A Little Fun Ain’t All Bad

“Not one of us ever grows up to be what he intended to be. Not one of us fulfills his own expectations, Travis. We are all our own children, in that sense. At some point, somewhere, we have to stop making demands.” (From The Green Ripper, one of the Travis McGee mysteries by John D. MacDonald.)

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Ronfucius and I had just finished playing our usual mediocre rounds yesterday and were bemoaning how our games had deteriorated. Neither of us has played much recently, partly because of weather and partly because of other demands on our time, and we’re just not popping out those nice rounds with regularity.  On the other hand, the weather has warmed up nicely and we had a good time needling and laughing our way around the course.

I’ve always been at risk for making life harder than it has to be by trying to live up to self-imposed standards. I can get caught up in how well I’m playing golf or if I’m keeping some project of my own on schedule when no one else cares and it really doesn’t make any difference. In short, I tend to forget the standards are self-imposed, and if I don’t like them, I can change them. I can stop making demands.

Back when I was getting paid for my time, I suppose that made a little sense. No one was telling me what to do from moment to moment, and if I didn’t set a personal schedule and personal goals I was at risk for not accomplishing anything. Eventually that would be noticed and I’d suffer in terms of raises or promotions.

Those self-imposed standards had the risk of sucking the joy out my job, but at least they led to financial rewards and career advancement. Applying those standards to my golf game or my piddly-squat projects risks sucking the joy without any payback. I suspect that means I’d be better off letting some things slide a bit.

I bet no one would notice. Having a good time needling and laughing my way around the golf course and daily life may not be such a bad standard to impose on myself, anyway. I suspect that Meyer, the voice of wisdom in the quote at the top of this post, would agree.

It’s a nice afternoon and the roof of the carport I’ve built still has a few courses of shingles to go. But the roof doesn’t leak and there’s no rain in the forecast anyway, so I think I’ll see how they’re doing at Torrey Pines.

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“The youth gets together his materials to build a bridge to the moon, or, perchance, a palace or a temple on the earth, and, at length, the middle-aged man concludes to build a woodshed with them.” (Henry David Thoreau)

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To Golf Or Not To Golf

We’ve all been there. It’s a cold, windy day and you’ve got plenty of things to do that don’t involve freezing to death and trying to calculate wind speed and direction. On the other hand, you’ve got a standing game with a group of guys you love playing with. You know you’ll play poorly if you go, your eyes will water in the wind, and when you hit the ball your hands will feel like you slapped a tree.

It’s stupid to voluntarily subject yourself to misery. But you go, and the whole group is there. Everybody agrees this is crazy, but the game goes on. The golf is forgettable; it’s one of those days you say you’re “working on my handicap”. Everyone threatens to quit several times during the round, but no one takes it seriously. After all, where would they rather be?

Lately the weather has been nasty and I’ve been seeing where I’d rather be. As I write this in the midmorning, it’s 34 degrees, mostly sunny, and windy. The clouds are starting to roll in and it might hit 45 before the day is done. I’ve played in worse, but these days I haven’t been playing as much golf in this kind of weather. I miss the jokes, needling, and, dare I admit it, emotional support of my golf buddies, and I hope they’ll understand why I’m not as reliably there as I used to be. So far, they seem to. In fact, they’re staying warm more often themselves.

I’m rediscovering some things I used to do, and learning some new things. I’m getting more reading done. I’m keeping up a little better with the chores and some things I like to do that often nag at me. Maybe my wife is happier with me when I get those things done, but I probably irritate her by being in the way as often as I help out, so I’m guessing that’s a wash. The feral cats don’t seem to care.

I think I’m trying to see where golf fits in my life. It’s a luxury I didn’t have when I was working – golf had to fit where the time was. Now I could play every day if I wanted to. I even did that for a little while. I missed the rest of my life when I played that much, but I miss golf and the guys if I don’t play enough.

I’m not a natural at golf and my game goes downhill rapidly if my play drops below a certain frequency. If I don’t play often enough I have to adjust my expectations. That was no problem when I always sucked, but now that I’ve played well for a while it’s harder.

It’s a balancing act, and I guess we all reach our own equilibrium. I know some guys who play every day and love it, and I know some others who play once a month and that’s enough. I’m somewhere in between, and closer to every day than once a month. I’ll let you and my golf buddies know when I figure it out.

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Old Tom Marbles

One of the Golf Now commercials featuring the Old Tom Morris character has Old Tom bragging about how many golf course choices he had. He proudly says he had 4 courses to choose from and they were “All within a horse ride of my wee something something.” It sounds like he says “stone dungeon”, but that’s obviously not right.

Does anyone have any idea what he says the wee thing is that is within a horse ride of 4 courses? I suppose it’s Old Tom’s house, but what is he saying?

I like the Old Tom character despite the marbles in his mouth, but I wish they’d tone it down just a bit. Having him pay his bar tab with a chicken and using a sheep as a caddie verges on jumping the shark.

Old Tom may have lived in the 1800’s, but the last time I checked they had money and human caddies back then. I doubt Tom’s 50 pounds a year salary at St. Andrews was 50 pounds of chicken, and Tom himself was a caddie and a caddie master at various times in his life.

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Meet Meeester Streeeak

Streak
When I was an undergrad in 1967, my academic advisor gave me one of the worst pieces of advice I ever received. “Take Russian,” he said. “You’ll need it to read important scientific literature.” I never needed to read anything in Russian during my academic career, and it’s probably good given how poorly I learned the language. The Russian classes were at 8 AM, and I had a bad habit of playing pool until dawn. The little Russian I did know helped me understand some words in A Clockwork Orange, though.

Class attendance at most classes at Rice in those days was optional. Do well on the exams and other work, and whether you were in class or not was unimportant. However, my Russian instructor was very nice guy who was interested in our performance, dearly wanted us to learn Russian, and thought it was crucial that we came to class and participate (in Russian, of course), so he was concerned if someone was frequently absent. On one of my rare days of attendance I answered a discussion question in Spanish in my semi-comatose pool-all-night induced state. That got quite a response.

Anyway, I had a friend in the class who took pride in his ability to skip classes and still ace the exams. He did this very well, and the 8 AM meeting time combined with his habits pretty much ruled out his attendance. My Russian instructor was a native of Russia and spoke English with a heavy accent. The instructor noticed my friend’s absence, and would ask the class “Has eeenybody seeen Meeester (name withheld to protect the guilty, but it started with “S” and ended with “k”, and was full of long vowel sounds in the middle.)

Enter Silver Streak, the cat you see in the picture. He’s one of the many ferals that live on our property and enjoy our hospitality. As you can see, he’s all black, but in his youth he had a silver whisker that earned him the name. This was shortened to Streak for convenience, but to me he’s always “Meeester Streeeak.” I doubt that a nostalgic cat name was the benefit my academic advisor intended when he told me to take Russian, but you never know how education might enrich your life. Life is full of surprises.

(Photo by Loretta Prokop)

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Hybrids Anonymous

In a commercial for Adams hybrids, Kenny Perry says, “I just can’t hit a 3 iron like I used to.” I’ve never come close to playing like Kenny Perry and he’s ten or so years younger than me, so I guess there’s no shame in admitting that my love affair with my 3 iron is over, too.

There was a time that I loved hitting long irons and my 3 iron was my go-to club. I used it for long approach shots. I used it in place of a fairway wood, not just because I could hit my 3 iron so well but also because I couldn’t hit a 3 wood at all. For a few years I used my 3 iron as my driver. I used it for punch shots out of the trees and for low runners under the wind. I probably hit it more often than any clubs in the bag except for my pitching wedge and my putter.

But something happened, along with the appearance of gray hair and a little pooch around the waist. My 3 iron wasn’t such a good friend anymore, and then my 4 iron started to insult me. Even my 5 iron thought the occasional worm burner and shank were pretty hilarious. My best friends had deserted me.

A few months ago I finally took the plunge and decided if it was good enough for Kenny, it was good enough for me. I found a used set of Adams hybrid irons at a decent price and fell in love with them. The set even has a hybrid 6 iron, and I’ve been amazed at how much more confident I feel over those hybrids and how much better I’m hitting it. It doesn’t always show in my score, but every now and then I pop out a round I can be proud of.

I held out as long as I could, but I’ve finally admitted it. “My name is Charlie and I’m getting older and I hit hybrids.” I’ve watched the bags of the guys I play with, and most of them admitted it a few years ago. I think they were more mature than me in more ways than one.

If you doubt I can’t hit my 3 iron like I used to, have a look at the header image of this blog. My 3-iron is the broken club in the picture.

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Back To Work

After a long time of wandering in the wilderness, I’m getting back to regular posting. My internet problems have been solved (knock on wood) by the belated arrival of a decent wireless signal at my property, and I’m far enough along on several other projects to the point that I have a little time to breathe. I’ve revised my “About” page to reflect my return.

We don’t live all that far out in the sticks, but our property is just far enough out that the city tends to overlook us. The only TV we have is satellite, there is no fiber optic cable out here, etc. On the other hand, we’re close enough to the city that the rural providers figure the city is taking care of us. If you go just a few miles farther out of town, you’ll have DSL, cable, etc., and until recently you had a better wireless signal. Go a few miles closer to the city, and you get all the big city options.

It’s always been my fate to be on the dividing line. Not a jock, but more athletic than my nerdy friends. (It came in handy when I shot pool with the football team crowd, because my jock friends would protect me when I irritated someone by winning at 9 ball, but that’s another story.) I know just enough about a lot of things to be brave enough to try them and screw them up. Now the 4GLTE signal runs right down the middle of our property. You can get it on one side, but not the other. Luckily, the house is on the side that gets it.

I hope no one turns the wrong screw on the cell tower.

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Now That’s a Local Rule!

A guy I hadn’t seen for years was passing through town yesterday, and I made that pre-dawn drive we all love to get in a round of golf with him. As I drove across town ahead of the morning rush I couldn’t help but notice how different a drive at that hour feels if you’re going to play golf rather than going to work.

Anyway, I arrived in Floresville (a town just south of San Antonio) in time for a quick breakfast taco and a fill up with the diesel fuel that’s cheaper on that side of town, and then headed out to the course. River Bend is a relaxed little course with an interesting layout and I hadn’t played there in quite a while, so I was looking forward to seeing Tom and the course again.

We had a good round and played a semi-decent game, but had a lot of fun catching up. After I got home I glanced at the back of the scorecard and saw this local rule:

“If your ball comes to rest in or near a non-human creature, you are entitled to nearest relief, no nearer the hole.”

Now that is a great local rule! The course runs along the banks of the San Antonio River on a few holes, and it’s pretty wild in there. There’s also undeveloped territory in other spots, and I suspect you could find coyotes, snakes, and other beasties and things that go bump in the night in there, so it’s eminently reasonable. On the other hand, the course is generous enough that you have a good chance of avoiding the most serious trouble, and the serious trouble isn’t on many holes.

But what I love is the thought of my ball in a non-human creature. That’s a shot I certainly wouldn’t want to hit. My free drop might even get nearer the hole, assuming I ever slowed down enough to drop another ball and take a swing.

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