Back from Italy, where I vacationed with my mother and stepfather in Umbria and then at Lake Bracciano. The occasion was a reunion organized by one of my mom's art history colleagues. That was the Bracciano part, a beautiful area just north of Rome, where we spent last weekend. Our host Valentino informed us that Italians have essentially an irrational aversion to fresh water, dating back to the days when fresh water equalled opportunities to get sick/catch malaria/etc., such that the area is very much underdeveloped.
Umbria is beautiful of course. Cities visited from our home base in Trestina included Urbina, Gubbio, Sansepulcro, Monterchi and Montane. More on all of this in a bit.
My parents have moved on to Botswana! The occasion there being my stepfather's 50th birthday.
I'm back in San Francisco, dealing with the trauma of Smarty Jones getting caught by Birdstone. My girlfriend Tivo'd the Belmont for me and I watched the race several times last night. I knew the result, but it was still exciting and saddening.
Why is it sad? I only care about the horse, the people behind him are peripheral, but to what extent is Smarty aware of what happened? If a horse, as the maudlin bromides on television would have you believe, is so fully aware of its circumstances as to be almost human, why is there a need to whip it?
"Smarty's a good horse. He knows what's goin' on. Don't ya Smarty?" Wa-kish.
Smarty Jones is my entree to horse racing, I've never really paid attention. So I have all kinds of questions about the subject, including, is horse racing a form of animal abuse?
For a horse like Smarty, my initial answer is "no," just because, yeah he gets a lash on his ass every once in awhile, but otherwise his life is pretty sweet. I could only wish for his life.
Horses are athletes and like to run. Do they like it as much as the humans who have organized a multi-billion dollar industry around it? Probably not.
Got the last album I didn't have, "Roman Candle." The great thing about listening to a new Smith album is that you're sure to hear a couple classics for the first time. "Last Call" is the song that really jumps off that album, though like most Smith songs it takes a few times to fall into rhythm with it. And like most Smith songs you can listen to it dozens of times and extract new things from it.
One night in college one of my best friends wrote, in a state of extreme and diverse intoxication, an encomium to Reagan that began: "Supply-Side Badass: Ron Reagan Kicks Ass."
It still cracks me up every time.
I'm going to have him write a tribute to Reagan here on the old blog in coming days.
Our relationship, incidentally, is proof that true friendships transcend politics. After all, Jefferson and Adams, fierce ideological adversaries in their prime, became extremely close friends in their later years.
It takes a lot of work, though. Every time we've had a drunken argument and I think I've finally hammered some sense into him, he goes back into his own mental universe for a few weeks and forms his own opinions* again -- always dangerous -- and the process starts over.