Frank Denton - The Rogue Raven

Location: Seattle, Washington, United States

What you have here is an old guy. In education for 30 years, started teaching elementary, ended as library and media director of community college. I've enjoyed mountain climbing, sports car rallying, was pipe major of a bagpipe band, played guitar and sang during the folk revival, walking and hiking later in life. Now fairly sedentary. Enjoy reading, esp. mysteries and fantasy, but my reading is pretty eclectic. Enjoy movies, giving Netflix a workout.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006


I was in Borders a while back when I stumbled into a copy of Viriconium by M. John Harrison on display. I picked it up to find that it was an omnibus volume of books which I had already read back in the 70s and 80s. But I was elated to find it and eager to reread the books. I’ve read The Pastel City and almost finished with A Storm of Wings. This is followed by In Viriconium and Viriconium Knights. M. John Harrison will probably not appeal to everyone. The four books are fantasy. He’s heavy on exposition and description and very light, almost non-existent on dialogue. But he’s also very rich in language and how he uses it. The culture he writes about is one you’ll never see on earth. It’s strange ambience is comprised of castles and towers and the Low City. It is peopled with remnants of the Afternoon Culture and the people living now, the Evening People. It’s a strange place and its protagonists are equally strange; Tomb the Dwarf, tegeus-Cronis who has been holed up in his tower for years, Galen Hornwrack, pilot of a dirigible, Queen Methvet Nian and Cellur the birdman, who makes magnificent living birds of iridium. I am glad that I stumbled into this four-in-one volume after some twenty-five years. I’m enjoying it perhaps even more on this second reading. In case you're interested in reading this book it’s a trade paperback from Bantam Books.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

A Day at the Races

Last Saturday we spent a wonderful day at the race track. Two years ago, when we were in Lexington, Kentucky, we went to the races at Keeneland. When we got to the admissions window we were told that the grandstand was sold out. We settled for general admission and found a seat on the apron in front of the stands. Before the races got under way the wind was blowing, a rather cold wind. Anna went back to the car to get a blanket and something to cover our heads. She ran into a wonderful woman working for Keeneland. She found us seats in the handicapped section. Lucky thing, too, for by the seventh race it was pouring rain. She told Anna that her son was going to be transferred to Ft. Lewis and wanted to know what area near the fort were safe and affordable. Anna called a niece in Tacoma who manages several apartment complexes. A bond was made. We’ve since kept in touch be email.

Edith Newdigate, her husband, George, and son, Mark, now a captain, met us at the races. Edith and George had come to visit Mark, who will soon be off on another posting. Fortunately it will not be Iraq where he has already done two tours. We had a wonderful afternoon and early evening. George had already been on the internet and had his betting program pretty well in hand. We were more interested in talking than in figuring out our wagers. I picked several winners by eyeball. Sometimes that’s as good a way to bet as any. But mostly it was talk and then watching the horses run.

The folks were pretty impressed with our track, Emerald Downs. Since Keeneland and Churchill Downs are right next door to each other – well, 60 miles – they’ve seen major races and jockeys. Our horses are not of the same class but the setting is beautiful, with Mount Rainier just over the first turn. Of course Saturday, for most of the day, the mountain was covered in clouds. But before day’s end the clouds parted and we could see the entire mountain. All of us visited the saddling paddock once and Edith and I visited the second floor balcony which overlooks it before one of the races so she could take photos. All in all, it was a swell day that we enjoyed very much. We hope that the Newdigates enjoyed it as much as we did. They certainly seemed to.

Monday, August 07, 2006

The Hambletonian

On Saturday I sat before the television and enjoyed one of my favorite sporting events. I’ve talked about horse racing before but it was always about thoroughbreds. But this time it was the Hambletonian, one of the three premier races for trotting horses. Or as they are properly called, standardbreds. I suppose my dad first got me interested. He used to talk about seeing Dan Patch, one of the great trotting horses early in the 20th century. You are not likely to see trotting races very often on television, so I taped this program. Then sometime in the doldrums of the winter I can pull it out and watch again as the trotters line up behind the moving starting line, swinging gates attached to a car that moves ahead as the horses come up to their trotting speed, the drivers sitting behind in their sulkies.

Two fine races were shown on the program, the Hambletonian Oaks for fillies and mares and the Hambletonian for the males. $1.5 M in purses for the two races. Passionate Glide won the Oaks in 1.54.3. Glidemaster won the Hambletonian in 1.51.1. Very much fun to watch. My horse, Choclatier, came storming from the outside position (10) but was only able to take second. One question went unanswered by the commentators. I noted that one horse was completely blindfolded during the post parade. I watched carefully and the blindfold was never removed. Not just blinkers, because all of the rest of the horses wore them. But this horse was raced that way, entirely controlled by the driver. I wish they had explained that. They did mention that the trainer was driving this horse because he was difficult to handle. Maybe that was the reason; being able to see would have made him even more difficult.

When I was young there was one season of trotting races at a not very good track near Tacoma. But it was enjoyable. There is always a contingent of horsemen that would like to see a trotting track and season in the area. But it took ten years for Emerald Downs to be built after Longacres, our original thoroughbred track built in the 30s, was sold to Boeing. So the nearest trotting races are up in British Columbia, near Vancouver.

Several years ago we spent a memorable evening at a trotting track in Summerside on Prince Edward Island, Canada. Racing every Wednesday night. Many of the farmers nearby own standardbreds and trailer them in along with their racing sulkies. As you drove about the island you would see training tracks so the drivers could train their horses at home. An almost amateur approach to the sport. But great for the sport, for the islanders’ entertainment, and for the owners and breeders. No admission was charged for the races but there was parimutuel betting. I remember that Anna did quite well that evening. It was wonderful evening, the crowd was all friendly and the racing quite competitive. Lots of fun.

Well, thanks for letting me yammer on about a sport I like very much and see way too little.