M.E. Altieri: February 2010 Archives
We humans have an innate need to find things to which we can relate on a level so deep, so...cellular...that we almost suffer, we ache in our very fiber, from the profound joy of realizing that someone truly gets us.
Case in point: My friends at Caballo Press of Ann Arbor are giving a great gift to the world. "Horsenameographies: Life Stories in a Race Horse Name" by Horse Lovers Everywhere. Even as I write this, the book is hot off the press. The lovely collection brings into our hearts the names of 200+ people--their real names, I would daresay--for these are names that people chose for themselves, or which Fate gave them subsequent to the monikers assigned them upon birth. The publishers spent the Autumn of 2009 asking the questioin: "If you were a race horse--who would you be?"
An extraordinary question, for, indeed--Life, itself, is a race.
And, as they say: if you ain't the lead horse--the scenery never changes.
Along these same lines, I would pose the question today: What's your theme song? Music is like oxygen to me: I could not live without it. Virtually every significant moment of my Life has been accompanied by music that either was playing in the background, or conjured in my brain as events unfolded. I'm sure it's the same for you: Bach and Beatles, Miles Davis and Stone Temple Pilots. emo, Rap, Soul, R&B, Rock, Metal, Baroque, Medieval and Renaissance--someone, somewhere (I'm paraphrasing Debussey here)--reached into Heaven, pulled down music from the celestial realms and it became part of the tapestry of your Life. Without music in our Lives, we go through motions but lack emotion. Like a movie without a soundtrack, actions become flat, two-dimensional and grey--only shades of grey...
I'll start this book review by being brutally honest: I don't know anything about education. I mean, I got an education (high school, college). I had some great Teachers, Professors and Mentors along the way. The combined Wisdom of these Educators changed my Life in many ways, all for the better. I learned how to think critically, and to apply those principles of logical thought not only to academic work and intellectual endeavour, but to Life, itself. (Arguing with someone who doesn't argue critically, is a blast. The next time you have a fight with a significant other, throw out this sentence: "That's an ad hominem argument--sorry, you lose!" This is endlessly entertaining for me. And wildly aggravating to the worthy adversary.)
I digress. I am going off the board today, and reviewing a book that has nothing whatsoever to do with horses or their role in my Life as Muse. But the path I took in Life, which brought me to this place of vocational fulfillment as a communicator in the lovely world of horses, had its solid foundation in the insights of one Richard Michael Holmes, my high school English and Drama Teacher at Watervliet High School in Watervliet, New York.
"Prof," as we called him, has written a book filled with Wisdom that he shares graciously, no holding back. This is the missive I share with you today, which I hope you will all acquire so that you, too, may learn at the knee of a master...
On February 18th, I'll take my words (and hopefully some wit) into the arenae of virtual and voice: Thursday will mark the debut of "View from a Broad," a racing radio talk show hosted by, well, me. (www.blogtalkradio.com/thoroughbredwriter ). I suspect that at least part of every show will feature me mouthing off about something that's stuck in my craw that week. What good is it to have a radio show if I just "think happy thoughts"? No one would listen, and even I'd be bored.
I'll give you a sneak peek, here and now, on Mairzy Doats at Saratoga.com--here's what's got my goat this week. Trust me, I will discuss this on the 18th, I'm certain that my goat will still be gotten after another six days roll by. It may not seem to be such a Big Deal to you on the surface, but the implications are tremendous. Please read carefully, and consider.
The thing that sends me 'round the bend this morning, that seriously makes me want to stick hot needles into my eyes, is the fact that Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta are going to go head-to-head on April 9th in the Apple Blossom at Oaklawn.
I am all knotted up, just thinking about it. I will continue to be in a state of knots, clutching my Crucifix and Saint Eligius holy card until the race is over and all horses and riders walk off the track, sound.
When I was a little squirt, my Mother nicknamed me both "Mare" (how prophetic) and The Barefoot Contessa. (I had no idea that she got the phrase from the title of a hotsy-totsy film starring Ava Gardner.) For some reason, Mom associated my penchant for going naturally-footed with my Italian ancestry on my Father's side. I think she thought I'd grow up to be Sophia Loren. When she was feeling fanciful, she'd wave her arm and pronounce grandly that I was La Barefoot Contessa Ahl-TYE-ree, attempting to properly pronounce my foreign surname which (in the 1960's, in upstate New York) sounded to the locals to be tres exotic.
To me, shoes were an unnecessary cultural construct, created solely to be tolerated on Sundays as I sat cross-ankled, wedged between Mom and Gram in our stark, white Presbyterian church.
The minute church was over, I ripped off the white patent leather Mary Janes and tossed them into my Mother's waiting hand. She never tried to cut off the call of Nature to my wild-child heart, for which I am grateful. I rode my cousin's Quarter Horse barefoot, also--a singularly remarkable experience.
My favoritest, most freeing thing to do was to wear a long skirt and run out into our overgrown grassy yard. Grabbing a bunch of lilacs as they clung desperately to Grandma's huge, treasured lilac bush (they saw me coming, and ducked their fat little heads)--I relished that first big sniff. Then, my head full of that fragrant opiate, I commenced to twirl 'round and 'round in the tall, soft green beneath my liberated toes. I'd spin until I dizzied out, and collapse into that grass, under the sacred purple bush. I can still feel the cool dampness of the unmown grass as it wrapped itself around me like so many tiny green angels' wings. Staring up at the clear blue skies, my young spirit knew absolute freedom--the kind of bliss for which adults pay millions of dollars a year to self-help gurus and bookstores. I often go back to that place and that time in a frail attempt to recapture some of that unbridled bliss...
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