Category Archives: Getting to know me

Chess Moron

Chess is a strange, elegant, beautiful game, intricate, frustrating, exciting at times. Nada loves it. He taught his nephew, who became state high school champion a few years ago. These days he plays at least one game a day with a friend of his who was some kind of high-fallutin’ chemist and was able to retire in his 30’s with enough money to keep him through the rest of his life. This friend, Casey, lives an austere life in a small, sparsely furnished house in a college town. I have never seen it, but I imagine it, for some reason, to be filled with light. It will be older, with wooden floors and bare white walls. He has a car he rarely drives, preferring to walk almost everywhere. He’s a vegetarian, perhaps even vegan, and long and lean in build, with startling blue eyes and an intense gaze. And he loves to play chess. He’s rated about 1900, which, according to Nada, is quite good. A match between Nada and Casey is intense, driven. They don’t speak. The board consumes them. Nada can’t beat Casey, though he’s come close on a couple of occasions. Casey plays with scrupulous attention to every piece, his moves methodical, irresistibly precise. “He never makes mistakes,” Nada says. I wouldn’t know. I have a mixed relationship to chess. My mother taught us children the moves, and occasionally played with us when we were younger. I don’t remember learning anything technical beyond castling. I didn’t even know about en passant till Nada taught me.

After childhood, I didn’t play again for years, till Nada pulled me back in. These days I’m an uneven, unpredictable player, easily frustrated. I give away my queen and then give up. And it’s almost impossible to improve at chess, at least as far as I can tell, in any way that’s meaningful. It’s an incremental process, impossibly slow (or maybe that’s just me). I can’t possibly improve fast enough playing one or two games a week with Nada when he plays daily with Casey, sometimes annotating the game and getting tips. “Sure you want to do that?” Casey will say kindly, rarely, when Nada makes a mistake, and Nada will take it back, and forge on, till he’s annihilated in the end game.

When Nada and I play, we’ll talk through moves, play different configurations. He’ll warn me of impending blunders. But on Friday night, the day after Bobby Fischer died, coincidentally, something strange happened. We were playing, and talking, and not really being too serious, and suddenly I was ahead. And then Nada crept up on my king with a vicious attack, and he started to suggest how I might get out of it and I shushed him. I stared at the board. There had to be a way. And I saw it. A crazy sacrifice on my part, a kind of distraction, and a queen exchange, and then, suddenly we were even, and then I checkmated him. It was the first real, honest-to-goodness, unhelped game I’d won against him. And then I did it again, and almost a third time. The second and third games were silent, board-absorbing, reminding me of games between Nada and Casey. For the first time, ever, I was actually a real opponent to Nada, making him work, making him squirm at times.

And of course, the next day I was back to losing again, and today too. But something has changed. I think there are moments where I see the board differently, where I’m willing to take risks in ways I wasn’t before, where a move that would have been unthinkable a few weeks ago becomes a calculated risk. Maybe, after all these years of feeling like a chess moron, something has clicked. Maybe I’ve been learning all along, and it’s just been imperceptible till now. Maybe Bobby Fischer left behind a little chess fairy dust, and I breathed it in. Even if I don’t win, just being able to play with purpose is a step forward, and I’m glad.


There is nothing to confess. Nothing of Jack Kerouac grandeur, that is. I was the good girl, hyper responsible, the baby-sitter whom everyone called. I read stories to the children, and gave them piggy-back rides. At Christmas parties at my parents’ friends’ houses, little kids surrounded me, begging for attention, while the other babysitters were ignored. It’s not that I liked them, or wanted a household of kids when I grew up. (Here it is: my confession, trickling out despite myself, I suppose.) I didn’t. I always said I hated kids, didn’t have the patience for them, would have to forgo them or else be rich enough to hire a nanny. I just needed money for my horse. My parents paid for hay, but that was it. Everything else was my responsibility. (It occurs to me that many parents pay for car insurance and no more, and my parents were right in line with other parents except that my “vehicle” was a horse.) I paid for grain, shoes, vet bills, show entries, tack and blankets for my horse, membership in the local pony club and drag hunt (no we did not kill any animals), and any other horse-related needs. During Christmas season, I baby-sat six or even nights a week. The rest of the year I averaged four nights a week. But I hated it, or told myself and everyone else I did. I did it only for the money that would grant me the freedom to gallop across country most Saturdays of the hunting season, that would allow me to enter any shows close enough for me to hack to, or to which I could hitch trailer rides with my friends. I rose at 5:30 in the mornings in the winter three school days a week so I could ride my horse in the dark before school just to keep him fit enough for the Saturday hunt. It’s quite demanding, galloping across country for two or three hours straight, over whatever gets in your way, ditch, wall, coop, brush. Hunts that pursue live animals are actually slower than drag hunts because they’re dependent on the cooperation of the beast being pursued. The story was that the Wicklow Hunt caught on average one fox a season, that most hunts consisted of standing around, waiting for the wily creature to show up. And mostly the fox was too smart for the humans. I don’t know for sure, since I didn’t fox hunt, but my avid foxhunter friends tried to convince me it was harmless, that the chances of actually chasing a fox, let alone catching one, were almost nil. (And it’s true that the two or three foxhunts I observed or half rode in — without intent but because it was part of my job — entailed a lot of standing around and false alarms. I never did see a fox).

Drag hunts, in contrast, are set in advance when a bag of some ripe stinky material (usually aniseed oil and meat, I believe) is dragged along a pre-arranged course. Then the hounds and hunters follow, often at great speed, till the end. Horses and riders must be fit as there is little enough time to catch one’s breath, except on stretches of road between fields, if such passage is necessary. It’s exhilarating. I’ve jumped things I can’t imagine jumping now: five foot forestry gates and gorse bushes as wide as a downed horse. I’ve slugged through bogland so deep my horse has been almost entirely covered (try cleaning tack after a hunt in which you and your horse and everything you’re both wearing has been submerged in bogmuck up to your waist). I’ve heard the music of the hounds, of the horn, and watched a retired hunter scream from the gate because he’s being left behind. For both horse and human there’s nothing more adrenaline-making than the bugle of the horn on a brisk fall day. Every pound I earned went into my horse. Every sleepless night was given over in honor of the time we could spend together. And I learned responsibility, discipline, compassion, even the patience I swore I didn’t have, from the animal I had loved since I first saw one at the age of three.

Nothing to confess? I don’t believe it. It’s there, hiding. I just don’t want to uncover it because it’s so mundane, so boring, because I’m the good girl. And yet that’s a cover too, because nobody is really good all the way through. If I unpeel enough, the confession must come. What dirt hides there, in the crevasses, but the skankiest bogmuck, stuck to me down the years since those days hunting? I shall uncover it in time.

The states I’ve visited…

Now they just need to be in blue… (not for their actual political color, but for what I’d like them to be.)

create your own personalized map of the USA

Just for fun

I found this little test somewhere on the internet and thought I’d check it out. I like being a deep sky blue as a color, but the descriptor is all wrong. I do like people by I’m totally shy. I’m not conservative at all (at least in my politics. No siree, I’m way far left, so where that’s coming from I don’t know), and I don’t know about being a leader. I don’t like being lead, for sure, but I don’t like to lead either. Let me just do my own thing, thank you very much!

Anyway, I’m having fun posting these things because WordPress makes it so easy.

you are deepskyblue

Your dominant hues are cyan and blue. You like people and enjoy making friends. You’re conservative and like to make sure things make sense before you step into them, especially in relationships. You are curious but respected for your opinions by people who you sometimes wouldn’t even suspect.
Your saturation level is very high – you are all about getting things done. The world may think you work too hard but you have a lot to show for it, and it keeps you going. You shouldn’t be afraid to lead people, because if you’re doing it, it’ll be done right.Your outlook on life is very bright. You are sunny and optimistic about life and others find it very encouraging, but remember to tone it down if you sense irritation.
the html color quiz

What are you?

You Are a Ring Finger

You are romantic, expressive, and hopeful. You see the best in everything.
You are very artistic, and you see the world as your canvas. You are also drawn to the written word.
Inventive and unique, you are often away in your own inner world.
You get along well with: The PinkyStay away from: The Index Finger

What Finger Are You?


Elsie had this on her site, so I thought I’d check it out, and then I managed to put it on my WordPress site without any effort at all. After all my frustration with BC, I’m in heaven! I did something technological and it was successful and I didn’t even get frustrated. Wow!