Sunday, June 8, 2008

Seeing the sights, mommy and mommy

That is to say, your mommy (me) and my mommy.
My mom drove down from Chicago on Friday after work and spent the weekend hanging out with me here in Louisville. It was a very nice weekend, and gave me a really good chance/excuse to go out and see the sights.
Friday: Every first Friday of the month, there is a free "trolley hop". It took us a while to figure out what they meant, but it turned out to be the same trolleys that run like busses downtown are free, and run a special route that connects a lot of art galleries, shops, and restaurants.
Most of the galleries were having openings or other events, and Rowan had a table at a neat restaurant and kept ordering us all food. I met an artist from around here who packed up with her husband and moved to Pakistan. She paints (well, it's kind of mixed media... acrylics and collage and textiles) and her husband teaches at a university in Islamabad. I got to talk to him for a few minutes; he studies gender theory in the military, and as he pointed out, Pakistan seems to be an excellent place to study both of those things. Other galleries had more paintings, or sound art, or video installations. It was very contemporary and cool. Anyway, we saw a lot of art, and all of it was pretty good. I was very impressed.
Saturday: Absurdly early in the morning, we got up and went for a "backside tour" of Churchill Downs. (No, not like that... "backside" refers to the behind the scenes area, where the stables are, training areas, etc. It's the opposite of "frontside", which is where all the visitors go to watch, drink, and gamble.)

Over 1,000 horses are stabled there, and the ratio of staff to horse is about 1:1 on the backside. That doesn't count people on the frontside, in PR, marketing, serving customers, tellers, ushers, etc. So that means about 1,000 people, "mostly Hispanics" take care of 1,000 horses. The part that I thought was the most interesting (and offensive) was the human side of the operation. The workers make about $500 a month, and often live in barracks on the grounds which are small, though they looked new and clean. They often move from track to track with horses, and work only 11 months out of the year. Yep, that's an annual salary of less than $6,000, and often, both husband and wife work on the backside. Our tour guide was boasting about all the recent improvements for life on the backside: a brand new Christian center and church, an ESL/GED classroom, and new barracks. Mostly, the improvements he described just made it seem a whole lot worse, and made the whole thing kind of odious. (Well, more than horse racing already seemed to me...) People spend so much money on horses, including paying these workers so much to care for the horses and no one pays much attention to the people involved. When you consider the vast sums spent on trainers, jockeys, breeding, boarding, etc, the human costs are very much left behind.

After that, I met up with my mom for a late lunch and some shopping. We went to the Bluegrass Brewing Company for lunch, where mom had a hot brown. It's a local specialty, and a very unique meal. I'm glad I got to try it, but it's enough cholesterol for instadeath. We poked around downtown, went to Glassworks and 4th Street Live (not very exciting during the day) and came back to watch the very disappointing Belmont Stakes with the rest of the YPMB crew. After that, we went to another local institution, the Homemade Ice Cream & Pie Kitchen. Their homemade ice cream and pie is amazingly good... most of my most accurate comparisons are not rated G. Kentucky sure is filled with great food!

Sunday: Mom and I went to Highland Presbyterian Church this morning to hear my mentor, Rev. Dr. Fairfax Fair, preach, and then headed over to Lynn's Paradise Café for brunch. So delicious! And from there, I discovered a game store, and then Chris, Rebecca, mom and I went to Churchill Downs (again) to play the ponies! I won a whopping $1.30 but then again, I am pretty risk-averse... Mom just left a little while ago (though she had to backtrack about an hour to return my cell phone, which I thoughtlessly left in her car) and in a little while, we're all going over to Steve's mentor's house for dinner. Yum!

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