Happy 2nd Birthday Southbound!

southbound full cover

Today is a happy day for me as it was 2 years ago my novel Southbound was published.  I’ve been fortunate to get to do some cool things in my life.  I’ve travelled and seen most of the country.  I’ve gotten to host radio and tv shows.  I’ve recorded a CD with my band Stabone, and gotten to announce horse races for a living.  But of the things I’ve done, Southbound is probably the thing I’m most proud of.  Not because it’s some great literary accomplishment, although I do think it’s a good story.  But because it was something that I set my mind to and accomplished.  It was a 3 year process from when I first started typing it up to the publication date.  Which I’m told is actually not that long in the book world.

The first draft poured out of me.  82,000 words in just three and a half months.  My fantasy at the time was to run away and become a full time gambler, even though I knew it would end badly.  But I had quit gambling 7 months before I started writing it and honestly it was all I thought about.  Southbound changed quite a lot from first draft to publication.  The great people at Pandamoon Publishing offered tremendous insight and ideas.  The biggest change was the original ending to the one that is in print.  Southbound was originally a suicide note of sorts.  Not necessarily of life, but of a lifestyle.  It was me putting the bullet in the head of the gambler in me.  It really did start out just as a therapeutic exercise and turned into much more.  A bit of an irony is that my original ending had the character perishing in a cheap hotel room as that’s always how I saw that fantasy ending.  And I’m typing this from a cheap hotel room 🙂

I could go on and on about Southbound and what was happening in my life during the writing, editing and eventual publication.  Things were not good.  It was a painful time for me.  But part of what helped get through that time was Southbound.  It was always there for me.  I remember sitting at home the day it was published and thinking “What the hell am I going to do now, I have nothing to work on?”  For three years I had a project to focus on and now it was done.  It was a strange feeling.  But I love you Southbound and am as proud of you at 2 as I  was the day you were born.  Thanks for being in my life.

Remembering Humie

Today I heard of the passing last night of another friend and colleague from River Downs, H.M. “Humie” Johnson.  Just a week or so ago we lost another member of that racetrack family, Jeff Riedel.  Humie was a character of the racetrack, one of my favorite folks there.  He was probably 70 or more years old when I got there in 2006 and his office as the “stall man” was right behind my desk where I took entries in the morning before the races.  Humie was a long time trainer and eventually switched over to working on the backside at the track.  He was ornery but extremely lovable.  He took to me right away.

I’ll never forget a few days into me being there he said “Hey Mr. Announcer, come here,” summoning me to his office.  “Where you from buddy?” he asked.  I replied “I just moved here from Portland.”  Humie sat back in his old creaky chair, I could tell he was going into deep contemplative thought.  He replied, stone cold serious, “Portland, that’s up in Seattle right?”  I died laughing.  He thought Seattle was a state.  I never corrected him, so I like to think he went to his grave thinking that.

Humie also gave himself the nickname “The Big Dicked Daddy from Cincinnati.”  He claimed that all of his female admirers called him that but I’m pretty sure it was self diagnosed.  He’d come strolling in “here comes the big dicked daddy from Cincinnati,” with a big grin on his face.

Humie kissed my mom’s hand when she came over to visit and he’d ask me all the time how she was doing with the look of love in his eyes.  She was probably 25 years younger than him but he didn’t care.

He was a lovely guy and a total character.  This has been a tough week with both him and Jeff’s passing.  I had only talked to Humie a few times since I left Cincinnati in 2008 but each time I did he was always excited and we had a great conversation.  I’ll really miss him.