Saturday, August 16, 2008

Amazing, but true: time for 2010 calendars

It’s doubtful any aspiring writer ever sat in a journalism class and thought, “Boy, someday I’d like to write those little page-a-day calendars that people read, tear off and throw away.”

I know it’s something I never aspired to. In fact, my stream-of-consciousness in journalism class went something like this: “Man, this hangover’s killing me. Why did I drink that sixth shot of Ouzo? I’m so stupid! Well, at least I’m smart enough to have chosen journalism for a career. Industries will come and go, but people are always going to need daily newspapers. Man, I sure could use a drink . . .”

Yet, here I am, embarking on my 10th year of doing those perky little calendars. I’ve done them, at least one a year, on a range of “Amazing But True” topics.

I’ve done them on fishing: “More than 5,000 ice fishing 'huts' on Mille Lacs, Minnesota, have ceiling fans, computers, satellite TV, kitchens -- even hot tubs. Each winter, the frozen lake becomes home to the world’s largest temporary city with more than 100 miles of ploughed roads, street signs, a police force, pizza delivery and regular trash pickup.”

I’ve done them on new Dads: “Jack Somano is America’s greatest Mr. Mom. The Orlando father stays at home raising the quintuplets his wife Kathy delivered in 2000. She is the breadwinning branch manager for Thrifty Car Rental and the family relies on her benefits to keep the family afloat.”

I’ve done ‘em on grandparents: “In the presence of your beloved grandchild, answer any ringing phone and pretend it's the President of the United States calling to ask your opinion on important world affairs. The unwitting caller will be confused, but the wide-eyed child will be mighty impressed.”

And, lordy, lordy, have I done ‘em on golf. The template for the 2010 “Amazing But True Golf Facts” page-a-day golf calendar just arrived. My friend, Allan Zullo, owner of the franchise, has farmed these out to me for 10 years now.

Their arrival has become like a visit from an old friend. It means one week in the next month or so I’ll absolutely immerse myself in golf trivia as I comb through a year’s worth of old golf magazines and news stories for source information. God help you if you get paired with me for a round of golf within the days after the project wraps.

I’m bleary from the work and a Tourette’s-like stream of golf trivia's always blurting out of my mouth. For instance: “Playing ‘barefoot’ in the U.K. isn’t an invitation to intimacy. It means no strokes will be exchanged in a competitive match.”

Very few people on the planet have ever done even one of these, but I think everybody should and they should be ranked based on the result. They’re very revealing. Doing the calendars mirrors my moods throughout the entire year. On the calendars, I can be witty and sharp through March. I’m enlightening through July. I’m relevent through September, mildly informative through October and after Halloween I got nothing left.

The work doesn’t pay a huge sum, but it’s a nifty earner for the time invested, especially now that I do them with such machine-like intensity. The fruit is they make great Christmas presents to golf pros at nice courses who often return the favor with a free round of golf for me and my buddies. And free golf beats money any day (a thought that’s ensuring my continued poverty for at least another two years of golf calendars).

I doubt I’ll be starting the 2010 version until October. But I already know what the January 1, 2010, entry will be.

It fell into my lap last month when I went to interview Arnold Palmer at his Latrobe office. I’d never noticed one before, but right there where most people keep a computer was my 2008 “Amazing, but True Golf Calendar.” I told him how flattered I was that he was a reader.

“Not, only am I a reader,” he said reaching into his desk for a sizable stack, “but I keep a bunch of them for reference purposes. I’m always telling people about something I’ve found in these. They’re great!”

Arnold Palmer reads my convenience store Confusionisms first thing every day.

It’d be like Elvis waking up and playing a commercial jingle I’d written just because he thinks the tune’s catchy.

Amazing, but true.

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