Friday, July 14, 2006

I ran over a box of madeleines with the bush-hog, and memory crumbs coated the blades of grass with words like pollen: Great Lakes Golf Course: Intro

The contrast between what I am doing this summer and what I was doing during the summer of 1986 is pretty striking. Yeah, I know, it's 20 years, no shit the differences are striking, but ... they're striking nonetheless. They're holding out for better benefits, and they are pretty pissed off about unsafe working conditions, too.

We have a heat wave underway in frickin' Chicago right now, and I'm hiding in the a/c cocoon like the Swedish melt-a-pop I am, but when I was young, skinny, and hyperkinetic, I worked for six ... no, seven ... no wait, shit, eight summers in a row in the goddamn out of doors. During the day.

Yeah, those of you who know me may think of me (more or less correctly) as an effete ex-lawyer writer-type-guy with a weakness for pop-cultural geekery and a general timidity in regard to the outside world. You may also think of me as an introverted, sedentary, fat, pasty, pigeon-chested basement-dweller who regards bright sunlight as a divine punishment for Levitican misdeeds (also accurate, as far as it goes). But I used to be a groundskeeper, man. Keeping grounds! Above-ground grounds! Four summers for various apartment complexes in and around Illinois (two in Kenosha and two in DeKalb, if you must pry) and four most excellent summers for the Department of Defense (damn right, mutherfuckers) at the golf course on the Great Lakes Naval Training Center up by North Chicago.

That's what I was doing 20 years ago this month. Working at the Great Lakes NTC "Willow Glen" golf course (par 71). Raking sand traps, weedeating around trees, mowing tees and collars (sounds almost sexy, huh? do the tees match the collars? yes! after I'm done mowing them!), changing holes (oh come on, that's too easy), picking up garbage, and driving disparate metal machines around a weird government-issue expanse of 18 fairways, 18 greens, and about 18 bizarre sinkholes ... because the back nine was built (hastily and shoddily) over a landfill. So every other time it rained hard, some hollowed-out pocket formerly occupied by now-decayed (allegedly nontoxic, but you know the government) waste would flush out, leaving nothing to support the sod, and ... whammo ... instant 10 x 10 x 10-foot pit in the ground. And when the holes didn't collapse, you could jam a spade into the spongy bulges in the turf and hold a cigarette lighter up to the gouge in the dirt and make a foot-high blue flame burn for a considerable amount of time.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. What I am driving at, by way of introduction, is that this was manly work, dammit! The adverb-looking adjectival form of man!

You see the incongruity, right?

Anyway, campers, I think that's what I'm going to serially blog about for a while. The best job, and the best four summers I ever had. So I guess this is the prologue. Actual part one, then, in the near future. There's sex and drugs and rock and roll in the story, if that serves as any enticement to come back.

RANDOM POSTSCRIPT: Ted Blackwelder or Ralph Nemec, if you ever Google-stalk yourself and end up at this page, please leave a comment. And then come back, so you can read the reply. And post another comment after that. etc. You can help me with this.


Feral Mom said...

Oh good! Maybe this will ease my withdrawal shakes. Tell some tales, tale teller. And if they involve changing holes, so much the better. There. Got that one out of the way for you! Just tee those double entendres up, and count on me to slice away at them clumsily in the comments..

Stronger Than Dirt Pete Moss said...

I don't really know where I'm going to go with this one, because there isn't really a story arc to it. But there were enough weird things to provide fodder for anecdotes, and maybe some of them are relatable to people who weren't there. Golf is strange enough (and I hate the game, so there won't be much actual golf, if any), but when you add the military base element, stuff gets twisted. That's a weird world, the armed services. Like Caddyshack meets Stripes or something. (Yeah, those were my Carl Spackler days -- "But sir, if I kill all the golfers, they'll lock me up and throw away the key!") Then there was the sailor boy who worked at the pro shop and used to peep in through the windows at the house in Waukegan that The Stickler and I were occupying for a while that summer -- I haven't figured out how to treat that bit yet, but I don't know how I can leave it out -- but now I'm tipping my hand.