Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Scrambling for Business

Lamentations of a Horse with No Big Dog

For all the inventions that the Golf Gods have bestowed upon us mortals, one I could do without is the dreaded Scramble.

It is not so much the format (well, okay, it is). Although I try to avoid a scramble like HPV, the only time I can’t avoid one is when it’s business-related. Some very wealthy and civic-minded client is always inviting me to join his group. He’s paying a lot of money to some charity or another, and he feels as though he should at least have a fighting chance to bring home some booty. Since I am cursed with a handicap far below where it should be (more on that another day), he looks upon me as the proverbial “horse.” And he’ll make no bones about saddling up, either.

Last week it was the Herbie Cutler Memorial Super-Scramble to Benefit the Orphans of Afghani Sports Greats. So I am told, these athletes did not die from sports-related injuries, unless you count being shot for losing to Belgium in the World Cup.

The event was held at the ultra-prestigious Tremulous Albatross Club in Locust Valley (how could any prescient real estate developer name a wealthy suburb after a swarming insect? Doesn’t it say something about the neighbors?). It is one of the insidious tactics of scramble organizers to schedule their events at the most exclusive private clubs, so that what the tournament lacks in quality of play is more than made up by the lure and panache of the locale. At $10,000 a foursome, you’ve got to offer a pretty fancy product, you know.

Prestigious is a hard mantle to don when your first task on arrival is to run the gauntlet of the “check-in.” You pick up your bag tag and a little plastic bag with some tees, a sleeve of double –XL super-core balls built for durability and extra distance (I have a couple dozen in the trunk, still in the sleeves), and a poncho with some hideous logo on it. I have a closet at home dedicated to the apparel I collect at scrambles. I have thirteen umbrellas, four rain suits, eleven hats, six visors, two wind vests, an assortment of club covers and a box full of assorted gadgets and gizmos, including the largest collection of ball mark repair tools in New England.

Next there’s the lady with the mulligans. Now, I don’t do mulligans. I hate them – especially because my friends take them at will and usually forget them when the score is tallied. The thought of paying for them is anathema to me. But there you are. Standing in front of the tournament volunteers with their lovely smiles. Three for twenty. What the hell, the round is free, gimme three.

Next is the raffle ticket lady. She’s always got some deal that makes you spend more. Ten for twenty, twenty for thirty, or some shell game like that. I always want to ask her what the raffle prizes are, so I can see what I’m investing in. Bad idea, don’t do it. Gimme twenty, what the hell. Maybe I’ll win a visor. Or a gas grill.
So I’m already out forty bucks and I haven’t even checked out the “box lunch” yet. Forget the box lunch, is the bar open yet? Cash bar until after golf? Bummer. Gin & tonics, nine bucks? Gimme a double in a go-cup with lots of ice.

Now for some warm up. So I grab some clubs and head over to the range.

Do you think that a club should be allowed to charge a charity $300 a head for an outing and then close the grass part of the range? I think it should be a hanging offense. And what is a classy place like this doing with mats anyway? Monday outings, in all likelihood. There you have it. The range is overrun with a riot of bodies, all flailing away like they’re holding off a herd of rabid skunks. And there’s a row of people waiting behind them. So I go back to my cart and opt for the gin and tonic warm-up method.

Isn’t this fun?

After about a billion years, we’re all herded out in our carts. We look like grunion heading for the California Coast at full moon. Finally, it’s time to tee off. It’ll take me six holes to calm down and loosen up, under the best of circumstances. But my client host insists that, since I am the “low handicapper” in the group, I should hit last every time, so I can “really let the Big Dog out.” I insist that I don’t own a “Big Dog,” and I try to convince him that it actually works better for him and his other guests if I hit first, put the ball in the fairway, and let everybody else relax. But no. So I wait. And wait. And wait. Three balls, all in the crap. I don’t get paid to do this, you know.

In the middle of the first fairway we’re standing a mere 147 to the green. Chaz Boudreau, one of my client’s equipment vendors, takes out his pitching wedge, swings like a broken windmill and takes a divot so big you’d need a broker’s license to sell it. Three more like that and I could do the border of my front walk. The other two follow suit, one way left, one way right, and then: “It’s all up to you, pard!”


I remember why I really hate the golf part of scrambles when I reach the first green. Again, I have to go last, and my team mates insist that I watch each putt carefully so that I know exactly what the putt is going to do. This might work if they were fair putters. One guy cuts his putt, another guy pulls his – and the speeds are all wrong. So I pretend to watch and then, if I make it, thank them all for their invaluable help. What a team effort!!

Okay, I’m being grumpy. The truth is I’d play golf with anyone, anyplace, anytime. And a business scramble is good, because I meet a few new guys, talk about some business, learn something new, have a few laughs, make a few friends. I might tend to get a little hinky if the pace is too slow, but that’s what the beer cart is for. Just relax and have a good time. So if you’re stuck for a fourth and the company’s buying, shoot me an email. That is, if you’re looking for a grumpy horse.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Cartoon Round-up

A sample of bro's cartoons as he heads off on vacation to the Maine coast:

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Buddy Can You Spare a Million?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Joseph Zawinul

Joseph Zawinul, the Austrian keyboard impressario and architect of jazz fusion, has died.

It might seem unusual that I would choose the death of Joe Zawinul as the subject of my first post in several months, but there is no other musician who has had a greater effect on the development of my musical tastes than he.

Somewhat by accident, in 1971 I visited a friend while home from boarding school for a long weekend. We did what a lot of irresponsible teenagers did in that era (smoked a lot of pot) and he put on Weather Report, the first album just released by the new group formed by Zawinul and saxophone genius Wayne Shorter. Within the first 30 seconds of "Milky Way," I felt quite clearly that my musical taste had been rocked. I was only sixteen years old, and I had thought the musical world began and ended with Jimi Hendrix. I mean, how could anything get more out-of-this-world than Electric Ladyland? By the time I had made it through "Morning Lake" and "Waterfall," I was a goner.

Shortly, I bought Miles Davis' seminal two-album set, Bitches Brew, and was hypnotized by Zawinul's Pharaoh's Dance. It was also my introduction to Davis himself, as well as clarinetist Benny Maupin, guitarist John McLaughlin, pianist Chick Corea and a host of others.

Soon I had bought every Cannonball Adderly record Zawinul appeared on and I was chasing Benny Maupin and Chick Corea around whenever they made an appearance at Paul's Mall.

For the next ten years, I don't think I thought about rock and roll. I followed, and bought, all of the music of those above -- Mahavishnu Orchestra, Herbie Hancock, Return to Forever (which introduced me to Gary Burton) -- but nothing excited me more than the release of another Weather Report album. Nothing. And as new musicians appeared on the latest record (e.g., Alphonso Johnson, Jaco Pastorius), their works, too, were purchased. I tell you, I have quite a vinyl collection of fusion!

Every album is, from beginning to end, crammed full of flawless, astonishingly free composition, redolent of soul, utterly original and so expressive that you can see in your mind's eye the images that inspired the Zawinul-Shorter duo. His philosophy about their music might best be explained by a comment he made (somewhat in anger) in response to an interviewer's remark about the music being "random and thoughtless":

"I don't talk to those idiots, man," snapped Zawinul. "We just play what we feel inside, and this is really the first chance any of us has had to do that. We are members of our own band, we do exactly as we want to and we're so much the better for that."

"Our music is especially relevant to young people because it is so young itself. It's always fresh," Zawinul added, "Young people feel more than they think, so they're not always going 'I don't understand it.' Who gives a fuck who understands it? I mean, people understand so much and they still can't live in peace. Everybody understands everything and don't feel nothing."

I do not believe there has ever been a more powerful collaboration of two musicians than Zawinul and Shorter, who first met in 1959 while playing for Maynard Ferguson. Shorter brought Zawinul into the Bitches Brew project, and they formed Weather Report in late 1970 after completing the recording of Davis' In a Silent Way. They composed and played together like Yin and Yang until their final album, This is This in 1986 (probably their weakest work, done under pressure from Columbia when they were beginning to do other things independently), which includes guitar work from Carlos Santana.

Here is an exhaustive and authoritative discography of everything Weather Report did. It includes thorough biographical and historical notes on the players and their history together. It's a great read, for jazz afficionados.

This man's truly remarkable life is told in a biography entitled In a Silent Way, by British jazz writer Brian Glasser.

Thank you, Joe Zawinul.

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