Less Than 7,000 Yards to Glory

December 8, 2008

There are harder trials than the 6,800 yard Portage Lake Golf Course.  I know so when I watch the courses the pros play on TV.  Portage Lake is child’s play compared to those courses. This also tells me how inferior we amateurs are when compared to the caliber of professional golfers. It doesn’t matter; for I know that this very course will always challenge me no matter how many times I’ve played it before, and no matter how many times I’ll play it in the future. That’s really the beauty of the game.  As they say, golf is not a game man was meant to conquer, and I believe this applies to women as well.

            The summer of 2007 had seen me greatly improve my golf game. I suppose the inspiration to get my ass in gear was when I failed to qualify for a single golf meet the previous May while I was still in high school. What was I doing differently now that I was shooting better? Failing to qualify gave me more motivation to play, and I really started making it a habit to play every day, which in turn, paid dividends to my game.

            It was the dawning of another July afternoon, and I didn’t have to work this that day. I called my friend Jordan to see if he wanted to go golfing. He said he’d go. I called the course and made a tee time. With my car cruising the way, we rolled up the road leading to the course parking lot. I could see that the 104 yearold playing field was in solid shape. It had been a dry summer, so along with the nicely manicured green fairways was a lot of burnt, yellow longer grass making up the rough.  Who knew what today’s round had in store?

            Hole ten is where we began the round. This hole is about 370 yards, and really is more straight-forward and less difficult then some of the other holes. Sometimes the first shot sets the pace for the entire round. This time I crushed the ball a good 220 yards over a small valley and down the middle of the fairway.  My playing partner, whose build, weight and height is all more than me, sliced his drive left and into the trees, but it still put him about sixty yards closer to the pin than I. “You gotta improve that slice, Jordan”, I jabbed.  Now it was time to unsheathe the four iron and make my approach to a green surrounded by sand-traps. My ball was sitting on an up-slope, which would make it easier to get the ball in the air. My shot sounded and felt crisp as the ball took a nice, high trajectory and landed softly on the middle of the green. Putting for birdie, excellent! A two-putt, four stroke hole it was. There is nothing wrong with getting pars. The challenging eleventh hole yielded a bogey. I made up for the lost stroke by making a nice sized putt for par on hole twelve. Hole thirteen is the easiest hole on the course in my opinion. At 272 yards and being a par four, any big hitter can drive the green and be putting for an eagle. No such luxury for me. In this case, I put my drive down the fairway in a semi-deep valley called “birdie alley”. From about seventy yards out, I used the pitching wedge to put me about four feet from the pin.  It was an incredibly crisp shot and one that was particularly rewarding for me.  This, in turn, translated to a birdie, and back to even par golf I was! 

Number fourteen is the shortest hole on the course, and definitely a par three.  Looking over at this 108yard opponent from the tee box, all I could think was to take advantage of this short hole.  I was hitting my irons well, so I felt like I could get close. No such luck. My tee shot landed in the long grass in front of the dime shaped green, so I had to get up and down for a par.  My chip shot bounced to about two feet from the pin, which helped me earn the par. Hole fifteen, at 175 yards, and boasting the toughest green on the course, just never felt inviting to me. It never has, and I can’t imagine any of the fellow members of this course would disagree. I missed the green, making it a really hard shot that would put me into position for a par three. My chip shot plopped to about thirteen feet from the pin. I went on to two-putt and earn a bogey four, putting me back to one over par for the round. Hole sixteen is a hole I’ve never liked.  It’s only 375 yards, and has no distinguishing features that make it any harder. Golf is a head game, and this hole was in my head and confidence was lacking. A decent length drive down the left-hand side of the fairway helped matters though.  Damn, I was hitting my driver well today! From 155 yards I put my approach shot in the rough, right of the green.  I was really hoping for par, but was almost overwhelmed when my chip shot with my pitching wedge rolled into the hole for a birdie.  Yes, I was back to even par, with two holes remaining!  My previous best score on this course and in my lifetime was a one over par thirty-seven on the front nine of Portage Lake.  Could I beat my personal best? 

Many thoughts and “what-ifs” were racing through my head, and it was really hard not to think of them while standing on the seventeenth tee box. This hole is a little over 500 yards long, and is a par five. Usually I can’t even reach the short grass on this hole, with it being 220 yards out and all. This day was one of the few times in a season where I did so. Advantage Kyle.  I was about 280 yards away from the pin, so the three-wood was my choice.  I had confidence on my side, with the great round I had going. I hit a pure shot to about forty yards short of the green.  Amazing what confidence can do for you in this game.  From forty yards out, I hit the ball on the green, and I was putting for birdie from fifteen feet.  Stepping up to the putt, I really wasn’t expecting much, seeing that this was traditionally the second hardest green on the course.  In my opinion, this was the hardest green.  The saying is, “the putt will always break towards the lake”.  It never looks that way, but this time I took heed and aimed the opposite direction of Lake Superior; which loomed less than two-hundred yards behind the green.  Sure as all hell, I aimed the opposite direction I thought the putt would break, and it dropped in the hole.  “You’re making everything!”, said Jordan as he smiled in disbelief.  I was now one-under par heading into the last hole.

I’d never been in this position before.  I knew so many amateur golfers who’d been playing this game for many years that never earned such an accomplishment, including my Dad, the man who got me into the game.  Keeping with the pace that I had set since the first hole, I put my drive down the middle of the fairway, with 300 yards left to the pin. The par five, eighteenth hole was another one I had a mediocre past with. This was just another thing in my head that could defeat me.  This second shot was a crucial one. I hit a beautiful three-wood to about thirty-five yards short of the green.  I was in way better shape than usual when playing this hole!  It was time to smoke a Winston and cool the nerves.  To no such avail.  I “skulled” my approach shot, which means that I didn’t get under the ball.  I only picked the shot, which means I only hit the upper half of the ball and sent it in a low trajectory, sending it well over the surface of the green. “Ohhhh no!” I exclaimed.  Now I had to get on the green and one-putt for a par five and a one-under 35 strokes on this par 36 back nine.  I frantically walked to my ball. The next shot saw me hitting from behind the green, and sending the ball over the green similar to where I was hitting my previous stoke.  At this point I was praying to shoot even-par, for I knew many a soul who’d never done that in their golfing career. I lobbed my fifth shot to about twenty-five inches from the hole. I don’t know if I’ve ever experienced so much relief after taking a shot. I’ve had a knack for missing short putts before. This was the most crucial out of all of them. I was more than nervous. Instead of spending time reading the shot, I just stepped up to it and drained it. Jordan shook my hand. “Good round buddy”, he complimented. I had earned an even-par 36 score for the day. I was proud.

Funny case this is. Heading into this day, I would’ve never dreamt of shooting one-under par or even par. It could’ve been that much better had I shot par on the last hole. I tend to hold on to regrets, but in this case I’m really half-half on my accomplishment. I could’ve flailed and screwed up even more and shot over-par. I didn’t, so as of now this is the best score I’ve shot on any course. Golf is almost too unpredictable. When you’re down, one magnificent shot, or just one favorable bounce can change things in a hurry. When you’re scoring well, just one poor shot, or one bad hole can dictate the rest of the round. This day of playing was a rare one in its smooth pace from the beginning, and what resulted was a rare score. What a funny game it is when you think about it.

Symphonic and Space: The Moody Blues and Pink Floyd

December 8, 2008

 

            Who’d think of combining rock music with symphony into one package? The boys from Birmingham, England who called themselves The Moody Blues thought that one up. Who’s laying down those crazy keyboards and guitars while the vocalist sings about topics that are out of the ordinary? Well that’s London’s very own Pink Floyd. The beginning is always different than the overall picture, and this can be said for both bands. The Moody Blues started off as your typical R&B band, something that was very popular on the other side of the Atlantic at the time. Pink Floyd really was playing their own brand from the get go. Both groups definitely evolved in the true progressive vein, and found their stride come the late 1960’s.  Looking back, these two bands proved to be true pioneers in the psychedelic/progressive rock movement, yet they had considerably different sounds.

                1964 saw these two bands arrive on the music scene. The Moody Blue’s first album, “The Magnificent Moodies”, came out the next year.  This album has almost no relation to what is to follow in their discography. The album was the standard R&B tunes they’d been playing live for over a year, but it did feature some vocal harmony that later led them to their acclaimed sound. The songs were a mix of covers and originals. Though this is the least spoken of release in their line-up, it had a hit that shot to number one in the UK, and number ten in the US. This song was the crooning “Go Now”.  At this point, Pink Floyd was touring the underground venues frequently, but had yet to record an album. Nonetheless, they were gaining attention.

Talk of new music such as psychedelic and experimental rock music hit music headlines, and The Moodies and Floyd explored such music in their respective studios.   1967 was a defining year in music and in the world. Vietnam was in full bore.  Aside from marijuana, LSD had taken its role in the music scene. The Moody Blues were being considered one-hit wonders at the time, and they knew something had to give.  All that changed when they recorded a full blown concept album based on the life of an everyday man called “Days of Future Passed”.  Each song represented a part of the day, and the song “Nights in White Satin” was a huge hit. The release was one of the first concept albums in rock, and a watermark in the progressive movement. The album was a terrific meld of orchestration and rock. Moody Blues keyboardist Mike Pinder played a keyboard called the Mellotron. This instrument replicated orchestrated sounds, and went on to define the group’s sound.  That same year, Pink Floyd finally released their first studio album, “Piper at the Gates of Dawn”.  Syd Barret’s childlike lyrics along with spaced-out instrumentation and strange studio effects proved to be the perfect concoction for a psychedelic rock album. These two bands were putting this underground British music movement on the map.

            Likewise, both groups’ efforts from 1967 had many people taking interest in these new forms of rock music.  The Moody Blues had number one hits in the album and singles categories. “Nights in White Satin” really boosted this band’s fan base. They now had their own record label, Threshold Records (Progarchives).  Pink Floyd, on the other hand, were not quite as popular. Their spaced-out sound simply wasn’t as radio friendly. Main songwriter, Syd Barret, had been released from the band due to his increasing mental illness due to a copious intake of LSD. Regardless, they were releasing albums year-in, year-out, just like The Moody Blues. Forward a few years. The Moody Blues continued having success with their lush, symphonic concept albums. Pink Floyd started work on what was become their commercial breakthrough, “Dark Side of the Moon”. Gone were the whimsical lyrics and erratic, strange sounds. The band had opted for a mellower, constructed sound, with bits of hard rock thrown in. Psychedelic rock was fading with the times. Progressive rock artists were springing up all over the place, but especially in the United Kingdom. The Moody Blues and Pink Floyd had both started in the psychedelic mold, and eventually progressed. They were among the top-selling acts in the same genre, yet they sounded unalike. That’s progressive rock.

            When looking at how these two groups played, there’s quite a contrast.  The Moody Blues placed more emphasis on vocal harmony, and symphony. They had a knack for making loose concept albums, all lush and on the mellow side. Four of the five members sang, so vocals were very much a part of their sound. In Pink Floyd, the vocals weren’t always an integral part of the music. They did a number of instrumentals. Pink Floyd tended to play longer songs, where the main structure of each eventually developed. They were also a little more guitar heavy. I really think Floyd guitarist David Gilmour has a sound unlike any other. Possibly the biggest similarity in these two groups’ sound is their heavy use of keyboards, and the soundscapes their songs often had. Pink Floyd used synthesizers often, where The Moodies had the Mellotron.  Among the many reasons why I love The Moody Blues, it might be the use of the Mellotron that gets me the most.  These bands had an experimental edge that critics often lauded as being “bombast” or “pretentious”. These words are pretty much tags for the genre both groups helped propel. Both emerged and prospered around the same time, just as they both took heavy hits with the arrival of the punk scene in the late 1970’s. Pink Floyd called it quits in 1994, when they released their last studio album, “The Division Bell” (Progarchives). The Moody Blues continue to tour today, and show no signs of stopping. The Moodies and Floyd have made their mark in modern rock, and will not go away as long as there are fans of the genres they fueled.

 

WORKS CITED

Progarchives.com. 8 Dec. 2008 < http://www.progarchives.com/&gt;.

 

 

 

 

Majestic Retreat to Big Betsy

December 8, 2008

Michigan’s Keweenaw County is a national treasure. This county has even fewer people than the already un-populated Upper Peninsula suggests. Heading towards the most northern tip of the Peninsula, and going six miles past Gay, Michigan, lies Big Betsy. The ride out there is most pleasant.  Big Betsy is site to a little over a handful of camps and cottages. Once out there, the beach and the lake stand out like a sore thumb. The small cabin provides shelter, and promotes shenanigans.  My Father has been taking me out there ever since I can remember. I must say he introduced me to a special gift.

From my house in Hancock to Big Betsy, the ride is about forty miles. Part of what defines my sojourns to the camp is the ride itself.  Taking US 41 the entire way there, you will see what Keweenaw County is all about. There are many, old, small and scattered towns reminding anyone who passes of the area’s rich copper mining history. Many stretches of the ride will also make any foreigner question if there is even civilization. I dig this aspect alone.  Anyone who wants to escape the twenty-first century, and see the fine outdoors, should venture to these parts.  Many fully-grown birch and pine trees will assault the eyes on the way out there. This brings along the fine smell of the undisturbed outdoors. The smell of the looming lake and the abundant trees make for a nice ‘full’ air. Every once and a while you’ll see an abandoned house on the roadside, prompting the question of the building’s past. When will that day come when that house is no longer standing?  Nostalgia is a key factor to my love for this area. Going out there is always an excellent time. The thought of going back for the next time makes the future even more enticing. About thirty-four miles into the drive, comes infamous Gay, Michigan. Gay is home to about fifty people during the summer, and less than half of that during the winter. Rolling into Gay, a number of the old houses have roof shingles as siding. These shingles gone siding are usually dull gray, dark green, orange or fading brown. This really is a trademark among old buildings throughout the western peninsula. It makes for a haggard scene, but that’s what I think is neat. After about thirty seconds of cruising, you’re past the Gay Bar and you’re out of the area. Six miles to Big Betsy remain.

A big brown sign titled “BIG BETSY” soon comes into view.  A small road to the right, half asphalt, half stamp sand, takes us to the camps. Now Lake Superior is in full view, and even with the car windows up, the lake’s roar is hard not to hear.  We drive up to the small lot with fallen trees in the backyard, a beach in the front, and a small building with white asbestos siding and an unusual roof design in the middle. This is it!  Horseflies and mosquitoes are usually in full force, especially on a windless summer day. I remember many years ago, my cousin and I dug a good size hole in the beach which filled itself with water. The horse flies were just tedious that day. Every time one landed on us, we’d smack it, sending its stunned body to the beach. We then stored the stunned horseflies in the water-filled hole. It was a horsefly prison!  The beach is lined with nice, yellowish sand. Fragments of washed-up driftwood and sandstone scatter the beach.  Gazing across the lake, the water looks like a never ending conveyor belt. Down the beach remains an old dock that was used heavily when the fishing boats used to scour the area. The front part of the dock is submerged in the water, and you only see what it looks like when the waves retreat for the brief while they do. On the other side of the dock lies an old wooden boat, its wood faded and warped due to years of lying in the sun. Observing the long-running shoreline, you can see its erratic bends and curves thanks to the pulse that is Lake Superior.

You can tell this camp has seen some years. The shingles are torn up, and the flood light is missing a bulb. The dull white asbestos siding is very much of its time. The roof is only nine feet high, or so. This has made it easy to climb on up and enjoy a good drink or nine while overlooking the waterfront. You can tell that the front door used to be green, but the color barely exists. The door looks almost as eroded as the driftwood on the beach.  Inside, the nostrils are overtaken by the mustiest smell a building can give. A lot of moisture finds its way indoors, helping with the smell.  The walls are lined with nice tongue and groove wood. The ceiling in the dining room is gutted, since the roof will be remodeled. The bedroom ceiling has that magnificent puke-green dry wall that was so common in the 1950’s. The curtains are all homemade, and very old. The designs on them are that of flowers and strange cone shapes. Peering through the back window, you can see three tall standing pines, and about four fallen ones. Behind that is the old red barn, falling apart by the minute, it seems. The building’s posture is that of an old man with back problems. There is a hole in the roof, the windows are smashed out, and the floor is sinking into the soft ground. It serves its purpose as storage.

It’s the most beautiful spot in my mind. Going out there with my family over the years, and drinking with my friends during the summers have made many memories. The place gives me a warm feeling. It has a very ‘old time’ sense to it, so I couldn’t ask for more. Good simple times alongside the natural beauty that is Lake Superior.  I feel extremely fortunate to have family who inherited this prized piece of land.  I wouldn’t give up that small, old cabin for any high-priced, extravagant resort in the world. Big Betsy is simply a small area that many people wouldn’t know exists. It’s out of the way and I love it.        

 

Here’s hoping…..

December 2, 2008

The defending Stanley Cup champions, the Detroit Redwings, dropped to the Montreal Canadiens in a 3-1 game this past Wednesday. I was happy to see that. It also gave me a little hope Montreal can do something in the postseason this year. My whole life I have gotten so much shit from friends and hockey fans alike for liking Montreal in an area where it’s the norm to be pulling for Detroit. I was raised a Canadiens fan by my Dad, who in turn, was raised by a father who loved Montreal. Detroit is one of my most hated teams, behind the Toronto Mapleleafs, and maybe the Carolina Hurricanes. In the last twelve years, Detroit has been more consistsent than ANY other NHL team, no questions asked. From a technical standpoint, they are simply the best in the NHL today. After a string of medicore and average seasons for Montreal, the twenty-four time Stanley Cup champions have shown promise in the last two years. The team is mostly young, with a handful of seriously skilled veterans there to help things out. They finished first in the Eastern conference after the 82 game regular season last year. Many think they have the team to do the same this year, including me. Here’s hoping Montreal can take home their first Cup since 1993.

Top ten websites in no particular order

December 2, 2008

1.) NHL.com

2.) PGATour.com

3.) Rateyourmusic.com

4.) Beeradvocate.com

5.) ebay.com

6.) youtube.com

7.) amazon.com

8.) thewhoforum.com

9.) Progarchives.com

10.) wikipedia.com

Man dies after truck goes off the road

December 2, 2008

A forty-nine year old man plunged off the Île aux Tourtes bridge, which links to the western tip of Montreal. The truck ploughed through the guardrail, and landed upside down in the Lake of Two Mountains. The trailer wasn’t attached to the tractor when the accident occurred. Several rescue boats responded. They went on to use a crane to pull out the truck, with the man being extricated at 7:15 PM on the first day of December. In the hospital, the effort to revive the man was declared unsuccessful.

This is pretty unfortunate. I wonder how this guy managed to do this. Big rigs often wreck whatever is in their way when its a road accident, but not the case here. My Dad has been driving truck for a while. Especially during the winter, I worry about his well-being. I wouldn’t mind being a trucker, it’s definitely something that may very well be a possibility.

Source: http://www.montrealgazette.com/news/montreal/dies+after+truck+submerged/1015381/story.html

Thoughts on…

November 19, 2008

Bowling for Colombine. I don’t care for Michael Moore. He’s always come across as a bloated, over opinionated asshole. Nothing wrong with that, well except for the bloated and asshole part. Still, he knows how to make a documentary entertaining and interesting. He aslo asks some really good questions. Really, how can a gun-loving country like Canada have such a dramatic difference in gun-related homicide? I mean there’s a huge difference in population, but the States still have a problem. And this is where I definitely agree with Moore. Our media inflicts fear and paronoia, and it has a negative impact on our society. We need news, but along with every negative thing they broadcast, there’s a whole lot of good out there that is newsworthy. Many people eat what the media gives us, just as they would the meat and patatoes off their plate.

Election of 2008

November 5, 2008

The impact this will have on me? Well not too much I should think. There are many underlying influences and intentions in politics. So many people involved, so many swayed into other business. It’s never clean, and it never will be. No matter the praise and approval a president has heading into his rookie term, he leaves usually with less approval than before. It’s always like that. I really question the influence the president has. Not trying to sound radical here, but I really think the people making the real decisions that impact our lives, are the same people we never really see. Broad statement without much backing it up, I know. It’s just a feeling I’ve gathered in the last few years or so. Globally and in cultural terms, the outcome of this election does have a huge impact. The first black president in the United States means so much for those who lived the times where they fought for Civil Rights. Around this diverse globe, such an election outcome may make people think they overlooked the United States on such racial matters. It’s just that this reminds me of when Richard Nixon took Lyndon Baines Johnson’s spot, and had an unpopular war to deal with. No matter what Obama promises, this could be his burden his entire term. If the president does indeed have power, then my hope is Obama helps heal the economy. That effects all of us. I’m waiting to see……

There’s too…..

November 5, 2008

many annoying things out there. Too many to put in a list. Too many things that won’t even enter my mind right now. I’ll name ten in no significant order, and in some case really not that significant in life.

1). Funny enough the sound of ‘pet peeve’ has always, I mean always, bothered me.

2.) Not much into rap, but modern mainstream rap really takes the cake for general lack of creativity.

3.) The extensive media coverage of celebrities lives/death. The coverage has only gotten more intense to satisfy the discontent humans’ need for news that has nothing to do with their well-being. A good amount of this must be scripted just like wrestling.

4.) Ahh shit, this will sound strange. It’s just that I’ve always hated the sound of the word, “teenager”. It’s really no big deal, the word just bothers me a little. I’m glad to still be one.

5.) How a majority of America ignores hockey.

6.) Smoking has pretty much been limited to outdoors in public places. Alright, second-hand smoke is no good anyways. Still, it seems to be going further than just keeping it outdoors. I mean being a certain distance from buildings and such. Workers that I know who must smoke by their vehicles because the manager doesn’t want customers seeing the employees smoking cigarettes. Too overboard in my eyes.

7.) When you bum a cigarette out to someone who says they’ll “hit you back”, and you’re never really reimbursed, only asked later for a cigarette from the same person.

8). People who think that since they’ve never heard a song or artist on the radio, that particular song or artist is not worth their time.

9). Computer lingo like ‘lol’, ‘lmao’, ‘omg’.

10.) People who enter your room and just have to get their hands on every possession of your’s, seemingly for the hell of it. Pisses me off sometimes.

The season’s atmosphere is slipping away

November 5, 2008

I don’t care for the snow, I don’t like it as I used to. But it’s coming, and it has a few upsides. What I like though is the atmosphere fall offers. It probably all deals with the senses here. It has a certain smell that is more than noticable after a full summer. The colors, anywhere from the trees to the mass amounts of dead leaves. Grayer skies. Just a good dosage of harmless gloom. Something about fall that brings back memories, but also makes me recall certain memories that I seemingly never lived, but it feels as I have. It sounds strange, but I think it just stems back to dreams. I just think it’s a mysterious season, with the leaves often thrown around by an unseen force, and the noise the wind and leaves make.  Sun is great, but its lacking gives the season a dramitcally different feel from the preceding one. With winter, the gray, gloomy skies can get old. With all that said, the thought of being able to lace up the skates and play some hockey makes me not mind the thought that winter is almost here.