The ER returns to Merced, and other items

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Modesto Bee

There’s a columnist for the Modesto Bee by the name of Ron Agostini who uses a writing technique that is appealing to me.  About once a week, Ron publishes a sports oriented column that contains about a dozen items. 

The content of each item is too short for a complete column, but bundled together, it makes for interesting reading.  He always begins the feature with the claim “estimated reading time, two minutes.”

So in tribute to Ron, here is my bundle of items from around Merced County. 

Estimated reading time:  two-and-a-half minutes.

Merced City Signs

It’s so nice to see the letters E and R replaced on the Merced sign heading north on G Street just beyond the railroad overpass. 

The letters had been missing for about a year and it made the city seem a little less than welcoming to visitors and residents.  Thank you to the City of Merced for replacing the letters.  Shame on whoever removed them in the first place.

Speaking of letters, some are missing from the sign in front of Merced City Hall downtown.  Maybe these missing letters can be restored soon. 

Perhaps future designs of signs can take into consideration the elimination of letters and numbers that can be pried off by those with little or no regard for their community.

Town Hall Meetings

Two town hall meetings were held by the City of Merced in recent weeks to gather citizen input on how our community should move forward in the near future.  According to the Merced Sun Star, the north side town hall was sparsely attended while the south side meeting had great attendance.  What’s that telling us?

Presidential Visit

Regardless of your politics, having a U.S. President visit your community is a big deal.  It was great to see Los Banos added to the President’s schedule on his Valentines’ Day visit. 

The visit including a meeting with a foreign dignitary Friday night, and was extended by a couple of days so he’d have time to play three rounds of golf with some school buddies. 

While in Merced County, the President got to see our water issues front and center with a flyover of the San Luis Reservoir.  No matter how long the visit could have been, not every community can have the honor of welcoming the Chief Executive.  

I would have appreciated seeing more diversity among the lawmakers invited to accompany the President, namely Valley Republican House members Jeff Denham and Devon Nunes.  But I still see the visit for what it meant to our community; it was a big deal.

Google at Castle

Speaking of big deals, congratulations to the Merced County Office of Aviation, Commerce and Economic Development on landing Google at the Castle Commerce Center in Atwater.  Google was interested in the wide open spaces offered by Castle’s expansive runways to test new technologies involving cars that drive themselves.  The number of jobs coming to the community may be small, but you never know whether this small step by Google might lead to a giant leap for ancillary jobs that could be created in Merced County by other high tech companies from the Silicon Valley.

Panera and Chipotle

It’s also nice to see Panera Bread and soon Chipotle operating in the old Blockbuster building at Olive Avenue and R Street.  Little by little, the region is picking up more economic activity.  Why not celebrate these small signs of success with a Panera cookie or a Chipotle burrito.

Steve Newvine lives in Merced.

Golf Hazards

photo by steve newvine

photo by steve newvine

Having spent a lot of time on golf courses over the past few years, one can discover certain types of hazards.  Some are a direct result of nature.  Some are a direct result of human nature.I squeeze in at least one nine-hole round of golf every week. 

Before moving to California from the northeastern United States nine years ago, golf season lasted all of five months.   I can now play every week of the year.  For about the past three years, playing golf every week for fifty-two weeks has been my New Years’ resolution.  I have not achieved it yet, but I’m getting closer to that goal every year.

As for hazards, why would anyone complain about a golf season that never ends?  I don’t complain.  But I have encountered some problems on local courses that might give the golf purist reason to become rankled.  So with my tongue firmly in my cheek, here are some frustrations I’ve endured.

Earlier in the spring, I found tumbleweeds littering one of my favorite courses.  They would roll through the fairway as they made their way across the landscape.  Some remain stationary as I approached a putting green.  They’re easy to move out of the way, but they have proven to be a pesky diversion. 

I usually see tumbleweeds in the spring, and they usually are accompanied by winds; another nature-induced hazard.  All I need is the cowboy singing group Sons of the Pioneers to serenade my golf group with the song Tumbling Tumbleweeds.

I remember one night a few years ago playing at the Rancho Del Rey course in Atwater.   I was walking up to the putting green to survey what my chances would be to sink a putt.  Pondering the possibility of getting par on the hole, I spotted a dog from one of the homes that encircle the course coming up onto the green. 

The dog was friendly, but a little greedy.  It picked up my ball with its mouth and ran away.  I never saw that ball again.  While amused by the dog’s behavior, I can only wonder what kind of ruling I would have received had the animal dropped the ball in the cup.

Nature and animals are always watched by golfers for potential hazardous situations.  But one shouldn’t leave out the human element when it comes to difficult days on the golf course.

A golf partner and I were behind a group of young men on an area course one hot summer afternoon.  These young men were learning the game, but had not yet mastered the elements of etiquette expected from more seasoned golfers.  In short, they couldn’t keep their mouths shut. 

I remember both my partner and I sharing a bemused laugh after one of the golfer’s struck his ball and yelled to the other members of his foursome, “Hey you guys better watch out, my ball might hit you.”  

Hey pal, we have a term for that particular situation.  One word spoken loudly:  fore!

On a least a couple of occasions in my three decades of playing the game, I have encountered the kindly older gentleman who believes a golf course is the perfect place to discuss religion.  Whether it’s asking where I am in my faith journey, or whether I know what the true meaning is of an upcoming religious holiday, I really don’t want to discuss it while I’m trying to break forty on the front nine.  

I try to be polite.  If that ever happens to me again, I’ll remind the well-intentioned proclaimer what the Reverend Billy Graham has said about religion and the game of golf.  “The golf course is the only place where the Lord doesn’t answer your prayers.”

I have lots of disappointing score cards to prove that point.

Steve Newvine lives in Merced