Tying My Shoes

Arnold Palmer said whenever he started to get too wound up, he would stop to tie his shoes.

You might know Arnie for the mixed Lemonade—Ice Tea drink named for him, but he was one of the great golfers in his day. It’s a little like Paul Newman, who future generations will know because of his wonderful salad dressing.

Anyway, being a (very) (mediocre) golfer myself, I take great stock in the wisdom of one of my great sports heroes. My engine tends to rev up, especially in idle, and it’s time for me to start drinking Arnie’s cool aid.

I’ve got to down shift and get out of the fast lane and invoke any other overused metaphors that will help me take a breath and stay in the moment.

For Arnold Palmer, he would walk off the green of one hole and on his way to the next tee, he would bend over and tie his shoes, while his huge throng of fans, known as Arnie’s Army, would surround him in a little scrum.

For me it’s not that easy because my field of play is much more expansive. I work mostly in Canada these days but my family is spread out between California and Washington State. My mother is in Palm Springs, my wife and some of my kids live in Los Angeles, and a son lives in Bellingham.

Now that I’ve finished 8 wonderful seasons shooting Psych in Vancouver, BC, I have no idea where my next job will take me. It could be Toronto, New Orleans, New York City, or maybe even Los Angeles, which is trying to reclaim it’s legendary place in the movie industry.

One would think that I could take a breath and enjoy the fact that I have more free time, but it’s just not my nature. I hate traffic so much that I know for a fact that I hold the world’s record for illegal U-Turns.

When I walk from my driveway to my front door, I absolutely refuse to make two trips. This often leads to a ridiculous juggling act with arms full of groceries, gym bag, computer bag, CD’s, cell phone and little snack packs of Mel’s very own trail mix.

Recently, I was filming in Toronto and decided to visit my Uncle and Aunt in Albany New York where Uncle Harry was beginning his book tour. I decided to take my time, so I stopped by the beautiful little town in Upstate New York where I went to college for a cup of coffee and a visit to the picturesque Quad.

Instead of taking the ferocious New York State Thruway on to Albany, I opted for the old Route 20, which would take me through wonderful little villages that time has forgotten.

Sounds good in theory but in the course of one hour, I got two speeding tickets. The first one I deserved because I was going over 70 mph and the State Trooper was very nice and explained that the state speed limit was 55 mph, but that I just had to keep it under 70.

I set my speed control at 68 but the second guy, a sadistic man who gave all people in uniform a bad name, said I was going 71 and gave me my second ticket.

As unjust (and expensive) as it was, it did occur to me that I need to slow down, literally and figuratively.

Slow down and focus. I had to admit that, even though I had taken the Oprah Pledge to not text and drive, too often I was sneaking a peek at my cell phone to see who had just texted or emailed me.

I wouldn’t even stop to eat a meal. I was always chowing down on the go, never sitting down to eat unless I was driving. As horrible as it would be to die while texting whilst driving, an even more ignominious ending would come when I was discovered with the detritus of a Reuben Sandwich sprinkled around the crash site.

Can you imagine the police blotter in La Conner saying a man was found lying in a slough in a pool of blood and pastrami and sauerkraut!!!

That was the image that really made an impression on me.

So I’m working on downshifting. Turning off my cell phone once in a while. Not calling my agents EVERY day. Walking more.

I’m going to drink less coffee and more wine. Read the New York Times (hard copy) every morning. Stop running yellow lights.

Now I carry a basketball in my car and when I see a hoop in a park, I stop and take a few jump shots.

I’ve just wrapped up my inaugural session of the Cascadia Film Workshop on the campus of Western Washington University.

Now I’m taking the month of July off and just enjoying our beautiful Northwestern summer. Hiking, swimming, hanging out with family and friends.

Recently, at Congregation Beth Israel here in Bellingham, Rabbi Josh Samuels explained that that week’s Torah portion suggested we all should have three names: our given name, our nickname, and a new name that represents our aspirations.

My given name is Melvin so let’s just forget you ever heard that. My nickname is Marv, short for Marvelous, because a fellow high school sports writer branded me Marvelous and it stuck. My first column was Through The Uprights by Marvelous Mel Damski for the Roslyn High School Hilltop Beacon.

Now, for my third name, I’m going for Mel-low.

Hopefully I can live up to it!

Mel Damski is the Producing-Director of the TV series “Psych” and winner of the Best General Interest Column by the Washington Newspaper Association

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