The Forward Press

FORWARD PRESS BLOG 2They are laughing a lot at the Young Larch Country Club in Pine Plains, a small town in Millerton County, at the foot of the Berkshires.

At the bar, a paunchy man in a blue Lacoste tee shirt held his wife’s hand and told a story about a great amateur golfer who was famous for his forward press.

“What’s a …….?” said his wife.

The paunchy man pressed his wife’s hand and winked at her. “A great amateur golfer walked onto the third tee,” he began, “and there’s a woman sitting on a stone fence behind the tee.”

‘“Hey, Miss Roosevelt,’” the great amateur golfer called to her, ‘“how about playing this hole with me.?’”

‘“My name isn’t Roosevelt. It’s Washington.’”

‘“Well, do you?’”

‘“Do I what?’”

‘“Want to play this hole with me?’

‘“Why not? You don’t squint.’”

‘“But I do forward press. Hope that doesn’t change your mind.’”

It was Henry Attas, the great amateur golfer, who now lit a cigarette with a big cigarette lighter and then blew out the flame with his mouth rather than snapping the top with his hand. He looked deeply into Ms. Washington’s eyes.

“Why should it?” she looked back deeply.

‘“It’s so much a part of me. Whether I want to or not, I begin my swing with a forward press. Been doing it since I started playing.’”

“Don’t look so deep into my eyes.”

“So much a part of me.”

‘“Well, what’s a ……?’”

‘“It starts the swing. It’s the takeaway. Everything else follows after the forward press,’” he said.  ‘“It’s a little like being born, but subtler. You push your hands forward ever so slightly just before taking the club back. Once you start, all becomes inevitable. Come here, I’ll show you.’”

‘“Another time.’”

‘“Come here.’”

‘“You’re not going to get me.’”

‘“I’m going to get you.’”

‘“You’ve got me.’”

‘“I feel so much more myself when I’m with you.’”

‘“More than with the forward press?’”

‘“The forward press gives me self-belief and that’s what you need to play your best. Don’t you think so, Ms. Washington?’”


‘“And when you lose self-belief, that’s when you’re at the end of your career. It’s true, Ms. Washington.’”

At the bar, the paunchy man winked at his wife again. “And that’s the story about the great golfer,” he said. His wife winked back and took her hand from his.

The paunchy man who loved golf said, “Ben Hogan won the US Open.  Forward Press. Sam Snead. Forward press. Byron Nelson. Forward press. Gary Player forward pressed with his right knee.” He solemnly lifted his eyes towards the ceiling of the bar. “The forward press,” he said. “One of the best movements to ever grace the golf swing.” And then he said, “Remnant of a bygone era.”







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This is what the intoxicated soul does:intoxicated-soul-2

It daydreams and gets stuck at various points of the daydream because it can’t stop picturing what the people in the daydream are wearing, down to the minutest detail – buttons, sequins, fabric – things like that. Socks. Toenail polish.

The intoxicated soul howls with grief after the death of its dog – a dog to which it had no love to give, just a biscuit at first, then all of its heart.

And if the intoxicated soul stands in front of a portrait of the man who can handle a lot of adulation, then he will feel better. Lo! he will feel good. He will want to tell the man who can handle a lot of adulation something confidential and disgusting. He will want to spy for him, he will want to turn over to him everything he has heard about enemy missiles, about enemy cyber attacks, about enemy wiretapping, about enemy nuclear weapons.  He will want to tell him of the importance of finding a new enemy before squashing the old. Don’t wait, he will say.

If the intoxicated soul spies for the man who can handle a lot of adulation, he will say that he spies because he is a true believer, not because he gets paid. He will say that no amount of money could shake his belief in the man who can handle a lot of adulation.

Craving to be obsequious, the intoxicated soul will ask the man who can handle a lot of adulation what he thinks of Macbeth by William Shakespeare.


“I knew you’d say that.  Pirates of Penzance?”

“Choked me up.”

“Choked you what?”

“You heard me.”

“Oh, yes. Up. …….Mexico?”

“Corrupt. Can’t attract the best into government. Drug dealers. Crime. Laziness. This country was lucky to get me.”

What about Coronado Coal Company?”


The intoxicated soul put his book in his lap and looked at the man who could handle a lot of adulation.

“Whatcha reading?” asked the man.

“A book on the history of war. Civilization is the history of war. War. War. War.”

“You think you’re telling me something new? If it wasn’t war, it would be something else. It’s always something.”


No more buttons, sequins and fabric. No more socks and toenail polish. It is time to plunder and destroy.

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convening    This one woman was the sole employee and executive director of a very busy nonprofit. The nonprofit’s mission was to convene. The executive director convened seminars, street fairs, breakfasts, dinners, symposiums. She designed signs to be put up on lampposts, intersections supermarkets. You name it, she convened it.

All the activities of the nonprofit were devoted to thinking about the future of cities. As if the cities would have no future if no one thought about them. As if Tuesday would not follow Monday if no one thought about what would follow Monday.

This one woman, short, stocky Olympia, did all of that. She did it all alone. Why did she do it all alone? Because the stingy board of directors, not one of whom contributed a dime to the nonprofit, didn’t want to hire anyone else. But these future-of-cities fantasists did love to see their names on the nonprofit’s letterhead. At first the names of the board of directors were listed on the right side of the letterhead. Then the board of directors instructed Olympia to move their names to the left side of the letterhead. Left was better. So Olympia did all that by herself, alone. Some on the board thought if she could do all that by herself, maybe they could get rid of her and “all that” would keep happening by itself. After all, look at all that was happening through Olympia alone. From one to none was not much.

But much unhappiness comes from going it alone even if , like Olympia, you are also going along. Over time, Olympia learned that when there are many of us, it’s different. Then we are together. And we get in the habit of listening to each other. What others say concerns us too. That’s how we learn who we are and what we must do, and for whom. It’s how we learn what is expected of us and how to do what is expected of us, and how to deny our own interests, and even how to laugh at our own interests.

Long after she had left the future-of-cities nonprofit and become a renowned, fiercely competitive volley ball player, she remembered those lessons: Everywhere there are battles we must fight; fighting is where the money is;  at the same time we must be vigilant and alert; we are in a battle that we will win; winning also is where the money is.



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sulks-blog-4“Die! Die!” he shouted.

Screaming from defeat, he had almost sailed into the bay when the fan belt broke coming over the bridge at 90mph. A churning sea would have come up at him with death in its foam.

“Did you hear what I said?”  the golfer said.

“Of course.” His caddy, who had been dozing, shook himself awake. “It was my fault,” he said.

“I blame myself,” the golfer said, pulling into a gas station.

“Don’t blame yourself.”

“That I didn’t read the putt myself.”

“Don’t blame yourself,” the caddy repeated.

“That I listened to you is why I’m blaming myself!” he shot at him.  “That the ball didn’t even come near the hole.  Missed by 6 inches. I five-putted a green!  How could you mis-read a putt so badly?! Five putts! I wasn’t supposed to ever lose.  Ever!”

The fan belt was fixed and they left the gas station. They were on the bridge again.

“Don’t do this to yourself,” the caddy said. “It was my fault.”

“I blame myself for trusting you. This is the first match I’ve ever lost. I wasn’t supposed to lose.”

The golfer blasted his caddy with his eyes.

“It’s not over yet. Not by a long shot. Your life is all ahead of you.”

The golfer looked at his caddy, gorging himself on his anger.

“You’ve got to get over the sulks,” the caddy said uneasily.

The golfer pulled into the country club’s parking lot. When they got out of the car he attacked the caddy again with his eyes.

“You’ve just got to,” his caddy said. He didn’t look into the golfer’s eyes.

The backstory: One autumn day long before the golfer had become the golfer, he went downtown with his mother. It was lunch hour and the streets were full. They passed a bookstore with a display of old stained maps in wooden stands.

The golfer looked at the maps and suddenly inside of him there was a rush of a feeling of greatness. He looked up at his mother and told her that one day he would be famous. “That’s nice, darling.”

“And when I’m famous,” said the little boy, “I’ll never do anything wrong. I’ll always win.”

“I’m sure you won’t,” said his mother.”  I’m sure you will.”

Time flew by and soon he was taking his first golf lesson in a dilapidated room in the back of a sporting goods store. The dashing golf professional was talking to some people in the room. What he said about the golf swing was this:

“When you are very young, like this little boy here, you don’t need to have someone teach you the structure of the golf swing. You don’t need to think. You just need to have someone show you how to swing. And then you imitate exactly how they swing.”  And the dashing golf pro thumped six or seven balls into the canvas net ten yards away, holding his follow-through a self-admiring beat too long. Then he gave the golfer a small golf club. “Now you do what I just did,” he said. And the golfer imitated the golf pro for all he was worth, and thumped the ball flush into the net, holding the proud follow-through just like the golf pro had. And he thought, “So golf is going to be what makes me famous.”

The golf pro smiled and cocked his head to the side. “This young man is never going to lose a golf tournament. You just wait and see.”

Now they were back in the present and the golfer had just lost the first match of his eight-year career.

They were at the triumphal dais, a victory dinner in his honor. Shadows came and went on the candlelit heaps of fresh baked bread, logs of butter, platters of smoked fish, bowls of caviar, salmon, ceviche, roast bison,  boneless fried chicken, organic black and red carrots, broccoli, green beans with bacon, pork tenderloin, mashed potatoes, zucchini. Soup and hot pumpkin pie were all ahead of them, all yet to come.

“I can’t look at this food,” the golfer muttered as he approached the dais, decked out with food and flowers in his honor. “I just can’t.”

If things had gone right, had gone as they were supposed to, he would have been sitting on the dais exchanging looks of triumph with his caddy. Instead, he stood limply in front of the table of triumph, heaped with food and flowers.

And suddenly, in his despair, his appetite unleashed itself on the golfer. It rose up riotously against him. He grabbed a wooden spoon and stood in front of the dais, joylessly gulping Beluga caviar. The outside world receded. It was just the caviar and him. His caddy nudged him but he glared at him. The vice-president of the club tugged at his arm, but he pushed him away. The golfer ate all the caviar, and there was a pound of it in each of the two crystal bowls. Years later no one, including the golfer, remembered his five-putt that day or his first loss ever, but they still remembered the caviar that he ate greedily, sulkily.

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The Reins of Power

There was a man who was out of his mind.businessman riding white horse, through obstacles He sat at the edge of the Lagoon of War and Peace with his senior adviser. This man who was out of his mind could handle a lot of adulation, and his senior adviser could give a lot of it. The great misfortune of this man who was out of his mind is that he had just gotten the reins of power and had immediately possessed them. He knew that a nation must be led, and that the problem of every government was the problem of responsible leadership.

The senior adviser said, “It doesn’t matter that they didn’t award you the Nobel Peace Prize. That’s what we have great people like you for.  They can bide their time. Until it comes.”

The man who was out of his mind nodded. “So true. Until it comes.”

“Until what comes?”

“The time. What else? You just said it.”

“So true,” said the sycophantic senior adviser.

“I have a lovely vision of America and Europe,” began the man who was out of his mind. “America comes first because it begins with the first letter of the alphabet. In Europe, government had always been the private property of a few families of thieves. The Hapsburgs, the Hohenzollerns, the Romanovs. What were the concerns of these thieves and tyrants? Who did they feel themselves responsible to? No one. Even the churches were at their service. Oh, I forgot the Medici’s.”

“Fortunately,” said the senior adviser, “Europe got rid of these families of thieves. Things have changed. People can develop in freedom now.”

The man who was out of his mind said, “In greatness too. Yes,” he held up his hand, “they got rid of the dynasties, but now government is the private property of banks and corporations. Same thieves, different names. Terrible. Banks and corporations. Terrible. And what is the mantra of these thieves? The mantra is power. Accumulate more and more power. The people who allegedly elected them are subsidiary.”

I think the word is “secondary”, said his senior adviser.

“Same thing. Subsidiary. Secondary. The people provide soldiers, pay taxes, take part in protest marches, write poems, paint, compose music. So a little civilization, a little culture develops, but it’s a lame culture because it can’t develop its potential. It can even be a peaceable lame culture, but the time always comes when it must go to war because the thieves are at its head.”

The senior adviser said, “Truer words were never spoken. Some of the music’s not too bad, by the way.”

The man who was out of his mind looked at his senior adviser and lifted an eyebrow. “Are you making fun of me?

“Of course not, Wynne.  No.”


“Oh, no!  Where would I get the strength, sir?”

“What do you mean strength? I don’t understand.”

“Neither do I. Neither do I, Mr. American.” And the senior adviser apologized in a nervous whisper, muttering something about liberty and free markets.



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116 lenox avenue is a slum

DRESDEN THE EMPTY HOUSEIt’s November now, despite the election. The weather in New York is damp and chilly. There’s a lot going on in the world. Revolution, unrest, Pakistan Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, the United States. A big plane clipped a small plane yesterday at Indianapolis and the pilot of the small plane, cool as a cucumber, said “send a truck, they just hit us.” Lots of other planes made perfect landings all over the rest of the world. The president of France is quarreling with the president of Germany over who will help or get rid of the most number of desperate refugees. Let’s hope they straighten it out. Pleasantly nervous and admitting it too, William and Kate got married in 2011.  It’s amazing that such things can happen.

At the New York office of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, three executives from a charitable organization stood up when the division head walked in. She put her cane on the conference table and got down to brass tacks immediately by staring sternly at Martin Stanky, the president of the charitable organization.

“Why won’t Sowers of Charity put the $200,000 into the building, Mr. Stanky,” she asked.  “The building is a slum; it has 282 building code violations. Why won’t Sowers of Charity put the $200,000 in?”

“We were told we’d never get our money back.”

“This has Sowers of Charity all over it, Mr. Stanky. Sowers of Charity is a global organization.  It’s global.” An aide leaned over and whispered in her ear.

“No? OK. Sowers of Charity is a nationwide organization, Mr. Stanky. Nationwide. Wouldn’t it be worthwhile to put $200,000 into the building? Just for the agency itself? Its reputation?”

“We need money to fix the building up and. . . . . “

“You have the money. Fix it up.”

“And somehow the building got into bad condition and tenants moved out. So our rent base has been steadily diminishing. There just isn’t the money to fix up the building. The only money we are getting now is the subsidy from you folks at HUD, because the tenants don’t pay their rent.”

“But the building isn’t in habitable condition. Your tenants are going to court and citing you with violations. Hundreds of them. No hot water. No heat. Roaches, Mice. Broken windows. Non-working stoves, non-working refrigerators.  The chimney collapsed. They haven’t had heat in six weeks. You shouldn’t even be getting the subsidy from us.”

“Four weeks. And the chimney has been fixed.”

“Rotting pipes, collapsed ceilings. One apartment has a hole in the bedroom that’s four by five feet.”

“Well, anyone can go to court and say this and this is wrong and that is wrong.”

“But at 116 Lenox Avenue, it’s all true.”

“Oh yes!  I’m not denying that for a second. Actually, Ms. Prinz, I just want to clear something up. One sixteen Lenox Avenue is a service-enriched program. It’s a family housing program. In June we’ll hear about our request for a loan of a million and a half dollars from the Housing Trust fund. If we get it, we’ll completely rehabilitate the building.”

“Mr. Stanky, 116 Lenox Avenue is a slum. You must do something now. It can’t wait until June.”

That night around midnight, 19-year old Thomas Medina walked into his building and was slammed against the wall by six cops from the 46th Precinct.

“Where do you live?” said one.

“I live here.”

“We didn’t ask you that. We asked for the number.”

“One sixteen.”

“Wise guy. The whole thing.”

“One sixteen Lenox Avenue.”

The cops frisked and frisked Thomas from head to toe.

“Watch your step,” they said when they let him go from the wall he had been slammed against.  “We’re watching you.”

It’s amazing that such things can happen.

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I had a toy dog. His name was Boom Boom.

boom-boomI used to ride around on him when I was two and three.  I’d fall off and go “Boom!” That’s how he got the name Boom Boom.  I loved that dog and I took him with me when we moved to a new apartment when I was 4. My mother said there wasn’t enough room for Boom Boom in our new apartment near the Hudson River and so Boom Boom had to stay in the storage room in the basement. I’d think of Boom Boom, all alone, patiently existing in the storage room. At some point the storage room, filled with valises and trunks, became the bike room, filled now with valises and trunks and bikes.

Boom Boom never knew a needle and its pain, never knew joy or fear, disappointment, bliss or courage. But it seemed to me that he was always on the verge of knowing them, that he was always on the verge of becoming real. Doesn’t it often seem better to be on the verge of something than to actually get there? Because the verge of getting there is filled with anticipation of the yet to come, with total focus of your organism on the yet to come. When the verge spills over into the culmination, into the gotten there, into the actually happened, there is an immediate falling off into less. No more anticipation, no more total focus. If the culmination is A, the instant after the culmination is A-1. So I thought it was probably better for Boom Boom to always remain on the verge of being real.

When I was five, Mommy and I went to the storage and bike room. We took Boom Boom out of the basement.  I started to cry. “You’re too big a girl to have a toy dog,” she said. When you’re bigger we’ll get you a real dog.” When we got to the street, Mommy told me to say goodbye to Boom Boom. I told her I didn’t want him to go. But she said again that I was too big a girl to have a toy dog.  My mother picked Boom Boom up under his tummy and went around the corner. Mommy came back, but Boom Boom never did. For a while after that, I didn’t want to call my mother “Mommy”. I wanted to punish her for taking Boom Boom away from me. But I couldn’t stop calling her Mommy. Years went by, like they always do. When I finally got the nerve to not call her Mommy, it didn’t matter anymore. And I was always on the verge of getting a real dog.

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