My Father, the Blind Squirrel

November 5th, 2012 / #bliss, #family, #sports

I think I met God today.

God is an older gentleman who’s hard of hearing and has a knee brace. And yes, he was on a golf course.

Dad and I don’t golf much. But it’s a thing that’s become more and more commonplace in our lives, either as a result of my maturing or as a result of his growing acceptance that with or without him there, the restaurant can survive an afternoon in early winter. Regardless, I really like golf with Dad.

We go to a little course in Clearwater; always have. It’s changed ownership a few times over the years, but the trademark course annoyances haven’t changed. For as long as I can remember, there’s always been the long par 4 second hole with the pond on the left that beckons for your company. There’s been the hole with the punk tree right before the trap to the right of the green. And there’s been the short, deceptive par 3 that only remains in my memory because it’s the first one with an Igloo cooler of water on particularly steamy summer days. Save a line of trees here and a filled sand trap there, this has always been our little course.

We played our little course today, on November 4, 2012. Not a particularly noteworthy date for me, but it was for Dad. November 4 was his mother’s birthday, and she would have been 80 today had she not passed four months ago. Dad hadn’t mentioned that until after the round, but it seems at least tangentially relevant to this story.

After playing eleven holes of par-for-Peterson golf, Dad and I were feeling surprisingly optimistic: the weather was unseasonably nice, we were armed with fresh Diet Cokes from the bar, and we were on pace to make it home in time for football. We noticed that, after starting out from the clubhouse after nine holes, an older gentleman was on pace to drive us off the course. So, like any decent group of massively mediocre golfers, we decided to let him play through.

We finished the hole and pulled aside, waiting for him to catch up. Dad and I got involved in some conversation or other, and didn’t notice the old man’s flop shot sink into the hole from the fairway.

When he saw the man marching up to the hole without a club in hand, Dad was impressed. I was jealous.

“That’s a neat way to golf,” Dad yelled to the man.

The man didn’t hear him. It could have been because of the sounds of helicopter blades clipping the wind in the small airpark next to the course, but the man still couldn’t hear after the sounds of the chopper began to taper off. Finally, he heard.

“That’s a neat way to golf,” Dad repeated a third time. “Without a putter!”

The man smirked. I thought he was being smug. But it turns out he was just as humbled by physics.

“You know,” he said. “Every now and then a blind squirrel finds a nut.”

We let him play through, and he was on the green in one stroke. I’d like to think he two-putted after that, but I know he was probably cutting through our little course like butter. Still, it’s a nice thought.

It came Dad’s turn to tee off on the hole he’d played hundreds of times before. The same hole he played when he’d pay me a nickel for every intact tee I could find in tee boxes, and a dime for every ball I could fish out of ponds and from the other side of the chain link fence along the second and third fairways.

He hauled off and split the fairway in two. Bounced once, rolled up the green, and plummeted into a hole that seemed so impossible 112 yards ago. I did all the requisite millennial customs: took a cell phone video of him discovering the ball, snapped the proudest photo I’ve ever taken, and posted to every social networking website I’m a member of. By the time I was done, the old man from the previous hole was nowhere to be seen.

We finished the round, complete with a predictable I-can’t-believe-what-I-just-saw inability to concentrate. Then, we went home, where Mom was waiting with a beer on ice for Ace Peterson. It was a day that played out like a child’s storybook, absolutely devoid of any conflict or difficulty. It was a perfect day that unfolded like it would if you were imagining it in a daydream while waiting to tee off.

I’m probably making too much out of this. Aces happen every day in golf courses around the world, and old dudes in knee braces can get a lucky bounce from time to time.

But, if there is a God, I think I know where he spends his Sunday afternoons. Not a bad gig.

Under the First Base Bleachers

January 24th, 2012 / #baseball, #bliss, #work

One of my favorite things to do was play baseball with the kids.

When I was a mascot for the local team, I got to do a lot of that. Many of the players on the field were playing for their lives: if you’re not a top prospect in the trenches of A+ minor league baseball, sometimes only a hair of ability and a pinch of luck are all you’ll have to cling onto as you play your fading youth away in front of an equally fading group of local septuagenarians. Every evening around 7:00, they emerge from their cozy bungalows on the edge of Florida’s Suncoast to soak in one of the last small town traditions that can still bring half of America to the edge of their metallic bleacher seats.

While those players hit and caught and threw and tagged and ran and won and lost and lived and died, I had my own past time underneath the first base seats. A stick ball game with kids, usually in elementary school and especially competitive in middle school.

Before my nightly ill-fated race from first to third after the bottom of the second, I stepped up to home plate: a point where three cracks met in the cement on the empty concourse floor. I pretended I was a right handed Carlos Pena, aligning the middle of my strike zone with three subtle whiffs of my plastic bat. Strike one.

I always swung at the first pitch. I was a notoriously easy out.

Ball one.

Strike two, looking.

I make a faux argument with the oldest boy there, the de facto umpire among the bunch. Chest bumping might ensue, but this ritual is less formal than the event taking place on the field 50 feet away. Anyway, they don’t have the gall to eject me. I practically own the place.

I dig into the cement below me. That’s it, I think: “I haven’t got time for this. Plus, you are just a bunch of kids.”

With my four fingers of blue fur, I grip the yellow bat that somehow slipped past the elderly security guard at the front gate, and I point it skyward. I have a similar diet to that of the Babe, and he could pull it off. So why not me?

The all-time pitcher winds up, apparently oblivious to the fact that there is no solid wall behind me. If his pitch makes it past my mighty bat, it winds up in the grass lot to the west of the ballpark. He doesn’t care.

The pitch comes. It is damned hard to see through my black mesh mask. The ball’s even harder to see a second after my bat swings through the encroaching bogey and sends it careening off of the underside of the first base bleachers.

I take two victory laps: one around the closed concessions stand that witnessed the mascot miracle, and one from first to third in my obligatory losing bid in the race between the second and third innings.

I lost every single race against a child I ever ran. But no loss can erase the fun I had standing tall over Dunedin’s own field of dreams.

One of my favorite things to do was play baseball with the kids.

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February 13th, 2010 / #bliss, #family

In the middle of a corn field just outside a corn town about an hour southwest of Chicago, there is a cemetery. It has been the final resting place for an entire community of corn-fed people for what I can only assume has been hundreds of years, judging from the illegibly worn grave markers that lie underneath tall oaks and maples in the back corner of the place. The cemetery is unofficially and very roughly divided down the middle, with folks from either one of the two major families in the town on each side, and as you move down the path toward the rear of the field there is a hand-pumped water well that people use to water the flowers that they bring to honor their kin. On one side of the yard is a two lane road, and across that road the corn seems to go on forever, save for the old wooden barn that rises above the stalks in the distance. On the other three sides of the yard, past the trees that shade the benches and cracked stones, there is only corn.

My father took me to this place months ago. He was born in the town, only a couple of miles down the two lane road. I had never been to this town before, and I had never known the relatives I was visiting in that cemetery. But one thing stood out to me above all others as we wandered around looking at people that we never knew but with whom we probably share some genes. This was the calmest place I have ever seen.

I know that all cemeteries are meant to be calm, but it is impossible to find such tranquility in the city. In the city, the daily activity that surrounds any place intended for quiet and reflection is bound to seep in. But in this place, the only possible distraction might be a sluggish tractor chugging up the two lane road. More often than not, however, the only sound you hear is the wind among the stalks of corn. This is the ultimate calm, and this is where I want to be buried.

Spring Has Sprung… Finally.

February 27th, 2009 / #(devil)rays, #baseball, #bliss

Ah, it has been four months too long. Not going to dwell on the splendor that Spring Training brings since I’m sure everyone knows my thoughts on that by now, but I just wanted to point out that this photo is awesome:

(Click for a link to the original. Props to Marc Topkin at the Heater Blog and Dirk Shadd of the St. Pete Times.)

I am the champ

November 12th, 2007 / #bliss

It’s funny how your perception of euphoria and satisfaction can change over time. For example, when I was knee high to a grasshopper in my high chair at the dinner table, getting a plate of delicious spaghetti with extra parmesan cheese produced a sense of glee that couldn’t be matched. When I got a little older, I would garner extreme satisfaction from getting good grades in school. Point is, as you change, so too do the things that please you.

Now, waking up to a text message from a friend that says “You were a champion last night” does the trick. And while I do not particularly remember much of last night, these friendly congratulations must mean that something splendid happened. Ergo, I am very, very satisfied.

Moving down the dial (again)

August 16th, 2007 / #bliss, #music

It’s been two years since I discovered the splendor that is Bishop Allen. And thank the good Lord, they released a second album. Having acquired it, it is quite different from their first; it’s more pensive, less poppy, and perhaps even better. Anyhow, I’ve been listening to The Broken String for about three weeks straight and trust me when I say that every time I listen to it, I notice something new and clever. I recommend that you give it a listen.

Tang: America's Premier Powdered Beverage

July 18th, 2007 / #bliss, #food

I know that I alluded to my unfathomable love and adoration towards it a couple weeks ago, but my sweet Jesus. I love Tang.

(Upon writing that last sentence, I realized that some folks might misconstrue my love for Tang. While I’m sure that Tang as a derivative of “poontang” is equally as gratifying and probably way better than the kick in a glass, I’m referring to the drink that makes me feel like an astronaut. Thanks to Urban Dictionary for that definition.)

No, friends, I am talking about the greatest invention since sliced bread. Eh, scratch that. You know what? It’s better than sliced bread. Yeah, I said it. Tang is just that good.

It’s a strange thing, the love a man can have for a drink. Some folks are scotch men. Some guys sit back with a chilled bottle of some random imported beer. And there are those (and these really annoy me) who swish their glass of Cabernet Sauvignon under their noses before they take the girliest sip in the world. Me? I drink Tang.

It’s a fruit juice. But it’s not.
It’s orange soda. But it’s not.

No, Tang is more than that. Tang is more than some ordinary prefabricated drink. Tang is a gift from the God Dionysus’ teetotaling younger brother, Neil Armstrong. Tang is what the 1980 US ice hockey team drank between the second and third quarters during their match against the dirty Reds. Tang is what Popeye wishes he had instead of Spinach.

Too bad it wasn’t invented back then.

The Obligatory Hope

March 4th, 2007 / #(devil)rays, #baseball, #bliss

There are few things in the world that affect me mentally like professional sports. Now, I don’t want you to think that I’m some sort of jock type that cares only about beating the other guy to a pulp. If you know me, you know that I’m far from a jock. And if you know of my favorite teams, you know that beating anything to a pulp is far from what they are capable.

No, I love my sports teams because they give me an outlet for my emotion. I love my sports teams because, as Humphrey Bogart once said, a hot dog at the ball park is better than a steak at the Ritz. I love my sports teams because they let me forget about the world and lose myself in a vast expanse of competition, if only for three hours.

Folks, baseball season is here. I was never a serious baseball fan until a few years ago. But now, in spite of my love for the worst team in the league, it is here. And, at the beginning of a season, one is incapable of feeling anything but extreme optimism.

So, this is it: this is my post of extreme optimism. I think we will shock the world this year. I think we will leave the mouths of the Fenway faithful agape. I think we will blow away the Bronx Bombers. I say it right here and now. Our pitching will make nothing short of a monumental turnaround and come October, we will still be playing.

Because, after all, you have to have hope, right?

I only write these absurd thoughts because during this upcoming year, when we’re approaching 90 losses, I’d like to be able to look back on this post and remember why I come back. I want to remember that in spite of their lack of talent, the Rays have a whole lot of heart.

The Culmination of my Being

August 11th, 2006 / #bliss, #football

This is the day that we have waited for with bated breath since the last second of the clock ticked away last February. This is the day that will lead to an epic six months that will birth legends and tales. This is the day that brings peace around the world, and yet still divides us.

This is the day that it all begins.

The Immaculate Reception. The Miracle at the Meadowlands. The Catch. This day led to them all, and just as they are forever immortalized in history, more events like these will sprout from this, the holiest of days.

The Monsters of the Midway. The Purple People Eaters. The Orange Crush. They all evolved as bastard offspring of this day, fathered by fury and nurtured by will.

Broadway Joe. Crazy Legs. Boomer. They all drove down the field, spurred on by the idea that one day in history can make immortals out of men.

Today is the first day of football.

Since sliced bread

July 15th, 2005 / #bliss, #television

I am fully aware of the fact that there cannot possibly exist more than, say, four people in the entire world that share my opinions on this matter. However, because the Internet is an outlet for my (always correct) thoughts on a variety of subjects, I’m just going to go ahead and say this because it needs to be said.

Up until a week ago, I wouldn’t watch MTV if my life depended on it. I felt that it would make my brain rot into a casserole of knowledge that once was. However, as an ordinary teenager in the United States, I have learned to embrace the inanity of it all and settle for a mediocre intellectual existence.

That said, brace yourself for the opinion that may encourage you to close your browser and never read my ramblings again:

The “Andy Milonakis Show”:http://www.mtv.com/onair/andy_milonakis/ on MTV is the best show on basic cable today.

I know – it’s a radical view. But this guy throws the best random and in-your-face humor fight at you and you are forced to keep up with his outrageous antics or get left behind in the dust of pure genius. Unfortunately, a majority of the world is so closed minded that the art behind the scripting of the Andy Milonakis Show is lost behind immature cries for more mind numbing filth like “Date My Mom”:http://www.mtv.com/onair/dyn/date_my_mom/series.jhtml or “Room Raiders”:http://www.mtv.com/onair/dyn/room_raiders/series.jhtml and is therefore destined to die a pretty quick death.

Those ignorant fools.

  • Who I Am

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