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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 in 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, an archive list can be found at the bottom of this page.
My newest novel, Happy Valley, can be found here.

Monday, August 31

Keith McCafferty

I’m reading the fourth book in the Sean Stranahan series by Keith McCafferty, Crazy Mountain Kiss. I’ll be sad when I finish this one, in that it’s the last he’s written so far. I’m hoping he’ll continue this series about his crazy cast of Montana characters. I’ve grown very fond of them and I’d miss them if these four books were the only ones. I keep finding writers I’ve never read, so I guess I’ll never run out of good books. I can now see why McCafferty and C. J. Box are friends. Both live in wild spots, Wyoming and Montana; both use settings in mountain wilderness; both specialize in the wildlife of those areas. Even though both write thriller/mysteries, the tone of the two writers is somewhat different, Box with his game warden, Joe Pickett, and McCafferty with his fishing guide/watercolor artist/part-time private detective, Sean Stranahan. Box’s stories are much darker than McCafferty’s, with little or no humor, whereas McCafferty’s are rich with the comic banter among his cast of characters. On more than one occasion, Sheriff Martha Ettinger says of Sean Stranahan, “This is what I mean when I tell people you manage to step into shit even if there’s only one horse in the pasture.” Stranahan describes one of the local denizens, “Phil Halverson, an unshaven logger who had one of those pinched faces typically associated with cousin kissing and hog calling, and whose deep-set eyes were as black as a coon’s under his grungy hat with a McCulloch Chain Saw logo. Everybody called him Punxsutawney Phil, after the famous groundhog, because he began every conversation by telling you whether he’d seen his shadow that morning. If he had, then it was going to be a bad day. With the town of Bridger being on the east or sunny side of the Continental Divide, Phil had a lot of bad days.” McCafferty’s characters are all characters in one Montana way or another, some funny, some sad, but all really memorable.

I read in an interview on McCafferty’s blog what he had to say about the act of writing novels, and I was impressed: “I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating, that writing a novel is like setting sail for a distant land. You can see as far as the horizon, and that will get you a few chapters in, and at a certain point you’ll smell land or a shorebird will perch on your mast, and you’ll be able to see the end and work toward it with a sense of excitement — say over the novel’s last four chapters. It’s those 250 or so pages in between when you’re lost at sea, sharks circling, and no stars to take a bearing, that separate those who wish to write novels from those who actually do.”

Here are a few more examples of his writing that impresses me: “There are many ways of feeling alone. There is the squeezed chest loneliness of walking down a dark alleyway, and there is the self-reliant isolation of fishing a midnight river in wilderness. There is that delicious hollow feeling of standing alone in a slumbering city, waiting for the light to change on the metropolitan avenue shining under the street lamps after the rain, secure in the knowledge that the woman whose bed you have left is dreaming about you and it is two against the world—a loneliness built for two. And then there is the devastation of being left by someone you love.” (pp. 82-83, The Royal Wulff Murders)

“Stranahan idled down the drive with the windows open. When the great grey hooted, he stopped and shut the engine off. The voice echoed into silence, leaving the undertone of the current. The owl was the sonorous heartbeat of the night, the river song its breath, and these sounds resonated in Stranahan’s chest long after he had retired to the futon in his studio, as the bass notes of nature do with those who sleep alone.” (p. 278, The Royal Wulff Murders)

“It gets lonely when someone close to you starts pulling away. It’s like living with a shadow.” (p. 203, Dead Man’s Fancy)

You could do far worse than to find the four Sean Stranahan mysteries and read them. I think you’ll be as impressed as I am.

Saturday, August 29

The Diary of a Teenage Girl

I made a big mistake yesterday: I talked my wife Rosalie into going to see The Diary of a Teenage Girl. Not that it wasn’t a good movie. It was, especially in the acting of the title’s teenage girl, Bel Powley as Minnie Goetze, a 15-year-old living in the 1970’s San Francisco hippieland. Minnie is busy exploring her adolescent sexuality, worrying about her too-small breasts, her fear of being a little chubby, her desire to lose her virginity, which she manages by seducing her mother’s boyfriend, the 35-year-old Monroe (Alexander Skarengard). She’d love to tell everyone about it but instead consigns it to a taped diary she hides away in her bedroom, taping the details of her affair with Monroe and her dreams of becoming a successful cartoonist. Her mother Charlotte (Kristin Wiig),a hippie with no husband and two daughters, doesn’t suspect what her daughter is doing, seemingly more interested in booze and drugs than family affairs (no pun intended). That’s the plot setup and that’s pretty much it. No spoiler alerts here. It’s a tale of a young girl’s search for identity, done well but not as well as Juno or The Perks of Being a Wallflower or The Breakfast Club. My problem and my wife’s problem with this Teenage Girl is with the explicit sex scenes. To tell this story of Minnie’s awakening, was it necessary to be so graphic in the telling? We’re not old prudes, and the modern liberation of language with its F-Bombs and MF-Bombs no longer bothers us . . . too much. We’re more broad- than narrow-minded. But the sex scenes seemed so gratuitous, more pornographic than artistic. I guess the constant inclusion of young girls having sex, drinking booze, and taking drugs simply depressed me instead of enlightened me or ennobled me or filled me with hope for the future of our youth. It was the kind of depression I’ve always felt at one of the hometown carnivals of my youth—sleazy with the overpowering smells of greasy food and cotton candy, selling superficial fun on Tilt-A-Whirls, Ferris Wheels, and other mechanical rides designed to thrill and nauseate riders, tempting us with unwinnable games that involved tossing pennies on a board, nickels into glassware, baseballs at fringed dolls, operating a crane arm to pick up toys or silver dimes (never quite catching a toy or any dimes), then luring those of us who were old enough or had enough cash to come into the back-lot tent where we could view all kinds of examples of human and animal oddities, the two-headed pig, the bearded lady, or the woman who would have coitus with a Shetland pony. You know the old carnie spiel, “She walks, she talks, she crawls on her belly like a snake!” I always felt like I needed to take a long, hot shower whenever I came home from those carnivals. I felt a little like that when I came home from The Diary of a Teenage Girl.

Monday, August 24

Tiger . . . Again

I and a bunch of other avid golfers around the world tuned in this past weekend to see if Tiger could make good on his oft-repeated refrain of being close to where he wants to be. It’s amazing how many casual golfers and infrequent watchers of golf were also watching. And the crowds came out in droves in Greensboro to see him live. Everyone, even the Tiger haters, just have to see what he’s doing. A lot of them are watching to see him screw up, hoping that he’ll screw up. And so far in 2015 he’s been making their hopes come true. But most of his viewers are on his side, hoping that he’ll somehow turn it around and begin winning again. I’d like to see him surpass Jack’s eighteen majors, but that now seems most unlikely. I’d also like to see him surpass Snead’s 82 wins, which he probably will. And deservedly so. Snead played in a time when the purses were tiny compared to what’s available today, and the field wasn’t nearly as loaded with potential winners. So Snead’s 82 wins aren’t nearly as impressive as Tiger’s 79. For 71 holes in Greensboro, Tiger played like the old Tiger. But then the new Pussycat Tiger had to appear on that ugly 11th hole: pulled iron way left of the green for his second, shank-blade pitch across the green, chunk chip short of the green, putt from the fringe long, 2-putt for that awful triple bogey. All the golf gurus are saying the same thing—it’s gotta be in his head. And none of them can, nor can I, understand how a player with maybe the best hand/eye coordination of anyone who ever played the game hit these atrocious chips and pitches from tight lies. I remember that old Adidas commercial where he bounces the ball off a wedge behind his back, between his legs, then spins around and in mid-air knocks it outta sight. That’s hand/eye coordination par excellence. I was happy to see Davis Love come through for the win, but I and a lot of others would have been ecstatic if Tiger had won. We’ll have to wait another year to see if he can truly come back from this disastrous slump.

Sunday, August 23

Korean Memories

We’ve been buzzing through old episodes of Mash with the help of Netflix, seeing how the crazy doctors and nurses of the 4077th Mash unit grew from the first season to the last a dozen years later, the lunacy of Hawkeye and Trapper John, the butt of their lunacy usually Frank Burns and Hot Lips Houlihan, the crazy attempts of cross-dressing Max Klinger to get a section-8 discharge from the army, Radar’s efficiency as company clerk to the hapless c.o. Henry Blake. It brought back a lot of Korean memories for me. Here I am, over sixty years later, thinking about all the monumental changes that have taken place in the world, especially those changes in Asia. North Korea, with its fat, arrogant madman, is now shaking a war stick at its southern neighbor, a nearly exact duplication of what provoked that ugly war from my youth. Only now, South Korea is an economic force in the world and North Korea is still a dictatorship in which most of its citizens are impoverished.

I remember Korea in bits and pieces, some of the pieces vivid and some not even bits but simply empty gray spots. For example, I can vividly remember how I slept there, most often in a large, platoon tent with about a dozen cots and a pot-bellied stove in the middle, sleeping in a toasty cocoon sleeping bag in the cold winter months and in just my skivvies in warm weather, sleeping in various sand-bagged bunkers when not in a tent. I remember meals of c-rations and k-rations, but other than one Thanksgiving meal in a company mess hall, I don’t remember ever eating there for any other meal. I remember shaving, using stove-heated water in my helmet, but I can’t remember ever taking a shower. How could I have gone over eighteen months without taking a shower? Our latrines were dug by individual platoons, little slap-dash pieces of canvas supported by a few boards containing a one-seater. I remember having small amounts of cash, the rest of my monthly paycheck being sent back to a hometown bank for safekeeping. It was military scrip, what we called Mickey Mouse money because of the colorful bills, and every three or four months this scrip would be called in for replacement by new money to make useless the money made illegally on the black market. But why did I ever need money? I guess we had a commissary where we could buy candy, cigarettes, cigars, and toiletries, but gambling would have been the only other reason for needing cash. Did we need to buy beer and booze or was that provided by the army? I know that cigarettes were always included with the c-rations and k-rations, little 4-cigarette packs. If you weren’t a smoker before you got to Korea, you certainly were once you arrived.

Every so often we’d have night-time bugouts in which the entire company would break down the camp to move to a new location, a ploy, I guess, to keep the enemy from knowing where we were. I was assigned to the 65th Infantry Regiment when I got there, which was originally a unit made up of mostly Puerto Ricans but had been reduced to only a small portion after I arrived. I knew a little Spanish from my one year in college, but I never learned most of what I heard in Korea from the few remaining Puerto Ricans, every dirty slang expression they could express, which was often and quite dirty. Do I remember most of them? Yes, even though I still have that number of unmemorable gray spots in my Korean experience.

My platoon leader was a young Puerto Rican whose name I have since forgotten. My platoon sergeant was a brown fellow from Hawaii named Pop Ferrer. His name and a few of my platoon mates I remember: Mo Goodspeed, a tall fellow from Binghamton, New York; Rainwater from somewhere in the South; Kjos, a young round Minnesotan to whom I made the sorry mistake of lending three hundred dollars so he could buy his fiancé an engagement ring (sorry mistake because I never got the three hundred back); and Brayboy, a short, dark-complected guy with a bushy black mustache who seemed to be laughing almost all the time. What is curious about Brayboy, though, is that all the while I knew him in Korea, I didn’t realize until I mustered out of the army that he was black. That’s how ignorant of race and racial bigotry I was back then.

The one I best remember was Chuck Cavallero, whom I would later meet in 1954 to try to collaboratively write and sell songs in New York. But that’s a different story. All the rest of those I once knew in Korea would enter my life there and then leave without leaving any lasting impression on my spotty memory, just more of those gray ghosts in my mind.

I remember South Korea as being bombed out and impoverished. I now see South Korea as a land of plenty, with at least half the lady golfers on the LPGA tour as Korean. Who would have ever thought golf would become so popular in such unlikely places as Korea, China, Thailand, and India. The world has changed a lot since I was there in Korea when I was a young, naïve lad. And now I’m old and no longer naïve, although still pretty stupid.

Tuesday, August 18

Cat Lovers

I don’t mean to start a fight, but then, why not, at least with a little aid from this recent study of dog and cat people: “It turns out that ‘dog people’ and ‘cat people’ are very different. A study from Carroll University in Wisconsin found the personality traits of cat lovers and dog lovers couldn't be more different than . . . well, cats and dogs. The study suggests that those who prefer dogs are seeking companionship, and are generally more energetic and outgoing. That makes sense as dogs are more lively and interested in playing outside and socializing. Dog people also tend to follow the rules. Those who prefer cats, on the other hand, are more likely to be non-conformists, introverts, want affection, and be sensitive home bodies—as cats also like to stay inside. Researchers surveyed 600 students and asked them to classify themselves as cat people or dog people. Sixty percent said ‘dog people,’ eleven percent said ‘cat people,’ the rest were either both or neither. They then asked participants a series of questions about their personalities. But before we start a cyber-war between cat and dog lovers, it should be pointed out that researchers only surveyed 600 participants and they were all college students, so it's unclear if the results apply to other age groups. That being said, the study also suggests cat lovers are more intelligent than dog lovers.” Get that? CAT LOVERS ARE MORE INTELLIGENT THAN DOG LOVERS!
That being said (and, yes, we’re cat lovers), I think it’s time to tell you again about our three children, Charlie, Tiger, and Tuffy. We spend much more time with them than we ever did with any of our other cats. In our past lives, we both worked full-time and had other activities that kept us away from home, so our cats were more on their own than these three. Also, they were outdoor cats, with a cat door at the back for them to go in and out of the house (along with assorted other critters, like an occasional raccoon, rabbit, or skunk that used that door). Now that we’re no longer working and these three are strictly in-door cats, we find them to be much more sociable fellows, wanting to be with us no matter where in the house we are. If we’re out on the back patio, they’re out on the back patio. If we’re in the living room watching tv, they’re in the living room watching tv. Yes, they really do watch the tv action, especially if it’s sports action.
Here's Tiger watching Tiger.
At night, they spend most of their time out on the back patio, watching all the night activity, like moonlight bunny hops and coyotes passing through. But around 5:00 a.m. they all decide we’ve had enough sleep and will come into the bedroom, hop up, and do their individual thing. Tiger is the most aggressive and happy, leaning on my shoulder to get my attention if I’m lying sideways, sticking his head under our sleeping hands to demand an ear scratch, wagging his tail as fast as he can. Tuffy is much less demanding and will lie quietly in the crook of my right arm waiting for a belly rub. Charlie is aloof and remains at the foot of the bed, disdainfully watching the other two. But when I get up to shave in the morning, he’s right there with me to eat the dozen or so kitty treats that Rosalie leaves on the bathroom counter for him. When they’re all sure we’re awake, they leave us to revisit the back patio. We’ve had the two twins Tiger and Tuffy for two years now, and only now can we easily tell them apart. Tiger is the alpha cat, with slightly darker coloring, a face that’s almost square, a tail that wags all the time, and eyes that dare us with a squint. Tuffy has lighter stripes and a vee-shaped face with eyes that always seem to be wide open, as though in surprise or shock at what Carlie or Tiger are doing. Then there’s Charlie, our three-year-old tuxedo cat. He’s the handsomest cat either of us have ever seen, large, regal, with round owl eyes. Rosalie occasionally calls him beautiful, but that would make him out to be effeminate, which he definitely is not. They all have their favorite places for napping in the late morning or early afternoon—Charlie sort of hiding near the end of the sofa, Tuffy under the coffee table, and Tiger on the back of our recliner (or almost anywhere else he decides is his, like the top of our dining room hutch.)
They take turns sleeping on the window seat near my computer.

Tiger would be the David Beckham of catdom, spending hours kicking a plastic ball around the house, especially up and down the tiled kitchen and laundry room. Tuffy prefers the quieter mice that he can flip in the air. Tuffy is also in love with a shake toy that he coaxes Rosalie to get for him. It’s a foot-long stick with a three-foot line and a mouse on the end that squeaks and lights up bluely. Tuffy will jump three or four feet in the air trying to get the mouse, doing back and side flips coming down. If Rosalie isn’t doing the shaking, Tuffy will lie on the toy giving her the most soulful, pleading looks until she relents and takes it in hand. The other two will get involved now and then, even sedate Charlie, but usually it’s just Tuffy. They all have their claws, which get trimmed now and then (but never Charlie’s, which would simply be impossible) and they all fight and wrestle, but never with claws out. They all seem to love each other dearly, as we do them. Too bad everyone can’t be cat lovers. Just think what that would do for our overall intelligence.

Monday, August 17

2015 PGA Champion & Suicide

What a neat conclusion to the PGA Championship, with Jason Day winning his first major and Jordan Spieth jumping into first place in the world with his second-place finish. Neat, not exciting, since Jason Day took the lead on Saturday and then held on nicely to the finish, winning it by three. And how nice it is to see such class among nearly all golfers on tour. Jordan Spieth has to be the classiest 22-year-old in sports. And maybe the best spoken. He gave it his best shot, but when it was obvious who the winner was going to be, he allowed Jason Day his moment in the sun, giving him a thumbs-up at Day’s great lag putt on the seventeenth and then getting out of his way as they strode up the eighteenth fairway to the applause of the gallery. In an age when we have too many sports figures who either can’t avoid illegal drugs and too much booze or who beat up spouses or girlfriends or children or who act like the world owes them not only a really huge salary but also their adulation, we need more Larry Fitzgeralds (Arizona Cardinals), Paul Goldschmidts (Phoenix Diamondbacks), Rory McElroys (former number one in the world of golf), and Jordan Spieths (current number one in the world of golf). The same could be said of almost all the professional golfers in the world.

From that positive note to one much less positive.

How can it be against the law to commit suicide? I can see some logic in having a law against attempting to commit suicide, although I would find that law to be ridiculous. Who am I harming other than myself if I choose to take my own life? In an unsuccessful attempt, the attempter could stand trial. But if his attempt is successful, would he stand trial in absentia? In an article about Switzerland’s allowing suicide, Helena Bachman says this: “Interestingly enough, we do not deprive our sick and suffering pets of a merciful death. Isn’t it cruel not to extend the same compassion to human beings?” I’m not considering suicide, but I’d like the option of doing so to be available to me when I do consider the quality of my life to be unacceptable, whether it’s because of painful medical issues or because I have too little left to live for. The decision should be mine. Emily Dickinson, in poem 341 (“After Great Pain, a Formal Feeling Comes”), describes a feeling of tremendous grief (heavy, leaden, stiff, wooden, quartz-like), but it’s equally true of a lessening of the reasons for living, that time near the end of a long life when all that once mattered no longer matters. I’ve always been a fan of her final image: “As Freezing persons, recollect the Snow – / First – Chill – then Stupor – then the letting go – .” How like my feelings of life slipping away from me—chill, stupor, letting go. I want the legal and moral right to conclude my life at a time of my own choosing, whether it’s too painful or too inconsequential to continue.

Saturday, August 15

2015 PGA Championship

Pete Dye’s Whistling Straits course along Wisconsin’s Lake Michigan shoreline, with what looks like a million bunkers and zero trees, in a lot of ways is just like the Scottish links courses, most notable St. Andrews’ Old Course. But Whistling Straits is more beautiful than the typical links courses, lush and green and receptive. Sorry, St. Andrews, but it’s true.
I can see why so many tour players enjoy playing here, and we’ll get to see it again in the 2020 Ryder Cup. But for now we can enjoy the play in the 2015 PGA Championship being contested there. Great scoring coupled with the ever-present possibility of making big numbers. The leaderboard after two rounds is loaded with scores from Matt Jones’ minus 11 down to the eleven tied at minus 4, thirty-one players within seven shots. Stories? Tiger missed another cut; John Daly did his Tin Cup thing with multiple balls in the water followed by a water-flung 6-iron into Lake Michigan; Jordan Spieth got back into the hunt with a 67 on Friday; Dustin Johnson had a Friday meltdown; Phil and Bubba struggled haphazardly around the Straits with more birdies and bogeys than pars; and Rory demonstrated that his sprained ankle wasn’t an issue. I love golf, both playing and watching. And now that I’m taking an extended vacation from the playing, I still have the thrill of viewing stellar play and stellar courses like Whistling Straits.

Tuesday, August 11

Thoreau's Letting Go

Our alpha cat Tiger keeps jumping onto the top of our hutch, then stepping onto my wife’s mirrored shelving that holds her collection of Wildflower angels, invariably knocking two or three to the floor, breaking two or three angel wings or heads or arms.
No matter how we scold him, he continues to do it. And my wife keeps super-gluing the broken angels back together again. That led me to think of all the little collectible things we’ve acquired over the years. Who will get them when we’re gone? Who will even want them when we’re gone? When Rosalie’s sister died, she left behind a number of really expensive crystal pieces. We took several and sister Kaye took several. And the rest went into the public auction of her goods, these crystal pieces probably going for two or three bucks apiece, maybe even much less than that. Someone got a really good deal. But when they pass on, someone else will get a really good deal on these pieces. And who will care? We spend our entire lives acquiring little collectible items, holding them, admiring them for a little while. And then we die.
Henry David Thoreau implored us to simplify our lives, to strip it down to the bare bones, to own only a few necessities. He comments on the New England farmer he sees trudging down the road with a farm on his back. No farm on Thoreau’s back, no little collectible angels sitting on his chest. The simple life in the mid-19th century would have been so much easier than our complex lives in the 21st century, and Thoreau’s “best government,” that which governs least, is long gone.
But back to the stuff in my life. There isn’t much that I’ll feel bad about losing to some auction giveaway. I don’t care if someone gets any of our Hallmark kitty collectibles for a song. Or the crystal paperweights. Or the books I’ve had for my entire adult life. Or the interesting bottles we keep on the shelf above our mirrored wall in the living room. Or all the letters from friends and relatives I’ve kept and stored in my computer for the last thirty years. Or the many many golf clubs out in the garage. Who needs any of that stuff? Certainly not me. And the older I get, the less I need what once seemed so important. Too bad it's taken me so long to get simple.

Sunday, August 9

Swan Recanted & Two Reviews

I’ve decided to un-sing my swan song, to recant my decision to stop writing on my blog. I couldn't make it even for a week. Too many things I still want to say. Besides, I get really nervous sitting around and not writing anything. Idle hands, you know. People still astound me. Many of the folks in Colorado were shocked and stunned by the news that the James Holmes jury had decided not to put him to death but to imprison him for life. How could they not know that in this day and age, at least one of the jurors wouldn’t believe in the death penalty? It took only one of the twelve to deny it. I’d have thought there would be more than one. I also think that life in prison is a more severe punishment than death. Then there’s the improbable popularity of Donald Trump in the latest polls. Why would so many people—Republicans, that is—want this blowhard to be the leader of the strongest nation in the world? Is he what they think our president should be? He would offend the people of virtually every other country in the world, just as he offends a lot of people here. He thinks he could reduce the national debt back to zero, yet four of his companies declared bankruptcy in the last decade. If they were his companies and if he truly has such wonderful business acumen, why did he let them fall into such debt? How can he continue to brag about his $10-billion fortune when it’s clear that he doesn’t have nearly that much? You people, as Clay Thompson would say. You people, what in the world are you thinking?

Two quick movie reviews, last year’s Cake and this year’s Mission Impossible, Rogue Nation. I checked a number of reviews of both, with Cake receiving mostly lukewarm comments and Mission mostly positive. It’s like comparing apples and oranges. Or, better yet, comparing watermelons and cotton candy. They’re too different to be compared. Cake, though not a bundle of laughs, was a really interesting study in pain and grief, and a wonderful look at Aniston showing us her acting chops. I don’t think it deserved the degree of negativity it got. I, like one of the reviewers, thought she should have been nominated for best actress. The plot is simple, a woman suffering from pain after an auto accident that killed her young son and nearly killed her. She pops Percocet like jelly beans and is rude to nearly everyone she encounters. Her support group kicks her out; her physical therapist nearly drops her; her ex-husband doesn’t want to see her; and her housekeeper, despite being treated like a dog, stands by her. Okay, so it gets a little soggy near the end. It’s still a film well worth seeing.
Now for the cotton candy, Mission Impossible, Rogue Nation.
It was pure techno-action fluff, without much substance but still a lot of fun to eat. Fun and fairly forgettable. Tom Cruise has fun hanging onto the side of a plane taking off, zipping in and out of traffic on a motorcycle as he chases Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) as she's zipping in and out of traffic on a motorcycle, doing a backward car chase (or was he escaping?), playing games with the old Mission Impossible rubber faces. And, yes, this isn't the last we'll see of the MI boys and girls, just as this blog isn't the last you'll see of me.

Monday, August 3

Swan Song, Cecil, & Direct Address

Here it is, my swan song, my thousandth post. Maybe a permanent song and maybe not. I hope that some of my regular readers and some of my occasional readers will miss me, miss my reviews and my musings. We’re being inundated these days with the writing of just about everybody—letters to the editor, blogs, strands of dialogue on Amazon about what’s good and not good, and, of course, the billions of text messages back and forth. Too many words to keep track of. Thus, I think I should stop adding to the deluge. A thousand posts should be enough. Samuel Taylor Coleridge had this comical comment about swans and their songs: “Swans sing before they die—‘twere no bad thing / Should certain persons die before they sing.” I’m not planning on dying but I think I’ll quit singing.
A huge coyote came through our backyard this morning, with Tiger and Tuffy taking wary note of him. He wasn’t moving very fast because his right leg seemed to be broken right at the ankle. He used his one good leg to dig a shallow hole at the base of one of our neighbor’s grapefruit trees, looking for some comfort in the moist soil. He lay there for fifteen minutes before limping away. I felt so bad about his condition but there wasn’t anything I could do. He wouldn’t be able to catch any birds or rabbits and unless he could find enough road kill he wasn’t going to survive. A call to the Humane Society wouldn’t have helped since there’d be no way they could find him or catch him. A three-legged coyote is a dead coyote. Maybe we could call Dr. Palmer to come put him out of his misery. Palmer could then mount his head next to Cecil’s as testimony to the doctor’s courage.

I still don’t feel comfortable going to Facebook either to read other peoples’ posts or to post anything for myself. Ninety-five percent of what’s said there is so empty, so meaningless. I get a notification about someone’s birthday and go there to find countless messages all saying “Happy birthday Joe” (insert any other name you like). There’s seldom anything personalized. And almost without exception, there’s no comma to set off the name. Is the comma designating direct address a thing of the past? Let this old English codger explain. We used to enclose in commas persons being spoken to directly in a sentence, indicating to the reader that the name isn’t part of the sentence, almost like we’re putting it in parentheses. Look at this old grammatical chestnut in which we have two speakers, Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf: “I feel like eating, Grannie,” and “I feel like eating Grannie.” Can you tell which says what? Can you see the importance of that comma? Well, Grannie certainly sees it. It makes all the difference in the world to her. Texting and Twittering have done so much to change the way we communicate, some of the changes good, some bad. I think the inattention of too many of our young communicators regarding proper phrasing and punctuation is regrettable. And Grannie agrees. Here she is, agreeing and waving goodbye.

Saturday, August 1

The Women's British Open & Tiger Woods


On Friday I shivered along with the ladies playing golf (working golf?) at Donald Trump’s Turnberry course in the Scottish home of golf. The wind was up near 30 mph, rain was sputtering off and on, and the temps were in the 50’s with the wind-chill probably in the mid-40’s. Brrr! Chattering teeth. The ladies looked like snow bunnies in their winter garb—bulky suits and jackets, ear muffs, mittens, stocking caps and ski masks. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that some of them had Zippo hand-warmers in their pockets. The traditionalists were all scrubbing their hands and licking their lips and chortling to see this links course showing its bloody teeth. “Oy, yis,” they’d purr, “this is how golf should be played. Na trees, na lakes, joost lovely patches a gorst ‘n’ pot bunkers ‘n’ bumps ‘n’ lumps ‘n’ humps. ‘N’ lotsa wind off the Irish Sea. That’s joost the way we like it. Noonna that sissy stuff they have in the U.S. Y’ know, green, tree-lined fairways, mirrored ponds ‘n’ lakes, warm, windless days. Nah, that’s just a game fer sissies.” It seems to me that links golf relies too much on luck to find winners. Who gets the best bounces off those lumps and bumps? Who gets the best tee times regarding the changes in wind and weather? Nah, give me Augusta National or Jack’s Muirfield Village. That’s what golf should be all about. I’m also watching the PGA event being played this weekend, the Quicken Loans in Gainsville, Virginia. Again, we have a Tiger tournament, and millions of us are watching to see if and how and when Tiger spits up on his shoes. He began on Thursday just like he’s begun too many times already, looking like a spastic pussycat, bogeying three of the first four holes. And we all watched the train-wreck carnage beginning to bleed out. And then, miracle of miracles, he pulled it together and looked like the Tiger of old for the last fourteen holes, shooting a respectable 69. He followed that with an even more miraculous 66 on Friday, not only to make the cut but to be within three shots of the lead. Whoa, can this be where he turns it all around and he wins the Quicken Loan to force his way into the WGC-Bridgestone, which he’ll also win, then go on to win the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits? Or will he revert to this year’s version of Tiger Woods, the tired has-been who can’t find any fairways, can’t make any putts, can’t get up-and-down from off the greens? The jury is still out. He still has this crucial Saturday and Sunday to contend with.

I never thought I’d get to use the word “penultimate” in any of my writing, but here it is. This blog post is my penultimate post, my 999th. But it will be my penultimate only if I decide not to write any more, not to write anymore. Isn’t that an interesting pair of words, “any more” and “anymore?” They’re a little like “all together” and “altogether,” enough to drive any sane man completely nuts. I was never completely sane, so I can’t really go completely nuts.

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