Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Choice of Poison Teas

As it comes to this, I search for phrases that reflect the madness that prevails. A "Hobson's choice" is one in which only 1 option is given, and one must either embrace it, or receive nothing at all. "Sophie's choice" mandates a decision between 2 unbearable options. Among its equivalents are "unacceptable", "excruciating" and "intolerable".

Whether Hobson or Sophie ultimately matters little. We have been left with a decision whether to allow the debt ceiling to remain where it is and watch as our economy and the larger universe implodes, or decimate our future by agreeing to draconian cuts that will leave us unable to extricate ourselves from an inevitable march into depression.

I think that this one deserves it own phrase, something to reflect political mayhem at its worst: "the choice of poison teas".

Saturday, July 30, 2011


As I start this entry, I am sitting in northern California as another perfect day dawns. Shortly the sun will begin a repeat performance of yesterday and the day before. The wild turkey family will march in line along the long expanse of the driveway. before disappearing into the hills.The deer will stop and stare as you come too near for their comfort. The horses will graze in the pasture and wait for the carrot that accompanies my wife's arrival. Across the road, the bull will wait by the fence, ignoring you even as you move nearer.

Jo and I will go for our morning walk, moving about in East Coast time, while the rest of this universe, on a different clock, is still asleep. On our earliest of trips out here, we journeyed into the nearby hills of the state park, where we sometimes moved to the side of its narrow path to let horse and rider pass.

Sadly, as I walk through the stables, I see just nameplates of some who became our friends through the years. The stalls are empty, or house unfamilar guests. By mid-morning, a large horse, a temporary occupant trying to recover from a leg injury, is being moved to a rehab facility. We watch as the owner engages in a prolonged dance to coax her horse into the waiting trailer. Like a hesitant child, it requires promises of treats and soothing words before tentative steps are taken and the goal is accomplished.

A few years earlier, on virtually the same ground, we witnessed the unforgettable sight of a deer in mortal distress being put down, its hind quarters almost fully eaten away by what must have been a mountain lion's attack.

Nearby, I hear the gentle cooing of the doves who are housed in their own quarters. They are but an afterthought here.

In the meadow, I spot the cat, resting and quiet. It is a member of the household, but we rarely cross paths, as it prefers to spend its days in more interesting pursuits than interacting with me.

But always the most important are the dogs. I have had my favorites, but now there is one who has captured my heart. Yogi is an all star, chasing down frisbees and balls as easily as DiMaggio roamed centerfield. He is relentless, and relentlessly happy.

It is now late afternoon, as this piece has been composed in little bursts. From where I sit, the only sound I hear is the humming of this computer. No noise of humanity, no passing car, no honking horn, no ringing phone or overheated discussion: nothing pierces the quiet.

It is summer and this is our annual pilgrimage to a very different reality.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Meeting In the Middle of Truth and Fiction

("The Centrist Cop Out")

When the goal becomes to meet in the middle of real and ridiculous, you get the conversations this Congress has been engaged in over the past months. When statistical falsehoods are elevated to equal standing with proven truths about economic realities in a deep recession, you get a willingness on both sides to take trillions of dollars out of an economy which is begging for an infusion of funds.

We have long ago stopped being centrist in the debt ceiling debate, and in our political climate. The Democrats and the President have somehow allowed the false equivalent to become the law of the land, and in doing so have ceded not only the left, but the center to the Republicans. We now wait only to see how far to the right we land.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Frankenstein's Monster

"Congress in the Lead" does present one truth in the midst of all its fiction: President Obama did break no new ground in his seminar, I mean speech, to the nation on Monday night. But for Mr. Brooks to point an accusing finger at the president for "losing his cool" after Mr. Boehner took his toys and left the room on Friday, or for precipitating this crisis for failing to be forthcoming with specifics of the negotiations in real time, is ludicrous.

The Republicans have fashioned a monster of their own choosing by artificially selecting a procedural step of ratifying our pre-existing obligations as a substantive line in the sand. This never had to be, and never was in the past anything but pro-forma acceptance of an already established reality. Once they had manufactured their Frankenstein-like vision, the most right wing of the right wing took control of the message and pushed this discussion far away from the real dilemma of lost jobs, mortgage foreclosures and massive disproportionate wealth in this country. The Tea Party creation of a debt "crisis" became its own reality.

And now, as they have brought this country and this President to the brink, Mr. Brooks finds the fault lies not with this party who contemplates and threatens us with the unthinkable. Rather, he criticizes the President for both not being forthcoming and then being forthcoming.

If Mr. Brooks believes that Congress is in the lead on this matter, he is badly mistaken. The sad truth is that no one is in control of this monster. We are all, sick, tired and scared of where this Republican debacle may lead. Sorry, Mr. Brooks if the president is a little testy. Get over it.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

A Better Universe

("Make Way for the Radical Center")

I get that we are all feeling disenfranchised and disenchanted. I understand that our voices and our votes seem drowned out in a tidal wave of partisan politics. I too envision a better way and a better tomorrow if only we controlled the dialogue. But don't spend your time until November, 2012 on some illusion. This is not some fantasy baseball or football league we can maneuver and manipulate.

Look, I am as frustrated as anyone. But, this image of a third party shaping our future, no matter how well intentioned is not going to happen. Is Teddy Roosevelt out there to lead the charge of this brigade of independents? Work on fixing what is broken rather than spending your days dreaming of a reality that will not occur, no matter how many fantasy votes you get on the internet. Let's not waste time contemplating a "dream team". We are not in the middle of a dream but an all too stark reality that must be addressed with real solutions.

If you want to spend your hours in a productive fashion, work on changing how government works. Demand that we eradicate, or diminish the impact of the filibuster and let majority rule have the meaning for which it was intended. Raise your dollars to make certain that procedural ploys, like refusing to authorize payment of debts which we have already incurred, have no place in our future. If you want to effectuate change, make certain that change can be effectuated. The hard and ugly truth is that good ideas die in process, and bad ideas are all we are left with. Government is dysfunctional because it has been manipulated into submission.

Change your vision and focus not on some alternate universe, but on a better one.

Friday, July 22, 2011

A Pact with the Devil

What Mr. Brooks refers to as the "Grand" Bargain looks to me more like a Faustian one. If the reports out of Washington are accurate, the President is willing to make a deal that will consign this nation to years of economic stagnation and surrender the heart and soul of what had made his party great. From the perspective of Mr. Brooks this may seem the right way to do business, but from my vantage point, avoiding threatened disaster is not the same as achieving success, and selling your soul to the devil for the illusion of compromise is no way to run a country.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

For Better and Sometimes Worse

The call made me want to drop whatever was on my schedule and rush to my daughter's side. No, there was nothing of any real consequence going on that would mandate my presence. She was just grousing about a long and difficult commute to work. She was frazzled, a little late, and a little unhappy. It was nothing that a deep breath, and a few moments of reflection would not cure. But for me, and all my over-the-top instincts, it was a 4 alarm fire.

I have never been able to moderate my "over-protective" gene. It serves neither me well, nor those who are the subject and object of my concern. I have been fortunate to choose a life partner who shares none of this nonsense. I am given the "get a grip" lecture in its various incarnations, on a regular basis. But, it doesn't help.

I know my children avoid mentioning anything relating to difficult moments in their lives to me. "Put Mom on the phone" is as much information as I get. I then must stand anxiously in the wings, trying to read my wife's inflections and her words to try to comprehend the depth and scope of the problem. I am just "Dad being Dad" and am the absolute wrong answer to the question of who is in charge of giving perspective and space to any issue.

That being said, being sympathetic, or empathetic, as the situation dictates, is not a curse, but a blessing. I believe it is one of my strongest and best qualities that I genuinely feel for the plight of my fellow man and try to look at each situation from the perspective of the aggrieved.

However, with the rest of humanity, there is a distance that separates. I can feel for them, but I am not in their face and running over to wipe their collective noses. The masses can live their lives with a vague comprehension that there is someone out there who cares. On the other hand, my family must contend with the constant droning of a voice needing reassurance that everything is "ok".

Sometimes, I see my wife and son cut conversations short when I enter the room. This is the signal that there is some "calamity" from which I am being excluded. It is as though they are shaking their heads as they contemplate me, and my imagination, creating enormous mountains out of molehills.

I share an extraordinary closeness with my children. We find many admirable qualities in each other and understand the depth of the love that exists between us. Yet, I know that I am the last person they need to be in touch with when the train has not come on time, or the cough is lasting into the 3rd day, or it is too hot, or too cold, or too dark or too light. I am for better, or for worse, who I am. And while it is often for the better, sometimes, I know, it is not.

Contemplating Our Own Foreclosure

"Signs of Intelligent Life In Congress"

As this editorial applauds even the hint of rational thought emanating from the Republican party, I am left to wonder what message would permeate and mandate a universal cry for decisive action to stave off __________ ( the blank is for whatever descriptive word you wish to insert, as all of the good ones have already been written a thousand times).

I fear that we have never been given the right analogy for what is about to occur. As the mantra, coming even from the President, is for us to get our "house in order", there has been a failure to impress upon the public that our country is contemplating default on one giant house mortgage and facing imminent foreclosure. Those who lend to us based on "full faith and credit" in our good faith and creditworthiness will be looking at a nation lacking credibility. Like the millions now who worry and wonder what went wrong as they desperately try to stay in their homes and practically beg for solutions, come August 3, we will be but another of those beggars. We will have to pay a very steep price if we want to keep a roof over our heads.

I believe that too many erroneously consider our decision merely whether we will continue what they perceive as conspicuous unnecessary consumption. This battle is not over whether we should buy that fancy sports car we can no longer afford. Rather, it is whether we voluntarily want to join the uncomfortable ranks of those who have defaulted on their most basic of obligations and face a most uncertain and unhappy future.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A World of Absolutes

"Signing Away the Right to Govern"

Grover Norquist, with pledge in hand, has been around for over a quarter of a century. It is not that pledge itself, or the many others referenced in your editorial, that threaten the fabric of our government. It is the people who now attach themselves to this rhetoric that is the root cause of the conflagration of the Constitution.

They came to power in 2010 not from the strength of their collective intellect but from a collective unhappiness of a portion of the population who saw their lives still upended, 2 years into the Obama administration, by Bush era mistakes with unfunded wars, tax cuts for the wealthy, rampant deregulation and pharmaceutical company handouts. But these freshmen Republican Congressmen came armed not with a passion and a calling to fix what was wrong, for in doing so they would necessarily be denouncing their own errors. Instead they would hide the mistakes of their predecessor by changing the message of what was ailing America.

And so, the Tea Party extremists, who could win elections but had no concept of how to govern, now attempted to create policy. Since there was nothing of substance to support their positions, they latched on to pledges and mandates. It is a world of absolutes, where logic and oaths of office have no place. And thus, we have been introduced to a universe of 'never' and 'no'. And the American people and the Constitution suffer at the hands of those who have neither the aptitude or the will to do the hard job of governing.

Sunday, July 17, 2011



Empty nesters. The baby boomers, alone at last. But along the way, somehow empty and alone did not happen for my wife and myself. And in many ways, though there is sadness attached to this alternate reality, there is something good that has emerged.

While I read, from the point of view of recent college graduates ("Growing Up, Then Going Home) of what it means to be back under the watchful eye of your parents, let me tell you the story from my perspective.

My son is now 30 and he is brilliant. There is no smaller way of describing his intellectual capabilities. At 2, he could pick up a record (yes, a record) find the cut on the album that he enjoyed (yes, a cut) and put the needle to the appropriate sound. At 6, he was teaching 10 year olds in his elementary school about the latest on the computer. He wrote music and words for a song for his 5th grade play. He graduated at the top of his class (well, almost), had an outstanding academic career at Dartmouth and was a star in his graduate program in public policy at Berkeley.

And he has spent the last 5 years, from the moment he called to say he was too sick to finish the last term of his studies and took a plane home, in the bedroom down the hall from myself and my wife.

This is not easy to write about and it makes me feel a bit irritated with those young graduates who good naturedly grouse about the difficulties they have in finding a world not ready, willing or able to accept them. But this is not about responding to them nor about pitying myself or my son. This is rather about the benefit that has come from his unexpected return.

You see, empty and alone connotes that there is something missing. And what my son, in his mid-20's and in his diminished physical state brought back into our lives, was an intellectual curiosity and questioning. Events of the world that seemed to swirl around my life without focus, suddenly started to have meaning. Here was a young man, with all his passion for those who have been trampled in the rush of the few and the privileged to reach the top of the food pyramid. Here was my son, making me turn my attention to all that was wrong in so many arenas. Here was this young mind challenging me to take issue with a world that had lost its compass. For you see, my son brought to me the gift of compelling me to think.

As my intellectual horizons broadened upon my son's insistence, I found that I took a real interest in exploring parts of our universe, and my own mind, that had long been ignored. The sports pages no longer were the only focus. Soon the news and opinion pages took center stage. My discussions with my son, while often still about the Yankees, more and more centered on matters that mattered in more fundamental ways. And I began to write about my reactions to the world around me.

Now I write almost every day. It is a role that I could never have fathomed and never would have taken on had illness not forced a return of my son to a nest he wanted nothing more than to abandon. And while he acts as my in-house editor, and responds with the most gentle of criticism to my less stellar efforts, my son's "this one is good, this is very good" is for me the sweetest of all sounds.

There is much more bad than good in watching a son turn 30 under your watchful eye, in a bedroom intended for many things other than his permanent occupation. He can and should be spending the incredible gifts he was given on a world that could sorely use his skills and his passion. I know that each day he hopes and waits to feel the pain disappear, the strength returning to his muscles and the weight, that so mysteriously and dramatically dropped, to as mysteriously and dramatically return. And maybe tomorrow will be that day. And there will be no happier moment for his mom and me, then waving goodbye as he begins a life that has been placed on hold.

But, if and when he does leave, it will be a sad time also. For I have grown to be a more complete and mature person because of his presence. I have discovered things about myself which make each day of my life more full and more interesting. So while I curse the fates that have been unkind to my son, I also thank them. I wish nothing more for my son than good health and a productive life, but I will be forever grateful for his unexpected return that made an empty nest much fuller.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Apples and Orangutans

"Death and Budgets"

Mr. Brooks has done a major disservice to a remarkable and touching essay by Mr. Clendinen. To try to weave Mr. Clendinen's contemplation of the end of his own life, and the dignity he seeks to retain in his remaining days, into a discussion on health care reform is not mixing apples with oranges but apples with orangutans.

Yes, some medical treatments are unwarranted. And yes, if Mr. Brooks had been paying attention, the President and the Democrats have been trying to reign in unnecessary health care costs by seeking to determine the most effective (including cost effective) method of treating various illnesses. For this effort, the famous chant of "death panels" was created and brandished by the Republican party.

But ineffective oversight of health care is not what Mr. Clendinen intended his words to address. If anything, this essay should be triggering a further discussion on the issue of control by the individual over the way death comes. This was a frank look at the emotional costs of living a diminished existence, not a political discourse on the finances of that life.

Mr.Brooks, sometimes it is better not to try to find parallels where none exist. Better to leave death alone and concentrate on how the Republican party is trying to take away much of the dignity of so many lives by their policies and budget cutting pronouncements.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Was This the Better Half?

"The Afghan Enforcer I Knew" only emphasizes the lunacy that surrounds our decade long, and counting, incursion into Afghanistan. Mr. Rashid would assert that Ahmed Wali Karzai was the glue that held together a fragile enterprise for the southern part of this country. As our nation continually denounced his actions and warned that this Mr. Karzai should reform his ways, we are told we should have been more supportive of a man who was, in his own manner, the best this country could offer. Now, Mr. Rashid would suggest, things may turn ugly.

Guess what, things are already ugly. We have attached ourselves to the corrupt, the incompetent or the incapable, as we try to patch together some kind of workable solution to an untenable situation. But, as Mr. Rashid indicates, we are always merely one bad step away from a collapse. When the death of someone like Ahmed Wali Karzai is something that should be mourned as a potential political disaster, we must come to the inevitable conclusion that we are indeed mired in an actual political disaster.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Feeding the Beast

"If not now, when?" Was the President discussing the best time to decimate an economy weak and growing ever weaker? As recent jobs reports revealed, minimal increases in private sector hiring are being swallowed up by public sector employment losses. Monies removed from state and federal coffers in the slash and burn mentality that pervades inevitably results in an increase in the unemployment rolls. And yet, the discussions in Washington do not even hint at an infusion of money needed to stimulate. Yes, I said that word which now seems anathema to political conversations.

This is government in crisis, governing by crisis. As he listens to the ticking of the clock, and worry begins to turn into panic that the Republican party will actually let chaos come, the President is forced to ask what it will take to win the votes, if not the hearts, of these people. If it means leaving those without without, that is a price he is willing to pay.

"If not now, when" should really be rephrased "if not this, what". What more must we do to appease and mollify the beast that swallows up logic and reason and leaves our country in continuing economic decline? And if we somehow get beyond the looming disaster on raising the debt ceiling, what will be the next crisis manufactured by the Republicans? And what, and who, will then be sacrificed in the name of the insanity that permeates and perverts the discourse on the Hill?

Friday, July 8, 2011

May 29, 1995


He will be the 28th in the history of this sport to reach 3000 hits. It is reported that well over 16,000 have played major league baseball since Abner Doubleday invented the error and the double play. In a game dominated by numbers, in which every possibility is catalogued and chronicled, where meanings are sometimes hard to define, this one is different.

It began on May 29, 1995. Bill Clinton was struggling in his first term in office. George W. Bush was just giving up his ownership of the Texas Rangers and taking an unlikely turn as Governor of Texas. Pete Rose was less than a decade removed from the last of his 4,256 hits. Don Mattingly's Yankee career was nearing its end, truncated by a back that kept his excellence from reaching extraordinary.

Since then, we have been through economic downturns and revivals. We have seen the twin symbols of our greatness destroyed in an instant. We have lived through 2 wars on foreign soil. We have experienced turmoil and trauma, turbulence and uncertainty as we raised questions as to our actions and our place in this world.

Our own lives have been altered in so many ways. My children were in elementary and middle school when he first appeared on the scene. Today, my youngest has finished college, graduate school and is now gainfully employed. I have watched in pain as the effects of age have done their best to ravage my mom.

I have been as guilty as any fan of living pitch to pitch and bat to at bat. A hero, and then in the next instant, a bum. Great and then finished. But through the disappointments and the distractions, through the boredom and the repetitiveness, through the slumps and the aches and pains, through it all, he has persevered.

And so, 3000 awaits. It is a tribute to sustained excellence, good luck and an intense desire to succeed. While so many have risen and fallen, come and gone, while life has been changed in so many ways, he has remained a constant. And for a ballplayer, that is the greatest of achievements.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Republican Administration

They have bastardized the intended purpose of the filibuster.They have threatened to withhold support for critically needed stimulus monies. They now brandish with glee the largest weapon in their arsenal, continuing opposition to raising the debt ceiling. Time and again, the Republicans have brought the Democrats to their knees as the party of "yes" settles for crumbs while abandoning seemingly core principles.

As the President struggles to find some face saving elements in an agreement that looms as the largest economic miscalculation since Herbert Hoover, I look back in astonishment. At the end of 2008, I awaited a new world, but the one before me now does not even remotely resemble my vision then. What I have witnessed in the past 30 months is nothing short of a political calamity, as the Democrats have been outmaneuvered on virtually every front. Always on the defensive, their policies have been abused to the point of near extinction.

Where history and common sense have always dictated the approval of raising the debt ceiling, this is a time of a different set of rules. When our social safety net collapses under the weight of the Republican demands, and the government is made powerless to try to pull us out of our prolonged and profound recession, I will be left to contemplate how this came to be a Republican administration.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Strike Three?

He appears to be the personification of unbridled ego. A man who believed that the power of his personality was such to bend lies into truth, as easily as he could make a ball curve. Ostracized and minimized, he is now on the outside of a game he once controlled with the force of his will.

As the trial of one of the game's great unfolds, this will not be about Roger Clemens lying to Congress, but about him lying to us. He will stand charged as a symbol of an era in which the sport was damaged and we were forced to question the reality of what we witnessed.

We are tired of steroids, of HGH, of having to revisit our doubts and relive the deceptions. Let Mr.Clemens have his day in court, and then let us, finally and mercifully move on.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Awakening

Even David Brooks now suggests the Republicans have taken their no-compromise posture a bridge too far ("The Mother of All No-Brainers"). Welcome to reality.

But no, this is not a party incapable of understanding the ramifications of their actions. They do not need to be told that they are decimating the poor, the middle class, the old, the sick, the weak with their survival of the wealthiest concept of governing. They do not need to be told that there is no trickle-down from their policies but merely lining of the pockets of those with whom they curry favor. They do not need to be told that as of August 2 their debt limit posturing may throw the world into economic chaos.

These are not stupid people. These are extremists and extortionists. They are not unlike other radical movements around the globe, ready and willing to turn their fanaticism into our problem. Even Mr. Brooks, in fundamental disagreement with the Democrats, sees the folly of aligning with what more and more has the feel of a terrorist organization.

"The Mother of All No Brainers" should be an indictment for those who continue to blindly pledge allegiance to this cause. As we stand on the precipice of economic suicide in the form of massive spending cuts in the midst of a still very deep recession, I applaud Mr. Brooks for the use of his brain but fear his awakening has come way too late.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Tangled Web

("When a Predator Collides with a Fabricator")

It makes for uncomfortable considerations. Where do my sympathies lie in a matter such as this? And is sympathy even a word that should have application here?

As DSK emerged, smiling and obviously confident that the case against him had just collapsed, I wondered whether this man was but a victim in a charade perpetrated upon him and the prosecutor by a con artist and manipulator. But there was that evidence of force, there was no denial of the sexual encounter and there were those nasty allegations of past sexual attacks. So, it is hard for Mr. Strauss-Kahn to garner my allegiance.

And the hotel maid, who now appears to be nothing like we imagined, can she be wrong in so many areas of her life, but still right about what took place in Suite 2806? A recent television documentary followed an alleged rape case involving a prostitute. The head of the special victims unit of the prosecutor's office praised the courage of the complainant in pursuing the case and strongly stated that this woman, no matter her calling, deserved to be treated with basic human dignity. As much as the tale of the woman who emerged from that hotel room 7 weeks ago now seems to be undeniably and irreparably compromised, there is a lingering concern that, much like the situation involving the prostitute, the truth is being discarded in the midst of all the collateral noise. While she does not win my affection, neither can I say with certainty that she deserves my disdain and contempt.

And what of Mr. Vance, the prosecutor, who pulled DSK off that plane and perp walked him into court? Can his decision to believe what seemed most credible be seen as foolish and improvident? What else was he to do as his perpetrator was heading off to wage a battle, not for his personal freedom, but for the possible presidency of France? And when I read on today's editorial page ("The D.A. Stole His Life, Justices Took His Money") of the abuse of the system by other prosecutor's offices, in which failing to reveal and even destroying exculpatory evidence is just the way business is done, can I not find that Mr. Vance, more than any other in this tangled triangle, is the one truly deserving of my sympathy and praise? Did he not show courage and proper judgment in his recent admissions and actions?

My internal debate rages on, as matters like this do not fit easily into the various compartments of my brain. It appears that soon DSK will be free of the charges, and free to pursue the life that awaited him as he boarded that plane. I know, given what has now come to light, that is the right and proper course of action. But in this complicated matter, right and proper leaves me with a feeling of wrong that I can't shake.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Sweet Taste of Victory

The day had started out badly and was ending even worse. As I dejectedly chased after another skulled trap shot, I was embarrassed. The groom-to-be and the other golfers in our pre-wedding tournament stood around the 18th green. My futility was exposed for all in this small world to see clearly. Another 7 was added to my score. "86" I whispered when my host, the groom's father, asked for the total damage.

"We have a tie for first place". Luckily, I had managed to find a group of golfers whose level of incompetence was greater than mine. Out of 15 who hacked and chopped their hour upon the stage, only one other had scored equally as well, or more accurately, equally less badly.

"We will have a putt off to decide the champion". It had been announced at the beginning of this first, and hopefully last championship in honor of the pending nuptials of my friend's son, that a trophy would be awarded to the winner. Before the round, I had taken a glance at the statue of a gold-brown golfer in mid-swing and wondered aloud if it was at least edible.

This was one of those days where even the broad side of the barn was too small a target for me to hit with a putt. Speed and accuracy both proved elusive goals. We were about to enter a gunfight in which I had no bullets. My opponent was 30 years my junior and did not possess the natural twitch while putting that seems an integral part of the game for most my age.

From about 15 feet, the great sudden-death shootout of 2011 began. Age, going before beauty, I stepped up and proceeded, to my great surprise, to hit a putt that was at least in the right general direction. But the winner was not chosen on that basis, and as the ball came to rest, the hole remained unscathed. My young opponent fared no better, and it was decreed that 15 feet would now become 8 or 9. Everyone had to get to the pre-wedding dinner party, and this already had the feel of a fun idea turned stupidly wrong.

The order was switched for the second attempt, and I soon discovered that there were 2 of us who could putt badly. Thus, given a second shot at glory, I stepped up and ....

"Let me take a picture". As I held the trophy aloft, my host took a picture of an old man, with the wide grin, his hat on backwards, looking as if he had just captured one of the four majors. For one day, in this small and very ugly universe, there had been no one better. As I lay my clubs down in the trunk of the car and gently placed my proof of excellence next to them, the crowd disbursed, their thoughts already having moved beyond the course.

So tomorrow, when I am once more hacking and chopping, shaking my head and wondering why am I doing this to myself again, I will have the memory of the great and stirring victory dancing in my head. Winning, especially clutching my symbol of excellence tasted sweet, even though I discovered to my disappointment, my new friend with the golden- brown facade was not made of chocolate.