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Today's Story by Abigail Jardine

I am honored to be your host

Preakness Charm City

The scent of mint permeated the air.  Andrew had crushed it with his strong fingertips, “bruising it,” he called it, and it was the crowning touch to his legendary mint juleps.  The cups weren’t sterling silver, as protocol demanded, but a reasonable facsimile, and they were chilled to perfection. Just the right amount of smooth Kentucky bourbon. Oh, God, they tasted mellow and perfect, just as decadent and lusty, in their own way, as his iced champagne of the previous year. The mint juleps were so elegant an addition, but the champagne still held its place in the record books.

Andrew had begun his tradition of hosting a Preakness party every year. It had started with the fact that his house faces Pimlico Race Track in Baltimore. For months prior to the Preakness, Andrew could see from his front steps how the handlers would walk the gorgeous thoroughbreds, warm them up for the runs, and then cool them down. He had grown to love the gracious animals’ muscular curves, like those of ballet dancers:  smooth, taut, revealing every subtle movement as they almost floated on air during their runs.

At first, perhaps a dozen friends came to the Preakness party, and everyone brought treats—drinks, appetizers, dips, sandwiches—whatever struck them, and Andrew’s contribution was generous beyond imagination:  first there was the champagne—a sinful draw to the party whether one even liked horses or racing or betting or any animal alive. Then, the second party favor.  Michael, Andrew’s blue-eyed, dread-locked best friend from college, would bake his famous “Ganja cake.” The recipe had come from Jamaica, from a Rasta guy Michael had hung out with for months on a trip there years before. Now Michael made the yellow, pineappled Ganja cake and it had become legendary. There was always that clear sense of washing down crumbs of it with the fizzing champagne and then a fuzziness, a dreamy memory of the Preakness race itself. We didn’t really care who came in first; that’s not why we were there. One guy didn’t realize the strength of the ganja and was later found five miles away, boogeying up the side of the Jones Falls Expressway after the party. He said he was going to “check out” New York City.

By the third year, Andrew’s Preakness party had mushroomed into one of the largest Spring events in all of Baltimore. People who knew people who knew people who knew people who knew Andrew begged and pleaded to come along, to stow away to gain entry to the party any way they could. Yes, that third year, Andrew had met the challenge of the clamoring crowds. His imagination that third year rocked everyone. He had hired an industrial ice-making company to fill the bed of his shiny, black vintage Ford pickup with a half-ton of ice. Andrew drove the pickup back home, parked it in his driveway, and buried three hundred bottles of champagne in the ice-filled, sparkling flatbed to chill. With his long legs and taut body, he climbed atop the groaning flatbed. Andrew’s towering height, his black tux and top hat, all commanded attention as he welcomed his friends. His voice rose above the partying throng and a momentary silence fell.

“Again this year we gather to celebrate, and I am honored to be your host. Please partake of this small offering,” and he gestured to the hundreds of champagne bottles. Cheers went up.

Partake everyone did. Bottles of chilled champagne were passed quickly, like fire buckets to quench the rising temperature of the crowd. By evening, the plastic champagne flutes had been discarded in favor of the sheer practicality of chugging champagne from one’s own personal bottle. Telltale crumbs of Michael’s Ganja cake were smudged in the corners of the party-goers’ mouths. The Preakness had been celebrated yet again in a way that never conceded win, place, or show. A horse had flown past the finish line and won. No one was too sure which horse had claimed the day. Thudding strains of the Stones, Pink Floyd, the Eagles, and Aretha Franklin pulsated from the packed house in every direction. A musky, sweet scent wafted from Andrew’s house for blocks. The crowd lingered well past sunset, lazed on the thick, green, freshly mown lawn, and the full moon rose in the soft blue of the May sky.


Abigail Jardine has taught and written for many years. Her stories focus on gender, family dynamics, and American culture. She lives in California.


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