Cinco de May

The Moon, the Derby
& Those Margaritas

The holiday many think of as Mexico’s independence day coincides this year with the Moon’s annual closest approach to Earth, and the 138th edition of the Kentucky Derby, the Triple Crown horse racing series’ first leg. Since we really have no horse on this race, we can’t tell whether Margaritas or Mint Juleps will prevail in the end either.
For all coincidences, though, things don’t seem quite up to their billing. There’s been serious questions about horse racing after so many died lately, the Supermoon won’t be nearly as close as last year’s, and the Cinco is not such a big deal in Mexico, and neither are Margaritas.
We’re saying this not to rain on your parade, of course. Heaven knows we’re in no position of being picky when it comes to parties, bashes, celebrations and Bat Mitzvahs. It’s just that, more often than not, the hype make us run in the opposite direction. And such Samaritans that we are, we don’t want to just leave you behind, half-drunk at the party, and with no change for the ride back home.
So let us just get you up to speed about this promising Saturday, line up a few trivia, which you may down as you would do with shots, and you’ll be good to go. After all, wherever you may be, the weather rarely plays along, and you may find yourself indoors later, arguing over who was more relevant to mankind, if Karl Marx, born 194 years ago today, or Orson Welles, who’d be 97 tomorrow.

Of them, the real rounded date is the Battle of Puebla, fought 150 years ago, when Mexican forces led by General Ignacio Zaragoza (isn’t that nice to have someone look it up for you on the Internet? But don’t get too cozy; we’re not doing the same next year) kicked some French ass. We don’t mind it, really, since we know that it’ll take you another year to even think about May 5h again.
Online is also where anyone can read about how Mexico’s win was short-lived and how the U.S. had a role in retaking Mexico City from Maximilian I and all that. What’s considerably harder to gauge is why it became what it is, a semi-official holiday, tinged by pride and, naturally, with lots of inebriation and daze. Then again, who cares?
At it stands, this hybrid is just another way for urban dwellers of both sides of the border to have something to share without much acrimony. What, with anti-immigrant sentiment festering in Arizona, sponsored by irresponsible politicians, and a brutal wave of violence spilling blood all over Mexico, we surely can use such an occasion for a pint or too.
What? are you still on with the sweet stuff? Well, go ahead then, but don’t call us Shirley.

Not to upstage today’s lunar event, but 12 years ago, when Mercury, Venus, the Earth, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn got all lined up with the Sun, which was also flanking a full Moon with our planet, that was a real rare occurrence. But ultimately, it was all just a good show, as accidental as a shooting star, but probably less threatening.
We always make it to appear much more spectacular that it really is, and in the end, when things don’t live up to our expectations (how can they?), we act jaded and deflated, like spoiled children. That our brain is wired to see ‘coincidences’ when there’s just a statistical probability, is something that may have to do with our survival through the ages. In fact, we can’t even explain why the Moon appears bigger on the horizon than when it’s up in the sky.
As Hayden Planetarium Director Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson tweeted yesterday, ‘The impending Supermoon is to an average full Moon what a 16″ Pizza is to a 15″ Pizza. So chillax.’ In other words, reports about its size being something out of this world, well, it is but they’re also greatly exaggerated.
Still, make no mistake, we’re in awe about the Moon, however it presents itself above us, as Buzz Aldrin would, or as we used to be when we were romantic and foolish. We can’t explain it, it just gets us going all the way to this silly place, where people still take the time to look up and allow themselves to be in awe about something.

When the Run for the Roses horse race starts at about 6:24pm in Churchill Downs, Louisville, what most aficionados would like to happen most likely won’t, at least not in a permanent basis: the erasing of all the bad press horse racing has been getting lately. That is because, apart from a few tweaks, nothing really has changed with the way this business is being conducted for years.
Feel free to follow the links, though, if you want to get up to date about it all. It may not be a bad idea, except for timing. For despite all that we may despise about how specially these very expensive and very fragile animals are handled, racing is in their true nature, and seeing them speeding up is a thing of beauty, no question about it.
Now, whether you’re a trust fund kid, with deep pockets, or have been living from one unemployment check to the next, and in either case, you plan on betting on the main event, or perhaps in the many that come earlier in the day, it’s your prerogative.
We have no tips for you, for even though we’re suffused in vice, to be perfectly honest, the thrill of betting eludes us. We’re no hurry to add another expensive pastime to the full range of completely useless and utterly wasteful ways we spend most of our days.
We’re biased when it comes to Mexican history or Astronomy, though: we enjoy them both. And watching the Derby will certainly keep our minds away from the sad things that happen behind the scenes, in racetracks and stables across America.
So there you go: a quirk, if not completely straight, primer on what’s up today, in case you’re in a mood for a multiple treat of sorts. Now, the good old Marx (Karl, not one of the brothers) knew a thing or two about how the dichotomy of bread and circus works, and so did big Orson.
We’re the ones still learning. Still in love with the Moon. Still enjoying the horses run.

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