Monday, August 15, 2016

God Spelled Backwards

If there were an eleventh commandment it would be this:

Every boy must have thine dog.
This is a story about a boy and a dog.  Although it’s about a boy I know really well—my seven-and-a-half year old grandson Krischan—and a dog I barely know at all—Ika, a seven-and-a-half week old puppy (although I have to admit his teeth left quite the first impression), this story could be about any boy and his dog.  The close bond a boy shares with his dog is universal, the way, no doubt He intended.

I’m not alone, said the boy.  I’ve got a puppy.

-Jane Thayer

Ika is a mutt.  I use the word affectionately, because mutts seem to make wonderful companions for little boys.  If I had to venture a guess I’d say Ika is a little bit beagle and a whole lot of lab.  But one thing is for sure: He’s all dog.    

A mutt is couture—it’s the only one like it in the world, made especially for you.

-Isaac Mizrahi

 Although Krischan and Ika have only been together for a couple of weeks, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see how close they’ve become.  I’ve watched the two of them play in the yard and wherever Krischan goes, Ika is right there at his heels—as close to Krischan as a shadow.  When Krischan goes inside the house to get water for the two of them, Ika sits steadfast by the door—his eyes firmly on the doorknob, anxiously waiting for it to turn signaling the return of his best friend in the whole wide world. 

The greatest fear dogs know is the fear that you will not come back

when you go out the door without them.

-Stanley Coren

 It must be difficult for a living creature so young to be without its mother.  But for the life of me I couldn’t detect a hint of sadness or sorrow in that puppy.  All I could see was excitement, affection and comfort in Ika’s face—so long as Krischan was there by his side. 

 Dogs just need you and love, that’s all.

-Jennifer Westfeldt

 If you ever want to have the feeling that all is right with the world, take the time to watch a boy and his dog.  It’s certain to put a smile on your face and besides, it’s good for the soul. 

Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.

-Roger Caras

From what I’ve been told, Krischan and Ika have been really, really good for each other.  They have fun together, are the best of friends and play together so hard they literally wear each other out.  After spending the day at our house doing just that—wearing each other out—I received a text message with a photo of the two of them on the drive home.  They were in the back seat of the car; Krischan on one side and his four-legged friend on the other, both fast asleep. 

I couldn’t help thinking they were having the exact same dream:

When we wake up, let’s do it all over again.

Happiness is a warm puppy.

-Charles Schulz



Monday, April 25, 2016

Old Dogs and New Tricks

For the better part of three decades I spent most of my time working and running.  In my free time I’d watch television, read, write and occasionally sleep.  I was truly a creature of habit.  Every day was the same: Lather, rinse, repeat.

That changed a little over seven years ago with the addition of my grandson Krischan.  My free time suddenly included watching Scooby Doo cartons, hunting zombies in the woods and playing basketball in the driveway; sleeping suddenly became a thing of the past.

Then a couple of years ago Cindy and I moved to the country.  The transformation had begun. 

Suddenly and without warning I was rediscovering the wonder and amazement of the things I grew up with; the kinds of things you’re likely to run across living in the country.  Coal-burning stoves.  Vinyl records.  Furniture made of real wood.   Outhouses.  Milk delivered to your front porch in glass bottles.  Cars made of chrome and real steel.  Children playing after school outdoors. 

Suddenly these things became more and more fascinating to me once again.  I remember long ago hearing the advice to ‘keep it because one day it may come back in style.’  What I should have heard is this: ‘Keep it because one day you’ll be able to get a butt load of money for it.’ 

Some of you may have held onto things from your childhood; consider yourselves fortunate. (I’m speaking to the baby boomers and not those of you who grew up with Ninja Turtles, hair metal and video games.  You simply wouldn’t understand.  In fact it’s probably best if you stop reading altogether.  Goodbye.)  I am not one of those fortunate ones, but I did hold onto a few things.  A Nehru jacket, a pair of platform shoes and a 1977 Ford Pinto, for example.

But now I’m finding things at antique stores, craft shows and estate sales that are reminding me of my younger days.  (Antique stores?  Yes, I realize I just had my Man Card suspended.  I’ll earn it back shortly.)  I’m enjoying finding them and turning them into new and useful things, whether it’s with a paint brush, a little TLC or by using tools and sh*t—like an electrical saw, hammer and that thingee used to ratchet five-headed screws into wood.  (Man Card reactivated.)   I might add that prior to the past couple of months I went into my toolbox about as often as I used the household fire extinguisher.

I’ve finished a couple of projects lately that would probably sell at one of the local spring or fall festivals in our area.  The ones with funnel cakes, face painting and artwork composed on tin or wood that often appears to have been drawn a 12-year old.

My latest project involves a window frame, a pallet and a puzzle.  I got the window frame from an old abandoned house on Dead Oak Road.  It’s apparent the house has been deserted for a long time, and it seems to deteriorate more and more every day.  The first time I took Krischan to explore it with me he said ‘Do zombies live here?’  It’s ironic that the house is on the road that many scenes from The Walking Dead were filmed.  One day Krischan and I found an old window frame completely intact that had fallen out of the wall from one side of the house.  The pallet I found at an old construction area and the puzzle I found on Amazon.  Here’s what I did:

Step One: I sanded the window frame and painted it with antique blue chalk paint.  I used my old Nehru jacket to clean up the spills.  Three coats (of paint, not Nehru) did the trick.

Simpler alternative considered: Buying an antique blue picture frame from Hobby Lobby.

Reason rejected: It was cooler to have a picture frame from Zombie Lobby. 

Step Two: I broke the boards on the bottom of the pallet by crushing them with a sledgehammer, pulling off the broken boards and then ‘pushing’ the boards on the other side by pounding them from beneath with my old platform shoes until the nails on the other side could be removed with a claw hammer.  I had the pallet on its side leaning against my old Ford Pinto while I was doing this.  I then sanded the boards and cut them into the length of the window frame.  Finally I screwed the pallet boards into the back of the window frame.  The window frame was transformed into a rustic picture frame.

Simpler alternative considered: As I saw on a YouTube tutorial, cutting the nails with a nail saw and then simply lifting the boards from the pallet.

Reason rejected: I didn’t have a nail saw and if I did I would have no idea how to use it. 

I realize there is still another step left, but I wanted to stop to mention how fortunate I am to have held onto my old Nehru jacket, platform shoes and 1977 Ford Pinto.  While they didn’t generate a butt load of cash, they did their part in making this project possible.  Fifty years of keeping old crap does have its privileges.      

Step Three:  Cindy and I are now in the process of completing the 200-piece jigsaw puzzle with the rustic picture needed to complement the picture frame.  After a long weekend working on it we’re still about 100 pieces from completion. Once it’s complete it will be glued together and then cemented on the pallet boards squarely in the center of the window frame.  

Simple alternative considered: I believe you know the adage about giving typewriters to an infinite number of monkeys and one of them will write ‘War and Peace.’  I tried something similar with the jigsaw puzzle.

I emptied the contents of the puzzle box onto the floor to see if all 200 pieces would fall into place exactly as they were intended.  I don’t know what the odds of this happening might be, but I CAN tell you they are less than 1 in 147.

Actually it might be even more than that.
 I’m pretty sure a couple of pieces bounced under the couch.

Reason rejected: The aforementioned 147 failures.   

When the puzzle is complete—this weekend, this month, this year, when I’m able to tell you the exact odds of the 200 pieces falling perfectly into place when dumped out of the box—I’ll be sure to post a photo of the finished product.

One thing I’ve learned recently is this: Old dogs can be taught new tricks.  I go into my toolbox more often than into the restroom for a bowel movement, I’ve become pretty proficient at guessing the cost of an antique and most nights I’m in bed by the crack of dark. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

A Blind Squirrel

‘Even a blind squirrel finds an acorn once in a while.’

Technically it means even if people are ineffective or misguided, sometimes they can still find fortune just by being lucky.

I’ll do it one better: I’d rather be lucky than good.  Being good is for saps.*

*Sap (noun) – a foolish, gullible person who believes it’s better to be good than lucky

I’m not particularly good at anything.  I’m competent (debatable, of course) at a number of things but not proficient enough in any of them to actually consider myself good.

I’m competent at running, having been at it every day since 1978.  At one time I was competent in basketball (I once made 99 free throws in a row trying out for my high school team although the coach only saw me shoot the one I missed—the first of said 100) and golf (I had a one handicap when I was 17 but got kicked off the high school team my senior year because my hair was too long).  I’m competent at drinking beer (although three decades ago I was darn near professional).  I can write my way out of a paper bag (arguable, although I do have my own author page on Amazon so that has to account for something).  I can still do math problems in my head (just not as fast as before—the same can also be said for my running).

Which leads me back to where I began: I’d rather be lucky than good.  If you’re good you can only be good; what you get is what you’ve come to expect.

But if you’re simply competent—like me—you have a chance at some good, old-fashioned dumb luck every now and then.  Then the ‘good’ becomes special!    

·      While I don’t have the genetics you’d find in the more gifted runners, I did run a lot of marathons.  Once I ran a marathon and crossed the finish line before everyone else.  Well, technically I crossed the finish line with someone but I digress.  The point is, I WON A MARATHON!  Well, it wasn’t technically a marathon and it wasn’t actually an official win, but it was certainly good enough for competent-in-spite-of-missing-out-on-all-the-really-good-running-genes ME!  Here is my winning formula: (1) Sign up for the 2003 Tallahassee Marathon.  (2) Show up for said marathon in the middle of the worst thunder, lightning and rain storm in Tallahassee history.  (3) Insist on running in spite of the Race Director canceling the race due to inclement weather.  (4) Enjoy a long casual run with a good friend and 15 or so other diehards while putting our lives at risk and our sanity in doubt.  (5) Cross the finish line before anyone else, ankle-deep water and lightning strikes in the area be damned.     

·      A conservative guestimate is I’ve played over 3,000 rounds (54,000 holes) of golf in my lifetime.  Assuming four par three holes for every 18 holes, I played 12,000 par threes and had a hole in one on one of them.  It was the 175-yard fifth hole at the Mayport Naval Station Golf Course in Mayport, Florida.  The fact I made a hole in one wasn’t particularly noteworthy, as the odds of a golfer like me of making a hole in one in their lifetime was one in 12,500.  Rather, the fact I actually hit a three-iron worth a damn was absolutely mind-boggling.    

·      I bowled quite a bit in college.  One year I ‘tried out’ for the bowling team simply because I could bowl 30 games for free.  Surprisingly I averaged 188 for those 30 games and made the team.  I never met the coach, never participated in a formal practice or competition and never received a uniform (collegiate bowlers have uniforms, right?), but that doesn’t stop me from saying I ‘played’ collegiate sports at the University of Florida.  Except when I say it I leave out the air quotes. 

·      I started dating Cindy when we were both seniors in high school.  She seemed impressed I wanted to be a lawyer and drive a Mercedes after graduating from college, which was true until I became a freshman at the University of Florida and discovered (by my count) every single freshman in my class wanted to be a lawyer too.  I immediately changed my major to ‘undecided.’  Today I work for a company that makes really cool sports cars, one of which I am allowed to drive.  I won’t mention the company but I will tell you it’s the car all Mercedes want to be when they grow up. 

As you know Cindy and I married after we graduated from Florida.  Aside from the fact that she has never been on time once in her life and needs 10 minutes or more to relate a story that could be told in well under 30 seconds, she’s just about perfect. 

Just more proof that even a blind squirrel finds an acorn once in a while. 

Monday, April 4, 2016

Down in Flames

Preface: I learned to play golf at the age of 12.  I loved the game for many, many years before giving it up entirely 45 years later.  There are many reasons I gave up the game I at one time played 365 days a year.  What you are about to read is most definitely one of them.

It’s no secret I haven’t had the slightest interest in professional sports in over 20 years.  I watched the Super Bowl this year only so I could say I watched every one of the first 50.  Since I doubt I’ll be around for Super Bowl C (100, for all of you non-Romans), Super Bowl L (sorry—50) will in all probability be the last one I watch.    The only remaining interest I had in professional sports was golf and that was for two reasons: (1) professional golfers were paid for their performance, unlike the players in the NFL, NBA and MLB who are given contracts with stipulated salaries (then tend to get greedy and want more when they’re having a good year) and (2) I played a little golf myself and understood just how difficult it is to play the game well.     

During Tiger Woods’ prime I’ll admit to being one of his biggest fans.  Maybe even the biggest.   I have always enjoyed watching history being made and there was a time I had no doubt Tiger would surpass Jack Nicklaus’ record of winning 18 major golf tournaments in his career.  I honestly thought 25 majors and 125 other championships were within his grasp. 

Tiger’s 2008 U.S. Open victory over Rocco Mediate at Torrey Pines in San Diego was one for the ages.  Playing on a bad knee (he would have surgery following his win that would keep him out of action for the remainder of the year), this—Tiger’s 14th major championship--was so dramatic…so scintillating that an entire book was written about it.  Tiger Woods was on top of the world; everything he touched was turning to gold.  The man literally could do no wrong.  

That is, until November of 2009 when everything changed in the time it takes for a car to slam into a fire hydrant.  There was the infamous Tiger Woods sex scandal…then his nasty divorce…finally the inevitable fall from grace.  Everyone’s read or at least heard about them so there’s no need to repeat any of it here.  Everyone has their own opinion of one of the greatest mysteries in sports: What happened to Tiger Woods?  Tiger’s ego became larger than his overpowering golf game.  Tiger had an addiction to sex.  Tiger no longer had a desire to play golf.  Tiger needed something else to occupy his time.  All of them may have a little bit of truth to them.

But ultimately what it all boils down to is this: The man simply stepped on his d*ck.  The man seemingly could do nothing right.  I was no longer a fan.  Never will be again, for that matter.     

In 2013 Woods somehow climbed back to being the #1 player in the world, although he failed to win a 15th major.  Nike ran an ad featuring Tiger with the catchphrase ‘winning takes care of everything’ during the year, proving the two of them—Nike and Tiger Woods—complemented one another perfectly: Neither one of them had any shame.         

Tiger was no longer the man who won majors.  He was now the man who dropped more F-bombs on Sunday afternoon on national television than Tony Montana in Scarface.  Tiger was no longer the man who could will a golf ball to do whatever he wanted it to do.  He was now the man who had the balls to believe he could live the fictionalized life of a sailor by having a girl in every port.  Tiger was no longer going to ‘do more than any other man in history to change the course of humanity,’ as his father Earl had predicted many years ago.  The truth is Tiger did more than any man in history to change the public’s perception of professional golf…in a rather harmful and damaging way, that is to say.  

Some might even go so far as to call him a disgrace.

I remember watching a professional golf tournament during Tiger’s prime.  I believe it was at Pebble Beach. He was paired with Jack Nicklaus, the man whose record of major championships he was chasing.  If memory serves it was during a tournament Tiger would ultimately win.  I couldn’t help but think it was the official passing of the torch.   Jack Nicklaus, the current legend passing it to his successor, Tiger Woods.

If Jack had known Tiger was going to take the torch and light his ass on fire he may have held onto it a little while longer and waited for someone more deserving to come along. 

Fans everywhere wonder if Tiger will ever win another major.  For me personally I don’t give a damn, but if I had to venture a guess I’d say no. 

As I already said, some might call Tiger Woods a disgrace.

Count me as one of them.