Oceanside Muni on on April 24th

Warmed up on the range but didn’t warm up putting the way I would like: I maybe hit something like 10 putts… normally I’d like to hit 30+. I also had no judgment on long pacing and didn’t feel confident going in.

Rode in a cart and made sure to eat a hot dog. My goal for the day was to have fun and shoot at least 108 again. My stretch goal was to have a chance at par on a par 5, which tend to be my nemeses.

We played the gold tees. The guys we were with played the blues; they had a lot of power but not a lot of ideas how to use it.

Goal for the round on 4/24:

  1. Have fun and look for the good stuff on each hole. This is a chance to relax.
  2. Have a chance at par on a par 5.
  3. Shoot 108 again!
  4. Get it on the green!
  5. Practice good habits: practice swing should be easy and focus should be on committing to the shot and not moving your head.

Hole 1

Hole 1 at oceanside muni is a dogleg right par 4 with the range OB right and OB left. My plan was to hit hybrid into the fairway. My approach shot would be whatever is short of the bunkers in the fairway followed with a pitch or chip onto the green. My best score on this hole at the time was a … 9.

Hit my 4 hybrid up the right side, through the trees that border the OB, right at the 150 stake; I was aiming center of the fairway. That put me in the rough, with a not good lie, trying to go around some trees.

So I pitched it with my SW into the fairway, about 60 yards out. Perfect distance for my PW pitch shot … or not. I chunked the PW to 40 yards and then pitched it on with my sand wedge. It left me a 6.6 y downhill putt that I missed 6 in right and 1y long. I then rushed the 1 yard putt and that meant I had a horseshoe. I did make the second 1 yarder.

Triple bogey which is 2 better than last time. Hot start!

Tee = +.5

Approach = +1

Putting = +1

Hole 2

This is a short, straightway par 4. There’s scrub and an a lateral hazard left and it’s pretty open right. My plan was to hit a 4 hybrid off the tee and then use a pitching way to get it on in 2. Last time, I got a 5.

Good 4hybrid off the tee that ended up … in a divot 90y from the pin.

Since it was in a divot, i should have tried to pitch it out. Instead I did a full swing and flushed it 40 yards long and right of the green into the hard packed dirt by hole 3s tee box. It was like a bunker.

I hit that third shot 20 yards into “grass” on the back of the green. I had 20y to go and i got up the hill to the top of the fringe.

8.8y putt from the fringe missed right leaving 2.5 yards in — which I drained for a double. Not too shabby. Still 1 up from last time.

Approach = +2 (my bad chips were because of the terrible approach)

Chipping = -.5

Putting = -1

Hole 3

Straight away par 3 with bunkers left and right and behind the tee, with a hill on the left side. Last time, I had a 5 after I hit my 6 iron topped and into a tree well.

Decided to hit 6 iron because there’s not a lot of downside: a top means it’s in the fairway. I did aim away from the solitary fairway tree. (The tree is more like fairway adjacent).

Hit a great 6 iron to pin high of the 155y pin but I didn’t get a good bounce and ended up in the rough 15y from the pin. It wasn’t a tough tie but I topped the chip to the other side of the green. Then I putted it long of the pin — missing by an inch! Left me 2y uphill.

Then I made one of the craziest shots of the day — putted it up, behind the hole — and it rolled back down for a bogey!

Chip = +1 (terrible top)

Putt = -1 

Hole 4

My first par 5. I think par 5s are my nemesis: I swing too hard on them.

Hole 5 at Oceanside is a long dogleg, but shorter for the gold tees. Last time I got an 8.

I had a plan of trying to cut the corner this time, punching it back into the fairway and approaching the green on shot 3-4. Instead I hit a perfect 4Hy about 190 yards that just leaked through the fairway. It was straight and maybe 20y off line.

That left me 200 yards out in the first cut of rough. I aimed middle of the fairway and hit my 8 iron 150 yards, leaving 46ys to the pin. I hit a 46 y SW over the pin but leaving 12y downhill on the green.

Lagged it 2y long — not leaving my birdie short (and misreading it a bit) and MADE the 2y par putt.

Hole 5

I was so jazzed — I did my goal on my first opportunity! I think that came to play in this hole.

Hole 5 is a par 3 that is long and is guarded right by a huge hill and left by … trees and hazard. My plan was to do exactly what I did last time and hit it onto the fringe of the green with a 6 iron, leaving to a par.

I thinned my 6 iron into the hill, leaving about 60 yards to the hole underneath the trees. Not an ideal location so I did the best I could. I had a good punch shot the right distance with my PW but I didn’t get a good bounce and so was 8y out from the green.

I then duffed a putt chip (well, not really, i just went short). But I was short sided so i thought that was the best choice to make. Then I putted too long downhill, leaving 1.5y uphill — which I missed. I made the last putt for a 6.

I really should have used a sand wedge on that chip shot. There was not a lot to lose.

+1 tee shot

+1 chip

+1 putting

Hole 6

Short, pretty easy par 4. Much easier for the noobs; the longer tees have to carry a creek which I can guarantee would eat my ball every time. I had a 6 last time.

Plan was to hit a 6 iron and then hit a pitching wedge to 8 iron to the green. I had a 6 last time when I hit the green in 2 and four-putted.

I hit a 6 iron off the tee thinking there was no way I could get through the fairway. Dear reader, I just leaked through into the rough.

Hit an excellent PW maybe 110 yards leaving 3y to the hole! Which i missed and then putted in for par. Much better than last time’s 4 putt.

Hole 7

Hole 7 is a challenging par 4. It needs an iron off the tee unless you have a really long carry because Hole 6’s tee box creek carries through the landing zone. Then the green is well back from the creek with lots of bunkers protecting it. It’s also a two-tiered green. Last time, I had a 5.

My plan was to hit a 7 iron to be short of the creek and then to hit an 8 iron toward the green, leaving me short of the bunkers and able to chip to a nice position.

I hit 7 iron to the middle of the fairway or so I thought. It turned out I ran way long and off the fairway into the dirt crap by the hazard. Didn’t really have a shot, so I hit an 8 iron from 120 from the front but just trying to find grass. Guess what?

I got it onto the grass, 38y from the pin.

Excellent SW to 4y out, up the plateau. Missed the 4y putt short but then tapped it in for bogey. Not bad for the trouble.

Tee shot +1

Approach -.5

Chip -.5

Hole 8

Another par 5 and another beast. Last time, I had a 7.

It’s straightaway, but with a hazard left, a hazard very right. The hazards converge to protect the green, leaving any layup having to carry at least a hundred yards to the green.

I decided to hit my 4hybrid and aimed way up the right side to allow a good layup approach and a good safe distance from the hazard.

Naturally, I hooked it. I played a provisional in case I couldn’t find it that was perfect but I could find my ball. It was in the hazard, so I took off my shoes and pitched it out — and did the best I could honestly.

Then I had to pitch it all the way into the fairway. It was that or hit a tree.

That left me 155y from the pin with my 4th shot. 155 is a tough carry for me; I probably should have hit 4hy since there’s room behind it and just taken a bit off.

Instead I hit a good 6 iron but I blocked it out right into the hazard. I dropped by the hazard, leaving 60y to the pin. I pitched it long over the green and took every club with me. Then I hit a beautiful 20y bump and run SW to 1 foot. Nice. Triple bogey, which isn’t too shabby for hitting it into the hazard twice.

Tee shot +1 stroke

Approach +2 stoke ( +2 for approach into hazard)

Chip = -1 (woot)

Hole 9

This is another dogleg left, running parallel to hole 1. There’s a water hazard (a pond) that borders the back of the fairway. So you don’t want to go long. Last time, I had a 6.

My plan was to hit the 4 hybrid off the tee toward the dogleg, leaving a pitching wedge to 8 iron toward the green.

Good 4hy toward the dogleg but i think i drew it a bit. Next time, I’ll aim a little more to the right to give me a  better opportunity to score — as it was I had no approach.

I hit a PW toward the bunkers on the right side of the green and did a great job to go 100 yards. That left a tough tough pin location — but I flopped it 33y with my SW to 4y out. Then I missed really long, like 3y long. And then I missed close and finally finished with a 6.

Tee = +1 (no attack)

Chip = -1 (so close)

Putting = +1 (so bad miss)

Front 9

Hit 5 fairways in 9 tries and 2 greens on the front 9.. Shot 3 under the front last time.

Lost 4.5 strokes off the tee. Lost 4.5 on approach. Gained a stroke chipping (woot!) and lost a stroke putting. Honestly, only 18 putts on the front. Really my issues were that 1: golf is hard, and 2, I don’t think I am accustomed to hitting so many good shots.

I had 5 bad strokes out of 31 non putts. That’s significantly better than I usually do. Not moving my head was really working well in terms of ball striking.

I think taking it easy on hole 2 playing from the divot, putting downhill instead of chipping on hole 3, chipping on hole 5 instead of putt chipping, and not hooking hole 8 would have made all the difference. That could have cut 10 strokes, I think from just those 5 shots.

I shot a 51, 3 strokes better than last time.

Hole 10

Hole 10 is a straighaway par 4 with a very slight dogleg left to a slightly elevated green. Last time was a disaster: I hit driver because I was trying to be cool. Don’t try to be cool. I made a 7 which was exceptional.

My plan this time was the good ole hybrid and 8 iron combo, with a pitch on.

Good hybrid to 170 out in the fairway but I didn’t have an angle to the green. Good 8 iron 130y short of the fairway bunkers. Good 38Y SW chip to leave a 7y uphill putt that I just missed right and 1.5y uphill. I missed the downhill 1.5y putt leading to a double and another 3 putt.

+1 putt

Hole 11
Par 3. Bunkers left and right. Hit whatever gets to the green was the plan.

This one was really short (it was short last time when I got a 6) with a rear pin position. I hit 8 iron when I should have hit 7 iron. Perfect 8 though, right on the front of the green. Unfortunately, it left a 17y uphill putt. I mishit it and misaimed it to 5y out. From 5y I just missed it by 1inch to 1y long. Made the 1y though for a bogey.

+1 putt

Hole 12

This is a very very uphill Par 4. Like it is maybe 250 yards and the tee is maybe 100 yards below the green. Last time, I had an amazingly bad tee shot followed by an amazing second shot and an even better SW onto the green, 1 foot from the hole for a par.

Excellent 4hy up the hill to 50y out. I hit my PW but aimed it into the bunker. Fortunately, it was a good lie and I got it out to within 6y on the green. Missed the 6y putt 2inches short and in for bogey. Not too shabby.

Approach +1

Hole 13

This is a very downhill par 3. Last time I hit it very short and left myself a 25y putt which I cashed in for a four-putt double bogey.

This time, my plan was to hit 9 iron since that’d put me into the middle of the green.

I chunked a 9 iron but because it was so downhill, got to the front right fringe. Chipped on with SW to 6y and had a really bad miss to 1.5y. The 1.5y lipped out and then I made it. Double bogey again.

+1 tee

+1 putt

Hole 14

Long par 5. There’s a lot of dirt to cover with a dogleg right, where the long shot is protected by a huge hill. Green is slightly elevated. Oh and there is water ALL along the right side. Last time, I managed an 8.

I think about this point I was starting to get tired and starting to get into my own head. This was also the point at which we SLOWED DOWN. I think the last 5 holes took us 2 hours. I need to eat a snack every 4 holes or so.

The plan was: 4HY, 8 iron, PW, pitch on.

I tried to play ready golf and topped my 4HY 60 yards, nearly into the hazard. My provisional ball was of course, in the fairway, dead straight.

I hit my 8 iron great out of the crap that my ball was in and through the fairway into the scrub on the hill. That meant I had to pitch back into the fairway.

Then I chunked my 6 iron — why i hit 6 instead of my hybrid, I don’t know. So i then hit my 8 iron –good but blocked out a bit. That left me a SW over the bunker where I missed  right. I tried to putt chip it on and barely got onto the green. So then I missed my 4y short and finally in for a 9.

I went back and tried a SW chip for my second try instead of a putt chip — almost holed it and ended within 1y.

So I lost a stroke to playing ready golf unnecessarily. And I lost a stroke to being cute when I have that shot that I didn’t take. I was trying to putt it close through a lot of scrub.

+2 tee

+1 approach

+1 chip

Really it was +2 ready golf and +1 for par 5 dumbness.

This one really didn’t help me out. I was starting to feel a little frustration.

Hole 15

This is a long par 4, but wide open. There’s water very far right and OB very far left. Last time, I got a bogey after an excellent bunker play.

The original plan was to hit hybrid off the tee and then hybrid to the green. When I got there, I figured that since it was so wide open, there was little risk from a driver — so I hit driver to middle of fairway about 200+ yards. I hit a 7 iron on approach so I didn’t go into the bunker. I didn’t go into the bunker. That left me a SW 20y shot that I hit to within 1 yard.

Then I 3-putted. I marked my ball though :\

I should have been planning to 2 putt not to 1 putt it. Or I should have just made it. Double bogey.

+2 putting

Those two holes were really discouraging. Surprise surprise that I checked my score shortly before hole 14… is there any doubt that influenced my mind?

Hole 16

The plan… I forget what the plan was. This is a par 4, not quite as long as hole 15 but still pretty long. There’s a bunch of crap right and a hazard left. Last time, I got myself in trouble and had a 7.

I hit driver because I thought it would help and help me stay away from the crap on the left.

I did give myself 170y in to the green, but I sliced it into the scrub right.

So then I hit my 8 iron trying to get to the fairway and instead back into the scrub. So then I chunked my PW 20y but finally found grass. That meant I could pitch it on from 50y out. Leaving me a 5y putt, which I missed short. Then missed short again. Finally in.

Another 3-putt. And golf is hard not on grass. Put me down for another 7.

+1 on tee

+1 on approach

+1 on chip

+1 on putting

Hooray.

Hole 17

If you thought we were dragging before, we were really dragging. The first 14 holes probably took us about 3 hours. The last 4 holes took us 2 hours.

Hole 17 is a par 5. It has water right and a drainage ditch left. Plan was hybrid hybrid hybrid and did I mention I was going to hit my hybrid?

I had a good swinging hybrid that I drew into some crap left of the fairway but not in the water (I found that out later). My provisional ball was wonderful — middle of the fairway. But I found my ball.

But then I made a bad choice. I hit a punch shot with my 7 iron. That goes like 100 yards plus. I have never hit it before. My angle toward the fairway had maybe 70 yard to the water right. The smart choice would be to hit SW into the fairway to allow me to hit up toward the green.

Instead I hit directly into the hazard. I dropped and had about 120 left to the pin and the shot was from the rough in between two trees. I grabbed my rescue club, the 8 iron. And I hit it to the fringe.

I hit my SW on to the green because the pin was way in the back — but i left myself 12 yards for bogey. I missed the 12 yard putt and then missed the next putt and finally put it in for a triple. Sigh.

That was +2 for dumb

+1 for tee

+1 for approach (that 8 iron saved a stroke for sure)

+1 for putting

Hole 18

The last hole took about 30 minutes. Great 4hybrid that ran through the fairway to some crap. I hit out of the crap with a good 8 iron leaving a 50y pitch to the hole. I chunked it into the bunker.

Good bunker shot to 5y out though.

Missed the 5y putt long but made it for a double.

+1 tee shot

+1 approach

56 on the back and the downhill started on 14. I will eat something on 13 from now on.

Lost 6 strokes off the tee, 5 strokes on approach, 2 strokes chipping, and 7 strokes putting.

Really though, I lost 2 strokes to ready golf, 2 strokes to a 7 iron punch shot that I have never hit before in my life, and 2 strokes on a 1-yard 3 putt. Without those — I would have shot a 50!

But hey, golf is hard. I had a really great time. I hit my clubs really well and not moving my head helped a lot — but don’t think i’ve done that before. My body is really tired from making movements I hadn’t before.

Last time I had 70+ strokes on the course. This time, I had 61 strokes — that’s a winning proposition.

Looked at putting a bit later and it was bad: I was 71% under 2 yards which is about normal. I felt bad about it because my bad putts were all at the end. EDIT (even later): 71% from under 2 yards is the worst I’ve done from that distance in quite some time.

Really it was 2-7 yards where I struggled. Only 6 of 15 putts were good. My most common miss was short, which I think was from a lack of practice.

Additional notes:

This was a great day. I was focused on having a good time first, not moving my head second, and my score third. Well I wasn’t concerned about my score until hole 14 — you fool!

I had some trouble putting on the back 9 – added 6 strokes there. My tee shots were good but kept getting me into trouble. I think this is a demonstration on how poorly i usually hit my tee shots — i hit it really well this day but i never do that!

There were maybe 8 shots that cost me around 20 strokes. LOL!

My best score on a championship course — and that’s with more lost balls than last time. Hey there!”

Best shots

1. Putt on 3 lol

2. approach shot on hole 4 — 150 yard 8 iron. Really, all of hole 4.

3. PW on hole 6 to 2-3y

4. Rescue shot on hole 7 to get to a good lie

5. Flop on hole 9

6. Hole 12 tee shot

7. Hole 15 driver, then pitch

8. Hole 16 4th shot

9. Hole 17 8 iron through the trees

Compared to last time

Compared to last time, I had significantly better full swings, many more pitch shots, and better chips. The real issue was my putting: it was much worse than last time and all the better shots I had were negated by the worse putts. So it is good to work on putting.

This really was my worst putting performance in a long time.

Golfing at Arrowood Golf Course on May 23 or Why You Shouldn’t Look At Your Score

Went with my brothers-in-law and my father-in-law. 1:30pm tee time that got moved up about 9 minutes because we were ready and the people behind us were not

I warmed up putts (maybe 70 putts) and full swings (45 or so) but didn’t get the chipping practice in I wanted to. On the range, we were hitting on mats which never does me good. I hit my pitch shots well but my full swings, especially with my 4hy were not good.

Round goals:

  • Have fun. Remember this is your leisure time so you’re already doing well.
  • Shoot 107 or better
  • Play like you practiced on Sunday 5/16!
  • Have a chance at Par on a Par 5
  • Get it on the green!
  • Have a chance at bogey on hole 13. 
  • Avoid the water on 16.
  • DON’T CHECK YOUR SCORE UNTIL THE END OF THE ROUND!

Hole 1

Par 4 that runs downhill after about 250 yards. There are bunkers left and right and a lateral hazard right of the hole.

My plan was to hit a 4hybrid off the tee and the left fairway bunker. Then I would hit a 6 iron to an 8 iron toward the green and pitch it on. Goal was a bogey.

Instead, I topped my 4hy into the lateral hazard. Good times.

I reteed and hit my 4hy into the fairway to 163 out. I then hit a thin 6 iron from the fairway to 42y out on the rough.

In a theme for the day, I hit my sand wedge 40 yards and it ran off into the fringe. I had a good 9y putt chip that missed 2y long. I did make the 2 yard putt for a … 7.

So certainly 2 strokes lost off the tee. Half a stroke lost on approach; half a stroke on the chip. -1 stroke for putting.

Hole 2

Straightaway par 5. 550 yards from the gold tees that we were playing. There are bunkers left and bunkers right. But left has OB and right is a hazard. However, it’s quite wide.

My plan was to hit a 4hybrid off the tee, then a 6 iron short of the right fairway bunkers to leave me with around 100 to 120 yards on approach.

Decided to hit driver because there wasn’t much downside. I drew the driver and … landed on the cart path, sending it soaring into someone’s backyard, a lateral hazard. That was an unlucky bounce. My reteed driver went straight as an arrow, 248 yards from the pin in the fairway. So technically a FIR!

I hit my 8 iron to about 100 yards out ( a great 8 iron shot to get there). But unfortunately, I forgot that balls roll on the fairway so I ended up about 90 yards out. I hit my PW 112 yards which put me on the green with a 22 yard long downhill putt. I missed that absurd shot 5 yards short. Then I missed the 5y putt to 1 foot and I made that.

So that’s an 8. 2 strokes off the tee. And I think a half shot on approach and a half shot on putting.

Hole 3

Straightaway par 3 with bunkers left and bunkers right. Pin was in front and the tee was pretty short, so I hit an 8 iron. My plan was 8 iron to 6 iron, depending on pin position and tee position.

My 8 iron was just thin and therefore just short of the green, leaving my 14 yards uphill with a sand wedge.

Wedged it on to within 2y and then missed the 2 yard putt. Made the 1 footer coming back for bogey. But that’s PAR for me on this hole.

Hole 4

Hole 4 is a straightaway par 4 with a very slight dogleg at the end. The big feature is a huge bunker about 150 yards from the hole, on a slight hill. It’s become a grass bunker now, but I wanted to be well short of it — because I didn’t have confidence I make it over it.

The plan was to hit an 8 iron off the tee, and 8 over the bunker and a PW on.

Hit a great 8 iron to the fairway and then a better 8 iron approach to about 50 yards out. I hit my SW just short of the green. I needed to carry 42 to the front of the green carried 40 yards. Terrible bounce so I was in the rough. I chipped it to within 3 yards (I had 20 yards to go) and didn’t get a good bounce. That left me a 3y uphill putt that I just missed. In for a double bogey — but that’s a par for me on that hole.

Missing the pitch and missing the chip hurt a bit, but sometimes you get unlucky. I got unlucky two times in a row. A bit longer pitch and a bit better lie would have meant I probably could have saved the second putt.

Hole 5

There’s a huge bunker up the left side and a grass bunker at the end of the fairway. Then there’s a slight dogleg left approaching the pin. Best I’ve ever done on this hole is a 6 which indicates how tough it is.

My plan was to aim at the grass bunker and hit a nice, smooth 4HY, leaving me an 8 iron to PW into the middle of the green.

Instead, I took a huge chunk with my 4HY and put it away for the rest of the game. A great 6 iron put me 124 from the pin … into a divot. I hit out of the divot onto the green, 12 yards from the hole. I missed that 2 yards short and then in for a bogey. Yay! A new record!

Lost a stroke off the tee. Gained it back on approach though.

Hole 6

Really short Par 4. It’s maybe 240 to the hole from the tee, but a pond protects the green left and it’s a lateral hazard behind the hole. Every time I have hit anything other than an iron, I’ve gone long.

There’s also a bunker protecting the landing area on the right side.

My plan was to hit a 6 iron over the bunker to give me an easy approach shot of about 100 yards.

Instead, I flushed my 6 iron about 170 yards with a little draw. I went through the fairway on a bad bounce and into the rough. I had about 50 yards in and I hit my SW a LITTLE long. It ran out onto the fringe.

I had a 12yard putt chip that I putt to 2 yards out; good pace though. I then missed the 2 yard putt out right and had a horseshoe putt.

I then made the third putt for a double bogey.

Hole 7

Pretty straightaway par 4 with bunkers right, lateral hazard left. The pin is tucked right, protected by a bunker left.

My plan was that I’d hit a hybrid off the tee and then an 8 iron to the green, aiming at the left side.

Since the hybrid was in the bag for the rest of the round, I had a decision. Hit driver and risk topping it into the lateral hazard that protects the front of the tee box? Or hit 6 iron and maybe give me some awkward distances?

I hit 6 iron and man did I give myself an awkward distance. I hit it great! But I aimed/drew the shot left into the lateral hazard scrub. I hit a provisional 6 iron off the tee that was very thin and very terrible because I thought left was OB, but ended up picking that up when I saw it was red-staked. I was going to take a drop — and then I found my ball! I was giddy.

Punched it out of the hazard with my PW to the fairway leaving me a good 8 iron distance. I then hit my 8 iron to the green, leaving myself an 18 yard putt.

I blocked out the 18 yard putt right — completely misread the break. Like, I read it opposite from how it went. So I was pin high but 5 yards right. Then I missed the 5y remaining putt short leaving 2 yards out. I missed that 2-yarder and then completed the 4-putt.

Hilariously, I won that hole with a 7. Everyone else had to drop and take penalty strokes because they lost their balls.

Hole 8

Hole 8 is a very uphill par 3 that was playing super short: front pin position and tee box very up. So I hit my 8 iron about a ¾ swing JUST short of the green. Then I made a 10y chip with my SW leaving me 1.5 yards. My chance for PAR!

Nope! I missed the 1.5 yard putt by a half centimeter (it bounced off the lip) and then made it for bogey.

Interestingly, this hole has an enormous bunker guarding the green left. My brother-in-law hit his ball in there. He did not get it out. He hit 5 shots.

On shot 4 from the bunker, I helpfully told him that he could drop behind the bunker for a 2-stroke penalty. He responded by very rudely hitting the ball at me. He did get out of the bunker but the damage was done. My heart will never be fixed. Nor will my feelings.

He didn’t hit me though.

Hole 9

Hole 9 is a bit of a nemesis. It’s a long, uphill par 5. My plan was to just hit 6 iron a whole bunch.

Instead, I decided to hit driver off the tee because … i don’t know… Realistically, the tee box wasn’t protected by a hazard or scrub and I figured if I topped it, I’d be okay.

So I topped the driver off the tee but it was in play and in the fairway (FIR). So I hit a beautiful provisional ball that was the longest drive. Yay…

Fortunately, my second shot took me to where my drive ended up and then another beautiful 6 iron left me just 75 out.

Then I went way too long with my PW. That seems to be my miss with my pitching wedge. I remember thinking that going long was okay. I hit it nice and straight but didn’t align properly.

It was not a good place to be: Above the hole, in the rough, side lie, and next to a bunker. Green was a little short sided and sloped away downhill. I’d have preferred to be in the bunker, honestly.

But I was there, lying stroke 5. I had to try to score. (I did not and should not have tried this).

Why? Well, what happened was I tried an impossible flop shot that I duffed. It got me to a much better chip, which I then managed to put onto the green. Another horseshoe putt (this one from 3 yards) and finally in for an 8.

Front 9

The front 9 was pretty tough. I shot 55. I hit the fairway 4 times on 9 tries. Really, my downfall was that I had to take 4 extra shots off the tee, plus 2 penalty strokes. (Hole 1, Hole 2, Hole 5’s chunky tee shot, Hole 9’s topped tee shot). The duffed chip on 9, the misread on 7, the 2 horseshoe putts and missing the 1.5y putt didn’t help either.

The bad decisions I could improve were aiming left on hole 7 and reading the green right there (2 strokes) — and then the duff chip. But it all came down to screwing up the tee shots.

Hole 10

Hole 10 is downhill and wide open. There’s a bunker right and some trees that separate Hole 10 from Hole 1.

My original plan was to hit 4HY onto the right side of the fairway and then hit 8 iron to PW on. I decided to hit driver because it was so wide open. A topped shot wouldn’t be too bad.

I misaligned my driver and hit it straight but right at the fairway bunker right. But I wasn’t in the bunker — under some trees though.

So I punched it onto the fairway with my 8 iron. Well, I punched it through the fairway. I was in the rough 30 yards from the hole, trying to go over a large bunker.

I then hit my luckiest shot of the day. I had to maybe hit it 19 yards to clear the lip of the bunker. I hit it 19.1 yards and had the ball roll onto the green about 7 yards out.

Missed very close with the 7 yard putt and got it in for bogey. That was my best, longest putt of the day so far. I’d also made 2 2-yard putts too.

Hole 11

A short, uphill par 3. I hit a thin 8 iron that just rolled onto the green, leaving me 16 feet from the front flat pin. I missed the birdie putt 1 yard long but made it coming back for Par. My first green in reg! (Okay, by my measure, I had a GIR on Hole 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10 because of how I’m trying to visualize it). But this was the first legit one! First PAR, too.

So that’s 2 really good putts in 2 holes!

Hole 12

This is a hard hole. There’s a huge bunker right to collect tee shots that slice. The fairway is open left, but at the end of the fairway, there’s about a 100 yard valley of rough that slopes toward a lateral hazard. They cut down some of the trees in the hazard which makes it easier … but it’s still real hard. I got an 11 last time because I hit through the fairway into the hazard.

So my plan was to hit it onto the left side, pitch it to the end of the FW, and then go for the green with shot 3.

Instead, I chunked a 6 iron onto the fairway, then hit a pure 8 iron through the fairway. That was very scary. Fortunately, my ball JUST rolled through the fairway and had an okay lie in the rough. I missed right with my PW into the rough. Fortunately, it was an okay lie. Unfortunately, I chipped it way long leaving me 15 yards to the pin on the putting green.

I missed the 15y putt to the right. Then I missed the 2 yard putt and finally made it. 

A 7. All according to plan. :/ Always great to have 4 strokes from 15 yards.

Hole 13

Hole 13 is a par 5 that I always seem to screw up. It’s not that long! I just always seem to lose a ball. My best on this hole is an 8 — but it’s an EASY PAR 5! This has always frustrated me. It is very straight. There are not a lot of bunkers or challenges.

So I had a plan to take my time. Hit a 4HY short of a (now non-existent) waste area. 4hy or 6 iron or even 8 iron from the waste area and then get me to 100 yards for my excellent pitching wedge swing.

Instead, I hit a 6 iron that I chunked into the fairway. I hit a provisional driver at least 250 yards. SIGH.

Instead of taking that drive, I topped my 6 iron up the fairway. Then i hit a good 6 iron about 150 yards leaving me 120 yards to the pin. I hit a good, pin high PW shot (for shot 4!) that leaked out right. Or I aimed it that way.

I was in the rough around the green and I chipped it to 4 yards out from 20 yards long. I missed the 4y putt leaving me 1.5 yards, which I made. A 7! A new personal record!!!! And I certainly had a chance at bogety with a 4 yard putt.

Honestly, the error on this hole happened on the tee. A top would have been better than a chunk. I’ll hit driver on this hole next time.

Hole 14

Hole 14 is  a straightaway par 4 with a very slight dogleg left at the end, with a huge swale before the green. Original plan was hybrid to the fairway and then 8 iron on.

Instead, I crushed a driver almost through the fairway. Why driver? Because it was downhill and a top wouldn’t be a problem. No joke, I hit it like 280 yards. I had 50 yards to the green. I hit my SW a little long of the pin, leaving me a 15y downhill putt. I lagged that to 1.5y and made it for PAR. That felt good.

Hole 15

Hole 15 has the potential to be very tricky. It’s a par 3 with a lot of bunkering and a 2-tier green. I waffled between 6 and 8 iron, going with 8 iron because it was quite short. I then chunked my 8 iron into the fairway and then topped my PW 18y short of the pin in the rough. Avoided the bunkers which claimed Ken (who got it out when he aimed at me).

I sand wedged it on to 3y long and just missed the 3y putt by 4 inches. In for a double-bogey. I didn’t win the hole because Jake’s had a great pitch shot on to 1 foot, allowing him to bogey.

Hole 16

Hole 16 is brutal. It has a fairly blind fairway, downhill leading to an island green. The tee box was up and there wasn’t a lot of scrub in front of it, so I hit a very easy driver that ran down the fairway. Unfortunately, it set me up at about 170 yards out. I cannot make that shot, so I laid up to 110 yards out with my SW.

I hit a great 110 yard pitching wedge that stuck on the green 10 yards short. I missed the 10 yard putt, then missed the 2 yard putt and finally made it for a double bogey. HOwever, I’ve never done better than 7, so I’ll take it.

That’s another accomplished goal! Stayed out of the water.

Hole 17

Hole 17 was my downfall. Why? I checked my score before this hole and realized OH, i am shooting a 91! (It was actually a 92)

I decided to hit driver to “give myself a chance” at making par. Why!?

This hole is long with a dogleg left that goes sharply uphill. There’s a grass bunker at about 200 yards to collect driver shots. And in front of the bunker and left there’s a lateral hazard. You hit over the hazard. This is not a hole for me to hit driver.

My plan was to hit a 6 iron at the bunker and then a 6 iron over the bunker and then pitch on.

Instead, I hit driver into the hazard. Then I hit driver into the grass bunker. And then I hit a chunk with my PW over the bunker.

So not I am lying 5 and I hit my 8 iron ot the end of the fairway. SW went long again, leaving me 23 yards, downhill, on a two-tiered green. I missed the putt only 4 yards long. I missed the 4 yarder and finally in for a 9. Not breaking 100 today.

Stupid checking my score.

Hole 18

Hole 18 is a wide open par 4 with bunkers left and bunkers right. The green is protected by a lake in front and has rough all along the water.

My plan was to hit it into the middle of the fairway with a 4 hybrid, then keep it short of the water to leave myself about 100 yards to the green.

Instead, I crushed a driver to leave my 150 yards out. I decided to go for it … and topped it about 120 yards. I needed it to carry 140. So into the water hazard. Gah.

Dropped 4 and hit my Sand Wedge on to 2.5 yards. I missed that 1 inch right and made it in for a double bogey.

Back 9

So that’s a 52 on the back 9 for 107 total.

The back 9 was much better than the front 9. Hole 12’s chipping error definitely hurt as did the tee shot on hole 13. Hole 15’s tee shot and then top PW also hurt as did my bad miss on Hole 16. Hole 17’s bad decision making parade also was a debacle, I think it cost me 3 strokes because I got into my own head.

Finally, going for it on 18 was dumb. I should have laid up to a better distance over the water. Oh well.

I hit 6 of 8 possible fairways and 2 of 9 greens. I also did much better with regard to course management (hole 17 & 18 excepted) — and that shows in the score. I gave myself a chance. Alas. 

I mean, I really did. I had a 9 and a 7!

Honestly, the problems with this round were the hazards and the bad play off the tee. If I had just been able to hit my tee shots well or at least thin rather than topping or chunking them, I would have had 12 fewer strokes. That is galling.

Adding everything up, I had 59 shots from the course and 44 putts (and putt chips) — and 4 hazards hit. I stayed out of the sand and really torpedoed my score when looking at hole 17. That’s the problem with the golfpad app, I think: it makes it so easy to see what you’re scoring and be mindful of that.

I had a really good time, despite the struggles I had off the tee. I didn’t stick to may gameplan as well as I would have liked and I’ve learned that I really, really should rely on my 8 iron. I had just 1 chunk with the 8 iron and that was when I waffled on the choice and chunked it. Everything else was useful.

Putting continues to be a challenge. I made 18 of 24 putts from within 2 yards, including several 2 yard putts. But those are really the distances I need to try to nail down. I’m hititng the green sooner but I’m not hitting the green in places that make it easy to score. I had to hit 7 putts of longer than 10 yards. That’s really hard and I’m not sure how to improve there.

I had just 1 miss from within 7 yards that was not useful and, while I didn’t make any from within 4 yards that were longer than 2 yards, I always gave myself a shot to finish with another putt.

I think I’ll just keep practicing putting. I think I’ll also forgo my next round in favor of a lesson. I’d like to get better consistency with my full swings. I also need to just practice pitch shots a bit more, I think.

My best shots were:

  1. Finishing putt on Hole 1 to help reset a bit.
  2. Excellent driver on Hole 2’s second tee shot. (I could have dropped which I should have done probably)
  3. Back to back 8 irons on Hole 4.
  4. Good 6 iron recovery on Hole 5 and then a good 8 iron on the green.
  5. 8 iron to the green on 7.
  6. 6 irons to make up distance on Hole 9
  7. GIR to Par on hole 11
  8. Dat drive on Hole 14! And the par, too.
  9. Good management on Hole 16 — I had a shot at par.
  10. Good pitch on Hole 18.

Even despite my struggles off the tee, I managed to cut my strokes on the course by 2 from oceanside muni. My putting was better, even if the number of putts were the same as last time. I did have 2 horseshoe putts and a 4 putt.

Man! Looking at it, my pitches hurt a lot: I only made 3 of the 9 pitch shots I had. So I really need to work on distance control there.

My 9 pitch shots led to 150 yards of putts. If I could halve that and make me have to make an average of a 9 yard putt instead of a 15 yard putt, I think I probably would have led to 7 fewer putts.

That and better consistency off the tee would help. I was not fully committed to many shots and frequently tried to overswing (I think). But it was a fun time and I can see the improvement coming. Eventually.

Comparing it to other rounds, it was a very good 107. I did the best I’ve ever done on a championship course for Par 3s with a bogey average. I tied my best Par 5 score. I also had a significant number of good and useful strokes. It was actually my highest percentage. The issue was my tee shots: I had basically 9 extra tee shots. I did manage to keep it in the fairway for the most part and had pretty good putts. The problem was that I had a lot of really long distances to go so even if I had good putts, they had to make up a lot of ground.

This was my best chipping performance but it’s probably because I had a lot of pitch shots into greens that just rolled off.

For next time:

  • If there’s a risk of going into the scrub, hit 8 iron since you know that’ll make it over the scrub: that would save 4 strokes (tee + drop on 1 and 17 strokes!)
  • Take drops when they’re available. Dropping 3 on hole 2 would not have saved many strokes… but that’s just because I hit a tee shot bomb on the retee. That’s not a realistic expectation every time.
  • Keep working on the 2 yard putts. I made 75% of them, missing 7. If i had made 3 more of them, that would have been … you know, 3 to 4 strokes.

Second First Golf Lesson

I’ve decided to take a golf lesson. My biggest issues are inconsistency with full swings — or at least that’s what I think my issues are.

I got referred by my friend Jimmy to go to his coach of 15 years, Don Bryd. Don was very friendly on the phone. I told him my goal: breaking 100 on a championship course.

“What are you scoring?” he asked. “Under 110?”

“Yes,” I told him. “Lately it’s been about 36 over. Again, I think my problem is inconsistency off the tee.”

“How’s your putting?”

“I have about 36 on average on the green. Well, my latest round had 42 on the green.” I checked my stats.

“I’ve averaged about 39 putts on the green in my last 10 rounds or so. But I promise, I’m good at putting! The problem is that last time I had really long putts. I wasn’t accustomed to hitting the green.”

“Well, even if you’re hitting the green in regulation, you still want to do two putts at most. Ideally, you’d average 1 and a half putts per green. So let’s meet on the putting green and we’ll head over to the range after.”

What does he take me for? Competent?

Anyway, having a lesson with him on Friday. Excited to work on putting and the range and all that.

So I met Don at the putting green and we went over to his work station on the range.

He watched me hit a few (and I hit them decently) and then we talked and he adjusted my grip. He talked about “throwing the golf ball” and making sure my hands were aligned at impact.

To do this, he asked me to try to have the back of my left hand and the palm of my right hand match with the ball on impact. Overall, it was really good. I think I had 1 chunk and 1 mishit. Every shot had a slight draw (except for the thin one).

I also worked on putting. Again, he had me change my grip: left index finger over the pinky of my right hand. He also told me that I should line up the putt, look at the target, and then just go. Oh, and that I could break my wrists. “Just try to feel natural” was his motto.

Oh, and using the texas wedge: from the fairway you should be able to use the putter up to 20 paces out. The trick is to align the ball near your left big toe, instead of your center stance. That means you put topspin on the ball, to help it get through the rougher grass of the fairway.

So we will see how it holds up. I felt pretty good and still feel pretty good.

Get it to the green: Overly complicated golf analysis

Getting a ball to this position is very important in golf. Well, ideally, it’ll fall into the hole and you wouldn’t be in this position.

My friend Jimmy, who doesn’t go by Jimmy but is a great golfer, said “shots within 50 yards are where you gain the most strokes.”

I think my game at Arrowood had significantly fewer shots under 50 yards than I have had before, because usually i hit the green with a chip shot on my second try to hit the green. I don’t hit it with approach shots.

I mean, technically, many of my approach shots were “chips” because they were not shots to the green in regulation (this means that you hit the green in a way that you can take two putts to get PAR). But that was because of my aforementioned incompetence off the tee.

I went back and looked at my course notes but also my course record (those are two different files that I will eventually explain).

Dear Reader, I am not just excited to review this information. I am overjoyed to review my incompetence in detail, with the hope that it will allow me to feel better about myself.

Looking at Arrowood on May 23, I had a total of 27 shots where I was planning on hitting the green. I think I also omitted some tee shots on here, just FYI.

Planned shots to hit the green where I executed my plan were as follows:

  1. 112Y PW on Hole 2
  2. 14Y SW chip on Hole 3 (since I missed the green, Par 3)
  3. 124Y 8 iron on hole 5
  4. 120y 8 iron on hole 7
  5. 10y SW chip on hole 8 (again, just missed it, Par 3)
  6. 35y SW on hole 10
  7. 120y+ 8 iron on hole 11 (hit the green, green in regulation! Par 3)
  8. 50y SW on hole 14 (green in regulation!)
  9. 100y PW on hole 16
  10. 60y SW on hole 17

That’s 10 holes where I hit the green with the shot I wanted to. That doesn’t include hole 1 or hole 6, where my shot rolled off and I was able to putt. So those might count. I won’t do it for now.

Shots where I missed were:

  1. 42y SW on hole 1
  2. 9y putt on hole 1
  3. 42y SW on hole 4
  4. 20y SW chip on hole 4
  5. 60y SW on hole 6
  6. 12y putt on hole 6
  7. 75y PW on hole 9
  8. Duff chip on hole 9
  9. Successful chip on hole 9
  10. 100y PW on Hole 12
  11. 25Y SW chip on Hole 12 (which should have been a 10y SW)
  12. 117y PW on Hole 13
  13. 20y SW chip on Hole 13
  14. 60y PW on hole 15 (Par 3)
  15. 18y SW Chip on hole 15 (Par 3)
  16. 150y 6 iron on hole 18
  17. 45y SW on hole 18

So I managed to get the ball on the green in 10 shots on 10 holes and 17 shots in 8 holes. How does that compare with other rounds?

If I look at my other published round, Oceanside Muni in April 2021, you’ll be able to see the carnage.

Successful shots to hit the green were:

  1. Hole 4: 46Y SW (Par 5, GIR)
  2. Hole 6: 110y PW (Par 4, GIR)
  3. Hole 7: 38y SW
  4. Hole 9: 30y SW
  5. Hole 10: 38Y SW
  6. Hole 11: 120y 8 iron (Par 3, GIR)
  7. Hole 15: 40y SW
  8. Hole 16: 50Y PW

That’s 9 holes where I hit the green with the shot I wanted to use to hit the green. However, it’s also only 2 shots of over 100 yards, whereas at Arrowood, 5 shots over 100 yards and 2 more shots over 60 yards, with an additional 2 shots that could go either way.

Here are the unsuccessful shots: 

  1. Hole 1: 60y PW
  2. Hole 1: 60Y SW
  3. Hole 2: 40Y SW* (maybe should be 4 shots here since I had a chance at a GIR…)
  4. Hole 2: 20Y SW
  5. Hole 2: 8y putt
  6. Hole 3: 15y SW chip (Par 3)
  7. Hole 3: 8y putt (Par 3)
  8. Hole 5: 60y PW punch (Par 3)
  9. Hole 5: 8y putt (Par 3)
  10. Hole 8: 60y PW
  11. Hole 8: 20y SW chip
  12. Hole 12: 50y PW
  13. Hole 12: 12Y SW from sand
  14. Hole 13: 12y SW chip (Par 3)
  15. Hole 14: 40y SW
  16. Hole 14: 10y putt
  17. Hole 17: 120y 8 iron
  18. Hole 17: 15y SW
  19. Hole 18: 50y PW
  20. Hole 18: 20y SW from sand

I managed to get the ball on the green with the shot I wanted to in 9 holes, 1 hole worse. So that’s 9 holes where I took at least 2 shots, even if I was putting on 4 of them.

Also, look at the average distance: my average distance for getting it on the green in one shot for arrowood was around 75 yards. When I missed, my average distance was 47 yards.

At Oceanside, my average distance to get it to the green, from over 50 yards, was 59 — nearly 15 yards less. My average distance when I got it onto the green was 34 yards.

So I definitely had better approach shots when I was playing arrowood, even if the score didn’t show it. And that’s because my approach shot wasn’t my second or third shot, but my third or fourth.

Here’s how this compares with some recent rounds. This also begins to show the challenges with my analytical method: it’s all over the palce.

CourseOver ParDouble shots from under 50Under 50 yardsOver 50 yardsTotal Shots into the Green
Arrowood 5/23+363x7 of 15 total (8 extra)7 of 12 total (5 extra)14 of 27 shots (13 extra)
Oceanside Muni 4/24+355x5 of 22 total (17 extra)2 of 6 total (4 extra)7 of 28 (21 extra)
Emerald Isle 4/21+385x1 of 20 (19 extra)4 of 21 total (17 extra)5 of 41 (36 extra)
Oceanside Muni 3/12+364x2 of 20 (18 extra)4 of 15 (11 extra)6 of 35 (29 extra)
St. Mark’s Executive Course 2/27+172x1 of 15 (14 extra)6 of 17 (11 extra)7 of 32 ( 25 extra)

I mean, the fairly obvious takeaway is that if you don’t hit the green, you’re going to need an extra shot. The other thing that’s important is how close you finish. At arrowood, I was hitting the green but ending up 3-putting after hitting it. At Oceanside on March 12 and at St. Marks, I was getting to close and putting in: I had 36 putts both those rounds.

Anyway, I felt like I was really improving when I wrote this and I think the evidence bears that out. If I can keep the ball on the course next time and maybe make some putts (I think I missed 8 putts within 3 yards), I should be able to break 100.

Don’t Separate Immigrant Children From Their Parents

I just wrote this to my congressman:

 

Dear Mr. Issa,

Please work to actively oppose the Trump Administration’s reprehensible actions at the border, separating children from their parents, and their “zero tolerance” policy toward these people and their parents. These actions are morally repugnant and pervert the rule of law.

Please support any legislation that makes the practice of separating immigrants from their children illegal.  Please seek to curtail this practice.

Please seek to remove from any government capacity those who have advocated for and implemented this policy by whatever means are available to you, up to and including impeachment.

The attorney general lately twisted the meaning of Romans 13 to justify his horrifying decisions. I would counter with the parable of the sheep and the goats:

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’”

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

John Earnest

How many calories are in one cous cous?

Is it worth it to lick the plate?

If something is so good that you want to lick the plate, you should probably just go ahead and lick the plate. Now that we’ve got that out of the way…

The other day, I was eating some cous cous from a lunch receptacle that trapped small amounts of cous cous in little pockets of the lunch receptacle (not a plate). After spending far, far too long chasing around one or two cous couses, I wondered: Why?

I like cous cous a lot. But not enough to eat it if I’m spending more calories chasing the cous cous around the plate than it will provide me as a digested foodstuff.

So what is the caloric value of one cousi cousi?

My cous cous box tells me that one serving of cous cous is 160 calories for 45 grams.

 

Target brand cous cous nutritional label

Target brand cous cous nutritional label. Cropped to remove the stain on my table.

So I weighed 45 grams of cous cous and realized that while I am interested in figuring out the answer to this question, I am not interested in counting 45 grams worth of cous cous.

45 g of cous cous

45 grams of cous cous

So let’s try 5 g of cous cous. How many couses are present?

5g of cous cous

5 grams of cous. At this point I was very intimidated.

This is 200 cous cous. It is smaller than a dime.

200 cous cous compared to a dime.

200 cous cous. Smaller than a dime.

 

This is 1,000 cous cous. Incidentally, I’d never counted to 1,000 before.

1,000 cous cous compared with a dime.

I’m pretty sure this is my picture for 1,000 cous cous, not 400.

And there are 2,849 cous cous in 5g of cous cous. I’d probably say give a plus or minus of 100 just because … I counted them all and know I started counting fast at the end.

2,849 cous cous, a tally card, and a dime.

2,849 cous cous and my tally sheet for each 50. Ignore the popcorn on my tally sheet.

This is how many cous couses are in 5g of cous cous. There are 25,551 cous couses in one 45 gram serving of cous cous, give or take a thousand.

So since 45 g of cous cous is 160 calories, and 45 g of cous cous is 25,551 cous cous, than the caloric value of one grain of cous cous worth 0.00626 calories.

Is it worth it?

According to some excellent googling (“How many calories do I burn eating while sitting down?”), one burns 29 calories in an hour of eating. It takes 1.53 seconds to eat one cous cous (source: me turning on a stop watch, eating a cous cous, hitting stop).

So, per second, I’ll burn 0.0081 calories, sitting down eating (29/3600). Since it takes me 1.53s to eat a cous cous, eating a single cous cous burns me .0123 cal and gives me 0.00626 calories.

So don’t eat one cous cous. Make sure you eat at least three.

Suggestions Box

A coffee can gleamed from a bleached counter.  Only the waves and seabirds had welcomed it so far, and they were faint behind salt-flecked windows; from the crew, there had been nothing but wary silence.  The can invaded their personal space.  It was very new.  It was tackier than the mackerel the captain had stapled to the wall.  Someone had written on it, “Suggestions.”

“That,” Someone said, “is a suggestions can.”

The crew spun in their seats.  The speaker, a man, stood in the doorway, like a clothed and vengeful Zephyrus. When the whirl of napkins, spray, and steam ended, the captain became mortal again.  He smelled of fish.

His red-cumulus brows and tuft of hair floated like morning clouds above sea-gray eyes. Those eyes prophesied for Neptune and switched moods in a moment.  Death was in those eyes.

A Catholic among the salts averted his eyes and crossed himself surreptitiously under Captain’s Medusa-like glare.  Protestants and non-believers saw the movement and silently cursed the Reformation.  Ritual made Captain easier to deal with, a crucifix to his nautical Dracula.

“You can write a suggestion on a piece of paper, fold it up, and put it in here.”  Captain crossed to the counter as he spoke, lifted the can reverently, and pointed to a convenient slot cut in the plastic top.  An unwise person sniggered.

Captain dropped his gaze back to the room.  Silence again.

“Your suggestions will be kept confidential.”  The clink of tin on wood resonated uninterrupted.

Captain limped over to the ancient and pitted coffee pot.  With another glare, he filled his novelty mug and left.  Then the whispers began.

***

Captain smiled gently when he slammed the galley door and crossed the deck to the rail.  Any suggestion made would not be confidential; he recognized each man’s handwriting on the ship.  Soon, they would realize this.

Captain had invented the can the night before, after watching a something similar on his favorite sitcom.  Normally, Captain would read Moby-Dick in bed, but someone had stolen his copy.  The suggestions can would help punish the criminal: Captain would now be able to keel-haul the culprit.  Other than that, it was just searching.  Captain was not an especially cruel man, but he was very upset.

An explosion of noise occurred behind Captain as someone exited the cabin. Captain sipped his coffee.

“Yes, Jones?” Captain asked when the footsteps got close.

Paul Jones was the ship’s skinny, black-capped, university-educated, literature-inclined mate and occasional other book club member, although not recently.  Captain remembered this about Jones and had an idea.

“Permission to speak frankly, sir?” Jones asked. Captain turned around, grin gone.  Jones always spoke frankly and never asked for permission.  Captain nodded and the man continued quickly:

“Sir, I think that the idea to take suggestions may have come at an inappropriate time.”

Captain looked the slender mate over.  Something was obviously wrong with Jones; then again, Jones always had a problem.  The ocean, salt, religion, fish, discussing Melville.  Jones wrote his thesis on Moby-Dick, but had never answered any of Captain’s many questions about their mutually favorite work and author.

“Have you considered the possibility that someone might abuse this privilege? Sir?” Jones asked, hesitantly.  He must not have liked the added scrutiny, because he was squirming and turning green. “Anyone could suggest anything. There weren’t even any guidelines.”  The last bit was rather accusatory.

Captain placed a hand Jones’s wiggling shoulder and looked deep into Jones’s eyes.  “I’m not concerned with that. If someone suggests something stupid, I’ll know.  If someone suggests something brilliant, I’ll also know. Then I will dispense justice as I see fit.”

Dramatically, Jones shook free and turned his back.

“But… what about confidentiality?” Jones’s back asked.

“Jones, I have eyes, a working brain, and copies of every crewman’s handwriting.  How do you expect that to be confidential?”

Jones’s shoulders hunched. “But, I thought you’ve always said that a maritime democracy is a mutiny.  Every time we’ve tried for a vote”

“Enough, Jones.”  He’d let the man whine long enough. “The can stays.  Tell the crew not to worry. Also, put in a suggestion that the reading and possession of Moby-Dick is now mandatory.  Then meet me above.  We’ll discuss security up top, if that’s what’s bothering you.”  With that, Captain swept away toward the cabin and climbed the ladder to the navigation deck.

As he pulled himself up, Captain wondered about Jones’s insistent questioning.  Maybe I should have told him, he thought.  Captain resolved to check on the can that night to make sure that it wasn’t interfered with.

***

Paul Jones felt very ill as he watched Captain climb the ladder one-handed.  He hadn’t slept well the previous night and now his troubles were compounding.  At dinner, Captain had asked him another inane question about Moby-Dick (“Why is the captain so obsessed with that stupid whale?”).  That had forced him to break a solemn oath, made in the collegian naiveté, never to burn a book.  He thought it symbolic the way the flames consumed “Call me Ishmael.”  Then Paul went to sleep.

At about three in morning, Paul awakened from a dream in which he had fallen through nothingness next to a burning white whale who kept asking, “Why did you do this to me? Why?  He checked himself for extra arms or a carapace, but the unsettling dreams had not transmogrified him.  Disappointed, Paul sighed and tried to fall back asleep.

When the sheep got red hair and started asking him how to spell the word “I,” Paul stopped counting. Cursing and sweating, Paul pulled on his cap, went topside, and bee lined to the galley to banish his dreams with a special, university-developed blend. Then he saw the can.

Paul read it and pondered it as he mixed the ingredients.  He checked the mug when he felt light-headed enough, then added a few drops of cold coffee for palatability.  He threw the mixture back.

With many fewer brain cells, Paul read the can again.  It was a joke, obviously, or a hallucination.  As the sleeping potion began to set in, he wrote his recommendations on napkins and slipped them inside. Several of them had to do with alternative techniques for destroying dog-eared copies of Moby-Dick.  Then he stumbled to bed.

Paul awakened in the morning proper to a fit of sobriety.  He hurried into the galley to see the can shining bright and innocent in the morning light.

Frantically, Paul grabbed a bench and sat down.  He dropped his head into his hands and ignored any cautious greetings sent his way.  That was until he watched one of last night’s more obscene napkins wipe crumbs from another man’s mouth.  After that, Paul collapsed in dismay.

Most napkins were in the can, he knew.  Others were still in the napkin dispenserhow this happened or how he knew, Paul wasn’t sure. But he could see them.  And still others were roaming around the kitchen.

“I would suggest you move today, Jones!  You do like your job, right?”  Captain’s scream echoed over the deck and made Paul very anxious.

Quickly, Paul decided to remove his errant suggestions that night, while keeping a close eye on Captain during the day.  Wait! Paul silently told himself, you could volunteer to guard it tonight.  Considering this, Paul knew he had to make sure Captain didn’t see anything in that can.  Newly resolved and feeling less queasy, Paul climbed a ladder to be sprayed with insults, spittle, and future nightmares.

Paul’s impromptu plan was successful: Captain had assigned him the full night watch. In fact, a massive haul of fish that afternoon had made him particularly charitable, Captain said, so Paul would be protecting the ship’s democratic process.  Alone. For the entire night.  Eight hours. Ha ha.

Paul protested solely for appearance’s sake, but his vocal cords still throbbed from the shouting match he’d lost.  When no one was looking, Captain shot Paul a wink.  When Captain wasn’t looking, Paul stretched out his middle finger.

So Paul had been left to spend the night comforted by stars, a smell of fish, and that wretched can. Again and again, he told himself that he had planned this, but more and more he disliked it.  No one had even volunteered to keep him company.  Not that he would have accepted, but it still would have been nice.  Anyway, better get a move on

“Thought I’d keep you company, Paul.”  Paul started and cursed himself for inner turmoil. It was the ship’s boy, Billy.  If a mouse could be a boy, it would be Billy.  Billy was very brown, very small, very much ten, and not very bright.

“Not right for you to spend the whole four hours alone, sir,” Billy continued.  Paul ignored him.

This was probably the only ship that still had a boy.  Because of this, Paul wasn’t surprised when he found a whip and a sextant in Captain’s chambers.

“Oh, it’s nothing, Billy,” Paul said, breaking the boy’s commentary on loneliness. “I’ve kept many a long watch before this.”   He tried to get as much stoicism as he could into those words; he needed to be alone.  Usually, Paul liked the kid.  Now, this was turning out to be a problem.

“Yeah, but… it’s not fair, and that’s it.”  Billy seized Paul’s tone like a life raft; Paul had a horrific idea. A distraction would give him a chance to put the contents of the can into his pocket, and then he could jump into the water after the kid.  During the rescue, all Paul’s troubles would float away.

“Don’t worry, it’s fine.” Paul sighed and inched to the rail. “It’s all right.”

“No, it’s not.” Billy said after a long pause. “It’s not right at all.” Paul stopped and winced, following the kid’s train of thought.

“Hey, there’s that suggestions thing!” Billy said, after another break.  You had to be more than a little slow to remain on this ship, Paul thought moodily. “You could put something in there that says, um, ‘No night watches all alone.’ ”

“That’s a good idea Billy, but it probably won’t work.”

“Why not?”

“Because you need to go back to bed” wasn’t a good answer, so Paul didn’t give it.  Instead, he tried a mysterious tone with, “Because Captain would know.”

“Sorry Paul, but that doesn’t seem like a good reason,” Billy said, sagely. “Isn’t that the point of a suggesting something? Don’t you want it to be got? Why are you making that face?”

“Old… harpooning injury.  Big shark.  Little boat,” Paul lied. “Maybe I wasn’t clear enough, Billy.  If you write down a suggestion on a piece of paper and put it into that can, Captain will know, for sure, that it was you.”

“I thought you said they were anemones? That injury sure is hurting you a lot.  Does hitting your forehead help?”

“ ‘Anonymous,’ you little… observer, you.  That’s just a fancy way of keeping our names a secret.  But make one Captain doesn’t like, and he’ll make it hell for you.”

After another minute of water lapping: “Did you put in one you think he won’t like?”

“Maybe. Maybe someone else did.”

“You should take it out.”

“Who says I put one in?”

“You did.  Right before I came up.  You’ve been muttering about it all day.  Anyway, I thought Moby Dick was the captain’s favorite. You’re a smart man, Paul.  You’ve got it figured out. Why would a book be a problem?  Paul?  That must be a bad injury, for you to be crying like that.”

***

Paul finally ditched the kid when the sky was lightening.

After the exhaustion-induced breakdown end, Billy forced Paul into the galley, fixed him a cosmopolitan, and made Paul tell him the story of Jaws.  Just when Paul thought it was safe to move for the can, Billy woke up and asked to be told about Moby Dick.  Paul then proceeded to recite his thesis.  When dawn was just breaking, the kid dropped off.

With great stealth, Paul rose from his bench and crept toward the wood on which the can lay, unassuming and unaware.  Like a hunter, Paul stalked his static quarry.  Like a graverobber, he carefully got into position, the can his targeted idol. One hand on it…

“Ishmael is obviously a pseudonym.  What does pseudonym mean, Paul?” Billy asked, loudly, in his sleep.

Paul jumped two feet in the air.  He landed in a fighting crouch and leapt forward.  The can had been propelled by his surprise, and it tap danced away.  It pirouetted when it reached the end of the counter, winked at him in the morning light, and plunged.

Paul cursed softly but remained still.  A sympathetic gonging noise only made him cringe more.  The can rolled with a crescendo until it enthusiastically greeted a table leg with a loud pop.  The contents of the can shot toward the sky and covered the cabin with a white film and fluttering. Paul held his breath.

“Wha?” The noise had been loud enough to wake Billy. “What happened, Paul?  What did you–” Billy had apparently never studied sign language, because he ignored Paul’s frantic gesticulations for quiet. Captain slept right below the kitchen.

“Damn it all to hell!” screamed the voice below decks. “Run up the hoister and set the jig! Pull the ropes aft!  Someone’s going to be missing their ribs tonight!”  Paul head sunk into his chest as the cacophony increased.  He was doomed.

With the clarity that comes to the mortally wounded it was only a matter of time Paul noticed every detail.

“You little stinker!”

“You bastard!” Paul screamed and rose from the fetal position. “Your head’s gonna roll!”

***

Captain was surprised.  He’d never seen Paul Jones this angry, and he’d made Jones livid several times before.  With each angry outburst, Captain thought Jones might burst blood vessels in his face. Jones’ temper was over the boiling point; it was vaporizing.

“What exactly did you say happened, Mr. Jones?” Captain wasn’t used to honestly asking questions, and so sounded like a teenaged suitor. He wondered briefly if he’d been too hard on Jones the night before. What had made the man crack?

Jones spat on his captive as a way of pointing.  The poor man couldn’t move much anyway.  Captain suspected he had a broken leg or two.  Captain also suspected who was at fault. “This felon was tampering with the suggestions can!” Jones said.

Captain was surprised.  He’d always thought “felon” was a compliment.  Unsure, he proceeded with tact:

“I see.”

The eyebrow wrinkle that accompanied the polite nothing usually was enough. This time, of course, it did nothing.  Jones appeared at a loss for what to do next, so he shook the criminal as best he could. Captain peered closer.  The culprit was Ishmael, a well-scrubbed man, with a pink, teardrop face and body, calm demeanor and easy laugh.  Captain had hired him for his surname and his tendency not to flinch when looked at.  However, he was not one Captain pegged as a dissenter or a saboteur. Albeit now, he definitely looked like one…

Captain furrowed his forehead.  The rest of the crew shrank back.  He noticed several, in addition to Rodriguez, making the Sign of the Cross.  While that was unimportant now, Captain always felt hurt, on the inside, when they did that. Like he was unholy.  He’d never blasphemed in his life, though he’d cursed a bit…

Jones started screaming again.

“Thank you, Mr. Jones,” Captain said, after it sounded like Jones was done.  He didn’t want Ishmael getting too close to the rail and there was no telling what Jones might do.  “You will release Mr. Ishmael. Your desire to protect our beloved instrument of democracy will not go unnoticed.  Perhaps I’ll heed the suggestion.”

Jones stopped in mid-breath.  Terror surged to his cheeks.  Captain hadn’t done that to Jones in years.  What caused that? Captain wondered. He hadn’t put that much menace into the tone.

Captain threw his eyes over the crew, each man shivering.  Even the man on the rail, who added a guilty look that said, “What, me abandon ship?  How could you Oh, I just thought I saw a big fish in the distance.  Marlin, or something.  Chased by an old guy.  Talking to himself.  But it was nothing.”  Captain nodded when the man carefully returned to deck.

Jones was stiff as a board.  Captain stepped forward and noticed the wince.

“Got something you want to say, Mr. Jones?” Captain asked quietly, over the sounds of wind and water.

Jones shook his head.  Captain let the glare linger for a bit, before turning his back.

“Mr. Ishmael, stand up.”  At the poor man’s plaintive movement, Captain said, “Okay, sit up then.”  The deep breath Captain took in was like a low-pressure system moving air away.  A faint noise behind him meant that Jones had noted the barometer dropping fast.

“You will tell me exactly what you were doing when Mr. Jones encountered you, Mr. Ishmael,” Captain said, in his authoritative voice. He added, without turning: “Mr. Jones, you will be allowed to speak in your own time.  I do not want you interfering with Mr. Ishmael’s testimony.  At all.  In your own time, Mr. Ishmael.”  Captain sat on a barrel and did his best to look attentive.  Ishmael squirmed, before the glare forced him to speak.

“Well, sir, I was just trying to make a suggestion before anyone else woke up.  I didn’t want to be disturbed, so…”

***

Paul shivered uncontrollably.  Since Captain had relented his glare, Paul had been furiously checking and rechecking his memory, trying to remember if Captain had surprised him, more than normal, at any time in the last day.  Paul’s terror was fueled by a growing but indeterminate fear.  Had Captain heard anything?  Paul wondered.  Maybe after dinner?

Regret was now cancerous, affecting Paul’s psyche.  Paul had never regretted anything more in his life, than the moment he…  Paul thought bitterly for a moment about his love life, then finished: … took this job…

Someone said something and Paul became very uneasy.  Like a piece of meat at a vegan convention.  he looked up.

“Would you like to tell us what you were doing, Jones?” Captain asked with a peculiar look on his face.  Something with both rage and glee.  “I understand that you were covering the midnight watch, but I also understood that you were sane at the time that I assigned it to you.”

Paul stared back, doing his best to look harmless and encourage Alzheimer’s.  Surely Captain was old enough…

“Are you deaf, Jones?  Are you actually insane?”

“No sir.”  Paul prepared himself for a torrent of obscenity.

“Really?  Because I might say that snapping a bastard’s leg in two places for no damn reason is a sign of insanity!”

Paul didn’t know how to respond.  He’d never been called just a bastard before.  Captain was so angry that he was actually having trouble swearing.  Maybe he’d been stung by a bee in the throat, something.  Anaphylactic shock, caused by anger. Captain had already started to make a whistling noise, probably from the pent-up rage.  He sounded like a kettle.

***

Paul opened his eyes and saw a bright light.  Elation  and smugness at the afterlife came a moment before a splitting pain in Paul’s jaw and the appearance of a face that persuaded Paul his criticisms of Christianity were quick, unsubstantiated, and wrong.  He was in Hell. Captain, it turned out, was Lucifer, the Fallen Morning Star.

“Lazarus, a drop of water!” Paul cried, eyes shut in hope of diminishing the pain.  The sound came from his mouth, and Paul was surprised at his vocal chords.  He had not expected them to exist in spirit.  His nose was working, too, and he smelled fish.  Suspicion caught up with him; at that moment too, did the realizations of what he had done, of mercy, of penitence, of stupidity, and of a bucket of water in the face.

“You want some water, Jones?” Captain bellowed.  “I’ll give you the ocean!  The whole stinkin’ sea!”

Paul found himself lifted into the air by a very mighty hand and realized that humility was his only recourse.

“Open your eyes, boy!”  Paul did so.

There was Captain’s face, close up and bouncing with every shake.  Personal. Paul could see the man’s (or demon’s, Paul still wasn’t sure) pores, burgeoning capillaries and every follicle of rage-reddened hair.  Captain’s eyes were streaking, but not with tears.  Paul wondered, vaguely and fuzzily, if he would be asked to recount his sins.  He hoped not.  He didn’t think he could remember them all.

“Tell me, Jones,” Captain said in a soft voice, “what were you thinking?”  Captain was holding the can.  Neurons hesitantly began to relay messages to a concussed mind.

“What were you thinking, Jones?” Captain repeated, a little louder. “WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?”

Paul’s ears rang and he watched himself flounder in the stormy irises.  He’d always known he was going to die, but … well, he thought bitterly, really only one person actually knew… and he’d been a fool enough not to change it…

“One treat, after all these years, Jones?  One open ear to mutiny and you cripple a man? I’ll give you what you deserve, Jones. I’ll give you all you ever wanted. Oh, and I’m not listening, so stop moaning!  Crying never helped anyone!”

Paul closed his eyes again.  Frantically, he tried to compose a sufficient prayer, that would incorporate all possible loopholes.  I’m sorry for blaspheming you, God, Jesus, Muhammed, Buddha, Whoever You Are… He felt his stomach enter his chest and realized his idiocy.  Then he hit water, hard.

Paul struggled in the darkness.  Whatever allegory his subconscious might compose, he couldn’t see it ending well.  Tyranny had won, regardless, he thought, so he might as well surface.  The water was numbingly cold, he might as well go toward the light…

“And take this with you!” greeted Paul’s ears as he broke the surface.  Something hit him in the head, and the darkness came back, slowly. Paul was afraid, because he remembered two things.  He’d seen triangular fins in the water.  And “blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.”

Paul trembled before he sank.

***

“What was it he said, sir, when he came up, again?”

“What? ‘I’m an idiot?’”

Silence, relatively.

“Yeah.  Why’d you fish him out? I thought you said you weren’t going to listen, sir.”

More wind, waves, and creaks.  This silence held more.

“Just not him.” Captain sighed. “Trust me, Ishmael, idiot deserved the sharks.  But so do I.  Realized it after I hit him in the head.  We deserve worse than we get, and get better than we deserve.”

“Sir?”

“I was just as stupid to ask you for suggestions.  Stupider.  Knew it would get out of hand, and ignored it. Figured I was entitled to a laugh”

“Think he’ll wake up?”

“Oh, eventually.  Eventually.”  Captain watched the sun set. “Eventually, we all do.  It’s just got to be before it’s too late.”

Trials of Sport

Based on my most recent post, I realized that I should just try to post all the things that I’ve got stored up on my computer. Here’s one of my better short stories. I wrote it leading into my creative writing workshop at UCLA and, reading it again, it’s definitely one of the better things I’ve written.

It’s fiction — although I did go to a Tae Kwon Do class when I was about 7 and witnessed something similar to what’s described below. And I did do Tae Kwon Do in college. You can read about it, complete with terrible headlines here (Club offers ample kicks) and here (Martial arts learning experience continues).

When I turned eleven, my father gave up his dreams of me and sports and success.  It took shock therapy to transfer some of his zeal to me.

“Son, what do you think of the martial arts?” my father had asked me during a mysterious twilight car ride. “You know, like Karate,” he added, when he sensed I hadn’t understood.

“Ooh! Karate would be awesome, Dad!”

He slapped the steering wheel and smiled widely.  “Well, I’m taking you to Taekwondo!”

“Oh.” I wondered what Taekwondo was.  Maybe it was super Karate.  I imagined me balancing on rocks in twenty-foot surf, me crushing steel blocks to powder, me catching flies with chopsticks, me beating up hordes of bad guys while my father looked on proudly.

In reality, my father frowned at me because I wasn’t responding enthusiastically.  I don’t know what he expected.  I was benched in soccer for growling at the other team, but he said I was too young to understand.  During baseball, a pitch got away from him and broke my right hand, but he said that was just bad luck and he was really sorry.  I forgave him.  The football coach put me as kicker, which would have been fine, but we never scored.  My ears got infected swimming and wrestling, and I couldn’t clear the net in tennis.  Taekwondo was probably next on the list.  But I don’t think I knew this at the time.

“Well, son?” he asked. “Will you give it a try?”

I did want to give it a try, but I shrugged.  He always asked if I would give something a try.  But I didn’t want to crush him, so I said, “Yeah, Dad. This’ll be fun.”

He smiled thankfully and turned right.  We were surrounded by a business park. Six cars congregated around a fluorescent sign that read “Taekwondo” and a lighted panel window.  My father parked and made it seven.  Before we went inside, he grabbed both my shoulders and squeezed in the way that good fathers do.  Then he grabbed the door handle and we entered a wood-paneled room.

A large man to our left was kicking a hanging bag and coating himself in ceiling dust.  There were other kids around, doing martial-artsy things, but I had eyes only for the big man. He looked like a statue with his white robe and black belt and bronze skin and oiled muscles.

“Here for Taekwondo?” he asked after a final, tremendous kick.  His voice could break boards.  I was disappointed with his lack of accent.

My father nodded, too awed to speak.

“You can’t come on the floor tonight.” He waved an arm to his students, replicas with technicolor belts. “They’re testing to move up a belt.  You can’t start today. You can watch.  Sign here.”  The big man conjured a wavier–maybe he had one up his sleeve–and gave it to my father, who signed it for both of us.  Before he finished, the black belt snatched it back.

The big man trotted onto the wood floor and yelled. The twenty kids jumped to attention. My father looked at me again, asking, “Well?”

“This will be great, Dad.”  I think he knew something was wrong at this point.  I did not.

Twenty minutes later, I watched saucer-eyed as a boy with a blue belt kicked another boy with a green belt in the face.  Then in the groin.

My father grabbed my hand. Two more to the face.  One to the chest.

My father grabbed my other wrist.  Another to the groin.

My father picked me up.  The green belt finally started to cry.

My father reached the door when the master reached the abused boy on the ground.

“What do you do when you are hurt?” the big man screamed an inch from the boy’s face.  What do you do when you are hurt?

I couldn’t hear the boy’s answer through his sobs.

Next thing I knew, we were driving home.  My father’s face was very pale.

“Dad?” I asked quietly. “Are you okay?”

He kneaded his lip with his thumb and forefinger and ignored me.

“Dad, does that usually happen?”  The engine punctuated the silence with a shift.

“Mark, sometimes I think I want you to do too much.”  My father only calls me by my name when he’s upset.  I should have realized this, but I wanted him to answer my question.

“Yeah, but–”

“I love you, Mark, and I only want the best for you.  You know that, don’t you?”  The last time he said that to me, he had just finished telling the nurse how I broke my hand.  I stuck my nose to the window glass and depression set in.  Here it comes.

“I’m sorry, Mark.  I’m really sorry.  You should have never seen that; I should have never let you see that.” He stopped for long enough for my hope to rejuvenate.  Maybe he would take me back.  He might have been sorry, but I had never seen anything so incredible in my life.  I was eleven and saw another boy get yelled at for being beaten up.  And that made me want to take a punch in the gut and deal one right back.  This may have been my father’s objection.

He apologized to me on the ride home, but I was lost in my dreams.  He interpreted this as emotional scarring–he must have– because the following summer, he got me marimba lessons.

Seven years later and it was testing day, again.

I had told my dad the truth twelve weeks earlier, over the phone.  I told him that I really wanted to try martial arts and it was through the college and it was Taekwondo and that he shouldn’t be afraid because I was going to make him proud like I hadn’t before. He didn’t respond well. Now I wasn’t sure if he was to show up for the examination–I hadn’t seen him in the crowd bordering the mats.  That might have been all I really wanted.

I was in my own white robe with a white belt securely around my waist and I was staring my sparring partner in the eye.  His red beanie wasn’t part of the uniform but I wasn’t going to say anything.  I didn’t want to open my mouth; I might dry-heave or say something similarly vacuous.

Char-yot!

Jake stepped to our side after shouting and I stood to attention.  My partner slouched straighter.  Jake was the captain of the university’s Taekwondo team, and the opposite of my childhood instructor:  Jake was lithe, caring, and inclusive.  Maybe too much so.

I hadn’t sparred with Gus before, the man across from me.  I had avoided him since the first class.  He smelled like old, fried socks and could put his legs behind his head.  Gus might have been courteous, knowledgeable, and a friend in other circumstances.  But I knew him from Taekwondo.

“Are you okay, Mark?” Jake asked quietly.  I had done well on the other parts of the exam.  But I was swaying, I was so nervous.  I may have felt like I couldn’t sweat, but the room was a sauna so I was dripping.  Regret and fear, too?

I nodded away my doubts.  Jake shrugged told Gus and I to bow.

We did so and stared each other down.  You were supposed to glare at your opponenteven if he was your best friendin order to intimidate him.  Usually, this made me giggle, but now I imagined Gus talking to my father in the hospital: “Honestly, sir, I don’t know what happened.  We bowed and he fainted.”

Choon-bi!” I straightened up and stepped my right foot back.  Gus was left-footed, which made him look off-balance.  I had to be careful.

Shijak!” The duel began.

I bounced back immediately.  Gus also had more reach than I did, so I’d have to fool him to score a point, to get inside and slap my foot on his chest protector.  Jake told us scoring wouldn’t matter for our belts, but he said a lot of things he thought were reassuring.

“Point!” the audience screamed when I popped one off Gus’s chest.  I’d drawn a kick and scooted under his follow-through with a roundhouse.  I continued to close the distance; if you touched chest protectors, the referee would allow you to separate. That was what had happened before.

But Gus punched me four times in the chest, then pushed me away and tried to kick me in the head.  I dodged it but was shocked.  I wanted to yell, “He hit me! He tried to kick me!”

Instead, we circled again, making mock charges, yelling wordless threats, aiming a kick or two.  I suspected that real world fights weren’t this deliberate, but I had no experience.  My marimba playing limited me severely.

A few minutes passed with incidental contact.  We traded two solid kicks.

“Ten seconds left,” Jake said.

Hai!” Gus stepped forward into a mock charge.  I stood my ground and missed with a roundhouse.  I stepped down and began stepping back.  Then I saw Gus’s haymaker whistling toward my open right side and tried to block it.

Whack!

“You punched me in the hand!” I whined, hopping away and holding my right fist. “You punched me in the hand!”

Also unlike the real world, or previous Taekwondo lessons, fights stop when someone gets hurt.  As Jake says, “We’re trying to hurt each other, but not trying to hurt each other.”  It’s another of those things he says.

Gus had a look on his face that said, “I didn’t mean to,” which was stupid. Of course he had meant to; he just didn’t mean to hit me in the hand.

I stuck my hand between my legs and hopped in circles, cursing.  What was Gus doing punching, anyway?  Was he absent the class Jake explained the scoring system? Punches weren’t thrown because they didn’t score points.  Punching was for the Japanese or losers.

“Here.  Let me see it,” Jake said quietly, and touched my hand.  I yelped in protest.

“It’s probably broken, then.  Might want to get it checked out.” He paused before yelling to the crowd. “That does it!  We’re done!”  We were the last pair to fight.

Gus and I bowed at each other, Gus apologetic and me grimacing.

“No hard feelings?” he asked with genuine concern.

“Depends on how bad it is,” I said and he when he looked alarmed, I added, “Relax, I’m kidding.  I’ve broken it … before.…”

I trailed off because I saw my father standing in the doorway.  It felt like the world stopped and my hand fell off.  I pushed my way through the crowd until we were face-to-face.  Then I saw his shirt close-up as he hugged me harder than he ever had in his life.

“You never asked me to do too much, Dad,” I told his heart.  “I just didn’t know what to do.”

All he could do was cry.

2 years later

The blog still exists but I’ve been busy having children in the meantime. But, I’m going to try to add something once a week.

Lately, I’ve been playing more Civilization 4 online here and here. Check it out if you want.

I’m also going to be pulling some stories from my archive. Look for those soon.

How to buy a house (part 1)

Are you ready? I have a proven x-step program that will help you — yes, you — buy a house.

  1. Have your wife decide she wants to buy a house.

Important Caveat: You do not need to be married to reach this point. You can be unwed and have someone else decide to buy a house with you. It is important that you do not want to buy a house initially.

  1. Agree with your wife.

This just good strategy.

  1. Decide you want to buy a house.
  2. Realize that this has been a part of your wife’s plan for the better part of a year and be overwhelmed by the sheer deluge of house-related facts she contains in her brain.
  3. Go look at houses.

This was an important step. Ash and I went to go see two houses in neighborhoods we liked. On our own, without an appointment, and without the ability to, you know, enter the house and see what it was like on the inside. Instead we went and looked at the outside of the houses and decided that Ashleigh liked one and we both didn’t like the other one.

  1. Cry to the heavens in rage as the one house your wife liked is no longer on the market because someone bought it.
  1. Have your wife tell you that this will be a long process.
  1. Disbelieve your wife within the safety of your brain about the length and ease of buying a house.
  1. Disbelieve your wife in writing, in word, or in deed.

Step 9 is not required but it was one of the steps that we followed. I think I said something like, “I think we can get a house. We have like $10,000 in savings1. Why don’t we just offer that to the homeowner as a down payment?”

Substeps to Step 9

  1. a. Prove that a 20% down payment on a $300,000 house is $6,000.
  1. b. Realize the error in your math.

Step 9B isn’t required either. Sometimes you don’t need anyone to helpfully point this out to you! In which case, proceed to step 10.

  1. c. Say things like, “Well, at our current savings rate we will have the $60,000 down payment … in 7 years” and “If we cut our budget by 56.3% and took out all of our retirement savings and got a 25% raise every year for the next 3 years, we’d have the down payment by this September.” Wait a beat and realize your mistake.
  1. Despair.

You will repeat step 10 multiple times while trying to purchase a home.

  1. Meet with a realtor

We had a really good realtor, although I didn’t realize this until we were about halfway through the process. Her name is Brenda Ball, if you’re interested.

We are not currently anywhere close to halfway through the process.

  1. At the meeting with the realtor, she or he2 will answer questions like, “What if we have no down payment,” with statements such as, “Well, you can do a 0% down payment with Navy Federal.”3 It is important that you ignore any caveats after this sentence, especially caveats like, “but I wouldn’t recommend that” or “When did you serve?” These things will only distract you from step 13.
  1. Regain hope while in conversation with the realtor.
  1. Walk away from the conversation with the realtor with hope brimming from every follicle and cell of your being.

Having good, hopeful hair is an important part of buying a house. You cannot buy a house if you are bald.

  1. Develop a plan to save the money you need.
  1. Forget about the whole house plan for, like, 6 months.

Step 16 isn’t necessary. But I do remember there was a large gap between our first meeting with Brenda and when we actually went and looked at houses, under her supervision. We also developed a plan to save a bunch of money we needed but we decided to spend it on killing Ashleigh’s student loans. This was not a bad decision.

  1. Get a bunch of money.

Step 17 is essential. Buying a house is really really expensive and we could not have purchased our house without the generosity of my parents, who very kindly gifted a portion of my grandmother’s inheritance to us. It was tremendous. We could not have done it without their help.

  1. “Remember” about the whole house thing. Visit several houses with your realtor.

MATH INTERLUDE:

Once we got the sliver of money we needed for a down payment (about $12,000 in our savings account), it was time to actually look at houses.

Having around $12,000 in savings is really nice. Trying to buy a house with $12,000 … there’s a reason this is an x-step list.

A conventional loan with no mortgage insurance requires a 20% down payment. 20% down on a $300,000 home is $60,000. $12,000 is … yes, 20% of a 20% down payment (also known as 4% down).

This wasn’t bad math that we were doing at the time. With an FHA loan, you can make a 3.5% down payment: $10,500 on a $300,000 house.

However, we live in Southern California, one of the real estate capitals of the world. $300,000 gets you a  350-square-foot 1-bedroom beach-ish4 condo or a 15,000-square-foot behemoth hundreds of miles from civilization5. We wanted to live in Carlsbad (we were priced out), Encinitas (again, priced out), Vista, or Oceanside.

And that’s how we ended up with a price range from $300,000 to $350,000. And we were very aware that a 3.5% down payment on a $350,000 house was $12,250 ($250 more than we had saved for this eventuality). But $250 is a relatively small amount. Lots of small amounts like $250 will show up when you’re buying a house. The problem is that they also add up, too.

  1. Find 0 houses your first time out.

We wanted a 3-bedroom home. We weren’t considering two-bedroom houses because we wanted to buy a house that we could grow into. Ashleigh received the following advice which I will pass on to you:

“While you might plan on living in a house for 5 only years, you might have to be there longer. Don’t buy a house you are itching to get out of.”

This is good advice.

All the houses we visited that first day were ones we wanted to get out of. And that was before we entered these houses.

  1. Get offered a new job.

This was a very important step for us in the long term. I got offered and accepted a new job working with Qualcomm, which meant a large raise and a job switch. Oh, and temporary employment status. That was a problem much further down the line.

  1. Look at more houses.
  2. Find one you like! Make an offer.

We made our first offer on a seriously underpriced 4-bedroom house in Oceanside on October 27th. To obtain the house, I wrote a really long letter about how much we liked the house. With specifics. How we looked forward to running downstairs on Christmas morning. The beautiful tilework. Their excellent work on the closets. Etc etc.

Since the house was a short sale (e.g. the owners were getting kicked out and the bank was selling the house at a loss; or, everyone is unhappy), our realtor revised the letter to make it a bit more generic and a lot less specific in its warmth. Her feedback was, “You don’t want to necessarily remind them that they’re being kicked out of their home.”

  1. Get rejected

We received our first rejection on October 31st. The 4-bedroom house had 17 offers in 4 days and the one accepted was an all-cash offer. But this was a momentary setback.

  1. Find another one you like! And another. MAKE ALL THE OFFERS.

 

We made two more offers in the next week. One was a place where they wanted an accepted offer to see the house; another wanted a standard offer.

  1. a. Accepted Offer Before Visit

I never saw this place but they:

  1. required an accepted offer before we were allowed to see the place
  2. tried to upsell us on potted plants, refrigerators, washing machines, outside of the residential transaction.

Ashleigh went and saw the place. She liked it but the prospect of paying $250 cash for ficuses (ficusii?) was not something she liked. However, we still made an offer.

A few days later our offer was rejected. Someone had offered to purchase the ficuses.

  1. b. Normal Offer (Bellerive)

Ashleigh saw our normal offer house first and then I went and saw it with our realtor. It was listed at $350,000 which was pretty high for the market at the time. It was also pretty high for the property at the time.

Built in 1969, it had popcorn ceilings, carpet from 1970, paint and wall paper from 1970, deteriorating stucco, two un-updated bathrooms (complete with 1970s showerheads and soap scum), and was built on an enormous hill.

But it also had a deck, a white picket fence, a tastefully retro kitchen with a double convection oven, hardwood floors, built-in buffets, gorgeous trees, and large rooms. It had good bones.

But it wasn’t worth $350,000. So we offered $305,000.

  1. b. i. Counter-offer

Wouldn’t you know it? We got the counter-offer shortly there after. They would accept $325,000. So we countered their counter.

  1. b. ii. Counter-counter-offer

We had wanted to pay $315,000 for the house as we figured that was reasonable. At this point, we were still looking at an FHA loan, which meant we would need: ($315,000 x 3.5%) $11,025 for our down payment. To cover the cost of the updates we might need, we were considering an FHA 203k loan, which allows you to borrow as if your home were worth an additional 10% of the appraised value and use the additional amount to create some improvements. We could have $30,000 for improvements that way; we figured we’d only use about $20,000 for the improvements to make it liveable.

  1. b. iii. Rejection.

Our counter-offer was rejected. We felt bad about it at the time but not too bad. We didn’t think the house was worth the extra $10,000 they wanted in purchase price. So we kept looking. Also, we couldn’t really afford that. The extra $300 bucks in down payment was a consideration. Also, so was the inflating loan size.

That was an important consideration. While we could afford a $313,000 loan, that would mean, at the rates we were expecting, around $2,300 for a mortgage. That was getting into tight territory.

With the 203K loan, that meant we had to put down $12,000. Our payment would be around $2,400.6

This was slightly more than double our rent at the time.

  1. Make more offers.

Repeat step 10. Feel more and more desperate.

  1. Despair

We put in offers on 6 more houses. One got accepted en masse7 and then rejected shortly thereafter (I think they had 5 cash offers out of 17) in the next month. The rest fell by the wayside, as real estate agents enjoyed bathing in money, or whatever they were doing.

Conversations at the time varied from “We shouldn’t have pushed so hard on the counter-offer” to unpleasant words about our buyer to arguments about whether we should buy a house or not.

  1. Hope

On November 28, 2012, our long-languishing counter-offer on Bellerive Court was accepted. They counter-signed our expired offer8. Reading through the emails after the fact, the seller’s realtor told our realtor that she could “sell it all day at that price.”

Upon reflection, this was probably not the case.

  1. Enter Escrow.

One thing you’ve got to have in order to buy a house is this thing called “earnest money.”9 Basically, “earnest money” is cold, hard cash that you’ll provide to the escrow company in order to prove to your seller that you mean business. Or something like that.

In our case, we were offering $3,000 (which I think is fairly standard).  This basically secures your offer for a period of time for you to do all the inspections and title research and ley line surveying and private investigating that you will need in order to transfer one plot of land from someone else’s possession to your possession.

ESCROW INTERLUDE

If you’ve heard about someone buying a house, you’ve heard about the some kind of thing called “entering escrow.” We were doing that here: after our accepted offer, we (the sellers) funded the escrow account (with our $3,000). The house couldn’t be sold to anyone else for something like 45 days. We were promising that, 45 days after the escrow started, we would buy the house.

So we’d buy the house on January 12, 2013.

  1. Get a loan.

As discussed earlier, we would be financing this home purchase. Our realtor referred us to an FHA specialist who asked us to tell him everything about our finances ever. This was disconcerting at first. Then it was … concerting.

Our specific loan process was arduous. I will try to write it up at some point the future. Right now, I’ve been sitting on this post for 6 months. So up it goes.


  1. Round and/or wildly inaccurate numbers are really really important to use in Steps 8 and 9. Otherwise you will proceed to step 10 and stay there for a long time.
  2. Since our realtor is a woman, I’ll dispense with the very progressive switching the gender of my pronouns.
  3. We were seriously considering a 0% down loan for a while (I don’t remember if Brenda warned us away from it or not). That was, until we realized that the fees and interest rate associated with it would make it cost-prohibitive for us. Also, neither my wife nor I served in the military.
  4. This is a condo that, on a good day, allows you to walk to the beach in a few hours.
  5. Temecula!
  6. Remember the earlier note about round numbers. These are fairly accurate numbers right here and also include such diverse payments as: mortgage insurance, FHA fees, property taxes, and homeowners insurance.
  7. This means that the seller accepted multiple offers and made multiple counters. Once they received all the confirmed offers back, they can chose which one to sign or continue to negotiate with.They did not choose our offer.
  8. Usually you set an expiration on your offer. I think is probably so that, 5 years later, someone doesn’t try to force you to buy a house.
  9. !