Thursday, October 18, 2007

One of the Beautiful People

Yesterday I played golf at the exclusive Dedham Polo and Country Club. I grew up in the Fairmount Projects in Hyde Park about five miles, as the crow flies, from the manicured lawns and sculpted grounds of the club. In Western Massachusetts, where I now reside, taking a five mile trip in any direction brings you, pretty much, to another friendly burg similar to your own. In Boston, five miles brings you to another world. We pulled in to the parking lot of the club at around 9:30 AM in my friend Hiroshi's 1998 Mercedes. Thank God we didn't take my Grand Cherokee or Chris's Explorer because they would have stuck out amongst the Jaguars, BMW's and Mercedes. I am sure the members thought we were roughing it in Hiroshi's decade old car, but assumed that his garage must be minding his late model Aston Martin, Porsche or Maserati.

One of my regular golf partners, Steve, (who happens to be my wife's second cousin, as well as her Scotch league partner) was able to gain us entry into this world of the privileged through his secretary, whose son is the course superintendent. As a child attending a private, catholic school I was one of the few indigent children in a world of the upper middle class. Throughout my life I have been able to shift seamlessly between social strata. I can morph into anybody from a CEO to a barfly. The key? Act like you belong. If you are there (country club or crackhouse), as long as you aren't dressed completely out of place (like wearing a suit in a dive bar(cop) or a "got milf?" t-shirt for drinks at The Ritz) then people assume you belong and will accept you as one of their own.

The attendant delivered our clubs to the driving range from our car and we spent 15 minutes hitting balls and shooting the shit. There was not another soul on the expansive range. We were greeted by the pro who told us to head to the first tee at our convenience and not to rush; there were no tee times for quite a while after us. It was a quintessential fall day in Eastern Massachusetts. The leaves were changing. The morning fog was burning off. The temperatures were in the low 60's and the course was dewy. It was a shame the course was empty, it seemed like such a waste. We teed off at 10 AM and started our way around the hilly track. The greens were fast and firm. On every hole there were groundskeepers working feverishly to trim the fairways and blow stray leaves off the greens. I was starting off slowly, struggling with muscle memory not having played for two weeks. Golf for me during the past few years has been bittersweet. Since my sons were born I can't play often enough to maintain my 8 handicap, but I occasionally regain my former swing just enough to play acceptably.

Midway through the front nine I was soaking in my surroundings. I admired the stone walls built along the roads bordering the grounds and gazed at the changing foliage. I then came upon a grounds keeper repairing a sand trap on the left side of the fairway, where my ball seemed to be slicing all day (I am a lefty). He was a dark skinned man of Hispanic decent. As I approached my ball next to the bunker I said "Hi". He smiled and looked down, avoiding eye contact. I speak fluent Spanish and I'm sure he understood "hi", but his body language spoke volumes. For the next few holes I was troubled. Why should this man have lowered his gaze? I am no better than him. I grew up in squalid, destitute surroundings no more than five miles from here. I felt out of place. The pretension and hubris of the place hovered over my walk down the tenth fairway.

My guilt was short lived having a $10 Nassau to contend with and the comforting fact that this man had a job; his prodigious mid section assured me that he wasn't starving. My game picked up knowing we lost the front and were four down on the overall with only eight holes to go. Hiroshi and I heroically won the back nine by one, only losing 10 dollars of the Nassau and four buck on other side bets. Upon completion of the round we thanked the pro for the round and made our way to the car. People at exclusive clubs (which I have been privy to quite a few in my golf travels) always look happy. Smiling faces and politeness are traits that are easy to come by in such beautiful surroundings. In stark contrast, at my blue collar course, f-bombs echo throughout the place. The drinking is heavy and the scowls are many. The parking lot at my club is filled with pick-up trucks, many with the logo of the plumber or builder's business who drives it. The "nineteenth hole" can be described as a place where golfers drink. My club has been described as a place where drinkers golf.

I won't pack my clubs away for the year, I never do, but this is probably my last "trip" of the year. I was a beautiful day, at a beautiful course and, for a day, I got to be one of the beautiful people.


Suldog said...

Well, I learn something new every time I read you. I had no idea you spoke Spanish.

As I believe I told you, I haven't golfed in about 25 years. However, as crappy a golfer as I was (breaking 100 was a major thrill) I loved being out on a course, especially in the early morning.

Geez, now you've got me wondering if I might like to take the game up again, since I have a hole where softball used to be...

Ana said...

Sounds like great fun. I acknowledge being a hyphenated American and accept it. Unlike you, I can't shift seamlessly from place to place, especially in Boston, the most segregated place I've ever been in my life. The idea that those labels are meaningless is a fallacy.

I spent a good chunk of my childhood in various parts of West Africa and would have agreed with you years ago. After spending time outside of my parents' planned community, I finally get it.

david santos said...

The regime of Mubarak and his minions is every day to transgress human rights. More than 10,000 Sudanese refugees are arrested and more than 100 have been killed.
Illustrative of the world arrogance and the atrocities committed against the Sudanese refugees by this criminal regime of Mubarak.

David Sullivan said...

Ana: I have no problem with anyone identifying themselves any way they would like. Self determination image is a right that all should take seriously.

I do have a problem with people who complain about segregation and about racism when they themselves perpetuate the very thing they complain about. The only way this country or any country can survive with multiple races and religions living together is to develop a national identity. Seperate, but equal does not cut it as you have pointed out in your example of Boston. Therefore racism of all kinds need to be confronted and examined including people of ethnic and religious persuasions segrgating themselves from the society at large. Every group that has come to this contry of their own free will has assimilated, some more successfully than others, but they came here to be Americans. Obviously, African Slaves do not fall under the same category, but what is the solution? Continue to have a country of separate societies and expectations or do away with race as a prerequisite for being an American. If we are going to fight racism then we have to do away with labels which fuel racism such as Irish-American, Japanese-American, Jewish-American, African-American, Italian-American and so on.

Thanks for stopping by and lets agree to disagree, respectfully and thoughtfully.

David Sullivan said...

David Santos: You don't have to educate me about Mubarak. A co-worker of mine was a high ranking Sudanese official until he barely escaped with his life (but many physical and emotional scars, they tried to slice his throat, he has a scar from ear to ear). He does not identify himself as a Sudanese-American or an African-American. He is now an American, but is doing all he can from here to help his country of birth. When asked if everything changed in the Sudan and it was sfae to return he says that he would visit, but he is now an American.

Ana said...

I am an African and an American. My experience in this country will be different. My interests are shaped by my background and experience.

I want to talk about issues that seem to make some white Americans uncomfortable. It's a bit silly to me to pretend that things are perfect. If the people directly affected don't acknowledge the need for progress, how exactly are these changes supposed to come about? The general public fails to acknowledge that there are differences and the media seems to think that Al Sharpton is the only black person available for "discourse."

I want to talk about the issues on my blog. The general populace has opted out of this discussion while the passive aggressive racists hang nooses around the country. Obviously, all is not well. There has been progress. Pretending that everyone is treated equally and reverting back to the Jim Crow days are not the only options.

David Sullivan said...

I never said that everyone is treated equally and things are far from perfect.

I probably agree with you on most of this issue. I just feel that any form of segregation whether it be intitutional or self imposed will just perpetuate sterotypes, encourage intolerence and slow down any, minute bit of progress that we, as a society, have made.

The fact that we are having this dialouge speaks to the progress that has been made over the past 40 years.

Anali said...

Always interesting conversation happening on this blog. Quite an interesting post. I had no idea you spoke fluent Spanish.

Torrance Stephens bka All-Mi-T said...

we need a pic of that car

plez... said...

you are such an excellent writer... in this post, i rode with you from your city dwelling of your youth to the upper-crust enclave of the private golf club with your friend, i saw the bevy of high priced luxury vehicles in the parking lot, i smelled the burnish wood that made up the walls of the golf club, i tasted the bittersweet scotch being poured at the bar, i watched your golf balls being effortly flung into the far reaches of the driving range(HELL! you have an 8 handicap?), i saw the changing autumn leaves, and i felt your unease with immigrant groundskeeper who would never understand how well you understood him... what a fascinating read.


David Sullivan said...

Plez: Thanks for the compliments.

If we can have an "I love you man" moment you are one of my favorite reads and I am honored that you visit my site. You are a good, strong father and a man of conviction, what else could you want in a man? Guys like us need to be the voices in the wilderness. Oh, oh....I feel a tear coming