Strangers on a Training Table

MixPac

“This okay Mr. Mixon?” says a man in a white scrub top with a football helmet embroidered on the left breast. He is massaging the calf of a young muscular African-American man lying face down on a training table deep in the bowls of Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati. The young man has only a towel over his backside.

“Please, call me Joe,” says the young man. “And you are?”

“Sal,” says the trainer, tersely. “Just want to make sure this is okay, uh…Joe.”

“It’s fine, Sal,” says Joe. “Anything is fine. You’re the first person I’ve met here that hasn’t asked me about the ‘incident’.”

Sal does not respond. He puts down the leg he’s been working on and walks around the table to the other side. He lifts the other leg and begins working on the calf.

Joe thinks back to his first days as a Cincinnati Bengal draft pick. He had fallen well into the second round due to his year-long suspension at the University of Oklahoma for striking a woman in the face at a bar. After months of anger-management, he is still mostly angry with himself for doing it in a public place and being caught on camera.

While happy that the Bengals took a chance on him, he is still angered that a clear first-round talent like himself, should have to continually put up with the lingering questions. At his Meet the Media press conference, one of these fat white fools actually asked him if he felt that his troubled past was behind him, like he would tell a reporter that he was going to commit a crime in advance.

This was the second day of the camp for rookies and free-agents. Joe had already received far more attention than the Bengals first-round pick, John Ross, a receiver at #10. Joe thought bitterly to himself that he’d have been picked in the top ten were it not for that bitch… Joe stopped himself and took three deep breaths as he was taught in therapy. He knew it wouldn’t help.

A man in a tank-top and shorts walks into the otherwise empty room. He drapes a towel onto the surface of the neighboring training table and then places three rolled towels at the head of the table where a pillow might go. Sal overtly avoids eye-contact. The man hops onto the training table and lies on his back. He carefully flips his dreadlocks over the small stack of rolled towels and settles his head on them. “Sal,” he says.

Sal quickly puts down Joe’s leg that he is working on and hurries out of the room.

Joe still has his head turned from the other man. “I’m not supposed to talk to you,” he says.

“So you know who I am, then. Good, it’ll save some time. Who put the word out on me? Coach Lewis?”

“It was the running backs coach…Caskey,” says Joe.

“I figured that pussy wouldn’t do it himself. It came from the top anyway. Coach don’t do shit without the man’s say-so. When they gonna realize that Pacman Jones runs this team?”

“I thought you dropped the ‘Pacman’ and went back to your given name…Adam was it?”

“Just for the press, my brother. My agent suggested it. Anybody important knows what to call me.”

“Well whatever you go by, just steer clear of me. I don’t need no trouble. I spent the last two years climbing out of the shit. Mike Brown told me that as long as—“

“Fuck that motherfucker,” says Pacman. “He don’t know shit about what goes on here. Turn around and look at me when I’m talkin’ to you, boy!”

Joe thinks for a moment then slowly turns his head toward the next table. Pacman continues to look up at the ceiling. Joe wonders if this is some psychological ploy or if Pacman is simply a sociopath. He also wonders if he should have done the assigned reading while in therapy.

“Got a proposition for you, boy,” says Pacman. “First I gotta tell you how things run here. As you know, I got quite a track record of infractions here.”

“Nine arrests, I was told,” says Joe.

“Not all with the Bengals, but you get the point. You must also know that the Bengals lead the league in arrests.”

“And generally fucked-up behavior as well as early playoff exits,” says Joe.

“Don’t believe everything you hear from a white running backs coach. Another dumb-ass move by Mike Brown, but you’ll find that out for yourself.”

“So why are you here? Vets aren’t due for three more days.”

Pacman ignores Joe and plows ahead. “I saw the video of you punching that woman,” says Pacman.

“You and the rest of the world. I put it behind me. I gotta move on.”

“Bullshit. Even on the grainy video, I could see that you enjoyed it. I get it. We all need to release anger…especially us high-level athletes. Nobody knows what it’s really like. Nobody else can know the high of the hitting and the competition at this level. The bitch should have thanked you for making her famous.”

“I can’t talk about this, man,” says Joe.

“So just listen. I got suspended for a year after Dallas released me. I was outta control. While on suspension, I connected with Chris Henry, who I went to college with at West Virginia.”

“They told us all about him in orientation. He got killed falling out of a truck cause of some brain disease,” says Joe.

“He ain’t had no brain disease, least not from football. That motherfucker was crazy before he got to West Virginia. He jumped out that truck on purpose to fuck with his girlfriend only he got his ass killed instead.” Pacman turns to look at Joe for the first time. “Chris got suspended soon after me, but after he died, I guess the Bengals felt bad or something, ‘cause they signed me when I couldn’t even get a gig in Canada. It was then that I decided on a new approach.”

“Whatever your new approach is, it don’t seem to be working very well,” says Joe.

“It ain’t about the arrests, it’s about the money.”

“The money? What do you mean?” Joe grabs his towel and readjusts it over his crotch as he sits up to face Pacman.

Pacman smiles. “How much that bitch cost you, Joe?”

“I don’t understand.”

“Yes you do. You paid her a settlement. Six figures? Seven?”

Joe looks at the floor. “A million,” he says softly.

“And what’s the difference in your contract getting’ drafted in the second round instead of the first?”

“About twelve million over four years,” says Joe.

“I figured your agent woulda pointed that out. So this bitch gets in your face and cost you 13 million dollars, a million of which you gotta pay before you even earn it…that about right?”

“Yeah, so? What’s done is done. I figure I’ll make it back on the next contract.”

Pacman sits up to face Joe.

“You think you’re done hittin’ bitches? You don’t think they’s gonna be taunting you every chance they get? And the ones who don’t wanna get hit, will be happy to get themselves knocked up with your babies all right. Had this teammate with the Titans who had like nine baby mamas. He got arrested for drug trafficking ‘cause he couldn’t keep up with the support payments.”

“So what’s this got to do with me and how does your system help?”

“My system focuses on the money instead of the behavior. Drinkers gonna drink, druggies gonna drug, fuckers gonna fuck,” says Pacman, while looking directly at Joe, “and bitch slappers, gonna bitch slap.”

“Not me,” says Joe. “I’m here to play football.”

“Sure Joe, we all are…but shit happens. Let me explain. Different infractions have different costs. For example, a first offense usually carries little or no financial penalty, either fines or suspensions.”

Joe shrugs.

“One of my incidents, I spit in some chick’s face in a bar,” says Pacman.

“So?”

“She wasn’t my chick. I did it for a teammate.”

“What? Why would you do that?”

“Cause I didn’t know her. I did it for a teammate. He does it, he gets sued for a hundred grand. I do it and worst I get is a small fine and a night in the pokey.”

“But why?” asks Joe.

“’Cause he hooked me up in return.”

“I don’t get it.”

“He fucked up a guy in a bar for me. My last bar incident got me a year’s suspension and an eleven million dollar settlement. He was only looking at a fine and misdemeanor. It was a win-win. Had another teammate do 15 days for a big marijuana deal. I’da gotten ten years.”

“What did that cost you?”

“I’d rather not say other than he has significantly less child support obligations.”

“This sounds pretty insane. I can assure you that I won’t be in any need of your tit-for-tat services,” says Joe.

“I guess we won’t know that until it happens, but I can tell that you still have that anger in you…and the life here at this level will only add more pressure. At some point, you’re gonna need to let it out and that’s fine with me. I just want to let you know that when you need some woman put in her place, that it’s gonna cost you everything. I might be able to help you out when that time comes. I also hope that if I need something taken care of, and you can help a brother out with minimal financial consequence to yourself, well…”

Joe continues to stare at the floor. Pacman looks at him for a moment.

“There is something, isn’t there?” asks Pacman.

“I meant this chick at a party after I was drafted,” says Joe. “I haven’t seen her since, but after I got my signing bonus, she texted me that she was pregnant. I’ve been holding her off, but…”

Pacman slides off his table and puts his hand on Joe’s shoulder. “Put some clothes on and let’s get a drink, rookie. There’s nothing like a veteran teammate to help you with a problem.”

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Waiting for Takeoff

Waiting

I’m sure that you all have seen pictures of airplanes lined up on the runway waiting to take off. I’ve been on planes that have already taxied from the gate when the pilot comes on and says something like, “Ladies and gentlemen, we are fifteenth in line for takeoff and should have you in the air in less than 40 minutes.”

On a recent flight, I saw a very similar image, only this was while sitting in the terminal. As I waited at the Southwest terminal for a flight home, I noticed a surprising number of people in wheelchairs lining up at my gate. By the time that the plane began its boarding procedures, there were fifteen passengers in wheelchairs in a single queue curving back from the gangway. Since all of the chairs had the Southwest logo and an embroidered picture of a jet on the back, from a certain angle, it looked, to me at least, a lot like the planes stacked up on the runway.

Now I had spent the previous day, as is Southwest policy, on my computer trying to check in simultaneously with 200 other passengers, to get an earl boarding number, lest I end up in a middle seat in the back of the plane. I thought that I was successful with an A49, typically in the first twenty percent. Alas, this was not to be. In addition to the fifteen people in wheelchairs, there were one to four additional travelers in each of their parties.

This not only meant that at least 60 unexpected passengers would board before me, it also meant that the fifteenth wheelchair user would have 59 people boarding before they even reached the check-in point. Fortunately for me, Southwest boards people with small children in between the A and B sections. It made me wonder about the changing trend of more handi-capable people able to get out and about in the world due to the American Disability Act and scumbag lawyers.

We are all familiar with the ISA or International Symbol of Access. It is the stick figure in a wheelchair painted on all of the parking spaces for handicapped drivers. We’ve also seen people using these spaces bound out of their vehicles and traipse into Walmart. One of the downsides of increased accessibility seems to be an increased amount of cynicism among the rest of us. I will admit that in the frustration of having to park a half-mile away from a store where I need one item, I’ve muttered the phrase, “Those handicapped people get all the breaks.” If you do not believe me, talk to someone who has recently visited Disney World. There are more fit looking people in wheelchairs there then at the mass Hamstring Flu epidemic in the late thirties.

I have found myself and others judging the relative worthiness of supermarket customers using the motorized shopping devices. This has some basis in reality. I have an aunt, who at 80 and after an ankle replacement (they can do that?) says that the time in the airport is now the best part of the trip. She arranges to have a wheelchair meet her at the curb and take through the terminal, through security, and all the way onto the plane. After landing, it’s the same thing in reverse. When she travels with her 90-year-old companion, they are taking up two employees for a significant amount of time. I guess that’s why my airplane snack has been reduced to well, peanuts.

The thing is, as the number of people using wheelchairs at the airport increases, it becomes less of a benefit. I fear that soon people will be judged on the severity of their handicap to get a better place in line. I don’t want to see someone smashing their knee in a mensroom stall door in order to move up the line.

I was already on a plane once when the flight was cancelled due to a maintenance issue (or possibly a drunken pilot). It was a late flight, so everyone dashed to one of the counters to make alternate arrangements. The wheelchair people already had the advantage of deplaning first. I dashed to a farther counter that had a shorter line. There is no truth to any rumor that I pushed anyone out of the way nor did I jump over anyone. Still, the wheelchair people were moved to the front of the line. This was not an issue of access. Why couldn’t these people wait with the rest of us. As a matter of fact, I would think that waiting would be right in the wheelchair wheelhouse.

Years ago, my friend Tyrone told me of a time he was at an airport and saw a young child playing with an unused wheelchair. We have been debating for years the propriety of the behavior, the relative quality of the parenting, and just about any other issue we could dream up. Now we know that this kid could have been a young Elon Musk or Mark Zuckerberg. He was clearly a pioneer who was way ahead of his time and out in front of this trend.

I’m still quite content to be able to walk on and off a plane under my own steam and hope to be able to for a long time (I recognize that divine punishment from a deity who reads my blog could eventually become a problem). In any case, I hope that you are all aware of this trend and will go out among the air travelers and be my judgmental eyes and ears. The fakers need to know that they are being watched.

She Had to Get Her Popeyes

Popeyes

CAST:

Theresa – White, any age

Bob – White, any age

SETTING:

Theresa is driving and Bob is a passenger on a multi-lane Florida road.

Bob:

Watch out for the lady in the median.

Theresa:

I see her. You know she’s gonna cross in front of me.

Bob:

Why do you hate jaywalkers so much?

Theresa:

Besides the fact that it is against the law, this road is three lanes in both directions and the speed limit is fifty.

Bob:

We sure as hell aren’t going fifty now. I hate the stop and go traffic. Aren’t these lights supposed to be timed to improve traffic flow?

Theresa:

Even more to my point about the danger. When people are going the speed limit there are openings to cross. See? There she goes, winding between the cars. She had to get her Popeye’s.

Bob:

That sounded kind of racist.

Theresa:

What are you talking about? She was literally coming from Popeye’s. She had the bag in her hand.

Bob:

Still, it sounded odd to me.  If she was coming from say, The Olive Garden, I don’t think you would have mentioned the restaurant.

Theresa:

What? You are insane. Are you saying that only black people eat fried chicken? I’m not even sure she was black. I just hate the jaywalking. It was really meant as a “this would make an appropriate tombstone” joke.

Bob:

It’s not just fried chicken. If this was a white woman, possibly carrying a bible, with a bag from Chick-fil-A, I don’t think you would have mentioned the restaurant.

Theresa:

A bible? Who is doing the stereotyping here? Did I say it with any urban inflection? Did I say “She gotta get her Popeye’s?”

Bob:

First of all, the correct translation would be, “Sistah-girl, gots to get her some Popeye’s.” I’m just saying that it caused my political correctness sensitivity radar to go up.

Theresa:

I hate it when you do this. I’m the least racist person you know.

Bob:

Okay, here we go. That’s what our President says. It’s code for, “I may be racist, but I’m not likely to be the worst”. Next you’ll be telling me about all of the well-spoken black friends you have.

Theresa:

What? They’re your friends, too!

Bob:

Not the same thing. They are my “people”, they are your friends.

Theresa:

What the hell does that mean? If you flip down that sun visor, you can look in the mirror and see that like me, you are also white.

Bob:

Street cred, baby. I can’t help it if I’m down. Besides, we’re all the same color on the inside.

Theresa:

So it’s just our outsides that have all of the privilege?

Bob:

Remember last week, when we were going to the dump with all of the yard waste?

Theresa:

Yeah, so?

Bob:

Remember when I said, “I got the funk?”

Theresa:

No, I do not.

Bob:

You asked me what I had to be sad about.

Theresa:

Not ringing a bell.

Bob:

And I said, “I’m not in a funk…I got the funk.”

Theresa:

“Oh, right, and then you went on to explain the deep nuances and urban etymology of the word ‘funk’.

Bob:

Exactly. I told you about this white dude I used to work with who claimed to be a big fan of funk music. I started talking to him about The Ohio Players and George Clinton, and it turned out that he was talking about blues-rock and Grand Funk Railroad.

Theresa:

Again with this? Enough, already. We’re almost at the beach. I don’t want to be arguing about this all day. Do you want to pick up some lunch to eat there?

Bob:

You pick.

Theresa:

No thanks. You never like what I pick.

Bob:

But it’s your turn. There must be something you want.

Theresa:

I do have a hankering, but I shouldn’t.

Bob:

Just tell me.

Theresa:

You’re moronic ramblings got it stuck in my head. Can you check on your phone to see if there’s a Popeye’s nearby?

Bob:

That’s what I’m talkin’ about, Sistah-girl!

Theresa:

Please, just shut the hell up.

Optics

Optics

There is a lot of talk these days about optics. Some people have apparently become more concerned about the appearance of their actions rather than the motivations, morality or consequences. While I typically prefer to rely on an ethical code or at least, a bit of risk analysis before taking many actions, I can’t say that using optics is the worst methodology. For example, even if you fail to use an ounce of gray matter while defining your overbooking policies, the optics of getting cops to drag a screaming and bleeding customer that you sold a seat to, down the corridor of your airplane, well, let’s just say that it doesn’t look good.

My wife, Theresa and I are in the process of selling our house. She has already moved to Raleigh, NC to start a new job, while I remain in South Florida, hoping to get a relatively quick sale of our home. We spent about eight weeks packing, selling, donating and Chart 1moving half a century’s worth of crap prior to her move. After she pulled out of the driveway, I headed west to visit Jimmy, an old friend from New Jersey, who has retired to Naples, FL with his wife Marilyn.

I really needed the break. My arms and hands were so sore, that I could barely make the drive across Alligator Alley. Since Marilyn was out of town visiting her sister, I was really looking forward to going with Jimmy to the beach, chilling in the pool, and watching a ton of sports, including the NCAA Final Four semis.

When I arrived around lunchtime on Friday, Jimmy informed me that his friend, who is a professional singer, was performing at a local restaurant that evening and that he felt we should go. Great…I’ve been apart from Theresa for about six hours, and I’m already thinking about the optics.

You might wonder what I would have to be concerned about, but this wasn’t the first time that I had this particular experience with Jimmy. Several months ago, I visited him when both Theresa and Marilyn were out of town. We went to see his friend perform then as well. It seems that in Jimmy’s community and circle of friends, there are significantly more women than men, and by women, I am referring specifically to single women.

Theresa and I have been happily married for about 34 years. During that time, I have certainly looked at plenty of other women, but have carefully avoided touching, ogling, sniffing and most forms of communication. Still, every so often, I will get the impression that a woman somehow is charmed by me, causing me to wonder about the great “What if”?

Here’s an example. Several years ago, our doorbell rang during the day on a weekend. My wife peeked through the curtains and said, “Ugh, Jehovah Witnesses…make like we’re not home.”

Well I always open the door for proselytizers. I find it to be polite, neighborly and interesting. Did you know that Mormon Elders are not allowed to tell you their first names? We always had the Awake Magazine around when I was a kid, because my sweet Jewish gChart 2randmother always opened the door for these nutbags.

On this particular day, one of the two Witnesses was younger than most was actually not unattractive. I spoke to them for a while, took their magazine and thought nothing of it. Over the next several weeks, this same young lady came back to the house three more times, twice by herself. This seemed a bit unusual to me. I mean, I know I’m a heathen, but there must be more desperate souls than mine.

“Damn,” said Theresa, “She’s into you bad. Quite frankly, I don’t see the attraction.”

I was cut to the quick. I’m charming. Who wouldn’t be into me? On her last visit, the lovely young Angel told me that she was moving to Arizona. She paused for a moment as though giving me a cue to go pack my bag to join her.  I wished her luck and returned to my wife who was more amused than she needed to be.

My point is that all married men, or at least this one, sometimes wonder what it would be like to be on the dating scene. We have tons of experience being mistaken about what women want. When I connected with several female former classmates around my 40th High School reunion last summer, I was amazed how many remembered how funny I was and fondly recalled some of my writing and antics. I guess they were too immature at sixteen to appreciate the important things while they blew me off to date the athletes. Enjoy your third divorce, bitches!

I have several single friends and have had to live vicariously through them. One, I’ll call him Subject A, recently met me for dinner. He’s been actively playing the field for decades and I love hearing about his experiences, both good and bad. I asked him how the computer dating was working. Based on the commercials and my experience with computers, databases and statistics, I figured that it must be the greatest invention for relationships since Eve.

“It’s the worst,” said Subject A. “Everyone lies and is crazy.” He told me of a recent experience. Date One: It lasted three days. Other than a minor disagreement about her alcohol consumption, he thought that this might be the one! “She’s even Jewish,” he said. Date Two (a week later): Also three days. He took her to a restaurant and the second the owner saw her, he threw them both out. “Never again!” he shouted. It also was revealed that the woman had been arrested three times during the intervening week, in three separate incidents. She’d spent much of the week in jail. He tried to break it off, but she needed a ride to two different court appearances on Monday and was too impaired to drive. She was not the one.

On the other hand, I had dinner with another friend (Subject B), who met his fiancée through Match.com, so it must work for somebody. I asked if they planned to have kids. “Funny story,” he said, “I kind of already do.” It seems he had a houseguest a few years back from a distant country. At some point, she asked Subject B to be a sperm donor for Prismher and her lesbian partner. He eventually agreed and flew halfway around the world (at their expense…even the most gentlemanly among us have our limits), and gave enough of himself to father boy and girl twins. He gets pictures on Facebook. I asked if he had included this on his Match.com profile. He had omitted this tidbit.

Jimmy and Marilyn have been married for nearly 45 years. Apparently he likes to dance. I don’t know about Marilyn since she always seems to be conveniently out of town when this comes up. The first time we went out to see his friend perform, we were sitting at a large high-top table with about eight women. I don’t know how many were single, but they were here unaccompanied. Jimmy and I sat across from two of them, one who was quite fetching.

As I conversed and told people of my writing and demonstrated my overall charisma, Jimmy occasionally got up to dance. “You should dance,” I was told by several of the women. That’s when the optics hit me. I don’t even dance with my wife. If I end up on Facebook dancing with some chick barely hours after seeing my wife off on a business trip…well, you get the idea.

At one point, a couple of old creepers came by looking for a date and the two women across from us used me and Jimmy as beards. They said they were with us. The one who said that I was her date was a recently widowed minx who played golf regularly. I wondered if telling another dude that she was with me legally bound her in some way. This was all happening too fast for me. I desperately wanted to be with Theresa and the warmth of her six-figure income.

On this second time out dancing with the divorcees and widows, I would be more prepared. I would just cower in the corner until it was over. Unfortunately, the only seats were right up front by the tiny dancing area. I was buffed by more hips and boobs than had I gone through a car wash. At one point, a woman of a certain age sat next to me and that certain age was probably 75. I liked her sweater and thought it would look good on my wife, but I wasn’t going to ask the woman where she got it, nor would Theresa find it under the seat of my car.

The woman asked me how I felt. I muttered that I was okay, but then felt her giving a Chart 3deep-tissue massage to my forearm as she said, “You feel great to me.” There was an even creepier exchange a bit later that even me, The Man with No Filters, is reluctant to discuss. I was overwhelmed by thoughts of banter and ego, and loneliness and desperation.

I do not think that predicting the optics of a situation is a sufficient means of keeping your sorry ass out of trouble, but is better than no system at all, particularly when seemingly everyone is carrying a camera. Hopefully Theresa doesn’t need to watch me since I have the good sense to watch myself…and it gives me plenty to write about.

Senior Dude Moments

We all know what senior moments are, particularly those of us who regularly experience them. Dude moments are a completely separate thing, but occasionally a 58-year-old male such as myself, gets to experience the confluence of both.

I was doing some food shopping at my local Publix. I’m sure that my regular readers are girding their loins as Publix has been the site of a disturbing number of antics and incidents over the years. I can assure you, however, that this shopping trip was as mundane as it gets. I had completed my first pass and was mapping out in my mind a map of the things that I had forgotten. You might wonder why I do not make a list and in fact I regularly do. It was sitting on the counter at home near where I keep my wallet and car keys just like 100% of all of my shopping trips (senior moment).

I suddenly remembered that I needed to get compactor bags. This was a particular coup as it didn’t even make the list that I had left at home. I made a mental note of the vividness of the revelation as I am normally just slightly past the halfway point between Publix and home before remembering that last item. Pleased with myself, I began walking the sixty feet or so toward the plastic bag aisle.

After about two steps, I noticed a young woman walking toward me pushing a cart. She appeared to be at least 5’ 11” (dude moment). As many of you know from previous essays herein, I have a particular fetish for tall women. She had a toddler, maybe 2 and ½ in the cart and a baby strapped in some sort of reverse backpack on her chest. Still, it was worth a furtive glance as we passed four steps later.

In a mild surprise, it turned out that she was breastfeeding the baby in the carrier as she pushed her cart ahead. FeedI am not one of these prudes that is offended by a woman breastfeeding in public (dude moment). There is also no truth to the rumor that I once gave a breastfeeding baby a wink and told him, “Enjoy it while you can, sport, but don’t forget to save some for your Uncle Bobby!” On the other hand, I’ve never witnessed a woman breastfeeding while doing anything else, least of all, food shopping with two kids.

The entire episode lasted less than twenty seconds, but I suddenly found myself stopped in the middle of the front of the store. I could not remember what product I was on my way to pick up. This wasn’t just any senior moment. This was the granddaddy of them all. I knew that only thirty seconds earlier, I had had the clearest of revelations…and now it was gone. But it wasn’t just gone. It was as though my mind had been wiped clean. I knew I was in Publix, but that was about it. After about three minutes of just standing there, I actually laughed out loud at the absurdity of it all.

I finally started going through some of my standard memory techniques. Retracing my steps was out. That’s the direction the breastfeeder went. I certainly don’t want to come across as creepy. Eventually, I had to walk down each aisle looking at each item until I figured it out. When I finally figured it out, I found that Publix stopped selling compacter bags. Now things were getting back to normal.

This was all filed away in my head as a typical absurdity until the next day when I attended a meeting of my writers group, The Parkland Writers Café. I hadn’t intended to share any of this, but my friend Paul read an essay to the group about a documentary he had recently seen about a group of World War II era female entertainers that still tap danced today. DancersHe was impressed by their spirit and perseverance at their advanced age, but I also noticed how he described how much their look appealed to him. It wasn’t the typical, “Those ladies were surprisingly fit and trim for being in their nineties”. This was a lot closer to the, “Yo, mama, you look fine” comment that a much younger man might say. Paul is ninety-five and I was quite pleased to find that even at that advanced age, a dude can still enjoy a dude moment.

Since Paul had broached the theme of Dudeism, I decided to share my story. This is where it really got weird. I was sitting between Paul and Larry, another World War II veteran in his mid-nineties. As I told the story, they were both nodding their heads in a kind of, “Yeah, that’s what I’m talkin’ about”, way. ManI figured that eventually the testosterone fever would pass with age, but Larry and Paul clearly still had it. What I didn’t expect was the reaction of the women.

There were seven of them ranging from about their sixties up to Sora who is ninety-seven. All of them were disgusted by the thought of any woman breastfeeding uncovered in public, let alone in a supermarket. They all told of elaborate covers and systems of decorum from their upbringings in different countries and economic strata. In an interesting side story, Miriam mentioned that where she grew up, women would breastfeed overtly anywhere and would also lift up their skirts to pee even while in the middle of conversation. While I was wondering whether she grew up in Bedrock, she informed the group that it was in a shtetl in Russia during the early days of communism.

In any case, it was a fun, lively and informative discussion. I cannot wait to share this with my sociologist daughter who continually insists to me that dude moments are not biological, rather are the result of learned behavior. With Paul and Larry still having them after nearly a century, I still have my money on biology. The best news is that I have many more years to look forward to of adventurous food shopping experiences.

Disk Golf

Disc Golf

Pardon me for this rant, but sometimes you just have to ask “WHY?”. My wife and I were visiting our daughter and son-in-law this past winter in Raleigh, North Carolina. My wife wanted to go for a walk. I was on the shelf due to a recent foot injury, but decided to accompany to a local park to sit and work on a writing project while she got her steps in.

It was a perfectly sunny and cool. If we were in our native New Jersey, it might be an early October, crisp autumn day. Were we back at our Coral Springs, Florida home, people would have been wearing parkas and emptying the store shelves of propane and hot chocolate. I found a bench and table across the parking lot from some tennis courts and opened my notebook. In a few moments, I heard some rustling in the leaves along with some muffled voices.

Through the trees, I got a glimpse of beards, boots and flannel. I wondered if there was a lumber mill nearby. When the men got closer, I realized that based on their slight builds, general pallor, glasses and a man-bun, that these were not lumberjacks, but were instead hipsters. But what would they be doing in a park? I didn’t see any drones or remote controls.

Another thing that I found puzzling was that they each had a backpack, but one unusually shaped as though for some special purpose. The four young men stopped at a small platform near a post and one of them put his Starbucks cup down and opened his pack. It contained a dozen or more colorful disks. He took one out and began to stretch and swing his arm about as though in preparation for something.

The young man stood on the platform and flung the disk Frisbee-style through an open area in the trees. His compatriots nodded with approval and raised their cups in salute. The one fellow without coffee toasted with a stainless steel water bottle that he plucked from a side pocket of his disk bag. I looked I the distance in the general direction of the thrown disk and saw a large metal basket raise on a metal pole festooned with hanging chains.

After the other three men threw their disks and headed toward them, I got up and walked toward a sign near the platform. I learned that they were playing disk golf. I’d heard of this years ago, but never saw it. I figured it had died a quick death like many other faux sports such as trampoline basketball, lawn darts and the shake weight.

Being a sports enthusiast, questions immediately began forming in my mind. I watched for a while, and several others came onto the course and played through. Here are some of my questions and observations in no particular order…

Footwear – Name an outdoor sport, not in the water or on ice, where you don’t wear sneakers or cleated shoes and can wear suede boots. I did not see one person wearing sneakers. A quick online search of the rules made no mention of required or banned footwear. I assume that it is a hipster thing.

Hipsters – I do not wish to malign any group, particularly one including my son. Why do they all wear beards? They dressed and looked nearly as uniformly as the Amish or Hassidic Jews. Also, there was not a woman to be found. Surely a sport that can be played in boots could be unisex. Unlike traditional golf, I did not see any ladies tee boxes. Possibly it is like Augusta National where they still restrict by gender. Many of the hipsters wear cool hats, I must admit and I assume the skullcaps might come in handy should the crew want to knock over a liquor store after the game.

Warmups – There was no pattern. Most of the fellows just swung their throwing arm about in a circular motion as if trying to shake off a lifetime of physical inactivity.

Rules – It appeared that disk golf is played pretty much like traditional golf. I saw one guy throw a disk too far to his left and when it landed, it skittered on its edge across the street. He actually walked across, waited for a break in the traffic and took his next toss from the curb. Like traditional golf, you continue to make throws (strokes) until you get your disk (ball) into the hole (metal basket). There was even an equivalent of a “gimme” putt. If you could slap the chains on the basket while standing with your disk still in your hand, that was “in the leather”.  There did not appear to be an equivalent to heaving your putter into a lake or wrapping your three iron around a tree since this would necessitate removing or severely damaging your arm.

Equipment – I couldn’t figure out the large number of disks that the guys were carrying. Tournament “real” golfers can carry up to fourteen clubs in their bag. This is necessary due to the wide variety of shots using the clubs. Driving, pitching and putting all require extremely differently designed tools. In disk golf however, every “shot” is thrown with the hand. Imagine if you were to play a round of traditional golf, but threw the ball rather that strike it with a club. You would basically throw the ball the same way each time except possibly when you got close enough to the pin to throw underhand, possibly for more accuracy. There would be no reason to use a different ball and certainly not a different arm.

The disks all appeared to be pretty much the same at least in size and shape. I actually found a disk in a gully. Even this was odd as while it is easy to lose a golf ball after a sliced 220 yard drive into the underbrush, it should be pretty damn easy to find a bright red disk of 8-9 inches in diameter that just travelled 40 yards. I picked up the disk to examine it. It was an Innova Dragon model. It was imprinted with a series of four numbers that looked something like this: ([8][3][-2][2]). It also indicated that it floats in water. There were no water hazards on this particular course, but I guess it could happen. I did find it odd that it specified floating in water, as though a legal disclaimer was needed in the event that you were playing near the liquid nitrogen pond on Jupiter.

By checking the Innova website, I learned that the four numbers on the disk represent in order, ratings for Speed, Glide, Turn and Fade. They make 93 different models with a speed range of 1 for the Polecat, to 14 for the Colussus. The glide can have a low of 1 (Rhyno) and a high of 6 (Archangel). The turn ranges from -5 (Mamba) to 0 (Banshee). I have no idea which end of the range is better. The fade ranges from 0 (Foxbat) to 5 (Whippet). What the hell is a foxbat?

The disks range in price from $12-$16 with very little variation. This means that a starter set of 14 disks would cost about $168 plus specialized bag. You could get a decent starter set of clubs for that.

Did you know that there is a Hall of Fame for disk golf? For what, exactly?  Pete Rose has more hits than any major leaguer in history. Barry Bonds has the most home runs. I’d cut off a pinky to hit one. Neither of them is in their Hall of Fame. What is the disk golf equivalent of 762 home runs?

When I walked back toward the table to meet up with my wife, I passed two of the basket-on-a-pole contraptions about a dozen feet apart. It seemed odd to me until I realized that it was the disk golf equivalent of a practice putting green. Then it seemed super-odd. The thing that amazed me the most was that the meandering course layout surrounded another part of the park. It was a baseball field.

I suddenly realized that if any of the kids from my neighborhood growing up had found a bunch of disks from the future, we would immediately have known what to do with them. We’d have used them for bases. Here I was, in a park on a beautiful day with a couple of dozen young men. There was a completely open and unused ballfield. Instead of getting up a game, the guys were meandering around the field tossing plastic discs into metal baskets.

Eventually my wife came back from her walk. I recall her occasionally coming to some of my baseball and softball games to watch me play. As we walked back to the car, I asked her if she’d come watch me play disc golf. I think she laughed for five minutes straight. Maybe if I grew a beard…

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