safe word, or Confessions of a Lying Sandbagger


Back in the mid-80s I was in a bowling league. I was the second-worst member of a five-person team. Our two best bowlers were not only very good, but also wise to the ways of bowling-league success and, most vital to the discussion that follows, unscrupulous. They wanted a trophy in the worst way, and so in the early games they indulged in a practice called sandbagging. To Sandbag is to deliberately not do your best, in order to gain an advantage.

These fellows were shameless about it. One night one of them claimed he’d injured his bowling arm, and so he bowled with his other arm, getting, of course, bad scores for all three games. Other times one or both of them would ‘experiment’ with different grips or approaches. All of this stuff mysteriously ended at the end of that part of the season wherein a team’s handicap, or points automatically added to level the playing field of bowler skill, was determined. After that, our two stars bowled to the best of their ability, enjoying the extra points they’d “earned” by not doing their best. (PS: Our team won the trophy. I also got a patch for bowling a game 75 points above my average, which was a semi-dismal 150 or so. I feel that I earned my share of the trophy and my patch, since I was not a Sandbagger at the time.))

Now we come to the image above, my latest acrostic-poem card. It has good possibilities as a work of art, but the execution is rushed and slipshod, and the poem is needlessly confusing. I can draw, and have drawn, far better; I can compose, and have composed, far more coherent verse. Why didn’t I do a better job?

Well, I can claim that my time is severely limited, which is 100% true; and I can tell you truly that I did this particular card to provide a not-too-intimidating example of acrostic poetry, in order to persuade my fellow members of the poetry group Poets All Call to try acrostic poetry themselves. I’m also slightly distracted by the migratory lingering gout that has now settled in my right knee.

But the whole truth is, about this and many other cards I’ve done, that I COULD have done better, and out of respect for the concept, SHOULD have done better, but I simply CHOSE NOT TO, and shame on me.

Shame on me, because you, the viewer, deserve the best I can do in the presentation of my artwork: you are giving the most precious thing you have in the world, Time Out Of Your Life, to paying attention to what I’ve done. And I am grateful that you do so, and I don’t want to waste your Time.

So–what advantage do I gain by not doing my best? Foremost, I think, is the indulgence of my laziness. I have chosen to work only so hard and no harder.

Second, I’m getting older astonishingly quickly, and I have so many ideas and ideas are my strong suit, and if I don’t record my ideas they tend to evaporate on me. If I spend too much time on one idea it is at the expense of others I may record, and won’t.

Third, just like those bowling teammates I had, I hope to look good-by-contrast later. Blog Post #1000 is fewer than 75 posts away. I am hoping it will be the best thing I have ever done in my life, arts-wise. That post may well serve as the equivalent of a master’s thesis, or an application of upgrade from apprentice to journeyman status, or, time not permitting, my valedictory farewell . . .

Thank you for your sweet Attention, my friends!

Here are the words to the OK-but-not-great acrostic:

Silly humans! They don’t know

Amorousness. Tally ho

Finding out about a partner

Enters realms Erle Stanley Gardner’d

NOTE: Erle Stanley Gardner wrote the Perry Mason books. With this line I compare growing intimacy to courtroom trials, with their Objection, Your Honors and their And Is It Not Also A Facts. As for “safe word,” it is a neologistic phrase referring to a word a lover may use to indicate, no kidding, that the other lover ought to cease and desist whatever s/he is doing, pronto. The phrase became popular after the release of the movie Fifty Shades of Grey, which I have not yet seen.


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