June 30, 2010

There are so many (or at least seemingly so) colorless golfers out there on the PGA Tour. Well, Bubba Watson is not one of them. After he tapped in on the second hole of a sudden-death playoff at the Travelers Championship to garner his first PGA Tour victory, to hear him speak honestly of its relative importance in his career and life (his father is battling cancer) was both poignant and refreshing. He’s definitely someone who knows not just how good he has it, but how to keep it all in perspective.

I haven’t followed his career much, but he’s such a likeable and offbeat character that I’ll be sure to root for him the next time he’s in contention. With his length and his overall game, my guess is I’ll have plenty of opportunities to do so in the future.

Contrast Watson with the “pouting prima dona” Sergio Garcia, who, as talented as he is, has yet to win a major tournament and is now struggling with a rather inferior game. Early on he too seemed like a likeable guy with his devil-may-care, Ballesteros-esque ability to pull off great shots from just about anywhere. Lately, he seems to be battling some inner demons and never appears to be enjoying himself – ever – when he’s playing golf.

…or, the troubled and increasingly surly Tiger Woods, whose true colors are coming out now that he knows he longer has to put up that “aw shucks, I’m just an everyday kind of guy” facade of his. After all the post-Thanksgiving revelations there’s nothing, or nowhere, left to hide. Me? I bet he dumps Steve Williams as his caddie sometime this year; after ditching his swing coach earlier this year, that will make his self-imposed isolation complete.

But enough about those clowns. If the PGA Tour truly wants to connect with the next generation of fans, they’d do well to promote the likes of players who appear to have it all together like the inherently likeable Bubba Watson.

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 00:13 | Comments (2)
June 29, 2010

prayergrove11 Well it’s not really a “grove”, per se – maybe it’s more like an alcove or a grotto? – but one of the nicer little areas we’ve created on our property is what I call my prayer grove. It’s situated between the west side of the front of our house and a wall that begins our neighbor’s east yard. The prior owners had the good sense to plant two large beautiful red bougainvilleas that, when we first came here, filled the entire corner. Two years ago, I got the inspiration to turn it into something a little more than that, and it’s become my own little prayer/meditation area.

prayergrove2

It’s amazing how a simple bench, a few religious items, a table, and a variety of stone products can do to make an area cozy, peaceful, and, yes, holy. And it truly is holy ground – last Spring, after Carmelo our landscaper did his magic trimming and I put everything in place, I consecrated the area with holy water from the Byzantine Catholic church up the street. And if it came from a Byzantine Catholic parish – I mean, you know its gotta be holy!

prayergrove3

Here’s the view from the bench where I sit and do my morning prayers whenever I can. Sundays are the easiest, in between making coffee and feeding the rabbits, and calling my folks to see how they’re doing. Weekdays are a little tougher – here on Pacific Daylight Time, my company’s workday is well under way by the time morning coffee is made. One of these days I’ll learn to get my lazy ass out of bed 45 minutes earlier and hit the prayer grove before the rabbits demand my attention. God only asks that I love Him with all my heart, mind, and spirit (Mark 12:30). Unfortunately, that that kind of reverential love seems all too often reserved for me and my needs alone.

The best prayer offices come from the monastic breviary I got during one of my retreats at Holy Cross Monastery in West Park, New York. They follow the Benedictine tradition and I enjoy using their Matins as the structure for my morning prayers. A good balanced office with prayers, Old and New Testament readings, and Psalms that I like to chant to myself.

One of our neighbors came by one morning while I was doing my prayers and said she was really impressed that one of her neighbors would set up a “shrine” (her words) in our neighborhood, and asked me if she could use it from time to time. I said sure. (I don’t know if she has…)

One good thing about having my prayer grove in the front of the house is that, whenever the Mormons or the Jehovah’s Witnesses come by and try to convert me, I can always point to the prayer grove and politely decline. It always seems to work.

This is the best of the year for doing morning prayers inside the prayer grove. The bougainvillea are out big, but not so much that they really start to assert their space – that will come in a few weeks! And when there’s a soft breeze, my neighbors’ king palms make a beautiful whooshing sound as they stir, reminding me of how God speaks to us – maybe sometime it’s as loud as a clap of thunder, but more often than not as a whisper from the deep recesses of our souls. The morning sun filling the area with its warmth, the birds chirping, the king palms stirring – it may be just a humble prayer grove, but it’s a little sanctuary in the cathedral that is God’s creation.

Pool temp: 91 degrees

Filed in: Religion & Culture by The Great White Shank at 01:01 | Comments (2)
June 28, 2010

Some quick links while hoping this actually turns out into the short work week my company has promised:

I mention often how hot it gets here in the Valley of the Sun, but this link shows you just how hot it has been. It took a while to get to 100, but once it got there, it has pretty much stayed there.

Without a doubt the cutest golfer out there on the LPGA Is Paula Creamer. The “Pink Panther” has a beautiful swing, a beautiful smile, a great body – everything you’d want to take home to meet mom – before you dash away so you can be alone, of course!

…and Azahara Munoz isn’t too hard on the eyes, either.

Ever wonder what the Texas Tornados’ “A Little Bit I Better Than Nada” (one of The Great White Shank’s all-time favorite tunes, BTW) would sound like played by a Japanese Tex-Mex band? I think they do a pretty damned fine job of it.

…and speaking of all-time favorite tunes, this one has been rolling around in my head the past few days. I still remember hearing it when it first came out back in 1967; it made me want to learn how to play the steel guitar. Never did.

I don’t have any of her records, but I always loved Tammy Wynette’s voice; it had such power and vulnerability all at the same time. She had such a hard life. Just listen to her pour herself into the Beach Boys’ “In My Room” (backed by the ‘Boys themselves, including both Brian and Carl Wilson). It’s both heartaching and mesmorizing to watch her absolutely own this song as she sits there singing, just her and that microphone. It would be the very last song she would ever record – both she and Carl would be dead within the next 16 months.

Pool temp: 90 degrees

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 20:38 | Comments (0)
June 27, 2010

The ball off my 9-iron was unusually solid and crisply hit; the arc straight and perfect. And when the ball came down, four or five yards past the 100-yard marker I was still posing, body towards the target just as my swing coach Ben “The Funny Guy” Andrusaitis would have wanted it.

Keep in mind, The Great White Shank has never – never – had any stranger compliment my swing. Oh sure, you’ll get compliments from your partner in a Goodboys foursome after a decent shot – even for The Great White Shank that’s not that unusual. But for a PGA pro, at a driving range, no less – well, that’s some compliment! You see, he had just finished giving some student a lesson at the far end of the driving range and was walking back towards the golf shop while, in the middle of my “30 ball” exercise, I hit that good solid 9-iron and heard his compliment. It made me feel good.

So there you go – that’s how I know I’m starting to make some solid progress in my golf game less than three weeks from the 20th annual Goodboys Invitational, less than two weeks away from touching down in New England – on vacation, and on target for preparing to do some damage at the Goodboys Invitational.

I wish I could say that all 30 of my balls today followed that same lovely trajectory towards the desired target; I can’t. But I am learning the value of what my swing coach would call “a good miss”. Focusing on trusting your swing and making your shot – well, that’s something I’ve never ever done in my life until this year.

Is that a guarantee I’ll make my goal of breaking 100 in a Goodboys Invitational round? Hardly – especially when you consider the mind-numbing, bone-crushing pressure that a Goodboys Invitational brings. But this is a golf discipline I’ve never embraced before, and it’s making me think about my game in a whole new way – one, I hope, will create good swing thoughts that can be done repetitively over a Goodboys weekend.

I’m psyched, and can’t wait to bring my game back to New England in two weeks’ time.

Pool temp: 90 degrees

Filed in: Goodboys by The Great White Shank at 00:21 | Comment (1)
June 26, 2010

It’s a hot, breezy Saturday morning, and I’m just blogging this note before I head out to the 2nd install of my “30 Balls A Week” program, designed to help me achieve my sole goal for this year’s 2010 Goodboys Invitational: to break 100 at least one round for the first time during a Goodboys Invitational weekend, and to shoot below my number (103) all three rounds.

Whether my team (me and partner Ron “Cubby” Myerow) wins is beside the point – indeed, one of those timeless adages in Goodboys lore is that, if you’re standing over a 6-inch putt that you know will win you the Goodboys championship on Sunday, think very carefully about your choice of club to use. After all, by doing so you now own care and responsibility for setting up the next year’s event.

Me, I don’t think I’ll have to worry about that this year – after all, my pick is Ben “The Funny Guy” Andrusaitis and Jay “Crusher” Spielberg (those triumphant lads in the upper-right hand corner of the page) to be the first repeat champions in the history of the Goodboys Invitational. I think that would be fitting triumph to cap the 20th edition of the event, don’t you?

…or, better yet, for “Goose” Dwyer to win his first Goodboys Invitational, thereby casting off once and for all the mantle “Best Golfer To Have Never Won A Goodboys Championship”. Yes, now THAT would be more fitting.

So it’s back to the driving range and putting green at Superstition Springs Golf Club armed with my tools for battle: 7-iron, 9-iron, pitching wedge, and putter, my three swing thoughts (“eye to contact”, “weight shift”, “sweeeeet swing”), and two CDs – The Sandals’ “The Spirit of Surf” and Gary Usher and The Super Stocks’ “Surf Route 101″ for inspiration and to keep things in a good positive frame of mind.

[Ed. note: I don't have that CD of Barack Obama's speeches he gave to Queen Elizabeth, so The Sandals and The Super Stocks will just have to do.]

Less than three weeks to go before Goodboys weekend; time to get ready for the show.

Pool temp: 91.5 degrees

Filed in: Goodboys by The Great White Shank at 11:23 | Comments (2)
June 25, 2010

scheider You find your first Jaws-related link of the season here at Goodboys Nation weblog. Nothing says Goodboys Invitational weekend is near like a reference to “Jaws” and Great White sharks.

Back in the early days of the Goodboys Invitational (probably because so many of those early weekends were spent up in the mountains of Vermont and New Hampshire and there was less to do at night than later on, when the locales got switched to Cape Cod and the New Hampshire seacoast) gathering around to watch “Jaws” was a tradition during the weekend. I still remember the year fellow Goodboy Steve “Killer” Kowalski’s only responsibility was to rent a copy of “Jaws” and what do you suppose he brought? “Jaws 5 – The Revenge”. Now THAT was a bad movie.

Given this story, perhaps it’s a damned good thing the Goodboys are heading to Portsmouth, NH instead of Cape Cod – wouldn’t want something like this to spoil a post-round cool off in Buzzards Bay!

Pool temp: 91 degrees

Filed in: Goodboys by The Great White Shank at 00:55 | Comments (0)
June 24, 2010

Frequent visitor and commenter – not to mention Great White Shank chops-buster extraordinaire – Jana’s comment from yesterday’s post was rid – er, misguided. Here’s what she said in response to my observation that Lady GaGa “…is just the latest example of an increasingly crass society and a generation that has never known, and likely will never understand taste, class, and appreciation”:

Substitute the year 1957 for 2010 and substitute the name Elvis Presley for Lady GaGa…it still reads the same from back then to now, only now you are the old geezer who just doesn’t get it.

OK, fine. Let’s do a little comparison and see exactly how the “King of Rock and Roll” and the “Queen of Crass” stack up to each other:

elvis1 and… elvis3

vs.

gaga1 and… gaga2

OK, so fashion and styles have changed in 53 years, I get it; I ditched my “I Like Ike” mohair suit decades ago. But that’s not what I was referring to. Oh sure, there are those out there who might hear, oh, something like this, and after that, thinking this is an improvement in terms of both musical talent and taste, and that’s OK. But 53 years from now people will still know who Elvis Presley was, and Lady GaGa’s footprint upon American popular music will be smaller than the dot over the “i” in “nit”. As in nitwit.

Don’t get me wrong here, believe it or not, I’ve heard a bunch of Lady GaGa’s stuff – Tracey and Tam both think she’s great. And I think she has a decent voice, even if there’s really nothing distinctive about either it or her music to – at least to my mind – differentiate her from any number of techno-pop chicks that have come down the pike over the past decade. To me, she sounds like Christina Aguilera fronting a Ace Is Base recording. So don’t tell me The Great White Shank doesn’t know (at least somewhat) his popular music.

But that’s not what I was talking about. Heck, when even Jerry Seinfeld calls her out for being a jerk, that tells you something. Was Elvis outrageous for his time back in 1957? Did people back then consider his act vulgar? Like someone I personally admire might say, “You betcha!”. But Elvis throughout his troubled life nevertheless remained a gentleman, was raised right, and treated people with respect. Lady GaGa is nothing more than a meagerly talented, over-hyped, self-centered twit whose only concern is seeing how many people she can shock, insult, or outrage with her boorish behavior.

If that’s what passes for “cool” and pop culture in this day and age, so be it. But let’s keep our heads and not be blind to what has become of American pop culture over the past 50 some-odd years. There’s a vast difference between Elvis Presley and his art, and Lady GaGa’s. Me? I blame Barack Obama. :-)

Sigh. All this talk gives me “a mess of blues”.

Pool temp: 90 degrees

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:55 | Comments (2)
June 23, 2010

This post named in honor of this awesome 1969 tune by the legendary Creedence Clearwater Revival. I played their Cosmo’s Factory LP so much it wore right down through the grooves…. They don’t make ‘em like that anymore.

And speaking of music, put me down as one who just doesn’t “get” Lady Gaga. Sure, I’ve heard some of her music and she does have a good voice. But I’m having a hard time trying to understand her schtick – is she just naturally stupid, inherently obnoxious, or is her outrageous behavior just a way of getting attention, a la Madonna? Either way, my guess is that Lady Gaga is just the latest example of an increasingly crass society and a generation that has never known, and likely will never understand taste, class, and appreciation.

And speaking of no class: this story doesn’t surprise me at all. After all, that explains Rosie O’Donnell, doesn’t it?

Latest favorite beverage for these hot, dry summer days: Coca-Cola/Minute Maid’s Simply Lemonade. Have you tried it? It’s usually right next to the orange juice in the supermarket’s refrigerator section. Me, I can’t get enough of it.

So let me get this straight, the Democratic Party is the one that supposedly stands for diversity and Republicans are just a bunch of old white country club male types, right? So how on earth could this and this and this and this kind of thing be happening? Just don’t expect to see, hear, or read about it in the New York Times, Washington Post, Boston Globe, or any other typical state-run media outlet; it just doesn’t adhere to their narrative.

Pool temp: 90 degrees

Filed in: Politics & World Events by The Great White Shank at 00:23 | Comment (1)
June 22, 2010

The longest day of the year.
The pool is 90 degrees.
There’s a beautiful 3/4 moon out tonight.
All is still.
Me, I’m just floating around in the pool, a dinosaur contemplating his own mortality.

There are three neighbors around us who have pools; I think I’m the only one that uses ours with any kind of regularity. Late-night swims are always a good way to let the tensions of the day kind of melt away. I don’t spend a whole lot of time in the water – 15 minutes at a time, perhaps – but it sure is enjoyable, especially when the water is primo condition, anywhere between 84 and 94 is wonderful.

The sparrows and mourning doves like the fountain that was built into the pool. We leave it running a trickle so the doves can take their early morning and the sparrows their late afternoon drinks. On hot days like this I’ve seen them use it as a birdbath; it’s fun to see them splashing around. The fountain also attracts dragonflies – there were a pair flittering around in the late afternoon sun, fascinating to watch.

Floating around in the silence I can’t help feeling a sense of melancholy. It’s not as if I’ve ever really planned anything out, but tonight everything sure feels awry – physically, mentally, spiritually. Actually, as much as a wreck this year seems to be playing out to be, in prayer and contemplation God reminds me who I am, where I’ve been, and how far I’ve come. But I still feel down and alone and kind of lost. But that’s OK.

“All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field.
The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the LORD blows on them.” (Isaiah 40:6-7)

Nothing lasts forever, so live in the moment. Everything around me is bathed in a ghostly, lonely moonshine – a perfect fit for this unforgettable moody Dennis Wilson cut from his wonderful Pacific Ocean Blue CD. Hard to believe he’s been gone for over 16 years now. It wasn’t just brother Brian who had all the talent…

Pool temp: 90 degrees

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 00:10 | Comments (0)
June 21, 2010

mcdowell1 Congratulations to Graeme McDowell for his “last man standing” triumph at the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.

The tournament as a whole was a fairly entertaining affair, but I think over the next few days you’ll see a Shinnecock Hills-esque backlash against the USGA for the setup at Pebble Beach, at least on the final day of play. Good people might disagree one way or another about a tournament where even par is good enough to win you a major championship, but it all comes down to that great U.S. Open question – would you rather have the golfers or the golf course as the star of the show?

Me, I would have liked to see a setup where someone could shoot, say, a 65 or a 66 to make a charge from behind or create some head-to-head drama like the folks at Augusta National are able to do come Masters Sunday. Today, it wasn’t just that neither Phil, Ernie, or Tiger were able to put a low round together to generate some edge-of-your-seat drama, it was that no one in the field could. It was all defensive golf out there today, and, let’s face it, defensive golf just isn’t that exciting or compelling to watch.

Nevertheless, Pebble Beach remains an awesome place to watch competitive golf played at, and you have to tip your hat to McDowell for his play in winning his first major championship. He played steady all weekend along, and steady was the key to victory at this year’s U.S. Open. I just wish the USGA had created a setup – at least for Sunday’s final round – that allowed for a less restrictive style of play where the penalties for taking chances weren’t so severe; it would have made for a much more entertaining tournament.

I think that’s why the Masters and the British Open remain my favorite majors to watch: both tournaments are held at venues that reward imaginative play and accommodate different styles of play. At Pebble Beach this weekend, there was only one way to skin a cat, and credit Graeme McDowell for figuring out the best way to do just that.

Pool temp: 90 degrees

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 00:43 | Comments (0)

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