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:

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Stream of (Total) Consciousness -- 8/28/13: Dancing in the Dark

Today is an off day, not exactly by choice, but more so out of necessity. This weekend, I am meeting Emily in L.A. for a friend's wedding. That obviously means I have to get to L.A., which isn't the easiest thing to do from the middle of nowhere. Really, outside of Subway and Walmart, it's not that easy to get anywhere from here. So tomorrow, I'll make the two-and-a-half hour drive northeast to Eugene, stay in a hotel, then get on a plane Friday morning and fly back southwest to Southern California. Yet another demonstration of efficiency in its purest form.

Because of this itinerary, and because I just finished a four-day job yesterday, I was left with two options for today: go out to the resort and wait for a one-and-done assignment that might never come, or stay home and try to do something more productive. I chose option No. 2, mainly because it meant I didn't have to put on actual pants. Whether it's caddying, writing, working on my golf game, or even doing laundry and running errands, my goal for each day out here has been to be productive in some capacity. I'm a master of doing nothing, a bona fide natural, and because that comes so easily, I've had to actively fight against those inherent instincts. So given the blank slate of this morning, I figured it was the perfect time to finally do something I've been putting off, something small that signifies something so much bigger, something I've been avoiding that I won't be able to avoid much longer:

Updating my resume.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Stream of (Total) Consciousness -- 8/25/13: Slim Fast

After cursing my alarm clock for having the nerve to go off, the first thing I do every morning is check the weather app on my phone to see what the impending forecast looks like. This has become an almost pointless ritual, though, as virtually every day I've been here has been a carbon copy of the one before -- sunny, temperature in the 50's and 60's, with wind approaching tighten-your-hat-strap proportions. 

That's why it was so strange today to see that there was a 60 percent chance of rain -- and it was also what made my morning that much more unpleasant. For one, given the fact that I've been battling a cold the last several days, the prospect of spending five hours in wet, windy conditions was not something that sounded all that nurturing; and two, the less-than-stellar weather meant that I was going to have to find something new to wear.

Generally speaking, caddies at Bandon Dunes have two uniform options: the whites, or the blacks. The whites are the classic coveralls, as seen in the picture below. I never thought I'd be a fan of anything that was one piece (I've explicitly warned my father that he is never to wear a one-piece coverall, no matter how old he gets or how appropriate he thinks wearing shorts and black socks is), but I like the whites; they're lightweight, flexible, and feature plenty of pockets, and they provide easy access to the additional pockets of the shorts I wear underneath them (yes, I wear a t-shirt and shorts, though I'm tempted to go commando and bask in all that the prevailing north breeze has to offer). Having worn them during every round I've worked, I'm at home in the whites -- even if I do feel out of place in them at Subway after the day is finished.

The blacks, on the other hand, are not quite as desirable, at least they aren't to me. They're the "free" rain suit we were given in return for paying the $125 yearly fee that allows us to caddie at the resort. A lot of guys like the blacks and wear them all the time, even when it's sunny out, but I've never found them to be that comfortable. They're heavy and hot, and they're stiffer than an Anthony Weiner text message, and they have a limited number of pockets that aren't especially accessible (my name is Brent Stoller, and I'm a pocket snob). And you know how wearing a jacket out to a bar seems like a good idea yet always ends up going wrong, how it's great for those five minutes when you're actually outside, but once you get into the bar, it no longer serves any purpose, and you have no clue what to do with it? Same thing with the rain jacket -- it's a lifesaver when it's raining, but the moment it stops, you either have to stash it somewhere in your player's golf bag or cook in it if there's no place to store it.

It was raining as I left my house in Coos Bay, and the skies looked just as ominous when I pulled into Caddie Parking. And so, the blacks it was. It would've been foolish to risk getting needlessly drenched on the course when I had a perfectly good rain suit in the back of my car. After yanking the pants on up over my shorts (three consecutive prepositions...that can't be proper English), I was quickly reminded how restrictive they were -- and things only got worse as I loaded them up with my towel, water bottle, and peanut butter and jelly sandwich. They're made by a leading brand that shall remain nameless, but considering how unpleasant they were going to be to caddie in, I couldn't imagine trying to actually play in them.

Beyond making my entire lower body feel as if it was consumed by an unforgiving pair of tidy whities (thank you again, seventh-grade version of me, for switching to boxer shorts), though, putting on the pants made something else plainly apparent, something that I'd suspected for a while but for which I had never received full, functional confirmation:

I've lost a decent amount of weight.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Stream of (Total) Consciousness -- 8/21/13: Happy Endings

The few responses I received about my recent post, "Life on the grass," all commented on how positive and optimistic the article was. This was in stark contrast to the typical feedback I get, which often include things like, "Are you okay?" and "I'm a little worried," and "You're sooo good looking." 

I realize that what I write isn't always the most uplifting stuff to read. When I first started this blog several years ago, I made a point to end every piece on an undeniable uptick, but in time, doing so began feeling cliched and disingenuous; I wasn't being authentic. Because the reality is that things aren't always fit for Pollyanna. Sometimes I feel down. Sometimes I experience frustration. Sometimes I don't know what the answers are. Sometimes I screw up, sometimes I get embarrassed, and sometimes I need to process my feelings in order to work my way through those issues -- and this is the perfect forum to do so. 

Take yesterday, for instance. Faux Rocco (the guest I've been caddying for who looks like professional golfer, Rocco Mediate) and I were on the seventh tee on Pacific Dunes, which sits approximately 40 or 50 yards from the eighth green, where another group of guests was currently playing. Typically, this is no big deal; the distance between tee and green is substantial enough so as to allow play to continue on each without the risk of disturbing somebody on the other. 

But yesterday morning, the hole on the eighth green was cut in the back right, meaning the players over there were that much closer to us on the seventh tee. Seeing this, what I should've done was told FR to wait for the group on No. 8 to finish before hitting his tee shot; that way, they could knock their putts in -- and then he could hit his tee shot -- in total peace and quiet. My guess is that's the standard protocol for this type of situation, but honestly, doing so didn't even occur to me. I've been on that tee probably 20 times, often alongside experienced caddies, and I've never seen play on seven interfere with anything going on over at eight.

That is, until FR hit his worst tee shot of the day and yelled, "Oh, NOOOOOOO!" at the top of his lungs -- then it all clicked into place. I was able to see the situation clearly and in its entirety -- the too-close-for-comfort proximity, the proper etiquette I should've enacted, and my egregious error in judgment for not doing so. 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Stream of (Total) Consciousness -- 8/18/13: Life on the grass.

I've recently been feeling a sense of regret for not finding this whole caddying experience earlier. In hindsight, it's what I should've looked to do right out of college. Granted, Bandon Dunes wasn't Bandon Dunes in 2000 (the first course had just opened in 1999), but I look back now at that time after graduation, and I was in such a hurry -- to get a job, to get a girl, to get a real, adult life. And honestly, I'm not really sure why; it's probably because everybody else was headed that way, and I simply fell in line behind them, hoping to fit in.

This risk-averse, follow-the-pack mindset weighted me down from that point forward, and whether it led me to take safe jobs I despised or sabotaged me when I dared taking a less traditional route, I never could shake free of it. It stopped me from coming out here in 2006 when my father initially told me about the place, and it stopped me in 2008, when I actually flew out here to see it firsthand -- only to crumble the moment I got off the plane before slinking back home to the security (and humiliating paycheck) of my Administrative Assistant job.

I've always joked that, if you were to look at where I am in my life -- my career, my romantic relationships (pre-Emily, at least), my assets (biggest purchase: a dresser from IKEA), my facial hair (I still can't get anything to grow on these small, symmetrical patches on either side of my mouth) -- you'd think that I was 10 years younger than I actually am. And the reality is that, until a couple of months ago, I just wasn't mentally and emotionally capable of handling something of this magnitude; I wasn't strong enough to hold up against the pressure.

Although this experience thus far has allowed me to focus on two of my passions (golf and writing) while also keeping me out of two of my soul-sucking nemeses (traffic and cubicles), by no means has it been perfect. I despise getting up before 6 a.m. (mainly because I can't make myself go to bed early enough to adequately accommodate such an early wake-up). The social aspect of it has been challenging to say the least, and because my apartment's shower head reduces the term "low flow" to never-before-seen depths, I could probably benefit from The Wolf spraying me down with a garden hose. But in spite of all of that, in spite of the pre-dawn alarms and the lonely times in the caddie shack and the longing for the Commando 450, there's one, special place where things almost always come into focus:

On the grass.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Stream of (Total) Consciousness: 8/7/13

Beyond my hairline and my ability to sleep through the night without using the bathroom at least once, one of the biggest things that has deteriorated for me with age has been my awareness of what time of year it is. When I was younger, this was never an issue, because my whole world revolved around school, and whether I was in, out, or taking a break from it let me know exactly where on the calendar we stood.

Once I graduated college and joined the real world, though, everything got a little less clear. Gone were the reference points of spring break and winter vacation and "Back to school," commercials; in their place were these seven-day, rinse-and-repeat cycles. From Monday to Friday, everything was the same, and every Saturday and Sunday was a welcomed, all-too-short reprieve from this monotony. The scale of focus had shrunk; it was less about the big picture (the time of year) and more about the immediate future (the day of the week).

And now, out here in Middle of Nowhere, OR, that scale of focus has become even smaller, reduced down to a series of nameless, 24-hour sequences, played out over and over again. It's completely irrelevant what day it is; at most, it only matters what time of day it is -- so that I can either get to the resort at the appropriate hour, or so that I can get to sleep early enough in order to get to the resort at the appropriate hour.

This reality was painfully apparent earlier this week, as I was forced to perform deductive gymnastics to figure out what day it was while trying to silence my 5 a.m. alarm. It felt like Monday, because I didn't want to get up, and because I'd taken the previous day off, which was Saturday, which meant that it was now Sunday. I used to hold onto my weekends with everything I had, refusing to do any sort of work unless I absolutely had no choice. But now, here I was, pulling into Caddie Parking at 6:20 a.m., prepared to hold my Sit & Stare pose for the next eight hours, as I waited to see if I was going to get an assignment or not. Coming off a four-day job, I didn't like my chances of picking up anything beyond a one-and-done.

I had barely settled into my chair, though, when over the P.A. system came a 10-minute call to board the shuttle to Pacific Dunes. I couldn't believe it; in just a few weeks time, I'd gone from doing nothing but sitting to barely having enough time to sit and watch a segment of SportsCenter. And after scrambling to shove my peanut butter and jelly sandwich in my pocket (no was in a Ziploc bag) and applying an ample amount of sunscreen, I logged into my schedule and saw that this was a three-day assignment, with two of those days consisting of 36 holes. Were my days of riding the pine and stockpiling splinters really, maybe, possibly in my rear view mirror?

As a caddie, it's always nice when your player has some game, and my guy, Rick -- who was in from the great city of Austin, TX -- had some game. More importantly, though, he was an unbelievably great guy with whom I clicked immediately. He was psyched to be out there, and he was psyched to have me on the bag, and we both fed off of that energy. Figuring out what club to hit and how every putt would break was a collaborative process, and each positive outcome was followed by a celebratory fist bump. Thankfully, we were making good decisions, he got things going a little, and I kept creeping closer and closer to making it through an entire round without a single, blatant screw-up.

But alas, the quest for that elusive cigar continues.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Stream of (Total) Consciousness: 7/31/13

I was resting comfortably in my half-state -- not fully conscious, not fully asleep (and thus, most importantly, not snoring) -- when the announcement came over the sound system, summoning me to the caddie office. I was getting an assignment, and I was getting it right now. Most of the time, these things don't happen like a fire drill; typically, you get some measure of warning, giving you a little grace period to prepare, but that's not how it went down on Monday. It was good I'd brought all my gear in with me -- towel, water bottle, yardage book -- though I'd forgotten my sunscreen and peanut butter and jelly sandwich in the car. I was going to starve and burn.

Moments later, I was walking up to the first tee at Bandon Dunes (that's not just the name of the resort, it's also the name of one of the four courses on property). The course's clubhouse has a camera mounted on the side of it, and through the resort's website, you can log in and see live shots of the first and 10th tees, as well as the 18th green (available by clicking here). Whenever I'm scheduled to caddie there, I let my parents and Emily know what time my group is teeing off, so that they can get on their computers and see the back of my head from an indiscernible distance. I've tried coming up with a signal I can use to let them know it's me -- without making it obvious to anyone else around me that that's what I'm doing -- but this creative process is still in flux. A tip of the cap? The "Hook 'Em Horns" sign? Pulling down my coveralls and shooting the moon (this was a staple of my childhood -- minus the coveralls)? The possibilities are endless, and I want to be sure to select the best option.

My guest for the day was a younger guy, probably not that much older than I am, and he introduced himself as simply, " the letter." I had no idea what that meant or why I've been so lucky to keep getting assigned to guys with unusual nicknames, but given that I was now, at best, in my seven-eighths state, I didn't have the awareness to care. It didn't help that T then hooked his opening drive way left, and when we got down to where it should've been, I couldn't find it. There I was, just moments removed from semi-consciousness, trudging through dew-soaked, ankle-length grass, failing to locate my player's ball on his very first shot of the round. This day had all sorts of promise.

Thankfully, one of the other guests in the group stumbled upon the ball, and I was off the hook. But it wouldn't take long for my shortcomings as a caddie to inevitably surface. On the fourth hole, T played a nice approach shot into the center of the green, leaving himself about 40 feet for birdie. Now it was time for me to read the green and tell him how his putt was going to break. Beyond carrying the bag, locating errant shots, and feeding your player's ego undeservedly, this is the biggest -- and arguably most important -- task a caddie has. For the non-golfers out there, the greens on a golf course are not flat like, say, a pool table; they are complex structures with sweeping slopes and subtle contours that make the ball move in all different directions. So an integral aspect of scoring well is to decipher those breaks correctly. Actually, think of it like putt-putt: you know how you have to figure out which red wall to bank your shot off of or which secret tunnel to send your ball through? It's the same thing in real golf, except the greens aren't made of Astroturf.

Reading greens is not like reading a book; it's rarely straightforward, and oftentimes, it's like trying to read Hebrew for the first time -- does it go right-to-left or left-to-right? And when you throw in Bandon's gusting breezes and the unquantifiable pull of the ocean into the equation (the belief is that the ball wants to break towards the water), it's even more confusing here. Because of that, guests lean on their caddies that much more to read their putts -- the thinking being that, because of the sheer amount of time they've spent on the greens, the caddies know something that the average player does not.

For most caddies, this is a welcomed responsibility, because a couple of good reads resulting in a couple of made putts can translate into a couple of extra bucks at the end of the round. But for me, it's a source of anxiety for a very simple reason: I'm terrible at it. I always have been. I don't know if it's something with my vision or what, but I just don't see the breaks that well. I can look at a putt from one angle and think that it moves one way, and I can then look at it from another angle and think that it moves the exact opposite. And even when I do have a sense of the accurate line, it's difficult for me to take what I see and put it into words so that the player can understand. Not exactly a ringing endorsement for my writing ability, but it's just not something I'm accustomed to doing. My mind doesn't process the information that way, and when I'm playing myself, I simply read it, aim it, and hit it -- all by feel.

And it's much easier to get in touch with that feel when your paycheck isn't dependent upon it.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Stream of (Total) Consciousness: 7/25/13

Another day, another scratch.

That's some more Bandon Dunes caddie lingo for you. If you're in the shack waiting for a job, and you decide to give up for the day and leave, that means you "scratched." I have no clue where the term comes from; my guess is that before everything was done on computers, there was probably an actual piece of paper on which you had to write your name, and if you chose to go home early, you had to scratch it off the list.

Regardless, I hung in until about 2 p.m., but by then, I was mentally toasted and had to get out of there. I was also eager to go to the practice center to work on my golf game. As I mentioned the other day, I am in the midst of arguably the worst slump of my golfing career. Given that, "eager" probably wasn't the best word to use a couple of sentences ago; "need" may have been better. I needed to go to the practice center, so that I could potentially squash the all-consuming feelings of inadequacy that are always present when I can't locate my game. I know that I take it all far too seriously, and that it's too closely aligned with my self esteem. I just can't seem to disassociate from it. This was part of my downfall a number of years ago when I attempted to play competitively -- when the state of my game was bad, it made me feel like I was a bad person, and it inevitably became too much to handle.

Ever since then, I haven't really played that much golf, maybe four to five rounds a year. I needed a break for a while after, and then I moved to Washington, D.C., where the weather was iffy and, more importantly, where my father wasn't -- meaning he was no longer there to pay for my green fees. I'd go to the range every so often, but never anything consistently. And while some people can pick up right where they left off after a long layoff, I am definitely not one of those people. Every time I would go to practice, it was as if I was in a slump, and I would have to languish through a couple of buckets full of hideous swings before I regained some measure of command. But invariably, I always just took a little time. In a lot of ways, it was similar to my writing process -- things appeared hopeless at first, and they were never pretty along the way, but I would keep hacking away until there'd finally be a presentable product.

But that hasn't happened this time around. Not yet, at least. If anything, it's just continued to get worse and worse. Every day, I go to the range full of hope that the tip I read or the video I watched the night before would unlock the key, and every afternoon, I slam the trunk of my car in frustration, feeling even more defeated than before. I know that I've joked/complained about it a bunch, but on some level, the universe is looking out for me by not bringing me any friends, because if I were to go out and play these courses right now, it would be an absolute nightmare. I don't think I'd stand a chance of breaking 100. It's that bad.

This deterioration hasn't been some sort of gradual slide, as if someone were setting the mood with their living room's dimmer; this happened all at once, one flick of the switch engulfing me in total darkness. In fact, I can pinpoint exactly when the lights went out. It was mid-March, a seemingly endless winter in D.C. finally giving way to spring, and I went to the range one Saturday morning to knock the rust off my game. This was a typical, nothing-to-see-here weekend activity, and in most instances, I'd have no prayer of remembering something so mundane. But this outing was different, mainly because it was a decade-and-a-half in the making.

For the first time since college, I had a brand new set of golf clubs.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Stream of (Total) Consciousness: 7/24/13

It's been a bit of a soul-searching type of day. I was out of bed by 5:27 a.m., but I moved a little slowly and wasn't out the door until 6:15 a.m., meaning I wasn't signing in until 6:45 a.m. It sucks to feel like you're running late when you've gotten up early enough to see ESPN's non-rerun edition of Sportscenter. Still, there were a few empty chairs in the caddie shack, and I thought my chances of getting a bag were actually half-decent. But as the hours passed, and each refresh of my online schedule kept revealing the same blank page, I slowly became resigned to the reality of another fruitless harvest.

The free time gave my mind ample opportunity to start thinking on a big-picture level. This is almost never a good thing. Today was no different, as I began questioning if I was doing the right thing by staying out here, if it was even worth my time, because all of this sitting was starting to feel ridiculous. I had been told beforehand, though, that there was no guaranteed workload, and once I started making my way through training, I overheard plenty of guys talking about having to ride the pine until you gain a little experience and earn a little seniority.  

This is how I get my information, by the way -- I overhear it. Not only does the resort not tell you what's going on -- how the system works, what's the best way to break in, when's the best time to show up, how long it's worth waiting each day, etc. -- I literally have no friends who I can ask. As I explained before, making friends was neither a priority nor a concern coming into this; truthfully, I kind of figured it would just work itself out as I went along. Part of that plan was contingent on me actually caddying, though, when I'd be out on the course, working alongside other caddies and getting to know them organically, bonding over shared experiences -- like having to rake an entire bunker because it takes your player three swings from three separate locations to get the ball out. But since I've been spending most of my time sitting, that plan hasn't had much chance of taking effect. And left to my own devices in the caddie shack -- and I literally mean devices, as in, my phone or my laptop -- I rarely come out from behind the glow of either screen to try to get to know anyone.

Upon reading my post about the 2013 Bandon Dunes All-Caddie Nickname Team, my brother, Brian, and sister-in-law, Karen, gave me the suggestion of acting like an undercover journalist and exploring all of the diverse personalities of the caddie world. This was an exceptional idea, because a) it would give me something to write about besides having to get up early, b) it would be a catalyst to start meeting people, and c) you've got to figure the dude nicknamed "Crazy" has some outstanding stories in him.  

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Stream of (Total) Consciousness: 7/21/13

Yesterday was the perfect illustration of why I came out here, what I'm hoping to achieve, and just how difficult the quest for that achievement can be. It was British Open Saturday, the ideal day to sit around, be lazy, and never go more than 30 consecutive seconds without being under some sort of blanket. 

The morning dawned as it always seems to in these parts -- cold and dreary. The first thing I do when I wake up is check the weather app on my phone in order to determine if it's a coveralls or rain suit kind of day. Because I never updated my default location, the forecast for Washington, D.C. still pops up initially, and in my half-conscious state, I'm often excited to see that it's currently 94°. Then I notice the deer antlers on the wall, and I remember where I am, and I begrudgingly swipe the screen over to Bandon. Surprise,'s 52° with dense fog. Oh, what I'd give for some oppressive heat and humidity.  

I got to the caddie shack around 6:45 a.m. I'm late, and it's a packed house. The prospects of me getting an assignment were already slim, and it's not looking much better now. I'm actually okay with this. Not only do I want tomorrow off to watch the final round of the tournament in peace, but it's been a long week -- a week that centered around an opportunity that never fully materialized and the first Costanza-esque entry on my resume -- and on some level, I know that I'm sitting here just so I can say that I did. 

By about 11:00 a.m., I've had enough. The tournament's telecast is over for the day, so this seems like a natural exiting point. As I turn on my car, though, I notice the clock on the center console. It's not even lunch time. I've been up for almost six hours, and I've done little else but sit and stare for all of them, so I guess that's why it feels a lot later than it actually is. But there's still a whole lot of day left. What am I going to do if I go straight home? Every other station on my TV is static, and I don't even have a guide to let me know what's on. 

I give myself two choices, neither of which I want to do: head back inside and continue waiting for a job that may never come, or head to the practice center and work on my game. I know, I know...getting a free ride at a state-of-the-art, 55-acre practice facility at one of the best golf resorts in the world, where there are stacks and stacks of Titleists to hit, an expansive putting green, and a classy short game area sounds like an absolute death sentence. But I'm cold, I'm exhausted, and I'm unsure if I have the energy to accomplish anything in the 25 mph gusts. 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Stream of (Total) Consciousness: 7/18/13

Getting up at 4:50 a.m. sucks. Getting up at 4:50 a.m. for absolutely no reason? Unless you’re Jerry Seinfeld's Nana trying to conduct urgent business at Chemical Bank, that’s just downright unconscionable—but that's what I had to endure this morning.

As I laid out in excruciating detail last night, I had to wake up before dawn today in order to be at the course for a 7:10 a.m. tee time. And after six unsatisfactory hours of tossing and turning and checking my bedside clock, I was up and at 'em and in the caddy shack a little after 6 a.m.

I’ve begun to develop a routine for the (far too few) days when I have an actual assignment. I check in; I fill up my water bottle; I thoroughly apply sunscreen; I check Twitter and Facebook on my phone because I have nobody to talk to. It’s great. When I get the 10-minute call to board the shuttle, I make a quick pit stop (largely because I’ve been drinking my water bottle in an effort to appear busy), which takes about three times longer than it should, due to the fact that I still haven’t figured out how to locate my fly without having my coveralls come in contact with anything around me that should only come in contact with Clorox.

After exiting the restroom unscathed this morning, I thankfully got on the correct bus that was going to the correct course. Because it was the same group of caddies (caddying for the same group of players) from yesterday, I was actually part of the small talk on the ride to the course for the first time since I’ve been here. This was progress.

The first sign of trouble, though, came once we got dropped off, and I noticed that the golf bag I carried yesterday was nowhere to be found among the rest of the group’s bags, which were all organized and staged, ready for their arriving players.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Stream of (Total) Consciousness: 7/17/13

The only thing more awkward and embarrassing than being the new guy is actually doing something that makes it plainly apparent that you're the new guy.

Since I've gotten here, I've lived by those words with the same dedication and devotion that Marines live by their code; they've been my Bandon Dunes equivalent of "Unit - Core - G-d - Country." And thankfully, I've done a respectable job of upholding them, working hard to learn the ropes and prove my worth while simultaneously blending into the scenery. 

Until this morning, that is. 

As I've explained before, there are buses that shuttle caddies from the caddy shack to whichever course their guest is playing. Twenty minutes before your tee time, an announcement is made over the shack's public address system, detailing who needs to get on the bus and what course each person is going to. Because there are four possible courses (Bandon Dunes, Bandon Trails, Pacific Dunes, Old Macdonald) that are located in varying directions, there are commonly multiple shuttles waiting out front, and the overhead announcement denotes who is to get on which bus. 

I was a little anxious about going out to caddy today, and I was closely watching the clock as it counted down to go-time. Well, when I heard the girl start to make the announcement, I immediately popped up and headed for the shuttle -- without paying much attention to which shuttle I was supposed to board. 

Once you get on the bus, the drivers typically get on the radio and re-confirm to the office how many caddies they've got and to which course they're going. Sitting there, I heard the guy say, "Two to Bandon (Dunes)" -- when there were actually three of us on board, and I needed to go to Old Macdonald. This didn't stop him from starting to pull out of the lot, though, and as we approached the exit, I then heard the driver from the other shuttle say over the radio that she was missing one person, but she didn't know who. 

That missing person was me -- and nobody knows who the hell I am.

Mercifully, we hadn't yet turned left onto the main road to go to Bandon (Old Macdonald is to the right), and I was able to hop out before too much damage was done. Of course, there was still the matter of the long run around the corner and the embarrassment of getting on the correct bus after I had so blatantly screwed up. Typically, there aren't more than three or four caddies on each shuttle, but for my walk of shame, there was not surprisingly a full house of seven or eight.    

"Stellar listening skills," one person cracked.  

On the bright side, maybe this blunder will help a few more people around here actually learn my name (the current approximate stands at three), although that can be a slippery slope, and I'm not of the opinion -- at least in this situation -- that any publicity is good publicity. With that in mind, I think it's best to keep doing what I've been doing, to remain rooted in my maxim that's gotten me to this point nearly unscathed.

After all, I'm a little scared to find out what they do for a Code Red around here.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Stream of (Total) Consciousness: 7/16/13

We’re into Day 4 of this new “daily journal” approach, and in reading through the first three entries, I realize they haven’t really been that daily journal-esque; they’ve been more of the same style of articles I’ve been writing, and I’ve actually had to go back and write down some of the occurrences from the last few days in the notebook I’ve been keeping, just so I wouldn’t forget.

From what I can tell, there are two issues at play here. First, if I’m sending something out and hoping people will read it, I want it to be interesting. As the great Aaron Sorkin has said (and as I have referenced before), the responsibility of a writer or director or whoever is to keep the audience’s attention for as long as he’s asked for it. This leads directly into issue No. 2:

I haven’t been doing anything all that interesting.

As I mentioned the other day, it’s been slow going around the caddy shack, at least for those of us who are fresh out of our green Trainee bib. I haven’t had the chance to meet any new people or receive a completely underwhelming tip. Yesterday, minus water bottle fill-ups and restroom visits, I sat uninterrupted in the same chair from 6:15 a.m. – 2 p.m., staring at my computer, trying to be productive in the face of a couple of horrific Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston movies. After merciful back-to-back episodes of “How I Met Your Mother,” I finally gave up on getting a bag and went to the practice center for a couple of hours. Then I came home, made dinner (chili!), and had a Slingbox-Skype date with my girlfriend, Emily, to watch “Dexter” on DVR.

Riveting, I know.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Stream of (Total) Consciousness: 7/14/13

I woke up at 5 a.m. this morning. Like most everybody, my tolerance for getting up early has increased with age, though when I was younger, I couldn’t imagine that ever happening. I’d hear about people rising at the crack of dawn—and acting as if it was normal—and it simply didn’t compute. I hated those people and their attack-the-day mentality, and I never wanted to be one of them.

Yet sure enough, here we are. My tolerance hasn’t grown out of ambition or wanting to be up at and at ‘em, though; it’s come from necessity. With every successive job I’ve held, the alarm on my phone has gotten pushed earlier and earlier. Eight a.m. became 7:30 a.m. became 6:15 a.m.—as the college student in me slowly met his demise. Each time there was an adjustment period, but each time I made it through. The good thing is that it’s made certain situations easier to deal with. Early flights, early tee times…they’re not as intimidating or debilitating as they once were.

But early wake-up calls to go try and get a caddying job? No such luck. Five a.m. is freakin’ early. It’s mess-with-your-REM-cycle early. What’s funny, though, is that, armed with my built-up tolerance, I had a false sense of confidence, convinced it wasn’t going to be that bad. Then I started doing the math: to get eight hours of sleep, I’d have to be in bed by 9pm. The sun doesn’t even set here until at least 9:04 p.m. If I went to bed at my normal time around 11 p.m., I’d get six. And when you factor in all the instances I’d wake up in a panic, worried about how much time I had left, I’d get even less. All of this made my head hurt, and before I knew it, it was 10:30 p.m., and I was still sorting through pointless message board threads about Texas football.

T-minus 6 ½ hours and counting.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Stream of (Total) Consciousness: 7/13/13

This is a little strange writing like this. Typically, I spend hours and hours thinking, outlining, and rewriting (and rewriting again), hiding my words away until they’ve reached maybe, possibly, half-decently-written quality before I’m willing to put them out for public consumption (and by public consumption, I mean the approximately five to eight friends and family members who don’t instinctively send my emails directly to their trash folder). So this is an adjustment, and it’s not going to be easy to let go. But since things haven’t been working as I’d hoped, there’s no point in furthering the definition of insanity...

My parents have been in town since Monday afternoon, and they left this morning. That they ended up here at all was unquestionably a synchronicity or the stars aligning or some other term or phrase about the universe at work that my mother potentially heard on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday. My dad booked the reservations nine months ago, way before I began seriously considering coming out here to caddy. Actually, it was his booking of this trip that brought Bandon Dunes back to the forefront of my mind. At the time, I was in a miserable situation, feeling miserable the majority of my waking hours, unsure of how to turn the tide. And hearing my father talk about the place helped me reconnect with that yearning (do you ever yearn?) and gave me a sliver of hope that there was a way out. I also grew concerned about how I might feel if he were to come out here while I was still at my desk, intently watching the clock to ensure that I hit the mandatory 50-hour work week my former employer required (that’s another story for another time), wondering what the hell I was doing with myself.

Having my mom and dad come out was equal parts bitter and sweet. I got here the latter part of June, and their impending trip  for the early part of July served as sort of the first mile marker of this experience. Whenever things got tough or other caddies failed to make eye contact with me, I could always fall back on the comfort of knowing that my parents would be here in a matter of weeks. It gave me something to hold onto, something to look forward to.

Then, just like that, it was over, and they were gone.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Against the Wind

I am standing in a pit of sand, pushing dirt around, back and forth, back and forth. The wind is howling right through me, driving the falling rain against my glasses, ensuring each drop’s descent is more horizontal than vertical. My lower back grabs with every movement, my cheeks are flush from the chill, and my feet are on the verge of incineration; you would’ve thought I’d taken The Proclaimers’ one-hit-wonder literally and walked 500 miles—then walked 500 more. I am 35-years-old doing the job of someone 20 years younger. I am doing it voluntarily, and I am doing it for free.

I am a caddy-in-training at Bandon Dunes.

Nobody said changing your life would be easy, and I’m certainly finding that to be true a couple weeks into this journey. Much to my surprise, though, it hasn’t been my anxiety’s greatest hits—money, writing, what happens next—that have given me the most trouble; it’s been the little things, the stuff I glossed over and dismissed as no big deal before all of this started.

Such was the case with caddy training. Obviously, I knew I’d have to go through some sort of educational process; they weren’t just going to throw me out on the first tee with the Dalai Lama himself. But on paper, the training didn’t appear to be all that demanding; basically, you just follow, or “shadow,” experienced caddies while they work. This gives you the opportunity to both see how the job is done correctly and to begin familiarizing yourself with the golf courses. Bandon Dunes has four 18-hole layouts, and you are required to shadow two rounds on each, for a total of eight rounds.

My goal was to approach the training as aggressively as possible, to get it over and done with in four or five days. This would not only allow me to start making money as a real, live caddy quicker, but it would help me feel a little more settled in what, to this point, remains an unnervingly foreign environment. I needed to begin building a new comfort zone and all that that entails—developing a daily routine, learning the job, maybe making some new friends—and my hope was that the training could be a viable first step.

It didn’t take long to realize, though, that as far as first steps go, this was going to be a big one.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Go West, (Young?) Man

In addition to Thanksgiving, hand-me-down cars, and Old Navy shopping sprees, one of my family’s most esteemed traditions is road trips. The tradition dates back many years, rooted in the conventional minivans-and-forced-smiles adventures we took to Disney World and Washington, D.C when I was a kid.

But over the years, the Stoller Road Trip has taken on a new look, evolving into something more focused, something more purposeful. This change was borne out of necessity, as my brother and I have lived in a bunch of different places since college, and thus, we’ve had to move. A lot. And because we’re from Texas, we always have to have a car (what is this public transportation of which you speak?), and the only way to get that car to where you’re going is to drive it. When my brother signed on for his first year of rabbinic school in Israel, it was only after he found out that Triple A didn’t make a cross-Atlantic TripTik that he conceded he couldn’t drive to Jerusalem.

And so we hit the road, on numerous operations through different states, different time zones, and different haircuts. Houston to Denver. Denver to Chicago. New York back home. And given the outrageous distances these operations have typically demanded, my brother and I have often required a wingman.

Enter our father, Joe Stoller.

The kindest, most devoted father a son could ever ask for, Joe gives Izzy Mandelbaum and Morty Seinfeld a run for their title of World’s Greatest Dad. He’s blessed with that parental endurance that allows him to handle any situation involving his sons—and this is never more apparent than when he gets behind the wheel of a car that’s loaded with everything my brother or I own.

It’s been said that clutch athletes and cold-blooded serial killers have ice water running through their veins; my dad has pure iron pumping through his—meaning he’s a true Ironman in every sense of the word. There is no mileage count too high or hour count too obscene. Just give the man the keys, and let him do his work.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Best Laid Plans

This whole “Get busy livin’” thing sure is a lot of effort—and it hasn’t even really started. There’s just a ton to prepare for. Where to live, what to pack, what route to go, where to stay along the way, how long it’ll take to get there. I even had to decide whether to cut my hair, or just let it flow Tim Riggins-style (I’ve tried the Riggins look before to unceremonious reviews, so I chose short). Plus, once I’m there, I’ll have to figure out what I’m going to eat—which will be no easy task, considering the closest Chipotle will be two-plus hours away.

But just as important as figuring out all of that is figuring out the best way to approach this whole thing when it comes to my writing. That is, after all, one of the pillars of this experiment—putting myself in a situation that can be a source of ideas to write about, and in a position that will afford me the opportunity to write about them.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


“I find I’m so excited I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. I think it’s the excitement only a free man can feel, a free man at the start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain.”

“The Shawshank Redemption”

Some people sing in the shower; I recite movie lines. And the quote above has always been at the top of my rotation. (You know how your voice sounds better in the shower? Turns out it also sounds more like Morgan Freeman.) I memorized it long ago, sandbagging its YouTube clip’s view count when I probably should’ve been doing something more productive. It never gets old, and not just because "The Shawshank Redemption" is one of my favorite movies, but because the quote itself touches all levels of emotion inside me. It inspires me by demonstrating what is possible. It depresses me by revealing what is present. And more than anything, it galvanizes me, if only for a moment, to locate the guts to do something as courageous as Red—to give up the security of a job at the local market, violate my parole, and buy my own bus ticket to Ft. Hancock, TX.

Unfortunately, these moments have been far too fleeting, and too few and far between.
Shawshank Redemption,Morgan Freeman,Red
Here are the facts: I’m 35-years-old. I love golf, and I love to write (or, more commonly, I love having written something). I have a family that’s always there for me, and a beautiful girlfriend who wants to spend the rest of her life with me. I have goals, I have dreams, and buried somewhere beneath all of my insecurities, I have an unshakable sense that I’m capable of achieving every last one of them.

And yet here I remain—stuck, standing in place, unable to move.

It’s not that I haven’t tried to break free of this inertia; there have been occasional flashes of progress. I’ve dabbled in different career fields, explored multiple corners of the country, and bravely (stupidly?) lived with complete strangers in shared houses I found on Craigslist. I even spent two years chasing my childhood dream of playing competitive golf. But the biggest risks I’ve taken—the ones that have been the most in harmony with what I’ve wanted my life to be about—have inevitably resulted in the biggest fallouts.

Monday, January 14, 2013

True Lies

This is un-American to admit, but prior to the 2012 presidential race, I had never cast an official ballot in any government election. It wasn’t that I lacked respect for this civic privilege; if anything, it was the exact opposite—with no defined belief system and no understanding of the issues (and no desire to get off the couch to rectify either of those), I never felt “because I can” was an acceptable justification for voting. But as November steadily approached, and my swing state (Virginia) was bombarded with around-the-clock propaganda, I decided it was time to grow up and do at least one thing that a normal, well-adjusted 35-year-old would do.

Given that my political knowledge consisted of the tiny bits and pieces of The West Wing that hadn’t gone completely over my head, my primary objective was to get educated—both about the candidates and their respective ideologies. Without a pre-existing lean to the left or right—and without a Bartlet on the ticket—I was a blank slate, and my goal was to digest as much objective, unbiased information as possible in order to make a well-informed 
This, unfortunately, proved to be an impossible task. I quickly learned that, with its slanted sources and party-line punditry, what was presented as the news was decidedly editorial. There was nothing impartial about it, and before processing anything I heard or read, I first had to note from which extreme it originated. And no matter how convincing it seemed on the surface, there was always the unshakable sense of, “What are they not telling me?”

Things weren’t any clearer among my contemporaries. In fact, there was even more disdain, disgust, and divisiveness. Nobody was willing to concede an inch, and nobody could fathom how anyone could have a different perspective than their own. Like everything else these days, it played out on Facebook for all the world to see, with friends from both sides posting links to the exact same articles and interviews in order to prove the complete opposite point.

Rock bottom, though, came when I turned to my innermost circle—which was really no longer a circle, but more like a battle scene from the Revolutionary War. On one side, there were my parents and brother, who were staunchly conservative. On the other was my girlfriend, who most certainly was not. This actually had a chance to be a good thing, as I had concerns about both candidates, and I could now have those concerns allayed by each of the candidate’s supporters.

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?