Monday, August 10, 2015

I Heart New York

About time for some updates, I suppose. It's been a busy summer, and one of the big highlights was my retirement from the Federal government in early July. I got a nice send-off in the form of a luncheon at work, organized my work friends and my family, and I got my first pension check this month. This is not to say I've spent the summer in a hammock with a Corona Light in hand. I have gone back to work part-time for a local attorney, and I've been devoting more time to helping my wife take care of our 2-year-old granddaughter, who is growing up before our eyes.  (Lately she has been declaring things that she likes as "pretty awesome".)  There are still plenty of projects to tackle at home, but finding the time to do them is still not easy.  The end of August promises to be rather hectic, with our former international student returning from Korea and getting ready for college, our new international student arriving from China on the same day, and our youngest son shipping off for his sophomore year of college the following day.

Despite all that, the two of us managed to take a mini-vacation to the Hudson River Valley of New York for four days and three nights.  She's been there before, but this is my first trip, and I loved it. We crammed a lot into those four days, touring many of the local historic homes and sites. We spent the first two nights in the Hyde Park area and visited all three of the Roosevelt homes: Springwood (the family home), Val-Kill (Eleanor's home), and Top Cottage (FDR's retreat).  The homes and museums only reinforced our opinions of what exceptional people Franklin and Eleanor were. Their homes were all fascinating in their own way, but for over-the-top decadence, they were no match for their neighbors, the Vanderbilts, who owned a mansion up the road that cost $2.5 million to build - around 1900!  After Hyde Park, we spent two days at Tarrytown, where we visited Sunnyside, the Washington Irving home.  Irving, we learned, was quite the superstar in his day, and the first American writer to be accepted worldwide as a "man of letters". We also saw Kykuit, the Rockefeller estate (last inhabited by Gov. Nelson Rockefeller). The Rockefellers were known as philanthropists and patrons of the arts, and it shows both inside and outside the mansion. Nelson was a fan of ancient Chinese artifacts as well as modern art, and there are dozens of unique pieces to be seen, including a series of  tapestry reproductions of Picasso works that he commissioned from Picasso himself.  Finally, we visited the nearby Union Church, which boasts beautiful stained glass windows by Marc Chagall and Henri Matisse.  The weather for all four days was perfect, the views and scenery were beautiful, and our tour guides were, without exception, excellent. The only thing we regret is that we couldn't eat at the Culinary Institute of America, which is apparently closed in August.  If you're interested in some photos from the trip, you can find them on my Facebook page.

Time now for a few poetry updates:

1. I submitted my final manuscript draft for Hits and Sacrifices to Finishing Line Press.  The pre-order sales period will begin in September, so you will be hearing more about it soon.

2. I am the featured poet for the latest issue of Chantarelle's Notebook. You can read the issue, including my five poems, here.

3. My poem "Shelter" has been accepted by US 1 Worksheets for their next issue, due next spring.

4. My poem "Backbreaking Mountain" placed 2nd in the Poetic Asides Poetic Form Challenge. It's in a form called a "dodoitsu" - a Japanese poem of 4 lines with syllable counts of 7-7-7-5, usually on a theme of love or work. Blogmaster Robert Brewer says he may publish the top three winners in his column in a future issue of Writer's Digest.

5. The early results of this year's Poem-a-Day Challenge from Poetic Asides are out - only four days' results have been announced so far, but my poem "The Man Peeling Yams on Easter Morning" made the top 10 finalists for Day 5.  As with last year's contest, the final winner for each of the 30 days of April will be published in an upcoming anthology.  So, fingers crossed!

6. Speaking of Poetic Asides, a couple of the regular blog site members, Nancy Posey and Jane Shlensky,  are organizing a two-day poetry conference in Hickory, NC in September, called "Fall Face-to-Face in the Foothills".  It's a chance to meet with several fellow Poetic Asides participants (including blogmaster Robert Lee Brewer) and enjoy sharing poetic activities. Although it's a nine-hour drive for me, I plan to go and I look forward to meeting a number of online friends in person.

Baseball:  My Phillies had the worst first half in the history of the team, going into the All-Star break at 29-62, a truly dismal record. Since then, they have really turned things around, winning 15 of their last 20 games. Part of the credit has to go to interim manager Pete MacKanin, but also Ryan Howard's resurgence at the plate, and talented rookies like Mikael Franco and Aaron Nola, might have something to do with it too. They have a big hole to dig out of to even finish at .500 for the year, but right now they have become fun to watch again. We had to say goodbye to Cole Hamels, who is the only pitcher in MLB history to be traded just after pitching a no-hitter.  He's now a Texas Ranger, but he's a classy guy and a possible future Hall-of-Famer. I wish him a lot of luck.

Poem:  Here's the dodoitsu finalist that I mentioned above:

Backbreaking Mountain

Workaday world, I can't say
goodbye yet.  Like that cowboy
in that movie, I wish I
knew how to quit you.