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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To Sail or Walk

Summer is drawing near, bringing with it Floridian vacations with family, cookouts amid 90 degree afternoons, and an opportunity for a little soul-searching.  I’m not sure how other teachers begin their summer.  Alcohol and long morning naps surely are incorporated in some way.  My Aunt Sue often visit us in June and July when we were kids, before she retired after nearly thirty-years teaching science in Arkansas.  She would bring large plastic bins — the size of pound-cakes — filled with a powerful concoction of alcohol and fruit-juice for which my mom would ceremoniously clear a place in the family freezer to harden overnight.  The next day the two of them, Mom and Aunt Sue, would extract ice cream scoops and dig out the slushie mixture with the same care and joy as a miner unearthing a golden cache.   They’d sit out by the pool and while away the day until they’d be too exhausted or drunk to move.

“My summer has begun!” Aunt Sue would shout.  “No kids.  No grading.  This is the life!”

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Water Strikes

  “Alright everyone, I’m only going to explain this to you once so pay attention.  The motion you make with the oars requires minimal effort.  It doesn’t take much to move these vessels, but you have to follow instructions.  If you do not, I will give you three chances to fix whatever you’re doing wrong and then . . . the coach comes out.  The coach is six-foot two and a nasty SOB.  He will get in your face, and trust me, you do not want that.  I am strict and demanding, but you will learn the correct way to paddle today ladies and gentlemen.  I will not hesitate to send you back to shore if you slow us down by not following directions.  Do not force me to let the coach out, gentlemen.”

Dan, our kayak instructor, finished his tirade with a long hard stare at Rodney and me.  Instinctively, I turned around.  Not seeing any spider, snake or shark, I considered that Dan had already singled me out as the ‘problem child’ of our little excursion.

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Adventure Hilton Head

Attempting to pull me away from my ps4 and the latest Batman game, my siblings have kidnapped me this morning.  We are currently heading south to Hilton Head Island, SC to enjoy the next ten days biking, golfing, and avoiding the occasional shark attack.

Compared with our Orlando vacations, Hilton Head decided is a welcome change of pace.  Biking, golfing, swimming and eating encompass much of the island’s entertainment.  And while fishing and kyaking are available by reservation — I’ll discuss these in a future post — the point of Hilton Head is to imagine a vacation without schedules, roller coasters, or hour-long queues outside of Space Mountain.  I’ll post pictures of the resort and the island over the next few days with a proper write-up of our adventure after we return.  See you later!

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TTWA: Plath on Xanex

TTWA Assignment:  Write a poem by Sylvia Plath on antidepressants.  

Ha, okay.  So, this one’s a bit of a challenge for me, as I’ve never read much of Plath’s poetry.  In fact, that which I do know stems from her feminist roots, daddy issues and depression-induced suicide — which I might be able to glean from the assignment anyway.  Providing antidepressants to tortured artists has always intrigued me every since I saw that Dr. Who episode with Van Gogh (Watch it, yourself.  It’s excellent.).  Imagine Van Gogh happy and successful, but the world without Sunflowers or Starry Nights.  Which is more important: human life or immortality?  

Anyway, I based this poem after Plath’s ‘Daddy,’ which after reading it seems poor taste considering it’s Father’s Day here in the States.  Then, I thought . . . well, if a young troubled Sylvia received treatment at a young age, then she might think more kindly of her father.  We might turn this poem into a Hallmark card . . . 

Dear Daddy

You do not buy, you do not buy
Any more, black shoes, dad.
They do not fit, the wrong size
For thirty years, you buy my clothes,
In this dress, I can barely breathe.
This fabric makes me sneeze
Achoo. 

Daddy, I’m gonna kill you,
if you keep buying sweets.
Chocolate, cakes, Thin Mints.
I feel heavy, a bloated bag, God.
Oh, this diet ruins my life.
Feelin’ big as a circus seal. 

Did you hear, Daddy?
There’s a big dance in the town
In a flat, that got me thinkin’
Of boys, boys, boys.
Even though we have so little in common.
I hope he calls soon, my Polack friend. 

The black telephone rang near the root
of my bed, just as I thought, ‘Screw it.’
He asked. And I said I do, I do.
So daddy, I’m finally through waiting.
You warn me to be careful and sober.
But your voice just can’t worm through. 

Post-dance, Twilight movie.
Monster killed one man, then killed two——
Ew, the sparkle vampire watched Bella sleep.
I’d let Edward drink my blood for a year.
Seven after ten and home, if you want to know.
Daddy, you can lie back in Lazyboy now. 

There’s only one man in my big red heart
And if the whole village hates you.
If the world dances and stamps on you.
I will always be there for you.
Daddy, daddy, with this poem, I’m through.

TTWA: World Peace or Toilets

Waterfall City, from James Gurney’s Dinotopia

 TTWA Assignment:  Briefly but convincingly, state why world peace is better than indoor plumbing.

Imagine you are one of the last man or woman on Earth.  Mother Nature has finally conquered mankind, our cities, our roads, our airports, and our ice cream parlors.  Despite the loss of internet and ice cream, the planet has ascended into a new Eden: wars died out with much of the human population, parasitic organisms and their resulting diseases died with the world’s population of Homo sapiens, fruit and the few remaining livestock provide ample food, and land is plentiful.  In fact, humans — those that still remain — choose to live wherever they feel at ease — that is as far from one another as possible.  In such a world, where competition and infighting no longer exists, where the multitudes of the human population can no longer pollute the planet, indoor plumbing is no longer a neccessity.

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TTWA:  Email to parents

TTWA Assignment:  Part 1) You are a coach who has just cut an 11-year-old girl from the team.  Write an email to her parents, explaining why.  Part )  Now you are the school principal.  Write an email to the coach who cut the girl from the team, explaining why he is being fired.

Emailing parents is a necessary but irksome job for teachers.  The risk to upsetting someone is rather high.  I once used the word ‘generosity’ to describe a bumping a deserving student from a C+ to a B-.  The parent then replied a day later that her child ‘worked hard’ and did not need any of my ‘generosity.’  Sometimes you learn the hard way.

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TTWA: NSA Conversations

 TTWA Assignment: A friend of yours at the NSA calls.  She says that for just one hour, she will let you listen to the conversations of any two people in the world.  You accept.  Whose conversations do you listen to and what do they say?  Transcribe the conversation.  

Okay, I’m going to get my inner geek on and say George Lucas and Peter Jackson.  Ironically enough, both created epic sci-fi and fantasy trilogies, beloved the world over, and both followed up these wonderful movies with prequels that heavily relied upon CGI instead of old-school props and set-design.  These secondary trilogies are relatively less beloved.

I often wonder if the two men every phoned one another and compared notes.

PJ:  CGI gophers, man?  Seriously?  Didn’t you learn anything from Jar Jar?

GL: Your one to talk.  The Five Armies was basically one long Pixar film, man.  Where’s the models?  The orc costumes?  Hell, I’d settle for a real horse.

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TTWA:  Yelp Review

 TTWA Assignment: Imagine you are on Yelp.  Write a review of the restaurant everyone is talking about.  In the fourth paragraph, admit you’ve never eaten at the restaurant, but argue why your misinformed opinion is still more important than the other reviews on the site.  

I based this story on a girl I once worked with at the National Institutes of Health.  Most of the story is true to a point.  She was my first real ‘love’ I guess you could say.  As is the way with these things, you tend to romanticize the past a bit, an error I’ve tried to remedy by mixing in a little farce.

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