I have this thing about drowning. Or, rather, almost drowning.
Maybe, almost drowning has this thing about me.
I never learned how to swim as a kid. According to my Mom, I wouldn’t wear shorts or even, short sleeves, but that’s a whole ‘nother story for another day!
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 others), 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 nor an accident. He bopped me right in the head from behind.
(Reminds me of the time the Italian bar/club owner smashed a cue stick over my head from behind.
WTH is with these people with these sneak attacks from behind & their penchant for wooden weapons?!?)
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 occurred later on in our cabin.
I barely knew the perpetrator…though I wasted little time formally introducing myself
The following day, I beat the living shit outta this punk.
I guess I must’ve threatened to strangle him to death as he later went to the head counselor to rat on me.
When confronted with these charges, I enlisted the expert witness of my life-saving counselor who testified as to what this idiot had done previously to me.
The head counselor looked at him & asked, “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 any worse to you 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, me & my entire management team & 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 having to decide if it’s coming through my mouth or through my fingers!”
I don’t take direction well.
*** BACK TO YOUR REGULARLY-SCHEDULED PROGRAMMING ***
…decided to go canoeing on the Connetquot River. Actually, they decided as I rarely gravitate toward water or places where I can die.
Anyway, there we are in this canoe (Laurie & I) paddling down a very narrow, very winding section of the river (which was more like a skinny li’l stream at this point) & the canoes were having a hard time navigating to get through the tight curves.
“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 back 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-dancy place in its prime, but it definitely had 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 your tee shot is lying, you hafta cut the corner of a small pond to continue up the Z-shaped fairway & toward the green.
We had been undergoing a severe drought in the area as we often do during the summer months 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…AND OTHERS…hit into the water.
Since we were usually the first group “off the box” in the early morning (that is, the first group to tee off) & we golfed like speed demons – -What’s this nonsense about practice swings & aiming anyway? – – 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 where we sometimes golfed, they’d always have marshals patrolling the grounds & this little side sport of ours was strongly 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.
And the better, i.e. the more expensive, the course was, the better the quality of 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?
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 caked mud terrain to retrieve my treasure. After a step or 2, I sink straight down!
Right up to my waist.
Now I’m convinced that I’m gonna die in this damned quicksand mud!
I struggle like hell to free myself.
I finally get loose from its death grip (God forbid anyone comes out to help me!) & I must’ve looked like the Creature from the Black Lagoon.
This mud was some special kind of alien mud. It was gray, smelled like crap & stuck to me like flies on 💩!!!
Boy, was I glad it was the 18th hole. I just got in my cart, handed Rich his golf bag & headed straight to the parking lot, making sure the nasty Woodlake marshal didn’t see me.
I stripped down & 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 all the towels I used to scrape this yeccch off 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 (it was just south of Converse in the far NE corner of San Antonio) 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 (RIP, my friend), Manuel Lucio & Ed Earl (all good Citi buddies of mine)
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 (from right to left).
No danger from me as I unfortunately usually sliced my piss-poor drives (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…amazingly straight down the middle of the fairway.
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 retrieve my ball as I tell Manuel & Ed to just meet us at the next hole.
We were fleeing the scene of the accident ASAP & trying to act cool & nonchalant as we began to tee off on the par-3 11th hole.
Right as we were finishing, here comes this very-angry man (actually, “maniacal” would be more accurate), running u the cart path, 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 right up in his face…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 step in between them.
“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 assumed! The course has been here long before your house was ever built.”
He continues to try to get at Robert…perhaps I looked a little too crazed for him to yell at me.
The next thing I know, I hear Robert say, “My name is Robert Barboza & I work for Citibank.”
“Robert, what the gel are you doing?!? You have no legal obligation to him. He assumed that risk when he bought a house on the golf course!”
Robert proceeds to give him his phone number!!!
When he actually started to provide his address, I decided that enough was enough 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 friggin’ care, 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 & you’ll regret coming up here.”
Now I’m more crazed than him!
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…that’s your legal obligation…& he could always call the clubhouse himself to double-check.
Yes, that’s the law in Texas. And trust me, his insurance company would surely have covered that with him when he bought his home.
Either the golf club carries liability insurance for existing home or the homeowners are responsible.
Never the golfer.
Unless, of course, they stand on his front lawn & deliberately bombard his house on purpose!
Well, at least, no one (almost) drowned.
As always, thank you so very much for listening!