Puttin’ Around

Puttin’ Around

Don’t laugh. After quitting my job, I had planned to drive south this June for a southern road trip along the East Coast. The idea? To stop at the best mini-golf sites between Maryland and Florida for an in-family tournament while driving down the coast. Myrtle Beach and Orlando topped our list of vacation spots with excellent mini-golf courses, but a few off-the-beaten-trail locations in Georgia and North Carolina were also included.

Rodney has always bragged (see: lied) about his prized turquoise jacket for winning the National Mini-Golf Association (NMGA) title at some nebulous past date. He finds a way to shoehorn this imaginary title and jacket into any conversation whenever we’re golfing:

“This hole reminds me of when I won the NMGA championship and their fabled turquoise jacket. Only a man truly skilled in the art of the putt could conquer the course and himself for the sake of victory.”

To which, we’d usually respond:

“Dude, hit your stupid ball through the stupid castle.”

He’d get the final word though:

“Heh. When you’re a course record holder like I am, you see the world in a different way. You need to take your time, ya see? Look at all the angles and hone your skills, and you could have a record and a jacket too, Murph.”

A little explanation about that last statement. You see, the Murpheys are a pretty competitive family. Growing up with six brothers and a mother who cheats at all manner of card and board games (she’s quite proud of this personality flaw), bragging rights prove a valuable commodity in our clan.

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Two Roads Much the Same

Two Roads Much the Same

At my high school graduation, the class valedictorian opened his speech with a quote from Frost’s ‘The Road Not Taken.’ I imagine that a few English teachers cringed a bit. Once the speaker encouraged change and innovation, they knew that he had missed the point of the poem.

The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

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No party; no cry.

“Dude,” Sean sighed with a disapproving look at my portal game console.  “Don’t do that.  Get yourself a drink and talk to people.”

Part of me knew that he was right.  Bachelor parties required some level of camaraderie.  I could refuse alcohol but refusal to interact or talk with the other guests was a severe social taboo.  Part of the groom-to-be’s happiness depended upon the outward appearance of enjoyment among his friends and family.  I could not celebrate his future happiness holed up in a corner of the cabin playing video games, reading mystery novels, and essentially wishing . . . dreaming of being elsewhere.

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Traditional Yule

Onesies were Brigid’s idea.  The rest of the siblings had their newborns, new spouses, new houses, new raises, and other welcome topics of the successful adult.  For the singles — Brigid, Kevin, Shannon, and of course myself — still living at home, working as either students or teachers, there were no new achievements or traditional rites of passage to announce over double helpings of pumpkin pie.  For myself, the arrival of yearly milestones — first college degree, first internship, first car, first job, first paycheck, first roadtrip, first love, first heartbreak . . . first hangover — had come to a halt sometime during the last five years.  It was as if while running a marathon, you discovered someone had replaced the road with a treadmill.

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Surf and Turf

The-BeachSomething kissed the surface of the water off to my left.  Reflexively, I began pulling my feet onto the board.  Rodney was on shore, wrestling with his ankle-strap; his surfboard drifted in the tide pulling at the strap like an impatient child.  The rental guy had mentioned how to attach the strap to the board, but excitement and eagerness to start had smothered any useful advice.

“We’ll figure it out,” Shannon had said.  It’s practically a family motto.

We had searching half of the morning for a ideal surfing spot and the remaining half for surfboard rentals near Kapulua.  The beach was located on the western side of Maui, just south of Lahaina.  Large black stones like giant pebbles scattered across the sand.  Smoke billowing from townhouses past the park promised barbecues; a few families ate box lunches at picnic benches; a man strummed his guitar while his wife stared into the tide.  Otherwise the beach was empty.

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Hooked-up“I just need an hour of your time,” Dad muttered as my foot hovered over the basement stairs.  Inwardly, my gut tightened with a sickening amalgam of anxiety and dread.  It was almost 9 am and already I felt drained.

My father’s sense of time is generally exaggerated to the point that I had already given up my Saturday as a loss.  After a week of teaching gas laws and grading fifty ten-page labs on molarity (I loathe repetitious activity.  It is the water torture of the soul.), a Saturday morning without immediate plans provides an opportunity for refueling my mental, physical and emotional energies.  For Dad, it’s a chance to simultaneously plan and execute a Honey-do list while enlisting the aid of his inactive children.

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Snow Promises

I wrote this particular post, just hours before the Blizzapocalypse hit the East Coast.  Weeks later, a small storm has covered the area in about 1-3 inches of snow and freezing rain reminding me of this following unfinished editorial, which I’m sending to you all now.  

The world is changing.  I feel it in the water. I smell it in the air.  I see it in the crowds outside the grocery stores.    

I love the promise of change snow brings with it.  Minute by minute, as each layer of ice and flake cake the ground, trees and roadways, snow promises to change the world.  Tomorrow, we will have gone back in time, 65 million years into the past when man would hunt mammoths with long pointed sticks.  No other season grants us this clean slate upon which we can rewrite the world.  Even spring, with its promises of renewal, resuscitates the world of last year, of 2015.  Moreover, the change is gradual: day by day we are given an extra bud, a new leaf or two, one or three extra berries on the vine.  Winter is the contractor with no budget:  “Give us twelve hours and we’ll remodel your entire landscape.”  

The goal and curse of science etches itself in the belief that the universe follows a constant and unerring pattern.  That with inquiry, experimentation and discovery we may predict the outcome to any phenomenon.  To, in short, map the whole of time and space to one solitary pattern and drive chaos from their borders.  This desire grants us control through the sacrifice of spontaneity.  Imagine if you could predict the most minute cellular spasm or broadcast the results of every war, election, and Oscar race.  You would have power, knowledge, and control . . . And it would be boring as hell.    

Winter reminds me to embrace the chaos of change and to wonder at the unexpected.  Like seasoned salt on the surface of a bland meal, this incoming blizzard promises to season the next few days with a healthy mix of excitement and beauty.  Tomorrow outside the world will be a new place: white, silent and sparkling, ready to be either shaped into snowmen or crushed into snow angels.  Long live the unexpected joys.  

TTWA: Horoscope

My first assignment from 712 More Things to Write About.  Technically, I set this challenge for the publishers first book 642 Things to Write About, but I accidentally grabbed the sequel from my desk while chowing down on dark chocolate-covered oreos, which I stole surreptiously from my sister’s Mother’s Day present.  Excitement, hunger and sugar rush blinded me, and I’m too stubborn and admittedly lazy to begin again.  

The book’s first suggestion:  Write yesterday’s horoscope. 

A tramautic event will interrupt your daily routine.  Although the circumstances may undermine your self-confidence, you will meet the unexpected challenges skillfully earning others’ respect and admiration in the process.  Try not to be so hard on yourself when perfection is not achieved; life will reward your efforts in time.  

So yesterday, a student of mine fell to the floor during class, overcome by a sudden seizure.  If you’ve never experienced a seizure before, I can only describe the moment as terrifying: legs and torso spasming violently against the ground; the sufferer unresponsive; a feeling of total helplessness for left to watch.  The experience left me rather pale and exhausted, despite the assurance from my boss and vice principal that I had reacted appropriately.  Television has warped all my thoughts concerning the best methods to react to emergencies.  Contacting the administration and paramedics feel inappropriate when compared with the exploits of Spider-man and Optimus Prime, but the ability walk on walls and transform into a semi would not avail those suffering from non-super-villian emergencies.  

Still, I felt like I should do more.  In daydreams, you always feel prepared for dinosaur attacks or zombie warfare, but when an honest-to-God emergency does emerge your scenarios and strategies fall short.  Thus, it felt rather good when one of my students who watched the attack congratulated me on my quick thinking and confident instruction. 

“You did good, Mr. Murph,” she said, noticing the paleness in my face as the paramedics wheeled my student from the school.  “Thank you for keeping calm for all of us.”

Calm?  My heart felt like it might break a rib in agitation.  

The student returned to school the following day as if nothing had occurred.  She waved me down and — in somewhat poor taste — laughingly explained “I just want to let you know that I’m not dead.”  Good to know.  

Things to Write About

Working among hormonal teenagers and equally hormonal parents all day, I arrive home every afternoon with only enough energy to shed shirt, tie and one shoe before collapsing on a recliner to Netflix and ponder my lot in life — Hey, it’s not a lot but it’s a life! *rimshot* Some evenings the very act of closing my eyes feels like a Herculean trial. Finding time to write is one issue, but finding topics upon which to cleverly spin epics and brushes with death appear limited while teaching at a Catholic high school — which for the sake of my life and sanity is a good thing.  Posting details about my class and chemistry lessons edges on the unethical; besides most days prove all too repetitive and boring unless you happen to relish tales of paperwork and two-hour meetings on teaching paradigms and the philosophy of grading matrixes (neither terms of which I can adequately express my loathing).  Moreover, with a new principal and administration — we receive more status updates than a thirteen-year-old’s Facebook page — I am yet uncertain which emails should be carefully scrutinized or tossed like so much spam from the latest male enhancement drug or Egyptian princesses seeking potential investors for mysterious oil reservoirs.

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A Question of Americanism

I should have brought some playing cards.  Though great for filling time, books would have drawn stares and awkward questions about ‘antisocial behavior.’  The copious amount of spilt beer, BBQ sauce, and oyster juice nixed my iPad.  Hell, even my cell phone was about to die, reminding me every two minutes to search for a nonexistent outlet.   Boredom played on my brain like a death march.  Thus, we arrive at the missing playing cards.

Patrick’s father-in-law had invited Kevin and me to a stag bull and oyster roast at an American Legion lodge across town.  Forty-one tables (I counted) of over-weight blue-collar men filling Styrofoam plates with stacks of pit beef, pork, and German sausage, draining pitchers of cheap beer, and slurping brine-soaked mollusks.  After an hour, I was ready to sneak out to my favorite bookstore or Gamestop.

Recently, I had invested in amiibos, little interactive statuettes of my favorite Nintendo characters, which I can then train on my Wii U to fight other amiibos in Super Smash Bros.  What I had first conceived of as a marketing gimick has grown into an obsession.   Matches in our house decide what we watch come movie night (always go with the animated flick) or what we drink (as long as it fits in my mason Renaissance goblet, I’m game).  I recently trained my Toon Link to level 50, what is essentially a badass, and plan to use him to cremate Dasad’s Sonic the Hedgehog . . .

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