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Monday, July 26, 2021

Of Cats and Dogs

It may not have been coming down cats and dogs but it was way harder than kittens and puppies. When I raised my arm and the water dripped from stem to stern, I was officially soaked.

But, when in Rome, you know.

The golf course was, to my eyes, otherwise emptied of human activity. There was one group who had taken shelter nearby, their cart now housed in a space that was  intended merely for human protection. Otherwise, sanity had prevailed and the rain had washed away the thought of continued participation in this endeavor.

But my group included a Scot who found this weather as mother's milk. And our leader believed if you came to play this game, you stayed until your work was completed. At least that's what I imagine he would have said if I had asked him.

There was one member of our entourage who would not take yes for an answer. As the precipitation seemed ever crueler by the hole, our 90 year old companion finally waved the white flag of surrender on number 9. As he sped away to the waiting embrace of the clubhouse, the water poured off the bill of my fully waterlogged cap.

I thought I heard word of heading to the bar after 11 if the gods continued to mock our efforts with such intensity. I looked down at my fingertips and they appeared to be a I recalled them when I lingered too long in a bathtub as a child.. Trying to swing a golf club in this circumstance was like attempting to grasp a slithering snake. But somehow my efforts were rewarded, my scores reflective of far more welcoming environs. 

And then, by some minor miracle, as we headed to 10 green, the spigot was turned off and the strange sensation of relative calm prevailed. While my shorts now clung to me tighter than Mr. Trump's arms around the thought of being President and my shoes felt heavier than the weight of expectation for Simone Biles at the Olympics, I smiled internally for having persevered and at least registered a draw with Mother Nature.

Yet, she was not done with her tricks, the mosquitoes on the incoming holes appearing to me like a swarm of locusts, or at a minimum as Alfred Hitchcock presented those birds to Tippi Hedren..

When finally I staggered off 18, but one thought entered my mind. What time is tee off tomorrow?


Tuesday, July 13, 2021

SELF Storage

 ("You Can't Take It With You, But You Can Put It in Storage")

It is not self storage but SELF storage, retaining those items that are far more essential than necessary, far more a reminder of what has value than a statement of what is valuable, far more important for emotional comfort than physical well being.

These are pieces we retain or fear they are lost to us forever. The first drawing that looks like a drunken effort at making a circle, the first report card that forecast inevitable greatness, the first letter from summer camp and the next dozen for good measure.

If it were my decision, all of these items times a thousand would be carried with us in ever expanding volume until we traveled as Sisyphus from one venue to the next. But my wife is able to see that an item discarded is not a life thrown away, that the accumulation of stuff is not the same as the retention of memories, that creating clutter for clutter's sake leaves us no space for what lies ahead.

When we sold our house after spending nearly a quarter of a century acquiring and keeping, it was my wife who was able to separate wheat from chaff, to limit my attachment, to distinguish inconsequential from irreplaceable. You would be surprised to learn that your heart only breaks for the tiniest of moments when the third grade report on yesterday's trash becomes exactly that. 

Ultimately, bigger fit into smaller and, though many things were gone, nothing was really lost. 

In the final analysis, SELF storage comes from within, not from with out. For what we carry with us from place to place is located not in a basement, an attic, or a storage shed, but only in our heart.



Monday, July 12, 2021

Hide and Seek

My baby brother is playing hide and seek with me. 

He is hiding inside my mommy's belly.

He is good at hiding.

Sometimes I can see him moving inside Mommy's belly. He must be trying to find a new hiding place.

I think my brother is going to stop hiding soon.

I think one day soon he will be coming out to meet me.

And when that day comes I will give my baby brother a big hug.

And I will show him lots of other good places to hide.

Like in a closet. Or under a blanket. Or even behind the couch.

I think one day my baby brother and I will be able to play all kinds of games together. And take walks together. And eat ice cream together.

And maybe even hide together. 


Thursday, July 8, 2021

Peripatetic

 Peripatetic.


One year in school we were introduced to a lot of new words. Many of these have traveled with me through the years, popping into my head at odd moments. Some making it appear I am more learned than the reality of who and what I turned out to be.

Peripatetic arrived in the front of my cranium late last evening. As I lay on a mattress on the floor of the home of my daughter and son in law. In the last four nights I found myself in overnight residence at an old friend's home, at my sister's and now here.

No, nothing is wrong. I have not been given the boot by my bride of nearly 44 years (at least as of this writing. Though given my 'idiot'syncracies, that does remain a distinct daily possibility).

Rather, circumstance has temporarily found us dislocated from our bedroom. No need to shed a tear, for soon enough this issue shall be fully remedied and we shall rest our heads easy in old familiar environs.

But for today, as I awake from nocturnal slumber (although slumber is hardly an appropriate term for my Jack in the box up and down nights) I must first recall in what room I reside and where the nearest bathroom can be found.

I graduated from high school more than half a century past. Mr. Glidden, the teacher in charge of making certain I crammed as much new language into my brain as my feeble mind had capacity, has surely long ago shucked off his mortal coil. And with each passing day I realize that more pieces of what was tenuously planted in my head  escapes, never to be heard from again.

But many of the words I carry with me from that year are still on our collective journey. And they have served me well in those rare moments when I call upon a term to fully describe my thoughts on topics as diverse as my once and forever Yankees, or the 45th President (I still can't wrap my head around that one) of the United States.

So while my ruminations are truly more "peripathetic" than profound, a well used word inserted here and there can turn the ordinary into something a cut above.

And, voila, I can create an entire piece centered around a single term that entered my lexicon as a young boy.

Words that hop with me from place to place.

Peripatetic.


Saturday, July 3, 2021

Crime and Punishment

 ("Why We Hold Olympic Athletes to Such Ridiculous and Cruel Standards")

There is such evident pain in these competitions. Years of obsessive attention, of endless deprivations, of relentless pressure, all exploding in the slightest hiccup on a balance beam, in a twinge as a hamstring revolts down a final straightaway, in a million different ways that, in a blink of an eye, turn dreams into disaster.

And then there are the drug failures.

A career suddenly swallowed up by a burrito, an antidepressant, a missed test after an abortion, a hit of weed after a parent's death. If there is honesty to any of these defenses, the emotional agony these athletes endure must be overwhelming. If indeed they have not sought competitive advantage, and worse, if in fact their transgression has not produced an unintended edge, then their hearts must be broken, their anguish almost undescribable.

And when this happens to the best we have to offer, on the biggest stage, when the light will finally shine the brightest, when all the hard work will be on glorious display, then we mourn for their loss.

We do not know where the truth ends and the excuse begins for Sha'Carri Richardson and other athletes who endure these most public humiliations. But if their tales have even the possibility of reality, then we are left saddened and angered by the insanity of a system where the severity of the punishment bears no relation to the significance of the crime.

Thursday, July 1, 2021

You're Damn Right I Ordered the Code Red

 ("Trump organization CFO expected in court after indictment")

"Tell me this is not all you've got."

While I might be butchering the Nicholson to Cruise line in "A Few Good Men", the sneering Nicholson's cynical quizzing of the young prosecutor trying to take him down seems sadly appropriate at this moment.

My God, can we do no better than beating up a Trump accountant for his personal tax indiscretions? 

Let us hope there is method to this madness. That this is but tightening the screws on a Mafia underling as they move ever closer to taking down the Don. Let us hope this is not but the beginning of a decades long odyssey that ends with a nonagenerian Trump still standing, still defiant, still avoiding his day of reckoning for a lifetime of unbridled wrongdoing.

Why is it so hard to find criminal activity by this man? 

Please tell me one day soon he will crack open like a pinata. That he will scream, wild eyed and ever belligerent, "You're damn right I ordered the Code Red."

If only life imitated art.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Stop Handing Out Lottery Tickets and Start Handing Down Laws

 AN EDITED VERSION OF THIS POST IS THE LEAD LETTER TO THE EDITOR IN THE NEW YORK TIMES ON JULY 1, 2021


("Vaccine Mandates Are Coming. Good")

As of this writing, I have been fully vaccinated for 4 months and 8 days. I reside in an area where vaccination rates have surpassed what is perceived to be herd immunity standards. The daily death toll in this entire State from Covid 19 hovers near 0. So, I feel as protected as possible under the circumstances. 

Yet I am angered by the failure at the Federal, State and local levels to mandate that the reluctant, the recalcitrant, the reckless roll up their sleeves and become inoculated.

Over 600,000 have died in this country alone. When is enough too much? I understand, although I disagree, that safety concerns must sometimes give way to religious accommodations, and I fully comprehend there are those who may have legitimate health issues that preclude their participation, but beyond that, get in line.

Only an EUA, not full FDA approval? Give me a break. We have just lived through over a year in collective Hell. I can't be silent while others die a needless, senseless death.

It is well past the moment of no return. Stop handing out lottery tickets and start handing down laws. Get the damn shot. Now!

Monday, June 28, 2021

Size 36 Pants

 The kids were acting like, well, kids. The three year old and his older brother engaged in play that resulted in cries of dismay or tears in an almost rhythmic pattern. Good moments followed by a blip of emotion. Rinse and repeat. Nothing of consequence, just boys being boys.

We sat outside in the backyard, cousins catching up with one another, a moment long in the making. The scene definitely reminiscent of the pre-pandemic world. Essentially ignoring the occasional outbursts from the little kiddy pool coming but a few feet away. The gentle benign reminders for kind consideration of the feelings of the wounded sibling, the direction from parent to child.

But I was restless in my chair. It was hot, the water was inviting and my natural instinct is to do something puerile and slightly stupid when I note any young one even in momentary distress. So, I ambled over to where the boys were aiming their water guns at one another and challenged them to find a new target. Me.

For the next 15 or 20 minutes, I did my best impression of Gale Sayers, zigging zagging and generally avoiding not a drop of the spray directed at my stomach, my glasses, my ears, my backside. The boys, especially the little one, taking extreme satisfaction in their marksmanship. I rung out my shirt every now and then, as it attached its full weight to my skin.

Rather than rest on my laurels, I made inquiry as to whether the family possessed a slip and slide. My next undertaking involved far more slip than slide, with the exception of one decidedly unremarkable but particularly painful belly flop.

You would have thought this activity would have fully satiated my inner kindergartner. But then my granddaughter arrived on the scene, along with her natural inclination to take it slowly, to analyze any new environment before taking the plunge.

And as she hesitated to take the dive, emotionally, down the little slide into the kiddy pool, I naturally decided my next calling. I gently placed my bottom so as not cause embarrassing destruction and thereafter took the two second trip down to the other bottom.

It is hard being a child in an old man's body. It is a bad fit, like clothing that is way too big and gives the rest of the world ample space for question.

So it was here, quite literally. For I was not invited to a pool party and had no change of clothes at the ready. I sat uncomfortably, moving to and fro, my idiocy sticking to me and beginning to make me reconsider my earlier actions.

I am a small person, size 32 pants my number with a bit of room to spare in my thinner times. Our host was a full grown person who I now learned wore size 36.

And so, I excused myself and headed to a dressing area where I soon emerged very grateful for having worn a belt with my shorts. 

Before we left at evening's end, the boys mom and dad thanked me for my willingness to do what I had done. But the sad secret is that this took no coaxing. Rather it was me unfortunately being who and what I am. A person who is masquerading in clothes intended for someone far bigger, far more suited than I for the attire he wears.



Thursday, June 24, 2021

Jaywalking

 ("Indiana Woman Is First Person to Be Sentenced in Capitol Riot")

Sensitivity training? A $500 fine? A seven part primer on how to earn a get out of jail virtually free card?  Really?

I am definitely not an eye for an eye, strident law and order, kind of person. But was anyone watching the events of January 6th? Was this not a mob, an insurrection, a trespass on the very heart of our democracy?

And this is who the government charges? And then decides to make her read books as punishment?

Apparently the "I just got caught up in the moment" defense is a viable one here. This is certainly not the message I hoped would come from the court system after such a brutal attack on our police, on our Congress, on the very foundation of this nation.

This sentence was not a slap on the wrist of the Defendant but a slap in the face to those who watched in horror and disbelief as the events of January 6, 2021 unfolded.

For this Defendant, for this "tourist", it was, in her own words, the most exciting day of her life. Shame on her. 

And shame on us for our retort. Even the least guilty on this darkest of days should have received a punishment worse than the one ordinarily delivered to a jaywalker.

Saturday, June 19, 2021

The Job Interview

 My game is a bit in tatters at the moment. The putter mocking my every effort. The euphoria of a well struck drive promptly fading from memory as the succeeding iron shot forms an unintended parabola into unwelcoming flora. But I did not reveal any of these deficiencies during my interview for my summer job.

The pandemic has created havoc in every direction. The time from the earliest whispers of this coronavirus to its placement in the very heart of the very, very nervous system of this entire planet, making the definition of certainty absolutely uncertain. What once was immutable now but muted.

And as our economic universe wobbled, one of those arenas taking a direct hit was summer camps. That oasis for children, that place where parents of certain means could store their offspring for a short while, home to some of the best days for many young lives, now with a "closed until further notice" sign. There were a few exceptions, but for most of these camps, as for virtually everything else, 2020 was the summer that wasn't.

I spent my summers from ages 6 through 12 in the mountains of the Poconos. At a camp that focused on athletic endeavors, milk and cookies for an afternoon snack (I always stood in the chocolate milk line), brother and sister meetings by the campfire and Color War. And Joy Lutsky, who walked away with one of my sweaters for each of the last few summers in recognition of my ardor for her.

I was intended to spend my life in such a place. Now closing in on 70 years on this planet, I would still walk around with a baseball glove on my hand if it were even remotely socially acceptable. My greatest skill in life still making little kids crazy as they find an old person with the spirit of a six year old, willing to speak with them not at their level but at mine, which coincidentally happens to be exactly as theirs 

As the world lurched forward towards the summer of 2021, old realities returning to their rightful spot, still it was not quite what it once was. For camps in this area of the Berkshires, it was not necessarily a wariness on the part of parents to allow their little ones to leave the protective wombs, for there was an absolute hunger to allow their children to be nothing more than children again. Rather, it was an issue of finding people to oversee the well being of the assembled.

One arm of this dilemma was in not being able to freely recruit help from foreign countries. To my understanding, many summer camps rely heavily on staffing up with those who are not from here but way over there. This year, over there was too often merely out of bounds.

As the Coronavirus refused to go quietly into the night, as other countries continue to stagger under the weight of this disease, the relative ease and simplicity of coming and going is not so simple after all. And this is where I come in.

My daughter and son in law have become fast friends with the owners of one of these summer camps in the Berkshires. It being located no more than the full length of a championship golf course from where I reside. A sports camp with a small driving range, where golf is more of an asterisk, an afterthought, than a centerpiece. 

A pro golfer from England had served as master of ceremonies for the slices and hooks, the dribbles and the occasional wondrous swing. Six days each week there were skills being taught, if not always absorbed. But not this year, as he stayed on the wrong side of the Atlantic, marooned by an invisible deadly enemy.

Since Tiger was still sidelined with leg injuries and thus unable to undertake the demands of this role, the focus turned to lesser lights to fill the need.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. As my daughter and son in law extolled my virtues to their friends, and the owners undoubtedly understood that I would pay them to be allowed to be at the place on earth best aligned with my soul, my name scrolled across their ticker.

"Hello, this is Mike". He had me at hello.

I arranged to meet him at camp early the following week for my interview.

I think the first mistake I made was bringing my wife and son along with me, not only to visit the camp, but to actually be present while the owner and I spoke. I think it belied any seriousness of purpose on my part.

In retrospect, I also believe that my limiting my commitment to one day a week, rather than six, was not helpful to my cause.

Still, I held out the faintest hope that my winning personality, or maybe the urgency of their finding any solution, no matter how imperfect, might allow me to turn my fantasy into a part time reality.

Sadly, my phone has not rung since that day with a call offering employment. Maybe I merely performed poorly in my interview. Maybe the owner actually learned of my limited skill set. 

But, I will have to survive the disappointment and hope that another opportunity presents itself for me to find myself at the place on earth where I am best suited.

Until then I shall merely toil in anonymity, offering unsolicited and almost always unwanted advise to old men who have never been able to hit out of a bunker, will never be able to hit out of a bunker and would welcome nothing so much as my never considering that I have the capacity to impart any wisdom to anyone relating to the game of golf.