Friday, May 18, 2012

The 2012 Preakness Stakes

 In preparation of the Preakness Stakes on Saturday, Matt Domino reaches out to a Baltimore native to discuss the city and horses.


It's Friday, my Puddlers, and you may not know this, but the second race of the Triple Crown, the Preakness, will take place at the Pimlico Racetrack in Baltimore this Saturday. I'll be watching the race coverage on NBC because, well, I have become a fan of horse racing over the past 6 years. I'm not a fan for the gambling reasons, but for more metaphysical, romantic and impalpable reasons. In other words there are very Domino reasons why I like horse racing and I will elaborate in a post right before the Belmont, the final race of the Triple Crown, takes place on Long Island.

Today, though, I have reached out to one of my college friends who grew up in Baltimore in order to ask him some questions about the Preakness and Baltimore. My friend, listed here as AJ, is a handsome young man, a student and appreciator of history and music and he has a damn fine singing voice. Like me, he works in New York but grew up somewhere in America and thus has his own color and experience to explain to the world.

I "sat down" with AJ this week and bothered him with the following questions:

MD: First, give the readers an estimate of how much time in your life you have spent in Baltimore?

AJ: 18 years, until college and then a summer stint right after I graduated in 2009. So, 18 years and three months.

MD: What do you think of when you think of the Preakness?

AJ: I think of drunk goyim. I grew up a five minute drive from Pimlico Racetrack in a quite leafy neighborhood. Preakness altered its character. Beginning early in the morning, thousands of cars with out-of-state license plates began to line the usually empty streets—some neighbors sold parking spots for the day. College boys and rednecks with coolers in tow streamed south from their cars towards Pimlico. It would be quiet for a while before they returned at dusk drunk and sun burnt trailing garbage behind them. All day long kids from the less affluent neighborhood around the race track would run around with stolen shopping carts offering to haul coolers for a price. I remember my dad getting pissed when we'd find the carts littered everywhere the next day.

MD: Did your family have any Preakness traditions?

AJ: We'd sell lemonade to people going to the races when we were little. As a teenager it was sitting home and being pissed at my over protective parents for not letting me go and get wasted, but that was pretty much every day back then. No matter what, every year we'd all watch the race around 4:00 p.m. Then a minute later, with the race done and nothing changed, we'd go back to whatever we were doing which, if I was 12, would be watching Xena Warrior Princess.

 MD: Do you actually like horse racing?

AJ: No. I don't care for it or any sports really. Though I'm sure, like any sport, it goes great with drinking.

(Editor’s Note: It does.)

MD: Is the Pimlico the most important structure in Baltimore?

AJ: No. It's piece of shit but not even an impressive piece of shit. I mean there are some great piece of shit structures in Baltimore but this is not one of them. My brother might disagree because he's a hopeless nostalgic. My dad took me there once and as I remember it having the same atmosphere of desperation that one usually finds in a Greyhound station. It possesses the vast sadness of a Soviet era apartment block if Soviet era apartment blocks had Nathan's.

MD: Hypothetically speaking, where should a rich New Yorker looking to make extra loot eat before he makes a lot of booku bucks at the Preakness? And then, where should he eat after making a ton of moolah for a celebratory meal?

AJ: Pre-race at Chaps next to the Gold Card strip club on Pulaski highway. Pit beef sandwich (a Baltimore delicacy: thinly sliced smoked BBQ beef served on a Kaiser roll) with a handful of onions and two spoonfuls of pickled white horseradish. Post-race at Faidley's in Lexington Market: a dozen oysters, jumbo lump crab cake, coddies (fried codfish and potato cakes traditionally eaten with saltines and yellow mustard) and all the Coors Light you'd like.

MD: What is your favorite horse in this year’s race?

AJ: Bodemeister. He's David Stern's friend from Jersey, right?

(Editor’s Note: He is referring to Puddles of Myself contributor and Sanctuaries bandleader, David Stern. Not NBA Commissioner David Stern.)

MD: Do you think people in Baltimore like the Ravens or the Preakness more?

AJ: It's all about the Ravens. Baltimore is a blue collar football town. Horse racing really belongs to the surrounding rural/exurban counties. It is really a drinking holiday—no one cares about horses. It's Baltimore's Cinco de Mayo or Saint Patrick's Day. 

MD: Would you attend the Preakness if you had the chance?

AJ: Yes but for purely anthropological purposes. 

MD: Narrate a horse race featuring the seasons of the Wire. If you haven’t seen them all, there are five, so just make up your own race.

AJ: Well…

MD: OK, here’s how I see it. The gun goes off because naturally everyone is carrying a god damn whistle. Then, Season 1 starts off with a heavy lead going after first eight of a mile. The WMDs are flying—if you know what I mean. Then, Season 5 gains, pokes its way into lead using some fake journalism and policework before getting tripped up in pink string on the track. Then Season 4 comes flying in and takes a commanding lead as we reach the half-mile mark. The accumulation of three full seasons of character and setting development mixed with the introduction of a few new, memorable and fully developed characters really has Season 4 charging. But, in a classic Triple Crown Race moment, the jockey reaches for his move a little too soon and as we head down the stretch Season 2 makes a Sobotka family fueled charge, but doesn’t have enough coverage of the street game to really take the lead. And in the last eighth its SEASON 3 whose jockey makes his strong move for the lead. Season 3 and Season 4 are neck and NECK down the stretch. They are 1A and 1B, every Stones album from 1968-1972, EVERY BEATLES ALBUM! But, in the end, it is Season 3—with its heartbreaking tale of the American Dream and its failures mixed with the dissolution of a lifelong friendship as well as the very Mad Men Season 5 theme of the changing of the guard (plus a thinly veiled critique of the War in Iraq—that wins out over Season 4’s complex tales of the education system and the circular element of the inner city (that was later fully pushed in the Season 5 montage). What a race! Let’s all go to AJ's for STEAK and some BEER!

AJ: What?


  1. Ah Domino,

    To enjoy horse racing one must not think of so much that makes the sport utterly cruel. It is, in fact, the metaphysical, romantic, and impalpable reasons that make horse racing so utterly horrific.

    David Foster Wallace's "Consider the Lobster", though based on a very different aspect of human and animal relations, does a good job of showing why we can not just blithely enjoy an activity that is causing devastating harm to literally thousands of creatures.

    You must occasionally read the New York Times, they have been publishing a fleet of articles recently on why horse racing must be outlawed and I will not even get into the details of why.

    Alas, I am not particularly fond of animals and I eat meat quite often. I am not above reproach. But dude, horse racing is almost objectively wrong and just one single look at those tortured animals, shot up with who knows what drugs, proves my point far better than I ever I could.

    Honestly, I have spent time on the Saratoga Racetrack and I do not understand how people can enjoy seeing that, even if they have some warm familial memories that ensconse the cruelty. The romanticism that comes with horse racing is a cheap, ersatz romanticism, it is not like love, or sports, or any of the other very beautiful things you write about. Anyway, I still love you and your blog!

    With endless admiration from your most devoted commenter,


  2. Love the comments as always, Anonymous. You'll see where I'm going with this. I know horse racing is messed up, but hopefully my later post will make sense.

  3. Thanks for leaving my comment up and responding. You are a good man, Matt.


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