A few racing people have linked here in recent weeks—thanks so much for that! Though the date of my last entry gives the (fair) impression that I’ve abandoned listenbetter, I swear I have new posts in the works. If you’re interested, please check back in the coming weeks. And in the meantime, I’ve done a little writing about the track for The New Yorker’s sports and books blogs, respectively:
Category Archives: writing
“Ah, summer, what power you have to make us suffer and like it.” -Russell Baker
Note: It’s been a long, strange summer, and a few things (an infestation, a new job) derailed plans for regular updates. I did, however, spend the better portion of August taking bets at the Saratoga Race Course. The following is a collection of observations from my seventh summer as a pari-mutuel clerk. For a primer on the bet-takers, see “My Secret Summer Life.” For a primer on the people who place bets, see “My Most Persistent Customer.”
I became a pari-mutuel clerk in 2003, pushed to the racetrack in a sort of last-ditch effort to find a job in a weak economy. I’ve watched the crowds expand and contract in the past seven years, fueled by increasing prosperity, shrinking with the sport’s waning popularity. They reached new lows last year; I blamed high gas prices—and the feeling that our precarious bubble was about to burst. This year, I didn’t know what to expect. There was rain—it came down in thick sheets on and off that first week—and there was blazing heat, but the economy didn’t seem to be on anyone’s mind. For the first few weeks of the meet, people were happier than I’ve seen them in a long time. A lot of men were unabashedly forward. “If I was younger, I’d be on you like beans on rice,” one told me, leaning eagerly against my window. He was probably around sixty, with spiky silver hair and a big, white smile. “Oh boy, you know I would,” he continued. “But there’s not enough Viagra in the world!” One afternoon they pumped Dixieland jazz on the loudspeakers. It was heavy on the lazy, staccato trumpet, with a brisk walking bass, and it was infectious. Across the clubhouse, I watched two men in their early sixties, golf shirts tucked into pressed khakis, grin and link arms, skipping drunkenly across the cement. For a week or two, I was happy, too. The tips were pretty good and I was back on familiar ground. Regulars from five years ago greeted me with a slightly skeptical, “You’re back.” “You are, too,” I’d point out, wishing I could add, “At least I’m getting paid for this.” Continue reading
“Brevity: a good thing in writing. Exploited by texters, gossip columnists, haikuists. Not associated with the biography genre. But then – why shouldn’t it be? Life expectancies rise; attention spans shrink. Six words can tell a story.” -Lizzie Widdicombe, “Say It All in Six Words,” The New Yorker
In the spirit of (shameless) cross- and self-promotion, I’d like to direct your attention to this article I wrote for SMITH on Tuesday, Notes from the Master of the Six-Word Meme. Yes, that’s me. The Master of the Meme. I’m thinking of putting that on my business cards. I guess I have to get business cards first. A meme, as I explain in the article, is the internet’s version of a chain letter. The one I’ve been following for the past four months asked people to take our concept – the six-word memoir – and write their own, tagging five other bloggers with the task. It’s easy, it’s fun, and people seem to love it; googling “six word memoir” and “meme” together yields 109,000 results. I’m not saying I’ve read every single one. But I have seen hundreds, thousands – many – and, for better or for worse, I’ve learned a whole lot about the blogosphere along the way. I’m not going to say anymore here, but please click the link if you’re interested. Summing it all up over at SMITH has helped me to put the entire experience in perspective.
“An old racetrack joke reminds you that your program contains all the winners’ names. I stare at my typewriter keys with the same thought.” -Mignon McLaughlin, The Neurotic’s Notebook
Here in San Francisco, fog doesn’t cover or linger; it sweeps across the entire city in a matter of minutes. I never knew fog could move so quickly, and it’s put me in a weird mood: muddled, chilled, and slightly queasy. I’ve been wrestling with a few big life questions this past week, like what I’m doing out here, how long I’m going to stay, how to fix my increasingly dire financial situation. My boss sent me a link to the wikipedia entry on quarter life crises; apparently my constant worries are as natural as they are distressing. The role of writing – what to do with it, where to put it, how to someday (hopefully) sell it – underscores my overall concerns. It’s been hard to ignore this past week, when a post about my summer job sparked more interest than all the others combined.
I’ve been talking about doing this for a while. I’ve been thinking about doing it for like a year and a half. But I couldn’t start a blog just like that; I needed some sort of focus, something to keep it from turning into a laundry list of my daily activities or a whiny rant about the rude people on the bus. There are a million people out there blogging with a focus – moms, joggers, cooks, bird watchers, people who think it’s charming to write from the perspective of their dogs. Maybe it goes without saying, but none of those categories really work for me.