Monday, July 27, 2009

The Cost

We have reached that portion of the year in my desert hamlet where the temperatures soar to Africa Hot. That's not a complaint. I get mine in January when I'm at the beach and you suckers are shoveling snow. I'll take egregious heat over bone-numbing cold every single time. As long as my air conditioner continues to work, nobody takes a crap in the community pool and the grocery store continues to sell Widmer Hefeweizen, I will abide.

Of course, I could be smarter about the weather. With the mercury past triple-digits yesterday, I played 90 minutes of soccer and 18 holes of golf. I took three cold showers. I have limited movement in my extremities. But my hair still looks good.

Next weekend, I play a soccer tournament in Santa Barbara. Though the weather will be more mild, we could potentially play five games in two days. The toughest is always the first game on Day Two. Because we're old and sore and have limited movement in our extremities. But also because we invade State St. on Saturday night like frat boys on Spring Break. Ain't maturity grand?

This is the first year we will play in the Over-40 division. Blanch. Ugh. Fuck. I can't begin to count the ways this makes me feel old in ways I've never felt before. I've probably mentioned previously about how turning 40 didn't tilt me, despite it happening right in the G.D. middle of The Troubles. I had bigger issues to obsess about. In fact, the only birthday I've ever had that administered a whuppin' was my 33rd. Because that was the Year 2000, a milestone I'd stared at as a child, the Big Scary Future, and couldn't believe I'd someday be that age.

This isn't about waking up and beginning to wrestle with my mortality. I've never really been that guy (minus that early-90s period when I was on drugs all the time and had frequent panic attacks). The simple fact remains that my life is probably half over. Maybe more so.

The future? I don't worry about it. Plan for it? Sure. Try to make good decisions in the present and hope the chips fall more or less fairly. People like to talk about their 10-year plans and shit like that. What a waste. "Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans."

I knew I was going to pay for yesterday's physical insolence. My grandfather, 88-years old and still hanging strong, wished me good luck in my soccer game yesterday. I replied, half-jokingly, "Winning is less important than not getting injured or passing out." Of course, when I got out on the pitch, I didn't shy away from anything. Soccer, golf, Emet, AJ. These are among the things that give me joy. I've no desire to push them to tomorrow, regardless of whatever consequences I reap.

So, next Saturday night, you'll likely find my teammates and I closing down the James Joyce Pub on State St. We'll pay in the ayem. Oh, will we pay. But the cost of missing out on that time is considerably more expensive.

Friday, July 10, 2009

RIP Shadow

It's been a while since seeing her name in the cell phone window gave me a feeling of dread, but when X called at an unusual time Tuesday night, my stomach immediately kinked. "The cat died," she said, through tears. AJ's cat Shadow.

AJ was already asleep in his bedroom. Thankfully. He wasn't at X's to see his cat attacked by a pit bull.

We decided not to wake him and tell him, which meant I had to carry the news for a day, until we could all get together.

His face crumbled as soon as X started to explain what had happened. He cried, tears of anger, which was slight relief. Better than inconsolable sorrow, I thought, though I knew that was destined to come, as well.

"But I only had him 8 months!" he screamed. The unfairness of it all, the injustice. Noting for us to do but hold him, smooth his hair, tell him we were sorry, too. I'd spent the day researching how to handle the affair. Encourage him to talk about what he's feeling, that his reactions are natural and okay. But that's not the way The Boy works, not when all eyes are on him. He'll tell us, certainly, but randomly, in his time. We have to be alert to listen.

Later, he blamed himself. Also natural. And he's my son. He learned that from me, the urge to take responsibility. You gain a measure of control, an illusion of it anyway, by unnecessarily picking up burdens, convinced we can carry them, to prove our strength and worthiness. I turned Robin Williams on him. "It's not your fault. It's not your fault. It's not your fault."

"But he's MY cat!" he screamed.


We buried Shadow. AJ said goodbye. "You were the best cat ever," he said, and the tears were sorrowful then, the helplessness we all felt. I wanted to tell him the feeling would go away with time, but nobody wants to hear that, least of all a 7-year-old, even if he's going on 12. I simply said that he should remember how much fun he and Shadow had and that those memories will make him smile. Someday. Soon, I hope.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009


We being today with an admission. I'm obsessive. Fine. Feel better? Cards on the table. I'm good, too. Thanks for asking. Except for the pain in my left middle finger, the first knuckle, to be precise. Repetitive motion injury, I suppose.

Over my slightly extended holiday weekend, I played golf three times. I used to really enjoy golf and though I have never been any good at it, have never been instructed how to properly play the game, I hit the links 2 or 3 times a month in my younger years. Then I broke my wrist, changed jobs, spent my free time playing and coaching soccer (both of which I was also obsessive about), got married, became a Dad, found poker, and, suddenly, it had been 10 years since I picked up a club.

A few months ago, Emet asked if I wanted to go hit some balls (that's what she said). She had taken some lessons last summer and had seen my cobweb-riddled clubs in the garage. I agreed, thinking my wrist wouldn't be able to handle it (it really will never be the same), but the price of a bucket of range balls seemed like a small financial commitment to find out. I sprayed balls all over the place, but the wrist held up and, most important, as any duffer knows, I whacked a few off the sweet spot, long and straight and arching beautifully in the blue sky.

So we started to play. Executive courses (not just chip and putt, though), nods to my wrist and her lack of length. You know where this is going.

Or, perhaps not.

Last Sunday, at 4 p.m., the thermometer read 114 degrees in Palm Springs. The wind was at least 25 mph. When we got to the course, there were fewer than 10 people as moronic as us on either of the 18-hole layouts. We walked right on. And we played the long course (we'd hit their short course the previous day, early, before the heat got obscene), Emet's first time on a track longer than 3000 yards (it clocked in at 5100 from the reds). What a fucking trooper she is.

She was skeptical, but I bribed her. My most previous obsession helped, since about 12 hours earlier I'd stacked a guy at a 1/3 NL table at the Spa Casino to more than double my buy-in with my set of 4s (in case you didn't get the Twitter update, about a half-hour into my session, absinthe sat down to my right, which elevated the fun quotient of the evening considerably). Since we'd been up so late, we didn't have much gumption to sweat poolside and while exploring our options for fun, I said I'd buy her a new golf shirt with my poker haul if she'd consent to walk out into the middle of Hell and play with me.

I ended up buying her two.

We survived the conditions and the length. I threw my pitching wedge but once. She didn't take my name in vain. By the end, we were sucking wind and damn near dropped from exhaustion before being revived by an excellent dinner at the perfectly-named Happy Sushi.

That's not the last of it. Oh no. We came home Monday and with several hours to go before I picked up AJ, and another day off, I went and played at my local course. Hell, it was only 90 degrees out. Almost felt like spring.


Here's the thing. Obsessive, yes. Competitive? As all hell. In my mind, I know I'm not good at golf. But that doesn't ease the pain of screwing up a shot you've made before. Or of three-putting. Since I am apparently now going to spend every spare minute longing for a tee time, I figure I need to get to a point where I can score at a level that won't piss me off.

This weekend, I shot 77 on the Executive Course (par 55). That's a bit worse than usual. On the long course, in the heat and wind, I shot 98 (par 72). That's about right. At my home course (also par 72), the most difficult of the three (based on slope), where my two previous attempts yielded a 107 (definitely NOT solid) and a 102 (better, but still...), I shot a 93.

And I'm still fired up about it.

I've never played better than bogey golf. And there it was, just 3 strokes off bogey golf in only my 11th round since I came back to the game. I rolled in a 25-foot birdie putt that I knew was in the moment it left my blade. I hit nearly every drive down the middle. I didn't throw a single club.

Am I good? No. But I can hit good shots. I'd like to continue hitting more each time out. It's said the only way to play better golf is to play a lot of golf. I can do that.


One last bit. When I walked onto the local course (Sierra Lakes, if you wanna check it out), I was paired with another single. There was a foursome, Asian folk, already waiting on the first tee box and my partner, a boisterous 50-year-old who had a 12-pack of Coors Light with him, barreled right up to the group and asked if we could hit first. To my surprise, they agreed quickly and willingly. We rushed to the tee and my partner hit a nice one, straight and about 220. I bombed one a mile. On a line, 285 when it stopped rolling. The brute force of my swing, the beautiful sound of square contact, the wholesome trajectory of that little fucking white ball in flight...

"Ahhh!" said one of the Asian gentleman as he watched it fly. "You like Tigah Woods!"

If that were the only good swing I'd had all day, it would have been enough to bring me back. There was more, however, which means only one thing.

Emet's gonna be lousy with new golf shirts.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Two Humans at Specific Points in Time

First, The Boy. San Clemente State Beach, 2009. Built like his Daddy, ain't he? We were playing paddle ball and it was a bit frustrating as his motor skills only allowed for us to get 4, 5 hits maximum. Lot of chasing the ball and bending in the surf. So, I changed it up and started hitting sky high. Here, he tracks it on the way down.

Next, The Dad. UCLA, circa 1989 and recently posted to Facebook. The mullet. The acid washed jeans. The Miller High Life. I don't really need to say more, do I? $34 says this is The Rooster's new favorite hair pic of me.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Bet You Didn't See This Coming

I spend hours thinking about soccer (henceforth referred to as Football). Before and after every US Men's National Team game, I have animated phone conversations with Jorginho about the most minute of details. I have four Liverpool jerseys. I'm going to play in an Over-40 (GUH) tournament in a month.

So, with Jorginho's prodding and my own need to get all these swirling Football thoughts out of my head, I started another blog.

The Defensive Third

I'm ridiculously verbose on the subject. I can wring 3,000 words out of "Carlos Bocanegra as Left Back." If you like Football, you might like the blog. If you love Football, you will want to fucking marry me.

Tell your friends. Link it up.