Tourist Season

My sister gave me this book in paperback form. I forgot what paper smells like because I’ve been reading only Kindle books for the last few months. It smells nice. Brings back a lot of memories. Ahh, I remember the days of paperbacks and phones that use a stylus and wireless protocol B. Seems like yesterday.

That’s me trying to be funny. Oh to be as witty as Hiaasen. I find just about every word that comes out of his mouth (or off his pen) funny. Some humor just clicks with me and Hiaasen effortlessly touches every nerve I have that translates to laughs.

This book had me laughing a lot. The brunt of Hiaasen’s jokes this time around were:

  • Real estate developers and snowbirds
  • Parents of beauty pageant contestants
  • Terrorists who name causes after days in months
  • Dishonest members of the media and government
  • College football fans, including ND fans

So yeah, he spreads it around a lot. It’s harsh, condescending satire that is very satisfying. And as I’ve said before, he retains some elements of a thriller/crime novel so it’s still exciting and interesting in that respect. I also said before that I would read his golf book next. Well, I just ordered it.

One interesting aspect is that much of the book revolves around a fictional Orange Bowl game where Notre Dame is playing Nebraska for the National Championship. Which is funny because this book was published in 1986, when Notre Dame was a far cry from playing in anything close to a National Championship (Gerry Faust just left, Lou Holtz’s first year). Funny in a sick, twisted way I guess. Which is classic Hiaasen.


Stuff White People Like

I’m pretty much just a white, Euro-mutt. I guess I have a little Greek blood in me, and certainly some German, and also some English and Belgian; but I don’t identify with any of those cultures. I really don’t have any ethnic underpinning. I’m just a white person, basically, and I always figured that I blended in to the American melting pot enough that the quirks of my existence went unnoticed by the rest of society. And certainly, I never expected those very same quirks to be exposed as part of my racial make-up.

But earlier this year, someone brought to my attention the fact that white guys, strangely enough, seem to be the only people wearing shorts with a sweatshirt during those cold days in the shoulder seasons. You know those days; it’s about 50 degrees and you can get away with shorts, but you have to wear long sleeves on top and maybe even a vest because different parts of your body have different tolerances to the cold. Right? You with me? Who doesn’t do that? I mean, it’s just more comfortable wearing shorts despite the cold, isn’t it?

Well, evidently not. This strange clothing regimen seems to be part of stuff white people like and serves to further define my race. Oh, you think I’m crazy, well check out #86 of stuff white people like. There are studies, and there may be empirical evidence. This Lander fellow has done exhaustive research on white people and engages in an ongoing dialogue on the web and in print to document the white race and the unique tastes of millions.

And it’s absolutely hilarious!

I have a warped, dark sense of humor and I understand that this humor is not for everybody. So no, I don’t blame you Mr. White Person if you don’t like it. However, if your dislike is rooted in the fact that you squirm when Lander makes fun of certain shallow and intolerable traits that you exhibit, that probably means you’re just a little too insecure for me. Let me tick off some of the ones that I found pretty hilarious.

Have you ever met that white dude that always tells you that “Guinness just tastes better in a pub in Irelend.” Listen, I drink Guinness, it’s my beer of choice. But I’ve never been to Ireland and I’ve never consumed it in a “real Irish pub.” I’m not lying, about twenty @s#holes over the last few decades have said those very words to me while I’m drinking a Guinness. “Oh Steffen,” they say, “if you think that’s good, you need to go to Ireland to really taste Guinness.” The next time someone says that to me, I’m going to tell them to shut the f&^% up. Hey, I’m insecure, no doubt about it. The fact that some of my best Guinness experiences involve a can, a couch, and college football, makes me feel inferior to those world travelers who’ve been lucky enough to sip the fine beer in Ireland. Hey European traveler, you win, you are a better white person than me.

And what about that whole thing about making you feel bad about NOT going outside? Why do white people do that. I remember my mom saying “hey kids, stop playing Space Invaders and go outside, it’s beautiful out.” To this day, I can’t sit around all day on Saturday watching college football without feeling a huge sense of guilt. Dammit, I’m outside all the time; I play lots of golf and I walk freakin’ everywhere. I’m done feeling guilty about assuming the horizontal position all day on Saturday during September through November. This has been exposed as one of those destructive cultural traits of my race and I’m not going to let it lead me down the road to therapy.

I’m guessing that in Lander’s white continuum, I’m about a middle-of-the-pack white guy. According to him, at one end of the spectrum are people like Eminem and Bruce Willis, who have very few traits generally associated with white people. At the other end of the spectrum, you have the ultra white people like Sean Penn and Ira Glass, who probably read the Sunday New York Times every week, drink a lot of FAIR TRADE coffee, and shop at farmer’s markets. I don’t engage in those, but I do have a Mac, I like hummus, I wear a fair amount of outdoor performance clothes, and I’ve been promising to learn Spanish for years. So yeah, there’s no mistaking the fact, I’m white, but you may have to ask some detailed questions to figure out if I’m the “wrong kind of white person” (someone who, for example, feels that their gym teacher was their favorite high school teacher).

I guarantee that Lander will rip something that you cherish. He won’t just rip it, he will expose it, analyze it, throw it on the ground, spit on it, then walk away; and you will have no recourse. He has no mercy. You go through stages during Landers’ satirical trashing.

  1. First you’re angry that someone could make fun of something that you hold so dear.
  2. Then, you feel like an ass because he starts making sense and you actually start to understand the hypocrisy that he is exposing.
  3. Finally, you see the humor in it all, and you laugh. In fact, you may even change your behavior a little.

This is a great book for the audio format. It’s brainless and the narrator has a great, deadpan, documentary-style delivery. I laugh a lot when I think about it and I think it’s really creative stuff.


Match Made in Heaven

Yes, I play golf. A fair amount of golf in fact. Here is my golf cred. What kind of idiot takes pictures of every one of their scorecards? Well, me. And inevitably, I read a few golf books each year. This is a fantastical piece of golf fiction about a dying man whom God gives one last chance to live; all he has to do is beat a group of historical figures in an eighteen hole match on the course on which he learned the game.

The main character is Elliot Goodman; athlete, professor, husband, father. He just had a heart attack and is being driven to the hospital when God makes a visit and strikes the bargain. Goodman plays eighteen imaginary one-hole matches and has eighteen imaginary conversations with dead people. Certainly, these are dead people who Mitchell holds in the highest regard. Fun stuff.


Goodman’s opponents range from DaVinci on the first hole to an old golf club employee near the end. He plays against singers, athletes, movie stars, and other various historical figures. It appears that Mitchell is passionate about the game because he exhibits a fair amount of knowledge of golf. But don’t read this book for insights into match play strategy; read this book to get in touch with the mystical nature and simple pleasures of the game.

For example, here is why John Lennon plays golf:

“… I mean, some people play golf ‘cuz they wanna see how low they can shoot? And some play ‘cuz they’re outgoing and competitive? Me? I couldn’t give a shit about the scoring. I play ‘cuz it’s fun!

Hitting the ball from one spot to the next and just being outdoors, ya’ know? And feeling free and looking at the trees and the grass and the birds and the clouds. …”

I like this take. Lennon was his opponent on the fourth hole, so there is plenty more golf love to come.

While playing Babe Zaharias, Goodman makes this observation:

He had often thought that golf is a particularly glorious game, not just for all the obvious reasons, but for one in particular. Of all the major sports, it is the only one where, if you’re “in the zone,” you can perform, at any given moment, on any given day, just as well as, and probably better than, anyone on the face of the earth who ever played the game!

Not a bad take. Sure, a weekend warrior like myself, even in the zone, can’t compete with the pros. But there are those tiny moments, those great holes, those flushed shots, that allow you to do something great that can’t really be bettered by any other human. Heck, I dropped a flushed six iron into the hole on the first at White Deer Run about five years ago for an eagle; that shot couldn’t have been hit any better by Jack or Tiger. Contrast this to my marathon experience, where I was running the same course as the world class athletes, but never once could I feel remotely comparable to them. I was logging 8:50 miles and they were logging 5:00 minute miles. I couldn’t fathom running that fast. Heck, that’s an all out sprint as far as I’m concerned and they are doing it for 26 miles. Insanity.

Goodman also makes some keen insights sports in general. I’ve always been a big fan of being a balanced athlete. I think Tiger’s greatness is locked up in his balanced approach to the game. He has every angle covered; the mental game, the emotional game, fitness, distance, touch around the greens, clutch putting, determination, accuracy with the irons. He practices the range of skills needed to succeed and never focuses on a single aspect, he has no weaknesses, there are no chinks in his armor (although it could be too much too fast given this knee injury, we’ll see). Mitchell, through Goodman, makes a similar point about Willie Mays:

Willie may not have been the pure hitter Ted Williams was or the power hitter Hank Aaron was or have had the early Mickey Mantle’s speed afoot, yet he was greater than them all in his peerless brilliance in all aspects of the game, his unparalleled charisma, and his boundless and profound passion for playing baseball.

Tiger may not have the charisma of Willie Mays, but he defines “peerless brilliance in all aspects of the game.”

Then Mitchell pulls off a gem like this, right from the mouth of William Shakespeare:

O golf! Thou dost imbue mine life with meaning
And givest me a purpose to trudge on!
Thou showest me mine frailties today,
Then showest me anew, quite on the morrow,
And makest me relate to mine own flaws
And human peccadilloes of mine doing;
Just as I revealed in others’ lives
The sins and imperfections of a Man,
So hast thou shown in me that vanity,
That greed, that lust for pow’r, that blind ambition,
That madness born of rage, that indecision,
That green-eyed monster envy, which inhabit
Yet every pore and wrinkle of my being!

There are a lot of messages in those lines. The Shakespeare match, written in the form of a play, is pretty cool. I’m not exactly sure if it was in iambic pentameter, but it was very cool nonetheless.

In keeping with Mitchell’s high regard for balance, after beating Babe Ruth on the fifteenth, Goodman makes this observation about his stellar play and how it reflects his own life:

The Babe, impressive as he was, was a one-trick pony out there. Power, power, and more power. And me? Not much to talk about for the macho guys in the locker room, but I sure got the job done. Come to think of it, I was the model versatility out there! Power, in moderation, on the drive, intelligence by choosing a safe three-iron on the second shot, the finesse to keep it on the top tier with the pitch, and accuracy with the putt. The complete package!

Elliot thought about how lucky he had been to be versatile and multifaceted during his life, too. About how he could do and be lots of things, using various talents and energies and fields of expertise, and have lots of passions and play different roles in dealing with different people.

He was fortunate not to be a Georgie One-Note.

This kind of careful thought about the game gets a little deeper in the match with Gandhi. Gandhi goes on a long diatribe about why he loves the game so much:

“… You see, my good friend, the game of golf is the epitome of the essence of satyagraha. That is why I love this game so exceedingly much. Because in golf, as in life, there is much to be learned from truth in firmness, from nonviolent resistance.

In both golf and life, there is strength through gentleness. There is results through patience. There is moving forward through yielding. There is achievement through self-restraint. There is fruitfulness through abstinence, gain through compromise, victory through humility, reward through sacrifice.

… It is about complete service to the game…”

This is a solid, thoughtful, golf story. It didn’t rock my socks off while I was reading it, but it did make me reflect a fair amount about my love for the game. That’s important for golf fiction, it needs to constantly make you reflect on the game and your relationship with it. If you play the game, I think you’ll like this book.