When last we spoke Anne Marie’s fate was up in the air. Would she get through the fence on the South Lawn? Would she get zipped by a White House sniper? Would she get to the First Lady’s garden and possibly harvest some fruit? Might she get to the Roosevelt Room or perhaps even the Oval Office? I know a lot of you people were rooting for her to get through the fence, and sadistic few hoping she got to the Oval. Well I hate to disappoint but her melon prevented her crashing of the White House. The picture to the left is as close as she got. This time.
The walk to the White House was the first thing we did when we got to DC on Wednesday night. Well, unless you count disappointing our son 28 minutes after arriving.
We hit the hotel, got situated, and began to think about dinner. Frank noticed a hot dog vendor across the street and all of a sudden would certainly die if he could not eat a hot dog from a boiling vat on wheels. So we’re going to the hot dog guy. But mommy was taking her good sweet time and Frank was getting nervous. No worries Frank, I said. He’ll still be there I said. He’s a hot dog cart guy he’s trying to make money I said.
Wrong. We finally get Mrs Frank’s Place in gear and get to the corner. All we need now is for the light to turn green so we can cross annnnnnnd hot dog guy is shutting down his cart. I know this because I was looking at Frank and his shoulders slumped all of a sudden. I look across the street and the dude is closing the shutters and prepping to vacate. I mean I’ve had vendors in ball parks throw me a hot dog from a longer distance than we were from this guy. No good. He was closed. Frank would have to wait a full 24 hours to enjoy the sweet nectar that is street vendor hot dogs. Of course I get that span of time is like a millennia to kids today but still.
Regrouping from hot dog-gate 2016, the first night in DC was a quick walk to the White House and unfulfilling quesadillas from DC Taco. Hey man nothing was going to measure up street dogs at that point but the DC Taco joint was good. Not a lot of people interaction the first night. Day two in our nation’s capital however was nothing but people interaction. Now those of you who have been around me or this blog a while know good and well people interaction is laborious at best for me. So a lot of you might be shocked by what you read in the next few paragraphs.
In the morning we walked to the tour bus pick up spot. It just happened to be across from Ford’s Theater where Lincoln was shot and next to the DC residence where he died the next morning. Attached to that DC residence was a place called Lincoln’s Waffle Shop. That’s where we met Isaiah. Now before I get to Isaiah be aware the rest of this post is not so much what we did but who we met while we did it.
Don’t get your hopes up for some tale of a life changing journey or any weak minded crap like that. Hello, it’s me. No this was just some real interesting observations of real people interaction versus what media and media types would have us believe is happening on the streets of our country. As such you will notice I not only identify people by their names but by their race or ethnicity as well. Read it to the end. It will make sense, or it won’t. Whatever. Good luck.
Isaiah – Lincoln Waffle Shop
Sitting in the waffle shop was like sitting at a bar. The stool next to me was open and a young black man sat down. He appeared to be a local because the Asian family running this joint all knew him and treated him like a son. He ordered his usual by saying Huan, I’ll take my usual. Isaiah ended up with a very large stack of pancakes and that’s it. You can’t find that on the menu. More evidence he’s a local or at least a regular to this joint. Two minutes into requesting his order he engages Anne Marie who is making the rest of the family play a spirited game of Eye Spy.
Two minutes later and Isaiah is playing Eye Spy with us. He has no clue he’s sitting with ringers in the Eye Spy arena. Take a few 15 hour drives east and you too will be able to read the mind of your kids when they spy something and you need to guess. After I explain what appears to be my Jedi like accuracy in guessing what Frank and Ann Marie are spying, Isaiah and I get down to basics. Where you from, what do you do, how did you end up here, etc…
Turns out Isaiah is not local but a regular. A Howard University business and marketing double major who works at the Hard Rock Cafe to bridge the gap between his scholarship and living expenses. Typical college kid though. When the pancakes appeared he didn’t speak until he had muckeled the entire plate. An impressive eating feat to be sure. We both go to the counter to pay and now Huan is treating me like a regular. I don’t have that effect on people. Clearly because I was talking it up with Isaiah I must be OK. And if I was OK with Isaiah I was OK with Huan. Both of my kids hugged Isaiah as we parted. Isaiah and I man-hugged. It was a weird but good start to the day.
Darin and Ajahania – Tour bus 358/Tour bus stop 1
I’m not sure I’ve mentioned this yet. We walked the 50 yards to stop one to get on the tour bus. We were sweating by the time we met Ajahania. So did I mention it was hot as balls? Cause if I didn’t, it was. I mean miserable hot and it was 9:30 in the morning. Ajahania was the person running the show for the tour bus system. A young black woman, she had been standing there for about an hour and had nine more to go. Yeah, nine hours to go. Did I mention it was hot as balls?
Yet somehow Ajahania could not have been nicer. She engaged our kids, she was pleasant, she represented her company wonderfully. Now I get she works in the tourist industry and she’s required to be nice and welcoming and all that other nonsense, but you can tell when people are sincere or just mailing it in. No mailing it in for Ajahania. Great start for our walking/riding tour of DC.
When we rode the trolley back to that spot around 4pm Ajahania was still there, still smiling. She looked at us like she recognized us. Then she said hello to Anne Marie. The kids were melted so not much cherub like demeanor from them but still. I can’t imagine how many people she must have encountered during the day. The trolleys moved from 9 to 5pm at 1/2 hour intervals. Meaning at all 16 stops on the tour a trolley will appear every 1/2 hour. So do the math. Just a very impressive woman. Did I mention it was boiling hot?
As impressive was Darin, the driver of tour bus 358. That’s the trolley we started on. We took that to the Air and Space museum. I think that was stop 7. Darin was a wealth of knowledge. His ability to drive and describe what we were seeing and not mow down people in the street with his trolley was just astounding. He fit that thing into spaces along the route I would not try with a bicycle. Obviously that’s his job, but again his happiness or joy in describing his city was apparent. I’m sure there is a way to calculate the number of people he must encounter during the day but I’m way too lazy. Sufficed to say he has no business being that happy, polite, and pleasant to us or anybody in that heat, doing that job.
Dr. Freeze – street dude selling water at Independence and 6th.
Dr. Freeze is an old black dude and might just be my most favorite person in DC. The trolley pick up spot coming from the Air and Space museum was at the corner of Independence and 6th ave. At that corner I met Dr Freeze. I guess he’s a doctor, that’s what he called himself anyway. The good Doc was selling ice cold bottled water at $2 a piece. It was cold too. Frozen actually. He made his pitch to me and then realized I had three other people with me. Hey my friend I’ll put you on the family plan. Four for five my friend, four for five!
Now my natural inclination is too wave off folk like this. I passed initially with Dr. Freeze based on this. After Tracy asked me what he wanted she rightly said, That’s a good deal. So she went over and signed us up for the family plan. Turned out to be a godsend. Five bottles of ice frozen water later we were waiting in the heat for the trolley. In case you weren’t aware it was hot as blue blazes. Anyway we get on the trolley and AM sits on the window side next to me.
Dr Freeze is now in the street as other tour bus companies are stacking up in front of the Air and Space museum. Our new driver Duchess, the older black woman who commands bus #357, has closed everyone else out thus having the best position to get in and out of the mass of buses and cars at that intersection. If I didn’t know better I’d say she learned to drive in the beach traffic around my home town.
We’ll get to Duchess in a second. But her position and the subsequent back up of other tour buses afforded Dr Freeze to make his rounds window by window of all the other tour buses. As he’s moving along he sees Anne Marie waving at him out the open window of our trolley and asks her if she’s hot. Before I can say we already bought water he just gives her one and won’t take my money. Hey man you on the family plan. Here you go sweetie take some water. He flat out refused to take my 2 dollars.
Now I’ve written a lot on a political web site about the people who stand at busy intersections and off ramps with signs that vary in some from of will work for food. Most of those folks are lying and have more money than you or me. They won’t work for food, they just want a hand out. Google it. Dr Freeze was not only hustling his ass off in heat so bad you could see the air, literally see the air molecules, he was giving away product and thus losing money, to little kids and families.
We’re not rich by any measure but certainly could afford bottled water, especially the Doc’s family plan. And I can guarantee you he was aware of that. The man just has a kind heart. With a pat on her hand and a Have a good day sweetie, Duchess pulled the bus into the battle zone that is DC traffic and we said goodbye to Dr Freeze.
My brother always jokes about being careful how you treat strangers cause they could be Jesus. I have no clue if Elvis works at the Burger King in downtown Memphis but I’m pretty sure what intersection Jesus is standing on right at this moment. And his ice cold water is a dollar cheaper than any other water guy you’ll meet in DC.
Duchess – Tour bus #357 FDR and MLK Memorial
Duchess was a hoot. She drove that big trolley like it was a weapon on wheels. We rode with her from the Air and Space Museum all the way to the FDR and Martin Luther King Jr memorials on the opposite side of the tidal basin. So from the water’s edge we were looking across at the Smithsonian museums. Anyway, Duchess could not be more happy to be alive. Which is more than I can say for the people in cars who dared to take her on in traffic.
After a while I got the distinct feeling that Duchess took everyone in her trolley to be her children and every other vehicle on the road to be a terrorist of some kind. It was oddly reassuring. Twice I had to stifle a laugh as I could see the drivers faces we passed from my perch above them in the trolley that now felt more like the Old Lady that Lived in a Shoe nursery rhyme. Except in this case the lady knew what to do. It was the other drivers left in her wake that were clueless, and possibly slightly angry.
Vincent – Tour bus #350 FDR Memorial
Vincent was the old man of the trolley fleet. The salty old veteran who doled out sage advice and knew every nook and cranny of the city. There was not a thing this dude did not know about DC and the memorials. Dates they were built, dates they were opened to the public, dates they were dedicated, he knew it all. We got on this bus around 3:45pm at the MLK Memorial. That was stop 9 or 10 I believe. Although if not for Vincent we may not have made it on.
His trolley was full when he pulled up and no one appeared to be getting off. But Vincent in his wealth of knowledge kept talking about the attractions at this particular stop. Low and behold four people got up. Vincent looks at me with a hand out and says let them exit and you can get on. Nice. He even jockeyed people around so Tracy and I could each sit with one of our kids. The kids were literal toast at this point so we decided to just stay on and ride back to stop 1, three blocks from our hotel. Traffic was just crazy. And Vincent had the unenviable task of telling people at several of the next stops that the trolley was full. Two stops into our journey back three people get off but four get on.
A very large black woman was about to be odd tourist out. Vincent had one hand on the eject button. But AM crawled into Tracy’s lap and the woman gratefully sat down next to her. And just like that they were chatting up a storm about where we had all gone and what we had seen and what we should see the next time we come back. That was a prevailing theme. Any brush with a person in a museum or at a memorial and they would recommend things to see when and if we come back.
I honestly thought this part of the trip would be a hassle. But it was drama free and a lot of fun. We will betaking the kids back for sure.
As Vincent was reeling off some crazy long stats about different sights we were passing I thought about what has been going on around the country the weeks leading up to this trip. It was surprising how much of what we experienced was exactly opposite of what the media would have us believe. According to the headlines and breaking news flashes the streets of the US are running with blood from an all out race war. I must have missed it cause that just wasn’t the case. And yeah I get that we were in a tourist spot but it wasn’t Mayberry. DC used to be known as the murder capital of the world.
All the people we met: service industry, tourists, locals, college kids, Doctors 🙂 etc… they all treated me and my family with respect; the same we showed them. I never even sensed any animus or suspicion of such. I never looked at one person and thought “threat”. My kids hugged Isaiah they way they hug their Grammy. I’m not naive. I know problems exist, still to this day. The fact I even write that sentence about Isaiah tells you it’s unique and not the norm. All I’m saying is our experience, anecdotal as it may be, was not close to what the news and the media web sites and the “pundit/experts” claim is going on.
Although I identified the race or ethnicity of the people we met, that was for the purpose of this post. In actuality we were all just people. All just doing the same thing on the same day. Hanging out in the hot thick air of Washington DC. And we’d do it again tomorrow if we could.
No idea why I felt the need to include that or write this post in this fashion. I just did. Sue me.
Did I mention it was hot as balls?
Well as it turns out when you work for money, full time and all, you get paid vacation. Pretty sweet deal. So the question became, where oh where to spend my precious time off. Obviously touring the golf courses of Scotland would make the most sense. But then I remembered I’m married and have two young kids. OK it’s off to Jersey to see the family, hit the beach, then stop for two days in our nation’s capital on the way home for good measure. Solid plan. Good plan. I’m proud to be a part of it.
What follows is the blogging version of home movies. An excruciating recount of a family vacation fun and interesting only to those who went on it. And I’m not sure about some of them. Anyway this is a two part series. Tonight you get the run to the mother land and our time at the Jersey Shore. Next up will be our decent on DC and our attempt to see the President (not really). Enjoy.
Road Trip 2016: DC or Bust!
Day 1: Escape Velocity
Trying to get anywhere from our house requires a herculean effort. Church, other kid’s b-days, school, swim practice, piano practice, soccer practice, parties, movies (what are those), you name it we’ll be late for it. Some destinations require more escape velocity than others. Going to church for instance, does not require the same gravity breaking maneuver that going on a week long vacation does.
To say I was not surprised we missed our Friday launch window for Jersey by almost five hours is underselling it. After 13 years I have come to expect a delay of that magnitude. In fact I dare time to stop ticking. I trash talk the clock with slanderous comments about it’s inability to slow down and keep us on time. I wish I was joking.
Still the delay set us up for a decent ride all the way to Front Royal Virginia. That’s about six hours from home base. That left us five hours to travel the next day and land at my sister’s house in South Jersey a little after lunch. On a side note my 4 year old daughter asked, rightly, Why don’t we fly on a plane. That seems like it would be so much easier. I’ll not survive this kid. I just know it.
Day 2: Golfers Remorse
Daddy, daddy we’re at a golf course! Well of course we are. We landed at our hotel in Front Royal around midnight after an accident on 81 North had a few miles of cars stopped in their tracks for an hour. Meaning it was dark when we checked in. I had no idea we were on the fairway of a beautiful golf course. I was already banned from bringing my clubs on this trip so there was no joy in Mudville for me. But the kids were only too happy to show me the course, being gently kissed by golden sunlight I might add, from our hotel window once we all woke up.
Taking one in the shorts from the golf gods aside, the final leg to Jersey was slow but uneventful. The traffic heading to the shore in one direction and to Philadelphia for the Democratic Convention in the other was keeping me from the breakneck speeds of which I’ve become accustom. No matter. Arrival in the mother land was followed by a kings welcome and a cold diet coke. Can’t get much better than that. Except for this righteous photo bomb by my mother.
Let the Jersey begin!
Day 3 and 4: Pool Daze
Well as some of you will read about in the next week, my kids were on the swim team at the Jewish Community Center this summer. The Fightin Salmon! Not kidding. Consequently, they can not only swim very well, but Frank actually competes in races. He swims in a pool half the length but equal depth of an Olympic pool. So jumping in my sister’s 8 foot pool doesn’t mean that much to him as he regularly swims 20 – 25 laps with 15 feet of water under his keel. And several of his practices were at the University of Tennessee aquatic center where the 2012 Olympians trained before the London games, so he can go 50 meters without stopping or grabbing the side or lane marker.
He’s damn proud of himself, as he should be. Not gonna lie, and you’ll read more about this later, but I was getting a little misty watching my son swim hard for the entire hour practice. I was also getting exhausted, but that may have more to do with me than him. Now look he’s no Michael Phelps but the kid puts in the effort. The only place he works harder is on the golf course. I have no delusions about his swimming, but he learned so much more than swimming being on that team.
But he, and his little sister, did learn how to swim. So it was a little more fun than it should have been watching my sister take a stroke every time he went under water or jumped in the “deep” end, or swam the length of her pool, which was half the distance he does for an hour at practice. She really didn’t start yelling at me until I threw Anne Marie about ten feet in the air. And I’ll be damned if that kid didn’t bust my sister’s chops after one of my throws.
Instead of popping right back up after she hit the water, she threw her arms out and lay face down, just floating there motionless. I picked her up by her little floaty jacket thingy and she came out of the water with a huge grin on her face begging me to throw her higher next time. The sound in the background you might still be able to hear was my sister yelling at me, scream level set to kill.
Day 5: Down the Shore
I mean what 660 mile trip back to Jersey is complete without a day at the beach. We went full shoobie and lugged everything we had up to the boardwalk and down to the beach. Not a lot of bay watch, but tons of cholesterol watch if you get my meaning. But the kids enjoyed it and even got a little color. My whiter than white wife, well… red looks good on her really.
I did manage to bring a little Knoxville to Ocean City. My Sac cup, the vessel I and my neighbors use at our weekly Sac parties (read: we all sit in the street till wee hours on Friday and Saturday and drink, except me of course), made it to the beach. A little culture amongst the heathen if you will.
Besides fun in the sun, surf, and sand the beach means the Boardwalk and that means pizza, Jersey style. Look say what you want, there is just no substitute for pizza from Jersey. If you think otherwise then you probably cut yours with a fork and knife like Trump, or go, god forbid, deep dish ala Obama and Hill-dogg. Either way I got no time for ya.
After two days of fresh pizza and a day and a half of left over pizza it was time to start packing and head south. We figured we’d drop in on the President. Anne Marie has a few ideas she’d like to share.
First and foremost, What the hell is with this fence?
Check back tomorrow to see if AM makes it past the sniper fire from the White House Roof!
In honor of Championship Sunday at the Women’s US Open and on the eve of The Open Championship at Royal Troon in Scotland, I offer a short tale from some long grass for your reading pleasure. I’m conflicted, as the title might suggest, as to what I should call this one. Both me running on a golf course and goose poop on said same course, figure so prominently in this story I could not decide. So I went with both. Enjoy Short Run on a Long Walk or Gooses Deuces.
In case it’s not clear from a few of the pictures on this blog or my Facebook and Instagram accounts that I actually appear in, I’m not at what you would call fightin weight. I am working on it, at least on a part time basis. Well, seasonally might be a better word there. Yes I’m working on my physical health and fitness on a seasonal basis, much like a college kid in a department store at Christmas. Anyway, after twice being called out by, and ignoring, my 7yr old son that I need to exercise, I inadvertently got a real life lesson in my fitness, or lack there of.
Now it may seem like I’m projecting or flat out blaming others for what happened that one terrible day on the golf course, and that’s because I am. Months ago I downloaded the Amazon app to my phone. That app is the absolute devil in disguise, but that’s another story. The real story is while at lunch with John, my friend, counselor, Friday golf partner, you name it, I noticed he had all his wallet stuff attached to the back of his phone and no wallet in sight. He was too happy to tell me how this little stick on pocket on the back of his phone would change my life.
Cue the Amazon app. Not 10 minutes later mine was ordered and through the beauty of Amazon Prime, already on it’s way to my house. The pouch and it’s life changing adhesive pad was 4.99 American for two pouches; one white and one black. You know, for formal occasions. Two days later it was on my phone. The irony here is I had to use my web cam to take a picture of my camera phone. Yes I need to upgrade my web cam.
But still, you can see the glorious-ness that is the credit card pouch. I have abandoned my Castanza Wallet (see below) for good. It all comes in one convenient easy to carry thing-a-ma-bob. And that’s where the problem began on a fateful day at Deadhorse Lake Golf Club in Knoxville.
In case you missed it or was not following Frank’s Place back then, (for shame!!) I wrote a little expose about how in love I am with my phone. Read it here if you dare: Naked and Afraid: Two Hours at the Mall without my Phone. It does everything. For the importance of this story, my phone serves as my scorecard and range finder when I play golf. So I have it in my hands almost as much as a golf club when I’m playing.
When I tried to put in our scores on the 9th hole the phone was not where it was supposed to be. Then in panic mode I could not find it anywhere in my bag. Crap! Damn you easy convenient Amazon sticky phone pouch! Now not only is my phone gone, but all the things are gone too. Military Retired ID, drivers license, Kroger discount card, not to mention my bank card, all gone. Egads! I have to find this freaking thing. So I start walking, then a quicker paced hurry. By the time I got back to the 8th green and didn’t see it I was in a full on sprint, you know as much as a 48 year old fat man can sprint. But it was continuous so I was getting cardio benefit.
At the 7th tee box I was still running and sweating. Mostly sweating. But my mind was still sharp although deaf to the calls from my playing partner standing by my bag at the 9th hole. Not sure what he was thinking as he saw me disappear over hill and dale and out of sight but it had to be funny.
Still my mind was working. It brought to me images of my bag falling over at the 5th green. Right! The wind pushed it over and I just picked it up without checking to see if everything was still in it. So off I go, running on the cart path back to the 5th green. Golf courses can be dangerous enough, but when you are moving in the opposite direction of play like I was, moving from 9 all the way to the 5th green, it can be a suicidal shooting gallery. So I figured it best to stay on the path instead of trying to navigate across fairways and greens.
Along the way the kind golfers I passed tested my fitness and aerobic condition by asking me questions as I trundled by. Appreciative as I was of their concern for my well being, I had no time to talk or air to waste. Somewhere out there was my phone/wallet.
Cresting the hill on the 6th tee box, what had been a search and recover mission turned into a full on quest. I would make it to the 5th green, on the run without stopping, or the heavens will fall.
Coming over the hill on the 5th fairway, now able to peer down to the 5th green, my spirit was torn asunder. No phone/wallet, at least that I could tell from about 200 yards out. But I soldiered on. Getting to the 5th green there was no sign of my wallet. Hmmm I wonder if those other gofers were trying to get my attention to tell me they had picked it up. So much for my mind working. About face. And I’m on the quick time again back up the 5th fairway.
Funny thing about golf courses, the hills run in both directions. By the 7th tee box, still running, I was seeing scenes of the after life. I always thought I might buy the farm right after hitting my first hole in one, or breaking par. Of course that would be the case, so I’d have no time to enjoy those events. But now it seemed for all the world my ticker would blow trying to run up the cart path at the 8th green and get back to my bag.
Secretly I had hoped John, my playing partner, went to get a golf cart to come rescue me. A blasphemy I know, we always walk when we play golf, but this was as desperate a time as there was. The golf gods would just have to understand. Descending to the 9th green and into a dark, now mile long run inducing delirium at the same time, I noticed John standing by my bag. In a moment of clarity I can see something in his hand. Could it be my wallet/phone! Huzzah! All is saved! But what is his other hand doing? His other hand appears to be pointing to my bag for some rea…. Oh crap.
Yep, I just ran a little over a mile to find my wallet/phone that was apparently in my bag the whole time. I panicked so quickly after doing just a cursory search in the bag that I looked right at the phone and completely missed it. John is pretty gracious. He explained where and how he found it and how he tried to summon me back. But it appeared I was on a mission so he just waited by my bag figuring I would return some day. Not much ball busting. But he did say something that caught me completely off guard.
“I dropped it in goose poop.”
Ah wut? On purpose?
“No. I dropped it and it fell in a pile of goose poop.”
Well I guess that’s the icing on the cake for this saga, if you’ll permit my strangling of a wholesome metaphor.
As I said, we walk when we play golf. Even in the blinding heat of a day like the day I lost/didn’t lose my phone. Charity tournaments and really expensive courses that won’t let you walk are the only times we are forced to ride. So week after week we essentially walk and carry our clubs 2 to 3 miles every time we play. That walk usually precipitates a hearty nap in the afternoon. Add in a mile long run in sweltering heat and another 9 holes to play you can imagine my afternoon slumber. Safe to say I felt like goose poop by the time we finished.
Golf: the struggle is real people.
Casino’s have the infamous reputation of always winning. If you take money from them, whether from a table game or hitting on a slot machine, some other poor slob loses twice that much two seconds later. The House always wins. It has to be that way or the House ceases to exist. It’s there for one reason, to make money. More to the point they are there to take money, your money. As diabolical as that sounds, there is a place on earth even more so.
You’ve seen it, you may have been on it, it may have made you a widow. Regardless, for sure you know of it. It goes by many names but you probably know it by its original name, its worldly name, its biblical name, Satis Tractus – The Golf Course. My friends you can have your casinos. For pure viciousness in the gutting of a man’s soul, no place on earth compares. Don’t think so? Well my man, let me count the ways.
Golf courses, much like Honey Badgers, just don’t care. Unlike casinos, golf courses aren’t after your money. In fact you can lose a mortgage payment in a casino in a blink. It could take you five years to spend the equivalence of one month’s mortgage payment at a golf course. No my friends, Satis Tractus has no need of your money, it wants your tears.
When you are out of money the casino bars your admittance. The Golf Course will take all your tears, and then entice you back with a good round, or just a single good shot. All for the singular purpose of breaking your spirit.
Then, when you think you have nothing left to give the Golf Course, it alerts you to your club house rewards points, with enough built up for a free round. You’ve now put your soul in the pot. And unlike a casino, there is absolutely no chance of getting it back. For every badly dressed schlep who loses his soul on The Course, everyone in the foursome behind you loses theirs too. Unlike a casino where the house always wins, The Course never loses. There is a difference.
So it’s a rare day when The Course gives ground, when it weakens just for a nanosecond, allowing golfers everywhere a glimmer of hope. Tales like these come along once in a millennia. I believe my purpose for being is to tell this tale.
A Tree Falls in Knoxville
In the summer and fall of 2013 a strong wind came down from the north west of Knoxville Tennessee. Caused by my consistent missing of the ball with my driver, this unholy wind continued for a season. And yes I mean missing completely, total whiffing of the ball. Follow through complete, golf ball still resting atop its tee, flipping me off.
This zephyr blinded me and those with me to the evil growing in the west, specifically on the Par 5 tenth hole at Dead Horse Lake Golf Course. You see, because I was unable to connect with the ball from the tee box, I was never in position to notice this… this ruination waiting in the distance; hungry for a fresh helping of tear soaked souls.
Fast forward to the spring of 2015. After a rib muscle tear and rehab in the back yard with 100 swings a day I was back, recklessly offering my soul to The Course. Only this time, my rhythm true, the ball no longer smugly mocking me, my offer left the tee with great velocity, finding the short grass. I know, crazy right?
Standing over my tee shot, dead center of the fairway on afore mentioned #10 at Dead Horse, I get a glimpse of what was to become my nemesis for hundreds of rounds.
To say it was an ill placed tree is a gross underselling. The Course knew what it was doing. A giant oak standing guard in the middle of the #10 fairway rendered every straight tee shot impotent. An approach to the green, a lay up to a desired yardage to make a higher percentage approach, no matter, The Tree made it impossible. Unless your ball had a seeing eye dog for an escort or was somehow guided by GPS technology, the next shot would require the skill of a PGA Tour pro. And not some journeyman either. It would take a seasoned veteran with several wins under his/her belt to navigate the Oaken Sentinel.
I ain’t shamed to say I wished irreparable harm to said tree. I even pimped the course folk on FB as they were redesigning, begging them to accidentally on purpose hit the tree with some large course redesigning equipment. No such luck. So I had to pull up my big boy golf shorts and deal. How did it go you ask. Well, think of the bible story David and Goliath, but Goliath wins. And he doesn’t just win, he destroys, demoralizes, and otherwise eviscerates David.
Perfectly struck shots gobbled up, deflected, denied, and outright rejected from their intended path. I once hit a ball that hit the base of the Oak Tree. It ran up the trunk and was launched into the air, backward, over my head. After hitting the ball forward it was now 40 yards behind me. Goliath v David, yeah that comes close to our battle.
But no more my friends! A stronger wind, from the east this time, has purged this peril from our path. Torrents of rain, streaks of dancing lightning, and thunderous.. well.. ya know… thunder, brought the misplaced misfit to its knees, or stump, or whatever a tree uses instead of knees. Word came by way of a runner of the vanquished foe. And the word was only a stump remained, not even the carcass could be found. Dragged off no doubt, by the gods, as to avoid further embarrassment.
My playing partner and brother of the bearer of the great news, standing aside the fallen sentinel. We took care not to mock for too long, but we got our jabs in. Now while the stump has been removed, the footprint in the grass remains. The once mighty behemoth is all but vanished.
He will not be missed.
So I’ve been thinking of starting something a bit new here at Frank’s Place. Bearing in mind that I’m of the lazy sort, this was a decision I’ve been mulling (read procrastinating over) for a while now. Tales From the Tall Grass hits a few key buttons for me. It combines golf and writing. It occurred to me as I walk the fairways of the myriad of course I play, I run into and meet a lot of people.
As it turns out those people have stories. Even if they don’t think they do. And as I said I’ve only been mulling the idea of writing those stories. For one it would require some actual skill. I appreciate the compliments I get for writing Frank’s Place, but that’s just personal stories about the life of my kids and my role in their lives. Writing and articulating another person’s story is something all together different. Needless to say I was on the fence about all of it. Yeah I know, we should all have such tough decisions.
Well today cinched the deal for me. I played a rare Saturday round this week and met a pretty cool dude. What he was carrying finally convinced me Tales From the Tall Grass should be a thing. This thing won’t really be about golf aside from the rare bragging about my own game and some back-fill when the story requires it. No, these stories will hopefully be about the people I meet as a result of golf. And you’re in luck. The first installment begins now. Hope you like it. I know I do.
Tales From the Tall Grass: Hey where’d ya get that?
So a Saturday round of golf due to Friday rain allowed me and my weekly golf partner, John (his story coming in a later installment), to meet a fellow walker named Tom. Of course I’m not referring to walkers as in the zombie apocalypse, but to the rare breed of people who still walk the golf course instead of ride a golf cart.
Saturday’s are much busier and Tom, a walker, was paired up with me and John, also die hard walkers. We exchanged the typical pleasantries before teeing off and away we went. Tom and I hit uninspiring shots that missed the green to the right. As we approached we noticed the two golf balls in close proximity to each other. As is customary in this situation you ask the other guy what ball he’s playing, as in what brand. So you don’t hit his by mistake.
Tom says “I’m hitting a Titleist Pro-V1 #6”. For clarification, the ball is made by Titleist, the type is Pro-V1 and it’s stamped with a #6. And that was very odd in that I was playing the same ball, #6 stamp and all. Tom said “Well I’ll switch so we don’t confuse them all day.”
No need I said, mine has a Frank’s Place Logo on it so we should b…. “So does mine.” came Tom’s reply.
“Yeah see? Frank’s Place franknfran.com.” Tom said very nonchalantly, as if balls with that logo are so common it was no surprise to him that we both had one. Well it was a surprise to me. I had those balls made in January with a gift card I received for Christmas. I had a dozen made and up to this point had only lost two or three.
When Tom saw mine with the same logo he asked, again in a matter of fact tone, “Hey where did ya get that?” I had them made bro. Frank’s Place is my web site. It’s a blog I write about being a stay at home dad, and now a back to work dad.
“Well what do you know I just met Frank!” Tom was so excited I almost hated to mention it to him. No bro, you just met Frank’s dad. He was still enthused. John and I looked at each other for the next two holes with the same What are the chances expression. So now it was my turn. “Hey Tom. Where did ya get that?”
“Right here on number 15. It was behind the green just into the tall grass.” The right here he was referring to was Dead Horse Lake golf course in Knoxville. It’s sort of our home course. As soon as Tom said where he found it I knew when I had lost it and the plethora of vulgarities that followed my exhaustive search and subsequent penalty shot.
So started the conversation with Tom the walker. It’s a great story to lead off with because Tom is also a talker and has an interesting story. The least of which; in the 80s he used to work at they very place I just started working, Y-12 National Security Complex. He worked wit people in the 80s who are still there today.
Now Tom builds energy scrubbers. It sounds like an extremely complicated process. Here’s a diagram just for your own edification. But don’t ask me. I tried to listen to the explanation right up until my head hurt. Needless to say the world needs these things and smart dudes like Tom build them. So it’s safe to say the world needs guys like Tom. And not only is Tom producing for society, he’s passing that legacy on to the next generation.
An engineer by trade, Tom’s son and only child followed in his footsteps. Tom’s son is on the robotics team at his stem school and is due to attend the University of Tennessee next year. I showed my intelligence for the robotics world when Tom relayed a story of the robotics competition his son is in, for the third year running. The competition is basically a skills, agility, and capabilities test for the robot and a challenging gauge of creativity for the robotics teams who make them.
The robots must navigate an array of obstacles and either assault or invade a castle. Here is where my genius comes in. I blurt out, “Like battle-bots!” You know, that show on Saturday mornings, where all these teams bring their killer robots into the arena, close them in a plexiglass cage and let them fight to the death. It was an awesome show. But, Battle-Bots is sort of like what WWE is to the sport of Greco-Roman wrestling. Kind of the same but not really close to the same.
Tom’s kid was on a team making robots that actually accomplished something other than bludgeoning another robot into the scrap heap. Once the castle scenario was done the robotics teams would join forces, trying to match their weakness with two other teams’ strength’s and continue the competition. I’m clearly not doing the topic justice. I can’t get the theme song from Battle-Botts! out of my head. I should have included it so you could be enjoying the endless loop yourself.
Anyway, Tom was thrilled about it as he should be. He had some good stories from the golf course himself. He’s experienced just about everything from a torn muscle that came completely detached from the bone to a hole in one; the holy grail of golf and golfers everywhere. When Tom tore his hamstring clean off the bone, his bros marked their balls right there in the fairway, got Tom to his car, pointed him in the right direction and went back to finish their round. Eight months later Tom tested his busted hammy on the ski slopes. That is an awesome story right there.
I would expect no more or no less treatment from the dudes I golf with. Hell it ain’t like I’m a surgeon and can fix him up. That’s what hospitals are for. But I am a golfer and the round won’t finish itself. I won’t show you a pic of a torn hamstring cause damn! I just googled that and now can’t un-see it.
All in all a good time was had by the three of us.
Tales From the Tall Grass. Yeah this might be a thing.
Sound off with thoughts on the first installment or the whole idea in general.
Daddy they’re Triangles, not Tri-angu-lees! That’s silly!
Thus marked the moment it all started. She’s growing up. Can’t stop it. Don’t really want to stop it. I don’t think. But I was hoping to hold onto the vocabulary for a little while longer. I mean she’s pronouncing things properly now. How long before she’s a know it all teenager who hates her parents?
I will say we are finally to a place where the experiences with Anne Marie are starting to be similar to that of her older brother. Her early entrance into the world, subsequent 6 month stay in the NICU and another 6 with a heart monitor, followed by a year of isolation from germs sort of robbed us of all the experience we built up with Frank.
And I will say his transition from Panfer! to panther and from Hippothomas! to hippopotamus marked the beginning of the end of his toddler-hood. So this isn’t without precedent. Still sucks though.
A friend even warned me about it. Preschool will cause them to speak properly he said. They’ll lose that fun, funny way of saying things he said. They’ll seem older he said. He was right on all counts. Is there anything cuter than Hippothomas? No. Not even close. The only difference here is Frank never has corrected me when I say it the old way. Once he started to pronounce it correctly he just moved on.
The girl on the other hand… The first time we read the series of books called Bob Books it was a level 1 set where I was introduced to Seth the Square, Sally the Circle, and Tanner the Triangle. Although with that literation you would figure Sally the Circle would be Cecily the Circle. But hey who am I to judge.
Anyway these are the books she wanted me to read to her for nighttime. I gotta say after the first run through I needed to spice things up a bit. I mean not for nothin but the Bob Books are very short, zero plot lines, devoid of suspense, and almost no character development. Sally was the only one who got to stretch her story line a bit when she got upset during a game of hide and seek. She got so flustered she held her breath and lost her circular shape and was thus indistinguishable from the rest of the foliage.
It wasn’t until Seth and Tanner broke down crying because they couldn’t find Sally, (even though they were so close had either one of them sneezed Sally could have handed them a tissue), that Sally released her breath and returned to her circular shape. She then became visible to Tanner and Seth.
Not to go all Sigmund Freud here but Sally clearly has some self worth issues coupled with a need for attention bordering on the pathological. Who the hell can hold their breath until they lose their shape? If it was that easy to not be round I’d still be holding my breath. And don’t even get me started on the shallow brain pans of Seth and Tanner.
Regardless, save that one particularly interesting volume, the rest of the books are quite boring. So I would amuse myself by reading in different voices, attempt to do it in a few different languages where I know some words. As it turns out, Ach tung! Seth kommen zie hier!, which is my father’s loose German for Come over here Seth!, doesn’t go over well for bedtime stories.
I did try singing one of them once. But my voice makes Jesus cry so I had to stop. Then I struck comedy gold when I began changing the syllables of the words or pronounced them phonetically when I could.
So Tanner the Triangle became Tanner the Tri-angu-lee. Sally became Sally the Circ-u-lee. She roared with laughter. The kid has a phenomenal belly laugh. Even at two years old she could bust a gut laughing. And it only took one time for her to start calling any circle or triangle by my made up phonetics.
The kid is a riot. Well I should say, was a riot. I used the tri-nagu-lee on her the other day and got, “Daddy they’re Triangles, not Tri-angu-lees! That’s silly!”
My little girl is not very little anymore.
Kommen des Alters, es saugt.
(Growing up man, it sucks.)