Monday, December 5, 2016

Jake Trout And The Flounders - "I'm On 18" (1998)

Where in the world is Peter Jacobsen?

John Daly - "I Hit It Hard" (2010)

The ball or the bottle?

Reading The Greens

Photo by Charles PTown
After many unsuccessful attempts at breaking the under-30 barrier, I finally posted a magic number at the Putt-Putt Golf & Games location adjacent to Military Circle Mall in Norfolk. The 7-under-par round of 29 was achieved on a moistened track caused by the previous night's steady rainfall. Leafy debris and strong winds measuring 25-30 mph on the Don Slater Scale also contributed to the difficulty. Regaining composure, I registered only two bogeys in follow-up scores of 34 and 33. The 54-hole total of 96 (12-under par) also set a career mark on that historic afternoon in early 2000.

Six weeks later, I bettered the initial record by one stroke on the same course facing Virginia Beach Blvd. The 28 was made possible with a lucky bank off the back rail that cupped for an 18th-hole ace. I exchanged numerous high-fives with the family of five who had kindly let me play ahead of them. Never again would I match these accomplishments, for the Putt-Putt franchise decided to abandon its three Tidewater Virginia spots without so much as a thunderstorm warning from its famed Buster Ball mascot. Since I only adhered to the standards set by the Professional Putters of America (PPA) on official layouts, my miniature golf era came to an abrupt end. No more conversations with fellow enthusiast Keith while he refreshed his Thermos with vodka and Diet Dr. Pepper. No more dreams of moving into a house directly across the street from Aragona Village's convenient setup. No more losing ten-shot leads via one-hole playoffs in tourneys. No more challenging employees to try their hands at impossible-to-ace maze holes within striking distance from the VB Oceanfront. No more penciling the alter-ego John Daly, Jr. on countless scorecards. Like a dusty relic in a forgotten museum, my once-trusty putter sat untouched in a dark closet corner for nearly fifteen years.

While checking out yet another 30-count CD stack from Chesapeake Central Library's phenomenal music inventory, I took note of a curious flyer for the Chesapeake Masters event that would be held on said premises come March 12, 2016. Quoting the leaflet: "A challenging 18-hole indoor golf tournament benefiting the Smart Start Chesapeake Early Literacy Project ... which funds 2,500 literacy programs for 50,000 kids in Chesapeake." Rather than participating in the main fundraiser replete with an impressive cast of Chesapeake-linked celebrities, I opted for an earlier open-play exhibition amongst unknown duffers accompanied by their guardian caddies. Despite terminal delays brought upon by dozens of dipsticks lacking proper etiquette and forbidding smaller groups to skip ahead in line, I managed to squeeze four competitive rounds and one practice session in the allotted frame. Did I retain enough course knowledge from my stint at the Military Circle complex to make a serious run at a green book jacket and raise my arms in a 21-putt salute? Was my bad judgment and worse behavior more embarrassing than John Daly's freakish trousers? Did I go AWOL in Aragona Village courtesy of a "rented" bookmobile? It's time to tee off.

The opening chapter's front nine stained its pages with four unforgivable bogeys amid routine pars. A deceptively benign butterfly-and-flower arrangement should've attracted sweet chirps from beautiful birdies, but the trash created by repeated misreads made unexpected meals for hungry vultures. The surveyor loop measured its gimme putt several inches too far. Bowling pins strewn about the surface yielded multiple open frames. Owls on logs disturbed the calmness by wildly hooting during ball strikes. Holes 10-18 were far more forgiving. An upstairs-to-downstairs lane gifted aces to all contestants. Green shamrocks and wrapped candies treated would-be Rory McIlroys to red figures. Creepy zombies greeted Arnold Palmer's ghost after a Pennzoil-embossed orb quickly went into hiding. The ace down an oval stretch rounded out a respectable two-over score of 64.

Taking a break at the water fountain, I envisioned going lower in the final 54 holes. The double-bogey on #9 had been the only instance close to a disastrous blowup. If I could somehow tame the owls, perhaps I'd have a decent chance to fire an under-60 round. Withdrawing immediately from the Chesapeake Masters would've been the wisest move. Respective marks of 74, 70 and 67 translated into the salty tongue of 25-over par. Those damn hooters were solely responsible for an out-of-bounds stroke that shoved an egregious eight into the narrow potty mouth. An unsecured railing on the rubber-duck perch sent two balls off the grid for terrible triples. The four-aisle hole with a (Great) bridge lift stalled traffic for inches and nixed every attempted crossing. Once-friendly glamour bears morphed into Jack Nicklaus looking for golden hash browns at an empty buffet table. Among the few highlights in the latter stages were "sparing" the bowling section, tucking tough pars into the T-shirt area and breaking into the gated community through the unlocked slither.

My results in Chesapeake might've mirrored the Mark Twain rub about golf being "a good walk spoiled," but I'm already awaiting the announcement for next year's gathering. Should I erupt into a series of John Daly-esque tirades, it won't necessarily be to my detriment. Bad sports are often the stuff of great literature.

Monday, January 4, 2016

The Dead Weather - "I Can't Hear You" (2010)

"Gossip Girl" didn't bring me here.

Russ Ballard - "I Can't Hear You No More" (1984)

 A favorite from one of Don Johnson's mixed tapes.

Hear And Now

When my brother Mike and I were on the Applebee's extended jaunt earlier this year, we would often stop into the Main Street eatery for heated trivia competitions, lively conversations with engaging barkeeps, sports coverage on multiple TV screens and half-priced appetizers. One particular date on our May schedule concerned the 2015 NFL Draft. As we piloted Mike's 1997 Honda Civic tour vehicle towards the Suffolk-based venue, a drummer friend contacted me on a recently acquired cellphone in hopes of sharing the stage with us. We agreed to meet Hoyt at the nearby Starbucks for a pre-gig jolt of iced coffee. Minutes after ending the brief call, my left ear became painfully clogged. This uncomfortable situation had been the result of foolishly jamming an index finger deeply into the already-obstructed canal. Upon exiting the Civic, both my hearing and equilibrium were seriously affected to the point of considering a double-back to Sentara Obici Hospital. Strangely, I still wanted to partner with Mike and Hoyt for trivia night and see early stages of the draft's first round. After several steps in the parking lot, however, any chance of another $25 gift-card trophy was suddenly squashed. Apologizing to Hoyt for stunting his beat, I proceeded to strike the snare for an answer to my real-life quandary.

Rather than needlessly spending hundreds of dollars on a medical bill, Mike suggested that I purchase a Walgreens Ear Wax Removal Kit for $6.99 plus tax. He had suffered from the same buildup several years ago and had used the treatment to swiftly eradicate the irritation. Since repeated yawning and excessive pounding on my right temple failed to remove any gunk, I grabbed the green box and proceeded to the cash register. As I swiped the debit card through the machine, doubts of the product's effectiveness began occupying my thoughts. Was my problem more severe than simple congestion? Did the makeshift Q-tip instantly trigger permanent loss? Would I have to undergo surgery from the professionals at Obici? Why wasn't I able to get free coffee refills in the café of said hospital? "Do you have a Rewards Card?" posed the pale redhead behind the counter. "Yes, I am a member, but I don't have physical representation of it," was my slightly haughty retort. Entering ten digits into the keypad revealed a code for an ineligible discount. "Be well," wished the drugstore darling with an Equal packet-like earnestness. Bag in hand, I prepped myself for a home-based procedure that would commence around the same time as Tampa Bay's choice of their franchise quarterback.

Under center, Mike directed me to sit down on a shoddy chair and tilt my head sideways. Gently squeezing the bottle, he placed roughly ten drops of liquid into the damaged ear. Per directions on the box, cotton was listed as an alternative to keep peroxide from seeping out of the canal. I readily nixed that idea and kept my noggin in the awkward position. As I barely heard Roger Goodell mention Jameis Winston's name at the lectern, the "It gets worse before it gets better" rub became fully realized. "THANK YOU, MIKE, FOR DUMPING THE ENTIRE NANSEMOND RIVER INTO MY LEFT EAR!!!" was what I screamed while silently playing the role of an agreeable patient. Sure, I had experienced water-related issues brought upon by showering and swimming in the past, but having an ear purposely irrigated was a different deal altogether. Once the tidal movement ceased, I was led to a bathroom sink where Mike filled the provided washer bulb with warm H2O. Flushing out the waxy contents sparked a magic "POP!" My hearing was completely restored, and I couldn't thank Mike enough for his skillful syringing. The celebration was curbed, though, when he recommended that I treat my right ear with the kit. Grudgingly, I gave Mike the go-ahead to start another round of therapy. There was less of a wall to shatter this time, so the canal accepted more peroxide into its depths. Any future benefits of preventive maintenance were temporarily nullified by my current squeamishness. Post-extraction, however, I felt more refreshed than a wireless mouse perpetually clicking on the appropriate icon. Walgreens Ear Wax Removal Kit is suitable software for an auditory reboot.

It's December 28, 2015, and an index finger is retrieving wax from my left ear. You can scold me for doing so, but I've heard it all before.