Living the Mulligan

A True Story – Reflection by L.E. Taylor
Don and I were late for our tee-time because we had to stop at his buddy’s house so I could borrow the fellow’s clubs and spikes.

I was only visiting my brother in Florida for a few days and he wanted to play some golf as we used to on the public links in Detroit, when we were kids. Don was a Delta pilot, working only three or four days a week by law, so when he wasn’t sailing or fishing he’d spend an afternoon at his club sharpening his game.

I hadn’t been on a golf course in fifteen years.

As I jammed my normal-sized tootsies into the size eight-and-a-half shoes, my kid brother, confident that this would be my only chance, said, “Your honors.” So I grabbed a driver.

It was a par-four with a slight dogleg-right and a wooded rough along the left. The flag was a wee dot, far, far away. With no time for a warm up at the range, I teed up, addressed the ball, shoulders square, overlapped grip, knees slightly bent, slow, deliberate backswing. The breeze from my whiff disturbed snoozing seagulls on the next fairway.

Don glanced at the pristine Acushnet still smartly on its yellow tee and chuckled. “That’s okay,” he said. “We didn’t have time at the range; let’s call it a Mulligan.”

Embarrassed and a little pissed off, I focused and went through the ritual again. The click was like music. The trajectory was straight and elevated before the ball came to rest on the left apron about two-hundred-twenty or so yards away.

“Nice shot,” Don said, and teed up. His drive was long but hooked into the rough at about a hundred-sixty yards. He drove the cart, stopping in the fairway near his lie. He waded well into the tangled rough, past a stand of big trees, found his ball and hacked impressively. The shot advanced the ball nicely past the trees and beyond my lie, but it remained in the rough. He grumbled, got in, and the cart hummed silently to a halt near my ball.

(The rest of this mundane tale holds the point of our conversation. So stop fidgeting.)

I went round to the borrowed old canvas bag of clubs and withdrew an iron. A five-, maybe a three-iron. My ball was slightly raised on the deep apron. It had been so long since my golfing days, I was very deliberate and I remember telling myself the drill: Line up the ball off your left heel… align thumbs… square shoulders… head down… fix eyes on the ball… bend knees… touch the club-head to grass one inch behind the lie. I turned my head just enough to see the flag, but it was gone, replaced by a foursome of Lilliputians who’d got to the green and were busy putting out. Good enough – I lined up my shoulders with the green. Slow backswing, swivel at waist. Keep left elbow stiff, cock the wrist. Fire!

Because dad taught me to keep my head down through the swing, I stared at my divot for a second or so before craning to search the fairway for my shot. The foursome was leaving the green. Suddenly they were animated, shouting nonsense in our direction and waving putters overhead.

In the cart, Don’s back stiffened. His eyebrows rose, his jaw dropped. “It went in the cup,” he said. “The ball went in the cup! You made an eagle!” I was stunned but don’t remember what I might have said. The four guys nearly two hundred yards away were yelling – I did make out, ‘great golf shot,’ but I just stood there. Don scowled at me. “Get in the cart!” As he pressed the pedal to take us to his ball (still in the rough), my wonderfully funny, albeit very competitive, young bub muttered, “I’ve never even seen an eagle.”

Question: Did I really make an eagle? Well, in a friendly round of golf, I guess so. But, these three decades later, it makes me think. (I told you to be patient.)

Now that I’m committed to the writer’s life, 24/7, I’m finding that my mind races from topic to topic faster than I can write it all down. And all this reading makes it even worse. Last week, deep into the night (my most fertile thinking time – a curse!) I mused, ‘If only I could just keep going hard, learn all that I can, write well, and teach and help others on their own journeys, and then, exhausted, follow in the way of all flesh to Heaven for a rest and some soul-work, and then come back, wiser and ready to go at it again.’  If only.

Then I asked in so many words, “I wonder if I could have a Mulligan.”

And without missing a beat, the Lord replied: “You’ve got one,” He said. “This is it.”

Onward.

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And Worth Every Penny

Shared opinion about “free advice”.
Observation & Opinion By  L.E.Taylor

When I first addressed the notion of writing a weekly article and then actually posting it for public consumption, I was daunted by the responsibility. And the risk. The whole idea, for me, was not for narcissistic exposure, but was simply an exercise in thinking and writing. In that order.

I finally decided it would be good practice, sort of like daily finger exercises for a pianist, so why not?

Of course, I’d be writing about things I care about subjectively, so as always, I drafted some guidelines in the form of a note to myself. Here are the top five:

  1. No partisan politics. There’s already a glut of more heat than light on that important, but often counter-productive, market.
  2. A forum. Encourage thoughtful conversation among readers. Some of these would be friends, or would become friends; some would appear as sojourners, moved to reach out in good will.
  3. Worthy content. Comment on cultural matters – e.g., the arts, especially writing and film; societal issues that would benefit from congenial banter; remembrances of my personal experiences; and random observations for amusement and stimulation.
  4. Keep it brief. I started out trying to limit my scribbling to four hundred words. Good luck with that.
  5. Humility. Respect the intelligence and perspectives of a universe of readers who arrive with whole treasuries of their own, derived from histories no less interesting or valid than mine.

And so on.

Regarding Point Five – this cautions against imposing free advice. I have learned the hard way that such a commodity is often worth every penny. But there’s another side to it.

Recently, I have been notified my two separate friends (actual “friends,” not the Facebook kind) that their households have been invaded by the terrifying specter of cancer. This is a delicate matter. And I do know a little about it. However, much of what I “know” is the result of personal experience and the digging I’ve done as a layman to learn about new  alternatives that might complement excellent mainline medical practice.

What should I say to tormented people I care about?

My first response is to offer prayer through my network of “Prayer Warriors.” These are believers of multiple Judeo-Christian denominations, as well as a number of good people with no formal religious traditions at all.

But I also have opinions. In particular, leanings that inform the age old question, “WWLD?” (Get it?) What Would Larry Do?

Well, there are certain things that I’ve already done. And others that I’ve witnessed; some that worked, others that have not – in traditional medical practice, and among the “alternative” regimes. Both.

So, just this morning, I came across an interesting essay by a gifted young investigative writer, Rebecca Furdek. She suggests that the matter of giving colloquial advice is a free speech consideration.

Understand, Ms Furdek is not in favor of muddying the waters with a lot of half-baked palaver; in fact, she points out it isn’t necessary – the professional options are out there for all seekers to access for informed decision-making.

No need to volunteer advice over the back fence about treating cancer, or investing in gold, or how to cure male pattern baldness. The issue, she says, is not whether conversation is in order or misguided. The worry is, instead, a pernicious regulatory “creep” that is placing quasi-legal constraints on even talking about such matters.

Have a look at her fascinating findings at Townhall.com. That is, if you want to. I’m just going to say my prayers and shut up about it.

Onward.

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If I Should Wake Before I Die

A Warning to the Zombie Nation
Observation & Opinion by L.E. Taylor

Yesterday, I met a remarkable woman. We’ll call her B’ushka.

B’ushka is one of sixty or so amazing men and women I’ve met over the past couple of months, all of them people who’ve found their way to one of my lectures in north Texas retirement communities. The topic of these talks was originally “Memoir Writing,” but it’s found its true branding under the simple moniker, “Great Storytelling.” This one-hour talk shares what I learned about mining one’s memories as I wrote down the stories that comprise my book, Elgan and Grace – A Twentieth Century Saga.

Well, sharing is part of it, yes, however the point of the one hour talk is not to brag about my book, but to assert that we all have stories to tell – and here’s how to do it.

These folks arrive, twenty-to-forty at each event, most in their seventies and eighties, writing materials in hand, to see if it’s true – that they really might reclaim a time and place where the first scenes of their own play were performed. That’s the hope: to grasp a tiny moment between thumb and forefinger, gently retrieve it from a dead past, and bring it back to life by writing about it.

They want to bring it back for many reasons.

B’ushka speaks with an English accent. But when she first spoke to me, I recognized the hint of a more exotic dialect. I will not divulge what she’s already confided in me, except to reveal that at the age of two, she was living with her parents in a Soviet gulag. The rest is a tale that must only be told by B’ushka. I’m willing to help her, if she wants me to.

These weekly blog essays are not merely some self-indulgent adventure in narcissism. They’re part of my own late-term commitment to choosing life. The storytelling lectures and workshops are another. They are all part of the process that began twenty-six years ago when I found myself disgorging a fragment of family lore onto a yellow pad. Soon I was transcribing it onto a tiny computer screen. I was hooked.

The mysterious process led to longer narrative, then in a couple of years it became a novel. It might even morph into a movie. But first, I had to set aside the reasons I couldn’t do it, and just… write.

How many among us go through life in a trance? Not doing the very things that can reveal a new life waiting to be lived. Look about you. A fog of mediocrity enervates a lot of people we know, and they opt for the easy cynicism of defeat.

Why is one’s potential rejected when the alternative is death?

Consider the evil plague that has snuffed out the great City of Detroit. Just a few decades ago my hometown was a world-class paradigm for industrial, financial, and cultural civilization. Today, we’ve seen the evidence of political corruption, lazy greed, and moral sloth. How many among us see this destruction and hideous waste, and just wring their hands? They aren’t angry, they are “sad.”

I have other words.

The amazing place once called Detroit is a main character in my book. But its historic truth bears no resemblance to the corpse that molders in its place. I am not sad; I’m furious. Old Detroit didn’t die; it was murdered. How do I know? Because I remember. I choose to remember.

Living a life of passive dissatisfaction cannot be the cosmic plan for anything with such astounding creative ability as the human mind. Consider the root of the word “inspiration” – spirit, the very breath of life.

But the stamina of our society seems to be slumbering away. Numb between the ears, slumped for decades staring at the TV or the Xbox, people remain mute members of a zombie audience. No ambition to mount the stage or take the field.

Or to get out of the gulag.

I remember the first little prayer I was taught by my German grandma:

Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.

It was comforting, I guess, to an Old European world of fear and short lives. That always seemed to me kind of grim for a child’s last thought at bedtime. It still does. Too soon for that! Wake up! Whether you’re six or ninety-six, wouldn’t you rather choose life? Me too.

Just wait till you read B’ushka’s story!

Onward.

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A Movie Whose Time Has Come

A reflection on Somewhere in Time… by L.E. Taylor

Well, it’s about time.

Thirty-three years ago I went to the theater to see a new movie that had been shot almost completely in one of the most romantic and beautiful locations in America. The fact that the location is also in my native Michigan had a lot to do with my eagerness to see it. I was not disappointed; in fact I was transported.

Because I had no interest in what movie critics think, I was way too busy nursing life’s wounds to read that the elite men and women of the media were scoffing at Somewhere in Time.

I loved it. And I have re-upped my fan-ship many times since, by way of Turner Classic Movies and my own well-worn DVD.

This morning (Monday, October 7th), during my daily browse of the American Thinker website, I came across a wonderfully affirmative article by independent critic David Paulin. Its opening paragraph gave me a nice start to my workday:

MackinacIsland_GrandHotel“Message to high-brow movie critics and cultural elites: Stay away from the Grand Hotel on Michigan’s Mackinac Island this weekend. 

No cynicism allowed! Not among the nearly 800 “time travelers” who arrived on Friday at the historic Grand Hotel — the start of a three-day gathering during which they’ll dress up in period garb and (in their minds) transport themselves back to 1912. The fanciful journey has been an annual ritual for 23 years now, bringing together incurable romantics from all over the country, and even abroad. It’s a celebration of the 1980 movie “Somewhere in Time“– a bittersweet love story involving time travel and shot mostly in and around the majestic 126-year-old Grand Hotel.

The film’s message: love is eternal.”

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The American Thinker article is much more substantive than I have room for in this weekly blog post. (You can enjoy reading it yourself; just follow the link below.)

So why pass this along today? Two points. 1) There’s been very nice fan response to my earlier movie recommendations – most recently last week’s small plug for Swept from the Sea, and 2) an observation that you may want to comment on yourself – about “Critics”.

Point #1 is self-explanatory. Lots of good reader suggestions for other films they want added to the lists. (Great! Watch for them in future LETsBlogs). A couple of days ago, in fact, a neighbor hailed me as I was getting into my car and asked if I owned Swept from the Sea. When I said no, he said he’d just ordered it after reading LETsBlog, and I could borrow it when he’s done. Good show!

Point #2 is well covered by Mr. Paulin’s article. Whatever the Vincent Canbys and Roger Eberts may sniff at from their Olympian perches, Middle Americans tend to trust movies that speak to them, whatever elites may opine.

My own tastes are also personal, and I admit my opinions are subjective. As a writer and a garden-variety movie fan, my biases are less than elite. The parts of the equation, however, all need to be there: Well-conceived and executed script; flawless production quality; intelligent direction: seamless, persuasive acting; strong musical score. But any expensive movie can have all those and still have me grabbing for the remote.

I’m sure you have movies that you love… just because you do. They speak to you, and the more you watch them the more you see in them to like. Please let us know what they are.

Meantime, please checkout David Paulin at The American Thinker.

(Don’t be put off, good reader, by the ‘spoilers.’ The movie is better than his synopsis may imply.)

So. If you want a good tip from a garden variety movie guy, have a peek at Somewhere in Time.

Onward.

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A Gift from the Sea

Remembrance and Reflections: By L.E.Taylor

This posting, as always, is for seekers. But in this case, you’ll have to be motivated to actually rise up, and seek. In other words, you might want to look stuff up.

Got it? Okay, here goes…

There had been a monstrous tidal swell across the Pacific in the Sea of Japan, and from the three-hundred-foot-high cliffs of Northern California’s coast, I’d safely witnessed amazing thirty foot breakers roll in from beyond the horizon, and crash upon our shore.

Then, on a sunny and calm new morning, I walked down to the hard packed sea-perfumed beach, a young journeyman with no purpose but to harvest whatever came my way. And there it was, a glistening aquamarine globe, hand blown by some anonymous Nipponese craftsman, and deposited by fate in the flotsam of seaweed and bright shells and bleached driftwood, nicely within reach. It had been one of thousands of glass buoys woven into fishnets three thousand miles westward. And now it belonged to me. I caressed the imperfect orb. I brushed off the sand and held it in both hands. It went into my sack of treasures and I walked on.

Later, by the light of a driftwood fire, I studied the softball-sized globe. It was obviously handmade, sturdy and with an irregular navel where the umbilicus had been snipped from supple molten glass. Continue reading