Monday, January 3, 2011

Two unpublished highlights of 2010.

Not one of my better years, 2010. (That little rhetorical device of shifting the subject to the end of the sentence means I don't have to start it with a numeral, because some style books tell me I'd have to spell out 2010.) But here are a couple of high spots I didn't blog at the time.

Portrait of the Artist as an Old Git, by Secundus, November
The great poet Ogden Nash was born in Rye, although he is notoriously unsung in the town of his youth. I'm taking it on myself to redress the balance in 2011, and I'm pleased to say that I already have the Rye Arts Center and the Rye Historical Society on my side. Now I just want the Rye City Council to wake up and rename the place "Nashville."*

Regular readers will be hearing more of our city's Nashional Deficit. In connection with these ventures, I've been in contact with Nash's granddaughter, Frances Smith, who is also a conduit to her mother, Linell Nash Smith, Ogden's surviving daughter, subject of many of his verses, and herself an author and editor of her father's magnificent body of work.

In the course of our correspondence, I rather immodestly drew Frances's attention to my very minor Nash pastiche "Ode to My Bitch," which appeared on this blog in October. She showed it to her mother, and pronounced it "truly Nashian," adding ". . . we know ON would agree."

This could be the highest praise I have ever received in a lifetime of writing, so thank you both. And now I wish I'd given it a less tongue-in-cheek title.

The main house of Ogden's childhood was on property that abutted the railway tracks between Rye and Port Chester, the last stop In New York before crossing the Connecticut border.** So here's a pertinent and quintessentially Nashian limerick from Ms. Nash Smith's own selection of her father's poetry (not the book pictured above):
There was a brave girl of Connecticut
Who flagged the express with her pecticut,
Which her elders defined
As presence of mind,
But deplorable absence of ecticut.

The other event. I was called to jury duty early in the year, in Rye's own courthouse. On voir dire, I was asked if I knew anyone in law enforcement. I answered truthfully that I wasn't well acquainted with any member of the Rye Police Department, but that as a mystery novelist, many of my imaginary friends were police officers.

For some reason, defending counsel excused me shortly afterward. But it gave the judge a good laugh.

*Really, where? Is it famous for anything?

**Back in the early 1900s, ON's wealthy father, Edmund, had an arrangement with the engine drivers to make an unscheduled stop here so he could step out of the train in his own back yard.

This gravestone in the picture, photographed just after last week's blizzard, is shared between Ogden's parents, Edmund and Mattie, who are buried in Rye's Greenwood Union Cemetery. His uncle, aunt, and cousin lie nearby. The site is about one-third of a mile from where I sit writing this. It took three dog-walks, going up and down Greenwood's many paths and reading the names on all the headstones, before I finally found this -- the cemetery covers more than fourteen acres. I could have asked at the office, but where's the fun in that? You can click on the picture for a larger view.

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