I have this thing about drowning. Or, rather, almost drowning.

I never learned how to swim as a kid. I also (apparently) wouldn’t wear shorts or even, short sleeves, but that’s a whole ‘nother story!

Anyway, I developed a terrible fear of water as I got older. I actually knew how to swim (normally & underwater), but there hadda be a destination I could reach as I couldn’t tread water nor float.

Just couldn’t get myself to relax enough.

It all fits in very nicely with my fear of heights, scary rides, snakes, dancing & asking girls out. Anyway…

I was up at Salesian Camp in the Catskills Mountains in NY (“the Jewish Alps”) with my buddy Vinny Tarzia when we were about 12 or so. It was run by the Salesian order of Brothers & we were there for 2 weeks.

All in all, I had a really good time.

Except this one time when a bunch of us went out on the lake in row boats. There were maybe 3-4 boats in our group, with a number of others scattered around the lake

Within no time flat, a splash fight broke out. Kids in all the boats were using their paddles to soak everyone else on the other boats.

Good, clean fun.

Suddenly (from what I was later told by a counselor), one of the other rowboats approached mine from the rear as we were trading fire with another boat.


One of the kids behind me clubs me in the back of the head with his oar! No, it wasn’t a slip or an accident. He bopped me right in the head from behind.

No warning.

The next thing I knew, I woke up underwater, several feet below the surface in this cloudy green atmosphere.

I soon felt someone grab ahold of me…and I wouldn’t let go!

One of the counselors who witnessed this “savage attack” raced over with his boat & jumped in after me!

Saved my life.

Naturally, I was pretty shook up, though I did NOT cry. My buddies relayed the entire story of what happened to me later in the cabin.

I waited a day, then beat the living shit outta this punk. I guess I must’ve threatened to strangle him to death as he went to the head counselor to rat on me. I enlisted the expert witness of my life-saving counselor who testified as to what this idiot had done to me.

The head counselor looked at him & said, “You did that to him?”.

When he nodded “yes”, the counselor told him, “Well then, you got what you deserved. And you’re lucky he didn’t do you any worse than he did!”

I still got disciplined, but my parents didn’t get called to come & pick me up.

Many years later, when I was running CitiPhone out on Long Island, the entire management team (me & my managers & our spouses)…

*** NEWS ALERT ***

I fully understand that proper English is “my managers & I”, just like I know that “wanna”, “hadda” & other Brooklynese terms that I use are not generally accepted by the Webster dude.

I get it.

But I was once told by an old boss of mine, Joe Barbara, that I write just like I tawk. I guess that was supposed to be constructive criticism, but I took it as a compliment.

I told him, “Joe, I’m lucky enough when my brain is able to come up with a cognitive thought. I don’t wanna complicate things by then making it decide if it’s coming through my mouth or through my fingers!”

I don’t take direction well.


…decided to go canoeing on the Connetquot River. Actually, they decided as I rarely gravitate toward things where I can die.

Anyway, there we are in this canoe (Laurie & I) paddling down a very narrow, winding section of the river (which was more like a skinny stream at this point) & the canoes were having a hard time getting through.

“Let’s get out of our canoes & we’ll just walk them through this part of the river!”

Seemed like a good idea. I look around & see (I think it was) Delia Martuge & her husband, John, get out of their canoe & they’re standing in, like, knee-deep water.

That seemed easy enough, I thought.

I step out & the next thing I know, I sink straight down! The water stopped right at my nose.

I’m not sure if I let out a l’l girlie scream or not, but I quickly grabbed for the canoe. Laurie’s laughing like a damned hyena & I’m hearing, “You OK there?”

Whose stupid idea was this?!?

Probably about 15, 16 years after that, I’m down in San Antonio when my buddies & I are golfing at Woodlake Country Club. It was once a fancy-fancy place in its prime, but it’s definitely seen better days. We didn’t care as we went to golf, not socialize. I know Rich Green was with me (as we always golfed every Saturday & Sunday morning regardless) as well as Bryan Cardenas, I believe. Not sure who our 4th was.

Anyway, we’re finishing up our round on the par-5 18th hole. You tee off straight down the fairway, then depending on where you’re sitting, you may hafta cut the corner of a small pond to continue up the Z-shapes fairway & toward the green.

We had been undergoing a drought as we often do during the summers in San Antonio & the edge of the pond had receded a good 40-50 feet. As such, it exposed what had been part of the pond bottom…and you could see hundreds upon hundreds of golf balls semi-buried in the caked mud!

This is gonna be like picking cotton, I thought. Rich & I always carried these telescoping ball retrievers so you could get balls that you hit into the water.

Since we were usually the first group “off the box” in the morning (the first group to tee off) & we golfed like speed demons (What’s this aiming nonsense?), we’d often be several holes ahead of the group behind us

We’d usually take advantage of this opportunity to go fishing…for lost golf balls.

At some of the higher-end courses we golfed at, they’d always have marshals patrolling the grounds & this little side sport of ours was usually frowned upon…especially since the workers themselves would scrape the water hazards & sell the balls they found. Use a little bleach to clean ‘em up & sell ‘em at a reduced price.

But the better (more expensive) the course, the better the balls you would find.

Woodlake was pretty reasonably priced, meaning we’d usually find crappy balls, but there were always a few diamonds in the rough.

(BTW, I just made a golf joke there…”in the rough”. Get it?

Actually, in the water hazard, but you’d often find them in the high, wild rough as well.)

Anyway, there were these hundreds of semi-submerged balls, stuck in the mud, and they were all calling my name!

“Hey, stupid, come & save us! We’re burning to death in this scorching sun & you can just grab as many as you can carry!”

I set out across this dry, caked mud to retrieve my treasure.

After a few steps, I sink straight down, up to my waist!

Now I’m thinking that I’m gonna die in this damned quicksand mud!

I struggle like hell to free myself.

I finally get free (God forbid anyone comes out to help me!) & I must’ve looked like the Creature from the Black Lagoon.

This must’ve been some special kind of alien mud. It was gray, smelled like shit & stuck to me like (insert your own phrase here)!

Boy, was I glad it was the 18th hole so I headed straight to the parking lot, making sure the nasty Woodlake marshal didn’t see me.

I stripped completely & changed into a pair of shorts & a tee shirt I had in my Explorer.
I threw my golf shorts, shirt & socks away, as well as the towels I used to scrape this yeccch off of me!

I made my getaway “cleanly”. We waited a few weeks before returning to Woodlake (we probably rotated amongst 12-15 different courses in & around San Antonio so we had lots of choices). Besides, it was quite a drive out to Woodlake from where I lived (just south of Helotes) so it wasn’t any major inconvenience to us.

Ah, this reminds me of another story about Woodlake CC, but this one had nothing to do with almost drowning.

I was golfing with Robert Barboza, Manuel Lucia & Ed Earl (all good Citi buddies)

Robert recently started with Citi as a Manager in CitiPhone, coming over from AT&T.

We’re standing on the 10th tee box & we started talking about the homes that lined the left side of the fairway. We mentioned how they must get stray balls in their yards & could easily be hit by a wayward drive…it would take a wicked hook (which bends from right to left vs. a slice that goes into the opposite direction).

No danger from me as I (unfortunately) usually sliced my drives (they went from left to right).

Robert, on the other hand, would snap off a wicked hook every now & then that would make Blackbeard the Pirate proud.

I tee off without any fanfare.

And then, right on cue, Robert snap-hooks his drive left.

Right toward the first house.

And right through this tiny round window (often referred to as a “bulls-eye window”).

From the sound itself, you knew immediately that he hit pay dirt.

We jumped into our carts. Robert & I go out into the fairway to retrace our balls as I tell Manuel & Ed to meet us at the next hole.

We were fleeing the scene of the accident ASAP & trying to act cool & nonchalant as we teed off on the par-3 11th hole.

Right as we were finishing, up comes this pretty-angry man, yelling & screaming at us.

“Get the hell outta here! I didn’t do shit to your house. My shot went straight down the fairway!”

We began heading off toward the green when we saw him approaching Robert.

He is yelling & screaming at him…and Robert’s just standing there like a deer in the headlights. He’s frozen.

The guy’s telling him that he needs to pay for the broken window when I begin to even off the situation.

“What are you talking about? Nobody told you to buy a house right by the fairway. That’s your problem, dude! Comes with the territory.”

He doesn’t wanna hear anything & keeps yelling at Robert.

“Yo, calm your jets. Read your homeowner association rules…that’s the risk that you assume! The course has been here long before your house was built.

“And if you knew better, you would’ve gotten glass coverage on your home insurance!

Let’s get outta here!”

He continues to get in Robert’s face…perhaps I looked a little too crazed to yell at me.

The next thing I know, I hear Robert say, “My name is Robert Barboza & I work for Citibank.”

“Robert, what are you doing?!? You have no legal obligation to him. He assumed that risk when he bought a house on a golf course!”

Robert proceeds to give him his phone number. When he actually started providing his address, I stepped in between them.

“That’s it! No more!”

I go to grab the piece of paper out of the homeowner’s hand, but he pulled it back before I could snatch it.

“Go call the clubhouse! Either you’re liable or they carry insurance for this stuff! But you leave him alone, you understand?”

“I’m gonna call the cops!”

“You can call Judge Judy for all I give a shit, but I’m not gonna let ya keep bothering him!”

He then asks for my name.

“It’s Poppins! Mary f****** Pippins! This is the last time I’m telling you, I swear! Go home.”

After he left, I called the clubhouse. They told me it depends on the particular house as to whether they (the club) carried insurance for that sort of thing or if the homeowner himself was responsible, depending on when the house was built.

Just as I thought.

Robert said he felt bad as it was his fault. I advised him to follow the law & he could always call the clubhouse himself to double-check.

At least no one drowned.

Thank you so much for listening!

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