April 30, 2011

Today’s driving range session at Superstition Springs Golf Club proved just how far I have come as a high-handicap golfer in just the past few weeks. I’ve never worked so hard on my game in my life, and – more importantly – have never enjoyedworking on my game as much as I have in the past month.

Between self-examination, consultation with my swing coach Ben “The Funny Guy” Andrusaitis, and repeated practice sessions in my front yard, I’ve finally found a simple swing I am willing to commit to and stick with going forward. I know there will always be days where you may not execute as well as you do on other days, but gone are the days when I’m swing a club defensively not to do something as opposed to thinking positively and staying offensive in mind, trying to repeat the same swing and set-up all the time no matter where the ball might go.

Today, for example, I focused not just on hitting balls for the sake of it, but practicing my stance and set-up before every swing. That’s very unusual for The Great White Shank, but I actually enjoyed the challenge of it all. Starting with my pitching wedge, then 8-iron, then 6-iron, I found myself either hitting the ball on the screws (and taking a divot, no less!) or making some “good misses”. Early on, I was also hitting my new woods exceptionally, but as the session went on and the heat began to rise I started to get a little sloppy overswinging. Nevertheless, I came away from my session feeling very positive about the solid foundation I have put in place, and feel I just need to work on my tempo and consistency – something that will only come with more practice and repitition.

Filed in: Goodboys by The Great White Shank at 21:46 | Comments (0)

You’ve heard of toeing the club, right? Well, how about this story of Alex Cejka’s withdrawal from this week’s Zurich Classic of New Orleans as a result of him clubbing the toe:

As the Golf Channel’s Todd Lewis noted during Friday’s PGA Tour pre-tournament show, Cejka couldn’t play in Friday’s second round after breaking his toe. How did he break it, you ask?

In a moment of frustration during the round, Cejka tried to slam his wedge into the ground, but instead of hitting the turf, caught his toe instead. He not only broke the toe, but took a considerable chunk of leather out of his golf shoe.

Who said golf wasn’t a contact sport?

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 00:20 | Comments (0)
April 29, 2011

While his fellow citizens were being killed and their lives uprooted in Wednesday’s severe weather outbreak, at least the President of the United States was out there having fun:

“Today was a fun day,” Obama said at his first fundraising event at [former New Jersey governor Jon] Corzine’s apartment. “Nobody checked my ID at the door. But it was also a serious day because part of what happened this morning was me trying to remind the press and trying to remind both parties that what we do in politics is not a reality show. It’s serious.”

Y’know, I used to think Barack Obama was just an inexperienced street organizer who happened to hit the mother lode at the right time to become President of the United States – someone who got lucky and was just in way over his head. The more I see of him, however, the more I realize he is just a vile and despicable human being incapable of any empathy or interest beyond whatever suits his own narcissistic desires and political agenda.

Look, I don’t care where Barack Obama was born – all I know is that he treats the office of the President and his role as Commander-in-Chief as if it’s some kind of part-time vocation to dabble in when he’s not out fundraising, or hanging out with Oprah, or playing golf. Rather than the office and the role making the man, it is slowly reducing him in size and scope to be a petty, pathetic, clueless, and immature man-child who loves the limelight and the attention but has no heart for the work and responsibilities his position and roles entail.

So it does my heart good to see the likes of Donald Trump treat him with no respect, because, in my book, respect has to be earned. I can only hope The Donald continues to beat him like a drum and chip away at the faux aura the mainstream Beltway bow-tied bum-kissers have created around him. For the sad truth is, Barack Obama has no clue as to what it means to be the President of the United States – he doesn’t understand the office, could care less about its history or its obligations, and is careless in his regard for responsibilities he has as representative of all the people and C-in-C of this nation’s armed forces.

One can only hope that the coming presidential election will reveal this incompetent, inconsiderate, and self-serving a** he has shown himself to be, “having fun” and fundraising for an election nineteen months away while a large section of the country he was elected to serve is devastated and its people bleeding, dying, and seeing their very lives and livelihoods uprooted and destroyed. Not that I’m surprised, mind you, but it is pathetic, disgraceful, despicable, beyond contempt, and beneath the dignity of the office of President of the United States.

I guess that kind of sentiment makes me a racist. So be it. But racism cuts both ways, and I’m sick of ignorant morons who use the race card because they’re too stupid to articulate a decent argument on “The One”‘s behalf.

Filed in: Politics & World Events by The Great White Shank at 00:40 | Comments (0)
April 28, 2011

Unlike the poor folks across the Ohio, Tennessee and Mississippi River valleys and across the Deep South, our weather here in the Valley of the Sun could not be more peaceful. My heart aches for the folks in Arkansas, Alabama, and Mississippi, especially – they really took a pounding over the past few days. My candle burns in prayer for the souls of those who lost their lives and the families whose lives have been uprooted and changed forever as a result of this week’s severe weather. It just goes to show that you never know, and that our lives are lived in a tenuous grip of security and safety which doesn’t really exist. Anything can happen at any given time; that’s why it’s so important to be grateful for the blessings we all take so much for granted in the hectic and busy worlds we live in.

Here in Gilbert we’ve got a couple of hot, windy days ahead of us as we count down the days before we enter “Arizona summer” and the onslaught of triple-digit weather. I only hope that the front that is bringing this heat and wind doesn’t create another severe weather outbreak next week like the same kind of weather we had last weekend did. But, sad to say, something sure happens after those fronts pass by us and then interact with Gulf moisture once it hits central and east Texas. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

Please keep all the folks impacted by the tornadoes and severe weather – and now flooding – in your thoughts and prayers.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 22:27 | Comments (0)
April 27, 2011

A lovely night for walking and a nitecap on the patio. I’ve really come to look very much forward to my 1 1/2 mile walks around the subdivision every night. After a long, stressful day at work it really helps clear the mind. Tonight it was very breezy from the west, and the sound of the wind in the leafy trees and palms made for a relaxing, almost dreamy experience. The wind is a result of yet another “cool” front passing through – here in Arizona that low produces just a dry wind, but, as Accuweather’s Ken Clark writes, once it moves eastward and picks up moisture from the Gulf of Mexico it becomes a whole ‘nutha thing. Prayers go out to the folks in the Arkansas / Mississippi / Tennessee area tonight, and my bro and his family will need to keep their heads down Wednesday night when the Atlanta area is under the gun.

I love a good thunderstorm as much as anyone, but severe weather needs a whole lot of respect.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 00:12 | Comments (4)
April 26, 2011

I should have known that writing about Kevin Na’s troubles at the 9th hole a week ago Thursday at the Valero Texas Open was going to infect my golf brain in some way. But let me tell you a story about the maturity of The Great White Shank when it comes to his golf game:

(I know, I know – I can almost here the sound of visitors to this blog saying “oh, for gawdsakes…” and clicking away to something else, but what can I say? This blog is me, and I’m just a slave to its own whims…)

It may have been 44 degrees at Fenway Park a week ago Saturday during the Red Sox 4-1 win over the Toronto Blue Jays, but it was around 90 when I headed over to Superstition Springs G.C. to hit a few balls at their driving range. Unfortunately, when I got there the place was mobbed – they were hosting a large golf tournament of some kind, and there was no way I was going to find a spot at the driving range or a place to chip and putt with all the people there – so I decided to run a few errands instead.

When I returned later in the day (about 1 1/2 hours later) there were spots at the driving range but by then it was around 95 degrees and all the spots were pretty bony after the heat of the day. Right from the start I felt out of sync, but I couldn’t figure out why – I was hitting all my clubs really thin except for a 5-wood that I absolutely crushed with a bit of a hook (something The Great White Shank never, ever does). I was glad I only took 25 balls from the machine – I shanked twenty and chunked four along with that pulled 5-wood.

In earlier times, I would have felt very discouraged and allowed the range session to set my mood for the rest of the day. I might have even allowed it to carry over far beyond the driving range and perhaps impact my next session or next round. But this is 2011, and The Great White Shank knows – unlike John Lennon – that there will always be days like these, and days that are opportunities for learning, growing, and maturing as a golfer.

It felt blisteringly hot by now, so rather than chip and putt as I had intended I figured I’d just head home. I poured myself a Sprite Zero with a little cranberry juice mixed in and thought about my session: why was I so out of sync? What was the diffrerence between today’s session and last week’s when I was hitting the ball so well? Something told me I had gotten away from my usual set-up and address (which, arguably, has always been a flaw I’ve struggled with ever since I took up the game), and that I needed to go back to basics and break it all down so I could start up again.

(This kind of reassessment, BTW, is not something new in the human experience – I mean, look at St. John of the Cross (my favorite saint) and St. Teresa of Avila leading the Counter-Reformation back in the 16th century. I’m not sure how many people have ever equated their golf games with Church history, but on the cusp of Holy Week, that’s just where my mind happened to be at that point in time. It’s all good.)

Feeling a little dehydrated, I laid down for an hour and then, feeling a bit more refreshed and clear-headed, got up wanting to face my demons head on. I knew my set-up and address were at issue, and one of my goals for 2011 has been to acquire through practice a rock-solid set-up and address where I can always feel comfortable over the ball and know the feeling I want to achieve for whatever shot I need to hit. I walked outside into the late afternoon heat and opened up the garage door to fetch the clubs that has treated me so rudely just a couple of hours before.

I grabbed my 8-iron, and took a few easy practice swings on the front lawn. Suddenly, it occurred to me that by our living on a cul-de-sac I had a natural spot for practicing the kind of swing and contact I hoped to achieve…

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Gradually working on my posture and set-up at address, I was able to once again feel the weight of the club in my hands. If you look at the picture above and below, I’m aiming just right of that light pole sticking up out of the green tree at the end of our road. I marked it off – it’s 107 yards away – but you don’t want to carry or bounce the ball over the wall into the next sub-division (where the property values are at least double ours, given that they live on a man-made canal that makes it look as if they live in the Florida Keys); you take easy 3/4 swings, try to keep the club infront of you, and just work on making good contact.

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Choking down on the club and finally getting my posture right (legs slightly bent, ass out, shoulders erect and not too hunched), I started to find the sense of balance and centeredness I had been missing back at Superstition Springs. (I would ask y’all to focus on the club position and not the fact that I’m going bald, with a rather prodigous crown starting to reveal my advanced age):

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What did show was the fact that you could throw a large blanket over where all seven balls landed:

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After about 45 minutes I was satisfied I had a good foundation to take to the next driving range session (whenever that would be). I felt it was so different from days past: taking a poor driving range session and turning it into something positive. I had worked up a pretty good sweat, so I walked into the house, poured myself a glass of Pinot Grigio, and took my first swim of the year in the pool to the sounds of Caribbean music being played through my new patio speakers:

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An hour later I was dining on Omaha Steaks tenderloin rubbed with Montreal steak seasoning and sauteed vegetables watching the full moon rise above the palm trees to our east:

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…and I once again realized just how lucky I am, being able to have all of this around me. Like I’ve said before, I’ll never buy totally into the whole Southwest desert kind of existence, but believe me, it ain’t bad at all. I am one fortunate individual.

Kevin Na should be so lucky. Well, that’s not true – after a nice weekend at The Heritage, he probably knows he is.

Filed in: Goodboys by The Great White Shank at 18:08 | Comments (0)
April 25, 2011

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A perfect picture from a perfect Easter day. Nice temps in the ’80s, a refreshing breeze from the west, all is good.

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Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 00:04 | Comments (0)
April 24, 2011

easter Welcome happy morning, age to age shall say! To paraphrase my Auntie Marge’s favorite Easter hymn (or at least I think it is!), today serves as the bedrock of the Christian faith. As the Apostle Paul once wrote (in not so many words) if Chris Jesus did not rise from the dead, then a very poor joke has been played on us all, indeed!

BTW, I can’t hear this hymn without remembering how fast my godfather Milt (or choir director at St. Anne’s Episcopal Church when I sang in the choir there) would play this song. We’d be almost out of breath trying to keep up with him. Great memories! May he rest in peace with all the saints.

But I digress. Happily so!

Anyways, but that’s where the whole idea of religion and faith comes in, doesn’t it? I feel bad for those who go through life with a jaded eye towards religion, saying, to some effect, if I can’t see it or quantify it I don’t believe it. There are so many things we poor human saps go through every day in faith without any assuredness of truth – I won’t go through them all, it’s a pointless argument to non-believers – I’ll just leave the question open.

What I find most intriguing about the Gospels is how unified they are as far as the basic Easter story, and the central role women played in it – certainly unusual given the place of women in such a patriarchal society then (and still today, for that matter).

But today is not a day for apologetics, it is one for rejoicing and proclaiming Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. So let’s leave it at that. As the proclamation ringing throughout churches across Christendom today goes:

Alleluia! Christ is risen.
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

And the most common Easter hymn to be sung.

Here’s my favorite Easter hymn. Brings me to tears every time I hear it; both the tune and the story it tells have remained with me ever since the first time I heard it as a child. To me it was always very powerful, lots of imagery for the mind of a child to get around – fantastically so:

Come, ye faithful, raise the strain of triumphant gladness;
God hath brought forth Israel into joy from sadness;
Loosed from Pharaoh’s bitter yoke Jacob’s sons and daughters,
Led them with unmoistened foot through the Red Sea waters.

’Tis the spring of souls today; Christ has burst His prison,
And from three days’ sleep in death as a sun hath risen;
All the winter of our sins, long and dark, is flying
From His light, to Whom we give laud and praise undying.

Now the queen of seasons, bright with the day of splendor,
With the royal feast of feasts, comes its joy to render;
Comes to glad Jerusalem, who with true affection
Welcomes in unwearied strains Jesus’ resurrection.

Neither might the gates of death, nor the tomb’s dark portal,
Nor the watchers, nor the seal hold Thee as a mortal;
But today amidst thy own Thou dost stand, bestowing
That Thy peace which evermore passeth human knowing.

Alleluia, the Lord is risen indeed!

A happy and blessed Easter to everyone! All our Easter rabbits of the non-chocolate variety send their warmest wishes and regards.

Filed in: Religion & Culture by The Great White Shank at 00:50 | Comment (1)
April 23, 2011

greatvigil Not much to write about today. Me, I plan a little quiet time to dwell on the mystery of Holy Saturday, that day of seeming vast emptiness and longing between the devastating sense of death and loss Good Friday brings, and that wonderful renewal of exultation and joy that comes with Easter, the Feast of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. As a kid, the Saturday before Easter was when we would go to church in the afternoon and bring our “mite boxes”, filled with pennies we would have saved up during Lent, and bring them up to be inserted inside big white wooden crosses (I wonder if they even do that anymore?). On Saturday night, we’d paint Easter eggs. Those are good memories.

My favorite Holy Saturday memory, however, is the first year I went to the Great Vigil of Easter service over at the Church of the Advent on Beacon Hill in Boston. Large, ornate very high Episcopal church, lovely architecture. It was an unusually warm and humid day that year, and with all the lights down during the reading of Noah and the ark you could hear thunder and rain outside. Very awesome.

I found a nice homily for this special, holy day over at Patheos.com; it sets the right tone in both word and spirit:

Before we rush to resurrection we must dwell fully in the space of unknowing, of holding death and life in tension with each other, to experience that liminal place so that we become familiar with its landscape and one day might accompany others who find themselves there and similarly disoriented. The wisdom of the Triduum is that we must be fully present to both the starkness of Friday and to the Saturday space between, before we can really experience the resurrection. We must know the terrible experience of loss wrought again and again in our world so that when the promise of new life dawns we can let it enter into us fully in the space carved by loss. As the great poet of Hafiz reminds us, we must let our loneliness “cut more deep” and “season” us, so that we are reminded of our absolute dependence on the Source of all.

Filed in: Religion & Culture by The Great White Shank at 00:11 | Comments (0)
April 22, 2011

goodfriday Today, across all western Christendom churches have been stripped of their ornamentation, sanctuary candles have been snuffed out, and black linen covers or drapes crosses as we remember the suffering and death of the Lord Jesus Christ. For me, one of the poignant memories I have of Good Friday was fifteen or so years ago when at St. Anne’s Episcopal Church our priest at that time, the Rev. Alexander (Hendy) Webb began his Good Friday homily with the words, “So, what have you done today to crucify Jesus Christ?”. Definitely an eye-opener, for sure, but that’s how Hendy was – he wasn’t afraid to speak his mind and make people think a little. In my ill-fated process towards being accepted for ordination as a priest through the Diocese of Massachusetts, he was one of my mentors and supporters, and he wrote a very kind letter of support on my behalf which I will always feel honored to have received.

But it wasn’t his sermon that day I remember the most. After the service had ended, he asked me and my good friend Pete Jeffery if we would stay behind for a few minutes. Tradition in the Church states that all the reserved host (i.e., the sacramental leavened wafers that have been blessed) are to be consumed so that on Easter Sunday you start off with all new bread, and Hendy asked our assistance to help him consume all the reserved host that was left in the tabernacle. I just remember how quiet the church was, just the three of us standing at the bare altar, chewing on the wafers until all were gone. No words were exchanged, when all was finished we all left in silence. I found the experience incredibly solemn, poignant, and holy, no other way to describe it.

I like the ending of this homily by Barbara Brown Taylor:

I actually know people who come to church on Good Friday and who don’t come back on Easter. Easter is too pretty, they say. Easter is too cleaned-up. It is where they hope to live one day, in the land of milk and honey, but right now Good Friday is a better match for their souls, with its ruthless truth about the stench of death and the high price of love. It isn’t that they don’t care about what happens on Sunday. They do. They just don’t believe that God is saving all the good news until then.

Today, on the quietest day of the year, we have come to sit in the presence of one who was fully who God created him to be every day of his life–who loved God with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his strength, and with all his mind–and who loved his friends so much that he stepped into the oncoming traffic of death in order to push them out of the way. He furthermore did it all with no more than the basic human equipment–a beating heart, two good hands, a holy vision, and some companions who could see it too–thereby showing the rest of us humans that such a life is not beyond our reach. Whatever else happens on Sunday, here is enough reason to call this Friday Good. Amen.

“O Sacred Head” is one of my favorite hymns for Holy Week, here’s a nice version.

Filed in: Religion & Culture by The Great White Shank at 00:10 | Comments (0)

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