Thursday, September 26, 2013

Stream of (Total) Consciousness -- 9/26/13: From Bandon, With Love...

This is a week of "lasts." My last week as a caddie. My last loop. My last Skype/Slingbox date with Emily. My last shower beneath the lowest of low-pressure shower heads. My last trip to the local Subway (for good measure, I went twice today).

And now, this -- my last blog post from the southern coast of Oregon.

As I mentioned yesterday, tomorrow I'll be heading to Seattle to pick up my father, who is making the drive back east with me. It really is unsettling to think that this experience is now coming to an end, but for the moment -- this moment -- I don't feel like trying to make sense of any of it. I've been doing that nonstop over the last several weeks, and I'm sure I'll pick that process right back up going forward. What else am I going to do for forty-plus hours in the car while driving across South Dakota?

So today, I'm not going to try to write anything meaningful or insightful. I'm not going to explore my feelings or address any big-picture questions or say anything that would give my mother an opening to unnecessarily/irrationally worry about me. What I will say, though, is that for many of the things I've done in my life, I typically couldn't wait for them to be over. The reasons why are complex and couch-worthy and can wait for another day. But most importantly, none of them apply to this. In many ways, I'm not ready for this experience to be over, but the calendar and the impending conclusion of the resort's high season say it is. So let it be written, so let it be done.

Because it wouldn't have felt right not posting something on my last night here, though, instead of using my words, I figured I'd try a different approach. Not knowing if or when I'd ever be back here, I drove out to the resort this afternoon to take one last look around, and I took my camera with me. What follows are some of the pictures I took mixed in with some of my favorites since all of this started (many you may have already seen on Facebook). Believe me, they don't come close to doing this place justice, but they're the best the iPhone could produce.

And before I go, I wanted to say thanks to everyone who has read even one of my postings throughout this journey. It really means a lot that anyone would devote a few minutes to anything I've written. Hopefully, these articles have been some combination of entertaining, insightful, semi-humorous, thought-provoking -- and not too depressing.

You should also know that, just because I am leaving Oregon, it doesn't necessarily mean I will no longer be flooding your inbox with streams of consciousness about this experience. The lessons of Bandon haven't fully sunk in yet, meaning the reflection phase has only begun. Plus, considering I am going to be unemployed, I won't be able to afford a therapist, and I'll need some outlet to process my feelings. See you on the other side.

Get busy livin', or get busy dyin'.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Stream of (Total) Consciousness -- 9/25/13: I've Never Seen Blue Like That Before

I am standing on the eighteenth green at Bandon Dunes next to Carol, a sweet-natured woman from London whose British accent makes the word "banana" sound so much more regal than the phallic-shaped piece of fruit that it is (she pronounces it "ba-nah-na", the second "a" sounding like the "o" in "top" or "shot"). If Carol can make the eight-foot putt in front of her, she will earn a certain amount of points that will help her win a certain game she's been playing with her friends that, after three days together, I still do not understand. Beyond the confusion and the celebration that may come with it, though, there's something much more personally significant about this putt:

It's the last one I will read as a caddie at Bandon Dunes.

On Friday, along with all seven of my belongings, I am leaving the southern coast of Oregon for good, heading north to Seattle, where I will pick up my father, who is upholding the Stoller family tradition and kindly flying out to make the drive back to Washington, D.C. alongside me. On my way out here, I was able to continue my pursuit of spending (quality) time in all 50 states (an airport layover, for example, does not count) by crossing Nebraska, Wyoming, and Idaho off my list. On the way back, we will be taking a different route. Washington, Montana, South Dakota, and Minnesota are set to fall next; North Dakota may forever remain my white whale.

As much as I am looking forward to this shared cross-country journey, and as much as I miss Emily, I am struggling a bit with this whole experience coming to an end. I just can't seem to make sense of it yet -- where I've been, what I've done, where I'm going. Out of curiosity, I decided to open up "Zihuatanejo," the article I wrote in June about why I was choosing to come out here. It's funny to go back and read something you wrote, to see the "before" point of view while now possessing the knowledge of the "after." Reading the opening quote and then subsequently watching the actual YouTube clip of it is both bitter and sweet -- sweet in the sense that I made it through without ending up in a "catatonic stupor"; bitter in the sense that this journey is ending, that its conclusion is, in the most basic sense, certain. In too many ways, it feels as if it all went too quickly. The initial adjustment period to everything took much longer than I had hoped, the learning curve much steeper than anticipated. The social integration never did complete, and it was only until recently when I finally found any semblance of confidence as a caddie -- just as it was time to put away my white coveralls.

For so long, coming to Bandon was something I thought about doing, something I dreamed about, something that gave me hope when I'd seemingly exhausted my supply of it. And when I finally got the nerve to go through with it, I thought that it could be transformative, not only changing who I am but opening up a new set of opportunities that had previously been hidden by my fears and anxieties. If I could take that step, then surely the universe or whatever higher power that's out there would meet me halfway. Who knew what tomorrow could bring? The possibilities seemed boundless.

But now, it's over, and I'm not sure what I have to show for it, at least in terms of the tangible. Though I am grateful for all of my experiences here, for the growth I attained both as a writer and a person (they were substantial, and my guess is they'll continue surfacing in the future), with no job, no place to live, and nothing to do, I return to D.C. in arguably worse shape than when I left (and certainly with less muscle mass and down a waist size or two). What do I do now? What do I do next? You can never fully grasp the magnitude of the question, "What should I do with my life?" until you are actually forced to answer it.     

Friday, September 20, 2013

Stream of (Total) Consciousness -- 9/20/13: "Good for you."

Without a doubt, my biggest regret from this whole experience has been the lack of friends I've made. Not in the sense that, when I leave here next week, I will have no lifelong relationships to nurture, but in the sense that, by not being more social, I in turn failed to take advantage of the job perk of all job perks: playing these four world-renowned golf courses for free. I've played exactly three times since I've been out here. One of those times was with my father -- on the resort's par-three course, so that doesn't really count. The other two times happened to both be on the same course, Bandon Trails. One-for-four...that stat is disappointing, and more than a little embarrassing, so I'm just putting it out there now. Let the humiliation/healing process begin.

I am solely to blame for this ineffective social integration, and I take full responsibility for it. The fend-for-yourself world of the caddie shack is not exactly my happy place. In many ways, it's like a bar or a party; there's no defined structure, and there's no designated place for me to stand or sit. It's in settings like these where I tend to get lost, blending into the woodwork, a master at going invisible in plain sight. Striking up random conversations, when there's no clear reason as to why I'm doing so, is just not in my wheelhouse. Though I do feel as if I can talk to anybody, it's preferable that it happens within a certain context. We're in the car together, or sitting at adjacent desks, or assigned to the same table at a wedding. In other words, I thrive when I know the other person either has to talk to me or talk to nobody at all.

My hope had been that the more I worked, the more caddies I'd get to know, and the more those relationships would form organically. But even with the guys I've been paired with, the ones I've actually been introduced to and spent 18 holes (minimum) working alongside, I still have struggled, avoiding eye contact and interaction, convinced that they have no interest in me, or that they wouldn't know who I am or remember my name. Given this, I've chosen to go it alone, and the longer I've headed down this solitary path, the easier it's gotten. I show up, I take my seat in front of the TV, and I wait to board the shuttle -- and I do it all in anonymity. Having a phone that I can bury my head in helps in camouflaging the isolation. At the very least, I look like I have a reason for not interacting with others. Pathetic, I know, but if nothing else, comfortable. Clearly, my evolution is far from complete.

While it thankfully was not emblematic of my overall social experience here, an interaction I had with another caddie earlier this week is worth noting -- if not outright comical. I am on the shuttle, my first day on a new job, wondering if's app has incorrectly steered me into unnecessarily wearing my bulky, overheated rain suit. The early morning sun is pouring through the windows. I am going to cook like a honey glazed ham. To my left is Carl, a cagey, veteran caddie with leathery skin and eyes that have undoubtedly seen all there is to see. Carl is eating oatmeal out of a styrofoam coffee cup. While we've never been introduced, I have randomly ridden the shuttle with him once before -- a ride I'm confident he doesn't remember but one that I didn't forget, primarily because it was one of my first encounters with the cursing and vulgarity you'd expect to be common among caddies. It was a while ago, and we were on our way back to the caddie yard. Carl was holding court with the other guys on board. Knowing that my mother is reading this, there will be no further details beyond this: the only thing Carl likes more than his women is telling his fellow caddies what he likes to do with them.

In an effort to prevent my guests from learning that I'm still relatively new, I've made a habit of introducing myself to the other caddies in the group on the bus ride over to the course. Do it in front of your player, and it's obvious you haven't been around that long. So just moments after boarding, I turn to Carl, stick out my hand, and innocently say, "I'm Brent." In my life, there have been countless ways people have responded to this simple introduction, from echoing back their name to saying, "Nice to meet you," but nobody has ever responded as succinctly and brilliantly as Carl.

"Good for you," he replies.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Stream of (Total) Consciousness -- 9/16/13: Aggies and Ice Cream

At first, as this whole experience was getting started, I was worried that I wasn't going to be able to write quickly enough to effectively document and capture all that was going on. Now that it's winding down, I'm struggling to come up with anything interesting to discuss, and this lack of material is beginning to mutate itself into an actual case of writer's block. Ever since I got back from the wedding in Los Angeles over Labor Day, I've felt a little like I did during my last semester as a college senior. The end is in sight, making the daily grind that much less appealing. I've battled to stay productive in some form or fashion each day, but it's a battle I feel I'm losing, especially in terms of writing.

I was at the course this morning at 6:45 a.m., and 20 minutes later, just as I was getting settled in the shack, my head back and my feet up, I was called to board the shuttle. Now. My ride over to the course is spent in a haze, as if I had actually dipped into my REM cycle, even if just for a moment.

I'm now walking stride for stride with Hank, a cheery, good-natured guy who, at first blush, reminds me of a stronger, more-athletic version of the actor Gary Grubbs (I know...very obscure reference, but the string of celebrity doppelgangers continues). Or, more accurately, I'm trying to walk stride for stride with him. The man slows down for nothing. No wasted step, no wasted movement, no wasted moment. Just make sure you're there at the ball when he arrives, give him the yardage and a target line, and he's good to go -- a caddie's dream. Exchanging backstories on our way towards the first green, he tells me that, while he now makes his home on the west coast, he's originally from Texas, and that he went to high school in Houston. A friendly, easygoing Texan who thinks four-hour rounds are for the birds? This loop keeps getting better and better. That is, until he utters the following five words:

"I went to Texas A&M."

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Stream of (Total) Consciousness -- 9/3/13: A Show About Nothing -- With Video!

Today was like a true Monday in every sense -- except that it was Tuesday. Having spent the last several days away at a wedding, the last thing I wanted to do was get up and go to work. Granted, going to work doesn't carry quite the same drudgery as it has at times in the past, but still -- work is work, and warm bed covers are warm bed covers. I was tired, I missed Emily, and I was fully in the flow of doing nothing.

And I'm good at doing nothing. Like, really good.

This is not the first time I've felt this way since I've been out here -- it inevitably happens whenever I've ventured back into the real world -- and if the past has taught me anything, what I needed today was a loop. When I'm lethargic and attempting to re-acclimate, getting out on the golf course is undeniably the best cure. It's like going to the gym -- I don't want to do it beforehand, but I never regret it when it's over. It gets me back into a routine, it gets the blood flowing again, and, best of all, it puts a little Subway money in my pocket.

Unfortunately, my day was spent waiting for a call that would never come, though. The caddie yard was promisingly thin this morning, and it looked as if I would get out at some point. But five-plus hours and three reruns of SportsCenter later, and I was clocking out and hitting the range for a bit before heading home. This meant that not only was I going to be sentenced to a George Foreman, air-flavored dinner, but also that my overwhelming desire to do nothing would run wild, going completely unchecked the rest of the day.

Not helping matters is the fact that football has now started, and I get especially lazy during football season. It's a dangerous time of year, because watching games gives me the false sense that I'm actually doing something, when, of course, it's just worthlessness masquerading as some measure of ill-conceived productivity. Plus, because this past weekend's wedding strategically kicked off mere moments after the Texas Longhorns did, I was unable to watch UT's season opener live. This wasn't going to be a problem -- until I used the wonders of Slingbox last night to log into my parents' TiVo, only to find that the recording of the game had gone missing. I don't know if I set the recording incorrectly or if it mistakenly got deleted, and ultimately, I don't really care. What I do care about, though, is that I was able to record a replay of the game this afternoon, and I am now going to watch it tonight. I've waited over nine months to see the Horns in action again, but it's those extra three days of unknowing radio silence that'll kill you.

So given all of this, there wasn't much motivation to try to write something in-depth or half-poignant. And that's when it hit me: a couple of weeks ago, we were told that Golf Channel was giving Bandon Dunes some sort of award, and that something was going to be filmed in the caddie shack in regards to its presentation. It turns out that the resort was putting together a humorous, viral video of their acceptance of this award, and after the announcement was made, they were then going to post it on their Twitter feed.

Once the video was released, I wanted to share it with everyone, but I couldn't figure out the proper context to do so -- until now. Why not just stick it into some random, pointless post when there's nothing better to write about? I could ramble on for a handful of meaningless paragraphs and link the video in at the end. This would both appease my guilty conscience while also allowing me to stay true to my mission of doing absolutely nothing.


So below is a link to the video. For context, picture a college basketball team finding out that they just made the NCAA Tournament. I'm in the front row on the right, wearing a light blue hat:

And if you want to see the entire piece about Bandon Dunes, here's the actual clip:

About Me

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"It's not a lie, if you believe it." Those were the words of one of my generation's great sages, George Costanza, and the more of life I experience, the truer they ring. And while I still haven't found what I'm looking for, the search for my own personal "truths" is never-ending. Care to come along for the ride?