Stayin' in the game

I have never quite been on the approved schedule for life events.

According to the psychology textbooks, a "normal" person matures between the ages of, say, 14 and 21.

That great Ameri-can aphorist Mark Twain obviously co-signed this future (to him) psychological note by saying that he was amazed how smart his previ-ously stupid father had gotten be-tween the ages (Mark's) of 14 and 21.

I don't think I really and truly matured until after my divorce, when single-parenting was forced onto me by life circumstances.

I was about 40.

Of course, there are naysayers who - watching me spend gobs of time writing novels, five so far, that haven't been published, or observing me spending money I really don't have, struggling on the course to bring my golf handicap down (36 to 27 as of this writing, after 18 months of steady play) without benefit of driving range, golf lessons or expensive gear - would say I still haven't come to grips with reality.

But I would argue differently.

I know I will never rise above the club-golfer range, and I know that even if I do publish a couple of novels eventually, my "work" will not change the course of our hurtling world, or even retard my personal aging process (a growing worry as 50 blurs in the rearview mirror).

The simple truth is, I enjoy writing and golf because the good moments are hard-earned, and they are all mine. Nobody to share the glory and personal satisfaction with. Nobody else, when things are bad, to blame.

As a youth, I preferred team sports; I thought golf was for rich jerks and effete sissies. Now, the only sports I truly follow, reading about them and watching them on television, are golf and boxing. Two sports where the individual is king (or queen: Michelle Wie may turn out to be the best pure stroker of a golf ball in the next 50 years) and the effort is personal.

For two decades I also loved working full-time at various magazines and newspapers, rushing the "news" and our "objective" collective judgments and opinions on those events out to you, the loved and hated public.

Now I much prefer writing features about folks I think are interesting, or more saintly than I am, or writing columns, about pet peeves and diehard beliefs, to sharing a newsroom with a lot of folks I might otherwise not know.

Not that I don't still love journalists and working writers - I do. It's just that I am more interested in struggling with my own demons and figuring them out, hopefully in an entertaining way, on paper, than trying to change the reader's mind about anything.

I've discovered the hard way, in 25 years of writing for instant and near-instant publication, that most folks who "love" my columns already basically agree with me, and most folks who think I am a pinko Commie haven't had a new opinion since grade school.

There are exceptions, which is why I love the feedback my columns gets. But all in all, most of you are set in your ways, agreeable or astounding to little moi. So my attempt is merely to entertain while communicating. Changing you is beyond my reach, I believe.

One of the few constants in my writing life over the years is the writing, and reading, of book and movie reviews.

I love sharing my lifetime and just-read-and-watched favorites with other folks, and am immensely satisfied when readers thank me for pumping up a book or film they other-wise might not have encountered.

For the same reason, I like reading my favorite book and film critics to discover work I otherwise might have missed.

But in general, making certain that the reading public is keeping up with Paul Allen's development of South Lake Union, say, or Mayor Nickels' punitive new parking-meter schemes, isn't on my top 10 of things to care, or worry, about.

Rich developers are always trying to get richer, and toadying pols are always trying to make up for the money they give away to their rich "friends," by taxing the already-overburdened working folks who are the real life's blood of any urban center.

No surprises there. And not much personal interest, other than the writer's civic duty to point out the most egregious examples of shameful conduct those in power are perpetrating on everybody else they claim to serve.

So far, life isn't shrinking so much for me, as I descend into middle middle age, as it is changing shape.

But I have lived long enough to know that relaxing too long at 40 or 50 can turn into a horrible settling at 60 if we don't stay vigilant and maybe even a little immature.

For that reason I am desperately thankful for my dual urges to conquer the unconquerable duck hook off the tee, and the too-verbose opening chapter.

Fiction and golf, as importantly as lovers, friends and family, have kept me (so far) more interested in life than not.

For my readers' sakes, I hope you all have some similar passions and enthusiasms keeping you flexible on the inside and the outside.

Good luck with 'em!

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