Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Earlewood/Chapin; Columbia, SC

Day two of my December disc golf holiday was a chance to revisit two courses I played several years ago.

Earlewood was a bit cold, but I shot a 59, and I didn't get many breaks. I putted well, but I hit many trees off drives. Not bad drives, just some bad luck. There are a number of elevation changes that make birdie opportunities scarce, and pars tough if you don't get solid drives. More of an old growth park in a downtown area; I like it, but I don't love it.

Chapin...well there is something about Chapin that just isn't user friendly. The first time I was there, I saw several players cheating at an Ice Bowl (charity event); I got sick on venison they but in chili; on one hole I find a crab that has been placed to bake on top of the basket (I put it back in the water); there are people who take multiple practice putts with others waiting. Last time I was here, I shot a 69 from the long tees. This time, I shoot a 56 from the short. I get a bad kick on the island hole, or I would have shot par. Still, despite shooting better, I'm glad to be done with this course. It's tedious.

Trying to decide whether to play Camden again on the way home (or maybe even Arnette in Fayetteville).

Monday, December 26, 2005

Woodward Park; Camden, SC

Christmas disc golf excursion got off to a good start.

When I left Buies Creek the winds were blowing very hard, but by the time I got to Woodward, it was high 50s and not too much wind. The course was okay. The short tees were a bit too short, and the long ones were pretty narrow through the woods. Being as rusty as I was, I expected to struggle, but I putted surprisingly well. The biggest problem was that I kept throwing the Sidewinder, but it went left too quickly. It took me about 7 holes to decide I wasn't throwing hard enough to turn the Sidewinder and I settled down.

I got a deuce on the artificial island hole and hit a 15 footer to save par on 18 to keep me under for the round.

Woodward Park; Camden,SC:

2-4-3 2-3-5 4-2-3 OUT (28)
3-3-3 3-3-2 3-2-3 IN (25): 53

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Classic Arcade Games: Over/Under Rated

I got one of those joysticks that you can plug into your tv to play classic video arcade games. Mappy sure was an underrated game. That got me thinking...

Ten Most Overrated Arcade Games

10) Defender: I just never quite got it.
9) Centipede: Okay, the only game my wife consistently beat me at (before there was Area 51 or Police Trainer), but still.
8) Frogger: Conceptually okay, but it should just be to get across the road, not into one of the silly houses.
7) Dragon's Lair: Yes, the animation was A+, but as a game, it really wasn't that interesting.
6) Gauntlet: "Wizard needs food, badly..." the first game I thought was designed to suck quarters rather than actually be playable on one.
5)Crystal Castle: Ick.
4)Tetris: A great game for a Gameboy. For an arcade game it was rather tedious.
3) Jungle Hunt: The most annoying game I could never seem to stop playing, maybe because there was never a line.
2) Galaga: I know, this is probably a controversial choice. Docking ships was a nice touch, but it was (and is) still too tied to the Space Invaders template for that late in the game.
1) Ms. Pac-Man: It's like the WNBA, I'm glad it's there and all, but it's really not that entertaining.

Ten Most Underrated Arcade Games

10) Time Pilot: A bit too repetitive, ultimately, but still a fun shoot em up.
9) Mappy: Not quite a classic, but a lot of fun with the doors being clever touches.
8) Arkanoid: Man, those pale blue "D" pills were annoying, but the Laser was fun.
7) Crazy Climber: Hard on the joysticks, but it was fun.
6) Rip Off: My favorite Asteroids derivative. One of the few games that was fun for two players
5) Q*Bert: It didn't hurt that I could turn the game over on a quarter.
4) Elevator Action: Surpsingly addictive little game with minimal graphics but responsive contrls.
3) Klax: Someday I want somebody in a South Park/American Pie type comedy to say "Oooooooo, Klax" right at the moment she...well, never mind.
2) Donkey Kong, Jr.: A bit early for the cute graphics, but a very playable game.
1) Buster Brothers: This game seriously rocked.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

The Long Loneliness (26-36)

This section contains chapter headings entitled "Home" and "Adolesence."

One trouble that I had with the longer section is that the bulk of it contained a letter Day had written. Then, immediately after giving it, she says, "Written when I was fifteen, this letter was filled with pomp and vanity and piety" (34). Since I didn't experience the letter that way, I wanted her to explain what she meant, but she just sort of goes on to talk about other things. So, I was frustrated both that I wasn't sure what she meant and that she had apparently devoted two full pages to replicating a letter in full only to dismiss it as being unworthy of being remembered.

The most resonant passage in this section for me was in "Home":

"I remember even sad summer afternoons when there was nothing to do, and suddenly everything palled and life was dull and uninteresting. Our parents did nothing to offer us distraction and entertainment. We were forced to meet our moods and overcome them. There were times when my sister and I turned to housework from sheer boredom."

What's so resonant about it?
I've been thinking some in the last year about boredom. What is it? What causes it? Is it a spiritual and emotional condition? (There are hints in this passage that it is.) Is it environmentally prompted, temperamentally caused, or created by a variety of factors?

What is the relationship between economic class and boredom? I'm reminded of Jane Ausen's Emma as a literary example of the idea that boredom can be oppressively pressed upon anyone, regardless of class, by limiting the options of what they are allowed to do.

Then again, this passage reminds me that many of the things we do in response to boredom are merely diversions or distractions from it, and they may not address the underlying spiritual or emotional causes that are making life appear "dull and uninteresting." So, in some reverse way, is the lack of economic resources that forces Day, even at a young age, back on herself, a good thing? Solomon who was both rich and wise, takes a long time to get to the point where he admits that all things are wearisome.


Saturday, December 10, 2005

The Long Loneliness (1-25)

I began Dorothy Day's work as my next entry working through Renovare's 100 Devotional Classics.

The first thing that jumped out at me is that Day can flat out write. After working through Kierkegaard, Augustine, Kempis, and Newman, I began to feel like my capacity for sticking with the spiritual insight through the difficult prose was not as high as I hoped.

Part of that difficulty is no doubt a stylistic one caused by differences in culture and time period; it is not a reflection on the abiliies of the writers.

For example, when Day writes:

Going to confession is hard--hard when you have sins to confess, hard when you haven't, and you rack your brain for even the beginnings of sins against charity, chastity, sins of detraction, sloth or gluttony. You do not want to make too much of your constant imperfections and venial sins, but you want to drag them out to the light of day as the first step in getting rid of them. The just man falls seven times daily.

it helps me understand confession not just as a sacrament but as a spiritual growth exercise.

I also appreciate her ability to integrate a social concern into her writing without coming across as merely political with a religious sheen:

Another thing I remember about California was the joy of doing good, of sharing whatever we had with others after the earthquake, an event wheich threw us out of our complacent happiness into a world of castrophe.

"Castrophe" is the strongest word here, but it is "complacent happiness" that sends ripples most deep.

I also appreciated her claim that "I believed and yet was afraid of nothingness" (20). Is this a 20th century thing, I wonder? The believer who fears not hell, but--if I am wrong--sould annhilation/non-existence?

Can't say too much about it, but this passage says a lot about the ability of formative experiences and lessons to shape our subsequent lives:

We had never had to do without a servant before, and the household tasks, the washing and the cooking, were too much for my mother, who after her four children had a series of miscarriages. I took my dishwashing very seriously and I remember scouring faucets until they shone. The work grew wearisome of course; it did not always have the aspect of a game. But it had to be done, and after some months of it I was well used to doing my share.

I'm looking forward to reading more.

Art You Should Like

A work in progress from my favorite visual artist.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


I’ve been meaning to write this for some time, and although prompted in part by recent discussions I've witnessed elsewhere, it is not really a response to them so much as a musing in general about the Internet and criticism.

What follows is not a fully developed argument, nor is it directed at anyone in particular. It is more of a manifesto/list of theses that is informing my thinking about a lot of things at the moment (including, to various degrees, art/film criticism, teaching, evangelical Christianity, and the Internet).

So here goes:

1) Scorn is, increasingly, the default position of those engaged in public interactions or dialogues in virtual communities or subcultures.
2) It is easier to highlight flaws than practice virtues.
3) Scorn can be a shortcut for those seeking status or attention.
4) Scorn can be sincere or affected.
5) Affected scorn dilutes the impact of sincere scorn.
6) Because scorn is dismissive rather than engaging, it is an attractive position for those who feel inadequate or threatened.
7) Scorn often fails to give explanation or reason, or depends on vagaries, generalizations or assumptions that the speaker claims are self evident.
8) When questioned or challenged, scorn often dismisses the questioner as naïve or insincere.
9) Those who feel the most scorn are the quickest to point out and take offense at another’s.
10) Scorn is not always bad.
11) Because much of evangelical Christianity is so scornful of the world and its products (including its art), it will often cheer scorn or prefer it to other forms of interaction, criticism, or engagement.
12) Scorn rarely admits error, seldom accepts responsibility, and never apologizes.
13) Scorn is different from pessimism, introversion, cynicism, or dislike.
14) The opposite of scorn is not affinity, it’s humility.
15) Scorn becomes habitual very easily, and it is a very difficult habit to break.
16) Scorn can be found equally amongst intellectuals and anti-intellectuals.
17) Scornful people are suspicious of others.
18) Scorn finds it nearly impossible to hold its tongue. It must explain itself.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Englewood Park; Rocky Mount, NC

Since Fall Break hit campus, I decided to take a day and hit a course a little farther out that I haven't played before. I had a little trouble finding it, and there were some kids playing tag by the 18th Hole (cleared by the time I got there).

The course was sort of a disappointment. The front nine was very tight without any real fairways. By short, I mean around 200 feet. Very reachable, but only if you snake through trees. I threw a couple of lazy approaches for bogeys, including a frustrating one on the 371 foot 17th after I had thrown a good tee shot.

The one upside was that after the bogey on 17, I birdied 18 to go under par. Nice shot under a certain type of pressure.

Englewood Park:
2-3-2 4-3-3 2-4-2 OUT (25)
4-3-3 3-3-3 3-4-2 IN (28) 53

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Rollercoaster Rounds Part II

So Monday I went to Kentwood, first time in a long time, and I figured I would be a little rusty. Indeed, I was, shooting an even par, 54 on my first round. I played a second round, and I was -1 after 8 holes. I then birdied number nine and shot -4 on the back nine for a course low (for me) 48.

So, what's up with that? Like Cornwallis last month, Kentwood gave me two round with a half dozen strokes difference. Had to get warmed up? Long layoff from the course? Interesting to see this happen more than once.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Annals of a Quiet Neighborhood--Conclusion

Finally finished this one today.

It is less plot driven than some of the other novels, but the characters are memorable and the insights moving. Towards the end, I found myself with the familiar, lingering sadness that comes from drawing to the end of a long and leisurely time spent among dear people.

A repeated theme at the end is that of class consciousness, and it is enlightening to see a character come to terms with how deeply rooted prejudice can be, even in the best of us.

I believe I've allus been the better for any trouble as ever I had to go through with. I couldn't quite say the same for every bit of good luck I had.

So says Rogers, a character in the book. It is a powerful thought, typical of MacDonald's work. If one can come to a place of trust in God, all things work for the good.

Perhaps the best word, saved for last, should come from MacDonald's pen, spoken by the narrator to Tom Weir:

If we only act as God would have us, other considerations may look after themselves--or rather, He will look after them. The world will never be right till the mind of God is the measure of things, and the will of God is the law of things. In the kingdom of Heaven nothing else is acknowledged. And till that kingdom come, the mind and will of God must, with those that look for that kingdom, over-ride every other way of thinking, feeling, and judging" (587).

Perhaps one way of learning how to recognize and acknowledge those judgments is through the contemplation of writings such as this one.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Bizarro Round

So, I'm playing at Buckhorn today, and I had one of those Bizarro rounds. You konw, when you do well on all the hard holes and poorly on the easy ones.

I took a 6 (+3 over average on hole 7). Other deviations--from the normal.

Hole 9 (OB penalty) +0.7 over average.
Hole 12 -1 over average
Hole 15 +1.2 over average.

That's quite a deviation from a 12 round average.

Oddly enough, my total score (57) was the average of my last 12 rounds, so overall I did the same, even though I did not do what I usually do on most of the holes.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Anniversary Disc Golf Musings

So Cindy and I went away this weekend to celebrate our 17th wedding anniversary; what better way than some disc golf. Played Valley Springs, UNC, and Cornwallis.

We scored a 55 at VS and at UNC.

The odd thing that happened was that be played doubles at Cornwallis, an easier course, and threw par (54). I played a second round, singles, and shot a -7 (47). I hadn't played the course more than once in the last two years, so I guess I just needed to refamiliarize myself with distances and lay out. Even so, I think a seven stroke difference between rounds on the same course on the same day is a bit flukey.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Annals of a Quiet Neighborhood (481)

And here let me interrupt the conversation to remark upon the great mistake of teaching children that they have souls. The consequence is, that they think of their souls as of something which is not themselves. For what a man has cannot be himself. Hence, when they are told that their souls go to heaven, they think of their selves as lying in the grave. They ought to be taught that they have bodies; and that their bodies die; while they themselves live on [....] It is making altogether too much of the body, and is indicative of an evil tendency to materialism, that we talk as if we possessed souls, instead of being souls. We should teach out children to think no more of their bodies when dead then they do of their hair when it is cut off, or of their old clothes when they have done with them.

This passage is full of a lot of wisdom. I wonder if there is any way for us who have been taught to think in the way described to unlearn our pattern of thinking and escape some of the influences of materialism. If we could, certainly the fear of death, even in Christian circles, might be lessened.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Apologia Pro Vita Sua (70-80)

For some reason it took me a long time to get through this section.

The Articles are 'evidently framed on the principle of leaving open large questions on which the controversy hinges. They state broadly extreme truths, and are silent about their adjustment. For instance, they say that all necessary faith must be proved from Scripture but do not say who is to prove it. They say, that the Church has authority in controversies; the do not say what authority. They say that it may enforce nothing beyond Scripture, but do not say where the remedy lies when it does. They say the works before grace and justification are worthless and worse, and that works after grace and justification are acceptable, but they do not speak at all of works with God's aid before justificaiton. They say that men are lawfully called and sent to minister and preach who are chosen and called by men who have public authority given them in the Congregation; but they do not add by whom the authority is to be given. They say that Councils called by princes may err; they do not determine whehter Councils called in the name of Christ may err.'

This passage has provided a lot of contemplation. The question I've been thinking about is whether this sort of ambiguity is a good thing or not.

In some lectures on American history, I've heard the Constitution celebrated as this sort of document--one that was necessarily ambiguous as a means of forging unity amongst participants while leaving open important issues dealing with currently unresolvable conflicts.

On the flip side, I've heard arguments that the failure to address key differences allows the status quo to remain or makes changing injustices more difficult. One issue that the Constitution deals with is that of slavery. I see the current situation in the church dealing with issues of sexual orientation as one in which this ambiguity is ceasing to be a good thing, in part because polarized sides do not want things left ambiguous; they want them settled in their favor.

I've been involved in institutions where policies were similarly broad--use "discretion" when watching movies, don't make political remarks about subjects unrelated to class discussion...sometimes these work, sometimes they don't. What's related to class discussion? How is it determined (and by whom), whether discretion has been used?

Newman says later in the same chapter that he has come to dislike "understandings." It seems to me that policies or principles of this sort work if there is an understanding between parties of what is intentionally left vague and why--and a reciprocal agreement to not push the point, even when the opposing side is in violation of some principle consistent with how you interpret the understanding. These understandings are a way, perhaps, of agreeing to disagree for the time being and to proceed in other areas in the hopes that an agreement can be reached dealing with the problem area later on.

As with all understandings, this sort of codified understanding gives more power to the status quo than the minority, I think.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

The Man Who Planted Trees...

...is a really fine animated short film.

I especially liked the line about the man's "magnificent and consttant generosity."

We tend to think of magnificent generosity in terms of the size of any single donation of money or other resources. There is something equally magnificent about constant service, about slow and steady faithfullness.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

In Memoriam of a Professor, Colleague, Friend

Yesterday I received notice that my former professor, Gustaaf Van Cromphout passed away due to a brain hemorrhage.

Gustaaf's knowledge was immense, but his generosity of spirit was even greater. I have never met a man who was so learned and yet so humble (in the true way that Lewis describes in Screwtape--not a false humility but rather a lack of concern for personal glory.) I had 5 or 6 classes with him in graduate school, and I used to say that if he taught a class in the New York City Phone Book I would take it--and learn more in it than in any other!

He served as a reader on my dissertation and never failed to be supportive. Once, I shared with him that it could be slightly disheartening to take a class with someone whose breadth of knowledge so far exceeded my own that it could make me feel as though I could never "catch up." He asked me how old, I was, smiled, and said, "I have a few years on you, Kenneth [he always called me Kenneth], when you reach my age, you will know all the things I know..." It was such a typical reply, affirming, challenging, teaching.

Once, at an MLA conference, I spoke to a participant who did not know me and only knew him by his books say, "Well if you have Van Cromphout for a professor, you probably understand [Melville and Emerson] better than I do."

The day after I passed my candidacy exams, I greeted him in the department office and he pulled me to one side, awkwardly asking me to come by his office later. I spent most of the morning in fear, wondering if there had been some last minute problem found with my dissertation. When I got there, he looked somewhat embarrassed, took off his glasses and said, "You know, Kenneth, I did not want to say anything in the office where there were other students around, but you called me Dr. Van Cromphout this morning, and now that you have defended your dissertation, you should really call me Gustaaf." It was at that moment, more so than getting the actual degree, that I realized I had crossed some academic or professoinal threshold.

I last saw Gustaaf in March, when I was at NIU to give a paper at their conference. He came in on a Saturday because he saw I was on the program and wanted to say hello. He spoke of how few of the faculty were still there from my time of study, how much he missed some of his own colleagues who had moved or passed on. We chatted briefly, and I hugged him gently, careful of his burgeoning arthritis, honored that he would come to see me almost a full decade after I had graduated.

Afir Nafisi said that leaving a place always brings grief because we mourn for the person we were while we were there, knowing we will never be that person again. Perhaps part of my own grief is the realization that a place and time that were instrumental in my own life have now dramatically changed and past. But that is only a part. We did not keep in constant contact, so he wasn't exactly a mentor. He was--and still is--my role model, I guess. Even though we didn't communicate regularly, I am surprised (though perhaps I should not be) how much it saddens and hurts me to think that he is no longer there.

"If I am sorrowful," I said, "God lives none the less." And His will is better than mine, yea, is my hidden and perfected will. In Him is my life. His will be done.
--George MacDonald; Annals of A Quiet Neighborhood (410)

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Harry Potter and The Half Blood Prince

My favorite line from the book...

"[...] anyway, love potions aren't Dark or dangerous..."

Not dangerous indeed.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

More from Annals of a Quiet Neighborhood

When a man thinks it is such a fine thing to have done right, he might almost as well have done wrong, for it shows he considers right something extra, not absolutely essential to human existence, not the life of a man (283).

An apt description of pride. MacDonald inverts many typical judgments in his books, showing how those attitudes and behaviors that we often justify or think of as less egregious can be even more destructive than the social behaviors we often judge more harshly.
Certainly one has no right to say what God is going to do with anyone till he knows it beyond a doubt [....] I mean we must take care of presumption when we measure God's plans by our theories (291).

The frequency with which we substitute our own judgments and assumptions for the will of God is one of the largest problems I see. It is so easy to think "God said" or "God wants" when what we mean is, "I think this must be what God..."

And I left the shop somewhat consoled for the pain I had given Catherine, which grieved me without making me sorry that I had occasioned it (295).

"Sorry" is one of those cheap words today, like Beonhoeffer's phrase, "cheap grace." Grieved is an interesting word choice here, implying a choice in how we think of things that is so often lacking in modern relationships.

For what I was delighted to be made sure of was that Tom at least knew that he did not know. For that is the very next step to knowing. Indeed, it may be said to be a more valuable gift than the other, being of general appliaction; for some quick people will understand many things very easily, but when they come to a thing that is beyond their present reach, will fancy they see a meaning in it, or invent one, or even--which is far worse--pronounce it nonsense; and, indeed, show themselves capable of any device for getting out of the difficulty except seeing and confessing to themselves that they are not able to understand it (297).

The thing that interests me here is MacDonald's claim that pronouncing it "nonsense" is far worse than even inventing a meaning. By this, I take him to mean that such an action can too easily become habit and make it difficult for us to ever learn from anything that is not easily accessible.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Holding onto Summer

Well faculty orientation is tomorrow, so I had to use my last full day of freedom to go to Raleigh and play Cedar Hills and Kentwood.

CH is one of my 5 favorite courses, but I confess I've been finding myself disatisfied with it the last few times I've played. Perhaps this is just displaced disatisfaction at myself for not being better, or perhaps it is just a fact that one's attitude towards a course changes depending on how often one plays it. Seems like when I first played Kentwood, I had played more wooded courses and thus the fairways seemed wide. Now I've played more open courses and things are a bit tighter.

Then again, maybe it's just more frustrating to hit a tree when you know that you could otherwise reach a hole than it is when you know that you would be struggling to get par anyway.

I shot a 57 at CH and a 49 at Kentwood. Had a chance to go 48, but bogeyed Hole 17. (A Kentwood bogey, bleh).

It's fun to shoot a low score, but sometimes I wonder if Kentwood is not bad for my game. It's all drive and putt. I rarely find myself with a new look or different approach. Sure is fun, though.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Apologia Pro Vita Sua (58-69)

This section was a bit drier for me, but there were still a few profitable passages for contemplation. Most of these dealt with the question of tone in the rhetoric that Newman recalls in dealing with the tract movement.
"If confidence in his position is, (as it is,) a first essential in the leader of a party, this Dr. Pusey possessed pre-eminently" (60).

Is this an essential? A "first" essential? What is the difference, if any, between confidence in one's position and dogmatism? I sometimes think that confidence in one's own position shuts one off from influence and correction, a place where I don't want my leaders to be. Then again, there is a truth here. It is hard to lead effectively if one is always second-guessing oneself. I guess I want a bit more balance than Newman does.
"[Dr. Pusey] saw that there ought to be more sobriety, more gravity, more careful pains, more sense of responsibility in the Tracts and in the whole Movement" (60).

I see some similarities between the Tracts and Internet communication, so this sentence resonates. I do think rhetoric can take on a different, nastier tone in these sorts of pseudo-public but rigidly separate communication methods. The biggest similarity is that one can too easily fall into the trap of thinking one is communicating with a link, a name, a post, rather than with another human being.
"[...] but the Via Media, as viewed as an integral system, has scarcely had existence except on paper" (64).

Ideas are nice. Having the "right" opinions is nice. How do they help people in their daily lives or bring people closer to not just salvation but also a fullness of life?

Saturday, August 13, 2005

More Doubles Musing

So I returned to Higher Ground on Friday for more doubles, but this time Cindy came with me and we requested to play together.

Together we shot -2. My partner from Tuesday had a new parter with whom he shot a -6.

This suggests to me that while one part of a doubles pair will always be superior to the other, it is hard to estimate how much of a round is merely what the better of the two players would play singles.

Certainly I (or my former partner) could have played worse than we did on Tuesday (I know I missed a few more putts for birdie), but I don't think it likely that he shot 8 strokes worse and I 12.

So there is something about not just who you get paired with but how complementary you are in your skills, temperament, and approach to the game.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

What's a Good Doubles Score?

I've been playing more doubles this summer, and I've been pondering the question of what's a good score for me if I were playing someone equal in talent with myself.

When I'm playing with someone who is less skilled than myself, I feel like I should still be around or slightly better than my solo score. When I'm playing with someone better, I feel like I should add to their baseline score.

Today at O.T. Sloan, I tried an experiment. I played a round of self-doubles, where I had two throws and could take the better of the two. My singles round (playing just one shot, always the first shot) was -3 (51). My doubles score (taking two shots and playing the better of the two) was -10 (44). My best singles score on this course has been -6 (48).

Singles: 2-3-2 2-3-2 2-3-2 (21) 3-4-3 3-4-2 4-4-3 (51)
Self Doubles: 2-3-2 2-2-2 2-2-2 (19) 3-3-3 2-3-2 3-3-3 (44)

Of course this isn't exactly analogous, because making two throws in a row is not the same as making a throw after your partner has gone. Still, it was interesting.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Annals of a Quiet Neighborhood (223-232)

Perhaps because it is less plot driven (so far) this novel has quite a few MacDonald gems in the so called digressions.

"I had no time to repent, only to thank God.
This line is spoken by a former sailor who relates taking the Lord's name in vain when he thinks he is about to drown. He continues to speak of the greater shame at realizing he doubted God than at the swearing itself. It is a nice, succinct portrait of someone close enough to God that he can feel his own repentance without God bullying him into it.

"You know besides that a small matter in which a principle is involved will reveal the principle, if attended to, just as well as a great one containing the same principle" (226).
If attended to...if attended to...that's such an important little modifier. What a carefully constructed and profound sentence--with implications for art.

"There are many things which a little learning, while it cannot really hide them, may make you less ready to see all at once" (228).

I'm stuck mulling over the qualifier "little." Will more learning make you more likely to see them? Less likely to be hindered by the learning? Is it the learning itself that hinders or the pride that uses the little learning as its primary shield from hard truth?

"If anybody cannot understand why I did so, I beg him to consider the matter. If then he cannot come to a conclusion concerning it, I doubt if any explanation of mine would greatly subserve his enlightenment" (231).
Be careful when arguing with fools; observers might not be able to tell the difference.

There is more here than just that, though. How quick we are to argue and counterargue and how little we actually "consider the matter." Perhaps that is why art is higher than criticism. It will not rush to cast its pearls before swine.

Drive For Show...

...but putt for dough, as the saying goes.

My recent success in doubles confirmed to me that putting covers a multitude of sins. I could not drive all the holes my partner could, but it was my ability to make some key 20-30 foot putts that could have made the difference between -11 and -14. Oh, I drove a couple too, but I just think there are more guys who can throw 350+ feet than can hit a 25 footer 80% of the time.

Perhaps it is time to break out the Ching portable and do some sustained putting practice.

Cape Fear Random Doubles; Higher Ground, Middle Creek, NC

Play in enough random doubles and eventually you'll get paired with someone really good.

My partner and I took second in this event with a -14 (40). Good stuff. My initial impression was that I was a bit bummed because at least two of the holes we missed were shorter ones. Then again, several of the holes we made were longer ones that my partner drove. We were one off the lead.

My partner definitely carried me, but I did make several contributions, drives and putts. It felt good to contribute to a great round.

The course is a private course and it was a bit wet from rain earlier today.

I took greetings from Sheba the cat to Max and Fannie.

Higher Ground:
3-2-2 3-2-2 2-2-2 OUT (20)
2-2-2 2-2-3 2-2-3 IN (20) 40

I won two hot stamped discs; a DX Orc (thought I'd try it) and a DX Roc (can never have too many Rocs).

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Apologia Pro Vita Sua (50-57)

"Here I make a remark: persistence in a given belief is no sufficient test of its truth; but departure from it is a least a slur upon the man who has felt so certain about it " (50).

The first half of the phrase is the most resonant to me. In these polarized days, I feel like I see, more and more, the inability to argue for truth in any other way except to point to how vehemently a belief is held or how long it has been held.

"But in 1827 I accepted eagerly the stanza in the Christian Year, which many people thought too charitable, 'Speak gently of thy sister's fall'" (53).

Wow. May people think too charitable indeed. I can think of very few people in my public or private acquaintance who strive to speak gently about much of anything, least of all another's fall. And by speaking gently I don't mean equivocating. This word is a strong one. It bears thinking upon and trying to put into practice. It may not always lead to reconciliation with the person or object of one's disagreement as it did in Newman's case, but surely it leaves open greater avenues and possibilities for this to happen than does the hardening that comes with always speaking and thinking so uncharitably.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

A (Very) Good Day at Buckhorn

Shot a 57 on my first 18, but I felt good and seemed to be just missing, so I played a second round.

Carded a 22 on the front 9 (-5). Given the course and the variety of shots I had to make (gently sloping downhill with Sidewinder, flick drive with Valkyrie, elevated right turn with Leopard, short cutting approach with Whippet, tight drive to penninsula with Roc and putting, putting, puttin), if it wasn't the best 9 holes of golf I've played, it was certainly a first ballot hall of famer.

How good were these nine holes, and how do I make the distinction between an "in the zone" round and merely getting better?

Over the preceding 8 rounds I played at Buckhorn, I averaged 29.52 on these holes, making my front nine a full 7.5 strokes below my average. Unheard of and unprecedented.

That I couldn't back it up on the back 9 with anything more than a +4 to finish -1 overall was mildly irksome (If I could have combined the back nine of my first round with the front nine of the second, I would have shot a 50, bettering my previous best score by 5 strokes) but not enough to cancel out the exhiliration of a half a round where everything was clicking. While this sort of improvement in score might happen if I returned to a course I've only played once several years ago, to have such a leap on a course one plays regularly is pretty heady stuff.

As it is, I took two strokes off my best score, even losing 1 to a water penalty by a measly 5 inches and another to an unfortunate roll after hitting a tree.

So maybe I'm getting better, maybe I'm learning the course, or maybe I just had a good day.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Day 13: Spotsylvania, VA; Durham, NC

I wake on the futon of a guest bedroom where my host has already left for work.

Tonight I’ll be home, but I’m still looking for that capper for the trip. First stop is Loriella Park in Spotsylvania, Virginia.

No, first stop is the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, which is not only under construction but also has a traffic jam caused by a stalled out car.

After inching over the bridge, I finally get off to look for ice, only to find the store is out. It’s getting hotter as I move farther south.

Loriella is just off Route 3 on the outskirts of Fredericksburg, where I went to college. The area has gone from college town to metropolitan suburban clone (i.e. it looks just like Fairfax, especially along route 3).

I wonder if this course was here while I was in school (it wasn’t, PDGA says it was founded in 2001) and how my life might have been different had it been. I mostly played Ultimate in college, could the butterfly effect have changed that much?

My records indicate I have played Loriella before, at a tournament. I arrived late, play was slow, it rained some, and I have no recollection of the course at all. This is odd. Two years later, I still remember the route to Warwick Town Park, and several of the holes in great detail. Loriella, I remember not at all. .

A weird thing happens when I’m warming up. I have the car doors and trunk open and am doing my stretches, when a child, who apparently speaks no English, wanders into the parking lot, giggling and pointing at my vehicle. There is a playground about 75 yards away, but not an adult in sight. She walks up to my car, and, trying to be polite, I say “hello” a greeting she takes to mean we are now friends and my toys are her toys, so she climbs into the driver’s seat and begins playing with the steering wheel.

All of a sudden, this chance encounter gets very, very awkward. There is still no adult in sight, and it is maybe 11:00 on a Friday. I have a rental car in a half empty parking lot with a child in the front seat. I immediately think of a 10 and 13 year-old in Harrisonburg who stood by the 18th Hole of the new park and asked golfers finishing a round to give them a ride home so that they could save the dollar for the city bus.

I decide that the best course of action is to move a healthy distance away from the car so that I can still see everything but can’t be mistaken for having sinister intentions. Do I live in a different world from these people? Have I seen too many episodes of Law & Order: SVU? Eventually a mom or a nanny or somebody comes up and whisks her away, apologizing a bit too profusely and I feel safe to approach my own car again and get my discs.

After I warm up and go -1 on the first two holes, I wonder if maybe my notes are wrong and I played The Grange. I simply can’t imagine I was in the high 60s on this course, rain or no rain. In between the second and third hole there is a fenced in portion of the park. A plaque informs me that this is a slave graveyard, formerly marked with wooden crosses, now deteriorated. There is no record of who these slaves were, when they were buried, etc. For just a moment my mind shoots back to the NO ILLEGALS graffiti I saw at Calvert. I can’t help think, as well, about the other grave I visited earlier in my trip and how the accidents and circumstances of history lead us to different places.

The course itself is rather uninspiring. It’s a bit long for me to birdie, with a lot of open holes, especially on the front 9. Not too much trouble on any of these holes (I do bogey the one tight alley hole), but not much hope, either, unless you can throw farther than I do. There is a distant feeling that reminds me a bit of Rose Lane in the early days, where one could feel as though one were the only person on the course or indeed in the world, but it’s not quite enough to make up for the pedestrian nature of the course.

There’s nothing terribly wrong with the course, but there are none of those moments where I finish or approach a hole and think: “you know, some thought went into that pin placement,” or “I wouldn’t have thought to put a hole there, but it worked.” Instead, the course has the annoying competence of a Woody Allen movie; it’s hard to point to obvious technical errors, but I’m never really in any serious danger of enjoying myself (much less being inspired).

I’m bored and in a hurry to leave, so I rush to the 18th tee and drive my shot into the ground, turning a long hole into a “5” when I miss my putt and a possible 59 into a 61.

I shrug, and yet…I hate to end such a great trip with a mediocre round on a mediocre trip.

And so, I decide as routes 95 and 85 diverge south of Richmond to take a right turn towards Durham and stop at Valley Springs.

It is appropriate that Valley Springs is in Durham, because I call it the 87 Blue Devils Course. This team was the one of which Jim Valvano said you look at it and say, “I can beat them.” Then you lose. You walk off and say, “I’m glad I’ll get another shot at them, because I’m still not convinced they are better than me.” Then they beat you again. You say, “Well, I hope I get them in the tournament, because know that I know their tendencies, there should be no problem.” Then you get them in the tournament and they beat you again. And so it goes.

I arrive at about 5:20 and decide to try something different. I’m warmed up from earlier in the day, so I start. Hole #1 is a short birdie hole, which I deuce, and I chip in from a good 75 feet on Hole #2, so I think it is my day.

The first time I played Valley Springs, on a visit to Durham for a seminar, I was -1 after 17 holes, only to let my drive go too early on 18, kick it off a tree into the woods for a 5 and a round of +1. Since then, I’ve always felt the same way about Valley Springs that Valvano felt about Amaker, Dawkins, and company. I KNOW I can beat this course.

I just never do.

The last time I was here, a few weeks ago, I was -3 after 9 holes and still managed to finish +1. Today, I get to -3 after 8, but I bogey 9 and make the turn at -2. Then, I take a bogey on 14 to go to -1, then I push the Valkyrie right on 15. I think it is coming out; I don’t hear a hard crash, but I search the area for 20 minutes with increasing desperation. I turn over rocks. I shake trees (getting dirt on my sweaty, sleeveless arms), I pray. No disc.

Finally, reluctantly, I take a drop, assess the penalty stroke for a lost disc, and approach for my body to go to par. As I turn to the 16th hole, I see my disc lying beside a tree about 45 feet from the hole. It had indeed kicked out of the foliage. I am ecstatic. Since this is not a tournament, I go ahead and play the original lie (no time limit when nobody’s waiting on you), save my par.

I am redeemed.
I have a second chance.
I take a six on the next hole, a hole I’ve birdied before. I hit a tree off the tee. I try a flick and my flick hits a tree and bounces backwards farther into the woods. I miss my putt. I finish the round at 57.

It is now 6:15, so there is no doubt I will play another round, and somehow this round takes on imaginatively high stakes in my head. I know this is my last chance to finish the trip on a high note. There are no motels rented, no other courses tomorrow. There is only daylight for one more round. It is now or never to pluck out this thorn in my flesh. The icing on the cake that is this trip will be defeating par at Valley Springs.

So it is back to the car for Gatorade and one last trek to close the circle. I’m tired. I’ve played 36 holes today in humid, southeastern heat. I’ve played close to 20 rounds in the last 10 days. My shins hurt. I feel a blister coming where my toe chafes against my sweat saturated sock. I so what any self-respecting amateur golfer does: I pretend it is the last round of the last day of the Ryder Cup and everything is up to me. My opponent will shoot a 54. All the previous rounds were leading up to this moment.

I get my birdie on one and a par on two, then I get a tree maybe 10 feet away from the tee on a 225 foot right curving hole. For a moment I think of wilting; I think of returning to the first tee to start the round over. (It’s now 6:30—will I have daylight?)

But no, my imaginary teammates are counting on me and my imaginary opponents are smirking. There are defining moments in every golfer’s imaginary career and this is one of them.

I pull the JK Valkyrie out of my bag.
I breathe in and out.
I check my footing and balance.
And, in the most important shot of the entire vacation…I flick.
Two hundred and fifteen feet later, the disc comes to rest snugly under the basket for a tip in three. I have saved par, but to paraphrase The Wolf in Pulp Fiction, let’s not start…um..congratulating myself just yet. There are 15 holes to play, and I’ve been -3 on this course before.

I immediately deuce Hole 4, and I consider moving into course management mode, but I’m not sure -2 will be enough of a cushion. Hole 8 presents a classic risk/reward conundrum with a right to left that is more open for the easy three but a narrower alley on the left that, if I split the tree can give me a deuce opportunity. Another moment of truth.

Out comes the Valkyrie and I split the trees dead center with good spin. Easy deuce. I’ve reached -3. The rest is managing the course.

Hole 9 goes uphill. Three
Hole 12 is a long right that is too far to throw the Stingray but which can give me grief if I yank the Leopard (to try to turn it). I must throw it hard enough to get the distance, but not yank it, and not let it fade too far away from the hole. Three.

By Hole 14, I’ve caught up with some guys playing doubles. They let me play through, and I let go of the Leopard too early, putting me in a world of trouble. Short and in the woods. I could pitch out and try a long approach for a 4, or I could try a tight alley along and out of the woods. It’s a harder shot and missing it puts a 5 in play, but making it gets me close enough for an easy four. I flick and it clears the woods, well short of the hole but leaving me -2 with four holes left.

Hole 16 is where I got the 6 last round. It all starts with the drive. Just keep it in the fairway. You’ve got two strokes as a cushion but Hole 18 is a long uphill hole. Just keep it in the fairway. I do. Three.

Hole 17 is a blind shot that looks harder than it is. It has a bit sharper hyzer than you think, but there is a lot of space on the right, so the trick is to take an overstable disc and leave plenty of room to turn. I let the Valkyrie fly, and although I let it go a bit too early, it clears the bend with about five feet to spare and lands to rest about 10 feet from the hole. I’ve been putting real well, but I finally choke one, letting go of the disc with no spin. I could have shut the door with a birdie, but instead I head to the 18th.

There, the other group of doubles players awaits to let me play through.

You know, I laugh at the guys in the World Series of Poker who say, “Just one time…” They remind me of Rich Mullins: “Everyone I know says they need just one thing, / When really what they mean / Is they need just one thing more…” Yet here, I am, on the fairway, thinking, “Just one time; just this one time.”

The difference being this time it is not a prayer to an indifferent poker god but a reminder to myself to think of nothing but the present moment; this one time; this one shot. I have a stroke to play with, so all I need is to make sure I get good pull. There is a tree on the right edge of the fairway, but it is far enough that were I to hit it, I would have enough distance to still get a relatively easy four. The only real danger of a five here is letting go too early and chunking it to the left or really yanking it.

A nice straight throw with a lot of snap.
Just one time…
And then the disc is out of my hand, spinning hard and pushing right (as the Leopard does), not yanked, but at good speed. It misses the tree and heads off the fairway to the right, but far enough, and it doesn’t hit a tree but keeps going, coming to rest a good 50-60 feet from the hole on the fringe of the right rough.
The actual crowd is respectfully impressed.
The imaginary Ryder Cup of Disc Golf crowd goes nuts.
I approach with the Stingray, overshooting the pin by about 12 feet, leaving me two putts to finish under par. For good measure, I bury the par putt for a 52.
I can go home.

Later, as I pull onto 85 south towards home, the Kingston Trio is singing “Lonesome Traveler”:

”Well one of these days, I’m gonna stop all my traveling,
Well one of these days, I’m gonna stop all my traveling,
Well one of these days, I’m gonna stop all my traveling—
Well, I’ve been traveling long.”

One of these days.
Not today.

Only 35 more days until the Georgia State Championships at Rose Lane.

3-2-4 4-3-3 5-3-4 OUT (31)
3-3-4 3-3-3 3-3-5 IN (30) 61

2-2-3 4-3-2 3-2-4 OUT (25)
3-3-3 3-4-3 6-3-4 IN (32) 57

2-3-3 2-3-3 3-2-3 OUT (24)
3-3-3 3-4-3 3-3-3 IN (28) 52

Final Tally:
Courses: 18
New Courses: 8
States: 11
Number of Times I've Played Valley Springs Under Par: 1

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Day 12: College Park, MD

The mind and the body adjust of their own accord to circumstances.

Todd and I know that we can sleep in, yet when I awake and make my way down to the bathroom, my brother-in-law is getting ready for work. It is not yet eight o’clock.

We do spend some time with a leisurely breakfast, but then it is time to pack up the car. We say good-bye, pausing to admire the tie-dyed shirts that my sister-in-law and niece made yesterday but are not quite dry; then it is off to BWI.

I wonder if dying is something like this—the gradual giving up of the things you’ve accumulated in the first half of your trip. I know there may be golf this afternoon, but I also know that I will be play alone and Todd will be on a plane to Ohio.

We part at the airport, Todd holding the camera out in front of him to take one last picture of the two of us. It has been a great trip made better by the presence of a good friend. I know I would have enjoyed myself had I gone alone, but there is an icing on the cake that I got to share the bulk of my trip.

After Todd is gone, I adjust the driver’s seat, pop in Sunday Ladies Philosophy Club and head for College Park. I make one wrong turn where 95 turns into 495, but it is easy to turn around and my directions to the park are simple enough.

Calvert Park is the oldest course in Maryland; it’s Mach 1 baskets are in good shape, though, and there are alternate tee pads and pin placements for every hole. Today, it appears as though all the pins are in the long positions, so I decide to play the short tees (there really isn’t that much difference).

As I lace up my high tops, I’m in a somber mood. There is a little wind that is affecting my warm up putts, and I see some graffiti on the portajohn announcing NO ILLEGALS, but really it is just the awareness that things are drawing to a close.

I shoot a pedestrian 54, with two birdies and two bogeys. Even making a 20 footer on 18—the longest hole on the course--to save my par round, is not enough to get me jacked up. Around Hole 16, my shins start to hurt from pounding the pavement and pushing off, a dull, achy sort of pain. I’m always happy to shoot par, and while Calvert is no Rock Hill, it’s no Douglass College either. For the first time all trip, my bed at home sounds more enticing than tomorrow’s course. Looks like I timed the length of my vacation just right too.

There is one very nice moment though, when I throw my second flick of the round. It makes a solid approach to a long hole with a right turn, and I realize I’m getting slightly more comfortable making this throw, even in the middle of a round. It is not the orgasmic thrill of throwing an ace; rather, it is the pleasant prospect of a new friendship, one you think might last a long time. Why it should seem odd that among the many good things about this trip, improving my game should be one, I don’t know. But it has been.

I get to the home of the people I am staying with in Maryland, but they are out for most of the evening, so I start watching a downloaded movie ( Being Julia). As usual, I’ve packed way too much, and I have DVDs, books, and downloaded movies that I didn’t even glance at.

This seems as good a place as any to add some of my less than complementary observations about the trip:
--The merging lane of a highway is for accelerating until you reach the speed of traffic, not for stopping until you find a break in traffic.
--Many of the towns in New England have an irritating habit of only identifying the cross street on their signs. This can be annoying when you are not sure that you are on the correct street to begin with.
--There is a preoccupation in New England with letting you know that something is a STATE law. You must, for example, yield to pedestrians in crosswalks. This is not a local ordinance, nor is it a national statute. It is a STATE LAW. And don’t you forget it…
--Despite my two day stay, I still avoided buying gas in New Jersey.

3-3-3 3-4-2 4-3-2 OUT (27)
3-3-3 3-3-3 3-3-3 IN (27) 54

Day 12 Tally--
Courses: 16
New Courses: 8
States: 11
IKEA Stores Visited: 1
Books Brought on Trip: 4
Books Bought on Trip: 1
Books Read on Trip: 0 (little bits of de Caussade)
Movies Downloaded to Watch on Trip: 5
DVDs Brought to Watch on Trip: 9
Movies Watched on Trip: 1

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Day 11: East Brunswick, NJ

Because we are staying with my in-laws and there is no check out time or long travel to be done, I do something unorthodox for this trip: I turn over in bed and take another hour of sleep.

The PDGA web site says there are two 9 hole courses that are close to our zip code, but my sister-in-law assures me that Douglass College at Rutgers is the closest. There are also some courses in Pennsylvania about 30 miles away, but Todd thinks he can get Pennsylvania more easily than New Jersey since he is living in Ohio (sensible boy). Since the weather calls for rain at four, we decide playing Rutgers in the morning would be our best bet.

Douglass is marked as 3729 in the PDGA site, and the last time I was here (I think 2 years ago) I shot a 48. If I had Warwick as an ace up my sleeve to ensure at least one great course at the tail end of the trip, I also had in the back of my mind that it would be nice to have a course that could be played under par to hold in reserve.

The course was established in 1978, so there are a few eccentricities. (The sign on Hole 3 says "Par 4" for a 200 foot hole.) The baskets are in good repair, though, and the trees are used quite well to make you at least make some shots.

Hole 1 is short but with a very sharp hook that makes you go around a tree. Hole 2 is reachable, but a low hanging tree ensures that you have to drive straight and low. There are a lot of holes like that. I deuce the first three holes and settle into course management mode--make sure you get your pars first, then take advantage of opportunities as they present themselves. The only trouble I get in is on Hole 7 where I'm distracted enough by a tree in the middle of the fairway that I try to overthrow the Leopard and end up driving it into the ground. I'm left with over a 100 feet for my approach and I have obstacles. Fortunately, I'm able to throw the Whippet (I think this is the first time it's been out of my bag all trip) to within 15 feet and make a meaningful if not very difficult putt to save par. If I have goals of shooting in the 40s, even on an easy course, I have to eliminate 4s.

Making that putt gives me some confidence. I'm four under after 8 holes, and all I'm thinking is 8 pars and a birdie and I'll have my goal. The ninth hole is a short left to right (anhyzer) with a slope away from the pin to the left and a short, felled tree by the hole that one can go over if one wants to run straight at the hole The problem with the straight shot is that you are tempted to loft it to get it over the tree/bush and thus risk fading down the hill away from the basket. I take out my DX-Roc and concentrate on throwing it just enough with angle to turn it slightly right over the barrier and hope that it will land hard enough to hold. When I let it go, I know I've thrown the shot I wanted, but I wasn't thinking about the target, just the area. And that's when I hear the chains.

Aw, the sweetest sound there is. Not the glancing sound of some chains but that sweet "chi-ching" as the disc hits the chains and the chains hit the pole and each other. Just as a basketball net has a specific sound when a shot is "swished" so too does a basket when a long approach or tee shot hits chains true.

After a 21 year hiatus (I said 18 in About You section, but I calculated wrong), I have rejoined the Brotherhood of the Ace with my third career hole-in-one. Todd takes a picture of me by the hole from the tee and another as we arrive at the basket. Finally, lovingly, I take the Roc out of the basket, kiss it once, and put it in my bag, never to be thrown again.

Oh, but there's work still to do. I'm now six under and approaching rarified territory. Further, I've got the adrenaline going. The back nine has a few more tricky holes, but I get three more birdies to finish at 45, a new course record for me and only the second lowest round I've shot ever. I even make a meaningful flick off the tee on seventeen. I get a par, but just the decision to throw it rather than the more comfortable backhand pleases me. I'm working to expand my game so that I won't be afraid to throw the flick when it is called for.

Back at the car we call the spouses to celebrate. Todd has thrown a 53, his first time under par (54) on any course. But, strange role reveral here, he's brooding a bit. He had at least 5 putts bounce out, and he easily feels he could have been lower. The course is short enough and we have nothing else planned for the day that he is sorely tempted to play another 18 after Gatorade.

Todd is a sweet man and a good friend, though, and he is concerned that going back out on the course could ruin my good round. What if I go out and throw a clunker. Today should be about celebrating my good fortune.

I explain, however, that while I can brood with the best of them when I don't do as well as I hoped, that if I have good fortune, I'm pretty much happy no matter what. That round is in the bank and nothing can take it from me, ever. I could go out right now and shoot a +9 and still go home happy. I'm floating. So, my advice is bascially, "I'm here for you. I've got mine, if you want to go get yours (or take another stab at it), don't let me stop you."

He does, so we head back out to the first tee.

Todd throws a -3 on the next eighteen, and a strange and wonderful thing happens to me. Basically, I'm as loose, mentally as I've been on a golf course in ages. I'm playing with house money.

When I'm loose, I tend to putt better.
I start to putt real well on a short course.
I birdie the first six holes. Combined with the birdie that I ended the last round with, that is a run of seven straight birdies which I know is a record for me. I par 6 and birdie seven.

After I throw my drive on seven, I lick my index finger and make the sizzling noise. I am on fire and enjoying the ride.

Eventually, I do start to wilt in the heat and 36 holes is 36 holes, short or not. There is this weird dynamic when you are on a zone. You don't want to think too much and break the momentum, but you also don't want to make foolish mistakes. I actually take a 4 on Hole 10 and that announces to me that I need to start easing back into concentrate mode rather than just momentum mode.

I am -9 going into seventeen and I make a long arcing flick that I think looks good, but when we approach the hole, we can't find the disc. A short search finally reveals it up in the tree and it is over two meters. I'm bummed, because I threw a good flick and I've seen my chances of tying my best round ever (44 at Bull Run, a much easier course) go by the boards. Once we get the disc down though, I realize I can do a straddle putt from around the tree, and if I don't overthink it too much (and I don't) I can make a 20 footer to save par. For the second time in the trip I take a circle three. I get my birde on the short 18th hole and finish -10 for only the second time in my playing days.

I have to say, as an aside, both times I've shot -10, on very easy courses, one of the first things I think is, "John has shot -10 at Rose Lane, a course I am fortunate to be under par on." One would think that my shooting a good score would reduce the awe in which I hold better players, but it's actually the reverse. I see how hard it is to go double digits on even an easy course. One tree the wrong way, one slip of the putting hand, can cost you a stroke.

Todd and I are both bone weary tired, not just from 36 holes but from the last seven days. He decides we need to celebrate so he treats me to a movie of my choice and I finally grab the opportunity to see War of the Worlds. After that, it's out to a nice Mexican dinner with the in-laws.

Tomorrow Todd is heading home, and he is anxious to play his home course and see if he sees improvement from a week of intensive practice.

I think I'm looking at College Park as a stopover on the way home. Perhaps on Thursday I'll play Loriella or Valley Springs on way home.

Oh, and after dinner, I get a sharpie to date the disc. Todd and I sign it and it comes out of the bag and into the suitcase.

2-2-2 3-3-2 3-3-1 OUT (21)
3-2-3 3-2-3 3-3-2 IN (24) 45

2-2-2 2-2-2 3-2-2 OUT (19)
4-2-3 3-3-2 3-3-2 IN (25) 44

DAY 11 Tally
Courses: 15
New Courses: 8
States: 11
Deuces Thrown Today: 18
Deuces Thrown in New York, Vermont, Maine, and Massachussetts Combined: 5
Number of Aces Thrown on Trip: 1
Number of Aces Thrown in the Rest of My Life Combined: 2
Number of times I've been double digits under Par 3: 2
Consectuive deuces thrown: 7
Discs Lost on Trip: 3 (Todd 2, Ken 1)
Discs Retired on Trip: 1

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Wish I Could Say It Was My Drive That Did It; Douglass College, East Brunswick, NJ. Posted by Picasa

Day 10: Warwick, NY

Both Todd and I express awareness that Vermont is a transitional state. Geographically, we are now turning south for the first time. (Going from Maine back to the hotel in Massachusetts doesn’t seem to count.) Temporally, we have passed the half way point and are now nearer the end of our trip than the beginning.

So now I’m struggling a bit with that late weekend, Monday’s coming, kind of blues that so often robs me of the joy of whatever I’m doing. I’ve scheduled Warwick late for this very reason, so I know I’ll have something to look forward to.

Warwick Town Park is one of my top 5 favorite courses, or it was two years ago. I’m curious to see how it stacks up to my nostalgic memories of it.

The course is in a huge part in southern New York, hard to find and get to, but well worth the effort. One thing I like about it is that it has four configurations on most holes—two tees and two permanent baskets, so the course can play anywhere from 4400 to 8800 feet. Todd and I unapologetically decide to play the short course.

I have two reasons for this. One is, as Todd is so fond of saying, we are amateurs. That is what it says on our card. The other is that I haven’t been in sniffing distance of 54 since Connecticut. Granted, both the Vermont and Maine courses claimed to have pars that I shot under, but I tend to think of 54 as par on most courses.

Two things go wrong today that I am surprised have not yet gone wrong on the trip.

Todd and I warm up to the first cracks of thunder. We’ve had surprisingly good luck with weather, and Accuweather has said a possible thunderstorm from 4:00-5:00. It looks like it could open up on us at any moment.

Todd and I both started with a birdie on the first hole, and this will be my only birdie of the day. I do have a couple of 12-15 footers (and one 20 or so) to save par, because I’m not approaching real well, but I’m driving okay. Hole 9 is fairly long, and I get a good drive, but I hit the only real tree in the middle of a very wide fairway. Bad luck. This means I have a long approach that leaves me the 20 footer for par. When I make it, solid, I take the turn at -1 and I’m thinking there is the possibility for a special round.

Hole 10 is my one bad tee shot of the day, and it’s not recoverable. The hole is a two tiered downhill with a tree line guarding the tier, so you pretty much have to get it there (if not through) on your drive or getting to the hole on approach is just luck. As I let go of the Stingray and it catches a branch, I’m running up to see its lie, and I twist my ankle pretty bad, aggravating an old ankle injury. Stupid. Running on non-level terrain is the way I usually tweak it. My approach did get down the gap, and I have a 25 footer that makes a good run, but I still take a four to return to even par.

Hole 12 is a 174 foot classic risk-reward. You can shoot through a narrow alley of trees to a visible pin, or you can go around the forest edge, taking an easy three. I split the trees with the Leopard, getting within smelling distance of an ace, but landing 10 feet past and to the left. Psychologically, going from under par to par and then back under is such a huge boost. It allows me to attack holes and feel as though I have room for error without having to “hang on” to par. Unfortunately, this is my one bad putt of the round, and I take a three. I tell myself I haven’t lost anything but an opportunity, but it’s a momentum shifter, because on 13, the rains come.

Playing Disc Golf in the rain is a tough experience, especially in a more open course. If it’s not cold, it’s doable, but it’s a chore. Part of you is saying “speed up” to get in and out of the rain, the other “slow down” because that is when you are more likely to make careless mistakes. Certainly the rain adds weight to the disc and makes distance harder. A firm grip is almost impossible.

I hold on for another two pars, then Hole 15 is where the nerves finally give way. I get a solid tee shot but the approach is blocked by a tree and I take a four. Sixteen is reachable off the tee, but now the rains are coming harder, and with them wind. The wind pushes my Valkyrie right, and my short approach with the Roc is a bit long. I’m trying to wipe my putter, but my rag is wet, and so is my shirt. My glasses are fogging, and my putt glances off the chains and out. Seventeen is a 400+ hole, and I get a decent teeshot that the wind pushes right leaving me a makeable but hard 100+ approach. The wet leopard slips out of my hand, going maybe thirty feet. I save four, and par out on 18.

This is one of those moments where I’m lucky Todd is with me, because my first thought is, “It’s only 4:30” so if I were here myself I might be tempted to change my clothes and wait in the car to see if it clears and play another round. I really wanted to be under par on this one, because I love the course and I know I may not be back for a long time.

Part of being in the moment, though, is accepting the things we cannot control, like the weather. The flavor of the trip is not about trying to control the uncontrollable, it is about accepting the unexpected surprises and coping with the sudden disappointments. I threw well today; it just wasn’t meant to be.

Winding out of the mountain roads towards 287, the rains come hard, but we are eventually rewarded with a safe arrival at my in-laws.

There are pork chops.
There is wine.
There is good company.
There is ibuprofen.
Life goes on.


2-3-3 3-3-3 3-3-3 OUT (26)
4-3-3 3-3-4 4-4-3 IN (31) 57

Day 10 Tally
Courses: 14
New Courses: 8
States: 10
Ankles Rolled: 1
Thunderstorms: 1

Monday, July 18, 2005

Todd at Warwick Town Park Disc Golf Course Posted by Picasa

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Day 9: Bradford, VT

In 1987, Judith Viorst published Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day . Eighteen years later, Ken’s Vacation Blog presents Ken and Wonderful, Great, Not Bad, Very Good Day.

What follows are the top five things that happened to Ken today. (They happened to Todd, too, though his might be in a different order.

Number Five
Todd had been craving a New England seafood dinner and he finally got his wish at The Weather Vane, voted the best seafood in the Greater Rutland area nine years running. Yeah, I know, how big is Rutland, right?

Well, let me put it this way. I eat seafood once a year. I don’t like seafood. I had coconut shrimp. It was very, very good. It was not as milky sweet as the coconut shrimp in Los Angeles, but the shrimp itself was plump and good, and the breading was light. There was just enough for me.

Todd? Well Todd had not one but two lobsters, and let me tell you, I was in awe. Any meal where they have to bring you a bowl of tools, that’s a meal I want to witness. Todd, in a ritual tone of voice explained each item. The nutcracker for breaking the shell…the bowl…for the shells…a small pitchfork for extracting meat…a bib for what bib’s are for…a moist towelette because there is no neat way to eat a lobster and Todd is going to eat two. He does, too. When they bring out the lobster, I have a hard time seeing Todd’s head over the mounding pile of red on his plate. Once it is over, all I can say is that I have a new appreciation for Todd and his ability.

Although Todd pays a bit more for his lobster, my tally, including beverage and tip, comes to $11, for the best seafood I have eaten.


Number Four
Nothing like a nice, hot, Jacuzzi by the motel swimming pool after eight straight days of disc golf to cheer the weary bones. I’m not talking a tepid room temperature bath with bubble jets, I’m talking a legitimate hot (but not scalding) Jacuzzi. Thanks, Priceline, for the free upgrade. Oh, and after the Jacuzzi, there was a nice hardwood, New England sauna. I feel so…pampered.

Number Three
Tired of supporting the monolithic conglomerate that is Amazon? Annie’s Bookstore is open next to [see below], and we wander in. The selection is superb, and although I wasn’t planning on it, I get the new Harry Potter book, not because I’m anxious to read it but because I know I’ll get it eventually, and I would rather support the small, independent book store. I also buy a used Alexander McCall Smith book on CD to listen on the way home. Todd picks up a gift for his wife and a copy of Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink, which we heard discussed on NPR during our drive. (You know that it is a good day when NPR can’t crack the top five.)

Number Two
Vermont is the home of Ben & Jerry’s, and across the parking lot from the motel, next to Annie’s Books, is the Ben & Jerry’s store. Ken has a scoop of Super Fudge Chunk that is piled high out of the cup. Todd has a brownie, topped New York Chocolate Chunk Supreme Decadent Something or Other, with hot fudge and whipped cream, and…a cup of coffee. (If I had those two lobsters, I don’t think I’d eat for a month, unless I had Ben & Jerry’s to tempt me.)

Number One
Eighteen holes at the Oxbow Disc Golf Course. Total course length 5310 feet. 10 holes under 300 feet (deceptive given several uphill drives), 5 from 300-400, and 3 over 400.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when we arrived in Bradford. It is a spot on the map up the interstate, and the PDGA site said the course was on high school land, which usually means not very technical.

There are a few short holes to start, then at Hole Six, the course takes a sharp right and goes up the mountain. The course is a bit of a workout, but once you are on the side of the mountain there are some breathtaking views, including one hole (9, I think), that has a three foot tee pad over the trees below to a blind pin placement. It is as close as throwing off a mountain as you ever want to get.

Then there is a long, 400 foot plus down the mountain. I shot well, not lights out, but as close to my peak as I have on the trip, I think. I miss one putt I should make and another for birdie that is makeable but not a gimmie. One of my fours (Hole 5), is due only to lack of local knowledge, as I put my drive within 20 feet of the pin but in a deep grove of trees with no out. I throw my first roller of the trip on 12 to get around some bush and another on 16 to save par that makes me happy because the difference between 58 and 59 is significant psychologically. I haven’t been in sniffing distance of 54 since Connecticut, and this strikes me as a very good score for the first time on this course.

You know, I like Vermont. I’m lucky I didn’t go to high school here, though, because if I did, I might never have graduated. I can see playing the first five holes for lunch, hearing the bell for forth period and be presented with Trigonometry to my left and more disc golf to my right. (Not that I needed an excuse to skip Trig, anyway.) The vice principal could have met me at hole 12 and I would have detention forever.

Then again, I’m sure the course looks different in the fall and winter. (I wonder if Vermont has an Ice Bowl.) Maybe one could hike up the hill and then snowboard down.

One of the many things for which I’m grateful for this trip is that (mid-life musing coming), I’m not too sure if 10 or even 5 years from now a course like this or Maine’s would be a bit too much for me. I hope to play disc golf into my sixties, but some of these steep climbs would be prohibitive.

So that's my day, and the antique store rest stop with 50 cent sharp, Vermont cheddar cheese can't even crack the top five.

Man, some days being alive totally doesn't suck.


2-3-3 2-4-4 3-3-4 OUT (28)
3-3-4 4-3-3 4-3-3 IN (30) 58

Day 9 Tally
Courses: 13
New Courses: 8
States: 9
Rollers Thrown on Trip: 2
Lobsters Consumed: 2 (Todd)
Coconut Shrimp Consumed: 6 (Ken 5; Todd 1)
Jacuzzis Taken: 1
Things New Hampshire Has Over Vermont 1: (State Motto)
Things Vermont Has Over New Hampshire: Everything Else

Oxbow Disc Golf Course; Bradford, VT Posted by Picasa

Day 8--Durham, NH; Auburn, ME

Because we don’t have to check out of the motel, Todd and I allow ourselves to sleep in. I awake around 9:30 to hear Todd checking e-mail, and he informs me that the breakfast buffet is actually quite above average: make your own waffles, French toast, danishes, as well as all the usual suspects.

I wander down and make myself a waffle, but there isn’t any jelly to put on it and the consistency is a little rubbery, so I try a cinnamon bun and then we start loading up the car.

Our plan is to take 93 up to the Play-It-Again sports in Derry, New Hampshire, get a replacement disc for me, cut across to Durham to play at the Lake Hickory course, then cut across to 95 up to Maine to play Dragan Fields in Auburn.

There are two fatal flaws in my plan. The first is that I found a note that says there is a Skate and Sport shop by Amesbury right off the interstate that sells disc. I think that it is preferable to go to Play It Again, because I can find store hours on the Internet and I know it won’t be closed on the weekend. I have never been to a Play It Again that did not have discs.

As we go into New Hampshire, Todd asks if Bienvenue is French, because our welcome signs are bilingual. I say (thinking back to Cabaret—Wilkommen, bienvenue, welcome) that I think it is. Todd says he is surprised because he never associated New Hampshire with the French. What, I crack, “Live Free or Die” doesn’t immediately make you think of the French? Once we cross over the state line 93 appears to be heading for a traffic delay, so we get off the interstate for a parallel adjoining road. I begin to become concerned because all I have is a street name, West Broadway, and not a route number. In fact, I drew myself a little map and have 93 running north south and to the side I have written “121.” On the map, route 121 looks much farther north than 10 miles. Did I write the wrong exit? It seemed clear on the map on the Internet that I could buy the discs and cut across a NW road to Durham, but if the Play It Again is farther north, well that isn’t happening.

On our way up the local road, we pass the Robert Frost Home. (We can see it from the road.) There is a nice white fence and a barn; I ask Todd if he wants to stop and take a picture, like at Sleepy Hollow, but he just shrugs and says the only one he knows who cares about Robert Frost is a former colleague of ours. Todd, I will remind you, is the man who took a picture of his Samurai Roll (avocado, crabmeat, cucumber stick, rice, kelp wrapper, topped with salmon) at Little Tokyo.

We hit the junction for 102, which is the route we need to cut across to Durham, but I tell Todd to go West for 2 miles in case this is the road of the Play It Again sports, even though route 121 is still 10 miles north. If we don’t hit the store before the interstate, we can backtrack and say we missed it. The first street sign we see says West Broadway, and it is going through a small New Hampshire town that isn’t like most suburban places where I usually find a Play It Again shop. I am almost simultaneously hit with two very contradictory, nay diametrically opposed emotions.

The first, following fast on the heels of “so where on West Broadway is this store, what’s the number” is a triumphal “121!” The second, more sinking feeling like that of the grandmother in “A Good Man is Hard to Find” is, “perhaps I should have taken the road closer to the store closer to where I knew there was an actual disc golf course…

The sporting goods store is in a shopping center, and to give you and idea of how fast my heart is sinking, the biggest banner in the window is an invitation to join the “Skater’s Club.’ It seems if I get my ice skates sharpened a certain number of times, the next one is free. Ice skates? Nobody (in North Carolina anyway) goes to Play It Again Sports for ice skates…not when the summer is nice and they are on their way to play disc golf. I’m met by a clerk who asks if he can help me.

“I’m looking for golf discs for disc golf” I say with a rather pathetic, pleading whine to my voice that I can’t remember having used since I was, oh, 12 and I was asking my mom to buy me the new Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators paperback (The Mystery of the Talking Mummy?).

“Sorry, we don’t carry those.” No, of course not, why would you?

So it’s back in the car, and I’m almost tempted to go back to 495 or at least go to Maine first, since Dragan Field is supposed to have a pro shop (that may or may not be open on a Saturday). Durham is right in the way, though, so we decide to head there first. In the meantime, we pop in Umberto Eco’ The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana to pass the time.

Now my second fatal error is not entirely my fault. Before going on this trip, I called John Nisewonder and asked for course recommendations. He passed along that a buddy had told him that the course in Dover, NH that I had initially planned to play was under construction and not “worth” going to. Since the PDGA says 18 holes to 16 baskets, I decided that Durham, with its 11 holes (and a little closer to the interstate) is a better bet. Besides, the PDGA website says it is by a ball golf course and is $3.50 per round. I think, quite reasonably, that this means it is more likely to be maintained. (There is also a message at DiscGolfLife.com saying, from someone in 2003, to bring bug spray.

Our instructions are approaching from the North and we are coming from the south, but it is supposed to be by a bed and breakfast, so we have no trouble finding the road. I go in to the registration area and wait patiently for the college aged receptionist to check in the guests. Can she helps us, she asks a bit dubiously.

We’d like to play the disc golf course, do we pay here?

Oh, I’m sorry, we can’t do disc golf anymore. The owner sold the golf course or something…not sure…haven’t been able to let people go out…

Todd and I return to the car, stunned. My mind is racing…I don’t have the instructions to Dover, to I get them tonight and come back tomorrow (adding another 70 so miles to a long leg of the trip)? Do I leave New Hampshire for another trip? How can I? I’m desperate…New Hampshire is mocking me for the French comment, I know, or for dissing Robert Frost. It’s cosmic pay back. I understand cosmic pay back, but this is like a prison term for jaywalking. I’m sorry New Hampshire….I’ll never say anything bad about Robert Frost again if only….

As we continue on the road, I can see a basket from the road, and I’m tempted to get out and jump the fence, but there is no place to pull the car.

“Turn the car around,” I tell Todd. I go back in to the B&B but the receptionst is gone, getting sheets for a bed. I find her down the hall.

Okay, I’m not crazy, but hear me out. My friend and I are on a road trip to help me in my goal to play Disc Golf in all 50 states and New Hampshire doesn’t have many courses. I don’t want to mess up your insurance, but please, I’m begging you, can I just go around to the back yard and throw one hole so I can say I’ve played in New Hampshire?

“You didn’t ask me,” she says with a nod and turns away. I take this to mean, no permission in case anything goes wrong, but she won’t call the cops.

Todd pops the trunk for me and I grab two discs and tear aound the garden, finding a sidewalk about 150 feet from a basket. No time to warm up or even aim, I let the Leopard fly, run up with my putter, finish the hole, jump over one of New England’s many stone fences to the road, backtrack to the car and jump in. Todd finishes his phone call and asks me if I got New Hampshire on the board.

“Yeah,” I say with a slight scowl.
“What’s the matter?” he asks.

There is a slight pause.

“I took a 3.”


Maine welcomes us with a claim that “Life Should Always Be This Good” or something of the sort. Along the road, the Maine Highway Safety committee regales us with bits of advice, most of which could apply to disc golf as well as driving cars.

“Check your speed often.” (Sure.)
“Avoid driving while tired.” (Well, duh.)
“Always wear your seat belt.” (Okay, not all.)

We stop for lunch as the world’s busiest Rest Area along the interstate and get some more good old fashion “We’re So Glad You’re Here That We Can’t Wait for You to Leave” New England service. Honestly, only half of it is Popeye’s fault (setting up two lines for self-service and ordering that mix, but the other part is the family ahead of us.

Okay, I’ve never been a patient man, especially when it’s been almost 24 hours since I got a disc golf fix, but Todd and I make several observations regarding this family.

1) The name is Popeye’s Fried Chicken. The menu options should not come as too much of a surprise.
2) When there are 2000 people in line behind you, you are morally obligated to know what you (and your two kids) want BEFORE you are next in line.
Still, it’s another hour or so to Dragan Field, so we figure we need some sustenance. I have some chicken strips and mashed potatoes and it’s back on the road.

Dragan Field is one of the highlights of the trip. It is one of those beautiful farmland courses that is sprawling, distance oriented, and a work out. The pro shop is, indeed, open, and I try to purchase a new Sidewinder, but there is only a 150 class, so I get a Champion Teebird instead (as much turn as Sidewinder but less speed, so less fade and less glide.) I also buy a DX Monster which is supposed to be a 10 speed (Sidewinder is 9) but with the same glide as Sidewinder. It’s a bit pricey, but I’m worried about not having anything in between the Leopard and the Valkyrie.

I’m glad to have them and will use them, but it turns out I don’t need them. The course is open enough that I can throw the Valkyrie and not worry about too much fade. Todd loses a beat up Eagle on Hole 1 (where we throw 3), but he turns over a Gazelle into a roller and drops under the hole for a deuce and we are off. On the second hole, I chip in from about 75 feet (Roc) for a deuce, and I know it will be a good day. The fourth hole is a 405 foot par 5 according to my scorecard. I take a 4, but I realize this will be a long course (5116) with a lot of elevation changes, so I should focus on learning my discs and practicing distance throwing. (Also, no injuries…watch footinb with all the ups and downs.)

The course is a beauty. I hit about 6 baskets on putts, but only 1 is one that I really should make every time (10 feet) and another that I should make 90 percent (15). I’m actually putting better; my misses are hitting basket or chains from 20+, rather than the ones that are hitting the bottom of the basket from a lazy 12 feet. One even comes to rest on top of the basket. I get another deuce on the 310 down hill, tenth hole. I try to calculate if this is the longest hole I’ve ever deuced (a 35 footer curves in with the Stingray). It could be, but with downhills you can’t be sure.

Todd and I both make 20 foot putts on 18 and it feels good to finish on a good note. I shoot a 61, Todd a 66, and the par listed on the card is 68, so I’m feeling pretty good. We stop back in the club house to see if anyone turned in Todd’s Eagle (no) or if they have any for sale (no). While there, I check out the scores for last tournament and am a bit discouraged. The course record, I’m told, is a 47, which doesn’t bother me (son of owner), but I’m seeing quite a few high 50s. I would have been third to last in the advanced division, towards the middle of intermediate. Then again, there are some cards for recent local monthly, and in these, I am pretty much right in the middle, so it is possible that not as many recreational players play in tournaments up here. The guy at the clubhouse says that occasionally new players come out and, if this is the first course they play, get discouraged and never come back. The PDGA web site calls it a “technical” course, which Todd deems accurate. Upon consideration, I think it possible with knowing a few local shots and putting consistently, I probably could shoot in the mid to high 50s (57-58) and that I not only don’t suck, but I do have a little, if only a little, talent.

In Chapter 3 (“The Virtue and Practice of Surrendering Ourselves”), de Causade writes, “It is necessary to be disengaged from all we feel and do in order to walk with God in the duty of the present moment. All other avenues are closed. We must confine ourselves to the present moment without taking thought for the one before or the one to come.”

Certainly today is like that. To the extent I can disengage from expectations, outside distractions, what came before (who shot what when I wasn’t there) or what is to come (Am I getting better? Will I compete when next I play?) and focus on the present moment, the moment when a 75 foot chip goes in, I am the happiest. De Causade suggests in another passage that all of God’s decisions are a series of decisions leading to the present moment, that the present moment is the most important one. Can I accept the clanking putts from 15 feet if I understand that they are a series of moments that give significance, positive or negative, to the present moment? I think I can, or, at the least, I can make it a discipline so to try. Today was good practice because the moments were good and so I could work on not spoiling them by whining that they were not better. On other days there will be, no doubt, practice taking the disappointments as meaningful gifts that will make me appreciate the good ones (as well as the great ones) even more, but for today, the job was just to take the above average and be content.

On the way home, Todd plays Over The Rhine on the CD. I’ve never heard it, but seems like people at A&F are anointing them flavor of the month. The lead singer is claiming that every day, she dies a little. I guess this is true. But some days you live a little, too.

Like today.

HICKORY POND (I considered apply the heretofore labeled Rhode Island rule and taking a 2 on each hole I couldn’t play, but I decide that applies only to courses that are open with holes that are unplayable.)

3 (OUT) 3
Total: 3


3-2-3 4-3-5 3-4-4 OUT (31)
4-2-4 4-3-4 3-3-3 IN (30) 61

Day 8 Tally
Courses 11.1
New Courses 6.1
States 8
Discs Lost 3
Discs Bought 2
Allusions in the First 3 Chapters of an Umberto Eco Novel: 2300
Maine Department of Safety Highway Tips Passed: 13
Maine Department of Satefy Highway Tips Followed: All of them.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Day 7--Charlestown, RI; Amesbury, MA

Friday is a bit of a shorter leg for us, but I find myself fighting crabbiness all day. Perhaps the lack of sleep or muscle tiredness is getting to me or perhaps it is something else. Nothing big, no big blow ups with Todd or anything, I just find myself more irritated at day to day things than normal.

The day begins with a drive to Target where Todd and I stock up on Gatorade, food in bar form, non-meltable sugar delivery systems (Starburst and Jelly Beans), etc. I get some safety pins to keep my golf pants rolled up on the right, but I resist the urge to get a small bit of laundry detergent. This turns out to be a good idea, since the detergent is complementary at the hotel in Massachussetts.

After Target, we take route 1 along coastline. We past Mystic, Connecticut, and we wave at Mystic Pizza, but it doesn’t have quite the same thrill as Sleepy Hollow.

I’ve checked the distance on Yahoo! It is supposed to be about 30 miles to the course in Rhode Island, but it seems that weaving through little towns in Connecticut takes forever. (Perhaps this, too contributes to my grouchiness.) Actually, though, it is my bad, because I forget that the scales are different on the maps, so once we are in Rhode Island, we get to the park fairly quickly.

On the way to the park, though, we get rear-ended at a traffic light. I get out of the car and check the bumper, and it looks clean, so the impact was, thankfully, not bad enough to do any damage. I wave the lady who hit us on and hope that good karma will be returned.

Rhode Island is the smallest state in the country, just barely double the size of Seneca County in Ohio (where Todd lives). The course is supposed to have 9 baskets and the only other course in Rhode Island is a 27 hole object course, so Tiffin has more disc golf baskets than Rhode Island. Rhode Island does have more people in it than Alaska, though, so that is one thing it has over bigger states.

Ninigret Park is big for a park. It has a nature center, a pond, an observatory (for star gazing). As we approach the first tee, we find benches by it, a little club house (not just a bulletin board) where people can post their names if they got an ace, and a netting tied up between two trees for warming up. What a cool idea. Clearly someone has put thought into this course, and I’m suitably impressed. The first hole has three tees, and we decide to play the short tees to make the round quicker and not have a long day like before. It is 165 feet, and I throw close to the pin but behind some trees. Todd parks his tee shot for an easy deuce.

I try to putt from a sitting position so that I can get under the tree branches and my disc hits the branch, going a few feet but being equally blocked. I take a 4 and announce that I am starting my round over. (My mulligan philosophy is that you don’t take them on any hole but the first because the first is just like tossing in the towel on the round and starting over.) I also announce that if I beat Todd by 2 or less strokes, he can put an asterisk in the eternal record book. (Todd seems unconcerned; he’s just happy he got a birdie.)

I tee off again, park my tee shot and take my deuce.

The second hole is either less than 140 from the regulation tee or 201 from the “pro” tee, so we re-think our decision to play the standards. It is a blind right turn, so we take turns spotting each other, which is a good think, because I’ve convinced I’ve crossed the fairway and landed in the left rough and Todd says I am, in fact, in the right rough. I have no shot so I need to pitch out to the fairway and take my four.

Then an odd thing happens. We see two signs pointing us to Hole #3, but we are walking down a long path and we can’t find it. Eventually we feel we must have missed it and start back down the path, looking for tracks off into the woods where we might have gone. Todd eventually calls to me that he has found a tee for Hole 5, so we figure we will trace it back to the third hole, but we can’t find a close by Hole 4, nor indeed a Hole 5 at the distance stated from the tee. Finally, though, we see two locals teeing off on a hole ahead of us and ask them where Hole 3 is.

Hole 3 is…um…gone. The next hole is actually Hole 6, which they show to us. Some of the baskets have been taken away and the only other ones that have baskets are 6 and 7. There are some paths marked for 8 and 9 and sticks to mark where the baskets would be if we want to play imaginary golf. Hmmm.

Okay, time to play “How Well do You Know Ken?” Can you guess the first thing that pops into Ken’s mind when he hears this? [I figure Cindy knows already.]

Is it…I’ve just driven over 600 miles from the Disc Golf capital of the east, the great state of North Carolina to play the only registered course in Rhode Island that the PDGA web site says has baskets? (Not really.)

Is it…Well, I’ve got 120 miles to Lowell and at least we won’t be tuckered out for the better course, and I’ve got Rhode Island on the board? (Not really.)

Still don’t know? It is…Crap, I’ve got two holes to beat Todd by two or more strokes or he’s going to say he beat me. Asterisk, we don’t need no stinking asterisk! Todd and I both bogey hole 7, then I tee into the rough (a slope along the side of the road on 8) and am in serious, serious, trouble. Fortunately, I pull a rabbit out of my hat with a long, hyzering approach that floats over the road and cuts in the back door for an easy par. Todd takes a four and we are, technically, tied.

Now, here is the difference between Todd and me. At least one difference. Todd figures he shot +1 over 4 holes, so he extrapolates his score and claims he would have shot +2 for the 9 holes. He’s happy. I figure we should both take 2s for the holes we didn’t throw, because we clearly would have gotten deuces on any of the holes if we could have played them, and it is not our fault we couldn’t. Therefore, I believe my score is -4.

The title of this story is “How I Beat Todd by 6 Strokes on a 9 Hole Course.”
We get lunch and fill up on gasoline on our way out of town and it is a 120 miles jaunt up 95 and 495 to Lowell, making a slight circle to avoid Boston. Traffic is a little slow, but not as bad as Connecticut. We pass the exit for Walden Pond, which is slightly more of a charge than passing Mystic Pizza, but it’s not enough to get us to stop. (We’ve got more golf to play, darn it.)

Also, for reasons I know not, Massachussetts seems to have more Dunkin Donuts than anywhere I’ve ever seen. Every exist has a gas/lodging sign that includes a Dunkin Donuts. Now I love Dunkin Donuts (I would rank it somewhere above Mystic Pizza but below Walden), but I think the Massachussetts people are a little too proud of their donuts.

Well, we get to the Fairfield Hotel and Lauren (our check in person) is terrific. It’s busy, but she’s efficient, helps everyone until she’s finished before going on to the next person and stays cheerful. Best service of any hotel so far.

After a 10 minute nap or so (it’s about 4) we head out to Amesbury. By now we are starting to get rush hour traffic, but Todd finds a bypass to the busiest part and we arrive at the park in good stead. There are kids playing Little League (which warms Todd’s heart), and I mention as I warm up that I have a good feeling about the round. Some of the baskets are Machs, but they have been spray painted yellow to make them easier to see, an innovation that I put up there with Druid Park’s use of the metal ring around letters on the pole to tell you which pin placement is in play.

I’m mentally thinking about shooting par, but I’ve misread. Turns out the course is longer than I thought (5233 feet; 8 holes 300-400), with the alternate tees being the novice tees that are shorter (too short) rather than being the pro tees that are longer. So there are a lot of 300 foot holes uphill, through the woods. It’s a nice course, but it takes me a few holes to readjust my expectations. I’m starting to putt better, so I’m not playing bad, but there aren’t really any deuce opportunities when you are throwing 300 feet in the woods.

Also, I lose my Sidewinder.

Okay, technically I don’t lose it, I throw it in the pond. I’m mad because the pond really shouldn’t be in play, I can go well right and let it slope in towards hole, but I’ve been turning the Sidewinder just a bit, so I throw this straight at the hole, not thinking I’m going downhill and always get more fade when throwing from elevation. (Dan, if you’re reading, this is because fade comes at slow speed, so the higher you throw from, the more likely it is that your disc will stop spinning before it hits the ground.)

I’m bummed. The Sidewinder was one of my favorite discs on several levels. It had very nice glide. It was a beautiful, easy to find cherry red that showed up nicely in grass or forests. Also, it doesn’t have one of those names that suggests the thrower is phallically overcompensating (MONSTER! VIKING! ORC! BEAST!). When I get home, I use the Internet for Play-It-Again sports to see if I can get a replacement tomorrow. I shoot +2 on back nine for a 60, which I find odd because I thought I played better than I did at Druid Hills and I thought DH was a harder course. It may have just been longer and so I was driving better that day. On the bright side, I get a drop from a meter (since it crossed over before going out), and I nail a 25 footer uphill to take the rarest of all amateur scores—the circle 3. Later, as we play 18, Todd and I realize that we were actually throwing at the wrong basket; this is 18. So I figure I would have take a 3 anyway, but I wouldn’t have lost my disc. Then I would have had the Sidewinder and maybe been able to make a birdie on the signature hole (16) over water or the 240 approach on 17. Then I would have been in the 50s.

It’s a nice course, really, and I rather enjoy playing it. I was just too fixated on throwing a good score that I forgot to enjoy what I’m here for.

No problem with traffic returning and Todd and I have dinner at Cracker Barrel, which is inexplicably jammed at 9 on a Friday night. Our service is slow and Todd is grumpy. (The waiter asks him if he wants the cornbread that comes with the meal but doesn’t ask us if we want refills on iced tea and doesn’t show up with our check until we ask the hostess for our bill.) As we are waiting for the bill, we both say, almost simultaneously, that Lauren has spoiled us to bad service.

Back at the model, a tough day ends nicely as I get a load of laundry in (with the complementary soap) and 45 minutes of free dryer time when the person ahead of us takes two pool towels out that have already dried.

I now have clean underwear for my rounds tomorrow, which was a worry that I know was on everyone’s mind.

2-4-2 2-2-4 3-2-2 (23)*

3-4-4 4-3-4 3-3-3 OUT (31)
4-3-3 3-4-3 3-3-3 IN (29) 60

Day 7 Tally
Courses 10
New Courses 5
Discs Lost 2
Birdies Carded Today 6
Birdies actually Made 1
Dunkin Donuts Passed in Massachussets 4000
Outstanding Hotel Personnel Met 1
Outstanding Cracker Barrel Personnel Met 0
Money Spent on Washing Machine $1.25
Money Spent on Dryer $0.00