The mid six­ties were pret­ty bitchin. Besides skate­boards and Schwinn Sting-Rays, mus­cle cars like the Mus­tang and the GTO rum­bled through the streets. For the matur­ing baby boomers, Miniskirts, panty­hose, turtle­necks, big curlers and Diet-Pep­si were in vogue. So were Bar­bie and Ken dolls, Trolls and Super­balls. We drank Hi‑C, ate TV Din­ners, lis­tened to the top forty on AM on our tran­sis­tor radios and if you were real­ly hip, you had a lava lamp in your house. It was a fun time but there was seri­ous shit hap­pen­ing beyond the per­ceived safe­ty of the sub­urbs.

1965 was a tran­si­tion­al year of tur­bu­lence that shook the nation. The Civ­il-Rights Move­ment was peak­ing and Viet­nam was becom­ing a quag­mire. The Rev­erend Mar­tin Luther King won the Pulitzer Prize and was declared “Man of the Year” by Time Mag­a­zine the year before. In March he orga­nized a protest march from Sel­ma to the state capi­tol build­ing in Mont­gomery, Alaba­ma. Police broke up the march in sadis­tic fash­ion with tear­gas and clubs. It was broad­cast across the coun­try and shocked every­one includ­ing the pres­i­dent, Lyn­don John­son. He pro­posed a bill that elim­i­nat­ed bar­ri­ers block­ing the South­ern Blacks’ right to vote. Con­gress quick­ly approved the bill that became the Vot­ing Rights Act of 1965. The war in Viet­nam esca­lat­ed with mas­sive bomb­ings in North Viet­nam and 3,500 com­bat troops land­ed in South Viet­nam, join­ing 23,000 Amer­i­can mil­i­tary advis­ers already there.

That sum­mer riots explod­ed in Watts, a black com­mu­ni­ty in Los Ange­les after Cal­i­for­nia High­way Patrol offi­cers bru­tal­ly beat a black motorist sus­pect­ed of drunk­en dri­ving. Hmm, I don’t think that guy said, “Can’t we all just get along?” Six days of riots and loot­ing ensued and was brought to a halt with the help of 20,000 Nation­al Guards­men. South-cen­tral Los Ange­les was vir­tu­al­ly in ruins. Thir­ty-four peo­ple were killed, over two thou­sand riot­ers and bystanders were arrest­ed, and 857 left injured.

There’s a bat­tle out­side
And it is ragin’.
It’ll soon shake your win­dows
And rat­tle your walls
For the times they are a‑changin.’

Bob Dylan

I was ten years old and nev­er expe­ri­enced racism, pover­ty or knew much about war, but I was wor­ried about it some. You couldn’t help but cringe at the ter­ri­ble images on tele­vi­sion. I under­stood enough to know it was trag­ic. You could see fear in the people’s faces or ter­ri­ble anger and feel a sense of dread about what was going on and what was to come.
The only fear I faced was get­ting a good spank­ing from my dad. We all got our share of spank­ing and would have faced the belt more had he not been away so much. It was absolute­ly legal, ordained in fact, that dis­ci­pline could be met­ed out at the dis­cre­tion of the par­ent, teacher, Nun, or base­ball coach. Cops could beat up on poor black peo­ple and get away with it. If some­one felt you had it com­ing, you were gonna get it. I knew about that. At our house, pun­ish­ment was doled out for a vari­ety of child­ish crimes includ­ing talk­ing back, not pay­ing atten­tion, being a smart-aleck, spilling your milk or get­ting in trou­ble at school, fight­ing with your sib­lings, break­ing some­thing or just being stu­pid. You could be in the wrong place at the wrong time and be false­ly accused. Ret­ri­bu­tion found you in a vari­ety of painful and embar­rass­ing meth­ods… A swift kick in the ass, a cuff to the back of your head, a swift sharp slap across the face, a body throt­tle or the dread­ed belt. Just as painful was being called stu­pid or put down like you were an idiot.

Some­times, you did some­thing stu­pid but not real­ize it until after the fact, which was usu­al­ly the case. My broth­er Joe got him­self into a cou­ple of those predica­ments dur­ing our stay in San Diego. Before I get into a golf-relat­ed sto­ry about Joe, we need a lit­tle back­ground.

My dad liked sports and was a very good ten­nis play­er. He was a com­pet­i­tive col­lege play­er and had been the champ at a few of the bases we lived at. He was also a bowler. I won­dered if he was as good as Fred Flin­stone, that was the only bowl­ing I ever watched. Come to think about it, Fred bowled and played golf! He also smoked and drank beer — So did my dad. My father golfed every now and then and kept his bag of clubs in the garage. On week­ends he enjoyed watch­ing foot­ball games, base­ball occa­sion­al­ly, ten­nis, bowl­ing and golf.

On a fold­ing tray next to his chair sat an ash­tray, a cold beer and a huge bowl of fresh­ly popped of pop­corn. Pop­corn gave him gas, bad gas, the kind that hung like a dead­ly nox­ious cloud, usu­al­ly with­in a few paces direct­ly behind him. If you hap­pen to walk through it you faced a life or death strug­gle. You gri­maced and your knees buck­led as your arms thrashed through the thick of it like a drown­ing vic­tim strug­gling to get to the sur­face for a gulp of pre­cious clean air. That wasn’t the only rea­son not to go into the room when a game was on. You bet­ter not talk and dis­turb him or walk in front of the TV, that wasn’t looked on favor­ably. You’d get yelled at or chased away with a threat­en­ing glare. Once, I acci­den­tal­ly knocked his beer over and set him off. I was about to get belt until my mom stepped in that one time to save my butt.

When my father was into a game he took his frus­tra­tion out on the ath­letes and coach­es on TV. Appar­ent­ly many of them were stu­pid, morons or idiots, that’s what he shout­ed any­way, usu­al­ly fol­lowed by a loud “God­damn it!” I have to admit I do the exact thing myself when I watch the Phillies, Eagles or Fly­ers … Like father, like son.

How some­one could sit through hours of golf on tele­vi­sion was a mys­tery to me. It looked absolute­ly bor­ing in com­par­i­son to the action of foot­ball and base­ball. No run­ning, fac­ing down a pitcher’s ball, no body con­tact, get­ting dirty, tack­ling or mak­ing a game win­ning play as the clock ran out. Golf announc­ers whis­pered as a cru­cial putt was attempt­ed. … As if the golfer might turn around at any sec­ond and chas­tise them for inap­pro­pri­ate loud­ness. Polite crowds clapped and the announc­ers gasped, almost void­ing their bowls after a good bunker shot. That year the big three of golf, Jack Nicholas, Arnold Palmer and Gary Play­er ruled the greens. To me, they didn’t look like ath­letes, but rather, rich white guys dressed in sporty sweaters and crisp pleat­ed pants. What was the big deal about golf?