Thursday, April 16, 2015

Best Laid Plans

     Well, I was hoping to offer a post full of sun and surf, retirement fun and hilarity. Instead, we ran into the rain. We played golf on a cloudy Friday, then started out on Saturday, in the rain, with a weather report that predicted 100 percent chance of rain. It continued to rain, off an on, for the next four hours, but we soldiered through the day and finished like the proud retirees we are.

     The next day we'd scheduled as a day off, and it was a good thing, too, since it rained all day. Then on Monday we set out, again in the rain, until we were washed out after nine holes.

I spent five minutes on the windswept beach
     That night I developed a runny nose and a sinus headache to beat the band. I took some Advil. It didn't seem to help at all.

     Ever the trooper, on Tuesday I got myself out of bed and over to the golf course with my friends -- only to be rained out yet again before we'd even finished the first hole. We slogged home, and I spent most of the rest of the day in bed. I did get up and dragged myself across the street to the grocery store to pick up some DayQuil and NyQuil, and some vitamin C. That's all I know to do for a cold.

     That evening I called B about 8 p.m.  "I've got a terrible headache," I told her. "Do you know, can I mix Advil and NyQuil? I took some DayQuil earlier. But I was thinking I'd take an Advil now and then the NyQuil in a couple of hours."

     "No," she told me. "Don't take any Advil. Take the NyQuil now. You'll get a good night's sleep."

     "But it's too early to take it now," I said. "It's only 8 o'clock. I'll fall asleep, then wake up at 5 a.m."

     "No you won't," she insisted. "Take it now. You'll go to sleep in an hour or two. And you'll sleep till 8 in the morning."

     So after we rang off, I downed the NyQuil and read my book for a little while (Inferno by Max Hastings, about World War II, which was recommended by Dianne at Schmidleysscribbling and which is a great book, but a little depressing when you're already feeling lousy with a cold). I drifted off to sleep around 10 p.m. And sure enough, I woke up a little after 8, feeling a whole lot better.
But this is what made me feel better

     My group hadn't scheduled anything for our last day, figuring it would be a make-up day in case we got rained out. But the rains continued, and so we missed out on our rain date as well. We weren't too happy, and a few minor arguments broke out. One of us is a cleanliness freak; the rest are not. One of us brought some DVDs of old TV shows and pressed everyone else to watch along with him. We were going out to dinner. We all like seafood -- except (you guessed it) for one guy, so we ended up at a roadside greasy spoon that no one liked.

     I did finally make it down to the beach this afternoon, before coming back to the condo and taking some more NyQuil. I was feeling better, but not all better. And so, once again . . . Zzzzzzzzz . . .


Saturday, April 11, 2015

A Week Excuse

     This is the week of the Masters, probably the most prestigious golf tournament in America or the world for that matter. The Masters is held in Augusta, GA, every April.

     Tiger Woods is there, along with Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy and all the other top players, including 75-year-old Jack Nicklaus, 79-year-old Gary Player and 85-year-old Arnold Palmer who as a threesome hit the ceremonial first shots on Thursday morning. (As of right now, on Saturday, 21-year-old Jordan Spieth holds an impressive five-stroke lead over the field.)

     So it may not surprise you to know that I myself am heading south to play golf . . . but not at the Masters. I did not get an invitation to play this year. I have never received an invitation to play. Even in my wildest fantasy, I don't get an invitation to play at the Masters. But I have found my way to another golf mecca, which is Myrtle Beach, SC.

     It's a tradition as sacred and revered  as the Masters, at least among my small group of friends. We abandon our wives. We leave our various responsibilities, obligations and household chores behind. And we head off for a week of golf and all the hilarity that accompanies it. Well, we do not go to the "gentlemen's clubs" that dot the Myrtle Beach landscape. We do a little drinking; but to be honest, none of us is a real drinker. One or two beers is about our limit; or sometimes, one or two Diet Cokes will suffice.

     We do however, go out to dinner and order all the stuff we rarely get to eat at home -- onion rings, French fries, hunks of meat, lots of desserts, and plenty of donuts for breakfast. We know this stuff is bad for us. But once every few years is not going to kill us. At least, that's our excuse.

     We spend some extra time going to the fitness room -- for real, there a fitness room at our resort -- and prowling the golf shops looking for bargains on a new golf club or electronic doodad that promises to improve our game.

     We're staying at the beach. It should be warm enough to walk the beach, but the water will probably be too cold for swimming. I do own a wetsuit, however, and I brought it along, just in case.

     Most of the time, when I travel, I prefer to go with B -- like I did when we went to Philadelphia last weekend. B and I always have a great time on vacation. But sometimes, you just gotta let loose with the guys.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

An Underrated City

     It's the fifth largest city in the United States, the sixth largest metropolitan area. It has more colleges than Boston, and more history than Washington, DC -- and for ten years it actually was the capital of the United States.

Street scene in Chestnut Hill

     I'm talking about Philadelphia . . . land of Philly cheese steaks, the hoagie, the Phillies, the Flyers, the Eagles. Okay, maybe the sports teams aren't underrated. Philadelphia hasn't been in the Superbowl or World Series anytime in modern recorded history.

This storefront "proves" there's a hip Philadelphia

     But we spent the weekend in Philadelphia and were awestruck by the historic district, with its 2080-pound Liberty Bell, as well as Independence Hall and a number of other 18th-century sites. If you cup your hands around your eyes to blot out the skyscrapers, you might think you're still in Colonial America.

Not a greenhouse; a breakfast place

     Philadelphia is also home to many college students and young people. Boston has Harvard, MIT, BU, BC, Tufts, Northeastern. But Philadelphia has the University of Pennsylvania, Temple, Drexel, Swarthmore, Haverford, Bryn Mawr, Villanova, and a whole equation of others.

A local food co-op

     Of course the city has its many urban problems both racial and economic. But we found at least one peaceful, prosperous, racially mixed middle-class community in Mt. Airy. And Philadelphia can also boast a few young, hip neighborhoods like Fishtown, Fitler Square, Manayunk.

Our hotel
     I'm no expert on Philadelphia, just a tourist. We stayed in an area on the northwest corner of the city called Chestnut Hill, which is kind of "hip" but for an older crowd. There are lots of restaurants and coffee shops and antique stores and gift shops, as well as a food co-op and a couple of bed-and-breakfasts.

It's an old city. But there's new construction as well

     We ate at the Flying Fish restaurant and met the owner, who chatted us up and told us he's been running restaurants in Chestnut Hill for 40 years, ever since he graduated from Penn. I had celery root soup -- which I'd never tasted before, and it was really good -- and an entree of crab-filled pasta. B had brisket, and judging from all the slurping and moaning going on across the table I'd say she enjoyed it quite well.

The Flying Fish restaurant

     His daughter runs another restaurant up the street that serves breakfast and lunch. We wanted to stop by for a bite but ran out of time. So we're going to have to go back to Philadelphia . . . if for no other reason than we didn't get a chance to try all the restaurants!

The reason we have to go back

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Jersey's Not So Bad

     I'll be doing a lot of traveling for the next month, like any self-respecting retiree should. Except I won't be going to Hawaii or Tucson or Sarasota. I'll be going to . . . well, to start off, I'm traveling through New Jersey. Land of Chris Christie and Tony Soprano.

     The temptation is to do some New Jersey jokes. And I'm thinking Tony Soprano is New Jersey tough, so people from New Jersey can take it. For example:

     Why is New Jersey called the Garden State? Because Oil, Petroleum, Nuclear, Land Fill & Toxic Waste State didn't fit on a license plate!

     I said I was traveling through New Jersey. I'm not actually stopping there. Nobody actually stops in New Jersey. You wanna know why? Take a look:

New Jersey produces a lot of industrial materials

      Of course, you're probably thinking I'm not being fair. You can find a pile of junk somewhere, in any state of the union, if you look hard enough. So here's another view. This from Trenton:

View of Trenton, NJ

     Okay, say what you want about Trenton, but I happen to like the Janet Evanovich crime novels which feature the exploits of the tough, wisecracking Trenton bailbondsperson Stephanie Plum.

      Why does California have the most lawyers, and New Jersey the most toxic waste dumps? New Jersey got first pick.

     But still, it doesn't seem like this guy is particularly happy about being in Trenton:

At the Trenton Amtrak railroad station

     But one good thing about New Jersey is that it isn't very big. Go southwest, and you reach Philadelphia:

The Philadelphia skyline

      And to the northeast stands New York City:

New York's Freedom Tower rises up behind the Jersey skyline

     Now I know there are at least a few people from New Jersey who read this blog, so I hope they won't be offended. In a way, it's a compliment that I can joke about their state -- it's an appreciation that they're tough enough to take a comic shot or two.

     Did you hear about the power outage that took place at the state university in New Jersey? Over 30 students were stuck on the escalator for three hours.

     And to be fair, there are a lot of nice places in New Jersey as well. Many of the beaches along the Jersey shore are really gorgeous, and Cape May is one of my favorite vacation spots, anywhere, especially in September when the crowds are gone but the water is still warm. And remember, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis used to go horseback riding in the New Jersey hunt country. So you know it's gotta be nice out there. And by the way, those Kennedys were pretty tough, too.

     Speaking of tough, it makes me wonder. It takes a tough person to be president. I wonder if Tony Soprano would have made a good president. He certainly could whip Congress into shape. He might even be able to handle Vladimir Putin and take down ISIS. Whaddya think: Would he have been a Democrat or Republican?

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

"Don't Worry, I Can Hold It"

     Around where I live we start playing golf in the beginning of April. It was opening day of the season. My friends and I usually play at one of our local public courses, but this year we wanted to get the season off on an especially good foot. We decided to travel up the parkway and play at a really nice links course in the country.

     The only thing about the course is that it's about 40 miles north, or close to an hour's drive. So my friend -- the friend I call Peter -- and I decided to carpool. Now if you knew Peter, you'd know he's a little . . . well, how do I put this? He's a little "creative." As in quirky, flakey, off-the-wall. We all love him; he's fun to be around; he's really a great guy who'd do any favor for you in a minute. But he's a little . . . well, if you ever watched "Seinfeld," he's our Kramer.

     Just one quick story about Peter. A few years ago, when he was getting a divorce, he decided to take a vacation to Australia. He went by himself. He arrived at the airport and picked up his rental car. Did he want the insurance? Usually you answer "no" to that question, because a rental car is often covered by your regular car policy, or else your credit card. But Peter was in a foreign country; so he decided to be safe and take the insurance.

     He threw his bag in the trunk, got in the car, and drove off the lot onto the highway. Then he remembered he'd put his hotel information in his bag. In the trunk. So he pulled over onto the shoulder of the road. He got out, leaving the door open, went around to the back of the car and opened the trunk. His head was buried in the trunk, rooting around for his papers when . . . WHACK! A pickup truck clipped his open door. The car door went flying off in an explosion of metal and plastic.

     The truck stopped. It was hardly damaged. Peter was fine. But the rental car had a big gaping hole on the driver's side where the door was supposed to be.

     Peter stood there for a moment. Then he shrugged. He got back in the car, turned around and went back to the rental car lot -- not 15 minutes after he'd left. He returned the car and explained what happened. They gave him a new car, and he drove off to enjoy his vacation.

     This could only happen to Peter. So it might not surprise you to hear that I told Peter I'd be happy to be the one to drive to the golf course. We arranged to meet at the mall by the parkway. He'd leave his car there; and I'd drive up to the course.

     I pulled into the lot next to Macy's, as we'd agreed. He wasn't there yet. I parked; I looked at my watch; and then I saw Peter drive up. He parked next to me, pulled out his golf bag, and I motioned for him to throw his clubs in my backseat.

     He put in clubs in the back then opened the passenger door and got in. "Sorry I'm a little late," he apologized.

     "No problem," I said.

     "I had to take my medicine this morning."

     "Oh, what medicine?" I asked.

     "Well, have you ever had a colonoscopy?"

     "Yeah, sure."

     "I'm getting my first one tomorrow. So, you know, I had to start the medicine today."

     "The medicine?"

     "Yeah, the stuff that's supposed to get you ready for the procedure. It cleans you out. I wasn't allowed to eat breakfast this morning either. I'm really hungry."

     "Wait a second, Peter . . . you mean the laxative?"


     "Well, Peter, don't you know, we'll be on the golf course for four hours. It's an hour drive up there. Another hour back home. We'll be gone for six hours."

     "Yeah. So what?"

     "But . . . have you ever had that stuff before?"

     "No, why?"

     I was breaking into a cold sweat, imagining Peter exploding all over my car. "It makes you go to the bathroom. That's the whole point."

     "Oh, I can hold it. No problem."

     "What do you mean, hold it? You can't hold it!"

     "No, really, I can hold it."

     "Peter, you're . . ."

     Then Peter looked at me. A big smile crossed his face. "April Fool!"