Flipping Off Gusts of Wind
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 in my eighty-year-old mother’s house on the side of a mountain in Ashland, Oregon. She likes having me around, though. She wasn’t all that happy being by herself. My dad died…wow, a while ago, going on nine years now. Sometimes it feels like yesterday; other times it feels like he’s still alive. We keep finding scrawled 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 filter, take the lids off jars that are on too tight for my mother’s arthritis. Other than that, I pretty much just play golf. I play golf every day, rain or shine. The rainier, the better — wind, sleet, hail, snow, nothing stops me. I whack the ball, find it, and whack it again. 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 pet 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 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.
I’m not worried about getting it published. What publisher wants to get sued? No publisher, that’s what publisher. I suppose I could get my sister to stick it on the Internet for me. She has a web-design company. One of her clients is the World Elephant Polo Association, which, according to People Magazine, was one of the hot sites of the week awhile back, so you never know. Someone I knew thirty years ago might just be idly browsing the web, stumble across his or her name, and decide to sue me for something. Hey, it could happen — Sandy Good, Donna McKechnie, Gordon Lish — any one of them might just up and sue my ass. I hope one of them does. I hope they all do. I might even throw in some people I didn’t know, just to increase my chances — Mia Farrow, maybe, Jill Clayburgh, Elizabeth Clare Prophet, Courtney Love. I sort of did know Courtney Love, actually. She would only have been around two years old at the time, but I’ll put her in anyway. Her father brought her over to where Ginny and I were living on Shrader Street in 1966. He needed a babysitter. We were on acid. Her angelic little towhead two-year-old glow lit up the whole room. So, yo, Courtney, sue me, man. Bring it on.
The prospect of some hard working process server showing up at my mother’s front door with a summons on behalf of some long forgotten friend or acquaintance just somehow warms the cockles of my heart. Duchess, my mother’s little black ragamuffin dog, will bark her fool head off when the process server knocks on the door, but I’ll be so glad I’ll practically kiss the guy. The summons will tell me that I should get a lawyer, but I won’t. Ha! I don’t need no stinking lawyer. I’ll be my own lawyer. That will be the exciting part.
The last job I had was as a paralegal. I got fired, but I was a paralegal all the same. I’ll know how to defend myself if it ever comes to that. That’s how I got the money to play golf every day for the last two and a half years, as a matter of fact — by suing the law firm that fired my ass: Shafer, Kirloff, Isaacson and Barish, those dicks. They were what you might call a mid-sized San Francisco labor and employment law firm. It all started out innocently enough. I had run out of money. My whole life I’ve been running out of money. I knew one of the associates. She recommended me. The partners took her word for it that I wasn’t some kind of whacko — and I wasn’t. Well, not right away. I was glad to have a job.