ruidoso downsSometime around 1996, I went to a workshop called Writers for Riding. It took place at Ruidoso, home of Ruidoso Downs, once an important place in the world of quarter-horse racing, and now just another fading track near yet another Indian casino.

Was the conference a scam? Maybe yes, maybe no. There used to be turf writers in the US. but this wasn’t about turf writing–it was just about horses as a centerpiece to write around. There still are turf writers, but they are a dying and diminishing race. As one turf writer wrote:

The truth is, there is not that much racing media left, at least from the traditional standpoint of the daily newspaper. In fact, horse racing hardly exists in many American newspapers that used to employ one or more full-time racing writers and handicappers. Feature stories, outside of the Triple Crown, are few and far between, and many papers in racing cities have stopped publishing handicapping selections, entries, and results.

–Ray Paulick,, November 23, 2012.

I found a canary yellow legal pad with some scrawls on it today. I am dumping stuff (see The Great Book Sale), but not without a moment’s reflection.

We all stayed in large rented condo. Who was there? Carolyn Elkins, who was my friend for a while, was there. She came with her sister, Marilyn. (Oddly enough, the trip was to be  life-changing for Marilyn.)  There was a Rebecca, from Arkansas, and a Becky, who was older and if I remember correctly had skin deeply etched by the sun.

After our initial excitement at meeting each other and the perfunctory politeness, the personality element is beginning to insert itself. The sore spots are starting to wear. The Olympics were on, and Becky could not resist making fun of the synchronized swimmers, especially the inverted legs-out-of-the-water splits maneuver. She used language from porno magazines. But when I suggested that the Olympics should be performed as they were in ancient Greece–naked–she got offended in a way that seemed to come from left field. Rebecca, the Arkansan, has her buttons pushed quite easily if the shortcomings of the South are brought up. I live in the South, as do Carolyn and her sister, and none of us seem to think that it is some sort of wisteria-covered paradise. Sometime, before the week is over, I will solemnly assert that the best thing that has happened to the South has been an influx of Northerners.

cutting horse

The names in my notes now mean nothing to me, whether I remember the person’s face or not. They are just names. There was a rodeo rider named Johnny Gas, according to my notes, but if I google that name I get Johnny Cash. There is a Walker Porter, DVM. The internet tells me that he is now retired, and that his wife of 55 years died last year. Someone must have gone to the desert endurance races in  the UAE. Maybe it was Dr. Porter. It seems fairly certain that he did head down to Guadalajara to be the veterinarian at some match races. The track wasn’t flat–the starting gate was on an uphill.

Lee Abbott taught part of the course.One thing that annoys me about about writing courses is that the book signing session, with the weird sort of pressure to by a copy. Does anyone want a signed copy of Strangers in Paradise, or Love is the Crooked Thing?

Ronnie Stewart–trainer  a three-word note says. He is on facebook, and is still working with horses.

Another forgotten rodeo cowboy, a note–probably a quote from Abbott–to “exhaust the emotional possibilities of a moment.” I am sure that that is not one of my ideas.

Here’s an interesting quote, but I can’t give it proper attribution:

“The American Cowboy is most overrated work in the U.S.”





It’s fucking 8:30 in the evening. It’s been a long day.  It’s time to be enjoying the evening. But no, my idiot neighbor is out there making sure that the grass won’t be too tall in the morning in case it grows overnight. Does he add up the hours that he expends making sure that his lawn looks nice? I feel like telling him that I’m sure the grass over his grave will be nice and neat–won’t that be enough? How is it that I always end up next door to people whose life’s mission it is to make sure that their house has curb appeal?

The last place was worse. There was an acre of conservation land that used to belong to my neighbor, but which he still considered it his most sacred duty to keep mowed. Out there on the riding mower, hour after hour, in a tank shirt, or (heaven help me) shirtless, going in endless, noisy circles. Mowing down blackberries, columbine, leaving nice edges for poison ivy to flourish…




overgrown_lawnAs soon as the weather gets nice, finally, sometime in the middle of May, I think of getting back outside. Not necessarily to do anything, but to just get outside without the burden and discomfort of cold and extra clothing and let the sun irradiate my skin. O let the sweat drip from my forehead, let my clothes stick to me, I do not care. I do not have to shovel. I do not have to clear the car off. I can open the windows and turn off the heated seats.

But then they start. The incessant whine, the buzzing around your ear like that damn mosquito that won’t go away while you try and sleep. Cursed things! Could somebody tell me why on G-d’s green earth an able-bodied person needs a riding mower for a 1/4 acre plot? Or even a motorized mower? Get some exercise! Use a reel mower! Let’s ignore the fuel that it takes to run the mowers of this country–just imagine all the fossil fuel used in creating and transporting the mowers. Is any device more suited than the mower in showing us how inconsiderate our neighbors are,  out there at 7 am on weekend mornings, conveniently ignoring the fact that some of us may be sleeping (typical New Englander)? Is this a good use of technology? To be sure, there’s hardly an hour when someone isn’t mowing somewhere within earshot–can’t we have a few hours to listen to the wind and the birds and parents screaming at their children?

The pride people take in their lawns! Folks–It’s just grass. And I, for one, refuse to pour perfectly good drinking water on the ground on purpose. What’s the worst that could happen? That my lawn turns beige? and I don’t have to mow it at all. Chemicals? Why? To get rid of the dandelions, which are a) pretty, b) native, and c) edible? There are various species of things growing out there, and they are no less green that bluegrass or fescue.

The gas mowers will remain in reserve for those occasions when the grass has grown too high, or when the neighborhood is suffering from too much quiet. Actually, I may need to buy a house, so maybe I’ll let the whole thing go to hell and lower the property values until they reach an affordable level.

Even fancy neighborhoods can have nice beige lawns.

Even fancy neighborhoods can have nice beige lawns.


Wherein this bozo from Central Casting actually and without irony answers Pat Robertson’s question: “Why are Jews so rich?”
lapinIn case you missed Pat Roberton’s TV show, or in case you don’t watch Fox News, this embarrassment to the tribe was on the 700 Club perpetuating medieval stereotypes about his own group. Poor guy, his rebbe probably told him  that The Merchant of Venice was a dramatization of real occurrence. Here’s the Salon article.


and because he never ceases to embarrass us….






ONE COULD MAKE THE ARGUMENT THAT WRIGLEY CEASED TO BE WRIGLEY when the Tribune Corporation bought the Cubs, or when they in turn sold it to Sam Zell, or certainly when Zell sold it to the Ricketts family. Baseball ain’t what it used to be, and however quaint we try to make it in our minds, Wrigley is basically just an ivy-covered dump. True, it’s a really nice ivy-covered dump, but  a dump is still a dump, and after one has made a trip to Camden Yards or AT&T field, it is apparent that charm only goes so far, and that good sight lines and comfortable seats might, in the course of  81 games, be even more important.

Wrigley Field was cool, but that ended with lights in 1988. Baseball played at night is just another reason that some think it’s declining. Time was when everyone watched the World Series and didn’t quit watching when the hometown bombed out (which was every year in Chicago). But a weekday game in the sunshine–that’s an excuse to turn on the TV at work or just light out and play hooky.

Wrigley Field was really cool when they had to share the field with the Bears. On a rainy Sunday the football players would get covered in mud as they made runs up the middle through the grassless baselines  infield. It was cool to walk to Wrigley Field from my grandmother’s home on Cornelia and the lake (they lived previously lived at Pine Grove and Addison, but then they moved up in the world), past LeMoyne Elementary where my dad went, by that time covered with Latin Kings graffiti, showing that the old neighborhood wasn’t what it once was. My dad, though only in his early 30s, had season tickets–they weren’t so expensive then–and they were almost the worst seats in the house. We sat a row or two from the very top at the south end zone. The vortex of lake winds formed by the bowl of the stadium had us huddling under blankets, thermoses in hand.The season highlight, the Bear-Packer game, was in December every year. I froze my ass off and loved every minute of it.

Season tickets? Unless it’s a St. Louis game, where busloads of Missourians (and Southern Illinoisans) come to gloat (do they ever get tired of it?) at the misery that is Cubs baseball, tickets can generally be had out front at less than face value, especially at the beginning of the season, when the weather is more suited to Bear-Packer games or outdoor hockey, or at the end of the season, when even the faithful realize that rare Chicago days of warmth and sunshine can be enjoyed with beers that cost less than $8.50.

A sign of the times is that the Cubs organization was actively recruiting season ticket holders. I was called on the phone multiple times by a salesman attempting to get me to buy in by relying on my out-of-date feelings about the game. I got on the waiting list for season tickets, probably around 5 years ago. I was sort of interested until I realized that it would set me back at least several thousand dollars to get middling seats. I’d never be able to break even, unless of course the Messiah came and the Cubs made it above 85 wins (well, it has happened around 35 time–since 1874). Attendance at Wrigley has been falling for 6 years, even as the seating expands. I confess to having fantasies about selling the tickets a profit to benefit the nonprofit (PAZ), and then being first in line for NLCS tickets (the World Series is too much to hope for). I am not in a position in life to indulge fantasies at the cost of several thousand dollars. Leave that to the corporati in their luxury boxes, or  those who believe that a trip to the ball park with the family should cost as much as a weekend vacation.

pair of logging suffolks

Image  —  Posted: November 11, 2013 in Things from my personal life that you probably don't--and shouldn't--give a shit about.


Image  —  Posted: November 7, 2013 in Puzzles, Science, Uncategorized
Tags: ,