Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Two of my favorite activities, which I have espoused on in previous stories, are golf and poker. Each taps into a certain part of my personality and psyche that gives me pleasure. Golf is just a cool game - an all-consuming world-within-a-world activity that pushes your mental fortitude to its limits. Poker is a great interplay of luck and skill with a healthy dose of human psychology thrown in for good measure.

Ah, who am I kidding. What I really like is the jargon of each.

I love jargon. It is that ‘secret society’ language that makes you totally hip to those that know, and delightfully mysterious to those that don’t. Those that know give you that look in the eye & nod of the head that says “Dude I’m with ya.” Those that think you’re speaking gibberish tend to conclude “Either he knows something I don’t or he’s off his medications.” I am actually okay with either assumption.

I’ll give you a couple of examples. I have played golf for over 40 years now. So I have more or less grown up with golf lingo. I learned at an early age that I didn’t hit the ground behind my teed-up ball, I drop-kicked a heeler. I didn’t pull-hook the ball into the trees, I double-crossed on a fade. And for crying out loud, I did NOT slice the ball. I over-cut it.

In fact, that was the excuse Phil Mickelson used when he failed (jargon: he choked, spit the bit) to win the 2006 U.S. Open by making a 6 (Double-bogey, or just ‘Double”) on the final hole. On the tee, instead of playing safe he tried to hit driver (Let The Big Dog Eat) by curving it around the corner (fade). Instead he hit it waaaaay to the left, a major slice (Banana Ball), winding up in the trees (jail, no man’s land, dead). He then hit his next shot in the bunker (cat box, beach), before hitting onto the green (dance floor) and three-putting (three-jack, playing hockey). When asked about the slice he hit off the tee, he quickly interrupted the questioner - “I did not slice it. I over-cut it.”

Atta boy, Phil.

With poker, I am more of a newcomer, having only played seriously for about three years now. As such, it has been much more of an educational process in the ways of Poker Jargon. For example, when I would have, say, a five & six card in the hole, and the flop would come up 8-9-Q, I would think, ‘Okay, I have a chance at a straight here’ - WRONG. What I found out is what I had was a Gutshot four-outter requiring a major suckout in order to hit. Once there was a hand with three of us still in it, one was all-in, and I made a bet after that player was all-in. The third player in the hand was apoplectic - "What the f*** are you doing betting into a dry pot when you don't have the nuts?" I had no idea what she meant...but it sounded kinda hot.

What is it with jargon? I mean, the English language has provided us millions of words at our disposal, so you would think there would be more than adequate ones to simply state what we are thinking. But noooo. Where’s the fun in that? Instead we have to come up with new, more colorful terms that gives us the air of in-the know.

Which reminds me. The other day when I was playing golf, I had a 40-foot putt that stopped an inch short of the hole, going dead into the middle. That’s called a South America putt. Why?

Because all it needed was one more revolution.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Bucket Item

We all know of the recent movie ‘Bucket List’ starring Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson. Simple concept – two aging, terminally ill friends decide to do all the things on a list before they die. The movie has spurred countless people to construct such a list, and to gleefully pursue accomplishing each item before, well, kicking the bucket.

I do not have a bucket list.

This is due to a number of factors. One, I have absolutely zero interest in jumping out of a plane, swimming with sharks or climbing some imposing mountain peak. Don’t care to. Sue me. Secondly, I just feel that constructing such a list casts a pall over the life a person may be presently living, as if to say, “My life is so numbingly mundane that I need to construct a list of shit I will never do just to escape it.” Maybe a little harsh, but my point is that I feel that much of what I am doing today qualifies as bucket list items. That’s not to say that I live some kind of Steve Irwin thrillfest – it’s more a personal affirmation that I feel I am living my life as I desire, with no regrets.

But I do have one thing I will do before I leave this realm of existence; a ‘Bucket Item’ if you will. And further, I have given myself a timeframe in which to accomplish this: By July 2012, I will stand on the first tee of the Old Course at St. Andrews in Scotland, driver in hand, and play the oldest golf course in the world. I will hit a ball over the Swilcan Burn, try to avoid Hell bunker, and attempt to land my shot on the proper side of the road on the Road Hole.

If that sounds like a tame Bucket Item, it isn’t for me. If there is one thing that defines me, if there was one word that would be used to describe who and what I am, it is golfer. I have played golf for over four-fifths of my life, and that ratio will do nothing but increase, as it is a game of a lifetime and I plan to play for the rest of my life. Further, it is not a stretch to state I am a student of the game. It has, at times, consumed me. I used to play competitively. I once had a 2-handicap. I can tell you the last 60 US Open champions & the course they won their tournament…without using the internet. Hale Irwin with the 1974 Open at Winged Foot with a 7-over par score. Julius Boros won in ’63. I didn’t look those up. I just know that. I have spent hours trying to perfect a cut-punch. A push-draw. I’ve fought pull hooks, worm-burners & pitching woods. I’ve made three holes in ones.

So what could be more perfect than to go play the only golf course in the world designed by God? To the serious golfer, the game is almost a religion. And St. Andrews is the only Place Of Worship made by the Creator Himself. Seriously. The course wasn't 'designed' by anyone. It just occurred some thousands of years ago when glaciers receded, and then about 600 years ago some Scot got the bright idea that knocking a feather-stuffed piece of leather with a wooden stick around a pasture into pre-placed holes in the ground constituted recreation. I'm sure alcohol was involved.

Bobby Jones won a British Open at St. Andrews. So did Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods. Jones once, as a young man, tore up his scorecard and stormed off the course in a fit of frustrated rage. The place just reeks of this great game, and I cannot wait to feel the ghosts and ambiance to envelop me as I make my way around the Beardies & Principal's Nose. Those are names for bunkers. They name their bunkers there. If we did that here I doubt most would have names that could be shared in mixed company.

So St. Andrews, here I come. And I will check that off my singular list of stuff to do before I die and will go back to living the dream.