Monthly Archives: September 2013

$1,467.87 – Amazing.

Donation

The withdrawals from GoFundMe and PayPal have posted to my bank account, and everything has been donated to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.  The donation was designated to provide treatment for those in need, and will do great things to help many people struggling with anxiety and depression.  To everyone who donated – thank you so very much.  YOU gave the money to this organization which is important to me, and your generosity continues to inspire awe in me.  Much love, everyone.

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You Only Live Forever When You’re Young…

The following will be printed, hopefully in this exact form, in the upcoming issue of Inside Lebanon Magazine.  I didn’t deal very well with the word count.  :/    Enjoy.

 

This is going to have something for everyone.  Golfers will be envious.  Travelers will be impressed.  Old people can live vicariously through me.  Free spirits will be proud of me.  Straight laced, beige suburbanites may even be disgusted with me.  Like I said, there’s something for everybody; you will find something to discuss at your next dinner party, lunch with co-workers, or binge drinking session with the guys or gals. 

Above all though, the people who stand to benefit most mightily from reading this article through to the end are the people who remind me of myself ten years ago.  I’m talking to you, Central Pennsylvanian high school student with all the smarts you’ll ever need and just enough motivation to breeze through school, but who also struggles daily with the ominous clouds of the future and of boundless choice, and what you will make of them.  At this point, I feel it my duty to ask that you kindly have your parents read this article themselves to determine if they want you reading any further.  Not every parent will want their ace student hearing these radical, subversive, far out ideas.

The world moves faster now than ever before (and the acceleration of all things is likely to only increase), and the opportunities to learn about any myriad of things abound.  Don’t worry if you feel overwhelmed by the world – it’s the natural reaction.  Just know that “you only live forever when you’re young.”  It’s a forgotten lyric from a forgotten album by a never discovered bay area punk band called Fifteen, and it is poignantly and frighteningly accurate.  The crux of the meaning failed to dawn on me for years; I truly was living as if I was going to live forever, and that is no way to live.

Allow me to briefly explain.  I coasted through high school, graduating well within the top 10% of my class (CCHS ’04).  I coasted through college, graduating with a 3.98 GPA (Shippensburg ’08).  I thought I was finally ready for a challenge, so I moved to Buffalo, New York to go graduate school.  I quickly learned that professional academia wasn’t my path, and by January of 2009, I was unemployed and living in Buffalo.  Buffalo, where nothing comes easy.  The Bills are terrible, it snows daily from November through March, and the only thing blue collar about the city any more is the legacy.  It is also a city with a vibrant arts scene, a wide selection of great dining, and a fantastic parks system.  I liked it, and my girlfriend at the time, enough to stay.  I quickly got a job at the local branch of a large national insurance company.  Five years and several promotions later, I was living a dream.  Someone else’s dream.  I was living as if I was going to live forever.

While the details may differ in the minutiae, the basic sad structure of my life mirrored that of millions of young people: high school > college > stable, well-paying white collar job.  Some people love their banal white collar jobs, but most don’t, and a great many actually despise them.  Some people need their banal white collar jobs (those with children), but most don’t.  What was, unfortunately, missing from my life, and I fear is missing from those lives of many of my contemporaries may lack a simple one word description.  Call it a blend of agency, spontaneity, creativity, desire; the will to live, rather than to merely exist.  I was living as if I was going to live forever.  I was living as if all of those things would eventually just come together to make the life I wanted, rather than the one that I had pinballed through.  If I lived forever, they very well may have.  I have but one life, however, and at 27, I had stayed essentially on the straight and narrow.  High school > college > stable, well-paying white collar job.  If that’s your dream, more power to you, and I wish you well.  It wasn’t for me though, and I’m sure it’s not for a great many of you.  The world, its people and its available experiences were too diverse and titillating for me to sit at a desk and argue with the same old Providence, Rhode Island attorneys every day.

So I quit my job.  I didn’t have anything lined up, other than the desire to get on the road, to see the country, and to play some golf.  Throughout my short life, I learned just a few things about myself, and chief among them was figuring out where I felt most free: the golf course and the highway.  The idea sort of built itself around my quest for my own sort of freedom.  I set out to play 49 rounds of golf in 49 days this summer, in the lower 48 and DC.  And that is exactly what I did.

Setting out from my humble Buffalo apartment on July 14, my VW packed with my clubs, some clothes and a few other knick-knacks for the road, I began a 7 week, 12,287 mile journey across our great United States.  Our great United States, flawed and imperfect as they are, are full of beautiful scenery, interesting people and great golf.  All of the places I wanted to go, to see, that I never had the impetus to visit, I was now going to see: from charming small towns in New England to the bucolic splendor of the inland South; from the gulf coast to the heart of Texas, from New Orleans and Las Vegas to Los Angeles and San Francisco; from the Midwestern fields of Iowa to the center of the world, Lebanon, Pennsylvania itself; I was going to see it all.  A narrative could, and hopefully will, fill a book, and this is but a magazine.  Here then, are a few memorable moments from the trip:

– My very first night on the trip was spent at the home of Tom and Lynn Bedell, in Brattleboro, Vermont.  Tom, who makes a living by writing about beer and golf, had reached out to me after hearing about my trip on Reddit.  Upon my arrival, I was served a feast fitting for a prince: ribs, corn on the cob and a wide variety of tasty salads.  Following dinner, we sat on their porch, nestled in the mountains of Southern Vermont, and enjoyed fine beers, wines and liquors over the sweet aroma of cigars and the stimulation of fine conversation.  Most memorably though, was Tom’s powerful reminder to me that “not everything you write will be a masterpiece.”

– August 6, 2013.  Page, Arizona.  The date and location of my adoption as a Native Grandson.  I had just teed off on the majestic 15th hole – one of those beautiful par 3’s with a very elevated tee, affording you an awe-inspiring view of the desert valley below, when I crossed paths with an elderly Native American woman, who had just trudged up the 150 foot hill I was about to drive down on my golf cart.  I asked her how she was doing, and upon her retort of “not so good, honey.  Not so good,”  I decided to dig deeper, and asked her why she wasn’t doing well.  She responded that she had some pins in her hip, and would very much like a walking stick of some sort.  I jokingly told her that I’d give her one of my clubs if I could deal without them.  Seconds later, she was rooting around in my bag, looking for her stick of choice.  I stopped her from pilfering my club, and instead offered her a ride to wherever she needed to go.  Five minutes later, we were as close to the post office as we were going to be able to get.  As she got off the cart, she said “Thank you, Grandson.  Oh thank you, Grandson.”

– By August 20, I had dropped my handicap from 10.9 at the beginning of the trip to 8.5.  I had made my first eagle of the trip the day prior, but after the front 9 of my 2nd of 3 rounds on the 20th, I was dejected.  I had duffed my way to a 44 on the front, and was getting close to the point where I’d be playing just to finish the round.  Hole 10 at Two Rivers Golf Course in Dakota Dunes, South Dakota, was a short par 5, and after I blasted my drive, I was left with just 190 yards to the pin.  My only shot at the pin though was to hit a fade, the opposite of my natural draw, around some trees, and still high enough to carry the bunker guarding the pin, which was tucked in the back right corner of the green.   I pulled out my 6 iron, opened the face, and let her rip.  I faded it right around the trees, just high enough to carry the bunker.  Stuck it to 5 feet.  Dropped the putt.  It was the finest shot I have yet hit in my life.

I will shamelessly direct you to my web blog, golfing49in49.wordpress.com, should you wish to indulge in my voluminous recollections of my trip; replete with stories from the golf course and from the road, and with musings on not only what these things mean to me, but also on a wide variety of other topics.

If you’ve had your fill of my stories though, that’s fine, I get it.  A thrilling cross country, international (I did play a round in Windsor, Ontario, too!) barnstorming golf tour isn’t everyone’s idea of a freedom quest.  But it was my idea of a freedom quest.  The lone thing I’d beg you to take away is the actual profundity, rather than the fleeting trendiness, of the now common saying “You only live once.”  You’ve got one shot at life; get out there and find your cross country golf journey.  If you don’t, you may end up as a 27 year old claims adjuster for the rest of your life.

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Just Slowly Lift Your Left Foot, You’ll Feel the Car Start to Lunge Forward…

I hadn’t given much though to the end game, blog wise, and I’m glad I hadn’t, haven’t, and will not.  Writing, particularly of this story-telling, narrative type, isn’t something that ought to have a definite end (or even a definite beginning – “life is a narrative,” or whatever other flowery prose you want to insert here hopefully gets the point across – far more than a concrete process, story-telling is an ebbing and flowing medium, the letters and words merely being the vehicle…), and it is my firm intention that this blog will live on and continue to grow despite my (first) cross-country golfing opus having now come to an end.

Over the next few weeks, I am going to be transitioning the site from what it was, for the duration of my trip, to what it will be – an avenue for writing and, hopefully, entertaining, primarily through tales of golf course and traveling debauchery.  At the suggestion of my homeboy Paul Zwirecki, I am heavily considering taking at least some of my musings away from the written word and to the spoken word – I will be pondering the benefits of podcasting and will likely end up utilizing podcasting for at least a portion of the dissemination of the golf/travel empire’s official media moving forward.  Regarding the immediate future, however, the blog will very much retain the feel that you are all well accustomed to.  Several times weekly updates until you have finally stepped off that 18th green at Fairview with me.  There will, of course, be other writings interspersed here and there, but the bulk of my new entries will concern the trip – I have yet, after all, to write of my travels from Southern California back to the East Coast – nearly half of my trip!

Enough of the meta, and on to the nuts and bolts changes you may have noticed for now:

– I have updated all of the stats from my trip, both golf and non golf.  Check out the stats pages for whatever you may be looking for, but just a few notes:

First, golf related, I ended my trip at a superb 7.80 handicap.  According to the USGA, I’m better than 85% of players who keep a handicap.  That alone is pretty good.  However, as most golfers are aware, most golfers do not keep a handicap.  And, the majority of those golfers who do not keep a handicap fail to do so, ultimately, because they are not very good.  I don’t know many guys with a skill set needed to register a cap below 12 or so who don’t keep one.  My regular golfing buddies would all have handicaps well above 20 if they kept one.  I suppose then, that I am well within the 90th percentile of all golfers, and probably even a little higher, maybe around the 92nd-93rd percentile.  These guesses are really very academic, however.  In the end, I became a far better golfer than I ever dreamed I would become.  I’m still quite deficient at many areas of the game, however.  The reasons I will continue to go back to the course haven’t really changed, and indeed have become more of a pull than ever before: I am a good player, am getting better, and have numerous areas for improvement.  Whether you’re a duffer or a pro, I suppose that those reasons are the main ones why most of us find our way back to the links with at least some frequency.

Regarding my fuel economy, I averaged about 41.5 m’spg over 12,000+ miles.  Not much to say here, other than that I drove hard when needed, and quite passively when I had the chance to do so.  It was nice to have a sturdy ‘bahn burner to get me around – fuel consumption was a little lower than I may have hoped, but given the amount and variety of driving I did, I think it’s a pretty damn solid number.

I made my way to 31 Interstate Highways (and 23 spurs).  If you like roads, or civil engineering, or are curious, just check out the ones I hit on the old stats page.

I came in under budget.  I’m not really surprised that I was able to do this.  I ate fast food and stayed in cheap chain hotels most nights.  The main reason I’m not surprised that I came in under budget though is that I know, and met, a tremendous amount of very generous folks who offered me a place to stay, picked up a meal, or paid for a round of golf.  People are pretty damn good.

I didn’t see a scale until I made it back to PA.  I was fat when I left, and am still fat.  Oh well.

– I have removed the Itinerary page from the site.  Everything is still there, the page is simply no longer accessible.  Doing this was the first step in transitioning the site into what it will be moving forward.  The eventual plan is to have a page dedicated to the trip, which of course will include an itinerary (and stats – I left this page for now as it has some relevancy at this time).  I will also be going back and adding a new category to make searching for past entries a little easier.  I liked the idea of categories for entries from the onset, but quickly became relatively lazy in appropriately categorizing individual entries.  I’m going to add a “The Trip” category, as well as some others, and will be properly filing old entries, as well as new ones moving forward, shortly.

– I have significantly altered the “About” section.  What fit for the trip no longer fits.  As fluid as a storyteller’s stories can be, this section will be.  Maybe one day I’ll find a succinct sentence or two to ‘splain the site quickly and efficiently.  Until then, the about section will likely see somewhat frequent changes.

– I had only 3 dudes take part in my guessing game for total number of strokes, birdies, lost balls and miles driven on the trip.  Given the small amount of entrants, I decided to get each of my buddies something small from the trip.  I already saw you, Ham, and gave you what you got – Marty and Brendan, I’m almost certain I left your stuff in PA.  I know, an act of buffoonery.  I will give my apt here a rudimentary search, and if nothing turns up, will be sure to pick up the stuff next time I am back in PA.

– I have made it clear on my Support/Donate page that the fundraising portion of the trip is over.  As of now, I have received the money from GoFundMe, and am just waiting on PayPal to transfer the funds before I make my donation.  The final tally being donated to the ADAA will be $1,467.87.  That is 100% of the donations, minus the fees associated with working with GoFundMe and PayPal.  I will be sure to write an entry dedicated to the donation once it is made.  I plan on getting the transfer from PayPal either Monday or Tuesday.

I know, this was probably not the entry you were hoping for, but I think it was an important “nuts and bolts” entry as well as something to sort of set the stage for what’s next, regarding the site.  Before you can pull out, however, you need to engage the clutch.  Rubber is going to be burnt in the very near future.

Lastly, please let me know your thoughts on potential podcasts about golf and travel.  Dumb idea?  Probably.  Awesome idea?  I’d love to have that confirmed…

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Thump thump… Thump thump

I’m not dead, and I certainly have not abandoned writing. I took a week after my final round to chill, and am now in New Jersey, without reliable Internet access. I am, however, returning to Pennsylvania tomorrow, and should be back to writing in the days that follow. Stay tuned.

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Oh dirty Jers, You’re Still Number 2 In My Heart

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In a world’s first, I was up and active before my folks, both of them, down here at the shore. Not that I was up terribly early, but we only got in from a long day in Philly around 12:30, and, well, they are slowly creeping towards old age. They like to sleep in if they can, which increasingly means waking up at 8 if given the justification and the chance.

So yeah, I was up early, and I decided to go for a walk. Wasn’t sure if I was going to stay on the Boardwalk or head “down the beach.” It’s “roar to the shore” weekend, and while most of the bikes will be leaving later, as I made my half block saunter up to the boardwalk, the occasional growl of a hog was the only artificial auditory interruption to the otherwise serene morning. Seagulls cawing, a cool wind blowing off the ocean, and the only tertiary artificial sounds of the hum of the city, themselves so unchanged over time that they lull you into thinking they, too, were the result of anything other than human.

I had walked a block or two north on the boardwalk, and after looking down at the ocean, a solid three quarter’s of a mile away over that world renown brown jersey shore muck interspersed with the occasional pocket of sand, decided I would stay there. After all, the boardwalk has been the defining attraction of the south jersey shore all these years. People do go on the beach, but no one comes here for the beach.

Roller coasters were being tested on the piers, and the rare business owner was chaining open their store front- this place would be open today, at least to some degree. It’s only September 8, and the equinox, so painfully visible on the horizon, is still a few weeks away. It is still summer, even if the glorious season of life is in it’s tragic death throes. The kids are back at school though, and the few who have visited Wildwood this weekend are decidedly local, more so than usual. A guy with white hair passed me on his bike. He was wearing a tattered old TO Eagles jersey. Far from classy, yet eternally optimistic and earnest. This is Philly.

It was a morning to birth art, and while I was not properly equipped for the task, I took some photos anyway. I made it another block before I encountered what a professional photographer might dare dream of. As I dabble, however, in the written word, allow me to describe the scene. Don’t worry, my desire for brevity is as acute as yours- I’m writing this from my phone.

An older middle aged woman was sitting by her lonesome on a bench on the boardwalk, back to the ocean. She was enjoying a breakfast of a few donuts and a cup of coffee which she had procured at the Dunkin Donuts across the way. Sun shining, breeze blowing… Take that sentimental feeling I hope to have given rise to earlier in the entry and apply it liberally. Not more than 10 feet away stood a line and stately seagull, patiently waiting for just a morsel of dough. Standing at attention, still as the night, gaze fixed on his purveyor of sustenance, this seagull commanded both respect and empathy. I stopped for a minute to observe the situation and enjoyed a chuckle. The woman recognized what caught my attention, and looked right back at that seagull and said, squarely, “no.”

If the beginning of this, uhhh, vignette, was the stuff of a photographer’s dreams, the next minute was the videographer’s wet dream. Not more than a second after her denial of the stately lone seagull, my friend was fiercely attacked by another lone seagull. Flying over her left shoulder with the determination and recklessness of a kamikaze pilot, this seagull picked that donut right out of her hand, knocking it to the ground in a fury of lawlessness.

Within half a second, I had offered my condolences. She assured me this was standard fare here, and seemed only slightly perturbed that her otherwise peaceful morning had been interrupted. In that half second, the entirety of the south jersey seagull syndicate had been notified of the bounty, and was en route to the scene. My fellow human had gotten up and was about to leave, when I was promptly shit on by one of these mongrels.

We could both only laugh. I limped out something along the lines of “these damn birds. Snagging your donut, shitting all over me. They got us.”

“Yeah they did. Lets get out of here.”

I turned around and headed back south, she to the north. Upon my return to the condo, I washed that acerbic mixture from my arm, shirt and cap and began my day anew. My folks are stirring and the coffee I made is ready.

My stroll on the boardwalk lasted but ten minutes. In that tiny sliver of day, I encountered both breathtaking beauty and the helplessness and agony of defenseless defeat. It’s just another morning in New Jersey.

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