As some people know, I’m participating in the NYC Parks & Recreation yearly lap swim contest. There’s a 1st, 2nd and 3rd place prize for the man and the woman who swim the most miles in their division at their pool by August 8th.

Apparently people cheat. I just don’t get that. I would never cheat at anything unless my life depended on it, but I can at least see cheating for something important, something that you needed, like money, or health care, or a job. Not that I think it’s right, but I can at least see it.

But to cheat to get a trophy? The only reason they feel good to get is if you earned it, if it’s a real achievement. What is the point if it’s not? Seriously. Why would you want one?

So they’ve started randomly counting people who are in contention. I’m in contention so someone counts my laps from time to time. This is a little terrifying because if you are old, like me, you lose track from time to time. I manage by counting 1-1-1-1-1, then 2-2-2-2-2 and so on the whole way up and back. I know of two times where they counted me, although there could be more. One of the times their count exactly matched mine, the other time I had counted two more than they did. Hopefully that’s close enough that no one thinks I’m cheating and that it was an honest mistake. Which it was!!

I’m about to start writing about the former Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell’s Island. This octagon structure below is all that remains of it. I’m nervous because a lot of people have written about the Lunatic Asylum and I want to come up with a way to do it that’s original and makes it real and alive for readers. I have a plan but god knows if I can pull it off! Scary!

Octagon, Roosevelt Island

Stacy Horn

I've written six non-fiction books, the most recent is Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad, and Criminal in 19th-Century New York.

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