Sunday, July 28, 2019

My Sunday in Bentonville Feeling

No profound insights into the human condition today. 

The Deacon and I spent the weekend up in the Zarks where we enjoyed the 21c Hotel, 2 or 3 restaurants and Crystal Bridges along with hanging out in a bar last night listening to bands.  

The kids come back tonight.  

It was fun while it lasted.

Talk amongst your selves.  

I'm out.  

Sunday, July 21, 2019

My Sunday Feeling

I noticed the piece of paper under one of my wipers as I crossed the parking lot.  That's not unusual at Dickey-Stephens park where the minor league Arkansas Travelers play.  Typically, the stuff you find when you get back to your car consists of coupons to fast food joints or car washes.  

No such luck of finding such minimally useful material on this hot July night at the ballyard.  It was a religious tract put out by something called the Fellowship Tract League out of Ohio. I looked them up online. Their stated purpose is to fulfill the Great Commission and to that end they crank out religious tracts on various subjects in virtually every language on the face of the Earth.  I, along with the other unsuspecting baseball fans were the beneficiary of their outreach that night.

 On the cover of the tract was a cartoon drawing of Christ bearing his Cross and was entitled "Hear Ye Him!"  The drawing was reminiscent of the style of R.Crumb.  It was also highly evocative of another publisher of this kind of propaganda that I experienced in my youth in Southwest Little Rock.

Tracts ( and the Baptists of my youth were big on this mode of communication) put out by Chick Publications back in those days were as ubiquitous as Cliff Notes.  I don't know much about the Fellowship Tract League but Chick specialized in Catholic baiting and hellfire and brimstone theology, usually narrated in comic book form.  And typically they depicted somebody rejecting God and getting tossed into the Inferno as a consequence.  Subtle, your typical Chick tract, was not.  And it was not unusual back in those days to find exhortations to right living  on your car, in the high school parking lot, at church or at the grocery store.  I typically just tossed them.  After all, if you read one you read them all.

Since I hadn't seen this kind of propaganda in some time, I decided to read it when I got home. The pamphlet left unbidden by me on my vehicle was only slightly more subtle than the appeals to reason put out by Chick.  At least there were no cartoon drawings of former martini drinkers getting tossed into Perdition by the very God that professed to love us buried somewhere earlier in the text.  Which I found a refreshing departure from the entreaties concerning the bad religion of my youth.  

However, the back page gives you a couple of blocks to check.  "I choose to reject Christ" or "I choose to accept Christ."  It then provides a place for you to put down your name and address so you can mail it back.  I guess. So naturally, I started wondering if anybody had sufficiently pissed me off recently such that I would fill in their contact info and mail it back to the League.  After first rejecting Christ allegedly on their behalf of course.

Now of course this is all preposterous on a number of levels.  If I choose not to participate does silence equate to "rejection?"  As a matter of contract law, silence is rarely an acceptance.  Or at least that's what I think I remember at least.  Are my choices really that binary?

Also, I attend church.  Actually 3 different ones if you want to get technical.  And I suppose that your average Travelers fan has a church home.  Isn't it hubris or at least presumptuous to assume that us baseball fans need to get "reached" by a brand of Christian theology to which we may not subscribe?  Or even if I do, can't I go to the ballgame and not be bothered by literature left on my truck even if it is left by a fellow traveler?

It reminds me of a couple of memorable attempts to proselytize me in my past.  The first one was by some earnest young man from one of the "Big Box" churches out in West Little Rock.  For reasons that are still unknown, he was told (evidently by someone who didn't know me very well) that I might be willing to help fund his attempt to "evangelize" the City of London.  

I listened to his pitch.  I then I asked him " Correct me if I'm wrong.  But don't they have churches over there?  Like the Church of England?"  End of discussion.

The second pitch happened about 5 years ago.  I was sitting on my porch having a gin and tonic when another earnest young man approached me on behalf of the Mormons.  He asked me if I "needed" a card that explained Jesus Christ for me.

"Well Son," I said after taking a sip of my beverage. " I go to that big Methodist Church around the corner.  I'm seriously involved with a female deacon in that denomination.  I play golf with a Baptist preacher and I teach at a Catholic boy's school."

He looked at me with a blank expression on his face.

"So I don't guess you need one of these cards.  You have a good evening Sir."

"You too Son.  Be careful out there."

I somehow don't think that I could have the same sensible and civil conversation with the clandestine representative of the Fellowship Tract League as I did with the young Mormon boy if I had caught him in the act of evangelizing my vehicle.  Just a guess.  At least the Mormons have the guts to do it to your face.

So am I gonna send in an ersatz rejecting ballot with somebody's name and address on it?  Nah. 

I am not mad enough at anybody to sic the local office of the Fellowship Tract League on them.  

Nobody deserves that.  But I'm keeping the tract in my office in case I change my mind.

Sunday, July 07, 2019

My Sunday Feeling

Today is the final round of the annual 4th of July tournament over at War Memorial Golf Course.  It's been played over there since 1933 or so.  And by final, I mean final.  After today's round, the City of Little Rock will close the oldest golf course in the city.  

The city says it can't afford to maintain 4 golf courses.  So it is closing War and Hindman to the southwest.  Hindman closed last Friday I think.  First Tee, located over by Hindman, has been spared the chopping block despite losing the most money of any of the golf courses maintained by the city.  Rebsamen has likewise been spared for no other reason than the city pumped a zillion bucks into it some 10 years ago.  It is the premier municipal course in Little Rock.  So I get that.

But War is the only one that doesn't flood.  It has been the traditional launching pad for many a kid's love of the game.  I used to caddy for my father when he played the 4h of July tournament.  My mother used to drop my brothers John and Bob off over there with peanut butter sandwiches and money for green fees and a couple of pops.  They would play all day.  Many local golfers were raised on that course and have similar stories.  I am reliably advised that War was the first local course that allowed black golfers on.  And every Thanksgiving and Christmas, weather permitting, you would see black guys out there walking the closed course.  Of course, nobody cared.  And indeed, anytime I was out there, which was weekly, there were most always African-American players on the course.  

The fact that War Memorial is being closed by a government run by the city's first elected black mayor is an irony that is not lost on me or on a lot of folks.  

Sure.  It is a quirky little par 65 track that is outgunned by modern players with souped up clubs.  It's also used as a parking lot for when the Razorbacks make their cameo appearances in Little Rock.

Anyway, my buddy Phil who is a real player always said his problem with War was that it made guys like him try to do stupid stuff.  My brother John who is likewise an excellent golfer for years would not set foot out there because it was his opinion that all War was good for was screwing up anybody that could halfway play.  The fact that I was once tied with Phil through like 11 or so out there is all the proof you need.

"You're doing great," Phil said. " Just keep it up. You'll probably beat me."

I promptly blew up.  Which was the bastard's plan all along.  

And sure.  I will miss it.  Rick and I have played out there on Sundays for at least 15 years.  I play it once or twice a week by myself.  It's close by and convenient.  And I have a lot of fond memories of my times there.

And I fully get that my convenience and happiness should not be confused with the greater good or drive government policy.

Which leads me to the observe that a couple of interesting arguments in favor of closing it as a golf course have popped up in what passes for the marketplace of ideas on this issue.  One argument is that golf is an elitist sport that the city shouldn't subsidize.  And secondly, as night followeth the day, there is the notion that those who are opposed to the golf course closing are doing so out of a sense of wounded privilege.  I got accused of that myself the other night from a most surprising, at least to me, source.  

Not only is the argument tedious it is ridiculous.  Anybody with a 30 buck green fee (I think it's 30.  I wouldn't know since I get the senior rate and we tended to play at twilight) and a bag of clubs could show up and play.  You didn't even need a tee time.  If you ever had the wild notion to try your hand at the game War was the place to do it.  And you saw people out there all the time who were obvious novices.  Are people like that going to go to First Tee or Rebsamen?  Not likely.  War was pretty user friendly.  Like John said, it would screw up a good golfer.  But just about any hacker could halfway scrape it around out there.

So what now?  Who knows?  The city shut it and Hindman down during peak golf revenue season with no plan other than to have a committee study proposals to "repurpose" them to make them more accessible to more people.  Walking trails, soccer fields, and climbing walls are some proposed activities being bandied about.  And while I am not wired for paranoia myself there are a considerable number of people that believe that the city has no ultimate plan other to sell War off to developers.  This would be a damn shame.  I don't believe it. But I don't discount it out of hand.    

In the meantime, while they are considering ways to "repurpose" the old course, I suppose they may mow it.  Or they may not.  Already they have run folks out they caught camping in the woods off number 3.  I heard of one guy who took up residence over by the zoo around the former archery range who had erected a "no trespassing" sign by his personal shelter space.  Does the city really think this will not get worse with nobody out there playing golf? Do they have a plan for dealing with that?  

But I ramble.  What's done is done and there's no use crying over spilt turf dressing.  Naturally, a lawsuit was filed that seeks injunctive relief.  Some folks are reposing faith in that.  At least they do until they hear me tell those that have asked me that the suit in question is completely uncontaminated by merit for about 5 reasons off the top of my head.  

As unthinkable as it may be to those that have played it or drove by it everyday even, War Memorial Golf Course is no more.  Everybody will live.

That doesn't mean that guys like me and Rick have to like it.  

Looking back on it, I just wish I had joined those walkers on Thanksgiving Day one time.  Those guys had a blast out there.  

Too late now.