November 30, 2013

I’m standing on the eighth tee at Kokopelli Golf Course, a tight little track just down the street from me. On the front there’s lots of water designed to protect holes that aren’t really all that long; on the back the holes are protected by their very tightness. In short, while a little under 6,000 yards from the middle tees and probably not all that difficult, the track does require you to hit the ball straight off the tee. Otherwise, you’re either wet, banging balls off of people’s houses, or threatening traffic whooshing by just beyond the fences.

I look at the scorecard and I’m already at 45 strokes and five lost balls.

The group ahead of us is slower than molasses, so I’ve got plenty of time to think about my predicament. I’m sure my key instructor Alex Black would not be pleased at my ball-striking. I’m certain my de facto sports shrink Dr. Bob Winters wouldn’t be pleased, either. For not only have I not struck the ball well, but I’ve made some abysmal club choices that have penalized me severely: a 4-hybrid smashed over a fence left when a 5-iron lay-up would have done; two tee balls topped into Davy Jones’ locker where the water shouldn’t even have been in play.

I’m standing by my lonesome under a lovely shade tree while my three playing partners are comparing their drivers while we wait. The Corona I just bought from the cart girl is cold and refreshing, and even with my score being what it is I’m not as much upset as I am quietly frustrated. I know I can play better than this, yet my thoughts are all about how I’m going to survive out here today. I’m desperately in need of a range session, but that’s not an option at this time. There’s just me, my clubs, and a rapidly-depleting supply of orange Wilsons under a lovely shade tree on a warm and sunny Black Friday. Which gets me thinking: I’ll bet there are plenty of golf balls at the Dick’s Sporting Goods store at the Fiesta Mall just a ten-minute drive away. If things don’t improve tout de suite I may be making a run there instead of the usual hot dog at the turn.

“You’re thinking too much.” I’m surprised to look up and see Amanda, the daughter of one of the guys in the other cart, who had walked over while I was obviously deep in thought. She’s joined her dad and her uncle for the round, and up until now she’s spent the majority of her time either looking bored or texting her friends. I’m guessing she’s thirteen, quite pretty for her age, with long blond hair and a young model’s complexion – beach girl pretty like so many girls you see out here in Arizona. Maybe someday she’ll grow into the stuff a young man’s dreams are made of.

Today, she’s playing amateur golf instructor with The Great White Shank.

“Whenever I’m playing lousy at tennis, I know it’s because I’m thinking too much. Just thought it might help…” she says earnestly. “That’s what I tell my dad.”

“Thanks for the advice”, I tell her with a smile as she turns and heads back to her cart, texting away. “I’m sure you’re right. Thanks.”

And of course she’s right. I have been thinking too much. I’m thinking about where I want to hit the ball. I’m thinking about how I want to hit the ball. I’m thinking about how not to make a mistake and not hit where I don’t want to hit the ball and not hit how I don’t want to hit the ball. In short, my brain has been so full of swing thoughts and shot thoughts that I hadn’t been able to execute anything with any kind of confidence. Even the best golfers go through this: you become so afraid to fail you have no room in your head for success. And in that moment, Amanda did for me what Romeo did for Roy McAvoy at the U.S. Open driving range in Tin Cup – she got my brain out of the way.

When it’s my turn to hit I put my 3-wood back in the bag and pull driver. Hole #8 is a long, narrow par 5 that runs along the side of McQueen Road on the right and a long line of houses on the left. I walk to the tee with no swing thought in mind other than to take the club back straight and drive through the ball like I’ve been doing since I got back from Massachusetts. (After a couple of disappointing rounds to close out my New England golf season I realized I had been taking the club back too outside and circular rather than straight back. As a result, my swing had become too upper-body with a low finish by my right shoulder. The fix was easy: take the club straight back and keep my lower body quiet as the club lags and I drive through the ball and finish on top of my right shoulder.)

My drive is high and long. My second shot, a 5-wood approach is the same. A chip and a two-putt later I make par and proceed to go the rest of the day bogey-bogey-bogey-double-par-bogey-quadruple (more about that in a second)-bogey-bogey-bogey. Were it not for one poor club selection – a 4-hybrid I hit OB when everything in my body was screaming for a 5-iron – I tore the course up and turned what could have been a 115 or more into a passable (given the start) 105. Even with that nine on fifteen I still shot 49; replace that 4-hybrid with a 5-iron and take a single bladed chip away and I’m looking at a 45, perhaps lower.

Sitting at the grille over a cold beer, I think about all the golf I’ve played this year and all the balls I’ve hit and realize that – at least score-wise – I’m not a whole lot better than I was at the start of the year. And yet, I feel as if I’ve made incredible strides (at least for me) and am really just a few tweaks away from playing some really consistent bogey – bogey-and-a-half golf. At the start of the year I could shoot anywhere from 98 to 115 and not know why I did or didn’t play better. Now, I’m anywhere from 90 (my best) to 112 (my worst) but am striking the ball so much better. Better yet, I know my flaws and am able to work on them and correct them in a way I never could have before. From here on out, if I want to get better it’s all about consistency off the tee and improving my short game technique.

Not that any of this matters in the grand scheme of things, of course. But I’ve got one round left this year at Superstition Springs (where it all started back in February) before I bring my Golf Quest 2013 to a close. And hopefully then my brain won’t be getting in my way.

Filed in: Golf Quest by The Great White Shank at 03:33 | Comments (0)
November 29, 2013

I’m out playing golf on a warm and sunny 75-degree day, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t still things to post.

If this sad but beautiful story doesn’t get you, nothing will. May Olivia rest in God’s peace.

They don’t make music like this anymore. Wish You Were Here is, in my mind, Pink Floyd’s best piece of work, even better than The Dark Side Of The Moon.

…but that doesn’t mean the Floyd didn’t do great music following Roger Waters’ departure. This is as good as they come. Great guitar solo, one of David Gilmour’s best!

This is one film I plan on getting once it becomes available. And you can help make it happen!!

What on God’s green earth has happened to Renee Zellweger? She used to be drop-dead cute. And don’t tell me it’s just age, she’s only 44. Gotta be something else going on there…

Just giving y’all fair warning: you’ve got two weeks before my holiday ode to Phil Spector’s Christmas album. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Until then, it’s officially the holiday season, so here’s Andy to take us away!

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 00:36 | Comments (0)
November 28, 2013

There’s nothing underrated about Thanksgiving – in fact, I think it’s one of our most important and necessary holidays. Look around you and see how awash in riches you and your neighbors are; I guarantee 70% of the world would trade places with us in a New York minute. So many of us – even those who would be considered “in poverty” have so much. There is food to eat, clean water to drink, a roof over their heads, and even for those on the street, air-conditioned places to go when it is hot and warm places to stay for a while when it gets cold. Too often we focus our attentions on what we or other folks do not have without realizing just how much we do have.

And, more than anything else, if you have your health you are wealthy indeed.

Today I give thanks to God for allowing me to live this little spec of life in the United States of America, a nation, even with our many faults, remains the greatest nation on earth. I’m grateful for the privilege of spending this day surrounded by loved ones and having family and friends who accept me for who and what I am and bring me great joy. I try to take as little as possible for granted and try to never forget that in the grand scheme of things, I’ve caught the gold ring. For the bounty of God’s creation we will have at our Thanksgiving table we will give thanks, indeed.

Happy Thanksgiving to all from the Goodbys and Goodboys Nation weblog!

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 00:28 | Comment (1)
November 27, 2013

….for Thanksgiving and the holiday season. You won’t see me anywhere near a store on Black Friday – I’ll be golfing in shorts and the Tommy Bahama Hawaiian shirt my lovely wife gave me for my birthday. It’s got a lot of fishes in a underwater seascape design – perfect for all the water I’ll be trying to negotiate my way around at Kokopelli Golf Club.

This still gives me goosebumps. Tracey’s still pi**ed because she was out of the room and missed it. Not unlike, BTW, the time we were at RFK Stadium in 1994 at a Pink Floyd “Division Bell Tour” concert (don’t ask why we were there!) and she was the only one in the stadium that didn’t scream out “AHHHHHHHHHH!” during Comfortably Numb at the line, “there’ll be no more ….but you may feel a little sick. She’s still having a hard time getting over that. :-)

Can you imagine the outcry if my county sheriff Joe Arpaio had said this. Just by “looking at their faces”. Isn’t that racial profiling?

And speaking of which, more lies from lying liars (my boldings):

Supporters of President Obama are working overtime to backtrack from his promise that “If you like your health-care insurance, you can keep it. Period.” While the president has conceded that this statement was inaccurate, the administration doesn’t seem to have learned its lesson. The damage control plan is to spread another falsehood about the Affordable Care Act.

…The president jumped on this theme in his press conference on Nov. 14. “I’m not going to walk away from something that has helped the cost of health care grow at its slowest rate in 50 years,” he said. On Wednesday, the White House Council of Economic Advisers published a report claiming that “the ACA is contributing to the recent slow growth in health care prices and spending.”

These assertions border on nonsense.

…annual health-spending growth rates began to decline a decade ago. In 2002, health-care spending grew by nearly 10% in a single year. The growth rate dropped to 7.1% in 2004, 6.2% in 2007, and bottomed out at 3.9% in 2009—the worst year of the Great Recession, where it has stayed ever since. ObamaCare was enacted in 2010.

…To argue that the Affordable Care Act has been and will be a key driver of slower health-care spending is irreconcilable with the most basic facts about such spending over the last decade, as well as with the judgment of the executive branch’s own team of actuaries responsible for health-care accounting and future projections.

Read the whole thing. That the President and his pack of liars continue to lie fecklessly is, sadly, no longer news. You know what will be news? If anyone from the Obama administration would tell one truth about ObamaCare and its roll-out. Now THAT would be news!

I’ll bet my cousin Don who works for Boeing and lives outside Seatlle knows all about this clown. I know, I know: it’s Seattle, but jeepers! Looks like we’re heading back to the early 1920s and the days of the Wobblies. What’s next, a revival of the Ku Klux Klan? This is all dangerous stuff. I wonder if anyone cares anymore or if they’re too immersed in their iPads to even know.

I can’t help but think that all this idea of marginalization on both the Left and the Right is because you have a President who has done nothing but divide people in his five years and entrenched politicians on both sides of the political aisle who have little concern for anyone and anything else except keeping their own jobs. Look, there’s nothing wrong with two political parties being diametrically opposed to one another and its goals – that’s nothing new. But in this case, you have President who has little concern about governing or bringing people together; his only concern is shoving his radical progressive agenda down people’s throats. And with folks’ health care in danger he’s playing with fire.

And lest you think I’m just a serial Obama-basher, if this was his idea I’m all for it. ‘Bout time someone gave the Chinese Communists something to think about. There’s only one word that describes what the B-52 does, and that’s F-E-A-R-S-O-M-E. I don’t care who you are, you don’t want to mess with it, believe me. It’ll kick your ass.

Filed in: Politics & World Events by The Great White Shank at 00:45 | Comments (0)
November 26, 2013

Watch a crow go surfing. Pretty cool!

Who knew Al Gore was still around?

While the usual Thanksgiving week storm snarls lots of folks travel plans, here in the Valley of the Sun it’s back to warm and dr after last weekend’s historic storm. This from the National Weather Service in Phoenix:

At Sky Harbor Airport, 2.43” of rain fell through the weekend, and the National Weather Service in Phoenix summed up the record weekend this way:

“This storm system broke daily rainfall records and nearly monthly records in the process. The 1.60 inches of rain recorded at Phoenix Sky Harbor airport on November 22nd was a record for the day, and the second most for any day ever in the month of November in Phoenix. More remarkably, this one day total was also the 22nd most ever for any day of the year in the recorded weather history for Phoenix (since 1895). Yuma also set a daily record rainfall amount on November 21st eclipsing a long standing record from 1884.”

“As mentioned above, one of the more remarkable parts of this weather system was the extended nature of the rainfall. Over the 3-day period from the evening of November 21st through November 23rd, 2.42 inches of rain was recorded at Phoenix Sky Harbor airport. This ranks as the second wettest storm for the month of November in Phoenix weather history. These 3 days alone places this year as the seventh wettest November on record. And to further emphasize how uncommon this storm system has been, Phoenix has not seen a storm with this amount of rainfall since March 5-7, 2000, or over 13 years ago.”

My sister-in-law has seven buckets in her living room to prove it!

Did anyone out there see this coming? I sure didn’t! :-) The ObamaCare rollout fiasco ought to make for some fun talk around the Thanksgiving Day table. But that’s what you get when an uninformed electorate meets a presidential candidate who ran a lousy campaign. Looking back a year ago, one wonders why the Romney campaign didn’t shove Obama’s lies right down his throat one after another during the debates. The one thing liberals can’t debate is when you expose their lies and provide the data to back it up.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 09:01 | Comments (0)
November 25, 2013

OK, I’ll admit it: as much as I was cursing the heat back in early September I miss it when it’s gone. Walking outside around the pool on the chilliest night we’ve had so far this fall and feeling the cold concrete beneath my feet and hearing the A/C units in adjacent houses blowing heat, not cool air, in makes me long for nights with concrete still warm beneath my feet and the sound of A/C units humming away to cool the houses around us. I miss the late-night dips in my pool and the symphony of crickets and heat bugs. I miss the warm yellow moons. But I also understand that if there were no Arizona winter I wouldn’t be able to miss the heat or play golf in 75-degree temps (as I plan to do this coming “Black Friday”). The Anglo-Catholic in me councils everything in moderation and the need for balance in life, and as most folks around here will tell you, they don’t live around here for the summers, but for the winters.

That was quite a rain storm we got this past weekend. Here in Gilbert, the official total was a little over 2.5 inches of rain – some areas around us got as much as four. Considering that the Valley of the Sun only gets around eight inches total in a year tells you how much of a historic even this was. I can tell you that driving an hour’s south of here there was a lot of water in the desert which you can never say is a bad thing.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 02:28 | Comments (0)
November 23, 2013

It’s raining cats and dogs in the Valley of the Sun but the Tiki Bar is open.

And who’s bartending at the Tiki Bar?

That’s right, Commander Riker.

With music supplied by the Tikiyaki Orchestra. A great way to slide into the weekend after a long, rough week. Everybody, I think, needs a break!

Aloha, baby!

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 00:42 | Comments (0)
November 22, 2013

Hard to believe fifty years have passed since JFK was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. I remember hearing about it when I was in Miss Roy’s 3rd grade class via an announcement over the loudspeaker that classes were immediately cancelled. I was eight at the time, and you have to remember those were simpler times. No one in my class (at least that I was aware of) was pregnant, dealt drugs, or shot guns around the playground. To show you how much of a dope I was, all I could think of when hearing he had been shot in Dallas, Texas was that he must have been killed in a Western gun-down with some bad guy.

My memories of that weekend are that it was very cold, that there was heavy frost on the ground, and a lot of tears being shed by my Mom and my Auntie Marge around the TV. I didn’t sit around to watch the events – I remember wanting to go outside or head down the cellar because I didn’t like hearing the sound of adults crying. I remember we didn’t have Sunday School that weekend and instead got to listen to old Mr. Nichols (who wasn’t quite so old then) preach a sermon on the President’s death. Funny the stuff you remember, huh?

In the decades since that time, this country has struggled with what to make of it all. You can blame the Warren Commission for a lot of that, I guess, but I think the biggest hurdle is the difficulty – still – of getting over the basic fact that some radical nobody from nowhere could take down the President of the United States so easily. Of course, looking at all the evidence, it’s not hard to see how it was possible: you give a trained shooter a solid weapon and a primo location against an undefended target and bad things can happen. Left-wing liberal loons like Oliver Stone (even if JFK was both interesting and well made) and left-wing media will do all they can to try and tell you otherwise, but the fact remains that Lee harvey Oswald was a Communist, left-wing loon to took down the prince of Camelot. You can’t blame the Tea party or the right-wing, gun owners, or the 2nd amendment for JFK’s death. The hard truth is, he was killed by a radical Communism and Castro-loving lefty. But liberalism has never let the truth get in the way of a meme that pushes the cause forward – as Che Guevara once famously said, in insurrection and revolution the end justifies the means.

Jackie Kennedy and a lot of sympathetic media folk were responsible for creating the whole “Camelot” thing, but history shows that JFK, compared to the likes of your Barack Obamas, Nancy Pelosis and Harry Reids would be known as a “Reagan conservative” today. The times he was President and his own life experiences made him a hawk on defense and the Soviet Union, and he was a fiscal conservative.

Had he not been assassinated, who knows what he might or might not have accomplished, but my guess is he would have gone down in history as a fairly unexceptional President. Unlike his brother (and Attorney General) Robert Kennedy, JFK didn’t believe in taking political risks one way or the other – in 1963 he was more concerned about being elected than anything else – hence, his extended trip to Texas. The risks he did believe taking were all sexual, and there’s little doubt the media covered up scandals that would have made Bill Clinton look like a choirboy.

The sad truth is that no one will really know the true legacy of JFK. His death tore a page out of a history book that had yet to be written. It’s said that the ’60s started the day Kennedy was shot and ended the day Richard Nixon resigned, and I think there’s something to be said about that. It’s hard to believe JFK would never know about the Beatles and the British Invasion, Vietnam as a war, or the coming apart of the nation in the late ’60s. Yet all have their place in history directly or indirectly as a direct result of JFK’s death: the Beatles arrival just three months later coaxed America out of its mourning and gave it something different to talk about. Vietnam was all Lyndon Johnson, and the ’60s protests was all Johnson’s doing – he was just another liberal who loved using his military to kill bunches of people, just like Barack Obama does.

Watching the documentaries about JFK I’m struck by his youth and vigor – especially because we now know he had Addison’s disease and was wracked by back pain his every waking moment. His wife was beautiful and classy – everything you’d ever want to see in a First Lady – and their children were precocious and adorable. And the times were different, much different – America was more innocent and less cynical than it is today. JFK’s death and the fact the government didn’t trust the people with the basic truth that a lone gunman could, and did, take down the leader of the free world in just three shots and several seconds created a ripple effect that still haunts and hinders this country today. The Warren Commission, Watergate, Jimmy Carter’s malaise, Reagan’s Iran-Contra, George H.W. Bush’s “no new taxes”, Clinton’s infidelities, George W. Bush’s “weapons of mass destruction”, and today, Barack Obama’s IRS, NSA, and Obamacare are mere extensions of the government’s inability to tell the truth that began with JFK’s death.

Fifty years is not so long a time that in remembering JFK we ought not to look at where we’ve come in all that time.

And shudder at what we’ve become and where we are heading. It’s both sad and frightening.

Filed in: Politics & World Events by The Great White Shank at 01:53 | Comments (5)
November 21, 2013

Y’all know how I feel abbout Barack Obama and Obamacare. But before you head off to other places on the Internet let me just tell you a little story…

So I have to drop my 1999 Saturn off at the local car repair place because my “service engine” light has come on. Two days earlier, I dropped off our 2002 Saturn at the same place for the same reason. In the case of the 2002, it was just a little finicky in its old age – there’s $3K of work needing to be done on the car but it can wait until the New Year. As for the 1999, the only reason the service light came on was because a few months ago I mistakenly left my gas cap on top of the pump and drove away. What a stupid I am. It apparently took the car that long to realize there was a lack of compression in the gas line, hence the service light.

But that’s not my point.

Back on Monday when I took the 2002 in an elderly gentleman drove me back to the house in a shuttle van. Yesterday, upon bringing my 1999 into the shop, the owner asks me to wait a few minutes until one of his techs drops what he’s doing in order to drive me back to the house. I ask him where the regular guy is, and he tells they had to let the two elderly part-time shuttle drivers go because the shop’s insurance costs under – you guessed it – Obamacare – increased so much that the owner had to make a decision between keeping his full-timers employed and insured, and a couple of non-essential part-time workers. Costs and margins being what they are, he simply couldn’t justify keeping a couple of old-timers around part-time. He told me they are also closing on Saturdays as a way to cut operational costs and salary.

Now this may not seem much to you or to anyone, but to me this is simply not right. You liberals can blather all you want about the needs of (gasp!) the uninsured, but are the needs of the uninsured any more important than that of a couple of elderly gentleman feeling useful and making a difference for a small business? We’re all worthy of respect and the right to supplement our living. You want to know the truth? The uninsured could give a sh*t about who loses their jobs and who pays more for insurance on their behalf; if they didn’t feel any obligation to buy insurance prior to Obamacare exactly what about this ongoing clusterf**k is going to make them want to buy insurance now? And in the meantime a couple of elderly gentlemen lose more than a little bit of their sense of their well-being, usefulness, and – yes – dignity.

I think it is a disgrace. I could say more, but then again, by Medal of Honor Oprah Winfrey’s measure I’d be a racist.

Filed in: Politics & World Events by The Great White Shank at 00:13 | Comments (0)
November 20, 2013

November has always been one of my favorite months. Back in the New England of my youth, November meant leafless branches pointing towards the sky and brown oak leaves rustling against a chill wind. Or, walks under gray skies shimmering with a bright sun behind a thin overcast with the collar upturned. Or, chilly Thanksgiving days under a leaden sky, the windows fogged from all the cooking going on in the kitchen. Or, back in a time when the practice was allowed, unusually warm days with the air thick with the smell of burning leaves. For my old friend Jack Lyon and my dear departed friend “Doc” Frechette, November was a month for “buttoning up” the homestead, plowing under the last of the gardens and stocking wood for the long winter ahead.

Come November the days are getting really short; one of the benefits of not having to change our clocks back here in Arizona is that, while it gets dark early, it’s not ungodly so like it gets back in New England. Music-wise, I always found myself gravitating to classical music and Pink Floyd – somehow, the starkness of the month meshed perfectly with the latter’s oftentimes bleak outlook. In November, the Church Year is winding down, and the Sundays after Pentecost (or, in the Roman Catholic tradition, “ordinary time”) are coming to close. Soon, green altar linen will be replaced with the purple of Advent and the spiritual preparation for once again welcoming the Christ Child into the world.

Novembers here in the Valley of the Sun are a little different. Oh sure, you can still get the gray or silvery-shiny overcast days, but the temperatures are warm enough for shorts and t-shirts. You can tell the locals because even though the temperatures are over 70 they’ve got long-sleeve shirts and long pants on. Some you’ll even see wearing a sweatshirt with a hoodie. To me, November has come to mean guiding the swimming pool from summer mode to winter mode – this year, a much more difficult task than usual! This year, it means the sight of bright orange golf balls rolling like tiny pumpkins across velvety putting greens, one after another, and thick winter rye to chip balls off of. November means open windows and open doors, with nary a sound of the A/C or heat being on. For us, combined with the scaling back of the watering schedule from two days a week to one, November is actually the cheapest month for utilities of the year.

Places and traditions may change, but November will always be a special month for me.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 02:32 | Comments (0)

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