Words (or, the thing vs. the description of the thing)

I sell used tractor-trailers for a living. Often, I can sell trailers to my customers via photos that a seller forwards to me and I never have to leave my desk or dirty my hands. Sometimes, if the trailers are near enough, I go inspect them and take my own marketing photos. There are times I’ve inspected a unit “in the flesh”, and even done a write-up of its flaws, blemishes, and strong points; and then I get home to my computer and pull up the photos, and they don’t do justice to the trailer, or, on a more regular basis, they look better than the actual piece of equipment they visually represent.

Words are like that. They are oral or written abstractions of actual ideas, or of real world things, events, people, and places. Words are symbolic only and are not the thing described. Sometimes the words used are better than the actual thing (that would be descriptive of most advertising hype; which is short for hyperbole, by the way). Other times, the words don’t do the thing justice. Take the phrase, “What a beautiful sunset,” to convey the sight of a panoramic skyscape of surreal colors and lights so intense it can almost be tasted.

A common phrase you hear is: “Words mean things.”  And this is without a doubt true. But what exactly do words mean?  A skillful rhetorician (or thirteen-year-old drama queen) can torture words so that they become the literary equivalent of abstract painting compared to “real life?” On the other hand, Hemingway wrote in short, simple five word sentences and painted masterpieces his readers can vividly see and feel. In my attempt to sound intelligent and articulate, does my use of polysyllabic words in sentences cobbled together with commas and semi-colons conceal the “real thing” thing from my readers?

When I write, the whole point of the exercise is to strive to find the words and phrases that reveal the essence of whatever it is I’m narrating. I am sometimes frustrated that there are no better choices to describe a particular event or emotion. (Microsoft Word doesn’t recognize the word “skyscape” I used a couple of paragraphs above, for instance) I can imagine how aggravating this is for a genuine wordsmith or poet! I suppose this shouldn’t be surprising since it is obvious that words, whether oral or written, evolved sequentially after the thing or idea for which they were created to represent. Trees existed way before the word “tree”, or “arbre”, or even before the letters were first scratched out that are needed to craft these written words together…

The specialist, it is said, uses language that confuses, rather than enlightens, his hearers. The doctor’s use of jargon, for instance, creates a fog of mystification between the unwashed layman and the highly-trained-and-rigorously-educated physician that is himself. Thus a bruise becomes a subdural contusion exhibiting epidural edema. For fuck’s sake, it’s a bruise with some swelling, alright!? Other doctor’s may understand, but to the patient he is speaking in tongues. As St. Paul so eloquently said, “Unless the trumpet sounds a clear tone, who will prepare himself for battle?” The patient hearing the above diagnosis may think he’s facing an amputation when all he really needs to do is hold a bag of frozen peas on his injury.

A shared language, employed thoughtfully, is the most common framework we have for building understanding, establishing relationships, and convening cooperation…and vice versa, its misuse can create chasms of separation. I want to use words that capture the subject in the clearest most universal light. I want my word pictures to look like the real trailers, to the best of my ability. I want to engage my reader’s mind with my own to the degree that he never has to “leave his desk and dirty his hands” to figure out what the hell it is I’m trying to say. Such a goal will be worth keeping in mind as I continue to record my thoughts for whomever may eventually read them.

Big Green Egg

with side tables - 1

 

This past Friday, I purchased a Big Green Egg. It was a decision nearly a year in the making, and I thought I’d share my experience of the purchase, assembly, set-up, and initial cooking results with you.

For anyone who doesn’t know, the Big Green Egg is an oval-shaped Kamado style, ceramic/stoneware cooking system that uses charcoal as fuel and is designed to work as a grill, a smoker, and an oven. Unlike conventional charcoal or gas grills which are typically constructed of thin metal which are therefore not able to retain heat nor maintain a steady temperature very well, the BGE uses thick ceramic in the construction of it’s walls and domed lid for excellent heat retention and temperature stability. Used properly, these properties make the egg suitable for a wide variety of uses from grilled or smoked meats and veggies to brick oven pizza.

I have been toying with the idea of a ”BGE” since last May when I moved into the home I currently occupy and left my old, worn-out Weber propane grill behind. Two things made this a difficult decision for me.

First: Charcoal vs. Gas (Propane); I loved my Weber grill! It was a four-burner model with individual controls for each burner. The gas jets ran from front to back so it was easy to create an indirect cooking space of up to half the grilling area by simply turning off any two adjacent burners and leaving the other two ignited. My experience grilling everything from hot dogs to pizza has taught me that indirect cooking is essential to successfully cooking anything on a grill, and, while I was intrigued by the BGE, I was very skeptical about achieving this with charcoal, which obviously doesn’t respond to a ”control dial”. Gas is also very fast from on to done. It certainly wins in the speed category. With these two advantages, you may be asking why I’d even consider a charcoal grill at all. One word, ”FLAVOR!” I will discuss this more in-depth later on. My philosophy about the role of cooking and food is changing at this stage in my life, and I’ll discuss that as well.

Second: Expense; either choice was going to be costly! I mean well north of a grand, costly! Having been used to (and spoiled by) the four-burner Weber, I couldn’t force myself to downgrade to a different brand or a three-burner model. While a smaller cooking surface and fewer burners would certainly meet my needs (the BGE has a significantly smaller cooking area than my Weber had), I wasn’t willing to compromise on quality construction and a name I knew I could trust. I owned my Weber for 15 years! It gave me outstanding performance and I consider their products to be the highest quality. Big Green Egg won’t even advertise their prices online, so I had to go to an authorized dealer to find out that the model I wanted was going to cost $999.99 just for the egg. This didn’t include a stand or any accouterments. All told, the package I ended up with cost me $1295.36 out-the-door, including tax. The weber model I considered was pushing $1500, so, yeah, I needed to wait until I could justify (rationalize) the outlay on what is essentially a splurge.

Once I crossed the bridge mentally about spending the money, I really wanted to make sure that I was going to get value equal to my expectations. To me, this is the critical idea with any expenditure of any resource. Ultimately, as Thoreau says, “the true cost of an item is how much of your life you’re willing to exchange for it”. I believe that maxim is true with the caveat that while it is certain that one can never retrieve the quantity of life traded for any purchase, one can receive quality in exchange, thus achieving “value”. I want all of my trades of time to produce value. If I’m going to end up with less of quantity, I want to also end up with more of quality.

Having never used a Big Green Egg, and having no personal friends or acquaintances from whom I could receive first hand testimony, I relied upon my research on the internet and at a couple of resellers. This is an important step for me because I wanted to make sure my expectations were realistic. Resentment and frustration result when unreasonable expectations are allowed to take root. As I mentioned earlier, I had first hand experience with a Weber propane grill and I knew pretty much exactly what to expect. Do you wonder why I chose not to replace my worn-out Weber with another one? There are a couple of reasons:

First, I don’t have as much space for a grill as I used to have. My deck out back measures eleven feet by twelve feet. The deck I previously had for use with my Weber was at least sixteen by twenty. The Weber’s footprint is one and a half times as large as the Big Green Egg and a Weber cannot be placed diagonally into a corner without taking up significantly more space. I wanted to preserve as much seating and standing area on the deck as possible. The large model BGE I purchased tucks right into a corner and even with the optional side tables I purchased, takes up only forty-two inches of space in each direction. This leaves plenty of room to walk around the deck, access the grill, and have a couple of Adirondack chairs and side tables set up without feeling too cramped.

Second, I became enamored with the idea of charcoal, generally, and the versatility of using charcoal in a BGE, specifically. There is no doubt that propane is fast. It is relatively inexpensive to use also. A refill on a propane tank is around twenty to twenty-five bucks. I never kept an accurate count, but I imagine I could get a minimum of ten to twelve grilling sessions per tank. A twenty-pound bag of the recommended premium chunk charcoal (not briquettes) for the BGE is almost thirty bucks, $28.99 to be exact. I expect to get only eight to ten uses out of each bag. I’m sure that running out of charcoal will be just as much of a hassle as running out of propane, though finding premium charcoal at some odd hour of the night will undoubtedly be more difficult than finding a propane refill. But there is virtually universal agreement that food cooked over charcoal just tastes better.

Consider this: for my fortieth birthday, my ex-wife and I went to Chicago to celebrate. We ended up dining at the Weber restaurant just off of Michigan Avenue, where all of the meat is cooked on Weber grill. When I ordered steak, the waiter asked me if I wanted it prepared over charcoal or gas. He suggested charcoal, and said ninety-per cent of the patrons chose charcoal because of the superior flavor. ‘Nuff said!

Aside from the expectation of more flavorful cooking, I also was ready to experiment with different cooking techniques and cuts of meat. I wanted to try some things I’d never been able to do on a conventional grill. The BGE is an excellent smoker and slow cooker. It can be used for Boston butts, ribs, beef brisket, roasts, turkey, chicken, seafood, etc. as a low-temperature smoker. These were things I’d never been able to cook on my Weber, and I wanted to try something new.

The BGE also is apparently an excellent brick oven for pizza and other baked goods. I am familiar with grilled pizza on my old Weber. There’s no other pizza quite like it, so the BGE will have to be pretty damn spectacular to top that, but I know it’s an option. I used to be able to cook pizza crust directly on the grid on my Weber, then flip it, turn off the heat under the dough, add toppings and close the lid. The indirect side burners finished off the pizza and melted the toppings together. That method will be very hard to beat. With the BGE, since it is charcoal, I’ll have to purchase a pizza stone and use it with an add-on called the “plate setter”, and cook the pizza similarly to how it would be done in an oven, but with the added bonus of the charcoal smokiness.

I’m at a point in my life where convenience is not the most important thing anymore. When there were seven kids around, convenience and speed were non-negotiable essentials, now, I have time to savor some things in life. Food preparation and enjoyment is one of the things I plan to slow down enough to really savor. Toward that end, I hope I’m through with eating fast food in a car anymore. I’m not saying I won’t still succumb to fast food, but I’m either going to sit down inside or bring it home to eat it.

At any rate, my decision turned on the belief that the food I cook on the BGE will taste better than what I could cook on a gas-type grill, and that although it’s going to take more prep time to achieve that result, I’m ready and willing to be conscious and conscientious about that time. I also swallowed the idea that there was going to be a learning curve for me to successfully retrain my grilling habits and practices from gas to charcoal.

I made the decision to purchase the Big Green Egg, but I still wanted to get the best deal possible. Big Green Egg is a US company, headquartered in Atlanta, but I believe most of the construction of the units is done in Mexico. The proprietary design, quality materials, and fanatical following allow BGE to charge a premium for its products. They do not advertise pricing online, nor do they allow resellers to do so on the reseller’s own websites. I wanted to get the best deal possible and I was still trying to decide between a large or medium Egg.

Ultimately, I stumbled upon my decision about where to purchase by going into my local “Ace Hardware” store in Indian Trail, NC. I went in to buy some small washers for my oldest son’s longboard assembly. I noticed the Big Green Egg placards and advertising and asked one of the store personnel if they were, in fact, an authorized dealer. She assured me that they were and that they gave customers “excellent deals” on BGE purchases.

A couple of weeks later, which turned out to be last Friday (March 21st), I called and spoke to one of the employees at Indian Trail Hardware who told me that they do in fact offer package deals on purchases and told me about their current available promotion. I could purchase a large Egg at $749 (which is $250 off the retail) if I also purchased the “Nest” (a rolling stand), and the “Plate Setter” at full price. I knew that I wanted both of these items anyway so that was a deal to me. The same offer was made for a medium egg, but I was only going to less than $200 on the purchase and the large allows for cooking roughly double the amount of most items (eight steaks as compared to four, etc.). A large it was!

When I arrived at Indian Trail Hardware, I went to the display area and saw Eggs set up both in large wooden tables (a $500 purchase) and in the Nest ($164). I opted for the Nest as it was less expensive, provided mobility, and preserved the compact footprint that was important to me for conserving deck space. Most of the display models also had small side tables added on which were valuable as prep areas and also provided some hooks for hanging grill tools underneath. I purchased a set of them, called Table Mates, for an additional $105.

The only other purchase I made for my initial set up was of a cast iron grid for searing and grilling steaks. The BGE comes with a stainless steel grid that is well made and fine as far as it goes, but having cooked with cast iron skillets for many years, I was familiar with the excellent heat retention properties and I thought the wider spacing would provide better searing and more aesthetically pleasing “grill marks”. So, I shelled out another $65 for that. A very nice, knowledgeable young man named Matthew helped with my questions. He explained that he’d owned an Egg for two years. He eased my mind about the need for a cover, (you don’t need one), the cast iron grid (makes better steaks), and offered advice about smoking Boston Butts and Baby Back Ribs. He was extremely low-key and very helpful.

Matthew gave me the option of taking home a pre-assemble BGE right from the display area. I asked him how long it would take to assemble my own and he told me that he assembles them in 45 minutes, but that it usually takes over an hour for most people. He said that the assembled ones are cumbersome and asked if I had a way to roll it from my driveway to the back deck. When I told I did not, he said I’d definitely need help getting it out of the car, walked to the back and lifted onto the deck. I opted to assemble my own. I have a large kitchen floor that opens directly through double French doors to the deck so I figured I could take my time, watch some NCAA basketball in the process and roll the completed Egg out into position when I finished. Before leaving, I purchased a bag of Big Green Egg brand chunk charcoal and some starter blocks. BGE grills do not use briquettes, nor do you ever use lighter fluid with them.

My total purchase including the large model BGE, the nest, the “table mate” side tables, the plate setter, the cast iron grid, a twenty pound bag of charcoal, a box of starters, and a couple of box end wrenches I would need for assembly ran me exactly $1295.36. I know, I know. That’s a ton, but with a lifetime warranty, I figure to get my money’s worth.

Matthew and I loaded everything into the back of my Element and I headed home with my new Big Green Egg for an afternoon project, visions of ribeyes dancing in my head.

The load

Once home, I carefully unpacked the Element and the various boxes being careful to leave myself enough space to sprawl and spread out as I completed the assembly. I visited the Big Green Egg website at: http://www.biggreenegg.com for some excellent videos on assembly. The site is awesome! It provides video and written instruction on everything from assembly to cooking techniques and recipes.

unpacked in the kitchen

I have provided photos of the routine for each step of the process. I didn’t set a stopwatch, but I wasn’t in a race and it probably took me about 2 hours from start to final set up out on the deck.

nest -1nest - 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

The photos above show the nest assembled without the casters and then fully assembled with casters in place. The casters have lock down brakes to keep the Egg from rolling once it’s in proper position. The assembly was very straightforward and easy, Very detailed and illustrated instructions are provided. This part took maybe 15 minutes.

banding strapsStraps with handle and hingehandle, hinge, table brackets assembly

The part of the assembly shown by the photo above was perhaps the most “challenging”. A separate box contains the banding straps that are attached to the Egg and which serve to hold the upper dome to the lower half of the unit. The instructions were fine and precise and the website video for this part of the assembly is great, but I constantly needed to refer to the diagrams to make certain that the various pieces were facing the correct way and not upside down. Also, my choice to install the optional side tables had to be kept in mind. The instructions don’t mention side tables and it would be possible to construct the entire Egg, cinch down the banding straps and then realize there is no way to attach the table support brackets without disassembling the whole damn thing.

Fortunately, I took enough time to think through how the table brackets needed to fasten. The mounting studs for the brackets have to be pushed through the “egg side” of the strap out through the pre-drilled holes in the bands and brackets, then fasted with the provided acorn locknuts. One has to be careful to put the brackets right side up as well and this took some careful study of the illustrations because there is not a lot of immediate distinction and no markings on the brackets themselves for “L”, “R” or ⬆︎,⬇︎.

The photo above shows the bracket completed with the table mounts, hardwood handle, and hinge all attached and finger tightened, ready to be place on the corresponding halves of the Egg. I probably spent at least forty-five minutes on this part alone.

unboxing - 1 unboxing - 2 unboxing - 3unboxing - 4unboxing - 8unboxing - 5

unboxing - 6

 

 unboxing - 7

 

After completing the bands, it was time to unpack the egg from the main box. As the photos above illustrate, the components are nested inside one another and are well cushioned with cardboard and packing materials. I just set the smaller pieces like the fire grate and stainless steel grid aside to get to the larger halves. Getting the halves out of the box is a two-person job unless you are much stronger than I. Unboxing the pieces and setting them aside for the next step(s) of assemble was relatively quick. I spent another five to ten minutes on this stage.

 

lower half in nest - 1lower half in nest - 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next step required lifting the lower half of the egg into the nest. I locked the brakes on the casters and lifted the lower piece into place. At around fifty pounds, it is rather heavy, but it slid into place easily enough. The ends of the nest “arms” have rubberized end covers that serve to both stabilize the egg by gripping the dimpled outer texture and also prevent marring the finish by the action of metal on ceramic. Once in place, I affixed the lower band onto the lower half and roughly centered the handle on the base of the unit. I then rolled the assemble outside for the final assembly to cut down on the weight I’d have to roll and lift over the transom of the door and down the few inches to the deck level.

Once outside, I lifted the domed upper half of the Egg into place making sure that the upper band with the handle on it fit around the outer circumference of the upper half. My OCD kicked in here and I spent quite a few minutes jiggling and moving the pieces in small increments to line everything up just so prior to tightening the bands on with a wrench. All together, these steps took about twenty to thirty more minutes.

 

hinged - 1

 

 

 

Here, you can see the hinged halves. Each bands (both upper and lower) is held tight by a single threaded bolt near the rear hinge of the unit. The directions call for the nut to be threaded on to this bolt so tight that as the ends of the band are pulled together, the bolt actually bends. The instructions amplify how important it is for all of the hardware to be securely tightened prior to releasing the spring guards on the hinge to prevent injury or damage to the unit. I took my time and went around each acorn nut and hinge nut making sure everything was good and snug. It was sweet to lift the lid for the first time.

with side tables - 2

with side tables - 1

I finished the side tables by mounting them onto the brackets that were already in place. I also secured the cast iron chimney vent to the vent stack with the supplied gasket tape. This piece is only used while cooking and works in conjunction with the sliding stainless steel door you can see at the bottom front of the unit to achieve the desired cooking temperature. At this point I was ready to put charcoal in the firebox and light this bad boy up! I had steaks ready to go!

firebox - 2first firefire with cast iron grid

It was nice to get the charcoal lit and to start to enjoy that unique aroma. The Big Green Egg charcoal is 100 per cent carbonized oak and hickory and made my deck smell like I was camping! I absolutely love that smell. That, gunpowder, and leather, and my nose is in heaven!

I was a little apprehensive about grilling the first steaks because I had become accustomed to a gas grill and by all accounts of those to whom I served steak, I was pretty darn good at it. I followed the lighting instructions and waited patiently for about twenty minutes for the charcoal to be lit for full coverage of the cast iron grid. The temperature had climbed to 600 degrees on the thermometer mounted on the front (which is higher than recommended for the first couple of uses to prevent damage to the gaskets that “seal and separate” the upper and lower halves), but I knew this would be the perfect searing temperature. When I placed the meat onto the iron grid, they sizzled in protest as I quickly shut the lid to retain the heat. I knew my first attempts would be trial and error by necessity but, I knew the maxim, “If you’re looking, you’re not cooking!” so I trusted that keeping the lid down would work best to retain moisture, get that good charcoal smokiness, and prevent flare ups from too much oxygen getting to the charcoal flame.

first steaks on the grill

I ended up cooking the thickest cuts about four minutes per side to get a good, barmy, charred sear on the outside, and then another two to three minutes per side to get to medium rare. These were thick steaks; about two inches for a great ribeye and an inch and three-quarters for a beautiful new york strip. They were just a touch on the rare side when I first pulled them off, but another minute or two on the still hot coals and they were absolutely perfect! In fact, they were the best steaks I’ve ever eaten anywhere in my life! (And that includes Ruth’s Chris and the Capital Grille).

ribeye and new york stripfirst new york stripsthe whole point

Not too shabby! I will be posting again about my first experience with smoking a Boston Butt and my first chicken grilling experience. Hope you’ve enjoyed reading this and that it’s answered any questions you may have about purchasing and setting up a Big Green Egg.

3-19-86, 28 years ago tonight, revisited…

Tapers Section 8 October 1989 | Grateful Dead as The Warlocks at The Hampton Coliseum

 

It always felt a little like being underwater down on the floor at one of the shows; underwater in an aquarium. The atmosphere was thick with people pressed close together and milling around trying to burn off nervous energy. Microphones sprouted in the center of the floor, the taper’s section, until there was a veritable garden of masts and mics about ten rows deep in front of the raised mixing board. The smell of cloves, patchouli, and pot hung in the air like fog in a river bottom. An occasional scream punctuated the chatter and drowned out the strange music playing over the PA. To a newcomer, they could be terrifying, but these were not screams of horror, rather of pent up psychic energy that had to be released lest the screamer burst. They were soul screams that sent chills down your spine. He took note that glow sticks were the new thing this year; Everywhere, the fluorescent rings and wands of light weaved and waived and wandered throughout the restless crowd. All the movement and energy made him think about the bubbles that first appear sparsely and slowly at the bottom of a pot of water that’s been set on to boil. As they heat, they multiply and move quicker and quicker until the whole pot is heaving bubbles. The crowd before a show always put that image in his mind. There was never a warm-up band. There was simply no need for one.

All of the sights and sounds and smells were familiar to him, everything on the outside that is. He had been to almost fifty of these. But something felt odd tonight; some gnawing on the inside that he couldn’t quite identify.

A head walked past and silently mouthed ”Doses”, only briefly catching his eye. He just smiled at him and shook him off. Doses, he had. Instinctively, he reached into the pocket of his jeans and fingered the shreds of paper; page trimmings from a sheet of blotter soaked in Lysergic Acid Diethylamide, probably three doses worth. These “scrap pieces” weren’t marked with little blue ”Earths” like the 100 hits on the sheet he’d scored earlier that day. These were just strips of paper like you’d tear off a ring binder. He went ahead and pulled out a slender shred and non-chalantly placed it under his tongue. Tasteless, he let the paper dissolve into mush, chewed it a couple times and swallowed. ”Around-The-World” it was called; only three days old, the length of time it had taken his connection to drive it from Berkley to Hampton. Maybe this will do the trick he thought, stifling the unspoken warning in his gut.

 

At a dollar apiece wholesale, the hundred-hit sheet would fund the rest of the thirteen-show tour. He knew he could easily sell it for minimum ten bucks a hit at the concerts. The investment of a hundred bucks would gross a grand and net him and Om nine-hundred. Plenty for the gas and cheap hotels they’d be staying in up the east coast. A large mark-up, sure, but this was the freshest acid he’d run across since the liquid they’d scored on the previous summer’s tour. Back home, he could have doubled the sale price. Om was also bringing some bumper stickers he’d printed up that they’d trade for food and pot. Plus, Om said he had nabbed some plain, white t-shirts from the gymnastics academy he worked for. For a little extra money, they could dye those and sell them to the locals who always came to the shows. So he figured that the finances for the 1986 Spring Tour were all set. First stop right here in Hampton, VA for three nights. The same venue where he’d come to his first shows almost four years earlier. He let his mind drift back to that first show…

He’d started with his buds from UNC up in the mezzanine seats, but by shows end had wandered down onto the floor somehow. From up top it just looked like the crowd on the floor was having more fun. The Dead never made the house set up individual chairs. It was all General Admission, so the floor provided lots of space for the all out dance-a-thon that most of the four-hour shows morphed into. Close to the end of the concert, he was dancing like crazy, sweating profusely, and smiling so hard his face hurt when the band broke into ”Good Love”,

Well, I was feeling, Oh so bad

So I asked my family doctor ‘bout what I had

I said now Doctor, (Doctor?)

Mr. MD, (Doctor?)

oh can you tell me?, (Doctor?)

what’s ailing me?, (Doctor?)

And he said Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah (YEAH YEAH YEAH YEAH YEAH)

All you need, All you REALLY NEED

is GOOD LOVE,

GOT TO HAVE LOVE (Good Love)

GOT TO HAVE LOVE (Good Love)

Each time the chorus came around to ”good love”, the crowd on the floor screamed ”GOOD DRUGS!” as a substitute, and wildly flung their hands in the air like so many tentacles on one enormous greedy being ready to grab and gobble every illegal pharmaceutical known to man.

He was high and grinning at the crowd when out of the corner of his eye he noticed a bearded, shirtless hippy wearing a long necklace with one of those little tie-dyed knit stash bags fastened to it like you see hippies wear. And it was flopping and bouncing around as he danced. The guy was wearing nothing else but an American flag around his waist like a long, patriotic skirt. His face and long hair and beard looked like the pictures of Jesus you see everywhere.

”Whoa! Cool!” he thought to himself in his drugged state, ”Jesus is here!”

He was about to find out he couldn’t have been more right.

 

Thinking about his first shows helped ease his tension for a little while until suddenly the dose started kicking in. ”Damn, that’s quick! This is fresh,” he thought, ”better buckle up! We’re fixing to leave Kansas, Dorothy!” He hadn’t eaten all day; too keyed-up about the concert. That accelerated the acid racing through his nervous system and hi-jacking every neuron and dendrite in his brain. He tried to relax and look cool and realize that people really couldn’t hear his mind working, but soon he couldn’t get control of his thoughts. Within just a few minutes he couldn’t remember how long he’d been standing in that spot; hours it seemed. Nor could he recall exactly why he should still be standing there? He looked around at all the foolish people so stoned out of their gourds they were still acting like the concert was about to start, but surely after that much time it was already over wasn’t it? I mean, the house lights were up, and that weird music was coming out of the PA. He tried to remember what the band had played, but came up empty. His legs and body were tired, and he was sweating like he’d been dancing, but he looked around and noticed that the tapers still had their booms up. They’d be breaking down their gear if the show was over, wouldn’t they? Onstage, there were just a couple of the road crew tapping microphones and tearing duct tape to hold down cables, so it seemed there was still going to be a show.

He shook his head and blinked several times, trying to clear his mind and get reoriented in time. ”Shit!” he thought to himself, ”I’m plastered!” He dared not look anyone in the eyes anymore, (you never know who’s a NARC), and he knew his eyes must be as big as freaking saucers. Looking down, he saw that his red tie-dyed shirt was moving like he was under a big unseen fan. He even looked up, but all he saw was a latticework of catwalks and what looked like tiny stars a million miles up in the dome overhead. He had the thought that he was going to need to find somebody with pot to stand near so he could try to tone this down a notch.

He closed his eyes and was back in the room in the little beater motel with the guys from Berkley. He remembered pulling the five twenties out of his pocket and the one dude, TJ, taking the sheet out of its little greeting card envelope and shaking the trimmings into his hand. ”Here man, you take this, on the house.” He took the strips into his outstretched palm and after looking at all the one hundred little earths on what felt like perforated card stock, he slid the sheet back into the envelope and stood to stuff it into the front of his shorts. He put the shreds in his pocket. Replaying the scene in his mind, he remembered the big picture window looking out of the shabby motel room on the ground floor. ”Damn it!” he thought, “they never closed the freaking blinds!” How could he have been so stupid! Shit! SHIT! All at once he couldn’t escape the idea that he’d been set up. He could picture the whole parking lot from where he’d sat on the bed in the motel, and how he’d stood right up and tucked that envelope right into the front of his shorts like he was on a freaking movie screen or something. If he could see out, he knew they (the NARCS) could see in. They were probably in a van or something. How could he not have noticed? How could he have been so freaking stupid?!?

Coming back to himself on the concrete floor of the coliseum, these thoughts raced through his mind producing total panic. Why hadn’t they arrested him yet? He turned that over for a while, slowly turning in circles and checking out the people around him on the floor, looking for NARCs who couldn’t possibly fit in down on the floor. He tried to come up with an escape plan, but he couldn’t finish an idea. And his damn shirt was waving like a flag by now. I mean it was MOVING! That’s a dead give-away, he thought to himself. I gotta get rid of this. He tore it off and flung it into the crowd in front of him. Instantaneously, the lights went down. ”Did I do that?” he thought, ”just by taking off my shirt?” Somebody let out a blood-curdling soul scream.

 

Wild cheering erupted from the front now. The bubbles were crashing into each other, and the pot was going to boil! As if in a dream, he watched Jerry, very far away pick up Tiger and turn his back to hunch over his amp stack. ”BOOM!” ”BOOM!” ”rat-a-tat-tat”, pierced the air as Mickey and Bill tested their drum mics. Phil’s bass belched out a few notes he could feel. ”Whew,” he let himself breathe, ”finally”.

But then, his mind went off on it’s own again. That gnawing was back, worse than ever. He remembered the motel, the imminent bust. There was just no getting past the fact that he’d screwed up and been way to casual and trusting at the buy. Where would the cops catch him? Wait a minute! Suddenly it dawned on him. He had nothing on him but the few remaining trimmings in his pocket! They didn’t have anything to bust him with except that. He thrust his hand in and pinched the remaining slivers between his fingers. He shoved them in his mouth but he had no saliva to moisten the paper with. The previous dose coupled with his anxiety had completely dried his mouth. He closed his eyes and held the wadded up paper behind his clenched teeth. He pushed it around with his tongue and tried chewing from side to side, but there was nothing to give it any taste at all and his mouth remained dry. He finally bit down on it as hard as he could and pushed the little dry wad to the back of his throat with his finger. He looked up at the million mile high dome again and gulped hard.

The band was tuning still, taking forever. ”Jerry and the Tune-Ups” he thought. But he felt like his troubles were over when a joint was passed to him from a couple on his left. Holding it up, he arched his eyebrows, nodded a little bow of gratitude and took a long draw. He looked over to hand it back, but they were gone. (Had they really been there?) He held the vapor in his lungs as long as he could, but he didn’t want to be standing there with a lit joint in his hands. Not when he had just eaten the last incriminating evidence the NARCs could pin on him. He thought about stubbing it out on the concrete to save for a little later, but he was still too paranoid to be holding anything. So he took a step to his right, found the wildest looking deadhead he could see and bumped his elbow, the joint pinched between his fingers. When the guy looked around he offered it to him, ”Here man, take it! Enjoy!” Huge grin, bobble-head nodding, bony hand snaking out to snatch the smoldering joint, and it was no longer his to worry about.

”Alright,” he almost said out loud, ”let’s get on with the show!” A smile even crossed his face.

 

Rick and Ron are going to give you up, his mind told him then. He saw it clearly now. They had the sheet. He’d brought it back to their room after the buy, and they had told him they’d ”test” it tonight, and maybe sell a couple hits at the concert. The idea they were considering was buying the whole sheet from him for a thousand and then bring it back to Charlotte to sell for more than he could get on tour. They weren’t going to any more shows after the three in Hampton so if they bought it, he and Om would have the cash they needed and nothing in hand at the other cities. But these guys were new to the whole Dead scene. In his mind, he knew they were going to get popped, and he knew they’d squeal when that happened. The NARCs would cut them a deal to drop a dime on their connection for the sheet, which was him. Oh Shit!

”Sons-of-bitches!” he thought to himself, but now he was really afraid. Like he could ever have really trusted them. Like he could really trust anybody in this whole stinking world. His shirt was gone and with it the rippling hallucinations he’d been having. What else could he do to disguise himself? He pulled the bandana off his head and shook his hair out. Had he been wearing it during the buy in the motel? He thought so but couldn’t remember straight. What would they do to him? His friend and travel partner Bas_ had pulled 25 years in Richmond for just 25 doses. He was tied up with four times that much.

Just then, a wall of sound enveloped him and Bobby growled,

Well, I was drinking last night with a biker

And I showed him a picture of you

I said, “Pal, get to know her. You’ll like her.”

Seemed like the least I could do…

…and those crazy, eerie dark chords were playing, and Phil’s bass was thundering, and those two drum sets were crashing, and he was listening as hard as he could for some message to come through the music; a message to help him escape his coming doom. And everything was one big soup of frantic motion. The pot had boiled over! Everybody was dancing like mad, his favorite thing to do in the whole world, but he was glued to the spot where he stood. Around him a sea of color, a kaleidoscope of sights and sounds, and he felt a little dizzy and a little sick when he gazed up at that dome again. But it had somehow receded and was much farther away, or else he’d gotten very small, and somehow he knew that the world outside of this kettle no longer existed, whatever and whoever was trapped inside it was all that remained, and he couldn’t quite get his mind around that when the chorus came,

I may be going to hell in a bucket, babe,

But at least I’m enjoying the ride.

At least I’m enjoying the ride!

At least I’m enjoying the ride!

And a thousand voices all around him screamed in unison:

“Ride! Ride! Ride!”

Then, all the commotion ceased for a brief moment, and there was total silence in his head except for the One Voice that would change his life forever. A simple, reasonable question was all It asked,

”Are you having that much fun?”

And at that moment, from the depths of his very soul, he knew that the Voice was God, and that he was condemned. He was going to die and he was going to hell and God was completely just to send him there. All of the actions of his selfish existence had paid the price of the ticket for this last carnival ride and it wasn’t going to stop until it reached the one destination it could stop…the gates of hell.

His life started flashing before him, not like in a movie, with scenes and such, but glimpses and remembrance of opportunities he’d squandered, wrongs he’d done, and the singular, insipid foolishness that his lifestyle had harmed no one but himself. And then his words attacked his memory; all his many, many, endless foolish words. The way he could talk and bend logic, and reason away faith and God, and all the stuff he’d labeled myth and nonsense. And how he’d made fun of the preachers on campus, and on tv, and how he’d gone to Christmas Eve services this past year with the guy he’d lived with high on cocaine, and how they’d come home to do more coke and laugh at Jim Bakker and PTL, and how even that night with his heart beating out of his chest, he’d mumbled a false promise to God that if he kept him alive he’d stop doing coke, but that wasn’t true either. He’d laughed and mocked and considered himself so damn smart and above it all, and now the last laugh was going to be on him.

He thought about lying to his grandparents, and not paying for the car they’d bought him. Leaving town and going clear across the country on his hippy pilgrimage, and driving it north into Wyoming to evade them when they’d flown out to Denver the summer before to reclaim it when they’d learned he was on tour following the Grateful Dead, a “cult”, around the country.

And he thought about that trip out west and Yellowstone, and the Grand Tetons, and the double-rainbow in the Idaho sky, and Coos Bay, Oregon, and Donner Pass, and the river in Truckee, and camping in the Redwood Forest, and the two weeks in Mt. Shasta, and the concert on the side of the ski-slope and all the amazing things he’d seen, and people he’d met, and the times he’d had, high times, good times, fun times, but…that question was haunting him.

”No!” he screamed, ”There’s not that much fun in the whole world to go to hell for! You can’t have that much fun!”

 

He found himself in the bathroom somehow, sweaty hippies crammed in on all sides. No music was playing so it must have been the break between sets. He didn’t know if he’d blacked out after the opening song. He was just amazed to be conscious that he was still alive; one heartbeat away from hell, but still alive, nonetheless. He looked up into a mirror and saw a complete stranger. It was as if he was looking at someone else’s form. He couldn’t even look at this person in the eyes, whoever it was; chest panting, ribs showing, sunken cheeks and hollow, blood-rimmed eyes, wild, wavy hair all over the place, with a matching red beard that was soaked with sweat. He leaned over and splashed cold water onto the strangers face. When he straightened up there was still no spark. He knew it was his body, but he knew that person was under judgment and the sentence of death, of death and hell.

Back out in the hall, carried along by the current of faceless, nameless people, he could feel that they knew it too. He no longer belonged. He no longer fit. He was no longer ”enjoying the ride.”

By the time the second set started, he’d somehow made it upstairs, drifting like so much human flotsam on the tide of beaded, bearded hippies. The current deposited him at a vantage point above the mass of swirling deadheads on the floor. He was miserable. All he could think of was his guilt. He was condemned and guilty as charged, and he’d somehow thought that God was okay with all of this. ”How deceived could I have been?” he thought to himself.

When the band opened the second set with China Cat Sunflower, he wasn’t surprised. In October of the previous year, he’d gone out of his body and nearly od’d when they’d opened the second set with this same song in Charlotte, his hometown. He felt like the same thing was going to happen now. The only thing that kept him from giving in to that feeling was how terrible it all sounded. It was like the band were all playing the same song but each one of the six at a slightly different rhythm or a slightly different key than the other five. It was sheer cacophony! It was painful to listen to it and to have to watch the people around him and on the floor below, jerking and twitching and gyrating and waving their skinny arms with the bracelets sliding all up and down their skinny wrists, and whirling in circles with their skirts spinning out like a child’s top, and the glow sticks splashing dabs of moving color everywhere. He hated every bit of it. He no longer belonged.

Just then he looked up to see a scrawny guy with a little goatee, grinning like an imp with rivulets of straggly hair cascading over his shoulders, hopping towards him. He positively glowed when he shouted in absolute glee, ”There’s that China Cat!”

And the little imp glided over to where the condemned man stood as if they’d have one last bone dance before the execution. And he looked vaguely familiar, and he realized it was Don Bas_ who had travelled with him that entire summer when they’d gone everywhere from Boulder to San Francisco to Houston together; but no, he faintly remembered, Don was in federal prison in Virginia for selling acid to an undercover cop at the Richmond show the day after Halloween and biting the cop’s thumb in the back seat of the car. So who the hell was this??? And he was more confused now than ever.

”I feel like the devil,” he finally admitted to himself. And as soon as he’d thought it, magic dust fell through the air, like an invisible fairy godmother had emptied her wand onto everything. He could see the air shimmering and glimmering with the magic particles. And in one beat the band was perfect, and the lights shone out from the top of the stage, and he could feel it again, I mean REALLY FEEL IT! And this weird beared creature was bouncing up and down in front of him, smiling his head off like it was the greatest possible climax of joy. And he smiled a little, and let himself start to sway and rock with the syncopated rhythm for one brief moment, and then an eruption from somewhere deep inside him, ”NO! NO! I WANT THE TRUTH! I WANT THE TRUTH!” Was he shouting? Could Don’s twin hear this outburst? He didn’t know, but in that moment, the band sucked again! Like they’d never rehearsed the song before. And the air was cloudy with somebody’s cigarette, not magic dust. And the smell of the smoke was acrid in his nostrils, and made his stomach nauseous, and he would have given anything for a drink of water.

 

The next thing he knew, he found himself outside. There was still an outside! He was on an incline heading down. It was the ramp from the coliseum down to the parking lot. He could hear the muffled song playing from behind him inside,

”Go! Go Johnny Go, Go

Go! Go Johnny Go, Go

Johnny B. Goode…”

The concert was over because he knew they only ever played that as an encore. What now? He started to shiver because it was drizzling rain and he’d thrown his favorite shirt away. It was only a few degrees above freezing. Even though he’d managed to escape from the ”bucket”, he had absolutely no illusions that he had escaped from hell. He was being pressed down the incline that would spill them four abreast across the sidewalk and out into the parking lot in a few dozen yards. Some headlights were already on, and some speakers were already blaring more dead tunes. The circus was going to go into it’s next act right out here he knew full well. He couldn’t remember where the hell they’d parked. He’d pushed everybody to get there early and indeed they had. There’s had been the first damn car in the lot early in the afternoon. Then they’d all freaked out, figuring they were sitting ducks to park so close to the front, so they’d circled the place about a hundred times (that wasn’t conspicuous!), before blending in with other early arrivers. But he didn’t’ really want to find the car, fearing he’d die in a car crash. Maybe his heart was finally going to give out, it was certainly beating hard and fast enough

He stumbled ahead. His mind was numb and devoid of every thought except the certainty that he was going to die and that he was going to hell. Probably tonight, but definitely soon, he knew. He was supposed to rendezvous with Om and Rich and Deb after the show and they had talked about drinking Becks in the parking lot and then grabbing something late to eat at The Jewish Mother before heading to the hotel on the other side of the bay-bridge.

He didn’t want to drink, didn’t want to eat, and didn’t want to see his friends. He was cold and alone and disenchanted with his whole life as a deadhead and small-time dealer he’d spent three and a half years cultivating. Every single choice he’d made on that journey was going to land him in an inescapable hell.

 

When he first saw her, he was repulsed. ”Another hippie chick,” he thought, ”just what I need.” But she was unavoidably in his path standing at the bottom of the ramp. She held a lime green Day-Glo flier aloft in her hand. He shuffled a little sideways to avoid her but she anticipated his movement and stopped him dead in his tracks. She pushed the folded paper into his hands and stood there in the drizzle. She looked up at him as he focused on the words written on the fluorescent paper,

”How Much Are You Worth?”

Lovely, now the cosmos was taunting him, he thought, what a sick joke! He rolled his eyes and almost threw it on the ground, disgusted with himself, with the girl, the parking lot scene, with the idea of his own complete and utter worthlessness.

And then he unfolded the paper and saw the picture.

It was a bleeding hand, pierced by a nail, fastened to a piece of wood.

The caption beneath the picture read,

”God thinks you’re worth the death of His Son”

He doesn’t know how long he stood there staring at that picture and bathing in the radiance of the most beautiful words he’d ever seen. He wasn’t cold anymore, or high, or scared. He was incredulous that at that moment, at that place, at his most broken and destitute, his life was forever changed.

”Do you want to be saved?” the girl asked.

”Oh yes!” he said without hesitation, ”Yes I do!”

And they bowed their heads while she led him in a prayer of salvation, to the God of Love, Father of the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Who, even though this story happened 28 years ago, today, still seeks and saves that which is lost.

Perspective

I slept in this morning. I didn’t wake up and drag myself out of bed until 8:30. That’s highly unusual for me. I usually wake up before my iPhone alarm goes off at 6. Last Sunday I slept until 8 but that was only because I was up late with my girlfriend and we lost an hour due to the onset of Daylight Savings Time.

Anyway, this morning I was just tired…not so much physically as emotionally. I went to bed a little defeated and a little deflated from a shitty Friday. I made a bad decision to drive 3-and-a-half hours one way, 7 hours round trip, to look at a single trailer that turned out to have 6 bad tires and a bent up ICC bumper. Not only was I not going to be able to buy and re-sell this piece of crap, to make matters worse, I missed out on a good trailer that I could have sold and made a thousand dollars, but because I was on the road chasing this bad one, I failed to make the necessary calls to quote and promote the good. My boss ended up selling it instead. When that happens, I make zero.

Learning of this driving home, I was so pissed off that I couldn’t even enjoy the fact that I was burning up miles in my relatively new Mini Cooper S. Although I’ve had it 4 months, this was the first trip I decided to drive it that was over a hundred miles. The car did fine and I could have turned my attention to the enjoyment of tooling along on a secluded country highway in my little sports car. This car is one of those rare purchases that continue to provide value in terms of the experience gained; but I was numb to it because of my bad attitude. All I could think of was fifty-five dollars of wasted premium fuel, the lost thousand, and the money I wouldn’t be making on the trailer mired in Podunk, South Carolina.

Today I can look back and see that I let the perception of what I’d lost in time and money overcome my gratitude for what I still had. That simple matter of perspective ruined my day, my attitude, my diet, and my sleep. I was snippy and bellicose with my boss; and he noticed. I was moribund and disinterested on the phone with my girlfriend, and she noticed. I didn’t spend any quality time with my children. Whether they noticed or cared I don’t know, I was too busy eating half a bag of potato chips and half a tub of sour cream and onion chip dip, and veg’ing on a basketball game I didn’t care about.

Looking back this morning, I realize afresh how stupid and costly wrong thinking is. I compounded my loss of quantifiable time and income by getting angry and depressed and expending emotional capital. By being an ass to my boss, indifferent to my girlfriend, and emotionally unavailable to my kids, I expended relational capital. Binging on chips and dip expended physical capital and wasted hours of jogging I’d put in earlier in the week. Sleeping on all that turmoil burned up a few hours of the most valuable capital, time.

Although it is more difficult to keep account of the running balance of emotional, relational, and physical capital, those are still finite resources that are easy to deplete. For me, yesterday was a day of deficit spending in every resource category I could tap.

I made the mistake, all in my head, of focusing on the negative rather than the positive. I refused to stop thinking about what I wanted that I’d somehow been denied instead of remembering what I had then (and still have) that could not be taken from me because it is immaterial and doesn’t fluctuate with a trailer sale. I’m ordinarily an optimist because I consistently choose to do this one thing.

I’m not optimistic because I pretend things are great when they aren’t. I’m optimistic because I’m grateful for the good things that are.

I preach these truisms to my kids all the time;

“Be grateful!”

“Focus on what you have, not on what you don’t have!”

“Count your blessings!”

“Let go of things you cannot change by your own actions!”

This morning, I’m still out a thousand and fifty-five bucks. I still don’t have a trailer to try to sell Monday morning, and my scale was up by a pound, but choosing to practice what I preach, I am conscious that I am also:

Sitting out in the warm, spring sunshine on my back deck;

Loved by a God Who Is Love,

Listening to the happy warble of birds singing,

Enjoying American Beauty playing on my old, faithful iPod,

Fortified with a cup of my favorite coffee in my favorite mug,

Writing this with a MacBook Pro on my lap,

Armed with both an iPad Air and iPhone 5s on the table beside me,

Filled from an empty Chobani Peach Yogurt cup keeled over beside them,

Secure in the knowledge that my kids are still snug in their beds upstairs,

Warmed and fulfilled by a great conversation with my wonderful girlfriend,

Counting these blessings, which are only a sample of all the blessings I could enumerate, I can exhale and proclaim, “Life is Good!”

Nothing has changed from yesterday’s disappointments except my perspective, and thus, everything has changed.

Pre-shot tracker

I watched the final round of the World Golf Championships on Sunday. I like to play golf, although my game bears little resemblance to that of the pros who make a living playing it. While I have a 14 handicap and have only broken 90 on rare occasions, these guys seem to rarely make a bad shot. This week’s tournament was a little different because it was played on a newly redesigned golf course near Miami where both the field’s lack of familiarity with the design changes and the winds from the Atlantic Ocean proved to be major factors in the high scoring of the competitors.

On a course nicknamed ”The Blue Monster”, there were more balls errantly hit in the water over the course of the 4 days than at any time in the tournament’s history. I suppose it was to be expected given the proximity of water to many of the fairways and greens after the major re-design. Still, in many years of being a golf fan, I’ve never seen a tournament where every single player took at least one penalty stroke for a hitting a ball out-of-bounds, in the water, or in one case, up a palm tree.

Watching these guys grind out their mistake prone rounds in unfamiliar territory and tough conditions got me to thinking. Hell, that looks a lot like the way most of us live our lives, much less the way we duffers play golf.

shot_tracker

Sometimes during the telecast, a ”shot tracker” is used to show a replay of the ball flight from the time of impact off the player’s clubface until the ball lands. The bright red stripe of the ball’s path is a visual treat allowing the viewer to see the shot shapes these pros can produce, or, as was the case this weekend, how far off course a 30 mile per hour wind can push a golf ball. I remember one such ”shot tracker” sequence as a player took a hard swing at a ball buried in scrub grass behind a palm tree, that had to be played under some branches with a right to left slicing path to try to get the ball to land on the green for a chance at putting. In the best of conditions, it would have taken a perfect, near miraculous shot. The pro made solid contact, but with the poor lie, he failed to impart the correct spin on the ball that was also being pushed by a gusting breeze and it didn’t curve towards the green. Instead it crashed into the grandstand behind his intended target. The replay of the shot using the ”shot tracker’ looked like a laser guided missile from under the trees at the right hand of the fairway on an intentional line into the gallery. The red line on the television screen couldn’t have been drawn straighter by hand with a sharpie and a ruler. If the golfer had wanted to hit the ball at the spectators, he could not have done so any better. Fortunately, no one was injured. The person the ball bounced off of got an autographed glove. The player was awarded a ”free drop” out of the stands because his ball was unplayable from the box seats under a lady’s purse, and he luckily went on to salvage his par. His attempt at a miracle shot could just have easily resulted in a double-bogey.

Like Will Smith’s classic line on his first date with Eva Mendes in the movie “Hitch” when he says, “I didn’t see it going that way in my mind,” the golfer couldn’t have seen his shot happen the way it did in his mind during his pre shot routine. These guys are masters of visualization. Yes, they take several practice swings with their club to “feel” the shot before they take their real one, but mostly they are imagining exactly what shape and trajectory is needed to land the ball at a specific target. This ability to imagine and ”see” the shot that’s required, and then the physical skills and talent to make that vision a reality is what sets them apart and makes many of them multi-millionaires as the reward for playing the world’s most frustrating game. Knowing firsthand the inherent difficulties of playing golf well, it fascinates me that the pros have this exceptional combination of imagination, focus, and talent to consistently produce incredible golf shots…except when it doesn’t turn out that way…like the shot into the grandstand.

Which brings me back to the way I figure you and I live our lives. Most of the time, when faced with a decision or difficult situation, we probably have no “pre shot” routine. We just step up to a decision and ”hit it!” I know that’s too frequently been the case with myself. When making everyday decisions, I foolishly trust my instincts in spite of the fact that too often my instincts are driven by emotions like frustration, anxiety, fear, or pride.

For times like that, times when I’m in a hurry, or responding to an unforeseen crisis, or just don’t give a damn at the moment, I wish there was something that would go off in my head and give me a “pre-shot tracker”. I wish I could see beforehand what the ramifications of my decisions were going to be. If the golfer on Sunday had known he was about to fire a rifle shot into the stands, he would likely have stepped away from the ball, considered his alternatives, and maybe found a better place to “miss”.

I intend to learn from this. It’s not always possible to slow down enough to effectively calculate the consequences of words and actions. Some days, life comes very fast and feels very unfamiliar; leaving me ill prepared to respond well. It feels a lot more like a hockey game than a leisurely round of golf. I’ve hit enough “bad shots” playing golf to know what can happen to my score if I don’t take my time, see the shot, line up, and keep my head down through the swing. If you’re like me, you’ve probably hit your share of “bad shots” in life as well. I am gradually learning to stop trusting my “gut” when faced with a crisis. My gut reactions are almost 100% of the time patterned emotional responses deeply ingrained from past traumas, and are therefore defensive and shortsighted. In such cases, I might successfully blow off steam, protect myself, state my case, or “give someone a piece of my mind”, but rarely do I achieve the results I desire without serious, conscientious intention. So, I’m learning to try to relax and breathe and give my self permission to look one more time at the real result I want my words or actions to accomplish, and not just to “swing hard”, and results be damned!

As Sunday proved for a fabulous field of very talented golfers, sometimes knowing where to safely miss a shot is just as important as trying to pull off a perfect swing in imperfect conditions. As much as possible, I am going to think more on the front end. I’m going to try to see what my actions are going to produce and where the “ball” might end up. At least, I want to learn to miss in a safe place and not take as many penalty strokes in life. And I’m hoping that in my mind I’ll see a “pre-shot” tracker that will cause me to hesitate and take one more look rather than flailing away mindlessly.