Sunday, January 31, 2010

A Shot in the Dark

I don't know why I bother. I craft carefully written, insightful and funny emails, then send them to women on, only to have the emails ignored. I grant that if women must only date men who have full heads of hair, then I am liable to remain single. However, since I have actually dated women, most of them attractive and at least one vaguely sane, and they were comfortable with my head's hairlessness, perhaps there is a prejudice among women, an anti-hirsute bias that should be investigated. Perhaps wearing a wig in my Match profile would at least generate a response. Of course, I can give women plenty of reasons to dislike me, once they get to know me, but ... in other words, fine, go ahead, reject me, but don't reject my words.

As my friend Eric, the genius behind the excellent golf blog The Second Golfer, suggests, perhaps is not the path that I should follow, not when
a singing yogurt girl is only a 250-yard drive away.

I watched Phil choke so hard on putts today that I suspected him of subliminally empathizing with me. Thanks for the love, Phil, but I'd rather you make the putts
... and use whichever fucking wedges you want.

I added to Exit Wound and tomorrow will hit the 200-page mark.

So I have that going for me.

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Saturday, January 30, 2010

Night Golf

No good can come from realizing that you have played six consecutive rounds of golf with the same golf ball. The degree of self-satisfaction that this realization creates will likely be erased soon thereafter, in my case by losing three balls into the same pond.

I decided to check out Westchester Golf Course, likely the country's only 15-hole track, because of its oddly truncated routing and because it has night golf. The course was worth a try for novelty's sake. I made bogey on the first, then, after playing it safe by hitting a 7-iron short of the water on the second, keplunked three in a row into the drink. 7, wedge, wedge. Ah, the benefits of a proficient short game.

Other than that, however, I played very well, despite not dropping any putts. I had five or six shots that were among the best I've ever hit: A pitch from 60 yards to six feet; a wedge over a very tall palm tree to 20 feet; a chip from 60 feet to six inches; a putt from 63 feet to one foot. But the shot of the day, and maybe of my life, was a 7-iron on the 13th from 155 yards to 10 inches. I knew it was nearly perfect when I hit it, then we watched it cut through the dark towards the lighted green, landing four feet past, then backing up to kick-in distance. It was my only birdie but was nearly better than that.

The course will open three additional holes on February 19, so this was likely my only chance to play a par-51 course. It was a decent test, and the greens held so well that every single approach (not including chips) bounced backward, stopping behind its pitch mark. Another oddity (other than the planes endlessly roaring overhead—LAX's control tower is in view from many of the holes) was the fact that the 15th is a par 3 that plays 220 yards, with a gaping bunker left and a grass bunker right. Playing it in the dark, with the distant green eerily lighted, is tough; the fact that it is the Number 5 handicap hole is absurd.

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Friday, January 29, 2010

A Different Path

Before I went to the dentist, hoping not to have a root canal (the jury's still out), I hit The Lakes at El Segundo again. Unlike the other day, when nearly every meaningful putt fell, this round not a single putt of more than three feet fell. I lipped out on the first, lipped out on the five-foot birdie putt on the second, and then I lost confidence that I was reading the greens well. I overplayed every break.

I hit the ball better this round, even attempting to go for the green on both par 4s (with mixed results: I was boxed in under a tree, resulting in a double on the 4th but found a path to the pin on the 9th, which I parred). The course played totally different, since the tee boxes were way up (where I hit a 4 iron the other day, I hit a 7 today), and all in all, it is a great challenge. One of the holes is so short—but demands a touch shot that must negotiate bunkers like moats on either side of the green—that it presents the opportunity to practice tricky shots that are difficult to practice elsewhere. I like the course.

And I like the fact that I read more of the how-to-publish book, submitted one of my racy stories to a publisher of erotica, then added 775 words to Exit Wound. I even resolved a plot issue that I didn't even know needed resolving. Voila!

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

A Dub

While having coffee this morning at ING Direct, an online bank that has a few cafes, one of which is eight blocks from here, I spoke with an employee who told me that the company is hiring. So when I got home, I touched up my resume, then sent it off. The system did not allow for a cover letter, which I would have preferred, because in it I could have stated how the employee, who would likely be my boss, thought I'd be great at the job. As a whole, the application process felt very mechanical, but, hell, if I can't get an interview to do flippin' phone sales, I may as well pack things in.

Which is kind of what I did today, anyway, after having made decent progress the last couple days. But I NEEDED to laugh, so I watched Thursday night comedies, then cried while watching Celebrity Rehab. The celebs got to work out their anger by beating the shit out of objects in a junk yard. It looked highly therapeutic.

Before watching Celebrity Rehab, I walked down the street to get some frozen yogurt from the place on the corner. The young, attractive brunette at the counter threw me just enough of a look, then a flattering line, so I wondered a bit. I went back after the show for a second helping of yogurt (cappuccino the first time, French vanilla the second), and as I paid, she asked if I'd like a song. Sure, I said, so she stands there, looking me dead in the eye and sings "Bring on the Men" from Jekyll and Hyde (I think that was the show; I'll admit that the whole scenario seemed surreal). So at this point I'm pretty sure she's flirting (and by the way, she was a very good singer), except that she prefaced the song with the comment, "This is one I sing for older guys. Older men." So she was either bucking for a big tip or she has daddy issues. Either way, I'm intrigued.

The only golf for today was reading a little of Harvey and watching a little of Phil at Torrey, which means two days in a row have passed without me contacting a ball with a club.

And I didn't work on Exit Wound, even though I pulled it up and intended to. But perhaps today was a day meant for frozen yogurt and its consequences.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Baby Steps

The two hours I spent sending queries ultimately proved to be futile, either
because the magazines weren't interested in the Kauai pitch or because the emails wouldn't even go through.

But there was a positive development: The editor of Orange Coast Magazine, Martin J. Smith, also happens to have written three novels and published other books. In a couple back-and-forths, he gave some good suggestions about how to try to promote my book of short stories and gave me some perspective on Exit Wound. I just ordered his first novel from Who knows, maybe he'd be willing to give Exit Wound a read when I've finished it. And, to that end, I passed the 40,000-word mark tonight, approaching the 200th page (though I'm sure that if it was printed in Times, rather than in Courier, it would be closer to 160).

And, in the name of striking while the iron is cold, I sent off 18 of my columns as samples, hoping that the syndication possibility that went nowhere last year goes somewhere this year. And I completed the introductory exercises in The Shortest Distance between You and a Published Book. I think I'm going to go with the title: America & Me, since it allows for a lot more free camping options.

Although I did not practice golf today, I did walk about five miles, and I will now do the slow-swing drill that Harvey Penick recommends to groove one's swing by teaching muscle memory. Then I will likely collapse, because I was awakened early this morning (after having gone to bed very late) by an elderly woman trying to reach Robert Sean Leonard, because she saw him on tv and wanted to congratulate him on his show. The fact that she does not know him, the fact that his show, House, has been on for about seven years and the fact that my name is not Robert and, therefore, should never have been given to the lady requesting the number for Robert Sean Leonard all were irrelevant to the woman. As was the fact that she woke me.
It proved to be a productive day anyway. But I'm turning my ringer off tonight, just in case she wants to congratulate Sugar Ray Leonard on his Olympic medal.

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010


I spent nearly two hours today in Borders researching travel books, then copying contact info from magazine mastheads so that I could submit queries about the upcoming golfing excursion on Kauai. I then came home and spent another hour pitching those magazines, then another hour trying once again to figure out how best to syndicate my adventure columns.

Between doing the research, seeing if any of the numerous businesses in the fancy El Segundo complex were hiring and sending the queries, I did two things: Began to read The Shortest Distance Between You and a Published Book, and played nine holes on an executive course called The Lakes at El Segundo.

I had begun to read the book long ago, before I abandoned the idea of hitting the road to pursue the Wal-Mart book, and I had played the course once long ago, during a "leisure Olympics," and I was not impressed at the time. I was, however, today. Very impressed. It is so much more impressive than the Rancho 3 Par course. The Lakes incorporates actual design elements, features elevation changes and demands challenges of golfers that the Rancho course doesn't even aspire to, let alone deliver. The huge greens, unlike the specks on baby Rancho, could make for wildly varied rounds, depending on pin placement.
And the course has a ridiculous and fantastic policy: If you're an El Segundo resident, you can play unlimited golf on weekdays for a grand total of $35 a month. Amazing.

It helps, of course, that I stated par, birdie, par. I stuck my wedge shot on the second hole to 4 feet from 112 yards. The rain began falling pretty hard while I was playing the second hole, but the wet condition really only affected one shot, when I slipped hitting a 4-iron on the third. But I parred it anyway. I came down to earth a bit, but loved the large greens, the undulating fairways and having the course to myself, playing in the rain, feeling okay for a while. I even got to hit the big dog on the last, depositing my drive pin high, but in the rough, on the 261-yard 9th.

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Monday, January 25, 2010

The Darkness

The darkness overtook me today. The morning started out well enough, but then I went to pay my bills, and the reality of my financial situation hit me full force. I started to feel nauseated, then fought back tears, because it felt as though my life has been a series of miscalculations, of decisions botched, of opportunities squandered, of loves lost.

The prospect of finally surrendering, of declaring bankruptcy, selling nearly all of my possessions, then becoming a full-time RVer (a homeless person with a ride) started to make sense. I never wrote the book that people seemed to respond to: Wal-Mart and Me: A Year on the Road Rent-free, and maybe it's time—especially in this economy, and because it would not be a stunt but a necessity—to pursue this one. I have not really believed in some of the other book ideas I've had, recoiling from the prospect of wading into them for such long stretches, since belief in the project is something that must not waver. But perhaps it's time to get behind this one. If I had no credit card bills, no utility bills and no rent—but also no place to call home—would life be easier?

To try to pull myself up out of the darkness, I headed to the driving range, where I hit 52 balls, half of them wedges, and half of those sculls. But then I found my swing and delivered a series of solid shots, while "playing" Malibu Country Club in my mind. Driver-5-iron on the first hole. Driver-7-iron-wedge on the second, etc. It was fun, and I felt pretty good for a while. Then I even putted well for 15 minutes. And I figured out on the range that by putting the ball farther forward in my stance while hitting my full shots, then forward pressing, I struck the ball more sharply and more consistently.

So that I didn't continue to feel like shit once I returned home, I decided I must write, so I added 800 words to Exit Wound. I realized afterward that many of them were garbage and that I'd have to redo the scene later, but I felt good while writing, and I suppose that is at least one of the benefits of the pursuit.

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Sunday, January 24, 2010

A Less-Great Day

Woke early and decided to head for the 3-Par course before the football started. My mistake, never to be repeated, was trying to play golf without having first had my coffee. At least that's my excuse for shooting my worst round ever on that course, 13-flippin-over on a course I just missed shooting par on a couple weeks ago, one on which I shot no worse than four-over on for five consecutive rounds. I only made two pars today and only hit about four good shots.

However, instead of despairing (at least over that), I take heart in the fact that the pro Shane Bertsch shot a 62 the other day in the Hope, only to follow it up three days later with a 77. So I am not alone in my inconsistency. Though I'd like someday to be so inconsistent as to shoot a 62.

I did not add to Exit Wound today, and I feel bad for not having done so, but I blobbed out a National Parks column, so the day wasn't a total wash.

I should have sent emails to women on, but I buckled there, too. With my horrendous track record on that front, however, my ambivalence is understandable.
At least it is right now.

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Saturday, January 23, 2010

A Great Day

Determined not to let the bizarre blackballing by Google's AdSense throw me, I set out to have a great day today, and all indications are that I succeeded.

I pulled my lovable-but-battered van-conversion RV into the Rancho Park parking lot, practiced my putting for an hour, wrote a short column in the van about Wind Cave National Park, practiced chipping with my new 60-degree wedge, hit 20 balls (man, do I love the Nike VR Hybrid #3), putted some more, then headed home to watch a few minutes of the Hope.

Then I turned a good day into a great day by spending two hours adding 1250 words to Exit Wound (some of them are even readable).

I received an email yesterday from Malibu Country Club about a Valentine's Day golfing/rapid dating/dinner event. It sounds like a perfect piece to the puzzle I'm carefully putting together. Fingers crossed.

As important as improving my golf game and meeting that certain someone are to me, however, the key to my happiness and success is writing, and so I am happier and more successful today than I was before I started this endeavor. My plan, therefore, is working.

Ol' Rudyard Kipling knew the score when he said:

"Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind."

Especially if those words are whispered by that special someone.

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Friday, January 22, 2010

Seeing It Coming

The golf excursion to the California desert proved to be semi-disastrous, since the rain did not let up, and I cut the trip short. I did, however, get to walk nine holes of the Nicklaus Private Course at PGA West, during the Bob Hope Classic, with Scott Martin and the player for whom he caddies, Richard S. Johnson. It was a good time, and hanging out with Scott could not have gone better—he is likely the nicest person I've ever known. But then again, he's Canadian, so being nice goes with the territory. The Yukon, I believe.

On an entirely different front (and more in keeping with the cursed-karma theme of last year), my van's windshield wipers broke in the middle of the downpour, and I had to drive half-blind through pools of water to find a mechanic, who managed only to half screw me. Then, since I would not be playing golf due to the courses' soggy conditions, I decided to head home, only to make it about 23 miles before deciding to spend the night in the Morongo Casino Resort parking lot. It was a good decision, since the freeway was a wind-swept, water-logged, truck-laden nightmare. I slept well.

But just a minute ago, after having baked one of the most delicious loaves of bread in the history of man (take that, Emeril!), I received an email from Google AdSense saying that it was pulling my blog's ads because somehow my ads posed a danger to its advertisers. By that, I'm certain, they mean that they were going to have to pay me something, as the minutia-filled contract specified. I did not once click on any of the ads (abiding by my side of the contract), even to see which sites the ads linked to. Alas, I should have seen this coming, though.

And yet I could just be out of sorts because I haven't played golf or practiced in three days. Or, for that matter, written. I hope to rectify these shortcomings tomorrow.

As for the AdSense bullshit, who knows?

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

On Tour

I'm excited because early tomorrow I'll be heading out to the Palm Springs
area to attend the Bob Hope Classic. My friend, Scott Martin, who now caddies for PGA Tour pro Richard S. Johnson, is giving me a tournament pass, so I'll attend as many days of the five-day tournament as I can, while fitting in at least two, and preferably three, rounds of golf (on Tahquitz and the Classic Club, at a minimum), maybe going cross-country skiing at the top of the tram and perhaps going hiking.

The catch, however, is that a series of severe storms has hit Southern California and will continue to do so for the rest of the week. But, since I'm a writer of an adventure column, I should be able to make something funny out of disaster, should it come to that. Though I'd prefer birdies and pars.

I gave my father my old hybrid, Cobra putter and 60-degree wedge, so I've committed to my new equipment. To that end, I chipped 6o balls with my Mizuno 60 degree and really liked the results. Then I putted for the first time with my Nike Method putter with the new very-thick handle I had put on it, and the first few rolls worried the hell out of me, since my putts were far too long, and those that weren't long, I pulled severely. I managed, however, to figure things out, though, then sunk three putts of more than 20 feet in the next few minutes. So I'm feeling good on that front.

And now I must pack for my trip.

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Monday, January 18, 2010


After having a solid day yesterday—hitting balls, doing yoga, adding to Exit Wound—today I choked. I fully intended to have a great day, to work for two hours on the RTJ Golf Trail story, to add to Exit Wound for two hours, to try to build my website for two hours and to write queries or submit stories to contests for two hours. Then I intended to exercise and find time for some golf practice.

All I managed to do, however, was plan my trip to Palm Springs, a trip that will likely be a bust, since it's storming non-stop now, then admit that my back, which has been bugging me for two weeks, had become debilitating, so I went down the street to a new massage place. The massage was good and inexpensive, but I was so wiped out afterward that I had to take a nap. And the day and night slipped away, as I watched bad television, hoping to find a laugh somewhere, or something inspirational.

On the last front, I suppose I did. I watched an episode of Intervention, and I reminded myself that my life has been a lot worse than it is now. In March, I will have 11 years of sobriety, and each and every one of my drunken years was miserable.

So the positive spin that I choose to put on this off day (one in which I watched the Golf Channel and picked up a tip or two ... so it wasn't all wasted) is that I have lived through far worse, so, empirically, life can get better.

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Sunday, January 17, 2010

If at First

In a slight drizzle but protected by the upper deck of the driving range, I hit 22 balls today: a couple with one of the new Mizuno wedges, 10 with the new Nike VR Hybrid #3 and 10 with the Taylor-Made R9, which I adjusted with the wrench for the first time. The wedge shots felt good, eight of the 10 hybrid shots were good to excellent (and the two misses were still okay), but the shots with the driver made me want to abandon the club and stick with my Cleveland. Next time perhaps I'll try a complete bucket with the R9, so that my decision won't be rash, but ...

Then, on the way home, I had a much thicker grip put onto my new Nike Method putter, then I practiced rolling some on the indoor putting green in Roger Dunn's. We'll see if I made the right decision, but in that fake environment, my long putts were consistently very good.

I had really, really hoped to come home from the range to spend a few hours completing my story about the Robert Trent Jones Golf Tail in Alabama. I took the trip many months ago, and I should have banged out the story soon after my return home. But now I think I'm procrastinating because, as I write this, the RTJ Golf Trail story may actually be the very last feature I write. I simply do not have a single assignment in the works, other than columns. I have a couple queries out, but the editors to whom I sent those are not even likely to respond, based on their track records, let alone likely to assign me the stories. So, after producing many hundreds of articles over the last 22 years, I may be procrastinating over this story because it represents the end of my career. Or, of course, I could just be procrastinating.

And with the way I hit the ball today, I'm not likely to make the Champions Tour when I turn 50.

I need a big break, or four. Playboy saying yes to one of my short stories would be a good start.

A quote I received via email this morning: All glory comes from daring to begin.

And, in the case of Exit Wound, to continue. And so now I will wade back in.

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Saturday, January 16, 2010


After drinking coffee and reading the paper, I decided to spend an hour practicing, so I bought a warm-up bucket (20 balls), practiced putting first with my new Nike Method putter (I putted well, though I'm not sure I'm as good as I was with the Cobra), then took a few warm-up swings before I broke out the Victory Red Hybrid #3 for the first time.

Like my Warrior hybrid, it is severely pronated, so I have to play it way back in my stance so that I don't wildly hook it. But the contact seemed very good, and the balls I hit straight seemed to be 200 yards or more. I'll have to hit a small bucked just with that club to see if I can tame the shots.

Then there's the TaylorMade R9. I know it's supposed to be a far better club than my Cleveland driver, and I know the pros use it and a whole lot of other people do. But I have to play it so far back in my stance for me even to have any hope of not hooking it that it feels awkward. I think it's time to tinker with the adjustments. If I set it towards the slice position, then set the ball more forward, perhaps that will allow me to feel comfortable in my stance, then deliver straight drives. Otherwise, it's a good, expensive club that serves no purpose.

I wrote the golf-equipment round-up story, a total of 650 words. I really hope I get more than a token $100 for it.

I also think it's time to tinker with the new Mizuno wedges. I think the lofts are goofy, but the clubs feature the latest technology, so I should see if they benefit me. If I replace my traditional sand wedge with the 60 degree, I can put the 54 in my bag and keep the wedge I'm already comfortable and fairly proficient with. Though maybe I should check the loft on that so I know what I'm talking about.

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Friday, January 15, 2010

That's Golf

After my therapy appointment today I thought I'd calm the swirling thoughts in my head by playing nine holes at the Rancho 3 Par. Bad idea, as it turned out. On the course that I nearly parred two days ago, I could not find a single green in regulation, could not make a putt and could not quiet my thoughts. I was 10 over.

Discombobulated and not wanting to leave on that note (particularly after using my new Nike Method putter to little effect), I told the starter that I'd like to go around again, since my round was not nearly what I had hoped it would be. He said knowingly and with the appropriate amount of sympathy in his voice, "That's golf." I paid my $7.50 (on Fridays, the price jumps 50 cents), then tried to put that first round behind me.

I missed a four-foot par putt on the first and a two-foot par putt on the second (should have pulled the pin and acted as though the shot mattered), but other than that, I played much, much better, hitting four greens this time, being pin high four other times, making the rest of the putts from reasonably makeable distances and effectively erasing the frustrations of the first round.

Calm the head, and the body will follow. And I think that the converse can also be true.

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Thursday, January 14, 2010


Compared to creating a golf-related website, golfing is simple. The game is impossible to master, but at least it's intuitive: hit the ball towards the hole. Creating a website, however (at least as I attempted this task tonight for nearly three and a half hours) is nowhere near intuitive and, in fact, may prove far more difficult for me to do than to become a scratch golfer.

Towards this latter end, I played a nine-hole golf course I've never played before, Penmar. I asked the starter if a single could go out, and he said, "Yeah, you're on the tee." Racing to the first tee without having putted, stretched, warmed up, affixed the various braces that I wear or mentally prepared myself to find the zen inherent in the game did not give me much confidence as I addressed the ball. I hit the drive a bit left, but hard and far, and, well, perhaps I should race and not be ready more often.

I parred the first, birdied the second, parred the third and nearly drove the green, 270 yards from the tee, on the fourth. I was 10 feet off the green, and I said to myself, I can't believe this, but I'm about to start par, birdie, par, birdie, at worst, since I could possibly make this eagle chip. The lesson for the day, of course, is: One shot at a time, without considering significance, consequence or score. I left the 7-iron chip 15 feet short, blew the angry putt four feet past, then missed the comebacker. From eagle to bogey in three easy steps. I parred the next, however, and was even par through 5.

Then I came down to Earth a bit, bogeying the last four. But here's how I'm choosing to look at things: Over the course of the last 18 holes I've played, including the Rancho 3-Par and Penmar, I'm only 5 over. Not bad at all for a guy who had trouble breaking 100 throughout 2009.

If, however, the creation of the website, Golf As Therapy, continues to drain me as tonight's effort has, I may have to seek professional assistance.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

... but no cigar

The new putter and hybrid that Nike is sending me were supposed to arrive today, but, surprise, surprise, they never arrived. So after waiting around, rewriting the beginning of my story on Alabama's Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail and making plans to attend the Bob Hope Classic next week in the Palm Springs area, I decided I would practice my chipping and putting. When I arrived at the Rancho 3 Par, though, the chipping green was closed, so I decided to play nine holes, instead.

And oh how close I came to glory. Had the 20-foot putt on No. 7 not come out of the hole after dipping halfway in, or if the chip on the ninth had gone six inches farther, I'd have shot an even par. Had both of these things happened, I would have broken par.

And, of course, had I not stupidly decided to try a Texas wedge on the third (a shot I never use ... for good reason, apparently) and instead had hit the 7-iron chip shot that delivered two tap-ins on other holes today, I could have been a contenda, instead of a bandy-legged ... never mind.

With the exception of one shot, I struck the ball purely today, chipped it very well and putted just as well. If I had assessed the severity of the wind better, I would have easily broken par, since twice I hit exactly the shot I wanted but came up far short, forcing chips from the rough instead of easy putts.

All in all, though, the round felt great, partly because I almost managed to achieve a zen-state, slowly walking between shots, reminding myself that there is no score, only the next shot. And it worked, since I would not have guessed a year ago, as I nursed a broken arm, that I could flirt with par, even on such a rinky-dink course. But there it is—a new year, a new game.

And now it would be great if I could add some new words to Exit Wound.

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

At the Turn

Although my intention was to practice golf in some form every day, I only technically met that objective today by making a few strokes with my putter, sans a ball, and then practicing my chipping motion in my bedroom with one of the Mizuno wedges from which I have not yet removed the plastic wrap.

I did learn at a cooking school today how to dice an onion properly, but it has yet to be determined whether that skill will improve my game.

That said, however, I did do something golf related when I read a handful of pages of The Little Red Book, and I will now sit down to read Golf Magazine.

So, although it's not much, it is definitely something. And some practice (especially considering how enfeebled I feel after yesterday's two long walks spoiled) is better than none.

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Monday, January 11, 2010

Momentum Shift

What a difference a week makes. Last Monday on Buenaventura I hit the ball so well that had I been playing stroke play instead of best ball with my dad, I may have broken 80. Today, with my driver having abandoned me to the extent that I repeatedly dubbed drives that dribbled only 50 and 70 yards, I came back down to the pedestrian game I regularly play. Although in the first 18 holes (I walked 36, something I have never done and something I will likely regret tomorrow) I only hit four or five bad shots, I did not hit many fairways and found myself in jail most of the round, missing short putt after short putt and lipping out on 5 of the first 7 holes, shooting a 90 from the whites.

The second time around I also struggled horribly from the tee, found myself in the woods nearly every par four and par five hole, then ran out of gas (five protein bars are not enough to sustain me through 36 holes, I learned) about the 14th, carding consecutive sevens, on my way to a 92 from the blues. I did, however, make my second birdie of the day on 14 and felt better for a few shots, including a solid drive on 15.

But the day can best be summed up by my 36th hole: A dubbed drive off the tee (on a hole that last week I birdied twice by cutting the corner and driving the ball over trees, and I birdied this morning by drilling a great eight iron third shot to the back finge, then making the 15-foot putt), a drive that didn't even reach the fairway, followed by a blasted seven iron over two trees, which left me needing simply to hit the same seven iron again. I almost did, but hit it a touch less well, missed clearing the greenside bunker by three inches, and plugged. I actually didn't see the ball for more than 30 seconds searching the bunker. It had almost completely buried. Three inches higher and I would have been putting for birdie. As it was, however, I made yet another double.

All in all, though, an excellent day. Even though my game was not nearly what I had hoped it would be, THE game is great fun, and the foursomes were filled today with interesting, fun guys, one of whom shot a 71, having hit 17 greens in regulation before chunking a 20-yard chip on the last hole. Of course, he realized that he was about to be on in regulation for all 18 holes, so this fantastic golfer then chunked it. That's golf, as they say.

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Sunday, January 10, 2010

Gathering Momentum

An hour of chipping with a lob wedge, a wedge and a 7 iron, followed by a half hour of putting prepared me for tomorrow's round, I hope. My plan is to play the round at Buenaventura as though I'm in a tournament, no improved lies, no mulligans and no gimmes. I intend to use the round to establish a handicap.

More important than the golf practice, however, is the fact that I had my first legitimate writing session on Exit Wound in a long, long time. I wrote 1275 words, and I think I worked my way out of the plotting stagnation that had caused me to cringe every time I hoped to sit down to work on the novel. I'm hoping the momentum continues.

Of course, I didn't write the story about the Alabama Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail that I intended to write, but I think the rule I will try to follow this year is: Writing is writing. Don't be too particular about what kind it is, so long as I produce plenty of words. Some of them may even be worth reading.

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Saturday, January 9, 2010

Being Thankful

I attended my grandmother's 90th birthday today, and although the group did its share of laughing, I wanted to take up smoking, sky diving and knife juggling after seeing how time ravages people. What's the point of living a long time if hobbling, falling and being crotchety accompany you on your long journey? My great aunt, Honey, never a kind or giving person, is so shrill, so negative and so self absorbed that she would be a grotesque parody of a bitter old coot if she weren't there in the flesh in front of us, scolding, taking us to task and denigrating everything around her.

All in all, it was a day I would have rather spent on the golf course, certainly. Instead, I simply did some putting on the carpet and watched a few holes of golf on t.v.

I am looking forward to the chance to contribute to The Walking Golfer. It will not be a money-making endeavor, but it should lead to some rounds of golf, and who knows where it might lead.

So at least on that golfing front I've made progress.

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Friday, January 8, 2010

A Playing Partner

As well as I struck the ball two days ago on the range equalled how poorly I struck the ball today on the Rancho 3 Par. Perhaps my concentration was off, since I had just visited my therapist, and, despite his comment "I think you're okay," I have my doubts, and doubting is what I must have been doing while standing over the two three footers that I missed today. I did, however, sink a 15 footer from the fringe, and I met a guy named Vince who says he wouldn't mind heading out and hitting the ball together every now and again. And he said that his girlfriend has an attractive single friend who's looking to meet someone. Wonder if being a mediocre golfer is a deal breaker for her.

My friend Caplan suggested at dinner tonight that I write in my blog the risque, humorous and often absurd stories that I tell to him. As tempting as that sounds, I don't think I could tip the followers of my travel stories off to this site if I were to turn it too blue. Though perhaps I've already sullied the product with R-rated fare? And maybe I shouldn't direct anyone to the blog but people who appreciate ribald stories. I'll take Caplan's suggestion under advisement, especially since it's more fun for me to write the other stuff and more fun to read it. That is, if I knew how to get readers. And not alienate those I have. You see the dilemma.

I was tipped to a very cool website called, and ambulatory hackers should check it out.

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Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Blahs

I felt blue most of the day, couldn't do much more than identify photos to accompany the last travel feature I wrote. The blahs had me, and the enthusiasm with which I began the new year waned. Practically none of the friends that I mentioned my blog to even bothered to visit it, which made me admit how difficult it is to make a dent in the world at large if I can't even make a dent in my tiny little world.

So instead of continuing to beat myself up for not being able to produce the words I had hoped to produce today, I headed to the Rancho Park Par-3 course, tried to put myself in the zone, then smoothly dropped my first wedge from 98 yards 12 feet from the pin. I missed the birdie putt, but I then lofted my next wedge from 100 yards to 6 feet, then slipped the birdie putt in the side door. My well-struck 7 iron on the next hole settled on the fringe (the greens on this course are smaller than on any other course I've seen, so it's possible to hit a good shot but still not be on). I then choked on a 3-foot par putt. I played only okay from there on out, ending up 7 over. But it was a good solid start, felt peaceful to be outside, and I got out of my head for a while.

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Wednesday, January 6, 2010


It isn't what you have, or who you are, or where you are, or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about.”
- Dale Carnegie

In an attempt to test Mr. Carnegie's philosophy, I thought about golf today, instead of what I don't have, who I am not, where I haven't been or what I am not doing. To that end, I thought that I'd go to the range to hit some balls.

I bought a medium bucket, which contained 52 balls. Of the first 42 balls I hit, 38 of them were well struck and almost all of those were blasted, going much farther than my balls usually do (presuming that the distances on the range were properly marked). For example, I usually hit my hybrid 190, but today three of my hybrid shots appeared to go 220. I was crushing them.

But then, when it came time to hit my driver, I didn't have a rubber tee, didn't want to go to the pro shop to get one since a kid was waiting for my stall, and so I tried to finagle a tee out of a Chapstick tube. It worked fine for the first ball (which I bizarrely sliced), but on the second ball the tube disappeared into the distance, leaving a slimy smear on the green practice mat.

So I'm calling it a 42-ball bucket and calling my practice session on the range a huge success. I've never struck balls so well.

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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

A Game of Inches

As amazing as yesterday's day of golf was, it was nearly disastrous. On the 6th hole, a dogleg right that is drivable by long hitters who are able to lift their drives over the trees, I was standing in the middle of the green, waiting for one of the guys in our foursome to putt. I heard a thud, then jumped when I realized that the noise was created by a ball landing between my legs. The guy on the tee hadn't bothered to see if the green was clear before trying to drive it. He had hit a great drive and would be putting for an eagle, but had the ball been six feet higher when it arrived where I was standing, I'd have been hit in the head, since the ball mark was directly between my feet. As angry as I was at the dolt who hit the ball, I'd have been a lot angrier had the ball hit me, so I suppose I should consider myself lucky.
I'm working on it.

I practiced a few putts on the carpet to an electronic ball-return machine while watching reruns of Golf's Big Break on the Golf Channel. And now I'll read the latest issue of Golf Digest, the equipment issue.

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Monday, January 4, 2010


A year ago today, I broke my right wrist when I went over the handlebars of my bike while riding down Santa Monica Boulevard. Just before my ride, the woman who had moved to Knoxville, Tennessee three weeks before, the one who made it clear that we were not and would never be a couple, texted me these words: Don't you wish we were fucking?

This text came five days after she emailed me nude pictures of herself, a bit of salacious electronic communication that completely confused me, since we had definitively broken up two weeks prior to that.

So, as I rode down the street a year ago, my mind was on how I should respond to her text. I was three blocks from where I intended to pull over to text her ... something ... though I had no idea what to say. The passenger door on a green economy car suddenly opened into the bike lane, and time slowed down enough to allow me to contemplate how I should land, whether I could avoid landing on my bad back and how painful my collision with the blacktop was going to be. Very, it turned out. Not surprisingly, the cast and rehabilitation didn't improve my golf game one iota.

What a difference a year makes. Today my father and I teed it up at Buenaventura Golf Course in Ventura, and as we stood on the first tee, I said, "Pops, we're going to flirt with 80 today," knowing full well that we had never shot a score in that vicinity. I was more than half joking, but I looked at the low slope of 114 and the short yardage from the white tees (5412), and I kinda-sorta believed we could best-ball our way to a really good score. I had absolutely no idea that the practice I put in yesterday would pay off so resoundingly, that my drives would repeatedly bisect the fairways and stop 275 yards from the tee, that my wedge play would settle us on the large greens often and that we would putt nearly lights out. We missed an uphill birdie putt on the first hole from eight feet, then another from a lousy 3 and a half, but otherwise, we found the bottom of the holes to the tune of 25 total putts. We shot a flippin' two-over 72. We had no idea that we could flirt so scandalously with par.

Enthused and wanting more, we set out again.

Soon I wondered if we had made a mistake, since we started double bogey, bogey, a stumbling start that seemed to suggest that we were lucky and in a zone during the first round, that our real games would reveal themselves and that we would score somewhere in the mid-80s, probably with a mulligan each. But we proved that at least for today, on that course, in this new year, while embracing a new philosophy and a belief that improvement, success and happiness are all well within grasp, we still managed to roll in three more birdies, missing another by half a turn, and missed an eight foot eagle putt in the dark on the 36th hole of the day by half an inch. We went 38-37.

Today was indisputably the best day of golf I've ever had. Playing well was fantastic, but sharing laughs with my father and watching him drill one long putt after another was transcendent.

Albert Einstein said, If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal, not to people or things.

My goal is self-improvement, and my golf game improved exponentially today.

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Sunday, January 3, 2010

One Day At A Time

A few months ago in Golf Digest I read about a guy who made a commitment to become a better golfer. He had trouble breaking 100, but he decided he could and would become good at the sport, so he practiced every day. In a year, if I remember the details accurately, he had gotten down to scratch. Today he is the head golf pro at Pebble Beach.
My aspirations in the golf world are not as lofty as his: I will be perfectly fine being hired by Cypress Point.

As much as my instinct is to disbelieve his story, amazing things can happen when people believe that amazing things can happen—then work like hell to achieve their desired results. To that end, after I verify my existence via caffeine ingestion, I will work like hell on my chipping. Then write a story I set aside long ago.

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As I spent nearly an hour and a half hitting chip shots with my 64-degree lob wedge to a small, raggedy practice green at the Rancho 3-Par course, I realized that until today I had never really practiced before. Yes, I have hit balls on a range, but I have usually hit three to five balls with each club, either hit them well or poorly, or hit some of each, then headed to the course. And I've spent 20-minute stretches on putting greens, not ever, to my knowledge, unlocking any secrets. But today I worked only with one club, hitting 10 balls towards the pin tucked only two paces on the green, trying time after time to put all 10 balls on the putting surface from distances of from 10 to 20 yards, out of thick rough, light rough and off of hard-pan. I hit circuit after circuit, with total and complete inconsistency. I would think I "had it," opening my left foot, putting the lob wedge far forward in my stance, then taking a smooth swing, telling myself to accelerate through the shot and not to try to help the ball up, only to chunk the next three shots. Of course, adding that negative "don't try to help the ball up" mantra sabotaged my progress, so my swing thought became solely "accelerate." And I eventually put all 10 balls on the putting surface, six of them within six feet.
So that's what it feels like to practice the game of golf. Who knew?

Golfers, I suppose.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Golf Medicine

I learned last night that Harvey Penick titled his first entry in his Little Red Book, Golf Medicine, a title that I choose to interpret as too similar to the title of my blog to go unnoticed. There, I've noticed it.

Today at Balboa Golf Course in the Valley, after I practiced my putting, chipping and then hit a small bucket of balls, I waited in line to ask the starter whether I would have other golfers joining me for the first super-twilight tee time at 3 P.M. As I stood in line, an old man in front of me started screaming at the starter, cursing as much as anyone I've ever heard, threatening the starter and actually reaching through the bars of the open window to try to grab the starter. The dispute, I discerned by parsing the curse words, had something to do with money and what the curser took to be a smart-ass comment by the starter. The cursing continued for 30 more seconds as the guy slowly walked away from the starter. When the epithets no longer were within earshot of us, the guy immediately in front of me said, "Happy Holidays."

I only had time to walk nine holes—and finished the last one in the dark, aiming my half-wedge shot between what appeared to be bunkers and hoping my shot landed somewhere near the pin (I was 30 feet long). I did not score well (a 10-over 47), only shooting one par, on the second hole (the 278-yard drive helped), but my putting was very solid, even though only one putt of length fell, and I enjoyed playing the game with three good golfers, all strangers to me but regulars on that course. The front nine, though not in great shape, is very long (3541 yards from the blue tees) and the greens are enormous and surprisingly good, considering the number for rounds they see. Despite hitting a decent shot out of a greenside trap on the first hole, my scoring irons inflicted most of the damage today. I need to improve my chipping dramatically if I am going to bring my scroes down.

The course and its sister course, Encino, are 12 miles from my apartment, and I paid $11.50 to squeak nine in before dark. Besides being outdoors in good weather, getting some execise by carrying my bag for nine holes and once again not having a three-putt green, I also didn't cuss out anyone. Including myself.

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Friday, January 1, 2010

The First Tee

Golf cannot be mastered, the saying goes. Participants can practice diligently, take lessons and study the countless golf magazines that promise to cut strokes from their readers' games, yet no one will ever shoot a perfect round. The lowest official score recorded in professional competition is 59, though a perfect score for 18 holes would be 18. Obviously, therefore, golf is a game of progress, not perfection.

This "pursuit of progress" has led me to create Golf As Therapy on this first day of 2010, since life is also a pursuit of progress, and I feel that I have become stagnant both in golf and in my life. I began playing golf at the age of 13, and I am now 45, yet based on my scores—in the last year, as high as 116—a person knowledgeable about golf might guess that I am relatively new to the game. And as for my life ...

It is accurate to say that I am not happy. Certainly, I've had moments of frivolity, periods of contentment and instances of hopefulness, of believing that circumstances could theoretically align themselves in such a way that I would believe that life predominantly consists of pain-free moments. But, so far, this belief is only theoretical.

The paradox implicit in my dour assessment of life is that I am a travel writer and photographer; nearly everyone who learns what I do for a living tells me that I have the greatest job in the world and dreams about abandoning his or her occupation for the chance to do what I do. And I am certainly not begrudging the fact that I get paid (albeit nowhere near princely sums) to participate in activities that others pursue on vacations: hiking, biking, skiing, fishing, hunting, rock climbing, hang gliding and, as often as possible, golfing. I write a monthly outdoors column, and I have experienced adventures that most athletic types would give up their health insurance to experience. To see some of my work, please visit:

More stagnancy and decline: I have lived in the same ho-hum apartment in Los Angeles for nearly 10 years; I am severely indebted; the 50 stories a year that I had had published in monthly publications the previous two years have dwindled to fewer than 30, the sullen economy shrinking advertising budgets and, in turn, pages of editorial, or killing magazines altogether; I have not completed either of the novels I've started, having stalled long ago on the magnum opus that was supposed to launch me into the literary statosphere (or at least allow me to stop writing for magazines that neither paid me well nor showed me any respect), and I have left Exit Wound, the detective story that was supposed to allow me to prove to myself that I could complete a novel, mouldering on the hard-drive of my computer, there to mock me silently every time I sit down to write another travel feature; and I have not had what I would call a healthy, supportive, inspiring relationship in 22 years. Maybe ever.

Since adventures are not love, and since a loveless life, however thrilling, will inevitably feel empty, at least to people who value and seek love as I do, I've decided to change, beginning with my golf game, then progressing, one stroke at a time, one day at a time and one blog entry at a time towards a healthy game and a happy life. I am, however, not deluded enough to think that if I were somehow to claw all the way down to scratch that I would be happy—since, afterall, golf is only a game, though one many of us are quite passionate about. I will, however, have worked at something daily, contemplated methods to improve, implemented them when I could and made progress towards a goal. My intention, of course, is to apply this same diligence to other aspects of my life—namely to writing, to sorting through the wreckage of my past and to establishing and maintaining a healthy, loving relationship—and perhaps then my pains will dissipate and life's bounties will become manifest, rather than theoretical.

I will now head to the Rancho Park 3-Par in West L.A, then will report back on my first round of this new year, the first round of the new me.

Yours in Progress,
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The first round of the new year began with a well-struck wedge to 12 feet from 98 yards; the birdie putt was too hard, but I made the par. Yet, with the exception of a few solid irons and one nice lob wedge to four feet, I played as poorly as I have in any of my dozen rounds on this course, shooting a 10-over-par 37. I didn't three putt, though, so I'm using that as my positive take-away from Day One.

Now I will begin to read Harvey Penick's Little Red Book, then exercise, then write a magazine column, then wade back into Exit Wound. Of course, this plan is only theoretical.