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April 2021

We Can Discover the Wonders of Nature, Rolling in the Rushes Down by the Riverside

Some golfers insist that golf is a game and not a sport. Those golfers are not over sixty.

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What makes a game a sport? Chutes and Ladders is a game. Baseball is a sport. But a child takes more steps dancing around awaiting her turn at Chutes and Ladders than an MLB right fielder who strikes out three times and never fields a fly.

Games have rules, and are undertaken for pleasure. Same as sports. Games involve activity which might be mental or physical. Same as sports? Sports require physical exertion and skill – but so do many games.

Magic the Gathering sounds exhausting – does that make it a sport? What about Hide and Seek? How about hunting? Waterskiing while smoking a Pall Mall? Twister has rules, requires physical exertion, and skill helps – but isn’t Twister a game?

What about running and skiing? Those seem like sports. But running and skiing have no rules, unless you include “no running in black socks” and “no skiing in jeans”. Runners and skiers have a different attitude, though, and never pull clouds of semantic ambiguity above their hobbies, as golfers do – claiming their hobby is somehow unique, as if quandary is part of the golfing ethos.

Golfer attitude is attitude rooted in etiquette, so that at least tempers it. NASCAR, by comparison, has attitude detached from etiquette. Those guys never stop to exchange information. Boxing has etiquette: hand shaking, no punches below the belt, spitting only in designated buckets. Boxing is sweet and scientific.

I’m not against the golfer attitude, and I have my own short-sleeved golfing attitude, despite a lack of skills (“right idea”). But sometimes, the golfer attitude sends the wrong message – in pink or yellow plaid.

My favorite golf course in Spokane is Indian Canyon – a municipal course with an historic clubhouse and eighteen holes occupying acreage likely better suited for housing than a giant game in the middle of a growing city.

But Indian Canyon remains approachable and iconic. I like the name. Indian Canyon: a reminder who used to run through these beautiful environs. Not sure if Hangman Valley Golf Course conjures the same feelings. Similar setting, similar past, but the “hangman” part is a more brutal reminder of what was happening as the area was "settled". No wonder the name is being cancelled.

Even as Indian slaughtering was going down, in 1898, the Spokane Country Club was founded, back when golf clubs were made of actual wood and iron, and named “mashee” and “niblick”. The Spokane Country Club eventually settled on 1000 bucolic acres along the Little Spokane River, requiring membership, and membership required attitude.

For 100 years the members of the Spokane Country Club played golf, wrote their own rules of clubhouse etiquette, and took pride in offering employment to the less fortunate.

The first amendment guarantees us freedom of association. You and I can have a private club and exclude Sally. But once our private club starts advertising and charging fees, we have to admit people regardless of race, creed or sex, although we can still discriminate based on fatness, poverty or bad reputation.

The Spokane Country Club adapted to modern public accommodation laws, raising its prices as it admitted black, women and Jewish doctors in residency at Sacred Heart hoping they would never have enough time to come out and play a round.

But the club has reserved certain tee times for men only. For decades, male doctors, lawyers, and even a few preachers were hard to find in Spokane on Wednesday afternoons, because they had the Spokane Country Club to themselves.

Spouses of the male members were essentially also members, free to play for a round – except Wednesday afternoons. But these spouses never minded the restriction. Then, these career women came along with their own memberships demanding to golf on Wednesdays. You can imagine this empowered momentum. Golfer attitude, female version. Skirts and hair bands, but also grunting and smacking.

These new female members formally complained about the men’s tee times during the prime work-skipping hours of Wednesday afternoons.

The Club rebuffed them: “Sorry. We have rules that everyone follows, so no.”

The women sued for sex discrimination. Sex discrimination is usually sexy. But here, nothing was sexy. Just discrimination based on sex without explanation.

The Spokane Country Club lost the case, RBG style: discrimination on the basis of sex. The Club didn’t lose the case for having sex, it lost it for scheduling sex. Scheduling sex never works. Catholics know this.

The jury agreed the women members had been screwed because the club excluded them. But what are the damages? You’re a successful woman, and you didn’t get to play golf on a Wednesday? So what? Golf costs $100. Are those the damages? That’s money you pay. These excluded women do miss out on overhearing stock tips and lake house opportunities, but that’s the same in the men’s sauna.

The jury decided that country club women not playing golf when they should be working has significant value. And all of those missed rounds by all of those work-shirking professional women amounted to millions.

The Spokane Country Club could have abandoned its policy and spared itself the judgment. Belligerence comes with a price. But did the old guard of the Spokane Country Club get the last laugh? The judgment exceeded the ability of the Spokane Country Club to pay, so the vaunted Spokane Country Club filed for bankruptcy. Now nobody gets special treatment on Wednesday afternoons.

The magnificent clubhouse, swimming pool, golf course, and 1000 acres were auctioned to the highest bidder: The Kalispell Tribe of Indians. The Indians bought the very ground where they used to play their version of golf before the white man invaded with his Catholicism and whiskey.

The thousand-acre facility never looked better. The food has never been better. And, whether golf is a game or a sport, just like at Indian Canyon, anyone can play ("member for a day"), even on Wednesday afternoon.

Mashee and niblick indeed.


Picture a Bright Blue Ball, Just Spinning, Spinning Free

I drink a pot of coffee each morning.

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I mix my own beans at the store – half caff – which, for me, is half regular caffeinated whole coffee beans, and half Advil tablets. I grind my half caff at the store, using one of four grinders provided, none of which is clean or in solid working order. I choose the one without blood on it, and it takes about three minutes of sputtering wood chipper sounds to fill the bag. I leave a mess at the store every time. It just doesn’t seem right to use the miniature push broom they leave you. I know my store only uses union labor, and, obviously, I’m management material.

I leave a mess when the ground-crusted bag comes home too. I’m tossing the plump bag around, oblivious to the jet streams of micro-grounds spraying on the counters, on the oven, on the fridge, on the floor.  The parade continues as the grounds make their way into the filter and the machine. The machine makes the coffee fine, but then the depleted, soggy, matted grounds remain in the machine. In the future, the coffee machine converts this biomass into energy leaving no trace. But my machine came from Macy’s for $80 and the soggy sacks of grounds just sit there. There is no elegant way to remove one. The little lift-out plastic backet has a little handle like it’s little red riding hood’s lunch pail, but that just gets in the way dumping the grounds and its clinging, wet filter.

Some say, you don’t need the paper filter – use gold. We have the gold but also leaves a mess. But all of that mess is biodegradable. I want to discuss a coffee mess that is permanent.

Historically, I would consume my morning pot of coffee from a 16-ounce Styrofoam cup, plucked from a stack of Styrofoam cups with that satisfying unnatural plastic-squish sound of Styrofoam rubbing against Styrofoam – plastic’s own corduroy whistle. I have a stash of Styrofoam cups, one, because they are light, and two, in case the gun grabbers come for Styrofoam when they come for our plastic bags and straws – in which case I’m set, and so are my friends and family, sorry about you.

But now, my spouse has me hip to the wisdom of washing and reusing one of five coffee mugs. Do you have more than five? Seven?

But I have to wonder if I am using more water by washing any one of these five cups than is wasted to make the Styrofoam one. How much water is wasted making one of those Styrofoam bricks holding your printer in its box? Can’t be that much, can it?

How about the truly clean recyclers who wash their blue bin refuse? Statistics show that washing recyclable plastic ruins its net environmental benefit. You might waste more water rinsing that plastic container than will later be saved by recycling it. Why do we do it? Admittedly, washing recyclables is more polite for the blue bin men and their downstream conveyor belt pluckers – slightly improving their working environment.

But even clean Styrofoam cannot be recycled. Isn’t there a safe place for Styrofoam? We can store nuclear waste, but not Styrofoam? Where is the Styrofoam Foundation with breakthrough ideas? Where are the Styro Girls with PSA’s of Styro hacks to lessen your white granular detritus?

Trains kill thousands each year. Would a 100-ton locomotive moving 50 miles per hour be less dangerous to a pedestrian if it were fully-clad in 36 inches of recycled Styrofoam?

How about using used Styrofoam to improve nature? Alpine Valley, Wisconsin could build a real ski resort on top of its trash mountain base. Glacier National Park could regain its namesake permanently. How about Styroland in Kansas, Nebraska, or some other flat place where a thousand-foot ziggurat of tiered Styrofoam is built, and then just opened to ticket buyers with no rules?

Know the Eskimo senior-citizen sacrifice ritual “iceberging”? Imagine lily pads of recycled Styrofoam, all along Florida’s coasts. Trump-cultists of all ages and sizes could be lured onto these decoys using red hats, Playboy magazines, and barbecue. Then, untether those pads and we can see just how real the Bermuda triangle is.

What really is the Styro-problem? Is it the permanence? Is it that Styrofoam is made from oil? But look how much cleaner Styrofoam is than oil – I’d drink my coffee from it.

Never seen Styrofoam being made, but in my mind it is a beaker of oil and a drop of catalyst mixing and growing and puffing beyond its container, like right out of a Harold Ramis movie. How much oil could there be in one Styrofoam cup? Two drops? Three? Six? Styro scoffers at my Styrofoam-enabled Advil half caff waste more oil than that at the Starbucks drive-through. 

And there is only so much oil. Are we trying to save it for better uses like diesel fuel or Crocs?

Really, it seems the anti-Styrofoam debate comes down to the waste – permanent pellets of plastic – crushable, but not a good additive for soil or smoothies. I get that is bad. But my municipality burns its non-recyclable waste in a fierce incinerator with pollution scrubbing exhaust. So, is it still bad? The incinerated plastic pellet residue ash is taken by rail car and buried in eastern Oregon by men and women working as ash buryiers. Seems honorable.

But still, there is permanence to the magical foam. On the other hand, with my one of five mugs, there is a lot of washing – at least three times as much water as went into the coffee. Isn’t that bad? With the Styrofoam, it’s into the trash and into the incinerator, no water involved.

Or is water down the drain really nothing, just like Styrofoam? Water wasted by me is cleaned and recycled for you. We just can’t use it at the same time – because I’m using mine to drink coffee in a variety of vessels.