Zen Golf

I’m a writer and have been for a long time – and in that time I’ve written about everything from Online Dating to Pina Coladas. But I have yet to write about golf. At least I don’t recall writing about golf (see reference to ‘long time’) and that’s odd, mostly because I’ve been playing the game for decades.

I can’t tell you when first I was exposed to the sport, it could have been with Dad when I was a kid. Or it may have been in phys-ed class at high school. I don’t know, but I do know when I started to develop an actual interest in the game.

I enlisted in the Air Force when I was 18. When I got to my first base I was assigned a room with a kid from Ohio named Troy Ferber. He was a golfer, and a good one. Troy talked about golf a lot – even had his own set of clubs – and he made golf seem cool. I guess that’s because he was cool. And funny. Plus he could drink a lot of whiskey without falling over. He had attributes that I wanted to have. He was a guy I looked up to… and he golfed.

There were the cultural influences too. I could tell you I got interested in golf because it had an air of affluence to it (there was a time I was pretty impressed by that sort of thing) and I guess I aspired to be somehow more than I was?

However the interest got going, the actual playing of golf didn’t happen right away. It was a few years before I took club in hand and tried to hit anything with it. But what I did start doing was watching the sport on TV. Despite the military’s rough and tumble image, what you actually do a lot of is domestic type stuff. There’s lots of laundry and making beds and ironing – oh man is there a lot of ironing – and what I began doing when I ironed my uniforms was turn on a golf match. I’d mute the TV, turn the stereo up, and, as I pressed lapels, creases and collars, I’d watch men hit balls across colossal lawns in search of holes in the ground.

And I liked it.

After my time in the service I moved back to California, started college, joined the reserves and, with the help of a re-enlistment bonus, bought my first set of clubs. The irons were perimeter weighted (a recent innovation) and the woods were, misnomer of all misnomers, ‘metal woods’. And man were they cool! And man was I cool, with my very own set of brand new golf clubs.

Only trouble was, I couldn’t use them very well – which was disconcerting. I mean golf looked so easy on TV. As I ironed my uniforms and watched guys take elegant swings at dimply balls, it all looked so effortless and graceful. But the foul words that jumped from my lips as I thrashed angrily at those tiny wicked balls had very little to do with grace.

If you know what the term ‘slice’ means in golf, then you can guess at my frustration. A slice is when you swing in such a way that the clubface isn’t square to the ball and instead of hitting ‘flush’ it contacts at an angle, thereby ‘slicing’ the ball and imparting a wicked spin on it, sort of like a curveball in baseball.

And I had the slice to end all slices.

The harder I swung (like if I was still a long way from the hole and needed a great shot) the worse my slice would get. I swear, that ball would travel about a hundred yards forward and then, when the spin I’d imparted to it via my crappy technique took over, it’d hang a sharp right turn and head the next hundred yards away from the fairway and into whatever woods or ponds or sand traps were over in that part of the course nobody ever seemed to go but me.

I considered quitting the game.

But after a time (and after my wife bought me golf lessons one Christmas) my swing straightened out and I began to hit pretty well. And golf actually got quite fun there for a while.

I started playing in those insufferable golf tournaments that my, or someone else’s, company would put on. You know the ones, where you’re stuck for hours with three other people you’ve never met. And invariably they hold political, social and whatever other opinions they might have that are in direct contradiction to yours. But, because they are your customers, you bite your tongue just about every time they start flapping theirs.

After a while, I started finding reasons (excuses) to miss those tournaments – seemed all of a sudden I was too busy that day, or I had a family function to attend. I think what happened is the social part of the game didn’t much appeal to me. I get why it works for others, but I know myself well enough to understand why it doesn’t appeal to me: I’m actually a bit of an introvert. That isn’t to say I don’t like people, I do, I just don’t like being with a group of people for four-plus hours at a time.

So I started playing alone.

I was living in the town of Hollister at the time, and Hollister had a golf club named Ridgemark way down the south end of town, where the low rolling hills that surrounded us started. Ridgemark was a semi-private Club, with two separate courses that “alternated”. Here’s what I mean: On one day, the North course may be open to Club members while the South course was open to the public, and on the next day, vice versa. But what I found was that most of the golfers out there were members so that the public course was seldom very crowded. And about the time cocktail hour started that course would just about empty itself of frustrated hackers who gave in and headed to the bar.

Which left me and my clubs out there pretty much alone.

There were times I’d see maybe a handful of golfers my entire round. On those evenings a round of golf, which normally takes upward of 4 hours, would take me 2 ½ – and that was on foot. I’d get up to the tee box, tee up, and send that ball screaming. Then I quickly walk to its landing spot and send it again. Pretty soon I’d be up near the green, and then I’d be in the hole.

I happily, and peacefully, repeated that sequence of events 18 times, then headed into the clubhouse for a beer or two myself. Though often, I’d just walk straight to the car, and drive the 10 minutes to my house. All this was usually on a Friday evening, typically after a long week, and during a time in my life when I was working two jobs (one Monday through Friday and the other on weekends) in order to afford to keep my wife home with our kids. And it was good – and it made me feel good.

You know what was funny? That night, after my solo round of golf, as I lay in bed starting to relax toward sleep, I’d replay each shot in my head – every single one of them. It was like I was getting a second round for free. Then I’d drift off.

I loved those days of my Zen Golf.

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Lifetime Habit

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Do you know what you’re made of?

I don’t mean physically – like your composition. No, what I’m talking about are those experiences from your life that made you the way you are today. You know, like when someone says a certain thing to you – be that “get out of my hair”, or “what lovely eyes you have”.

What shapes the ways we respond to what others say to us?

Is it our original programming; that version of software that came pre-installed in our between-the-ears hard drive? Or is it the way we were conditioned by parents, teachers and life’s hard knocks?

A combination of both?

Here’s why I ask: There are things I’d like to change about myself. I can hear what you’re thinking now: “But John, you’re super great, at writing and probably many other things, so why change?” And trust me, I get your point – but there are still things about me I might want to modify a smidge.

Like how I argue.

Loretta: This ought to be interesting… Continue reading →

On the same page…

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So the funniest thing happened to Loretta and me the other day – and by funny I mean mysterious.

Loretta and I have been married for the better part of a year – and we were together for over a year before that. So you’d think we’d have the bigger topics sorted out by now. Sure, we know which side of the bed each sleeps on. And who gets the bathroom first (and I’m OK with second, really I am). But there are still some topics we have trouble with.

Like how much time do I get to myself?

Hi, this is Loretta, and I’ve been proofreading John’s columns for over two years now. Sometimes he listens to my advice, sometimes not, so I think it’s time I added my two cents to what he says about us.  First of all, part of the predicament is, after years of being single and on our own, we tend to think in terms of “I” instead of “we”. It’s “how much time do WE get to ourselves?” Not ‘how much time to I get to myself?” Continue reading →

Friends or lovers?

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Book excerpt:

“…so when Loretta and I got back home I set up a couple dates, with other women, online.

Please understand that last sentence makes no more sense to me now than it does to you – but at the time that was how I thought. Or maybe, more accurately, didn’t think. It was sort of this automatic behavior pattern I was in, like autopilot, which the online sites fit into – and fed into – perfectly. A new date with a different girl was always just an email away.

So I sent some emails, lined up a couple dates, and got busy distracting myself from the one woman I should’ve been focused on. After one of those dates I met Loretta at our coffee shop to go over lease forms for my rental (she had been in real estate and was knowledgeable about such things) and as we sat at a table deciding who was best to rent to, my phone buzzed with a text message. I looked at it and saw that it was from a woman I’d just gone out with the day before.

My demeanor changed instantly – and I was sure that Loretta caught it. The easy conversation we’d been having stopped being easy as it became clear there was now a new topic waiting to be discussed. Turns out Loretta had seen the screen of my phone as the text came in and so saw the name of the woman it was from and, not being shy, asked who she was. I said she was someone I’d met online and that we’d gone out. To say it was an awkward conversation is an understatement.

But we had it nonetheless – I told the woman sitting in front of me all about the other woman I’d just gone out with. I had this habit of being quite frank with Loretta – of telling her things that I wouldn’t confide in other women in my life. And I think ‘confide’ is the operative word here. I’d made her a confidant – I think because we started out with a friendship. And because she was my friend and confidant I would often tell her things without first thinking about how they might affect her – I guess as I would with a guy friend. But she was starting to have feelings for me. And I was starting to have them for her – and wanted to, in some way, make her feel like she was special to me, despite my habit of running with scissors. I told her that while I might meet another woman for coffee now and then, she was my lover – and because she was I would not be with another.

We were entering a curious space between friends and lovers, where we were still both – and yet on our way to something else…”

Although you may not believe what they do next – you can find out for a song.

Introducing the ‘Summer-Reading-List’ sale price of $2.99 for the eBook version of Online Dating Sucks …but it’s how I fell in love.

 

Do Mass Murderers Play Sports?

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Do you play a sport?

I play soccer, and last night, on the way home from my game, I called my sister. When I called she was, coincidently, in the middle of viewing a soccer game on TV. She said she was watching the San Jose Earthquakes and was fascinated with the game because one of the Earthquake’s players was a kid she used to teach in school.

Now there was a time when I would have talked about the Earthquakes with her all night long – but that time was 1978. Back then I was a kid who not only played soccer, but watched other people play it too. I was so taken with the sport I filled my life with it. I’d research the best cleats to wear, and the best soccer balls to use – and that was before Google, when we used to have to go to a place called a “library” and look through things called “books” in order to find answers to our questions. Continue reading →

Sabatino’s Review

The latest book review is in…

Thanks to the amazing Sabatino!

Review (as posted on hotcupoflove.com):

In the fall of 2011 my wife left me.

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Little did I know that around that same time, a man from across the country was struggling with the same demons I was encountering in my own life.  Being men, and naturally wired to view relationships a certain way, we both set out to fix what had now come undone the best way we thought we knew how- online dating, though, this is where our paths deviate.

That man was John P. Gavin, and while I was attempting to tirelessly solve the rubik’s cube that I had hoped would reveal some secret understanding of how women view relationships, he was busy living it, documenting it, and putting it in to practice.  John’s book, Online Dating Sucks…but it’s how I fell in love, chronicles his journey from divorce, to dating, and eventually falling in love all the while serving as a Rosetta Stone for women looking to decode the male psyche.

To say this book challenged the way I view my own pursuit of a partner would be an understatement.  John lays out the differences between men and women, bearing no excuse for the natural progression in which our genders approach love, dating, relationships, and marriage. His in-depth and often inward analysis weaves a delicate web, bridging a chasm left void from centuries of disconnect, and unhinging conventional wisdoms, now outdated.

In Online Dating Sucks…but it’s how I fell in love, John allows his readers to spy on his dating adventures and missteps, allowing access to his personal life as he vulnerably relives the experiences that brought him to this enlightened state of love. Oh, and the woman that could finally reel him in? That’s Loretta, who John now proudly boasts as his girlfriend.

Get an inside look at how the opposite sex thinks and acts when searching for a soul mate. Learn simple rules for dating and how to avoid the pitfalls relationships often fall victim to.  Read one man’s journey from a life shattering divorce, to finding the only one who could capture his heart- and for goodness sakes, be fearless in your search for love.

Online dating sucks, but its how John found Loretta.

(Read more on Sabatino’s site hotcupoflove.com)

Excuse me, but do you validate? (Book Excerpt)

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I grew up a shy kid in a small town – I had my circle of friends I was comfortable with, but around anybody else I was usually pretty quiet.

When I joined the Air Force I got pushed out of my comfort zone – way out. In the service you get thrown into a new environment with a bunch of guys from all over the country and are told to just work it out. So you do. This leads to all sorts of firsts – I even found myself volunteering for things I never would have tried back home.

One day a guy in my unit told me they were looking for a new squadron narrator (I had been recruited into the Air Force Honor Guard – we did big ceremonies in and around Washington DC) and he suggested I try out for the job. So I did. Continue reading →

How online dating is different for men than women

This is something I wrote about a year ago – back when I did an online dating advice column in the newspaper. It addresses the different ways in which men and women go about relationships, and the frustrations they can lead to.

But the news isn’t all bad – the solutions are pretty easy once you get what’s really going on… Continue reading →

Chase or Space? (What to do when the guy wants out)

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When I was a kid in San Jose back in the 70’s there was a show on TV I loved called Ultra Man.

I’d rush home after school and do my homework in time to watch this English-dubbed Japanese sci-fi drama. When I YouTube the old episodes now during bouts of nostalgia I’m reminded that Ultra Man was actually a guy in a rubber suit, on a cheesy soundstage, fake fighting with other guys in rubber suits. But back then, when I was six, Ultra Man was amazing.

Continue reading →