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My books can be purchased as e-books for only $1.99. If interested, just click here: Books.
Match Play is a golf/suspense novel. Dust of Autumn is a bloody one set in upstate New York. Prairie View is set in South Dakota, with a final scene atop Rattlesnake Butte. Life is the Arbor is a children's book about Rollie Rabbit and his friends (on about a fourth grade level). The Black Widow involves an elaborate extortion scheme. Doggy-Dog World is my memoir. And ES3 is a description of my method for examining English sentence structure.
In case anyone is interested in any of my past posts, you can find an archive list at the bottom of this page.

Friday, June 28

Match Play

I just finished two novels by John Coyne, both about golf from the past, featuring Ben Hogan and Walter Hagen in The Caddie Who Knew Ben Hogan and The Caddie Who Played with Hickory. Both were pretty good and both just crammed with golf, shot by shot matches that served as the centers of both plots. I remember long ago trying to pedal my golf novel, Match Play, to New York publishers, having them all tell me it was too full of golf. And I tried to tell them that was the point, to give golf enthusiasts a novel about non-PGA golf. But none of them ever bought that argument. After the two Coyne books, I decided to go back and reread Match Play, to see how it held up after all these years. It held up very well. In fact, it was better than either of the Caddie books by Coyne. I may be biased, however. And one of the passages I’m most proud of was the valedictory speech made by the young Amy Forrest. I wish I’d somehow, sometime, somewhere, been able to deliver that very speech. Here it is. See what you think.

When it was her turn to speak, she climbed the steps to the stage, crossed to the podium, and then paused for a full thirty seconds just looking at the audience, smiling, waiting for everyone to become quiet. She seemed totally assured, totally in control. When she had everyone’s attention, even that of her fellow seniors, she very quietly began:

“Thank you.” A warm smile and another short pause. “Thank you. I wasn’t really waiting for anything in particular. I was just waiting . . . savoring the moment. Because, you see, I’m already aware how quickly life passes. I know I’m very young, and probably youthfully presumptuous to make such a statement . . . but I had great teachers . . . most of them dead, I’m afraid.” A smattering of puzzled laughter from the audience. “Some very good ones still living, I’m happy to report. I’ve learned this lesson about life’s brevity mainly from the things I’ve read, my dead but still very alive teachers. Nearly every writer worth his salt at one time or another has had something to say about how brief, like morning dew, is this thing called life. I’ve learned it in school, from teachers, live ones, who have warned me, scolded me, to make good use of my time, for time is precious. ‘Tempus fugit! Tempus fugit!’ they say, shaking their collective fingers at me. ‘Time flies! Carpe diem! Seize the day! Seize it before the day seizes you, because, God knows, it will seize you.’ ”

She paused for the Latin maxims to sink in.

“And I appreciate that lesson from them. I’ve learned that all too often we wish the time away, wish for moments in our lives to hurry up and get here, and too often we forget to live while we’re waiting for those moments. I’ve heard many of my fellow graduates saying for the last four years how they could hardly wait to get out of high school, to get out on their own and away from all the controls on their lives. You know—parents, teachers, mean old principals . . .” and a low chuckle with that last comment accompanied by warm laughter from the audience, an audience that was entirely with her now, listening to what she was saying. “Well, I’m here to tell you that that moment is here . . . and now . . . and you’d all better just slow it down and savor the moment . . . whether you’re graduating from high school as we are, or you’ve just received that hoped-for promotion, or you’ve just had a birthday or a newborn son or daughter, or you simply woke up this morning and found yourself alive and healthy. They’re all moments worth savoring.”

She went on to talk about how she hoped she and her fellow graduates all over the nation would be committed to improving the quality of life not only in our country, but everywhere in the world. She alluded to things that Mark Thorne, the salutatorian, had said, to things the congressman had said. She was obviously extemporizing, winging it, and it was wonderful. I don’t know three people who could do what she did, speak to a group of people with as much clarity, sincerity, and the skill to hold her thoughts together and communicate them to an audience that was actually listening to every word she said. A remarkable feat. And if I hadn’t realized it before, I certainly realized it then—Amy Forrest was a remarkable girl. No, a remarkable woman.

Her concluding remarks returned to her opening theme—savoring the moments of our lives. “. . . and everyone, it seems, comes eventually to the same conclusion about life, that there wasn’t time enough to do all the things we’d planned, or that we regret not having done all the things we wanted to, or that we’d spent—spent, what an appropriate way to describe it—that we’d spent our lives living what Thoreau called ‘lives of quiet desperation’ instead of what Omar Khayyam recommended, that we ‘make the most of what we yet may spend, before we too unto the dust descend.’ And Ben Franklin’s Poor Richard asks, ‘Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that’s the stuff life’s made of.’

“But nearly all of those who write of or speak of their regrets, their conclusions about life and time and the brevity of the one and the swiftness of the other, nearly all are looking back at life, almost as though none of us can learn the obvious and universal lesson until it’s too late, as though we’re all too blind or too ignorant to learn from the words of others. Singers sing the message, telling us to ‘stop and smell the roses,’ urging us to ‘hold this moment fast, and live and love as hard as you know how, and make this moment last, because the best of times is now!’ ”

She looked out over the audience and paused for a moment, to let that last now sink in, and although I knew she couldn’t see me in the darkened auditorium, I felt she was looking at me and had been directing her words at me. And then she smiled and continued.

“And poets rhyme the message. Phillip James Bailey says, ‘We live in feelings, not in figures on a dial. We should count time by heart-throbs.’ Fitzgerald’s Omar Khayyam warns that ‘Time is slipping underneath our feet, unborn tomorrow, and dead yesterday, why fret about them if today be sweet.’ Longfellow tells us that ‘art is long, and time is fleeting, and our hearts, though stout and brave, still, like muffled drums, are beating funeral marches to the grave,’ a sentiment echoing Andrew Marvell, who over three hundred years ago with tongue in cheek said, ‘The grave’s a fine and private place, but none I think do there embrace.’ And Robert Herrick advises me to gather my rosebuds while I may, because ‘Old Time is still a-flying, and this same flower that smiles today, tomorrow will be dying.’ ”

Then she paused again, for at least fifteen seconds, looking at various sections of the audience and smiling at each as though sharing some secret, a very nice bit of dramatic business that didn’t seem at all affected or planned.

“Yes. All of us here—parents full of pride for this moment in their children’s lives, relatives and friends here to share in this moment, teachers who have meant so much to us in preparing us for the moment, I and my fellow graduating seniors who have for so long wished for this moment—all of us should pay better attention to the lesson of those who have gone before us: Andrew Marvell and Longfellow and Ben Franklin and Omar Khayyam and nearly every other writer since time began. And all of those who may not have been writers but who have expressed or even felt the lesson. Let’s listen to what they said. Let’s listen with our hearts as well as our ears. Maybe we can’t halt time, maybe we can’t stretch it beyond its given length . . . but we can certainly make what little time we have more valuable. Let’s really stop and smell the roses. Let’s really love instead of hate. Let’s really savor the moment, . . . this moment, . . . because the best of times really is . . . now!” And her head was nodding as she held us for a moment longer, looking around the audience, smiling. And we sat in total silence.

“Thank you,” she said quietly, and left the podium to return to her seat in the audience.
* * *
If anyone is interested in reading Match Play, it’s available in hard copy at Amazon.com, or in e-book form at lulu.com. Granted, I’m as biased about the book’s merits as a proud father is biased about the good looks of his children. Too many publishers have called my child ugly. I hope you disagree.

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