Better in the Bluegrass

Hey folks! Now that I’ve finally completed my graduate degree and finished Student Teaching, I have time to sit down and compose a post. Wheewww.

A few weeks ago I took a good friend of mine home to Kentucky. Lucy, who I met in Boston, moved to the US from Australia last summer and I wanted to give her some insight into the often unseen America. Foreign visitors to the US often leave having seen nothing but New York, LA, San Francisco and Orlando (Disney).  I’m really proud of Lucy and her beau, Jamie, for being curious about the rest of this large country. Collectively, they can check off boxes for Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, Indiana (sort of) and now Kentucky.

What better way to start off the weekend than with a trip to Keeneland, the local Lexington racetrack?  I’m talkin horses people, not Nascar. It was opening weekend, so I knew it’d not only be a good culturally rich Kentucky morning, but also a fabulous people watching adventure.  As my dad likes to say, “those girls have had their outfits picked out for opening weekend for a loooong time, and come rain or shine, they’re not altering them.” Turns out he was right. Despite the chilly, windy day, we spotted a surprising amount of mini skirts and tank tops in the paddock.

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Panoramic pic of Keeneland, pre-crowd

We had burgoo, a Kentucky stew made of all different kinds of meats and vegetables, for lunch, and bourbon for refreshment as we watched the horses come ’round the third turn.

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Lucy and me with Uncle Mark Magic and the Wicksta

I was fortunate enough to run into some old friends from college and catch up on the latest news of engagements, jobs and babies. When we had had our fill of the track, we headed back to dad’s house, me in my friend Maggie’s car, Lucy in another friend, Stefan’s. He took her on a little adventure to The Liquor Barn, which is Kentucky’s version of the Wal-Mart for booze and accompaniments. They arrived back at the house some time after Maggie and I did, stocked with essentials.

Dad and Debbie invited a few of their friends over, and a brother or two from my dad’s current Transylvania fraternity stopped by on their way to or from the downtown restaurants and bars. We had a good ol’ time eating and talking and laughing. Lucy got to try beer cheese, Ale 8 and a variety of bourbons. Everyone got a kick out of how Dad told me I wasn’t allowed to move in with them, which was an idea that had come to me earlier that morning when I was so satisfactorily and peacefully awoken by nothing but silence and birds. They also got a kick out of my dating stories, which include a larger than average man with tiny, delicate hands (think Seinfeld’s “man-hands” but reverse) and who dropped not so subtle hints that his family is the 3rd (or 4th or 5th) largest landowner in the North East (or something like that, I stopped listening….) And that’s just one story. I have dozens! Like Mr. Harvard, who was impressed by my 3rd degree regarding his plans to start a fund (thanks Frank), but who I was less than impressed with when he went on and on about video games and virtual worlds, and admitted that he was involved in 2 startups with his baby momma, with whom he and his 7 year old son were cohabiting : /

Ohh dating. Fun fun.

Saturday morning we woke again to a peaceful Lexington morning, and the smell of coffee and bacon (see why I want to move in?). I’m sure by this point Lucy was wondering if our gracious hosts would ever cease offering us food. Well, the answer was no. We ate a hearty breakfast and then headed out the door to Woodford County’s Woodford Reserve Distillery. It was a gorgeous drive, one that filled me with pride for my homeland. On our way we passed the old mysterious castle on Versailles Rd, rolling hills, sprawling horse farms and tobacco barns. We were also lucky enough to pass a trailer park or two, which allowed for a great American cultural lesson, and is something, I believe, all foreigners should see first hand. I think Lucy was confused at first about the difference between these trailers and ones that you pull from campsite to campsite, but I did my best to differentiate. I explained the difference between a double wide and a single, how they are relatively stable (meaning you can’t push them around) but are often dangerous during hurricanes, how the cinderblocks underneath some of them create more space for storage AND insulate the trailer, and that these were not recreational vehicles, but permanent homes where whole families actually lived.

We arrived at Woodford Reserve just in time for the next tour. Our lovely tour guide, Earl, was knowledgeable and quirky and told us all about the ingredients that make up bourbon, how they are boiled into mash, distilled, funneled into brand new, never before used! toasted barrels for aging and then bottled and distributed. (I’m adopting the middle-of-the-sentence exclamation point. If Thoreau can do it, so can I)

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Needless to say, our appetites were thoroughly whetted. The carrot at the end of the tour: we were given a taste of the sweet nectar, and as many bourbon balls as we could take without feeling judged.

Next stop, Louisville, or so was the intention. On our way back to the highway, we rode past the abandoned Old Taylor Distillery, which was built to resemble a castle.

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Classy.

We stopped across the street, in front of a smaller, but equally decrepit old building to take a picture. I noticed there was no front door on the smaller building, and curiosity took over. We entered, poked around inside briefly and were walking out when we heard an old man yell at us for trespassing: “You’re trespassing, nothing good’ll come from being in there.” Whoops. Wonder what Woodford County jails are like? But I had a plan. I used Lucy’s Australian-ness and sweet nature as an excuse. “Oh hi sir” in my most convincing voice, “I was just trying to show my friend here, who’s come all the way from Australia, some off-the-beaten-path Kentucky.” He took the bait: “ Oh, you’re from Australia, huh? Where from? I went down there once while I was in the army……” (Old men and their army stories) Aaha! Lucy reeled him in. It turned out that he was overseeing the property, and instead of getting arrested for trespassing, we were given a personal tour of the Old Taylor grounds.

Back on the road, we set off towards Louisville, where we stopped by mom’s briefly before heading to Patt’s to cheer on the UL men’s Basketball team to a final four victory. Patt’s girlfriend, Yulia, made Ukrainian Borscht, which is freakin’ awesome. Before calling it a night, Patt took us three girls to the BonnyCastle Club, the “ultra exclusive” gentleman’s club off Bardstown Rd where drinks are cheap, slot machines are “legal” and members are oooold. Patt brings down the average age to about….70.

Next morning mom and I drove Lucy to Indiana (might as well check off another State…) to treat her to a lovely Southern breakfast of champions – The Waffle House. Mom recently told me that this exact Waffle House would soon be demolished to make way for the extension of the pedestrian bridge into Indiana, so this picture could go down in History.

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Eggs, waffles, hash browns: smothered, covered, and capped. Mmm. Did y’all know that in Australia, they are severely limited in the variety in which they can order their eggs? The only choices are scrambled or fried!! Which allowed for yet another opportunity for an important lesson on America: over easy, over medium or hard. After breakfast we walked the pedestrian bridge, an old railroad bridge over the Ohio river, with my cousin Sara and her wheelchair bound boxer, Rufus, who sure got a lot of attention as he cruised by other bridge walkers in his sweet ride.

We filled the rest of the afternoon with a trip to the Muhammad Ali museum (mixed reviews), a beer at Cumberland Brews and the UL Ladybirds game at Mellow Mushroom. The night ended, much too late for my impending crack’a’dawn flight, with dinner at Proof on Main, where we ate, then entertained ourselves for far too long playing with, and looking at art in the attached museum.

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graceful head stand
graceful head stand

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How long can 5 adults entertain themselves in front of interactive art?? A long damn time.

I awoke abruptly the next morning, 45 minutes before my flight was to take off. Miraculously, although the airport is 15 minutes away from home, I caught my flight and successfully made it home, leaving Lucy in Kentucky to muck around on my friend Maggie’s farm.

How’s that for a Kentucky experience?

And speaking of Kentucky, I’ve attached a few photos from another recent trip home for the 139th running of the Kentucky Derby. Enjoy!

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Buffalo Trace Distillery
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Bluegrass at Buffalo Trace

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Big shout to mom, who tirelessly drove us from place to place on Saturday. Don’t know what we woulda done without ya : )

Happy Spring!

-csc

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