It is 7:38 on Thursday morning at the end of June. I’m sitting at Stauf’s Cafe in Grandview enjoying the cool morning air and people watching. The people watching is interesting because there is a difference between the population here and that of San Francisco; it has been a long time since I’ve seen Ohio people.
The week has been a blur and here we are, already into Thursday and the end of my time here in Ohio. When thinking of my Ohio trip in San Francisco I thought I’d have well laid plans, plenty of time and do a large number of activities. Instead, things have popped up and my schedule filled rather quickly.
During the first part of the week I was able to make it out to Wilson Road on Monday and Tuesday morning before sunrise. On my first time out and on the first hole I got a birdie. that first day I ended up with three birdies and a 34 which is just 4 over par. Playing Wilson is always a very special and downright ‘spiritual’ experience for me. I’ve written an extensive post on this so will just link it here instead of rehashing.
I’m at Stauf’s cafe on a quiet Sunday morning and have had my mocha can chocolate chip scone. I like getting here early while the sun is just rising over the houses across the road and the weather is cool. I arrived at 7:58 and wondered why everyone was just standing around. It turns out that Stauf’s doesn’t open until 8:00 on Sunday.
To get here I rode the 1950’s style blue framed bike which always gets me a lot of looks and even a couple of nods if not smiles. It is a great mode of transportation around Pleasantville otherwise known as Grandview.
As I type this I can feel the heat from the sun and know it will be a nice day. I’m here by myself because Dad whent to referee a softball game and Mom to church. They’ll be back a little later and I think we’re all going to the Grandview pool which will be nice. After I finish up this post I think I’ll ride over to Trinity School, my old house on Meadow road and then up 1st Ave.
I hailed a Lyft but forgot it is Pride in SF today so the first couple of drivers cancelled on me and there were none around in Pacifica. Finally Flavio came but drove right past me. I called him and he turned around. It was apparent he was new because he wanted to head the long way down Crespi (I told him to turn around and take Fassler) and then he almost missed the exit for Daly City. I let him know but other drivers were being jerks and not letting him over and honking their horns. I asked if he spoke Spanish and he did but it was apparent his first language was Portugese.
I made it onto BART and had to remind myself of which train to take so I didn’t have to transfer. On the way to SF some Drag Queen decided to make some drama, held open the train door and wouldn’t let it close. That earned her a shout over the intercom from the driver. It was the next carriage over and it looks like she was having some words with someone who just boarded the train. I saw a few passengers talk to her and finally she left before the cops showed up.
The next issue on the BART was there was this otherwise athletic looking, even a bit handsome Indian guy, except for the fact that he kept picking his nose and putting it in his mouth. That was absolutely disgusting and must have been some sort of mental tic for him as he kept doing it over and over.
Upon arrving at the Coliseum station I first saw what looked like a Blood gang member (wearing all red) and made sure not to make eye contact and let him pass. Then I saw what was definitely a Crip due to his blue clothes trailing the Blood. I made sure to pick up the pace and make it to the airport skytrain.
I arrived at Oakland and looked for the curbside checkin. It didn’t look too busy and so I took my spot in line. After a few minutes a couple asked me if this was the line for curbside and I said yes. In a true Christmas Story department store Santa moment the attendant looked up and said “this isn’t the line, the line is over there!” I looked back and it was a mile long so I just proceeded inside. I had a moment of panic since the airport was absolutely packed and the busiest I’ve ever seen it. I had to use my airport smarts because the line was two miles long for the checkin. I saw that the self check in wasn’t busy but since I was non-revenue I wondered if I could still tag my own bag at the machine. It turned out I could but then didn’t know where to go. I asked an employee and they just said “over there” which was back where the two mile long line was. There was much confusion because people just dropping off bags were lining up for the general checkin. I asked another attendant and it turned out the self tag bag drop line was very short.
I waited in line and an attendant offered to help. He was very stressed and saw my carryon without a tag and said, “No, I cannot help you, you have to go to the machine first.” He didn’t hear that I was explaining I just needed to drop off the golf clubs which were already tagged. He realized it and helped me out.
Then I went to security and the line was also very long there. I noticed that the express line sign mentioned employees so a quick flash of my badge and I was in. Boy does that badge come in useful!
The final hurdle was hoping I would get on the flight and a previous check last night seemed that I would but since the airport is so busy I was a bit nervous. I found the gate to Columbus and there was an agent already at the gate. I introduced myself, showed my badge and mentioned that I believe I was the only one on standby. That was correct and I got my boarding pass straight away! Again I was a bit nervous because if I didn’t get on my golf clubs would still go, I’d have to see if there was any possible way to get to Columbus today and if not, hike it back to Pacifica and try again tomorrow!
The cost from Pacifica to Oakland Airport was about $10 for the Lyft and then another $10 for the BART to Oakland, not too bad.
So now I’m just sitting here at the gate ready for the adventure to continue.
They say that old houses have memories and a distinct atmosphere created by the various inhabitants and what has occurred inside its walls over the decades. Time passes, children grow and families move away; yet each one leaves something behind which add to the character of the house. It could be something material such as a treasure hidden away in an air vent, or perhaps marks on the wall that measure a child’s height. I also believe that the actions, words spoken and feelings that took place inside the house also add a certain energy that although cannot be seen, still linger in some way even after many years have passed.
I like to think it is the same with entire neighborhoods. People often say “if these walls could talk,” referring to all that a wall must have seen over the years. Therefore, I do not believe I’m alone in thinking that certain places have memories and perhaps everything that has taken place is recorded in some sort of universal mind.
I grew up in a place called Golfview Woods which is a subdivision and having only two ways in and thus two ways out, resembles a labyrinth. If you didn’t know the neighborhood there was a very good chance you’d get lost and have to ask for directions in order to get out.
My first memory of the neighborhood was the sign that greeted us to our future neighborhood, it was dark wood with yellow lettering that simply said ‘Golfview Woods.’ We then visited the model house at 3962 Cypress Creek in 1986. We were greeted by a middle aged guy with brown hair and mustache who wore a brown suit and a big smile. I remember the smell of that house, it was that of new carpet and fresh paint. There were other families there walking through the rooms, getting excited about possibly building a new house, in a new neighborhood! Golfview Woods was only half developed at that time and our house would be in the middle of the neighborhood at Bigby Hollow Ct. I remember seeing so many houses being built, the smell of wood and mud, and scrap piles in front of each new house from which we would later pilfer to make skateboard and bike ramps.
My parents decided to buy and I remember being so excited to visit our house when it was under construction. It was ok to walk in when it when only the framing, floors and roof had been built. I walked up to my room and looking in the bathroom found a female construction worker sitting in the empty bathtub eating her lunch. I thought that was very odd.
Moving day was a momentous occasion. We were leaving the only home I had ever known for not only a new house, but a new life! Golfview Woods was a neighborhood where many of my classmates already lived and I was equally as excited to get out and go play with them as I was to have a new room. I honestly don’t remember much about moving day, but I do remember setting out to try to find my friends. My sister and I got on our bikes and set out into the absolute maze of streets. The first person I tried to find was Jason C and by some great stroke of luck we ended up very near his house when I asked directions of a kid just a few years younger.
“Do you know Jason C?”
“Yes” he replied.
“Do you know where his house is?”
“Yes, just turn left there and it is the one with the big rock out front.”
I couldn’t believe that in a neighborhood as big as this I actually ended up finding where my friends house was. Unfortunately I do not remember going up to his door or what happened later on that day.
It was great living in a neighborhood with many classmates. Back in Grandview there weren’t many kids to play with that lived within walking distance. Grandview was also your old style neighborhood situated on a grid with businesses close by or even next to housing. It wasn’t exactly dangerous, but not exactly safe either for young kids to walk around by themselves. Golfview Woods however, was an isolated neighborhood with only housing and the traffic was of people going to and returning from their homes. It was middle class but a middle class comprised of people that could afford newer, if not completely new homes so crime that is usually associated with poverty was nonexistent.
Therefore, I was allowed to hop on my bike and just take off pretty much whenever I wanted. There was a lot to explore and one of the most fascinating places was dirt biking trails that lay just beyond the undeveloped plots, over a creek, through the woods and next to train tracks. It took a lot of courage to go there for a kid of ten because there was an element of danger. It was secluded and the only adults that ventured back there were transients -bums as we called them – who walked the train tracks. There was a story of a kidnapping spread by some of my friends which got its facts entirely from their imaginations but I thought was real. There was the supposed finger that lay cut off from a hand which one could see in the creek near the train tunnel.
My classmates Jason C and Tony C introduced me to those biking trails. They had the coolest bikes which were black and white with white rim covers while mine was an ordinary Huffy. The bike trails had enormous jumps and even a curved path on the side of the hill which it seemed you’d almost have to be parallel to the ground at one point to successfully navigate. I remember I did it but had built up so much speed that when I tried to turn and go up the hill I fell off my bike, into the bushes and into a groundhog hole, then my bike fell on me and the handlebar hit me in the head. There I was, in a bush, in a hole, with a bike on top of me.
I don’t remember being scared of the jumps as much as I was running into an adult. Seeing an adult back there made your heart stop because we were sure they were going to kidnap us. I’ve never peddled so fast in my life as I did escaping from a bum who got too close.
Returning to that severed finger in the creek, I only remember hearing of it and trying to see it but when I peered into the creek saw nothing that resembled a finger. Supposedly it was cut off from a sleeping bum by a passing train who carelessly had one finger over the tracks during a very deep sleep. That sounds improbable to me now that I’m an adult to be honest. I did send a friend – Michael M – back to take a look while I waited on my bike. The next thing I knew he was running back with an absolutely terrified look on his face. He told me he had seen a naked bum bathing in the creek. Knowing that bums were known kidnappers and the construction workers all around us were also sketchy we high tailed it back to the developed part of the neighborhood.
Once fear of kidnappers had subsided it was a lot of fun to venture back into the lower, undeveloped part of Golfview Woods and go into the houses that were still under construction. We weren’t supposed to go into those places and so again, there was an element of danger, but the lure of exploring and the thrill of walking through an incomplete house were too much to resist. Sometimes the house would be almost complete and the door would be unlocked. We never damaged anything and were usually too scared to linger for long but we wanted to see what it looked like and compare it with our own homes.
The furthest we ever explored would be beyond the undeveloped area, past the train tracks, next to a farm, past another set of train tracks and then finally our destination which was a waterfall. The creek emptied into a rock quarry and so it most likely wasn’t a natural waterfall but was exciting just the same. We even went swimming once or twice in the pool it created and before it was polluted. We did have to keep a watch out for “the truck” which was a quarry worker who would try to catch us. We would have a lookout and if we saw the truck then we would scramble back up the hill, into the woods and keep running until we were sure we were safe. Therefore, swimming was rather dangerous because we wouldn’t have much time to put our clothes back on if the truck started to come our way. Just like the imaginary kid kidnapped from the biking trails, if the guy in the truck caught you, you’d most likely never be heard from again.
That wasn’t the only danger however because there were actual leaches in the creek and you sure didn’t want to have one of those attach to you. Furthermore, you had to be sure not to cut through the farm because the farmer actually shot his shotgun at one of my friends and it came so close it felled a nearby tree branch. That’s how my friend told the story anyway and I believed it. And as usual you had to watch out for the kidnapper bums, we saw one once or twice and I don’t think I’ve ever been so scared or tired while running away, especially after one of my friends yelled “RUN!” When they said that you ran as fast as you could and didn’t look back. We were, in our childhood minds, running for our very lives because who knows what would happen if one of these transients caught us.
Another place were the adjacent Raymond Memorial and Wilson Road Golf Courses that are adjacent to Golfview Woods and next to each other. We would sneak out there in broad daylight with the destination being a small woods right in the middle of the course. We’d have to cut through somebody’s yard, and walk on the boundary of the neighborhood and course until we had a short, direct shot to the woods of about 150 yards. This time the danger was the ranger who would chase you in his golf cart. We also had to watch out for flying golf balls because you surely do not want to get hit with one of those.
If you made it to the small woods then there was absolute treasure everywhere in the form of golf balls. I had not yet learned to golf but these were absolute treasures just the same. I remember a successful trip to that woods with Brendan B, Jason C and Tony C. where you’d have to call out the golf ball as soon as you saw it in order to rightfully claim it. A day filled with such adventure, treasure and friends sure was fun. As an adult I’ve traveled in many foreign countries and also had adventures but I don’t think they will ever compare to adventures had as a young kid, on a summer day with friends in Golfview Woods.
Another memory I have of the neighborhood being developed is when Bigby Hollow Street and Cypress Creek had not yet been connected. At what would later be the juncture, there was a large sized depression that had filled with rain water and a large pile of stones in front of it. We would climb up those rocks and throw small pebbles into the water. One day a girl a year or two younger than I came up and told us not to throw any more rocks into the water because it was going to become a pond for the kids. I didn’t believe her, kept throwing the stones and it made her mad. As it turns out I was right, they never made a pond for the kids.
I find it funny nowadays when parents get frustrated with kids staring at screens and want them to just “go play outside.” I was once a kid myself and I know full well that if adults knew half of the things kids do when told to “go play outside” they wouldn’t want them playing outside half as much! And back in those days our activities were relatively, mostly, harmless.
Moving to a new neighborhood means I had to be bussed to school when I could easily walk when we lived in Grandview. As our part of the neighborhood wasn’t fully developed yet the school bus stop was a two minute drive to the middle part of the neighborhood or a five minute walk, and we had to walk most days. We would go out the door and then walk through our and neighbors backyards. In the morning the grass was always wet with dew and you had to be careful not to drag your feet or your feet could get a little moist.
If I remember correctly the stop was on Quail Hollow right about where Meadow Hills Court is. It was right in front of the Harvey’s house. Now I remember little to nothing about the Harvey family but I do remember betting the son Paul, who was a few years older than me, $5 that my team the New York Mets would beat his team the Red Sox in the World Series. I won but Paul never paid and I’ve never forgotten. Using the inflation calculator Paul now owes me $10.98 and one day I will find him and collect.
It was a strange experience taking the bus to school for those first few weeks especially since our old house on Meadow Road was just a few blocks from the school. Instead of just walking home you’d have to get on a big yellow bus for a forty minute drive back to the new house and new life. I missed my old house and it felt odd to think that it wasn’t ours anymore and we could never set foot back inside of it. That feeling still resides with me, buried deep in my subconscious that on arises on rare occasions in dreams. In the dream the house is ours again but it is dark and nobody has gone inside for a very long time. I’m glad it is our house but it is lonely inside and I feel as though it belongs to another time and I really shouldn’t be there.
In the early years around 1990 or so I got my first job delivering papers to a certain part of the neighborhood. It wasn’t a big job like delivering the morning Dispatch, Suburban News Publications was delivered only on Wednesdays during the day. I’d return home from school to see a huge stack of papers on the driveway which I’d have to bag and stick into a wagon. There was no way I could actually carry all of those papers to be delivered over a few miles a few blocks away. So I put them in my wagon, put on my headphones and was on my way. I really didn’t like that job at all but I had to have a job and that was it. The worst was when it rained, but luckily my Mom would sometimes offer to drive me.
One of the worst days of my childhood also involved these papers. It was a dark, gloomy, rainy day and my mom picked me up from school. She had the papers in the back of the station wagon and I was to bag them while we drove to the orthodontist. I had my braces tightened there and then had to go deliver papers in the rain.
In the beginning the papers were free but later on the management decided they wanted us to go ‘collect.” It cost $1 but the difficult part was that people didn’t have to pay if they didn’t want to. That is a difficult thing to explain for a kid of twelve to about 300 houses.
“Hello Sir, you owe me a dollar for a paper you may or may not want but appears anyway on your driveway every Wednesday. However, you do not have to pay the dollar and the paper will still appear on schedule, every Wednesday.”
I hated collecting but the only thing I really remember about it was how hard it was for some people to scrounge up a dollar. One guy took about fifteen minutes as he went through his house looking for loose change. I felt bad for the guy and wanted to let him know that he really wasn’t obligated to pay but I didn’t have the courage to interrupt as he had already spent more than a few minutes on trying to find a dollar for SNP publications.
Time moved on and I began to miss the old house less and less to the point where I never really thought about anymore. I liked Golfview Woods better than Grandview because so many of my classmates lived there and it was very easy to just walk, bike or skate over to their house within the safety of a confined neighborhood. The center of activity was Tall Timbers court because no fewer than seven or eight families that all attended my elementary school lived on that court.
Some of my best memories are on a warm summer night hanging right in the middle of it, playing basketball, skateboarding or just talking. Some of the older kids in the neighborhood had built a skateboard ‘launch’ ramp that we stored in Tony’s garage. That was my favorite activity and we must have gone off that thing hundreds of times trying to land our skateboards and stay on. I remember the very first time I did land and it was due to the advice of Tony’s neighbor Mr. Hanley. He told me that I just had to stay on it and not get nervous and abort. So I followed his advice and couldn’t believe it when I landed it and stayed on for the first time.
When it got dark everyone would slowly drift back into their homes and I too had to return before it got too late. The fastest way to return would be to cut through the yards, then skate down Quail Hollow and then Silverado. The first yard or two belonged to people I knew on Tall Timbers but I still had to cross one or two more and ran the risk of getting yelled at so I had to hurry. I’d make it to the street of Quail Hollow, get on my board and it was pretty much straight downhill the rest of the way. There are very rare moments in life when an ordinary activity suddenly becomes magical and the joy of being alive wells up inside creating a memory that becomes an absolute jewel. For me, one of these memories is skateboarding back home on a warm summer night when it is dark after playing most of the afternoon and evening in Tall Timbers Court. There were no other sounds but the rumble of my wheels against the asphalt, everyone had gone indoors and so there was a sense of solitude and peace as the warm breeze blew across my face.
Summer nights as a young kid are a time I think that most adults would like to experience again. It is a time when one can truly be carefree and for me at least the calendar was wide open. Our babysitters were Gail, Terra and Jeanna who all attended the same school but in the higher grades. Some would play with us more than others and some would prefer to talk with their boyfriends on the phone or watch MTV. I remember eavesdropping on one of Gail’s telephone conversations. She was sitting in my Dad’s office and saw a picture of what appeared to be him with his arm on the shoulders of Ronald Raegan and a beer in the other hand. Gail couldn’t believe what she was seeing and explained the picture to her boyfriend. I thought this was hilarious because I knew full well that was just a life-sized cardboard cutout of the President. I remember Gail making us macaroni and cheese and being impressed that someone other than a fully grown adult could cook.
Jeanna liked watching MTV, especially the Def Leopard video Pour Some Sugar On Me. She would get extremely mad if I turned the volume down or the TV completely off during the song and she would chase me to grab the remote while I laughed. She didn’t think it was very funny.
In the summer one of the main activities was playing basketball until it got dark. I was lucky enough to have a basketball court in the back yard where I’d spend hours trying to be like Mike. I also had some friends that went to Hillard and I’d meet up with them to play sometimes. J.R. actually played on the Hillard basketball team which was a division one school and so he was really good. Then there was *forgot name* who was a big bully. He just pushed his way around the basketball court and often yelled at people. He ended up going into the army. Scott also had a basketball hoop and he lived just down the street from me. In addition to basketball we’d also play football on his side lawn or poker games with this Dad. I no longer know how to play poker but during one summer in the late ’80s I was a master at many poker games, all of which I’ve long forgotten.
Part III – Pranksters
It wasn’t only during the day that we had our fun. In the summer many of us were allowed to stay out late, or even later if you spent the night at a friends house who had more lenient parents. It was at night that we did get up to many shenanigans that were full of fun, excitement, fear and a certain energy only felt on warm summer nights when you’re a kid.
I mentioned the golf course and we would sometimes go out there. You had to be careful because there was a night waterman who drove around on an electric golf cart that was absolutely silent. You really didn’t want to get caught by him. I personally was always very nervous to go out there at night and was merely an observer to what they were doing. When you’re a kid, sometimes you have no choice but to follow the group or you could suddenly find yourself without any friends. They never vandalized but one did poop in the hole once which I’m sure gave morning golfers quite a surprise. Another, less terrible activity was trying to catch frogs with a net in one of the two ponds by shining a flashlight in their eyes which stunned them.
Sometimes a few guys had firecrackers, usually black cats or sometimes even M80s. They set those suckers off and it wasn’t long before a police helicopter would come and shine his light down on us. When we saw that helicopter approach we would high tail it back into the neighborhood and watch from a friends porch as the spot light scoured the golf course. My friends Mom knew it was there for us but she was a “cool” Mom, never ratted us out and knew that we hadn’t done anything terrible. Running through a golf course at night from a police helicopter is a pretty intense feeling. Now you know why I was pretty nervous when the other guys wanted to go out onto the golf course at night!
I’d say the worst nighttime activity that was ever done was something called ‘Golfview Golfing.’ This was something I really didn’t participate in because it could cause damage and you could get in huge trouble. Golfview Golfing was teeing off right there in the neighborhood in the middle of the night. Someone would hit the ball right off of someone’s lawn then you’d listen for the sound which could be the ball simply hitting the street or making a loud ‘bang’ as it hit a house. If it hit a house everyone would quickly run back to the designated meeting point – again someone’s house on Tall Timbers Court. What a shock that would have caused the inhabitants of the house to hear a loud bang in the middle of the night caused by a golf ball hitting your house. I never participated in Golfview Golfing.
In regards to unsuspecting participant shenanigans, there were a few. One was to take a universal remote – they had just been invented – sneak up to a neighbors window and start changing the channels as they watched TV in the living room. There are only a few variations in the type of houses one could buy in Golfview Woods so we knew the layout of all of them. This means we knew were the living rooms were and most people watched TV in the late evening. It would be so hard to contain the laughter at seeing an unsuspecting neighbor become very frustrated when he couldn’t figure out why it TV channel kept suddenly changing.
Another, and one that is a staple of childhood is hitting cars with snowballs. We knew the neighborhood so well that it was almost impossible to catch us as we’d zig zag through the houses and through backyards. There was however an occasion when one of us got caught. We had hit a car belonging to someone we called “The Ghetto Boy,” who we believed must have been in the army as he was really muscular and looked quite mean. We hit his car and then took off to another location to continue the fun. Well, he drove around looking for us and we didn’t realize it was him again until we’d hit his car. Well he got out of that car as fast as lightning and chased us. Unfortunately Tony didn’t think to run until it was too late and The Ghetto Boy tackled him, put him in his car and drove to Tony’s house. It was dark and Brendan and I were hiding under a pine tree. Once we saw the car leave we rendezvoused at another ‘safe house,’ and gave Tony a call a few hours later. He was in trouble.
In the summer we also had another trick we played on unsuspecting motorists. I’ve forgotten the name but I’ll write it once it comes to me. The idea was to take fishing line and tie it to some stuffed animal like a bright orange Popple. You’d then place it on the opposite side of the street and when a car came you’d slowly drag it across the street causing the car to stop as they thought some exotic animal must be crossing the road. Only once or twice did a driver get out and examine the animal, most simply waited for it to pass. If the driver got out and took our Popple, the bravest among us would go and ask the driver for it back.
One of the most daring pranks occurred senior year when we were staying out all night. The next day was trash day so everyone had put their trashcans on the curb. Well, we decided around 1:00 AM that it would be a great prank to go put those trash cans in the middle of the street. This meant that the first person who got up in the morning to go to work would have to either move the cans or zig zag their way out of the neighborhood. We got pretty far and did more than a couple of streets before becoming tired.
Finally, there is the most famous and legendary prank that lives on in the memories of the longtime residents of Golfview Woods. The Golfview Woods sign in the front of the neighborhood used to be a black silhouette of a golfer in his backswing. Well, someone that isn’t me but who I knew very well, we’ll call him Michael, attached to this silhouette a very large boner which was quite obvious but fit in so well with the color scheme and design that there was only a 50-50 chance people passing by would see it. The amazing thing is that it lasted for about a month before someone took it off.
The amazing thing about this prank is that thousands of cars would be coming and going on a weekly basis passing by this sign and it lasted for so long! I cannot imagine how much laughter as well as revulsion that prank caused, yet nobody bothered to stop and take it off for a very long while.
When I was back this past year I went to take a picture of the sign as the neighborhood committee would soon be replacing it as it was very old and falling apart. I actually met the owner of the very first house next to that sign and she remembers when the golfer had “three legs.” She asked if I had done it and I answered truthfully that no, I hadn’t but I know who did. I don’t know where Michael is these days, nor any of his siblings really. His older brother was in my class and he’s completely off the grid, literally and internet-wise.
Part IV – Epilogue
As with all children and their childhoods, the days of roaming around the neighborhood came to an end when everyone started to get their driver’s licenses. Suddenly we were no longer confined to the same familiar streets and had other, more exciting places to explore such as the dollar movies – Cinemark at Carriage Place up on Bethel Road. Back in 1995 this used to be a hangout for young kids to cruise by, group up and just hang out. There were strange, unfamiliar kids there from far away schools, lots of girls and sometimes even a few fights. But the experience of the dollar movies is another post all together that I hope to write soon so will leave off here.
As soon as we had our driver’s licenses, the roaming around the neighborhood suddenly and abruptly ceased.
Now, twenty years later I like to pay a visit when I’m in Columbus, Ohio just to walk down its quaint streets and remember my childhood. Long forgotten memories suddenly return and I feel as it is not only I who remembers the neighborhood but the neighborhood also remembers me. I remember those warm summer nights out with friends and knowing there was no school the next day filled us all with absolute euphoria. I remember being excited simply passing by some pretty girls house who I’d never have the courage to ask out. Perhaps the most memories come flooding back at my most sacred place of all, Wilson Road Golf Course. I’ll be the very first one on the course during a weekday, catch the sunrise and actually feel as though the past still exists, separated only by a very thin veil.
It is strange to think that the owners of of most of the houses in Golfview Woods are my age. The owners I knew are now in their sixties and the majority have moved away. Reading the neighborhood websites I also see that there are now more disturbing problems such as meth that has infested much of suburbia around the country and do to this there have been break ins. Houses were never broken in to back in the 90s (there simply wasn’t a drug problem in Golfview) and I cannot recall seeing the police even once over ten years. Now, I’ve seen a few bicycle patrols which seems very odd to me. The neighborhood still looks and feels safe though.
Time marches on and Golfview Woods now has a new sign out front. A new sign for a different neighborhood, with different owners creating new experiences.
Golfview Woods really was a great place to grow up.
It is 6:31 AM. I just opened the door and for the first time in a while heard the Robin’s singing their morning songs and memories of my job at Raymond Memorial and Wilson Road Golf Courses – where I did maintenance – came flooding back to me.
This happens every time I heard them in the early morning. I had to awake an the ungodly hour of 4:00 AM and before I had my driver’s license would walk in the dark to the maintenance barn on the golf course. I’ll always remember the robins because they were so loud at that time and I wondered how they could be so cheerful at such an hour.
The weather in the summer in Columbus, Ohio is usually hot and muggy. At 4:00 AM the weather is not yet hot, but not cool either and the humidity not unbearable. I would put on my maintenance t-shirt, shorts and heavy work boots then proceed on my twenty minute journey along the sidewalk of the neighborhood, cut through a yard then over a seemingly infinite amount of golf course to get to work. Everyone in Golfview woods would be sleeping and it seemed I was the only one in the world who was awake. I’d pass the houses of my friends and imagine them sleeping wishing I could trade places with them. The grass of the golf course was wet with dew and on occasion a few drops would spring up and hit my bare legs as my work boots disturbed the light covering it had made.
When I first joined I was given the worst jobs and the worst thing to do at that hour was to be sent out to weed eat around every single tree on the entire course. The beautiful music from the robins abruptly ended and the cool, morning smell polluted by exhaust from the diabolical machine in my hands. It was not pleasant.
The following summer I was afforded the privilege of cutting the greens which meant I could ride on a machine. Being a young guy I had no concern for my hearing and would turn up the music so loud that it would mask the engine noise. I’d pull up to a green, and with a loud thud the cutter and buckets would drop while the familiar whir of the blades cut a beautiful path through the green covered with dew which created a brilliant green stripe, eventually covering the entire green. The final step was to do a circle around and I remember once I briefly fell asleep and cut a good part of the fringe off, awakening when the cutters made an awful sound since I had driven them into a length of grass they were not intended to cut.
Another job that was required first thing in the morning was to cut new holes in the green as the many feet had trampled the area of the previous day’s hole. For this job you’d take the hole cutter, a bucket of sand and get on a run down maintenance cart. Arriving at the green you’d take the hole cutter, the bucket, cut a new hole and use it to replace the previous day’s hole, using the sand to balance out the height if the depths didn’t match. The idea occurred to me one morning to make things a little challenging for the golfers and so I placed the holes on the most challenging sloped of the green. Perhaps this was out of spite, seeing as most golfers were rude to the maintenance staff – especially when they didn’t yell “fore” if their ball landed close to us.
One time we were sent to paint the water tank green on the 10th hole and were constantly in the line of fire from golfer’s drives off the 10th tee. Almost nobody yelled “fore.” Now, we had a new recruit -John – who was a pretty large gentleman who played football at a smaller Ohio college. My colleague Jerry, a middle aged guy with a light complexion and red hair and beard pulled up to us, and while we weren’t looking took a golf ball from his cart and threw it as hard as he could at the water tank. Not hearing “fore” John was extremely startled and started yelling at the golfers on the 10th tee. Jerry found this extremely funny and laughed for a good 5 minutes.
Speaking of the 10th tee, the maintenance barn was right next to it and pulling out on our machines we would have to look up at the tee and wait for the golfers to tee off. Well, one time Willie, a very gruff, yet gentle soul of about 40 years old who looked like he just stepped out of Soul Train with his jheri curled locks was waiting for golfers to tee off when one of them hit an incredibly bad shot. The ball struck the unfortunate Willie squarely in the teeth. I didn’t see this happen but saw Willie with Aaron – the big boss – upstairs in his “office” filling out medical forms from the state. Willie was tough but it was easy to see he was in incredible amounts of pain.
One of the reasons I was often extremely tired in the morning was that I would return home about 2:30 PM only to be awakened by my friends – who were unemployed – arriving at 4:00 PM to wake me up and take me out. These excursions were often to the dollar movie theater where we’d stay out until about 1:00 AM. Seeing as I had to awake at 4:00 AM I became pretty sleep deprived after a week or so of this routine. One morning, when I was watering the greens I actually heard voices in the silent morning. They sounded like faint mumbles coming from the ruffling of the grass – fantom whisperings speaking directly to me. This sleep deprivation is one of the reasons I fell asleep on the green cutter in the incident I mentioned above and also caused me to arrive – once I had my license and car – mistakenly at 2:00 AM. In a daze, I had awoken, got dressed and drove to the course only to find the gates to the maintenance area still closed and locked. I looked down at my clock and saw the time which amazed me. I slept for the next two hours in my car.
I get an acute sense of the passage of time when I think back on these memories and those I worked with, quite a few of whom have passed away.
Frank – Frank was about 65 years old when he worked there. He walked with a slight, determined bounce and his favorite saying was “Do what?” with an emphasis on the what. I never liked country music but he did and when he sang Chattanooga Choo Choo I decided at that moment that the song wasn’t half bad. Frank was usually found on the tractors cutting fairways or rough. I was sad to hear that Frank had passed away many years ago and I believe he never would have taken retirement. He loved that golf course too much.
Willie – As I mentioned above Willie stepped directly out of soul train and always had jheri curls which would absolutely be dripping with Soul Glow over which he wore a red jazz cap from Wendy’s. Willie was one of the kindest guys I’ve ever met and drove a hallucinogenic kidnapper van with one small, round, black window. His van had some sort of painting on it which I cannot remember. He always called me “Matty-Matt” as his son’s name was Matt as well and I enjoyed working with him the best. It is a rare opportunity for a young white kid who attends a blue collar Catholic school to get life advice from a middle aged black guy who didn’t attend college. His advice and stories were of the kind I’d never heard before and left me fascinated and always asking more questions. Nobody has any idea where Willie is these days and he has disappeared existing now only as a very fond memory of my youth. I loved Willie for his gentle nature and hope he is happy, singing his 70s disco music somewhere beautiful.
Darryl – Was a middle aged black guy who you’d probably run from if you saw him in a dark alley at night. There was no soul glow in sight on Darryl and he had a hearty and boisterous laugh that would make anybody smile. Darryl wasn’t much of a talker but would open up if you engaged him or asked him direct questions. I remember trying to sound tough telling him about some of our shenanigans to which he replied “Aw, stay away from all of that shit.” Coming from a tough guy like Darryl, his advice hit home and I realized that shenanigans are best avoided, even for tough guys. Darryl also has passed away from what I believe were diabetes. Once it is my turn to cross the threshold I hope to sit with Darryl for some more advice.
Dan – Dan was a young twenty something and a complete hippie. He actually drove a VW bus, listened only to The Grateful Dead but was a hell of a golfer. This was proven when he could easily hit a green with a five wood and did so on many occasion. It was rumored that he had actually beaten Tiger Woods before Tiger hit the tour out in California. Unfortunately for Dan he turned to drugs and The Dead and spent all his free time following them around the country. At work, news reached us one day that Jerry Garcia had died and Dan was in shambles not recovering for weeks. He walked around in a gloom, no more laugh that resembled air trying to escape from his body. Dan eventually quit and I can only assume he is singing a tune on his beat up guitar to honor Jerry in that field of flowers where all hippies visit at least once in their life.
Brad – Brad was the son of Bill – a senior maintenance man. I say “was” because I was extremely saddened to learn that Brad has also passed away. I learned this last year on a trip back home while playing Wilson Road Golf Course in the early morning. I saw Bill and he did not recognize me. I mentioned Brad’s name to which the old man’s eyes quickly became moist and he said, “You knew Brad?” It was then I learned he passed away and I was too afraid to ask further questions as I didn’t want to hurt the old man. Sometimes I wonder if I made a mistake and I should have asked more questions, to let him know that his son is not forgotten, had great friends and is remembered fondly. But I could not. Brad’s death shocks me the most because he was my age and I kept in touch with him until 2004 even finding this e-mail in this very blog where I keep record of my life. Whenever I’m walking along the fairway in the cool of the early morning and almost alone except for the maintenance people I speak directly to Brad wondering if in some way he is not present at that moment somewhere among the whispering of the cat tails of the lake which sway in a cool, gentle breeze. I admonish him for being reckless with his life and although I do not know how he died assume it was doing something he shouldn’t have been. It is not with anger, but instead with sadness, and with a heavy sign try to expel the weight I feel for a buddy, someone my age dying so young. “Brad, you idiot, what did you go and do?” This is followed by memories of him flying up and down the slopes of the mounds on the John Deer grass cutter taming overgrowth like a boss. In that early morning I try to sense his presence even if it is only an overlay of memories I try to transpose over the quiet morning course.
As much as I enjoy catching up with old friends when I’m home, I enjoy playing Wilson Road – a short, beginner, nine hole course alone. There aren’t many who would get up before sunrise anyway, I must always see the sunrise when I play. It is a very spiritual experience where I can vividly remember my high school days, and the memories are so strong that I can feel as I felt back in high school which is exhilarating. (I’ll write another post on the adventures of Golfview Woods, the neighborhood next to the golf course one of these days.) The intensity of these feelings no longer exist in the 38 year old version of me. But in that quiet morning, alone on the golf course I remember old crushes which forever occupied my mind and how excited I’d get at the prospect of even being near one. I remember how grand it was to be playing golf with friends on this very course and how optimistic, happy and excited we were about the future. When young, the future is a wide open opportunity that we cannot stop rushing towards. Everything is possible as soon we’ll be released from the confines of a life structured by adults. Simple things, like receiving a new Sega game hold more joy then than winning millions of dollars would be in your 30s. Speaking to a crush, or even the prospect of seeing one soon, created a euphoria that has become heavily sedated over years of life experiences.
The sunrise on Wilson Road Golf course on a cool morning is timeless; it connects all past, present and future and draws those souls who have played the course to its brilliant glow.
Should those who read this post decades or even centuries from now wish to speak to me when I’m long gone, come to the course and as the sun rises over the trees on that first hole, tell me what you have to say. I’ll be riding the gentle breeze that creates slight ripples over the ponds, my voice will be among the ruffle of dead oak leaves as you try to find your ball. I’ll be there, listening to the songs of the robins; and if you listen closely, I’ll whisper your name.
We were allowed to play these courses for free on weekdays since we worked there. The problem was that we were usually too tired from the day’s work to play so it didn’t happen very often.
One day, I remember we did decide to play but I have forgotten who I was with. There was an older man who worked in the pro-shop of Raymond Memorial around 1997-1998 and he was the person working that day.
Well, he refused to help us, he told us we couldn’t play and was very cruel with his words. The reason is because he looked down on the maintenance people and and thought that we shouldn’t have the right to play the course for free.
I’ve never forgotten how mean he was and if I’m not mistaken this actually made me cry a little. I told my boss that I was going to tell Jack – who was the boss of all the public courses in the city of Columbus. Aaron saw how upset I was and told Kelly the Pro who ran the course. The next morning while I was out cutting the practice green Kelly came out and apologized to me and even gave me a hug. This did make me cry.
I still remember this event very clearly which was almost 20 years ago. What Maya Angelou says is true!
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
That old man made me feel as though I wasn’t good enough to even be standing in ‘his proshop’. He made me feel that by being a maintenance person I was somehow lesser. I’ve never forgotten that feeling.
But I am thankful for this event as it has been part of the many experiences which have shaped how I treat others. The work one does is irrelevant next to the fact that they are a person, a human being who is experiencing this reality, this brief existence just as I am. How insignificant what we do is compared to the life experience and mystery itself!
The lesson here is to be kind to everyone. One day life in Earth will end and the work we have collectively done as human beings most likely won’t matter one bit in this infinite universe. But I have a suspicion that the feelings, emotions and thoughts we create will remain and continue, as a ripple on the pond with no edge.