Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Italian Jobs

Russell is back.  You know, the dog from the frozen tundra north?  My mother in law’s mini-doodle?  The champion barker, yapper, ball chaser, bicycle biter, fight instigator who charges other dogs and then goes over to the side and sits, watching when my idiots go charging in after him.

However Russell has been getting his lately.   Russell is having to deal with the new kids on the block.

Luigi and Vito.      

They are Italian Greyhounds, one black, one grey and they look like your basic run of the mill greyhounds – long, sleek and furtive – only shrunk down to the size of a streamlined whippet.

Russell is terrified of them.   He doesn't seem to believe they're dogs.

Hey, Luig, looka, dere’s da little creep.”
I see’m, Vito, the little bastard he’sa lookin’ at us.
Who you lookin’ at, ya little bastard, are you-a lookin’ at us?!
You think we funny lookin’ a’ somethin’?
I say we put-a the freakin’ fear a’ God in him, Vito.
You-a said it, Luig, let’sa get’m.  
You bettah run, ya little bastard!

Russell is fast but Luigi and Vito are streaks.   They don’t run, they bound as if weightless, their legs a blur.  Russell sees them coming across the field and he immediately puts his tail between his legs and bolts.  The three of them go screaming towards the hill, Russell in forth gear, Luigi and Vito hardly in second.    It’s as if the roadrunner is chasing the coyote.

“How nice.  They playing.”, says the Italian Jobs owner.

Sure they are.

That’s-a right, you little bastard – you-a better run!
We--a gonna chew-a y’ balls off, ya little bastard!
He don’t even-a got-a balls, Luigi!  
Sa-right, he’sa freakin’ fixed, Vito!
We-a gonna fix you all over again, ya little creep!
You-a go for the legs, Vitoi, I-a go for his ears.
You got it!

My doodles, Luis and Napoleon, sit smiling and panting slightly as Russell goes down in a skidding heap.  Russell has gotten them into too many fights that they’re now willing to help out.  

Vito and Luigi race around Russell, a blur, digging their own racetrack, running faster and faster.   Russell cowers, yelps and barks and Luigi and Vito immediatly freeze, staring.

What’sa mattah? 
Why-a you cryin’ like a little girl?
Aw, come on, we-a just funnin’ wid you.
Dis-a stromboni, he got-ta no sense-a humor, Vito.
Hey!  We mean-a you no harm!
Yeh!   Sniff my butt!
Luig, I think this’s-a stromboli'sa havin’ a heart attack.
Okay, okay!   We leavin’ you alone, okay?  We goin’ now.
He’sa no fun, Vito.
You can-a say that again, Luigi. 

Luigi and Vito turn and bound away, leaving Russell panting in the dust.

“They love other dogs”, says the Italian Jobs owner.


Hey, Luigi, let’s get those two fat-a, furry ones over there.
You-a got it, Vito.
Run-a, you bastards!
What a great day.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Ode to a golfing friend

Good King Mike

King Mike was quite a good man but his golfing game was not.
If his swing had been his subject, than he’d have had the subject shot.
It was blasphemous, unforgivable!
That he stunk so on the links.
I shall ban the sport entirely if I can’t improve, methinks!

King Mike was quite a kind man but his golfing friends were not
Sir Steve was unpredictable and Sir Eric blew too hot.
Sir Paul was quite respectable and how Sir Dane’s ball flew!
(Sir Dane was quite the happy man having nothing else to do.)

And how King Mike did envy them
The way they strode the green
Paul’s easy smile, Dane’s golfing threads (the finest ever seen),
Sir Eric’s ball flies out of sight
King Mike thought with noble dread
Sir Stephen has a comely swing
It’s flat as matzo bread.

King Mike called the wizard dwarf, Phil Rodgers, to his castle.
I hear you are a golfing whiz, though surly and somewhat facile
I wish to be a golfing king.
I’ve built an indoor range
Make my balls go straight and long
And I’ll pay your daily wage.

They retired to the desert strands where King Mike had a home.
Try swinging with authority, said Phil, the wizard gnome. 
Load the shaft, release the hands
King Mike felt like an ass
The ball did dribble down the range
Cried the wizard dwarf – World class!

Now King Mike was quite a smart man but his golfing game was shit
King Mike had conquered companies
(Said the golfing gnome – that’s it!)
King Mike had dollars, gold and jewels
Beyond most mortal ken
(King Mike had also beer cans – he liked collecting them.)

King Mike and Phil went on the course
Oh, this would be the test.
For the gnome had brought his squire
A pro, the golfing best!
The pro did swing and knocked the ball a mile towards the green
King Mike released it from the top
And promptly burst his spleen

King Mike was quite a good man but his golfing game was not.
King Mike was kind and generous but with the golfing game besot.
The wizard dwarf Phil Rodgers, the royal gallows soon did claim
And as he died, he bellowed this!
You can’t buy a golfing game!!

Note: Phil Rodgers is a teacher to golf professionals.  He was runner up in a US Open to The Golden Bear.    He is about 5'8", weighs a good 250 and is, to put it mildly, gruff spoken.

Monday, September 19, 2011


I don’t remember exactly when I first met my friend, Bart O’Rourke, but I certainly remember where.  On a tennis court.  It was doubles, he was across the net, playing add and he had this crazy habit of turning his back to the court and sort of leaping sideways when taken wide on his backhand.   We were the same age and pretty much the same ability and played pretty much the same way meaning we both were erratic and liked to play the “great shot”.   Bart liked this even more than I did.  He would hit shots that even Roger Federer wouldn’t attempt.   He would also take a balloon ball down the middle, wind up and hit it over the fence.   (I would only hit it into the fence.) 

My brother, the eternal pusher, named Bart, The Human Highlight Film” aka Highlight for the sheer, insane, impossible  brilliance of some of his shots.   That my brother won their match 2 and 1 was irrelevant.  When you’re an insane artist who cares who wins?

We were a less than formidable doubles team, always cheerfully – okay, sometimes not so cheerfully – bringing out the worse in one another.   Some teams ham and egg it, meaning when one is off, the other picks up his game.  Bart and I hammed and hammed it.   Or egged and egged it because we usually came off the court with yolk on our face.  

Over the years, Bart and I had any number of post match beers, any number of discussions.  Bart had an opinion and a theory for everything.   Haberdashery, the law, medicine, the serve and back hand.   He’d be happy to tell you the inside scoop on anything.   I once heard him lecture Doctor Stu, my esteemed orthopod, on the proper remedy for a strained knee.   Bart, a staunch Republican, believed in the military and states rights and did not believe in Global Warming.    He could, as they say, sell ice cubes to Eskimos. 

Bart and I played tennis once or twice a week for a quarter of our lives.   

A little more than a year and half ago, life took Mr. O’Rourke down for the count.  He’d had a procedure for arrhythmia – rapid heart beat.  This is entailed send a tiny wire up through an artery and shocking the heart – rebooting it.   The one in ten thousand happened.  The wire nicked the esophagus just behind the heart.  As I understand it, a cyst formed and grew and three weeks later, burst, sending infection into the lungs, blood stream and brain.   Bart suffered not one but three stokes.

That he lived was considered a miracle.

The man we used to say would talk to a corpse now must deal with slurred speech.   The man who was a great surfer, skier, diver and yes, tennis player, must now use a walker.   Bart no longer plays tennis, he goes to therapy.

Much to my dismay, I don’t see him nearly as much as I should and would like to anymore.   I’m not sure any of us do.   People get busy.  People get swamped.   Oddly enough I think people can get afraid, wondering if tragedy is contagious, worried it could happen to them.


There was an inter-club tennis match in his honor this last weekend.  The Bart O’Rourke Clash between The La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club where I play and the San Diego Racquet Club where Bart plays.  There were T-shirts, a trophy, food and drink and it’s going to become an annual thing.

Bart, of course, was there.   Wearing multi-colored Addidas tennis shoes.   Sitting and watching with his lovely wife, Jen, accepting handshakes and hugs from all the people who had come to play and/or watch tennis but mostly to see him.

He’s quieter now.  You get the sense he does a lot of listening,a lot of thinking.   He’s as positive as ever.   He says he’ll be biking, playing golf and tennis again and I believe him. 

You wonder though.  When I see him he often seems tired.   So much has been taken away. 

But then I remember he has a married son, Terence, in the Secret Service.   He has a son, John, just engaged, who flies planes for the Air Force.  He has a daughter who swims for her high school.  He has marriages and grandchildren and holidays to look forward to.  He has all these friends who came out to honor him.   

Too many people pass not knowing how much they meant to a lot of people. 

I think Bart knows.

Now if he’ll just stop dicking around and get his stubborn, Irish ass on the tennis court again.   I need to find someone I can beat. 

Preferably quiet.

Move it, Highlight.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


So there I am the other day, sitting on a stationary bike at “Rehab United” trying, slowly, with great pain and no success, to get my surgically repaired knee to go 360 degrees around on the bike pedal, all the while watching young athletes and trainers and the seriously in shape,  dip and bend and stretch and flex.  Yes, there are some old people there but like me, they are watching the young people too, all of us wondering what the fuck happened?  We got old.

Really, there is nothing like a sculpted-from-marble, twenty-something blond physical therapist in a banana colored sports bra and a grey leotard, doing effortless, jaw dropping lunges with 25 pound barbells, to make you feel like an orangutan at the zoo, sitting on a ragged blanket, with stomach folds like a dress and an itchy ass, chewing on a piece of limp grass, sticking your finger up your nose and occasionally scratching your pits for want of something better to do.

And there is nothing that makes you more wistful for your lost youth than watching a piece of steel in a UCD basketball shirt, bench press his own weight 28 times and then leap up and roar and slap palms and act as if he doesn’t notice the admiring glances of the ladies.  The pheromones are flying around here.   Unfortunately they wrinkle, crash and burn as soon as they get near me.

Perhaps this is because since 1980 I’ve gained about ten pounds a decade.   Hard to believe, I know (!), but true.   In 1980, I weighed about 175.  In 1990, I checked in at 185.  In 2000, yes, around 195.  In 2002, I went back to 180 but only because I started working out with a personal trainer two to three times a week.  It was boring, exhausting and painful and after two years of it, I decided I’d rather spend the money on good wine.  Now, in 2010, I hover close to 200.

It goes without saying the lovely wife hasn’t gained an oz. in the 25 years I’ve known her.   Call it a combination of good genetics, discipline and a vegetarian diet but if anything, she’s lost weight.   The lovely wife can still do lunges with the best of them and with a week’s notice, would be benching her own weight and more.   The lovely wife, of course, is German.  There is a reason they almost single handedly beat the world twice.  However, as I like to remind her, the English were on the winning side both times and I am of English heritage.   When I lived in London the idea of a sensible lunch was two pints of beer.   I felt very much at home.

But back to the orangutan.

Adult males have large cheek flaps which get larger as the ape ages. 

What a coincidence!  

The sagging cheeks show their dominance to other males and their readiness to mate.   My sagging cheeks show that I’m tired, hung over, constipated or all three.

Orangutans do not swim.   I don’t either.  I occasionally allow a wave to wash gently over me.

Orangutans eat dirt.   I only do when I’m drunk.

But back to my knee.  (Enough about my knee, let’s talk about my knee).

Dr. Stu tells me it looks pretty good.  He tells me I have good extension and only fair flexion.   I wonder if he’s talking about my knee.

Dr. Stu saw me on a tennis court the other day, standing in one place, feeding balls to my son.  He stopped his, car, waggled a finger at me and told me that in no uncertain terms I was being a “bad boy”.    I chewed on my limp blade of grass, stuck my finger in my nose and pretended I didn’t hear him.

Occasionally in the middle of the night, for no apparent reason, my knee locks and I howl – okay, bleat – in pain.   The lovely wife is sick of it.  It bothers her to no end that I immediately go back to sleep leaving her to worry about everything and nothing for the next hour or so.   And then, just as she begins to doze off, I do it again.  I don’t remember any of this in the morning but she does.  And to get even, she insists on cogent conversation before I’ve finished my coffee. 

Adult male orangutans are solitary and happiest alone.   They usually have three or four eligible females in the general area with which they get together only at breeding time.  The rest of the time the females take care of the young and leave the big guy to himself.

When the sculpted-from-marble, twenty-something blond physical therapist in a banana colored sports bra and a grey leotard, glances in my direction, I immediately go from doing lackadaisical, slow motion, uncompleted pedals to a first time, full out, 360 degree burst.  This is against Dr. Stu’s orders and after the first go-round, it feels as if I’ve ripped out every stitch, torn all the scar tissue and have pulled my new enhanced ACL from its boney socket.  But stifling my bleat, I pedal on like Greg Lemonds.

Who says human beings are smarter than apes?

I’ll be playing tennis by December.

The sculpted-from-marble, twenty-something blond physical therapist in a banana colored sports bra and a grey leotard will remember me.