|I shook my head and said nothing; just stared at him for a moment, trying to look grim. "There's going to be trouble," I said. "My assignment is to take pictures of the riot."|
|I hesitated, twirling the ice in my drink. "At the track. On Derby Day. The Black Panthers." I stared at him again. "Don't you read the newspapers?"|
|The grin on his face had collapsed. "What the hell are you talkin' about?"|
|"Well...maybe I shouldn't be telling you..." I shrugged. "But hell, everybody else seems to know. The cops and the National Guard have been getting ready for six weeks. They have 20,000 troops on alert at Fort Knox. They've warned us--all the press and photographers--to wear helmets and special vests like flak jackets. We were told to expect shooting..."|
What has this got to do with trees dying from pollution, you may wonder?
This year marks the 137th run of the Derby, which is held on the first Saturday in May. Below are posted some screen shots from videos of the 2009 and 2010 races, which were held May 2 and May 1, respectively. This year the first Saturday won't fall until the 7th, and it so happens that middle daughter (the one who is studying to be a horse vet) has been working at the Kentucky Horse Park over the past week. She sent pictures of trees yesterday, the 1st of May. It's hard to compare her photos with the earlier screenshots without getting the inescapable impression that trees are declining at a rapidly accelerating rate.
The following four shots are from 2010
Thompson's essay is a reminder from the past that many of us felt that the world was dangerous and doomed back in 1970. We've seen an orgy of conspicuous excess since then, decades of a party as heedless and depraved as what he describes at the Derby...a frantic party which is on the verge of ending. He wrote of Steadman...
|He had done a few good sketches, but so far we hadn't seen that special kind of face that I felt we would need for a lead drawing. It was a face I'd seen a thousand times at every Derby I'd ever been to. I saw it, in my head, as the mask of the whiskey gentry--a pretentious mix of booze, failed dreams and a terminal identity crisis; the inevitable result of too much inbreeding in a closed and ignorant culture. One of the key genetic rules in breeding dogs, horses or any other kind of thoroughbred is that close inbreeding tends to magnify the weak points in a bloodline as well as the strong points. In horse breeding, for instance, there is a definite risk in breeding two fast horses who are both a little crazy. The offspring will likely be very fast and also very crazy. So the trick in breeding thoroughbreds is to retain the good traits and filter out the bad. But the breeding of humans is not so wisely supervised, particularly in a narrow Southern society where the closest kind of inbreeding is not only stylish and acceptable, but far more convenient--to the parents--than setting their offspring free to find their own mates, for their own reasons and in their own ways. ("Goddam, did you hear about Smitty's daughter? She went crazy in Boston last week and married a nigger!")|
|So the face I was trying to find in Churchill Downs that weekend was a symbol, in my own mind, of the whole doomed atavistic culture that makes the Kentucky Derby what it is.|