Friday, July 13, 2012

Como Again?

Yesterday the temperature ranged near 90, but there was a nice breeze, and I was able to break free of my work and worries: What better to do than play golf?

We decided to play Como Golf Course, a rather constricted track in St. Paul, Minn. (Par 70, plays 5,581 yards from the middle tees, rating of 67.5 and a slope of 122.) To compound matters, we decided to walk it. (One onlooker was mystified why we wouldn't rent a driver cart. Hey, walking is healthy exercise.)

Now, Como is not flat. In fact, in winter they use (or used) it for skiing. (Wirth Golf Course, a Minneapolis parks course, does the same.) I have to admit, though, there were a couple of holes so steep I was pulling my cart uphill on my tiptoes to get to the next tee. You get a good calf muscle stretch on those.

To get an entire 18 onto the limited area of a city park, the designers had to do a little creative architecture. Tuck a dogleg in here, nip a fairway in a little there. If there's a steep hill on one side, flatten a little at the bottom: maybe someone will land there. Otherwise, let them hit with their feet above the ball.

How steep are they? My shoes were wellworn enough that when I plunked one high up on the hillside I decided to just drop another and let the first one evaporate, because I was afraid I'd slip and fall. (One wet morning a few years back, I spun a driving cart totally around and sailed down one of these slopes backwards, to the accompaniment of a lot of hollering!)

Overall, though, it's a nice course. Water on a few holes, trees edging alongside on others.

A few of the beginning holes run alongside the Como Park Zoo. The lion house overlooks the third green, and I pointed out that zoogoers could gaze at lions on one side and we old goats on the other. Every so often there'd be a roar, and not from any crowds.

Although I had started out only wanting to play nine holes, by the time we were partway through it I was anxious to go the whole way. A nice breeze cooled us down, and hitting the ball well heated us up. It cost us seniors $27 for the full boat. And a good time was had by all.

There is a plethora of elevated tees, and a few elevated greens as well.

If you're ever in St. Paul, take in the Como Zoo, the Arboretum, and Como Golf Course. It's just a few blocks from the state fairgrounds.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

On the Run

As I talked about in my last post, my parents were always too busy to take the family camping. I dreamed constantly of camping and fishing as a 7-year-old back in the central California town of Hanford in 1950. I decided to go by myself, by folly. But I would need a pack, and they weren't the drug on the market they are today. As you can see from this picture from the 1948 Boy Scout Manual,however, it's simple to make something that could pass for a pack, even for a 7-year-old.

I didn't have a "flour or grain sack", but I did have a pillowcase stripped off my bed. Instead of a stone put in the corners to tie the string to, I employed marbles. I jammed in a blanket, some clothes, some matches, and I was ready to go camp.

On my way out of town, though, I realized I would need some food. So I stopped at the law office my mother worked at and asked her for some money.

"What do you need money for?" she said.

"I want to go fishing, and I need some food."

"Fishing." She took one look at my improvised pack and ordered me to go right home and go to my room.

The pillowcase returned to its place of honor on my bed, the blanket as well, clothes in the dresser, and matches back in the kitchen. I was grounded without dinner for my efforts.

Cycle forward to 1973. My father, a heavy smoker, was dying of lung cancer. The doctors in those days didn't tell the patient how sick they were, but they told close relatives. In our family, I was the only one who knew how sick he was.

Dad had been ill with a "cold" for four months. One day, my father asked me outright if he would get better. I felt he deserved the truth, and halting, I said no.

He looked at me with sad, tired eyes, and said softly "I just wish we had gone fishing more."

The next day he was gone, dead at age 56.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Packing it in

video
Today, of course, backpacks are a drug on the market. The late summer L.L. Bean catalog sported 13 pages of various choices out of 52 pages. One wall of a department store aisle had those colorful versions shown above.

 Growing up in the late 1940s in Hanford, Calif., though, the only choice a child had for a pack was afull-sized WWII Army surplus green one, or some sort of canvas rucksack. As a 7-year-old, I didn't have the money or the physique for such an esoteric piece of equipment. 

And I wanted one badly. Somehow I had been infected with the fishing and camping bug, possibly because I had joined the Cub Scouts and garnered a 1948 Boy Scout Manual somewhere. I dreamed about going fishing, and the only nearby water of any size was the King's River.

Dad, a veteran of the war, wasn't very interested in the outdoors. So, since I couldn't talk my parents into taking me, my brother and sister I camping and/or fishing, I decided to take matters into my own grubby little fists.

On page 147 of the Manual it had a solution to my packlessness: a way to make a pack out of a sack or, in my case, a pillow case.
(To be continued.)

Thursday, July 05, 2012

I'm not lichen it

My last post was four months ago.

Since then, I had:
  • A second cataract operation to remove the scrap of cataract remaining from the first operation. When the VA physicians realized this scrap remained in the eye, they rescheduled this operation within a week or two of the first. (Additional note: because it was a mistake, they didn't charge me for this or all the followup visits for six months. That's what I was told, but haven't verified they've removed those charges as of 7/4/2012.)
  • A herpes infection of the eye that left me driving--at night--with one teary eye and a patch over the other.
  • Twice or more weekly visits to the VA hospital to check on my eyes.
  • Then I had some sort of rash on my left knee that turned out to be lichen planus. Lichen, as in moss! I guess I'm not enough of a rolling stone. But, as my friend D.R. pointed out, at least I can look at my knee and know which direction north is. So that requires a daily coat of ointment.
My eye still stings a little, and I have to keep putting drops in it, but the last time I had it checked, the vision was 20/30. Of course, the plastic lens they put in doesn't let me focus closely, so reading a book can be a task.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

A Chrome Headlight

To protect the newly decataracted eye on my Bell's Palsy side, they put in a chrome eyepatch. I only have to wear it at night for a week, while avoiding lifting anything over 10 pounds. I also can't bend so my head is below my waist, sneeze or cough too hard, sleep on that side, etc., etc.

Although I have a slight inflammation, my eyesight on that eye the day following the surgery was 20/70. That compares to my right eye, which is 20/20. It also compares to very poor vision before the surgery.

For instance, I could barely make out the E on the eyechart before the surgery. Today I could read down as far as the 4th line.

When the inflammation disappears, my vision might be as good as 20/20 in both, although I'll have to read with glasses, Before, I only wore glasses to drive.

Since I want to travel, I suppose I'll need my eyesight.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Cataract Surgery Coming Up
My left eye is scheduled for surgery at the Minneapolis VA on the 29th of Feb. The rest of me will have to follow along.

I didn't realize anything was wrong until I had an exam in Dec. 2011. The pressure inside the eye was building up, and the doctor used a laser to cut a slit in the iris. When I went back for a check two weeks later, they had already healed. Good news that I heal so fast, bad news because that meant the pressure would build up. That's when the head of the department unequivocally said I needed cataract surgery.

I don't know whether this had anything to do with the Bell's Palsy I had in 2005. It's on the same side of my face, and gradually I've begun to have trouble reading. I have to hold books or stories within a few inches. At night, all lights begin to look double. It's hard to gauge distances.

Friends tell me the cataract surgery will work wonders, that I'll be able to see sharper than I have in years. I'll tell you whether that's true.
Progressive RV Show at Minneapolis Convention Center
Another show attended, another $20 + $9 parking + $6.50 for one beer gone. I am interested in taking a look at the Airstream, and that's why I attended with mom. I pushed her around in a wheelchair until we found the Airstreams, and then she clambered in and out of ones from 19. to 30, from $30K ti $90.

There were a lot of people kicking tires, but only one company selling A/S. After one tour through the perimeter of the show, we called it a day. I wouldn't have bought a beer, but I had to break a bill to be able to pay the parking. The Summit was good, though.

I didn't see anything really new, although one trailer had a sort of Art Deco feel, with rounded corners. Nothing special for golfers, that's sure.

I selected A/S after owning two Prowlers. After only a few years, they started coming apart at the seams. Those sharp edges stripped the screws right out, and the paint jobs got very dull. After 20 years, they were worth almost nothing. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

Friday, January 20, 2012


Last April: After 35 years, I finally realized a problem in my swing (only one?). I was set to go out on Tuesday at GolfTodayMagazine‘s tournament in Napa, Calif. at Eagle Vines golf club, so decided to hit a few balls at the range.

For 10 years I’ve had a pad of faceplate-shaped carbon-paper adhesive sheets called LongShot Maximum Distance System that you put on the faceplate of the club matching the sweetspot and grooves. It was a lazy day, so I decided to try them again. I’ve usually only used one faceplate and didn’t really learn much. This day, however, I settled down to really try to plumb my swing.

When you hit a ball, the impact of ball against face leaves an impression of the dimple pattern in the carbon-paper sheet (illustrated at right) so you can see where on the club you’re hitting the ball. Obviously, you want to hit it right in the sweet spot. If you’re always up, down, left or right, you can adjust your swing. These are impact recorders, in short.

Is this a clue to consistent shots?

I suddenly realized my pattern was toward the hosel side of the club…every shot. I was standing too close to the ball! So I started to move back. I put the club on the ground, then adjusted my stance so the handle was against my leg, then moved back so I could put my fist between leg and handle. I used up five faceplates worth, but by the time I was done experimenting, I was hitting on the sweet spot and the ball was consistent and straight. Well, sorta straight.

It was such an exciting development, I had to share it.

See ya. Lemme at the course.

(Added 1/20/2012): It was a good idea, and I did hit a few shots better, but I really need to get out a lot more.