My wife or girlfriend is Naomi, who is a real person I dated in the 1970s. She's present when I'm approached to take part in some kind of TV event during which I'm to pretend to be Stevie Wonder. No singing, no makeup or disguise, just regular white old me, saying I'm Stevie Wonder. I say OK. We go to this big motel room, where there are a lot of TV tech people and others, plus broadcast equipment. I am given two golf clubs (a putter and an iron), and there is talk of a saxophone. Everyone behaves like this is an ordinary event, and nobody says, Hey, wait, you're not Stevie Wonder.There aren't even any formal questions, or even a host. I kind of stand around, with the golf clubs, chatting with people. And that's it. I realize that the event is over, and the crew starts packing up. One tech guy complains to me about his device and I nod as if I know what he's talking about. I have a general sense that nobody really knows what they're doing. Finally, Naomi and I leave, traverse some distance to "go home," and end up at a wall covered with fabric. At the base of the wall is some sort of concealed hatch. She goes through it, I push down on it with whatever object I've been carrying, and prepare to go through it myself. And then I wake up.
Last month, at the men’s member-guest, Michael U. showed me a gadget he had attached to his bag:
He told me that it contained a battery-powered fan, which enveloped him and his golf cart with a cloud of mosquito repellent. I was extremely interested, because I don't like being bitten by mosquitoes, and I've been trying extra hard to protect myself against ticks, ever since coming down with Lyme disease for the fifth or sixth time, back in June. The device is called a Clip-On. The manufacturer -- Off! -- sent me some to try, along with a couple of other goodies.
I had high hopes for the Clip-On, but it's actually not well-suited to golf. "If you move," the instructions say, "allow a few minutes for the unit to rebuild its personal protection." Any golfer who isn't moving more often than every few minutes shouldn't be playing golf. I attached one to the back of my hat, thinking it might keep bugs from circling my head, even while I was walking, but the fan, at that range, was annoyingly loud. And that's probably just as well, because, according to some virtually invisible fine print on an easy-to-miss part of the packaging, you're not supposed to inhale the stuff, a chemical called metofluthrin:
Good luck getting mouth-to-mouth resuscitation from the Sunday Morning Group. And then there's the cost. A single unit, which is supposed to last "up to" twelve hours, sells for ten bucks on Amazon. Each package includes an envelope labeled "refills" -- but it contains just one, and it's really a "fill," not a refill, since it's the only one in the box. Off! does sell actual refills, at roughly $4.25 apiece, but metofluthrin is pricey stuff, since that works out to more than $2,600 an ounce.
I also tried Off! Explore, a miniature aerosol can of insect repellent in a "crush-resistant" aluminum case. The case has a built-in carabiner, which you can attach to your golf bag:
It's very handy. Here's Addison loading up his hat -- and that's Hacker (real name) in the background:
And Explore works great, like all of Off!'s DEET-based insect repellents. But it costs a fortune. A single unit, with case, sells on Amazon for twenty bucks and contains just 1.2 ounces of bug juice. You can buy refills, but they're expensive, too. So I shopped around and invested instead in some DEET-based repellent sold by Coleman. It doesn't have a carabiner, but each can has a locking top, so you can keep it in your golf bag without worrying that it's going to leak. It's stronger than Off!, and Amazon sells six-ounce cans, in two-packs, for just a bit more than a dollar an ounce:
A little over a year ago, Peter P. was in a terrible car accident. He was in intensive care at a big university hospital for weeks and weeks, and for a while his doctors worried that he wouldn't walk again. He obviously couldn’t come along on our regular fall golf outing to Atlantic City, less than two months after the accident, so Reese and I made a life-size stand-in, called Flat Pete, using the color plotter in Reese’s office and a sheet of foamboard. One interesting thing we learned on the trip is that, if you want to make a good impression on female bartenders, it doesn’t hurt to be a half-inch thick:
Peter has made a slow but steady recovery since then. We’ve told him many times that we would make any conceivable accommodation to get him into our weekend game again, but he has said that he won’t come back to the Sunday Morning Group until he can play 18 holes without a cart. Many of us have seen him working toward that goal, on the course and on the range, using a 4-iron or his putter as a cane.
Bob has always had a complicated relationship with the game. I wrote about him in Golf Digest in 2003, in an essay called “The Greenkeeper’s Tale.” One of the complications is his back, and another is his feelings about doctors. Once, he suffered an attack of kidney stones, a recurrent ailment of his. Diane, his wife, was out of town, and Bob stubbornly writhed on the floor of his living room all alone for several hours. When he could no longer tolerate the agony, he crawled to the telephone and called Ferris, who is a former chairman of our golf club. Ferris is the only member of the medical profession who has ever won Bob’s trust. When Bob’s back is really killing him, he will sometimes drive over to Ferris’s office and ask him to take a look. Ferris is a veterinarian. Among the records in the files at his animal hospital is a chart on which the name of the patient is listed as “Bob” and the name of the patient’s owner is listed as “Diane.” (On the night of the kidney-stone attack, Ferris took Bob to the emergency room of a hospital for people.) In the photo below, Bob and I are watching the putting contest from the patio above the practice green:
It would be hard to say which was more remarkable: the fact that Peter managed 45 holes in two days, or that Bob did. In a way, they were ideal partners, since each gave the other an incentive to stick it out. They didn’t win their flight, but they did beat Ed and Nulty, who ended up winning the whole thing; that made them the real champions, according to some methods of calculating these things. And Bob played in the unofficial one-club cross-country tournament that followed the final shootout, and even joined the diehards who went to a bar in town after all the Polish vodka was gone -- two developments not witnessed previously. Reese joined everyone, too, after remembering, at 8:00, that his wife, Vi, had made a dinner reservation for 6:30. Here’s Peter in a golf cart with Other Gene during the shoot-out, in a photo taken by Vi.
Both of them look better than they did in Atlantic City last year:
Peter's walking isn't perfect yet, but his hook doesn't hook as much as it used to (a good thing), and he's getting better at getting around without a cane: