Thursday, December 18, 2008

Pay it Forward

Every once in a while a person gets a chance to do someone else a favor, or step up when something needs doing and just get it done. This, normally, makes the person feel good, like they've contributed to the common good, or at least helped some individual when they really needed it.

And sometimes it's just insane.

Last week we had this crazy ice storm in the Berkshires. Thursday night the power went out and my wife and I lay in bed all night listening to tree's coming down around the neighborhood. We got up in the morning and our entire world was covered in an inch of ice. Tree's were down everywhere, the roads were impassable, and nothing was moving. You could still hear the sound, like firecrackers, of tree's falling every minute or two. Fortunately none of the tree's had fallen on our house, but, a couple of 60 foot Maples were, basically, shredded and there was an Ash laying across one end of the driveway. We took some pictures, and felt like our world had changed all of a sudden.

A bit later, when the roads had been cleared somewhat, I took a ride to the store to get some water. No electricity means no pump, which means no water, when you live in the Hilltowns. I had just walked into the store when Jill, who works there, said "There's someone at the Fire Station who needs a ride to the Hospital!" She was sounding a little excited so I assumed it was at least a semi-emergency. As a former EMT with the local Fire Department I figured that an ambulance wasn't available, and the rest of the Department was out taking care of business somewhere else in town, and that someone needed to step up and help out. I didn't think about it for a second...I just said, "I'll take them."

So I went to the Fire Department. I should have known something was up when I got there and found the Fire Chief and a couple of Cops standing around in the office "Chewing the Fat", but, I'd volunteered and here I was. So I said to the Chief, "You got somebody here that needs to go to the Hospital?" He said, "Yeah, they're in the meeting room. You going to give them a ride?"
I said "Once a volunteer...yknow?"

I went to the meeting room to see what was up. I found three women in their early 40's and a young man of about 20. The women looked fairly normal, he was tattooed up and pierced in 4-5 places, sort of Goth looking, dressed all in black. I asked if they were needing a ride to the Hospital, and they were ready to go. On the way out the door the Chief was nice enough to tell me that Rt 143 was open all the way to Williamsburg, and say "Thanks" with kind of an odd grin on his face.

I started getting the feeling that this was going to be a wierd trip when we got to my car. I drive one of these "cross-over" vehicles, kind of a large station wagon, not an SUV and not just a car. It has seating for 6, but the last row isn't exactly easy to get into, and when my passengers saw it they started to argue about who would sit in back, because They All Had Back Problems!! Even the 20 something didn't feel like he could get back there! I started thinking "What in the Hell have you gotten into here."

I won't kill you with all the details but suffice it to say that these people were completely incapable of thinking there way through any situation. There are just people in the world who depend on someone else to figure out their day for them, and these four people are part of that group. This was their predicament:

One of them...I never found out who, but I think it was the young man...had an appointment in Northampton. It was my impression when I first met them that at least one of them lived in my town...this was not the case. These people live in Pittsfield. Though the appointment was for just one of them all four had to go. My guess is because it was the only thing that any of them had to do for the day. It was entertainment!! So they got in their car and tried to drive to Northampton. They got as far as Rt 9 in Dalton and found that the road was closed due to the ice storm the night before. Here's where the inability to think started showing up. Instead of canceling the trip, or even driving around Pittsfield to the Mass Pike, they decided that the thing to do was to drive up into the Hilltowns and get to Northampton that way. They turned a 20 mile trip up Rt 9, into a 30 mile trip on backroads through the Berkshires that had just endured the worst ice storm in 30 years the night before.

The road they took was described to me later in the day as a place where "a snake would have broke his back trying to get through the downed trees." There were power lines down everywhere, trees laying across the road, but our intrepid travelers didn't change their minds. With that bulldog tenacity that infects the unthinking in the world they just kept plowing ahead. They finally reached a point where they could go no further. There was a tree all the way across the road an it was impassable. What to do? They all got out and tried to move the tree. When that didn't work they decided that they would simply drive over it. So they all hopped in, put the car in gear, and hoped for the best. Things, as you can imagine, didn't work out so well. They punctured a tire and got the car stuck on the tree.

What to do now? Well, you know, when you can't figure out that you shouldn't drive your car over a tree that you can't move, you probably can't figure out what to do next either. So they sat there, and waited till someone came along to help. And they sat there quite a while, because as I said earlier, nothing was moving in town. Eventually, a police car showed up and gave them a ride to the Fire Station, which is where I came in.

I drove these people to Northampton. They were not going to the Hospital but to some clinic downtown. What kind of clinic it was I don't know and frankly, it's none of my business. I spent 30 minutes or so with these people and I learned alot. There are just some people in the world who require more help than the rest of us. Rather than have someone wait in the town where there car was abandoned (the police were not having it towed on their promise to have someone from Pittsfield come and fix their flat) all four of them were going to Northampton, so that when their friend came to fix the flat he would have to drive all the way to Northampton, then drive them back to the Hilltowns, so they could get the car. There were four of these people and in the course of that morning they had all agreed to make the same bad decisions one after another. No dissent. And it all seemed perfectly natural to them. They live their lives in chaos, and this was just another one of those days.

I don't mean to insult these people. They're just folks who were never taught any critical thinking skills. They're lives are difficult and they get through the day as best as they can.

I have to admit that I was having a hard time keeping a straight face after a while. When we got to the clinic the woman sitting next to me tried to give me money for gas, and I just said to her "Pay it forward" She hadn't seen the movie, or heard the phrase. She gave me a quizical look, and I said "I've done you a favor today. Someday you'll get a chance to do a favor for someone you don't know. Do it for them, and we'll be even." She seemed stunned at that. Maybe, in her world, people don't do favors for people if they don't know them. I suppose that's true for a lot of people.

Hopefully she'll start something new.

Monday, November 17, 2008

End of the Year Blues

The season is snow's at my house now almost every day...the clubs are out of the car and into the den. I still pick one up every once in a while...check my grip...make sure the V's are pointing in the right direction...think about that perfect drive...the chip shot that lands just right and rolls into the hole for a birdie...

What shall I do now?

Oh, yeah...the silly season starts on TV.


Sunday, October 12, 2008

Slow Play

We played a little Resort Golf on Cape Cod yesterday. We've played at some other resorts in the past and enjoyed them all, but there's something about this place that we've never run into before, and I just don't understand it.

Mandatory golf carts that must remain on the cart path.

This course was recently redesigned by Jack Nicklaus, and as we sat in the bar after our round trying to figure out why it took over 5 hours to play 18 holes, the only reason I could come with for the cart rules was that they're afraid the course hasn't grown in enough.

If they were afraid that the carts would damage the new turf they should let us walk.

I know that living in the Berkshires we get a little spoiled. We don't have the crowds that slow down play here on the east coast, but the bottom line is that we can walk the course in 4 hours or less and not damage their golf course. I don't even care if they charge me the same price! As much as I love golf, I don't want to spend the entire day driving a cart from shot to shot, taking 3 clubs out of my bag before I walk 40 yards or so to get to my ball, and even then find that I don't have the club I want 7-8 times in the course of the round. During this almost 5 1/2 hour round there was no one in front of us and no one behind us. It's just a complete waste of time.

They charge in excess of $100 to play this course...mandatory carts...5 plus hours to play. If they let you drive the carts on the course it would take 4 hours to play, roughly the same time (probably less) if you could walk. This would probably translate into an extra tee time per hour - $400 per group - somewhere around $3000-$4000 per day. Wouldn't this pay for any damage done by the carts?

I don't really think that's the reason, though. Resort golf is about people on vacation that don't play a lot of golf, and they want to ride. It just really ruins the experience when you're on a great course, but it's taking so long to play that you never get into any kind of rhythm, and the day just drag's on too long.

I enjoyed the course...but I don't think I'll go back.

Well...maybe next year

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Club Championship

Three weeks ago I won the Men's Division in the Club Championship at my local club. This was not the Championship Division...just the Men's Division, but still, it was the first time I won anything in Club Championship after finishing second once or twice in the past. So I should have been thrilled, right? I guess so...but for some reason I wasn't. It might have been one of my competitors who congratulated me for winning "the Hackers Division", or it might have been that even though I had a large lead going into the final round, I lost a few of those shots and so was a little disappointed in my performance. I don't really know what it was...but I didn't get overly excited about it.

This all made me remember David Duval. He won the Open Championship a number of years ago, and then almost immediately his game fell apart. When questioned about it he said that winning the Open had been his lifelong dream, that he thought that when he won it a whole new world would open up, and he would feel like he had really accomplished something in his life. I'm paraphrasing here, but you get the general idea.

Then when he won was a let down. Nothing changed. He got some extra attention for a while, but the life-affirming feeling that he had finally arrived at the pinnacle of his career, was, basically, a huge letdown. His game suffered. There was no reason to practice anymore. He had gotten what he'd worked for all his life. And in the didn't mean that much.

Now, I don't mean to compare myself to David Duval, but the night before I won this division I was lying in bed hardly able to sleep. I had a 5 shot lead going into the final round. I had slept on the lead once before and blown it on Sunday, so I tried to convince myself that it wouldn't happen again. "Don't be afraid to win" I told myself. I'd heard that somewhere before, and it sounded like a good thing to tell myself now. "Just your game..." all that stuff.

When I got to the course I was nervous. Double bogey on the first hole. But I gathered myself together, and as we made the turn the lead over my closest opponent was 6. He made birdie on 10, but I still felt confident. I got one back on 12, but, then he made birdie on 13 and 14 while I bogeyed both holes and suddenly, I had a three shot lead. I was beginning to get nervous again. On the 15th (par 3) he missed the green left and I was about 12 feet right of the stick. He chipped poorly, made bogey, and I drained the 12 footer for birdie and I was back to 5 up with three holes to play.

That's the way it ended.

I thought when I finished that I would be elated...or something. The truth was that it was nice to recieve the congratulations of my opponents and other friends and members at the club, but all in all it was kind of a let down. I just wasn't that excited about it.

What does that say about me? Is golf just not that important in the end? Am I simply a recreational golfer? Not a competitor?

I just don't know...

Thursday, August 7, 2008


I got tagged. And by someone I care very deeply for, too. I don't know what it all means, but apparently I'm suppose to write down 6 things about myself that no one else knows. I'm not sure that's a good idea.

I'm also suppose to "tag" six other peoples blogs...kind of like a chain letter or something. I'm against that as well, and seeing that I don't know 6 other blogs...other than the ones already involved in this's likely that my branch of the tree will die right here.

I'll think about it, and get back to you.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Dazed and Confused

I know...someone used it for a movie title ( I didn't see it) but it completely describes my mindset after the Singles Championship at BHCC this weekend.

I went into the weekend, as I said in my last post, expecting to struggle a little on the first day, and then improve on Saturday and Sunday. That's how it has worked every year that I have played in this event. But that's not how it went this year...

This year I started off badly and continued to get worse as the weekend went on. By the time it was over I had finished 18th in a field of 21, and the DFL guy didn't show up on Sunday after shooting 90 something on Friday and 1-0-something on Saturday.

How did this happen? I have no idea... The triple-bogie I made to start the day on Saturday certainly didn't help. And the Snowman I made on the 11th hole Sunday, followed by a two stroke penalty - 8, I made on the 14th, kind of made for a long weekend.

And that was the whole problem. Most of the time I didn't play too badly. I should have been 2 over after six holes on Friday, and started off with three pars on Sunday. I just started having these ridiculous holes every once in a while, where I would make double or triple for no apparent reason. Here's what the front side looked like on Friday: par- bogey-par-double(lost ball off the tee)-par-bogey-double-double-par. Did you see the "double-double" thing? On the back side I made three more doubles and finished with three straight pars for a sizzling 89. Two triples on the front side Saturday for a 91 and the aforementioned disasters on Sunday for a 93.

Then last night I went out to play a nice, quiet nine holes with my wife. Left the driver in the bag and used a 4 wood off the tee. I shot 38.

Dazed and confused.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Stepping out this weekend

It's been quite a while since I've posted here, and I'd like to say that I have a good excuse. Unfortunately, I don't. The truth is that I have not been in the hospital, have not been locked up or otherwise incarcerated, and have not forgotten my passwords. I simply have not taken the time to sit down and try to put my thoughts on paper. Or in this case...the blogosphere.

This weekend, however, will be different. This weekend is "The Singles Tournament" at Berkshire Hills Country Club in Pittsfield, MA, and once again I am cleaning up the irons and buying a new sleeve of Pro V's, and trying my luck at this three day tournament.

I've been playing in this tournament for the last 5 years, and though I've never placed near the top of my division, I keep coming back because it's a real test of my ability to control my game and my emotions. The first few years I finished near the bottom; always blowing up badly the first day, scoring somewhere around 90, and then playing better each successive day; giving myself the belief that if I could just eliminate that bad start that I could play with these guys. The last couple of years I've done better, finishing in the middle of the pack. This year my goal is to place somewhere in the top third.

We'll see how it goes.

I'm feeling good about my game right now. Struggling a bit with the driver (aren't we all?), but I'm hitting my irons well and chipping it about as well as I'm capable. So, if I can keep it in the low 80's for the weekend, or possibly, something in the high 70's (which I have never done at BHCC) I should reach my goal...finish out of the money...but in the top third...and have a great time doing it.

I should acknowledge here that my lovely wife, who I absolutely adore, is encouraging me in this adventure, even though it starts on our 16th anniversary! A golf widow on our anniversary...maybe she's giving me a not-so-subtle message. Ya think?

Stay tuned...I'll let you know how it goes.