originally published 11/22/2006 (to a tepid response)
An especially brilliant Friday it was, the first of May, 2006. Spared from Mother Nature’s menopausal springtime whim, at least for a day. I, along with a collection of peers from the school of strong ambitions and broken morals, descended upon Churchill Downs for a date with the 132nd running of the Kentucky Oaks.
We were lucky enough to snag a box near the finish line among some of the most lustrous faces in Louisville, and pretty close to the Coors Lite stand. Nick Lachey was there, and so was his hair gel. Beautiful young goddesses flanked him as if he were marinated in money juice and Aqua D’Gio. And he was. I had just dropped my winning exacta ticket in my beer when I noticed a slight commotion amongst my contingency.
“I think that’s…yeah, that’s O.J.”
“Put down the drink, O.J. would nev…holy shit. That’s definitely the Juice.”
Indeed, arriving in the box right next to ours was the myth himself, O.J. Simpson. He was dressed like any murderer who successfully loop-holed the judicial system ought to be: a cream-colored linen shirt with matching linen slacks, and what I assumed were a pair of Bruno Maleighs, but who am I to suppose? He was accompanied by a group of 4-5, although the box was repeatedly visited by anxious tourists hoping to catch a glimpse of the man so famous for football. Juice was gracious, treating each visitor as if he’d known them for ages. In between entertaining the masses he would methodically study the program, perhaps hoping he was one superfecta away from settling the score with the Goldmans.
“Who do you like in this one Juice?” My friend finally blurted out.
“I hear the 2’s been unbeatable.” He confidently boasted.
I looked. The 2 sucked. I knew it, and of course, I bet it. After placing my wager I gave the Juice a nod when I arrived back at the box.
“Hope you’re right about that 2.” I said, waving my ticket.
“You and me both.” He joked, almost desperately, and further reaffirming my handicapping knowledge.
They were at the post then they were off. O.J. had a pair of binoculars and was watching intently. After all, if the real killer happened to be holing up in the Churchill Downs infield, O.J. needed to be there to exact his justice.
As expected, the 2 finished ahead of one horse.
I finally caught O.J.’s eye, and he gave me a shrug.
“She got bumped,” I said, knowingly lying but trying not to rattle his cage.
As the day pressed on we came to the ingenious decision to haggle a photo-op with the Juice. I mean, who wouldn’t want to share with their grandchildren concrete proof that you can slice two throats and still get drunk and gamble at the Oaks?
We decided that we would make our move after the big race, giving us proper chance to intake the appropriate courage.
As the Oaks wrapped up and the masses began to file out, we summonsed the great beast.
“Hey O.J.,” my buddy blurted out, “do you mind getting a picture with us?”
“Sure fellas.” He quipped with surprising yearn.
My friend handed his camera to a woman in the O.J. party and I studied her for even the faintest plea for help. The Juice stepped into our box. Our cookie cutter hands became bait for his gargantuan, powerful mitts. Almost simultaneously, it hit me: I just felt a hand that had brutally ended the lives of two people, and made a mental note to scratch that one off the list.
We posed. I was pushed to the back by my over aggressive friends, but took my place beside history nonetheless.
“So you boys in college…what you studyin’?” And with a smirk, added, “Any of you fellas studyin’ law?”
One of my friends raised his hand, perhaps hopeful he was about to be hired on the spot.
“I’ve got plenty of lawyers,” the Juice shamelessly chuckled.
Unbelievable. So cocksure in his independence. Bulletproof.
The Juice then disappeared into the sunset of an otherwise gentle evening. Off to schmooze and wink with the next set of gawkers over served on infamy.
I still look back on that encounter with mixed emotions. On one hand, I interacted with the crust of all things evil. A walking narcissism, a testament to all things unjust and undemocratic, and perhaps the most notorious figure in modern day America. A double murderer, devoid of contrition, brazen in victory.
But on the other hand, I met O.J. Simpson. Got the picture to prove it. Pretty sweet.