The Masters

 I wrote the following post last March and I thought that this day is the perfect moment for a redux.  Here we are with the tournament starting tomorrow and the excitement for those of us who have become addicted to the beauty and the drama is palpable.  So here it is again, my own small way of welcoming Spring  back into my life and yours.
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It’s been awhile since I created a post.  It’s not unusual to wait for some inspiration to strike and for whatever reason, it has this morning.  Without reviewing earlier writing, I think I have used the word “inspiration” many times previously but I really feel you need it to write well.  There has to be some significant passion.

In a couple of weeks time, The Masters golf tournament returns to Augusta Georgia.  I get a chill when I hear the CBS theme song.  This isn’t going to be a history lesson but the first tournament was played there in 1934, when it was called The Augusta Invitational.  Over the span of eight decades and through all of the political upheavals, tragic deaths, and natural and man-made disasters, The Masters has been an absolute constant, embracing its sometimes strange traditions and quietly innovating great changes to the event and to the game of golf itself.

For me, the tournament represents the official end of our Canadian winter and the beginning of those warm Spring days.  In Augusta we see the dogwoods and azaleas in full bloom and here, the green mist of new growth returning to the trees.  It is simply pure magic.

For those of you who don’t golf, I would urge you still to flip on your flat panels and just observe the pure beauty of this slice of  green heaven.  The course was built on the site of an old nursery.   Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts discovered the Fruitlands property in 1930 and developed the course on its grounds using the spectacular talent of architect Dr. Alistair McKenzie.  It has only become more beautiful with age, it’s early raw edges now manicured to perfection and its pines and shrubs appearing as though they were made for this spot on earth.  And for golfers, well we pace around the house waiting for coverage to begin, plan the weekend around the event, ignore or reject invitations to the houses of others and excitedly anticipate the rivalries that will soon play out on this hallowed ground.  The competition there rarely disappoints; and the course itself never does.

Several years ago, I had the pleasure of spending an evening with retired professional golfer Bruce Devlin.  We were sitting at the bar of The Founders Club, then one of the best private dining facilities in Toronto, and I asked Bruce over martinis, if there was one tournament that still resonated with him.  Although he had never won The Masters and even though he had prevailed in eight other events on the PGA tour, he proceeded to describe with impeccable precision all of the tragic events that befell him during the final round at the 1968 Masters tournament.  He lost to Bob Goalby and felt strongly that he should have won.  For me, his description of that last day of the event in 1968 reaffirmed the importance of Augusta for the professional players and the complete reverence they all have for the golf course and this major championship.

So well in advance of the Masters week, I would like to apologize to my friends and family for disappearing for a few days.  You are all welcome to drop by but I only ask that you indulge me by not trying to speak over the dulcet tones of Jim Nance and by confirming in whatever fashion you elect, that The Masters deserves the unabashed love and affection that I hold for it.

Old Friends, Athletes and Balmy Beach…

Over the last decade or so, I have been quietly seeking out old friends, people, in fact, who used to be great friends, in an attempt to discover whatever happened to us.  What had crashed into the friendships of a lifetime at seventeen years old to render them completely defenseless and utterly dysfunctional?  But, here goes the usual digression, I was also interested to uncover what had happened to the people I did not know well, people I had wanted to know much better at one time.   Those were the untouchables, the kids who had everything from looks, to athletic grace, to musical talent and who, I’m absolutely certain, were having massive amounts of unbridled sex with one another while I was locked in my bathroom staring at the lingerie section of the Eaton’s catalogue

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The search used to be as simple as arriving in my old neighbourhood, “The Beach”, going for a stroll on the boardwalk and looking for people to recognize me or for me to see them.  But it was too random with as much chance of success as standing at a bar and waiting to meet the woman of your dreams.  After all the Beach was now inundated with the hordes of new generations and I had to face the stark reality that although I looked exactly the same as I did in 1965, my old friends and acquaintances might have gone through some form of physical transformation.

I’m not certain exactly why some of we idiots even start this quest but I suspect it has some of its roots in wanting to discover how your best friends from school actually turned out.  And of course, I also have this selfishly devilish notion that the jocks in my high school are now wonderfully crippled and saddled with support payments for at least three families.  I probably want them to see how the quiet, shy kid from the back of the classroom turned out and I would like the girls who I once adored from a distance to look slack-jawed with amazement at what they had missed.  So there you have the two groups…the jocks and their women….the most revered, respected, universally adored group who ever graced the hallways of Malvern Collegiate; and my friends and I, the funny, sometimes awkward ones who could have performed at Second City if challenged but who, sadly, could no more unhook a bra than crack a safe. (I’m certain there’s a level of deeper humour to be explored here but I’m going to pass because the digression would be lengthy.)

Several years ago, my high school was celebrating its 100th anniversary, or something like that.  My good friend John, his real name,  invited me to a dinner party at his home during this anniversary weekend and he also encouraged me to join him in a concert band reunion under the guidance of our old teacher, George McRae.  I had to explain to John that wearing a kilt and playing the tuba when I was sixteen was not an experience worth repeating and in no way matched the image of myself that I had so carefully crafted forty years on.  To his dinner, he also invited Brett, his real name, a jock from the aforementioned A group.  The dinner was wonderfully amusing and Brett, now a balding retired teacher, engaged with us as he never had done forty years earlier.  The fact is that he was absolutely delightful, married for a long time to the same woman and although he looked nothing like he once did as a high-scoring winger for the Black Knights, he was not the crippled shadow of a man that I had anticipated.  He seemed to like me.  Had I finally cracked through the barrier or did he just want to know why my hair and me looked so youthful?

Post dinner, the three of us, John, Brett and Rob, me now wine-infused but somewhat agitated, drove to the Balmy Beach Canoe Club for a planned gathering of graduates from the sixties.  I was fretting slightly that my new best friend Brett would be unrecognizable by others and that it would be left up to me to shelter him and re-introduce him to his old pals.  But let’s face it, this would be my perfect petri dish, a gathering of my old friends and those other people and I would be interacting with them once more .  What happened next was inexplicable.  All of these gray-haired older and misshapen men and women instantly recognized Brett, welcomed him like it was 1964 and had no idea who the hell I was.  My saving grace was that I too recognized no one, the women seemingly shorter and rounder than I remembered and the men, portly, ill-dressed and looking more like a gathering of John Deere owners than ex-athletes.  These ancient gladiators still hung together and we others were, yet again, unceremoniously relegated to the fringes.  Oh sure, I made a couple of re-connections,  the first with one of our group who, with no apparent intellectual classroom skills, was impossibly financially successful and the other with a guy who, when he was sixteen, had an ongoing physical relationship with his cocker spaniel.  These encounters in no way fit into the perceived order of my quest nor did they provide any validation that I had achieved a new status in the hierarchy of this disintegrating group.

But, I am in no way daunted and let’s face it, Al Gore created the internet for a reason.  Now if only my friends could embrace social networking, I would be back in the barn and cooling out.

But on the bright side and albeit with two hands, I can at least  now uncouple a bra.

The Leaf Rule

I find the Fall season inspirational.  I think of it as the season of yellow light and that truly is what my eyes see.  Everything appears softened through a filter of chromatic richness and there’s almost a smokiness that happens.  It’s like the interesting depth of field that you get looking through a telephoto lens.  I have no idea whether it’s a result of the sun resting lower on the horizon than in the dead of summer or from thinning, colourful foliage or a combination of both but I love it all.

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My Fall-challenged neighbour, who shall remain unnamed, has a diminished appreciation for this season as evidenced by her compulsive need to fire up the leaf blower at almost any time of any day and the tireless cleansing of every shred of the colourful debris from her lawn and gardens.  Her zeal transcends property lines.  Yesterday I found her in the middle of the court creating a nice pile for what I assume is an imaginary pickup of some sort.  Leaf bags are not a part of this dance.  She has apparently assumed that the wind will simply stop blowing once the task is complete and if it elects to gust, she has absolute certainty that the leaves will be carried back to properties other than her own.

She must view me as an idiot too.  I will ultimately bag my own leaves but now, at 6:00 am, when I walk out the door in complete darkness with the dog in tow, I like the feel of the leaves underfoot and the sound they make as I drag my feet.  In the darkness, I have a better appreciation for the aroma too.  It is a magnificent, musky odour of wood and clean earth.  With my own sight barely functioning at that time of day I confirmed this morning that the blind do indeed have heightened senses of smell and hearing.  No other season smells or sounds like this one.  There is a crispness to it all, at least that is how it seemed to me at 6:00 am, with my young dog strolling across a leafy ground that he has never before experienced.

The only thing truly missing from my Fall tableau is the curb-side burning of leaves that is now, sadly, just a memory of my childhood.  We would use leaf piles as goalposts during ball hockey games and on Saturday mornings, the men would collect and burn the piles.  It was a social event, a time for conversation among neighbours.  I can picture my father in an old fedora and a red, white and black lumberjack shirt, as if those moments were an urban attempt to capture his more rural roots.  I remember smoke more than flame and of course the smell that would stick to your clothing and hair like velcro.  The nostalgia of it all is quite compelling.

Now, as I casually wipe away the mist of childhood memories, let me talk about ‘the leaf rule’, the true point of this post.  During Fall golf outings, we have an unwritten rule that if your ball strays from the fairway into the rough and it disappears forever into the leaves, you can drop another and play it without penalty.  This rule is mangled and constantly abused as you will imagine but nonetheless, let’s just say that it improves the pace of play.  The leaf rule should never be used if the ball is hit into the trees but who’s to say exactly how far the trajectory actually carried it past the collection of Fall foliage spreading haphazardly throughout the rough.  So you’ll hear…”I don’t think it made the trees so I’m invoking the leaf rule.”   The leaf rule, to my knowledge, has never been invoked when the ball has been hit into a pond or running stream but leaves do collect there too so who can be certain?

So Connor the dog and I were walking in the darkness this morning and of course, with complete reliability he relieves himself on the boulevard abutting a major street.  I am armed as always with both my roll of poop bags and a flashlight.  He finishes and I search and search and search.  In the Spring and Summer the task is simple, a quick burst of the flashlight, a deft retrieval of the deposit and no one is the wiser.  But alas, in the Fall, it is a much different event.  The flashlight stays on for an agonizingly longer period and I found myself this morning lingering over a bunch of leaves ready to pounce as soon as I laid eyes on the object of this perverse mini-quest.  I wondered what the drivers were thinking as they sped past this rumpled apparition bent over in the grass searching like a mad thing with a flashlight…a flashlight for God’s sake…for something that no one really wants to find anyway.  Where was my slightly crazed, leaf-blowing neighbour when I needed her?  Cat owners don’t suffer this indignity.  And so, dear friends, at some point during these moments of angst, I have a crucial decision to make.  I either fake the pick-up by brushing the bag in the grass and dying foliage, hoping that anyone seeing me at that moment will truly appreciate the complete cleanliness and completeness of this ritual; or I take the more honest approach by expressing facial disgust  at the impossibility of the task, pocket my flashlight and empty bag and simply move on.  It was dark.  Who would know?

So I invoked the leaf rule.

CONNOR

As we all get older, I fear that there is a tendency to become entrenched in habits and narrowing comfort zones.  Thankfully, every once in  every while, things bump into us or, if we’re bold enough, we ourselves take moves … Continue reading

Some Things Just Concern Me….

I think I’m in my analytical phase, undoubtedly resulting  from preparing to cross the threshold into senior citizendom.  I’m trying to delay it but time has this unyielding way of approaching.  My hair is still mostly brown and still residing from whence it first appeared but I see myself in photos sometimes and I see my mother.  I loved my mother but I’d rather look like a younger Rob for awhile longer than I would an aging Phyllis.  Sorry mom.  I’m not certain that I like jowls either.  I don’t really see them in the mirror at first light but I think they’re either hiding or else I’m easily deceived.

For the most part I have no aches in the morning, except for the heartache of having to leave the 500 thread-count sheets to shave.  I think I spoke on that topic earlier.  I have no prescription medications in the house but this fact does not mean that I shouldn’t be taking any.  It simply means that I should be trundling grudgingly to the doctor to at least have him digitally confirm that my prostate is still doing what it should be doing, that my cholesterol is within reason and that my blood pressure isn’t whacked.  I have no idea what a prostate looks like by the way.  Sure I’ve looked at diagrams but frankly they make no sense to me whatsoever.  I think it operates rather like the doors on the Rideau canal locks but again, I’m not absolutely certain here.  I know that if you have to urinate frequently, getting up in the night for example, that’s not a good thing.  I rarely arise in the night to do that although if I get up in the pre-dawn hours during a panic attack, I will use the facilities because, what the hell, I’m up anyway. I just wanted you to know.

The curvy person who lives with me is incredible.  She flew to Italy a couple of years ago with her sister and while in the air, she did not use the tiny bathroom once.  This does not reflect a lack of wine consumption on her part because I know the woman very well, yet she has this steely resolve.  I have concluded that her prostate is just fine.

I sometimes see older men on a beach, sans shirts, and it rather terrifies me.  Since my mirror tells me that I am still ‘perfectly’ intact, I assume that these people are much older than me. Logic tells me they are not.  I don’t think my body has changed all that much but then I see them, tottering along with their droopy brown skin and their knobby knees, and I am loathe to remove my shirt.  I mean, I didn’t see the jowls in the mirror so maybe I don’t see the other saggy bits either.  Perhaps I should just strive to be less sensitive.  After all, I’ve weighed the same for the last twenty years so maybe I should be happy with that simple accomplishment.  And screw it, I’ve always had boney knees.

Emotionally, I’m no more stable today than I was a decade ago.  I will sometimes try to convince people that I am still working but my productivity doesn’t fit the statement so I am amending the language.  Now I’m saying with greater frequency “Well, I am working about four hours a day and using the other hours to do things around the house.”  It almost seems comfortable now to make that pronouncement, although my roommate of forty years has done more than her share of picking up my slack.  Problems don’t seem any more solvable than they once did and my feeling of security ebbs and flows like the tides.  When one officially retires, what happens to the trauma?  Does it retire too?  How many new ones will I acquire?  What existing ones will leave?

This piece started as a completely different subject.  How I have moved from thinking about family issues to my issues befuddles me.  I think I am channelling Andy Rooney.

More about the family issues later…..

HATS

I have a love/hate relationship with hats.  On some people they just look extremely cool, as if they were designed for that wearer.  On others, well, I have absolutely no idea what possessed people to even try.  But maybe that’s like most things.  Some have it and some don’t.

Let’s face it, baseball hats or their equivalents, predominate.  People who wear sweat-stained things, especially the white ones, have lost the right to live in my view.  There surely must be a criminal code provision somewhere.  I will excuse all people from this category, who actually ride tractors.  I have never liked the caps with the mesh screening at the back.  They look goofy to me.  If you’re wearing a cap to disguise the fact that you’re balding and again, unless you’re sitting on a John Deere, wear a solid cap, otherwise, you’ve hidden nothing at all.  We can still see the combover.

Guys used to buy caps and then bend the peaks in from the outside edges to create a tunnel effect.  It seemed to heighten the coolness factor.  I still do that but I’m older.  Now, of course, the straighter the bill of the cap, the better and it can’t be perched facing forward either…it has to be slightly angled on your head, sort of a north-west thing rather than due north.  What’s up with that?  Black men have a far better chance of carrying this off so please, for all you white guys out there, unless you can create some dreads too, just bend the peaks like we did in the old days, about two years ago.  The straight bill is not that cool on you.

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You buy some hats and they just fit perfectly.  I’m sensitive on this topic because I happen to be the owner of a large coconut.  When I discover one that is sized to absolute perfection, I have a really hard time throwing it on the top shelf of the closet, even if it has “Maude’s Rub N’ Tug” embroidered across its front.  And by the way, one size does not fit all and I wince whenever those words appear on the inner band.  Since when have you ever seen on a condom package, “One Size Fits All”?  I rest my case.

I think older men with hair are reticent to don a cap for a couple of reasons.  First, it will mess the coiffure and of far greater importance, it may also lead the casual observer to assume that you’re wearing the hat because you’re losing your hair.   So if you are wearing the hat only because you like it or you want to look cool and you have a full head of hair, you must periodically remove it to show everyone you are indeed wearing the cap only because you like it. This vicious cycle simply messes the hair with far more urgency.  Vanity is a horrible thing.  

I have two fedoras and I like them.  One is my Saturday fedora.  It’s black and makes me look like a combination of cattle rancher and interesting writer.  The other is grey with a turned down brim and wearing my winter topcoat, I have a remote resemblance to Johnny Depp in ‘Public Enemies’… or at least I feel that I do.  They’re both marked XL by the way.  I’m sure you were dying to know.

I love a great looking woman under a hat….actually under many things but I have distracted myself.  I will always turn my head if a blonde runs past me with the ponytail poking out from under a baseball cap…even if it’s sweaty.  And a woman wearing a fedora and pearls…well, I’m done.

I started on this topic because I was leaning toward purchasing a Tommy Bahama straw fedora for golf this summer.  I opted against it only because if I got halfway through the round and wanted to doff it, I can’t squash it up in  my golf bag.  I’d have nowhere to put it.  So I’ll wear my visors instead or what I call, the perfect compromise.  They are light and collapse into nothing; AND, more importantly, if Paula Creamer strolls by, she’ll see that even if I have a few wrinkles, I still have hair.  

 

The Masters

It’s been awhile since I created a post.  It’s not unusual to wait for some inspiration to strike and for whatever reason, it has this morning.  Without reviewing earlier writing, I think I have used the word “inspiration” many times … Continue reading