Some Folks Just Never Learn and That Ain’t Necessarily Bad


i had been trying to discover a word that would describe my feelings this morning after i woke up. It came quickly.


Yeh, yeh, i know: too old, me, to do things i probably should have never done to start with.

It all started Monday when i received the annual unexpected call from Pat Neal at Pacific Tugboat Service. Steve Frailey, one of the two principals at the company and a close friend of mine is an incredible athlete: a swimmer, a diver, a runner who is now moving into triathlons but doesn’t play golf except maybe once a year. i write “maybe” because that once a year is about when i get the annual unexpected call from Pat as i did Monday.

You see Steve is also a past president of the Propeller Club. Pat is the current president. Pacific Tugboat has a foursome entry every year. The Propeller Club holds a golf tournament every year in April. The annually unexpected phone call usually comes the week of the tournament. Steve, who has dutifully signed up, has a work obligation or another event pop up, preventing him from playing. He is a busy man, but i sometimes suspect he knows i’m willing to sub for him and reasons for him to have me stand in for the tournament just happen to find him.

The tournament is usually played on a Friday at noon. For a number of years, it has been held at Admiral Baker’s North Course in Mission Valley. This year was no exception…except my FMG (Friday Morning Golf) bunch was playing our usual early round at North Island, not in Mission Valley. Unwilling to miss our traditional FMG round, which has been going on for 29 years, i agreed to Pat’s request, but advised him my arrival for the start might be tight.

So yesterday, i woke up about forty-five minutes before my alarm set at 4:00 a.m., not enough time to go back to sleep. Don’t know why but it happens every Friday. i performed my morning ablutions that continue to lengthen as i age — oh how i long for those days when i could be out of the house in five minutes after awakening — and drove to North Island for our FMG tee time of 7:03. Fortunately, golfers in front only held us up a little bit. We finished in just under four hours. i paid off my bets, passed on the ritualistic pitcher of beer at the nineteenth hole, saddled up the hatchback, and made it to Mission Valley with time to spare.

It was slightly over a sixteen hour day between leaving and returning home, with way too many golf swings. Not the advised routine for an old man. Stiff is my punishment.

But i’ve gotta tell you, it is one of the most enjoyable rounds of golf every year. Why? i’m playing with guys from a place that allowed me to go down to the sea again. Pacific Tugboat’s pier is between the Coronado Bay bridge and the Port of San Diego’s Marine Terminal. The pier juts into San Diego Bay on the  working waterfront. i walked that pier for two years two, three, sometimes even four times a day. i rode tugs. My office was on a barge surrounded by boats and cranes. Heaven if one likes to live in memories as i do. It was a wonderful way to end my official working career.

There was also the people, men mostly, at Pacific Tug. They were the working kind. They all began, if not still involved with hands on labor. Getting things done. Living with the roar of diesels in their head and able to detect problems with minuscule frequency changes. Handling lines and block and tackle, heavy gear. Living in cramped quarters with mess of their own devices. And yes, it’s dangerous work, even when done safely.

They are good men with sea stories to share, laughs to make you feel good.

i like being around men of the earth. My father was one. My real down-to-earth labor has been limited to four summers of grave digging and things devised of my own need to put my hands to the plow, so to speak. But i appreciate the value, the goodness of these men. It is good for me to be around them. It puts my feet back on the ground, brings balance to my thoughts. i don’t get back to it enough.

So then there is the Propeller Club tournament every April when i get the annual unexpected phone call.

Thanks Pat, Steve, and all of the folks at Pacific Tugboat Service who always seem to make me feel a little bit better about life.

Pat Neal, Cole Crafton, and Todd Quinn of Pacific Tugboat Service with the goofy guy on the first tee at Admiral Baker North, sponsored by Pacific Tug.

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