Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Our 15 minutes of fame

The next day (July 12) the article below appeared in Seacoast On-line and in the Portsmouth (NH) Herald.

Many thanks to Ariella!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Seven: "Roll, thou deep and dark blue ocean"

Beach Number Seven: York, Maine. Seven in Eleven--Hurray!-- and just in the nick of time. It's about 8pm. In another half hour there would have been no beach at all. And the sun is going down.

In York, the Adventurers were met by reporter Ariella Coombs and a photographer from the Portsmouth, NH newspaper. A wonderful ending to a long and wildly successful day.
End of the day, and the Adventurers have left the beach to share a celebratory meal--and a well-earned victory drink.

Six: "I must down to the seas again. . . "

Beach Number Six: New Hampshire has been achieved. For Ned, Betsy and Cindy this ties last year's Quick Six swim. For Monica, Brian and Angel it's a personal best--but their record is soon to improve. It's around 7pm which means it's been 14 hours since Beach Number One in New Jersey. Only one more beach to go. Onward to Maine!

Five: By the Shining-Big-Sea-Water

Beach Number Five: Salisbury, Massachusetts. Lookin' cool in the lengthening shadows of the afternoon sun.

NB: Itinerary Changes

The MA beach will still be in Salisbury, but it will be off North End Blvd.

The NH beach has been changed from Wallis Sands to Hampton Beach.

Onward, Adventurers!

Four: Sea Fever

Beach Number Four: Rhode Island, and past the halfway point.
 Special mention: Really Nice Guy Ryan, the gate attendant at Misquamicut State Beach and a big Seven in Eleven fan.


The Adventurers enjoy a break and a Summer Shandy before setting sail for Rhode Island. Angel is the Official Photographer.

Three: Water, water everywhere

Beach Number Three: Connecticut. As the morning progresses, other beachgoers begin to make an appearance on the sand, but the Adventurers, of course, have braved the water.

Two: Here comes the sun

Beach Number Two: New York has been conquered, and it's not even 9 am yet. Swimmers are at Rockaway Beach near the surfer's beach at 90th Street. This is Bell's Beach, named for a firefighter who lost his life on 9/11.

And this is Good Samaritan John of Beach 92nd Street who generously provided the Adventurers a parking space while they took their ocean dip. Who says New Yorkers are unfriendly?

One: By the dawn's early light

Beach Number One: Awake, wet, smiling (and looking awfully good for 5:30 am!), the Adventurers cross New Jersey off their list. The photo credit goes to Angel L. Colon, Jr.--who else would be on the beach at this hour????

Sunday, July 10, 2011

To boldly go . . .

First photo of the valiant Seven in Eleven adventurers, currently enroute to New Jersey where they will attempt a good night's sleep before tomorrow's Aquatic Challenge.

From left to right: Angel, Monica, Betsy, Ned, Cindy, Brian.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Seven in Eleven

Seven in Eleven
A Littoral Adventure
On Monday July 11, 2011 a group of adventurers will attempt to swim at seven salt water beaches in seven different states between dawn and dusk. With the support of several chapters of The Surfrider Foundation, Seven in Eleven celebrates the beauty of the coastal Northeast and proves that age is no barrier to having fun outdoors.

The event begins at sunrise (5:36 a.m.) at Long Branch, NJ. Subsequent stops will be at Rockaway Beach (Beach 90th Street) in New York City,
Sherwood Island State Park (East Beach) in Westport, CT,
Misquamicut State Beach, Westerly, RI,
Salisbury State Reservation, Salisbury, MA,
Wallis Sands State Beach, Rye, NH,
Ending before sunset (8:23 p.m.) at Long Sands Beach, York ME.

The Seven in Eleven builds on last year’s Quick Six – six beaches, six states, one day. The Quick Six was featured in the Travel Section of the Boston Sunday Globe.

This year’s participants, most in their 50’s and 60’s, are expected to include a registered nurse, a computer security expert, a former Coast Guardsman, a van driver, a veteran long-distance swimmer and runner, and a retired city planner.

For additional background, see

Live blogging begins right here on Monday July 11, 2011 at 7 a.m.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Santa Anita Trip Notes

March 17-20 2011

Saw one of my Starbucks regulars in the departure lounge for Virgin America Thursday morning. Virgin America is no great shakes of an airline, especially in Coach. Can’t see what all the fuss is about. I followed the website directions from LAX to the park. Someone made a nice choice to have folks get off on Orange Grove in Pasadena. This is the kind of street where you can find yourself stuck behind a van with the sign “Architectural Tours of Los Angeles by an Architectural Historian.”  Sets a very posh tone.

I had made prior arrangements with Mike Willman and Debbie Olsen of the Publicity Department for a media credential. The helpful guy at the gate directed me to park by an orange tree. None of those where I come from. Bird of paradise flowers in the parking lot. Not a lot of those blooming in March back home either. The big fountain by the statue of Seabiscuit was flowing green for St. Patrick’s Day. Not exactly like dyeing the Chicago River for the day, but a kind of cheesy reminder I was at the racetrack, not the Norton-Simon Museum.

Now this is a real racetrack. When I got inside I found the elevator to the press box. This was manned by a charming guy who did not want to admit he drew the short straw  and got stuck working in a little box all day with the beauty of California right outside. Are the last elevator operators in the world working the press box elevators at racetracks? Maybe the White House.

Mike Willman was busy and distracted, but Debbie Olsen was charming in providing the credential and inviting me to make myself at home. In my limited experience, this is a first-class operation. They had hot food in the press box!! Sat in Jay Hovdey’s seat. There were actual working press guys there - talking about the NCAA Men’s. Best ever.

My impression throughout was that the crowd was surprisingly bland. Not as “cowboy” as I would have thought. Not very Mexican either Maybe it is because it was a Thursday. My companion suggests that those folks have to work for a living. Later it seems all of this area is like that. Hollywood and San Diego, too. Maybe I just can’t get off by myself enough, but the whole region seems bleached out, corporate, branded. I haven’t been back for almost 25 years and my existence when I lived here more than thirty years ago was pretty marginal. Maybe more marginal than I ever realized.

One nice touch is the South African (Thanks Ron Z.) track announcer, Trevor Denman, with his very plummy accent. An off note is the use of the word “hornblower” to describe the guy who plays the call to the post. It just sounds weird. The only references I can find for this usage are at here at Santa Anita and in cites for the Marx Brothers movie, “A Day at the Races” (1937). Saratoga, Woodbine, even the races at the Northern California fairs call him the “bugler.”

What began as a cool and foggy day brightens. It seems like I can see the race along the backstretch extraordinarily well. My companion says it may be the cool green of the mountain backdrop.  Make a note to check with my long-suffering and ever more beautiful artist wife when I get home.

Lost $5, despite cashing 4 tickets.

The Workouts
Mike Willman had said that if I wanted to see the morning workouts I should get out by 7 a.m. Drove by a bar in Arcadia called “The Drinker’s Hall of Fame.” Serious question about what I would have done if I had seen that sign last night on St. Patrick’s Day. The only thing I remember about my last St.Patrick’s day in LA was running out of gas on the way home.

Arrived at 6:45 in darkness to find the workouts in full swing. Sun just about to come up. It smelled like horse shit. I took this as a very good sign. The workouts are advertised and  are open to the public for free. I actually saw a clocker with a stopwatch as I walked over. Again, this is the real deal.

The workouts are big. They have a coffee shop with hot meals, waiters in bow ties, guys drying the dew off the seats, freestanding gas heaters (ubiquitous now in Southern California apparently). Could have had breakfast there instead of wasting my time eating at Denny’s. Got a cup of coffee and sat down to watch the action. They have two tracks working simultaneously – the main dirt track and an inner training loop inside the turf course. This appears to have a different surface – grey in color as opposed to the sandy brown of the main track.

The sun JUMPS up over the San Gabriel mountains over by the first turn. Some minor excitement over a loose horse. A small crowd of professionals and gawkers. A family on vacation from Boston, some older folks. I am NOT the only guy there wearing a suit and tie. The ubiquitous Bob Baffert. The sun begins to warm the air and a waiter offers to warm up my coffee. I wonder, “Is this the best breakfast I ever had?” Ranks right up there anyway.

Hazy blue sky, folded hills with some steep declivities. A small residential community appears perched on the lower slopes. Wonder if they can see in? My old firm once rented an apartment in Chicago with an obstructed view of Soldiers Field, but I never stayed the weekend to see the Bears play. Maybe it is like the folks in Chicago who rent their rooftops to folks to watch the Cubs.

Still way less cowboy and less Mexican than I could have imagined, even with a high percentage of professionals. Several people with dogs. Do dogs act cool around horses?

Things stop for reconditioning the track surfaces. When workouts resume, there are far fewer horses out. Earlier there was a pleasant blur of activity. There is no way for a novice like me to know what is really happening, not even which horse is which.

The Races
I meet a guy at the paddock who declares it to be his lucky day. It is his name day – Sandor from Hungary. Seems pleased to meet someone who knows not only that yesterday was St. Patrick’s, but that tomorrow is St. Joseph’s.

I wander around this BIG plant and discover the basement. On a sunny day in March in California, the basement of a race track is for true degenerates, but like the rest of the place it is clean and neat and the crowd looks respectable. Pitiable, but respectable. Part of the interior of the grandstand is cordoned off for a blood drive and in another part (I told you it was big.) there are signs announcing that a TV show (The HBO drama "Luck.") is being filmed and that we have all consented to the use of our likenesses. I scram before they find out I am 32 years in arrears on my AFTRA dues.

Just out of the gate for Race 1

 Gilligan, with Joe Talamo up wins Race 1

Chantal Sutherland up on PowerofVoodoo before Race 2

The break in Race 2

Living Our Dream with Rafael Bejarano up wins Race 2

There are a couple of fancy horse and carriage rigs ferrying folks around the main track between races. Again that Old Pasadena/Tournament of Roses feel. I thoroughly enjoy the day, especially the sunshine.

 Star Billing in the walking ring. The winner of Race 3. 

Lord Avalon with jockey Martin Garcia wins Race 4

Even with no distractions, I manage to lose $10.

Back after a short trip to San Diego to air out the Old School Tie. Got a very late start and felt a little bad because I had a loose agreement to meet an “internaute” (as the French would say) friend at the track. A little cool and cloudy down south, more moisture as I hit Pomona, teeming when I get to Arcadia. 

I found my contact and we watched some horses in the saddling paddock and one race from the clubhouse walkway. We both had some things to do and different ways to do them so I watched the last two races on my own from the doorway of the grandstand. There were, surprisingly, some folks actually in the infield in the pouring rain. All in all a very sparse crowd and very quiet.

On a recommendation from a website I am starting to follow, I bet a longshot for $2 across the board and the $22.20 Show payout got me even for the weekend. Pretty good time to zip up the wallet and go to dinner.