May 07, 2001

Long Beach, Legba, and Thrush Green

Back from Long Beach. It was a fairly quiet weekend, as there were only 6 of us there -- the four guys in the quad, me, and the wife of one of the other guys. The Masters’ race was only a half-day, following a Juniors’ race in the morning. It didn’t seem to be all that well-publicized, but was fairly well-run, with every race, unusually, going off exactly on time.


Juniors: high school-aged,as opposed to collegiate.

Masters: was 27 and older, but has now added a 21-26 age range.

I don’t quite understand why T2 Hatfield was obssessing the whole time about whether he wasn’t good enough and was holding the rest of the crew back. He’s been rowing only about a year, but has decent form, a lot of strength, and quite a bit of determination. It’s true that one of the other guys in the boat -- who rowed in college -- is stronger, but T and T2 are a very well-matched pair in both ability and attitude. Especially in the pair, an extremely finicky boat, that can be more important than raw strength or even skill.

T2 seems to be getting very serious about his girlfriend, another rower. I’m glad to see that, because he reminds me very strongly of my best friend from college, Gymrat. Gymrat, like T2, concealed a very kind heart under sharp spiny sarcasm. Unfortunately, he’s become bitter over the years, largely due to an involuntary celibacy. Now he’s given up on women, turned to the pursuit of money, and become an "I got mine" sort of Republican (he used to be more of a Libertarian Republican). I have a hard time talking to him these days, which makes me very sad. I still keep trying, at least partly out of gratitude because he listened to me during my first heartbreak, when almost no one else would. Anyway, however this relationship works out, I’m hoping that just the routine presence of a woman in his life will protect T2 from that sort of bitterness.

Amazon came through for me, delivering my books a bare half-hour before we left. I spent a lot of time reading this weekend (the races were approximately 3 minutes long, with at least 10 minutes between!) alternating between a strange mix of Many Wade Wellman’s Third Cry to Legba and Miss Read’s Thrush Green.

Legba is a collection of some of Wellman’s John Thunstone and Corbett stories, which I had never read. Like his Silver John stories, which I love, the Thunstone stories (originally published in pulps like Weird Tales), display Wellman’s knowledge of folklore. In both series, also, some of the characters, like folklorist and banjo player Bascomb Lamar Lunsford, were real people. The Silver John stories are all set in the Appalachians; the John Thunstone stories, mostly set in the diversity of New York city, more clearly display the breadth of Wellman’s knowledge of myth and legend. His portrayal of voodoo as unavoidably evil bothers me --I’m more comfortable with Barbara Hambly’s depiction of it as power than can be used according to the will of the worshipper -- but there are sympathetic portrayals of the American Indian and Inuit religions. All of Wellman’s stories are occult, though I wouldn’t class them as horror stories. For one thing, good always wins.

Thrush Green is a complete contrast: one idyllic May Day in the life of a Cotswalds village. Oddly, it’s set in the 1950s, though written in the 1980s; the time shift shows in the wearing of hats and dresses, in the horse-drawn caravans of a traveling fair, and in a somehow more innocent feel than I think would be credible, even in a village, today. Phelps is a big fan of Miss Read and had recommended her. I had once read a pleasant, odd little book, about some time in a small English village during which nothing much happened, from the small library of a hotel where we stayed for a few days in London. I thought it might be from the same series, but wasn’t sure until I encountered Dotty Harmer, source of "Dotty’s Collywobbles", an herbalist who is always making potions for her friends, with the best intentions, that invariably lead to food poisoning. She rather reminds me of one of the members of Charlotte MacLeod’s Grub and Stakers, though the latter has somewhat better results.

I ended up switching back and forth between the two books; despite the contrast, my weekend was the better for it.

Posted by dichroic at May 7, 2001 09:31 AM
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