Category Archives: Jewell in the Rough

The World’s Most Frustrating Game

i often mention i’m playing golf.

i play golf twice a week nearly every week. Often, i play three times a week. i have been known to play six times a week.

i like golf.

i don’t know why.

First off, nearly everyone seems to be better than me.

Second, when i start improving, i think i can make my goal of being a ten handicap. i have gotten as close as a 14. Then i back slide. i default to all of my bad habits. i play much better on the driving range, chipping area, and putting green than i do on the course. i am a mental wreck.

Thirdly, the game teases me. i used to think i was a decent athlete, not top tier, but pretty good in the sports i undertook: football, baseball, basketball, tennis, racquetball, bowling. Not really good mind you, but somewhat of a shade over decent. i now believe i was a figment of my imagination because of golf. The good shots, the lower scores, all are just pure luck: the golf gods teasing me. i know, know i’m not a good golfer.

My example? i was down to a 14 handicap at the end of last year. i was getting better. i was hitting the purest shots i’ve ever hit. i had found what i thought was the best grip, stance, etc. to putting. i had learned to chip better. Matt Brumbaugh, the pro at Sea ‘n Air, the North Island Naval Air Station course, had helped me immensely. Talking about the game with Pete Toennies, who unfortunately plays a lot like me, only a bit better, helped my mental attitude.

i was going to get to at least a 12 handicap, perhaps even lower.

It all went south. Big time. i’m back up to an 18, pretty much where i have been all of my life.

And then Friday, i proved it.

Sea ‘n Air. Perfect weather. Beautiful vistas. Great friends. By the third hole, i almost quit and walked off. “Why i am playing this game?” i asked, “Why put myself in such depression?” A couple of bogies, along with doubles and triples, no pars through seven holes. Depressing. Then i birdie eight and nine.

i think, “Oh man, it came back in spades. i’m going to tear up the back.” Nope. A couple of bogies, one triple, no pars. Oh yes, i birdied fifteen and seventeen. Four great holes amidst disaster, chaos.

Go figure.

So i keep telling myself i’ve played golf for almost sixty years. I’ve only played in a foursome with someone i did not like two or three times max. If i don’t think about my game, it’s damn enjoyable.


About twenty-five years ago, we were in the lobby of our time-share in Park City, waiting for transportation back home after  week of skiing. Several others were also waiting, and two men, both just past middle age, began talking.

“Where you from,” one asked.

“San Diego,” was the reply.

“San Diego,” the other mused, “You must play golf.”

“Yep,” the San Diegan confirmed.

“What’s your handicap?”

“Fourteen; what’s yours?”


“Eight! Wow,” the San Diegan admired, “I’d give anything to be an eight. If I were an eight, I would be perfectly happy.”

“No you wouldn’t,” the other golfer answered.

He’s right, and that is why golf is the most frustrating sport in the world.

And why this post is labeled “jewell in the Rough.” That’s where i spend most of my time.


People of Color

Time to get some blood a’boiling.

i have a complaint.

i am almost positive it will upset most who read it. It will also produce some outrage, disagreement, and maybe exception from those who misinterpret my concern and use my thoughts incorrectly to support something like racial inequality, prejudice, etc., which is exactly opposite of what i intend to convey.

But what the heck. i’m going for it.

Why does a group of people who don’t like some collective label, or someone else in an effort to be politically correct and helpful, come up with something that is inaccurate? The government even got into the act, changing the names  for “race?” (or dancing around even that on their forms). What does it matter? Oh, i know: data.

Among several other terms i won’t mention here, i’m talking about the term “people of color.”

What the hell does that mean?

It seems it was meant to mean any person who is not caucasian.

i think it means i don’t have any color. i beg to differ. i’ve got more color than almost anyone. My arms, due to exposure to the sun most of my life, and the thin skin older folks acquire bringing about frequent cuts, blood, and scabs gives me more color than most. My body has gone from baby paleness to Tennessee summer brown except for the shorts-hidden area and now with a myriad of colors, including the baby paleness returning to the sun screen protection required of old age. My face, and especially my practically bald head is blotched. My neck is…well, i guess you could call it “red,” but i think it’s more rust colored: lots of golf sun, you know, but still “redneck.”

To tell the truth, it doesn’t bother me when someone calls me “paleface” or “redneck.” They are being relatively accurate.

But “people of color” takes inaccuracy to new heights.  And i would add i am definitely not “white.” i don’t look like a sheet. i don’t think i’ve actually ever seen a “black” person either except for this one in Papua New Guinea. But that doesn’t count. One of the marriage rituals for the cannibal tribes at the time was for the bride to paint her entire body in black pigment (i have a postcard with a photo of a bride like the one i say, but that’s a different story and not one to be told here).

i think we need to quit messing around with this stuff. And why do we have to differentiate? There are so many variations of racial mixing, we really don’t know anymore. For example, Barack Obama is the only person of whom i am aware who is really an “African-American.” Folks don’t call me “European-American.” i did meet some “European-Africans” when i was in Africa over thirty years ago.

If your family has been here for more than 100 years, then i think we should just cut all that out and call you an American. Of course, we could start  calling all  folks by their country or continent or both. So i should be labeled “European-British-American-Southern-Californian” or something. Some bright and lazy crown could turn it into an acronym (EBASOC).

Now don’t get me wrong, i think we should all honor our heritages and not denigrate other races, heritages, home of our ancestors, etc. But i’m getting a little tired of people getting wrapped around the axle because someone called them a name they didn’t like.

i acknowledge and accept previous comments by my dear friend, Dr. Kathy McMahon Klosterman about being aware of others’ sensitivity (or perhaps “sensibility” is a better term here). She’s right. Furthermore, i have not experienced the degradation, the debasement, the injustice, and all of the other things i don’t know about because i haven’t experienced them.

Perhaps i’m just too simple to grasp the concept.

But to be perfectly honest, i wish we would just drop all of that “color,” “race,” and all other means of separating us.

How about calling us “souls?”

Reflections in the Crud Days

i took a walk this morning (Tuesday). Yippee ki yay. It was the first time i’ve done any real physical activity in exactly three weeks. Hip hip hooray. The doc said i could walk if i didn’t overdo it. Glory hallelujah. It was glorious. Hoorah. And to top it off, i got this view about half-way through the one and half mile circuit:

i appreciate everyone’s concern and well wishes, but to be honest, other than some breathing issues, coughing, lots of phlegm, laryngitis, fitful short sleep, and enough meds to choke a horse, it really wasn’t all that bad except, excuse my French, i’m really tired of this shit of not doing anything.

But compared to others i know and care about, this has been a piece of cake. i am not complaining, just a little whine with my lunch.

i think…no, i hope it’s nearly over. The wave has crested. I am fairly confident i can now claim i am on my way to recovering from the crud. The doc says i should be good to go by the end of next weekend, about four weeks. FOUR WEEKS.

Man, that’s a long time. i know now.

Really, i was okay. i was just uncomfortable. It was a virus, coupled with sinusitis that morphed into “asthmatic bronchitis.” i knew i was going to pull out of it.

The worst thing was doing NOTHING. i never get a lot done because i keep hopping from one project to another and spend one hell of a lot of time procrastinating, but this was so not me, this just sitting around. When i asked if i could play golf, the doc damn near went epileptic on me. “Rest!” he said, “Rest is a major factor in getting you well. Stressing your breathing before you are recovered is the worst thing.”

So i have been sitting on my a…, ah well, you know. i didn’t have the energy or concentration to write or read, so i slept…sort of. i slept as much as i could, not much but a lot of time in bed trying . i watched more television than i have in the last ten years. And i generally don’t like watching television unless it’s a sports contest with some personal interest.

i am not complaining. There are so many people of my generation who are in much worse condition, dealing with terrible health issues, facing death with nobility, and quite a few already are sadly gone.

i really wasn’t worried…almost. It’s that time. I’m seventy-three. As Gayle Marks Byrnes said to me, “We are survivors.” That’s not bad. It could be worse. The Social Security Administration has a web page stating  “A man reaching age 65 today can expect to live, on average, until age 84.3.” When i ran their individual assessment, it predicted 13 more years and my lasting until i am 86.3. My parents lived to just shy of 97 and 99. i’ve got a good chance to keep on ticking for a while.

Still, i’ve had a long pause. The situation led me to think and reflect. You see, when the doc said “asthmatic bronchitis,” some bells rang. When he ordered x-rays to ensure it wasn’t pneumonia, i became more concerned. My mother suffered significant allergies leading to asthma and other physical problems for most of her latter life. My maternal grandfather died early from what everyone now believes was asthma. My father-in-law died from esophagus cancer, and my father, after a life of incredible health, was done in by pneumonia.

My concerns, at least for now, have been put out to pasture.

But who knows? It’s gonna be what’s it’s gonna be, and i don’t think i have a lot of say about it. i’m fine with that.

i am a very lucky man. i have had a wonderful, exciting, groovy, successful, happy, an interesting life. But i don’t think it’s all that different from most people’s lives. And i rest now knowing i always tried to do what’s right. Yeh, i failed a couple of times but without the intention of doing anything that wasn’t right. Bad judgement. i have some people who don’t particularly think much of me. Their choice, not mine. It’s okay. i don’t blame them. i’m not in their shoes, don’t wish to waste my time thinking why. i don’t like them any less.

Whenever i do go, i can go satisfied about what i’ve done and what i’ve not done.

That’s one of the things i resolved while sitting around reflecting for three weeks.

i also wondered if other folks spend a lot of time thinking about things like this. i wondered if it was a good thing or not. i remembered Dave Carey telling me and others how the POW’s had a lot of time to talk to each other about things they thought and felt, much more than all of us who didn’t spend that time as prisoners in the Hanoi Hilton. When they did talk about sensitive, private things, they found out they had similar thoughts about many deep things.

i thought i would share this just in case there are some other old farts who have considered the end of all this like me. They might like to know there are others who spend time thinking on similar lines. Hmm, maybe there aren’t any who think about this stuff.

i know i have committed to writing. What kind of writing and how much is up in the air, to be determined. That’s the underlying purpose in my two-week writing retreat to Flagstaff next month.

This piece initially was about four times longer than it will be when i finish. This crud gave me a lot of time to reflect upon a lot of things. But i cut a lot out. i was…well, i was rambling. i won’t make any promises because i have committed to change before only to rationalize myself out of it shortly afterward.

The bottom line: all of my reflection has led me to a couple of conclusions. i hope to spend the rest of my life unafraid, continue to always try to do the right thing, write in a manner that is consistent with those two objectives, and not worry about what others think.

And have fun. At my age, life is too short to fool with all that other stuff.

It Is a Beauteous Evening, Calm and Free

i was a good ole boy, a young good ole boy to be sure, but essentially a Southern small town boy still unaware of what lay out there in the magical world of the written word. The now sadly defunct Castle Heights Military Academy in Lebanon, Tennessee gave me a look see into literature courtesy of  Majors Harris, Donnell, and Wooten.

i was titillated by the joy of fiction by Vanderbilt’s Dr. Sullivan in the course we called “Novels.” — i was not really supposed to be there, but it was my last shot to bring my civil engineering major grades up to a C average. Prior, the engineers and the Navy would not allow me to wander from the rigors of math and science to pursue my whims, but that summer of 1963 gave me liberty to choose my courses. So i had to retake “Statics,” the one course i flunked in four semesters of 19, 21, 20, and 18 hours of courses which that civil (oh, what a terrible description of my course load) engineering department and the Navy ROTC scholarship minions demanded while i was dumb enough to think i was smart enough to attend all sports events, party damn near every night, gambol at every chance, and play cards and drink beer until the early mornings, stopping only on the day before exams to cram one night on coffee and “No Doz” to make passing grades even though each ensuing semester signaled a continuing slide down the academic flunk out tunnel until i finally came to within one course of flunking out without failing a course. Fourteen D’s in four semesters (in addition to that one F, taken over that fateful summer and raised to a C). But that wondrous summer i took Drama 101, Philosophy 101, the dreaded Statics (2 something), and Sullivan’s Modern British and American Fiction (4 something: it was a senior and graduate course).

i didn’t make it but the beauty of Carson McCullers, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, and of course, my hero and Vanderbilt’s own Robert Penn Warren took me away to another planet. i was then undeniably, officially in love with writing, albeit a rather naive love of the monster i adored.

But nine months under one Mister Fred Russell, erstwhile and nationally known sports editor of The Nashville Banner, whetted my appetite for writing, especially sports writing. Feeling my oats once again, i entered Middle Tennessee, the “rather parochial” (as described by Dean Richard Peck) bastion of teaching education, and more stubbornly pursuing a BA even after the Dean of Arts and Science, my academic counselor, stunned, questioned my sanity with “Are you sure? You know you must take a foreign language (Spanish: that didn’t take either). You know you would be one of the first ever to major in English as a BA, not BS?” and “hmm,” i thought, “How strange?” and “BS just doesn’t sound right or literary enough to me.” And so i took to my pursuit of writing, sports writing to be exact.

i wandered through a rather bizarre world. i moved back home. i continued writing for the Banner, now as a county and sports correspondent. i began my brief but very enjoyable career as a radio man, deejay at WCOR AM/FM. i commuted to Murfreesboro with my buddy Jimmy Hatcher, Ken Berry, Clifton Tribble, and other friends in the early morning, traversing back and forth on Murfreesboro Road, more formally known as U.S. 231 and more informally as road kill trek, getting home in time to have dinner (that’s the noon meal from where i come) with my father, usually a baloney and American cheese slice sandwich with iced tea before laying down on the two couches in the den for a joint midday nap. i took required classes like physical science because the chemistry and physics D’s didn’t transfer, and later trigonometry, which i had taken under Colonel Brown in CHMA’s advanced math program. And i passed both with A’s without ever opening a book, and becoming the lab assistant for the physical science professor, which let me flirt with a lot of pretty coeds. AND i took wonderful literature courses where i was challenged and others like English Literature where the old lady professor, Dr. Emily Calcott read Percy Bysshe Shelly’s nine cantos Queen Mab: A Philosophical Poem; With Notes verbatim in class. All of it. Seems like that summer course took about two dozen years.

And then i took Dr. Peck’s Shakespeare class, and i began to see the world, or at least my small literary part of it, differently.

And finally, i met Dr. Bill Holland. Bam! We became friends. He took me under his wing and revealed a whole new world. He was from Mississippi, been a surveyor for the Army Corps of Engineers. Got his Romantic Literature doctorate from the University of Edinburgh. Yeh, that one in Scotland. Wrote his dissertation on the common thread in literature from Chaucer through Shakespeare through the Romantics, especially one Mr. William Wordsworth. i was told he received a “first class” doctorate, one of ten awarded in the history of that university. Yeh, that University of Edinburgh.

So we talked about Mr. Wordsworth, and i compared “time” of WW and RPW (Wordsworth’s “Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey, On Revisiting the Banks of the Wye during a Tour. July 13, 1798” and Warren’s “The Ballad of Billie Potts”). And he liked it. And we talked some more. And i cut other classes to discuss deep things in his office like the symbolism in Bob Lind’s Top 40 hit, “Elusive Butterfly (of Love),” and what was it Billy Joe McAllister and that strange woman threw off the Tallahatchie Bridge in Bobbie Gentry’s “Ode to Billy Joe,” and did Plato err when he got the decimals from Egypt wrong and Atlantis consequently was really in the Adriatic, not the Atlantic, and more and more and more.

But before Holland, i was not into Romantics. i mean why would a good ole boy be concerned about some Englishman who wrote about daffodils? Now, i like daffodils and even more to the point, i think writing about daffodils and butterflies can be manly. Caring but manly. i like that.

Two days ago, i learned it was William Wordsworth’s birthday from “The Writer’s Almanac.” i had known that but forgot. To honor him, the writers and editors of the “Almanac” included a Wordsworth poem.

i read. i’m so glad Dr. William Holland, my friend, introduced me to that guy who wrote about daffodils.

It Is a Beauteous Evening, Calm and Free
by William Wordsworth

It is a beauteous evening, calm and free,
The holy time is quiet as a nun
Breathless with adoration; the broad sun
Is sinking down in its tranquility;
The gentleness of heaven broods o’er the sea:
Listen! the mighty Being is awake,
And doth with his eternal motion make
A sound like thunder—everlastingly.
Dear Child! dear Girl! that walkest with me here,
If thou appear untouched by solemn thought,
Thy nature is not therefore less divine:
Thou liest in Abraham’s bosom all the year,
And worship’st at the Temple’s inner shrine,
God being with thee when we know it not.