Hoping for an Irish Derby in Kentucky Today

2017 Kentucky Derby LogoI don’t know if there has been a time in which I didn’t know who was running in the Kentucky Derby until Oaks Day.

There have been plenty of years I haven’t been immersed in it, but even then I still had a clue.

2017? I have no clue so I am handicapping like a newbie.  Finding horses I think might have a chance and finding a theme I can get behind.

So, here we go:

I am an avid reader and recently finished reading and listening to a book called Himself by Jess Kidd.  A good ghost story that was wonderfully narrated by an Irishman Aiden Kelly.  

I am now reading Spill Simmer Falter Wither by Sara Baume.  I had not realized it was set in Ireland until I started listening to the accompanying Audible book.  This is also narrated by an Irishman, John Keating.  The latter a story about a broken down middle aged man and his new yet older broken down dog.  I am only about 30% in but so far it really is a lovely story about two wonderful souls.  

Add to all this, just two weeks ago Stacy and I went into the city to see Sunset Boulevard for what became the single greatest Broadway experience of my life.  Norma Desmond is not Irish, no.  But we had lunch at Langan’s Irish Pub beforehand, the two guys sitting next to us played French Horn in the show’s 40-piece orchestra and our waitress was a lovely young dark haired Irish woman named Jane who hailed from Cork, Ireland.  She had been in the US four months and depending on who you speak to, I may or may not have embarrassed myself a little with my gushing.

All of this points to one thing only – I am going with the luck of the Irish in the 143 Kentucky Derby.  Here are my bets:

$2 Win Bets on 15 – McCraken & 17 – Irish War Cry

$4 Irish Exacta Box:  15 – McCraken with 17 – Irish War Cry

$0.50 Irish Trifecta Box:    2 – Thunder Snow (bred in Ireland) with 15 – McCraken and 17 – Irish War Cry.

I will also put this in black and white seven hours before post time.  I did read the DRF and studied the form.  I like Irish War Cry in this.  I do.  I am hoping that the pace is slow and he doesn’t spit the bit in the stretch on me.  I also fear the #5, Always Dreaming.  My father-in-law (to be) has keyed him and for good reason.

Stace just called out to me as I am finishing this up and said “Just put $10 to win on Irish War Cry for me.”

God, I love this woman.

Happy Kentucky Derby Day friends.  Win lose or draw one thing is for sure … Stace and I have plenty of Bourbon on hand so we have already won the day!!!

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Stacy & her Dad, the 2016 Derby glass, Bulleit Bourbon, Eagle Rare (thank you MOB), Woodford Reserve (thank you, GMT) and a personalized bottle of Woodford I got Stacy in Louisville when driving back east from Oregon for good.  The bottle is old but the bourbon in “new.”  Below the booze, Dad and I at Saratoga in 1977.

 

 

This Singular Best Performance I Have Ever Seen on a Broadway Stage

In the seven times I saw Les Mis it wasn’t until I saw Ricky Martin playing Marius Pontmercy that I understood and respected that character.  Here’s why:  In A Little Fall of Rain Eponine dies in Marius’ arms.  Shortly after, he has to reconcile this death with the love of his life moving away.  In my experience, no one in film, or on stage, ever pulled this off with delicacy and precision.  Then, there was Martin.  

Martin navigated this sensitive transition seamlessly without ever seeming one-dimensional.  He was extraordinary and successfully awoke an emotion others failed to evoke in that role.

That was over 20 years ago and since that day it has reigned as the single most moving scene I had experienced on a live stage.  

That is, until a week ago last Saturday.

By no means am I an expert on Broadway but I know what I like and I like to think I can hold my own in conversation.  I have made more than 60 visits to nearly 40 different shows and of those I found Martin’s performance the most notable of the lot.

Again, that is, until a week ago last Saturday when I sat three rows from the foot of God and St. Peter in the worst seats I have ever had for a Broadway show.  It was there I witnessed the single greatest performance of any show I have ever seen in my 48 years.

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Picture from Playbill.com

It was all because of Glenn Close.

She was extraordinary.  Just extraordinary.  The stage presence, the command, the believability.  She would have startled Billy Wilder and have made Gloria Swanson swoon with envy.

Glenn Close, now 70, revived her role as Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard after opening the show in Los Angeles, then NYC 23 years ago.  She had greater than 1,700 people in that theatre in the palm of her hand and there was no place else any of us would have rather been.

From the desperate loneliness of the opening scenes, when she buried her pet chimpanzee, to captivating the attention of a down on his luck Hollywood hack with her spellbinding “With One Look.”  Drilling into the core of our soul her brilliance as an actress, we knew as the last note played she was the greatest star of all …. then had us all beside ourselves with the beautifully dismissive “now, go…”

That command of the stage continued through two acts and believe me when I tell you she owned it.  She owned it all.

Then in Act II, Norma visited the Paramount lot.  Admittedly I looked forward to this scene if for no other reason than I love the song and what it represents.  Then, I was blown away, and it is the very reason I felt like writing a blog about it.  This performance by Close, that I already thought terrific, launched into this unexpected enormity of greatness.

I knew what was to come, but I had no idea what was to come.

When the opening notes of As If We Never Said Goodbye began to play, everyone from the Saturday matinee crowd in the Palace Theatre felt the hairs on the back of their necks rise at once.

I don’t know why I’m frightened. I know my way around here.
The cardboard trees, the painted scenes, the sound here.
Yes, a world to rediscover, But I’m not in any hurry
And I need a moment …

This woman, who 20 years prior was abandoned by the very same 30 million people who gave her life meaning, was again where she was born to be.

Over the past 20 years she has experienced a loneliness that would break us all.  Living the life of a  reclusive and detached former star, Norma Desmond slowly slipped into madness.

I’ve spent so many mornings just trying to resist you
I’m trembling now, you can’t know how I’ve missed you,
Missed the fairy-tail adventures in this ever-spinning playground
We were young together

Then, if only for a few moments, she climbs out of the darkness of this profound sadness and feels a light of joy and euphoria she hasn’t felt in a generation.

We couldn’t be happier for her.  We saw her pain.  We felt her loneliness.  We hurt for her.  It didn’t matter that she could buy and sell half the town with the money she had, she was agonizingly alone and for this one moment she was alive.

I don’t want to be alone
That’s all in the past,
This world’s waited long enough,
I’ve come home at last!

She was home at last and man, did she deserved this.

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Picture from Playbill.com

When that last note played I looked to my left and saw my girl wipe her eyes.  I looked to the right, and this stranger sitting beside me was doing the same.  I felt no shame in doing so myself.  Why deny myself?

This has never happened to me before.  Not even 20+ years ago when Marius Pontmercy’s feeling of loss for his childhood friend then the love of his life within minutes tears the heart apart.

No.  Not like this.

Then all at once, all us “wonderful people, out there in the dark” stopped for half a moment, breathed in, and did the only thing we could do.

We applauded.

Then we applauded some more, and applauded some more.  And when it is customary for the applause to subside, and let the show continue, we didn’t.  

We continued. 

It was a show ending applause that happened with 45 minutes to go.

She owned it.  She owned it all and I half wonder if I will experience anything like it again.

When I got home and I thought about it, it was one of the very few times I really and truly wished I was a man of financial means.  I wanted to turn around and buy tickets for that night’s performance, then the next day’s and then next week’s worth.

But, I am not complaining.  If I never experience anything like that again, it will be alright, because I had it at least this once.

All it took was just one look.

Broadway Shows Seen:  42nd Street  •  A Bronx Tale  •  A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum  •  Animal Crackers  •  Beauty & the Beast (2)  •   Chicago (4)  •  Crazy for You  •  Damn Yankees  •  Grease  •  Guys and Dolls  •  Hedwig and the Angry Inch  •  How to Succeed in Business Without Really trying   Jekyll & Hyde (3)  •  Jersey Boys  •  Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat  •  Kinky Boots  •  Les Miserables (7)  •  Mama Mia  •  Memphis  •  Million Dollar Quartet  •  Miss Saigon (3)  •  Moon Over Buffalo  •  Phantom of the Opera (4)  •  Pippin  •  Promises Promises  •  Ragtime  •  Rent (2)  •  Rob Becker’s Defending the Caveman  •  Showboat  •  Sunset Boulevard (4)  •  The Book of   Mormon  •  The Front Page  •  The Producers  •  The Scarlet Pimpernel (3)  •  The Who’s Tommy  •  Titanic  •  Victor Victoria  •