Monday, September 26, 2016

The Time Arnold Palmer Bought Me a Pint of Bass Ale

I have told this Arnold Palmer story before but after I found out about his death, I thought I should probably write it down, or it will be forgotten.  My family does not have much of an oral tradition.

I was at the 1982 British Open at Royal Troon.  It is the one that Tom Watson won from the parking lot as Nick Price carved up the last few holes.  I think he was three over for final four holes.  Tom's acceptance speech was almost an apology.  Anyway, my British friend, Jeff Nash, was a member of the Royal and Ancient and he got me an "All Access Badge." And I do mean all access. 

So I am sitting at the bar in the player's lounge and in walks Jack Nicholas and Arnold Palmer.  Arnie sits down on the stool immediately to my right with Jack on his right.  Arnie spoke first, "how ya doing?"  I tried to simultaneously form an answer and avoid shitting my pants.  I must have replied because he said, "oh, you're an American."   Then a conversation started that was all about me.  I am sitting with one of my all-time idols and he is asking about me.  Where I come from?  What I am doing in Scotland? My family?  Do I play golf?  The smart answer to that question when speaking to one of the greatest players in history is no.  But you can't lie to Arnie.  I couldn't even lie about my pathetic 15 handicap. 

I told him that we share a birthday (which is a fact that I knew but he seemed surprised by).  He even told Jack, who looked up from a paper he was reading and smiled in our general direction.  When Arnie found out I was in the military, he leaned over to Jack again (who he had pretty much ignored to talk to me) and said, "Rick is an American soldier stationed over here (close enough)."  Jack leaned across Arnie to shake my hand. He smiled and was cordial, but it was Arnie who took the time to honestly take an interest.  Maybe Jack would have if the seating had been reversed, but I somehow doubt it.  He asked me what I was drinking, motioning to the person behind the bar.  If it had been now, I would have said  an "Arnold Palmer," but they didn't exist yet.  "Bass, " I said, holding up my pint glass, "thanks Mr. Palmer."  I saw that calling him Mr. Palmer made him uncomfortable, so when the serving wench brought my fresh pint, I said, "Cheers Arnie."  I don't even remember what he was drinking but we clicked glasses.   We probably talked for 20 minutes before he was bothered by some official looking people in suits (suits at the freaking Open?) .   I had not realized that Jack had already left.   I like Jack, but this was Arnold Palmer.  The King.   He shook my hand as he left and told me to enjoy my week.  The rest of it was anticlimactic, I had sat at a bar with Arnold Palmer and he bought me a beer.   I managed to not shit my pants, but I think I may have peed a little.

Here is the best part.  On the weekend I saw him again by the driving range and I had a program that I had been getting autographed.  I walked up and said, "could I get your Autograph Arnie?"  He replied, "sure Rick, have you been enjoying yourself?  When do you have to be back to Bentwaters? "  Are you freaking kidding me?  That is probably why he is one of the most beloved sports figures on the planet. RIP              

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Little Red Hoody - An Urban Fairy Tale

I was tasked to rewrite Little Red Riding Hood from the wolf's point of view.  This is what I came up with.

Little Red Hoody

            I was parked in a loading zone across the street from the 7th Street Terminal......watching.  I spend a lot of time watching and waiting.  Waiting and watching.  Usually from the shadows.  A good hunter is patient. And I am a great hunter.  It is winter, which I love because I have more hours under the cover of darkness.  The gloom is where all monsters thrive, and it is already getting dark.  
             And there it is, nearly on time:  The 6 PM Greyhound from somewhere in the Midwest.  Saint Something or Something City.  It doesn't  matter, they are all the same: a great source of quarry   In a few minutes passengers will have collected their belongings and begin to leave the station for the taxi stand or waiting friends and relatives.  Except for a few, who will enter Los Angeles for the first time with starry eyed wonder and no idea where they will go next.  I will have an answer for one of them.
            Selecting a target is much like picking fruit. She can be neither too green nor overripe.  And I have no use for the decayed souls that have jumped or fallen to rock bottom.  And unfortunately most of the litters that are birthed from incoming Greyhounds are too putrefied for my tastes.  My perfect prey is................................there she is.  She has luggage, so she is not a runaway.  They travel light at the expense of their hygiene.  No, thank you.  She is ideal.  Attractive, though she doesn't know it.  Robust, however she probably considers herself fat.  As a skilled watcher, her entire deportment screams low self-esteem.  But the coup de  grace is the bright red hooded sweatshirt with a single word emblazoned, in white, across her ample chest: "Nebraska."   A corn fed, succulent, well-marbled college girl,  I had to purposefully keep myself from becoming one of Pavlov's dogs, right there in the squad car.  And it isn't even full moon until tomorrow. 
            This was going to be easy. My eternal 25 year-old good looks combined with an impeccable uniform,  tailored to accentuate my sculpted physique, hardly ever fails to mesmerize such a girl.  I will just drive across the street and she will be in the car in less than five minutes.  I will have that red hoody and whatever is under it on the floor of the cruiser by 8:00 and she will be dreadfully and fatally addicted to me by 8:15.  I do so love to play with my food.   I cranked the ignition and started idling across the street, when an old lady in an antique Cadillac convertible cuts me off and  comes screeching to a rusty stop at the curb.  Nebraska tosses her bags in the back seat and jumps in. They hug briefly and granny guns it and off they go cackling in a cloud of dust and burning oil. I am pissed but I resist the urge to pull her over and shoot her.  Patience.  I don't even need to follow her.  Patience.  I know where she is going.  Patience.  I can run her plate: name, address           
            I pulled up to the address that came up on my screen and found a small, well kept, bungalow, overrun with flowers and vines that were still flourishing in late December.  Well, it is Los Angeles.  It was the kind of house you would expect a granny to live in if this were a fairy tale.    The only problem is that it is in one of the worst parts of Mar Vista, shrouded in poverty and circled by crack houses.  Not much of a fairy tale kingdom.  No way would I come to this neighborhood if I wasn't immortal and horny.  I checked myself in the visor mirror, practicing my toothy smile, "here comes your Prince Charming, Nebraska."
            As I walked up to the door, I felt the smoldering heat of eyes from behind curtains, dashboards, and  dilapidated porches.  I don't imagine they see many 5-0 flying solo in this zip code.  I saw the doorbell but instead chose to knock  A firm knock sounds more official and authoritative, particularly if the door chime is one of those musical ones, that I want to shoot until it stops.  The door opened without hesitation, which I would advise against in this neighborhood.  There stood granny in a faded, light blue, robe, looking even older than I imagined. Any idea I had for a twofer melted away, as was my ardor.   "Yes?" she inquired.  "What can I do for you,"  as she read  my name-tag, stepping aside and letting me enter, then leading me toward the dining room.  My keen sense of smell was overwhelmed by the stench of  expensive cigarettes and cheap perfume, with notes of booze and beer.      
            "Yes, Mrs. Johnson......."                                                                                                          "Ms. Johnson," she interrupted.  "I am a widow.  You can call me Catherine.  Are you here to eat me up, Officer Wolf?"                          
            "Okay, Ms. Johnson." Ignoring her flirtatiousness, "do you live alone here?"
            "Normally, yes, but my granddaughter, Sally, is visiting for Christmas."
            "Is  she here?" I looked around and couldn't sense anyone else. 
            "She stepped out to get me some beer and smokes.  I find myself alone with the big, bad, wolf.  Should I be afraid?"  She reached into the pocket of her robe and pulled out the remnants of a pack of Marlboro Lights, shook out the last cigarette and held it up to  me as an offering.  I shook my head and she began searching for her lighter among the clutter on her dining table, finding it.  So, you never said what you were here for.  You are too cute to be  a cop.  Do you need to search me?"  She briefly flashed open her robe, revealing a sight I am unable to unsee.
            "So, I am told.  I am here because I wanted to warn you that there has been some gang activity in your neighborhood."
            "No shit, Sherlock.  For about 20 years. What are you really here for?"
            I quickly tired of this line of questioning and hit her just above her left ear with my flashlight.  Sometimes I forget my own strength and the weight of that huge torch.  It made a sound that reminded me of Gallagher and his melon act.  Luckily, there was is much splatter, but a huge dent that her current hairstyle did little to conceal.  As she crumbles to the floor, the lost lighter jangles uselessly to the tile, followed closely by the, still unlit, cigarette    I bent down to check her for life.  Unfortunately, she was still breathing, though faintly.  So I simultaneously pinched her nostrils shut, shoved the belt of her robe fully  into her mouth and covered it with my other hand.  She sprang awake for a few seconds, fought briefly and ineffectively,  and then I felt her existence leave her with wide staring, terrified, eyes and a last gasp of airless felt.
            Killing granny re-energized me, my tumescence returned, and I was anxious for Sally, to return.  Fortunately, grandma weighed hardly anything, like a hallow-boned bird, and was easy to stuff into the coat closet.  I had barely gotten the door closed when I heard Sally coming up the walk.  She paused to look at my patrol car and continued on up the walk.  She was still wearing the hoody, which I intended to keep as a trophy.  "Granny, what are the cops doing here?" As she entered, she saw me seated at the table.  "Where's Grandma?  Who are you?  What are you doing here?"  I flashed my smile and she forgot herself for just long enough for me to pounce on her.  Her fresh scent intoxicated me and the savage beast took over.  I began to tear at her clothes and she screamed.  I whispered in her ear, "nobody pays attention to screams in this neighborhood."
            Sally said, much more calmly and measured than I expected. "They do when granny  runs the neighborhood."  Just then I felt those gazes on me again. Looking out into the night, it seems that every pair of those sallow eyes was looking at me over a gun sight.     
            The last thought that ran through my head as the shooting started was that  I wished I was really a lycanthrope, because I doubt that these homies have silver bullets.   

Friday, January 22, 2016

My Folk Group - Resistant Elders

            I belong to many groups.  Some of the groups that I am a member of are by choice, such as living in a condo development and having to suffer the fresh hell of the Homeowners Association routinely.  Other groups I have no say in whether to join, such as the  family unit I was born into.  One group that I am a member of totally against my will are the Senior Citizens.  I have chosen to pick and choose which elements of this group I wish to be a part of.  I resist many common stereotypical sacraments and customs of the elderly.  Many of these cliches are accurate founded. 

            While I will accept a reduced price at the movie theater, I refuse to eat my dinner at 4:00 P.M. to save a dollar.   I will gratefully take a seat offered up out of respect and courtesy on the subway or a door held open for me but I will not enter the gate of a retirement village, regardless of who is holding the door and pushing me inside.  Those are the Grim Reaper's  anterooms. 

            Seniors normally enjoy the company of other blue hairs over decaffeinated, artificially sweetened, coffee, conversing through dentures about grandchildren, hip replacement surgery, and difficulty peeing.  I prefer the company and vitality of young people, which is one reason I began attending Coastal.  Sometimes, I actually forget I am old until I look with horror into the mirror.  But I still have my teeth.....most of them. 

            I have not, nor will I ever join AARP, which seems to be a rite of passage for codgers like myself.  Triple A, another group I voluntarily belong to, gives a better discount at hotels and restaurants than AARP and they will tow my car.  AARP will not. 

            Get caught in a conversation with an elderly person and you will get a better weather report than Al Roker can provide.  I don't understand the fixation on the weather that my contemporaries have. Are they preparing to sail to England on a raft?  They stay mostly indoors, so it is the same weather year round.  I have feigned deafness and unfamiliarity with English just to avoid these exchanges.     

            Because I was a career military person I am eligible to join other groups that I choose not to, such as the VFW and American Legion. Though they have cheap alcohol, the price you must pay is listening to old farts tell war stories that never happened about places they have never been, all claiming to be Special Forces or Green Beret, when they were actually cooks and clerks, that no one ever admits to being. No thank you. 

            Upon reaching geezerhood, it is a custom for many northern people to migrate to the south.  I guess southern geriatrics stay where they are.  Defying convention, I moved from Wyoming to Myrtle Beach at the age of 48, while I still had most of my faculties and some of my hope.  I love to fish and play golf but I have been doing both for my entire life, so they are not something I picked up since moving here to help me enjoy in my "golden years."

            I have to accept growing older,  but rather than sitting around waiting for more body parts to fall off and eventually to die I prefer Dylan Thomas' approach.  "Old age should burn and rave at close of day,"  and not leave their turn signal on for ten miles.