Lovely Thanksgiving weekend as always. No drama, lots of laughs, great food and company.

Still, as a “TV fan” of General Barry McCaffrey, and seeing this story rocket around the blogosphere (thanks to the fine reporting at the NY Times), I sure am reminded of why I say, “Beware The Man.”

Depressing stuff. Even President Eisenhower wasn’t prescient enough to figure the media would be complicit in the crap that President Eisenhower warned us about.

I mean, ever hear a politician on either side of the aisle talk seriously about cutting the military budget? Fear sells. And fear sells weapons.

Perhaps we ought to centralize the media a bit more. Christ. Some things just aren’t that hard to see.

I’m crossing one off the ol’ bucket list this weekend, if all goes well: I’m going to see Augusta National Golf Club live and in person, camera in hand, for Monday’s Masters practice round.

This is to golfers and golf fans, I’m sure, not unlike a trip to Vatican City if you’re Catholic or Mecca if you’re Muslim. Not everyone gets to do it, which makes it special. I got lucky; I work with a woman from Augusta, and she and her husband are taking the child to Disney World next week.

And considering what I imagine it is for Catholics and Muslims to explain their own trips (in several uses of the word “trip”) to non-believers (in my case, unserious or non-golfers), or what it is like for a woman to tell a man what it’s like to have a baby (best description I’ve ever heard: imagine shitting a watermelon), it doesn’t make all that much sense to try.

Suffice it to say that Augusta National is one of the prettiest parcels of land on the planet, with a crew of magnificent make-up artists to enhance the magic, with a largely secret history that includes unbelievable shots in ridiculously high-pressure circumstances, suicide, politics, sex, and Opus Dei-level discretion. Members are not allowed to speak of club matters under punishment of ban. Nobody knows the full list that is all of 300 members or so, IIRC. The Club tells CBS how the broadcast will go, 57 minutes of action per hour. Can anyone give me an example of another sporting event dictated not by the TV Gods, but the sport itself? The first nine holes were unavailable to CBS until 1993. The tournament had been broadcast (exclusively by CBS) since 1956, when all of four holes were televised.

President Eisenhower wanted the “Eisenhower Tree” cut down because he hit it so often, when he was President. The National’s response? Fuck you, Mr. President. Not in those words, I’m sure.

That’s power.

The course is open to mere members for around half the year. They host one professional event every year, and to many it is The Big Enchilada. There are three other “Major” golf tournaments, the number of wins in these four Majors the barometer of golf greatness, but the others rotate courses. Only the Masters is played on the same course every year.

It was conceived and founded by one of the great, brilliant, principled, and humble human beings (also a good golfer) ever to walk the planet.

No golfer at any level would pass up on an invitation to play it, ever. I have often said I would get a second mortgage to play it twice (once to freak out, and once to try to handle it) but it isn’t the money that will get me in, it’s blowing a member, and that’s really unlikely to happen for just a whole bunch of reasons.

I’ve toured, not played, Pebble Beach, but Pebble is “public,” and only requires scratch. You don’t get through the gates in the middle of winter at Augusta without getting shot by the help and disposed of in one of the ponds, never to be seen or heard of again.

My benefactor says the food is fantastically good and wonderfully inexpensive. “Get the egg salad sandwich,” she said, to which I replied, “Egg salad sandwich?,” and she said it was dreamy and around a buck fifty.

The bric-a-brac souvenirs are also sensibly priced, allegedly. I’ll probably indulge in one or two of those.

I don’t want to get all serious, but there IS a religious aspect of golf to me. To play it well and correctly, you need all of the best of human attributes; patience, discipline, dignity, humor, sacrifice, respect; to be played with skill it requires a ridiculous amount of simultaneously precise physical control coupled with an equally superior ability to be almost drunkenly uninhibited psychologically. You have to let go to hit a good shot.

You have to not worry about your shot, which trust me if you think is easy when it matters big in terms of anything of value in 21st Century America, you’re a moron. Golf, more than any other sport, will tell you how much you really trust yourself.

On the other side, greed, impatience, the inability to forget, the arrogance of looking forward, pride, fear, living in the past, and all other sorts of negative human characteristics will make you a truly shitty golfer, if you have too many of those in good measures.

Oh, and honor. Most of all, perhaps, honor. Golf is about personal honor. No other sport expects the individual player himself to call the penalties. And there are some legendary examples of sacrifice to live by these rules in the history of golf.

Wish me well. Maybe I’ll have time to post the impressions.