The Gimme

I was born knowing how to make pie, but golf is always brand new to me. Learning to bake pie is a sweet succession of improvements: lighter, flakier, zingier; but golf still surprises me. Both are nice ways to spend time; one is a steady and comfortable satisfaction, while the other is an unexpected burst of delight.

The latest burst has been my discovery of the golfing term “gimme.” I tell you, it just cracks me up. I first read about it in my copy of Harvey Penick’s Little Red Book, in which he advises parents against giving their golfing children gimmes. “Hole every putt,” said Penick, “no gimmes.” Tough love or real world? Maybe both.

I like it. Keep playing until you see that ball drop into the hole. Make no assumptions about what that little sucker is going to do on its own.

I read some time ago about a championship bowler who was asked in an interview: “What was bowling like for you as a kid? How did it feel back then when you missed the pins?” The golfer replied, “I never missed the pins. I don’t know what that feels like.”

Now, come on. All kids miss the pins. Gutter balls are a sad but true part of kiddie golf. As the interview went on, though, the bowler explained that his father owned the bowling alley, back in the days of pin boys. The pin boys were instructed to set up the pins just a few feet from the foul line. As the boy grew older and played better, the pin boys set the pins farther and farther down the alley–but not unless they knew he could hit them.

In some ways that’s a gimme, too, but I see it more like making sure the ball always goes in the hole. I wish I had learned to bowl that way, under the guidance of someone who truly wanted me to know success.

Of course, the next question is, if I had had that experience, “Would I still be me?”

Sometimes people ask me for pie recipes. Then, after they read the recipe, they follow-up with suggestions and recommendations for changing the recipe. I usually say, “That’s fine. Do what you want, but don’t call it my recipe anymore.”

In truth, I feel the same way about making changes in me. I can change. Sure, I know I can. Probably. I might even learn to be more like the Stepford Girlfriend, become more of a perky chameleon, but I have to wonder what I might lose along the way. Would I still be me?

Then again, who else would I be? I suppose I’m committed to the concept of holing every putt, but damn I do like that gimme idea. Life could be so easy, if I could just change my definition of me.

You may wonder why I’m so philosophical right now. Don’t worry. It will pass. I’m going offline for a week or so while I explore the world on the other side of my edge of the Everglades. No phones, no Fry-O-Laters. I’m leaving Prentiss the Pie Apprentice in charge, and I’ll took forward to talking to you when I get back.