Processed Product Top 4 of 2015

It has been a WHILE folks. In the time since I last posted, I’ve been as busy as a new father with a full teaching load can be, which has left me precious little time to write outside of the novel revisions I’ve delved back into. But if you know me, you know I like lists, especially year-end best-of lists.

2015 was a year of renewal for me, and I see this reflected not only in the stylistic choices I’ve been making in my writing but also in what I’ve read, watched and listened to. So, without any further mutterings,  here are Processed Product’s Top 4 Cultural Artifacts Consumed in 2015:

Ingmar Bergman’s Middle and Late Period Films

tumblr_m13j1c7ffr1rnk8yfo1_500

It may be cheating to include 10-15 (at least) films under one entry, but that best resembles how I watched them, a month-long self-imposed Bergman immersion program that had me practically speaking Swedish by early October. I watched or rewatched a span of his classics, ranging from 1957 to 1982, usually during the wee hours of the morning before anyone else was awake, and few films can match the intimacy and elegance–and occasional ferocity–of his best. His use of time and the human face reminded me that all else can be simple or sparse if image and character, the two essential filmic elements, are composed perfectly. My only regret now is that I will never be able to see any of them for the first time in a theater, where I imagine the experience of every one of of Liv Ullman or Max Von Sydow’s facial nooks and crannies would be even more pronounced.

Jamie xx In Colour

8f09545c

There were some great albums that were released this year (Kendrick!) and others that I revisited religiously (Coltrane at the Village Vanguard and the Stones’ Sticky Fingers), but the album that got the most play was Jamie xx’s nostalgic electronica album, In Colour. It has none of the usual trappings of contemporary EDM and was made, admittedly, as a kind of homage to UK rave. The album feels completely absent of pretension, which appeals to me even if the other artifacts that made my list aren’t exactly middle-of-the-road. In Colour feels like what it was like to be dancing at 3 a.m., ecstatic, with the whole future ahead of you, and the happy, hazy drive home with friends at dawn before you even thought about having to go to work later that afternoon. Hsu Hsu wrote a great piece in the New Yorker about the album, and focused a lot of attention on the influence of Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore, a short film about UK dance culture over the last 60 years. An electronic music site gave the album a bad review, saying it wasn’t “hard” enough, but I don’t think that was ever the point.

Roberto Bolano’s 2666

61bahg8xtil-_sy344_bo1204203200_

2666  was the best (and biggest) novel I read this year, and it is the only work that made my mid-year best-of list as well. The scope and violence overwhelmed me, but it was one of the best reading experiences I have had in quite some time in that I kept turning pages and did not want it to end. Bolano creates a bloated fictional universe full of dread, fake history, and metaphysical connections that extend across time and space. Good fun!

Ranier Maria Rilke Selected Poetry

selectedrilke

I’ve had the book for quite a while now, and I’ve gone through periods of reading a poem here and there, but I recently starting reading the Duino Elegies in earnest and have fallen for their spiritual lyricism. In a time when so much of what claims to be mysticism seems canned because it lays out the ineffable too plainly, Rilke points towards it, using image and metaphor to expose and reveal but never assign. The result is a glimpse of “the real,” the kind of dasein or being that is at the heart of all philosophy and true art.

 

 

Advertisements

Hour of the Wolf (1968)

“A minute is actually an immense space of time.”

My favorite moment from Ingmar Bergman’s “Vargtimmen” (Hour of the Wolf) comes nearly halfway through the film. For the viewer, it is a test of faith offered by a artist assured of his craft who knows full well that time is the beating heart of film. Time is what makes the medium so magnificently absorbing, and a full minute passes in the film as we watch both characters’ faces. Alma (Liv Ullman) is uncomfortable because her husband is losing his mind, but that discomfort only translates to the viewer if you aren’t engaged by the story and the nuance of each actor’s movements, the subtle shifts in their faces, the light and shadows. The minute expands, a minute universe.

In Roger Ebert’s review of the film, he says the film “requires a creative act of imagination from his audience, the same sort of suspension of disbelief that Disney asks the kids to make for “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” But the adults in the audience I observed didn’t seem up to the effort. They snickered and whispered and made boors of themselves.”

I watched it alone in the dark at 2:00 am, and was mesmerized and haunted. Like Bergman’s best works, there are scenes that leave indelible impressions–the corpse in the castle, the witch who first approaches Alma, the murder of the young boy, the dark forest stream where Johan (Max Von Sydow) finally disappears.

Since my daughter was born almost three months ago, I’ve made my way through a good portion of Bergman’s oeuvre.  I still haven’t gotten to many of his earliest works aside from “Summer With Monika” and “Smiles of a Summer Night,” but my favorites films are (naturally) the weirdest or most brutal: “Virgin Spring,” “Through a Glass Darkly,” “The Silence,” “Persona,” “Cries and Whispers,” “Fanny and Alexander.”

Hour of the Wolf doesn’t have nearly the same emotional heft of his later films, but it tests the limits of his art in other ways. Johan, fully cracked, looks at his tormentors in the castle: The mirror has been shattered. But what do the fragments reflect?”

We can only try to make sense of them.

Revisiting “Mulholland Drive” (2001)

The true mark of a great film is how long it stays with you after it ends. You wonder about it and replay it in your mind’s eye–the opening shot, the ending, the scene that was lit and framed so beautifully, the score. A great film will also hold up to repeat viewings, though for many films that is neither necessary nor desired because the initial impression is so deep and lasting.

The first time I watched David Lynch’s “Mulholland Drive” was on a laptop screen, yet I was still so desperately caught up in the tense, escalating madness that leads Betty/Diane to off herself in the film’s final moments that the closing shot felt like a gift of release. “Silencio.”

Since then, I have watched the film a handful of times, fearing that it could lose its power with too many repeat viewings. After about the third or fourth viewing, the plot became more clear–a dream populated by the various characters and images from Diane’s memories as she tries to sleep off the guilt she feels for having her lover killed. Diane is jealous, insecure, and feels betrayed by the leading lady who, in true movie star fashion, can’t help it that everyone falls in love with her.

A few nights ago I saw it on the big screen for the first time, and its beauty and  thematic preoccupations crescendoed in my mind like the chorus of a Roy Orbison tune. It may have helped that it was late at night and I was operating on caffeine and little sleep, but I walked away with an unshakable belief in its greatness.

Every Lynch obsession is offered to us (coffee, large curtains in empty rooms, tracking shots, benign and innocent interactions recast as sinister ones), and they are supported by a sustained, crisp style unmatched by the rest of his oeuvre. The primary colors pop, the reds and the blues, because DP Peter Deming chiseled out each shot like a sculptor.

mulholland-drive

And once you piece together the surreal elements, the story is simple and timeless. The film is about the dream of revising the past and reimagining life as a movie in which you are finally the lead actress and you are eternally innocent, full of the eager hope that first inspired you to pursue your dreams.

The story is as quintessentially American as Jay Gatsby’s, and just as tragic. Dream all you want. You will never regain your innocence, you will never regain your past.

Working Title: Mystery 1.0

Yes, dear readers, I understand that my working title could use more imagination, but I figure I have to write the story first before I start thinking about a snappy title. So, you’ll just have to accept it for now and hope the story is interesting enough in its own right.

For the past seven or eight months I’ve been on a mystery kick, and I am going to try my hand at a new story since posting here is the best way to stay (loosely) accountable to a drafting schedule. Not that I haven’t been writing.

Enjoy!

Mystery 1.0

Nothing remained but the ash that swirled around the bent steel frame of what was once a car. All Mickey Benneker wanted to do was see the damage the fire had done. He had watched the news all week and wore thick boots that kept out most of the heat that still radiated from the earth. At the height of a fire’s powers it could boil the water in the ground, drawing out the steam like a conjuror desperate to prove herself under the eye of a wakeful master.

A cool dawn breeze scattered more of the ash, and Mickey made his way to the trailhead. He had always thought of fire as the ultimate glutton, eating everything in its path until forced to stop by earth, or water, or man. He lit his own fires in a kiln in his backyard and once, when his landlord was away, he dug out a pit and made a bonfire. It rose ten feet high and he watched it burn all night, well after his friends had finished all of the beer and taken off. He had collected sticks and brush for weeks, yet he still used all of the wood that was in the shed, which, according to the stipulations of his rental agreement, he had to replenish at his own expense. The next day he took his truck to the store where the bagboy helped him tie down a full cord, and when he got home he passed the pit every time he walked by with a bundle. Just to see what would happen, he threw the last log in, surprised when it started smoking on the still-hot embers.

Mickey could never have been a firefighter. He loved it too much; he would rather see it come to its natural end. That, and he never could manage to pass EMT training.

Something in the dirt caught his eye, a flicker of white against the blackened earth, and he bent down to examine it. A tooth. Whether human or animal, he couldn’t say. It was sharp, and chipped. If it were human, it would have to be a canine. Our only proof that we should eat meat, he thought. He fingered the tooth, polishing off some of the dirt with his thumb, and put it in his pocket.

Processed Product’s 2015 Mid-Year Best Of List

Today’s cultural acceleration leaves me completely unmoored. Step away from the current for less than a second and the frenetic wash of conversation has already gone down to the sea and is evaporating, only to reform again upstream so that it can rush back to the the sea once more, quickening, and ever faster. Time and tide waits for no man.

This is true only up to the point in which you simply take it. Time that is. (And tide too for that matter, which is intended to be synonymous, the original meaning being more like season or while, e.g. yuletide.) My will is strong, and if I’m just getting around to reading a book published in 1940, I shouldn’t have to answer to deathless time. He gets to read the entire book of life while I only get one word at the bottom corner of page 313,609,093 (from what I understand, it’s going to be a multivolume work).

So here they are, the top five cultural artifacts I took time for during the first half of 2015.

dead

Fare Thee Well: The January announcement of the Grateful Dead’s final go-round with the core four instantly generated two thoughts: 1) Big cash grab; 2) I need to scrounge up whatever money I can to buy a weekend pass and a plane ticket to Chicago because I know the experience will be the closest I could ever come to a Dead show. Thought number two never materialized, but my wife and I attended night one of a simulcast at Portland’s Crystal Ballroom, and it brought a smile to my face. Critics–Hell, even the president of the United States–have acknowledged the Dead as pioneers of a uniquely American songwriting and entrepreneurial aesthetic, and American Beauty and Workingman’s Dead are held in high regard by fans and non-fans alike. The band is a shambling bunch of elders who still rock and roll, and even if it was a cash grab (which, what could be more American?) they took their blaring, chugging steam engine through Jack Straw’s Tuscon, around down and out jailhouses, past mosquito rivers with children clapping hands, all while still managing to go through the occasional tunnels that inexplicably wormholed into transcendent deep space. Weirdness is still alive and well.

imagesTo Pimp A Butterfly: A hip-hop masterwork with braggadocio and insight in equal measure that also speaks to the current moment and the experience of being black in America. Kendrick Lamar wrote the album after seeing the wider world outside of Compton and realizing it was filled with the same ignorance, ferocity, and injustice that he saw in the ghetto, and he tries to deliver a message, however imperfect, that is meticulously crafted and deftly artistic. On “Momma” he raps about knowing everything–“I know street shit,I know shit that’s conscious”–and it’s not just posturing. He’s taken the message from the underground, the one that never sold that many records nor appealed to mainstream rap fans, and repackaged it for the street, reaching far more listeners with positive messages about community and self-worth.

indexInherent Vice: P.T. Anderson’s 2014 film led me to the book, which was one I’d let pass by despite the heaps of praise it received in 2009. The book was rollicking, playful Pynchon of the long, drawn-out sentences and shambling, shaggy dog conspiracy plots that ring close to home and make you reflect on how things might actually be all connected, and the film lovingly depicts the tone of the book with every character expertly cast and every scene expertly composed. It’s film directed by master based on a book written by a master, and it’s one I’ll return to because there are scenes you can live in.

2666-bn2666: Every now and again I task myself with a big one, a door stopper of a book that requires devoted attention. I knew Roberto Bolano only through the short stories he’d published (and continues to publish despite his death in 2003) in The New Yorker and elsewhere, but I’d read enough about 2666 to know that it stood as his magnum opus, a sprawling postmodern novel. I am 2/3 of the way through, and wading past The Part About the Crimes is overwhelming. He inundates the reader with death after death, all with a journalist’s detachment that occasionally spins itself into the fabric of a story. I find myself glossing over the horror of the growing number of the dead women he describes, unable to stomach another description of decaying corpses and violent crimes, and hoping for another narrative thread to grasp onto. That may not sound like pleasant reading–which it’s not–but it is utterly compelling.

farewellFarewell My Lovely: Raymond Chandler’s novel stands as a favorite from the detective novel bent I was on for a couple of months earlier this year. There’s a reason Philip Marlowe still stands as the archetypal detective, and the book is nothing but character, plot and description–in other words, straight fiction. Chandler can encapsulate entire characters with one description, and the book is often funny.

Rick Part 10

The finale. Enjoy!

Rick: Part 10

Few words were spoken until the seventeenth hole. The men played in near-silence, a tacit agreement to get through the rest of the round without any more friction.

But Rick parred holes twelve through sixteen, and a tiny urge to assert his clout ballooned in his heart. “I have one last story for you fellas, seeing as you’re all betting men.” He waited to go on until he had their attention.

“This was a few years ago on the PGA tour. Mickelson and some no-name were neck and neck, and on Saturday night, after a grueling third round where Mickelson was up by two strokes, they made a bet over some beers. You guys remember watching that?”

“No,” Russ muttered. The four men stood in the tee box, waiting once again for the group ahead of them.

“The no-name had had a few, and Mick was getting ready to leave, but no-name started bullshitting about how he was going to win the final round. He bet that he would come in three under and that Mick would drop down at least to the fifth spot. He was really feeling his oats, and Mick had been in a slump, so it wasn’t farfetched. So here were the terms: If no-name won, Phil had to give up his clubs.”

Rick looked at the distant pin and the strip of water off to the left. A team of ducks splashed on the surface.

“And if he lost?” Bill asked.

“That was the funny part. Phil agreed but only if he could wait to decide on an appropriate punishment.”

“Bullshit,” Bill said.

“Maybe, but guess who won?”

The men waited.

“Mickelson and no-name were paired up for the final round, and Mick must have gotten into no-name’s head because no-name played a terrible game. He fell behind to the five spot and by the day’s end he was down to the twelve spot. On the seventeenth hole, Mickelson came up with his driver in hand, a Big Bertha. He had just been sponsored by Callaway the year before. He handed it to no-name, and whispered something in his ear.” Rick cleared his throat and spat on the grass.

“I have a special place in mind for this, he said. Either you drop your trousers on the eighteenth green or you never play a tour game again.” Rick lit a cigarette and took a deep drag. “So I guess my question is, any of you want to make one last bet?”

The guys laughed, but Rick was serious.

“For your clubs,” Rick said.

“And the punishment?”

“Let’s play by Mick’s rules. Winner decides afterward.”

Bill thought about it. A win would provide a good story he could tell for the rest of his life. And he had two reliable witnesses.

“Alright. Fewest strokes on this hole.”

 

The mallard spent the morning paddling on the surface of the water, looking for bugs and edible weeds. It dove, the curvature of its retina allowing for greater refraction in the murky hazard. It saw the deep green of the algae-covered rocks and the artificial white plastic of the orbs that regularly dropped with a splash. Ultraviolet light reflected by the wings of a struggling damselfly made for an easy target, and the duck swallowed it quickly before rising to the surface. It preened and shook and paddled to the shore, where it shook again and waddled, quacking, and hunkered down, and finally took flight.

It must have been distracted by the man’s shiny shirt and the motion of his arms. The shirt radiated like a neon sign, and the orb hurtled through the air, unseen, until it hit the mallard’s head, and both ball and duck fell from the sky.

Rick Part 9

It’s winding up for the finale. Expect Part 10 soon.

Rick: Part 9

“What are the stakes?” Rick lost the first serious bet he had ever made. Until he was fifteen, most bets were simply extended dares. When he and his friends were too scared to jump off of a bridge into the pool of water below or to ride their bikes down a steep dirt hill, it became a bet. They wagered the only currency they had: candy, comics, and, once, a Beatles record. Rick won often, and he shamed the kid who didn’t, Charlie Bexlan.

In high school, however, he was taught how risk made men. The competition was a simple race around the track, four hundred yards, after a brazen remark in class about how fast he was. He wanted to impress a girl, and he was so close. The dread that filled his chest at the finish line was like the forest ground after a fire, blackened and desperately bearing traces of the heat that had ravished it.  It was just a guitar, he told himself. Victor came by to pick it up later that afternoon, and Rick never played again.

“Twenty dollars,” Russ said.

“How about a hundred?” Bill, facing the others, his driver like a gentleman’s cane delicately propping him up, grinned. “I’ll even shoot first while you decide.” He turned and hovered over his ball. “You alright with that, Rick?”

“Which part?”

The sound of the clubface striking the ball carried up the gulley and kept going well past where the ball landed in the middle of the fairway. Bill quietly, smugly, slid his driver into his bag and replaced the head cover.

Russ’s tee shot fell far short of Bill’s, and Hal sliced it into the water, prompting him to pull out his wallet.

Rick squared up to the ball and tried to concentrate. Hal and Russ whispered on the bench. A flock of birds squawked overhead. The wind blew softly and sunshine fell all around, casting a small shadow in front of him. He pulled back and swung, knowing as soon as he came down that he had topped the ball. It went about fifty feet, just past the ladies’ tee but still moving, and they all watched as it rolled through the rough and got lost in the rocks of the gully.

Bill threw back his head and laughed. “Oh man,” he cackled. “Whew.”

Russ joined in too, and Hal chuckled until he saw Rick’s expression.

“Sorry,” Bill said when his laughter flagged. “I know how that feels. Really I do. Still, play it as it lies, right?”

“I’ll take a drop.”

Rick got under his next shot, so it went high, landing thirty yards from where the first ball had rolled away. “Just can’t find my groove,” he said. “Story of my life.”

“You don’t have to pay me, you know,” Bill said when they were all on the green. “Buy me a beer at the clubhouse and we’ll call it even.”

Rick counted sixty-three dollars in his wallet. “I don’t make bets I can’t pay,” he said. “I’ll stop by my truck when we’re done..”

“Really, don’t worry about it. Buy me a beer.” Bill sank a fourteen-foot putt. He looked up at Rick with a sly glint in his eye. “Storm’s coming in tomorrow otherwise I’d ask you to wash my car.” He turned to Hal. “Remember when I won that bet, Hal?”

“Yeah. You won’t let me forget it.”

“He took it down to the Shine and Detail for me. I felt like a king for an entire week driving that shiny car around.”

“That’s not me,” Rick said.

“What?”

“Like I said, I’ll get you your money.” Rick did not like the look of the fourth hole, a par three over the gully with bunkers on each side of the green, and he wanted a quiet minute of redemption before taking another shot. “Not going to buy you a beer though.”

“Listen, I’m offering you an out,” Bill said. “I don’t need the money.”

“But he does need a beer,” Russ said, pulling out three reserve beers from the depths of his bag. “Here,” he offered Bill, “still cold.”

“Terms are terms,” Rick said. “Unless you’re hoping me buying you a beer will turn into something more.”

Bill grunted.

“Is that where this is going, fellas?”

“What are you talking about?”

He wanted to hurt them all, even quiet, sweet Hal. “I’m rough and tumble,” he said. “I’ll drink you under the table and walk out of here tomorrow morning with a necklace of ears and your skin as a shirt.” He pointed at Bill. “Yours.”

Bill straightened up. “I’d like to see you try,” and he stared at Rick, his brows narrowed and his mouth taut. He did this for several long seconds as if waiting for Rick to act, and when he finally spoke again anger shook his voice even as he adopted the official tone of a man sheltered by two witnesses: “Go ahead and try something. Try it. Because if you lay a finger on me you’d be in court so fast your head would spin. I’ve done it before and I won. I always win.”

No more bets were made until the seventeenth hole.

Rick Part 8

After a proposal…

Rick: Part 8

“How do you boys feel about a friendly bet?” Rick asked. “Best shot, closest, most difficult–that kind of thing?” The group ahead of them wandered towards the green.

“I’m not much of a betting man,” Bill said.

“What the hell are you talking about?” Russ snapped. “He’s always making bets.”

Rick teed his ball.

“I mean I don’t usually wager money.”

“That’s a lie, but alright.”

Rick swung and hit the ball high and to the left, but it faded right and hit the fairway before landing in a bunker.

“Nice one,” Russ said. He teed up. “Short answer is yes, I’m up for making things a little more interesting.”

“Hal? Bill? Are we all in?” Rick asked.

“Sure,” Hal said.

“Alright.” Bill’s expression soured.  “What do you want to wager?”

“Let’s start small. First just a friendly bet. First on?”

They agreed and Hal won after his ball dropped right next to the pin in three. Rick spent two shots in the bunker, but he still made par after a well-placed pitch. He pocketed his ball and stood next to Hal as the other two made their final putts.  If he had only seen the Donner party from afar, he would have supposed they were all pricks. Their moisture-wicking polo shirts immediately raised his hackles, seeming as overblown and needlessly expensive as a set of breast enhancements. Useful, perhaps, given the right environment but usually unnecessary and vividly distracting. The shirts reflected light in an unnatural way, shiny emblems of the kind of man who picked up the game for reasons of wealth and a social calendar that needed filling, paid lessons to learn proficiency and keep up appearances, the leisure class, its aspirants, endless time and carefree money.

“You know,” Rick said, “I was just thinking of the guy who bet his car that he could hit a ball farther than this other fella. It was up in Canada and all of of the water on the course was frozen. You heard that one?”

Russ replaced the pin and waved on the next group.

“First guy hits the ball–really whacks it–and it flies three hundred yards, no kidding.”

They made their way across the cart path and up a small hill to the third tee.

“The guy who made the bet is sweating like a whore in church, really anxious because his car is his most valuable possession even though it’s a complete hunk of garbage, but he stands there in the tee box and hopes with all of his might that somehow, by some miracle, he’ll make it. He pulls back as far as he can, exaggerating his back swing until he almost falls over, and then he smacks the shit out of the ball. He hears the club make contact and sees the ball rise, but then he loses sight of it completely. So there he is–his buddy right next to him–and they’re looking out and can’t see a thing.” Rick set down his golf bag and lit a cigarette. “Then all of a sudden they hear this bouncing sound. The hole was like this one, a long thin fairway with a gully on one side and water on the other, and the ball is just bouncing along the ice. One fifty, two hundred, two fifty–and the other guy is shitting himself because he drives a Mercedes–and the ball passes his, bounces out, and lands on the fringe of the green.”

“Bullshit,” Hal said.

“Did the guy give up the car?”

“He had to,” Rick said. “At least the guy drove home with it. Don’t know what happened after that.”

“No one’s betting any cars,” Bill said. He jostled into the tee box, tired of the pointless story. There was absolutely no truth to it, a complete waste of time.

“Fellas want to make a distance wager on this one?” Russ asked.

Rick Part 7

Rick: Part 7

The yardage sign showed a 324 yard par 4 with a gentle dogleg. Rick teed his ball and took a whack that sent it far up the fairway where it dropped and rolled for several yards, a thin jet of water tailing behind the ball until it slowed and stopped.

“Nice shot,” Russ said. He took Rick’s place and practiced his swing. “A little breeze from the west. That and the dew. On in two for me.”

“You’ll come to find that we’re all a little full of shit,” Hal said.

“He’s got it coming out of his ears,” Bill laughed. Russ sliced his first shot and wound up just off the fairway in the rough, and Hal followed him, landing thirty-odd yards behind Rick. Bill stood in the tee box and knocked his club gently against his cleats. “What do you normally shoot, Rick?”

“About twelve over on a bad day.” He sat on the bench and looked out at the fairway where his ball was still well ahead of Russ’s and Hal’s. “You?”

“I’m down to around eight.”

“To be honest with you, I stopped keeping score. I’m happy when I par a few and get a birdie or two. You fellas look like you play serious though. Tournaments?”

“I’ve done a couple,” Hal said.

“Me too,” Russ said. “And then there’s Bill.”

But Bill’s attention was on the ground in front of his ball, which he watched with determined concentration. First shot, good shot meant a strong round. First shot, bad shot meant struggling to recover all morning. He swung and whiffed the ball.

“Practice shot,” Hal said.

He swung again—contact—and the ball soared through the air, dropping just beyond Rick’s. “I’ll take it,” he said. “Although I think I’ll need to loosen up before the next shot.”

Russ opened three beers and handed them around. “Rick?”

“Nah. Got to drive later.”

“We’ll be here a while. We have plenty.”

“If it wasn’t how I earned my living, I might,” Rick said. Each can’s pop-top had sounded like deliverance. “I drive a truck.”

“Oh,” Russ said. “Well that makes sense.”

Rick let the words hang while he chewed on interpretations and assumptions. Bill had started walking. “Wish I could of course,” he finally replied.

The first hole ended with a par from Bill and Rick, and a bogey for Russ and Hal. Russ scowled, making a show of his frustration, but Hal appeared genuinely sanguine. He slipped his putter into his bag and stuffed his windbreaker into one of the pockets while the rest of the guys started towards the second hole.

“The waiting game,” Bill said. The group ahead was on their second shot.

Rick propped his bag by the tee box and noted the yardage, 501, a fair distance to find a groove, and more than enough time to take full stock of his fellows. “Heard the Oyster Open was held out at Heatherglen a while back. You boys play in that one?”

“I did.” Bill sat on the bench and fumbled with his sunglasses case. He put them on. “I made the top twelve if you can believe it.”

“Impressive.”

“Still nothing compared to the pros, but I got a compliment from Brad Faxon. He said my putt was on fire.”

Rick snickered. “Sounds to me like a potential hazard.”

Bill went on: “It was true. I sank almost every putt that day. Miracle shots. It really was a pivotal moment in my development as a golfer. I doubt you’ve been around many pros, but they can just see the game in every stroke, every lie. They know. Anyway, he was there and so was Billy Andrade. Neither of them played.”

“Did Billy offer any tidbits of advice for you?”

“Nothing to speak of,” he said, dismissive and rarified. “He seemed a little snooty in my opinion.”

Hal interrupted. “So you drive a rig, huh?”

“Yep.” Rick clicked his tongue, visions of needling Bill until he broke. “Been at it for well over ten years now.”

Russ opened a beer, and Bill perked up. “Pass me one, will you?”

“How do you boys feel about a friendly bet?” Rick asked.

Rick Part 6

Rick: Part 6

Bill Donner golfed three times a week without fail. He and his wife Tracy wintered on the Gulf Coast, but April through October found him ranging up and down the Pacific Northwest to play every decently maintained course on the map with the two men who had become his best friends, Russ, another partner at WGTN whom Bill had known since their college days back East, and Hal, a dentist who was married to Tracy’s best friend, Wendy. Bill trusted the guys with his life, true friends with nothing but respect for each other and an absolute love of the game. Was there anything better than golfing with friends? Certainly not in Bill’s eyes.

He folded an extra scorecard into his back pocket after paying for the round. He liked to document his favorite courses in a journal, which he recognized as silly, not eccentric, because, as Tracy would say, writing was just something he liked to do. Journals did not make him effeminate.

Hal waited outside with the golf bags while Russ and Bill were inside, and Rick sat on the steps nearby, his elbows propped up on the third stair and his legs stretched as far as they could reach. His posture exposed a portion of his belly, which felt nice in the mild sunshine, and he made a lazy salute Hal’s way. “Ready to get out there?”

“Always ready,” Hal said. “You?”

“Every round’s a new chance,” he said. “A whole eighteen of them. The scots put a rule down about wiping the slate clean after every game.”

“Yeah?”

“It was after a particularly bad round, right after they came up with the mulligan.”

This got a smile from Hal.

“When are you up?”

“In a few minutes.”

“Good luck out there.”

Bill came out, followed by Russ, who carried a six pack. “We have a fourth, fellas. A gentleman named Rick.”

“Right here,” Rick said. He stood up and introduced himself, shaking each of their hands in turn. “Pleased to meet you all. Are you boys ready to have the best game of your lives?”

Bill chuckled. He believed in respect for the game and he believed in dress codes. He believed in a respectful quiet before getting off the first shot. He believed he did not like Rick from the start. “Shall we?” He slung his bag over his left shoulder and led the group to the first hole.