to say, she had Hot Bro Separation Anxiety, as anyone else would have after our day.

When we finally got back to the KDHQ, we were still sans-Dave. And even worse, we were getting phone calls from Dave’s girlfriend who was graduating from college that day asking, “Where is Dave?” We had to tell her the truth, so we told her we hadn’t seen him since about 1 and we ruined her graduation. Just kidding. We lied through our teeth and either said he was passed out in bed or with some Theta Chis crushing life.

Rod, Jane, and I attempted to go to our favorite fine dining restaurant for the third day in a row - Buffalo Wild Wings. Why this was a good idea, no one will ever know. We were in a sad state. I finished 1/3 of a Miller Lite and the other two didn’t do too much better. We simply needed to go back to the KDHQ and PTFO (pass the fuck out). Emotionally, this was even more difficult because the Nebraska bros were trying to get us to go to meet them at a strip club. If Rod and I are passing up strip clubs, we are near-death. And yes, we passed up the strip club. The hay needed to be hit.

At 4:30am, we heard the door open and the person who walked in was the exact person we wanted - wait, no - NEEDED to see. DAVE.

Dave did not look good. Dave needed to sleep. Dave looked like he had just gotten released from prison. Dave did, in fact, just get released from prison.

It was now 5am on the Sunday morning after the Kentucky Derby. It was the Scariest Sunday in the history of Sunday Scaries.