"Few people who knew me well expected me to make it to 50."
Wednesday, August 26, 2009

I don't know what the life expectancy of this magazine was in the late 1950s, but I dare say that there were a lot of publications born back then that aren't around now. It's odd, but pretty much the only thing I have in common with the rag is age. We are now both 50 years old, but a half century of existence allows an inanimate object such as a magazine to evolve, while the first 47 years of my life were essentially a backward slide from the naked innocence of my birth, through unremarkable formative years in the war zone of 1960s Ulster, to the truculent ignorance of my teens, the subsequent dropping out of high school due to the delusion that I might become a professional golfer, a few years of poverty-stricken hacking and duffing, followed by a strange career that, if it were compared to a tee shot, was a complete top that went straight down the middle, had a few spectacular bounces, but ended up in a deep pool of casual alcohol and drugs, from which I got a free drop into journalism and TV. Needless to say, few people who knew me well expected me to make it to 50. But She Who Must Be Obeyed is 51, older and wiser, had other plans, and I'm probably a dead man now anyway, after writing that bit.

But here we are, and as I write I feel Ziggy, the worst beagle in Texas, nudging my elbow as if there is something to eat in my armpit. Coincidentally, my beloved mound of hound is now seven years and almost two months old, which makes him 50, too, right on the cold wet nose that is now at a level that brings his slurping tackle within reach of my beard, his 50-year-old stick of a tail twitching joyously for no apparent reason other than he seems to have escaped the three other canines here that eat food clearly belonging to him.

It's been almost 13 years now since George Peper, then editor of this rag, made the fatal error of reading a column I had written for a British golf mag that both he and I knew was a pile of smoldering hamster crap. He asked me how heavily I was edited, and I told him that most of my nights had been filled with dreams of how I might get away with editorial homicide, which was why I had quit. He asked me for some unedited copy, after which he offered me this job with the promise that he would leave my work more or less alone, even if I did want to write about dogs, guns, drugs and alcohol, funerals, inventing my own religion, poison ivy on the rectum and other toilet behavior, or to regularly bash the living daylights out of the R&A or USGA. Yippee-ki-yay, bombs away, we were off!

Roughly 150 columns, six editors, and numerous features later, here I am as usual, wondering how this piece got started and where the hell it's going.

Oh, right — 50 years. Writing is the hardest thing I do, and by far the most rewarding. Yeah, sure, I've had a few letters of complaint over the years, even a few that managed to make a good point or two from which I've learned, and one or two of them prosaic and scathing. The majority of the mail, however, has been generally illiterate and bigoted, and this is something that cheers me up immensely, for there is nothing I enjoy more than pissing off illiterate bigots. Occasionally I will even correct one of them with a red Sharpie and send it back with a big red "F" on it. I've even had the occasion to complain about myself, a column that evoked utter rage from several readers who quickly sprung to my defense, bless their hearts, not having realized I'd written the thing myself! Ah yes, my people — complete morons.

Now, before anyone writes in to complain about being labeled a moron, let me say this: Most of my best friends are morons, at least in some way or another, and I'm willing to bet that most of you out there know exactly what I mean. And the best part is, they are friends with you because they think you're a moron, too... and you probably are. It's the clever people you have to be wary of, or at least the ones who think they are clever all of the time. Remember, "I don't know," is always an acceptable answer, and often the correct one, too, even if you do know. That's why I'll always be grateful to Peper for giving me the chance to talk to so many of you each month. I don't know why he did, and if you were to ask him, he probably wouldn't know either.

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