Saturday, November 14, 2009

More rejection

I got another rejection letter today. Actually, not even a letter, but a pre-printed postcard from a literary magazine published at my first alma mater. Filling up the desk drawer quite nicely.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Quick Six

At the urging of some kind friends, I did write up a version of the big beach adventure of August. It was therapeutic. I felt I exorcised something, maybe a sense of guilt at not pulling it off for the others.

I sent the piece off to six or eight publications, both print and on-line. So far I have received TWO rejection letters! One from a publication which last week featured both T. C. Boyle and Joyce Carol Oates. I feel successful already.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

GVH Steepelchase Photos

Steeplechase Racing at Geneseo

I will be the first one to admit that I know very little about horses, less about Thoroughbred racing, and even less about steeplechasing. I am interested in all three and have spent some time this year trying to teach myself about them and trying to absorb the lessons others have generously given me.

I was going to be in western New York last weekend anyway, so I thought I would go to see the races at the Genesee Valley Hunt in Geneseo. This was facilitated by Joe Clancy of The Steeplechase Times and by the folks at the National Steeplechase Association. I was of two minds about wearing my freelance journalist hat. I had the concerns expressed above, and the consideration that this was partly a social event for me and I would not be entirely free to do as I wished.

Thus arose the problem of how to dress. I know what I wear to the track, but this did not seem right. I know what journalists wear, but I hardly had anything shabby enough. I had no idea what this kind of hunter/horseman might wear. As it turns out I needn't have worried. No-one cared, almost everyone was dressed for comfort, and besides, I have no idea where to buy those wide-wale corduroys in that particular shade of deep gold.

We arrived ahead of the NSA sponsored (and non-wagering) events and watched the young Cara Peters win the Stockhorse Sprint aboard Ace, a 13 year old gelding. That the trophy was presented by her grandparents typified the low-key and friendly atmosphere of the day.

The next race was the $10, 000 Martha S. Wadsworth Memorial run over two loops of the course and over 15 or 16 timber fences. These are emphatically not the kind of thing you see watching racing from England or Ireland where the horses scrape through some brush. It is also very much not the kind of thing you see at the Olympics where even a slight touch will knock down a lightly poised rail. These are sturdy constructions of horizontal poles on a frame about four feet high. They are SOLID.

The listed field of six had some pre-race scratches and only four starters went to the line. Steeplechases are run at a very different pace than racing on the flat. Longer distances, jumps, bigger jocks, all slow things down. The course seemed even longer than the 1 1/2 miles it was supposed to be. All of the spectators were clustered at the finish line, on both sides of the course. A small stand for officials and others was on the outside of the course at the line. Spectators stood or sat in lawn chairs. Some sat/stood on the beds of trucks both in the infield and the "outfield".

The normal racing dangers to riders and mounts are intensified by the jumps. A jockey was unseated in the Wadsworth, though he appeared to manage it alright. Since this was partly a family occasion, I did not handicap the entries or pay all that much attention to finish times. The first picture below shows Justin Batoff aboard the winner, Prospectors Strike as they clear the fence at the judges stand.

The other NSA event was the $25,000 Genesee Valley Hunt Cup. Even more scratches in this one, leading to a three horse field. Again, some (to me) slow going along more than two circuits of this very long, undulating turf course. I would guess that only from the judges stand could anyone see the whole course. Another rider unseated on a jump. A terrific crack as a horse hit the fence in front of me, breaking the top rail. The second snapshot below has the winner, Irish Prince with Jody Petty up, preparing to take a fence.

Steeplechasing in a hunt club setting will never be confused with thousands of fans at Saratoga rooting their choices home, or with the bleak emptiness of Suffolk Downs on a rainy Monday. These each have a charm of their own to me. I guess I will have to try jump racing a few more times and see if there is a fit. It certainly qualifies as a fun day out with nice people.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The 3rd Annual A.J. Liebling Invitational Short Fiction Conference was held in Massachusetts on Saturday, September 19th. The Liebling is a one-day literary conference devoted to the works and ideas of two 20th-century New World authors - the journalist and gourmand Abbott Joseph Liebling (1904-1963) and the Argentinean writer/philosopher Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986.) It attracts independent scholars from all parts of the country.

I have the privilege of being the Permanent Secretary of the Conference. While the entire corpus of Liebling's and Borges' work form the foundation of the Conference, we pay particular attention to two short passages, as below.

It is a laborious madness and an impoverishing one, the composing of vast books- setting out in five hundred pages an idea that can be perfectly related orally in five minutes. The better way to go about it is to pretend these books already exist, and offer a summary, a commentary on them.
Jorge Luis Borges

In the light of what Proust wrote with so mild a stimulus, it is the world's loss that he did not have a better appetite. On a dozen Gardiner's Island oysters, a bowl of clam chowder, a peck of steamers, some bay scallops, three sauteed soft-shelled crabs, a few ears of fresh-picked corn, a thin swordfish steak of generous area, a pair of lobsters, and a Long Island duck, he might have written a masterpiece.
A.J. Liebling

The Conference opens with a set of short welcoming remarks, awards (if any), and a Review of Correspondence. The meta-Proustian menu is then undertaken by all participants. Portions consumed are at the discretion of the participant. During interludes in the Gustatory segment, conference papers, as suggested by Borges and subject to the optional promptings of the Permanent Secretary and other members of the Committee, are read. Readings are sometimes followed by short question and answer sessions, but disputation or argument is not looked on favorably.

The Committee this year was assisted by Chef Tony Mauro, wine consultant Bob Gifford, and photographer N. Daly.

Official suppliers to the Conference include Captain Marden's Seafood of Wellesley, MA, Volante Farms of Needham, MA, A.J. Russo Fruit and Produce of Watertown, MA, Owens Poultry Farm of Needham, MA, Cambridge Wine and Spirits of Cambridge, MA, and The Crab Place of Crisfield, MD.

The Conference was supported this year by the generous financial contributions of several donors who wish to remain anonymous. At the direction of the Standing Committee, a portion of the contributions will be used to offset the cost of a limited-edition publication of the Proceedings of the Conference.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

I went to a lovely wedding today. On the way I saw a billboard advertising spaces in "Artisan Daycare."

Like Gepetto's workshop?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Diabolus ex Machina

When I have had a chance to process this day, I may post again. My mind is reeling with cliches from classical literature. I feel that defeat was snatched from the jaws of victory. We must have offended the gods somehow.

I know I have the best family and friends in the world.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Brave and Weary Adventurers

10pm Finally on a (delayed) train, headed home.


6pm Rear-ended by another car in New London. (Everyone reported OK.) Quick Six crashes to a halt.

Siren Lured Offshore

4:45pm CT swim accomplished. Cindy in serious swim mode far offshore.

Another State Down

2:09 Back on the return ferry, having accomplished the Orient Point, NY swim, eaten some lunch, and lost 2 beach towels en route.

Midday Respite

11:45 Highway leg of journey completed. Taking the noon ferry to Orient Point, NY.

More photos

Then on to Hampton, NH and Salisbury, MA.

Photos from Betsy's cell phone

Sorry about the posting delay. The photos went to junk mail (such insolence!) and we just discovered them.

This is York, Maine.

The Quick Six gets underway

The following are updates from a loyal fan receiving hourly phone reports.

4:28 am
Betsy arrives at Ned's house. It's dark. Very. She is wearing white. She glimmers in the light from the porch.
4:31 am
Monica arrives at the house. It's still dark. She is a cheerful voice floating from a silhouette against in the streetlight. She, too, is wearing white.
They pack the car trunk. The aroma of coffee stirs through the heavy air. It's already going to be a hot day.
4:40 am The adventure begins. Ned drives. Next is Checkpoint 1 where they will meet Cindy.
5:19 Intersection of 62 and 95, Danvers. Cindy on board. Her current colors are blue and black.
6:15 Maine swim accomplished. Short Sand Beach, York, Maine.
7:15 Hampton Beach, New Hampshire swim accomplished. Interesting complication: Betsy wrapped in towel; second bathing suit still locked in car.
8:00 Plaintive requests for loyal fan to begin blog entries.
8:15 Daughter Jane brought in as blog expert. JKA, Jane Knows All.
8:40 Salisbury Beach, Massachusetts swim accomplished.
Loyal fan awaiting possible photo transmissions.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Quick Six

August 2009
Monday the 17th will mark the inaugural running of The Quick Six. This event involves swimming (at least one full head to toes immersion in the ocean) at six different beaches in six different states during one period of daylight. At least four participants are lined up and eager to go.

More (with photos) upon completion.