Friday, July 28, 2017


Tuesday, July 25, was a big day. It was the day I purchased hearing aids.

There’s no other way to say it. “Hearing aids.” When I first obtained eye glasses; reading glasses, actually, that’s what we called them. Just reading glasses. With a chuckle perhaps, we called them ‘spectacles’.

But never “seeing aids.” Yes, they helped us to see better. To read with less strain. But even the kids whose lenses were as thick as the bottom of a bottle of coca cola weren’t blind. They could see without help.

What is it then, with hearing aids? Why aren’t they called ‘ear plugs’? That’s what they are. Little plugs that you put in your ears. Why “hearing aids”?

I suspect it is part of what George Carlin mocked as the sissy-fying of the American language. He did a marvelously funny routine in which he traced the phrases used to describe a disability common to war veterans. In 1918 it was “shell shock.” In 1945, they said “battle fatigue.” Now the veterans of Middle Eastern conflict are said to endure “post traumatic distress syndrome.”

I am sure the geniuses on Madison Avenue figured out that a $5,000 price tag would be more palatable for ‘hearing aids’ than for ‘ear plugs.’

But even with the sissified description, the devices have an ominous connotation. The fact is that most hearing loss is related to old age. Even little kids wear eyeglasses. Ear plugs are the badges of senility.

The doctor insisted that Polly come with me when I went to be examined. I’m sure her experience is that wives are the first and foremost victims of a man’s hearing loss.

My excuse was always chauvinistic. I would always insist that I could hear her, but that I just wasn’t listening. That line never played very well.

Anyway, now I have hearing aids. Polly insists that I wear them all day, every day. The first thing that struck me coming out of the doctor’s office is that there is no such thing as silence. Not real, dead, complete, absolute silence. The rustle of human, animal and vegetable life always plays in the background.

Even your own respiration makes an audible sound.

The audiologist explained the connection between the ear and the brain. In effect, the brain is always listening and always trying to make sense out of the noise we hear.

I’m not sure my brain can handle a whole lot more input. I may have to augment the hearing aids with old fashioned ear plugs to ward off the noisy world out there.

In any case, I am not sure whether the hearing aids will solve all the challenges of domestic communication. In addition to hearing, there are the  related problems of listening, noticing, and remembering, all of which are related to the broad syndrome called ‘caring.’

For example, I wouldn’t know a daffodil from a geranium. Or whether either one may or may not be growing outside my window.

Truth is, I don’t care. Admittedly, I have always admired and envied people who have inexhaustible data-base type brains that receive, assemble and retrieve information. I have known lawyers who remember every word on every page of a 97 page deposition.

And my beloved dentist who I used to call a “storehouse of useless information.”

In my view, there is a difference between knowledge and wisdom; between being smart and being wise.

In the last analysis, the idea is to care enough about those we love to pay attention to what they say.

So far as I know, the only place where you can acquire a “caring aid” is at church on Sunday.

Saturday, July 22, 2017


Friends have asked me why I haven’t been blogging lately. In addition to the interruption of my daily life by a nephrectomy of my left kidney (that was over a month ago, and is no longer a valid excuse for not blogging) I have been busy writing an essay about golf.

In its final form, the essay runs to 31 pages and something over ten thousand words.

I’ll summarize it in a sentence: it is an argument in favor of playing golf as a team sport -- all the way from little leagues for the kiddies, to professional major leagues representing the metropolitan markets that support professional basketball, baseball, and football.

It’s a big idea, admittedly. But then I have been known to dream big dreams, sometimes even with a modicum of success.

Anyway, the gist of my essay, entitled “Golfball Now” is that team golf should be played in a standard format; nine player teams playing nine matches over nine holes.

I call the game “Golfball.” That name fits with all the other major team sports: Baseball, Football, Basketball.

Tykes as young as 4 years old – that’s when little league baseball starts – can play golfball on a putting green. By nine or ten, they would be competing on pitch and putt courses and from ages 12 or 13 on, they could play on standard nine hole layouts.

The scoring of the game is simple. Your team gets a point for every stroke by which you win a hole. Thus, if player A makes a four and his opponent, player B, makes five, Team A gets one point.

But that is not all.

In Golfball, every ball must see the bottom of the hole. If A is on the green in three and B sinks a birdie putt for three, A must still putt, and keep on putting until he holes out. Every time he misses, a point is scored for B’s team.      

It is, I suppose, a diabolical scoring system, which punishes the yipes without mercy. But then, isn’t that the core genius of the sport of golf itself?

Certainly even four year old beginners will experience the pangs of frustration that torture their parents and grandparents.

Still, it is necessary, after all, that the each generation learns to cope with the exquisite pain of frustration. That’s the beauty of golf.

A lot is being said and written these days about the decline of golf in America. While it is still the most popular sport, in terms of player participation, it is true that the construction of new courses is at a practical stand still, that many courses and clubs are closing, and that the number of rounds of golf being played continues to decline as the average age of players creeps up.

I, for one, am sanguine. Golf has too much to offer in terms of exercise, fellowship, character development, tradition and old fashioned fresh air for it to disappear from our national culture.

Tournament golf: the Masters, the U.S. Open, the Players Championship, and a host of other established and popular tournaments are not about to dim the lights and close the doors. If team golf prospers as a professional sport, it will be in addition to those important events, and indeed will enhance and augment popular interest in golf at every level.  

The PGA Tour is dominated by young players. Eighteen holes a day for four or five days running dictates that players be in top athletic condition. Nine hole Team competition is best suited for popular players who no longer compete at the tournament level.

Indeed, I am convinced, and Jack Nicklaus agrees with me, that there will one day be successful and popular major league golf teams in all the metropolitan markets that now host the NFL, MLB, and the NBA.

And if I have anything to say about it, they will be playing Golfball.

Sunday, July 9, 2017


Mid day yesterday, the last piece of new furniture for our new condo in East Lansing arrived. By half past one, we were in the car, heading North.

We haven’t had two homes since we sold the place in Florida a few years ago. That was easy to get your arms around. We lived in Michigan. Michigan was our home. We vacationed in Florida. We were snow birds.

We haven’t quite come to grips with having two houses in Michigan. Our children, God bless them, who insisted we acquire digs in East Lansing to be closer to family, are assuming that we have settled in, and are now officially, practically, realistically and emotionally residents of the Burcham Hills Retirement Community in East Lansing.

I am sure it was not arranged for our benefit, but the other morning the Michigan State University marching band staged a concert at Burcham’s main residential building, which was clearly audible at our condo.

Nice touch, but we still weren’t convinced.

The issue is simple, despite the confusion of names: are we residents of Burcham who own a cottage at Birchwood, or are we residents of Birchwood who own a condo at Burcham?

If there was any doubt, it was assuaged when our car merged from U.S. 127 onto Interstate 75 just north of Gaylord. The perfusion of green: trees, meadows, pastures and vistas too numerous to relate reaffirmed what everyone from Michigan will tell you: this is God’s country.

The magnificence of His artistry is overwhelming.

So here we are, home again.

It’s Sunday morning. Polly is still sleeping. I am at the computer, blogging, and soon will be writing a check payable to Holy Childhood of Jesus to be dropped in the basket at eleven o’clock Mass.

We live here in Harbor Springs. That’s what it says on my driver’s license. That’s what it feels in my heart.

We had dinner last night in the Casual Bar at the Club. Saw some friends who were glad to hear that my recovery from surgery is gong well. Perhaps on Monday, I will show up and see if Doctor Fred Hoffman can squeeze me into his Monday golf group.

There’s a lot of  misery in this old world. Just turn on the television and it oozes into the room and boggles your brain. Hardly a day goes by that doesn’t feature another senseless, diabolical shooting or bombing.

What passes for political debate is too often a harangue or high decibel quarrel in which anywhere from two to five people all talk at once, apparently in the belief that the louder and faster they talk, the more convincing they will be.

It used to be that the political party which lost the election would function as the loyal opposition, which could be counted on to serve as the Devil’s Advocate to keep the ruling majority from becoming dictatorial.

Since the election of Donald Trump, we have seen a different kind of opposition emerge. More resistance that mere opposition, it consists of a continuous stream of tasteless invective, snide ridicule, and outright hatred.

Leave it to Michael Moore, the filmmaking firebrand from Flint, who found fame dissing the leadership of General Motors, to grab the brass ring of opposition leadership by offering an anti Trump comedy on Broadway.

Scheduled to open on July 28, the show is called “The Terms of My Surrender” and is directed by Tony Award winning director Michael Mayer.

Advertised as a comedy show, it will in fact be a one-man diatribe by Moore himself, who has a talent for biting satire and a track record of taking on big targets.

Moore apparently believes that his poison tongue will be caustic and powerful enough to oust Donald Trump from the White House.

With such insanity floating around the airwaves and spicing the Internet, it is comforting to know that little old Harbor Springs, Michigan is still a safe haven for sanity, beauty, and friendship. It’s good to be home.

Monday, July 3, 2017


Here are 344 words worth memorizing:
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government.
The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.