Don’t necessarily look for as enticing an entry as the title may be leading you on to expect. My sincerest apologies in advance.
After my round in South Carolina, I began my two hour jaunt south to Athens, Georgia for the evening. Georgia has always been interesting to me; and has stood out as the premiere state of the Deep South. It’s got it’s metro-pole, Atlanta, and all roads in Georgia lead to the city. Until you get all the way down to Jacksonville and points further south in Florida (which I’m not even sure qualifies as the South proper), or all the way west to New Orleans, Atlanta is the city for the Southeast. No doubt, it’s a city proper, complete with all of the both draws and pushes of city life. It was the first city of any substantial size that I had been through since Roanoke, which itself barely counts, and the first massive city I’d been through since Washington.
I just passed through Atlanta on I-85 during my trip to Dothan, Alabama yesterday, and certainly did nothing in the city which would qualify my brief stay there as a visit; but what I happened to notice during my time in Georgia was how the state faced Atlanta, how the mere presence of a major city forced a kind of metropolitanism on everyone in the state. Georgia certainly has rural areas, none of which I visited, but Atlanta and it’s hinterlands did a great job of making me feel as if I was drawing ever nearer to the busy and bustling hub of activity for the South as I was headed South on I-85 towards the city, while I could feel the specter of the old South grow as drove away from the city on 85 towards Alabama. If I had more time, I would’ve stopped in Atlanta to see if I was on to something, or was grasping at straws for something to write about, but alas I didn’t have the time and carried on.
It was not Atlanta that I stayed in while in Georgia, but in Athens. An old friend from high school had graciously offered me a place to stay, and it was my pleasure to take her up on that offer. Kendra was always the antithesis of what I would expect to find in South. Feminist. Atheist. Wildly Liberal. Not exactly covered in tats, but has ink. In all, a fabulous person who has always raged against the injustices she found, both small and large. Born and raised in Lebanon, PA like myself, she wasn’t long to stay in CePA. She had wanted to go to Temple in Philly, but overly concerned parents were worried about the rough and tumble North Philly neighborhood which surrounded the school, and weren’t about to let their little girl go to Temple. Somehow, she convinced them to let her go to Oxford College of Emory University down in Georgia. Doesn’t make much sense to me either, but that’s what it was.
Of all the places in Georgia, I think it was inevitable that she ended up in Athens. Athens is a college town, home to the University of Georgia, and has always had a reputation as one of the cool pockets of progressive thought dotting the South, from Austin, TX to Raleigh, NC. She’s engaged to an equally non-traditional resident of the South. Dan is a musician, covered in tats and currently playing in a metal band. METAL. He’s got a degree in political science and refuses to vote. He’s one of the ones who actually learned something getting that degree in political science, I suppose.
I had arrived to Athens later than expected, but still at a reasonable hour, and after the initial “hey how ya doins?” and introductions, Kendra, Dan and I enjoyed a few hours of conversation. Young, bright people full of energy, the conversation was nothing short of fantastic. Dan is an army kid, and has lived all over, primarily in the South, and has no interest in living in a city. Kendra kinda wants to get to a city at some point. My money’s on them getting to a city at some point.
I found their recent story of founding their own business to be inspiring. They were each working as transcribers for a transcription company (having been an adjuster for several years, and utilizing transcription services frequently, we found even more to talk about than we may have imagined) for a few years, and found the monotony to be crushing. After a particularly shitty day, they both basically pulled a Feeman and said “fuck it – we’re out of here.” A week or two later, they had incorporated themselves as an LLC, and are running their own transcription business out of their home. They work from home, and have moved to doing transcriptions for primarily academic purposes. The interviews they get to listen to are sure to be fascinating, and they shared some highlights from the noteworthy ones with me.
They have 2 cats, Roxanne and Little Man. Little Man was crying all night about something or other, but I couldn’t hate. Cats are the shit. I’m hoping to run into a cat course on the trip. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about when I say a “cat course,” I’m talking about a course where humans may own the venture and take the money, but the cats are in charge. I’ve only been to one course which was blesses with such management, that being Blue Mountain View in Fredericksburg, PA. Playing there as a child, I enjoyed milling about the clubhouse as much as I did golfing, for there were always at a minimum20 to 30 cats roaming about, keeping an eye on things, and plotting the destruction of their enemies. I don’t know how the cat empire came to be at Blue Mountain, or what was ultimately responsible for it’s demise (talk to a feline historian for that), but I cherish the memories I did have at BMVGC.
Not only were there cats a plenty there, it was at Blue Mountain that I won the 1999 Lebanon County Junior Championship. A mistake of mistakes, I shot a 77 in the 1 day tournament, beating my nearest competitor, a fellow son of a blue collar worker, Cody, by 2 strokes. We were the only kids under 80, and were also in the first group in. We had to wait agonizingly for the 20 or so other groups to finish, to check to make sure no one else had posted a lower score. No one had, and we were 1 and 2! Never again have I been as relevant in the golf world. It’s a tragic tale.
Careful Alex. This is getting dangerously close to a stream of consciousness explosion of writing. You need to play 2 rounds today and get to Mississippi. FINISH WRITING. But first, one more quick story about Kendra, and golf. This is, after all, a golf blog.
It was perhaps the summer of 1998, maybe 1999 or 2000. Kendra, understandably, had no memory of this event, but the few minutes are emblazoned forever in my memory. Dan was giggling at the retelling of the tale, for he heard a story of his Kendra playing golf. Something hard for everyone to imagine. So yes, the Lebanon County Junior Golf program was playing a tournament at Fairview Golf Course, and as there was a decided lack of girl presence, they put the 1 or 2 girls who played in with groups of the boys. Kendra and I were in the foursome that day, and upon making it to the 6th hole something special happened. Myself and the two other boys in the group fumbled and bumbled our balls up to the green, while Kendra had unfortunately found the bunker. Now she wasn’t exactly fond of golf, and she wasn’t very good at it either. Usually those two things go together. Anyhow, her father happened to be the chaperone for our group that day, and he was giving her advice on how to get out of the bunker. After each unsuccessful shot, her frustration grew more mighty, heightened by her father’s continued instruction and the snickering of the boys on the green, who were finding the entire scene to be humorous. I tried my best to not laugh, I really did. At 13, 14 or whatever age I was though, there was no stopping me. She kept trying to get the ball out, didn’t come close, and was growing so very angry at everything. I’m pretty sure she eventually just picked the ball up (who could blame her), and moved to the next hole thoroughly convinced golf was not for her.
As I said, she has no memory of this particular event, but did acknowledge that she got a trophy for golfing, and not just because everyone got a trophy. No, it was because there only were a handful of girls who played in the Lebanon County Junior Golf Program, and even picking up the ball on a hole couldn’t bump you out of the top 5. Trust me though, Kendra, it happened, and it was hilarious. And I’m sorry. I really didn’t want to laugh, but I couldn’t help myself.
Moving on with the story at hand, I drove down to Bishop, GA after a cup of coffee and a banana, and was looking forward to playing Lane Creek Golf Club. I paid my reduced fee of $29.75, thanks to recently aerated greens, and was on my way. As I had not played a full 18 with another person for a few days, I was hoping to meet up with someone for the round, and was lucky enough to pair up with another single on the first tee.
Van is a southern man, friendly as can be, and was an absolute pleasure to go around the links with. He suggested we play the blue tees, and I was happy to oblige. There was a set further back, the gold tees, as well as the standard whites up a little bit, but the blues ended up being a good choice. Two smashed drives down the fairway on 1, and our round was off.
Lane Creek was a continuation of my experience in the South thus far; a well designed, beautiful, nicely maintained course with all the amenities you would expect, at a price far lower than even a municipal dog track in Western New York. How lucky the residents of the South are!
I didn’t do anything very exciting golf wise, and shot 84, having a 41/43 split between front and back. No birdies, no triples, it was what is turning out to be a pretty standard round of golf for me on the trip. The longer I play golf, and the better I get, I continue to feel as if I am essentially a duffer. I need to do whatever I can to get myself out of that mindset. I wasn’t bowled over with excitement after my 84, in fact I was disappointed because I threw some shots away on missed short putts and overly aggressive tee shots. Still, an 84. How many millions of golfers would kill to shoot an 84 and consider it an average at best round?
I’m gaining a new perspective on golf. I’m pretty good at this game. I’m not great, of course, but I’m pretty good. Better than most. And I have to recognize that. My bad shots aren’t really all that bad, and I can recover from anything. The ever useful metaphor for life, I’m hoping the parallel here is obvious. Life is, for the most part, pretty good. It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty damn good. My bad days aren’t really all that bad, and are nothing from which I can’t recover. Life’s just 18 holes.
Van, as mentioned earlier, was an exceedingly friendly fella, and once we became comfortable with each other, the round flew by; cursing bad shots, celebrating good ones, and talking about sports, work and golf. I know golf is a sport, but it’s so much more than just a sport that it deserves it’s own place in my list of discussion topics. Anyhow, Van was born and raised in Oglethorpe County, but is a big University of Tennessee football fan. We shared in the experiences of being a fan of a rival in their territory, as I am a Redskins fan who grew up an hour’s drive from Philly. We talked about the Braves, the Phillies and Nationals, and he tried to get me to take BJ Upton. No deal!
A big Phil Mickelson fan, and not a fan of Tiger, Van was super happy about the outcome of the British Open last week, as I suspect we all were. Phil is the fan’s player, and even though he tried to blow his connection by complaining about his taxes the other year, he’s still our guy. “Our guy.” Like he’s one of the dudes. In that regard, complaining about the taxes was perhaps endearing. Everyone likes to moan about the taxes, even if in a superficial manner only, and perhaps Phil’s statements weren’t those of a hoity-toity upper cruster attempting to maintain his wealth and power, but of a beer drankin’, hot dog eatin’ dude. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle, but for my own purposes, I’m going to assume the latter.
While I ended up shooting an 84, Van shot a 54 on the front, and got off to a strong bogey, par, par start on the back before he got to his “favorite” hole on the course. Hole 13 was a long uphill dogleg left par 4, with a fairway sloping to wooded areas on the left. The landing area on the left was a little burned out, and it was hard to keep a tee shot in the fairway, as I found out. My drive was trending towards the left side of the fairway, and landed in the fairway before bounding uncontrollably to the left and forward, eventually resting on the pine straw. Our combined score on the hole was 16.
According to Van, he averaged around 100. I saw a better golfer than that in him. He had a nice swing, and while he wasn’t as consistent as I was with ball striking, he made generally good contact with the ball, and could hit a nice high iron at times as well. Like so many who only play a few times a month though, he struggled against a slice, and had some issues around the green. Still though, his love for the game was unwavering, and it was clear he had a passion for not only the game, but for what it afforded him; rest and relaxation, solitude or social interaction.
“The worst day on the golf course is better than the best at the office.” It’s a common phrase, but my god how true it is. Van uttered it once after a poor hole, showing that he really had a good perspective on the game and life.
Van and I under the arch leading to the first tee at Lane Creek Golf Club
Following the round, I hopped in the car and meandered back up to Athens for lunch. Kendra was kind enough to take me out to each, and we went to a solid Mexican place in Athens. I woofed down the food as a fat guy would, and we enjoyed a few more hours of catching up; talking about old friends and enemies from high school, figuring out what ever happened to whatshisface and whoshername, and talking about life. Solid time.
Lunch having been consumed, I had a 5 hour drive South to Dothan. I was hoping to get off the interstate during my travels, and shortly after crossing into Alabama from Georgia, I had no alternative. Alabama 413 is an interesting highway. 4 lanes, 65 MPH and nowhere to go. The road was just cut out of a pine forest, and from Phenix City to Dothan, there was really only 1 settlement of note, that being Eufaula. It’s a shame it was dark as I was driving through Eufaula, as the main road through the city was lined with millionaire mansions set back from the street and guarded by rows of trees, which overhung 413 as I made my way into the city proper. The homes were gorgeous old Southern estates, and I’m just kind of assuming that at least some of them were the centerpieces of plantations.
Dothan, as it turns out, was named for some bible verse. “Let us go to Dothan.” Genesis 37:17. I arrived here in the peanut capital of the world late, and secured a hotel. The drive down here was desolate. Other than Eufaula, I encountered the stray vehicle and the even rarer building along 413.
As my day was, I had seen Modernity in Athens, itself the center of Greek Antiqutiy, yet ended up in a place where time had forgotten. Named after a Bible verse and situated on the road to nowhere, this could be the Middle Ages.