Skip to comments.A Simple Twist of Fate
Posted on 07/23/2012 3:17:48 PM PDT by James Oscar
Summer 2012 Daly City, California
Lake Merced Golf Course Clubhouse
I had to take a little nap in my truck after a liquid lunch at our hospitality room here at the Merced Golf Course.
But Tiger and Jim Furyk will be teeing it up soon and I need to shuttle back into the war that is the US Open at Olympic.
Impossible to see anything, move around or get a beer but the electricity is palatable - something very noteworthy is taking place.
My forehead is better after a $27 hat from the merchandise tent and I am reasonably sober. I intend to remedy that situation very quickly.
I am tired of walking the course even if it is the US Open and the scene is full of pageantry and excitement. My right knee is screaming, my forehead is badly sunburned and I have a terrible hangover from being on full throttle since arriving in town on Wednesday afternoon.
So I have planted myself in a seat by one of the TVs in the Hospitality Tent which today (Sunday) has been moved from the Lake Merced Country Club ballroom to the 18th green outside the ballroom. Because I have just finished heavily tipping all the service staff and the bartender for the fine attention to detail they have shown myself and my friends over the last five days my drink is a triple and everyone is all smiles.
There are just a few of us here in the tent now, because it is Championship Sunday with the winner still in doubt so most folks are on the course.
But I am tired.
In my golden years I have put on quite a bit of extra weight, wore out all the ligaments in my right knee and drink to excess at the drop of a dime. So being tired is a condition that seems to have become my default status in the afternoon.
It is what it is.
Texas Prison Farm
As a newcomer you really stick out on the Hoe Squad with your gleaming white uniform and pale skin. The old hands have worn and red dirt stained uniforms that reflect the time and wear that mark their years in the field. Faces worn by the Texas sun and spirits broken by the relentless weight of doing time.
I am still a revolutionary in my spirit. Neither broken nor repentant, having fought the Law and lost, I resign myself to simply paying the price that the State says I owe. It is a foolish attitude that will not survive the cruelty of the coming years but I do not know that yet.
It is water that occupies most of my thought process. In the morning we get a water break and after so long in the county jails my body is screaming for water. When the break finally comes, the old man who is too crippled to work in the fields anymore, goes to the wood wagon being pulled by the tractor and brings us the bucket. It is a single bucket with a dipper. The bucket is filled with ice cold water the finest beverage your mind can imagine.
You drink by seniority old hands down to the new thangs that have just been dropped into hell like aliens from another planet. It is an old metal dipper that stays cold itself even after your drink is finished; it tastes of decades of well water - the taste of the farm and of the closeness to the land that will soon mark your entire existence.
Spent a wonderful evening on the porch with my lady sipping Courvoisier and smoking the old half of what was once a nice Rothschild Maduro before I left it outside for a few days A bit crumbly but nice.
Her husband died last year and there are a lot of things need to be serviced, repaired or replaced. It has been cathartic for me. We had been friends for a long time and there was always that spark between us, but now that a year has passed since she became a widow we have moved to a far different relationship.
Some nights we spend at her beautiful home up on the hillside overlooking the city and sometimes we stay in town at my townhouse with the great view of the mountains at sunset. Not a bad life. We both feel a bit blessed right now, and just a little apprehensive about hoping it doesnt end. You know the feeling when things get just a little too perfect you begin to worry that it might go away.
Perhaps this time it may not.
We are both at an age where the wind is fairly consistent. She is retired except for the occasional gig as an expert witness in a civil suit and I am at the end of a long and fairly successful career. A pretty good fit.
It improves your reputation, I am discovering, when you are accompanied by a beautiful and elegant woman. I have not always had the greatest taste in women so it is strange to be complimented so often when out on the town.
Elegant I suppose is the correct word for her countenance. For an old cowboy, I seem to have stepped a little out of my league.
I rather enjoy the elevated air.
But there is something odd happening to time. It continues to slow down. A recurrent phenomenon that allows me to make good decisions and be patient in all things but it is worrisome. Scenes from my past keep slipping into the present. Why do scenes from my past slowly roll by in my mind like some old newsreel? Not vague thoughts but detailed and fully fleshed vignettes of both the important and the mundane.
I will grant you that I am the sum total of all the rather unbelievable events that bring me to this keyboard however, I do not care to relive them.
Yet I do.
I danced the Ghost Dance last night at sunset - it had been a long time. The moon was large and just visible thru the pine trees and I am feeling a little better, finally getting rested. The water from this remote hot springs seems to help my knees and it certainly helps my soul.
I drove to the closest small town with a grocery store yesterday afternoon and bought 3 fried chicken breasts, 2 small watermelons, a jug of diet cranberry juice and $40.00 in lottery tickets. I try to never forget what the old woman said about buying the lottery but, as of this reporting, not much happening on the hillbilly-retirement- fund scene.
Soaking in the hot springs on a near perfect night high in the mountains with the owls and bats all diving about is a fine way to clear your head. And mine has been awfully thick lately. Sometimes I sleep too long, sometimes not long enough - too many thoughts and too many flashbacks.
I decided to drive back to the city at 1:30 Am, wasting the rent on the cabin, just to sleep in my own bed.
I have a date with The Lady today at 4:00 and not a hell of a lot other commitments pending. We will probably drive up to the Lake and have supper, seems like its going to be a great afternoon.
Not too sure why I find myself writing, but it just feels right. Perhaps the wheels of change are in motion...
When I spoke to The Lady she was all geared up for a nice night away from town. So I retooled and found a lake view suite available at Harveys on the South Shore.
We met at the townhouse and I added my luggage to hers in her Lexus. As much as I love my big truck it is not fair to ask her to climb in and out when we are dressed up. And she was dressed up in a grand way. There was no question that I had made the right decision when I saw her sparkling blue outfit. Complete with red white and blue accessories.
Sometimes the cowboy in me fails to rise to the appropriate social level when dealing with The Lady and her friends - but not tonight.
We arrived at valet checked in and set up house in a lovely suite overlooking Lake Tahoe. These are very nice digs.
I brought a bottle of champagne, a bottle of Baileys and bottle of vanilla flavored cognac and some unsalted nuts - she brought her MacBook Air.
We dashed down to the hot tube to soak a little and settled into the elevated hot tub with a view of the lake and I, being a bit thirsty, went to the poolside bar.
There to my surprise the bartender was closing down shop. I asked if we could still get a couple of Mai Tais and he was nice enough to say yes. Evaluating the early evening I put two fives on the bar and asked if he would make us four and charge them to our room. Being the enterprising young man you would expect to find in his position, he said yes.
And so it went, we soaked in the sun and drank. As is our nature, after a bit of play and some showers we called for reservations at the Sage.
The Sage is a very nice steakhouse from top to bottom. Decorated with old Native American lamps and a staff of what seemed like dozens. We settled in with an Absolute Martini, one olive, and glass of St. Michelles Riesling for her.
While we waited on the Halibut and steak, we talked about New Orleans, our common attraction to that wonderful city, fishing in the Keys and her brother in Alaska.
Not a bad night A beautiful woman, excellent food and a warm summer evening at the Lake.
The Bananas Foster was prepared at the table, keeping with the NO theme, and the waiter, after seeing my name on the guest book, brought the Maitre D over to chat with us for awhile. Nice folks.
We played three card poker, roulette and video poker before pocketing our $98 win and heading upstairs.
We both had glasses of room temperature Baileys and she curled up on the couch. I fired up her MacBook but had to pay $10 for wireless service because I forgot to bring my Sprint wireless thingy that plugs into the computer and gives me access anywhere.
And now I am here with her crashed in the bed. It has been a great day and the past has remained quiet and orderly - in the past.
Did you intend this for “Dear Diary”?
Bob Dylan told me to tell you to not steal his song titles.
I’m finding this strangely interesting.
As you can imagine we have been absorbed in the British Open for the last four days.
We decided to come into town Saturday night so that we could have room service this morning. It was a very wise move. We were up at 5am and enjoyed the luxury of having breakfast delivered without missing any of the golf.
She drove her car so she hurried off to church while I headed to the mountains in my truck.
There is a watermelon on ice in the bed and I intend to soak until late tonight. The hot water is great for my legs.
I danced the ghost dance in the warm pool. The buoyancy of the water relieves the pressure and pain from my knees, allowing me to move gracefully and laterally.
It reminds me of who I once was, and what my body did. When my mind clears, I reflect on the fact that not far from here on the side of a lake they danced the first ghost dance - in a time now gone.
It is quiet in the mountains with the occasional hawk leisurely patrolling his realm. I drift off to thoughts about her yard.
I have been working hard to repair the damage done to The Lady’s lawn. The irrigation system had been chewed in a bunch of places and as a result I have had to resod large portions of the lawn.
It is not that hard to understand, with it being so dry all the animals can smell the water, so I built them a little ground level drinking fountain with stone and a two foot bowl.
Hopefully they will drink here and not chew my repaired 5/8 plastic water feed line. Already we have seen a family of quail with the little fuzzballs swimming in the fountain while the male watched for hawks. There are tons of rabbits around her property but I have yet to see them drink.
Last week we heard the coyotes playing near our window in the night and we found a disemboweled rabbit in the back yard one morning as a little gift.
She borders the BLM land and it is beautiful up on the hillside overlooking the world with all the high desert wildlife and the city lights.
It has become a bit of a habit of mine to drive back early in the morning with a cup of 7-11 coffee and a nice Maduro to enjoy the trip.
Summer is moving along and I continue to jam all the life possible into each day. I hate everything about winter and dread the thought of the coming darkness.
Winter - Chicago Rail Yards
The Lost Years
I had found a nice boxcar in the middle of the boxcar graveyard. The graveyard lay below Soldier Field in a maze of tracks that stretched forever.
I understand that the area has been gentrified and that the Mayor now lives on my old turf - strange how it goes.
But it was a nice boxcar with a door that worked and new wood inside. I could lock the car/home in the day and unlock it at night - a very sweet deal.
Because there was no water near, I had to cross the freeway on the overpass for the rail line to get water at Soldier Field. Not that I drank too much water in those days but occasionally.
Normally I would stop at the corner, pick up a six pack and a chicken wing dinner then head thru the yard to home.
Because I threw my chicken wing bones out the door there started to be a regular zoo of critters stopping by at night to see what was on the menu.
One night I had a couple of gallons of water so I put out a small bowl of water and changed the world.
From then on it was a family of possums, a pair of pheasants, numerous critters and the largest raccoon I had ever seen visiting the local watering hole.
The raccoon would crunch the chicken bones with the most frightening sound I can describe. It was clear that he could eat your hand with no problem whatsoever.
One day on my trip back from soldier field I saw the raccoon dead in the freeway. Both sad and foreboding.
But the winter ended and I survived. One day the weeds were covered with spider webs and then in a remarkable dance of timing, a few days later the insects appeared.
I moved on - but the memory of the animals visiting the watering bowl at night in the rail yard will always remain.
As will the number $19.10. That is what you earned for a days labor from the labor pool. You got a $3.00 draw in the morning for bus fare or lunch or perhaps a nice 16oz. cold beverage.
And it was plenty.
Very much so.
What a coincidence! That makes exactly one of us!
It had been a terrible run. All the money I had won from Vegas was quickly disappearing in the casinos of Reno. I had played for two weeks and my luck was the getting worse. Being a card counter I fully understood that the math behind such a long run of poor results was getting lopsided in my favor but it wouldnt change.
I decided to change the game. There was a limousine service that would run you up to Tahoe for a $150.00 and there was room at the Cal Neva at Stateline. So I packed up and headed for the Lake.
The nice lady who was driving did not blink an eye when I asked her to pull into the 7-11 to get at bottle of champagne. My mood was sour and I was hell bent on changing both my luck and my disposition.
I slammed the bottle in the back of the limo as we drove up the hill and I was starting to feel just a little better.
After offloading at valet I checked the luggage and got my room keys, but because it was early afternoon I decided to play a bit. This would violate one of my most sacred rules (learned in the long years of losing). My entire bankroll was in my safari jacket. This is a huge no-no.
You only carry a session bank on your person, you never spend more than your daily bank on any given day and you must have 20 daily banks in your bankroll to play full time.
But here I was - a large roll of 100s in my right pocket and a room key in my left. I went to the mens room and washed up. I was getting serious and I had absolutely no desire to start back over building my big bankroll by grinding out weeks of play.
Im finding this strangely interesting.
Not strange at all. This is lovely writing.
Create an about page James.
I started on Friday night and sometime about 10:00 in the morning on Saturday I went to take a comfort break in the men’s room and happened to break the trance long enough to look into the mirror.
What I saw was not pleasant. My eyes looked like a Texas road map with all the little red lines, and I was wrinkled, unshaven and very rough on all accounts.
It made me tired.
I had played all night without stopping. Because I never drink alcohol while counting cards, I must have drank 20 glasses of orange juice, coffee and club soda.
I had a bad case of Casino Ass and it was all but impossible to sit down anymore.
I had been winning. How much I wasn’t even sure. There is a game we play to keep the amount of money you are winning uncertain to the pit boss. They do know exactly when they do the count, but for short spans it confuses the issue.
It is the safari jacket. It must have ten different pockets, so every time my chip stack gets a little too large I will pocket a handful of green or black chips.
The jacket felt heavy and full so it had to be good. In the early hours I had been on an absolute stone cold run of great cards. The count on the single deck was often +5 or more and I had flooded the table with money.
Time to go. This is the part where the casino realizes you are going to take their money and leave - gets just a little colder in the room.
I went back and asked to be colored up for what was on the table, the Pit Boss asked if I would like to color up the chips in my pockets and I declined.
With a couple of pinks and a fist full of black I went to the cage and began stacking chips.
$23,000 to the good. I couldn’t believe it. What a great run. I returned to the table and tipped the dealers very heavy and the little oriental waitress even heavier - then called for a cab.
Now flush with cash and in the danger zone (where you are subject to give it back), I made a cabbies day and went back to Reno.
The cab dropped me in a little hotel that was once on the south side of the river near downtown.
I had captured the money and safely returned without being tempted to High Roll it away.
Now it was time to do what I always do best - translate liquid profit to tangible assets.
I didnt shave but did wash my face and put on a clean shirt under my safari jacket.
When the cab picked me up I asked him to take me somewhere to buy a used Corvette. He said sure boss.
We ended up on Kitski lane driving up and down the road looking into the lots.
It was as you expect. Sitting on the front line, long red and dangerous looking. T tops and that beautiful long look of the early 70s.
I asked the driver to wait and went inside to the office where the owner and a young helper sit talking.
I asked, politely, if I could test drive the red Corvette.
When he looked at me like I had asked to bum a buck, I recalled that I was not looking my best or even close to what he must envision a sports car buyer to look like.
The gentleman says - well you know we have lots of people who come in wanting to drive these cars. I did not let him finish because I have a bit of experience in cutting this type of conversation short. I reached into one of the pockets that held very large sums of money and upon pulling it out I remarked that I was very much looking to buy a nice car this morning.
It all changed. Soon I was signing the papers, a cool $7,500 for the car and tipping the taxi driver.
Time to take a vacation.
I don't know why I threw the pizza, but it was done all the same. The pizza missed her and sailed over the railing to the parking lot below.
Our room in the hotel was on the upper floors and we moved our fight into the hotel.
How did it turn so badly so quickly?
We were an odd couple - married briefly, separated and now trying to save that marriage. I had invited her to visit me in Arizona and she seemed more under control and possibly sane.
It was the volatility that made her so exciting. When she drank, it was if someone had thrown a switch. The small petite lady became a fuzzy eyed demon who seemed to leave violence and chaos in her path. Perfect.
She had gone to jail on our wedding night , which might have given a reasonable man a clue to the ending of such an affair - but alas the allure was just too strong.
One night in Nevada we had married and partied the night away. However, as was often our pattern, we quarreled. The neighbors called the police about the two nut jobs screaming in the house next door.
If she had not thrown the ashtrays at the cops things would have worked out better. Or if I had of gone and bailed her out instead of waiting until the next afternoon. But it went down as written and here we are.
After a few months of mutual assured destruction I had moved to Arizona and drove back and forth to Vegas to play cards.
But I had missed her and I understand if you are doubting my ability to make rational judgments, however I did.
She came to visit and it was not crazy or anything so I suggested we take a trip to Hawaii to see how it goes.
She flew to LAX from Reno and I from Phoenix. We met and went to the airport bar (I am reasonably certain that my motivation was relaxation and not any subliminal desire to destroy the civilized world as we know it) and shockingly we both got hammered.
On the flight over we put away our share of the miniatures and landed on a windy night in Paradise.
Went to the hotel and then for a pizza. Somewhere in that innocuous time line we tried to see just how many hot buttons we could push before someones head exploded.
It turned out that it was mine.
Never before and never since have I ever raised a hand to a lady or a child, but for some unknown reason as we walked on the outer walkway on the upper floor of our hotel it was too much. Just one too many biting, vicious comments by my lovely wife - and I threw the damn pizza at her head. She ducked and hardly seemed surprised. After all she is the expert in getting a bar into a full blow riot.
But I was surprised and not very pleased.
The next morning I gave her a proposition. If you will go on Antabuse then I will let you stay in Hawaii as long as you care too.
We stopped drinking that morning and got an apartment on Paoakalani Avenue in a fully furnished condo that overlooked the Ali Wai Canal.
It lasted a year. This was my fourth and last marriage and she was now fully vested in a local law firm, while I had lost all misconceptions about the islands.
So we went our ways. I went to New York and she stayed on to handle the divorce and continue her sober and sane professional career.
But, in all honesty, I must say she was never the same creature when sober and all business. The memories of our combustible lifestyle remain like typhoons blowing thru our shared days. It was never good or right, but it certainly was different.
The lady from Akron Ohio called me in New York when our divorce was final and that is the last I ever heard from her
The Lost Years
I am not sure how we ended up in Elkhart Indiana. We were trying to ride a freight train to Florida, but somehow in Harrisburg we had hopped the wrong train.
It had been freezing in Harrisburg. There were no open freights and we were getting desperate so we decided to ride one of the flat cars that carries semi trailers.
We crawled up where there are four tires surrounding us and the three of us huddled under our sleeping bags.
It was the coldest I have ever been. We rode all night huddled together with the three bags on top. It was morning when we realized that we were moving thru Mid America - not Florida.
The Englishman who called everyone “squire”, the carnival guy who changed his name about once a day and me.
We raided the McDonald’s dumpster after closing time and scored a huge bag of tossed out product. But on our way back to the Elkhart yard the bull stopped us in his four wheel drive and said he didn’t mind if we caught a car out in the morning but to not sleep under the cars. Yea, that sounds like good advise.
The next morning we shopped around and found the ELIN going to Indianapolis. The conductor allowed us to ride in a unit that was on the tail end of the line. He showed us the water and told us when they changed crews in the night to say we were a section crew catching a ride.
When the train stopped the next day to do something a new conductor came back and gave us $10.00 and reminded us that Jesus would always help us in times of need. That is a bit of knowledge with which I was very familiar and have often relied on miracles of faith like someone would depend on the electricity coming into their home.
This conductor like every worker we encountered on the rail lines was friendly, kind and helpful. It was if we were all engaged in an active conspiracy - trying desperately to keep an American legend alive.
Sometimes I have trouble remembering the names of my four wives. I can always call them up but they are not on the tip of my tongue. I wonder if that is odd?
Recently some business transactions were to require an upper level background check on myself and others to proceed. I just laughed at them. As if profit would motivate me to open my family to those very old and deep wounds.
My daughter and her sons know nothing of the problems I faced as a young man, and I will do everything on earth to prevent that from happening.
She was raised away from the insanity that her mother and I lived in during the 60s and early 70s, went to the Air Force and is a software executive. My grandsons play college ball and live a remarkably normal life. It is the greatest blessing of my troubled life.
Until recently I had a firewall between the trauma of those days and my present incarnation. Two lives never to be connected.
But this thing with time is bothering me. How is it all these vignettes are penetrating that fire wall and playing in my mind’s theater over and over.
It is now leaking into my dreams as well.
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