URBAN COMMENTARY & FILM REVIEW:

Why I’m Glad I Missed the Preakness After All

by Jesse Fask
       I had this plan, right. I was going to go into the Chronicle office with two driver’s licenses, mine and my homeboy Dave’s.
       We were going to make makeshift press passes with the help of my editor. I was to be the reporter, not too much of a stretch except for the tarantula-looking mass of natted hair on my head that says something closer to ‘bum’ than ‘professional writer.’
       Dave was going to bring a camera and be my photographer. We planned to wander inebriated through the infield, using our passes to impress drunk girls. [Yeah, right.] It was all set until I called Pimlico two days before the big race.
       “You missed the deadline,” he told me.
       “When was the deadline?” I inquired.
       “April 27.” I was only about four weeks late. Dream down the tube. I telephoned Dave and we still planned to go.
       I woke up at eight thirty on Preakness Day, showered and opened the morning paper. In the Preakness section I had to do a double take. Next to admission price, the paper had printed thirty dollars.
       People actually pay this? People actually drive long distances to fork over thirty bones for a horse race? Thirty dollars means a lot more to me, the starving artist, than to the old boy horse racing network. But mostly the crowd seemed like frat boys looking for a party. And they were willing to fork down that much money. Was I missing something?
       Then there was the weather. Cold, wet, and rainy. I stared at Channel Two’s all-day coverage of this event., devoting long segments to concession stand salespeople and what horseshoes were made of. I watched freezing cold men drinking beer at nine a.m., wrapped in trash bags, hooting and hollering.
       Whenever a Channel Two reporter talked to an infield dweller for any length of time --long enough to get past the caveman grunts--they’d complain about the cold weather. I began to get very comfortable in my living room.
       Dave and I ended up going to the movies, taking that easy drive from Hampden out to the suburban multi-plex.
       It was a very satisfying day, viewing the under-rated film “The Virgin Suicides,” a much more thoughtful look at suburban decay than the overhyped Oscar darling “American Beauty.” It captured the frustration of the modern teenager in a way I’ve never seen on film.
       “American Beauty” claimed to do this. In fact, I once heard “Beauty” director Sam Mendes say in an interview that his movie would help people understand how the Columbine massacre happened.
       Get real, Sam. High on ourselves, are we? He needs to watch this new film from Sofia Coppola, daughter of “Godfather” guru Francis Ford Coppola. Not that this explains Columbine or that anything should really try to, but “The Virgin Suicides” deals with the raw human emotion that can only be felt when you’re a teenager and everything is new.
       And these emotions are wonderfully understated in this new film, not so much in the feelings of the girls who kill themselves in the movie, but in those of the boys who love them.
       Seeing a great piece of art like “The Virgin Suicides” always lifts my spirits. Today was a day in which I have been just so happy with my decision.
       Now’s about the time where the reader is, like, So he made a good decision and saw a good movie. Is this really grounds for a whole column? That’s up to y’all. I’m just psyched that I didn’t lay down thirty dollars to catch pneumonia in a sea of wet lushes.
       Instead I researched and found a movie that made me feel like somebody understood.
       Those hooligans out in the rain at Old Hilltop certainly didn’t.
       


Jesse Fask is a writer and youth counselor who lives in Hampden.


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This story was published on June 1, 2000.