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.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Visiiting Emerald Downs' Robert Geller

We’ve had a pretty good summer. There was something to look forward to every week because we attended the local race track in Auburn, Washington every Friday and a couple of other days for special stakes races. We sat in the grandstands and became quite good friends with the woman usher who took care of our section. My wife, Anna, made knitted hats for her kids and last week Mary Kay presented us with Georgia Pickles, a family recipe from her home state. In real life she is a teacher’s assistant in a class of special ed kids. She jokingly says that Anna and I should come back and substitute teach because the pay is about $125 a day. Then we’d have more to bet. Actually we bet very conservatively. Over 25 racing days and 190+ races I’ve lost $70 and Anna about the same. We have only two more race days to attend. Can I make up my losses? Doubtful.

One of the highlights of the season was meeting up with a former student, George Cottrell, who worked for me in my library at the community college. He’s been a race fan since his high school days and now writes for the Daily Racing Form. Two weeks ago he arranged to take us up to the sixth floor to the track announcer and race caller’s booth. Rob Geller was born in England, moved to Australia when he was two. He came to Emerald Downs after a six-year stint in Hong Kong where he was the race caller in English. There is also a race caller in Mandarin. When Emerald Downs closes he will call races at a track in New Mexico called Sunland Park. We had a wonderful conversation for over a half-hour with Rob, during which he would intermittently switch on the mike to make announcements concerning the upcoming race. I wondered how he memorized the horses’ names. When they were warming up on the back stretch he took a look at them through binoculars, matched the names with the colored and numbered saddle cloths, and was ready to call the race. He’s been calling races for seventeen years or more so he surely knows how to have the card in hand. And as usual he did a wonderful job of it. We appreciated George’s effort to get us an invitation to the booth where few people get to go and to Rob for his warm welcome and the time he spent with us.

Afterward George showed us the suites in which people more wealthy than I can party and enjoy the races at the same time. We found an empty suite and watched the sixth race from high above the finish line before returning to our grandstand seats.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Iain Sinclair

I have discovered (with a little help from an English friend) a new author. Since I am no longer able to do long walks this writer seems perfect for me. Iain Sinclair is a writer who was previously what I would call a book scout. A far as I can tell he scouted small book stores all over England and brought them back to sell to higher market bookstores in London. He’s written poetry, fiction and non-fiction. At present I’m more interested in his non-fiction. Turns out he and friends are capable walkers as well. The current book I’m reading is Edge of the Orison; In the Traces of John Clare’s ‘Journey Out of Essex.’ John Clare was an early 19th C. peasant poet, for a time adulated in London, quietly went mad, escaped from an asylum in Epping Forest, and walked home to Helpston. Sinclair and his friends try to follow his route as closely as modern roads and buildings will allow. Sinclair not only describes their journey, but tells us of John Clare’s life and problems, his own wife’s childhood and upbringing in the Helpston area and much musing about contemporary England and society. He has an unusual prose style with many phrases that only hint at sentences. It is sometimes challenging to follow his train of thought but I’m finding him thoroughly delightful. So much so that I’ve ordered a further five titles. Some concern a walk around the M25, the ring road around London, journeys through London looking at the Ripper, another book about London and others. Good reading which should keep me enthralled for some time. Since my daughter and I walked through Eping Forest from Chipping to Epping during our first trip to England when she was a teen, Clare’s escape from the asylum there was especially interesting. Later we visited many of the towns Clare walked through or which Sinclair mentions.