The Bathist

I just came from Spa Castle, formerly Inspa World that got a terrific write up from the NY Times (Link ).The only way to describe it is that in Korea and in Asia, neighborhood public baths were a family and community experience. Homes didn’t have bathtubs and you went down the street to clean up, soak in a hottub, schvitz in a sauna, and get massaged and exfoliated. I remember going as a 3 year old with my grandfather and soaking in the hot tub up to my neck.

As an adult, going out and drinking and partying all night in Seoul with friends and roudy cousins always ended up with a session in the sauna sweating out the toxic waste from too many bottles of Scotch and Soju.

The arrival of a public bath in NY that openly catered to non-Koreans was not surprising considering the congregation of bathing nationalities from Central Asia and the former Soviet Republics. I went at seven in the morning -these are open 24 hours, and you check in. Fees were 50 bucks which are about what you pay for a medium grade spa in Seoul. You are given a wireless key to a locker where you leave all your clothes. This section is not coed. You go in, shower, shave, brush your teeth, and soak in the 109 degree tub. I am a bit jarred by the bear soaking next to me but soon realize it’s a human, likely Russian by his Cyrillic tatoos. I go for a scrub down and massage 50 bucks. A heavily muscled man scrapes all the dirt and dead skin off my body along with some skin and then methodically tries to rip off my appendages after smashing every muscle on my body. I shower and consider putting on the shorts and gown and going upstairs to the coed family areas, but skip it because time is short.

They’ve renamed the place Spa Castle and have shuttles from Manhattan. Prepare to be naked. The food upstairs is supposed to be unbelievable. I feel completely rejuvenated, but a bit sore. No skin grafts or MRI’s were needed in the creation of this entry.


Raising Cain

 

G the Terrible

G the Terrible

 

 

 

Raising G, with all its gratification, is very hard. Aside from the hundreds of diapers I had to change -a figure in much dispute by my very biased spouse, I realize that raising a baby is not unlike bringing home a small monkey that you have to evolve into some semblance of 21st century man. The tiny newborn is really no different from a shaved baby chimp -constantly demanding food, warmth, and definitely not house trained. Those first steps represent advancement unto the Homo erectus stage of development, and its not all that different from bringing a two foot tall non-housebroken bipedal ape into your home and life. The climbing of shelfs, the ceaseless curiosity and unwanted exploration -everything below three feet tall in your house has to be sealed against this house chimp.

Language and symbolic art represent the next level of evolution, and negotiating the act of eating and sleeping were as complex as trading with a very short, yet surprisingly shrewd and savvy Cro Magnon man. The terrible twos and threes and fours (they are all terrible) all recapitulate the various eras of human advancement with the child as hunter-gatherer all the way to medieval tyrant whose morals consists primarily of might makes right. It is only with great effort that this little narcissist learns insight and empathy -ignore this step, and you get a monstrous torturer of small animals…or a bond trader.

The great thing is, during this entire venture, this little barbarian does become incredibly fond of you, and you reciprocate. If something six foot tall with hair on its back was in your house behaving the way your three year old does, you’d call the SWAT team. But in a two and a half foot package, you smile as he whips his pants off and pees on your shrubbery.

You should be so grateful

This video is like cold water in my face because I am this person that the comic is talking about -I have become childish and churlish about having to wait for things, I expect instant gratification. I get put out when I don’t get that gadget delivered in 24 hours. I used to order sandwiches from kozmo.com ten years ago during the internet heydey and get it delivered to my apartment in 5 minutes. I have high expectations of my technology, and this bleeds into the people sphere. Twenty years ago, I had my first computer, and it was not networked. It was a Coleco Adam, and had 128k of memory, and a cassette tape drive. There were no real programs for it except for a wordprocessor that I used to type out my college essay. Otherwise, I programmed things myself using the Basic programming language that came with it. I programmed a thing called Life, that had the interesting property of mathematically modeling population growth graphically (link here for Wikipedia file). Now I have a ultraportable laptop with a 7 hour battery life that I can blog from anywhere on the planet with a WiFi link (Amazon link) that costs 390 bucks. It’s a little bit slow, but it feels like a little slice of the future.

Getting so impatient for perfection in our gadgets and life processes makes us forget to be grateful for life itself. In golfism as in life, to want is to suffer, so want for nothing and you will not suffer. I am grateful for my long suffering wife and my beautiful son. I should be so grateful.

Now about that 911 Turbo Cabriolet…

The Altruist

Stand by your man

Stand by your man

Golf is a self indulgence if it isn’t used to for active self improvement. Hence, golfism.

My time away from non-Golf Hut golf has given me time to ponder about many important issues like the loneliness of unmarried women. Polygamy has ever been on my mind as a reasonable strategy for getting through tough economic times. There are so many young single working women who face a life of perpetual economic struggle without finding a partner. I feel poorly for them. I want to help and offer my support and advice. To turn their lives around would be great service to this nation. It has always been my aspiration to be a life coach to 20-30 year old women in need of a man. My house has enough space for several of these gals.

My wife is always complaining about needing help around the house -with a second or third wife, or fourth!, there would be help all the time! Child care could be performed in shifts. Time could be taken off for work or school without headaches. Cooking can be done by the person in the mood to cook rather than one person who always has to cook. We could grow our own food and live off-grid as a large extended family. There is enough of me that I want to give it away for the good of the world. I could grow a crazy long beard and still be revered.

It would be a return to a classical, Old Testament pattern of life. I could have seven sons, and favor one to motivate the other six. It would be a community of many hands working and building a better future for themselves. How could that be wrong? How could something that could feel so good be so bad? Stress disappears when you can delegate, I would tell her. The government could give me a tax break for this. Spread the wealth, and me, around!

I’ll get back to you after I ask my wife what she thinks. It has to be better than her response to my suggestion about outsourcing some of her chores. This time, I am thinking about her and everyone who would benefit from my proposed sacrifice. And not so much me -and isn’t that what the holidays are all about. Sacrifice.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

PS -not being conspiracy oriented, don’t  you think it was odd that Texas decided to go after the FLDS at the same time Mitt Romney was struggling to make his run?

A Quantum of Solitude

On Douglas and 128th

On Douglas and 128th

The commute home when I lived in New York often took 20 to 30 minutes. I googled this and the distance was 4 miles. Google gives an estimate of 10 minutes, but doesn’t take into account rush hour and the bottle neck presented by the Henry Hudson Highway at that spot where everybody leaving Manhattan for New Jersey or Westchester got corralled into two lane off ramps that spiraled up the limestone cliffs. These cliffs famously collapsed several years ago, making traffic even worse. There were days when I could walk home faster. It now takes me about twenty five minutes to go 19 miles to and from work in moderate traffic, and even faster without it. Fact is, I savor this half hour of solitude. It is the same meditative loneliness that I enjoy about a round of golf spent alone.

My car is my coccoon, my space capsule, and my suit of armor. Men need time to not talk and decompress. The first thing I remember about marriage is coming home after a long day at work (we married the day after I graduated from medical school), and my beautiful, new wife wanted to talk. She would exposit about her day, about the people at work, and all the things we had to fix or do that week. Wow -I thought -that’s a lot of vocalization -I’d better tune in or I’m in big trouble. Sometimes I walked home slowly to try to catch the ten odd minutes of complete sensory deprivation -this is a New Yorker’s trick that has made the iPod a commercial success. You put on the earbuds, turn on something loud enough to blank out the street noise, put on the shades, and walk fast.

All I wanted to do was go into the bathroom, turn out the lights, and breathe deeply. I fantasized about having one of those dark dens that you saw on the movies and TV shows from the fifties and sixties where dads go off to smoke a pipe and not be bothered. My wife who was the middle daughter between two sisters, and a much younger brother, and parents who both worked, grew up not knowing the inner workings of men, and still thinks that my need to decompress in silence an antisocial behavior indicative of some deep flaw or an undiagnosed childhood psychopathology.

We were watching a Superman movie once -the ones with Steve Reeves who was Superman, and he went to his Fortress of Solitude -and I turned to my wife and said, “That’s it! You see -even Superman needs to decompress.” That got me the chinky-eyed (I can say that) rebuke that only wives, mothers, and salty scrub nurses can give. Being the marrying kind means you tuck your tail and smile if you know what’s good for you.

My son, G, now faces some of this ceaseless request for progress reports. When he arrives off the school bus, dragging his backpack, hungry, and fried in the brain, the first thing my wife says is, “What’d you do at school (work) today?” He looks up at her with his thousand yard stare, shrugs, and says, “Nothing.” Bad answer, but for a six year old, and completely truthful and honest one.

I remember as a child that my father, and my grandfather before him, got a lot of space in the afternoons and evenings. My grandfather particularly was treated with respect and a touch of fear. I’m not advocating a return to those days, but it isn’t without a twee bit of envy that I watch Mad Men, and see a world ruled by men, their constant need for decompression, and the ease in which they were able to get it.

Golf hut, then lunch

 

 

Mighty Oak of Wakonda

Mighty Oak of Wakonda

Was at the golf hut today. Figured out that the better I swing, the more I’m likely to hit a slight draw. To get a reliable fade, I intentionally insert conscious thought into my swing, add a bit of stiffness, and there you go, you fade it. Afterwords, we went and got lunch. Walking up to the clubhouse, I noticed the trees and their dendritic branch points resembling neurons, and how the trees seem to approach but not ever really connect with another tree, likely its close relative, maybe from the same season of acorns. Do they have conversations that we’re too short lived and too attention span-deprived to hear? Are they really pissed about so many of their brethren taken to the axe? I’ll tell you after next season.

Hunting, gathering, and acquiring to our demise

 

happy hunter-gatherers

happy hunter-gatherers

As I had revealed in an earlier post (link), we were evolved as hunter-gatherers, and we knowingly or unknowingly recapitulate this. There are so many different ways we could have set up our grocery process, but in fact, the pattern we fall into is that of wandering around, seeking the objects of our desire and palate. Rather than the plains of the Great Rift Valley, we do this in the brightly lit aisles of Dahl’s and HyVee.

Add to this basic greed and vanity, and you have what we have. Those crazy easter eggs are soon transformed into the flat screen TV, the practical but sporty SUV, and the giant home that would could house twenty. But while population growth is exponential, the resources are finite. Unless we can find ways to conserve while searching for optimal ways to go green (fusion, solar, wind, etc), and limit population growth (as we no longer have natural predators), we will see an end to all of this bounty around us, and our descendants will be hunting and gathering once more -while evading their robot overlords.

 

1 is the carrying capacity of earth

1 is the carrying capacity of earth, lower graph, an exponential growth curve

If Sen. McCain had only chosen Gov. Romney or Sen. Palpatine…er…Lieberman.

 

 

borgqueen2373

Hilary, the Borg Queen

In general, you should chose presidents with as much care as you choose your golf partner. Or wife. You have to watch the video to its conclusion to see the guy processing turkeys as Gov. Palin rabbits on about the campaign, reducing the size of government,  etc. The blogosphere has erupted over the turkey slaughter going on in the background. For myself, I find turkeys delicious, and I have never not-enjoyed admiring the symmetry of Governor Palin’s face -if she’d only not speak. I think the anti-carnivores have no point to make. It is with great relief that I watched this.

As an aside, watching Hilary claw her way back into the White House this week reminds me nothing more than seeing the Borg Queen take over the Enterprise. She shall assimilate you. Resistance is futile. 

Back to Sarah, it’s her stream of consciousness verbal diarrhea. She’d be one of those two or three-date girls that you recall with a shudder of relief. The relationship-that-never-was always concludes with a spate of phone calls from the girl. The decreasing levels of happy-girliness on those messages should fill you with some regret. On your end, you keep up a gentle but firm telephone silence. I suppose in this day and age, you would un-friend her from Facebook and delete her from your phone and email lists. Skipping town for a few weeks is always a good idea. You put up a completely passive, militantly vague stance of non-commitment until she decides you are not a good person to pursue.

Never, ever say, “Let’s just be friends.” Which is what we told Sarah a couple of weeks ago. She’s going to be back at your doorstep with an apple pie. She’s going to leave 26 phone messages, each with a letter of the alphabet on why you should call her, “A -because I adore you, B- because, just because, C -’cuz I care…” She’s going to call your parents for advice on what you’d like for your birthday and charm the pants off them. She’s going to show up at your place of work looking wonderful and acting completely, utterly, SANE to all your coworkers. She’ll hand out boxes of chocolates.

It means we will never see a chance at anything close to a center-right stance in this country without marrying Sarah. The Borg have transported into the ship. Let us hope that Messrs. Obama and Emmanuel can keep them at bay.

addendum:

couldn’t help but add this video, thanking Sarah Palin. 

Horn of plenty

img_0481The bananas are from Central America, the tomatoes are from my garden, the squash is locally grown, and the oranges are from South Africa. The bananas are shipped green and ripen en route and require an entire industrial system of farmers, freighters, packers, truckers, handlers. The oranges came in a large box at Costco and were purchased for a ridiculously low price of 8 dollars and passed through as many hands. The acorn squash cost about 2 bucks and was labelled “local” at the local Dahl’s supermarket. The cost of the tomatoes is debatable. I shook out 4 seeds from a packet purchased four years ago, and germinated them in a small prepacked squib of peat. They grew to about 10 inches in a pot on the deck, and were transplanted to a side garden that I’ve used off and on. The rain and the soil and the intense Iowa summer grew a nice tomato patch that was good for fresh tomatoes from August to October. These represent a pailful of green ones that have ripened on the counter and are being consumed slowly and with savor. 

It begs the question of what we pay and subsidize as a society to get ripe fruit all year round, to get New Zealand apples in the winter, to eat watermelon when it’s clearly out of season, and the fruit is all very cheap when compared to inflation indices. The tomatoes are irregular, and some are frankly ugly, but exquisitely delicious when drizzled with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and served with fresh onions and basil (from garden), topped with a dash of salt and pepper. The bananas are okay when they turn dalmatian, but people who grew up with fresh bananas will tell you that the ones you get at the grocery have all the appeal of mashed potatoes. The oranges are passable and industrial, nothing like the hand picked ones I grew up with in Florida. Acorn squash is deciding if it is decoration or food.

So what is it with today’s post? It has to do with anything else we do -expedience versus slow attention to detail, organic versus “brand organic.” It’s the golf game bought at a 5000 dollar golf school versus one built over decades of misery punctuated by moments of glory. It’s the handwritten letter compared to a text message. It’s a car that you restore yourself versus one that you buy at the classic car/mod shop. 

All of the above store bought items are “organic.” I can tell you the tomatoes in this context are priceless, but I’ll give you one for free. Maybe trade you a bucket for a haircut.

Holding and winning from the center

 

Wakonda No. 1, May 2008

Wakonda No. 1, May 2008

The middle of the fairway is a good place to be. On Wakonda No. 1, the reward for going long and left is a shorter approach to an elevated green with the tree being the obvious risk. If you can jack it 270 yards on the fly, going over the tree and drawing the drive is a given as it will leave you a pitch to the green. Leaving yourself the right for a bailout area isn’t so bad because you may have better luck hitting a hybrid 3 or 5 wood on the flat versus an uphill lie 6 iron. But there be hazards to the left and to the right.

Iowa, in the center of the country, proves to me time and again that moderation, competence, and overall reasonableness are desirable qualities in these increasingly troubled times. If each month can be thought of as a hole in a round of golf, the country played June through October giving up two strokes to OB on each hole.

Remember, this round doesn’t end after 18, and when you’re caught in one of those hellish tailspins, the first thing you do is NOT increase the risk/reward -essentially going to the ATM and doubling down your bets. You give yourself a couple of gimmes -remember, three consecutive seven irons will get you onto most par 4′s and 5′s in three strokes -the key is keeping it in the center, sticking to what works, and regaining your confidence. 

Letting the banks fail, letting central government fail, letting the auto industry fail versus creeping socialism, rising taxes, and protectionism -these are the hazards to the right and to the left. I have no idea what would be the right thing to do at this time, but history has shown that Americans have a basic decency and optimism that seems to transcend the various cultures that have added to America’s tapestry. This is a country that won a two front world war, sent a man to the moon, and proved that it is not afraid to elect a reasonable sounding man of color in the worst of times. 

It is the center that must hold for us to prevail. Otherwise, you will see the rich retreat to well armed enclaves while everyone else fends for themselves in a dystopian America of foragers, permanent campers, and flea market barterers -check out Russia c. 1995. 

Check out this link which discusses how the Republicans lost golfists like me.