Screen Damage

As soon as the ball left the tee, I knew I had sliced it hard. It skyrocketed over three sand-traps and headed for a row of homes. I yelled “FORE!” out of habit even though no one seemed to be around- there never is in Palm Springs in August.

The ball smacked into a screen covering a window. It hit so hard the screen jumped off the window onto the grass like it was just electrocuted.

Suddenly an older couple appeared on the patio. They did not look happy.

“If that is as good as you can hit a golf ball, it’s back to the driving range for you,” the man yelled as I pulled up in a cart.

I apologized and asked if everyone was OK. The only injury was the poor screen. It lay on the ground like it had been shot. I didn’t see any holes. I must have hit the frame.

“It’s a good thing you stopped. We were going to call the clubhouse if you didn’t stop. This is not a good thing,” he harangued.

Yeah, it is a tragedy. That screen doesn’t look like it will make it. Better call the paramedics: “Engine 51, this is Rampart General. We have a window screen with a frame injury on the fourteenth hole at Heritage Highlands. Administer WD-40, transport as soon as possible.”

I held the screen from outside while he secured the pins inside that hold it to the window frame. He started out mad and got worse. I didn’t expect him to ask me if I wanted a beer out of the fridge. But, wait. He bought a house ON A GOLF COURSE. It might be hit with a golf ball or several dozen.

It reminds me of knuckleheads that build homes on a flood plain. The area floods every other summer. They act surprised when they are hanging out on the roof and their car is floating down Main Street.

“Well, we got a good deal on the place. The real estate agent said we may experience a little moisture. We didn’t expect to be rescued from the roof by a helicopter and sleep at the Y for two months.”

It may be that the guy that owned the house I hit didn’t even know it was on a golf course. Maybe the agent told him that all those people hitting white balls and digging up dirt behind his house were federal workers testing soil conditions.

To make sure he wasn’t on a flood plain.

Shoeless Joe Ditzel

I just wanted a pair of shoes. There sure were a lot of them on the wall at the sporting goods store. I grabbed a shoe off the display and then found a salesperson where you always find them–on the loading dock smoking a cigarette.

“Check for these Adidas in a size 10, will ya? And these Vans, too.”

“No problem,” he called over his shoulder as he disappeared in the back.

Moments later he returned.

“Sorry, dude.”

“See if you have Converse, then.”

Tick, tock.

“Sorry, dude.”

“How about these Asics?”

He left again. Twiddle thumbs.

Maybe every shoe they have in the store is actually out on the floor. Maybe they don’t make size 10 anymore. Maybe I’ll have to start making my own shoes. Or just stick my feet in empty shoe boxes and shuffle them on the ground.

He returned with a box.

“Dude, I didn’t have them in a size 10, but I found a size 13.”

“What? A size 13? Hey, no problem, I always wanted a shoe 3 sizes too big. I’ll just fill in the spaces with newspaper and baloney and gravel from my fish tank.”

“Actually, I always wanted to join the circus. What do you have in a clown shoe? I want shoes so long you have go down to the corner to turn around.”

“Wait, you know, I have been looking at new houses. Why don’t you bring out a shoe I can live in. You know, like the old lady and the shoe. I need a 2500 square foot shoe with 2 1/2 half baths and a two car garage. Quiet neighborhood but with lots of activities- golf, tennis, mahjong.”

“I need to be close to work but not so close I start going in on Saturday or something crazy like that. I’m not opposed to the worst shoe in a good neighborhood but no complete fixer-uppers, know what I mean? I can barely work a hammer, much less renovate a whole shoe. Got anything like that?”

He looked at me funny and disappeared in the back. He returned and said, “I found a red brick Nike colonial in a beach town with good schools.”

At least it was in stock.

Surface of the Sun

I went golfing in Palm Springs on Sunday. If you live in Ohio or Idaho or Iowa and you want to play golf right now, hop a plane and go to Palm Springs. It is golf nirvana.

In the Coachella Valley there are 104 golf courses with ANOTHER 100 opening in the next five years. The air is cool and clear. A sweet fragrance lingers in the desert air.

Ahhhhhhhhhh! This is the place to play golf. But I won’t be there. In January and February it is not uncommon to pay $125 or more per round. PGA West, home of the famous “Alcatraz” island green, costs well over $250.

I love to golf, but I also need to save for retirement. If I don’t put away some money now, I will be eating dog food under a bridge somewhere. $200 a round doesn’t leave much in the Joe Ditzel Retirement Fund.

In the summer, golf in the Coachella Valley is much more reasonable. Last summer, I played PGA West for under $60. You can play world class courses for $19. There is only one reason for this price break- In Palm Springs in the summer THE TEMPERATURE IS 258 DEGREES!

How can you play in this heat? Here are the things to keep in mind when golfing in Palm Springs:

1. Drink lots of water. Each golf cart comes with a thermos jug of ice water. I always ask for two. Then I drink a glass after almost every shot. Unfortunately, I drink water faster than my body can absorb it. My stomach balloons to 10 times its size and you can hear the water sloshing around in there. It is so bloated that when I stand up my stomach hangs down on the ground. I could sit on it and bounce around on it if I wanted to. I can barely squeeze behind the golf cart wheel at this point so I sort of lay on my side and push the gas pedal with the shaft of my putter.

2. Wear a hat. I take this a step further. I take an extra golf towel and lay it on my head and then put the cap down on top of that. The towel flows out the back and covers my neck and ears. I look like Lawrence of Arabia. The only other thing I need is a camel with my golf bag hung over one of the humps.

3. Wear Sunscreen. The sun is extra hard on me because I am 3/4 German and 1/4 Irish. What this means is my skin is so white it is see-through. In high school biology the teacher brought me to the front of the class to demonstrate the digestive system. I would eat a hot dog from the cafeteria and the class would watch it go though my body.

So I have to wear special prescription sunscreen- SPF 5000. I fill up my bathtub with the lotion. The night before golfing in Palm Springs, I sleep in the bathtub and in the morning I wipe off the excess. After 9 holes I need a re-application so I spray myself down with the SPF 5000 loaded in a fire extinguisher.




I am a geek. Not a run of the mill geek- a computer geek. I love computers. I like to hang out in computer stores. If they put a coffee bar in CompUSA I WOULD NEVER LEAVE. I love to buy computer magazines with headlines like “Undocumented Windows Secrets Revealed!”

When you are a computer geek your geek friends become your enablers. One geek friend brings me The New York Times technology page and says, “Look at this digital video camera. It has LANC. LANC is key to editing. You can even use it as a still camera. We need it.” The funny thing is he’ll say, “WE need it.”

But HE doesn’t buy any of the stuff. He is practical. He has a family. He owns a home. WHAT A WASTE! The only reason to buy a home is if it is packed with technology like Bill Gates’ home. When you visit Bill Gates’ house you get an electronic pin which knows what movies and music you like. As you walk into a room your favorite music plays and your favorite shows come on the TV.

Is that it? He is worth 400,000,000,000,000 dollars and that is all his house does? With that kind of money, he should have his guests’ favorite bands play LIVE. “Hi, I’m Bill Gates, welcome to my home. Ladies and gentlemen, the Rolling Stones!”

I buy a lot of computers and now I don’t know where to put them. I live in an apartment smaller than the tree the Keebler elves live in. My big screen TV was taking up all the room and the computers were fighting for space. The TV was so big I had to put it out on the balcony to watch it. Not on my balcony- the balcony of the apartment across the street. I have to call my neighbor to turn it on. “Listen, when I come home alone again, turn it to the Spice channel. Thanks.”

Whenever you buy computers, the salesman brings up the three-year “service warranty”. What do I get for the $400 warranty? “Oh, well, once a year you bring in the computer and we open it up and get the dust out of it”, he told me. $133 a year to remove some dust bunnies? For $400 they should dust my whole apartment.

The problem with a warranty is that in 6 months the computer will be as cutting edge as a four-slice toaster. If you bring a two year old computer in for service the technicians fall down laughing and roll around like the cartoon guys on those “YOU WANT IT WHEN?” posters. “You have a 486?” the technician asks, biting the inside of his mouth to keep from crying out in laughter, “What do you use if for? PONG?”

Since I have no room for my “old” computers I decided to bury them. I started my own computer graveyard; here are a couple of the headstones:

Lying below is my favorite Mac
It met my every demand
And though in software it did not lack
I used it mainly to play Missile Command


My best friend is below this ground
A Compaq Presario with awesome sound
It cost three thousand when I bought it new
In one year it was worth fifty-two.

Half the fun of being a computer geek is getting computer magazines and yelling at them out loud. “Of course the iMAC tested lower in graphics speed! You only had 2MB of graphics RAM. You need all 6MB! You stupids!” Then I hear the downstairs neighbor rapping on his ceiling with a broom handle, “Shut up, geek! Shut up!”

The best part of a computer magazine is the letters-to-the-editor:

Dear PC Universe magazine,

I’m writing in response to your article on virus software. You chose Geeksoft’s VirusStopper as your Editor’s Choice for 1998. This rating gave me the confidence to buy VirusStopper. Two days after I installed the software, my computer was infected with the Trojan Horse virus. VirusStopper failed to detect this virus. Trojan Horse melted down my computer and then infected every appliance in our home. I am writing this note on the back of a grocery bag by the light of a Goofy candle my wife bought at the Disney Store in Las Vegas during Comdex two years ago. We have no insurance for this type of catastrophe. Enclosed is a bill for $47,000 for all of our appliances and electrical repairs to our ‘82 Pacer. You have done your readers a disservice by recommending this product. We demand satisfaction.

In the dark,

Fred Multz

I like all the new computer technology. It doesn’t have to be useful. It just has to be cool. For example, I have a camera on my computer that allows people to see me when I talk to them. People don’t really need to see me when I talk to them. It’s just cool. Of course, there are drawbacks. People don’t want to see me in my pajamas and Donald Duck slippers and hair that sticks up like a geyser at Yellowstone. To remedy this I have programmed my computer with images of me in a tuxedo with a beautiful model on my arm. No matter what time of day you see me on the videophone I look like I’m ready to go to the Academy Awards. Or wait tables.

Some software is cool even though it doesn’t work. I just bought a voice recognition software package. I talk into a microphone and the computer types the words on the screen. At least, that is what is supposed to happen. What actually happens is a little different. I say “I played golf today” and it types “I stayed full, hooray!” I say “He reads the paper every day” and it types “He needs a Quaker every pay”.

It won’t even get single words right. I say “scumbags”. It types “lawyers”.

Never Been Butter

When I go to the grocery store I am interested in one thing- getting out. I want to race through and hit the road. It never happens. Yesterday I went to the frozen pizza case. Gone. Not the pizzas. The whole frozen food section. The store is “remodeling.” That’s what they call it. I call it “let’s move everything around so no one can find it.” Everything was moved. I slowly walked down the end of the aisles, reading the new signs.

Who decided this arrangement?

Aisle 1- Bread, Mops, Toilet Paper, Cooking Utensils

Aisle 2- Vitamins, Coffee, Sandwich Meat, Flea Powder

Aisle 3- Pickles, Magazines, Lettuce, Film

Aisle 4- Meat, Guns, Computer Games, Incense Aisles

5-12 Butter and Margarine I’ve never seen so much butter and margarine in my life. Regular butter, light butter, extra light butter, “I can’t even believe it’s NOT butter” non-butter. There are little hockey puck size containers and middle sized bowls and large tubs. At the end of one aisle they had Land O Lakes “Wheelbarrow O’ Butter.”

So now I’m wasting time figuring out the new layout. I consulted one of the store maps “designed to make your shopping experience easier.” I gave up trying to read it and spent the next 20 minutes trying to refold it. It refused to fold flat and ended up looking like a little volleyball. I served it over the top of one of the butter aisles and yelled “Service!”

Since I live in California, where people play volleyball in their cribs, a surfer looking dude dove down to bump the balled-up map in the air. A store employee stopped pricing butter tubs and spread his hands out and made a beautiful “set” shot. Then a little old lady leaped out of her support shoes 6 feet in the air and spiked it back in my aisle. Lucky for her, it was just in.

I needed milk and found the display. I looked down to see they sold two separate gallon of milk containers connected with a plastic handle. They looked like dumbbells made with milk containers. This thought had occurred to the store manager as well because just past the milk case he had installed a whole workout room with weights made of food items. In the corner a muscle bound guy was bench pressing a side of beef. Along one side was a series of weight machines made of cans of food. “What a day!” a huge muscle bound guy said. “I did 250 military presses of creamed corn, 250 bicep curls of baked beans and a speed set of ab crunches holding two cans of French green beans.”

I finally found all my stuff and went to the checkout. Now, this is the most critical decision you can make to save time: checker selection. I know if I blow this I just added 30 minutes to my shopping experience. Fortunately, I make it a point to always go to the same store. I know the people. I know who the good checkers are. I avoid these people:

–Mr. Happy – Hey, I like friendly people as much as the next person (except anytime 5a-12 noon). But Mr. Happy is REALLY happy. “Hi! And how are we today?” he chirps. Mr. Happy is slow because he gets too many details from shoppers, “Oh, really, Mrs. James, your husband joined the Viagara-of-the-month club? Swell!”

–Ms. Sedation – The opposite of Mr. Happy is Ms. Sedation. Ms. Sedation is using her entire employee discount at the store pharmacy. She is hard to spot because she works steadily but once in line you soon realize you’ve read every article in the National Enquirer and you’ve moved up one spot in two hours. I picked a good checker and we were moving pretty good until it happened. The lady in front of me PULLED OUT HER COUPONS! I quickly grabbed a Zippo lighter off the display and set her coupons on fire. When she dropped them and started stomping on the blaze, I jumped in front of her.

I wondered if there was a better way to shop for groceries. The Internet allows you to order groceries on-line which are then delivered to your house. This sounds good until we find out eBay has started on-line auctions for groceries:

Wheelbarrow O’ Butter Item #33959530303


Starts at $55.00 First Bid $55.00 Quantity 1 # of bids 0 (bid history) (with emails)

Time Left 6 days, 21 hours


Seller Land O’ Lakes

High Bid Payment Money Order, Cashier’s Checks

Shipping Buyer pays actual shipping


Seller assumes all responsibility for listing this item. You should contact the seller to resolve any questions before bidding. Currency is dollar ($) unless otherwise noted.

I finally got though the line and made my way out the door. There is always the same dog sitting there. He is waiting for his owner to return. He has a sad look on his face. When people come out of the store, his tail begins to wag real slow as he checks to see if it his owner. When he realizes it isn’t, he sits down again. I think his owner went in there to pick up some things he forgot for a USC /UCLA tailgate party last year and got lost in the butter aisles and hasn’t been heard of since.

All Jacked Up

Thousands of people get their day started with a stop at the local we-are-hipper-than-you coffeehouse. And every show from “Friends” to “Frasier” has a coffeehouse where the characters hang out. Coffee is huge.

But I was a heavy coffee drinker long before there was a Starbucks on every corner. I have a bumper sticker on my car that says, “I Was Coffee before Coffee Was Cool.” It is pasted over my old sticker, “Coffee Lovers Do It with Bitterness”.

I love coffee. I like to be totally wired. Some people cut back when coffee makes them jumpy. I drink cup after cup until my hands are shaking like the paint can mixers at Sears.

It was bad in high school. I drank coffee before school, after school and during school. I walked down the halls with a thermos attached to my belt. I thought about coffee all day. The other kids in metal shop made lamps. I made a ‘Mr. Coffee’ machine.

In college it was worse. I drank so much coffee I didn’t sleep for all eight years. My eyes had more bags than a socialite takes on a trip to the south of France. It finally ended when I graduated. I moved into a cave with some bears just to get to some sleep.

I remember the first time I tried coffee. My dad let me have a sip of his coffee. It was bitter and gritty. It tasted like it came from an airplane engine. My face puckered up and then caved in on itself. I looked like a seven-year-old doing an impression of Bob Dole.

Little did I know that years later I would buy an industrial strength espresso maker that cost more than a Lexus. It does everything. It makes coffee. It makes espresso. It has a computer screen linked to the Internet that tracks international coffee shipments so I know when the freshest beans will get to my store.

I like strong coffee. So strong my head snaps back and I yell, “Yeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaahhhhhh! Woooooooooooooooooohhhhhooooooooo! That is strong coffee!”

Remember that news story about a lady who sued McDonald’s because she spilled her coffee and burned herself? She said McDonald’s coffee is too hot. I don’t think coffee is ever hot enough. I want it so hot it burns an ulcer in my stomach the size of a hockey puck. When I buy coffee I want them to hold the cup with metal tongs while wearing asbestos suits and welding masks.

One of my favorite places to drink coffee is in the car. Once I drove from California to Texas to visit my brother. I drove the whole way without getting out of the car. I had a rental car equipped with a 20-gallon industrial coffee urn and a big box of Depends.

Many coffee junkies collect mugs. I have everything from promotional mugs with company names on them to a mug I made in summer camp that is shaped like the head of an Indian chief. I also own the world’s biggest mug. It looks like a grain silo. In case of a nuclear attack the army could use it to launch missiles.

I love coffeehouses. For the true coffee lover a coffeehouse is a religious experience. In fact, I would love to go to mass at Starbucks. That way I could sit all Sunday morning reading the paper and not miss church. After mass they could have bingo in the basement.

I used to party with all the heavy coffee drinkers: Mrs. Olson, Juan Valdez. But you have to be careful with coffee. Sometimes people lose control. I see them strung out, sitting on the sidewalk outside coffeehouses, begging for anything, “You got any lattes, man? A spare cappuccino?”

Oh, they started innocently enough. A few cups of coffee with friends. They were “social drinkers.” But pretty soon they are in a bad part of town listening to guys whispering, “What do you need? I just picked up some killer Colombian mocha. I got a pot of it right here. Just try a cup, man!”

Eventually they lost everything: job, home, Radio Shack Battery Club card. Their only hope is to face their demons in a twelve-step program.

“Hi, my name is Joe. I’m a Coffeeholic.”

“Hi, Joe.”