Golf

The Battle of the Sexes: Part 2

Physically Speaking

One of the few things a man can truly hold over a woman’s head is the fact that in general, men because of their biology are physically stronger than women. Unfortunately for some abused women, their men like to occasionally give a live demonstration of this physical prowess in ways that result in bruises, broken bones or black and blues.

This fact of biology is why at the professional level in sports, women cannot compete in the same league with men and why there are clear-cut distinctive separations in their organizations: for example, the LPGA, the WNBA and the Women’s Professional Tennis Tour.

There are also some esthetically plain and simple “lack-of-interest” lines that will probably never be crossed, accounting for why we will not likely ever see a woman’s NFL or a female professional baseball league. Even the WNBA basketball is only marginally interesting and close to being a financial bust for its team owners.

People just have an innate penchant to preferring brute male gladiatorial strength.

The only thing that might really fly then would be a Woman’s Professional Mud Wrestling Organization (WPMWO). This is only because of the perversely innate titillation that men seem to relish when seeing half-naked dirt covered women with heaving breasts and visible camel toes duking it out in an ersatz good old-fashioned catfight.

The contrived tennis match between Billy Jean King and Bobby Riggs was a pathetic attempt to show sexual parity in sports; an event just about as interesting as watching water boil. All it revealed was that no matter the gender, given enough disparity in age anyone can beat anyone else at anything.

On that subject, Patrick McEnroe but it bluntly when he said that the number 150th ranked male tennis player could hands-down beat the number one ranked woman’s player, adding that no one would want to watch a match like that anyway, because it would only be boring. 6-love/6-love/6-love, if there even is such a thing as “Love” in tennis matches to begin with.

But promoters will try anything; so much so that the hype surrounding Michelle Wie, dubbing her the ‘Female Tiger Woods,’ and then trying to push her onto the men’s golf tour not only ended in a catastrophic non-event because she could never even make a cut; but one must also wonder how much damage this failed fiasco did to the poor 16-year-old teenager’s psyche. It took years for her to recover.

Even the so-called Champions Senior Golf Tour is barely yawn inspiring because it lacks the cache of youthful vigor; and only highlights a bunch of gray haired stars of yester-year hobbling around on shortened courses.

This is just about as exciting as it would be to watch retired baseball players come back to establish an old-timers league: 70 foot base paths, 200 yard fences and underhand pitching.

But nevertheless, there are still five great equalizers women can always fall back on in the event they are ever assaulted or beaten up by some physically stronger, abusive spouse or lover:

  1. A concussive swat with a good old-fashioned cast iron skillet.
  2. A pot of boiling water poured on the head or crotch.
  3. A head shot with a full swing 9 -iron.
  4. A Lorena Bobbitt circumcision.
  5. A blue-steel .44 magnum bullet between the eyeballs

Tennis anyone?

 

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Tiger Woods and Racial Bias

Tiger Woods 

Tiger Woods is one of the best athletes in modern history. This is despite the fact of many  people finding it hard to believe that hitting a small white stationary ball with a long stick requires any talent whatsoever.

If you happen to be one of those individuals who do not believe golf  to be the most difficult game on earth, try it yourself. The game has simply too many subcomponents to be easily mastered.

In fact, professional golfers have ben proven to have the best eye-hand coordination of any other elite athletes; a bet you will surely lose if you gamble over sports trivia and do not know this fact. Tennis players and major league batters come in as close seconds. One sure bet however would be to lay odds that a soccer player wins eye-foot coordination “hands down,” so to speak. Thus, don’t pick the Olympic ice skater as your final answer to that query.

Tiger Woods also happens to be one of the most racially complex individuals to have gained modern notoriety as his mixture is one fourth each: Chinese, Thai, and Afro-American then one eighth each: Dutch (yes, White), and American Indian.

Early in his golf career, because of naïve stupidity, Woods suffered abusive insults from spectators who could not accept the fact that a person of color was breaking down the barriers of the last bastion of the White Man’s recreational sporting domain. Bigots in the galleries would call him “nigger” and occasionally threaten his life.

What could possibly happen next after all, if non-Whites started playing golf? The next horrifying thing would be them clambering to join private clubs or possibly worse, applying to colleges like Harvard University. Quell domage! It would be the absolute end to White culture, as we know it.

These same people who were pre-biased, being not remotely curious enough to discover the truth, were unaware that Tiger himself, in never even claiming the Afro-American as being his own, not only referred to himself instead as being “Cablinasian,” but then went on to marry a white woman of Dutch South African ancestry. Ironic, is it not that she descended from the same jolly lot that brought us the fabulous concept of Apartheid?

In professional sports, the extreme of retrenched recidivistic bias was exemplified by the fact that baseball started out with segregated Negro leagues.

Even in the modern era, the NFL refused to allow the Super Bowl to take place in Arizona until that state formally recognized Martin Luther King Day as a holiday while the USGA had to firmly refuse to allow The Shinnecock Golf Club to host the club’s first Open in 1987 until it agreed to admit at least one black member. Arizona, being the last state in the union to do so, reluctantly capitulated and sanctioned the holiday, as did Shinnecock, which in admitting a wealthy black man living somewhere in the south, knew he would not be too likely to travel north and pollute the hallowed grounds with his actual physical presence.

Even bigotry, I guess can be bought off if the cost is too high or if the price is right. That is Super Bowl football and Men’s U.S. Golf Open = Megabucks.

The real irony about Shinnecock is that the club is named after a local Indian tribe that originally owned the land it is on, but which also succumbed to the same fate of piracy, genocide and germicide that laid waste the rest of Native Americans. In the case of the Shinnecocks, there was additional attrition because so many of the tribe’s men were lost at sea in the whaling days of the 1800s, that local black slaves took their places and married the widowed squaws; because no one else would have them.

When we were kids we sniggered as we referred to them Nindians. Then as a final insult, the golf club did allow the tribe to participate, but only as being grounds workers and greens keepers. As a descendent Shinnecock you could work under the club logo and banner of a cameo Chief in a headdress bonnet, but you could never be considered as a potential member.

 

Geneticists are quite a bit more practical. They happen to know that the greater the genetic variability in a species, the less likelihood there is for unfavorable mutations and conversely the more likelihood for those favorable ones.

Also, the farther apart genetically, the less likelihood there is for unfavorable dominant or recessive characteristics to filter down in progeny. Ashkenazi Jews, whose entire ancestral DNA can be traced back to only four women, are, for example, particularly susceptible to about 15 genetic metabolic catastrophes or disease susceptibilities, such as Gaucher’s, Tay-Sachs, Ulcerative colitis, and the Niemann-Pick disorder.

Tiger Woods then, exemplifies the fact that human racial admixture is not necessarily the horrible mephitic, pestilential human catastrophe portrayed in the propagandist annals of viperous American White Supremacists.

In fact, I defy anyone to prove to some small degree that they are not remotely racially polluted and therefore genetically as pure as the driven snow. I am sure there is some degree of mutt or mulatto in all of us just as I also defy anyone to walk up to Tiger Woods today and tell him to his face that he is nothing more than just a common “nigger.” Just the opposite, in fact now anywhere he plays, instead of bigoted jeers, he always receives enormous accolades because skill trumps bigotry.

Yet there always seems to be at least one congenital idiot near the tee box , usually an obnoxious inebriated Caucasian, who feels compelled to shout just as the ball leaves the driver: “You’re the man.” This person is also consanguineously related to the same morons at every tee or green who can’t let any shot go by, whether it is a drive on a 600-yard par five or a forty-foot putt, without screaming: “Get in the hole.”

Although I am not necessarily advocating human interracial breeding, it is interesting to postulate how much better off or possibly even superior the human stock would be, how similar we all might look, and especially how much less hatred would result from a little more genetic mixing. It is interesting to postulate exactly what a racially balanced, genetically blended human being might look like. Not too shabby, would be my guess.

In fact, I find it ironic that having lived in an era when some of my classmates in grade school quietly derided blacks for the color of their skin or the size of their lips that now the year-round sun tan and silicone lip implants have become the current standard for Caucasian beauty.

Contrary in fact to what Hitler believed, the human superman then would be derived not from a limited interbred line of highly selected Aryans, who would eventually succumb to inbred genetic problems like those encountered by the Ashkenazi, but rather would derive from a perfect blend of all the available human DNA on planet earth.

 

Better yet: does it really matter?

 

Shinnecock Golf Club logo http://www.ecrewportal.com
© Scintific American: Cover December 2003

The Monk, the Mick, and Me

The Monk, the Mick, and Me

I was a far better student than an athlete. But actually discovering that one does not have a great deal of athletic talent is not always so easy to admit.

Having grown up in the heyday of the 1950s and 1960s New York Yankees, my love of the team caused me to equally love the sport. This was the era when the game was dominated by the likes of Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Billy Martin and Whitey Ford. It was also a time when it seemed inconceivable for the team never to go all the way every season and ultimately to win the World Series.

A friend who lived up the street, Armand, shared the same enthusiasm for the both the game and the Yankees that I did. He was an overweight affable, good-natured blob known by the neighborhood kids as “Tons of Fun.”

We set up a pitcher’s mound and practiced frequently after school, giving each other mutually positive reinforcement by telling ourselves how great we both were.

What I did not realize was that Armand was fat, slow, not very athletic, that mutual ingratiation is never a substitute for actual talent, and that no matter how good you think you are, there is always someone else out there who is infinitely better.

Thus, when I eventually tried out for the Little League A-teams, I was hopelessly outclassed as a pitcher. I could not believe how hard some of the other boys could throw, had to give it up, and then rotated to second base. It a new problem arose. Since I had received no real formal baseball instruction I also failed at that position, and was told I should go down to the B teams where the disgraced second tier players did not even get uniforms; but only hats.

Life in the minor leagues was equally disappointing as I gave up 12 runs in one inning the first time I ever pitched, was again banished to second base, then yet again to right field, and only then as a bench substitute.

Being in abject fear of getting hit in the face, I was terrible at charging ground balls. I was also unable to judge fly balls because I had to wear glasses that were always bouncing on my nose, which caused distortions in the arc of the fly balls as I ran to catch them. It is difficult enough to follow something traveling through the sky in an arc as you run for it without it also zigzagging in an unfocused blur at the same time.

I lasted two seasons before I realized that I could not hit, pitch, field or catch, so with great sadness about my spastic lack of coordination, hung up my spikes for good.

My brother’s interpretation of how to stay on the A-team was quite more simplified. He maintained that as long as your father was a coach, you got to stay no matter how bad you were, or if nothing else you just sat at the end of the bench. But you still looked good because you had a uniform.

For us this would never be an issue, as our father did not even go to any of our games.

However, I still attended opening day at the A-Leagues, with its hoop-la parade always being very envious of the athletic skills exhibited by the other boys, how their parents were always so proud of them and especially how the girls seemed to gravitate to them with open armed bear hugs at the end of every game. Consigned to the sidelines, I had to be content with becoming expert on charting the scoring hieroglyphics on the inning sheets. Live balls were elusive, but the science and math of what they had already done, I could deal with.

As a young boy I was a baseball fanatic but never got to see the Yankees play at the Stadium because my father, being a New York Giants, fan took me instead to the Polo Grounds where we usually got cheap bleacher seat tickets.

All was not lost however because we always had a bird’s eye view of Willie Mays playing center field.

Except for that, trying to watch baseball action a mile away from the infield was a disappointing bore; including the fact that my own favorite team was not on the field. It was also boring for the pair of fellow bleacher rats sitting in front of us as these two Hispanic macho-men made mutual dollar bets on how long each one or the other could hold out while they tried to set the back of each others hands on fire with magnifying glasses.

My father told me stop watching them and to at look at Wille instead, but statistically speaking how much action during a game does a center fielder really get anyway? It was complete ennui except for Willie’s one-handed basket catches, which I was also told by my father not to try and emulate.

  • Willie can catch those because he’s a pro. Don’t do that in Little League.
  • Don’t worry dad. When all you do is sit on the bench it doesn’t count if you drop them.

This great disappointment however was allayed in a completely unanticipated and surprising way.

When Dan Topping owned the Yankees, he would sometimes bring the players out to the East End of Long Island in a gray twin-engine seaplane for a day of golf at the famous National or Shinnecock Golf Clubs. Shinnecock, being less than a mile away was within easy walking distance from our house.

The seaplane would touch down on Shinnecock Bay, and then come up the Fort Pond channel to finally sweep up onto a concrete landing ramp across the street from my father’s summer cottage. Every time it came in all the children on the street would race over to see who was getting out, then watch various celebrities being picked up to be whisked off in limousines.

One day the guests were Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra and Whitey Ford.

For me it was a dream come true to actually see my baseball heroes as close as a stones throw away and not like tiny tin soldiers. However, we were always admonished by our parents not to harass the men by maintaining a respectful distance.

  • Those men are coming out here to relax. They don’t need a bunch of little boys pestering after them.

It was too bad for my financial future that I did not disobey my mother and get my baseball trading cards or a new baseball personally autographed by those three heroes. Then again it probably would have made little difference anyway, and a worse catastrophe if the cards or balls had actually been signed, because after I went to college my mother threw out the shoebox filled with a collection of 1950s and 1960s cards. I thought they would be safe if I left them hidden under my bed.

  • Hey, Mom. Where is my baseball card collection?
  • I cleaned up your bedroom and threw out that shoebox. It looked to me like a pile of cruddy cardboard junk.
  • Right then. Mickey, Whitey, Yogi and Willie were consigned to the same fate as Clarabelle’s little loaf of Wonder white bread?
  • What in the world are you talking about?

Much later in life I came to appreciate that throwing out a man’s sentimentally cherished “good stuff” is a phenomenon endemic to the female gender. It is an innately bad trait that can be ascribed not only to mothers, but also to wives.

  • Hey honey. Where’s my favorite Yankee’s World Series t-shirt from 1978?
  • In the Goodwill bin. It had a hole in the armpit. Yellow sweat stains in the armpits too. Yuck.

Another promising baseball adventure turned up when the family owning the summer cottage next door said they were personal friends with Bob Sheppard, the long enduring Yankee Stadium PA announcer, who had been invited to spend a weekend.

My excitement about this visit ended as another great disappointment when the man turned out to be an aloof arrogant snob, leaving me with the feeling that he thought of most children as being nothing more than intolerable annoying nuisances.

He was condescending, extremely full of himself and would not even give me an autograph, because he said he was “on vacation.” Having lost all respect for him, I harbored my own personal contrary opinion, when for the next few decades I would subsequently hear his name touted, lauded or praised on television broadcasts by the booth announcers.

Despite the numerous accolades, I told people that when I had met him as a child he was just an egotistical dick-head.

Much later in life, when I discovered that my father had a friend, “Monk” De Palo, who owned a bar in White Plains, appropriately known as De Palo’s Dugout, I then had the pleasure of at least a few vicarious baseball thrills.

Monk was about six feet tall, stocky; broad shouldered and sported one of those all too lengthy iron grip handshakes that could break your knuckles if you didn’t pull your hand out fast enough. He also spoke in gruff, gravel baritone intonations that highlighted his street talk jargon.

I have no clue where his nickname originated, because there was nothing at all religious about the man’s aura, or persona, or what he actually did for a living.

Even my father did not know the derivation of the name. He was plain, simply and always: The Monk.

When he was standing in front of someone wanting to make a point in a conversation, Monk had the peculiar habit of jabbing the person in the chest with his index finger as he prattled on. The jabs usually hit the same spot between the left second or third ribs, were somewhat painful, and always produced the desired effect of keeping one’s attention; if not to what he was saying then certainly always to force one to continuously back away while still having to face him.

A conversation with Monk could start in the kitchen only to end up on the porch on the far side of the house because of the constantly halting but necessary bruise saving retreat.

Monk would frequently entertain the Yankee players in his establishment, ergo the derivation of its name, and would sometimes even carouse with them when they went on their drinking sprees.

He loved to tell the story of going over to the bars in Northern New Jersey one night with Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford, Yogi Berra and Billy Martin, then staying out with them to four a.m. on a marathon drinking bender.

The Yankees had a one o’clock afternoon home game the next day after this foray and Monk had meandered his way into the Yankee locker room just before game time. He found Mickey mantle hunched over on the bench in front of his locker with his head in his hands trying to shake off the ravages of the colossal hangover he had procured the night before in the drinking orgy.

The Monk said to him:

  • So Mickey. How do you expect to play today? You can’t even stand up.

The Mick replied:

  • I don’t know Monk. But I have to play. I can’t let the fans or the team down. But I’m too wasted to be able to run the bases, so I guess I’ll just have to go out there and hit homers.
  • Yeah right. You can’t walk and you can’t even see straight.

The Monk walked away incredulously shaking his head, wondering how Mantle had even been able to show up, much less even play. He then went out to see the game, and proceeded to watch his friend go three for three.

Three hits. All of them home runs.

Another story that Monk liked to tell, occurred at a time that the Yankees became interested in foreign players and wanted to bring some Japanese ballplayers over to give them a look and a tryout. They asked Monk if he could put some of them up in his house, to which he readily agreed, but the head count was too high. Monk then called Billy Martin and asked him if he could house a couple of the players.

Billy said:

  • O.K. Monk, but if I take them in, don’t expect to see them at tryouts tomorrow.

When the Monk asked why, Billy told him:

  • Those are the bastards who started World War Two. They bombed Pearl Harbor, they killed our boys, and now you tell me they want to play baseball. Baseball is an American game, it’s a game only for Americans and it’s only a game for Americans to play. Yeah. I’ll put ‘em up in my bedrooms, but they won’t be coming down to breakfast, because while they’re asleep I’m going to stand in the door with a flame thrower and roast the little creeps just like they were in a foxhole.

Needless to say, the Oriental players had to put up with cramped quarters, but remained alive and well by staying with The Monk or anyone else other than Mr. Martin.

It’s just a good thing for Billy that he didn’t live long enough to see not only multi-million dollar contracts for Japanese players, but also the Red Sox playing opening day in 2008 in Tokyo. I wonder what he would have had to say about that.

Athletic talent is an elusive, largely innate trait much of which is based on eye-hand coordination and facile muscle memory.

Some individuals are born with these certain exceptional genetic gifts that others simply do not have or can never even cultivate. On the flip side, who knows how many more unidentified people live and die without ever having the chance to be “discovered”, although they too might possess this special gift?

Some fortunate athletes do not have to work at all, or certainly not very much, on their natural talents. The great American golf professional of the early 1900s, John Travis, first took up the sport at age thirty-five winning his first tournament only seven months later. By age thirty-eight he had won the U.S. Amateur Championship.

John McEnroe Senior was a club tennis player when he took is eight-year-old son there to see if he might enjoy playing. The first time John Junior picked up a racket he was able to contact the ball with ease, and within a few years the young lefty had beaten all the teenage players in the organization.

Other athletes such as the golfer Nick Faldo have to constantly work at developing or maintaining their mechanical skills, but nevertheless still have to graft all of that onto an innately gifted predisposition.

Some athletes like Tiger Woods do not know anything other than what they have always done. Tiger started playing golf when he was barely able to stand up. But he also had “the gift.”

The golfer, Bruce Leitzke, rarely practiced, played only half the PGA tour events, yet maintained a ranking as a top ten golfer. He stated in interviews that it was more important for him to spend time with his family than to trudge around on the Tour week after week. He also said that he hated to practice. Ergo, he did not.

Then there are the unfortunate individuals with great innate talent like John Daly, who seem to have little appreciation for their gift and waste it in the clutches of personal demons, addictions or proclivities, almost before they even make a great enduring name for themselves.

For the most part, the rest of us ordinary folk will never develop any talent no matter how hard we work at it, how much time we put into it, how many lessons we take, or how much money we dole out trying and buying the new equipment we believe will automatically make us great. Most hack amateurs and club players of any sport fall into this zone, as did my little league-pitching career.

The general public has a great affinity and admiration for that fractional percentage of individuals who can repeatedly do the marvelous things that the rest of can only dream about.

Subsequently, we pay out enormous amounts of cash for the privilege of actually seeing it so that we can participate at our own vicarious levels.

We make sports heroes into golden idols and then establish love-hate relationships with them.

This outlay of public cash, which has made professional sports a multi-billion-dollar machine as well as the corporate advertising that follows, then recycles this money as it both panders to and then subliminally redirects its consumer’s tastes. Recycling the cash has also made sports into a multi-billion-dollar perverted monster.

I am consistently amused by the “wanna-be” sports fan: The obese armchair couch-potato athlete who in becoming the know-it all critic, takes great delight in constantly castigating or second-guessing his heroes, eating and talking at the same time while beer and hot dog mustard dribbles down his chin.

This is the great irony of the less than capable price gouged ticket holder telling the overpaid ultra capable sports professional how to better perform his job.

  • Look at that play. He stinks. Even I could do better than that.

Fat chance. Literally, because this is the same corpulent guy who can’t even make it up two flights of stairs without requiring oxygen supplements.

Mickey Mantle was a natural born baseball player who although being plagued by the knee injuries that limited his speed and caused him considerable pain, was still able to overcome this obstacle to become one of the greatest who ever played the game.

Team mates like Billy Martin would say that Mantle was also the most powerful hitter to have ever played leaving many people to this day wondering what he could have accomplished if his knees had been healthy.

Today’s power hitters do it with steroids or testosterone supplements while Mantle did it with bad knees and hangovers

He was also the first professional baseball player to make an annual salary of $100,000, which in itself was an enormous milestone at the time, so much so that it made headlines in The New York Daily News.

Unlike today’s players, he was paid for past performance and not given a seven figure prospective contract that paid him simply for showing up at work.

At the same time, he was also one of the greatest examples of a high profile God gifted talent who simultaneously played the game of self-destructive behavior to perfection by batting 1.000 when it came to personally inflicted abuse.

He was able to maintain his performance levels over a long period of time, without having to work very hard at it, being able to quit at the top before the demons, the professional parasites, or the wanna-bes, that always seem to lurk at the fringes of professional sports were able to bring him down and to drag him away across the River Styx.

On May 13, 1955, Mickey Mantle hit three home runs in a single game.

On the night of May 12, 1955 he was out hitting the bars.

Mantle

The Mick

If I knew I was going to live this long, I probably would have taken better care of myself.

(Mickey Mantle: While waiting for a liver transplant donor)

Photo source http://www.historicaldocuments.com

 

 

 

 

My Second Job

My Second Job

 

The best laid schemes o’ mice and men gang aft a-gley

(Robert Burns)

 

My first job as a clam man for Uncle Jimmy was an endeavor ending as a short-lived catastrophe.

It was not that I needed money, because I had an allowance for doing house chores. By the same token, I always seemed to need more than was covered by that pittance, and hated the glowering parental stares or lectures on budgeting, which arose as a direct result of me asking for more money in the middle of the week. At that point in time my parents would have preferred that I studied for good grades as opposed to getting a job, but also preferred that I no longer beg for loose change.

My materialistic needs were beginning to outstrip my income. It was a dilemma.

At about age sixteen I was sitting around on a mat at wrestling practice, when hair-slick Louie told the coach he was going to have to miss the next Saturday morning inter-school match. Most matches took place after school on weekdays such that a Saturday event was rare. The coach was livid in his demand for an explanation, to which Louie simply replied that he needed money and that he was “going looping”.

  • I gotta go loopin’ coach. I need to make some bread.

So that was that.

I later asked Louie what loopin’ was. He said it was golf caddying and that making it once around the course was to do a full loop; ergo why it was called it loopin’. Two loops then was “double loopin.” Carrying two bags one time around was a “loop double” which was good because it was twice the money for half the time. Not getting a call from the caddy master was “nuttin’ doin.”

He told me he could do a ”loop double” making twenty dollars for the round which made my eyeballs pop out of their sockets at the thought of such a fabulous sum of money. I asked him if I could get in on it too, but he didn’t know.

My father had no objections too it, and after giving me the most cursory explanation of what to do, one Saturday morning brought me to a public club where he sometimes played, introduced me to the Caddy Master; then left me there.

I was grilled about whether I knew anything about caddying, had I done it before, if so, where or when. With no other choice, I bluffed and fibbed just enough to get through the interview. After all, I had walked a few holes with my father once and thought there could not possibly be that much to it. Then I was told they probably did not need me today, but to go to the caddy shack, then just wait there, as I would be at the bottom of the days call list.

The caddy master bellowed

  • This is a hierarchy, you know, so you will have to prove yourself to earn your place on the list. And don’t forget to show up every week. Show up and shut up. That’s the two most important things.

Most of the boys who were caddies were a little older than I was and obviously knew their craft. Being the xenophobic introvert, I hardly interacted with anyone, and certainly not wanting anyone to know I was an acolyte, just sat around in the shade. I should have asked some questions instead.

It was a ferociously hot day as I waited half of it just dawdling around. Then just when I was about to give up, the club suddenly got busy and they actually called me up for caddy duty.

I was assigned to two Jewish men, who tried to chat me up with a few superficial personal queries, then the usual comments about my Jewish first name contradicted by my Christian faith. But soon enough the match was on and I had to go to work. The only thing I remember about either of the men is that one wore baggy khaki pants, which fell like tent flaps over his thin spindly legs making him look like a daddy long legs spider about to go on safari with a quiver full of iron arrows.

In not having the slightest clue as to what to do or what my job actually was, which included not being able to track errant shots, what club to hand out, how to help with a putting line or what advice to give on distances; the men subsequently lost their balls, they lost their putting lines, they lost their shots and ultimately then they lost their cool.

One of them started criticizing me to the point of making me cry, but his partner was a little more compassionate when he found out it was my first try at it. He then actually attempted to teach me a little about the expectations of the art and science of looping. That is, the art and science of being a pack mule with far sighted vision and GPS skills, a genie who can predict the shot skills of an amateur hacker and one who also has an intuitive vision as to how a ball breaks on an undulating carpet known as the putting surface.

Although I am sure my new mentor continued to harbor a smoldering annoyance at being stuck with me, I still struggled with his bag, he struggled with his game, and as we struggled along together we finally made it all the way around and back to the Clubhouse. A double loop!

Of course I did not get a tip while the caddy master said I would have to learn more about the job if I ever wanted to come back. I was not quite sure how one could learn to do it if one was not actually allowed to do it or somehow mentored, which resulted in this experience being probably the first, but certainly not the only the only time in my life I saw failure being proscribed in an organization by the hiring of unqualified help and then compounding the mistake by never training anyone nor ever providing the employee any idea of the job’s actual expectations.

My father’s solution was to forget the whole episode and that I should just learn to play the game instead. He said working it was being on the wrong side of the bag anyway, that I would enjoy it more and maybe even make more money than a caddy if I had some athletic talent. He chided:

  • Do you know how much money Arnold Palmer made in just four days last week?

Yet little did he know how much he had just become the prophet of doom, when one actually does try to master this squirrelly sport. The words ‘enjoy’ and ‘golf’ become an oxymoron that will haunt you until the day you die; when you and your golf sticks join The Big Sky Country Club, where rumor has it that every shot results in a monotonous hole in one.

He knew even less just how difficult it would be for anyone to become a super-star like Arnie, that his own son would not even stand a chance without a few hundred thousand hours of practice and that a small fortune would be needed for private lessons.

Then in addition to everything else, my first day as a caddy was so hot that everyone was flirting with hyperthermic dehydration. At one point in the middle of the round one of the men in the foursome started handing out salt tablets. He also told me to take a few of them stating that the salt would “keep the water in” and boost my “circulation.” So I naively did as I was told and swallowed them down, followed by additionally advised large drafts of water.

Of course when a person is dehydrated, drinking hypertonic fluid is not exactly a desirable cure or prevention which can also be harmful if done to excess. The kidneys seem to resent it, which explains why men lost at sea die in renal failure when they finally capitulate and feel compelled to slake their thirst by drinking seawater.

At home, when I told my mother about it, she had an old fashioned southern conniption. Being more concerned that I would take any kind of pill from some random stranger than for what was actually contained in the tablet, she started muttering under her breath small fragmented sentences about child abduction, sexual abuse and rape.

The result was that between the facts of my own incompetence, my father’s indifference, coupled with the salt tablet incident, it was the first and the last time I ever went caddying. My second job had lasted exactly five hours.

It was hard work, it had wasted an entire day, and it had made wrestling practice look desirable by comparison because even if the only wage ever paid by practicing that sport was mat burns and aching joints, it did also come with the fringe benefit of having free open Saturday afternoons.

 

Llama

 

Great expectations:

Training a Llama to be a Caddy

 

Photo source: Google images: © Bandolero’s Buckaroo Bonzai

 

Uncle Oakley

Uncle Oakley

 

 

Johnny is a joker (he’s a bird)

A very funny joker (he’s a bird)

But when he jokes my honey (he’s a dog)

His jokin’ ain’t so funny (what a dog)

Johnny is a joker that’s a tryin’ to steal my baby (he’s a bird dog)

Hey bird dog, keep away from my quail.

Hey bird dog, you’re on the wrong trail.

Bird dog, you better find a chicken little of your own.

(The Everly Brothers)

 

 

My mother’s sister Pauline was also addicted to weekly hair frying rituals at the beauty shop, consequently suffering the same chronic results wreaked on my mother’s follicles. At some ill-defined point in their lives, with the single exception of a considerable weight differential, they began to look like the fried-hair twins.

Pauline, or Polly, who lived in Richmond, Virginia, was married to a man named Oakley Oran. He was born in West Virginia and had become a Pharmacist. Oakley had moved to Virginia, but in his heart and soul was still a good old West Virginia boy, while in his yet bigger heart and soul, was a good old true blue son of the South. I never knew why none of the adults ever called him Oakley or Oak but always referred to him rather as ‘Vaughan’, which in fact was his last name.

He met Polly at the same military base where my parents met and because they double dated the sisters, my father and Vaughan became good friends. This kinship was helped considerably by the fact that the two men shared the same passion for the game of golf that they could enjoy while the women stayed home and gossiped.

When I was a child I could not pronounce his name after which my adulterated moniker, “Uncle Oaps,” then became an identity that stuck to him for the rest of his life. The adults called him Vaughan and the children called him “Oaps.” Oak and Polly eventually had two children, Shirley and Byron.

Oakley was one of the most naturally funny men I have ever met and I always eagerly anticipated our annual visits to see him. He saw humor in everything, joked constantly and hardly ever lost his temper, which was in sharp contrast to his puritanically humorless wife. He had a passion for hunting and fishing, owned and trained his own bird dogs, as well as a thirty-six foot cabin cruiser, which he kept at a dock in Norfolk. Also being a great history buff, he specialized in the history of the Civil War, or at least his version of it, with his favorite General being P.G.T. Beauregard.

Beauregard was the man who had helped defend Richmond in the early days of the contest and when he spoke of him, Oakley would drag out the pronunciation of the name, which resulted in a lengthy drawling:

  • The great General Pee Tee Gee Beau—Ree—Guard.

Whenever we visited in Richmond, Uncle Oak would take Byron, me and my brother down to the boat for a weekend of fishing. These trips were my first ever bachelor adventures which allowed the three of us to delight in leaving our mothers behind along with their numerous house rules and my cousin Shirley with her numerous dolls and her all too numerous Cootie bugs.

Oakley too, was one of those die hard southerners who believed the South would have been a lot better off without the North and still regretted the tragic loss of the Civil War. On the hundred mile trip down to the boat from Richmond to Norfolk we would get a running commentary about the battles or battlefields of Virginia always with just a little pinch of Southern bias thrown in for good measure along with a few good curses about’ them damn Yankees.’ He did say, however, that my brother and I were an exception to that rule because we were only “half Yankees.”

The fishing trips were great, including the added feature of simply loitering around the docks along with other ‘boat people’, then to live and sleep on the boat. The atmosphere was peacefully laid back with the best part being that we did not have to be neat, we did not have to take baths, and we did not have to follow the ordinary and every day rules of maternally expected behavior. In fact Oakley said that if anyone had ever wanted to spend a weekend on the boat, he had better expect everyone else who came with him to be on the best of “fartin’ terms.”

For us, we were just little boys being big men doing big men’s stuff.

However there was a small price to pay for it every now and then. For example if we asked for pancakes, Uncle Oak would just drop the entire batch of batter into the frying pan, literally making one giant cake, which he then hacked into four pieces before he served it. Flipping this giant wad of batter always presented a problem, which usually made the concoction come out like it had been thrown around the room or scraped off the floor. Dismissively ignoring any and all complaints, the chef said we were lucky to have anything to eat at all, and who cared what it looked like because it still tasted like it should.

Then every morning as we set off in search of fish, Oakley would sit in the flying bridge atop his yacht, and every time as we put out to sea while simply being happy to be away from the grinding drudge of the pharmacy, without fail would then turn around, look down on the deck below to bark out:

  • Well boys. I wonder what the poor people are doin’ today.

We would then spend the day on long excursions cruising around the Chesapeake Bay in search of fish. Although I do not remember ever being too successful at it, the day would frequently be punctuated with screams of “Birds, birds” or “Blues, blues” or “Fish, fish,” coming from the top deck as Ahab Vaughan plied the waves chasing both real and imaginary pelagic species while periodically making us set out our trolling lines in areas he thought to be promising. Most of the time; however we never even caught a single fish.

On occasion he would change tactics for a try at catching a Cobia near a partially sunk wreck that the Air Force was using for bombing and strafing practice. As he pulled the boat near the wreck, he would always tell us about what a great fighting fish the Cobia was or about the proverbial big one that got away when no one else was there as an eye witness. While he put the boat near the wreck to idle the engine, he would direct us to be on the lookout for Air Force fighter jets. If we then saw anything potentially menacing, we would shout out so he could properly ‘skedaddle’ while always being cajoled not to ever tell our mothers we were fishing in restricted military live fire zones.

On any particularly bad fishing day, we would reel in the lines and motor over to the Maryland side of the Chesapeake to get some fresh crabs at a local dockside restaurant. Because he craved fresh Maryland crabs, and no matter that it took the entire day to get there and back, the culinary reward usually made up for the lack of a fresh catch making it well worth the time.

While cruising back to the dock late in the day he would never fail to look at the flagpole to predictably announce cocktail hour by asking the pre-prompted query:

  • Hey boys. The sun is just going down over the yardarm. And you know what that means
  • Yes sir, Captain Oak. It must be time to splice the main brace. How many fingers of rum should we pour?
  • Make it bourbon today, boys. Some good old fashioned Tennessee bourbon whiskey. Have a shot yourselves and grow some hair on your balls.

Since we were away from our mothers, we could regress to levels of vulgarity that would ordinarily be punished at home. We took particular delight in trying to make loud farts, because we knew that every time he heard one, Uncle Oak would shout out: ”Twenty-twenty. English Bummy,” which would make all of us laugh hysterically at its absurd predictability.

He explained that he had learned this phrase in the war from the British soldiers and that it was applied as the appropriate response one man makes to another when the latter creates an absolutely perfect noise with his flapping butt cheeks: A twenty-twenty perfect fart.

Addressing another vulgar habit we had of peeing outside or peeing overboard, Oak never tired of telling us the potential hazard of exposing ourselves in public by repeatedly recounting one of his favorite jokes. His method of scolding was infinitely more entertaining than what we would potentially get at home.

  • Boys, did I ever tell you about the man who had to pee while he was driving down the highway so he pulled over to a roadside billboard and tryin’ to hide what he was doing, stuck his tally-whacker through a hole in the sign. A Hobo, sleeping on the other side of the sign was shocked awake by the shower and screamed, “Snake. Snake;” just before he jumped up and whacked the man’s pud with a baseball bat. “Hit him again. Hit him again” the peeing man said. “I think he just bit me.”

Wherever we went or whatever we did, Oakley was enormously generous about buying us things. This was particularly true when we visited his Pharmacy, which was the old-fashioned style drug store that stocked toys, nick-knacks, and model airplanes; while also featuring a soda fountain with a short order hamburger grill. We would load up on Cokes and burgers, and then head out the door carrying a new model to build while he yelled out after us from behind the pharmacy window:

  • I don’t know why I let y’all boys come in here anyway. Y’all eat faster than Grant went though Richmond, then all you do is pluck me like a goose and watch my feathers fly.

He always said it with a big grin on his face as we happily scampered, guilt free, to the car with the loot. I never did go bird hunting with him, because I was too young, but did come to learn a lot from him about dogs and how to love and care for animals. He usually had at least two bird dogs at any one time, which he kept in pens behind his house. He trained them, exercised them, loved them to death such that by osmosis that I came to learn something about the fine art and sport of bird hunting.

These dogs fall into the three categories of Pointer, Setter, or Retriever obviously being named after the job they perform in the field. Most people forget that thousands of years of breeding and training are the result of what one sees in the modern day finished product known as the “show-dog,” but not that the original purpose of the dog breeding exercise was to put the animals through a beauty contest to win medals, but was rather intended to actually expedite and to assist human survival.

More importantly is the fact that the dogs are bred to do these jobs and solely exist for the days they can get out into the field and work. At one time Oakley had a beautiful setter named Bonnie, a sweet, gentle animal, and a real favorite who broke his heart when she died. He was so fond of her he had her portrait done which he hung it over his fireplace mantle: a painting that was a far more palatably genteel living room decoration than was the roving, judgmental, and all seeing eyes of the spy-cam portrait of my father’s sister Rose.

There was only one dog he ever really gave up on; a pointer named Lucky. Excessive in-breeding made the dog un-trainable, uncontrollable, and refractory to education to the point that Oakley eventually had to give him away. Every time Oak would go in the back of the house to hose down Lucky’s pen he would predictably carbon copy state:

  • That Lucky dog is just plain crazy. All he’s good for is eatin’ and poopin’. And I ain’t never seen a damn dog like him that ever’ damn day of his life can eat a quart then poop a peck.

He kept his bird rifles around the house, was a great advocate of gun care, gun safety and wild life conservation, never killing a bird he did not clean or dress out in the field, and then bring home to eat. Of course, Aunt Polly would certainly rather fry a chicken than to bake wild Quail which subsequently subjected everyone to the risk of losing a filling or cracking a tooth on a crunchy bite of buck shot left inside the bird.  She also deplored the gamy rangy taste of the birds and the fact that by the time one was actually cooked it was nothing but skin and bones.

Nevertheless Uncle Oakley loved to take his hunting expeditions to the great conclusive finish line of the stove-pot, the oven and then to the dining room table. 

One Sunday afternoon when he’d had perhaps one too many Wild Turkey Bourbons and fell asleep by himself in front of the T.V.; his war instincts got the better of him when they unexpectedly took over in a reflexive knee jerk reaction. My Aunt and cousins were out of the house while Oakley had fallen asleep in the den in his favorite easy chair.

He was startled by a commotion in the fireplace that awakened him to the noise of the window blinds being rattled and shaken by some unseen entity. Thinking he was under assault by a robber, or an enemy Japanese platoon or some other unknown alien force, he jumped up, quick-loaded a shotgun, then peppered his den with two blasts of buckshot.

Polly came home to see the mess in the foxhole along with Oakley running around the house swatting at something with a broom.

It seems that a squirrel had come down the chimney and tried to escape through a shut window while the old soldier was off dreaming of some battle. Then because it had taken a trifle too long time to shake off the reverie and become re-oriented to reality, his instincts simply dictated that he should blast the squeaking little furry enemy into oblivion.

After that the gun racks were removed from the den and the weapons were put a little further out of immediate reach.

Later in life he developed atrial fibrillation that required a cardiac pacemaker implant. But he was a terrible patient and never had the device checked to even assess if it had any current left in it, much less to know if it was even working properly. Nor would he take blood thinners to treat the same heart rhythm problem and to abort the same risk of stroke that had killed my paternal grandfather.  In not liking the idea of the concurrent risk of bleeding associated with the drugs while similar to the ladies under the dryer at the hair salon, he probably suffered from the syndrome of knowing just enough to qualify him as really knowing a bit too little.

The first sign of trouble came when he was in his early eighties. While playing golf with his son in law, Bob he suddenly began to behave in a relatively nonspecific, but at the same time a very peculiar manner. Bob told him he was acting funny and when he asked him if anything was wrong, Oakley turned to Bob and said:

  • Where are my car keys?
  • Bob asked why he needed them in the middle of a round of golf, at which point Oakley apparently having thought he found them, held up an invisible set of keys in front of his face, then started shaking his hand up and down while repeating over and over and over again:
  • Jingle, jingle, jingle. Jingle, jingle, jingle.

Bob took him off the course, but he refused hospital care. After several hours the little brain clot that had caused his echolalia broke up and Oakley was miraculously back to normal again.

Not too long after that, again while playing golf with my father in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, my father watched him go up to the Seventeenth tee only to fall down several times on his left side as he tried to lean over to get the ball teed up. He stood up three times, bent over three times and fell down three times because he had partially lost motor strength in his left side. He was in the midst of having a transient or warning stroke but by ignoring the whole episode, and fighting through it or more likely just ignoring the paralysis, he was still determined to play on. Taking it a few minutes for him to realize something was drastically wrong with his brother in law, my father said Oak just kept flopping down like a wounded bird

Being a man who usually suffers from terminal constipation, my father rushed Oakley back to their motel, stating that he was so frightened by the incident he had crapped his pants while driving them back together in the golf cart. Then when he finally did get Oakley situated in bed, he said that he was going to call the ambulance.

Once again Oakley steadfastly refused hospitalization, asked for a large glass of Wild Turkey Bourbon, drank it, went to sleep, and woke up the next day fully recovered ready to play golf again. He eventually capitulated by agreeing to take blood thinners, after which time the stuttering stroke syndrome was successfully arrested.

One night when he mistakenly telephoned my house looking for my parents, I asked him how it felt to be the world’s best golfer. Wanting to know what I meant by that, I replied that he had played two all time record low-scoring rounds of golf. He said:

  • What exactly is that supposed to mean?

I said:

  • Well, the first round you managed to play with only one stroke, but the next day you bettered that score by playing it with no strokes at all.

It was probably the only time in my life I ever had the opportunity to joke him before he joked me.

At exactly the time of this writing, I received a phone call from my cousin Byron to let me know his father had just passed away. Apparently Oakley had developed a rapidly progressive lung tumor, which literally killed him in a matter of weeks. At the end game, being the man’s man that he always had been, he reluctantly agreed to take just enough morphine to dull the terminal pain; but not enough to put him to sleep.  He was eighty-nine years old.

uncle oak

 

 “I wonder what the poor people are doing today.” 

(Uncle Oakley: Every kid should know one)

 

 

Wedded Bliss

Wedded Bliss

 

Any marriage is doomed to fail, if you do not bring the best of yourself to home each night

(Inspirational speaker)

The argument my parents had over my name was a significant harbinger of worse things to come.

One of my earliest childhood memories was a loud shouting match between my parents; after which my father left our apartment, and then ran upstairs to hide under his mother’s skirt. He slammed the door so hard that a piece of the plastered kitchen ceiling fell out. I was too young to know the particulars of the contest, but my terrorized confusion led to a small epiphany about what ‘Chicken Little’ had feared the most.

Things did not change much over the next fifty years, as there were only rare incidents when bickering was not the mainstay of my parent’s personal interactions. There was never physical abuse toward each other or very rarely to their children; but they were naively unaware that the aftermath of this emotional abuse could be just as devastating as a real physical beating. Their relationship was influenced by differences in culture, personality and the proximity of my father’s family, as opposed to the great distance to home and family for my mother. Then tack on a few children and suddenly these differences magnify a venue for both direct as well as indirect ventilation of the problems.

However, I do not wish to portray my mother as purely being the victim.  Although the separation from home combined with the influence of my father’s lukewarm, passive aggressive and uncompassionate family were undoubtedly important factors in her unhappiness, there were independent elements of her personality that set the substrate for a state of perpetual dismay and dissatisfaction. Like a baby duck, she must have been so imprintedly bonded to her sisters that it probably had a lasting influence on her inability to let other people into her life or to let them get too close. I have a suspicion that while growing up, the four girls were an inseparable and relatively insular sorority that took great delight in finding faults or imperfections in any one who was not one of them. Perhaps the relative isolation of farm life played a role, but there was still a certain element of xenophobia or paranoia lurking under the surface, making me doubt that no one else could ever qualify to be in their little club. They all developed a mutually reinforced superiority complex. Or perhaps it was just pernicious insecurity and intolerance.

After my mother died my father confessed to me that she also had irrational paranoid jealously about everyone and everything; making it impossible to know if the overall behavioral issues were due to genetics or to environment. In 1944, when he was stationed overseas in Okinawa, she wrote letters accusing him of having had a sexual liaison with a mutual friend back home; which made pleasant reading for a guy stuck on a Pacific island littered with the bloated bodies of a few thousand unburied U.S. and Japanese soldiers. A veritable snail-mail nightmare.

Over a lifetime I witnessed most of my parent”s friends fall by the wayside, as the slightest perceived insult, fault or flaw by any of these individuals caused them to be permanently crossed off my mother’s social register. Her ingrained character traits had eventually caused her to become the queen of cognitive bigotry, while equally detrimental; as she carried her personal grudges around for a lifetime they became an overweight suitcase of perpetual unforgiving.

My father’s method of dealing with the hostile home environment was simply solved by being absent. He worked every day except for half-days on Thursdays and Saturdays, but then had engagements every night of the week including Bowling Leagues, or meetings of the Board of Education, Knight of Columbus, Lions Club, Sons of Italy, or any other distraction, which would facilitate a sort of sanctioned absence. As such he was an excellently competent dentist, a model citizen, and was consistently praised by his colleagues at both the professional as well as the civic level. He was a paragon of virtue.

For example, at Valhalla Hospital, he volunteered his services on Thursday afternoons at the County Prison. As a consequence there may yet be a group of ex-convicts running around today with mercury amalgam fillings that will never fall out. He did that work for decades until quitting one-day for good after a convict severely bit his hand in a physical demonstration of feelings about dental discomfort. This occupational and environmental hazard finally was not worth the altruistic effort. He said:

  • I do the work for free, and I get rewarded with a bite. From now on I don’t care if all their teeth just rot in their heads. I’m done.

When he was out of the house his personality was fetching, as he made friends where ever he went, but always brought his alter ego unfriendly self home at night. Later in life when people told me how wonderful he was, I would say:

  • Not necessarily. After all he wasn’t your father and you didn’t have to live with him.
  • Oh. Yeah. Right. But he’s still just as sweet and friendly as he could be. Sometimes it’s just hard to be a dad, you know.
  • Yeah? But you must be referring to a real dad, right?

On Saturday and then filling out Thursday afternoons he could be found on the golf course playing with my uncle Jimmy. But then in creating agendas that made Sundays as good as any punishment meted out by the Spanish Inquisition, this day was devoutly devoted to Church, yard work, weeding, housework, exterior house painting and then eventually to visiting his mother’s grave or to tightening up my braces. That way, my dental work would not interfere with cash generating business hours.

In an effort to bond with her husband and to assume some common interest in one of his activities, my mother actually attempted to play golf. But her golf career was cut short when around age thirty she suffered a protracted recovery after a radical mastectomy, followed by a radical hysterectomy and compounded again by experimental chemotherapy. The stress, nature and consequences of this illness did nothing to smooth matters over between my parents, because although fortunately, she became a long-term survivor of breast cancer, my mother never got over the emotional devastation of a total beast amputation, lymph node dissection and pelvic evisceration. I suspect it may have also ended their sex life.

During my father’s absence, my mother’s frustration inspired her to rally her children around her point of view, resulting in the seriously grievous error of turning my affections and those of my brother and sister against her own husband. She perpetually complained about his behavior or arbitrarily just about anything else he ever said or did. She also did the same thing directly to his face, which precipitated rounds of endless bickering and thus more paternal absence. It became a positive feedback loop of negativity. Thus, because he was never home enough to defend himself, her brain washing held significant influence over me and my siblings, undermining our respect for him as she succeeded in making us believe that he was our enemy as well as her own.

When my mother became mentally disabled, I told my father about this particular habit of hers. He seemed shocked, but I was equally shocked to know that he had been completely oblivious to what had gone on behind his back. However since he was not paying close attention in the first place, this naivety about being an absent father should not have come to me as a total surprise.

He said we should have heart to heart talks more often, with the best response I could muster was pointing out that he was closing in on 90 years old. It was way too much, far too little, and many, many years too late.

Matters were not made better by the fact that my father expected a sort of mandatory, old world Italian, filial style love from his children simply because he happened to be the sperm donor. He wanted his children to run to him with open arms when he came home from work excitedly yelling: “Pappa, Pappa.”It was a fantasy illusion he carried for his entire life, which subsequently led to a lifetime of unfulfilled expectations and disappointments. Because he never understood that respect had to be earned, or that those romantic Hollywood movie scenes do not too often ever reflect real life scenarios, he never did get this type of respect from us. Although he was a man of mostly “good intentions”, they were unfortunately expressed less in his home and more in his social milieu, which then made them part of the pavement in the notorious roadway that winds itself straight to Hell. Over a lifetime we got sick and tired of him coming home to tell us he had “gotten kind of friendly” with some one or another perfectly absract stranger; when this charity was never being expressed domestically.

Spending little or no time with our activities or extra-curricular life, he would often become impatient when taking the extremely rare opportunity to teach us anything about sports involving balls or sticks. Having been a very good multi-sport athlete in High School and College, he had a difficult time teaching those skills and probably should have sent us for lessons instead. If we were clumsy enough not to get it right the first time, he would quickly morph into an ogre; causing the lessons to typically end abruptly; followed by his shallow inability to understand why we didn’t want to continue.  He pushed us very hard to learn golf but the instruction could be as qualitative as his lifetime mantra about it:

  • You know, the golf swing is not really what you think it is.

I guess that must mean that the golf swing is really what you think it isn’t, but that left a lot to the imagination as far as actually being able to execute what it was really supposed to be. In fact I am glad I did not learn his swing because its terrible intrinsic flaws leaves him endlessly frustrated by his lifetime inconsistency.

But he was too stubborn to ever take a lesson himself and to this day seems hell bent on practicing the “what it is not” part but not the “what it is” part of the swing. Over and over and over again, it’s the same old bad swing; practicing the same old routine until it becomes embedded in muscle memory as a nasty bad habit that will only ensure the scoring of numerous bogeys, very few pars and an inexplicable and seemingly out of the blue “others.”

It was almost an iconic yet predictable image to come down his driveway at dusk watching him tirelessly banging wiffle-balls against the seasonally absent next-door neighbor’s summer house, but hypocritically never banging them against his own. After all:

  • If I did that, it might damage my shingles.

Then to make matters even worse, my father attempted to take us out on the golf course one day after only one or two backyard lessons. That was a fatal error, not only for the safety of the turf, but also more importantly for the safety of any other player within the vicinity of our hacking hooks and banana slices. I had a miserable time, hated every second of it as did any of the foursomes backed up behind us. After that it took me years to forget that whenever I walked outside the combined smell of grass, fertilizer and lawn poisons did not necessarily mean I was going to automatically have a bad day. This was also when I became exposed to the counterproductive negative thinking of the amateur athlete; because every time we came to a hole with a fronting water hazard my father would quip before my swing:

  • Now don’t let the water intimidate you.

This of course would absolutely guarantee dumping the tee shot into the pond and would be equivalent to Mickey Mantle standing at home plate thinking:

  • Golly gee. I only have one more chance now, so I hope I don’t strike out again. Maybe I won’t even swing at the ball, then.

A lot of this “quality time” was also spent comparing me and my brother’s short comings to the near perfect attitudes, activities, athletic abilities, and house-chore work ethic of my ass kissing cousin “Little Jimmy.” Most things other than my father’s own social or golf related activities or doing home maintenance, he considered to be a waste of time and so anything I eventually came to love such as fishing, boating, water-skiing or sailing were either self taught or taught to me by someone else’s father.

In their defense, my parents were both individuals of great integrity, also of great moral values and ethics, which they successfully imparted to their children. In addition, my siblings and I did not have to pay for any of our higher education, which totaled eight years for each of us; something that for them must have been a serious financial burden. They fanatically believed in education and were fabulous as tangible providers. Another great thing that my father did for us was to pursue his own boyhood dream of having a water front house by the water and fulfilled it in the late 1940s when he bought a small plot of water front property in Southampton, on Long Island in New York. He then spent the next fifteen years building a house on the lot literally by hand, so as children we had the unusual privilege and advantage of spending all our summers at the beach in a little cottage that was a veritable heaven on earth.

The problem with my parents was the constant lack of emotional support both for each other as well as for their children; which stemmed from the fact that they probably never should have been together in the first place. They never displayed interpersonal affection and I do not believe I ever saw them kiss. If they ever had, this affection came to an abrupt stop early enough in my life not to be very memorable. They never said, “I love you” to each other or to their children. As such, the way they eventually came to deal with both each other, as well as with us, was not with emotional expressions, but rather with expressions of straightforward approval or of disapproval.

  • Good grades, son. Bad hairstyle.

There was only one other incident from my childhood that I unsuccessfully tried to suppress. My mother was never consistently cruel or ever physically abusive. She was simply and ice-cold stoic Protestant who probably thought she was doing me and my siblings a favor by teaching us certain survival lessons in how to best navigate a potentially cruel or dangerous world. It took me years to realize that her one and only so-called “lesson in trust” probably stemmed form the fact that when she was a young teen-ager, a much older Uncle had once seduced her to go on a car ride ostensibly “for ice cream.” He got the ice cream, then tried; or even may have succeeded in a sexual assault. She suppressed the incident herself, only alluding to it twice in her entire life, but never divulging entirely the precise details of what had actually happened.

Then one day when she was smoking a cigarette she must have had her own personal nicotine induced flashback as she called me over to the sofa where she was sitting. She said:

  • Come here. I want to show you something.

Of course I did what I was expected to do and came over by the sofa.

  • No get closer. I want you to look into my eyes.

I didn’t think twice about it and thought that perhaps this was going to be a rare opportunity to enjoy an unusual display of affection, so I inched closer thinking perhaps I might be getting a rare hug or a kiss. But the moment turned ugly when she burned me on the forearm with her cigarette. Then I heard her say as I recoiled that:

  • You should always think twice about trusting people unless you can tell for sure they are not offering false promises.

That was either her pathetic way of going about protecting her “favorite” child or perhaps only taking out personal frustrations during an intensely bad  overdosed hormonal relacement surge. I never told my father or anyone else about it until the night I finally spilled the story to my second wife after she accused me of having deep seeded “Trust issues.”

At the original point in time, telling anyone about such parental abuse would have been the same as saying a priest had buggered my ass. No one would ever have believed it and secondarily, no one would have done anything about it. These were taboo subjects hidden in family closets or behind the doors of the Sacristy.

A friend’s wife, Chris, told me years before my wife had alluded to it that she thought I might have suffered from a lack of nurturing in childhood. At the time she said it, I didn’t really grasp what she meant, and somewhat resented the unsolicited opinion about my personality.  Now I get it.

Golf Swing

Dad’s golf swing. What it isn’t

 

 

The bridge at midnight trembles.

The country doctor rambles.

Bankers’ nieces seek perfection,

Expecting all the gifts that wise men bring. 

The wind howls like a hammer,

The night blows cold and rainy,

My love, she’s like some raven

At my window with a broken wing. 

(Love Minus Zero/No Limit: Bob Dylan)