I had lofty ambitions in high school. I wanted to become a radio broadcast and communications major. I wanted a full time job as a bartender. I wanted…uhm, nah; that was about it. In my senior year, I pretty much started what I called my ‘fluidly focused scheduling’, a style I’ve only come to recognize I’m great at, and horrible to plan with because of.
People like to have things specifically detailed. Highlights, plans, charts, references, complete vacation schedules mapped out to the minute. Not really what I find works best. I look at a day, find two or three things that I want to do in that day, and let the forty three other things either happen along the way, or not at all. Gives more leverage for letting life play itself out.
Perfect example: my father and I went on a trip into Philadelphia a short while ago. I had no lofty plans- I wanted to show him two or three landmarks, and we would be on our way. Just spending the time with him, talking, and getting him to share his life was better than the complex agenda we’d been working on for weeks.
Of course, this style of planning is more a reference than a rule. In 2000, I was at a McDonald’s in Cromwell, CT. I wasn’t supposed to be; I should have been in class in upstate New York, and instead, was picking my sister up from her friend’s house. This girl (not my sister) was a nice, tall brunette, cute glasses, great smile, and she was next to me in line. A classier person would have initiated a conversation, gotten to know about her, asked her name. And then there’s me: I order a big mac “and this lady’s phone number.”
For all the charm in the world I lacked, it worked. We met up again several months later, and hit it off. She was there months later when I finally shirked the last of my emo-victimized douchebaggery, an era full of Robert Smith-esque brooding. I developed in the life-loving smarmy goat that I am in those years since. I like being a goat. I’m not quite as bashful.
She is The Rachael. You could know her as the Third Rachael, if you must, but, she is above all, her own person. I went through life seeing women as a second-rate household fixture. I approached our relationship with a few basic references: equality, sincerity, and hilarity. I find in her not just a soulmate, but someone that perfectly understands – and can frustratingly counterpoint – me as a person.
I’d like to think I bug the hell out of her, too.
In the pursuit of this relationship, I left Rome after high school. At first, I planned on going back- going to college up that way, all that jazz. Circumstance and wants underscored that effort falling through, as well as several other brilliant ideas along the way. So, I had to get a job. Rent an apartment. Pay some bills. All within six months of being eighteen.
Remember how carefree those days were? Hanging out with friends, drinking, partying, and all manner of debauchery? Yeah, well suck an egg – I don’t. I was getting up at five-goddamned-thirty every day so that I could carpool into work at six in the morning, where I could freeze my ass off as I carted around outdoors in the morning, then roasted on my feet in the heat of the afternoon.
Where did I work that had such duality? A golf course: The Berkshire Country Club. I spent a lot of time alone those long mornings, wanting nothing but to go back to sleep. This was my first full time job, and I was barely out of high school when I began. This went against every fiber in my being: structure, subjugation, heavy labor, no hats. I was fighting fatigue, despair, and home sickness all while trying to put on a strong, smiling front. In recent years, I would say I was being a pussy. Just goes to show what a few years of worse luck can teach a man about not bitching.
My first day on that job, they handed me a weed whacker. My job was to go around to every tree and whack the weeds around its base. Every tree- on a golf course. That’s like tying every shoelace in an urban kindergarten. If you’re thinking that took a while, you are right: Three, eight-hour days. I was then given a lawnmower, and we would move as teams of three going in circles around the roughs. I was later brought into leaf blowing, another squad-based effort where swarms of greens’ staff would swoop down, move all the leaves, and disappear two minutes later. I was then elevated to using the machine that makes the sand traps all nice and wavy. Truly, truly demanding work.
Near the end, my homesickness passed. I was a machine, with a single sentence going through my head. I know the line well, because it had been a recurring theme for me the past several years:
“This is my life passing me by, one second at a time.”
I became hyper-aware that my life was a series of phases, all built on previous experiences. Each seemed to have starting points that were about as miserable as things could get, and they would build on that misery to an acceptable phase, then a state of tranquil knowingness, and finally, a form of nirvana or bliss. Once I looked past the misery of waking up so damnably early, I realized all of the other… unique things about the golf course.
I first noticed the people I worked with. One was constantly rolling his own cigarettes. Well, they were made with a cigarette machine, but it was marijuana. Lots of it; so much that he had no less than a gallon sized bag in the trunk of his car, inside the hub of his spare tire, at all times. And he always had one of these homemade joys hanging lit from his mouth. He would even make a dozen during lunch, at the group’s table, like it was nothing. I would always remark loudly to myself the many hazards presented by a stoned man manipulating a lawn mower as large and heavy as a sedan, with enough sharp blades underneath the maul three five-year-olds in under twelve seconds.
There was the pervert. He spent every chance his mouth opened to talk about his latest fetish in illegal porn pursuit. I’ll give him the disgrace of leaving his noteworthiness at that.
There was the Raging Hard-On. Hard to tell at a description, but he was different from the pervert. This guy drove around a golf cart like he owned that place. He pulled down the same pay I did, but would always manage to blow a check in forty hours between bad hookers and worse drugs. And, I’m talking Reading, PA, whores. He probably got more out the transaction than he put into it. He always wore the approved polo, along with shorts, combat boots, and no underwear. This last one I wouldn’t have known if he didn’t always prop a leg up on the dash of his cart while driving around.
The entire staff would hold Wednesday morning hunts. There used to be this great bylaw that construed rifle use on a golf course as pest control. Many a time, this led to geese or ducks being shot in the mornings while I was on the sand traps, and grilled during lunchtime six hours later. They would often come in on days when the course was closed to the public, wearing jeans and shredded tee shirts, peeling around the course hunting groundhogs with sidearms.
I wanted something better with my life, so I put up with it. I kept looking around for other jobs, eventually picking up a job as a busboy. Rae used to tell me how she hated that it interfered with my nighttime availability. You would think I’d listened when I was made a waiter. Or years later when I began working retail over the next nine years.
It seems I have this habit of thinking that the hardest path is the right path to happiness. It’s not- although, it brings its own enlightenment. By the time I left that golf course, I could de-weed the trees in under a day. And what did that do for me in the larger scheme of things? All the larger lessons we learn in life- all the skills we learn – are all built off of our ability to do the smaller, tedious ones first. I wish I’d listened to all the people that had wanted to help me along the way, though I could have saved a lot of time.
Or, spent more time with the people I love.