Monday, August 4, 2008

The story of a man

I'm going to test-drive a sort of somber story today since my sense of humor is apparently on its rag.

Last week while in Souther California, my mother took me to a friend's place, walking distance from The Tiger Woods Learning Center, which is itself located behind Disneyland and The Crystal Cathedral. In fact the whole area is surrounded by churches and driving ranges, and I can't but think this is someone's missed opportunity to christen the area the Fairway to Heaven. [Anyone interested in using that moniker please see me after class.]

My mother wants me to see her friend's golf clubs, because he's "finally ready to part with some of them on the cheap." This makes about as much sense to me as it does to you at this point, since I already have golf clubs and I don't know why a middle-aged Japanese man would actually part with what is generally considered an Asian business appendage-par for the course...so to speak.

We drive up to what looks like a pretty ubiquitous Californian apartment complex, which is to say an amalgam of duplexes connected by a windy concrete footpath and whose garage surrounds it like a moat. The complex is dotted by cheap juniper shrubbery and wilde bouganvilleas to give the impression of a resort, belied by the presence of a woman wearing the makeup of a porcelain doll, down to cherry red lipstick the size of a coat button. She has lolipop hair; is stuffed in her lawn chair. When she doesn't smile back I silently patronize her for being the pointlessly dressed up gatekeeper to such a shithole.

My mom's friend comes out to greet us and takes us out to his garage space. He's an older man, so we let him set the pace, but even from behind you can tell he's fit (well, not just because he's so fit, but because he's wearing a wife beater, bermuda shorts and rubber slippers, little was left to the imagination). I remember him from my sister's wedding. He was the one who invited all the ladies to the dance floor. Yes, that guy.

We finally get to his garage, which is padlocked. Twice. He unlocks and lifts the garage door, I drop my jaw. The whole garage is FILLED with sets of golf clubs, some wrapped up in duct tape, others still in bags covered in cobwebs.
If I was ever unsure of the meaning of a guffaw, I am no longer. What the heck is this guy doing with so many golf clubs? I briefly consider possibilities of him being in a racket, an ex-proprieter of a golf shop, an injured country club pro, the father of a golf league that died in a plane crash? There are literally THAT many sets of clubs.

The answer is both more banal and more astonishing than any of the above. My mother tells me the story after we leave, that her friend used to be a bigwig at a major Japanese auto company. The company sent him to the US with a nice car, a big house, and a bottomless expense account. With the account, he did two things: frequent a bar run by the woman he's lived with for the last twenty five years (not to be confused with his wife and mother of his three children in Japan, from whom he's been estranged for the last ten); and go on golf vacations with said mistress.

Fast forward to the 21st century, when he's retired and his common-law wife has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease. Their life together now revolves around supporting her in illness, which has required compromising their old lifestyle. Nursing homes won't take her because she's unusually young and spry for someone with the characteristically geriatric condition, and because the couple thinks it's too late to do "the honorable thing" and get officially hitched, neither of them can or wants to return to Japan where elder care is subsidized by the government. And the golf clubs? My mother had been trying to convince him to part with his precious relics for some time to no avail, but between her insistence, his bad knee, and what I'm told is a penny that counts, I scored a set of true metal Spalding irons...for a dime. How about that.

1 comment:

Tom said...

I liked this. I'm for anything that keeps you writing whatever.