Archive for July, 2012|Monthly archive page

Golf De Jure

In Uncategorized on July 20, 2012 at 5:06 pm

A kind note from a devoted reader who looks up to me and tries to emulate me in all respects reminds me that I have neglected to share a bit of news.  I am no longer an ex-golfer.  A few weeks ago, I shook the rust off the old clubs (which meant my four iron completely dissolved) and hied off again to the links.  And both I and my companions lived to tell about it.

Not since November, 2009, had the fairways and greens experienced hacking and gouging by the Beno.  I had been waylaid by miserable vision, pain management problems, a cracked rib, atrophied right chest muscles and a torn rotator cuff in my right shoulder (not caused by athletic misadventure, but from grabbing a pole to keep from falling after I misjudged a step in the stands at a baseball game).  But, June came and I actually felt pretty good.  Rest and steroids had eased the cuff ailment to the point where I could lift my hand above my head without shrieking.  Sheer idleness had taken care of the rest.  All that remained was my near-blindness, but I figured my innate golfing grace and ability should compensate for that.

One thing that did worry me, however, was  the thought that with a first swing on the first tee, I would collapse in a moaning, tangled heap.  Muscles, tendons and bone that had been sleeping for years might revolt with being suddenly thrust into use.  I figured that I needed to spend a week or so exercising and stretching some of the tissue that might be employed in my golf swing.  This would not be easy as my swing is something out of the ordinary, involving toe dancing, twisting and shouting, the cha-cha, and, according to golfing professionals, a double reverse pivot (which I sometimes double-cross). The USA has a robot, called Iron Byron, that can reproduce the “perfect swing” every time it hits a ball.  A robot duplicating my swing would require a Sherwin-Williams paint shaker, a NYC subway turnstile, a Firestone tire balancer and a hand-cranked apple peeler combined into one device, that would operate on a queen sized vibrating bed in the Bluestone Inn in Luray, VA.  I doubted my ability to figure out, on my own, a way to identify, much less stretch, the actual human fabric that might be involved.

Consequently, I sent an old video of my golf swing to Dr Veejay Gupta Rabinowitz, Director of the Enron Institute of Sporting Kinetics.  Dr Rabinowitz performed a digital analysis of my swing.  After several computer crashes and software failure, he was able to prescribe a brief exercise regimen for me to follow every day to prepare for a return to the course.

First, I would lie on the bathroom floor and flush the commode 3 times with each hand.  I am not sure what this exercise did for me mentally, but I did find that lying on the bathroom floor at the age of 59 has an entirely different emotional content than it did in the fraternity house.

Second, I would squat slightly beside the bookcase, reach across my body to the right, and pull off the shelf a hardback copy of Webster’s Unabridged Collegiate Dictionary, then hold it beside my head for 15 seconds, keeping both arms straight.  I must confess, I sometimes used an abridged, softback copy of the dictionary.  I would do this 4 time a day.

Third, I daily would take 10 vinyl albums, 33 rpm, and alternate hurling them forward and backward in a sort of two-handed discus throwing motion.  This did help me cull from my vast, pack-rat collection of albums a few items of the sort that one would be embarrassed to have one’s dying dog discover that one owned.  For instance:  “Sinatra Sings Shiva!;”  the Düsseldorf Boys Choir and the Thousand and One Strings perform the music of John Denver; a Chipmunk “Messiah;” and, a bootleg copy of a few finished tracks and out-takes from an ill-fated collaboration by Messrs Mathis, Cash and Rotten, singing a capella gospel, under the working title of “Three Johns, One Throne.”  I will miss the last one for the cover art alone.

While exercising my body, I let my mind float like a butterfly, and perhaps the only unmentionable thing on which it landed was the notion that maybe, if my gold swing is this bad, I should seek to improve it.  Consequently, I spent some time deeply imbedding myself in golf magazines and instructional materials.  I quickly decided that it was all bunk.  Golf magazines are to men what the Dr Oz Show is to women.  But behind men’s and women’s eagerness to be better is a sad fact: the human animal is not genetically equipped to cope with a continuous onslaught of information on how to improve any aspect of their behavior.  And the psychological risks of trying to absorb all this information can be devastating.

In the course of my studies, I came across an article by Dr Unpacked Scofflaw entitled, “Aids in the Kingdom – A Cursory Psychoanalytic Review of Some Available Data,” which confirmed my suspicions.  Dr Scofflaw visited 17 “golf destinations” and pulled records for emergency room admissions and psychiatric hospitalizations.   What he found was patient rooms and hallways clogged with poor souls that fit into either of two categories:  one group were frozen in place, as if addressing a putt, or engaged in mindless, repetitive conduct, such as air swinging or chipping;  the other were locked in ceaseless babble, as in, “Well, I could have choked up on an eight iron or tried a putting type stroke with a recovery club or…..”  Even more depressingly, Dr Scofflaw concluded that these conditions were malignantly inflicted on the population.  He wrote:

No creature is endlessly inventive.  The well must eventually run dry.  Just as Dr Oz must run out of tips for healthy living, Hank Haney must run out tips for better gold.  But for ads and magazines to be sold, each must continue to offer new tips.  And the only way to offer new tips is to offer tips that are the reverse of or at right angles to the old.  Unfortunately, the beneficiaries of such advice are seldom aware of what is happening.  A golfer tries to hit a low/high hook/fade.  It is understandable that he goes insane.

Pleased to be vindicated by a genuine medical expert in my contentment with my old swing, I was at last ready to answer the call.  Sure enough, the phone rang.  It was my pal Jimbo.  He asked if I had been serious when I recently said I might pick up the sticks again.  I said yes.  Well, come on, then, he said.

So I essayed nine holes at the Lexington Muni in the company of the gleaming Nance, the hirsute Jessup and the reptilian Ripple.  And I must say that I was nervous as hell as I addressed the ball on the first tee.  At this point, I should mention that the effect of my “vision thang” is this – I can see the ball fine so long as I and looking at it straight, but if I turn my head a centimeter to the right, the ball disappears.  And I have to swing and trust that I am going to hit the ball.  And I have to trust my partners to watch and tell me what happens to the ball.  So, I took a deep breath, took a mighty swing with my driver, and actually made good contact with the ball.

“What happened,” I asked.

“I don’t think it made it across the road,” said Lee.

“Ummmngh,” muttered Ripple.

Boys and girls, it felt good to be back in the saddle.  In fact, I felt like I was eleven years old.  And I played exactly like I did when I was eleven years old.  I was making good contact with the ball on the tee, and hitting a boomerang slice.  I found the ball on the first hole.  I didn’t even bother to look for my tee shot on the next four holes.  With fairway shots, and irons of less loft than a nine iron, I tended to hit low scorchers that scampered along  for 15 to 50 yards.  When I took a drop on the fourth fairway, I looked up and thought I was having a spell.   It looked like the surface of the fairway was rumbling.

“Do you see that,” I asked Mr Nance.

“Yes,” he replied.

“What the hell is it?”

“Word must travel fast underground,” he said.  “It’s the worms trying to get out of the way.”

On the sixth  tee, I swung and was mystified by a feeling of grace.  “Now that’s the shot you came out here to hit,” said Jimbo, and sure enough, when he drove me to my ball, it was in the middle of the fairway, an eight iron from the green.  I swung the eight, and it, too, felt good.  The ball wound up on the fringe, about 15 feet away from the hole.  Easy two putt.  Par!

After that, the rest of the round was gravy.  I hit a few good shots, the rest were the bad, the ugly, and the abominable.  On the ninth hole, I whacked my ball three times to reach where everybody else  had driven theirs, then hit a vicious boomerang approach that started racing up the tenth fairway toward the green.  I was in the pocket for good.

In the parking lot, we smiled and shook hands and agreed it had been fun and we needed to do it again and everybody was happy to have me playing golf again.  While Jimbo drove the cart back to the clubhouse, I sat in the front seat of his car basking.  A big grin on my face.  I could not think of anything that could have made for a better afternoon.

“Here,” said Jimbo as he got into the car.  He dropped a round, dimpled white object in my lap.

“What’s this,” I asked.

“Your ball,” he said.  “The pro was coming up ten and found it in the fairway and wondered if it might belong to anybody in our group.”

There was a moment of silence, broken by Jimbo:  “J.J said it would have been a pretty good drive if we’d have been playing the tenth hole.”

Keep the faith!



Guest Column for July

In Uncategorized on July 16, 2012 at 9:44 pm

The State Assembly Becomes a House of Horrors


If it is hard to describe the 2012 Short Session of the General Assembly, it is because the first phrase that comes to mind does not really apply. To the best of my knowledge, none of our senators or representatives has ever – voluntarily or involuntarily – been committed to a psychiatric hospital. Therefore, the capitol circus can’t be “lunatics taking over the asylum.” What is certain, however, is that things have been brought to a nutcase boil and the only item on the menu is goofball gumbo.

Among the highlights, the Assembly determined the state canot afford to compensate eugenics victims, but can afford to pay businesses, by way of tax credits, for funding scholarships to private schools. Do not try to imagine a moral universe in which such shameful hypocrisy is appropriate. In the words of King Lear, “That way, madness lies.”

Of course, the Assembly is no friend of public schools. It funds public education grudgingly, only because our state constitution requires it. Alternately, the Assembly has boarded the bandwagon for charter schools, pitched to the public as an “educational choice,” when in reality, charter schools are a monumental scam.

Relatively few sponsors of charter schools actually have the wherewithal to establish and manage a school. The others, finding themselves in over their heads, hire “educational consultants,” typically big, out-of-state corporations which, for a a fee (a.k.a. our tax dollars), contract to staff, operate and supply the schools. In contrast to genuine charters, these consulted charters typically perform no better or worse than the public schools with which they compete. Often, the consultants even discretely help organize the nonprofit sponsors that contract for their services.

It’s a rotten swindle, with the public pockets being picked by education profiteers – and I mean “profiteers” in the sense of war profiteers who, through the ages, have exploited public need for private gain. Our Assembly’s relationship with these profiteers reminds of the painted lady who happens to be profoundly demented. After an evening of pleasure with a client, she pays him for the pleasure of her company.

Even worse, the Assembly must have gotten as high as Jerry Garcia’s kite from sniffing natural gas. They approved fracking. In the name of “energy independence.” Despite the fact that North Carolina has minimal gas resources to frack. Despite the fact that the Appalachian mountains are unsafe for fracking. But, to hell with clean rivers and safe drinking water! At least the owners of Mystery Hill will have a new attraction: not only will tourists gawk at water flowing from the miracle tap, but they’ll be able to touch a match to it and watch water catch fire.

And, it must have been clown day in the Senate, with everybody wearing big red noses and floppy shoes, when they voted to bar science from being considered in the making of coastal management plans. Even our zany House had enough sense, after being goaded by The Colbert Report, to amend that ridiculous language before the bill finally passed. It was a close call, however – too close – so close it prompted me to scour through committee reports looking for other wacky bits of business might still lurk on the legislative agenda.

In turns out that a bill to help small business owners got stuck in committee because of disagreement over whether 5’0” or 5’2” should be the height requirement for “small business owners.” Additionally, the same coalition responsible for the Gay Marriage Amendment was coalescing in opposition to the bill on the ground that height is a matter of choice, not genetics, and should receive no special treatment.

That same group also wants legislation to ban the use of microscopes and telescopes in the state. As the introductory language to the bill explains, “Had God wanted us to see microbes and planetary rings, He would have given us keener eyesight!”

A movement in the House to ban our courts from ever applying Sharia law has been slowed by a beggars lice coat of amendments that would also proscribe the courts from applying Murphy’s Law, the Peter Principle, Newton’s Laws, Occam’s Razor, Robert’s Rules of Order, Hammurabi’s Code, L.A. Law and the Feingold Proposition, which holds that a pound of goose down weighs more than a pound of horse dung if what you’re planning to do is make pillows.

My favorite item of lingering business is a proposed constitutional amendment to change the State Motto. Currently, it’s Esse Quam Videri – “To Be Rather Than To Seem” – which is considered too liberal and optimistic. The proposal is for a motto that would more truly reflect what the role of government in the Old North State should be. It’s Augeo Pauci, Utor Minor, Sucuro Nullus – “Enriching Few, Employing Fewer, Benefiting None.”


Back in the early ’60’s Ben Philpott was named an Honorary Page of the NC Senate, which he now considers to be a dubious honor at best.  

Obla Dee, Obla Da, Life Goes On

In Uncategorized on July 16, 2012 at 3:25 pm

I had my regularly scheduled sortie to the oncologist this afternoon, they drew blood.  The vampire machine tasted it and tested it and printed out, “Na, sie sieht immer nach ein bissen blass aus,” which anyone with a wierd memory who had the same first year German textbook as I will recognize as saying, “Well, he’s okay but he’s a little pale.”  I be a tad anemic and need to start licking old skillets and golf clubs that don’t have wooden heads.

Hearing no symptoms that would cause him to fear the results of an MRI I have scheduled in a few weeks, the doc said that I might want to consider contacting my primary care physician and arranging a check-up.  You know, a check-up, like checking cholesterol and silly stuff like that.  In other words, at least for the moment, the Big C is considered a secondary concern…..secondary to my regular everyday health.  Well, knock me down, call me “Wally” and vote Libertarian!  It don’t get much better than this!

I must confess, though, I had one of those moments at the doctor’s office when you realize you need to become a little more mindful of what you regularly say.  I was sitting with a needle in my arm when a familiar nurse from the chemo section walked in and asked me how I was doing.  If you know me, you can see it coming.  “Never better,” I said.  She raised an eyebrow and said, “Maybe you want to reconsider how you’re living if your best moment comes with a needle in your arm!”    I responded, “Flub dub yubba oman.”

Rain the last week relieved us from a spell of head cracking heat.  It had been so hot that I saw a neighbor’s black lab handing out IOU’s to passing cats that read, “Chase you later.”  So hot that a Fourth of July lifeguard at the pool took off her bathing suit that night and found that her body had been dyed the stars and stripes forever.  So hot that if a woman spoke to you out of doors, it took thirty seconds for her words to reach your ears.  My wife claims this condition is normal for me, but I think it was the heat.

I’ll be posting a new guest column tomorrow.  As it pertains to state politics, it might stir more that normal commentary from the local peanut gallery.  It might also come across as nonsense to my few out of state readers.  It may, however, prove amusing because, well, damn it……..I’m just tired of biting my tongue.

Ciao, dudes, seashells and balloons.