Dick Doyscher: A Man for a Few More Seasons

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The world is full of extraordinary people, but Dick Doyscher is not one of them.  Therein lies the problem.  We are inundated with news of extraordinary people, some stupid, some evil and some great.  We have become accustomed to news of people who have won 4000 gold medals, who have made $50,000,000,000 dollars with a new line of running shoes, who are four year old virtuosos that can sing the Soprano role of Gilda in Rigoletto and dance “Thriller” better than Michael Jackson could, or nut cases who have gone out and shot 45 people with a single round that we ignore people like Dick.  Dick is not extraordinary, but he is remarkable.  To paraphrase the “History Guy”, Dick deserves to be remembered.

As we get older, we no doubt read more and more obituaries.  The typical obituary is not like an obituary for Princess Diana or Kobe Bryant.  People write books about the rich and famous.  The typical obituary for the common person is one or two paragraphs long usually ending with something like:

“They worked as an air conditioner repair person for thirty years until they retired.  After retiring they took up gardening and were known for helping their neighbors plant flowers.  They were loved by all and will be dearly missed.” 

Perhaps a beautiful life rolled up into a few paragraphs and a short sweet ending.  You still know little or nothing about the deceased except that they loved flowers and died.  So sad.

Well, I wanted to say something about Dick while he is still alive.  You should know why he is a remarkable individual because I am sure it will not be listed in his obit. He is now 80 years old as he loves to remind us.  He is fond of saying, “Well, when you are as old as I am.”  I think he knows this drives me crazy.  I will perhaps never be old enough to say “I told you so” to Dick since he will either a.) always be older than me or b.) when I turn 80, he will not be around anymore.  So really, I am writing this blog about him as a way of getting even with him for all the times he has flaunted his age in our library group.  But before I tell you why he is remarkable, a short background on how I came to know Dick.

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Ten years ago when we moved to Frederic, I discovered a bunch of guys (See the “Old Library Guys”) who meet daily in the Frederic Public Library for free coffee and donuts.  There are about seven or eight of these guys who are sometimes joined by wives or women in the library.  We are not gender exclusive, but our conversations tend to be around politics, cars, guns and local goings on.  A few years ago, we created a “Last Man Standing Bottle.”  We purchased a bottle of “Old Grand Dad 114 Proof Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey” (Seemed appropriate) and sealed it in a wooden case with seven of our names on it.  Two of the men on the bottle are now deceased.  Dick and I remain among the living with three other men.

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When I first met Dick, I cannot say that I was impressed.  He was a retired mechanic with a younger attractive wife (Gladys, who I will talk about later) and no formal education beyond high school.  Dick liked cars and guns and Lorie Line.  He did not show much interest in reading the great books, traveling to exotic places or listening to classical concerts.  He did like one pianist name Lorie Line than he had heard but felt little need to explore other pianists.  I nicknamed him “Dick the Stick.”  This was short for “stick in the mud.”

By all known stereotypes, Dick should have been a classic Red Neck.  Now even Red Necks can be kind and caring individuals and you might be thinking that perhaps Dick the Stick was a kind individual who lent money to other people and helped them dig their gardens.  If so, you would be dead wrong.  Dick does not believe in lending money.  He says we should go to the bank for that and he does not do much heavy lifting since he has a bad back.

So nothing remarkable about Dick yet.  But as the years went by, I started to learn more and more about Dick.  Politically, he did not conform to stereotypes.  He is one of the most open minded and creative political thinkers I have ever met.  He argued with me for years that the USA is in a sort of decline like the Roman Empire.  It took me several years to come to believe that he is probably right.  Nevertheless, he supported Obama and even voted for him despite his belief that we were wasting our time voting.

Many of our politicians seem to thrive on fear or greed.  Many of the constituents that continually reelect these self-serving politicos swoon to the melody of greed and fear.  The politicians pander to these base needs as they extort more and more money for their never-ending re-election campaigns.  The broader interest of the world is suborned to the petty greed and fear of their constituents.  Dick is not swayed by either fear or greed.  Dick is clearly a global thinker who sees beyond any narrow horizons to think about the good of others and not just his family and friends.

Now Dick has been a hunter and still has a cache of guns in his house.  But again breaking stereotypes for such men in the North woods, Dick is no supporter of the NRA nor some of the rabid positions they have taken on gun control.  Dick is a pragmatist when it comes to gun control and supports an element of sensible controls without trying to take all guns away from the second amendment supporters.

54bd1b7c4e715_-_trophy-wife-george-hamilton-1209-04-deI mentioned his “Trophy Wife” Gladys.  I will probably have to duck some punches when she next sees me for this slight, but the standard stereotype is an old guy that marries a younger woman who is a gold digger willing to give up her youth and beauty for money and support.  Gladys loves to travel, but Dick the Stick says, “My traveling days are over.”  When I first heard many years ago that Gladys was going on an exotic bike, hike or kayak trip, I thought to myself “Well, Dick, you will never see her again.  She will find some kayaking stud and that is the end of your relationship.”  To my surprise, Gladys returned home.  Over the years she has gone on many trips abroad without Dick the Stick and always comes back.   Dick is more than supportive and never questions her trips or the financial aspects.  He is one of the least jealous men I have ever met.  They respect each other as individuals, and each pursues interests both together and apart.

Gladys the “Trophy Wife” mirrors another remarkable aspect of Dicks character.  Both are very caring individuals without being obvious or obtrusive about it.  Dick befriended Brian Rogers who was one of the men in our “Last Man Standing” group.  Brian had cerebral palsy and was becoming more and more disabled from the disease.  Dick seemed to know just how to help Brian and they became very close.  Brian would not take charity or help from anyone and was very independent.  However, they formed an almost symbiotic relationship with Brian helping Dick with his depression and Dick helping Brian with his cerebral palsy.  It was a beautiful relationship which ended when Brian died.

Dick has helped other men in the group who need help.  I am often surprised by his ability to transcend insults or sometimes mean-spirited attacks by people in our group.  He will forget the insult and if he sees that the person needs help, Dick will make a phone call, pay a visit or extend a hand to help.  I will say “Screw him Dick” and Dick will say “He is not feeling well” or “He has had a string of bad luck.”  I will stick by “Screw him” but not Dick.  He is always willing to forgive and forget any slight that I have seen leveled at him.

His wife Gladys works part-time with a community church, but I have often seen her at other churches where she helps out with the events or dinners.  Many of the churches in our community have an aging population and need help with volunteers because of the older ages in the church.  Gladys has done more than her share to help other churches.  I mentioned that she mirrors Dick, but it is fair to say that it works both ways.  Dick mirrors Gladys in her compassion for others.

beaver tshirtNow less this sound too much like a soap opera, I should point out some of the character flaws that are obvious with Dick.  He once had a battle with some beavers that resided on his property.  These beavers were adept at building a dam using a stream that flowed near a road leading to Dick’s house.  The dam would cause the water to back up flooding the road.  Dick would go out there and break up the dam but faster than you could say “Dick the Stick” the beavers would rebuild the dam.  I asked Dick why he did not shoot the suckers.  Dick replied that he promised Gladys that he would not kill them but try to get them to relocate.  So periodically Dick would come in with his back aching from breaking up the dam and I would say “Give me your rifle and I will shoot the suckers for you.”  Dick would never do this.  I finally bought him a t-shirt with “Beaver Advice” on it.

new-2018-summer-vladimir-putin-t-shirts-menI mentioned that Dick does not want to travel anywhere (Except maybe Duluth).  I would attribute his “been there, done it” to a possible birth or brain defect but to be fair Dick did go to England, Peru and a bunch of other countries when he was younger.  Furthermore, unlike some people, he is always interested in hearing about the travels of Gladys and others in the group.  I am going to Russia this coming year and I keep telling him that I am going to have an audience with President Putin.  Dick often jokes about Putin and his strong political resolve.  I may bring him a Putin t-shirt when I come back from Moscow, assuming that I am allowed to leave the country.

Well, “That’s all Folks” as Porky Pig used to say.  I am not expecting Dick to go anytime soon.  But in case he does, you will all know some things about him now that probably will not be in the Frederic Inter-county Leader.  I think he is a remarkable man and maybe if he reads this, he will remember me in his last will and testament.

 

One Night in Bangkok I Played Chess for World Domination

ChessThe song goes “One night in Bangkok makes a hard man humble.”  It was by Murray Head and was featured in the musical Chess.  This was a story put to music about the battle between Bobby Fischer, the brilliant American chess genius and Boris Spassky the efficient machine like Russian chess grandmaster.   (In the play, the antagonists are an American chess champion and a Russian chess champion and Fisher and Spassky are never mentioned but the characters are thinly veiled portraits of Fisher and Spassky)  Ostensibly this was a chess match between two magnificent chess players.  However, only slightly beneath the surface it was in reality a match between the United States and the the-production-company-chess-michael-falzon-and-castSoviet Union for dominance of the world.  (If you would like to hear the song, click here)

One night in Bangkok makes a hard man humble
Not much between despair and ecstasy
One night in Bangkok and the tough guys tumble
Can’t be too careful with your company
I can feel the Devil walking next to me.

1972wc Fischer vs Spassky The New York Times bookThe match took place at the height of the Cold War between the Russians and the US.  Everything from sports to ballet to politics was imbued with the animosity that characterized Russian American relations during this time frame.  The match took place in 1972.  Spassky was the defending world champion and Fischer was the United States great “Western Hope.”  The Russians were well known for being the greatest chess players in the world and few would have ever hoped that the US could challenge them at what amounts to their national game.  For the previous 24 years, the Russians had defeated all comers to remain the world chess champions.  All eyes, all hopes, all dreams, all aspirations and all of the US national pride rode on the shoulders of Bobby Fischer.  People who would not know the difference between a pawn and a knight were tuned into what would become one of the most epic battles of the entire Cold War.

I grew up playing chess when my father taught me the game at about the age of 6.  At the age of 8, I could beat my father easily.  I played whenever and whomever I could and rarely lost a game more than once to the same person.  I thought of chess as my game since it was a game of logic and intellect.

Bobby Fisher could have easily been described by the following adjectives:  eccentric, idiosyncratic, unconventional, unorthodox, unusual, strange, bizarre, peculiar and odd.  At age 15, Fischer became both the youngest grandmaster in history and the youngest candidate for the World Championship.  Fisher died in 2008 in Iceland at the age of 64.  This was the same country where he had defeated Spassky in 1972.

At the time of his death, Fisher was no longer a national hero (if he had ever been one).  He had been considered a fugitive from US justice over some tax payments that the government believed he owed for more than sixteen years.  Haunted and hounded by the US Department of Revenue, he had to flee arrest several times.  He no longer had the support of the American public due to his rabid anti-Semitic comments as well as his other anti-American views.  Few in this country saw him as upholding American values or the American way of life.

I don’t see you guys rating
The kind of mate I’m contemplating
I’d let you watch, I would invite you
But the queens we use would not excite you.

PokerPoker is a more popular game in the United State than chess.  It is estimated that there are over 60 million poker players in the US, forty millions of whom play regularly.   It is estimated that there are 45 million chess players in the US but only a small subset of this play regularly and there are only 90,000 active tournament players in the US for chess compared to 10 million Americans who play poker regularly for money.  Poker is a game of bluff, luck and intuition.  Chess is a game of logic, cognitive ability and foresight.  Both are games of strategy.  Poker favors an emergent strategy which takes stock of trends, cards, people, bets, emotions, tells and previous history to determine the best odds on which to place a bet, hold em or fold em.  Chess favors a predictive strategy which takes stock of position, history, foresight, patterns and possibilities to determine the next best move.  There is no luck in chess since both players have the same pieces and the same possibility for moves.  Poker can be determined by the luck of the draw wherein one player gets dealt a full house and the other player gets a pair of deuces.  Nevertheless, it is possible for the player with the deuces to still win.

Russian chess players versus American poker players!  In many ways, the differences between the two games highlight the way Americans seem to pursue foreign policy versus the way the Russians have pursued foreign policy.  To beat the Russians at chess required someone like Bobby Fisher who was perhaps the most creative and innovative chess player in the history of the game.  There was little that was methodical or predictable about Fisher’s game playing.  In many ways, Fisher was a poker player who adapted his skills to the game of chess.

“Fischer was a master of clarity and a king of artful positioning. His opponents would see where he was going but were powerless to stop him. I like to say that Bobby Fischer was the greatest Russian player ever. All of his great opening moves came from the Russians. He studied all of their methods. But what made Fischer a genius was his ability to blend an American freshness and pragmatism with Russian ideas about strategy.” – Bruce Pandolfini

Bobby_Fischer_graveThere are many claims to the “Great American Tragedy” but in my mind, few equal the tragedy of Robert Fischer.  Perhaps at some level, I can find myself identifying with him.  Not in terms of his anti-Semitic or anti-American opinions but certainly in his idiosyncrasies regarding his playing and his involvement in tournaments.  When I was a child, we used to play a game called “King of the Hill.”  You could only be king for so long and eventually either one or the entire group would pull you down.  This game taught me that you can only “reign” for so long and eventually whatever greatness you have will be eclipsed by others.  Great actors become has-beens.  Great athletes become washed-up.  Great singers become past their prime.  Great politicians outlive their times.  Great thinkers are no longer able to think great thoughts. Whenever we become “King of the Hill” there is only one direction to go.

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Chess Champion Bobby Fischer

Bobbie Fischer was the greatest chess player in history.  But the more he won the higher up the hill he went.  The higher up the hill he went, the farther he had to fall down.  I stopped playing chess regularly many years ago.  The more games I won, the harder it was to play.  I could not bear the idea of losing or the possibility of losing.  Despite the fact that I had always learned from losing in my early years of chess playing, I could no longer accept the idea of losing.  I told myself repeatedly that one has to lose to get better and that even if someone beat me, I could adapt and overcome.  Something inside me lost the drive to win.  I lost the will to power. I no longer aspired to be a “higher” man.   It simply seemed like too much work.

“The higher man is distinguished from the lower by his fearlessness and his readiness to challenge misfortune.”  ― Friedrich NietzscheThe Will to Power

russia versus US chess setI can only imagine what it must have been like to be Fischer. The entire esteem of the United States was riding on his match with Spassky.  All minds and all hearts needed him to beat the Russian.  We had to show the world that we were not only the economic and physical match for the Russians but we were also their intellectual match.  The Free World, democracy and God were riding on the outcome of Fischer’s match with Spassky.  Can you imagine the pressure that was riding on Fischer’s shoulders?  The stress that he had to cope with would have been incomprehensible.  I think it would have driven most people stark raving mad, which I sometimes suspect it did to Bobbie.

One night in Bangkok makes a hard man humble
Not much between despair and ecstasy
One night in Bangkok and the tough guys tumble
Can’t be too careful with your company
I can feel the Devil walking next to me.

Obama-and-Putin-s-International-Chess-Match--115652It is now almost 50 years later and we are still playing chess with the Russians.  Obama and Putin have taken the place of Kennedy and Khrushchev.  The game of chess is still pitted against the game of poker.  World fortunes and prestige still ride on the outcome of matchups between us and the Russians.  The pawns have become the Arabs while the rulers of Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iran, ISIS, Iraq, Jordan and Europe fill in for the knights, bishops and rooks.  Putin is the King for the Red side and Obama is the King for the White Side.  The head of the Sunnis will fill in for the Red Queen while the head of the Shiites can fill in for the White Queen.  Let the games roll on.

“The more things change, the more they are the same.” — Alphonse Karr

Time for Questions:

Do you play chess?  Do you play poker?  Which do you prefer? Why?  Have you ever played in a tournament?  What does it take to be great?   Which strategy works best in politics?  Why?

Life is just beginning.

“I believe every chess player senses beauty, when he succeeds in creating situations, which contradict the expectations and the rules, and he succeeds in mastering this situation.” — Vladimir Kramnik

 

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