Monday, June 27, 2011

Travis McGee, Bret Maverick & Trent Jones

A severe, icy morning in late January 2009 shoved Florida into my mind as I fought traffic on the way to my gym in Raleigh, N.C. I rode an exercise bike and listened to a collection of Jimmy Buffett songs that kept me thinking about Key West, Miami, and Tampa Bay. Eventually, I trudged into the wet area and eased into the whirlpool.

Later, as I stretched out on a white, somewhat durable plastic lounge chair, I thought about Travis McGee, the hero of John D. MacDonald's legendary series, who lived on a house boat in Ft. Lauderdale. I missed Travis almost as much as I missed the sun that morning. I wished John D. was still with us, and that another Travis adventure would soon be available to read.

I stretched out on the lounge chair and drifted toward a light nap with images of Travis and his friend, Meyer, having cocktails on The Busted Flush. At one point, Travis morphed into Bret Maverick, dealing cards and carrying on, but instead of a casino, he sat at a round table for eight in a private room at a country club. And rather than Bret's trademark black coat, matching pants, white shirt and black string tie, Travis wore a white golf shirt, navy shorts and ancient Reebok running shoes with no socks.

I saw cards sliding across the table to each player, and I recalled the chorus to the theme song for the TV series MAVERICK:

Riverboats ring your bell
Fare the well, Annabel
Luck is the lady that he loves the best
Natchez to New Orleans
Living on jacks and queens
Maverick is a legend of the west

This intrigued me, as I'm partial to golf courses, Seven-Card Stud, hanging out, talking smack, and avoiding work.

I drove home and got involved with other matters, but later that evening, the image of Travis McGee turning into Bret Maverick returned, grabbed me by the throat, and refused to let go. I'd written lyrics for songs, horrid poetry, stuffy plays, short stories, newspaper columns, and magazine articles, but I'd never found the attention span or the motivation to venture down (or up) the meandering path that leads to a completed novel. I thought The Trent Jones Spell would pass.

It didn't.

Pretty soon, I stitched together some of the places I've been and some of the people I encountered along the way. And Trent Jones began to take on a life of his own.

He's done some things that made me cringe, and I want to believe his drinking problem is even worse than mine. I was able to make a choice in my life, but because I want to write a series, I don't think Trent is going to be able to turn his back on the windy side of care, as Shakespeare might say. Actually, I can guarantee it.

Trent Jones is happiest when he has just a bit more than he can handle, whether that might be on a losing streak in cards or romance, poor putting, or someone with a gun who wants to kill him. He drinks too much, lives too much for today, and is easily distracted by good-looking women with uncertain intentions. In fact, the more uncertain, the better.

He's lazy, somewhat self-absorbed, and has a blinking neon light when it comes to morality. There's no doubt he'd rather play golf, deal cards and sip single malt than focus on the real world. But when violent push comes to lethal shove, particularly with his friends, a different Trent Jones emerges.

And maybe you will agree. He's a good guy in spite of himself.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Rory McIlroy & Tiger Woods


Comparing Rory to Tiger (this morning) is understandable, particularly with such a dominating performance in the U.S. Open.

A closer look at Tiger's runaway victory at Pebble Beach in 2000, and you find that he was the only player to finish the event under par, and he won by 15 shots.

Yesterday, 20 players, including Rory, finished under par for the week.

This, of course, does not diminish what Rory accomplished, but in my opinion, puts the week in sharper perspective.

There's so much to admire with The Rory, even before you analyze his swing, comment on his play, mull his vast potential.

1. He's a resolute, old-headed young man, coming into his own with focus and humility, who suffered horrific, confidence-sucking rounds in the British Open and The Masters that he handled with grace.

2. After the final round at The Masters, he gave without a doubt a fantastic interview with Peter Kostis that demonstrated he'd already started putting the disaster into true perspective. That night (or the following day) on a private plane flight with Charl Schwartzel (who has the same agent), Rory was seen in a picture widely distributed online and Twitter congratulating his friend. That did not remind me of anyone.

3. Then, Rory hooked up with putting guru Dave Stockton, worked on his short game, spoke with and listened to Jack Nicklaus, who discussed failure in a big event as being a springboard to eventual success – if you keep at it. This may sound a tad maudlin, or simplistic, but the result this week speaks for itself.

Clearly, Rory has unlimited potential –so it seems today. I think he will be an enormous factor in professional golf, and I also believe he'd be among the first to say he'd relish staring down Tiger Woods on the back nine of any tournament, particularly a major.  I hope that comes to pass.

Those predicting that Tiger Woods is finished might be right. Then again, wouldn't it be wonderful for golf to have a 21st century version Nicklaus vs. Watson?

There's been so much talk the past two seasons about The Young Guns, who, for the most part, have either shot with blanks or missed their targets. Most golf observers wondered which one of these phenomenons would rise to the next level.

We have our answer.