Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Year That Was

So 2011 is coming to a close, and the Year of the Mayan Prediction of The End of The World sits waiting.  As is typical for this time of year, we tend to look back and review the year that was on a global level.
But this is my blog, so I am going to get personal.
2011 was an interesting year. I fell in love. I got my golf game back. I got my life back. I learned more deeply what makes me tick. I lost a childhood friend. I gained some new friends. I embarked on a new activity that I had never done before. I went to Memphis. I rekindled a childhood friendship. I went through a roller-coaster of issues at work.
In all, a typical year.
Love Comes Calling - In the Spring I fell in love with a lady that actually fell for me first. Imagine that. Ours was a brief, but torrid, emotion-filled experience that left both of us sated and exhausted. What started as what we viewed as divine fate bringing us together ended three months later with stark realizations of basic differences that, unfortunately, could not be reconciled.
Love Comes Calling Part Deux - In the Summer I met a much younger woman, 25 years younger than me in fact, that, again, seemed interested in me. Hey, as much as I like to think that I could actually be attractive to a woman in her 20’s, rationale says, uh no, dude. Until she reminded me that mutual attraction knows no age limits. We had a wonderful four months together that ended when, again, stark realizations set in. Here was a women blossoming and unfolding, wanting a family, and dating a guy that only has one more year of child support to pay.  I could father her children, but only if was willing to delay my retirement for about ten years. I wasn't.
My Real Love Returns - Before there were any significant others in my life, I fell in love. I was six years old. And the object of my affections was a game. Golf. When 2011 started my golf game was in shambles, as I had played maybe a half dozen times in the previous two years.  You have to know this about me - I am a golfer. It is in my DNA. And when I do not play for extended periods of time I get depressed. Conversely, when I play often I am happy. So, to connect the dots, at the beginning of 2011 I was depressed due to lack of golf. And my goal in 2011 was to be happy, ergo, play more golf.
Hey, I’m a man. We’re simple creatures.
My blog has at least five stories from this past year related to rekindling this passion. I played with former Pittsburgh Steelers. I re-connected with my dear friend from childhood, My Man Mike, and we played weekly. I practiced 2-3 times a week. And by the end of this year I got my handicap back down to a 7. Not as good as I used to be, but still not too shabby.
And I was happy again.
I'm Pretty Effed Up - About halfway though the year I re-connected with 12-step recovery meetings, and through this I discovered some ugly truths about myself. Things that most everyone else knew about me, but I was blind to. Things like arrogance, self-centeredness, selfishness and fear. But I also learned to give myself a break - the only perfect man was hung on a cross, and I'm not into having nails driven into my hands and feet. So I now know the things about me that drive people away, and it is now on me to do something about them. Like they say, the truth will set you free...but first it's gonna really piss you off.
Namaste - I took up yoga. This is a wonderful activity that blends exercise, stretching, breathing and inner peace. I met new friends, and I love my instructor. Literally. I love her. I don’t know if she knows this, and Lee, if you’re reading this story, surprise! I love you.
Goodbye John - An old friend from my childhood died, Johnny Allen. Age 52, of cancer. John was an odd kid, as was I, which made us pretty close - the two geeks on the block. John’s death was a real wake-up call that we could be taken at any moment, for any reason. Rest well, John.
Work Is A Four-Letter Word - My job is very demanding. Unfortunately, often that demanding-ness gets piled atop with unreasonable, unrealistic and sometimes moronic tasks, simply because someone had what they considered a spark of creativity. When the truth is, they were proposing things that didn't have a snowball's chance in hell of succeeding. This happened often this year, and it really reinforced the old adage, God grant me the serenity…you know the rest. I cannot control these people. I only have two choices - accept them, or find another place to work. One or the other will occur in 2012.
So as this year fades to a close and 2012 stands waiting in the wings, I take the lessons of 2011 along with me, which are three simple words - live, love laugh. Especially laugh.
Because I used to be disgusted. Now I try to be amused.
Happy New Year everyone.

Sunday, December 25, 2011


So it’s Christmas Day in Orlando. With no family in the area and no significant other to spend time with, I was faced with a dilemma – what do I do with myself all day?

This is what golf was made for.

I just got back from walking 11 holes at Winter Park Country Club, a delightful little track that is very walker-friendly. The course was technically closed and none of the pins were in, but that didn’t stop me – or the other two dozen or so players I saw out there.

Free golf! Merry Christmas to me.

Anyway. I hadn’t touched a club in about a month and hadn’t played in almost two months. This usually means a sloppy round where I swing too hard, and am too stiff to really play well. It would usually take 5 or 6 holes just to loosen up, let alone commanding my body to execute the shot my mind has envisioned.

Ah, but there has been something I’ve been doing for the past couple of months that I was curious in seeing if it would help my game. Yoga.

I have done about eight sessions of yoga, every Monday night, and I love it. Aside from the obvious benefits of stretching and gentle exercise, it has taught me some things I did not expect. Things like breathing. Don’t laugh. Many of us do not control our breathing very well, or underestimate the power contained in that seemingly automatic physical function. Slowing your breath down, feeling it, listening to it, can greatly affect your mental state.

Yoga also teaches you how to slow down, how to move gracefully, balance, discipline, and self-love. Get your mind out of the gutter. I mean self appreciation for finding time to take care of yourself.

So today was the first time I played golf as a practicing yogi and was anxious to see if there was an effect.

There was. Quite a profound one.

To begin with, that anticipated stiffness and swinging too hard? Didn’t happen. I felt quite loose actually and I didn’t seem to have that ‘kill the ball’ mentality that accompanies the first round in a month. On the first tee I hit a nice solid 3-wood down the left side about 225 yards – a shot I would have taken in the middle of the summer let alone for the first swing in a month.

I walked, which offered a great time to work on breathing. In and out through the nose, deep, full breaths. Leisurely steps. Just be. Enjoying the moment.

My golf swings felt very flowing. Sure, I hit a couple of meh shots, but they weren’t from trying to kill the ball, but instead they were just from, well being human. That’s another thing yoga has taught me – there is no right or wrong. Just do what you can and accept. No judging. I really needed this kind of attitude instilled, since I get way too critical of myself. Not in yoga – each week I stare in amazement of my beautiful instructor, Lee, as she is able to execute positions I can only dream about accomplishing, but never once have I felt pressure to emulate. Be happy with being me, and love myself for making time for me.

By the middle of the round I noticed something else. I had gained distance. On the last hole, a 260-yard slight dogleg left, I hit a perfect cut-driver that settled five yards short of the green – that’s a 255-yard CUT driver. That was Jerry from 30 years ago right there.

This is going to be a wonderful marriage of two activities. Golf and yoga. For golfers like me that are starting to age, and you are finding that the body just doesn’t respond like it did when you were 25, try yoga. I think you will be very satisfied with what it does for your game, your attitude, and your frame of mind.

Merry Christmas. Namaste.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

End Of An Error

So the news today on my Yahoo ticker said that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has ‘officially’ ended the Iraq War - the longest war in American history, nine-plus years.
Thank God.
This was a war that should have never been started. And before I am taken to task for Thursday-morning Quarterbacking or for the expected ‘there goes that liberal again’, let me just state that I was never in favor of this war. I recall the run-up to it in late 2002 and early 2003, when then-President Bush was ginning up the threat by Saddam Hussein and then-Secretary of Defense Colin Powell addressing the United Nations, thinking, ‘My God they better be right.’
They weren’t. Not even in the same country (literally) as being right.
This was a war launched with dubious claims about a far-away dictator that presumably was set on attacking us. The decision was made in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, and instead of focusing our response on those responsible for those attacks, a ‘threat’ was drummed up that was really a personal vendetta. Saddam tried to kill Bush’s daddy, so he must pay. So, instead of going after al Qaeda in Afghanistan, we went after the guy Bush wanted for his own visceral pleasure. Saddam had to pay, so give me a reason to make him.
Now, disagree with that if you must, and I know many must. Usually those neoconservatives that, to this day, insist it was a justified war. The problem with that mindset is, then, what exactly were we trying to accomplish there? Because that became a moving target - first it was about WMD. When none were found it was about ousting Saddam. Well, that could have been done with one very strategically placed bullet, not an invasion. Then it became about transferring Iraq into a bastion of Democracy amid a sea of Islamic fundamentalists. Then it was about staving off the easily-predicted civil war that we instigated. Then it was about not letting Iran take control of a country that we hoovered the leaders out of. Remember Dick Cheney saying we would be greeted as liberators? How did that work out?
You can tell when someone is losing an argument when they constantly change the rationale for starting it in the first place.
Here's what was accomplished - Over 4,400 Americans killed - more than died on 9/11. Over 100,000 Iraqis dead.
And for what? Panetta said nice words today, letting the troops know that their efforts were not in vain. Well of course he would say that. The troops were and are heroes - maybe even an elevated status of hero, for they did not question, only sacrificed. So my eternal gratitude goes to those that served, and they really had no choice - they gave oaths the defend and not question decisions made by those far above them. Their sacrifice is honorable and just.
It is those that put us into that quagmire that should be scorned.
Dick Cheney. Don Rumsfeld. George Tenet. John Ashcroft. And George W. Bush. The blood is on your hands.
Look where we are today. Awash in debt since the war was unfunded (and taxes were cut). No safer than before, because, again, no WMDs were found. Weakened. Military forces strained, battle weary and fatigued. Over 30,000 troops with missing limbs or other injuries and countless more emotionally crippled -  that we now must take care of for the rest of their lives.
Yet despite all that, there are some who stubbornly and reality-vacated cling to the notion that leaving Iraq now is wrong. John McCain stated yesterday that we could face “failure” in Iraq if we pull out now. Well, Senator, with all due respect to your personal sacrifices, exactly what did we “win”? What gains are in jeopardy? Iran may swoop in? Well gosh, why wasn’t that considered before we even pulled the damn trigger in the first place? And lastly, just how much longer should we stay there? A decade? A century?
I am going to reserve expanding on my thoughts here as to what should be done with those that supported this mess and still do to this day. Yes, I understand that Congress authorized war actions - at the insistence of the adminstration's claims and through incendiary 'You're with us or you're with the terrorists' rhetoric - but for those that still, to this day, think it was the right thing to do, honestly, have and should lose all authority to make any such decisions in the future.

This was a war that had no other reason than to make certain people in power feel better. Bush declared himself a 'Wartime President', as if that justified whatever other bumblings he accomplished through his tragic presidency. He will go down as the only president to start an elective war, a war that did not need to occur. We were not threatened, there was nothing in our national interest at stake, other than his misplaced and swollen pride. Worst president ever? How could he not be?
In summary, the only thing that can be said, and the only real positive statement that can be made about this vulgar and immoral mess was made by President Obama yesterday -
Welcome home.
You never should have left in the first place.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Of A Certain Age

(For John. You were a good man. Rest in peace my friend.)

“It’s a shame we have to die my dear, but no one’s getting out of here alive.”
- Dave Grohl, Foo Fighters

I got some sad news today as an old friend from my childhood days died. Johnny Allen, age 52, passed away from cancer. John grew up across the street from me, and we were pretty close as kids – climbing trees, building snow forts, that kind of stuff. Little Johnny Allen. Dead. Reality check for sure.

I know I am getting older. Hell, every person on this side of the ground is. But I am now getting to the point in my life where I go, wow, I’m 53. I really should be acting my age.

Someone tell me what that is, please.

I have heard older people say ‘You’re only as young as you feel’ or ‘Age is just a number.’ True. And I don’t feel – or  act – 53. Heck, some may say I am still like the 10-year old kid climbing trees with Johnny Allen and that in certain areas I need to mature. I get that, but I tend to reject those pieces of advice. Stubborn streak I guess. I want to remain childlike but not be childish. And I know I have a long way to go in both those areas. I still have the ‘wow’ amazement of a child, which I want to keep, but I also have traits that make people shake their heads and say grow the F up. Good with the bad I guess. But I have to wake up to me every day so I will try to keep to my internal gut barometer on what is or isn’t acceptable. Like I like to say – the only perfect man was hung on a cross with nails through his hands and feet.

I’ve had some recent experiences that has reinforced the fact that most of my life is now behind me. Example – I just friended someone on Facebook, a guy I see every week at the place here in Orlando where us Browns fans congregate. He’s just Shaun to me, a fellow bud. Then I noticed he was born in 1976 – the same year I graduated high school. Here’s a guy that I just think of as a fellow suffering Browns fan, and he is, but he could be my son. Wow.

Many times you see these email threads where people reminisce of what it was like when they were younger, to illustrate how much things have changed. Well, here’s my list –

I remember straight-on Kickers in the NFL.
I remember when there was an AFL.
I remember watching Nixon resign on national TV.
Our TV growing up had three stations – CBS, NBC & ABC.  Period.
We listened to music on albums or on 8-track tapes.
I owned 8-track tapes.

It’s hard to believe that those experiences peg me as ‘getting old’. Oh well. On the plus side of the ledger, I am still alive, and do not look my age. And a couple months back I actually had a 27-year-old girlfriend. She was born in 1983 – when I was two years removed from college & trying to pick up, well, 27-year olds. So I got that going for me.

But boy, some days I do feel my age. My annual checkups now consist of the obligatory prostate check & colonoscopies. So I guess, for a man at least, that aging means having a doctor stick things in your ass.

Good luck finding something there. Besides my head. 

But as Johnny showed, we can be snuffed out at any time. To that end, they say to live your life to the fullest. Well sure. But also, just live your life. Because, just like me, you have to wake up with yourself every day.

I hope you like what you see.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


It is Thanksgiving morning, and as such the tradition – besides the ingestion of unhealthy amounts of calories – is to reflect and give thanks; to count our blessings.

Okay, I’ll play.

To start, I am just not the type to wax on about how good (or bad) things are. I have adopted a somewhat fatalistic view of things; that everything is going to unfold as it is supposed to, and blessings or lack thereof in my life are happenstance flows in the river of life. However, that does not – nor should not – stop me for taking a pause to reflect.

I am thankful for my son. I love Nick. He is turning into a fine young man, and I realize just how fortunate his mom and I are for that. His mom told me last night of a close friend of Nick’s who got a hold of a loaded gun that his mom had in their house, horsed around with it, and shot his friend in the head with it. That friend has a less than one percent chance to live, and the boy may be charged with homicide/murder. Two teenager’s lives irrevocably changed through one tragic event. It could have been Nick. I am eternally thankful it wasn’t.

I am thankful for my mom. I just called her. She is 84 now, and is suffering from dementia. Her life has been one well lived, and it is a blessing to be able to call and talk to her; to hear that calm, yet frail, reassuring voice that everything will be okay…even when it isn’t.

I am thankful for my job. It has been a trying year, as the default stress of my responsibilities has been added to in the form of unrealistic directives and personality clashes. Last month I was docked a day off without pay over trumped-up charges which were designed to wake me up. Well it did. I now slap a smile on my face, check the attitude at the door, and strive every day to give the company a return on their investment in me. And I just checked my checking account and my paycheck was deposited a day early. So despite the recent trying times, I am grateful to be gainfully employed.

I am thankful to my yoga instructor. She is a wonderful new friend that inspires and encourages me. I wish I had a hundred people like her in my life.

I am thankful for my health. Everything on the body still works.

I am thankful for my new group of friends gained though attending 12-step recovery meetings. We watch out for each other. Consider this a gratitude list.

I am thankful for the few close friends I have. Like my best friend Dawn. My day's not complete until we check in with each other. And My Man Mike - golf buddy and dear friend. Hit 'em straight Mike.

I am thankful to my siblings & nephews. We can at times be a dysfunctional bunch but there is always an undercurrent of love. Barb, Ken, Patty, Tony, Brian & Terry – I love you.

I am thankful that Jimmy Donovan is still calling the Browns games despite recovering from bone marrow surgery - 

I am thankful to live in an area that allows me to pursue my favorite pastime – golf – year-round. In fact, I think I will go hit the driving range as soon as I finish this story and hit a bucket of balls before I gorge myself. I will then return to my apartment and turn on my HD television, lay on my sofa and watch football. Thank you Vizio, thank you NFL, thank you futon.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Sunday, November 20, 2011


A while back I signed up for this Groupon thing, which I highly recommend ( Each day some kind of deal comes to my inbox for food deals, entertainment, whatever. I especially like the golf deals.

Anyway, a couple of weeks back I got a Groupon deal for yoga classes. Now, six months ago that would have been an instant banishment to the trash folder. But this time it was different. I clicked on the deal and saw it was ten yoga sessions for $29. I was intrigued. I pondered it then thought what the hell. Let’s give it a try. It had been years since I tried anything new, and part of my latest life journey is to meditate more, slow down, and just be happy in being me.

I clicked, submitted my card number and presto – new yoga student.

Last Monday was my first session – ‘Gentle Beginner Yoga’ it was titled. The instructor, Lee, was fantastic. So upbeat, so positive. My classmates were equally ebullient. They had, as I was to find out, strong auras. The whole place has a serene feel to it – soft, warm colors, soothing music, calm, inviting.

So I grabbed my mat, shucked my shoes, and waited for the session to start. Lee comes in and in her always-positive way, got us loosened up. Here was the first indicator that this was going to be tougher than I thought – I was as tight as a banjo string. Then she started to guide us through the various classic yoga poses – downward dog, table top, cobra, cat. She emphasized the breathing – in and out through the nose. Feel your center. Open your heart. Hands to the sky.

Next came positions for balance. Stand on one leg. Simple, right? Uh, no. I was a quaking, quivering bag of unbalanced nerves and institutionalized stress and tightness. Lee was flowing through the motions with swan-like grace. I looked like an old woman trying to beat a mugger off with a purse.

Thirty minutes into this ‘Gentle Beginner’ session and I was sweating like a whore in church. If this was ‘Gentle Beginner’ I shuddered to think what ‘Rigorous Advanced’ would consist of. I was hyperventilating and shaking.

A couple of the moves I simply could not do. My body was just not ready for that type of movement. I looked at Lee and mouthed an ‘I’m sorry’ and she just smiled, then said to the class in her calming way, ‘Yoga is about you. You decide what you can do and what you can’t. You are not judged here.’

That made me smile. And relaxed.

The session ended with 15 minutes of lying on the mat while soft, chakra-tinged music played and the lights off. I smelled incense. It was lovely. About ten minutes in and I felt someone massaging my lower legs. It was Lee. It felt wonderful.

We then got up and did a final shake-off of our muscles. Lee then said that, whenever yoga masters end their sessions they put their hands together and, as an acknowledgement of the inner spirit in me honoring the inner spirit in you, we turn, bow and say, ‘Namaste’.

When it was over, Lee could not wait to ask what I thought. I said it was very positive and that I would be back. She said wonderful, and to not give up. I went back last Thursday for my second session. This one was titled ‘Hot Vinyasa Yoga’ – which was similar to Monday’s session, but with space heaters. I lasted a half hour. I could not finish the session, but I am taking Lee’s advice. I’m not quitting. I just registered for Monday night’s class. I am motivated and inspired.

My flagging but growing spirit in me is in awe of the strength of yours, Lee.


Left Out

"I'm a lefty," Barack Obama joked  as he signed official papers as U.S. President.
"Get used to it."

Our country has a long, ugly history of discrimination aimed at certain groups – blacks, immigrants, gays. Religious persecution. Haves versus have-nots. It seems like we thrive on conflict; we have to have some group to demonize to feel superior. Well, this rant is not quite to that level, but there is a group of individuals that have quietly suffered in a world not designed for them…a world that specifically tries to make their experience trying.

I am speaking about left-handers.

I am a lefty. I am not ambidextrous. There is nothing I do right-handed, save one activity which I will not mention here due to decorum. Anything done with my right hand feels awkward, unnatural. Trust me – I have tried. When I was ten years old I tried to play golf with my dad’s right-handed clubs and ended up flipping the club upside-down with the toe on the ground so I could swing lefty. That worked. Years ago my then-wife (and fellow lefty) bought me a guitar. And since I had never even tried to play a guitar before, I figured I would learn right-handed. It just never worked. The rhythm hand for a righty is the right hand and I had no rhythm in that hand – my rhythm hand was busy pressing down strings to make chords. My brain rebelled. The guitar went into the closet. I should have just done what Jimi did - flip it over and play it left-handed.

There is a school of thought that says lefties are creative due to using their right brains. Half correct. We are very creative, but it has nothing to do with which side of the brain we tap into. It has everything to do with trying to deal with a world not created with us in mind. Case in point – a manual can-opener. You hold it with your left hand and turn the crank with the right hand – it is designed for righties. Watch a lefty try to use a manual can opener and you will understand what I am talking about. You start a car by turning a key with your right hand. And this is after you open the car door from the right side.

I am passive aggressive by nature so I’ve done a couple of things just to show righties what we have to deal with. For example, my home and office computers are set up lefty, meaning that the mouse has the buttons reversed and resides to the left of the monitor. I love to watch righties struggle with it as they hit a button and get that annoying ‘What’s this?’ popup on the screen….they think something’s wrong with my computer and they will look at me. I just say ‘Left-handed’ and smile.

When I bought my house nine years ago, which I designed from scratch, I designed the kitchen to be left-handed. I am sure the ninety percent of the population that are right-handed are doing a collective ‘WTF are you talking about’ at that statement, but trust me. I thought this through. Righties don't have to.

I have renters in that house now, and I have no idea if they’re right or left-handed, but there is a part of me that hopes they’re righties and are wondering at this moment, as mom is preparing Sunday breakfast, why she seems to have to make awkward moves to get around that kitchen. Because the owner meant it to be that way. When I go through a buffet line, and if righties preceded me, the vats of food show their marks – spoon on the right, the right side of the vat empty. I scoop my food up lefty and leave the spoon on the left, marking my presence.
A task as simple as writing is even a chore for lefties. Ever wonder why many lefties have that crook in their wrists when they write? It is because our hand is going over what we just wrote. If we are using a pen, that is why you see smudged writing. That is where the crook came from – we are trying to get our hand out of the way; doing whatever we can to adapt to your world. I choose not to conform. I hold my hand like anyone else would. Deal with my smudges. If it is some kind of official document, I put a napkin under my hand. 

I noticed there seems to be more lefties than there used to be. Thank goodness. I believe the statistic when I was young was that three percent of the world was lefty. Now it is up to about ten percent. And I believe that if there wasn’t religious persecution of us centuries ago (We were considered witches and burned at the stake. The Latin word for Left is Sinistra, or Sinister. The French word is Gauche, meaning clumsy or unrefined), and had teachers in the last century not forced lefties to write with their right hands and turned them into stutterers in the process, that percentage would be much higher. I would imagine it would be close to where it is supposed to me, which in theory would be half of the world.

And speaking of schools, look at a student desk. Righties get a nice extension to rest their right arm on. Lefties have to let their arm hang out with no support. Bastards.

So lefties of the world unite! Change your mouse buttons so you have to ‘left-click’ to open the menu. It is a small step but a good one to show these righties what we have to deal with. Don’t adapt - we've done that for long enough. 

Solidarity, my sinister brothers and sisters.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Lobster Boy

I remember when I was a teenager and the carnival came to town…I was maybe 18 at the time. Me and my girlfriend went and rode the rides, ate the carnival food and generally had a good time. Then our eyes caught a sign on the side of a tent - SEE THE AMAZING LOBSTER BOY - HALF MAN HALF LOBSTER! ONLY ONE DOLLAR!

Well, our curiosity got the best of us. I plunked down two bucks and we went inside the tent. And there sat a pitiable creature - a middle aged man who was born with a deformity. Instead of having a full set of fingers and toes, his hands and feet consisted of fused-together fingers and toes that, well, resembled a lobster. Thus the promotion. This poor man that life kicked in the teeth gave his canned speech about how he was born that way, that he is married and has three healthy kids. We were transfixed for about 30 seconds and then we had to get the hell out of there. He was, literally, a circus sideshow freak.

John Daly is the PGA Tour’s version of Lobster Boy.

Not that he was born with a deformity or had a raw deal tossed at him by life. But rather, because of what he has become on the tour. Big John burst on the golfing scene in 1991 when, as the ninth alternate, drove all night from Arkansas to Indiana to tee it up in the PGA Championship. Never having seen the course before, he relied on his caddy to give him yardages, bombed his prodigious drives past all the trouble, and ended up winning by three shots. A folk hero was born. Four years later he repeated the feat at the British Open, defeating Costantino Rocca in a playoff at, of all places, St. Andrews. Four years on the tour and he had already secured two major championships. He was a freak - far longer off the tee than anyone on the tour but also with a velvety putting stroke and solid short game. He added three other wins on tour to validate the major wins. He had talent.

But John was also a train wreck - four marriages, wrecked hotel rooms, alcoholism, domestic scuffles, suspensions from the tour, compulsive gambling, inexplicable blow-ups on the course, disqualifications, a reality show on the Golf Channel, weight issues, chain-smoking, lap-band surgery, hideous pants, hitting balls off of beer cans, hitting shots over horrified spectator's heads. Ironically, this just more endeared him to his legion of fans that saw him as the anti-establishment rebel that just grips it and rips it, finds it and rips it again. He brought the ‘Bubba Element’ to tour galleries - fans that couldn’t give a rip about whether he won…let alone compete. They just wanted to see him take out driver on every tee and bomb it. And he did. He would then shoot 77-81 and miss the cut by a mile…if he didn’t walk off the course first after purposely violating some rule or by pumping five balls into a lake.

Which is exactly what he did last week at the Australian Open. Five consecutive shots into a lake, trying to reach a par-5 in two. At last count he was hitting twelve when he decided that he could not finish, and walked off the course. He said it was because he ran out of golf balls. Well no shit if you're going Tin Cup on the twelfth hole when you know you have six more holes to play. It was a lame excuse that reflect lame behavior.

When the PGA Tour holds an event, the field of players is filled through a number of methods: Certain players are exempt, in other words, they are automatically invited, via their recent performances. This would include winners of recent tour events, the defending champion, the top 50 on the money list and so on. Then there are the ones that have to play their way in - these are called Monday Qualifiers - players that show up on Monday morning with maybe 4 slots to play for. The last group is what are called Sponsor’s Exemptions. This is a small group of freebie invitations doled out at the discretion of the sponsor of the event - they are usually used for local phenoms, maybe the head club pro at the host course. Anyone who can increase the paid attendance thus boosting the gate.

It is these Sponsor’s Exemptions that Daly lives off of. Daly last won a tour event in 2004. Once in a blue moon his name appears on the leader board, only to quickly vanish when the obligatory blowup occurs. He is not exempt from anything anymore, as he is ranked 666th in the world.

But sponsors love him. He increases the gate. He brings the Bubbas in.

In 2007 I served as a volunteer at the Ginn Sur Mer Classic in Port St. Lucie, Florida. A fringe PGA Tour event held in October, after the Tour Championship and thus after the ‘serious’ golf is done for the year. My job at that event was as a Marshal at the 16th tee - to keep the crowds quiet while a player was teeing off, and so on. The galleries were small; even the leaders couldn’t draw more than perhaps a hundred spectators. Then Daly’s group arrived. Five times the size of anyone else’s gallery. Fortified with, ahem, beverages, they whooped it up for their man…even though their man was on his way to missing the cut.

So why is this so bad? What’s wrong with letting a sponsor toss Daly an exemption so people can get excited about him being in the field?

Well, nothing, other than integrity and professionalism. Every other golfer on the planet has to earn their way into events. Every other player has to perform to maintain their exempt status. Thousands of players that were once good have seen their skills erode to the point that they can no longer compete on the PGA Tour, thus you no longer see them there. Not John. He gets a pass on his behavior and on the state of his game. He is doled out sponsors exemptions when other far more deserving players are Monday Qualifying.

His role has been marginalized down to suiting just one element - the morbidly curious. A two-time major winner, whose only redeeming value left to golf is to slake the thirst of those that cheer wrecks in NASCAR.

He is Lobster Boy.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Republic Party

This happens every time. Whenever I post a political story, I vow that it will be the last one, usually because I am able to vent my spleen and be done with it. And politics, like religion, are very polarizing subjects; subjects that people take hard stances on and these stances can erode friendships. And frankly, I value my friendships more than being right.
But dammit, there they go again.
The ‘they’ I am referring to is the Republican Party. And specifically, certain members of it that have ingrained such an abject rejection of anything not fitting their paradigm, that they do not even call the Democratic Party by its proper name - which is, the Democratic Party. Instead they have gone shorthand and now refer to it as the ‘Democrat Party.’
Really? This is how you have to get your point across, by purposely butchering the name of the opposing party?
His Rushness does this all the time - “The Democrat Party’ did this or that. And now there is a new offender - the Republican’s newest Flavor of the Month, Herman Cain. Saddled with accusations by four different women of sexual misconduct, Cain has, not surprisingly, rejected their accusations. Fair enough. He is trying to win a nomination, and the modus operandi in that environment is to deny deny deny. Make the accusers prove their case, innocent until proven guilty and all that. He is entitled to that. However, in the process of denying any wrongdoing, he, of course, has to throw in the following:
Cain said there was a "machine" trying to keep a businessman out of the White House, and said Sharon Bialek was a "troubled woman" put forward by "the Democrat machine."

The Democrat machine.

So in Cain’s reasoning, not only are the charges false, but they are part of an overall conspiracy by some concocted ‘machine’ and that further, said ‘machine’ is of the ‘Democrat’ variety. Never mind the fact that most believe the initial story was leaked from the Rick Perry camp, which can hardly be categorized as having anything to do with Democrats. But it is quite a machine if the results of his Texas gubernatorial elections are any indicator.

The point here is the total absence of professionalism replaced by opportunism - if something’s wrong with a candidate’s past, why, it’s the Democrats fault. Cain allegedly slid his hand up some woman’s dress and tried to force her head down to his junk - the Democrats did it! Please.

Want to know what the Democrats are doing while this all unfolds? They are patiently sitting back being entertained by the immolation of Republican candidates. Herman Cain is not even on the Democrat’s radar yet - he’s just the latest of a series of flawed candidates the Republicans have trotted out and tried to prop us as the Answer To Obama. In other words, there’s no need for the Democrats to fire up any kind of ‘machine’ against him - he hasn’t even made it out of the intramural scrum yet.

Write this down - Barack Obama will be re-elected. And the reason is the Republicans cannot get their collective act together. They are disenfranchised with Romney, they have been hijacked by the fringe elements of their (Tea) party, and as such they are trotting out each candidate on a circadian rhythm as the one who will take Obama down. This is just Cain’s month in the barrel. I predict next month it will be Huntsman’s turn. And these two already follow the implosion of Gingrich, Bachmann and Perry. Christie and Palin won’t run. So if the Republicans think “anyone” can beat Obama, then by God, get ‘Anyone’ out there and have at it. If they think Obama is such a disaster of a president, then why can’t they coalesce around one candidate and be done with it?

I will tell you why. Because they know they cannot defeat Obama. 2012 is a lost cause. The candidates know it, especially the smart ones like Christie who have chosen not to be part of the mosh pit. Romney has to run because it's his second and likely last attempt at it. 2012 is his last hurrah...which is exactly what it will be.

Yes, Obama is vulnerable, but his vulnerability will be pitted against disarray. And that disarray will be represented by either a candidate they really do not want (Romney), or whatever other candidate emerges from the scrum unscathed. Well, good luck with that. The Republicans have a habit of either eating their young or running candidates one election (or two) too late.

But I will tell you that there is a scintilla of truth to Cain’s claim of a ‘Democrat Machine’. There indeed is one, but it is presently on idle. It will be fired up once the Republicans finally settle on a candidate. There's no need to engage it now. But just to be clear, it is the same type of machine that Obama has been battling (birth certificate ring a bell?) since the day to took office.

And sorry, Pizza Man, but the Republican candidate ain’t going to be you. The Republicans cannot trot out an alleged sexual offender as a candidate, whether the allegations are true or not. The stink has already stuck. And further, it is hard for me to believe that four different women are out to get you. This isn’t one disgruntled former employee that may have a history of emotional problems - it is four different ones. One accuser you can discredit. Lotsa luck with four (and counting, I am sure).

Oh wait I forgot - it’s the Democrat Machine causing this, not Cain's inability to keep his Jimmy in his pants. My bad. 

But anyway. Back to why I started this rant. These people cannot even call the Democratic Party by its given name, but instead truncate it to try to make it irrelevant. It fits with their all sizzle no substance approach to campaigning…and governing. Why, the problem is not us - it’s that other party who we have decided to change the name of.

At the end of the day, I have an implicit trust of the American people to see thought this and reject the abject pandering of…

The Republic Party.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Riff That Saved Rock

I love rock and roll. It is the soundtrack of, well, my life basically. Long as I can remember there was some kind of rock, whether it was bubblegum as a pre-pubescent teen, Elton John singing Rocket Man at the roller rink, or Black Sabbath groaning from my brother’s room. When I hear Maggie May I think of hitting puberty. If it's Boston's More Than A Feeling, it's copping more than a feeling from Marci Bartlett in an Ohio cornfield.
For my generation, rock was rebellion. It was a drastic left-turn away from the sound of our parent’s generation, which consisted of Sinatra and Streisand. It was mandatorily cool to rock. The fact that it got under our parent’s collective skin made it all that much better - “Turn that crap down!” was my dad’s favorite phrase when I was between 16 and 19 years of age. I sported tee shirts of all the concerts I attended - Blue Oyster Cult, Golden Earring, Deep Purple to name but a very few. It was a new, exciting sound.
I also realized that it had been around for about twenty years, having essentially started when Elvis stole the black man’s Delta Blues, swung his hips and made teenage girls cream their collective undergarments. But by the mid-seventies, it was still a fresh sound because it had regenerated itself a few times over - the British Invasion snatched the mantle from Elvis, who by then was busy making bad movies. Then the psychedelic sound reconstituted the 60s pop sound into a mind-expanding experience. The Vietnam War brought us the protest sounds of Crosby, Stills Nash & Young. And when I was in high school, Bruce Springsteen and his street troubadour style of gassing up the Chevy and getting the hell out of this dump of a town resonated with us teenagers wanting to tell our parents to shove it. Rock had a way of reinventing itself when it was necessary. 
The 1980s came and with it some new sounds - the punk scene gave us The Clash and U2, two very relevant bands that kept things tight. Then there was the synth-tinged, dancy stuff of bands like Psychedelic Furs, The Smiths and Depeche Mode. Not my cuppa tea, but still, interesting new sounds. But these sounds, in my mind, were fringe efforts. The mainstream of rock and roll was, unfortunately, starting to fall under its own collective excess. Pseudo-metal junk bands like Warrant, Cinderella and Poison were taking over the airwaves. These bands brought nothing new - they were a rehash of what was already done filled with vacuous lyrics. Springsteen talked about busting out - Warrant talked about busting cherries. Hairspray and spandex took over. It was a wasteland of cheesy music videos. Something had to give, lest the soundtrack of our lives turned into Driving & Crying or Stryper. There wasn't a decent rock song from 1987 through the end of that decade, save Guns 'N Roses. By 1990, rock was dying, being choked of all relevance and integrity.
Then, in 1991, a group of surly slackers from Seattle gave us the following riff -

Four power chords. F–B–A–D. Simple. Revolutionary.

And rock was saved. 
Suddenly spandex was out, flannel was in. Big hair was replaced by unwashed hair. Mosh pits were created. It was no longer about production; it was about plugging in the Gibson and letting it fly. Don’t need no mixing boards, don’t need no producer. Just let it rip. Keep it underproduced. Keep it raw. Keep the hairspray.
The Grunge Sound was born. Mother Love Bone begat Nirvana which begat Soundgarden which begat Pearl Jam which begat Alice In Chains. The sound spread from the epicenter of Seattle and bands like The Red Hot Chili Peppers and Stone Temple Pilots built upon its new relevance. And it was a sound that was true to the roots of rock. It was in your face without making you wince at its silliness. It had the same punch as Elvis had in 1956 when he told people not to step on his Blue Suede Shoes.
Now, I understand that many may not like Grunge. That’s cool. It is a somewhat dense, depressing sound, not conducive to dancing or picking up chicks. But it saved rock. I shudder to think what would have happened had Kurt Cobain, despite all his eccentricities, had chosen not to say ‘Fuck this shit’ and didn’t try to keep rock from careening over the cliff under the weight of its own ever-increasing irrelevance. The lyrics of Smells Like Teen Spirit may have a certain amount of WTF-ness to them, but that didn’t matter. It was the sound that mattered.
A mulatto. An albino. A mosquito. My libido.

How time flies. That was twenty years ago. Thus I sense that rock may be ready for another seismic shift. The novelty of Cobain’s indulgent self-pity has long worn off and has been cloned so many times that it is now just a caricature of his original. I’m sorry, but Buckcherry just doesn’t do it for me. So the time may be ripe for another guy (or gal) to take the mantle and shake us out of our complacency. It’s time for rock to reinvent again.
Kurt said it back in 1991 - Here we are now. Entertain us.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

An Influence Silenced

“A writer’s job is to tell the truth”

I was sitting here on a Saturday morning doing the enjoyable slow wake-up that a weekend morning affords. No job to rush to, no clock telling me where I am supposed to be or when. Cuppa coffee, check emails, get updated on the internet news.
And there it was –

Andy Rooney passed away.

92 years old, and only a month after his last installment of life inside his brain at his usual place at the end of the weekly 60 Minutes program. At that goodbye segment, Andy said he wanted to work until he died. Well darned if he didn’t. A career that began as a World War II correspondent ended over 60 years later, and then only a month after that, gone.

Awesome. What a life.

When I started my little free-lance writing gig for my personal pleasure that has manifested itself in this blog and a published book, I tried to tap into my own ‘style’ of writing. While I had/have numerous thoughts rattling around my brain, I had to find a style that expressed such thoughts in an entertaining, cogent style. Like many undertaking such a task, I fell back on my influences, and I developed one that was an amalgam of them – Hunter S. Thompson’s edgy first-person method of expression, Terry Pluto’s conversational style that feels more like a chat than a read…and Andy Rooney’s method of saying what everyone thought.

That quote at the top of this story is Andy’s. And while many would argue – rightfully so – that Andy did not always tell the truth but instead told his opinion, understand - he told the truth as he believed it. And he did it in such a way that, even if you disagreed with it, you still had to either ponder it or laugh at it, but never ignore it. He had a folksy style of looking straight into the camera and talking to you, and then would deliver his opinion in a style that would sometimes make people gasp. But it commanded your attention. It made you think. And it forced people decide, is Andy’s truth my truth?

Reporters state facts. My ex-wife was a reporter and she once told me her job was to state the who, what, where, when of a story then end it. But a writer? Writers seek truth. And truth is a moving target that is viewed through whatever prism the writer or the reader sees through. Case in point – last month I wrote a story titled ‘Common Sense’ where I made four declarative statements. These statements were the truth…as I believe it to be. Statements like, if abortions were illegal there would still be abortions, or less guns would mean less gun deaths.

These are statements that can – and are – debated, but the point here is they reflect what I learned from Andy. State your truth, explain it, then let people decide where they fall and let them decide if it is their truth as well. This is why I sometimes hear from people that I am way off-base in my thinking. I’m not. I’m just stating my truth.

And so did Andy. Perhaps better than anyone in our time.

And he did it in such an entertaining way that – ponder this for a moment – he was given three minutes at the end of the highest-rated news show on television for over three decades. His was the last word after everyone else had theirs. There were the stories for the week, and then there was Andy, and then the ticking clock of the 60 Minutes sign-off. That stalwart show that has stood the test of time ended it every week with this disheveled curmudgeon character telling us ‘Didja ever wonder…?’

For a writer seeking the truth, it does not get any better than that.

Goodbye Andy. And thank you.

Monday, October 24, 2011


Parents love their children. No real news flash there. Many do because of the inseparable bond, others because they feel obligated to do so. Some are proud, some can't wait until they turn 18 so they can boot them out of the house.

I just love my son.

I was a reluctant father-to-be, as Nick, my only child, was not a ‘planned’ event; I got my girlfriend pregnant in 1993. There was a lot of fear on my part over becoming a father, as I imagined my life forever changing. Well, it did. For the better.

When Nick was born, the bond crystallized the moment I saw that schlock of brown hair as he was placed in my arms, at about two minutes old. Suddenly, all the things fathers told me permanently embedded. I was now a father, and I will protect this little entity with my life. It was an immediate, chemical reaction.

I missed the first few years of his life, as I relocated to Ohio. In early 2001 I returned to Florida, when Nick was 6 years old, and re-entered it. And that began my foray into real fatherhood. I learned to like Spongebob Squarepants, Ed Edd and Eddie, and getting slimed. I learned to be interested in whatever interested him, and adapted when those interests changed. In other words, Squidward was pretty cool when he was ten, not so much now. I used him to pick up girls at the mall because he was so damn adorable. I have a box of about 100 Happy Meal toys collected through the years from our dinners...and I am keeping every one of them. We would sit on the beach and talk. One night we were inundated by hundreds of hatching sea turtles during one of our beach talks.

I tried to teach him golf. He didn’t want to learn it. I took him to football and baseball games, but he would rather sit at home and draw. And draw. And draw. It was this proclivity that both his mom and I picked up on and realized that we may have a mini Michelangelo on our hands, so we enrolled him into summer art schools. Gifts from relatives were of the creative variety – sketchbooks, crayons, magic markers and the like. And Nick kept drawing.

When it was time for Middle School, Nick got accepted into a magnet arts school.  He is now in a magnet high school, the Dreyfoos School of the Arts in West Palm Beach. He is in the eleventh grade now, and his work is absolutely amazing. Scholarships await.

I have had friends of mine ask if I am disappointed that Nick doesn’t play golf. Not at all. Not even for a moment. He is a talented kid, and I just want him to go with wherever that talent takes him. Like any parent, I just want him to be happy.

Nick is quiet, introspective, highly intelligent, and bit of a wiseass. He is respectful and courteous, but there is mischief in those eyes. In other words, he is just like me. He doesn’t call me Dad – he calls me Padre. He loves classic rock and boasts every Beatles song in his ipod. We don’t so much talk these days as much as we telepathically communicate – we know what each is thinking. I could not be prouder of him if I tried.

I remember being in a time management seminar at work when Nick was maybe three years old. The facilitator asked who had a small child. I raised my hand. She said to me, ‘Jerry, there is a high wire connecting two skyscrapers, 100 stories high. I’ll give you $100 to walk across it. Will you do it?’ Of course, I said no. She said ‘What about a thousand dollars?’ Nope. ‘One MILLION dollars?’ hmmmm…nope. ‘Okay. Your son just got loose and he’s going across the wire. Now what do you do?’

My immediate answer, without hesitation - ‘I go and get him.’

And that’s what being a parent is all about.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Common Sense

Lately I have found myself defending my liberalism, which is fine. I understand that we are a nation of divergent opinions. What irks me are people that have stances that simply fly in the face of logic.

So in this spirit, below I will make four statements that, I believe, cannot be disputed, yet I know they will be. Because many (if not all) have been nuanced to death by those that would attempt to make people see what does not exist.

And you can take these four statements, add them up, and you get a pretty good barometer of where my mind is at. The sad truth is, in this day and age it would paint me as a fringe left-wing wacko. But to me, they’re simply common sense:

If there were fewer guns, there would be fewer gun deaths. Yep, I started off with the one issue that will likely have the most blowback. The initial reaction will be, ‘if you take away my guns only the criminals will have them.’ Well, possibly. But note how I worded it – if there were fewer guns. I am not advocating taking your gun away. The problem is, many do not have a gun...they have guns, plural, and does anyone really need ten of them?

We are armed to the teeth in this country. Sadly, Columbine-like events are becoming pretty common. In fact, I'll predict it right now: Within the next two weeks there will be a story of multiple killings by someone at a convenience store, bowling alley...or a school.

So I am sure that if we had, say, 30% less guns there would still be plenty to go around and we would be a safer country. Those that disagree will say the exact opposite – they would have us believe that more guns means a safer world, and fewer guns would make for a more dangerous world. Well, go ahead and believe that is you wish, but rationale and reason dictate that stance makes no sense. When it comes to guns, less doesn’t mean more. Less means less. It is arithmetic certainty.

If abortions were illegal, there would still be abortions. This seems to be the unacknowledged fact by those that are Pro-Life. In their mind it is a moral issue that would be fully addressed by passing a law. This is ridiculously over-simplistic. It assumes that a pregnant teenager possesses moral equivalency, and further that she would have that baby if she could not legally get an abortion. Doubtful. Improbable. She’s scared. And no amount of pleading or waiting time will convince her otherwise – you can try to fill her heart with whatever religious mores you possess, but she is pregnant. She’s not going to find God. She’s going to get an abortion.

Anyone that does not acknowledge that fact cannot see the world beyond his or her religious-tinted prism. So the difference between legal and illegal should be replaced with the difference between safe and unsafe. Again, that scared teenager is having an abortion. So the question becomes, do we endanger her health as well? I get that Pro-Lifers consider it morally wrong. But this isn’t about morality – it’s about making a medical procedure that will occur regardless as safe as possible.

Whenever I hear Pro-Lifers state that abortions should be illegal, the only question I have, which has never been adequately answered is, how much jail time should the woman get for having one? And don't cop-out and say that only the doctor would get sentenced - that's like saying only the drug dealer should get the sentence and not the drug user. You make abortion illegal and you have created a new, large group of offenders. Better keep building those jails, because they will quickly be filled with this new class of criminals.

Government creates jobs. Here it comes. I can feel it – ‘Government creates work, only the private sector creates jobs!’ Well, I am sure that policemen, firefighters, code enforcers, urban planners, teachers and social workers are thrilled to know that their careers that they went to college for or were stringently trained for aren’t really careers – they are governmental constructs.

To be sure, the country needs a robust private sector in order to push the needle and reduce unemployment – of that I totally agree. But ‘government’ jobs should not be vilified in the process. If Tea Partiers got their wish and “government” was removed from their lives, so would their safety, education, the roads they drive on and bridges their drive over. They may be free from the so-called shackles of government taxation, but the landscape they would preside over would look like Mad Max’s Thunderdome.

The free market needs regulated. Two letters: BP. Many on the right want us to believe that the reason the private sector is not flourishing is due to crushing regulation imposed by an overzealous government. Red herring. Not true. First off, the reason the private sector is not flourishing is demand is down because we are in a recession. Therefore, reducing (or eliminating) regulation will not increase demand. It will just truncate the process of getting goods that aren't being bought to the marketplace; a truncation that could possibly have disastrous results. Do we really want the FDA abolished so that prescription drugs with dubious claims can flood the market? Do we want the EPA done away with so we can return to the day when rivers caught fire? Regulations are there for a reason, very good reasons. And it is primarily this – the private sector is not interested in the public good.  It is interested in making money.

Okay. Fire away. The only ground rule is, fight logic with logic. I used it. You do the same.