I ordered two dozen golf balls this week. They arrived today. I like these shocking red ones especially, in some part because my golfing buddy, Jim, despises them, and anything I can do to distract him on the course is vital. I have to close the gap. Mostly, though, I like them for their lurid brashness. The photo doesn’t do them justice; they are preternaturally vivid, the sort of color that only modern chemistry could make possible, especially out in the sun where the UV rays really make them pop. In the right light, they’re actually painful to look at. To send one of these screamers back a hundred years in a time machine would surely send any observers to the fainting couch, requesting salts. (And, frankly, the sport needs un-whitening whenever possible.)
Why golf balls in January in Chicago? While I suppose the red ones would be extra practical on a course blanketed in snow at the moment, it’s not because I have any plans to play, nor anywhere I even could within eight hours of here. The original prompt was a coupon expiring soon, but what motivated me to click the button was the need to do something intentional toward a better (and literally brighter) future. Toward any future at all, really. To defy karma, even if a net investment of about ten bucks post-coupon is a relatively meek stand, by saying, “I’m going to be outside playing golf soon.” The implications unfold from there: I’m going to be alive and well. The snow is going to melt. The sun will be up past 4:00. My friends will be with me.
The last month has taken a pretty giant bite out of me. For the obvious reasons, like the insurrection, and the final, inescapable revelation that my previous, twenty-year career was based on nothing but bullshit. And of course the worsening pandemic, as I realize that the extraordinary gift of the vaccines bestowed upon us by scientists will be squandered by bureaucrats who can’t figure out how to get them into arms, or left to rot on shelves, refused by hordes of terrified, ignorant death-cultists who think the shots come with a microchip implant, as if anyone would give two shits about tracking their garbage lives. It’s a good thing I have a hobby like golf to look ahead to, since it’s played outdoors and at distance. Playing and seeing live music feel as far away now as they ever have. So does travel, or hanging out in a bar. We have big failed-state energy right now.
So I’m biting back. By buying ugly golf balls, for starters, though there is much more: I am recommitting to creating, here, and musically. To my fitness—even though running is near impossible here in the winter, and the gym is out of the question, this has to be done, and I can use this challenge as an opportunity to get creative, too. To my health, by engaging in dry February, and by less mindless garbage eating every day. To the family, by trying to spend less time sitting in this room at this computer, and more time with them where they are, even though they’re mostly staring at screens, too. To my long-term future, by finding a way out of a career shoveling other people’s electrons, and an escape route from this banana republic on training wheels.
If I have learned anything in the last eleven months, it’s that I can’t control much beyond the reach of my own arms. If I’ve learned anything in the last four weeks, it’s that the work of sorting out my own little sphere is the only work that matters.