Al Napoli: I was fortunate enough to grow up on the friendly streets of Bensonhurst in South Brooklyn. My first eight years of schooling were spent at Our Holy Lady of Guadalupe Parochial School. I took special interest in history, and in the girls in their short pleated skirts. During the summer I attended perhaps the finest horse camp on the east coast: Camp Susquehana, located in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Pennsylvania. I didn’t like rules, but I did like horses, and I quickly became a Blue Ribbon Jumper. Next I entered Cheshire Academy, an ‘elite’ prep school in central Connecticut. Kent and Choate were our brother schools – also elite, also without women on campus. And like every well brought up kid in Brooklyn, I played baseball, all the way up through semi-pro.
After Cheshire, I leapfrogged from college to college. I spent a year at Babson Institute in Massachusetts, right next to Wellesley University, Smith College, and Pine Manor; a year in Atlanta, Georgia at Oglethorpe College, where I played soccer (and where I went through my Edgar Allan Poe, H. P. Lovecraft phase – sort of like Picasso’s Blue Period); finally, I nestled into my own specially favored little niche at the University of Hawaii where I majored in Oceanography, beachcombing, and pitchers of beer at the Blue Goose, a drinking hole close to campus.
Close to graduation and in my fifth year of a wonderful college career, the draft board punched my card. Eight months later I got to travel from Fort Jackson, South Carolina to Canto Province, Viet Nam, courtesy of the Army’s 292nd Finance Corp. (My head for Signal Corps Morse code had proved too prone to migraines, but my head for business was sound enough.) There I found out the real meaning of the word monsoon, and the amazing, life-saving efficacy of little white pills at stopping 2 straight weeks of diarrhea, as well as the soothing effects of foot massage.
Upon release from the military in San Francisco, I headed south to San Diego for two joyous years of brain injuring, mind altering home therapy. This is when my predilection for fantasy truly blossomed; for though I had read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings and Stranger in a Strange Land in Hawaii, it was in the make believe world of southern California that I experienced first hand Technicolor daydreams and the significance of Looney Tunes and Roger Rabbit. Robert Jordan and J.K. Rowling also are major influences, with a snicker and a smile for Christopher Moore as well.
But all good things must come to an end, and Brooklyn calls her sons home sooner or later. For a while, I raised and raced horses with a couple of buddies. It can be exhilarating, but it can also break your heart – not to mention your bank account.
Two quotes I live by: “Don’t get mad, get even” (Brooklyn street mantra) and “Don’t believe everything you read” (this included).
Ruth Freeman regards most of the instances of her life as incidental and not worth describing. Stories however, matter. Her real biography would be indicated by the progression of books, many of them beautifully illustrated, she encountered year by year. There was the family first edition of The Secret Garden; the book of Russian Fairy Tales, the one with a story about a young tsarina whose life is saved by the butterfly - spirit of the drowned former tsarina; Tolkien (especially the funny bits), C.S. Lewis and George MacDonald; Journey to the West, Archie comics, Li’l Abner and dark comic books by Frank Miller and Alan Moore. And so many more. Her interests include Euclidean mathematics, Jungian psychology, Sufi literature – especially the Nasrudin stories illustrated by Richard Williams, the artist who did the animation for Who Framed Roger Rabbit – and good food. If she were a number, it would be the difference between 0.999999… and 1.
Belmont 2017: This story is the tale of the horses, trainers, owners, riders and jockeys who have come to New York to run in the Belmont Stakes, the one-and-a-half mile race that is the last lap of the Triple Crown – and trainer John Certis’ horse, Reardon, has already won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness. Now all the others are determined to take the Belmont and the win away from the favorite. Someone’s dream will come true; but who will it be? And it’s not just the players who have a stake in this race; the gods themselves are taking an interest and betting on their favorites. Dragons and horses will thunder around the course in a race for the ephemeral Olympian prize: the elusive Triple Crown. (Cortero Fiction, )