My Most Embarrassing Moment

The city golf course is an off-color song that gets better every time you play it. You find the rich and poor willing to spend 20 dollars to kill 4 hours on a hot summer day. Men wave-down the cart girl to buy ice-cold beer.

“Will that be all boys?” She asks.

Usually one of them gives her his phone number and she works the group like a pro. Jenny can sell beer and make you feel special at the same time. The men smoke cheap cigars in the shade of the old maple tree while the maintenance crew prepares the course. These tired men in worn work clothes are invisible to those of influence in starched polo shirts who compare the time of day to show-off their Rolex watches.

When I started working as a cart kid, I didn’t have my driver’s license because my past experiences operating machinery were disastrous. I left that out of the job interview. There was the time I lost control of my grandma’s three-wheeler, crashing it through her raspberry patch and running myself over in the alfalfa field.

Anyway, my first day as a cart kid began without any problems.

I parked clean golf carts at a 60-degree angle by the number 1 tee. It was easy enough. There was the break and there was the gas. But then Jenny arrived. She was wearing really short cut-off jeans and a flannel checkered shirt tied above her waist. “Will you take me to the pro shop?” She asked. Jenny got in before I could answer. She smelled like cherries and I hit the gas. “Is this your first day?” She asked. Jenny stared at me with her dark brown eyes and I looked back, intoxicated. “Slow down!” She screamed. And I slammed the break, but it was the gas and we launched into the pro shop.

I grabbed Jenny to keep her in the cart and felt her silky skin. We dented the door. I knew I was fired. And all of the golfers on the practice green laughed. But then the head pro came out and looked at the damage. “You’re just getting a handle of her, aren’t you?” He said. Mike had a wide grin on his face. After that, my reckless driving became legendary. Every new cart kid I trained got lectured about not picking up beautiful women and pulling a “Johnson”.

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Why?

Why is it

that when we think we need something more than anything

We don’t get it

And when we’ve learned to live without it

for so long

it shows up

unasked

It’s then

that we question

if it’s even good for us

We quit caring years ago

and we kept on living

for reasons that can’t be won

Still,

we can invite these things inside

and accept them

for what they are

unnecessary

They become the things that others look at

when they see us

and their desires creep in

until they want what we used to want

They’ll strive and stop

but someone

like you or I

might continue

and they’ll forget their yearnings

in time

gaining

a reason why

A Tree that Lives in a Neighborhood Lawn

I walked under a tree

that lives in a neighborhood lawn

Seeing every generation

of kids playing

Its wrinkled bark smiles at me

Green leaves offer shade

Turning to brown

and falling

Branches get picked up

and played with

Sticks turning into swords

and limbs getting climbed

Hammocks are strung by tired teenagers

and Piñatas by parents of crazed children

What a tree

Every year

it grows

and pets get buried under its roots

It lives and dies

for others

Sheltering their souls

Masculine Cyclops

Bill saw a lot for a man with only one eye. He was 74 years old and he followed his routines to cope with city life. He drove carefully down the 2 AM streets until he reached a 7 Eleven. Prostitutes greeted him before he walked in.

“You got any money?” They asked.

“I’ll buy you breakfast,” he said.

Bill preferred their company to the sons-of-bitches who shopped at Safeway in the afternoon. He got into fights with the pimps because they weren’t treating the girls right and they always backed down. Bill was a big guy and he worked-out at the senior center. He liked to brag to the guys about the diameter of his biceps and his sexual prowess. “It’s a crying shame the thing is shriveled-up most of the day,” he said.

“Took my girlfriend out for a steak dinner last night and the restaurant charged me 50 bucks. The steak had water in it and they expected me to tip. Can you believe that? Betty didn’t complain though; I kept her up all night.”

Bill read the National Inquirer and made coffee in the clubhouse every morning. It was bad, but nobody complained. He trimmed the collars and the rough with the old mower nobody else could operate. Bill cut and painted the yardage markers too. It seemed that all of his jobs carried some level of status or perhaps it was just his style of doing things.

We had our annual safety meeting with the manager of the golf course. Kelly seemed out of place amongst the men, but she moved the meeting along in a professional manner anyway. “If one of you experiences heart failure, apply the AED patches and connect the wires to the battery; then press the red button.”

“Excuse me, miss?” Bill asked.

“Yes?”

“Let’s say a woman with voluptuous bosoms has a heart attack and I have to rip off her blouse. Can I remove her bra and apply the patches or do I need to ask permission?”

“Let’s hope that never happens,” Kelly grunted. “But if it does, you can do whatever it takes to save her life.”

Bill had a far-off look of satisfaction on his face while the other guys tried not to laugh.

“Okay, let it out boys,” Kelly said. And the men cheered with raucous delight.

They all had more respect for her after that.

The Best Advice I Ever Received

I was training for the State tournament and everybody I knew was trying to give me advice. My brother-in-law told me that I drastically needed to change by diet. “Winners eat natural fat and no dairy,” he said. I tried it. My closest friend told me that I couldn’t give away my life source to women; in fact, it was best not to think about women for the next 6 weeks. I tried that, with no success. My golf instructor interrupted me during a grueling work day to tell me that the guys on the driving range were talking about me. “They say you have ‘Game’, Andy. That’s how it was for me too.” He said this with a far-off mystical voice. “You can turn pro one day. Just push all distractions aside.”

“Thanks Daryl,” I said.

I played 9 holes with Fat Tom because he wanted to give me some “tips”.

“Babe, when you play with weekend warriors, you start acting like them. Finish your putts; I don’t care if they’re 3 inches from the hole. When you feel like you understand golf, it will give you the shanks.” Tom squared up to his ball, took a practice swing, and shanked it into the woods.

“Damn! And look who’s been giving you so much god damn advice!” His face turned red. I couldn’t tell if he was angry or embarrassed, so I tried to pretend his advice-giving never happened. We played a couple more holes in silence. “Golf knows no master and those who claim the title for even a moment get humbled,” he said. “You’ll be okay training for this tournament as long as you avoid what most golfers do.”

“And what’s that?” I asked.

“Like fishermen, they lie to themselves. A double bogey becomes a bogey and a bogey becomes a par. They give themselves mulligans and gimmies so they can feel good about their game on the weekends.”

He looked at me square in the face. “Never lie to yourself, Andy. Winners accept defeat and move on. They never pretend it didn’t happen.”

I had a nightmare round of golf at the State tournament that year. I even got the shanks and came in last place, but I never forgot Tom’s words; they’ve served me well. I don’t know if that man knew what he was talking about, but that moment meant something to me.

Crazy Ken

I was trying to avoid the bottom of the pecking order without much success. I watched the boss try to put Ken there several times, but the man was resilient. He had a kind of intelligence that can’t be learned in school. I suspect he was the class clown his teacher couldn’t silence. If the whole class laughs, the clown wins and Ken had been doing that since primary school. He wasn’t malicious; he just needed to drill for nerves. And Ken had an uncanny ability to strike insecurities or those places most men want to keep hidden.

The boss was five feet tall with a handlebar mustache and a balding head. He wore cargo shorts, a polo shirt, and work boots. Steve wrote the assignments on the board with malice. It was his way to get even with anybody on the crew. The guy on the lowest end of the pecking order always got the shit jobs.

“Ken, you get Entrance today and you can set the course.”

“Awe, come on, why do you always pick on me Steve? Is it because you look up to me?” Ken opened his mouth for a reaction and the boss only glared at him. The rest of the guys tried not to laugh, but had difficulty.

“I guess I’m on the poo poo platter again,” Ken said. It would go on like this for days or weeks until one of the college kids screwed up. They’d get stuck with the bad jobs until someone else messed up, but they usually quit before this happened. Pretty soon I was the only college kid on the crew. The boss was thinking of hiring the homeless man who slept under the bridge, but he found a better prospect in a guy who picked up trash for the county last summer. He was 6 feet 6 inches tall and weighed over 300 pounds. Robert wasn’t smart and he kept to himself. He was just the kind of guy Ken loved to poke.

“Robert, I bet you got a big one, but do you use it?” The giant just stared straight ahead. Bill looked up from the National Inquirer. He knew something more entertaining was about to happen.

“Don’t you speak?” Ken asked. “The guy says less than the golf course.” And then the mountain erupted. Robert grabbed Ken like a rag doll and lifted him off the ground. “Don’t fuck with me!” Robert said. And Ken went as pale as a bed-sheet, dangling 6 inches off the floor. He survived the moment and always gave Robert a wide birth after that.

Maybe Robert was smarter than he looked. He had done what none of the college kids had the courage to do.

Remake Yourself

Remake yourself

Go beyond old ideas

Challenge your mind

with your heart and your soul

until you don’t know any limits

Sleep under the stars and gaze into infinity

Warming yourself with your own fire

Spend quiet moments in the dark

to find your light

and share it with others

Harness inspiration

and let it blow you to new vistas

Above the horizon

and across stormy seas

Fly so high

this earth can’t hold you down

So that you learn to land where you want

Let the breeze guide you

Soon you will be able to sleep in the wind.

Golf requires more belief than most major religions. -Intellectual Shaman

I was playing my final holes to decide if I would make the traveling team. Jeff teed up his ball with his Red-wing driver and sliced it into the woods.

“You suck,” Brad said. He pulled a 3 iron out of his bag and crushed it down the fairway.

I followed him with my driver; my ball landed in the trees. “It’s not looking too good for you,” Brad said. I drank an ice-cold Mountain Dew and contemplated my comeback shot. I had to hit it between two oaks. I choked down on my club and bashed the ball. It ran 150 yards and plopped onto the green. Brad looked disappointed. He crushed his drive on the next hole and a dog ran out of the housing developments and ate it. “Hey, that’s my ball!” He yelled.

“Jeff, what are you doing?” I asked. He was flipping through the rules of golf. “I’m just trying to figure out Brad’s penalty. I can’t find animal interference in here. Maybe it counts as a lost ball. That’ll be two strokes.”

“Why don’t you shut the hell up, Jeff!” Brad yelled. And my friend smiled behind his rule book.

The next par 4 was drivable, but it was a gamble. I teed up my 3 wood and hit a power shot.

“I hope you brought sun-tan lotion for the beach,” Brad said. And my ball sunk into the sand. The clouds began to shift and the winds blew. It was dark one second and blue skies the next. I felt like the sun was smiling on me when I grabbed my wedge. I dug in my heals and cut the beach with a smooth stroke and my ball lifted out of the sand gently, rolling towards the hole. It twisted along the green and dropped. “Eagle!” Jeff shouted. “Some hacks get lucky,” Brad said.

It started to rain, but we could see blue skies on the other side of the golf course. A rainbow appeared in the distance and Brad pulled out his 3 iron again.

“Why are you going to hit that?” Jeff asked. “It’s called golf course management; something you wouldn’t know anything about,” Brad said. He swung through the ball and the club flew out of his hands.

“Wow!” Jeff said. “The club went farther than the ball.”

“Shut your face!” Brad yelled. And Jeff laughed maniacally until his face turned purple. Suddenly, it started to hail and the fairways turned white.

“This round of golf is going to be impossible to finish,” I said. But 30 seconds later, the sun came out and melted the ice. If things couldn’t get any stranger, it started to snow. We all birdied the next hole and parred number 8. The sun set on the last hole with trees silhouetted against a blood-red backdrop.

We hit are shots and walked up the fairway into heaven.

“If you make the traveling team Jeff, we’re screwed,” Brad said. Something odd was happening to Jeff’s body. It went all rigid and his muscles flexed. He lunged at Brad and nailed him under the chin with a tremendous uppercut. Brad went down and then wobbled to his knees and puked. We finished our 9 and all made the traveling team.

I play golf with Brad or Jeff from time to time and they still ask about each other. It’s funny, when you hate someone, you remember them for a lifetime.

Birth of Game

I grew up next to a golf course and my family would search for golf balls in the woods; yellow ones, orange ones, white ones, and occasional blue ones. “This is just like an Easter egg hunt,” my mother said. She didn’t notice the golfer on the other side of the fence looking for his ball. He muttered something that probably shouldn’t be written down. We sold them to the old pro shop where I ended up working 10 years later. Then we’d take our money and go to McDonald’s. Train tracks ran parallel to the highway and my mother knew I loved trains. She’d wait for it to pass and then we’d race it into town.

When I got older, my best friend invited me to play golf on a muddy course near an airport. The wind was blowing and there were puddles everywhere. My baseball swing got the ball onto the green in 3 strokes and I was hooked. After my round, I couldn’t wait to go home and practice in the front lawn. I had plenty of balls to hit and I ripped one across the river into an abandoned field. Then I faced the opposite direction and ripped one into the neighborhood. The next day I hung out with my friend two houses down. His dad was puzzled. “A golfer drove a ball into my driveway yesterday; nearly cracked the windshield. This place has been trouble ever since we bought it.” I swallowed a lot of air and acted innocent. A month later, my middle school created a petition for a golf team. I signed it and I’ve been playing ever since.

Lanterns without Lights in the Night

Minds want to know other Minds

Ships distant from other Ships

Looking where others are Looking

Seeing but not Seeing

Worlds seperated from other Worlds

Darkness and more Darkness

Night after Night