Today, while my family and I are looking at vacation property in Turlock, I am happy to announce the names of the kind and dedicated folks who have volunteered to take my place here on Page 2 for the next several weeks.
I say “volunteered” as if they won’t be compensated for their heroic efforts, when in fact certain fame awaits them and perhaps even fortune. At the very least it will be nice to have disgruntled readers throwing rotten Yolo County tomatoes at their homes instead of mine beginning Tuesday.
Because the Large Judging Body (see photo above) takes great pains not to know the identity of the author of the essay he is reading, it’s pure and simple luck that this year he just happened to select five female winners and five male winners as required by Davis city law.
Yes, unless the author’s style or very words reveal who he or she is, there is no way the LJB has a clue, thus dismissing any charges of favoritism or prejudice. Still, it’s nice to know the Human Relations Commission will not be on my back for another year and demanding a federal investigation of my selection methods.
Indeed, Barack Obama himself could enter the contest and not be known, unless he started talking about Sasha and Malia and Vladimir Putin.
All entrants, including those who were not selected this time around, followed the various contests rules to a “T,” which means for the third consecutive year there were no “dead cat” entries. For that I am everlastingly grateful.
Unfortunately, one out-of-town entrant by the name of Leo Tolstoy exceeded the 800-word limit by approximately 587,000 words with his essay titled “War and Peace” and had to be eliminated. Other than that, it was a stellar year.
So, very briefly, I’ll try to give you a taste of what you’re in for as summer turns to fall and black walnuts begin to drop from our ancient trees. Some essays are funny, some serious and some somewhere in between.
Roger Gambatese, a longtime local attorney, reports his absolute delight at a letter in the mail he received that began with the salutation “Dear Athlete.” I’d like to get one of those myself to confirm that all my early-morning jogging around the living room furniture has not been in vain.
Martha Ozonoff, meanwhile, offered a compelling piece in which she states “I find myself a member of a club that I would never have willingly joined. And yet I am incredibly proud to count myself as a card-carrying member of that club.” Tune in next week to learn exactly which club Martha is talking about.
Bob Schultz, a longtime educator who won this very contest on several occasions in a previous life, notes that “Life is a marathon and we’ll never get our young people ready to succeed if we don’t give them the right tools to tackle real-world problems using their best critical thinking and putting their math, writing and reading skills into practice.” Amen, my friend, amen.
“I saw it coming,” writes Professor J. Ann Moylan. “The day the dollhouse moved out to be replaced with wall-to-wall and ceiling posters. The day the Beanie Babies found a new home in my closet. The day the posters came down to be replaced with framed photographs.” And it gets even more interesting from there.
Sharon Knox’s “Tales from the Village of All Things Right and Relevant” will have many people nodding their heads in enthusiastic agreement.
“My first friend in Davis was also new in town and we bonded over anxiety about the unwritten rules we always seemed to be breaking. A woman once chased her down to inform her that her son’s face had become very red while he was running, and suggested she consult a doctor. Tragically, the child has a life-threatening case of Irish complexion.”
Barbara McNurlin, who moved to Davis to be nearer to folks named Ashlyn and Kian, notes that “This summer I happened upon a sure-fire approach to vastly increase the neuron firings in my brain. It didn’t take arduous planning. In fact, I came upon it by accident.” Interesting stuff, to say the least.
Plant sciences professor Alan Bennett asks “How about flavovores?” and then suggests “This is not a trend yet, but that’s what I am and I’m predicting that this will be the next big trend, especially if we can get Michael Pollan to write a book about this.” As a flavovore myself, I found Alan’s discussion of tomatoes and other alleged foods intriguing.
Which brings us to published author Karen Levy, who opens, “They’re out there, causing even the stoutest of heart among us to sit white-knuckled, pale-faced, our blood pressure inching toward the danger zone.” Certainly made me want to read more, as all of her stuff does.
Dave Allen, who moved to Davis centuries ago to teach Spanish at UC Davis, is “sitting at a table on the new roof garden of the venerable Davis train station, watching a parade of boats in the Port of Davis marina.” Fantasy? Perhaps not.
And finally, we have Keith Redenbaugh, who said in a note that accompanied his essay, “I treasure each rejection so as to rejoice the rare success.” No treasuring this year, Keith, just rejoicing.
In fact, thanks to all of the above, there will be rejoicing all around.
— Reach Bob Dunning at firstname.lastname@example.org