Keep Your Hands Off My K. Creek

I’m free with my booze and will let you wet your beak

Unless you put your grimy hands on my Knob Creek

After many travels, when I finally made it to Kentucky I was convinced that I would never leave. It’s a beautiful, laid back place where you can kick back and check out from the rest of this increasingly schizophrenic country. In the words of my fellow mick Liam Neeson when he was portraying a Kentucky good ol’ boy in Next of Kin (one the more underrated films in the late, great Patrick Swayze Hall of Fame level film canon), “I can piss out my front door here”.

I can never get into the whole Kentucky-Tennessee rivalry mainly because Memphis is one of the top towns in the world (which more than makes up for the joke of a town up in north, Nashville, the phony country music “capital” of the world which the country Buda Willie Nelson had the good sense to vacate over 40 years ago). Kentucky obviously has nothing which can compare with Memphis, but when it comes to liquor Kentucky slays its rival to the south, along with everyone else outside of Caledonia.

I got a job working in a wild game processing plant not too far from Lexington. The work was, to say the least, a little odiferous, but it actually paid pretty well and I was able to hang my hat up at some backwoods cabin with few amenities but still a great bargain for my $200 month rent supplemented with a few late night extra-legal independent operator libations deliveries every month for my landlord from which I also got to keep myself a jar or three some of northern Kentucky’s best ATF-violations.

I finally figured out that peculiar Yank game, basketball. Lexington of course is a basketball crazed country and my landlord was a died-in the wool UK Wildcat fanatic, which even won a championship while I was there with some sawed off dictator of a coach and a chubby big ol’ kid from Chicago whom I had the pleasure of doing some serious damages with at the craps table of the Bellagio 10 years hence. Watching the games with him and his smorgasbord of girlfriends/cousins/business associates (who were often rolled into one) was great; even though if they were only about half as intense a football (i.e. soccer) matches back home, it was great to see some real passion in sports again. (Sorry, American football just never did it for me. Rugby with all those pads seems like a punk-out to me).

I also discovered the great joys of bourbon here. While I’ve documented my great appreciation of the Old G.D. elsewhere, when you’ve got a little more bread from getting all those extra shifts at the plant on May 5th and 6th (after having my Latino brethren cover for me on March 17th and 18th), it was great to get some great legal local product (even I don’t mind paying my taxes sometimes for a worthy product). It took a little trial and mostly pleasurable error before I found my new lifeblood, Knob Creek. It’s so full and deep that I could literally drink it all day (though I eventually managed to resist from doing so and kept it down to three bottles or so a month with a few more in March and from October to December). Don’t ask me why but when combined with the correct other herbal compliments, it actually tasted like apple juice, if your apples came from that great tree of knowledge which got us all in our current predicaments. I did find myself wiser (or at least more reflective) when taking down some generous quantities of the K. Creek (at least compared to my contraband drinking neighbors and hopelessly déclassé Tennessee whisky drinking associates).

Yes, I was living the good life, thinking about ending my travels and setting up shop permanently in this semi-hillbilly paradise. I got all the good game I could eat from my fairly frequent wild turkey, deer and javelinas hunting excursions in some beautiful country while having great sport and some surprisingly diverse bluegrass-derived entertainment options at the many varied taverns and sundry establishments, nice and tawdry, which I managed to find myself at all the time. If I couldn’t be in Caledonia, this would suffice as solid replacement.

Then I screwed it all up by going to the Kentucky Derby. Don’t ask me why I went; my landlord warned me time and time again in tobacco-splittled rants through the dental sarcophagus of his mouth about the damn high falutin’ blue bloods out there (the “true inbreeds” as he put it). “Liam, trust me, those ‘uns out there in Louisville are not your peoples. That ain’t your scene, brother.” To this day I wish I had listened to him.

Of course, the Churchill Downs is a gorgeous facility and the food there was very good (though not as good at the wild turkey chili I had recently perfected). I got my K. Creek and grub and set down to enjoy the festivities. It was a clear day and the overwhelming greenishness of everything set me at ease. However, as I started my third tumbler, I started to get a sinking feeling that this was just a transplanted British/wanker scene put into my new backyard. What the hell were all these mint juleps doing everywhere? The insidious smell of them started to plague me. Most of the crowd had that supercilious, rich bitch English look about them that I’ve tried all my life to avoid. I was wearing my very best threads, but I was clearly paying about 1/10th for my wardrobe as most of the snotty crowd.

Now this normally doesn’t particularly bother me as I’m generally the worst dressed person anywhere I go (trailer park hoe downs not withstanding). By the one thing I can’t abide is those god damn monster hats. I grew up hating those fockin’ things, seeing the royals and all the other soul sucking British aristocracy oppressors wearing them. They are the sartorial embodiment of all that disgusts me in the world and here they were all around me like a sea of ostentatious peacocks, befouling my mood and buzz. I started to get real anxious, with my heart racing and brow sweating even though it was under 80. I’ve been in all sorts of hairy/lethal situations, but I can honestly say that’s the closest I’ve ever come to a panic attack. I finally had to leave before the race, lest I start lighting all those harpy hats ablaze with mint juleps.

My landlord came over that evening for a “I told your dumb foreignee ass” session he sometimes subjugated me to when I tried to do something asinine like go to a wrestling match or a country church picnic, but after one look at my pale, wan visage he actually took pity on me.

“Yous look like ye seen a ghost, hoss.” 

“I saw thousands of them wearing and drink shit like hogs at a trough. God, it was awful.”

He pulled out his best jar, and we tied one on while ruminating on the strangeness of classism and social stratification in Kentucky and the world at large. He summed it all up by saying, “Them is in a different world from you and me. It may have some sparkly, ye understand, but it ain’t the real world, man.”

I tried to resume my old life but knowing that scene was so close by (along with other smaller scenes like active mines in a pristine meadow) was too much for me. My landlord was bidding me a sad adieu a little over a month later. Maybe I’ll make it back some day, I’m not sure. The shock was just so much, like finding a perfect vintage ’65 Mustang and getting inside to find a hot pink interior permeated with the smell of lavender and lilacs or some such shit. At least I still got my Knob Creek out of it; it’s just too damn good and strong to be befouled by its surroundings. Fear sam bith a loisgeas a mhàs, ‘s e fhèin a dh’fheumas suidhe air.

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