Tempus Fugit: A Friendly Reminder

looking-west

I was sorting through my photos on Flickr and I came across this humble snap.

It was taken just east of Independence, CA right as the sun was settling in behind the mighty Southern Sierra. For a few wonderful moments, the granite ridge lines of the mountains grew sharper with the dimming of the sun.

The moment was special. We were cruising around those old roads in a battle-scared yet trusty old jeep, just before sunset, trying to keep warm in the totally exposed cockpit. I had lost track of when the photo was taken. But, I clearly remember what I was thinking in the moments before I took the photo.

These are the good times & the great places of your life; pay attention to them and try to have more of them while they’re still within your grasp.

The fact is the photo was taken nearly a year ago. I was very surprised; it seems like yesterday. Now, over the course of the last year I have been blessed with good health, seen some lovely sights and taken a few more photographs I enjoy.

But, one of my resolutions is that I’m going to try to go more places and I’m going to try to have more moments like these and take more photographs that will live on in my memory as clearly as this one. My advice to everyone like me, those who have likely lived more days in their past than they will see in their future is simple:

Get out there & live.

Today.

Now.

Tempus Fugit: A Friendly Reminder

Choosing to Live the Dream

I have a friend who likes to ask me what I would have liked to have done with my life. The unspoken assumption is pretty obvious; there’s no way I could be happy the way things turned out.

But the fact is I am with the way my life turned out.

My friend likes to wonder if I would have enjoyed being a full-time writer. I don’t believe I would have. I can’t imagine enjoying the grinding existence of the working writers I know. Life is more than writing for me. In fact, it’s hard for me to understand how many writers manage to squeeze in enough living to justify the amount of time and energy they devote to writing. Writing, for me anyway, is my response to some aspect of the life I’m living. Put another way, you can have a full life without writing but I don’t believe you can write anything worthwhile without living a full life.

There are other fundamental limiters to my writing and those are the honest and undeniable limits of my talent and inspiration. My inspirations simmer, they seldom boil. Also, I have many other pulls in my life and some of them also involve a kind of creativity and a smattering of inspiration. I love to golf and to hike and to take photographs. More than anything I enjoy being around the people whom I like and love. Writing much more than I already do would vacuum up precious time that could be spent actually doing other things and enjoying other people.

Today I bought new tires for my beloved Mini Cooper instead of buying a new car. I would like to be able to buy a house but the housing market rises faster than I can earn more money. I’ve been working to develop a business association with a high-end manufacturer in Sweden for the last five years. Would it have been easier to do if I had more cash on hand? Most certainly. Still, as has been better said by a million other writers before me the only thing I would truly like more of is time. In the end, it seems to me that we have a choice; we can either embrace life’s limitations or thrash against them.

By accepting those limitations, we allow ourselves to get started on some of the things we say matter to us. But, if we spend too much time thrashing about we’re likely to find our energy sapped before we even have a chance to bring our better selves to bear on projects that could be worthwhile.

Now that’s what I call wasted energy.

And so, I am truly living the dream. My health is good. My loved ones are many and nearby and the world is full of things that fascinate me. From time to times those fascinations inspire me to write. Living the dream is a choice I’m happy I made.

Choosing to Live the Dream

Role Audio Sampan Music Box Review

In the beginning, there were speakers, big speakers in the corners of a living room, and the sound was good. The problem was that having a pair of Altec Voice of the Theater speakers meant for a severe intrusion into the typical living space found in an American home. But, for the next forty or so years, we coexisted with big speakers and big amplifiers and managed to enjoy our music despite the fact that our speakers weighed as much as a golf cart.

Thank goodness for the internet.

The internet has brought us a great deal of convenience along with everything else, both wanted and unwanted. For someone who works at home as I have for most of the last thirty years the ability to get proper music off of the internet proved to be elusive until very recently.

Bluetooth audio was OK but the sound quality of even the best bluetooth speakers is still marginal. Think of the the sound of AM radio when you think of bluetooth audio. Still, Americans want it all even as their living spaces get smaller. Fortunately, WiFi gives us the potential to get a little closer to the sound we want and the Role Audio Sampan Music Box takes full advantage of WiFi’s promise. The Music Box is a 42 by 5 by 4.5 inch box that sits happily behind my Mac on my faithful (though plain) 62 and 31.5 inch Ikea work table. Its slender, stealthy black enclosure looks sharp against the light red faux veneer that Ikea does so well.

For most of my review period, I’ve used the Music Box with my new Chromecast Audio which is very cool indeed. If you’ve yet to buy one you owe it to yourself to try one. It’s a little miniature hockey-puck-shaped device that sets up in a breeze and has proven very reliable. It’s the opposite of obtrusive.

I also used the Music Box directly from my CD player as a kind of resolution reference point. Lastly, I used the Music Box directly from my trusty 64 GB iPhone 5 and an ancient iPod I have laying around. In any case, a wired connection to the Music Box is simple. You can also use a stereo mini plug on the front or traditional left and right RCAs on the back.

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Chromecast Audio atop the Music Box…Photo courtesy of Role Audio

I wasn’t really thinking about testing the dynamic capabilities of the Music Box when I first hooked it up, but the music playing seemed to demand it so I figured I’d crank the little guy up just for fun. Wow. The Music Box can play quite loudly and without a hint of strain. The benefit of matching a speaker’s design to the 100 watt amp is clear.

Still, I ramped things down for a few hours. The Music Box had just bumped its way across the country all the way from North Carolina and it seemed wise to let it settle in before doing any careful listening.

First up was Jim Steinke’s Finland Road Song from his Playing by Heart CD (Blind Guava Music OWR 0077). This is an amazingly well recorded HDCD of some superb solo guitar music played by a little-known virtuoso. The tracks are unique for their ability to capture transient attacked without a trace of electronic artifact. Through the Music Box the sound is clear with a great sense of presence to the plucking of the guitar strings.

The Sampan Music box should not be thought of as just another desk-top speaker. Its voicing is far more sophisticated and resolving than that and on this point I think mentioning a little set up care is in order. First, even though it sounded good when I sat closer to it, I try to stay at least 3 feet away from the speaker when I am putting forth an effort to listen carefully. Second, I find that the vertical listening axis is somewhat important. A little rearward tilt makes the upper mids sound more integrated with the lower treble making voices more natural.

Speaking of vocals, one of my critical tests for the Music Box came on Call it a Loan from Jackson Browne and David Lindley’s Love is Strange record (Inside Recordings INR5111-0). A couple minutes into this track there is a brief but exceptional bit of harmony between Browne and Lindley. David Lindley is singing in full voice, which he does rarely but always to great effect. A good speaker like the Music Box can at once separate and define each voice, letting the tones and timbres stand apart, yet blend sweetly in harmony. The voices need to sound at once as one and separate and the Sampan Music Box pulls this trick off nicely.

More of the this rare brand of musical integration is heard when I play Iris DeMent’s Broad Gold from her record The Trackless Woods (Flariella Records CD-FER-1006). The first part of the track blends DeMent’s voice in its lower range and piano. With the Music Box, her voice never seems pushed forward or pulled back. The presentation is solid, stable and musical. It’s easy to forget the gear and lean back and enjoy.

The Sampan Music Box remind me of my B&W P7 headphones except that my head doesn’t get tired when I listen the music box. It has the same crisp, clear ease to its sound and superb integration. Everything is there and easily discerned. I regard both devices at once as a reviewer’s tools and wonderfully musical components anyone can enjoy.

The simple fact is that you could easily build a main system around the Sampan Music Box. In any configuration it has the capacity to come very close to the dynamic ease you’re used to hearing from traditional two-speaker stereo systems that are far larger and cost far more. There’s very little from a musical standpoint it can’t handle, and handle with ease.

If you simply want better sound in your office or den, or if you finally want to get rid of those huge Altec Voice of the Theaters your wife has been threatening you about, do yourself a favor and give the Music Box serious consideration.

No matter how you use the Sampan Music Box you will be amazed by the quality and quantity of music it can bring into a room and your life.

Role Audio Sampan Music Box Review

Tiger Woods, Barbara Boxer, the Rules of Golf and the Electoral College

Bear with me for a minute.

Let’s say it’s 2000 and Tiger Woods is charging toward the 72nd hole of the Masters. Were he to win, it would give Woods all four major professional majors in 2000. We’re not talking about some feeble Tiger Slam. No, I’m talking about all four majors in the same calendar year.

Wow. What happened?

On the 72nd, hole, the legendary par-4 finishing hole at Augusta National Tiger Woods smashed a perfect drive, just right of the fairway bunkers. But, as it bounced to a stop it skipped into a fairway divot. The announcers and Woods moaned in near-poetic unison.

Pure injustice…

tiger-woods-ball-in-divot

Woods glowered at the ball and the divot. He cursed the golf gods. He cursed the player who created that horrid divot. He cursed his bad luck. But, more than anything he cursed the rule of golf that prevented him from taking relief from a tiny bit of missing turf in the middle of the fairway. Clearly, this was an area of the golf course that was damaged and according to the rules, ground under repair. But it wasn’t…So Woods played the ball as it sat; made bogey and missed winning the 2000 Masters by a single stroke.

Then. again in my alternate time, just a few months ago at the 2016 PGA Championship, Woods stood over a putt that would have won him  his 15th major championship. Halfway to the hole was a nasty spike mark, dead in Woods’ line. Again, he stared at the mark and cursed the universe and the USGA rule that prohibits the repair  of such marks. He settled over his putt and made the perfect stroke.

The ball rolled end over end, destined for the hole, right until the moment that it hit that single unrepairable spike mark.

Tiger Woods was denied another major and the legions of golf fans felt denied. Through no fault of his own, the arbitrary, senseless rules of golf had seemingly conspired to the deny the best player of our era a deserved win.

Also in this fantasy world, imagine this:

Tiger Woods saw fit to use his immense wealth and fame to coerce the USGA and the R&A to correct the silly, foolish rules that upset his path to history. The golf world would have turned against him instantly. This would not be the actions of another athlete who cheated on his wife and children. No, these would be the actions of a man who found himself at odds with the very same rules he had played under his entire professional and amateur career. His motives would be clear to everyone and so his legend would be destroyed. The same fans who could forgive his foolish and inexplicable banging of strippers and Perkins’ waitresses could never accept his effort to change the rules for the sake of his own record. Woods’ fans could accept any weakness but a surrender to the same rules that everyone plays by.

This is exactly the mistake Barbara Boxer has made in the aftermath of the hotly contested 2016 presidential election. She has seen her party and platform stung by the effect of the electoral college for the second time in less than a generation and she’s not going to stand still for it. But, the problem is that her motivation is too clearly in the interest of her party rather than her country. I think there’s a simple test to prove my belief. Boxer has been a US senator since 1992. In that time, there have been seven presidential elections but the only other time she has devoted any energy to the electoral college was in 2005 when she challenged Ohio’s electors in a futile effort to delay the re-election of George W. Bush, who had just won the popular vote over John Kerry by more than 3 million votes.

Me? I’m on the fence about the electoral college. However, I do firmly believe that Rule 16-1c (the rule that prohibits repairing a spike mark on the green) is fundamentally unfair.

At the same time, I think the rule that disallows taking relief from a fairway divot should stand. The text of Rule 13 is simple.

Play the ball as it lies.

I wonder if Barbara Boxer plays golf?

 

Tiger Woods, Barbara Boxer, the Rules of Golf and the Electoral College

What’s Really Bothering Everyone About Trump Being Elected?

I spent the morning researching what it takes to move to Canada; I’m serious.

I’m so fuckin’depressed.

What gets me is that 60,000,00 people were stupid enough to elect him.

What about the supreme court?

Me? I’m not depressed, but I am disappointed. I’m disappointed that a 70 year old rich guy learned to use the internet to greater advantage than the republican and democratic parties combined. Worse, I’m disappointed that Trump’s use of the internet exploits its worst quality; that being the ability for a person to write something really shitty about someone who’s in no position to mount a contemporaneous defense.

I’m also disappointed that many of the people who supported Donald Trump don’t realize how lucky Trump is that the constitution (that old musty document they’ve never read) provided for the electoral college and that it alone circumvented the will of the people to elect Hillary Clinton, just like it did to Al Gore.

Of course, I’m also disappointed that many people are having a problem simply hoping that Trump will do a better job governing than they think he’ll do. Isn’t hope what you have left when your candidate doesn’t carry the day? Didn’t we hope back in 2008 and 2012 that those who did not support Obama could at least hope for his success, for the sake of everyone, for the sake of the country? President Obama’s efforts to do exactly that, now that the election is over, make me very proud indeed.

Pessimism serves us no better now than it ever has. At the same time, there’s nothing wrong with speaking up. As John McCain said regarding some of Trump’s early appointments, “Be very vigilant, America.”

Now let’s talk about lies and the people who tell them.

For some reason, the people who elected Trump don’t seem to care that Trump doesn’t care when he lies. They like the lie that Apple will bring its jobs back to the US from China because Trump tells them to. They like the lie that Trump will deport millions by fiat and that Mexico is busy getting ready to take out its check book to pay for the wall, I mean the fence, or whatever Trump says he’s building today. They loved the idea that the election was rigged, at least when they thought their man was about to go down in defeat. They love that Trump keeps telling them that he won big, that his victory is some kind of mandate. But, surely their favorite lie is the one that holds that sometime in the not-so-distant past an uneducated doofus was guaranteed a good job at a fair wage for doing something that didn’t require a lot of knowledge or skill. As if that day ever existed.

The best of our politicians act with what is called enlightened self interest (don’t blame me; this is a term from political science. That’s right, I said science. Sorry.). This explains why a guy like Trump (and Mitt Romney back in 2012) ran on the promise of lower taxes for the rich people of this country.

Bummer. I guess that was a bad example. Lower taxes for the rich pretty much only rang the bell for the idea of self interest. I guess enlightenment is a tougher nut for politicians.

Surely Hillary Clinton was all about enlightened self interest. I mean, she likes minorities and women, doesn’t she? Crash. There went the highest glass ceiling of all. I ask one question and one question only. Had Clinton been any other State Department employee do you think she would have dodged prosecution by the justification that carrying an extra cell phone constituted an undue burden?

Not a chance.

Hillary Clinton has nearly as poor a record on the enlightenment test as Trump. She was as tone deaf to the genuinely progressive chords struck by Bernie Sanders as she was to the non-xenophobic aspects of the populism that Trump campaigned on.

Free college tuition? Sanders’ idea. Take a hard look at trade deals? Trump’s idea.

What was Hillary Clinton’s idea? To ride into the White House on the heels of Barack Obama’s 51% approval rating under the clever campaign slogan: “You like this guy? I’m just like him. Except I’m not. By the way, please ignore the way I savaged him in the 2008 primary contest. I really like him; he’s a cool dude!”

You really have to wonder what really makes Hillary Clinton tick.

So, we are now left to face the results of our living democracy. The country has elected a man who will likely enjoy being called Mr. President far more than he will like actually being our president. He spent his first interview with 60 Minutes walking back much of the feature points of his campaign. Big surprise. This is not a man who has a problem with revision. As time passes, the people who elected Trump will come face to face with a man without a single concern for their plight. Who knows? They may finally learn the difference between the truth and a lie.

What’s Really Bothering Everyone About Trump Being Elected?

A Lesson from the Past: Trump & Schwarzenegger

While I was watching the election results it came to me: Donald Trump is to the United States as Arnold Schwarzenegger was to California. Arnold became governor after the citizens of California voted to recall Gray Davis way back in 2003. This left a choice between Cruz Bustamante and Schwarzenegger. If you’re unfamiliar with Bustamante just imagine Hillary Clinton as a paunchy latino who was never a first lady but was the 45th Lieutenant Governor of California. Schwarzenegger had money and a dazzling level of name recognition. But, more than this, he had answers to everything wrong with California. He promised to, “pump up Sacramento.” He said that Gray Davis had terminated hope and that it was now time to terminate Gray Davis. The Governator won the election by 1.3 million votes.

Then reality crashed down on him.

Schwarzenegger had difficulty passing a budget which led to him likening California legislators to kindergarteners who needed a time out. His most memorable line was branding those same legislators as girlie men. A couple years later, after watching his popularity tumble further, he changed his tone. The very same unions Arnold had earlier dismissed so readily showed why they have been such longstanding houses of power in this state.

In the end, it turned out that Arnold’s fame and money didn’t mean he had the answers to everything that was wrong with California.

And now there’s Donald Trump…

He has money, but no one’s quite sure how much. He has experience in business, but he also had a $200,000,000 head start. And, like Arnold, Trump says he has the answers to everything that will help make our country great again. Yet, he never told the electorate when exactly the country was previously great and what had robbed its greatness.

Like Arnold, he’s adept at identifying enemies but not so quick to identify allies or to show an interest in building consensus. For that matter, he has done and said little to indicate that he thinks consensus is even something of value.

Say what you want about Schwarzenegger. He was born with nothing and built his fortune by capitalizing on his gifts. In the end, he learned some hard lessons in his time as governor. The longer he held office, the less bombastic he sounded.

We will have to wait to find out whether Donal Trump the president will be a different man than Trump the candidate. I suspect he won’t like the job. He won’t be able to free himself from the relentless schedule. There will be no reality TV shows, no openings of hotels and golf courses just the constant pull in all directions that have plagued every president since Washington.

Then, there’s his age. He’ll be the same age when he’s inaugurated as Reagan was when he took office. Trump displayed great energy throughout the campaign. But a campaign is, by its nature, founded on rhetoric. That’s Trump’s strength. Being president is a grind of details that is not something Trump would seem to enjoy, just as Reagan did not. I’m not even going to talk about the beating Trump’s golf handicap is bound to take.

Then there’s his money and his business. Even though the Trump family seemed blissfully unfamiliar with the concept of a blind trust during the campaign they will surely know all about them by the time Trump takes office. Trump’s term in office will mean he won’t be able to trade stocks or be anything like the head of his own empire that he’s been for decades.

Instead, Trump will be like Eisenhower, giving orders that no one follows.

I also think Trump will find that TV time is a lot more difficult to get when you’re president than when you’re running for president. This is man who needs attention like most men need oxygen. He’ll get plenty, but I’m quite sure it won’t be the kind he likes. His ideas, such as they are, will have to turn into actions at some point. And, when they do, they will be questioned by the press corp, the democrats, the people and inevitably by members of his own party.

Donald Trump doesn’t like being questioned but presidents are questioned endlessly.

I wish Trump luck in renegotiating trade deals, which may have been made without the interests of American workers’ jobs or wages taken into account. I wish him luck in dealing with our county’s immigration issues, but I know that his is the party of cheap labor and I know that minimal control of immigration helps to preserve low wages. I wish him luck dealing with foreign powers though I think he’ll soon learn that Vladimir Putin’s interests don’t align with Trump’s interests, or America’s interests, quite as often as he hopes they will. I wish him luck in lowering taxes but know that doing such constitutes a path this country has gone down before, and that it’s a path that led to massive debt and budget shortfalls. I wish him luck in battling our country’s foes. He has said he can defeat them all easily yet the forty-four presidents who came before him tried to do the same over the last two hundred and twenty seven years. Still, America has never seen a sunrise without a host of new enemies to replace our many vanquished foes.

Still, I don’t need to have faith in any one man to maintain my faith in our republic.

It will long endure beyond the time of Trump and me.

 

A Lesson from the Past: Trump & Schwarzenegger

Two Strokes or Loss of Hole: Playing Golf with My Brothers

I confess to having been damned by my own poor play for the last year.

Strike that; for the better part of the last two years, maybe more, I’ve lost track.

The reasons for my uninspiring play include poor driving (lots of pulls), lackluster iron play and balky putting. The only point of reliability has been my short game. I have a deft touch from 60 yards and in. Give me  tricky shot to a back pin from a thin lie and I’m likely to get it close. Go figure.

Of course, no one gives a shit about a good short game. We all just want to hit the ball solidly when we want to, but few of us can do it.

Two of my brothers (they’re twins, in fact) have been retired for the last year or so. This has resulted in a lot of golf for the two for them. They play twice a week, usually at a dried out carcass of a golf course north of Mojave in the high desert. The course is called Tierra Del Sol and it must have been something back when it first opened in 1969. Now, it’s just a big, sprawling burned up golf course with bad greens. They dump gallons of water on it, which mostly serves to creates little lakes around the cart paths. Delightful.

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A few feet off the 5th fairway at Tierra Del Sol

Tierra Del Sol is a hell of a long way from me, so I don’t play there often. And, when I do, I usually swear that it’s the last time. So, when I realized that my Monday promised to be slow one I thought of playing golf with my brothers, Tom and John, but hoped I could convince them to play somewhere else.

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Looking toward Soule Park’s clubhouse with the Topatopa Mountains in the background

The somewhere else was Soule Park in Ojai. I call it the antidote for Tierra Del Sol. It’s a really fine course that was renovated by none other than Gil Hanse (designer of the 2016 Olympic course in Rio) back in 2005. Soule Park is an honest, straightforward course that tells you clearly where to hit the ball and where to stay away. The greens can get very fast and some of them have oodles of slope and break. It’s easy to have putts get away from you. Just ask me: Today, I had three birdie putts explode in my hands resulting in par putts that were nearly as long.

After one of those blazing birdie putts got the better of my short temper, I pulled a 7-iron on my tee shot on the par-3 3rd hole. I ended up pin high but twenty five yards left with a nasty hardpan lie. Now, I have to confess something here; I like to walk and my brothers like to ride. So, Tom got to his ball in the left bunker right about the time I got to my ball. I could see what was happening. He either didn’t know where I was (possible, but not likely) or he knew where I was and figured since he’d gotten to his ball 5 milliseconds before I did he would do the right thing and play ready golf.

I did think about yelling at him. “Hey, asshole, get the fuck outta my way!” He would have moved, too, and sheepishly climbed out of the bunker that entombed his ball. But I didn’t. I decided silent seething was the better play. So, I watched as he slammed his first shot into the face of the bunker, then as he skulled his second shot mere inches below the first and while he semi-skulled his third into the bunker on the other side of the green. I could see his twin John bravely putting out as the third shot whizzed past his head.

Like I said, my shot was wildly hard. The last thing I wanted to do was watch Tom’s act and then be rushed when it came time to hit it, but that’s just what happened. After he dutifully raked the now crater-filled bunker I rushed my shot and it too found the right bunker. By the time I got to my ball both of them had putted out and I scooped my ball out of the bunker with a rake. I had to decide if I was going to say something. I almost didn’t, but I did. “OK, I’m telling you something, asshole. For the rest of this round we’re going to play in order. The player who’s furthest from the hole is going to play first. Fuck your dumb-ass ready golf.” Unfortunately, I was so mad I kind of told John rather than Tom but both of them heard what I said. At least there was no chance of me being misunderstood.

I don’t know what drives these guys to play (or try to play) at the pace they do. Today, we played 18 holes in three hours and fifteen minutes and I was walking. Somehow, someway, extreme pace of play became a kind of nearly existential imperative for them.

Me? Even though I prefer to walk most people think I play at a very fast pace. I’m not much for practice swings and I read my putts quickly. What I do like to do is grind when it comes to par and occasionally even bogie putts. I don’t take any longer to read them but they matter to me, even if I’m not keeping score.

The lads are prone to putting with the flag in, carelessly swiping at bogie and double-bogie putts and a whole host of other putting etiquette no-nos. On the short par-4 8th hole, Tom had a very lengthy par putt. I had a much shorter chip from just right of the flag and I don’t recall where John was. One thing was certain. The flag was unattended when Tom hit his putt. It was a 40 footer at least. It wound its way up the hill, swung down to left and gathered speed as it approached the hole. Clack! It hit the pin dead center and tumbled into the hole. “I made a par,” Tom sang out as he retrieved his ball from the hole. Now it was my turn to play the asshole. “The hell you did. What you made was a two-stroke penalty. What do you think about that? Ha!”

Now the funny thing is this; on both occasions, when I scolded Tom on the 3rd hole and again when I denied him his par on the 8th, I felt like my father. I could hear him (absent the four letter words) telling Tom the very same things. It made me wonder about the roles we play and the reasons we play them.

I’m still wondering.

We played the 9th hole uneventfully. But, when we got onto the green Tom was again left with a very long (even longer than the one on the 8th) par putt. I had a shorter putt for par and while I was marking it I saw a ball roll by. It was Tom’s par putt, rolling, yet again, toward an unattended pin. I mean, I get it: He was a long way from the pin. But, he hit the putt so quickly and apparently the thought of asking John or me to tend the flag never crossed his mind. Miraculously, Tom’s putt was tracking beautifully. It hugged the green without even the slightest of hops and began to break a few feet short of the hole, the ball ending up just an inch or two behind the hole when it stopped. “I almost made another par!” “Nope, what you almost made was your second consecutive two-stroke penalty.”

There was plenty of irony for everyone.

I have likened playing golf with Tom and John to feeling like a character in a Hunter S. Thomson novel. There’s an aspect of the experience that’s undeniably akin to an odd kind of bad trip. They’re been described by friends and relative as, “kind of in their own little world” and “not much into the camaraderie of the game.” But, neither of those observations, though accurate, really get to the heart of things.

Their preternatural motivation to play quickly for the sake of playing quickly is their first problem. Nobody likes to feel like they’re playing golf slowly. It’s a slow game by its nature since it’s played in the very largest of ballparks. But, when you think about it, if you enjoy playing golf why would you want the experience to be over any faster than it has to be? I don’t know the answer to that. I don’t know why the balance between playing at a good steady pace and playing just as fast as an electric cart can propel you is so elusive to them, but it is.

Their other problem is an old favorite; failure to communicate. The damnable use of a golf cart brings out their worst. One of them is constantly leaving the other one somewhere without the right club or leaving the cart somewhere the other one doesn’t want it. The odd thing is that their lack of communication doesn’t mean that there isn’t chatter, and a lot of it. In fact, they frequently ask me questions while the other is trying to make a shot. I, of course, stand mute until the shot has been attempted. But the effect is to quell the usual give and take of on-course conversation. They are both wholly imperturbable. They have made obliviousness into a kind of art.

They managed to toss me into their oblivion twice over the last two holes. I was to blame also, believe me, but I was really mad at them. On the 17th hole I hit a solid drive but it left me an angle to the green that included a big-ass pine tree and a eucalyptus just to make things interesting. Rather than taking my medicine and playing to the left of the green, I decided to hit a fade (horrors). I hit the ball flush but added a touch of push to the fade and right after the ball reached its apex, it caught the highest branches of the pine. Damn.

I saw it hit the tree clearly, but I never saw it come down. As soon as the ball hit the tree, Tom and John’s cart was off like a rocket. I walked back and forth where I thought the ball could have been but no ball. To the uninitiated, one of the few genuine benefits of a cart is the ability to search for a ball over a large area. The problem was that the only cart on the 17th hole was parked near the green where, again, the boys were putting out.

The ball refused to show itself and I was seething yet again. I kept looking but somehow the ball had disappeared. The ball should have been easy to find. There was only short green grass and burned-out hardpan in the area. I slung my bag over my should and walked to the 18th tee to try to cool off. Right before I got there, Tom calls over to me. “Where are you?” I didn’t look back, I just said, “I have no idea.” and walked on.

Somehow, unbelievably, I repeated a variation of this feat on the 18th by hitting a low shot toward the green for my 3rd shot. Tom and John again sped off right after I hit the ball. They were walking around in the area where my ball should have been but rather than keep an eye out for it, they both set about with hitting their shots while I did my back and forth searching-for-a-ball act.

Now I was really burning. I thought to myself that playing with Tom and John was like playing with strangers who don’t like me. But, as soon as I said this to myself I realized how wrong that was. I’ve been playing golf with strangers for well over twenty years and even though I’ve been paired with some oddballs I have never played with anyone who didn’t think to offer help in finding a ball. Then again, my brothers aren’t strangers.

But, it’s important to say that it’s not that they don’t like me. It’s not like they’re trying to make a difficult game more difficult than it needs to be. They’re not uncaring, they’re not unkind, they’re simply oblivious to things an ordinary player would find obvious. And, I don’t have  a fucking clue as to why this is true.

I am walking toward the 18th green with these thoughts coursing through my brain. As I drew closer to the green Tom asked me, “Where are you?”

Without a word, I tended the pin for first him and then John. As I put the pin back into the hole I thought to myself, I cannot do this to myself any more.

We drove in different cars and I got to my mine first and drove off toward the Ojai Beverage Company where we like to have a beer and a burger after we play at Soule. The amazing thing is that we had a fine time. We talked about beers and politics and manufacturing jobs. There wasn’t so much as a hint of tension (and there never is). Those are  good times I’m not willing to give up. What the twins lack as playing partners they more than make up for as dining companions. The challenge for me is to enjoy those times while avoiding playing golf with them. So, that’s what I have decided to do. I figure that once or twice a month I’ll drive out to meet them in Lancaster at Kinetic or up to Ojai to hang out with them at the OBC. That’s a plan I can live with. Just know that if I play golf with them again someone will get hurt and it won’t be me.

18th
The 9th at Soule Park just before sunset

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two Strokes or Loss of Hole: Playing Golf with My Brothers