By Andrea Cohen
Next year in Jerusalem,
with mint juleps. This year
in Peterborough, with Wyatt and Anna,
arriving at Brady's Sports Bar one minute
before the two-minute event begins.
In my minute, I circle the oval
faux-oak bar slowly, scanning for someone
I know. I say hello, people
make space for me and bring
a very cold beer. Anna says:
I would not like to get in those
small spaces, meaning whatever you call
the starting pens. Wyatt sizes me up
the way jockeys do. Full disclosure:
I'm too big to ride, too small
to amount to anything big. Then
they're off to the races: a muck-up
at the start, par for the course, and one
horse falls back. Root for #12, Anna says.
She likes 12 because his owner
won't dope him. Go General Quarters, I say.
The horses run. I am vaguely aware
of a recent tragedy in which the winning
horse stumbled, another in which many
horses succumbed to bad supplements.
There are other tragedies, of course, some
involving horses, some not, but we
won't delve into those. This is a two-
minute extravaganza and we're meant to focus
on the horses and the riders not the men
in flannel caps, the men in their cups, howling
who-knows-what for who-knows-horse.
This is a moment to be in the moment and I
fail terribly, knowing nothing about
ponies, thinking: this is like a whirlwind
tour of abstract expressionism, which I don't
get because I don't get what was poured into it.
But my beer, confirmed on the second sip,
is exceedingly cold, with a taste of caramel and barrel,
and then someone wins the race, which sort
of means it's over and also just begun, since
now the replays start, with aerial shots
that show the winner. Who's that, who's that?
everyone asks, as the horse again swifts
from behind, finding his opening
the way any of us might
hope to, if the seas evaporated
on our behalf. And then the horse's name:
Mine that Bird, which seems strange, which
for me brings to mind the mynah bird my Uncle Joe
kept in a brass cage in Lipsitz Department Store
in Beaufort, South Carolina, a bird named Lippy whose two-
phrase repertoire included Where's Joe? And Stride Rite,
Stride Rite, the brand of shoe whose purchase
came with a plastic golden egg
filled with candies. What could be better?
Nothing, except the headline
of the obituary the day Lippy
the mynah bird died: Death
of a Salesman. I kid you not.
If Lippy were here in this bar, he'd
catch on quick, repeating Mine
that Bird, Mine that Bird. But
Lippy's not here. Instead, it's Wyatt
and Anna and me, and we agree, watching
the tiny, winning jockey sniffing
roses thrown his way, that as soon as he
dismounts the screen, he'll eat and eat
and eat, so he no longer resembles an Irish
Holocaust survivor grinning into the sunset.
I am going to eat, too, I tell my friends.
I am heading back to my version of Eden, where
my days are numbered, but I'm fuzzy
on the number because sometimes fuzzy is easier,
and I'm a little fuzzy now, after half
a beer, reaching for the sweater on the back
of my bar stool. It's a white sweater, it's soft, and Anna
kindly reminds me that it is hers, and I leave
them, leave the sweater, and loop up the hill
towards corn bread, red beans and rice.
I'm late to mess, and someone pours me
a glass of Malbec, someone sits down next to me.
I'm being cared for as if I've been wounded,
which I suppose is the case, though I
don't want to know to what extent.
Someone says that once she was allowed
to choose a favorite food for dinner. Her sister
chose butter, she chose honey. We are all
made of honey and butter and one of us has a yellow
school bus which we board from time to time
for a field trip that involves riding in circles
and falling asleep, which involves
all of us being ponies in a meadow.
The sea and the sky are made of grass.
It can't last. It lasts.
Our plan for Saturday was to meet up with Annmarie and go to the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival where we would meet up with Karen, Heather, and a bunch of other people, then go to dinner and to see Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 2, but my back was aching so much in the morning that I knew I would never tolerate the hour-plus drive there from our house. Since Annmarie wasn't feeling up to the drive either, we met her instead at Frying Pan Farm Park, where we mostly had the place to ourselves because it rained all afternoon, then went to have Middle Eastern food at the Sorrento Grill. The baby pigs and goats were mostly indoors but the rest of the animals didn't seem to mind the rain:
We stopped to pick up mint and simple syrup on the way home to make mint juleps for the Kentucky Derby (mine was virgin since I'm taking meds for my back). I had no opinion about which horse should win other than I always hope it's not one being doped, but I will never forget Thunder Snow taking one look at the mud and trying to buck off his rider instead of racing in it. We had veggie hot brown for dinner in honor of the Derby, then watched Doctor Who (not a great story but I love Bill and the Doctor's dynamic), Class (stop it with the daddy issues already), and Graham Norton because Goldie, Amy, Orlando, and John trump Chris Pine, though now that Graham is over we have him on being sexually harassed.