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Archive for September, 2009

The Cancer Clinic*

During the last five years, I have become a regular at the Cancer Clinic, a wing of a prominent hospital in the city of Toronto. At first I did not really think I was sick because I was feeling well and in a state of denial. Eventually, reality set in. Many of the other patients wore conspicuous head coverings indicating that they were undergoing chemo treatment. They were often accompanied by husbands, wives or sons or daughters for emotional support. The cancer clinic is always a beehive of activity with people of all walks of life undergoing tests and waiting to see their respective doctors.

At first I did not really think I was sick because I was feeling well and in a state of denial. Eventually, reality set in…

The routine is the same for most of us. After checking in with a receptionist, we are ushered to the blood lab where, in my case, five vials of blood are taken. We wait till our number comes up. When it’s my turn the female Jamaican technician shouts: “Gohhhdon” as if there is no “R’ in my name. It took a while before I caught on.

After the blood sample we wait and wait for our turn to meet with our doctors. In the meantime we mix and mingle with our fellow patients. Some do puzzles or read books and there is even a basket of knitting stuff. Every once in a while someone will pick up the needles and do a few rows of stitches to pass the time.

Away from the hospital I rarely discuss my condition with friends and family. They seem at a loss as to how to deal with it but at the Cancer Clinic we are all in the same boat to a final but uncertain destination and we exchange medical information freely. It’s a form of therapy.

Away from the hospital I rarely discuss my condition with friends and family. They seem at a loss as to how to deal with it…

During my last visit I found myself seated next to an elderly couple. They were holding hands and I asked what treatment she was taking. Reluctantly she responded that she had just been diagnosed with brain cancer and then tears welled from her eyes. I placed my arm around her and she stopped crying but no words came forth. There was no need to explain.

cancer_clinicEach time I visit the Cancer Clinic, I pause at the entrance and look at the sign over the doors. It took a few years but I have now come to accept that the big “C” in cancer applies to me just like all the other patients.

*CMML, the disease with which I am afflicted, is a blood disorder commonly known as chronic leukemia. It is a relatively rare disease. Only about one person in 100,000 gets it, which means that more than likely I am the only GCSAA member suffering from it.

Think of the golfers!

As a golfer I have come to hate aerated greens with a passion. It’s no fun to find your ball nestled in an aerator hole and wobble to the vicinity of the cup. My friends and I all hate it and become grumpier as the round progresses, and we part on barely speaking terms at the end of the day. Sometimes we walk, rather ride, off the course.

As a superintendent I loved to aerate. I knew from experience that the tired grass at the end of the summer would grow with renewed vigor after aeration. It seemed to jump out of the ground and sometimes required two cuts in a single day. But oh, how the golfers bitched and I did not care because I was the Lord and Master who knew what was best for my domain — never mind the golfers.

Now that the shoe is on the other foot, I feel compelled to advise my erstwhile colleagues how to reduce the pain. Following are some words of wisdom in no particular order.

— If you absolutely must aerate greens during the playing season, use smaller tines, preferably pencil tines. They least effect the roll of the ball.

— Fill the holes with sand or topdressing immediately after aerations. Water in and fill again. A light rolling often helps smooth the surface.

— Be prepared to syringe when aerating with temperatures higher than 80F.

— Never start aerating on either #1 or #18 green, in case something goes wrong. On the #1 hole, golfers get a first impression and on the 18th, a lasting one.

Never start aerating on either #1 or #18 green, in case something goes wrong. On the #1 hole, golfers get a first impression and on the 18th, a lasting one.

— Never aerate greens on a Friday and then head for the cottage.

— Be visible during the process on the first tee and on the course. Commiserate with your golfers and listen to their gripes. No lengthy technical explanations please.

— If you are aerating to reduce compaction, consider partially aerating greens in the cupping areas only. That can save a lot of time.

— Some superintendents at courses with large greens or fewer golfers, may not need to aerate at all and some don’t.

— If you must use large diameter tines, do so in the shoulder season, when fewer golfers are affected.

— Don’t wait too long, because the turf needs to recover before winter arrives.

Finally, no matter how you do it, aerating is like major surgery and as in modern medicine, we should look to do it laparoscopically. With fewer golfers taking up the game and many dropping out, you must do your part to keep the players happy so they’ll come back and play another day.

A brown lawn – A patch of honor?

The socialist mayor of Toronto, an avowed golfer at a private country club, urges the citizens of this fair city to embrace the environmental movement. We should do away with the gas powered mower and use the old push reel-type instead, so the mayor says. Better yet, we should rip out the grass and plant wildflowers. A local gardening tabloid proclaims that a brown lawn in the summer is a patch of honor, proof of one’s environmental correctness to preserve water.

I never thought that in my lifetime the day would come that I should need to apologize for a perfectly trimmed, green lawn, but that day seems to have arrived. Torontonians are taking the mayor’s words to heart and even where I live north of the city, more and more home owners are switching over to naturalized lawns. Audubon has arrived in the suburbs and it’s a sorry sight. Rats are soon to follow.

Frankly, I resent the noise of power mowers, weed eaters and blowers while I am having a libation on my sunny deck in the evening but I can always turn off my hearing aids. Others don’t have that option. The whirr of push reel mower is much more pleasant and the effort makes for a healthy exercise. I can live with that. I can even live with the ban on cosmetic pesticides. For most, it means hand weeding since other pests are rarely a problem. But the naturalized patches in front of people’s premises irk me to no end. They look shabby at the best of times and spoil the appearance of suburbia. I wonder if the mayor suffers from pangs of guilt while he strolls (or rides) down the pristine fairways of his private country club. There are the privileged and then there are the masses.