This is a rambling account of our annual trip to Myrtle Beach, SC. I have entitled each section with a song title or a line from a song.
Growing Older and Tenser With the Times
Ocho and his gang of ever increasing in age hackers of the sacred turf have once again escaped the cruel and bitter bonds of winter. A winter that was going along nicely until February and then all meteorological hell broke loose and the leaden skies and howling winds buried New England. A winter that saw poor Ocho climbing out onto his deck through the removed lower window of the door in order to clear off the five foot deep ‘freshly fallen silent shroud of snow’. A winter that saw poor Ocho hanging out of a third floor window in a desperate attempt to clear the two foot deep swath of ice and snow off the roof before it crashed down on a poor helpless vehicle in the driveway below. A winter that saw a large chunk of the aforementioned collection of ice and snow on the roof, crash down on the wife’s lease car causing multiple contusions, bruises and the decapitation of the passenger side mirror thus prompting the aforementioned hanging out of the window. All of the Hoovers have similar stories of woe, exasperation and deprivation. All except Jimmy Two Birds who has retired and now calls Punta Gorda, FL as his home, the fat bastard. J
Another result of winter in New England, though this is not erratic like the fickle patterns of meteorological mayhem, this happens every year. We do not get much golf played, say after Halloween, so by this time of the year we are salivating at the thought we will be teeing it up again. While we are suffering from this environmentally enforced dormancy we get periodic emails from Jimmy Two Birds about all the golf he is playing, how many pars he averages, in general how much he is improving, the fat bastard. J
All Strung Out from the Road
It was an epic almost Magellan like trek, this solo drive from Providence RI. to Myrtle Beach, SC. At 06:00 Gray Wolf pulled onto I-95 south, eager to stretch his legs on this 1050 mile jaunt. The route chosen will avoid the nightmarish travel corridor of New York City to DC and the attendant dollars spent in tolls on The Jersey Turnpike. Instead, Ocho will wend his way out of New England via I-84 as it travels through land formerly occupied and or used by the Delaware, Huron, Mohawk and others. Ocho pauses for a few minutes to refuel and to grab a cup of mediocre yet necessary coffee to stave off the effects of being up all night at work as there are many miles yet to go.
Near the blood soaked hills and fields of Gettysburg a foursome walks a golf course fairway now cleared of snow renewing Ocho’s energy level; an anticipatory foreshadowing of the week ahead. The Mason-Dixon Line looms just a few miles ahead, one of the landmarks/milestones that Ocho uses as another means of energy revitalization. Not only are these sights important in terms of how far is left yet to travel but they also stir up the historical thought process that inevitably comes to the forefront of Ocho’s mind. The more prominent milestones include the rivers, Susquehanna, Hudson, Potomac and James. Formidable obstacles all and makes me wonder in awe at the hardiness of our pioneer forebears. Imagine the sheer effort needed to cross those rivers and the countless smaller rivers and creeks, the effort needed to climb and descend numerous hills. Not to mention that those game trails they followed weren’t exactly Eisenhower Interstates.
I-81 south runs through an area rich in history. It seems every exit leads to a Civil War battlefield, not that that is surprising as the Shenandoah Valley was the bread basket of The Confederacy and both sides fought to control it. General Philip Sheridan greatly hastened the end of the war by destroying Shenandoah. It’s amazing that this is the kind of stuff that filters through Ocho’s mind as he drives, that and the hope that there’s a rest stop soon. Ocho and Gray Wolf need another nap.
Twenty-five hours later, 1050 miles, half a dozen cups of coffee and numerous stops to recycle said coffee and to take naps, I arrive at Jimmy Two Birds timeshare. We are scheduled to tee off in a couple hours but it is one of those rare occasions when I am glad it is raining. Gray Wolf and I are just a tad worn out. J
Won’t Get Fooled Again
In an effort to add a little excitement and the chance to win a sleeve of golf balls, Jimmy Two Birds instituted a Par 3 contest. You win a sleeve if you get a par on a Par 3. The rest of us protested that no one would win on account of our self-acknowledged ineptitude but Jimmy Two Birds persisted and thus those are the rules. Today’s round was the first one played in about 4 months for Joey, Bob and Rick and the first one played in about 4 days for Jimmy Two Birds. Jimmy Two Birds won a sleeve of balls today, the Fat Bastard.
The teams having been chosen in a random fashion, for today’s golf match are Jimmy/Rick vs Bob/Joey. A pairing that elicited an immediate, ‘We’re gonna kick their ass!’ comment from Rick who then went out and shot a front nine 57 thus winning a sleeve of Ram balls for his excellence in futility. As to the arse kicking, Bob/Joey put up a valiant yet vain effort losing 9-7, although Joey did distinguish himself by taking individual honors for the day harking back to the year Joey won our most prestigious award, The Harry A. A feat so astounding that even to this day no one believes it actually happened.
Scenes from an Italian Restaurant
Some of our more memorable moments take place at the various eateries we frequent while in Myrtle. Last night at the Texas Roadhouse, for example, we simply reinforced the notion that we are losing our mental edge. The tallying up of the bill proved to be an exercise of mathematical futility. Determining that $35 was needed from 4 people because 130/4=35. No one questioned that figure and we ended up $10 over what we needed. With no immediate solution as to why the discrepancy, Joey, out of kindness, handed the extra $10 to Ocho. The problem gnawed at Ocho on the drive back to the condo so he whipped out the calculator on his smart phone and lo and behold, 130/4=32.50. Mystery solved and a time to celebrate so Ocho used the $10 and bought beer.
I’m Just a Substitute for Another Guy
As has been the case the past few years Ocho’s financial woes have relegated him to the position of a stand by substitute golfer; not unlike some alternate on the PGA Tour waiting on somebody to drop out of a tournament. I have to be ready at a moment’s notice in case one of the aging Hoovers can’t shake out the kinks from the prior day no matter how long they hog the limited hot water in the condo.
There are, I think, two prevailing theories as to why my fellow Hoovers insist that I come to Myrtle despite my monetary limitations. Theory #1 is that they cannot do without my pleasant demeanor and witty repartee. Theory #2 is they only care about not having to drag their clubs through airports and pay a small fortune to have them flown here. Your guess is as good as mine as to which one is true. J
Day number three and the call for a relief golfer has been made and Ocho is making his way in from the bullpen. Now mind you the last two days were bathed in glorious sunshine and near 80 degrees. Today is cloudy and only reaching the high 50’s. Jimmy Two Birds is a no go for today’s round, the Fat Bastard.
Two days in a row for the relief golfer as JTB is once again hors de combat with a balky knee. I feel bad every time I lace up my golf shoes at the expense of one of my fellow Hoovers, but only for a moment. J
Day number five and for the first time ever in the annals of Hoover history a Hoover pulled himself out of a round halfway through. JTB called ‘no mas’ after nine holes for the simple reason he was having no fun and was in danger of throwing his clubs into a gator infested pond. Fortunately the relief golfer was at the course and took over for the distraught and frustrated Jimmy. Unfortunately the relief golfer had to use Jimmy’s clubs and they weren’t any kinder to him than they were for Jimmy and almost ended up in the gator infested pond anyway.
Don’t Fear the Reaper
For some reason, probably the onset of our advancing years and the aches, pains and medications needed, we had a jocular discussion on death and how we wanted our remains taken care of. Jimmy mentioned having his ashes scattered over many of his favorite golf courses in Myrtle Beach but all I could imagine was a Big Lebowski type mishap. A sudden gust of wind and Jimmy is scattered all over those officiating the event. I came up with a couple possibilities for my epitaph … ‘All things considered, I’d rather be putting for birdie’… or (and this is a reference to my hard of hearing condition), ‘You can say anything you want about me, I won’t hear you anyway.’
Boring Stories of Glory Days
I have been fortunate in my life to have two distinct groups of close friends. The guys (and later the girls) I grew up with are once again a part of my life after nearly 40 years of no or very limited contact. We have an annual reunion, this year being the 4th and those few days are filled with silliness and the chance to relive our glory days as young athletes. We have played basketball & football. We went bowling and visited the batting cages. We recount our prowess with clear minds with no thought of hyperbole as we fail miserably to be what we used to be but laughing our arse off nonetheless. We even have our own Hall of Fame of which we are all members and which we named The Moron Hall of Fame in honor of the fact that we actually made it to adulthood mostly unscathed and without criminal records.
That brings me to the group that sustains me in the ‘back nine’ of my life, The Hoovers. For those who are not familiar with the history of the name we chose a brief digression. It was somewhere on a golf course on Cape Cod. We had just hit four of the more miserable tee shots in the history of golf. As we watched the fourth one sail off to a place a golf ball ought not to visit, Jimmy Two Birds uttered these words, ‘We’re like a bunch of Hoover vacuum cleaners, and we can’t suck enough.’ Thus the name of the group was born along with our motto. Since then we have traversed many fine fairways and even more not so fine areas of golf courses scattered throughout this great country of ours. The main point of our exercise in futility is not so much trying to improve as that ship has sailed but to have more fun than should be allowed. I would really like at some point to mike all of us for a round as there would be some great material to cobble together in a story. So here’s to my buddies The Hoovers: Joe Martin, Jimmy Two Birds Ouellette, Bob Svirsky, Loring Mackey and Rick Lobsitz. May your balls be many and your strokes be few. J
Every Day is a Winding Road
Every nook and cranny of Gray Wolf is stuffed with the flotsam, jetsam and the necessary golf accoutrements needing to be returned to the normal habitat of our four intrepid Hoovers who must now sadly depart for the frozen wasteland of New England. Rick and Bob are flying home from Charleston, SC while Joey opted to only fly to Myrtle and drive back with me. Jimmy, of course, is driving back to Punta Gorda, FL where it is not a frozen wasteland, the fat bastard. Included in the flotsam is Joey’s rather large suitcase that was not part of what Ocho brought down to SC. Some creative packing was involved to accommodate it so as to leave room for Joey too. It would have been a shame to have to strap Joey to the roof for the 1050 mile trek home.
On the road at 5:00 a.m. feeling the usual pangs of remorse that the week is already over, that the daily joy of camaraderie is once again relegated to memory and in my case to the written word. However, those thoughts need to be suppressed in order to survive the long, long way home. So with a stoical mindset Gray Wolf springs to life and we head home. Nineteen hours later Joey is safely ensconced in his own bed and 15 minutes later Gray Wolf is safely at rest in his own driveway. The trip home is mostly without incident. The only traffic encountered came, naturally, when we got on the Mass Pike; a kind of welcome home committee. Until next year, same time, same place.
 Paraphrased line from Bruce Cockburn’s ‘How I Spent My Fall Vacation
 Paul Simon I Am a Rock
 Bob Seger ‘Turn the Page’
 Pete Townsend ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’
 Billy Joel ‘Scenes From an Italian Restaurant’
 Pete Townsend ‘Substitute’
 Donald(Buck Dharma)Roeser –Blue Oyster Cult ‘(Don’t Fear) The Reaper’
 Bruce Springsteen ‘Glory Days’
 Sheryl Crow, Jeff Trott, Brian MacLeod ‘Everyday is a Winding Road’