An Observation

Whilst reading Andrew Sullivan I stumbled across something fascinating. A common enough occurrence on The Dish, and one of the reasons why I read it everyday. Today I found a poem by Nabokov. Beautiful and significant enough in and of itself, but even more beautiful and significant, a recording of Nabokov reading aloud said poem

I read the poem, and pondered its meaning. I listened to the recording, and marveled at it. There are few things that captivate me more than voices from the past, captured like a lightning bug in the hand, forever glowing. The intonation, the accent, the cadence. These voices are foreign and yet familiar, ghosts lingering in our living memory.

In this particular instance, you have Nabokov sounding ever so British, and it is stunning the degree to which his Russian past is hidden in the arch English accent he has learnt to speak in. You get a feeling for the man through his voice. For example, when I read the poem, I saw pity and compassion for the disconnect between youth and age. But to me there’s something a little scolding in Nabokov’s tone.

And so I sat, thinking these thoughts about identity and voice, thinking that this long past recording and the sound of the present were echoed by the poem itself, when all of a sudden an entirely different thought occurred to me. Which was:

Holy crap, that dude sounds exactly like the Catepillar from Alice in Wonderland.

Especially in his recital of the crocodile poem.

Seriously. Go to the 1:11 mark in the Nabokov poem and listen to him say, “You are a mere outline, the subject of any first chapter.” 

Now go to the 2:32 mark in the Alice in Wonderland clip and listen to him say,  “How cheerfully he seems to grin, how neatly spreads his claws, and welcomes little fishes in, with gently smiling jaws.”

Freaky, right?

And we have yet to even jump down into the rabbit hole! I do a little research and find Richard Hadyn, a London-born actor, voiced the Catepillar in Alice in Wonderland.

This is Richard Haydn:

Richard Haydn

 This is Nabokov:

Nabokov

So, there you have it. Proof positive that while I can do quiet contemplation for some time, it’s only so long before I veer off into conspiracy theories involving the Catepillar from Alice in Wonderland and one of the Russian masters.

The Boys of Summer

A photo of the keg stand in question.

I don’t spend a lot of time talking about my personal life here at Fanfreakingtastic. There are two reasons for this. 1.) I’m pretty private. 2.) My personal life is exceedingly boring. Don’t get me wrong. I deeply, deeply appreciate just how boring my life is. I can’t abide drama. I like things still and quiet and serene.

Anyway, back to the point. If you haven’t already figured it out, this is going to be a more personal story than usual. Also, I am going to say some nice things about some friends of mine. I don’t want them to let this go to their head, or think I am going to make a habit of it. After this, it’s back to business as usual.

This last weekend was the 8th Annual FlowerFest. What is this FlowerFest, you may be asking yourself. Well, once upon a time, when Evan was 18, his parents went away for nine days. Evan and his friends therefore had a nine day party. This was the original FlowerFest. It is important to note that this group of friends had been tight for a very long time upon the occasion of the original FlowerFest, and they remain tight to this day.

Growing up, I didn’t have a tight group of friends. I did have some wonderful friends, both at school and in horses, and I am grateful for all of them. But let me put it to you this way – I lived in the same house from age 3 to age 18. I changed schools four times. The first change was foisted upon me by the school district, the rest were voluntary. Here’s the thing. I have a pretty big personality. Over the years, I’ve gotten much, much better at managing myself, but I still tend to be a person who garners strong reactions. People love me or hate me. When I was in school, this quality was magnified about eleventy billion times. I would change schools, and there’d be love at first, followed pretty quickly by the hate. And then I’d leave. As my dear friend Eminem put it, I’ve been chewed up and spit out and booed off stage. But, like Em, I couldn’t stop rhyming or writing the next cypher, and so the cycle would begin all over again.

These were not pleasant times for yours truly. I have two vivid memories of my final days at Auburn Senior High School (the second high school I’d attended). I remember walking down the hallway and thinking, “Is this really it? This is all high school is going to be? Where’s my Ferrari ride with Ferris Bueller? Why all the lies, John Hughes?” The other memory is of graduation. You may be surprised to hear that when you’re 5’1″ with broad shoulders and big boobs a graduation gown pretty much turns you into a giant bowling ball. And when you’re essentially dressed in a Halloween costume of a giant bowling ball, you’re already not feeling too frisky. So, there I am, feeling like a fat, fat bowling ball, on the football field, with 650 people, the vast majority of them I didn’t know at all, just wanting to get the hell out of there. (Actually, I just had a memory – I was in this Commercial Arts class, and we were charged with the task of making the senior t-shirts. I desperately wanted the slogan to be, “Like Bats Out of Hell.” For some reason, the principal felt this was too negative.)

Anyway, the good news was – in three short months I was off to inner city Los Angeles and USC. Right away I met my future husband, Evan. He was from Clemson, SC, and over the year I met some of his friends, talked to others on the phone, and heard millions of stories about the group of guys Evan had grown up with. They were really, really good stories.

Summer was coming up, and back in Auburn, WA, my parents had taken in my sister, her daughter, as well as my grandmother who had Alzheimer’s. There was literally no room at the inn. My dad was supporting four generations on one small income, and I was going to a very expensive private school. I’d mentioned to my mom that in the South, one could acquire a factory job and earn a lot of money. My mom isn’t stupid. Some time later, she said, “So, are you going to spend the summer in South Carolina with Evan and work at a factory?” And I was like, “Uhhh….” But inside my head I thought, “SHE’S SO SMART. IT’S CREEPY.”

And so, at nineteen, I moved 3,000 miles away to spend my summer with a bunch people I’d never met before while working swing shifts at a textile mill. (?!?) That first summer wasn’t easy. There was one point where I called my friend Kate, crying. Never in all our years of friendship had I ever called Kate, crying. But there were also plenty of good times, too, and my parents visited, fell in love with nearby Greenville, and moved there the next year. (This isn’t as weird as it sounds – my dad is from the South and they’d been looking to move to Atlanta for a long time. In Greenville, they found a much better version of what they’d been looking for.)

By the next summer, Clemson had started to feel like home. Over the next few years, I spent my summers there, and Evan’s friends became my friends. It was easy to see why Evan had so many really, really good stories. His group of friends are good people. They’re funny, they’re smart, and they’re loyal to the bone. Eventually, in 2003, we moved to Clemson and got married. Shortly thereafter, Evan’s best friend had a brilliant idea – a FlowerFest Revival. The original crew came together for a two-day regression therapy session.

FlowerFest has become an annual rite of summer. It has changed over time. A lot of the boys got married, to women I love like sisters. Some of the boys now have kids, leading to a new schedule of FlowerFest Days and FlowerFest Nights. Some of them have remained unmarried and childless, which is nice for Evan and I, who remain happily locked in at a mental age of around 24. Every year new people come to FlowerFest, and the boys welcome them with open arms. FlowerFest is the most inclusive gathering of people I’ve ever known. As long as you’re not a jerk and you’re up for a good time, you’re welcome to join in the merriment.

And so it was this past weekend, while I watched grown men launch complicated strategies to pants one another, and I watched people with PhD’s repeatedly, and violently, throw one another off a dock and into Lake Hartwell at 2 in the morning, it dawned on me how much I love these people.

During my L.A. years I always thought of myself as homeless. People would ask me where I was from, and I never knew how to answer. I could say Seattle, which was true – I went to high school there, and the city had a big impact on me. I could say rural Kent/Auburn, which was true, too. That’s where my house was. I could say L.A. I did live there for eight years.  Or I could say South Carolina, because I spent my summers there. But really, I didn’t have an answer. And so that word stuck with me – homeless. I felt homeless.

But last Saturday, while I watched ten men chase my husband down, tackle him, drag him several yards and force him to do a keg stand against his will, I realized I didn’t feel homeless anymore.

Change

Found this image of a banner for a Victorian flea circus, and I had to redo Fanfreakingtastic in its image.

Fanfreakingtastic! It’s had a makeover. I’ll never forget, when Fanfreakingtastic first debuted, more than a year ago, and my beloved BOTASTIC said, “Really? Pink? Orange? Little stars?” I replied, “Yeah! Little stars!” Botastic said, “Huh.” So I was like, “What’s wrong with little stars?!?” And Botastic was all, “I just figured you go with, you know, autumn colors or something.”

Botastic had a point. I’d put together the original Fanfreakintastic whilst in a particularly happy mood, whilst particularly enraptured with a pair of pink and orange sandles I’d bought. True story.

So, I present to you something reflective of the Victorian dark grunge freak show that is more reflective of my usual mindset? Question mark because, not sure if it’s ACTUALLY more reflective of my normative state, but it’s definitely a state I visit at least somewhat frequently. Rather like Georgia or North Carolina.

Also new to the Fanfreakingtastic site – the Equus category, where one can find all horse-related links. A friend recently made the point that there was no one place to go for all horsiness. Now there is.

Hope you like the new look! If you don’t, I’m sorry. I’m done fighting with WordPress for the time being. I’m sure I’ll get back in the ring again eventually. Change is good for soul, after all.

In Defense of a Sino-American Institution

Walmart, as America would have you see it.

Dear America,

And when I say, “America,” I am really saying, “American Haters of Walmart,” but that’s kind of long, so I’m just going to say, “America,” and you can sort it out amongst yourselves whether I am talking to you or against you. But back to what I was saying –

Dear America. You have long protested the rise of the evil empire that is Walmart. You cite their poor treatment of their workers, their destruction of local economies, their undercutting of US manufacturing. Look, America, you’re not wrong. When you say these things, I agree with you. Wholeheartedly. But here’s the thing America. Walmart does something for me that you do not.

Walmart makes me feel thin, rich and beautiful.

 Right now, America, as I type this, I am wearing a tank top that is labeled a size 4. I bought it yesterday at Walmart, and it is not tight, America. I probably could have gone to a size 2, just for the entertainment factor. Do you think this tank top would be labeled a size 4 at Ann Taylor? No, America, it would not. It would probably be a size 10, maybe 12. You know what it would be at Guess? An XXX-Large. So what happens if we get rid of Walmart, America? Are you going to come to my house and cut out all the size labels on my shirts and pants, and replace them self-esteem boosting size 4? Because I like feeling thin, America, and I’ve seen your magazine covers and your television shows. You want me to feel fat. Walmart vertiably insists that I feel thin.

A picture of me, at the Walmart.

Alongside  my size 4 tank top — which, for the record, has an ugly Hawaiian print, but it was a size 4, and I was buying it, by God — there were several other tank tops in a variety of colors. Grey and white striped, different shades of grey stripes, plain pink, a red and white bandanna looking thing that was very Fourth of July, and a variety of other options I’ve since forgotten, even though it was yesterday, and I actually bought them. Thing was, there were so many choices, and I couldn’t figure out which varieties I liked best. And then I realized, THEY’RE TWO DOLLARS EACH. And like Scrooge McDuck diving into his pile of gold coins, I went hog wild and bought all the colors I liked. My ugly size 4 Hawaiian print shirt was a pricey four dollars, bringing my grand total to SIXTEEN DOLLARS.

I’d stopped by Walmart on my way to feed the horses. I was therefore dressed in ancient jeans, falling apart paddock boots, a dirty Smarty Jones ball cap and a purple t-shirt I got in 2003 for free at a bar. And yet, America, I was one of the most beautiful women in all of the Walmart. If we lost the magic of the Walmart, America, where could I go, wearing that outfit, and still feel beautiful? I’m waiting, America. That’s right, there is no other answer to that question. Walmart is the only place where that kind of magic happens.

And this is to say nothing of the additional feelings of well being I find at the Walmart. Never do I feel so cultured, civilized, and benevolent as I do while at the Walmart. After all, I have never called a child stupid and then spat on the floor in public. But there are people who have, and they’re at the Walmart.

So the ball’s in your court, America. You want to see the destruction of the Walmart. I want to feel thin, rich, and beautiful. You find me a one stop shop that can reliably produce such feelings of well being, and I’ll side with you. Until then, I am with the magic of the Walmart.

Preakness Recap, or, The Story of How Carrie Met Mr. Cotter

My niece, Courtney, on Robin Hood.

This last weekend was my niece Courtney’s 18th birthday, as well as her last event on the Irish Sporthorse gelding, Robin Hood. And so it was that I traveled north, to a state I’ve never been to, Virginia. Prior to setting off, I told my mom I was sure our hotel would be nice. She asked why I was so sure, and I said, “It’s in Virginia.” And verily has it been so in my imagination, that Virginia was a land of beauty, wealth and resources. I wasn’t wrong. As far as I could tell, Virginia was prettier, nicer, and altogether more perfect than the Carolinas. That said, I’ve always believed that imperfections are where one finds the most compelling sorts of beauty. This is why I love South Carolina. (How about that complisult, South Carolina? South Carolina does not deign to reply.)

Upon arrival at the Virginia Horse Park, we found my niece at the Bent Tree barn. A lot of showgrounds have chintzy, impermanent stabling. Because we were in Virginia, the barn was gorgeous, bright and airy, with its own indoor schooling ring (!!!).

Now, my sister Becky had told me that Hillary Irwin and her mother Carrie Cotter Irwin would be there. To refresh y’all’s memory – Carrie’s parents own my beloved Toby’s Corner, the chestnut piece of awesome that won the Wood Memorial, vanquishing Uncle Mo. Hillary Irwin is a top eventer who owned the original Toby, a pony who had the corner stall. Becky said she’d introduce me to Carrie, and I was all twitterpated. For me, meeting the Cotters is akin to, say, meeting Rihanna, or Kristen Stewart, or Fill-in-the-blank-celebrity-of-your-choice.

So imagine my surprise when upon meeting Carrie I discovered she was sitting with her father, Mr. Julian Cotter, owner and breeder of Toby’s Corner. Did I have a complete and total fan girl freak out? Yes, yes I did, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. I believe there might have been some ranting. “I was never afraid of Uncle Mo!” There was some gushing. “You’ve bred TWO Wood Memorial winners!” There was probably some blathering. Luckily, I don’t remember the details of that.

Best of all, Mr. Cotter was even cooler than I expected him to be. He was very classy, and didn’t say anything untoward, but he definitely had some great lines, too. For example: “At the Wood Memorial, they’d declared it Uncle Mo Day. When we walked in, they tried to give us an Uncle Mo bracelet. We politely declined.”

He also proudly declared, “When I looked at Toby’s Corner, I said, ‘This is going to be the one.'” At which point his daughter said, “You’ve been saying that for forty years.” Mr. Cotter replied, “And I’ve been right twice!”

As you all can imagine, I was in horse girl nerd heaven.

The classy speed, Shackleford. Look how happy Jesus Castanon is.

Mr. Cotter also said he’s been traveling to Saratoga religiously for years. Now that Toby’s on the mend, and according to trainer Graham Motion, pointed toward the Travers Stakes, one can only imagine how much a Travers win would mean to the Cotter family. If Toby were to win the Travers, you can rest assured I’d once again scare my cats with my over-the-top celebration.

On a somewhat related note – my mom and I have been attending horse events for years. We are small, small fry in the big world of equestrian sport, and we’re pretty used to being treated like the very, very small fry that we are. (One notable exception – Bobby Costello. He’s always nice. And funny.) In any case, on the second day of the show, my mom and I found ourselves sitting at a picnic bench, waiting for results. (We would eventually find out that Courtney finished 7th out of a big and competitive field.) As we sat there, sipping our coffee, a nice looking horse and rider came our way, obviously exiting a cross country go. “Good morning!” said the rider. My mom and I looked at each other, wondering if we were the ones being addressed. And then I realized it was Hillary Irwin. “Hello!” we called back. After she passed by, my mom said, “Holy cats. A friendly top class rider? Who’da thunk it?” Soon enough, Hillary passed us again, headed back to cross country, now on a grey. “Good luck!” I said, and she said, “Thanks!”

Now, this probably seems like a paltry small deal, and maybe it is. But both my mom and I found it a remarkable one. Perhaps a sad reflection on a lot of top riders, but it’s also just the truth. And it’s one more reason why I’d be so thrilled with any future success Toby’s Corner might have – his people are good people, and that’s all too rare in this day and age.

****

Finally – the Preakness. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot to say. “Beware the classy speed!” I said several times during the post parade, while referring to Shackleford, not Flashpoint. The classy speed is always dangerous, and Shackleford is classy speed. But he wants no part of a mile and a half. The day after the race, Carrie Cotter Irwin asked if I thought they’d send Shackleford to the Belmont. “No way!” I said. “They’d be crazy to think he’d get the distance!” Well, as of now, they’re sending him. And I officially think they’re crazy. He’s a good horse. Why burn him up going that far around Big Sandy? (Big Sandy being the nickname of the track at Belmont. It is a mile and a half, one trip around, and the footing is sandy, and therefore tiring.)

I do think Animal Kingdom would relish the added ground. If he’d had a few more yards in the Preakness he would have overtaken Shackleford and won. I hope they send him, but I can see where Graham Motion might want to save him for the second half of the season.

For myself, with no Triple Crown on the line, my focus shifts to the year end Eclipse Awards. Who’ll win top 3 year old colt? Toby’s still in it, and my money’s with him, wherever he goes.