I’m using everyone’s real name. They can all sue me. I hope they do. I could use the excitement. It gets kind of boring living up here with my eighty-year-old mother in Ashland, Oregon. She likes having me around, though. She was sick of being by herself. My dad died…wow, a while ago…going on something like nine years now. Sometimes it feels like yesterday; other times it feels like he’s still alive. We keep finding scribbled notes in his ninth-grade handwriting here and there—like when I change a fuse in the fuse box or my mother digs through the glove compartment looking for a map. Plenty of other people seem to think he’s still alive too. They keep sending him mail—brochures from hearing aid companies and long letters on good bond paper explaining to him how he might want to consolidate his debt. Hey, his debt’s as consolidated as it gets. It’s paid, paid in full—going on nine years now.
I do the things my father used to do: mow the lawn, get the car fixed, put in new light bulbs, change the furnace filters, take the lids off jars that are on too tight for my mother’s arthritis. I play golf every day, rain or shine. The rainier, the better—wind, sleet, hail, snow, I don’t care. Sometimes I get to feeling a little like King Lear out there, talking to thunder, flipping off gusts of wind. Ha! The other day I held my putter up like a lightening rod, daring the elements to do their worst, but usually I just play golf.
I play golf with anyone who shows up. Ford. Wallace. Bergeron. Johnny Pelosi. Felix. Knapp. Tyrone. Tyrone’s a black guy from the Shakespeare Festival. He was the King of France last year. We all play golf at a cheap, hilly little municipal golf course called Oak Knoll. It’s out of town a ways, south on Highway 66, toward Emigrant Lake. Standing on the ninth tee, you can see everything for miles around. Pilot Rock’s directly in front of you, off in the distance toward California. Mt. Ashland’s a little to the right; Grizzly Peak and Pompadour Bluff are to the left.
The golf course is home to five families of Canadian Geese. Nobody fucks with them. They poo on the greens with impunity. Even the feisty mallards and wood ducks and the seagulls that fly over from Klamath Lake stay out of their way. The five families of Canadian Geese correspond roughly with the five families of the New York Mafia. Well, according to Johnny Pelosi, anyway. He knows all about that sort of thing. Johnny Pelosi isn’t his real name. I don’t know for a fact that he got it as part of a witness protection program; all I know is you don't want to beat him out of more than a couple of bucks a round unless you want to wake up with your parakeet’s head in your bed.
It's an eclectic group. Wallace drives a Winnebago. He's also a direct descendent of William Wallace, that Braveheart guy, so you want to watch how much money you beat him out of too. Ford has trouble keeping his trousers on. Bergeron has a twinkle in his eye. Knapp carries beer in a blue cooler in the summer and drinks whisky in the winter. Felix hangs drywall and thinks he’s Lee Trevino. We all make up Mexican sounding things to say to him. Felix was one of my dad’s buddies at the Elks. My dad used to make up Mexican sounding things to say to him, too.
Besides the five families of Canadian Geese and a few pesticide-resistant burrowing animals, there are flowering bushes and white birches and yellow birches and oak trees with mistletoe in their branches and willow trees. The groundskeepers prune them down to bare nubs in the fall but they always grow back into huge weeping willows by the time summer rolls around again. Then, on top of all that, there’s the sky—all different kinds of sky, changing from one minute to the next; dark clouds, white clouds, mist, rainbows, double rainbows, you name it—anything you’d ever want to see in the way of weather.
If none of the guys I usually play golf with shows up, I play golf all by myself. Nor do I play golf well. I play golf badly. I’ve been playing golf badly every day for the last two and a half years. I shot a 76 once, but that was a gigantic fluke. The wind kept changing direction. It was with me on every hole. Calm zephyrs gently guided my 90 compression Titleist straight toward the pin every time I hit the thing. If I’d been any good it would have been a 66. But I’m not any good. That’s part of the reason I quit playing golf and decided to write this book, instead—well, that and just to get it the hell over and done with once and for all.