I found something I could ride

Something I ate: when, back in April, my husband and I took our trainer to dinner and asked about his ideas for getting a new horse, I think I ordered the fish.  Horse shopping wasn’t a new topic of conversation, as this is something most equestrians have opinions about, so we weren’t surprised to hear him suggest going to Germany. “The main thing,” he said this night, and not for the last time, “Is find something you can ride.”

How do you find a horse to try: while I was able to use my personal connections to find someone to look for a horse for me in Germany, looking closer to home was still easier. And where are the closer-to-home horses advertised? On Facebook, in a large, open group. Facebook has gotten some tough press lately, for its role in interfering with democracy and in facilitating genocide, but until we overthrow our social media overlords, cast off the shackles of our Amazon Prime memberships, and find a way to circumvent the authoritarian monopoly on online search, it’s what there is beyond word of mouth.

What I did beforehand: a day before my flight to Florida, I got a message from the agent who was supposed to show me the horse. She wanted to check if I was still coming. I said I was. She said the horse I had first contacted her about was no longer available, but she had a number of others to show me. There are a lot of reasons I can think of that would make a horse be no longer available, like injury or illness, or if it was already sold, or if the owner changed her mind about selling it. But to be honest I was annoyed. Peeved, even. I thought about cancelling my trip.

Why I went anyway: when I somewhat testily pressed the sales agent, she cheerfully provided me details about four other horses, all theoretically suitable for my purposes. I got over my peeved self.

Things that were not funny: at the sales barn, the fellow showing the horse had a German first name, and everyone knew him by his German first name, and no one said his last name because apparently no one felt they could pronounce it. This feels terribly American to me, as does most mispronunciation of names. Put this on our list of things we should do to be better, America. Let’s all learn to pronounce each other’s names. Starting with me. I can’t pronounce the German guy’s last name.

What I saw: the first horse the fellow with the German name showed me was a little chestnut mare, darker than a penny but a shade brighter than liver chestnut. When I saw her in the cross-ties, I noticed she had an unusual pattern of white on the side of her face, and wasn’t sure I liked it. But there is no such thing as a good horse in a bad color, so I set aside this impression.

She seemed like a quality horse with a professional rider sitting on her, but the reason professional riders exist is because they can ride anything and make it look like a quality horse.

What I wore: riding clothes, but no spurs.

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What it is: riding is expensive and time consuming. Horses are simultaneously fragile and dangerous. I know of nothing more magical than the feeling of riding well, and also nothing more elusive.

Things that were funny: over the course of four trips to barns, I rode about 10 different horses, and it wasn’t until I sat on the little chestnut mare that I felt that I’d found something I could ride. My trainer’s advice, which had seemed at first to be so obvious as to not be important, turned out to be the best signal that I’d found what I was looking for. I tried to suppress the huge grin, but I felt right away that I had found what I was looking for. I just didn’t want to tell anyone yet. I didn’t even know the horse’s name. In fact, we left the barn without me finding out her name. I knew she was six, and what she was like to ride that day, but not much else.

Who went with me: the sales agent who did all the work finding horses for me to try in Florida, who was polite when I abruptly got off another horse I didn’t like, who laughed at my jokes, and who even got me the chance to try the horse I had originally wanted to see.

Why I bought this horse: other than being the one horse I tried that I really felt I could ride, she was the one that was fun without feeling inexplicably intimidating. Sure, they weigh 1300 lbs., but, as my trainer says, either you’re in charge or they’re in charge. And her face? Once I’d ridden her it seemed extraordinarily adorable.

Things that were sad: that other horse, the one I’d wanted to see in the first place? She was really nice, too.

I went to the barn holiday party

What I saw: barn friends and Hado at the holiday party.


What I did beforehand: overslept, ate cereal and walked the dogs.

What I wore: very dirty jeans and some other clothes I found wadded up on the floor of my closet, Keen pull-on snow boots, enormous purple scarf.

Who went with me: the Bacon Provider.


Why I saw this show: the ascendence of fascism in America has crushed my already limited desire to cheerfully attend social functions. Nevertheless, a party like this is an opportunity to give year-end tips to the hard-working people who take care of my horses. And to see my barn friends.

Where I stood: in the barn aisle.


Things that were sad: last year when I attended this party I didn’t realize it was all about, so I didn’t have cards and tips with me. It was awkward.  I did bring bread I made, which everyone made a big deal about. That kind of added to my feeling awkward. The other thing that happened last year is I had to have the same awkward conversation a bunch of times about who I was, and how long I’d been at the barn, and which horses I owned, and where I had my horses before that. The third time through these questions I fully flowered, via awkwardness, into an overgrown, surly hothouse  middle-schooler, providing one-word, conversation-stopping answers: two months, two horses, Dutchess County. “Oh,” they asked. “Where in Duchess County?”
And I’d say, “Pine Box,” which they hadn’t heard of.

Also, last year I met the barn owner at this party, and had a conversation with him about cakes or something but whatever I said it was said without knowing he was the owner. I thought he was just some guy. When I found about a few days later that I had been talking to the owner, and not just some guy, I marveled at myself for being so supremely awkward.

One good thing about going to parties where I barely know anyone is I can get away with just shaking people’s hands. On the west coast, I don’t remember even having to shake hands all that often, but here in New York you shake hands with new people and are engaged in this grotesquely awkward air-kissing gesture with people you already know (and sometimes even with people you don’t already know). Some people actually press their cheeks into yours, which feels like a completely unnecessary violation. Others smack you, kiss-wise, on the cheek, which at least resembles something your Aunt Ruthie might have done. Then there’s the two cheek thing, and it’s too, too much.  

So this year, I had to hug my friends and try to dodge the kissing thing, except with the French people, who seem to know what they’re doing and will do all the work so all I have to do is stand there limply, feeling awkward and wait for it to end.

Hado goes for an awkward air-kiss

Things that were funny: I was standing with my friend C. and some other people talking about the bread and someone else walked up to tell me how much they like my bread. Also, I ran into the owner again, and this year I told him how much I love the barn and thanked him. If it was awkward, I didn’t even care.


Things that were not funny: two different people asked me if I make my bread using a bread machine. 

Something I ate: there were home-made linzer cookies, and my husband made me try an inch-long piece of the top of his. It was good, though we thought it should have been rolled just a little bit thinner before baking. I also drank a glass of quite decent red wine out of a red plastic cup. Nothing says “PARTY” in America like a red plastic cup.


What it is: keeping horses is an expensive, labor-intensive business, requiring attentive and careful management. It takes a lot of people, and many hours, and good communication. The work is never-ending. I now understand that regular tips are expected and also some kind of Christmas bonus. This summer I was brave enough to ask some of my barn friends what they tip and was enormously relieved to find I wasn’t doing it wrong.

Who should see it: holiday parties might be supremely awkward, being a weird salad event of tossed religious holidays, crumbled gift-giving, and chopped “being busy,” over a bed of shifting expectations for getting dressed up, but you should go. No one ever says, “Ugh! I wish that awkward so-and-so didn’t show up!”

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What I saw on the way home: Canada geese, headed south for the winter. 


I attended as “a spouse”

What I did: went as my husband’s “+1” to an election night party, hosted by a cable news network, at the Fifth Avenue Empire Room, a rooftop lounge at 230 5th Avenue, in New York City.


What I did beforehand: voted, took the dogs for a sniffing walk, showered, tried to dry my hair, gave up on trying to dry my hair, put too much product in my hair, changed into jeans and a “Vagenda of Manocide” t-shirt, packed my party clothes into a suitcase, drove to town with a woman in a Land Rover tailgating me. When she turned for the highway, I could tell by the dark shadow that I had picked up another tailgater, now on the 30 mph approach to town where it is oh so tempting to go just a little faster. But I didn’t go any faster, so when I realized my new tailgater was a local policewoman, I felt justified. I walked through town and saw the policewoman buying lunch, and I wanted to ask her if she voted and who she voted for, because I was still giddy and stupid and anxious with excitement.


On the train I worked on yesterday’s blog post on my phone, and when we pulled in to Grand Central I found myself surrounded by other women with overnight bags. They were all headed to hotels, too, but then they were headed to the Javits Center for Hillary Clinton’s election night shindig. I slipped going up the stairs.

What I wore: my mother loved dressing well and shopping and spent more time choosing what to wear than she ever would have wanted anyone to know. She had a perfectly organized custom closet as big as a bedroom. When she died, there were so many navy shoes and long, straight-ish skirts and knee-highs and slips in every color and interesting jackets of various lengths and creamy white blouses to wear under the interesting jackets. And unusual jewelry, of course, as well. I still have some, but not many, of my mother’s clothes, but I do have a certain 90s-era off-white silk blouse which I’ve not worn more than once in the 11 1/2 years since my mother’s death. I was thinking it should be my “white,” since they were saying it’s the color the suffragettes wore, and it seemed like it might work under my other pantsuit. I don’t normally pick out and try on an outfit the night before, but there I was, the night before election day, seeing if the pants from my other pantsuit fit well enough to wear. They did. I put on the blouse to see if it looked ok. It hangs out from under the jacket, but in a way that I liked more than I hated. When I took it off I discovered it was missing a button.


When I stopped crying about my haphazard sewing skills vs. mother’s meticulous sewing skills and from stress about the election and then the realization that my mother would have loved HRC way more than I do and generally missing everything about my mother, I clipped one of the spare buttons from the inside of the blouse and sewed it on. 

And so, to the election night party I wore a black Eileen Fisher tank top, the gray Hugo Boss pantsuit with flimsy, unusable beltloops and no pockets (not even too-shallow pockets), gorgeous and understated jewelry from my generous husband, my grandmother’s square-faced Longines gold wristwatch, and an amethyst pin that belonged to another female relative and though my mother made a big deal about telling me who it came from, it was too long ago for me to remember. I also wore net knee-highs and the loafers with heels that I put pads into finally so my feet don’t slide around. 
One of his co-workers complained that
there aren’t any bad pictures of him
Who went with me: my husband, who made plain back in April that he thought the election might go badly, and whose paranoia, as I called it, was informed by his having escaped a totalitarian regime as a child, and his uncanny ability to predict everything. 

How I got tickets: as the guest of the Bacon Provider, I was actually the only “+1.”

Why I saw this show: I blithely said beforehand that I thought it would be fun either way. I genuinely believed that America would not elect a Russian-sponsored fascist. 

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Where I sat: if you were watching live results on the right cable channel, you saw us in the front row. At least one friend did. 

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Things that were not funny: at dinner, I botched the, “…And what do you do?” question again, but I made up for it by being somewhat ludicrously funny. 

By 9:30 one of the marketing people from the cable news network (who had made it clear at dinner that she was repulsed by the orange, frothy fountain of racism candidate, and excited for America’s first female President), announced cheerfully that the disastrous installation of a lying, bankruptcy-addicted, child-rapist as United States President would, in fact, be very good for cable news, what with the advertising sold to air during impeachment proceedings and all. 

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By 10 pm I started to be cold and miserable and when I went downstairs to find the coat check to retrieve our coats I got trapped in a party that wasn’t ours and when a small mob of people crushed into an elevator, I finally saw the hall and found the gap in a black curtain leading to the event I had a wristband for, at which point I was waylaid by a security guy who thought I was headed out of bounds and I had to get all imperious in his face. 

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Things that were sad: by 10:30 I was ready to move away from the United States for the foreseeable future. The other guests who were sitting outside with us retreated to the party inside or left for home. Drunk, anxious bar patrons grumbled amongst themselves about the tray of extra cupcakes abandoned on our table.  One guy came out of nowhere and asked me if he could take two. I told him they weren’t mine to give away, but, ok, be quick about it. Others came. By the end, people weren’t even asking; they were just taking.

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Things that were funny: when my father was in the ICU towards the end of his life, I realized that he had lost his sense of humor. This was how I knew he was dying. There is nothing funny about last night’s election result.

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What it is: not a good day to be a person of color or LGBTQ. Or both. 


Something I ate: steak and one cupcake.

I violated this cupcake before I ate it.

Who should see it: look away, friends and readers abroad. It’s going to get really ugly. 

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What I saw on the way home: we spent the night in an upscale eurotrash boutique hotel because I had planned for a long night. I had multiple nightmares about crashing my car on the Saw Mill Parkway and woke with a migraine. 

He’s reading about Stalin.

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Outside it was just another bad, gray, Manhattan Wednesday morning. I followed a guy into the subway who was reading the big biography of Stalin I read when I was in business school. He was about halfway through. I let a flustered, old mustachioed woman cut in line ahead of me when I got a coffee and a glazed doughnut in Grand Central and commenced having a big, long, ugly, sniveling cry on the train. White men moved to another car. 

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As we arrived in the sleepy town of Katatonia, I stepped into the drizzle and looked into the dark windshield of an oncoming Audi SUV. I didn’t pause in the slightest before entering the crosswalk, putting my life in the hands of some rich asshole.