Did you every hit a golf drive perfectly? I did and that is the last time I went golfing.
My experience with golf was limited to par-three courses. On those courses, usually less than 200 yards a hole, one used an iron to get to the green and a putter to finish the hole. I could use irons and putters but any club with wood at the end of it and I was lost.
One Summer day during college break, I went golfing with two friends on a par 72 course. It wasn't my idea but I decided to give it a try. So, I picked up the bag of clubs from the garage and we were off. That bag contained a couple of woods, irons, putter and the dreaded driver. The 8th and 9th holes are the only ones I remember from that day. I had just teed off at the 8th hole with a wood and sliced the ball sharply into the woods. Normally, I would tee off with an iron but I thought I wood try the wood. That's all I remember from the 8th hole.
Next was the 9th. It was a 300 yard hole with an elevated tee. As we looked down to the green, we saw two golfers on the green putting out and one waiting in a golf cart just off the front of the green. It was my turn to tee off and I was waiting for the trio to clear the green. The other members of my threesome told me to tee off because I wouldn't get anywhere near the green. They jokingly said anyone on an adjacent hole was in danger not the threesome on the green. I thought about it and walked over to the bag and pulled out the driver. I was determined to keep it in the fairway even if I had to dribble it 50 yards. I took a measured swing and hit the ball. No grass was flying, no dirt, no divot. I looked to each side to spot my ball and couldn't see it. Where'd it go? I asked. My friends said it was still going in the air and straight for the green. We all watched it head for the green . . . and that golf cart. The three of us began yelling fore at the golfers in front of us. And then it happened. My ball landed, not in the fairway and not on the green. It landed on that golf cart a few feet from hitting the guy in it. I had driven the ball about 290 yards on the fly directly at the hole--with my driver. If the golf cart hadn't been there, the ball would have rolled close to or into the hole before it stopped. All of us were stunned. The threesome in front of us couldn't believe the ball came from the tee. My threesome--including me--couldn't believe the ball came from me.
I don't remember if we finsihed the last nine holes that day. If we did, I don't remember anything about them. All I can see is that ball banging off that gold cart and nearly beaning someone. That was it. When I got home, I put the bag of clubs in the garage and never took them out again.
Years ago, there was a horse track called Brandywine Raceway just off of Route 202 in Delaware. It closed in the 1990s and now it's a shopping center and housing development. Brandywine had a lake in the infield and I think its remnants are right here. Standardbreds raced at Brandywine. That's harness racing where horses race with a sulky in which the driver sits. Standardbreds have 2 different racing gaits--pace and trot. Pacers move the front and rear legs on one side of their body forward in unison and then the other side in the same manner. One side moves forward and the other side back. Trotters move diagonal legs forward at the same time and the other set of diagonal legs backward. They trot and its a joy to watch. If you are a bettor, you prefer pacers over trotters because during a race pacers rarely break their gait. Trotters , on the other hand, are more likely to break their gait. When a horse breaks its gait it's as if the horse enters the world of slow motion as the other horses rocket past. That's the basics, now the story.
One evening, my Father came home from work and he was excited because he had a sure thing and the sure thing was racing at Brandywine that night. My Father immediately called my Uncle and told him about the sure thing. My Uncle wasn't going to miss a sure thing and he was on board. My Uncle and Father were very close. In fact, my Uncle and Father were so close that, if my Father ever did something embarrasing, my Uncle would laugh and poke my Father with his elbow to remind him of it over and over again. My Uncle wouldn't relent until my Father broke out in laughter about it. No one else did that with my Father.
Here was the sure thing:
a priest owned a pacer named Mike's Law,
the priest raced Mike's Law when his parish needed money, and
the best harness racing driver in history, Herve Filion, drove Mike's Law for the priest when the parish needed money.
Then my Father placed that night's Brandywine race progam on the table so I could see it. Mike's Law was racing in the featured race and Herve Filion was driving. I looked at my Father and said, "That's a sure thing and I'm going to Brandywine with you tonight." My Father looked at me and said, "don't tell anyone because we don't want the odds to drop." In short, if a lot of people bet on the same horse in a race, the odds drop and you win less money. We didn't want that to happen so we didn't tell anyone. We wanted to make as much money as we could so we had to keep the sure thing between the three of us. In a few minutes, we were on our way to Brandywine.
My Father and I used a system for picking horses that he developed and I improved. It worked and probably still does. By the end of the 6th race, the 3 of use were well ahead using our system and the sure thing was just ahead of us. We didn't have to analyze anything to pick the horse in the feature race. The priest, Mike's Law, and Herve Filion is all we needed to know and we knew it. Bet accordingly, bet heavy. That is when I noticed the size of the crowd. It was larger than usual and the lines to place a bet were longer than usual. You could hear the crowd humming with excitement. Then the tote board gave the final odds for Mike's Law and he was now even money. Apparently, everyone knew about the sure thing. That didn't matter because we were still going to win just not as big as we thought.
Brandywine raceway started its races with a car that had gates on its back. The car would lead the horses for a running start, drive off to the side, and the announcer would say the customary there they go into the public address system to announce the start. The horses would run around the 5/8th mile track nearly twice to complete the mile race. Around the track the horses went and Mike's Law was in just the right place. Herve was on his way to another easy win. Around again and into the stretch. At the top of the stretch, the crowd started roaring and that roar grew and grew as Herve drove Mike's Law into the lead. Everyone must have known about the sure thing and everyone must have had money on him. Mike's Law was first and within spitting distance of the finish line. Then it happened. Mike's Law entered the world of slow motion and the crowd gave a collective Ohhhhh. It was as if the crowd had a group coronary. They all could see that Mike's Law had broken his gait and all the other horses finished ahead of him. From first to last. The crowd's Ohhhhh now turned to silence except for a few voices close to the track. Those voices were shouting at Herve and using the typical hyphenated words to express their feelings about him and his parentage. Since the rest of the crowd was silent, I'm sure Herve heard it. Even the priest got his share of vulgarity from some of the voices.
There were still 3 races left in the card that night but we went home quietly with much of the crowd following us. We just got our asses kicked and that's how we felt. After the initial silence in the car, my Uncle started on my Father with "priests' horse." Then "Hey William what happened to the priest's horse." As I said, my Uncle was unrelenting when he started this. When my Father couldn't take it anymore and he broke out in laughter, we all started laughing. Sure thing.
About 20 years ago, I wrote the following entry for my commercial site and I always wanted to touch up the language a bit. The title Just Call Me Johnson, is a take-off on the comedy sketch Don't Call Me Johnson which is still funny. In reading this entry, remember in the 1970s, personal computers and mobile phones were still in our future. So here is, as it happened: Just Call Me Johnson!
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In 1971, when I first moved to the Washington D. C. area, I lived in Greenbelt, Maryland. The Greenbelt area surrounds the major intersection of Kenilworth Avenue and Greenbelt Road. Looking north, if you imagine this intersection as creating four geographic areas, the town of Greenbelt would be located in the upper right hand area. Within the town was a small shopping center called Greenbelt Plaza. In the upper left area of the intersection, a larger shopping center called Beltway Plaza was located. Our story begins at Beltway Plaza.
One day, I took my car to the car dealer to have some maintenance done. In the afternoon, I realized that I didn't have any cash and I needed to cash a check to pay for the work. From past experience with the car dealer, I knew that they did not take the American Express card. So I walked from my apartment to Beltway Plaza where my bank was located. I arrived at the bank shortly after 2 PM. The lobby service had closed at 2 PM so I stood in line behind a car waiting to cash a check. When my turn came, the teller told me that I couldn't cash my check at her window because I was a pedestrian and I was in the car lane. I needed a car to cash my check.
Since I needed a car to cash the check, I walked over to a phone booth in Beltway Plaza and called a cab. I ordered a cab for Anthony at Greenbelt Plaza. After I hung up, I realized that I had ordered the cab for the wrong shopping center. So I called the same cab company and ordered a cab for Johnson at Beltway Plaza. That was simple enough. Give them a different name and no one would ever know the mistake that I had made. I was in no mood to admit my mistake to anyone.
Well, the cab arrived fairly quickly. It was too good to be true. I flagged the cab down. "Are you Anthony?" the driver asked. "No, I am Johnson." I told him. Immediately, he began questioning me about who I was. "Are you sure you are not Anthony?" He again asked. "No, I am Johnson." I told him again. "Well, I am here for both you guys." The cabbie said. "Did you receive a call from Anthony to meet you at Beltway Plaza?" I asked. "Yeah." The cabbie said.
This cabbie made the same stupid mistake that I did. I ordered a cab for Anthony at Greenbelt Plaza and this guy shows up looking for Anthony at Beltway Plaza. Well, he was here and I was not going to admit that I was Anthony. "Where to?" He said. "Over to that bank." I pointed. "Why do you need a cab to go to the bank?" He asked. So now I had to explain why I needed a cab. "The teller wouldn't cash my check without a car and I needed cash", I explained. As we were sitting waiting for the line to move, the driver turned around to me and asked again "Are you Anthony?" "No, I'm not Anthony." I shouted. "I'm Johnson." I told him. So we waited in line for my turn at the teller window.
It was my turn in line and I looked at the teller with satisfaction and said "I've got a car now. Here is my check." Then I tried to remember if bank tellers say thank you after they cash a check. Well they do. At least this one did. "Thank you, Mr. Anthony." She said. The cabbie immediately looked around at me and said "There, I told you that you were Anthony." "No, she said Johnson." I yelled. "I'm Johnson, not Anthony." I added to make my point. We finally pulled out of that parking lot and stopped at a red light on Greenbelt Road. The cabbie again turned around. This time he said "you sure do look like Anthony." "How the hell do you know what I look like?" I yelled. For the next 15 minutes of the cab ride we had these continuing spats about whether I was Anthony or Johnson.
Finally, we reached the car dealership. I paid the cabbie and as he drove away he shouted "Anthony." I shouted back. "Johnson." I walked in the car dealer's and told them I was Johnson. "Nothing here for Johnson." She said. "Could you check for Anthony?" I asked, now wondering if they would give me my car. As they were preparing the bill, I noticed that there was an American Express emblem on the garage window. "Do you take American Express now?" I asked. "Yes, we just started taking it last month." She said. My day passed before my eyes when she said that. "How would you like to pay for this?" She asked. "American Express." I responded. After I signed my name she said, "thank you Mr. Anthony." At least the cabbie was not there to hear it and argue with me.
Sometimes, you wake up in the morning and you just know it'is going to be a bad day. I've had those days, but until July 2018, I never had a bad month. At the beginning of July, my air conditioner died. Of course, the next couple of days were in the mid-90s and so was the inside of the house. The air conditioner was replaced on July 3. Then, on July 4, my hot water heater declared its independence and died. That was replaced on July 5. By Monday July 9 everything in the house was working--except the furnace which still needs replacing--and I felt great.
Things were going so well that I decided to show the kids in Karate class how crouches should be done. Wrong move. Something clicked in my left knee and before I knew it I was on the ground. A couple of the adults must have thought I was having a coronary and came to my assistance. "I'm OK," I told them and limped back to the peanut gallery in back of the class. I don't do crouches anymore. It took 2 weeks for my knee to recover with the help of some knee exercises.
It's not over yet. Towards the end of the 3'rd week of July, I developed an infection. Talk about pain. By the beginning of the next week, I was on an antibiotic and the infection was over. That week I tested for my next belt in Tang Soo Do karate. Believe it or not, I passed the test and I am now a red/blue belt. One more and I'm a black belt candidate. I guess in the worst months, there is a glimmer of light.
Finally, on July 31, my main television died. Hey, I'm still breathing and it's August.
In January 1980, I purchased a 1979 Datsun 280ZX with the Grand Luxury Package of options. The color was called Champagne/Mahogany which is a rich brown body with a lighter brown hood. Among the options were cloth upholstery and aluminum wheels. Of course, its name is Brownie and it sits in my garage with antique plates on it. In the 38 years that I have owned Brownie, I have never seen one like it until . . . .
On Tuesday of this past week, I drove to the Y in my daily driver, Betty. More on Betty at a later date. I did my swimming, walked out the front door, walked the cross walk, looked to the right in a parking space, and was frozen in my tracks. I thought I was staring at Brownie. Then I checked the plate. It was an antique plate but a different number. It was Brownie's identical twin including the aluminum wheels and the cloth upholstery.
I went to the desk and asked if it was possible to identify the owner of Brownie's identical twin. Of course not. Then I looked around at the people inside to try to match them with Brownie's identical twin. How do I do that? The only thing I could do was to sit out front and wait. After 30 minutes of waiting, I gave up. Brownie may never meet her identical twin, unless . . . .
If you are reading this and you are the owner of Brownie's identical twin, please let me know. Thanks in advance.
The most important document that my parents left me is a copy of my Paternal Grandparent's marriage certificate. It is important because of time, place, and purpose.
Our families all have given us some bit of oral history concerning their life and origins. My father often told me the story of how his parents met each other and married. As I remember it, my grandfather was a shoe salesman in Italy who lived in the flat lands. One day he traveled into the mountains to sell shoes and met his future wife. That was it. I did say a bit of oral history. What does one do with that? Well, it's a beginning and sometimes the full story takes years to complete.
The passport of my Grandfather, dated in 1913, states that he was a resident of the city of Teramo, in the province of Teramo. To the west of Teramo city, are the Apennine Mountains. Teramo City isn't exactly in the flat lands but it is a lot lower than the Apennines. Onto the the wedding certificate which was dated in 1939. My grandparents were married in Italy and migrated to the United States in the early 1900s. Why a marriage certificate dated 1939? The marriage certificate shows that my grandparents were married in the province of Teramo in the commune of Valle Castellana. The linked google maps image shows the municpal building in Valle Castellana. I assume that, or an earlier building, is the source of the marriage certificate. At 2,000 feet above sea level, I guess Valle Castellana could be considered in the mountains. My Father's bit of oral history seems accurate.
We now have the time, 1939; the place Valle Castellana; but we need purpose. Well, purpose is explained by another document of my grandmother's that include the words
Yes, it's a Certificate of Naturalization. My Grandmother became a United States citizen shortly after she received the copy of her marriage certificate.
Now, we have purpose. Apparently, my Grandparents lost their marriage certificate on the trek from Italy to the United States, needed an official copy of it for my Grandmother's naturaliztion, and requested a copy of the marriage certificate from Valle Castellana which they received in 1939. I'm sure my Father played a major role in getting this done for his parents who found each other in a small commune in the Apennine Mountains of Italy.
In 1992, I bought my first house. A year later I bought ny first dog--his name was Ambrose and he was a black miniature poodle. In 2010, after nearly 17 years, Ambrose died. Of course, I decided to never go through the death of a beloved pet again and told myself I would never have another dog. Yeah! After about a month, I start looking on the internet and saw an image of this incredibly cute little black miniature poodle. His name was Blue Jay. Of course, I decided to visit the breeder in Maryland just to see him in person. Nothing more. While I was looking at Blue Jay, another dog kept crawling up my sweater to lick my nose. Her name was Lily. Out came the check book and I bought them both.
Lily is the 4th in the litter and Blue Jay is the 7th. Lily is the alpha and Blue Jay is her security blanket. Lily also is Blue Jay's protector and she checks on him when they visit the Vet. If he is having a bad dream and cries out, Lily is there to see what is going on. Lily loves walks and remembers everything's proper place in the neighborhood. She has friends and visits them on her walk. Blue Jay has one special friend--my neighbor--and whines for her at her door. She picks Blue Jay up and holds him in her arms and he seems to like this. Toys are the main difference between the two dogs. With over 20 toys here, Blue Jay believes they are all his. Although Lily is the Alpha, Blue Jay is the Toy Boss. I get a new toy--one for each, and Blue Jay grabs both. Lily is left to whine for her toy until Blue Jay is done with it.
A few months ago, I bought them a Lambchop toy from a local grocery store. You may remember Sherri Lewis and her sockpuppet, Lambchop. Well, Lambchop is now a pet toy and Blue Jay loves it. He takes it everywhere. There are plenty of plush toys here but Lambchop is unquestionably the favorite. There is only one problem. Blue Jay tries to eat Lanbchop and Lily helps if she gets a chance to put her teeth into Lambchop. I now have 3 injured Lambchops on injured reserve awaiting surgery. I'm the surgeon with my sewing kit. Come to think of it, I have 2 new Lambchops ready to go into action. In a moment or two, Lambchop will be fighting for her life being pulled on by 2 miniature poodles.
When I was 7 years old, I would walk to the 4-foot deep level of the local lake and stand on the lake bottom with my nose just above the water. Because of that, my Father called me 4-foot Bob. Unfortunaely, I couldn't swim. One day, as I walked to the 4-foot level of the lake, I lost my footing and went below the surface of the water. After flailing about for a bit, I regained my footing and slowly walked back to land. That was the end of 4-foot Bob; that was nearly the end of my life in the water. Some events stay with you for life. Almost drowning, is one such event and it stayed with me for 60 years. For those 60 years, I managed to avoid the water. Yes, I feared the water.
When I was 67, I decided to conquer my fear of the water and learn how to swim. I joined the YMCA (Y) and signed up for private swimming lessons. If I was going to drown, I was going to do it in private. The local Y has 2 indoor pools--a warm water (kiddie) pool with a maximum depth of about 5 feet and a 25 meter (adult) pool with a maximum depth of 7.5 feet. I began in the kiddie pool and it took all of my courage to walk to the 3 foot level of the pool. At that level, I was terrified and my body trembled. This stuff surrounding me in the pool tried to kill me once and I didn't trust it. Fortunately, my instuctor was very patient. At first, I held on to the edge of the pool and kicked with my face in the water and then with my back in the water. Another drill we did was to stand in the water after I had been on my back. Let's just say it was ugly. After that, I tried to float on my back. I couldn't do it because part of me always sank. Then I tried the freestyle stroke. I sank at that too. I was in the kiddie pool for quite some time before I graduated to the larger pool but I eventually did.
The nice part about the adult pool was that it had a warning line to let you know where the water began to get deep. That line and I became close friends. The depth at that point quickly went from about 4.5 feet to 7.5 feet. I began in the adult pool with the elementary backstroke. With that stroke, you get on your back, expand your arms, and pull them to your side while you do a basic kick. With my instructor with me, I would swim from the 3 foot level all the way down to the 7.5 foot level. When she wasn't there, I would stop at the warning line before it got deep. After the elementary backstroke, I worked on the freestyle stroke. That is swimming with your face in the water and breathing when you turn your head to the side to get some air. Initially, I couldn't do a length of the pool while doing the freestyle. Now I can and more. In fact, I've done over 20 lengths of the pool at a time using a variety of strokes. Some freestyle, some backstroke, some on my back with flippers, some with a snorkel, some just pulling myself through the water with my arms. I can swim now and I am perfecting the breast stroke. That is quite an accomplishment when I remember I once shuddered at the 3-foot level standing in the kiddie pool. In addition to not drowning in the water, the water keeps my body in tone and burns calories. Yes, water can be your friend.
What's the moral of my story? The most basic is: if I can do it, so can you. Another is: you're never to old to learn. Just because we are aging, we don't have to quit on life. I've picked up the pace of my life as you will discover on my future blog entries. Be healthy, learn something new, and have fun doing it.